What if you took the most harrowing experience of your life and from it created a game show? (Someone has, you say: Blind Date.) "When I was 18, I faced an academic inquisition," says British native Michael Davies. "I sat before a review board for half an hour for my entrance exam at Oxford." Davies wound up matriculating at the University of Edinburgh and has made something of himself, considering that he became the executive producer of the worldwide smash game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Now, collaborating with Win Ben Stein's Money creator Andrew Golden, Davies has come up with 2-Minute Drill, a sports game show. Beginning this week, the show, hosted by SportsCenter's Kenny Mayne, will appear on Mondays at 7 p.m. on ESPN; a weekly Thursday show will be added starting on Oct. 12.
2-Minute Drill is a 51-player (all male, natch) tournament. In the first round, three contestants vie, with two advancing; succeeding rounds pit two contestants. As for the format, "it's based on the same idea as that review board," says Davies. "Each contestant sits before a panel of experts—in this case, athletes and ESPN personalities—and answers as many questions as he can in two minutes." (Example: Who is the youngest major leaguer to reach 400 home runs? Answer: Ken Griffey Jr.) The victor receives $5,000 (which can be doubled if he correctly answers a bonus question). The overall tournament's winner, to be determined on a Christmas Day show, is guaranteed $100,000 and could earn as much as $200,000 if he nails all his bonus questions. The bonus round separates the knowledgeable from the hard core. At one taping last week, the bonus question was: In Super Bowl XXI, the Giants ran a flea-flicker. Who were the quarterback, the running back and the wide receiver involved, and for how many yards—within two—did it go? Answer: Phil Simms, Joe Morris, Phil McConkey, 44.
Traditionally, sports game shows are lame shows. But with viewers sure to play along (as they do with Millionaire) and the suspense of the tournament structure, Davies seems to have drafted a winner in 2-Minute Drill. Moreover, in Mayne, he has a host whose dry wit is perfectly suited for the genre. Yet if you tune in you may wonder the same tiling I did: How many of these contestants will someday appear on Blind Date?