Monday, January 09, 2006

If It's Another Top Ten List, I Think I'm Going to -- "BLANK"

Thank you, Gene Rayburn. I'll take Richard Dawson, Brett Somers, and Charles Nelson Reilly, and I'll try Patty Duke for the big money.

Okay, my top ten lists of American game shows. Before diving in, let's take a look at a few that just missed the list. Press Your Luck -- you remember the catch phrase, "Big Money. No Whammies!" Definitely hard to keep that little baby off my list. Here's a stunner: Hollywood Squares missed my list. As hilarious as Paul Lynde was in the middle of the Tic Tac Toe board (by the way, Tic Tac Dough didn't make it either, but that should be no surprise), I just couldn't justify the show making my top ten. Also missing the list by a hair or two was Concentration, an Alex Trebek classic. Who Wants to be a Millionaire with Regis Philbin was one other game show that got edged out of the big ten.

But enough with the wannabes when we can deal with the best of the best, so without further ado -- except to once again stress the subjectivity of my list -- here's...

#10) Let's Make a Deal - "Show me what's behind Curtain # 2, Monty." The beautiful Carol Merrill, trail blazer of the game show hostess beauty queens, performs a slide step and holds her arms, palms up, at the curtain, which opens slowly. "Why, Rich, it's a mule with a sled." "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaw." Monty Hall's debut on Deal December 30, 1963, four years before my time, kicked off a monster that lasted fourteen years and remains both hip and relevant even to this day. Songs have been written about both Monty Hall and Carroll Merrill (not the least of which is Bill Mallonee's tune the goes by the name of the game show hostess), and philosopher's have debated and debated over which curtain to take. The show was the real deal.

#9) Jeopardy - Here's a show that would make a lot of people's # 1. The name brand is as popular as any other game show, and the show has a cult following matched by few if any others. Of all the game shows on the list, Jeopardy is by far the most high-brow. This distinction creates both affection and defection for viewing audiences. Here on Jeopardy and only on Jeopardy, I can play along and consistently finish worse than the three contestants playing. While I'm not the brightest apple of the bunch, I figure the carton is pretty crowded. Still, the game's addictive and deserves its spot on this list.

#8) Wheel of Fortune - Just the opposite of Jeopardy, with Wheel I can play along with the three contestants and nearly win every time. Of course, I'm not spinning the wheel and landing on "Bankrupt," which would no doubt be my luck if I ever chanced Hollywood to play. And the final word play usually presents a challenge, especially before they began allowing contestants to choose 25 out of the 26 letters in the alphabet to try to get the word. Just give the stuff away, whydon'tcha? Regardless, the game is great, and Pat Sajak and Vanna White have become household names. In fact, what Carol Merrill started, Vanna White took the baton and did what no other game show hostess has ever done - she became more than the game for a while. That time came and went fairly quickly, and it was best that it did for the show. But with the cool wheel, probably best of all the game show props, and it's general accessibility, Wheel of Fortune is a game show for the ages.

#7) Password - This game show had about as many derivations as the Pyramid show did, what with Password, Password Plus, Super Password, and the like. But what was better than the golf-voice voiceover coming over the speaker to the audience, stating, "The Password Is... Codfish." Additionally, this is the first of the game shows listed to have celebrities, albeit usually B-list folks, helping out the contestants. One other positive is that it really wouldn't take much to play it at home. Have a mom or dad come up with some words, and then let the kids play. Even more fun was the Password Lightning Round, where contestants got one minute to try to guess five passwords for the "big money." On a side note, what passed for big money way back when ... well, let's just say they don't make money like they used to. It's bigger and there's a lot more of it now.

#6) The Newlywed Game - Bob Eubanks! Whattaguy! How he ever made it through that show without laughing his derriere off, I'll never know. The show was filled with sexual innuendo, uncomfortable moments, and flat out hilarious answers. And what were these people usually playing for? A trip to Vegas for the weekend or something like that? "Thanks, we'll just take the parting gifts, Bob." Of all the game shows, this one was the funniest -- and probably the most risque. Nonetheless, we've played it in church settings, work Christmas parties, in high school with your girlfriend... it's the gift that keeps on giving. Good show, good questions, great laughs.

