It took a decade to get The Cube to America, but it was worth the wait.
Review: The Cube (USA)
After a decade of waiting The Cube finally came to America in 2021. The original British version is nearly unmatched in style, excitement, and production. An American version had so many ways it could have gone awry. Luckily the team behind the game put together a show that rivals any international version of this format in its 12 year history.
The Cube is a simple show. A pair of contestants get nine lives total to beat seven challenges. Lose a challenge and you lose a life. Each game you win moves you up the money ladder and beating all seven games wins the team $250,000. The team has two lifelines to help them: “Simplify”, which makes the game easier in some way; and “One Shot” which gives the host one chance to beat the game for the team. Once you enter The Cube you cannot leave until you win or lose. If you run out of lives you leave with nothing.
What sets The Cube apart from anything else on television is its style. There’s been nothing like The Cube before and few shows have come close to approaching its status. The ominous Cube is shrouded in darkness but brightly lit inside, obfuscating shadows and making the interior seem ultra-futuristic. Bullet-time camera (think The Matrix) line the set making even the simplest moments incredibly suspenseful and dramatic.
A special shoutout must go to host Dwyane Wade. This is Dwyane’s first game show but you’d never know it. He handles the show with ease and style…being a sympathetic voice for the contestants but ratcheting up the tension where needed. It’s an outstanding first attempt and, if he wants to do more, hopefully he’ll have more hosting opportunities down the line.
The American version of The Cube improved on so many elements of the most recent UK series The Million Pound Cube. One of which is the talking Cube (which has been adapted to the British version now). It’s such a sensible and smart idea that it makes you wonder why it never came up before. The money chain was reverted back its original 2009 amounts where it makes sense to gamble but it’s completely understandable to walk away.
The Cube US switched out the British lifeline “Swap” (which lets you swap places with someone inside the Cube) with “One Shot” which lets Dwyane have a chance. Swap has never worked out on the British version and it was nice to see the American team recognize this and come up with a new solution. Recognition must also go to the people setting the order of the games. The Cube UK has a tendency to front-load incredibly difficult games and make contestants hemorrhage lives which makes the rest of their game a foregone conclusion. The American version has a very nice and steady escalation of difficulty that keeps teams in the game and keeps viewers interested.
The only real issue is regarding the lifelines (which tells you all you need to know of the high quality). On the older versions of the show contestants were given a “Trial Run”, which lets them enter The Cube once and test out the game before deciding to play or walk away. This allowed for some of the most exciting and tense moments the show has ever had. All versions of The Cube seem to have done away with this. The American version has come up with a better solution than its British counterpart but the loss of “Trial Run” is still a big loss.
If our biggest complaint about a show is a lifeline, then you get the idea of its quality. The Cube has easily been my top show of 2021 so far. The crew did a fantastic job creating what is arguably the best version of the show that has existed. Every element of the show surpassed expectations. From the host to the format to the production…everything is just about the best of its class. Even if a second season doesn’t end up happening everyone behind the show should be proud of what they accomplished. But we’re hoping we don’t have to wait another decade for Americans to get their chance inside The Cube.