04 December 2005

The Sunday 9: Games People (No Longer) Play

It's THE SUNDAY 9 time once again. This week it's being brought to you by Carnation® brand evaporated cola. It's The Powdered Thing ... just add water, and *presto!* you have instant Coca-Cola®-esque CO2-based refreshment drink. Available also in cherry, diet or milk.

Recently I was ranting (ME? Naaaaaaawwwww ... perish the thought!) about the state of game shows in this country. Today I wish to proffer forth a list of nine old, time-tested and proven game show ideas which I believe, if put on the air today -- as is, without tinkering, except for prizes -- with the right host, supporting people, celebs and timeslot, could become hits. A couple, if presented faithful to the original rules, have the potential to deliver a death blow to Wheel of Fortune, something that should've been done long before I got seriously drunk one night in 1991 and found myself married.

In the words of Jim Lange, "And HEEEEEEEEERE they arrrrrrre!!!!!!"

1) THE $64,000 QUESTION
Who Wants to Worship Regis came close to this concept, but no cigar. Unlike "Millionaire", a contestant chose a single category and answered questions, moving up the scale to the jackpot plateau.

"Question" was among the most popular quiz shows of the '50s, and could do well today with a slight tweaking on the money. In 1955, $64,000 was a buttload of money; today, it would barely pay half the mortgage of most houses!

Bring it back as The $64 MILLION Dollar Question ... or even higher. Heck, shoot for Powerball-style jackpots on a TV game show. Nothing would jumpstart the game show genre like some $300,000,000 winners during prime time.

A shoo-in, right? Possibly. I can think of only two obstacles: The show requires a live ensemble to play the music. An ensemble who will want to get paid. And we have the music rights. The music barons are, to put it in family-friendly language, a bunch of greedy twats.

Hey, maybe a variation could be tried out: "Name That Download" -- people could buck the music baron twats and try to name songs taken from various 'file-sharing' programs. And sit back to watch the fun as said music baron twats send their lawyer goons to sue every single participant on the show, even kids in the audience.

Why this one hasn't been considered for revival is both a mystery and, perhaps, obviously clear. It was perhaps the most 'reality'-style game show on the schedule once upon a time ... and one would think the networks, eager to fill their entire prime time lineups with reality shows and yet another CSI knockoff (watch for CSI: Tiger Ridge, in which cops investigate sex crimes -- it's illegal up there to fornicate someone who isn't related to you), might want to jump on this idea.

Object: People try to complete outlandish stunts within a certain time, as it ticks away on an oversized clock onstage.

Ahhhhh, but there's the problem, I suppose. The original version - nicely hosted by Bud Collier - had fun with contestants, who were making fools of themselves on that stage. Ay, there's the rub: Collier never humiliated 'em. It was always in good, clean fun. You know, the difference between good-natured teasing and outright ridicule. We're now in an age where it's acceptable to belittle ordinary people on national television; worse yet, people actually fall over themselves to get on these shows to be belittled. [sighhhhhh] See earlier comments re "dumbed down America."

Still, I'd love to see a good revival of BTC. Let entire families, kids included, do stunts. And there were literally THOUSANDS of those to be done -- the original show, I kid you not, employed two folks whose sole job duty was to create and test all the stunts we saw.

Game show aired from 1966-1969 on NBC (they had the coolest game show lineup in the '60s and '70s). Premise was simple: two contestants faced a board of nine numbered squares. At the beginning of each round, the squares would reveal nine different answers. They had 10 seconds to quickly study them before they were again covered. Host Bill Cullen would ask questions and the contestants would try and ring in to answer -- but they couldn't just say it; nooooo, they had to respond with a number they thought contained the correct answer.

Giving the wrong number often made for some humorous possibilities. To wit:
HOST: "Who is the publisher of PLAYBOY magazine?"
CONTESTANT 1: "Number 3"
[Square number 3 opens to reveal "GLORIA STINEM"]

But not in separate form. Combine 'em -- call it The Dating-Wed Game. At first, it follows the basic TDG format: a woman, seated behind a partition, questions three bachelors and has to choose one. But instead of just going off on a trip to Cancun and all the participants smugly blowing that full-body 'kiss' at the end of the show, the two people have to get married instead. Jim Lange's still around; so is Bob Eubanks. Send 'em both to seminary, so they could both perform wedding ceremonies. Right on camera, too.

