Sunday, August 29, 2021

Secrets, Squares, and Matches

Started off a cloudy morning with banana chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and Steel Pier. This 1997 Kander & Ebb show was set in 1932 Atlantic City, as a marathon dancer does one last show on the famous pier of the title. She's eventually partnered by a mysterious, handsome pilot who is a lot more than he seems, especially when he can enter her dreams and stop time. Her sleazy promoter husband wants them to be married in a stunt, but the pilot only has enough time left to remind her the importance of following your dreams. There's some good songs here, especially her introductory number "Willing to Ride" and the rowdy comic song "Everybody's Girl," but the plot is way too complicated and hard to follow. For fans of Kander & Ebb and their work only. 

Headed out shortly after the CD ended. Work was on-and-off steady for most of the afternoon. It was busy when I arrived, then died so much, I spent almost an hour doing returns before they called me back for cashiering. Thankfully, by the time I finished, it quieted down again. I was able to leave with no relief and no need for one. No major problems whatsoever.

Went straight into dinner when I got home and changed. Had leftovers while listening to another flop 90's stage musical set during the summer, State Fair. Producer David Merrick's last stage show was this down-home adaptation of the 1945 and 1962 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about a typical farm family's adventures at the 1946 Iowa State Fair. It uses songs from other shows by the duo, along with the 1962 number "More Than Just a Friend," which the farmers sing to their pigs. Other good ones include two numbers for the Frake parents, "When I Go Out Walking With My Baby" and "Boys and Girls Like You and Me" that were cut from Oklahoma!, Margie's wistful "The Next Time It Happens" and Pat's "The Man I Used to Be" from the failure Pipe Dream, and the lovely "So Far" for Wayne and Emily from Allegro.

Worked on writing for a while after I finished eating. Marcia insists on taking Brett and her boys to see the Mock Turtle while Richard tries to release his men from the dungeon. He knows Betty won't really hurt anyone...but he's not sure about the Red King. Brett notices the Knave leaning over the tarts as she follows Marcia down the path to the beach.

Finished the night on YouTube with some of the more popular celebrity panel games of the past 60 years. Panel games were among the most common and beloved shows of the first 20 years of television broadcasting. I've Got a Secret, for instance, ran almost 15 years, from 1952 to 1967. I went with a show from later in the run in 1965, when Steve Allen took over hosting. We see a man who lost more than 800 pounds and another who sailed the Atlantic in a tiny boat. Carol Burnett read news casts with wrong words; the panel had to guess what was the right word. 

John Carson Daly was the host of the more erudite It's News to Me from 1952. Here, the panel has to guess who the newsmaker is and what he's involved in. I especially found the gentleman who witnessed the Hindenburg's destruction to have a really interesting story.

What's My Line? was another long-running favorite with a celebrity panel. It was so popular, after its demise in 1967, it came right back in 1969 on syndication. For some reason, Buzzr only runs episodes from 1972 with Larry Blyden as the host. I did a 1969 episode with Wally Bruner. Original Line host Bud Collyer, in one of his last television appearances, was the Mystery Guest. Soupy Sales guessed him almost immediately. 

Panel games got a lot more ribald in the 1970's. Daytime shows had looser standards, allowing for a lot more that could get past the censors. One of the first game shows to push that envelope was Hollywood Squares. Paul Lynde presides over the center square in the 1972 episode I went with. Other folks giving rowdy bluffs to questions include Rose Marie, Wally Cox, Janet Leigh, Suzanne Pleshette, Carl Reiner, Buddy Hackett, and Shecky Greene. Host Peter Marshall shows off his strange pink "cake layer" tuxedo.

Match Game started again in 1973 after the original show was canceled in 1969. This simple parlor game of contestants matching six celebrities became a lot wilder when the questions were simply set-ups for randy innuendo. It was an even bigger hit than Squares, racking up record-breaking daytime ratings that wouldn't be seen again until the Luke and Laura storyline on General Hospital. In honor of Ed Asner, who passed away today, I went with an episode from 1976 showing how he, Richard Dawson, and host Gene Rayburn handled an especially annoying and goofy male contestant named Lyle.

The runaway success of Match Game was bound to spawn imitations. You Don't Say!, originally a clone of Password, was reconfigured in 1975 as an imitation of Match Game. I went with the syndicated version from 1978 with Jim Peck hosting. Here, four celebrity panelists describe a word or a phrase by using other words, sort of a Match Game-Password hybrid. 

The Pyramid franchise also began in 1973. By the time I was a kid in the mid-late 80's, it was known as $100,000 Pyramid. Dick Clark still hosted contestants guessing clues to six categories arranged in a pyramid. The winners went on to the Winner's Circle; if they guessed all the categories, they'd win big money. The episode I chose came from that year's Tournament of Champion, encouraging celebrities Crystal Bernard and Tom Villard to be especially on their game.

See the history of celebrities on TV, from guessing the news to throwing out innuendo that challenged standards for daytime TV. (And watch out for the original commercials on I've Got a Secret and You Don't Say!)

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