Monthly Archives: January 2011

My love and hate for the modern game show.

Some people who know me know that I had a knack for game shows. Others know I have a massive 70-tape collection of game shows from the 1950s to 2006. But what they all don’t know is that I’ve fallen out of favor of game shows. Perhaps this is just age, me “growing out” out of my childhood fascinations. I wish it was that. In reality, it’s because game shows, to me, have gotten too gimmicky.

I look at shows like Minute to Win It and $1,000,000 Money Drop. Not content with making a game with fun, engaging gameplay; they opt for excess drama and tension over whether or not the contestant chose the right answer. This was charming in the days of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, but that was twelve years ago. Even then, Millionaire didn’t rely on the “Did you give the right answer? We’ll find out AFTER THE BREAK!” gimmick in the several years I watched that show on and off.

I guess I might as well segue into the classics that are still on today. Wheel of Fortune is still mildly entertaining to watch, although Pat Sajak is going through the motions at this point, probably waiting for the inevitable retirement a few years down the line. Jeopardy! is doing a gimmick where they trot out Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings for the umpteenth time to face off against a computer. The Price is Right somehow has gotten goofier since Drew Carey took over, and the revival of Let’s Make a Deal is going the same route with Wayne Brady. Granted, I still watch these shows on occasion in spite of the complaints I just made. And I realize that it’s not the past anymore and that change is inevitable for these shows.

Hell, I haven’t tuned my TV to GSN in months. It seems all they air there is six hours of Deal or No Deal and 1 vs 100 reruns coupled with occasional episodes of Lingo from six years ago and Catch 21. There’s no variety on their schedule anymore, just the same 6-8 shows repeated through their 20 hour broadcast day. I have to resort to YouTube and game show fansites like the Game Show Vault for my random classic game show fix. Hell, I remember back around 2001 when I used to go to my dad’s work, slap a VHS tape and tune the TV to GSN and record six hours of shows. That thrill of not knowing what to expect or watch from GSN has been gone for years, opting to see the same episode of DoND where the lady wins $5 in her case for the hundredth time.

So I’ve been looking at random game shows instead, some of them outside the US. For instance, I was fascinated by an episode of the UK game show Bullseye. Unlike the US game show, which was an over-dramatic quizzer produced by Barry and Enright, the UK game show is a darts game with a quiz element. I found it compelling because I used to be obsessed with darts at one time, and the game had tension. Actual honest-to-god tension, something that wasn’t fabricated or oversaturated. Seeing if the player was gonna win another prize or forfeit all their prizes if they stuck a dart in the same place… it was fascinating stuff.

To me, the experience of finding something “new” out of game shows today is gone. It feels like gimmick central on every game show that I watch. Instead of a good game wrapped around a great host and format, it has to be buried in flashy dramatics and gimmicks hosted by a washed-up comedian/actor who’s desperate for a paycheck. Perhaps this may just be the pessimist in me, but to quote a song by B.B. King, The Thrill is Gone.

Also, to be fair, I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the new shows I mentioned. Maybe my opinion would change if I actually sat down and watched them. Failing that, does someone want to give me a reason to watch modern game shows again? Because I really want to live the days where I was excited as all hell to see someone win the big grand prize.

Wait a second, I got the answer: Somebody needs to revive The $25,000 Pyramid. It’s my favorite game show, and we’re long overdue for a new version. At least, one that doesn’t blow goats like the Donny Osmond revival did nine years ago.