Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Eagles Outrun the 49ers

Started off the morning with breakfast and my original cast CD of It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman! Debuting in 1966 during the height of the Batman pop art superhero craze, this proved to be a little too campy for Broadway and fizzled within four months. It didn't do any better updated for TV in 1975, where it was dumped on late-night and barely seen. Too bad. There's a couple of good songs in this story of Superman doing battle with a mad scientist and a jealous gossip columnist. "You've Got Possibilities," performed by the columnist's (Jack Cassidy) secretary (Linda Lavin) when she tries to seduce Clark Kent, is the big standard here. I also like "You're the Woman for the Man," the columnist's unsuccessful attempt to flirt with Lois Lane (Patricia Marand), and "We Don't Matter at All," where Lois explains to an amorous colleague (Don Chastain) why people - and relationships - do matter. 

Headed off to work shortly after breakfast. I rolled into total chaos. Between the beginning of the month and the Eagles playing the 49ers in the NFC Championship game at 3, there were lines down the aisles and not nearly enough people to deal with them. Thankfully, the beginning of the game and the arrival of rain slowed the flood of customers to a trickle around 4 PM. They pulled me before my break to help with carts. I ended up spending the rest of my shift pushing carts and sweeping when the night bagger called out. It rained a little while I gathered carts, but nothing too heavy, and it was done by the time I finished.

Went straight home and online to see the game. One of my co-workers mentioned the Eagles were up 21-7. By the time I got in, the game had just ended. The Eagles scored 10 more points and apparently ran rings around the Niners. They won 31 to 7 and will be going to the Super Bowl in two weeks for the first time since 2018.

Had dinner, then did some writing. Allen explains to Richard that he'll be doing reporting for the morning show as well as hosting. Nothing too heavy for the morning, of course. Richard wouldn't mind moving on to a more important desk job, but for now, he understands that he's only to give lifestyle reports and discuss that.

Took a shower after I finished and spent the rest of the night watching Game Show Network shows. Game Show Network debuted in 1994 as the home for re-runs of older game shows. The re-runs were usually accompanied by live variety shows often featuring commentators or surviving hosts. These went over so well, they began filming their own original game shows around 1997. 

The earliest Game Show Network program I could find on YouTube is Inquiztion from 1998. The sarcastic, gray-haired host, seen only from the back, drills four contestants in colorful smocks with a (fake) hangar behind them in difficult multiple-choice questions. The contestant with the least points in end of each round bowed and dropped out. The winner was told they won $500 and their freedom. 

Dang, this was a weird one. The quiz aspect was almost annoyingly boring. What works here is the air of mystery and formality. The Inquizitor calls everyone "Mr." or "Ms," and you never do learn their name. In fact, to this day, no one knows who the host was. 

Russian Roulette from 2002 was equally creative and a lot easier to take. Contestants stand on four circles within a circle, called "drop zones." They each get $150 to start. Host Mark L. Walberg reads a question, and the contestant has to challenge another contestant to answer it. If they miss it or run out of time, they pull the Roulette lever. If the lights stop on their circle, they drop through and are eliminated from the game. The second round ups the money amount, and in the third, the challenger can now answer it themselves or toss it to the other contestant. The bonus round has the survivor answering multiple-choice questions for $10,000; if they avoid being dropped one more time, they can win $100,000.

This one was surprisingly fun, with its intense game play and challenging questions. It's too bad like many early Game Show Network programs, it didn't last a year. 

They did somewhat better with revivals of earlier shows. Their biggest hit revival was Lingo, which started in 2002 with Chuck Woolery and went over so well, it ran until 2007. Lingo originally turned up in syndication in 1987, but barely ran a year. Here, contestants play what amounts to a cross between Bingo and Chain Reaction. They're given a card on the screen with letters filled in and have to spell out the words. After they correctly guess the word, they draw balls from the machine in front of them. The balls have numbers that correspond to numbers on teach team's board. Red balls stop the game entirely.

I can see why this was so popular, it's still well-remembered by many who grew up watching it. In fact, it had a brief revival on GSN in 2011, and a third revival with RuPaul on CBS just started last week. It's a breath of simple, colorful fun during an era where most game shows tended to be tension-filled neon quizzers.

Chain Reaction has an odd history. It started on NBC in 1980 with Bill Cullen hosting and celebrities making chains of words with contestants. That didn't even last a year, thanks to then-head of programming Fred Silverman clearing it and two other shows to make way for David Letterman's daytime show. A Canadian revival with Geoff Edwards hosting and no celebrities did far better on USA Network, running from 1986 to 1991. GSN is so fond of the format, they had two short-lived revivals in 2006 with Dylan Lane and 2015 with Mike Catherwood. I found an episode of the current revival, which started in 2021 with Lane again and seems to be doing a bit better.

GSN also acquired programming from elsewhere. They continued Hollywood Showdown in 2000 after it was dropped by PAX TV. Seven contestants spent a week answering media trivia questions. One winner would continue on, while the others held cards with a dollar amount or "Box Office" in them. The "Box Office" card allowed the current champ to choose one category from two to answer questions from. If they guessed all five questions, they would win the current pot. Missing one question added their winnings to the pot. Despite its short run, it was one of the network's earlier successes and was constantly re-run throughout the 2000's. 

Camouflage from 2007 has more in common with the 70's flop Now You See It. Contestants figure out words from jumbles of letters as host Roger Lodge reads a clue. The "Final Camouflage" has the remaining contestant solving as many puzzles as they can in a certain amount of time; they may or may not get some help depending on their performance in a speed round. While not the most exciting show, this is at least a lot less complicated than Now You See It, and a bit more challenging. 

Bingo America is what it says on the tin. Basically, it's "bingo, with trivia." Host Richard Karn calls the numbers and reads off trivia questions. The first person to fill their board and spell BINGO on their card wins. The winner moves on to the bonus round, where they select numbers in a row and hope that they win prizes and don't run into a "wrecking ball." Not bad, but once again, it didn't last a year in 2008-2009.

In fact, GSN became notorious in the 2000's for focusing on endless versions of blackjack and poker and less on their own game show programming. They would have been far smarter to put their money on wacky originals like Cram. Here, a man and woman pair stay up all night studying for the show. They start off by reciting a paragraph for 40 seconds while running in a hamster wheel. The second round is more like Make the Grade, with them doing non-messy stunts while answering trivia questions. For the third round, one partner would do a running or fitness test, while the other answered questions. Winners went on to take a nap while a Miss Pickwick read them information. If the could answer questions based on the info while doing some activity, they win $10,000. 

Goofy and cute, this feels more like a college version of Nickelodeon's BrainDrain than a GSN original. Once again, the sets are colorful and creative, and host Graham Elwood is having a great time with it.

Test your knowledge, outrun your opponent, and challenge your friends with these shows from the early years of GSN! 

(Oh, and the Eagles are going to play the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. They barely beat the Bengals in the last minute of the fourth quarter 23-20.)

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