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Everything Old Is New Again
April 8

I guess it all started with an e-mail that I got the other day from reader Chuck Sutton... thanks, Chuck!

“Just read the article on 1975 game shows.  Amazing number.

“However, if you count the six original games that aired on GSN in 2007, 2007 also had 24.

“Temptation, Crosswords, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,  Family Feud, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, Don't Forget the Lyrics!, Power of Ten, The Price Is Right, Set for Life, National Bingo Night, Duel, Deal or No Deal, 1 vs.100, Identity, The Singing Bee, The Adrenaline Project (If Almost Anything Goes counts so does this), Playmania, Chain Reaction, That's The Question, Camouflage, Grand Slam, Lingo”

That is 24 game shows in 2007... I don’t know myself if that was an impetus for the stars aligning, but it seems that ever since then, there have been an influx of new ideas for both primetime and cable that are, to say the least, old.

Let’s see, there’s the new celebrity edition of “Family Feud” that NBC will launch in July with Al Roker, a person who hasn’t hosted a game show for some 10 years. Alongside that, new editions of long-dormant reality fixtures “The Bachelorette” and “The Mole” on ABC.

Rewind to January, we have the resurgence of “American Gladiators”, which spawned a second season after Ben Silverman was adamant that the show be remade.

Then there’s “Trade Up”, which isn’t an old idea, but it’s a new take on an old idea that worked... “Deal or No Deal”... which itself was a spin on “Let’s Make a Deal”. The Canadian Francophone series was recently optioned for the US.

“The Price Is Right’s” Million Dollar Spectaculars continue to perform very well for CBS, who recently renewed it for another four segments. Not to mention Drew Carey’s first year winding up, injecting a much needed dose of irreverence and everyman-cool to a classic format and making it relevant for the 21st Century.

And, then there’s GSN’s “Bingo America”, which rose from the ashes of “National Bingo Night” on ABC. A second series of the show was passed over for “Duel” (Note to ABC: How’s that working out for you?), but the Bingodrome lives on the Network for Games.

And then there are the DVDs of the classics, from “What’s My Line?” to “Match Game” to “The Price Is Right”.

While we’re on “Match Game,” let’s bring up that deal Fremantle made with TBS. The firm is hell-bent on proving that the game can work in the here-and-now, and TBS, putting its money where Fremantle’s mouth is, is willing to risk a pilot on it.

And then there’s “Wipe Out”, the obstacle course series waiting to take on many a Ninja Warrior fan. To all those going out for it... good luck. Bring a cup.

Let’s face it, the new thinking in the American game show is... old. The older, the better. But why? For the answer, we go to Ben Silverman, whose unit oversaw the do-overs of “Gladiators”, “Battlestar Galactica”, “Bionic Woman”, and “Knightrider.” Yeah. “Knightrider.”

"We're playing to nostalgia."

Thinking back to a song by Baz Luhrmann, “Advice is like nostalgia; dispensing it is like wishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than its worth.”

If you were to boil the answer down to a cliché, it would just be that, like fine win, a good idea doesn’t go away; it just gets better over time. Wink Martindale, in talking about Barry White, actually made a point similar to this one, that something that good doesn’t die, it just gets put on a shelf for a while, waiting for the right time for a rediscovery.

Here, in a new renaissance spawned by the continuing success of shows like “Deal”, “American Idol”, and “Dancing with the Stars”, producers and networks are beginning, in what may seem the biggest collective copout (or the biggest collective epiphany) in the history of television, to embrace the rich game show heritage for ready programming.

This ironically isn’t a new idea itself. “Idol” begat “Star Search’s” rebirth in 2003. “Millionaire” ushered in the return of “Twenty One” in 2000. “Wheel of Fortune” begat one of the most successful do-overs in history, “Jeopardy!” in 1984.

It speaks to the cyclical nature of the game shoe business. The moment someone says “The game show as we know it is dead,” here comes another idea to bring about something new... or old, depending on what the television mindset of the day is.

So if you don’t like something on TV that everyone else does, then take it from someone who’s experienced North Carolina weather for the last 16 years. Stick around for a couple of years, and it’ll change into something a little more bearable.

Game Show Alphabet Redux

We’re going to B. And in the spirit of the way out there, we’re going global for this one, as the UK gave us “Bullseye.” The show was trivia meets darts. Answer questions, win money based on how well a darter’s throw does. And of course, who could forget Bully, the show’s bullish mascot.

For English viewers in the 80s, this was appointment television, right up there with “Countdown” and “15 to 1”. In its prime, it was watched by around 15 million viewers on Sunday evenings, where it was shown from 1982 to early 1993.

After a one-off as part of “Ant & Dec’s Gameshow Marathon”, it was revived for Challenge (UK’s answer to GSN), where it continues to air today.

Bullseye (UK):

25 Days That Rocked the Game Show World: Day 15

We saluted the women hosting the game in an earlier day. Now, thinking about Al Roker gets me to think about another person whose name doesn’t garner such familiarity, but whose prestige paved the way for someone like Al Roker to take the reigns of the game.

June 16, 1975 - Musical Chairs Launches with Adam Wade, the first African American host

The concept was simple. It was sort of a meld of “Split Second” and “Name That Tune”. That lasted some 26 weeks on CBS. The host was simple as well. Adam Wade gained fame in the 1960s with his hit song “Ruby”. Put the two together, and add some of the day’s hottest musical acts, and a landmark achievement was made.

Today, some of our better emcees are men and women of color: Michael Carrington on “Think Fast”, the late Nipsey Russell on “Your Number’s Up”, Spencer Christian on “Triple Threat”, Tyra Banks on “America’s Next Top Model”, and Wayne Brady on “Don’t Forget the Lyrics!”, a sort of one-person version of “Musical Chairs”… and we’ve come full circle.

You can read more about the show here:

Chico Alexander is a 74-year-old trapped in a 28-year-old’s body. E-mail him at, you little whippersnappers.