Lego Masters or how to Mess up a Good Idea

Lego Masters

Lego Masters reality show! I can’t tell you how excited I was when I saw the first promotion for this show. Teams of Lego Masters building complicated designs and being judged by professionals in the field? What isn’t to like about that? Elimination competition, cool Lego builds, reality drama! Bring it on! Let’s go! Today, I want the episodes to start now! I want Season Two!

It’s a wreck. I’m willing to admit my hatred of the result is certainly a product of my expectations. I thought it was going to be amazing and it leaves me bored, disappointed, and simply angry at the bad choices they’ve made. If I thought it was going to be awful and it was, I’d shrug my shoulders and move on. After last night’s episode, I’m so triggered that I have to write a blog. So, buckle your seatbelts, prepare for rants, gird your loins, build a Lego fallout shelter; I’m going to explain all the mistakes.

Problem number one is the challenges are completely unfair to the competitors. No one has the same challenge! Seriously. Everyone is given different objectives. The premier episode got it right. They were all to build a section of an amusement park centered around an epic ride. That gives the audience immediate understanding of the challenge and we get to see creative differences immediately arise. Who has a good idea? Who has a bad idea? How does each team implement their plan? Good stuff. We got it for one week.

Week three illustrates the problem. The competitors were given an object to cut in half and they were to fancifully build the second half. The problem? Everyone had different objects. Therefore, it’s completely unfair to the teams and judges. One gets an exciting and dynamic object while another gets a static and dull object. It’s also impossible for the judges to rate the teams. The third problem with this format is that ten to fifteen minutes of the show are wasted showing us each of the different objects for the teams. If there was one object for all to finish that takes a minute, the creativity of the teams is paramount, and judging is based on an equal scale.

It’s not hard. It’s really not. Create a store at a mall. Create a floor in a skyscraper. Create a bucolic country scene for a kid to view while traveling cross country on vacation. You had it right in the first episode and abandoned it. Yarg!!

The second issue is that Will Arnett is performing skits with guest hosts and others for about half the Lego Masters show. Meanwhile we don’t get to see anyone building. In the most recent episode, the winning team had a supervillain and sidekick that were a Pharaoh and Scorpion Queen. This gave them a huge advantage over the Bathtub Guy and Plant Girl team, see above for my rant about that. In any case, we saw them laying the groundwork for their structure and after all the skits and guest host nonsense, we see the finished product! Seriously, almost zero building, zero design, zero planning. Nothing.

The Golden Brick is a disaster. The idea is the team that wins one week gets a Golden Brick they can use to stave off elimination subsequently. They hold the brick for as long as they want. This created an enormous problem last week when the Superhero/Supervillain teams combined builds to make a battle between their original builds. Well, the team that had the Golden Brick had no pressure and the team paired with them and the other teams weren’t on a level playing field. Immunity, fine. But the Golden Brick just doesn’t work this late in the game or when there is a combined team competition. It’s fine for the first couple of weeks, maybe.

I’m willing to give the judges somewhat of a pass because problem number one makes their job all but impossible. Still, I will touch on the idea of their inherent unequal treatment of contestants. Two of the contestants, Aaron and Christian, were significantly more experienced and skilled than most of the other teams. The judges seemed to rate their efforts largely on the idea that their builds should be not better than the other teams, but much better! Anything less than awesome was bad.

This was illustrated in the last episode. Their build was clearly better than poor Bathtub and Plant team, who again, were at a huge disadvantage from the start. Still, the better build should win.

I hope they get Lego Masters right next season because it could be amazing. As it is, it’s unbearably sad to watch.

Tom Liberman

Misspelled Jeopardy Question – Thomas Hurley III

Jeopary Alex TrebekThere’s an interesting story in the news about a young teenager who misspelled the Final Jeopardy question which was ruled incorrect.

The young man told a media outlet in his home town that he was “cheated” out of being given credit for answering the final question correctly.

Money is not at stake but something far more important, accuracy. Thomas Hurley III was not going to win the game in any case. He was far behind the teen who won that particular episode and even if his answer had been ruled correct he would have finished in second place and taken home the exact same amount of money.

What happened is fairly straight forward. In Jeopardy, for those of my readers who don’t know the game, the contestants are supplied with an answer and then must formulate the question. In this case the question should have been, “What is the emancipation proclamation?” In Final Jeopardy contestants must write down their answer as opposed to simply saying it as they do the rest of the game. In this case Hurley wrote, “What is the emanciptation proclamation?” Essentially inserting one extra letter.

The host of the show ruled that answer incorrect. The show’s judges later confirmed this decision. Incorrect decisions by Alex Trebek have been overruled in the past.

His feeling about being cheated is, in my opinion, quite interesting. I could not find any official rules about spelling but the show is notoriously strict about these sorts of things. If the answer was “The First President of the United States” a question of “Who was Washington” would be correct as would “Who was G. Washington” but “Who was J. Washington” would be incorrect. The idea being that you must know the answer generally but also fully. Clearly, anyone who put “Who was J. Washington” meant George Washington. They had the essence of the answer correct but not its detail.

The show does accept phonetic spelling of a word, spelling the word the way it sounds. That was not the case here. I don’t watch the show regularly but reading the comments on the story it seems spelling is a judgment call. Some misspelling are accepted and others not, this might not be true, as again, I couldn’t find any official rule about misspellings.

The comments were generally hostile to Hurley calling him entitled and worse.

I see Hurley’s point here but also see the show’s. Hurley knew the right answer and he misspelled the word by inserting a single extra letter. Trebek felt the extra letter was enough to declare the answer incorrect.

But, as always, I cannot simply comment. I must give my opinion as to who is in the right and who is in the wrong even when the difference is relatively narrow. In this case I side with the show. It is their show, their rules, and Trebek is the initial arbiter. If the answer was wrong, in even the most minor way, they have the right to rule it incorrect. However, I do think they should apply that rule across the board. If one spelling mistake is wrong then all spelling mistakes, except intentional phonetic spellings, are wrong.

As for Hurley, I don’t have as much hate and derision as the internet seems to have for him. He knew the answer, misspelled the word very slightly, and certainly wasn’t complaining about money, simply about what was right. In this case I think he misses the point but not by much. It was a minor technicality and in life getting the answer correct is often the most important thing.

If you feel you were cheated then you should speak up. If the situation is investigated by the proper authorities and it is determined you were not cheated, then it’s time to move on with life. I’m sure that’s exactly what Hurley will do.

No harm, no foul. Jeopardy gets some publicity and Hurley gets a lesson about complete accuracy. Not a bad outcome in the end.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
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