The 50th and 49th Greatest Game Shows of All Time

Last night was the premiere of a new limited-edition series on Game Show Network (I still call it that despite the net's lame attempt to redefine its identity as "GSN"). "The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time" will chronicle, as the name indicates, what someone (the producers I presume, and/or the network's executives) considers TV's greatest game shows.

If the first episode is any indication, it should prove to be an interesting countdown. In this initial entry, the countdown begins (naturally) with #50 "Three's a Crowd" and #49 "The New Treasure Hunt." Both were from the production company of Chuck Barris (also creator of "The Dating Game" and "The Gong Show"--both of which I'm sure will show up later in the countdown), with the episodes featured from 1979 and 1974, respectively.

"Three's a Crowd" is a sight to behold. Apparently short-lived (and if you see it you'll easily figure out why), this program has got to be one of the most blatantly sexist in TV history. The premise is that male contestants answer lurid questions (or one's that are spun luridly, not unlike in "Match Game") which, similarly to Barris' "The Newlywed Game," are supposed to be matched by the men's wives *and* by their secretaries. The idea is to see which of the two women know the man better, but the questions, answers, and interplay amongst the participants result in a spectacle that today is truly jaw-dropping to witness.

Examples: one of the questions was (I'm paraphrasing) "What is the gesture of affection that you are best known for?" The men's answers included "a big bear hug" and "stroking the cheek." The answers given by the secretaries and wives (who emerged in that order to answer the questions) were such that one of the men seemed to be known to give bear hugs, pinch bottoms, and give neck rubs--all to his secretary! The behavior recounted on "Three's a Crowd" must have been one of the reasons why sexual harassment training has become commonplace. My wife, who works in human resources, thought that the program would be a good one to use for negative examples in such training.

If "Three's a Crowd" was lurid and offensive, "The New Treasure Hunt" suffered from the opposite problem--it was mostly boring. Contestants were drawn from the studio audience three at a time to draw straws (basically) and see which one got to proceed in a "Let's Make a Deal"-style prize trade-off scheme. The proceedings, though, were much less interesting and engaging than "Deal"'s legendary wheeling and dealing, and as a result "The New Treasure Hunt" (an update of a slightly different late-1950s game show) is not all that great.

I plan to continue tuning in to "The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time," and will probably give additional updates as the countdown progresses. One of the reasons I am interested in the series is for its historical value; who knows if episodes of an (albeit thankfully) obscure show like "Three's a Crowd" will ever be available again for viewing? This first installment featured complete episodes of the two game shows, but apparently that won't be the case throughout, as tonight's installment features the next three shows in the countdown and one installment next week features four. That's too bad, because the opportunity to see these episodes in their entirety is what establishes any claim the series has to greatness.

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