Game Show Boom | Saturday night post

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The topic is game shows. I have three questions for you (answers below):

1. Which bombed so hard it was canceled after just one episode?

2. Who has hosted a show for the longest time?

3. And finally, which current show is the most searched on Google?

If you answered any of these questions correctly, congratulations, but you don’t win any prizes here, sorry. It does mean, however, that you’re probably one of the millions of Americans devoted to the game show genre, which has been a television staple for decades. (The first one, Truth or Consequences, debuted in 1941.) While it hasn’t entirely defied television’s earthly laws of gravity, game shows as a category are the medium’s most scrappy survivors — its rugged cockroaches, if you want. And I don’t mean that in a negative way.

Unexpectedly, the coronavirus pandemic has boosted game shows across the board. How? ‘Or’ What? First, they don’t require a socially distant live audience. And excluding host salaries – I have good faith that the network’s top stars can earn an incredible $300,000. per episode — they are inexpensive to stage. As a result, when the shutdowns ended last year, producers pretty quickly staged their buzzy-bingy-blingy competitions in front of studio cameras. They were, in a sense, first responders, coming to the aid of viewers – a certain demographic in particular – hungry for new content.

“We are living longer and older people are fat the game show people,” Bob Eubanks told me when I phoned him for his take on category tirelessness. Eubanks, you may remember, hosted The Newlywed Game, which ranks among the most successful game shows of all time. He understands how this thing works. And he has a clear idea of ​​how older Americans consume television. “Shows are a mental vacation from whatever is going on,” he said.

Of course, we gravitate to shows for many reasons beyond their inherent enjoyment, not the least of which is our obsession with money and gifts, even when they’re not our own. And, also, a sense of validation that most candidates are no better than us. Look at a dozen different samples and you’ll see people displaying a range of human traits, from cunning and greed to stubbornness, sentimentality and love.

Popular pre-pandemic franchises managed to retain their audiences as COVID restrictions eased. (One of them, the much appreciated Peril!, angered his famous smarty-pants fans when he groped in the selection of Alex Trebek’s successor.) In addition, several chestnuts were taken out of storage and given a polish. (Jay Leno does his version of You bet your lifee, who a long time ago had a great run with Groucho Marx at the office.) It’s no surprise that some of the classics in the category have been dusted off for the current era. Nostalgia is TV’s comfort food.

This is essentially the point made by Bob Boden, a veteran Hollywood game show producer, when I reached out to him. “These shows are the perfect antidote to the turbulent world we live in,” Boden said. “And they are definitely in a period of revival.”

Pat Finn, who was the longtime host of Shop till you drop, echoed this assessment. “Game shows are doing so well now because they’re an escape from what’s going on in the world,” he told me. “They’re more engaging than many other TV shows, but they don’t tire your mind.”

So, one final question: is it fair to conclude that audiences are attracted to game shows primarily because they are minimally invasive entertainment? Correct answer: definitely.

Answers:

  1. Jackie Gleason You are in the picture1961
  2. Pat Sajak, 40 years old Wheel of Fortune
  3. family quarrel

In the January/February issue, Cable Neuhaus wrote about showbiz awards season overload.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Saturday night post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspirational stories, fiction, humor and features from our archives.

Feature Image: Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS, © CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

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