The dream of being a contestant on a game show

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It’s always interesting to look back on what you imagined your career path to be when you were younger.

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At the age of five, like many boys my age, I often thought that my future involved being a firefighter, a police officer, an astronaut or a major league baseball player. In fact, I was pretty sure I was going to do all four things simultaneously (I wasn’t very smart about the concept of time management at the time; to be honest, it didn’t improved) while being the proud owner of a small fleet of Lamborghinis, married to Loni Anderson and about 16 children.

As I got a little older and matured a little, my job dreams changed, although they were by no means more realistic. At age 10 my future goals included a) being a late night talk show host, b) being a professional athlete, c) being an action movie star or d) being the lead guitarist of a popular rock band. Of course, I would still be married to Loni Anderson and have the same fleet of Lamborghinis – some dreams never die.

It wasn’t until I became a teenager that I realized in my heart that I probably wouldn’t achieve most of those lofty career goals. I became more realistic about what I was going to do with my life, and in fact, when I was in seventh and eighth grades, I started writing (and selling for five cents) a periodical called Carl Newsletter – typed on an electric typewriter, photocopied at my dad’s desk and filled with outrageous elementary school gossip, poorly researched opinion pieces and hard-hitting, inflammatory criticism of the school toilets – which , I guess, foreshadowed my eventual entry into journalism.

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Even with this fairly realistic and completely rational goal of eventually becoming a journalist, I still had to contend with, in the words of legendary Canadian singer/songwriter Tom Cochrane “the boy inside the man”, in other words l chimerical/insane/irrational individual who takes up about half of my body.

So I kept dreaming (and continue to dream to this day) a ridiculous dream of a “career” that would eventually propel me to untold amounts of wealth and fame: becoming a (very successful) candidate for a game show.
Just for a bit of context here, game shows were a cultural phenomenon that reached their peak in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Programs such as Jeopardy, Family Feud, the Dating Game, Let’s Make a Deal and Hollywood Squares have all created during this golden age of game shows and although they all had their own twists, the format was pretty much the same – Average Joes and Regular Janes played silly games in order to win boatloads of money and prizes.

Game shows were cheap to produce, hugely popular with audiences (who doesn’t like to see others make money?) and often revived the careers of failed celebrities (try to think of the careers of Phyllis Diller, Richard Simmons or Zsa Zsa Gabor without thinking about their game show appearances – it’s literally impossible).

I grew up in the 80s, kind of the beginning of the end of the dominance of game shows in our cultural landscape. But whenever I was home sick from school (or pretending to be sick), I would religiously watch shows like The Price is Right with Bob Barker or Wheel of Fortune or the $10,000 Pyramid, even those old, awful Canadian shows like Definition featuring the late great Jim Perry.

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After watching so many game show episodes over the years, seeing so many contestants publicly, and humiliating their great chance at fame and fortune by giving a stupid answer or just plain bad luck, I was convinced that everything I I needed was a hit on an important game show to make a ton of money and then retire, much like the Trailer Park Boys’ Freedom 35 concept, only even sooner than that.

I even created a special diet to prepare – I would develop my right arm strength to maximize my punching speed. I read the dictionary to sharpen my mental acuity. I even thought of stories I could share with the audience to create a memorable little chat with the host.

In short, my plan was to make millions (maybe thousands) on a game show, any game show (except maybe Jeopardy because that seems way too intellectually challenging for me), put it into a Swiss or other bank account, then buy a yacht and sail around the world with Loni Anderson and the kids with my fleet of Lamborghinis in tow.

Unfortunately, I have not yet realized this dream. The closest I got to becoming a contestant on a game show was actually a vicarious experience I had through my brother. His high school team competed on the Saskatoon cable station’s version of Reach For the Top, a popular game show where high school students (i.e. nerds) competed against other secondary schools in order to win a glorious trophy. If I remember correctly, my brother’s team won and he brought back something like 10 bucks and a dictionary I think, which didn’t really impress me.

Anyway, while I’m extremely happy with my current job, if anyone has any ties to the game show industry, please let me know. I would absolutely jump at the chance to finally fulfill my lifelong dream of appearing on a game show, winning ridiculous amounts of money, and then sailing around the world.

Not with Loni Anderson, obviously, but with my wife and kids.

And our brand new fleet of Lamborghinis.

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