Friday, February 10, 2006

The Top 14 Game Shows of All Time - Part I - Will It Be Bachelor No. 1, Bachelor No. 2....or the Banana Section?

Here folks is my own list of the top 14 game shows ever in the history of all mankind!. We're splitting this into 3 parts.. today the bottom 5, in Part II we will talk about the next five and in part III, The Final Four.. Anyone who knows me can easily guess what comes in at no. 1.... But keep in mind that other bloggers who have made this list have also come up with the same #1... so I just may have been on to something the last 30 years or so. Feel free to use the comments space to generate some speculation about The Final Four.

Interestingly enough only 1 of the game shows on this list has premiered in the last 20 years,.. and only 2 have premiered in the last 30! Virtually every great game show was created during television’s early years from the 50's through early 70s. But since then... zippo and zilcho. Game Show Network came into this world on December 1, 1994, and over the years they have tried to bring us original game shows, They remade Press Your Luck, The Gong Show and Three’s a Crowd which happened to have one of the catchier theme songs in game show history. They also tried a few original game shows such as Cram, Inquizition and Friend or Foe ….but aside from Lingo with Chuck Woolery, none have had much staying power..

Why 14? Why not?… I had a hard time picking from 2 shows for 15 (The Newlywed Game and Name That Tune) and I didn’t feel like making a top 16 list.. So I cut it at 14 because to me there was a pretty big gap after 14. And what went into my decision? The ability to play along , entertainment, longevity, and also the show’s impact on television as a whole. If you take a look at shows that started in the 60s and 70s (as most of these did) you will see how they influenced later shows. Aren’t the wildly popular reality shows Survivor and American Idol really game shows? I also think some will also find my number 9 choice to be controversial... but I'm sticking by my picks! So here we go.

14 - THE ORIGINAL MAKE ME LAUGH - We'll start with an oddball pick. All of the game shows lasted many years - except for this one… but for the year that it ran.. it was hilarious! This syndicated program was on back in ‘79 and was totally addictive!. Bobby Van hosted 3 comedians who had 60 seconds each to make a contestant laugh. The contestant sat there and if they went a minute without laughing they made a buck a second. If they outlasted all 3 comedians… they won 360.. . Not a heckuva lot of money, but there were definitely some very funny moments; not to mention a great source of exposure for young up and coming comedians.

One very memorable female contestant with chubby cheeks discovered that by hyperventilating, she could control herself to keep from laughing. She took these huge deep breaths, and won.. So the producers brought her back, and on her return engagement to the program the comedians attacked by putting party noisemakers and balloons in her mouth that she instantly inflated.. along with candles that she would blow out. I was on the floor laughing but the contestant kept huffing and puffing away.

Also, at the time this show was on.. the notion of having stand up comedians perform on TV was extremely unusual. Aside from the show Evening at the Improv, there weren’t too many comedians honing their craft on TV…. Yet now we have Comedy Central, a network that originally was 2 comedy networks that showed hours and hours of stand up material. Of course The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson also had a HUGE impact on this trend too… but this 30 minute program gave us a solid half hour of standup each and every day… Notice I said the original MML and not the lame remake that aired on Comedy Central in the late 90s. Maybe it will come back again in 2050 (MML).

13. THE DATING GAME - One of 2 Chuck Barris game shows to make the list.. This may have started the reality dating show craze. 3 bachelors (or bachelorettes) sat behind a wall and were suggestively questioned by a bachelorette (or bachelor) who tried to win a date for an exotic trip that would be “chaperoned” by a Chuck Barris Productions staffer. Ultimately, there would be one goofball on the panel and you just prayed that person would get picked.

Years later Love Connection came along…. which wasn’t really a game show… and you got to see if the 2 hit it off… or had a little of the ol’ hocus mcpocus.. I always thought that more contestants on Love Connection had sex than the people who appeared on the raunchier Studs. Love Connection in turn led to the plethora of dating shows such as Studs, and Singled Out on MTV which gave big breaks to Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra.. And many many more that have run over the years, mostly on MTV….Blind Date which sells a raunchy outtake dvd has taken the viewer full circle by allowing us to go along on the date….All of these dating shows… even the horrible Bachelor, owe their birth to this Chuck Barris original!

12. WHEEL OF FORTUNE - This is one of two game shows on this list created by Merv Griffin who to me is a showbiz legend. He created shows, hosted a popular syndicated talk show and made gazillions of dollars by becoming a casino mogul…casinos which he then sold for huge profits. You never hear about Merv having the financial problems that plague that goofball Donald Trump,…. And Merv Griffin’s daddy never bought millions of dollars worth of chips to keep his casino afloat. Merv also created Dance Fever which is now being copied by Dancing with the Stars…

Dance Fever was teamed up with Solid Gold, every Saturday night in the old days on 11 Alive! Speaking of which… many many moons ago, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was a “celebrity judge” on Dance Fever… of course the woman who flashed the most skin ALWAYS won. Well, remember Jan and Diane - Motion! Jan was doing her little dance that day and caught Gretzky‘s attention. As you might know, she is now known as Janet Jones, aka Mrs.Gretzky and is now embroiled in a huge scandal involving a sports gambling ring that she ran with a NJ State Trooper. I bet Gretzky wishes he would have hit on Diane instead!

