Monday, September 11, 2023

Games and Memories

Got a quick start this morning with breakfast and Paw Patrol. "Pups Save a Talent Show" when Mayor Goodway calls them to take part in Adventure Bay's big revue. Marshall is too shy to sing with the band they form, but Rubble is ready for his close-up. Marshall may have to sing whether he likes it or not when Rocky and Rubble are called to a mission and may not be back in time for the show. The crew is helping Farmer Al create a corn maze when Al's cow knocks over the barbecue for the corn roast. "Pups Save a Corn Roast" when they douse the hot coals before they set the cobs on fire...but then have to figure out what to do with the resulting popcorn.

Went straight into writing after I ate. Joyce is wondering why there's a Wizard in charge instead of the usual queens and princesses and such found in fantasy kingdoms. Boq explains that they did have a Queen Bretta who worked with the Wizard after his sudden arrival...but she was captured by the Warlock of the East and his army. Her advisor and the head of her own army vanished with her. 

Listened to The Mummy Case while I worked. I wanted to do an Amelia and Emerson story with a young Ramses in it after Barbara Rosenblatt's voice for him in Curse of the Pharaohs was surprisingly endearing. (No matter what Amelia thought.) This is also an important book in another respect - it introduces "The Master Criminal," the head of the stolen antiquities trade in Egypt (and later England) who becomes Amelia's archenemy. Even later in the series, he became something of a Han Solo-type anti-hero, but here, he's a flat-out bad guy, capable of throwing the Emersons into the bottom of a pyramid filling with water.

Broke to have a quick lunch at quarter after 12, then hurried out to work. I wish I hadn't. Work was a pain in the rear for a lot of the day. I was the only cashier besides express, and there were long lines. Another person had to put back a big chunk of a large order and hold up the line, and my break was more than a half-hour late. I was so happy when it died enough by 7 for me to get out just in time.

Hurried home after that. Took the laundry downstairs when I got in. Went straight into dinner and Match Game '77 after that, and then into more game shows on YouTube. Game shows were at an impasse by 1980. Family Feud and The Price Is Right were the only daytime shows on ABC and CBS respectively. NBC was doing better, with Wheel of Fortune still chugging along and Password Plus and the two-on-one trivia show Blockbusters pulling in respectable ratings. Fortune was the only one that lasted past 1982. (Blockbusters would do better in England, where the two-on-one contestants were teenagers and it was played as a trivia show for kids.) 

The situation improved slightly in syndication, where game shows still provided a lot of daytime filler. Play the Percentages was one of the many shows fighting it out for the Prime Time Access slot at 7:30, when the networks had to cede time to syndicated producers. Play started out as sort of a number-based Family Feud, with two married couples having to estimate the percentage of 300 people answering a survey. I suspect the original format I have here may have been too cumbersome. Two months in, it was switched to two players answering less complicated percentage-based questions before ending all together in September.

The undisputed king of syndicated game shows in the late 70's and early 80's was another trivia show, Tic Tac Dough. Like Percentages, it would draw an even bigger audience when it was re-run on the USA Network in the mid-80's. I loved watching Wink Martindale ask the contestants tough questions and them battle it out on a tic-tac-toe board. The bonus round had them guessing which monitors held money and which had the words "Tic" and "Tac" to get a prize package...and of course, avoid that scary roaring dragon!

The success of Wheel of Fortune on syndication in 1983, followed by Jeopardy! the next year, reinvigorated game shows on the networks, too. CBS finally found a hit to match Price Is Right with Press Your Luck. Three contestants answer questions and earn spins on the huge board. If they can avoid the annoying animated Whammy, they'll win big bucks or lots of prizes. This is another one I enjoyed on USA, where it proved to be even more popular than it was in its network showing. 

