The more things change, the more they stay the same. On a visual note, the new Fox offering “Million Dollar Money Drop” (7 p.m., Fox) demonstrates how little the prime time game show set has changed since “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” arrived way back in 1999.
Hosted by actor/comic Kevin Pollak, “Drop” does offer some wrinkles in the formula. Dating back to the early days of TV game shows, the money at stake had always been an abstraction represented by a flashing number. “Drop” takes the “Deal or No Deal” idea a few steps further by presenting the contestants and the audience with the sheer physical bulk of a million dollars. It’s hardly something one of Howie Mandel’s fembots could stash in her burnished briefcase. It’s more like something you need to store on a pallet; move with a forklift or hide away in a storage locker. Imagine the episode of “Storage Wars” that would make.
“Drop” also deviates from the past in the order of accumulation. Unlike games in which the contestants begin with nothing and work their way up, here the players are bestowed with the whole unwieldy wad from the get go. Over the course of answering seven questions, they must bet their entire sum and physically place it on top of slots that will open in the woeful event of a wrong answer. The sheer spectacle of watching eager couples move all that green around adds an obstacle-course element to the proceedings. And for the audience, there is the ecstasy of the players when they retain their loot or the agony of watching a pile of dough drop down the loser shoot.
Like most of these affairs, it’s not half-amusing. But in a staggering act of programming, Fox expects viewers to watch “Drop” for an hour at a time. Tonight, they’re expecting us to sit still for two whole hours. Or maybe they’re just hoping folks will tune in from time to time.
You don’t need to be a 21st-century Mark Goodson or Bill Todman to know that game shows are best swallowed in half-hour portions. Watching “Jeopardy” for 20 minutes or so is an innocent distraction. Downing it by the hours is a cry for help.
• Over the next two nights, “Independent Lens” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) presents “The Calling,” profiles of young people from three major faiths preparing to become religious leaders.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Hallmark presents the original animated special “Martha and the Christmas Tree” (6 p.m., Hallmark).
• Minnesota hosts Chicago on “Monday Night Football” (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
• The winning group emerges on “The Sing-Off” (7 p.m., NBC).
• “Skating with the Stars” (7 p.m., ABC) enters the fifth and final week.
• A feud threatens holiday cheer on “The Closer” (8 p.m., TNT).
• “The Rachel Maddow Show” (8 p.m., MSNBC) airs live from New York’s 92nd Street Y over the next three nights.
• An escaped con wants revenge on “Hawaii Five-O” (9 p.m., CBS).
• A glum Christmas Eve on “Chuck” (9 p.m., NBC).
• Claire Danes stars in the remarkable 2010 cable biography “Temple Grandin” (8 p.m., HBO).
• Joe dates two women on “Men of a Certain Age” (9 p.m., TNT).