The 50 Greatest Game Shows, #41, #40, #39, #38, #37, #36, #35, #34, & #33
Last week's three episodes of Game Show Network's "The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time" took the countdown from #41 through #33. It's become evident at this point that the game shows originally produced by Chuck Barris in the 1970s and those that are original shows on GSN or currently airing on GSN are two of the groups of game shows that the network was able to secure the rights to, as four more of these shows are in the latest countdown batch.
The first of these was the infamous "The $1.98 Beauty Show" which came in at #41. Hosted by the eccentric Rip Taylor (of throwing confetti drawn from a paper grocery sack fame), this show was a mock beauty pageant populated by contestants many of whom had no business entering a beauty pageant (which was, of course, the point). The program was designed (I think) as a parody of shows like "Queen for a Day" (#42 in the GSN countdown). The product of Chuck Barris' twisted imagination, "$1.98" doubled as a send-up of big-money quiz shows, since the monetary amount of the title was the main prize given to the woman who "won," awarded by Taylor in correct change from one of those metal belt-mounted coin dispensers.
Celebrity "judges" supposedly selected the winner from the six contestants, although there was no evidence in the featured episode that the judges actually did anything after Taylor introduced them at the top of the show. After this introduction, each of the six hopefuls were introduced, followed by a "talent" segment that could have been transferred intact to Barris' equally infamous "The Gong Show." A subsequent swimsuit display (again, highlighting some women who had no business parading around in a swimsuit in public) was followed by the "crowning" of (and the awarding of that buck-ninety-eight to) the new beauty queen.
Both the #40 and #39 game shows were given the voiceover and still photo treatment that GSN is using for those game shows for which it was (presumably) unable to secure any rights. #40 was the also infamous--and fixed--"Twenty-One," the program that set off the late-1950s quiz show scandal when famous contestant Herbert Stempel ratted out cheater and more famous contestant Charles Van Doren. "G.E. College Bowl" was #39, a low-profile but perennial show that ran on Sunday afternooons from 1959 to 1970 and featured a simple low-key quiz format in which two four person teams of students from competing colleges answered questions and accumulated points, moderated by "Password" host Allen Ludden.
The "Press Your Luck" remake "Whammy!" was the #38 game show. One of GSN's original game shows, "Whammy!" updated that classic 1980s game (which will almost certainly make an appearance higher in the countdown) with flashier graphics (e.g. the whammies are now animated in 3-D CG rather than old-fashioned 2-D), a new stylish set, a few rule changes, and a new host (Todd Newton) that isn't nearly as good as original "PYL" host Peter Tomarken.
For any readers unfamiliar with the "PYL"/"Whammy" game play, three contestants accumulated spins via answering poll questions correctly, then used those spins by halting a game board that randomly lights up panels that have either cash prizes, lavish gifts, or a dreaded whammy. Contestants unlucky enough to land on a whammy (which is a little red creature that looks like a cousin of Looney Tunes' Tasmanian Devil) lost any cash and prizes they gained on that turn, and suffered through a short whammy animation that sometimes included having any number of things rained down on their head.
The 37th greatest game show of all time was the current GSN rerun "Greed." One of the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" clones that popped up in the wake of that juggernaut several years ago, the Chuck Woolery-hosted "Greed" replicated the big money, suspenseful answer reveals, and annoying think-out-loud contestant chit-chat of "Millionaire," while adding the twists of team play, questions that are often more interesting, and cash levels that start and end higher than "Millionaire"'s--with $2,000,000 as the top prize. The episode featured in the countdown was the first one in which a contestant won the 2 mil.
Numbers 36, 35, and 34 were again given the voiceover and still photo treatment. Thirty-six was "Remote Control," the MTV game show from the late-1980s that was hosted by Ken Ober and featured early TV exposure of comics Denis Leary, Adam Sandler, and Colin Quinn. Although a decent game show in its own right, "Remote Control" was one of the first self-contained programs shown on MTV (as opposed to continuous music videos), and as such represents the beginning of MTV's downward spiral into mediocrity and vapidity that has continued unabated ever since.
Thirty-five was "Beat the Clock," hosted by perennial 1950s game host (and voice of the original animated Superman) Bud Collyer, which for some reason was treated only with voiceover and stills even though it currently airs overnight every weeknight on GSN. The original stunt game show, "Beat the Clock" had a married couple performing silly but entertaining timed physical stunts to win prizes, with each show ending with the husband attempting to perform a particularly difficult stunt that was repeated each episode with an escalating amount of prize money until someone completed it successfully.
"Sale of the Century" was game show #34. This shopping game had two incarnations, from 1969-74, hosted by Jack Kelly then Joe Garagiola, and 1983-89, hosted by Jim Perry. Contestants answered rapid-fire questions to win cash in $5 and $10 increments, then used that cash to buy prizes that had ridiculously low prices (a car for $250, for instance).
One of the latest generation of stunt shows, "Dog Eat Dog," came in at #33. Another current GSN rerun, "Dog Eat Dog," hosted by "Baywatch" swimsuit model Brooke Burns, pittted six buff twentysomething players (three men, three women) against each other in physical challenges designed to exhibit them in various states of undress. The episode featured in the countdown had two different challenges in which the women, bikini-clad, had to perform stunts under or in the water, and another in which one of the men had to putt golf balls from increasingly closer distances, doffing an article of clothing each time he missed (he ended up in his skivvies).
Although legitimately challenging physically (and probably requiring the kind of buff bodies on display), the stunts on "Dog Eat Dog" are nonetheless cheap and lurid attempts at exhibitionism (or voyeurism, I guess, depending on whether one is a contestant or a viewer). "Dog Eat Dog" does not have half the class of "Beat the Clock," and the fact that the former ranked higher than the latter points up what is becoming an unfortunate characteristic of GSN's countdown: a lack of respect for the pioneering 1950s game shows, and a corresponding failure to show episodes of those same pioneering games.