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ST-Why?-D - February 16
Chico Alexander

Having been in South Florida when "Shop 'til You Drop" first aired, I had yet to find a mall that looked like the one on the Stone-Stanley sound stage. Not that I wanted to or anything. But at least it was quirky for what it was, grown people acting like little kids and basically doing what I wanted to do as a kid spending the summer in Miami... running around a mall and cleaning house.

Then I moved and grew. Now I think that, save for the Shopper's Challenge round, there's no real competitive element that would keep the game moving along. Kind of like Scott and Dave sat around at their office saying "Hey, what if we made a grown-up version of 'Fun House'?" It was the kind of thinking that gave them the unofficial moniker of "the whipping boy of game show fandom".

They eventually did in the Greg Kinnear outlet, "College Mad House", but that's another story for another day.

Over time, the show itself went from slightly quirky to pretty annoying, as the show jumped networks. Don't even get me started on Dee Baker. In case you didn't know, Dee is known for basically three things.

a) Being the modern-day voice of Daffy Duck
b) Announcing "Legends of the Hidden Temple", one of the better shows from the Stone-Stanley team
c) Making a jackass of himself as Grandma Curmudgeon and other assorted characters

Time marches forward. I'm guessing the story went like this. Somewhere along the line and within rerun cycles, Pax was given the choice to renew either "Supermarket Sweep" or "Shop 'til You Drop". Ultimately, they went with the mall, which was quickly torn down and rebuilt as a warehouse-store, maybe for compensation for the lack of games left in "Sweep's" wake, but again, I don't know for sure. The result was basically the same, though... Except for the lack of running around. But that was made up for in the collection of the prizes. Oh, and the contestants? They look like they're either from central casting or they've been drinking way too much Starbucks. There's energy, and then there's... well, energy.

So the question remains... Why is it still on the air? If we were to take the simplest-equates-best route, one could easily cite that it's light entertainment which, thanks in some part to the on-air plugs, costs next to nothing to produce and yields a semblance of an audience. In this age of instant-cueing-past-the-commercials and multimedia marketing, and even in the golden age of game shows, anyone could tell you that production takes money, and that money comes from sponsors. Therefore, no sponsors, no money, no show, so that couldn't be why it's still on.

So we go to the audience. Who exactly makes up this audience, I don't know, but I know that veteran fans see nothing entertaining about this or any other incarnation of the series. My colleague and close friend Travis even called it an insult that a team can win more in prizes on this show than one person could win in cash on "Win Ben Stein's Money". That, and so-called "gems" from the camp are few and far between. But again, not everyone in America feels the way that the general fan populace does, and since we have no numbers to gauge the audience of the show (which reminds me, I need to get on Numbers Game soon), we wouldn't know for sure, so that's out. For now.

But if there were an audience of loyal followers, I could understand. To its merit, Don Priess is a reasonably good announcer, Grandma Curmudgeon has finally been put in a rest home, and JD Roberto is better than Pat Finn. Then again, the latter of the three arguments isn't really saying that much.

In summary, there's a saying in Hollywood: "You can do it fast, you can do it cheap, or you can do it right. Pick any two." Quod erat demonstrandum, Pax. I just want to know, once and for all, why.

This edition of On the Buzzer is dedicated in loving memory of Janet Lampkin, who showed me what it meant to live outside the norm.

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