ABC's Supermarket Sweep Revival: Grade the Premiere


ABC this Sunday night revived Supermarket Sweep, hosted by SNL vet Leslie Jones. Did the latest version of the popular game show ring your register?

In keeping with at least the most recent versions of the show (I don’t remember that far back, kids), Supermarket Swayyyyyyyp! takes three teams of two contestants, plies them with grocery-themed quizzes/challenges through which they can add seconds to their “clock,” and then sets them loose on a Big Sweep through a supermarket. (Based on the total seconds each team accumulated, their Big Sweep start times are staggered — meaning, among other things, the first pair out of the gate gets first crack at the priciest items. If they know what they are doing.)

To refresh my memory of #BeforeTimes, after watching one episode of ABC’s revival I cued up a 1994 episode hosted by David Ruprecht in one of his famously loud sweaters. And while that edition and the new one are clearly identical in structure, here are some of the differences that stood out to me:

* Now, each team chooses a “name” (e.g. Team Sugar) that they have to explain. (Speaking of which, as with many a primetime game show these days, the casting department here is aiming for Over. The. Top.)

* Before, the in-game quizzes were often based on product name scrambles using the most basic of on-screen graphics. Now, you also get very contemporary challenges, such as identifying a product based on its dating app profile. There’s also a logo identification game which leaves Jones to deliver such scintillating play-by-play as “OK, there’s a yellow circle….”

* Not a part of the new edition (at least thus far) is the snoozy game where a team’s players face each other at a podium and “assemble” a product name one letter at a time, based off of $100,000 Pyramid-like clues.

* The Big Sweep still includes established bonus items worth big bucks… inflatables that are unwieldy to tote while pushing a cart but are worth mystery amounts… and time-sucking stops that demand smart clock management. (Back then, it could be a self-serve fro-yo station; now it’s a flower stand run by a comically lackadaisical clerk).

* Just as David Ruprecht would challenge the teams to fulfil his own, small personal shopping list, Jones does same.

* The potential payday at stake now is obviously much bigger. In 1994, you maybe won $5,000. Here, the team that wins the Big Sweep can prettily easily proceed to win $25K in the Super Sweep bonus round (now five clues versus three), though they are then dared to risk it all in a second and even third round — building to a potential $100,000 jackpot.

Watching the new and 1990s versions back-to-back, I couldn’t help but feel like the Big Sweep used to be a lot more frantic, with team members lobbing expensive slabs of beef into their carts — and that was a lot more fun to watch. The new version is so slick and so high gloss (the shelving is tricked out with LED light strips) that it feels so artificial (filmed COVID-safely in a 35,000-square-foot hangar at the Santa Monica airport) and not at all like a real market with grungy linoleum floors.

Similarly, Jones’ play-by-play voiceover for the Big Sweep isn’t yet as polished (or as insightful) as the previous version’s (by announcer Johnny Gilbert?), but that is perhaps something that fine-tunes itself over time.

What did you think of ABC’s Supermarket Sweep revival?

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