Greatest Game Shows #48 to #42

In a previous post, I reviewed the first episode of the new Game Show Network limited-series "The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time." That first episode featured #50 "Three's a Crowd" and #49 "The New Treasure Hunt." The next two episodes of the series--which airs on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights at 10 pm EST/9 pm CST for the duration--have taken the countdown through #42.

The #48 game show was the 1980s Bill Cullen-hosted "Blockbusters." Current GSN viewers have probably seen this show since it airs everyday weekday morning. A single contestant faces off against a two-person team of members from the same family (two sets of siblings in the episode featured in the countdown) in a game where players attempt to make it across a grid of hexagons (one team horizontally, the other vertically) by answering questions for which the answer starts with the letter in the hexagon. Somewhat like "Hollywood Squares" or "Tic Tac Dough," one team can block the other by cutting off their path across the board while trying to make it across themselves.

The winner of the game gets to proceed to the "Gold Rush Round." Here, they try to make it across a similar grid of hexagons, except this time there are multiple letters in many of the hexagons, and the letters are the initials for the answer to that hexagon's clue. Making it across within the allotted sixty seconds earns the contestant $2,500.

Since the program listings indicated that the second episode would cover #48-#46, it was clear that three complete programs could not be shown within the hour. For #47, the early-1990s "Dating Game" rip-off "Studs," a complete episode was not shown (not even a short clip); instead it was merely mentioned over a still image of host Mark de Carlo. I figure that for some of the shows in the countdown the network was unable to get rights, and thus are giving them just a mention and a still photo as they did with "Studs."

The next game show, #46, was Game Show Network's own circa 2000 show "Hollywood Showdown." This seemed like a dubious choice, one probably included in the countdown simply because GSN didn't have to worry about the aforementioned rights issues. "Showdown" isn't a bad program (I'd neither heard of it nor seen it previously), but as a recent-vintage cable game show, it hardly had the exposure or the cachet to be considered one of the greatest of all time.

The game play for "Hollywood Showdown" is based on movie and TV trivia questions. Two players drawn from a bank of five or six compete against each other with the first one answering three correct questions winning the round and the loser eliminated. The winner has the opportunity to play the "Box Office" round in which the contestant has to answer five questions correctly to win a jackpot that builds until it is won by someone.

The '90s game "Shop Til You Drop" was #45 on the countdown. Its interesting how the so-called "greatest game shows of all time" seem to include so many obscure shows (and with four-fifths of the countdown still remaining). The reason "Shop" is included--as with "Hollywood Showdown"--is likely that it was a program that GSN was able to get the rights for and decided to use as filler for the bottom reaches of the rankings. Trust me, it's certainly not because "Shop Til You Drop" is legitimately one of the 50 greatest.

Briefly, the game play takes place on a set designed to resemble a shopping mall. Two two-person teams compete by engaging in silly stunts that are sometimes based on pricing schemes similar to those in "The Price is Right." After a few of these stunts, they face off in a lightning round of trivia questions. The winning team participates in a final round in which one member unveils products while the other exchanges them for gift boxes that contain prizes that are potentially much more expensive than the original product. If the team has accumulated $2,500 worth of merchandise they win the merchandise plus a deluxe prize (a trip to Barbados in the episode aired in the countdown).

"Shop Til You Drop" is entirely forgettable, which makes me wish that GSN had actually shown the #44 game show, another stunt game, the classic "Truth or Consequences." "Truth" must have been one of the shows for which no rights were available, because it was dispensed with in a short voiceover to still photos of the game. The premise of "Truth or Consequences" was that contestants had to give truthful replies to questions posed, or be obligated to complete particular stunts (the "consequences") in order to win prizes.

Game show #43 was the more enjoyable "Tattle Tales." Children of the '70s (like myself) will remember this curious game hosted by Bert Convy in which celebrity husbands and wives guess what answers the other will give to queries in a format similar to that of "The Newlywed Game." The twist in "Tales" is that the wives in the first half of the show and the husbands in the second half are sequestered offstage and are seen only on small TV monitors in front of their onstage spouses. A couple of rounds of this questioning for each gender result in the winning couple earning prizes for a section of the studio audience assigned to them.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about watching "Tattle Tales" now (besides the obviously '70s-era set decorated in hues of red, yellow, and green) is the celebrity couples most of whom you can only assume have long since divorced. The episode featured in the countdown had a post-"Star Trek" TV, pre-"Star Trek" movie William Shatner, a strikingly young George Hamilton, and comedian Scoey Mitchell (who I had never heard of) and their wives as the celebs.

The final game show of the third installment of "The 50 Greatest Game Shows" was #42 "Queen for a Day." Again treated only with a voiceover and still photos, "Queen for a Day" was the semi-legendary late-1950s/early-1960s game where housewives recounted sob stories to host Jack Bailey to see which one would be crowned "Queen for a Day" (and showered with gifts) for her troubles.

"The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time" airs on Game Show Network at 10 pm EST/9 pm CST on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings for the next several weeks. Late next week, after the countdown cruises through the #30s, I will post with another synopsis.

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