Monday, April 19, 2021

Dear Game Show Network programming people: More of the oldies, please

For many decades, I have been a fan of game shows. I grew up during what I would say is the golden age of game shows in the 1970s and 80s, when the best (or at least the best versions) of the classic shows were on the air.

I don't have time to watch much TV these days, but when I do, I like to flip to the Game Show Network to see what's on. GSN is always entertaining, though I used to like it better when it concentrated more on the old shows.

I realize the need to move on and create new classics (and cultivate a younger audience), but I kind of wish there were more old episodes of "Joker's Wild" and "Tattletales," or even some "Price Is Right" from when Bob Barker had dark hair.

I looked over the GSN schedule for one 24-hour period recently. There were a lot of new games that are probably decent if I gave them a chance, but I focused on the three legacy shows on the grid:

  • "Family Feud" hosted by Steve Harvey: Don't get me wrong, I like Steve Harvey. He's a Cleveland guy and does a good job hosting Feud. But, through no fault of his own, he isn't Richard Dawson. This show hit its absolute peak when Richard was wearing a tuxedo and kissing all of the women (and occasionally the men) on each team.
  • "Match Game": There is no such thing as an unentertaining episode of "Match Game." Gene Rayburn was a master. And speaking of Richard Dawson, he was the best panelist in terms of actually playing the game. Throw in Charles Nelson Reilly, Brett Sommers, Fannie Flagg and the others, and it's television gold, Jerry. I have a good Richard Dawson story at the end of this post, if you're interested.
  • "Whammy!/Press Your Luck": This is a new version of one of my favorite 80s shows. If you're not familiar with the 1984 Michael Larson "Press Your Luck" scandal, this is a good recap, or you can search for it on YouTube. The whole thing was bizarre and, ultimately, tragic.
I would like to have seen some "Newlywed Game" and "Tic Tac Dough" thrown in there, but again, I get the need for new programming to reel in new audiences.

Still, today's young people will never quite know the joy of watching Peter Marshall host the "Hollywood Squares" or Dick Clark guide "The $100,000 Pyramid" at 10 o'clock on a Tuesday morning when they're home sick from school. That was paradise.

MY RICHARD DAWSON STORY: I've managed to get through an entire post about game shows without mentioning that I appeared as a contestant on two of them. Although I guess I really didn't get through the whole post without mentioning it. Anyway, this is my Richard Dawson story: In October 2002 when I taped my appearance on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," one of the people with whom I was playing was a grade-school teacher from Tennessee named Shirley. She once dated Don Henley, apparently. Anyway, she had also appeared as a contestant on "The Match Game" in something like 1974. She won the game that day, and when it came time for the bonus round in which you selected one celebrity with whom you would try to match, she like many others picked Richard because he was so good. The producers hemmed and hawed and tried to get her to select someone else before finally revealing that Richard was so drunk that day there was no way he would be coherent enough to participate in the bonus round. So Shirley picked Betty White. The clue was "Planet <BLANK>." Shirley said "Earth." Betty said "of the Apes." I'm positive Richard, had he not been imbibing that day, would have said "Earth" and won Shirley some more money. Oh well, it makes for a great story.

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