#5) Family Feud - When Richard Dawson, a Hogan's Heroes castoff, parted ways with Somers, Reilly, Rayburn, and the rest of the gang over at Matchgame, who knew what a hit the Feud was going to be? Wasn't this about everyone's favorite show for a while? The cool boxed home game with the little yellow sliding tiles was a huge hit. The aforementioned Monsieur Dawson became synonymous with kissing women. And the Fast Money portion of the Feud beat every other show before or after for fun, suspense, and drama hands down. The only drawback of the game seemed that almost every feud went to triple the dollar value. Your family could have lost four out of five categories, but if they won the "Triple" session, they won the game. That minor drawback is just quibbling. The show still lingers on today with Richard Karn hosting, and what show has been through more hosts yet keeps plugging away? Built to last.

#4) The Price Is Right - No game show host is more known or united with one show than Bob Barker. Still kicking around for his 34th year, Mr. Barker has outperformed them all. However, his show ain't all bad either. With a bevy of cute games, by far more than any other show, and easy-on-the-eyes model hostesses, Price probably tops the list for the majority of Americans. When you think of game shows, you think The Price Is Right. It's that simple. And over the years with the showcase showdown and the big wheel and extra games, Price keeps adding on bonuses to retain its loyal audience. When Bob Barker finally does decide to retire, they ought to retire the game. They won't, but they oughtta. It's too good for them. And this one's been too good for us. So "Come on Down!!!" [One other side note: how 'bout those $3K cars they gave away not twenty years ago? Now, that's inflation. Where have all the good times gone?]

#3) The Joker's Wild - Joker, Joker, and a Triple! "Ooooooooh!" Jack Barry, famed game show host and executive producer of several shows, carried the day on this classic. For the longest time, this show was my personal favorite. I loved watching people tempt themselves against the devil, like playing a slot machine - trying to get that one grand. And theoretically, a contestant could keep winning and winning forever and ever. I liked that aspect. Even though the cash prizes weren't big, you could still get some big money winners by folks continuing to win. The categories for the game were really good, and Joker had perfect mix of easy and tough questions. I wish it was still on (so that I could miss it at work instead of missing it at school... except during the summers).

#2) $10,000/$25,000/$50,000/$100,000 Pyramid - Well if it ain't Dick Clark... all the way to Donnie freakin' Osmond???!!! Someone explain that to me. I always thought Donnie was a little bit rock 'n roll. Huh? Here's another classic that can be played right at home, or with fraternity brothers, or at school cafeterias, or at nursing homes. It doesn't matter. Just pull out some categories and start the screaming. "Why are you late?" "Haven't you grilled the chicken yet?" "Can you just put the remote control down and stop watching football for one minute..." "Things my wife might say!" DING! DING! DING! Another game with celebrities. I always enjoyed Nipsey Russell, who seemed to be a very good pyramid player, not to mention a good Passworder; and Jamie Lee Curtis, a young version, played the pyramid well, too. And when choosing whether to give the clues or answer, I always would have liked to give, cause looking into that little box for the words seemed so cool. [It would have been a mistake, I should note. Always, always, always let the celebrity, with whom the show had been practicing, give the clues. Of course, sometimes one celebrity was so much better than the other that when you got with the bad one, you had absolute zero chance of winning.] Just a cool, cool game. Still love it, even with Donnie.

#1) Matchgame - The best. Gene Rayburn with his long microphone that looked so much like a lollipop that I wanted to bite the candy head off. Great regulars with all-time best chemistry and classic guests (Nipsey Russell {again}, Fannie Flagg, Betty White, and Patty Duke to name a few) from the Hollywood also-ran department. And the best, best questions, filled with all the grit, slime, and innuendo you could love in a game show. "Dumb Dora is so dumb..." How dumb is she!!! "Carol Lawrence said, 'Everybody thinks that my husband Robert Goulet is serious. But at home he's a riot! Even his ______ makes me laugh.'" "Weird Sylvester was thrown out of the department store when they caught him ______ing the mannequins." Questions like these, and ones that dripped even farther down into the gutter, had contestants wondering, "What the heck should I say?" And when they gave their usual lame answer, they heard it from the crowd. Despite the smut factor, or maybe because of, this show remains my all-time favorite to this day, and from time to time I'll still search out the old goodies on the Gameshow Network when Rayburn is calling the shots. Not only a great game show, but TV at its best.

Well, that's it. As always, I'm ready to hear the opinions of others. And so long as you have Matchgame listed as numero uno, then your list can't be wrong. Can it?


P&S said...

I'm actually OK with your list. At least you didn't put The Price is Right as number one. That's probably one of my least favorites. I'm not sure if it's the ridiculous overexuberance of the contestants, Bob Barker's smugness, or a combination of both.

I also liked Concentration where I think they slowly revealed a rebus. Other not so old favorites include an MTV game show with Ken Ober (sp.)whose name escapes me and the even newer Street Smarts where the contestants and the men-on-the-street aren't and Ben Stein's money where the contestants are smart, the money is small and the categories are Match Game like.

