In case those game show fans out there haven’t noticed, CBS is running a limited summer series called “Gameshow Marathon.” (They expect you to excuse the fact that Game Show should be two words.)
The series, hosted by former talk show host Ricki Lake, brings back classic game shows and has celebrities playing for charities. A home viewer can win the prizes “won” by the champion at the end of each show.
First was “The Price is Right.” Apparently, when the producers of the series were selecting the shows they wanted to “bring back,” someone forgot to tell them that ‘Price’ is still on the air. Second was “Let’s Make a Deal.” This week, viewers will be treated to “Beat the Clock” on Wednesday night and “Press Your Luck” on Thursday night. The following week, they’re planning remakes of “Card Sharks,” “Match Game” and “Family Feud.” ‘Feud’ is another one of those shows that is already on the air.
The hope is that game show fans will encourage everyone else to watch, and that ratings will be strong enough to encourage the networks to put more game shows on the air. Game shows used to be a staple of daytime television. Today, only “The Price is Right” remains on the network schedules. In syndication, there are titles like “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy,” “Family Feud,” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
The shows so far have been enjoyable, but that’s about it. Lake is doing a decent job of hosting, but I’d have expected a comeback of classic shows to be hosted by someone with at least a little game show experience under their belts. The celebrity factor is also a problem: think back to those thrilling days of the 1970s, when every network had schedules crammed full of game shows. Other than shows like “The $25,000 Pyramid,” “The Hollywood Squares,” “Match Game” or “Password,” in which celebrities were key parts of the games, a show filled with celebrities playing for charities generally meant one thing: the game itself was dying and this was one last grab for ratings before cancellation. I wonder if viewers aren’t conditioned even today that a “celebrity tournament” means that the show is withering away.
But even if viewers are happy to watch celebrities, I have to wonder what constitutes “celebrity” these days. Other than Leslie Nielsen, star of “Airplane” and the “Naked Gun” movies, there aren’t many “big names” as contestants. I vaguely remember Tim Meadows from “Saturday Night Live.” I’ve heard of Lance Bass, and I’m pretty sure he was in some boy band a few years ago, but I have no idea which one, nor will I lose any sleep while I try to solve that mystery. I remember Kathy Najimby from “Sister Act.” I’ve never heard of Paige Davis or Brande Roderick.
Why not bring back some of the celebrity guests that helped make the old shows so much fun? How about reuniting Charles Nelson Reilly and Brett Somers from “Match Game?” Their chemistry was at least as much fun as the game itself. Why not have folks like Betty White and Fannie Flagg and Don Rickles back on! That’d promise more fun than watching folks you’ve never heard of.
Or, just have folks you’ve never heard of: let real contestants play the games. Game shows proved a long time ago that an audience doesn’t mind watching “regular joes” win prizes.
I hope everyone who watches the show will write the networks and demand more classic game shows. Unfortunately, I’m not sure this revival is all that it’ll take to get those letters started.
But I’ll keep my fingers crossed…just in case.