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September 07, 2000|LARRY STEWART

What: "2-Minute Drill"

Where: ESPN

When: Debuts Monday

Game shows seem to be the new television craze, and ESPN gets into the act with "2-Minute Drill" on Monday at 4 p.m. "SportsCenter" anchor Kenny Mayne will be the host. Although Mayne will never be confused with Alex Trebek, or even Regis Philbin, his dry wit should work well.

There will be some light moments, but co-creator and executive producer Michael Davies said the contestants will be all business. Davies also created ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" Although far less than $1 million will be at stake, Davies said emotions run high. "And we won't have any celebrity models handing out prizes," he said.

Cash prizes start at $5,000, and the ultimate winner of the 26-show tournament will earn $100,000, possibly $200,000.

Just as coveted as the money is ESPN Experience prizes, such as a trip to spring training with Peter Gammons. Davies said the most popular ESPN Experience prize is being a part of an ESPN promo. Another prize is a trip with the "College GameDay" crew.

Andrew Golder, creator of Comedy Central's "Win Ben Stein's Money," is Davies' partner in the creation and production of "2-Minute Drill."

The weekly shows, filmed in New York, continue on Mondays, with Thursday editions beginning Oct. 12. The final will be on Christmas Day, when the winner among a field of 51 will be determined.

Round 1 of each show consists of three contestants competing individually, with a celebrity panel throwing questions at them. Each contestant has two minutes to call on different panelists, who quickly read questions. The top two contestants advance to Round 2. Each show consists of three rounds.

Two contestants still compete individually during Round 2, but unlike Round 1, panelists don't have assigned categories and contestants don't control who asks the questions. Instead, all four panelists, plus Mayne, ask rapid-fire questions on random sports topics.

In the third round, called a specialty round, contestants get to pick the topic, but the questions are very specific. In this round, contestants can double their money.

There are 17 programs in what is called the qualifying round. The 17 winners, plus the top second-place finisher, move on to the quarterfinals, which consist of six shows. There will be two semifinal shows and then the final.

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