Sunday, August 21, 2022

Peacock Games

Began the morning with breakfast while listening to Hello Dolly! This is the original 1964 cast album, featuring Carol Channing in her most famous role. David Burns is Horace Vandergelder, the cranky object of her affections. Charles Nelson Reilly got a Tony nod in a rare romantic role as Cornelius Hackle, the clerk who hopes to find adventure in New York; Eileen Brennan was his Irene Malloy. At least two songs, the opening "I Put My Hand In" and the comic march "Motherhood" as Irene, Dolly, and Irene's assistant Minnie Fay (Sondra Locke) try to distract Horace from finding his clerks in their hat shop, didn't make it into the subsequent film. Reilly did so well with "It Only Takes a Moment," the song remained associated with him for the rest of his life. 

Did a little writing after I got organized. White Queen Helen and Red Queen Fannie give Brett an "examination" to test her suitability as queen. Brett thinks it's all nonsense, especially when they toss out rapid-fire questions that really have no answers. 

Headed out shortly after I got off the computer; I had lunch and dinner at work. Work continues to be a pain in the rear. They'll send me into a register, only to pull me when they need someone to gather the trash or push carts...and then they'll pull me again when the lines are long or they need someone to go in for breaks. It's driving me crazy. I have a hard enough time dealing with customers as it is. 

At least I dodged the weather. When I emerged to push carts around 4 PM, the parking lot gleamed with water. It must have rained pretty hard earlier. Thankfully, while it remained cloudy and humid, it hasn't rained again to my knowledge.

Had ice cream quickly when I got home, then took a shower. Finished the night online, watching game shows put out by NBC. The Peacock Network got into the game business earlier than anyone else, having started with them on their two radio networks in the early 30's. Probably their biggest network-owned hit is Concentration. It began in 1958 with two contestants guessing rebus puzzles on a clickety-clack board, and proved to be such a smash, it became the network's longest-running game show when it ended in 1973. Anchorman Hugh Downs lends gravity to the proceedings.

An impossibly young Bob Barker had more fun in LA with Truth or Consequences. This goofy stunt show started on radio in 1940 with original creator Ralph Edwards hosting. By the time this episode aired in 1961, Barker took over guiding people through crazy stunts like finding a prize slip in a pile of laundry or guessing three people's weight. 

Play Your Hunch, another Goodson-Todman panel show, ran through all three networks before settling on NBC in 1959. Four panelists have to guess which of three contestants - labeled X, Y, or Z - have some kind of mark like a beard. On the early 60's episode I found, they also had to decide which photo was really of Grace Kelly and discern between three sculpted busts. Merv Griffith hosted this one, shortly before he left to start his own talk show.

Hollywood Squares began in 1966 and quickly became one of the most popular shows on daytime, thanks to its wacky celebrities tossing out naughty "zingers" on a huge tic-tac-toe board. It ran until 1980, when it became one of the casualties when NBC executive Fred Silverman cleared out three game shows (a genre he wasn't a fan of) to make room for a new talk show by David Letterman...which barely lasted a few months. Letterman's off-the-wall brand of comedy proved to be more suitable for late-night viewers. 

One of the few shows spared from the bloodbath was Wheel of FortuneWheel seemed to be the longest-running NBC show no one talked about. It had been chugging along before the carnage, never being a major hit, but being one of the few games left on the network helped improve its fortunes. They jumped even higher after a syndicated version became a massive hit. 

Joining it on NBC's schedule were a hit, Sale of the Century, and a flop, Hot Potato. Sale originally ran in the late 60's, but it only did moderately well. This time, with Jim Perry as the host, it became a smash, running through the rest of the decade. 

Potato with "dean of game shows" Bill Cullen was their attempt to imitate Family Feud, but with co-workers guessing which topics fit a certain subject. I loved this show when it re-ran on USA Network a few years later, but I'm not sure it ever really found an audience. Changing to celebrity teams didn't help.

Caesar's Challenge proved to be the last daytime game show on NBC to date. Too bad they didn't give it more of a fair shake. I've enjoyed checking out this casino-themed show where contestants have to unscramble words to win big money. 

NBC's contributions to the big-money quiz craze of the early 2000's were a revival of Twenty-One and The Weakest Link. This English import had a group of people trying to complete a chain of answers and reach a goal in a set time limit. Contestants vote for which group member they want to eliminate. Original host Anne Robinson dismisses them with a curt "You are the Weakest Link. Good bye." Like Hot Potato, it began well but faltered quickly and eventually did celebrity episodes before ending in 2002. A syndicated version only ran a year. It was so fondly recalled, a revival with Jane Lynch doing the dismissing is currently running on NBC (and has already outlasted the original). 

Ring those chimes and share the moment with clicking rebus boards, hot potato co-workers, weakest links, sassy celebrities, and spinning wheels! (And look for commercials on many of them, including Hot Potato, Sale of the Century, and The Weakest Link!)

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