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TV Bites – Let’s Play!


TV Bites


Let’s Play!

by Neena Louise

It’s summer and we all know what that means in TV Land: reality programming. This year, however, along with the usual witless reality fare (BacheloretteAmerican Ninja WarriorBig Brother, etc.), a most curious trend has emerged: game shows. A lot of game shows – in primetime, no less! Not at all surprising, either, given that game shows are about a zillion times cheaper to produce than other genres.


The emergence of so many primetime game shows might be interesting, except for one thing: not a single one is based on an original concept. They’re all either new versions of old shows, old shows rebranded as new, or new shows based on old concepts. The result is the same, however: old. At times, really old.


In alphabetical order, here are some of the game show offerings this summer:



$100,000 Pyramid

Host: Michael Strahan

Concept: Two-person teams (one celebrity, one contestant) give clues to words or phrases to their partner. If they win the round, they go to the “Winner’s Circle” where clues are given to a pyramid of phrases. If they get them all before time runs out, they win the top prize.

Original: $10,000 Pyramid (1973), hosted by Dick Clark

Top payout: $100,000


Other than more up-to-date clues and a higher payout, this seventh incarnation has not changed a single bit since the first show aired in 1973. Even the sound effects are the same.


Bottom line: If you liked any of the Pyramid versions from the last 40+ years, you’ll like this.



Beat Shazaam

Host: Jamie Foxx

Concept: Snippets of songs are played while two-person teams try to guess the tune faster than the other team. If they win the round, they play for the top prize.

Original: Name that Tune (1952 on radio; 1953 on TV)

Top payout: $1,000,000


Just a modernized version of Name that Tune – the oldest concept of any of the “new” game shows.


Bottom line: If you liked Name that Tune, you’ll like this. Otherwise: only if there’s nothing else on.



Candy Crush

Host: Mario Lopez

Concept: A “match-three” game, which is just a giant version of the video game Candy Crush.

Original: Candy Crush Saga (2012), which was based on the browser game Candy Crush, which was based on Bejeweled (2001), which was based on Shariki (1994)

Top payout: $100,000


I didn’t even manage to watch the entire first episode. For one thing, the contestants were mined from Big Brother and Survivor. Aren’t used contestants generally reserved for the “celebrity edition” when ratings start to sag – not the very first episode? I guess they couldn’t find any regular people that were interested in playing a video game by jumping, running, climbing and doing other physical tasks. Do they even know the types of people who play video games? Y’know, the ones that sit in one place for hours, eyes glued to a screen – not jumping, running, climbing…


Bottom line: Don’t waste your time.



Celebrity Family Feud

Host: Steve Harvey

Concept: A “celebrity” version of Family Feud in which contestants guess at the top answers to questions. Win the first round, then two contestants go to a final round. If they get to 200 points, they win the top prize.

Original: Family Feud (1976), hosted by Richard Dawson

Top payout: $50,000 for charity


Since I was a child, I’ve always rather enjoyed Family Feud. However, even though the concept has not changed, the definition of “family” has with the celebrity version. Sometimes it is, indeed, family members of celebrities. More often than not, however, the “family” is a collection of ballplayers, singers, other actors that the celebrity knows, or some other vague definition of “family”. That would be okay if they were even mildly interesting, but too often they’re not. If it wasn’t for the outstanding – and very funny – host Steve Harvey, this would be a total dud.


Bottom line: If you missed the daytime version, you can get your Feud fix here. Otherwise, skip it.



Gong Show

Host: “Tommy Maitland” (Mike Myers)

Concept: Wannabe entertainers audition for a rotating panel of “celebrity” judges. If they suck, they get gonged.

Original: 1976, hosted by Chuck Barris

Top payout: $2,000.17 and a trophy


Oh, where do I start with this utter piece of crap? Okay, I’ll start with the host Mike Myers as “Tommy Maitland”. Wearing a stupid hat and doing a horrible British accent, I could stand all of 30 seconds of it before hitting the mute button. Next are the truly unfunny jokes that garner endless peals of laughter from both the judges and audience. Finally, there are the contestants who are even less talented than those on the original version, yet garner huge scores.


Bottom line: If I could gong this, I would. Watch something else. Anything else.



Love Connection

Host: Andy Cohen

Concept: The contestant goes on a date with three potential matches. They’re interviewed after their dates, and the audience votes on who is the best match. If the contestant goes with the audience pick, they get $10,000.

Original: 1983, hosted by Chuck Woolery

Top payout: $10,000


While the concept is much the same as the 1980s version, they’ve thrown in a boatload of money, killing all the charming cheesiness of the original. The contestants now get $500 for each date they go on (the original was just a paid night out). Also, if the contestant chose the audience pick, they get $10,000. If not, they can either go on a second date with their own pick or take the cash and go with the audience’s choice. So…the “love connection” is money, then? Ugh.


Bottom line: A bit of a voyeuristic pleasure, but the original was so much better.



Match Game

Host: Alec Baldwin

Concept: Starting with a competition round, two contestants try to match answers to a fill-in-the-blank question with as many of the six-person celebrity panel as possible. The winner goes to the “Super Match” round for a chance at the top payout.

Original: 1962, hosted by Gene Rayburn

Top payout: $25,000


Match Game has never been one of my favorites and this version fares no better. I imagine if you liked the earlier versions, you’ll like this. Some on the celebrity panel can be quite funny, but for the most part I find it boring and host Baldwin very annoying.


Bottom line: Only for the true Match Game fan.



Steve Harvey’s Funderdome

Host: Steve Harvey (duh)

Concept: Two entrepreneurs pitch their inventions to vie for funding. The audience votes on who gets the money.

Original: A hyper, amateur version of Shark Tank (2009), which was based on Japan’s Dragon’s Den (2001)

Top payout: $10,000 to $100,000


Like Shark Tank, this show has budding entrepreneurs pitching their inventions in hopes of getting funding. However, Shark Tank this isn’t! For one thing, the entrepreneurs are so weirdly enthusiastic (and sometimes so stilted you wish they’d go get elocution lessons) that it can be hard to watch. For another, it’s the audience that votes, not businesspeople. Some of the inventions are truly stupid, while others are intriguing. The problem is that, most often, the stupid invention gets the votes.


Bottom line: Worth it if there’s nothing else on.



To Tell the Truth

Host: Anthony Anderson

Concept: Three contestants are introduced, all claiming to be the same person. The celebrity panel asks questions, then guesses who the real person is.

Original: 1956, hosted by Bud Collyer

Top payout: Unknown


The major departure from the original is that the panelist with the fewest correct guesses has to “Tweet a Lie”: they’re forced to post something ridiculous to their Twitter account and leave it up for 24 hours. Oh, whatever. This version of Truth can be mildly diverting – occasionally even funny – but it would be better as a half-hour show.


Bottom line: Meh. Good if you’re really bored.



So much for the middling-to-awful offerings this summer. These are game shows I’d actually like to see revived:

Beat the Clock

Hollywood Squares

The Newlywed Game

Truth or Consequences

What’s My Line?


I wonder how long it will take before some network or another decides to revive any of them? Stay tuned…

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