It's a nonstop game show that lasts nearly 12 days, but is televised for just an hour each night.
NBC's Million Second Quiz, a high-adrenaline trivia endurance contest, airs live from Sept. 9 to 19 (8 ET/tape-delayed PT), offering cash to contestants playing in a three-story hourglass-shaped structure in midtown Manhattan.
Though it's a faster-paced version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire — each round consists of 10 multiple-choice trivia questions that must be answered in five seconds or less — the show is engineered for the age of digital gaming.
Would-be contestants can go to nbc.com, the show's Facebook page or a free app — available today on Apple's App Store — to play against friends or strangers. Amassing enough points gives them a chance to become "line jumpers," greeted by a Publishers' Clearing House-style prize patrol and whisked to New York for a chance at the "money chair." Once there, they'll play continuously until they lose, with 10-minute bathroom breaks each hour.
"It's extremely ambitious on every level," says host and executive producer Ryan Seacrest. "I really like the fact that it's fast-paced, it's live, and it's clearly like an endurance sporting event."
The app also will sync to the TV show, allowing viewers at home to play along with the game. "The fact that the show is live allows us to ask questions from the previous 24 hours," says executive producer Eli Holtzman, including current events that require contestants to stay connected while they're playing. "That's not only thrilling but also daunting."
And though the quiz format is simple, the show's mechanics are not. There's a "winners' row" of successful players deciding who sits in the money chair and a prize pool that pays $10 for each second on the hot seat, which theoretically could spell a $10 million payout, though the chances are extremely slim. The game expects to run through 20,000 questions and estimates 1,300 contestants will make their way through the hourglass. But the structure has not yet been assembled, the show is an original format that hasn't been tried elsewhere and no pilot episode has been taped.
Though he has eliminated many a singer live on American Idol, playing quizmaster is "something I've never done before, so it's going to be a challenge," Seacrest says. "I'm looking forward to it."