Any one of these exciting nearly-great "prizes" might be taken home by
our contestants. And we have something horrendous in store for their
unfortunate loved ones. All this and much, much less on...
SHOW: THE CHEAP SHOW
AIR DATES: September, 1978 to September, 1979
CREATOR: Chris Bearde
HOST: Dick Martin
WATCH IT HERE: YouTube
(Sorry for the quality, it's the only episode I could find)
OK, full disclosure: I saw a grand total of ONE episode of "The Cheap
Show" when I was seven. And I was almost traumatized by it! (Hey, I was
an easily-traumatized kid, OK? I even hid my eyes during "The Joker's
Wild" 'cause I was scared of the Devil.) If I stumbled upon the show
again, I quickly changed the channel. I guess I was just too young to
understand the crude humor of this show. This makes sense, since I
wasn't much for "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In", either. But the fact that
contestants got punished for something they didn't do...and in such a
grotesque (in my young mind) manner...that bugged me to no end. Of
course, now as an adult who understands slapstick and that nobody was
really hurt during the show, I can see the appeal of this show AND of
Dick Martin hosting it. But make no mistake: this was as much a parody
of game shows as "You Don't Know Jack" was...only much, MUCH goofier.
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
Two teams of two - consisting of a "contestant" and a "loved one" -
compete. The object is to score twenty points or more by guessing which
of two celebrities (there's supposed to be three but one always cancels)
is giving the right answer to silly questions. Each "loved one" is put
in a "pit" and places goggles on their heads.
In Round 1, the host asks the two celebrities a question. In a Hollywood
Squares-type fashion, the two give answers, one being the right answer
and one being a bluff. The contestant who won a coin toss before the
show picks which one is giving the right answer, meaning the other
contestant is stuck with the other answer. Whoever is right gets a point
and a dirt-cheap prize (usually valued at less than $10)...while the
other one's loved one gets a "punishment", consisting of having slime
dumped on them or pies thrown in their faces. Round 1 consists of two
Round 2 goes the same way, save that each question gets twenty points
(meaning that, regardless of what happens in Round 1, whoever gets a
question right in Round 2 wins the game). A coin toss on stage decides
who gets to pick a celebrity.
The first team to twenty points wins the game and advances to the bonus
round. The other team leaves with actual parting gifts.
BONUS ROUND ("SEMI-COLOSSAL GRAND-PRIZE SWEEPSTAKES FINALE")
The winning team looks at a wheel with twelve holes in it. Each hole
corresponds to a number on a "Prize Board" and each number reveals an
ACTUAL prize. When the wheel is spun, a rat named "Oscar the Wonder
Rodent" is released in the middle of it and scurries to one of the
holes. Whichever hole Oscar enters is the number of the prize the team
wins. BEFORE spinning, the team picks a number they think Oscar will run
into and, if they are right, they also win a car.
I'll say this: the show lived up to its name. The sets looked cheap, the
prizes during the main game were cheap, even the way they delivered the
"punishments" looked cheap. They get points for sticking to a theme at
the very least.
The questions seemed to be right out of the "Hollywood Squares" reject
bin. Not that they weren't entertaining, though. And the celebs were
given the real and fake answers beforehand and were, like in HS, asked
to ad-lib. And the celebs seemed to be having a good time at
this...though Lord KNOWS how they got EGOT winner Rita Moreno to do this
One cool thing about the show is that the contestants were JUST weird
enough to look at home on the show! And they DRESSED the part, too. You
don't see THAT on TV game shows these days.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
The "punishments" were traumatizing to me as a kid. As an adult,...they
were just lame. And, from what I understand, it was pretty much the SAME
for every week with slight variants. I may not have been a fan, but they
could've at LEAST mix things up. Surely they weren't THAT cheap, right?!
Janelle Price as the dim-witted Wanda got old VERY quickly. And Dean
Martin constantly mispronouncing her name did nothing to help. Dick
could've hosted this himself and it would've been considerably better.
All in all, the game itself was ridiculous. I mean, Round 1 was
meaningless because whoever won Round 2 would win the game. They
could've at least just had the three questions with whoever was ahead
winning, leading to a tiebreaker if needed. I kinda understand that this
was the whole POINT of the show and how they strived for uniqueness.
But, SHEESH, how the contestants were even talked INTO these rules is
beyond me. Guess there were lower standards in the 70s than I thought.
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
If this were the 80s or even the 90s, I could see Nickelodeon doing a
version of this with kids. These days, however, kids are WAY past the
"sliming is funny" aspect, no matter that they still do it during those
Kids' Choice Awards. Maybe another country will stumble upon the idea
and make something out of it...but, even though "The Gong Show" is back
on primetime network TV, that's about as slapstick as TV can get these
days. Keep this show in the dumpster along with all my childhood
NEXT TIME: Going
bankrupt...and I mean a whole STUDIO...
Chris Wolvie is cheap to a fault; he has an unlisted wallet.
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