Awake: The Million Dollar Game just might be Netflix's toughest game show ever. Why? Look to the new series' very first episode, where the show's live audience watched in horror as one man stayed awake for 24 hours, having counted thousands of dollars worth of quarters (yes, really!), chugged way too many slushies, and threaded 10 needles in mere seconds, only to lose more than $136,000 in 30 seconds flat.
Hosted by comedian James Davis, the premise of Awake: The Million Dollar Game is very straightforward: Seven contestants must stay up all night long counting an absurd amount of quarters, doing their best to keep their tallies as accurate as possible. The next day, they perform a series of silly Hollywood Game Night-esque challenges against their fellow competitors that test their hand-eye coordination. Some end up losing, or taking a smaller amount of money to drop out of the competition altogether. At the end of each episode, only one contestant remains, and they have to wager their math to win all of the quarters counted by the contestants over the previous 24 hours.
Sounds easy enough, right? The reality is that happy endings are seemingly rare on Awake, because some contestants are much more likely to make rash, reckless decisions on this particular game show than most others. And fans of the show have been quick to realize this.
We are watching “Awake” on Netflix.
This is STRESSFUL! A fun game show though.
— Sire (@SireLeoLamar) July 20, 2020
My kids have discovered Awake on Netflix. Is this show a weird torture game? Why is this real?
— Cari Miller (@JustCari) July 20, 2020
This new game show on Netflix called “Awake” is incredible. The premise and the challenges are fun but the end where they have to guess how many quarters they counted? Almost even better drama
— Gavin Gintz (@gavin_gintz) July 20, 2020
i watched the 1st ep of the Netflix game show "Awake" where contestants are forced to stay awake for 24+ hours and do physical/mental challenges.
truly one of the most dystopian 45 minutes of TV i've ever seen.
all game shows are exploitative, but this one leaned into it smugly.
— Paul Bufano, Drip Like Bobby Baccalà (@CafeteriaJangle) July 14, 2020
We all know that sleep is so important, as it allows us to move about our days and routines seamlessly — but you'd think that you could easily count quarters for serious cash, even if you're exhausted, right? Turns out, these contestants may be doomed from the start, as failing to get a good night's sleep could lead to the same poor coordination and cognitive abilities as driving drunk.
According to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our brains can't handle being awake for 24 hours — and people who are awake for this long could feel as impaired as someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.10%. That's 20% higher than the legal driving limit in all 50 states. And while the federal agency ties this data to driving, there is plenty of research tying a lack of sleep to poor cognitive abilities outside of a car, too. Even staying up for 18 hours (a reaaaally long day) can lead to similar mental side effects as someone who has a BAC of .05%, or a steady buzz.
In order for an Awake contestant to actually win any money, they have to make it past all the challenges, and getting to keep what they had counted during the night. But if they believe their estimate is within $500 of their real total, they can risk their money to win all the money counted by all contestants; if they're within $25, they'll win $1 million. But the show's can't-turn-away factor comes into play because the host asks contestants to make that gamble; and feeling delirious (or, just plain drunk) after staying up all night, many of them actually do.
Whether or not that gamble pays off is why viewers simply can't get enough of Awake. Will someone be able to conquer their sluggish mind and count their way to a million dollars? You'll have to watch and see for yourself… right after a good night's sleep!
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