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Are You Game Show Material? - July 7

I will probably never be selected as a contestant for Deal or No Deal.

I know. Shocking.

Jason Block will never be selected. Chico Alexander probably won't either. Chances are that none of my friends will be selected. You won't be, either, unless you are probably one of the following...

Model
Gay Hairstylist
Hurricane Katrina Survivor (or any other natural disaster)
Cops
Fireman
British Accent
Have a Spouse/Relative in the Military
A$$hole
Government Official
Poor Teacher
Organ Donor

Let's see... I'm not a model or a Katrina Survivor. I'm not in the military nor am I related to someone who is. I'm not in the government, nor am I a lawyer or a poor teacher. Gay Hairdresser.. ummm.... no. A$$hole? Some people will say that it's debatable, but no. I'm just a computer programmer who grew up in the entertainment business who has a fascinating back story and who would be a great contestant.

Alas, because I'm not one of the people in the list above, I won't even be considered for a gig. And neither will Chico, or Jason, or probably you (C-Note: I think my dad will have issue with the "relative in the military" bit).

Where did this list come from? This came from a compilation of what's been advertised on Deal Or No Deal (and it's concurrent clone game shows) for the types of people that the shows are looking for. Yes, even the a$$hole one. Are you any of those? If so, then by all means go ahead and audition for the show.

Chances are, however, that you are only 1% of the population - if that.

So we all know that the producers are looking for various talent to be on their shows. But when did it get to the point that only certain people (usually the beautiful ones) were allowed to play? At best this practice is tacky, while at worst, this is lazy, bordering on discriminatory.

Why am I bringing this up? There was an article about a marketing director from Evansville, stating that people don't care as much about the NYC or L.A. contestants, as the people in his area are 'more real'. Although I can understand the loyalty of him to his program, if he is getting bored with the people, it may not be because of the location. It may be because that they are all almost clones of each other.

I pine back to the days where the people weren't controlled by demographics. The show that started it all, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, had a very simple system - call in, answer the questions, be the quickest, and be randomly drawn to appear on the show. They didn't care about what you did or what sort of person you are or what you did for work. If you are quick enough and smart enough, you get on the show. Jason Block got in that way, and many people like him got their 15 minutes of fame and their share of millions of dollars.

Now let's go to the current incarnation of Millionaire. Jason Block probably doesn't get in. Chico Alexander, who is Panamanian and as diverse as you can humanly get, easily passed the test and got an interview. He didn't get in - maybe because he isn't pretty enough. So because he is not of the pretty person mold, he doesn't get to sit in the hot seat, and we are instead graced with a parade of beautiful bubbleheads who half the time need a 50/50 to get past the first five questions and who, this season, have not even seen a $500,000 question.

This sort of practice has resulted in the death of shows, which were filled with promise, but followed the rule of style over gameplay. The Law Firm is the worst culprit of this, as their diverse range of characters made tremendous errors that no decent lawyer would make. Starting with the third season of the Apprentice, The Donald has given us characters that made us wonder how in the world they became entrepreneurial. Survivor gave us a tribe filled with models called Ulong. The result was that they didn't win a single challenge, while the 'plain' team that saw the previous incarnations of the show dominated the series.

Quite frankly, this sort of practice should not even exist. If you are worth your salt as a contestant coordinator, you should be more concerned about how people play the game, not how they look. Any person's life is interesting and compelling if you dig deep enough into it. If you are good enough, you should get on the show. Compel us with the way you play the game, not the size of your assets.
 
At least there are some groups that are able to transcend stereotypes. I have to give credit to the coordinators of The Price Is Right, who consistently give us the most exciting, energetic contestants around. Even if they don't know how to play the games, at least they give you a reason to watch and cheer for them. Jeopardy featured a guy from Utah who admittedly is not the most eye-grabbing personality, but his gameplay more than compensated for his milquetoast appearance as he dazzled us for 75 days.

From the reality side of the equation, American Idol knows that the voice is the key, and regardless of the types of people who sing, the vocal chords are what's showcased. Project Runway continues to be one of the best reality shows around because regardless of what you think of the contestants, their amazing talent can not be denied. I want to see people who can out talent me so I can get into their world, and that's more important than watching them make mistakes and making me wonder what they are doing on my television set.

Howie Mandel always states that Deal or No Deal is looking for the 'good' people, but I would be much more satisfied if we had a few 'mediocre' people in there. Give me an average person any time, because that would mean that anyone could be selected as a contestant - even me. And isn't the ability for anyone to be able to be on television and compete the purpose of a game show to begin with?

Gordon Pepper, a perfect mediocre person or an imperfect pretty person, depending on who you ask, is trading in the State of Play for the State of California next week. E-mail him at gordon@gameshownewsnet.com.

 

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