Sunday, August 07, 2022

Lost Games

Opened my eyes at 7 AM...and once again called the Acme and told them I wasn't coming in. While I didn't feel as lousy as I did yesterday and my fever was long gone, I still had a sore throat and achy head. I went back to bed until 11 AM, then did my usual reading and writing in my journal.

It was nearly 12:30 before I finally ate brunch. Watched Match Game '75 while I ate. Ed Asner made his first appearance and singer Julie London her only appearance on this classic week. Brett and Fannie had some great cracks at each other and Charles...and Gene and Richard enjoyed admiring the Bicentennial design on Fannie's t-shirt.

Spent most of the remainder of the afternoon online, writing or just doing research. Brett's annoyed when Sir Richard keeps going on and on about "inventions." He can't seem to keep his mind on one thing, and he ignores Charles' attempts to tell them where they're headed next. Brett's worried that he also seems to have forgotten his beloved boys, as he barely mentions them.

Ate an early dinner around quarter of 5 while listening to my original cast album for No, No Nanette. The 1971 revival of this seminal 20's musical was a surprise hit on Broadway that year. Bobby Van, Jack Gilford, Helen Gallagher, Patsy Kelly, and Ruby Keeler were among those who appeared in the sweetly cynical story of a wealthy bible seller, his three proteges, and his carefree ward. "Tea for Two," "I've Confessed to the Breeze," and "I Want to Be Happy" were the big hits. Keeler of course gets the charming chorus routine "Take a Little One Step," while Gallagher tells Van "You Can Dance With Any Girl at All." 

My favorite number was either written for or dug up for the 1971 show and cut, but recorded anyway. Keeler and Gilford recall a gentler New York City and encapsulate what nostalgia means to so many people in the lovely "Only a Moment Ago."

Switched to Steel Pier during dessert. Despite ample coverage in 1997 (including in the Press of Atlantic City), this Kander & Ebb historical fantasy was a major flop on Broadway. A dancer (Karen Ziemba) finds herself pressing a pilot (Daniel MacDonald) into service in a dance marathon in 1933 Atlantic City. Her sleazy promoter husband (Gregory Harrison) tried to make the most of their relationship, including a mock wedding that's more a promotion for his latest discovery (Kristin Chenowith). The pilot, however, isn't what he seems...and by the end of the marathon, he's convinced the dancer that she's ready to fly on her own.

Too bad the story is an overly complicated mess, because there's some good songs here. Debra Monk has a blast as the most ribald of the contestants with the rowdy "Everybody's Girl." Ziemba's best song is the determined "Willing to Ride" in the opening. MacDonald gets three dreamy ballads, "The Last Girl" during the marathon, the chorus routine "Leave the World Behind," and the gentle "First You Dream" near the end. Harrison's best moment is the title song with his girls "Mick's Picks." Chenowith's spoofy "Two Little Words" launched her as a Broadway star. I'm not sure how easy this is to find today, but if you're a fan of Kander & Ebb or know about Atlantic City history, it's worth hearing at least once for some decent songs alone.

Finished the night online after a shower with more bits of 20th century history. As I mentioned last week when discussing the early years of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, game shows are particularly prone to being lost. Even some long-running shows like Wheel have fewer than 20 to 100 episodes left of thousands made prior to the early 80's. Merv Griffin's company kept reusing tapes until 1985! Most of Chuck Woolery's run and Pat Sajak's early years in daytime are gone forever. The 1981 show here is among the survivors.

At least they were recorded. Most early game shows were broadcast live and not recorded, or recorded on kineoscopes - film recordings of TV shows - that were junked. The late 50's smash Dotto had a double hit against it - it was live and one of the shows involved in the infamous 1958 Quiz Scandals, where game shows were accused of being fixed. The episode I have is one of three shows currently available. Likewise, NBC's shopping show Say When! was a four-year hit in the early 60's, but only has one regular episode remaining.

Buzzr running an episode of the early 70's Password next week is what gave me the idea for this theme in the first place. While CBS apparently stopped erasing their tapes in 1972, ABC kept doing it until 1978, and NBC until 1980. Among ABC's victims were the 1971 version of Password, the original 1973 Split Second with Tom Kennedy, and the 1966 The Newlywed Game with Bob Eubanks. (Password was reportedly taped over by Family Feud!) Only two episodes of Split Second and six of Password '71 exist online and a smattering of early Newlywed shows. 

Their competition didn't fare much better. The Who, What, or Where Game from 1969 is a quiz show that's pretty similar to its lead-in Jeopardy. Once again, we have people betting on their answers to questions; this time, they can choose a who, what, or where question, and the money they get depends on the difficulty of the question. This was just as much fun as its sister program; too bad there's only about two or three episodes remaining. 

The early Alex Trebek hit High Rollers had contestants tossing to see who could answer questions and win prize packages off of a board with columns of numbers. While the Wink Martindale syndicated version from 1987 does exist in full, Alex's runs from 1974-1976 and 1978-1980 were largely wiped. Only one episode from the former and twelve of the latter are available now. 

Celebrate TV history with these rare episodes! (And look for the original commercials on several of them!)

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