“He is a superb game-show host because he has such empathy for people,” Mr. Davies said. “He really relates to people and wants them to win. He gets visibly excited about people when they do well.”
The similarities between “Power of 10” and “Millionaire” go beyond Mr. Davies. It’s a “money tree” type of show that requires contestants to risk most of what they’d already won for the chance of getting really big money. To win $10 million, a player has to walk away from $1 million at the risk of being knocked down to $100,000.
“Millionaire” premiered in August and quickly caught fire among bored TV viewers, a strategy CBS clearly is hoping to duplicate.
Among the water-cooler questions Americans used on the pilot episode: How many Americans think they’re smarter than President Bush? (60 percent); how many Americans say they have fired a gun? (67 percent); how many Americans say they were virgins the day they got married? (28 percent).
One fanciful question asks which city should be saved if asteroids were headed toward New York and Los Angeles and the government had the capacity to save only one. Sorry, West Coasters, more than two-thirds picked New York.
“I’m always interested in what Americans think about things, and I like the idea that this is a show that could shake up people’s perceptions,” Mr. Carey said. “I really do think that people’s perception about things is wrong most of the time.”
Questions mix the topical (how many white Americans say they would never vote for a black person? (18 percent); and silly (how many American women go without underwear at least one day a week? (34 percent). Mr. Carey was surprised that more than two-thirds of people asked said they would report it to authorities if they saw a Mexican crossing the border illegally.
Doing well on “Power of 10” takes social intelligence, he said.
“There are lots of different ways that people can be smart,” he said. “You don’t have to be book smart to win this game show. You don’t have to know a lot of trivia or useless facts about things. But you do have to have a good feeling about what the pulse of America is.”