The format of this game was the failure. A good game show needs at least two of three things: very simple rules, exciting pacing and the ability for the viewer to play along at home. The best, most enduring ones have all three.
Unfortunately, SMTM had none.
The rules for this game were among the most complex of any prime time game show in history. Let me try to explain how the game worked, as briefly as possible.
A contestant began with a single word or short phrase followed by the choice letters A, B, C (subtle plug for the network?). Each letter was connected to a separate question, all starting with that word or phrase. Once a contestant chose one of the letters, they could either answer that question or pass and select a second letter. If they passed, they got to view the next question, and had the same option. However, if they passed the second question, they were required to answer the third option.
After they answered and before they found out if their answer was correct, they then had to select one of the 13 dancers on stage, each with a different amount of money in a scroll by their side. They revealed their dollar amount (ranging from $20,000 to $250,000) and depending on if the contestant answered right... or answered wrong... that amount would be added to or subtracted from their pot.
Still with me so far? In addition, there was one dancer who held something known as "The Killer Card." If you selected the dancer with the Killer Card and you had gotten your question right, you were safe, and the game continued. If, however, you were incorrect, you had one final question to answer. If you got that final question wrong, you were out of the game. If you got it right, then, the game continued.
There was no quitting, no walking away with the money earned until you either answered six questions correctly or got six questions wrong or you were so far in the hole you couldn't earn enough money to get back out. Got it? Okay!
The biggest problem, as I saw it, was a complete lack of tension, because of the design of the game. A contestant could pass questions they knew they didn't know, and answer many questions they did know, making the pressure even less. Then, they could still find a low dollar amount, even after knowingly missing a question, which meant there still wasn't any "drama." And the fact that they could answer five questions wrong and still have a chance to win was a big mistake. And the pacing of the questions was deadly slow: often the questions were so obvious, it was ridiculous to try to create tension, as if there was any doubt about some of the most common answers.
The pacing, the lack of any real tension at any point during the show and those very complicated rules prevented this program from working, despite Shatner's terpsichorean talents.