As the name of the show suggests, the whole game is set in total darkness and has the players doing certain activities to earn points. Such as feeling around tanks with certain objects, eating food off the stomachs of people, making their way though a mini obstacle course, or smell odors through a glass plate.
The game would start off with five contestants (or if its a team episode, four pairs of two people). After a round, it would be reduced down to three then the final two before the one with the most points would be declared the winner. During the rounds, we get Confession Cam commentary from contestants about how they would feel during a round, as per most reality TV staples now a days.
Total Blackout contains the following tropes:
- Blatant Lies: Jaleel often misrepresents a challenge's hazards to the contestants, the better to foster their paranoia. The "high platform with holes" contestants must traverse is actually, for example, an ordinary floor, and a game involving electrified limbo... has no bars at all.
- Cluster Bleep-Bomb: All the bleepin' time. All the funnier because it's unscripted.
- Eat That: One of the games, sometime eaten off plates, other times off the stomach of people.
- Eliminated from the Race: Contestants are eliminated by standing in front of trap doors and being told to jump on Jaleel's signal. The one with the least points falls through while the winner's door stays shut.
- Exact Words: Assuming Jaleel doesn't lie outright about the challenge threats, he'll often leave out important information, e.g. that the two live tarantulas in a room full of fake spiders are locked safely inside glass boxes.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Sometimes contestants will guess about what something is accurately...then realize what they just touched/tasted/smelled and then Freak Out.
- Facial Dialogue: More of a Facial Monologue: the extras who have to stand, sit, or lie there without speaking and be identified by groping contestants sometimes get really amusing Reaction Shots, especially when they're mistaken for mangy dogs or the like.
- Freak Out: Many contestants do this, especially if it living creature they're touching.Eddie: [gags after sniffing something] I know that smell. [sniffs again] That smells like ass. [ding!]
Eddie (on confession cam): I was like "Yayyyyy!", but I was like "I.... smelled ass."
- Game Show Host: Jaleel of course
- Genre Blindness: Contestants sometimes speculate out loud that the creatures they're asked to identify by feel are genuinely dangerous, like tigers or bears, despite knowing it's only a show and the production would be shut down if anyone got mauled. Lampshaded by Jaleel, who snarks about it for the audience.
- Hand in the Hole: Reaching into tanks or cages without knowing what's inside is a common challenge.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Indeed, while its not horror related. Most of the fun of the show comes from the fact the contestants can't see and mostly have to rely on their other senses to figure out what they're feeling/tasting/smelling which let their imagination do the work. Alot of their reactions are quite hilarious, especially when they do guess correctly the object.
- Terrifying Pet Store Rat: Any time contestants are required to identify a live animal by touch, it's either a rubber model, a human actor, or this trope. Some challenges have had people freaking out upon touching a yellow Labrador.