The Name of the Game

6 Mar

My parents watch The Wheel of Fortune every night, and I will tune in with them on occasion. Tonight was one of those nights, as we spent some quality family time with Pat, Vanna and the Big Wheel. I have always been a big fan of game shows, and Wheel is one of my favorites. I was even lucky enough once to spin the wheel and have my picture made with Pat and Vanna (although it was better with Chuck Woolery). I usually try to guess the puzzles as fast as possible, but this time I began thinking about a potential blog post (What does that say about me?)

What are my all-time favorite game shows? There are a bunch to choose from, but I have narrowed it down to five.

At the top of the list stands Press Your Luck.

Man, I loved this show. Airing in the mid-80s, it was hosted by Peter Tomarken and announced by Rod Roddy, who apparently did every game show. There were three contestants who answered two rounds of questions. Correct answers would give each person a number of spins. The questions were usually easy, but that wasn’t the point of the game. Everything hinged on the Big Board, which had prize squares mixed in with Whammies, cartoon creatures that would take all of your money. I was fascinated by two things.

One, the platform for the contestants moved when it was time to face the board.

Second, I just knew there had to be a pattern to movements of the squares. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one who thought that. Michael Larson, pictured above, reached game show infamy when he figured out the pattern and constantly hit the prize squares. He spun 45 times without hitting a Whammy and won a record $110,000. His turn lasted so long that they made two episodes out of it.


The Match Game is next on the list.

There are several versions of this one, but the best came in the 70s and was hosted by Gene Rayburn, who would read a line with a blank. Six “celebrities” wrote down the word they thought fit best in the blank, and the contestants would try to match them. However, the game was secondary to the entertainment. The “celebrities” would make jokes and the lines were designed for double entendre answers. My favorite ones were about Dumb Donald.

Many guest “celebrities” played the games, but some seemed to always be there. Brett Somers. Charles Nelson Reilly. Nipsy Russell. Richard Dawson. Fannie Flagg. Jaye P. Morgan.

Never forget, when someone says, “Dumb Donald was so dumb…” the correct response is “How dumb was he?”

Ranking third is Tic Tac Dough.

Wink Martindale, a native of Jackson, Tennessee, hosted my favorite version of this show in the 70s and 80s. The game was played like tic-tac-toe with questions. Each square had a category that affected the strategy. Contestants not only picked the appropriate square to win but also the category they knew best. Between each question the categories were mixed along with squares with special rules. When a contestant won a game, they went to the bonus round where they tried to win money and avoid the dragon.

Looking back, the questions were simple, and there were a lot of tie games. When this happened, the same two people kept playing until someone won. Each time, the money built up, and the stakes got higher.

Blockbusters comes in next.

Bill Cullen, the greatest game show host ever, reigned over the best incarnation of this game. Different from other shows, this one pitted a team of two people against an individual. They would try to make their way through letter-filled hexagons to make a line across the board. The answer to each space started with the letter involved. The bonus round involved getting across the board in a minute.

The questions were easy, but Cullen was the highlight of the show. He was a host and a guest on numerous shows despite the damaging effects of polio and the need for thick glasses. He was the perfect example of someone who could triumph over obstacles placed in front of him.

Card Sharks is last on the list.

Hosted best by Jim Perry, the game saw two contestants compete in a super-sized game of War. A question based on “100 People Surveyed” would be asked, and a player guessed the number who answered it. Their opponent would then guess higher or lower. The winner would then try to predict a series of giant cards by saying “higher” or “lower”. If they missed, then the other player took a turn.

I liked this show because of the giant cards and the models that placed them in position. Surprisingly, this is the only show on the list with models. I have shocked myself. It seems that the kid version of me was more interested in trying to win the games from home than checking out the women presenting the prizes.

With a list like this, it is obvious that I spent a lot of time watching television – game shows in particular. In a future post I will list the five game shows that I hated.

2 Responses to “The Name of the Game”

  1. John March 6, 2012 at 14:47 #

    Bill Cullen was The Man!

    • surroundedbyimbeciles March 6, 2012 at 16:45 #

      No doubt. He was everywhere.

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