Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Are You Smarter Than a Game Show Contestant?

Game shows have several appeals which have made them evergreens on TV (and on radio before that). We like to guess along with the contestants (Some people actually shout answers at the TV. This is pointless). Or we like to see if the panelists can ferret out the correct answer. And we always like to see ordinary people like us get free stuff.

The game has to be easy enough to understand and there has to be chemistry among the people on the show.

Game shows occasionally fall out of favour at network executive suites. In 1973, they were back in. “The Match Game” and “The Price is Right” had been revived. “The $10,000 Pyramid” debuted and viewers were caught up in the suspense. “The Joker’s Wild” and “Gambit” were still new. And old favourites such as “Sale of the Century,” “Hollywood Squares,” “Password” and “Let’s Make a Deal” continued to attract viewers.

A columnist for the Montreal Gazette flipped around the dial and recorded what he saw in a column dated November 7, 1973. His conclusion was the same as many others—the questions weren’t hard but people still got them wrong (asking Americans about Canada was one sure way to get an incorrect answer).

Could you do better?
Those gamey game shows

of The Gazette

Probably the most interesting thing about television game shows is that you, the viewer, can sit back, watch them at home and sneer at the contestants, at the same time telling yourself that YOU could clean up if you could ever get on the show.
Game shows soap operas are daytime TV's tried-and-true 1-2 punch, and this season's quizzers bring some familiar faces back to TV. Here's a look at some of the most popular U.S. network shows, the degree of difficulty of their questions, and the plausibility of their existences.
First one on in the morn is The Joker's Wild, and the host of this show is none other than Jack Berry [sic], the perennial TV emcee.
In fact, I was looking at a TV nostalgia book the other day and Barry's photo was one of the first in it: he emceed a show called Juvenile Jury back in 1947 when few people had TV sets.
The Joker's Wild revolves around a rigged slot machine, and the questions are not the hardest.
The category for one question yesterday was "Wonders of the World." The question: "A giant statue of the god Helios once stood in the harbor of a Greek island. Name the island."
The answer they were looking for was something dealing with the Colussus of Rhodes. The constantant's Greek Island answer was "Catalia?"
Another typical question yesterday was in a Greek vein: "What is the one-letter (a hint) title of a recent political movie about Greece!" A deaf Canadian is about the only one who could have gotten in trouble on that one (If he'd said, "Eh?").
Yesterday, one contestant lost out on on opportunity to win an air conditioner. Said Barry jokingly, and rhetorically, "You didn't need a room air conditioner anyway, did you, Dave?"
"No," said the contestant with absolutely straight face. "I really didn't. . ."
Another question that got by not one, but both contestants yesterday was: "Shakespeare said that what is the better part of valor?" (One answer given was "braver?")
The Joker's Wild doesn't give out much money, either.
Following that on CBS is The $10,000 Pyramid, host of which is old rock 'n' roller Dick Clark, his Pepsodent smile more lustrous than ever for the housewives. $10,000 is a lot of money for any game show, but, wouldn't you know it, both contestants won it in the same show the other day.
Another mid-morning show is Gambit (also on CBS), which is basically the game of black jack with a Iegit-souding name. Host of this one is the only man with a broader smile than Bert Parks, Wink (wanna bet that's not his real name?) Martindale.
Here's the hidden irony of this card-game show: Martindale had a hit record in the 50's called Deck of Cards, which I've never heard mentioned on the show.
The questions here are ridiculously easy. But one that seems easy here got by a married couple the other day:
Martindale: "Newfoundland is in: Iceland, Greenland, or Canada?"
Couple (after consultation): "Iceland?"
Yesterday morning, Martindale had another Canadian content question: "Montreal is Canada's largest city. Is it or is it not Canada's capital?"
Couple (after lengthy consultation, with worried looks): "Yes?"
Here's another sample question from yesterday's show: "The Astrodome is located in which city: Los Angeles, Houston, or Dallas?"
Hollywood Squares, (on NBC), a show entering its eighth year this month, is emceed by the wide-grinned Peter Marshall. Only one trouble with this show that's shown both daytime and night: the other day, two of the nine "squares" on the show are now deceased: Wally Cox and Betty Grable, or 22 per cent of the panel. Cox died many months ago.
Cliff Arquette ("Charlie Weaver") is always asked questions about his specialty (he's an American history buff), but another regular, Paul Lynde, has been the man in the middle for years, and it's his ad libs that make the show worth watching.
The other day, Marshall asked: "Art Linkletter said he was offered a U.S. government job by Richard Nixon, but turned it down." (Real answer is Ambassador to Australia). Lynde screwed up his face in his special way and ventured: "To dress David Eisenhower?"
Yesterday, Marshall asked Lynde: "What has the U.S. had more of, Presidents or Vice-Presidents?" Lynde's ad lib: "I've had enough of both."
Big prize on the show is The Secret Square (A Chevy Vega seems to be the grand prize on every daytime show), and even if the other questions on Hollywood Squares are easy, The Secret Square question is usually something about binomial equations or The Treaty of The Council of Trent. Not easy.
Match Game '73 (on CBS) is probably the loosest show on television. Host is Gene Rayburn, who emceed the same show in the early 60's (after Dough Re Mi, remember?)
The questions are leading, to say the least. Celebrities fill in the blanks, and Rayburn lets them have plenty of rope. Sample of yesterday's queries:
" 'Marvin's no fun'," said Kathy. " 'We went to a drive-in last night and all he wanted to do was BLANK'." Or, Kermit always has to hold onto his toupee while he and Hortense are BLANKing'."
Or (also from yesterday's ribald show): "The sultan's 50 wives went on strike, saying we really need more than one BLANK'."
And some of the contestants and celebrities DO write down the obvious answers, if euphemistically. Rayburn also pushes stage settings around, laughs a lot, and keeps the show very loose.
Earlier this week, the question went: "A little birdie perched up on Dick's window, so he BLANKED it."
Three of the celebrities filled in the blank with "Shot," which probably says something about the American psyche.

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