Sunday, June 1, 2008

Game Shows

Game shows have always been popular. They started on radio and continued on television. Some were corny and even tacky or in poor taste, but there are some that were just plain fun, interesting, informative and challenging. It didn't really matter to the audience if you were playing for a years supply of Rice-A-Roni or a pen set or $1,000,000.00 as long as they were entertained.

When I was a kid in the 60's, I recall that there were a lot of game shows. "The Newlyweds", "The Dating Game", "Let's Make A Deal", "Truth of Consequences" (forerunner to "The Price Is Right"), and "Queen For A Day" to name a few. They were okay, I guess, but I liked the games that required a little brain power rather than just luck or answering a silly dating or marriage question about your partner.

Over the years, there have been may games that have tried and failed, Some reality games have succeeded, but I consider that a different genre and the subject for a future post. In my opinion, there has only been one new original game show in the last 20 years or so that has really been a success and that was "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" with Regis Philbin as the host. It was innovative and captured the attention of millions of people - until ABC began airing it several times a week and pretty much made us sick of it.

Personally, I have four all time favourite game shows. They are/were; "Definition"; "Jeopardy"; "Pyramid" and "Password".

"Definition" aired on the CTV network from 1974 to 1989 and was one of the longest running game shows in Canada. The first season was hosted by Bob McLean and Jim Perry was the announcer. From the second season on, Jim Perry took over as host and Dave Devall was the announcer. It was a twist on the classic game of "Hangman". Two teams of two players - a contestant and a celebrity - would take turns trying to solve a phrase, with a "pun" as the clue. The first player on a team would give a letter away that they hoped was not in the phrase and the second player would take a letter they hoped was in the phrase. Best 2/3 won the game. A bonus round saw a phrase slowly being revealed alphabetically and a decrease in dollar value for each letter revealed. The show was on the low end of the prize lists with small appliances, knife sets and desk sets as typical gifts. The annual tournament of champions offered slightly better prizes. Personally, I loved the puns and the play on words that many of the phrases had. My mom and I used to keep a paper and pen handy to write down some of the better "Definitions"! You can check out a couple of old clips of the show at;

"Jeopardy" is the classic game that was created by Merv Griffin in the 1960's - he even wrote the final jeopardy music. It is a game of answers and questions that makes you think! As with most game shows it is much harder than it looks as you must be fast on the buzzer and possess a seemingly endless array of knowledge on a wide range of topics. Art Flemming hosted from 1964-1975 and 78/79. The show was revived in 1984 with Alex Trebek as the host and it has remained as one of the most popular game shows of all time. I am always amazed when I somehow know the question to an answer in a category that I thought I knew little or nothing about!

"Pyramid" has been on air in various incarnations from 1973 through 1988, 1991, and 2002-2004 with ultimate prize values/game ranging from $10,000.00 to $100,000.00. Hosts have included Bill Cullen, John Davidson, Donny Osmond and most famously Dick Clark. The object of the game was to get your partner to say a series of words within a certain topic in a limited time frame. Depending on the game version, this ranged from 7 words in 30 seconds to 6 words in 20 seconds. The best score after three rounds went on to play the pyramid where you had to get your partner to say six topics/phrases within one minute to win the value of the pyramid. The subjects of the categories often resulted in humorous answers. This game required you to listen carefully and think fast.

"Password" was created by Bob Stewart and hosted by Allen Ludden. The show ran for 1,555 episodes (in daytime and for a time in a prime time version) from 1961 through 1967. Another 1,099 shows were done from 1971-75. Other hosts included; Bill Cullen, Bert Cony and Tom Kennedy. There was a celebrity and a contestant on each of two teams. The object was to get your partner to say the "password" within 5 seconds by giving a one word clue. Play moved between the two teams until the word was guessed or 10 clues given. Points were awarded based on number of clues given. One clue =10 points, 2 clues = 9 points, etc. A game was 25 points and the opportunity to play a lightening round where one player would have to guess five passwords in 60 seconds to win a larger cash prize.

Tonight, CBS is launching a weekly, hour long version of "Password", called "Million Dollar Password" hosted by Regis Philbin. I've seen a couple of previews and read a couple of articles and I think this looks like a promising viewing pleasure for the summer months.

Let the game begin!


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