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Game shows have been with us since the dawn of television. From those early days of What's My Line and You Bet Your Life, the game show has been close to the hearts of television viewers.

Like any empire the game show started out meek and small, but grew to be vast and powerful. The game shows really started to roll during the 60's when Let's Make A Deal hit the air. What a great show! You've got Monty Hall screwing people over while they are dressed up in ridiculous costumes. The best part was those people who got the best of Monty during the game had a chance at the end to risk it all and trade in what they had won for whatever was behind door number two! These idiots! You just know it's going to be Weird Al Yankovic on a donkey or half a car...why, oh why do you dance with devil by the pale moonlight? My personal favorite was as the credits rolled Monty would run around the crowd and grab a person and say, I'll give you 20 dollars for every single nail file you have in your purse. Women would be dumping their purses out only to find that they had no nail file; then some other woman would gloat about how she has 12 nail files, but Monty would even the score by then asking that woman if she could produce a kumquat from her purse, he would give her 200 dollars...or some such nonsense. She couldn't, and all was well in the world.

In the 70's Match Game joined in and the game show was cemented as a dominant genre. How can you not love Match Game? Although the game play was a bit boring, the show brought together: Richard Dawson, Gary Burghoff (Radar from MASH), Bert Convey, Nipsey Russell, Bob Barker, Eva Gabor (if they only could have got Zsa Zsa), Betty White, and the all time best Game Show celebrity, Charles Nelson Reilly. You gotta love it!

By the time I was growing up in the 80's the game show was at its peak in popularity. After the morning shows ended at about 9:00 we would have (just to name a few): Sale of the Century, Hot Potato, Super Password, The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, Family Feud, Tic Tac Dough, Card Sharks, and of course the greatest Game Show of all time, Press Your Luck! How could you not love the Whammy? It prompted people from all over North America to write in with stories and poetry devoted to the delightful Whammy. As a child I would root for the Whammy to see what clever animated action they would have next. Would it be a scathing take-off of Boy George, some hilarious breakdancing, or a runaway Whammy on roller skates?

As with all empires though, they come to an end. These days you turn on the TV after the morning shows and you are greeted with... more morning shows! It's not enough that you get 3 hours of Katie Couric, Matt Lauer, and (gasp!) Al Roker; now you are stuck with your local area's two peppy hosts and their forced chemistry. Then you roll right into Regis, Jenny Jones, Rikki Lake, etc.

What happened? Where did all the game shows go?

Two significant events happened that contributed to the fall of the game show. First was the appearance of a short-lived game show called "The All New Strike It Rich", hosted by Joe Garagiola. How this guy ever had such a long career on television...I'll never know. Check out the link if you want all the info, but this game show was just awful. This was the moment when the whole genre "jumped the shark". This same year, 1986, was the final season of Press You Luck. This is the death of Marcus Aurelius; this is the beginning of the end.

The second, and more evil reason also occurs in 1986...OPRAH! That's right that is the same year that Oprah began beaming her propaganda into homes across America. Now I know that some people just loooooove Oprah, but recall her early years. She wasn't about finding your center, or helping people, or telling American women what books to read...she was about transvestites, hookers, and lesbians...and sometimes all three at once! She took what was a mostly informative format created by Donahue and turned it into a circus. Unfortunately her take on the "talk show" took off. By 1991 Jerry Springer hit the scene and it was over.

Even the resurrection of Family Feud couldn't save the Game Show. Now daytime TV is a wasteland. Only the very strongest have survived. Sure Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are still hanging around, but they are no longer on during the mornings. The only true beacon of hope is The Price Is Right. But even Bob Barker can't live forever (like Dick Clark), and rumor has it that he is hanging up his elongated microphone after this season.

Sad days...sad sad days...

The daytime game show is all but dead. We can only relive the glory days by watching the game show network. Now we are stuck with reality game shows, more Regis (gasp!), and sadistic leather clad British women.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

One last note... While looking up information on "Strike It Rich" I came across some information on the original version (us.imdb.com/Plot?0043235); and I quote: "A game show where people relate their unfortunate situations (fatal disease, injury, their house burned down, etc.) in hopes that someone will take pity on them, call the show and give them money or merchandise." This show ran for 7 years, 7 freaking years! How is that possible? Maybe I should start this show up again. Except this time we will have people call in and ridicule the contestants...oh wait, that sounds too much like a talk show.


- 12/20/2001

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