Monday, May 01, 2023

Card Sharks and Muppets

Began the morning with breakfast and The New Scooby Doo Mysteries on Tubi. It's "A Scary Duel With a Cartoon Ghoul" when the villain from Scrappy's favorite superhero show literally bursts through the screen and steals the film. Scooby, Daphne, and Shaggy make their own animated short in order to remain on the premises and solve the mystery. "E*I*E*I*O" is an experimental farm run by Old MacDonald, who does genetic experiments on crops to make more food. Someone, however, has been tampering with his formulas, turning a lamb violent and creating a 30-foot-tall mouse. Daphne, Shaggy, and the dogs try to figure out what's going on behind the scenes, even when MacDonald mysteriously claims he no longer wants their services.

Headed out to run a few errands before my physical therapy appointment. First stop was Dollar General for the Sunbelt Bakery granola bars and napkins. Since that didn't take long, I dropped the bag off at home and went to the bathroom before heading back out. Needed to stop at the bank next. I dropped by the ATM machine, got my money, and got out.

The Collingswood PNC Bank is barely a ten-minute ride to the little shopping center where the physical therapy office is housed. Since I got there in plenty of time, I wandered around the Rite Aid for a while. Even then, I still signed in ten minutes early.

In addition to my weak ankle, the muscles in the back of my legs are really stiff. You'd think they'd be loose, with all the riding I do. That may be leftover from that month and a half I spent in a boot. My other big problem - and likely a lot of the reason I keep hurting myself - is my poor balance. I tried my hardest to stand up on a blue foam cushion. While I didn't fall, I did wobble a lot and couldn't hold it for very long. There's also my sore knees, the result of twisting them badly in July 2006 and almost exactly a year later in 2007. I never did any therapy for those, either. I didn't think I had the money or time then.

Considered eating out, but finally decided I've done that enough lately and went straight home. At least the weather was decent for running around. It was cloudy when I went to physical therapy, but the sun came out as I left and would be in and out the rest of the day. The main problem was a strong gale that made it feel a lot colder than it was. 

Went straight into Muppet Babies while eating lunch. I was a huge fan of the original show when it ran from 1984 to 1991. It was one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons. The basic premise - the Babies are cared for by a Nanny (Barbara Billingsly) whom they only see from the waist down and have wild, surreal adventures using their imaginations - is similar to the version that ended last year. Unlike the later show, it's clear that this is a foster home or orphanage, as the kids stay overnight and eat meals there. The outside is also never shown. We only see the nursery, its closet, the hallway, the kitchen, the bathroom, and part of what's assumed to be a living room. 

The disc kicks off with what was always my favorite episode of this series, "Gonzo's Video Show." The kids are having their own beach party in a sandbox when Nanny shows up with a camera, which she lets them borrow for an hour. They goof off with it before making a music video with Piggy, and then deciding to do their own version of the first Star Wars film. The second half is the kids and Nanny watching their magnum opus in their own "drive-in" in the nursery.

It's "Good Clean Fun" when the kids accidentally break Nanny's new lamp. She takes it well, but they try to make it up to her by cooking breakfast. That only ends up making a mess of the kitchen and of Animal. They have to get him clean, which turns into an Indiana Jones spoof when Kermit thinks he went down the drain. 

I have scattered memories of the final season. Some episodes were released on video later; I had those videos and watched them quite a bit. Others never made it to home media, like the goofy "Get Me to the Perch On Time." When a carrier pigeon knocks her head on their window, the kids take it on themselves to get her messages where they need to go.

Most of the episodes were spoofs in one way or another. "I Want My Muppet TV" is very similar to "Gonzo's Video Show," only here, the kids make their own small-screen shows after their TV dies. Satires of the nightly news, commercials, and creature features somehow lead into Piggy "appearing" in footage of the real Johnny Carson Show

Tried to focus on writing for a while after that. I just can't come up with a way for Richard and the others to "trap" the gang and him becoming the Crimson Hawk. I really have no idea. I wonder if I need to make it less complicated.

Finally broke for dinner at 7. Watched more Muppet Babies while I ate. Some episodes of this show could get pretty weird, but "Nice to Gnome You" is bizarre even by this series' standards. In a take on Jim Henson's Labyrinth (and using footage from that and the original The Witches), Piggy finds herself wandering through a maze of a library, searching for her lost copy of Alice In Wonderland. Gonzo is a troll who guides her, Kermit is a mouse, Animal is a big fuzzy monster, Rolf and Fozzie are joke-spouting guards, Scooter is a caterpillar, and Skeeter is the librarian who keeps reminding them that the library is closing soon. 

Finished the night on YouTube with episodes of Card Sharks in honor of its 45th anniversary last week. This Goodson-Todman show began on NBC in 1978. The host - in the original, Jim Perry - asks a series of high-low questions. One contestant explains why they think it's a certain percentage, while the second says if they think it's higher or lower than that. Whomever gets the answer right can go on to the cards board. Aces are the highest; 8s in the middle and can go either way, making them the hardest card on the board. The contestants guess whether the next card will be higher or lower. If they run the board, they win the round. Winners go on to the Money Board, where they do the same thing, only betting on whether or not the cards will be higher or lower.

The original Card Sharks was one of the few game shows in the late 70's and early 80's to be spared Fred Silverman's wrath. It did quite well in the ratings until it was switched to 11 AM against red-hot Family Feud. It finally ended in 1981. Before it ended, it did at least two celebrity tournaments. I went with what is likely the series single funniest episode, with a sour Vicki Lawrence managing to win big money at the Money Cards despite her own misgivings, and the look of utter disgust on Marcia Wallace's face when Bill Daily wins the game despite changing a queen to an 8. 

The version I'm most familiar with is its 1986 CBS revival, hosted by a more leering Bob Eubanks. It's pretty much the same deal, only here, questions are often asked of 10 people in the audience who all have something in common, such as being bachelors or stewardesses. By 1987, the Money Cards were joined by a second bonus round, where you either had to guess a number or a card to win a car. 

I loved this show as a kid. When it was briefly paired with the Ray Combs Family Feud and The Price Is Right in 1988-1989, that was "my" game show schedule. I spent many a summer morning when I wasn't on the beach with my family watching those three shows, guessing high-low questions and pricing games and surveys. I had no idea there was also a syndicated version with Bill Rafferty in 1987; I totally don't remember that. 

Rafferty's version wasn't the last time Card Sharks tried syndication. The 2001 revival is hated in game show circles for looking cheap and making a lot of unnecessary changes. Instead of questions, the contestants have "chip clips" that allow them to watch videos and predict the ending. Winners of the two matches would play against each other in the "Big Deal." The Money Cards were about the only thing that stayed the same.

Yeah, I can see the problems here. It does look cheap, the host Pat Bullard is trying too hard to be jovial, and the silly video questions are too hard to predict accurately. You likely won't be surprised to hear this only ran four months of original episodes in the fall of 2001 and vanished after four weeks of re-runs.

Card Sharks made a far better-received return on ABC in 2019. Though the screaming neon set showed its 21st century influence, this was otherwise a lot closer to the original. The Money Cards, however, were now played as a single line of seven cards. with chips to bet on like in a real casino. Joel McHale was the game host. The pandemic finally brought this version to an end in 2021.

See if you can play your cards right in these classic episodes! (Watch out for the 1978 pilot - the tape isn't in the best of shape.) 

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