While everyone put their lockdown to good use binging TV shows, reading and learning the piano, I managed to waste a great deal of time watching game shows. Not the slick productions on prime time these days, but the classics you find on the free channels like Buzzr.
“Hollywood Squares,” “Tattletales” or the king of them all: “Match Game.” Lately, my poison has been “Password Plus.” I’m obsessed with C-list celebrities and the legends that hosted those programs. Gene Rayburn. Bert Convy (Did you know Bert spent a couple of years in the Phillies’ minor league system?).
I’ve learned a few things. For one, as good as it sounds, combining Hollywood Squares and Match Game into some sort of Frankenstein’s monster does not do justice to either game, Jon Bauman or no — sorry Bowzer, I still love ya.
Also, why did it take 40 years for me to figure out the “Hollywood Squares” set was tiered? As a kid I just thought it was really tall, and you had to climb a long ladder climb if you were in one of those top squares. I'll blame SCTV (see above).
Yes, in the absence of live sports, I’ve spent a lot of time absorbing these treasures of the 70s and 80s. I’ve tested my trivial knowledge of pop culture and the prices of everyday objects 30-40 years ago, and I’ve come to a conclusion.
I think I missed my calling.
If I wasn’t meant to be a game show host in the 70s, I was at least meant to be a regular panelist. Maybe, just maybe, I could have even achieved the best of both worlds like the immortal Richard Dawson: Iconic panelist who went on to be an iconic host. Oh yeah, and he was on some TV show in the late 60s, too. I was just born 40 years too late.
So today, in some misguided hope of travelling back in time to the heady days of the mid-70s, I’ve work on my Allen Ludden gestures in the mirror. Call it my own twisted version of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” retro-nostalgia or Will Ferrell’s Anchorman dreams sans the movie-making ability.
Let’s face it, today’s game shows miss a certain… what the French call “I don’t know what.” “Wheel” and “Jeopardy!” are too laid-back. The old titles in prime time are too big, too glitzy, too Alec Baldwin. Give me the old favorites any day.
Of the modern incarnations, “The Price is Right” and “Let’s Make a Deal” come closest to the originals. I was never much of a “Price” guy — sorry Plinko fans — but I would love to have a turn as “TV’s Big Dealer.”
I’d never wish ill on current host Wayne Brady, but he has a long-established entertainment career to fall back on, how about throwing a bone to a poor columnist/freelance journalist? I could be a modern-day Monty Hall. I could knock that out of the park.
I tell you, I was born to hold the spindly microphone, hide my lit cigarette out of camera view, , sport my outrageous sideburns, wide ties and smooch my way through the 70s hawking microwave ovens, dining room sets and import cars.
Anything else seems a waste of material.