Monday, September 04, 2023

Come Monday

Began Labor Day with breakfast and The Busy World of Richard Scarry. "The Biggest Storm Ever" has flooded out most of the residents of Busy Town. They've all evacuated but Mr. Grumble, who is stranded at his beach house. He's rescued by the three hobo roustabouts from the circus on his property...and takes a far more positive view of them after they help him out. The safari photographer Cucumber is in Canada to take photos of the locals, but ends up stopping a runaway box car when she becomes "Cucumber of the Rockies." "Sally's First Day at School" is disappointing to her. She'd rather be at home, playing puppets with her mother. Mrs. Murphy figures out a way she can do that and enjoy school.

Headed straight out after the cartoon ended. Work once again began and ended quietly, but it was a mess in between. Even when we had four registers open at one point, we still had long lines. In addition to the holiday, the kids returning to school, and people using government money, we were having a big four-day sale. The line was so long, I just couldn't handle it all and panicked for a lot of the afternoon. Thank heavens, it slowed down enough by 5 PM for me to leave with no fuss whatsoever. 

Went straight home and into the shower, then had dinner while finally watching the Bob Barker marathon that MGP had trouble running yesterday. Bob made some of his most memorable appearances on the show in 1979 and 1980. He got to see Brianne Leary do a cartwheel and joke about her newsboy outfit during the last weeks of the CBS run in 1979. In one early syndicated episode, his chair broke and he sunk almost under the desks, to his annoyance...and then they found a director's chair that was too high. In a later week, he was very disappointed when Gene covered the slit skirt of a female crew-member off-stage. 

At any rate, celebrate Labor Day making matches with Bob!

Finished the night with more game shows of the 1970's. The genre was in bad shape when the decade began. Only a few remained on the networks, and none at night. They did a little better in syndication. What's My Line was a surprise hit when Goodson-Todson relaunched it as a syndicated show in 1969. Wally Bruner was the new host. Of the original panelists, only Arlene Francis remained. She was joined by comedian Soupy Sales and a rotating who's who of TV and stage favorites. In this 1971 episode, then-upcoming designer Halsten shows off that new sensation, hot pants. The Mystery Guest was baseball Hall of Fame member Satchel Paige.

Several imitation Jeopardy quiz shows launched in the late 60's and carried over to the 70's. Probably the most popular was The Who, What, or Where Game, which ran before Jeopardy on NBC. Here, everyone bets on whether or not they can answer a question correctly. Easy questions pay even odds; the tougher the question, the higher the odds. If two contestants had the same wager, they could have an auction for the category. "Pot Limit" is more like Final Jeopardy, with everyone betting their winnings on a category and question. It's too bad only two episodes remain of this today. Like its 90's remake The Challengers, it's a fun and challenging game that deserves to be better-known. 

Staid trivia exams like Who, What, or Where were blown off the air by flashier newcomers with larger, more elaborate sets, bigger prizes, and higher payouts. The Joker's Wild on CBS was one of the first of this new breed. Jack Barry and Barry-Enright made a comeback with this slot-machine-based trivia show. Here, the slot machine showed the categories for the questions. Jokers could represent any category. The value was represented by the spin. The bonus round had the contestant spinning the wheel to amass $1,000 dollars. If they hit a devil, they lost what they won. 

I wish this one would come back again, in something close to its original format. The gameplay is enjoyable, and the set is genuinely cool. Jack Barry's rapid-fire style of hosting keeps everything moving at a breathless pace. You barely have the time to applaud one contestant before they're spinning the slots and answering the question.

Joker's Wild wasn't the only game show involving spinning. Merv Griffith debuted Wheel of Fortune on NBC in 1976. Southern country star Chuck Woolery was the original host of this Hangman-style game. Three contestants would spin the wheel; the money they landed on would be the payout when they asked for a letter. In between rounds, contestants could use their accumulated winnings to buy prizes from a turntable. Though this show has always had its fans, it was never a huge hit on NBC, always doing just well enough to be renewed. It would do far better when it hit syndication in the next decade.

The revived Match Game on CBS also took a while to find its groove. This time, a six-celebrity panel wrote answers to questions and tried to see if their answers matched the contestants'. The questions once again started out simple and staid when it began in July 1973. By the end of the year, they were near-epic salacious jokes about Dumb Dora and Old Man Perriwinkle that would often lead to a naughty answer and a lot of rambunctious wisecracking. It made the show a sensation, the biggest hit on daytime TV in the mid-70's, and it remains much-beloved with comedy and game show fans to this day. 

Suave Brit Richard Dawson was on the show from the start. Crusty character actress Brett Somers and fussy Broadway star Charles Nelson Reilly came in during the third week (though busy Reilly wouldn't become a permanent regular until December). They were joined by some of the funniest people on stage and TV in the 1970's and early 80's, including Jack Cassidy and Betty White in this episode from 1975. Hammy host Gene Rayburn asked the questions, often in really bad accents. 

The $10,000 Pyramid also had celebrities matching contestants. In this Bob Stewart show, the celebrities threw out phrases that described a certain topic. The first team to get to 20 made it to the Winner's Circle. There, they would describe six topics in a pyramid shape. If they won, they took home the big prize. The huge success of this show in 1973 made game shows safe not only for one-on-one celebrity-contestant interaction, but enormous payouts. This rare early episode with Barbara Felton and John Schuck gives you a good idea of why this was so popular. 

By 1976, Dawson was tired of answering titillating questions on Match Game and wanted a shot at hosting. He finally got his wish with the ABC show Family Feud, one of the few successful game show spin-offs. In this variation on the Match Game Audience Match bonus round, two families try to guess how many people gave an answer on a certain topic. The winners make it to the Fast Money round, where they have to guess rapid-fire audience survey answers. This one was almost as much of a sensation as Match Game, taking over its spot by 1977 as the top game show in daytime and remaining in that spot for the rest of the decade. 

Goodson-Todman's revival of Password on ABC in 1971 started off well, but once The Joker's Wild and its ilk debuted, it began to feel old-hat. Attempts to jazz it up with all-celebrity tournaments, more celebrity players, and the ability to bet on the celebrity's ability to guess a word didn't really work. It wasn't until they debuted Password Plus on NBC in 1979 that they figured out how to update the show without making it too complicated. Now everyone guesses five words, which are grouped together to revolve around a topic. The pair that guesses the topic wins the round. Winners move on to Alphabetics, where they guess words in alphabetical order. 

This was one of the few shows on NBC in the late 70's that was anything resembling a hit. Allen Ludden returned as host for the first year, joined in this episode by competitive husband-wife pair Patty Duke and John Astin.

Jump into the Me Decade with some of the most beloved game shows to ever hit the airwaves, many of which remain favorites today! (And look for the original commercials on The Joker's Wild.) 

And here's hoping you got to enjoy your own Labor Day, whether you labored today or not. 

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