Sunday, July 31, 2022

What are Beloved Games?

Got a quick start this morning with breakfast, then writing. Being thrown out of a stained glass window and hit with dark magic has seriously altered Dickie's perception on things. He keeps talking about strange inventions he's created, like a box turned upside-down and gauntlet on the ankles of his horse to protect from shark bites (in the middle of the woods). 

Actually got out to work on time today.  I came into a hot, sunny, humid afternoon...and maybe that's why we were so dead today, especially for Sunday. Like I told a customer, most people are either on vacation, avoiding the heat, or waiting for the beginning of the month. I did have a few customers who didn't have anywhere near enough for their orders and had to put a lot back, and I didn't know what to say to a man who wanted to shake my hand for some reason. Other than that, everything was fine and the day went quickly.

Went straight into dinner when I got home. Listened to A Golden Treasury of Fairy Tales while I ate. Supposedly, Art Carney is among the voices narrating popular fairy tales on this children's album from the early 60's, but I didn't hear him on the first three stories. "The Ugly Duckling" turned out to be the song from the Danny Kaye Hans Christian Andersen. The narrator for "Hansel and Gretel" and "The Three Bears" is primarily female. She provides all of the voices for "Three Bears," even the great big papa bear voice. "Hansel and Gretel" sticks to the more familiar version with the stepmother sending the kids into the woods.

Finished the night on YouTube honoring Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, which will be getting their own 24-hour channels on Pluto TV starting tomorrow. Jeopardy is the older of the two by over a decade. It began in 1964 as a response to the elaborate quiz shows of the 1950's. Here was a show where people competed to show their knowledge, not to win big bucks - the top prize for years wasn't even in four digits. Genial Art Fleming hosted the original 1964-1975 run and its 1978 syndicated revival. 

Alas, little remains of them nowadays. NBC erased most of the original run, and King's World erased tapes well into the mid-80's. The 1974 color show is among the few online for the NBC run, and the 1978 episode is the only full show I could find for the revival.

The 1978 revival made a lot of controversial changes, like eliminating the lowest-scoring player after the first round and replacing Final Jeopardy with a Super Jeopardy bonus round. The current syndicated version that started in 1984 restored the original rules and final round. Alex Trebek hosted the show from its inception until his death in 2020. The episode I went with here from 1991 is pretty emblematic of the show in the 80's and 90's as a whole.

Wheel of Fortune began in 1973 as Shopper's Bazaar. Its original pilot with Chuck Woolery had an upright carnival-style wheel with only Lose a Turn, no Bankrupt or prizes. The cash the contestants earned throughout the episode went to increasingly larger prizes on another board. By the end of the show, the winner accumulated the most cash and prizes.

By the time it finally debuted with Woolery in 1975, it was retooled into something closer to the show we know nowadays. The wheel now lay flat so contestants could spin it themselves. They still solved hangman-style puzzles, occasionally stopping to buy vowels. Accumulated cash could be used to buy prizes. The winner went on to solve one more puzzle and pick up a larger prize, usually a car or a big cash jackpot. 

While the show had its fans, it was never a major smash hit...until Woolery left in a salary dispute and he was replaced by boyish newscaster Pat Sajak and lovely Vanna White in 1982. Its nighttime show proved to be such a runaway sensation, it led to producer Merv Griffin pulling Jeopardy out to pair with it, and they've been that way for most markets ever since. Even the morning show remained popular enough to continue with different hosts on CBS and NBC until 1991. 

Alas, not much is left of Wheel, either. NBC and King's World didn't treat them any better, though there does seem to be more episodes left of Woolery's run than there are of Art Fleming's. Thanks to Sony not wanting to let pretty much anyone see the shows, even later episodes can be hard to find online. 

Watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune together was a major evening ritual in my family. It was one of the few things we did together as a family. Mom usually had ABC on for the World News Tonight after dinner anyway. We'd guess the Pennsylvania Lottery numbers, then would wait breathlessly for Johnny Gilbert's "!" and his announcing today's contestants. We'd then see who could get the most answers right, or who was especially good at a certain topic. When Fortune came on, we'd all try to get the answer first, before the contestants did! 

Relive your own family memories with these classic episodes! (The 1978 Jeopardy episode is in five parts and is not in the best shape, but as mentioned, it's the only one I could find online. Look for commercials and the tail end of a New York newscast on the 1987 Wheel episode!) 

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