Sunday, June 12, 2022

Games People Play

Slept in a little more than planned this morning! I barely had the time to work on my application for hireAbility. Got half-way through it before I realized how late it was. I didn't even really have the time for much lunch before I needed to get going. It rained hard overnight, but was just cold and cloudy by 11:30. It was so late by the time I got moving, I ended up taking Uber under any circumstances...and they were late arriving, which meant I was ten minutes late to work.

Not a good thing, as we were busy when I arrived. It stayed busy through about mid-way through the afternoon. Our customers cleared around 2 PM when the sun finally emerged from those clouds. In fact, it wasn't more than mildly steady from that point onwards. Everyone must have gone to graduation barbecues and picnics once the weather started behaving. By the time I signed off, we had plenty of help and it was quiet as can be. 

Had far less problems finding a ride after work. Got them in two minutes; they arrived in under ten. No traffic going home at quarter after 7. The clouds had reemerged, but it was a bit warmer and windier, and definitely more humid. To my knowledge, it hasn't rained again, though.

Spent the rest of the night online watching game shows that are based after board games. Trivial Pursuit debuted in 1981 and was an instant smash. From the mid-80's onwards, companies have tried to turn it into a game show. The first attempt never made it past the pilot stage. Wink Martindale's interactive Family Channel version from 1993 made it a year and a half. 

A second version, Trivial Pursuit: America Plays, barely ran eight months in 2008-2009. Former Brady Bunch actor Christopher Knight leads contestants to play against at-home contestants, "Team America," who submitted questions via internet. While not perfect, it at least tied the "interactive" component in better than Martindale's show did, and Knight was a genial host. (Apparently, two versions of Trivial Pursuit made in England didn't do any better . I'm crossing my fingers LeVarr Burton has more luck with a new syndicated version that's set to debut later this year.)

As far as I can tell, the oldest surviving game show based after a board game is the appropriately titled Big Game from 1958. Tom Kennedy had one of his first national hosting gigs as the head game hunter in this safari-themed version of Battleship. Contestants answer trivia questions in order to have chances to shoot down game in the other's territory. I'm surprised no one's tried to do something like this again, or at least put together a more legitimate version of Battleship, and that this one only lasted a few months. It was really kind of fun. 

Seven Keys began as a Los Angeles-based game in 1960 before going national a year later. Jack Narz leads contestants through what's more-or-less Chutes & Ladders for adults. They advance on the board by playing mini-games when they land on squares. They had 15 chances to get to the final square. If they made it, they'd earn a key that could unlock smaller prizes...or one big one. Not the most exciting to watch, but the games could be fun, and Jack seemed to enjoy leading the contestants through them.

Monopoly ran during July and August 1990 as a summer replacement nighttime series on ABC. I watched almost every episode on my little black and white Zenith. This time, answering trivia leads to rolls on the board and buying property. It's really complicated, and while I enjoyed it as an 11-year-old, I can see why others would find it too hard to figure out.

Like Trivial Pursuit, there's been at least four attempts to turn Pictionary into a game show. The one we see here debuted in syndication in 1989, during the height of the Double Dare gross stunt show craze. Two teams of kids do drawings of words from a category. Their teammates have to guess the word. For some reason, this leads to a big stunt run during the end, with the kids having to pour enough water to float balls out of their container. Yeah, Pictionary and stunts don't really work together. No wonder this only ran for three months. (Admittedly, a more adult-oriented version that came closer to the board game only did slightly better in 1997.)

Taboo did even worse than that on (The New) TNN in 2003. Despite sticking fairly close to the actual board game, watching teams try to avoid using certain words to describe a topic proved to be a bit too crazy and not that fun to watch, and the Bonus Round had nothing to do with the main game. Chris Wylde tried too hard to live up to his last name and came off as annoying rather than funny.

One of the longest-runners among board-game-based game shows is Scrabble. Chuck Woolery hosted the original version from 1984 to 1990 and it's short-lived 1993 revival. It's sort of like Wheel of Fortune without the wheel or Vanna White. Players choose letters and see if they fit in a kind of crossword. It's simple, addictive, and a lot of fun to play along, especially if you love the game or are into words yourself.

Grab your friends and family for these forays in to board game and game show history! (Look for commercials on Big Game...and thanks to Wink Martindale for that rare episode. And be wary of a bad tape on Pictionary, but that seems to be the only episode from that run online.)

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