Sunday, January 22, 2023

Rainy Days and Slime

Started off the morning with breakfast and the original London cast of Sister Act on CD. For some reason, they reset the story in 1978 Philadelphia. Dolores is now a disco singer in her gangster boyfriend's nightclub, and there's more emphasis on the relationship between her and the cop who is supposed to keep an eye on her in Witness Protection. Some of the late 70's pastiche songs aren't bad. Too bad my favorite, the nuns hilariously explaining "How I Heard the Calling," was dropped before the show moved to the US. 

Worked on writing for a while as the CD ran. Betty can't stay for too long in the castle. It's much too warm. She leaves them with the king's grumpy majordomo (Richard Deacon), who reminds Gene that he and the Nutcracker need to release the Princess from both their spells, or they'll be forever banished.

Broke for a quick lunch around quarter after 1. Switched to the Reader's Digest Treasury of Operettas set. The Desert Song may be one of my favorite American operettas. The story of the French governor's son Pierre who masquerades as the head of the Riffs in North Africa smacks of everything from The Scarlet Pimpernel to Superman. My favorite songs are "Romance" and "Then You Will Know" as Pierre and Margot, the object of his affections, discuss their ideas of real love.

It was only gloomy and gray when I left for work. It started showering slightly on my way, but didn't amount to anything. I rode the bike and basically just ran into some very strong wind.

Work was off-and-on busy, though it could have been worse on a Sunday. The Cowboys played the 49ers tonight; the Bills went up against the Bengals this afternoon. I did have some trouble with people not understanding about only being able to buy the same brand of soda 12 packs, and I got stuck in express because another cashier didn't want to do it. I didn't want to, either, but someone had to. 

No wonder we cleared out so fast. When I headed out, it was showering heavily. I ended up riding home in it and getting wet. My coat is still drying. (And it's just as well that I didn't wait. It's rained off and on, sometimes heavily, for the rest of the night.)

Soon as I got in, I put my coat aside to dry, grabbed dinner, changed, and went online. First of all, Match Game Productions has been running marathons of Betty White's best episodes all week in honor of her birthday. Tonight, he did her later syndicated and PM episodes, along with three of her best appearances on Match Game '90 and the Match Game episode of Game Show Marathon she starred in (where she sat in her original sixth "comedienne" seat). Along with the rare Game Show Marathon episode, my favorites here were Betty and Allen's last appearance on TV together in a PM episode, and Betty turning up on a syndicated show wearing a bright red dress and making a smashing entrance. 

In addition to Betty, I threw on game shows made by kids' cable favorite Nickelodeon. They resisted game shows until 1986, when Double Dare debuted. Two teams of kids play stunts to earn money. After the stunt, they answer a series of trivia questions. One team can answer, or dare the others to. They can dare them back, and the kids who were dared can either answer, or take a Physical Challenge. The Physical Challenges and opening stunts mainly involved throwing things at each other or a lot of slime or splashing water and could get very messy. Winners went on to an obstacle course, where they'd have to drag their way through even messier and bigger stunts.

My sisters and I loved this show in the mid-late 80's, and we weren't the only ones. Kids across the country were hooked on watching people dump slime on each other. Every kid badly wanted to be on the show. In our case, it helped that the first two seasons, including the episode I chose, were filmed at WHYY PBS studios in Philadelphia, and kids from the Philly suburbs and South Jersey frequently appeared. Harvey, the announcer, was even a former Philly disc jockey.

Double Dare was such a phenomenon, almost every Nickelodeon game show that came after it involved stunts in one way or another. Think Fast debuted in 1989, and was more-or-less a Double Dare clone with no daring and slightly less messy stunts. The difference was in the bonus rounds. Two kids would open locker doors and try to figure out which strange person or object in one locker matched another on the other side. Kind of fun, but also very strange. No wonder it didn't last a year.

Make the Grade did have stunts, but placed more emphasis on the trivia. Three kids would have to guess answers from questions from seven categories and six age levels on a flapping board. If they hit "Fire," they'd take part in a "fire drill" stunt. The winner went on to the "Honors Round," where they had to answer seven questions from three categories correctly. I remember really enjoying this one as a kid. I liked the tough questions and the nifty if lo-fi board. 

Legends of the Hidden Temple did better with integrating its trivia and stunts. In fact, this may be the most popular Nick game show along with Double Dare. It's certainly one of the most creative. Six teams compete to get across "the Moat" (a swimming pool) on boogie boards and pulling themselves across the water. The four teams who win get to hear the temple head Olmec tell them whatever legendary object, real or fictional, they're searching for today. They answer a series of questions to test their memories at the Steps of Knowledge, then play "The Temple Games," aka stunts. The team that wins the stunts moves on to running through the Temple. If the guards grab the kids or they run out of time, they don't get the grand prize. 

Oooh, no wonder this one was so well-remembered, an adult version played on the CW in 2021. Even Double Dare can't claim to have a movie based after it. This is just plain fun, and possibly the most creative of Nick's game shows. 

Nickelodeon Guts did away with the trivia all together. Here, three kids take part in four extreme sports events. In the episode I chose from 1993, they run an obstacle course, have to use a paddle to pull them along in a pool, dodge assistants throwing balls at them, and climb up the treacherous "Aggro Crag." Winner gets 300 points, second gets 200, and third gets 100. The simple game play was a lot of fun to watch and made this one of Nick's biggest game show hits, running from 1992 to 1995.

Figure It Out from 1997 is basically Nick's version of I've Got a Secret. Four kid-friendly celebrities try to guess a kid's special talent or something unusual they've done. No one on Secret ever had to deal with being slimed if the contestant stumped them, though!

BrainSurge from 2009 put knowledge and memorization front and center. Six kids start out guessing a series of puzzles for an increasing amount of points. The two kids with the lowest points at the end of the round had to ride down the messy "BrainDrain sewer pipe" back down to the audience. The remaining four contestants have to answer questions from a book host Jeff Sutphen reads to them. The two contestants who come out of that have to remember which pieces from the previous story matched. That winner moved on to the bonus round, which involved memorizing light patterns on a large board. Fun and challenging, despite a rather creepy set; no wonder this one ran until 2011. 

Play along and dodge slime with some of the smartest and bravest kids ever to appear on cable!

And here's Betty's marathon, too! 

Oh, and the Bengals beat the Bills 27-10 in the 3 PM game; they'll play the Chiefs next week. The Eagles will play the 49ers, who just got past the Cowboys 19-12. 

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