Monday, September 18, 2023

Travels With My Whammy

Instead of starting the day with the usual novel, I read a short children's book and three short stories about vacations. Samantha Parkington is looking forward to spending her summer vacation at Piney Point in the Adirondack Mountains with her family. She and the twins Agnes and Agatha discover a scrapbook of artwork her mother did when she was a baby at Teardrop Island. Unfortunately, the island is surrounded by jagged rocks that eventually killed Samantha's parents. After Samantha and the twins are stranded on the island during a storm, Samantha Saves the Day when she navigates them through the rocks in order to help the kindly old Admiral who got a head injury while looking for them. 

"Paddington Takes the Road" when the town he and the Browns are staying at celebrate the Tour De France passing through. Paddington remodels a tricycle so he can join the race. Trouble is, he sort of forgot to put the brakes back on...

Donald Duck never seemed to do well on vacation. His nephews run him ragged when he takes them to Anaheim in the late 50's. He sees them in so many places and scary rides while on the train, "Donald Duck In Disneyland" eventually decides the Jungle Cruise and Tomorrowland Speedway are safer. He fares even less well on an earlier trip to "The Grand Canyon" with Mickey. He ends up falling off his burro and into the canyon. Mickey also braves rapids to rescue him.

Had breakfast and made the bed while watching The New Scooby Doo Movies. Scooby Doo is probably the last franchise you'd cross with Batman, but the kids from Mystery Inc actually appeared with the Dynamic Duo several times, including in two episodes of this series. "The Caped Crusader Caper" has them encountering Batman and Robin during a camping trip. Joker and The Penguin kidnapped a scientist, hoping to steal the flying suit he made for robberies. While Batman searches for the wayward villains, the kids find the scientist and try to keep his suit out of the wrong hands.

Called Uber around 10:20. A nice Asian gentleman picked me up within 12 minutes. I wanted to leave early to avoid traffic in Philly. Thankfully, most of it was going in the opposite direction. It was slightly backed up on the Schuylkill Expressway, but nothing horrible. He pulled up at the 30th Street Station around 10:50. 

I love 30th Street Station. It's a beautiful Art Deco monument that more closely resembles the lobby of a grand hotel than a train station. I feel more elegant just walking around in there. I did stop at the news shop to buy a sparkling water, but I mainly walked around or read Dough or Die while I was there. And I was there for a little longer than planned. The train was supposed to arrive at 12:05. It suddenly jumped to 12:14 while I was in line for it and didn't finally pull out of the station until almost 12:30. 

The train to Philly was no picnic, either. It was so busy, I jumped into the last seats in the car next to the baggage. A big lady going to Boston squished in next to me. She ate a fried chicken sandwich for lunch while I had an apple-chicken salad from the Acme. 

Thankfully, everything went much better once the train finally pulled into New York. Despite the showers and gray skies that continued the entire day, every other train left on time. Moynihan Train Hall was busy, but not any more or less than it usually is. I used the bathroom, then ate an apple and a granola bar while watching a family with two boys playing and having their own snacks. 

No trouble on the train to Albany, either. The train left right on time. The view going to Albany is spectacular. It was really foggy over the river during the first half, but once the fog cleared out around 4 PM, I was able to admire quaint little lighthouses, crumbling factories, towering green mountains, and churning gray waters. The train actually pulled into Albany 10 minutes early. Fortunately, Lauren checked Amtrak's website all day and knew to arrive early.

Our original choice for dinner is closed on Mondays. We ended up at My Place & Co, a small bar and restaurant in Schodack, New York. It's basic bar food, sandwiches and wraps and salads. Lauren had a "Rocket Reuben," a roast beef wrap with cheddar and horseradish she said was excellent. My Grilled Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich was decent, if a little slippery. The fries were disappointing, bland and limp, but the cole slaw wasn't bad. Dessert was much better. She had a chocolate cream pie. I had an amazingly chocolate-y and rich five-layer chocolate fudge cake.

We pulled into Lauren's house around 8 PM. I spent the rest of the evening watching more Press Your Luck in honor of its 40th anniversary today. Luck goes back further than most people know. It originally debuted as Second Chance on ABC in 1977. Three contestants answer multiple choice questions. They get a chance to change their mind about their answer if they think someone else has a better one. The more spins they amass, the more they're able to play the board. If they land on a prize or money, they can keep it. If they land on a devil, they lose everything. Jim Peck was the good-natured host. 

I have to admit, the ability to change your answer was pretty cool. I wish they kept that aspect for Press Your Luck. The board, on the other hand, is cramped and primitive, and the devils aren't quite as much fun as the Whammies. (Plus, The Joker's Wild already kind of covered the devil thing.) Despite this show's short run, it seems to be well-liked by those who saw it in 1977, and I really wish more than 2 episodes and the pilot existed. 

Second Chance was retooled in 1983 as Press Your Luck on CBS. Same idea, only the ability to change your answer was eliminated to move the trivia rounds along, and the devils were replaced by funny little red monster characters called "Whammies" who took your cash and prizes. Peter Tomarken was the snarky and energetic host. (Incidentally, the Whammies were designed by animator and director "Savage" Steve Holland, and yes, they do look like something from his films of the late 80's.) 

Press Your Luck may be best-known today for the scandal it ran into during the second year of its run. In 1984, a man named Michael Larson ended up amassing more than $100, 000 in cash and prizes by memorizing the random patterns on the board. He played for so long, the episode he appeared in was broken into two parts. CBS ultimately decided it wasn't cheating, and his winnings stood as the all-time high score on a network game show until the debut of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 1999. 

Press Your Luck proved to be a ratings winner in re-runs, not only on USA, but on Game Show Network in its early years, too. The re-runs were so popular, GSN finally revived it as Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck in 2002. Same idea, but the Whammies are now done in 3-D computer animation. There's also the dreaded "Double Whammy." If a contestant gets hit with a Whammy twice or more in a row, they also get hit with whatever animation the Whammy's doing, like snow for a snowboarder. Todd Newton was the enthusiastic host. This one wasn't bad, and it's really a shame it only managed two seasons. 

Press Your Luck continued to be popular in re-runs well into the new millennium, enough that ABC brought it back again in 2019 as part of its "Summer Fun & Games" block. Elizabeth Banks becomes the show's first female host, and the Whammies are once again done in 2-D animation. The big difference here is, to pad the show to an hour, a Bonus Round is added to the end. The winner of the first two rounds gets a chance to do the board one more time and either pick up even more and bigger prizes...if they can avoid the Whammies! 

Watch out for Whammies as you explore the history behind one of TV's most heart-stopping and hilarious game shows! 

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