Friday, June 09, 2006

Game Show Marathon - Or Is It A Sprint?

A few months ago, I did a column here about the Top 14 game shows of all time.. and one of the rabid Price is Right fans who posted a comment.. Louis from Tampa… asked me what I thought were the worst game shows of all time. I have been mulling that over recently, and at some point, I will write a column about that very topic.. but for now I want to see a little more of Game Show Marathon to see where it would fit on that list. So far it looks like it won’t make the list, but I must admit that although it could have been executed better, it is a pretty interesting concept to have celebrities compete on a different game show each week.

I have always thought that reality shows were really fancy game shows. Originally reality shows were really documentaries.. But the producers decided to call them “reality shows” so the goofy kids watching would not think it was some kind of stuffy PBS documentary. Exhibit A would be “The Real World” on MTV, the original of the reality shows..

Along came Mark Burnett a few years ago and thought.. Hey lets make it a competition with a big money prize at the end of the reality rainbow. He created “Survivor” which took the real world to an exotic island and created a contest involving strategy and fitness both mentally and physically. After “Survivor”, almost all of the reality shows needed a finish line to have its participants thrive for. So with the exception of the freak show involving Paris Hilton, and Lionel Ritchie’s skeletal daughter… (Remember his 80s song to her….“Hello…. Is it food you’re looking for?”), most of the reality shows are now game shows.

Which brings us to GSM… The producers must have thought.. lets have a reality show where the contestants compete on a game show.. And now we have officially come full circle! I have reserved comment on it till now, since I was never really a big fan of the first 3 game shows that were featured in the competition, but now that we have seen Leslie Nielsen yelling out big bucks, no whammies on Press Your Luck and with old favorites Card Sharks, Family Feud, and Match Game looming in the coming weeks… I felt it was time to weigh in with my thoughts on this program.

The producers decided to remake CBS versions of some older classics… and rebuilt the sets and plunked today’s B-list stars right in the middle as if they traveled to the set in a Time Machine. . So far they have done 4 different games with one winner emerging from each game.. Those 4 semifinalists will advance to Card Sharks and Match Game.. And the champions will recruit their real families for Family Feud. I wonder how they will do the Feud… Richard Dawson did the ABC version, but the CBS version with a slightly different set and rules was the one hosted by Ray Combs.

The first episode featured “The Price is Right”.. The Bob Barker fans were not too thrilled to see Rikki Lake hosting it.. and I am not sure who drew the short straw to break the news to Bob that they would be doing his show without him. However, from a ratings standpoint, it was a good idea to do the show… since it is so incredibly popular.. It has run for more than 30 years on CBS Daytime and is the anchor of the consistently highly rated daytime lineup.

My idea that might have smoothed this over better.. Why not let Bob host TPIR and one or two of the other shows while rotating with Ricki Lake? They could have done Truth or Consequences with Barker.. Since that was the show he hosted for a ton of years before The Price is Right. Keep in mind that the GSM concept ran very successfully in England with 2 hosts named Ant and Dec. Ratings-wise, it made sense to premiere with TPIR… but I think that future editions of GSM should not include it as long as Bob Barker is around.. since it strikes me as being incredibly disrespectful having someone else hosting it while he is still alive and kicking.

The show really hit its stride with Thursday night’s episode of Press Your Luck. This was the type of show that employed strategy and had a sense of excitement. However I should point out that the celebrity contestants weren’t as familiar with the nuances of the game as regular contestants were back when the show originally ran. It also ranked 7th on my February 2006 list of the 14 Best Game Shows of All Time. Ricki did a decent job filling the late Peter Tomarken’s shoes and the episode was quite exciting, although it was not the smartest idea to kill the momentum by breaking for commercial with only 4 spins left in the game. The questions were also a bit too easy meaning there were more spins awarded to the players… (And why are they called spins since nothing is spun?) Nonetheless, it was very exciting and well done and might have been the high point for GSM since fans watching the later episodes of Match Game and Family Feud will inevitably start comparing Ricki to hosting legends Gene Rayburn and Richard Dawson.

As for the other two shows, I never really liked Lets Make a Deal.. And I only watched a few minutes of it on GSM. A lot of the bulletin boards say Deal or No Deal is really the new version of that show.. (although it does have elements of Press Your Luck since all the contestants do is Press Their Luck)… I am impressed that Howie Mandel always knows the names of the models. A recent gay contestant got so excited he would run up to each model after she opened his suitcase and give her a hug… This was on a day when they wore incredibly low cut dresses, and boobies were everywhere. How many heterosexual guys will go on next season acting gay just to get a nice little huggie with the hot models?

