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No Fun Watching
March 4

Show of hands. How many of you have screamed out a solution to the bonus puzzle on last night’s Wheel of Fortune BEFORE Block put the recap up? Okay, so how about last night’s Final Jeopardy!? The price of Adam Rose’s Showcase on the $1,000,000 Spectacular that aired a couple of weeks ago? How about a guess on that episode of Match Game this afternoon? Don’t worry; I won’t judge you one way or the other.


By now, every hand in the room should be up. Because whether we want to admit it or not, we’ve all done it.


In fact, I will proudly raise my hand.


Why do I ask this question? Because we as a nation of gamers and game-watchers have been conditioned to not just watch the games we’ve all come to love, but to play along with them as well. Even GSN’s main business model is, at least where I’m sitting, based on this, with their endless proliferation of online offerings to compliment their on-air content.


Which brings me to the point of this week’s treatise. NBC’s two new games, “My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad” and “Amnesia”, both started strong enough thanks to some help from two more of NBC’s games. After that... they tanked.


Both stem from very simple premises. On “My Dad”, fathers contend with each other in tests of smarts, strength, speed, bravery, and all other sorts of fatherly superlatives. All for $50,000 and the chance to hear their kid say in front of God, country and NBC viewing audience... “My dad is better than YOUR dad!”


Over on “Amnesia,” players are quizzed on their recollection of all the small stuff in their lives, from what color car was your first to what your wife’s wedding dress looked like.


At their heart, they’re all innocent little entries into our ever-growing genre, but when something like these shows fail, the genre suffers as a whole. So what went wrong here? Same thing that went wrong with “My Kind of Town” three years ago. We didn’t get the joke. Or, should I say, we weren’t in on it to begin with. Like, what are we supposed to get from these people? How are we supposed to connect with them, the game, and their natural interplay with each other?


What do we get by watching this?


You’re probably ready to cite shows like “Deal or No Deal” or “The Newlywed Game” or the various scores of poker shows out there. These are the exceptions to the rule, in that we are privy to some of the information that the players have, but we are taken into the second element of the game participation spectrum – critical thinking. That is to say, the incorporation of given data to produce a result. This creates the drama, the tension, the intergame that makes many of the great games of the last quarter century appointment television. How will a poker pro play Big Slick with a flop of two jacks and a 7? If you have three million dollar cases on the board with $500 and $25 left on the left side, do you take what the banker has to offer or go for broke (Please go for broke... this neediness is getting cumbersome)? And how much trouble are you going to get in if you say “In the butt, Bob”?


This sort of thing is lacking in “Amnesia” and “My Dad”.


“But what about the Moment of Truth, Chico?” This is what the dialectics call “the exception that proves the rule”. We already know that the game is shallow at best. This is no secret even to the producers of said show. So what do we do? Turn it to 11. Downplay the game in favor of pushing the envelope, something at which Fox is quite adept.


I guess any great game show is like a great work of art, with intricacies, complexities, and anomalies that flow together in mass harmony. The audience is that final piece of the puzzle, sort of like John Cage playing four and a half minute of complete silence. The audience listens to itself. That’s the joke.


Unfortunately, no one let NBC know about that when they signed off on these shows.


Game Show Alphabet Redux.


Last week, we finished off the alphabet, so now let’s review.

A: Almost Anything Goes
B: The Big Moment
C: Crosswits
D: Double Dare
E: The Enemy Within
F: Fame
G: Greed
H: He Said, She Said
I: I’m Telling!
J: Jackpot!
K: Krypton Factor
L: Lost
M: Moolah Beach
N: Newlywed Game
O: On Your Account
P: Pictionary
Q: Queen for a Day
R: Remote Control
S: Scattergories
T: Talk About
U: The Ultimate Fighter
V: Video Village
W: What’s This Song?
X: EXtreme Dodgeball
Y: You’re in the Picture

Z: Zooventure


And if you have a better entry, e-mail me with it and it may come up on a second alphabet.


25 Days That Rocked the Game Show World: Day 12


In the early days of the game show genre on television, it was a veritable boy's club. Some of radio's greats translated into television flawlessly, as did many comics and actors. Part of their role was to deal with appeasing to the audience at the time... housewives. Women were on the show as contestants. Well-known women were on the shown as panelists. But there has not been a female host of a game show until...


May 5, 1949: Arlene Francis hosts Blind Date.


Arlene is known primarily as a Broadway mainstay, and has been up until her death in 2001. But did you also know taht she was a popular radio star as well? It's true. She hosted many shows on New York radio, and one of them, "Blind Date", was picked up for television on ABC. And if you thought that today's reality dating shows were fun... try being one of six college suitors trying to win a date with three women.


Arlene hosted the show from 1949 to 1952.


The show may have been forgotten by some, but every female game show host from Anne Robinson to Amanda Byram to Tyra Banks to Betty White owes a great debt of gratitude to her.


Chico Alexander... (four and a half minutes pass)...