SNL's Jeopardy parody (that's hard to type) is also hilarious.

WandaV said...


Does anyone remember the gameshow called "Make Me Laugh" where a contestant had to keep a straight face while about three comedians stood right in front of them and did outrageous stuff?

I'll never forget the o.b. nurse who was a contestant. She used the breathing method to keep from laughing. (and won) They had her back on another episode. This time the comedians were ready for her with cupcakes with a candle on top, (blow it out!)I think there was a party favor, and some other silly stuff.

My sisters and I used to play along. Thinking back now, I wonder if any famous comedians got their start there?


P&S said...

Here's a cool game show page here too:

Scot said...

The MTV game show was Remote Control. I had forgotten about that one.

Rich, I still consider Pat Sajak to be the nighttime host of Wheel of Fortune. Chuck Woolery was the mainstay during my growing up years, and he didn't even get a mention in your post. But, Pat Sajak is pretty decent, I must say. (That was my Ed Grimley impression.)

I don't know if it really qualifies as a game show, but one of my all time favorites was when there was a Battle of the Network Stars. The tie-breaking 50 yard dash between Gene Kaplan of Welcome Back, Kotter versus The Six Million Dollar Man was a classic TV moment.

Rich said...

I'm with you on The Battle of the Network Stars. I always cheered for ABC back then cuz I loved Kotter. It was classic. But it wasn't a game show.

Nice pics, Ken. See that mic in Rayburn's hand? Best microphone ever. EVER!!! And I say that as one not given to hyperbole, as you well know.

Anonymous said...

Although I'm significantly youger than the old codgers responsible for these blogs (no Rich, I'm not 14), I have caught a lot of re-runs of these game shows on GSN. Typically on any non-working day my TV is either on GSN or ESPN.

I'll start by saying that any list that does not have The Price is Right sitting at #1 is automatically invalid. However...I will ignore that fact & still provide my comments to this list.

Personally I don't believe The Wheel of Fortune should be in the top 10 game shows...not even the top 50. That show should be replaced by Press Your Luck.

I would say that Card Sharks deserves honorable mention. And I'm not sure if it qualifies as a game show...but a personal favorite show of mine (that actually comes on GSN) is Love Connection.

Oh & hands down the worst game show in recent years would have to be The Weakest Link.


Rich said...


I'll start by saying that any list that does not have The Price is Right sitting at #1 is automatically invalid.

Save the last three words of your sentence, I have no problem with you thinking that. Obviously, you just didn't "get" the humor of Matchgame, and that's alright. [I'm just kidding, BTW.] I admitted in my thoughts under # 4 that Price is probably the favorite game show of most Americans.

I don't believe The Wheel of Fortune should be in the top 10 game shows...not even the top 50

Well, I think there's something latent here you're not letting us all in on... not even in the Top 50? Could you even name 50 game shows? Along with Price, Wheel is the other show most accessible to the greatest amount of people. I understand it's a personal opinion, and I respect that. To you, it's not in the Top 50. To me, it's a definite Top-Tenner.

As far as replacing it with Press Your Luck, which I really did like and thought about it hard for my list, it would be Deal moving down, not Wheel. But for me, Monty Hall's show has had a social impact that goes beyond just being a game show. I can't move it.

Card Sharks wasn't bad and another game show I liked that had that same host (I think) was Sale of the Century for anyone who remembers that one. Actually, I probably should have mentioned both of those in my honorable mention shows, but at some point, if I keep mentioning all the shows I liked, it sounds like I'm just naming shows to sound smart. And since I'm not smart, and basically everybody knows it, I'll just stay with the gameplan.

I agree with you both on The Weakest Link being a weak link in game showing, and I do think that Love Connection is a game show. But it wasn't one of my favs, nor did I ever think it was one of the best.

Thanks for your VALUED input, though. Seriously. Comments like that make the blog site a better one. Both for the hosts and for anyone reading.

Scot said...

Just what exactly makes Love Connection a game show and not Battle of the Network Stars??? If you want to say BOTNS is a sport, okay. Maybe I buy that.(But, with this whole baseball: sport, game, pastime thing, who knows.) What is it about Love Connection that resembles a game at all. There are know winners/losers, no strategy, no skill, no luck (other than finding someone you like). The only hint of a game show was that it was hosted by a known game show host. And, game shows never ever involve the phrase, "Come and sit on the couch and tell me about your first date." Can you play at home? Is there a board game version?I just don't get. Please explain.