Netflix original Awake: The Million Dollar Game manages to make sleep deprivation entertaining, though it does make you question how far game shows can go.
If anything, Netflix original Awake: The Million Dollar Game proves we are running out of ideas for game show formats. Netflix continues to throw their dice at a diverse range of genres at present, including game shows, but you can sense that this one was at the bottom of the ideas pile. The whole concept is strangely desperate, forcing the contestants to be mentally unstable to try and win 1 million dollars.
The format of Awake: The Million Dollar Game is ruthlessly simple. The contestants have to remain awake for 24 hours, and then partake in a series of challenges to win the money. Each challenge is designed to be challenging while sleep deprived, meaning that they are likely to underperform as opposed to a rested participant. During their introductions, they barely look alive, as the host tries to surge energy into the audience to keep them going. Of course, the motive to win 1 million dollars hangs in the balance. It’s reality-based entertainment, watching people do everything they can for the cash while barely able to function.
Netflix’s Awake: The Million Dollar Game must have gone through many legal loopholes to ensure the competition does not break any laws and stays aligned to insurance policies, and you can tell the challenges are drawn out with health and safety in mind. The Netflix game show highlights how bored we are becoming. We can’t just have a simple money-winning format anymore; we have to reduce the contestant’s physical and mental wellbeing.
But strangely enough, with each round supplying a “buyout” opportunity where the contestant who thinks were last has the chance to take a smaller wad of money, I started to become more engaged with Awake: The Million Dollar Game. The later rounds are tense, and I found myself wanting to scream at the screen at some decisions being made. So thank you Netflix. Thank you for depriving people of their sleep for my entertainment.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.