Why not? If people will willingly eat cockroaches on live TV, certainly a few suckers would love the chance to get married right on the spot. And a year later, do a reunion show to see how many are still married.

There could even be a Tiger Ridge version, involving Family Feud.

Very popular game show in the '60s, similar in feel to Password. Two teams - one celebrity and one 'civilian.' The "password" (so to speak - usually a name or place) had to be conveyed through clues pointing not toward the answer, but instead to words which SOUNDED like the answer. Hence, the answer was what "you don't say."

This webpage explains it much better than I can.

Remember Tom Kennedy? YDS was that game which put him on the map. "It's not what you say that counts, it's what YOU DON'T SAY." I loved this show when I was little, and would love to see it return.

Although it would do better to have a different name, as many today would probably sooner think of the Drew Carey-hosted improv show by a similiar name.

The idea was simple: A panel of four tries to guess the unusual occupation of a guest. Toward the end of the show, a big-name person would take part as a "mystery guest", and the panelists all had to don blindfolds. It was easy, elegant ... and could work very well today with the right people.

Another panel game from the same creators as "Line", above. Panel of four attempts to question three people - one real and two imposters, all claiming to be this one person. Monetary awards depended on if the panel were stumped, i.e. none of them cast a vote for the 'real' person.

As with "Line", with the right people it could be a hit. The latest attempt in the late '90s bombed; it's a PANEL game show, not a PAULA game show.

Of all these shows, I'm fondest of Concentration. I watched it religiously every morning when I was little, and I was heartbroken when NBC canceled it in 1973 as part of a misguided VP's attempt to bring more "lively" game shows to the schedule. Simply put, Concentration in its original form could still be on the air today, ala The Price is Right.

Forget the poorly-done revival Classic Concentration in the late '80s. It was dumbed down. The original version, as is mostly the case, was better. The concept: Two contestants sit before a 30-square board. You try to match prizes, which then reveal parts of a rebus (picture) puzzle. The one who solved the puzzle won the round.

There are incredibly creative possibilities with rebus puzzles, and after 30+ years of glorified hangman on Wheel of Fortune, I'm sure we could get as much mileage out of a puzzle that actually requires a few MB worth of brain space to solve.

There could be big-money prizes on the board ... after all, only the one who solves the puzzle keeps the prizes. There are pitfalls, too -- the "Take a prize" and "Forfeit a prize" squares could be headaches! (there were a couple of 'gag' prizes on the board as well, and if you matched one you had 'insurance' in case you matched a forfeit).

If Concentration came back, with the original rules (!), it'd be the next big success story. I'd bet money on it, too.

# # #

So there you have it. If you made it this far, go buy yourself a few consolation prizes -- get a home game, several boxes of RICE-A-RONI, and a gift certificate for the SPIEGEL catalog.

Ciao for niao!

--Talmadge "Furnished for promotional consideration" Gleck


bolivar said...

Hey Talmadge - I remember reading something once in EW magazine & thought it was a cool idea for a sitcom. With all the rash of heavy metal heroes cashing in on the TV scene (read: Ozzy's sellout), give a sitcom to the most obnoxious hero of them all: David Lee Roth. Cast him as the host of a struggling game show. Cast Andy Dick as the show's producer, then watch out! But, you also need a rival game show host to banter with. My vote: hello, Sammy Hagar!
What would the name of the show be? How about this one: "Name That Alcoholic Beverage".
Lord, I apologize, and be with the starving pygmies down in New Guinea, amen.

Talmadge G. said...

David Lee Roth as a game show host?

Yeah, I could see that. Dunno about teaming him up with Red Rocker, tho', unless you have whatzisname, the singer from Extreme, playing referee.

Hey! I got it! How about Van Halen Family Feud, pitting the VHs against the Bertinellis ... given the latest news from that front.

"Top one answer on the board, here's the question: Name a hit single recorded by Art Garfunkel..."

[crickets chirping]

[20 minutes later]
"Anyone? Anyone?"