I mean who stupid can you get? The wife of THE best player in hockey history has nothing better to do than get involved in sports gambling? That would be like Mrs. Gene Rayburn taking wagers for the Banana Section at a Tattletales taping! The only motion Janet will hear will be the ones in court for what has the potential to be a sensational trial!

I haven’t watched Wheel of Fortune in years, but you gotta give them credit for longevity. The show has been kicking butt in syndication for close to 25 years, and shows no signs of letting up. Merv took a simple game like hangman... threw in a glamorous wheel, a hot model and a host with a bad toupee and there you have it…. the formula for a multi million dollar money maker that will probably spin on forever.

I used to watch the show back in the old days pre-syndication when it was on NBC and hosted by Chuck Woolery. We used to have a substitute teacher in high school named Mr. Dreznick who aspired to be on Name That Tune. He used to walk around school with crumpled pieces of paper containing obscure songs and just sing them out of the blue.. Then in the summer of 1980 - there he was... on Wheel of Fortune. I think he won a car and when he lost on the 2nd day he launched a lengthy speech thanking Chuck and the producers for treating him so nicely and not throwing spitballs at him and planting whoopee cushions on his seat!

11. FAMILY FEUD - Again, its longevity.... The show started in the mid 70s as a vehicle for Richard Dawson based on the surveys used on Match Game in the Big Money Super Match. Since then there have been quite a few different versions hosted by the late Ray Combs, Louie Anderson and Richard Karn. Dawson even returned for a season back in '94 but was a shadow of his former self... his British accent was back, he wasn’t kissing women and he constantly talked about his new wife and daughter.. He actually met his much younger wife when she was a contestant on the old Feud, and called her a few weeks after to put the shmaneuver on her. That must have been an interesting phone call. Imagine Richard at the Family Feud production office…”Hey can you get me the phone number for that young chickie that was on the show? I’d love to have her at the house to watch my Bob Crane video collection” (See my 1977 column from November if you don’t understand the cross reference.) The Karn version is still basically the same with different music and a newer set. The Spanish station also runs a version in espanol..

Feud was a huge hit in the 70s and early 80s when ABC used to get prime time stars to face off against each other... just another opportunity for the network to get Suzanne Somers from 3s Company to jump up and down without a bra on! I remember it was the 3s company vs. Soap episode and Bob the dummy's eyes were popping out of his head!

Whatever did happen to the ventriliquist Jay Johnson? Well get a load of this... he has a Broadway show premiering soon! “The Two and Only” premieres April 3rd at the Helen Hayes Theater! (It’s also my favorite day in sports.. It’s Baseball Opening Day and the NCAA Tourney Final) The show has been on tour around the country and is directed by Paul Kreppel who played the pianist on Its a Living... All you need is Gavin McLeod and Isaac the Bartender and we could have an ABC 70s reunion on the Love Boat! Just think... you can invite forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee along and he can finally throw a dummy off the boat! (I think only the Rita Cosby viewers who follow the Smith honeymoon cruise story are gonna get that one...)

10. TO TELL THE TRUTH - This is one of 7 celebrity panelist game shows to make the list... It qualifies because I will usually watch it when its on. It has had a million versions with a bunch of different hosts including Lynn Swann, Alex Trebek, Gordon Elliott and John O'Hurley. The game never changes... 4 stars, 3 contestants,, 2 are lying. The show which started in the 50s always featured Kitty Carlisle who is now in her mid 90s and amazingly still performing and singing! The sheer watch-ability and play along factor get it on the list. Sometimes if you watch the old ones on GSN you see quasi famous people playing the impostors! T4 was one of three 4 panelist shows that hit it big in the old days of television including What’s My Line and I’ve Got a Secret… which rarely get revisited, although GSN is planning to roll out an IGAS remake in a few months. Apparently it has an all gay panel and is going to bump Match Game out of the 11-12 midnight slot.

In Part II, the next five on the list… including a controversial pick for #9 that may surprise some….. If you would like to wager on the Final Four… feel free to contact Janet Jones or your local state trooper.


Neil said...

Oddly, I've seen To Tell the Truth recently. My in-laws were both on the show in the late 60's separately. A hobbyist who collects tapes of game shows recently sent them a tape.

Nate said...

First... thanks for plugging the Temple Dance on your website!

Secondly.... that is pretty cool that they went on T4 as impostors! Was this before they met? That would be an amazing coincidence.. Can you imagine the conversation when they were dating? "Hey I was once on To Tell the Truth.. Really? me too!!"

Anonymous said...

The wife feels that The newlywed game takes the cake.......
Remember our honeymoon.... who was the one that won jeopardy? It was your wife, while you cheered her on in the audience!
I am the Queen of Game Shows and I married the King of Game Shows!