Screensavors: Night at the museum

Emanuel Halperin's new game show, 'The Code', has some potential, but it comes off more like a school outing than a quiz program.

emmanuel halperin 88 (photo credit: )
emmanuel halperin 88
(photo credit: )
If we ever have to get locked in the Israel Museum with someone, we hope it'll be with Emanuel Halperin. The Channel 1 jack of all trades who's done just about everything except figuring out how to balance its budget and still maintain a decent schedule, is a true Renaissance man - but he's no game show host. That's a shame, because The Code, (Wednesdays, 21:45) Halperin's new cerebral game show that takes place within the Israel Museum, has some potential, but alas, it comes off more like a school outing than your average quiz program. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Lord only knows there's a ton of information to be gleaned from the vaults and shelves of the museum, and Halperin tries his best to make it all fascinating. In the end, however, we came away feeling like we would be asked to write an essay about it when we got back to school. Channel 1 deserves kudos for coming up with an even cheaper way to produce a game show, the darling of summer TV mainly because they're usually relatively cheap to produce. No studio here: everything takes place within the museum, which gets a huge plug. However, there's no studio audience here, either - no one yelling hints to the participants, or laughing at the host's little jokes (but that would be so Channel 2). Unfortunately, that lack of studio audience somehow is felt, as the five contestants - including two Ronits in the program we saw - head off to try to decipher a code unveiled in ancient letters in the Shrine of the Book, whose rounded walls have been colorized for effect. Focusing on a particular subject - this time it was "The Temple" - the five took off to various corners of the museum with the owlish Halperin, who is simply too high-brow and charming to be convincing as a game show host. After promising the winner a trip to Europe, we learned important things about our contestants, like the fact that Eliav, 35, keeps a bicycle in his bedroom. Hmmmm. Or that Ronit, 43, was a champion gum wrapper chain maker. But we were saved by the bell, or rather bells, which the producers kept sounding for impact throughout the show, along with a heavenly choir singing quietly in the background when sacred artifacts were discussed. Groan. At each of several stops, the contestants had to answer questions related to the Temple focusing on a particular museum artifact, with one of the five dropping out at stations along the way. Solving the question provided clues to the code, with even the losers still having a shot at deciphering it at the end of the show. However, some of the questions were ridiculously easy, like, "Which of the following is believed to have happened on the Temple Mount: receiving the Torah, the crossing of the Red Sea, the sale of Joseph or the sacrifice of Isaac? Like, duh. However, we did learn something: Apparently, the words "Bet Hamikdash" do not appear in the Tanach. The participants didn't know what the lehem hapanim was, but that didn't keep them from getting to the final phase, where one of the losers was chosen by his comrades to participate in the final. By then, however, we'd grown a bit tired of the game's aspects swiped from other shows, and even the deciphering of the code and the choosing of the right artifact that matched it was anti-climactic. And what - no visit to the museum gift shop? Still, if you're worried that the Channel 2 and Channel 10 game shows are just too stupid, and you haven't been to the Israel Museum for a while, there are worse ways to spend your time. Halperin deserves a better gig, but he at least seems to be having fun. Probably the most exciting aspect of The Code, though, is that in creating a game show that is so obviously inexpensive to make, the IBA may be able to keep the English news on for a while longer.