Sunday, March 07, 2021

Wild and Wacky Games

I'd been up for all of twenty minutes this morning when my cell phone trilled. I did call Rose and tell her I ordered the bike, but she wanted to know if it came in yet. I hadn't heard anything from the bike shop in Deptford, and I doubted I would for a while. Things take a long time to arrive. She asked me to call them anyway. She and Craig would be able to pick the bike up today.

Made Peanut Butter Pancakes for breakfast first while listening to Destry Rides Again. Andy Griffith is the title character, the son of a late lawman who comes to lawless Bottleneck determined to find who killed the previous sheriff without using violence. Dolores Gray plays Frenchy, the bad-girl saloon singer who falls for Destry. This is a pretty typical late 50s musical, with "aw shucks" numbers for Destry ("Tomorrow Morning,") Frenchy's attempt to seduce Destry ("I Know Your Kind"), and her frustration when he brushes her off ("I Hate Him") and big chorus set pieces that don't have much to do with the show ("Rose Lovejoy of Paradise Alley," "Once In a While"). It's probably better-remembered for the temper tantrums Dolores Gray threw during it's production and Michael Kidd's Tony-winning choreography than for any of its songs.

Went online briefly after breakfast to check my account and call the bike shop. It was as I thought. The bike shop clerk said it's coming from Wisconsin and won't be here until the end of this week, if not the week after. I e-mailed Rose the receipt and told her what was going on. 

It took forever to get a ride to work this morning...and when I did, it took them twenty minutes to come. And then they took the long way down Nicholson and across Audubon to behind the Crossings Shopping Center, rather than the much-faster route through Oaklyn and down the Black Horse Pike. Though the lady was nice about it, I was ten minutes late. 

The Acme was very busy for most of the day. Sundays are almost always busy, even outside of football season. This is the only day a lot of people can shop. It's also the first Sunday of the month, which means many people are using beginning of the month and early tax money. Our annual Monopoly game started up towards the end of last week as well. There were a few annoying customers too, including my second-to-last one. Between her and dealing with big orders, I got out ten minutes late.

It took me a while to find a ride home as well. This time, though, when I did find a ride, they arrived within ten minutes. I even had a pleasant chat with the sweet woman driver on the way home.

Worked on writing for a while when I got in. Charles tells Richard that he's a great host and their best panelist. He's not, however, a lawman. He can't just go off and throw fits at the producer. Richard just wants to help the contestants win money and is frustrated that he can't do more. 

Had a quick spinach and scallion omelet for dinner while listening to the soundtrack of Paint Your Wagon. Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood are prospectors Ben and Pardner whose discovery of gold eventually leads to the creation of wild mining town. Ben eventually take Mormon woman Elizabeth (Jean Seaburg) as his bride, and all three of them do live happily for a while, but Elizabeth falls for "Pardner," and then respectable citizens start moving into the town and changing its rowdy ways. 

There's some good music here, including the rip-roaring "Gospel of No Name City" and a gorgeous "They Call the Wind Mariah" from Harve Presnell as a local gambler, but Eastwood and Marvin not being singers works better in the film than on an album. 

Finished the night online with some of the strangest game shows to ever exist on TV. I was inspired to do this theme after watching Whew! and Pitfall when Tom Kennedy and Alex Trebek died last fall. They were definitely not the only ones to make use of a huge mechanical set. The Magnificent Marble Machine has two celebrity-contestant teams guessing the answer to a certain word. If they can't come up with the answer, they spell it until they run out of time. Whomever wins gets to play a huge pinball machine with their celebrity partner and win fabulous prizes. Art James hosts. 

The trouble is...while pinball is fun to play, it's not fun to watch. The biggest pinball machine in the world can't disguise the fact that the game is boring and slow-paced. I can see why this didn't even last a year in 1975, and I believe this is the only episode currently in existence (besides a snippet included in the 1979 film The China Syndrome). 

Game shows could get even wilder in the unrestrained world of cable in the 1980's. Remote Control was MTV's first game show in 1987, and their first non-music video programming. Ken Ober hosted the TV trivia show supposedly from his basement. Three strapped-in college-age contestants answered questions about TV, often given in the form of mini-skits by two actors and the house band. Contestants who were eliminated were pulled through the back "brick" wall. The last contestant standing - or sitting - switched to a bed to guest as many musical artists from brief music video clips as they could in 30 seconds. 

The girls and I loved this in the late 80's, though we were a tad young at the time to really understand the zany humor or why all those props are laying around someone's basement. As odd as it is, it's still pretty fun, especially if you're a fan of TV in the 80's or MTV's early years.

The Money Maze came out the same year as Magnificent Marble Machine and had a lot of the same problems. This time, instead of pinball, a spouse has to guide their significant other through a huge maze to hit a bell and win a prize. To give them credit, they did try to make things slightly more interesting by having a series of mini-games as the main game, rather than one word game. It still comes off as only slightly more interesting than Marble Machine. Even George Clooney, later of American Movie Classics, can't do much with this. (Though I will admit that mink coat seen later in the episode looks like the softest thing in the universe.)

Comedy Central's Win Ben Stein's Money started off with a far simpler premise - stump deadpan comedian Ben Stein and get his loot. Stein was no fool, though, and his trivia show, for all the comic titles and goofy jokes in and out of isolation booths, was actually pretty tough. Like Remote Control, it gradually whittled down three contestants until it came to the bonus round, where the final person standing got to try to ask questions and see if they could stump Stein and win the money. No wonder this show was a six-year hit and is still well-regarded today. The questions are hard, but the game is hilarious. Look for Jimmy Kimmel in the pilot as the co-host.

Get rid of the late winter blahhs with these truly unique blasts from the past! (Look for the original commercials on Win Ben Stein's Money and Remote Control.)

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