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Raid the Cage is Supermarket Sweep without the carts, store, or personality

Raid the Cage is Supermarket Sweep without the carts, store, or personality
A Raid the Cage grabber tries to get a kayak and a prize represented by the life ring (Photo by Toni Francois/Sony International)

I love a studio game show where contestants run around an elaborate set: people darting and slipping around Double Dare’s obstacle course, climbing through themed rooms on Legends of the Hidden Temple, dumping groceries into their carts on Supermarket Sweep, or running to mini-stores in Shop ’til You Drop.

CBS’s newest game show, Raid the Cage, is similar—so similar that, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like Supermarket Sweep, if you were to lift away the grocery store and leave everything in piles instead.

On each episode, two people who know each other, Amazing Race-style, compete against another team of two. The pair splits up for each round of play: one becomes the gabber and answers trivia questions, and the other becomes the grabber, who grabs prizes.

One major difference between Raid the Cage (CBS, Fridays at 9) and other trivia shows is that the question-answering player is given the answers to all the questions: 11 possibilities for 10 questions. They just have to pick out the right answer. All 11 multiple choice answers stay on screen for that round, even if they guess incorrectly.

A person in a suit standing in front of an blue and yellow LED wall
Damon Wayans Jr. hosts Raid the Cage on its generic-looking set (Photo by Toni Francois/Sony International)

Host Damon Wayans Jr. asks the questions, and otherwise fades away because he doesn’t have much else to do. But he also has a co-host, Jeannie Mai, because why have one person stand around when you can have two!

Each correct answer from the gabber adds time to the grabber’s clock. For their turn, the grabber runs into the cage to—you guessed it—grab prizes. The twist: They do not know how much time has elapsed.

Players dart around, trying to gather as many prizes as they can and get out before time runs out and a glass door slides closed.

That is the fun of the show: watching to see if someone will get smashed in glass elevator doors while trying to get out with their haul. If someone gets trapped inside the cage, they get to come out and keep playing, just without those prizes.

A person pushes a red golf cart across a floor with yellow graphics
A Raid the Cage contestant tries to get a golf cart out of the cage’s doors before they close (Photo by Toni Francois/Sony International)

Some of the prizes are very big: a kayak, a golf cart, an actual car (which has a driver in it, though the contestant has to push), making the dash for the door more comedic.

Inside the cage, players can just hoard prizes, or choose to attempt mini-challenges that have larger, more-valuable prizes.

Across three rounds, the players’ prize totals are added up, and the team with the highest dollar value moves on to the final round, and the other team gets screwed.

With contestants going for prizes with the greatest value, which are rattled off for our benefit before we see a total, it’s very reminiscent of Supermarket Sweep. That show also had bonus prizes and a handful of mini-challenges, like grinding that damn coffee.

Raid the Cage lacks, however, the coherence of shelves, the organizing principle of grocery shopping, or the sense of doing something subversive. It also lacks a cage.

Excuse me for being so literal, but I was rather disappointed that a show called Raid the Cage has no actual cage.

The cage is simply a wide-open space with a shiny floor and LED screens that takes up nearly the entire set. Prizes are arranged in four corners. The mini-challenges get some clever set design, and that is the extent of the show’s personality.

A person smiling and clasping her hands
Jeannie Mai is Raid the Cage’s co-host and cage correspondent (Photo by Toni Francois/Sony International)

When players grab for prizes, it’s not always clear what they’re grabbing, so co-host Jeannie Mai is there to give some ADR about what, exactly, is happening.

After the prize run, co-host Jeannie Mai runs through they’ve gathered. Some prizes are generically identified, such as an acoustic guitar or a 14-carat diamond necklace, while others are given full-on mentions, such as a MacBook and a Yeti cooler.

It is yet another game show that makes it possible to end an episode without a winner: The couple that goes to the finale has 90 seconds in the cage, but if they don’t collect at least $50,000 worth of things, they don’t get any of them. (They do keep their first-round prizes.)

Raid the Cage doesn’t let us play along as much as I’d like. During the trivia round, when players miss an answer, we see the correct one (the player does not). We’re also told which box in the cage has a special prize, and how much time is remaining in the cage.

I suppose the latter is about cranking up the tension for viewers, though the player themselves doesn’t know until a three-second countdown begins.

The show is based on an Israeli format that first broadcast a decade ago, and has been produced around the world since. It was actually developed by NBC a few years ago, but never went anywhere.

I do appreciate a game show with non-stop play; I cannot watch NBC’s insufferable The Wall because of how much time is spent standing around talking and fretting.

Still, Raid the Cage’s six rounds of trivia and cage runs got repetitive quickly for me, and I wondered what a half-hour version of this show would look like, with all of this compressed rather than stretched to an hour.

In the one episode I’ve seen, Raid the Cage’s elements just blended together: generic jumping contestants, coached to be even more enthusiastic; the familiar darkened set with yellow and blue graphics moving across LED screens; generic thumping music underscoring the action. Of course, this is a game show, so different players will change the dynamic.

Raid the Cage is fine. It works. Like CBS’s other new game show, Lotería Loca, Raid the Cage is a very simple game, and that can be a strength. And this game involves far more skill.

Yet of the two, I’d watch Lotería Loca any day, just because it’s more vibrant and fun. Ditto for ABC’s Supermarket Sweep revival with host Leslie Jones. Alas, it got cancelled after two seasons. If it couldn’t find an audience, I’m not sure how Raid the Cage will.

Perhaps being smashed in doors is enough! As Damon Wayans Jr. says, “If you’re the kind of maniac who sticks their arm between the doors of a closing elevator, this show is for you.”

Raid the Cage

Trivia questions plus running around for prizes makes this Supermarket Sweep, generic edition. C

What works for me:

  • Watching people and prizes getting smashed in doors
  • Massive multiple-choice questions

What could be better:

  • A quicker game?
  • A less-generic set

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how itโ€™s made and what it means.

Discussion: your turn

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Happy discussing!


Monday 20th of November 2023

I've watched the Mexican version of the format (it has its own channel on PlutoTV), and I think every change CBS did made it worse - except for Jeannie Mai, and I'd still rather have her on a 5th season of Holey Moley.

In "Escape Perfecto" (a more appropriate name), One team at a time against the house (better narrative). The quiz half is much more like WWTBAM with four-option multiple choice questions for increasing increments of time in the "cage" (More straight forward, and more cage runs). Questions are on the main monitor (no one squinting at monitors across the studio and better stage picture in general). One lifeline is to swap answerers (rewarding multi-generational and spousal teams).

Cage runs begin as soon as the answer is revealed (less down time and padding). Prize values are not the primary scoring mechanism (team get what they want rather than grabbing odd fashion items just for the value). Cage challenges are one at a time and teams select what they play for after question 1) and often require multiple runs to complete (more cohesive story, more prizes on offer for straight up grabs, and more peril that incomplete challenges will occur).

Raid the cage US is Big-box-store sweep.

Escape Perfecto is a nice mashup of that, plus Millionaire lite.


Monday 16th of October 2023

Eh, it was better than I expected... I didn't expect much!

David Batterson

Saturday 14th of October 2023

I watched "Raid the Cage" once just to see what it was. I won't watch again, as it is probably one of the stupidest game shows ever greenlighted in the US. I don't think it will last long. Chris Rock or Nick Cannon would have been a much better host. The contestants were boring. Also, they did win over $100,000 in prizes, but will have to pay Uncle Sam when tax filing comes around.