Sunday, March 19, 2023

Wheels, Letters, and Lingos

Started the morning with breakfast and writing. Richard can barely hold on when Esmerelda bolts. She literally heads for the hills, winding up in a decaying shack leaning against a cliff. Richard manages to calm her there...and make an even bigger discovery...

Broke to call Uber. Had a far easier time getting them at noon, when they came in 6 minutes. It took them 12 minutes to arrive after 7. At any rate, they both got me where I was going and avoided traffic. At least the weather could have been worse. It was windy and the lower-mid 40's, probably about what it should be in late March. It was also sunny, without a cloud in the sky.

Work was surprisingly off-and-on busy for a Sunday. I expected it to be busier, but I guess it's still a little early for people to be thinking of Easter and Passover dinner, and there's not much else going on besides March Madness. We'll probably be seeing more of that the week after this one. I did get really frustrated with myself a few times and I wasn't happy that I got stuck in express again, but other than that, there were no problems.

Went upstairs and into finishing that chicken cheesesteak from yesterday for dinner while watching game shows featuring Chuck Woolery, whose birthday was Thursday. Woolery is a bit controversial today due to some political remarks he made online, but most people know him as one of the longest-running game show hosts. His first appearance in the genre was with his then-wife Jo Ann Pflug on an early episode of Tattletales, when he was still mainly a country singer. Too bad they divorced in 1980, because they were really very funny here, especially against long-married couples Betty White and Allen Ludden and Bill and Ann Cullen.

Merv Griffith liked what he saw of Woolery on The Tonight Show and hired him to host his new game Wheel of Fortune. Woolery remained with the show from its beginning in 1975 until 1981, when he left in a contract dispute. Sadly, not much of his run (and the early years of his successor Pat Sajak) remains today. Griffith continued wiping tapes into the mid-80's. I managed to dig up two episodes, part of a tournament of champions in 1976 and one of his last shows in 1981.

Woolery appeared on other people's shows, too. He joined fellow game show legend Arlene Francis on a very funny week of The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour in June 1984. He honestly didn't do too badly on either one.

After leaving Wheel, Woolery bounced back two years later with another word-based game, Scrabble. This version of the board game has contestants trying to "build" on a crossword-style letter on a playing field. Each word is accompanied by a clue that helps the contestants solve it. The contestant who had control could either guess it, or draw two tiles from a "rack." They're shown on screen, and the contestants have to play one letter. Once they guess, they win $500. The last games were the Scrabble Sprint, where the contestants call letters on a rack to guess words thrown up quickly, and later, the Bonus Sprint.

Scrabble was a five-year hit on NBC, outlasting several of their other hit shows, including Sale of the Century and Super Password. It proved so popular, it briefly returned in 1993, once again with Woolery. 

He went over even better on Love Connection.  It's basically The Dating Game if it allowed its couples to keep choosing mates and see what they pick. I think it's a snooze fest, but it must have had its fans. It was a huge success for syndication, running from 1983 to 1994 and becoming one of the longest-running game shows in the US. 

Woolery helmed one of the more blatant Who Wants to Be a Millionaire clones, Greed, in 2000. A team of six contestants must choose the correct answer to a trivia question from four options. The "captain" of the group then decides if he thinks their choice is right. If he rejects it, they split the money. If it's right, they all get it. If he's wrong, they're out of the game. 

Honestly not bad. Lots of suspense and challenging game play here. Despite its popularity, it ran afoul of executives on Fox who hated reality shows and wanted to focus on scripted programming that would appeal to younger audiences.

Woolery's last major hit show to date was the first Lingo on Game Show Network. This is more like a cross between Scrabble and Bingo. Instead of calling numbers for the card, teams have to call letters and see what words they form. Lingo began as a syndicated show that barely lasted a year in 1987. It became a four-year hit for Game Show Network, and one that many young people who grew up in the early 2000's remember fondly. (It was so well-remembered, it would turn up on Game Show Network again in 2011, and there's a revival starring RuPaul currently playing on CBS.)

Spin wheels, make love connections, and fill boards with letters with this southern good ol' boy song man! 

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