By 1986, newly-emerged cable channels began to get in on the games, too. Kids' network Nickelodeon had its first hit right out of the gate with Double Dare in 1986. Two teams dare each other to answer questions. If they opt to take a Physical Challenge, they have to do a messy stunt. The winners go on to the Obstacle Course, a free-for-all through a series of sloppy challenges to win increasingly large prizes. This was Nick's first of many big game shows. My sisters and I loved it, especially since early episodes like the one I have here were filmed right in Philadelphia and often featured kids from South Jersey.

Password returned after a two-year absence with Super Password. Exactly the same deal as Password Plus, with Bert Convy hosting and a mini-game added between rounds that gave contestants three tries to guess an especially difficult word. This ran even longer than Plus, almost on a par with the original show. 

Paired with Super Password on NBC was Sale of the Century. The original version of Sale was based around the Australian format, including the non-bonus round that had people deciding if they wanted to take today's prize or keep playing for a bigger one, the Fame Game board with celebrity faces on it, and no speed round. Jim Perry was the personable host from the beginning, but he went through a rotating assortment of hostesses early-on. We get a rare glimpse of slightly ditzy blonde Sally Julian on the first episode, who didn't even last two months here.

Wordplay didn't have as much luck on NBC, even following Super Password. Too bad. I wish it had done better. I think this word game that has contestants trying to guess which celebrity is giving the correct description of an unusual word is hilarious. Tom Kennedy is having a great time hosting, too - it would be his last network show. 

The revivals of Card Sharks and Family Feud debuted during an especially difficult time in my life. I escaped from my troubles with bullying at school, my parents' often violent fights at home, and my body changing too rapidly in ways I wasn't prepared for with books and TV. I inherited my mother's love of game shows. I used to watch USA's re-runs and Canadian shows all afternoon when I was home, and I caught Sharks, Feud, and Price whenever I could. Ray Combs and his wacky families made me laugh, while Bob Barker and his pricing games challenged my mind, and watching Bob Eubanks and the contestants hope to turn up a joker - and a car - thrilled my heart. 

Here's hoping you have as many fond memories of these shows as I do! (Look for commercials from their original or Game Show Network runs on many of them. Card Sharks has an introduction from Charles Nelson Reilly with a lot of bad shark puns from GSN's 1999 New Year's Eve final episode marathon.)

And I do remember 9-11, all too well. I was just beginning my last semester at college and had finished my American History 1917-2001 class. Headed to the library, took out two books, and went downstairs to the basement for my job as a receptionist at the school's media center. 

One of the older secretaries met me at the door. "They bombed the World Trade Center," she said, her face white as a sheet. 

"What?" I gasped as I followed her into an adjacent room for watching educational videos. There were the World Trade Centers, blackened and smoking. It must have been right before the collapsed. I didn't watch most of it. I went online and started sending out e-mails and messages to friends who lived in or near New York. They were all fine, though one woman was upset her husband was stranded elsewhere because his flight couldn't get in. My family in Virginia was fine, too. Thankfully, Rose had taken a semester off from American University in Washington DC and was actually working in Cape May when this happened. (Mom later reported that Rose called her from work and told her.) 

I tried to focus on my books and schoolwork, and then writing a Remember WENN fanfic. I couldn't concentrate. My worried mind took over and resulted in the WENN story Everything's Fine, which was quite different from what I'd planned on writing that day. 

The school finally shut down around 2 PM. I went home after that. There was nowhere anyone else could go. My roommates were all there, too, sitting silently and watching the footage on TV. We didn't say anything. We didn't need to. We didn't really know what to say.

There was an emergency Remember WENN chat later that night that confirmed everyone was fine. The mother alone and a college student were scared to death, but they were nowhere near the Trade Center. It was great just to be able to talk to people after everything that happened today.

My roommates left the TV on when I got home. It wasn't until I saw Tom Brokaw reporting live, framed by the rubble and firefighters digging out bodies, that I finally burst into tears. I was scared, too. I may not have lost anyone, but I knew thousands of others had died, and that the'd done it in a horrible act. It was scary and horrifying.  

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