Sunday, May 14, 2023

Mother's Day Games

Started off my morning with breakfast and the original cast album for Paint Your Wagon. It actually begins the same way as the film, with Ben Rumson (James Barton) holding an impromptu funeral. Here, though, it's his daughter Jennifer (Olga San Juan) who discovers gold on the property. The town's name is Rumson, and Jennifer ends up falling for a Mexican miner Julio who lives outside of town. Fed up with her shiftless father, she goes east to get education, while Julio leaves to find gold and make money to marry her. They do still have a Mormon auctioning off one of his wives and someone bringing women to town, but otherwise, this is a different story.

But not a great one. I can see why this only lasted seven months in its original cast and would be the shortest-lived Lerner and Lowe musical that made it to Broadway. Honestly, as weird and poorly cast as the film version is, I think its story is a lot more fun. Barton's fine as Rumson, and once again, there's an excellent "They Call the Wind Mariah" sung by gamblers and miners. Most of the other songs don't get close to that, the big ballads "I Talk to the Trees" and "I Still See Elisa," or the hit "Wand'rin' Star." There's entirely too many unnecessary chorus routines, too, including one that made it into the film version, "Hand Me Down That Can 'o Beans."

Not bad if you must hear every Lerner & Lowe score or are looking for a musical western, and while the story's not as interesting as the film version, this one is more cohesive and makes a lot more sense.

Switched to the soundtrack album from the 1962 Gypsy while getting ready for work and sending Mom a "Happy Mother's Day!" text. Lisa Kirk, who dubbed Rosalind Russell on the film, still doesn't sound quite pushy enough for Mama Rose, but Natalie Wood works out just as well here as her neglected older daughter Louise. "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" is especially funny here.

Headed off to work after the first half of the album. I came in at noon, just as people started coming out of church and Mother's Day brunches. We were busy for the first two hours or so of my shift, until around 2:30. After that, it died quickly as everyone went down to the Shore or started their barbecues or took their mother out to eat. I did have some problems with handling customers or panicking because of mistakes. Thankfully, by the time I finished, it was so dead, I shut down with no trouble whatsoever.

Went straight home and finished Gypsy while eating leftovers for dinner. Called Mom while I ate; she called me shortly after I got out of the shower. My brother Keefe made her dinner earlier. They'll be moving into a larger house in a more populated neighborhood closer to shopping and Mom's library and bank sometime next month, soon as my brother finishes testing a new battleship he helped build. She's not doing a whole lot else. I think she's still really nervous about living around the traffic down there.

Since the Match Game marathon never showed up, I finished the night with other game shows, these revolving around kids and trivia. Children have appeared on quiz shows for far longer than you might think. The original king of kids' quiz shows was appropriately titled Quiz Kids. This panel show had a host asking a panel of six kids questions sent in by viewers. The three winning kids get $100 dollars and come back next week. It started out in radio, where it was an instant sensation with tons of merchandise aimed at kid listeners like books of questions and board games and even a doll. It did well enough on TV, but wasn't quite as much of a sensation there, where it got lost amid a glut of panel and quiz shows.

Quiz Kids would be revived twice in syndication, in a similar format in 1980, and as The Quiz Kids Challenge in 1990. Here, the panel of kids is replaced by three kids playing three adults who have to choose between eight categories of knowledge. I kind of wish this had more to do with the original Quiz Kids. Too bad the short-lived failure of this one in late 1990 seems to have ended the Quiz Kids franchise. I'd love to see another kids' panel-type show, maybe on Nickelodeon.

Quiz Kids wasn't the only trivia show on TV in the 50's that encouraged kids to play along. Giant Step from 1956 had kids taking eight steps to win a college education, sort of a proto-Who Wants to Be a Millionaire for children. The atmosphere was far more formal here and a lot more tense, closer to the other big money game shows of the time.

Most kids' panel shows or quiz shows seem to have been made for local channels, with two schools from a given city playing each other. Two such shows I ran into on YouTube are Answers Please, a long-running hit in Albany, and D.B's Delight, a slightly stranger and more flamboyant trivia show from St. Louis. I enjoyed D.B's quiz bowl slightly more than the dry Answers Please. Answers Please didn't have a gruff puppet representing the title character as co-host, for one thing.

The bigger game show producers got in on the kids' games, too, making children's versions of their more popular adult game shows. Though Storybook Squares only ran for four months on Saturday morning in 1969, Hollywood Squares would revive the concept for occasional family and kid theme weeks on their daytime shows. In these episodes, all of the regular panelists would show up dressed as characters from history, literature, fairy tales, or in a few cases, the character they played on a kid-friendly show. In the episode I have here, check out Paul Lynde as Atilla the Hun, Elke Summer as Lady Guinevere, Rich Little as Noah (of the Ark fame), Valerie Bertinelli as Little Miss Muffet, Karen Valentine as Mona Lisa, and Vincent Price making such a perfect Captain Hook, I wish he really did appear in a production of Peter Pan.

Bob Stewart threw his hat into the kids' trivia show ring with his Junior Partner Pyramid. This was the kid's version of the Pyramid franchise, which turned up briefly as a special and on ABC daytime in 1979. It's played the same way as the adult Pyramid, only the kids win encyclopedias instead of trips. 

Nickelodeon's game shows tended to prefer stunts over trivia. One of their few shows to lean more heavily into the former was Make the Grade from 1990. There's still stunts, but they're limited to when the kids choose the "fire drill" space on the board, and the bonus round features the kids answering a series of questions in increasing difficult "grade levels." I used to love this show in the early 90's, finding it to be a breath of fresh air among the more blatant Double Dare imitations of the time. 

Trivia shows made for kids continue to appear today. The Class-H Room on Fox 29 in Philly pits three students and three teachers from the same school against each other. I just had to go with the recent episode that featured students from Deptford Middle School, which isn't far from where my sister Jessa and her husband Joe live. 

See if you can make the grade with these "quiz kids" and play along! 

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