The other show was Beat the Clock.. That show originally aired way before my time… but I think GSM did a terrific job recreating it.. The showed clips from the 50s and then had the players re-create the very same stunts.

Two things stood out… the well polished floor was reflective and the model was wearing a skirt… Hmmm.. Did anyone else try to look up her skirt?? The other thing was every time they did a stunt that went awry… Ricki Lake would yell out ‘Shoot”… it was done often enough to start a drinking game! Hopefully she won’t slip and yell out something else like her former CBS colleague, Channel 2 reporter Arthur Chi’en. He was on the air live one day getting heckled by some Opie and Anthony fans, and cursed at them not realizing he was on the air live. (He claimed he thought he was taping a report) This is not to be confused with the Channel 2 sports report some 10 years ago with Bernie Smilovitz where he played a tape of Bobby Knight cursing up a storm.. WITHOUT the curses bleeped out… After the tape was done.. You could see Bernie and anchor Dana Tyler looking like deer caught in the headlights with Bernie thinking he better call his agent to start sending some resumes back to his hometown of Detroit, and Dana realizing that she would be one Roz Abrams contract signing from being relegated to weekend duty.

Chi’en by the way went to the NY Labor Board and filed a complaint and was actually awarded some money. And who ever heard of someone going to the Department of Labor and winning a case against an employer? Well your blog master just won a nice stack of shekels this past week after taking a former employer to Trenton. That same day in Trenton, a budget hearing with the Human Services Commissioner Kevin Ryan was interrupted when he got sick and had to be rushed to the hospital. His chief of staff told The Star Ledger she decided to send him to an out of town hospital because the CEO of that hospital is her former boss Former NJ Health Commissioner Dr. Clifton Lacy! Hey folks.. Lets impose the Ariel Sharon rule and go to the nearest hospital!!!!! Sharon had a stroke after passing the closest hospital to go to a second more distant facility! Ryan is ok by the way..

Speaking of former bosses, I was the last case to be heard.. In some cases the employer didn’t show up and the plaintiffs won by default… but in the cases where the employers showed up, those were won by the employers. Except mine.

I won’t bore you with the details… but after driving 2 hours in a rainstorm and realizing my former boss also had to shlep there from a farther distance.. I knew I could go home empty handed and still feel victorious. There were 2 parts to the case involving unpaid commissions.. I won the first one.. And in the 2nd one.. either the company didn’t have their facts straight.. or she lied under oath… But.. I got to cross examine my former boss… (How surreal! Isn‘t that the coolest thing?).. And I tried to do my best Felix Unger courtroom cross examination imitation. And even though I was not awarded money on the 2nd claim.. I still walked away feeling like a million bucks.

Speaking of Big Bucks…. If the upcoming 3 episodes are as exciting as Press Your Luck… the Game Show Marathon may become a regular television fixture. Next week is Card Sharks, followed by Match Game the following week.. And the final episode will be Family Feud. I get the feeling that some of these old favorites might be brought back at some point if GSM gets decent ratings.


The Pump Is Right said...

I wonder how they will do the Feud… Richard Dawson did the ABC version, but the CBS version with a slightly different set and rules was the one hosted by Ray Combs.

Yes, and I understand Ray Combs was so upset about the changes that he killed himself after a couple of seasons. Didn't Louie Anderson and the bearded guy from Home Improvement also host Feud in the '90s?

Some of my own least favorite game shows of the '80s (though I still watched them because The Adventures of He-Man never seemed to capture my after-school interest) included Scrabble, Bullseye and some awful memories of The One-Million-Dollar Chance of a Lifetime; but I do have to admit a fondness for the dated cheesiness of Tic Tac Dough, The Joker's Wild, Newlywed Game, and Bowling for Dollars -- the inspiration for my proposed x-rated Israeli game show, Shekhels for Shmeckels. Would you care to be our first contestant, Nate? ;)

Nate said...

Ray Combs' actually died 10 years ago this week. It was actually one of the first news stories I recall downloading from the internet!

It's interesting that 2 of your least favorites (Bullseye and 1M Chance of a Lifetime) were both hosted by Jim Lange.

Im surprised you didnt comment about the guy who was rushed to the faraway hospital. I've already told Trophy Wife that if I ever need a hosp.. take me to the closest one.. which i think is jFFFFFFFk. :)