Stop Playing Games

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

Stop Playing Games

February 18, 2003

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Brace yourself. The WB Network is bringing "The Gong Show" back to television. I suppose it's not that surprising considering the success of the Chuck Barris biography, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." Still, in a world of "Fear Factor," "Joe Millionaire," and "Man versus Beast," what exactly is the point of a new Gong Show? About all it will accomplish is to make us wish that we could have gongs for the rest of television.

"Quick, they're about to dive into cow blood on 'Fear Factor.' Get the gong!"

Producers are looking for a new host, which has to be quite a challenge. How exactly do you fill the shoes of Chuck Barris? Are there any other CIA assassins/game show hosts out there that I'm unaware of? I'm not sure. I've always thought Dick Clark had something to hide, so maybe we can get him to do it.

Of course, this isn't the only game show from the seventies rearing its head. NBC is also bringing back "Let's Make a Deal." Instead of Monty Hall, the new host is Billy Bush, who just happens to be the first cousin of President George W. Bush. This is where I would normally include a joke, but really does this paragraph need one?

Contestants will still dress in wacky costumes (Might I suggest a Roger Clinton outfit?), but this time the rules are a little different. In this version, contestants will start the game by getting a giant tax refund. They will then have the choice to keep the refund or trade it in for what is kept in an iron-clad lock box on stage. NBC expects the show to deliver huge ratings and somehow fix the economy, though nobody quite knows how.

Game shows are so popular these days that there's even an entire network dedicated to them. I know this because I used to receive the Game Show Network until I finally asked the cable company to take it away. I suppose it's not that bad a network, but just about every time I stopped on it, they were showing "The Match Game."

However, in a calculated move to appeal to a younger audience, they have recently expanded their schedule to include some programming that does not actually feature Charles Nelson Reilly. In fact, they seem to have some of the strangest game shows on television. For example, there's one particularly cruel show called "Russian Roulette." Here, if a contestant gets a wrong answer, the floor opens, and he or she falls down a chute. It could be fun to watch, though it might remind a few too many viewers of their job.

And then there's "Cram," an intriguing game of sleep deprivation, in which players are forced to learn as much useless information as they can in a 24-hour period. They are then quizzed on the information without being allowed to sleep. To me, it sounds just like college except that you don't have to pay $30,000 a year to play.

Speaking of college, there's also a show called "WinTuition," where high school students answer trivia questions in order to win money for college. This is to be followed by "WasteTuition," where college students play elaborate drinking games and get kicked out of college for defacing school property. Both are sure to be hits.

The Game Show Network has even entered the world of celebrity reality shows. While E! has Anna Nicole Smith, and MTV has "The Osbournes," the Game Show Network is answering with former "Love Connection" host Chuck Woolery. Yes, you will soon be able to watch the entire life of Chuck Woolery unfold on your television. (Episode One: Chuck drives to the Mini-Mart for a Slurpee!) Get ready to set those VCRs! The show, which will feature Chuck hanging about his Park City, Utah home, is called "Chuck Woolery: Naturally Stoned." The title comes from a top-40 single that Woolery recorded in 1968, though it could just as easily describe the state of the audience who will be tuning in.

Why Chuck Woolery? I don't know either. I guess Wink Martindale was unavailable.

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