A combination of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and game show prize money is how I would describe TBS’s “The Misery Index.” There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this format, aside from the overall lack of “game” in the game show. “The Misery Index” boasts a talented cast from top to bottom: It’s hosted by the always entertaining Jameela Jamil, star of NBC’s “The Good Place,” and supplemented by James Murray, Brian Quinn, Sal Vulcano and Joe Gatto, better known as members of the hilarious cast of “Impractical Jokers” or The Tenderloins. Unfortunately, the clear chemistry between the cast can only do so much for the weak concept of the actual game.
The show’s creator, Andy Breckman, based the program around the card game “Shit Happens.” Two contestants compete head-to-head for the chance to win money by correctly identifying how miserable an incident is. Each event, from being breastfed until the age of nine to falling 30 flights down an elevator shaft and surviving, is rated by psychologists on a scale of one to 100 — the higher the number, the more painful and traumatic the experience. The contestants must guess the number of each experience, and the prize money goes to the player with the closest guess. The stars of “Impractical Jokers,” whose only purpose appears to be adding some entertainment to an otherwise non-skillful game show, are divided between the teams. The contestant that out-guesses their opponent moves to the final round with a shot at the grand prize of $30,000.
Relishing in the pain of others has always been popular entertainment on television, but the game itself is dull. The questions lack variety and are nearly identical to one another. I would have stopped watching after the first commercial break had I not been obligated to see the program through.
Not all is lost, however, as the unlikely pairing of Jamil and the Tenderloins supplements what would otherwise be a failed experiment. It was the standout performances of these individuals, not the questions, that triggered the most laughter. Jamil’s capacity to remain relevant when she could have easily been overpowered by four standout comedians speaks to her own talent.
If you are a fan of game shows, this is not for you. I would recommend sticking to “Ellen’s Game of Games” if you would like to see real comedic misery. If you like “Impractical Jokers,” give this a shot — the show features the same outrageous and cumbersome comedy. Personally, I will not be spending next Tuesday night watching “The Misery Index,” but if I ever am feeling bad about myself, this program will surely put things in perspective.