Sunday, March 12, 2023

Women Host the Games

I set my alarm for 9 AM, got up on time...and closed my eyes and slept for an extra 40 minutes. Finished Fairest, wrote in my journal, ate a really quick breakfast, and rushed out the door. Thankfully, the Uber driver only took five minutes to arrive. I got to work in plenty of time.

That was the worst thing that happened all day, other than we were insanely busy. There were long lines down the aisles for the entire afternoon, and we didn't have nearly enough help to deal with them. My break was a half-hour late because a manager had to come in for me. Thankfully, my relief was right on time.

Had no trouble picking up Uber going home, either. In fact, I picked them up in a quick three minutes. He cut through Oaklyn going home, dodging traffic on Nicholson, and got me back in less than five minutes.

Went straight up and into writing after I got home and changed. Gene's pushing for Richard to pay less attention to his suit and more to keep the gold and cash from the bank safe. That's people's money in there, and the town depends on it. Richard says he'll do his best, but the wheels in his mind are already turning...

Finished the night before and after dinner and a shower with game shows that featured female hosts in honor of Women's History Month. Though they've been contestants for decades, women didn't start making real inroads as hosts until very recently. Arlene Francis was an early pioneer of women in game shows. Blind Date wasn't the only show she hosted, either. She took over for Bill Cullen to host the original Price Is Right while he was on vacation in 1961 - and did quite well, too. She had to introduce some pretty lavish prizes in this one, including a submarine! 

It was the 80's before women began to be seen a little more often in charge of game shows. Betty White became the first woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Game Show Host for Just Men! in 1983. Two female contestants have to guess whether an all-male panel will answer "yes" or "no" to a question. It's a shame the show was short-lived and rather dull, because Betty's having a great time with it. She jokes with the guys, encourages the ladies, and generally earns every bit of that statuette. 

Vicki Lawrence hosted the network version of Win, Lose, or Draw in 1987; Sally Struthers briefly took over for her when she was on vacation in 1988. While she wasn't a natural like Betty, she did well enough leading a group of men and a group of women in guessing what the pictures they drew on a huge paper pad were. 

Women finally started to come into their own by the new millennium. Anne Robinson was the stone-cold mistress of the original British Weakest Link. She came over to the US with the show and hosted its first incarnation. Her dark formality and stoic demeanor made her a breath of fresh air compared to more genial American hosts like Regis Phillibin. When Link was revived in the US in 2020, the even tougher Jane Lynch replaced her. 

TV newscaster Meredith Vieria took over hosting the syndicated Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 2002, as its original network popularity started to peter out. She became nearly as associated with the syndicated version as Philbin was with its network run, finally bowing out in 2012. I went with one of her earliest episodes, before the format started switching around.

Ladies got into game shows on cable, too. Perky Karyn Bryant hosted Name That Video, VH1's version of Name That Tune, briefly during the spring of 2001. She lead contestants through a series of questions on classic music videos, complete with a "Golden Medley" name-the-song game. The show was really kind of fun, especially if you're a fan of rock from the 80's through 2000, and it's too bad it didn't last longer.

After 40 years of turning letters on Wheel of Fortune, Vanna White finally got her chance to be a host when Pat Sajak went out for surgery in 2019. Since this was a Christmas episode with a big Disney World trip prize, no less than Minnie Mouse took Vanna's place at the letter board. 

Celebrate women in game shows with these episodes featuring some of the best female hosts! (The Wheel episode is only the first half, but that seems to be all I can find of that show on YouTube. Win Lose or Draw and Name That Video come with the original commercials!)

Oh, and the Match Game Productions Sunday night marathon revolved around Richard Dawson's acrimonious departure in 1978. Richard was tired of doing two shows by that point. He wanted more money and star billing with Gene, but Goodson-Todman weren't willing to give into his demands. Charles and Brett were more than a little tired of his attitude by that point, too. Gene thought he wasn't being terribly professional. At one point, he nearly tried to force Richard to smile. Another episode had Richard call producer Ira Skutch out to argue that "toes" matched "foot." 

Richard's dislike of the Star Wheel, added to end his dominance of the Head-to-Head matches, was the last straw. He barely played his last week and looked bored and frustrated. Considering how important Richard had been to the show until then, it's really too bad this wasn't handled better, including by Richard himself. Gene was so angry with Richard for his behavior those last few months, he never spoke to him again, even when Richard tried to make amends in the 1980's. 

At any rate, here's the last months of Richard Dawson, so you can see how all this went down for yourself.

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