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The Vannas and the Susans
Chico Alexander

Sex sells. No one knows why, it just does. And so this school of thought begat an often over-looked aspect of the game... the game show model. I thought about writing this for two reasons: a) Gordon's busying himself with a project that he won't tell me about, and b) in the game show world, there are two types of models... and GSN gave us a hint of both over the past month.

Let's consider two ends of a spectrum here. The first end (for comparison's sake, we'll call this the Vanna White end) are models that are  used solely as eye candy, objectified to the level of display window mannequins. During the 1980s, "The Price is Right" became so adept at using this type of model that in some cases, Barker's Beauties achieved their inner zen state and
actually WERE display window mannequins. Even now, the highest form of this type has been achieved by a certain model from Myrtle Beach who just happened to come on down to Contestants' Row only to stay there. She lent her name to this type (or rather, her name was borrowed for comparison's sake).

Then there are the models that bring an aire of personality, some grace, and a certain je ne sais quoi to the party and in some cases are integral to the game itself (again, for comparison's sake we'll call this the Susan Stafford end). The Card Sharks had their dealers. Monopoly had its dice girl, and even Susan Stafford herself could be lumped into this group. Sure she did the same job that Vanna White has done since 1983, but you could hear her rooting the players on, and you could see her casually wagging her finger when someone called out a bad letter. They are the perennial sidekicks.

There is a third group - the models actively participating as players in the game - but that's another story for another day.

Though strengths can be cited with both groups of models, they do have their weaknesses as well. Vanna-types look cute on camera for the limited time that they're given, but the fact remains that their job (especially nowadays with the advent of computerized technology) is purely ceremonial and/or could be done by anyone (prime example: Cyber Lucy... need I say more?). Susan-types can straddle between types for the most part, so they tend to inherit some of these traits. But for the most part, they're interactors. They can be seen as cheerleaders, interceptors, middlemen, et al., but the problem here is a tendency to overdo it. Not a model per se, but Jimmy Kimmel as a sidekick could best illustrate what happens when an accessory gets too wrapped up in his or her work. Sally Julian on the early 80s "$ale of the Century", perhaps better than that.

Going back to GSN, which now has both types of models on active duty. Vanna-type can be seen in Adrianne Curry, the "America's Next Top Model" winner that can be seen (all 32 seconds of her) doling out cash and racking up balls on "Ballbreakers". You see this with every episode: she is intro'ed, she gets her sound byte, and the rest of the time, we're lucky if she isn't in the background doing something with one of the contestants (see Celeb Episode #1). Sal could easily do this. Ewa could easily do this. Hell, the players can do this. She's just there along for the ride. Whether she's actually enjoying it or not remains to be seen.

Susan-type can be seen (and heard, in folly and fancy) in Lingo's newest computer "operator" Shandi Finnessey. Sure she's ceremonial in the fact that game board operators behind the scenes have been doing this sort of thing for the first two cycles of the show, but she's an active participant in moving the game along, cheering on the contestants (sometimes in the fashion of Rich Fields forgetting that his mic is still on), and playing off of Chuck's down-home charm and wit. Thanks to her, we all know what a "brill" is and where exactly Flourescent, MO is.

Which type can make a game show better? Well, that depends on who you are and what you preference is. After all, both women have their differences. They're trained in different schools of showmanship, and they each execute in different ways. It's like comparing apple-bottoms to orange-tans. In fact, I joke around with my colleagues here at the 'net that Shandi is the type of girl you want to go out with, but Adrienne is the type of girl you want to cheat on Shandi with. I guess in the end, as long as people like them bring more than just a pretty face to the game...

And as long as we don't have another case of Paula running round. She was just redundant.

Are you a Vanna? Are you a Susan? E-mail Chico Alexander with your pick at


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