Thursday Thunderdome: Come on Down!

You all know how this works; two things enter, one thing leaves.

Today we’re talking about the reality shows of the past, where regular people and B-listers alike put their reputations and dignities on the line in the name of entertainment.
Today we’re talking about Game Shows.
Game shows have been around almost as long as entertainment has been broadcast – starting most notably with "Truth or Consequences," which started out as a popular radio quiz show but made the transition to television in 1941, airing on the very first day of broadcasting for New York’s WNBT Channel 4.

A big part of what I think makes game shows so popular is that there are so many different was to enjoy them. You can play along at home. You can cheer for a given contestant to win, get swept up in their chase for success, or you can even armchair quarterback them as they make wrong moves and miscalculations.

The thing that turns so many people off to reality shows (especially the trashy ones) is that they sort of celebrate the less than savory parts of people’s supposedly “real” personalities. A lot of people find it hard to cheer for gold diggers, fame whores, or celeb milking whatever is left of their name recognition for screen time.

What makes game shows (especially the classic ones in the days before the boom of reality TV) different is that even though they were built on many of those same elements – people subjecting themselves to possible embarrassment on national TV, B-list celebrities using it as an extra grab for exposure, the lure of quick and easy cash hanging over the thing like a cheap carrot – the fact that everyone’s aware that it’s a game adds a sorta sense of respectability to the whole thing.

Game shows were places where regular people went to break out of their shells for a little while, have some fun, and maybe win some cash or prizes. Add to that the magical lure that the idea of being on TV holds for so many of us, and it’s a perfect storm.

We’re a weird society -- We love to see the little guys win, but theres nothing we adore more than a colossally embarrassing trainwreck (especially if it’s happening to someone else).

The games that are popular now, whether they are of the Deal or No Deal or Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader variety still bank on those possibilities, but because networks are so wary of driving away the family audiences that shows like that appeal to – they tend to sanitize the formats to the points where the kinds of embarrassments and/or victories that happen fit into one or two expected categories.
Which is why I tend to prefer the games of the past.

Most of the game shows we know now – Pyramid, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, etc. are remakes of older games. And even those games are in a lot of ways just variations on the same kind of theme that "Truth or Consequences" (which itself was apparently based off another game called "forfeits" that people played at parties) exploited so well back in the 50’s.

What makes so many of those games work is that they aren’t simply tests of knowledge, speed, or skill. They’re tests of the contestants wits. Sure you know what the answer to a given question might be –- but how good are you at predicting what other people thought when asked the same question?

--stick around to the end, it’s worth it.
How much do you trust the other person to be as right (or in many cases, as wrong) as you?

Game shows of the late 60’s and early 70’s seemed to perfect this formula – mixing the more socially liberated attitudes of the day with the growing fascination people were having with the cult of celebrity to create a series of games where regular people were paired with B-list celebrities and asked to match each others answers, or give clues to get other people to see what word you were thinking of.

It also doesn’t hurt that in many cases that the celebrities were allowed to smoke on the set and were probably having a couple of drinks along the way – adding more than a little fuel to the possible fire along the way.

If these ideas sound familiar, it’s because these are the same kinds of games people play at parties with each other. Social games where your ability to read people is just as (if not more) important than what you can learn from books.
A quality that’s probably just in true in real life as it is on TV.
But just like so many of us know from our real lives – getting someone else to see your point of view, or understand what you’re saying, or think the same thing as you are at the moment isn’t as easy as it looks.

And for whatever reason – when things go wrong on a game show, they go REALLY wrong – which is what makes the unexpected victories that much sweeter, but also makes the watching of these possible trainwrecks seem so addictive.

So the question before you is this: Of the two clips below -- Which one of these classic game show moments do you like the best, and why?

The Newlywed Game

Super Password
Here are the rules: First, you can only pick one. If you love them both, you have to pick the one that you liked the most.
But here's the twist.
In order for your vote to be counted, you must also tell me the name of your favorite game show, and why you like it so much (a link to a YouTube clip of it would also be nice, but certainly isn't a requirement). Be warned though, if you’re anything like me – it’s easy to get sucked into watching tons of these videos, because if there’s one thing this world will never run out of --
It’s people making complete fools of themselves on TV .

[Listening To:  Sevendust"Separate" ]


Satorical said…
Super password. That was the train wreck that kept piling up. Awesome.
Satorical said…
My fave, btw, was tic tac dough. The dragon reminded me of the Atari game Adventure.
unMuse said…
I love Rip Taylor. Love him. So I have to go with Super Password. (Also because I've seen that Newlywed game clip a whole lot.)

I know it's not very original, but I loved The Price is Right. In college we'd play drinking games while watching.
whatigotsofar said…
I didn't watch the clips. Just from looking at the still shot of The Newlywed Game clip, I recognized the couple on the viewer's left. That hairy ugly fat couple talks about the weirdest place they had sex and the wife's answer was anal sex. I'm laughing my ass off just thinking about that Jabba the Butt couple. THat's always been my favourite game show clip.

My favourite game show to watch (other than Wheel of Fish) is Jeopardy because it's got lots of questions and it's challenging. But there are so many other great gameshows.
There was Pitfall, hosted by Alex Trebek; I don't remember anything about the show other than the contestants walked across this platform which would lower when they got something wrong.
There was the Chinese show, don't know what it's called. It was kinda like The Weakest Link except that when you were booted, the floor opened up and you plummetted into a pit of smoke, never to be seen again.
Unbeatable Banzuke is really cool to watch to.
Hurl is disgusting but watching people eat until they throw up for a $1000 prize is classic. $1000, that's it. That is so not worth it.
I've always liked Press Your Luck, generally just because of the Whammy animations.
Recent Canadian game shows are the best because they're just so lame. There's always either: a) co-hosted by some model/stripper who just stands there and looks slutty. Imagine an unwholesome Vanna White wearing a really tight t-shirt. b) guest appearances from cough cough celebrities. Biggest name I've seen was Jimmy Walker. And that was on the charades gameshow. Jimmy Walker playing charades. How is that not the most awesome thing ever!
And all Canadian game shows are hosted by the most awful standups imaginable. For cryin' out loud, David Merry hosted a sports trivia game show. David Merry. Google him, trust me, everybody has seen this guy once. His best joke is just him stealing a Bic lighter from someone in the audience.

Oh well, I've rambled on enough for one day.
Werdna said…
the password is "rhubarb"

Who gives a crap PiR is for the man!

I'm a Jeopardy guy myself. Or maybe friends on Remote Controll...