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Requiem for a Game Show

GameShowWelcome to the 1980’s (and a little bit of the early 90’s). We are traveling back to a different time, an era of our country’s network TV daily programming, a time when there were nineteen different soap operas on Monday through Friday. Most importantly it was the heyday of game shows. There must have been thirty or forty you could have had a chance to catch on a given week back then.

Basically, it was the peak of the middle-class, stay-at-home mom TV schedule. You had every type of game show you could possibly ever want. Every one of the shows was basically hosted by one of five people and you will see that as you read on here. I’m not here to talk about The Price Is Right or Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy. I’m here to talk about the daytime game shows, the shows with the shitty prizes and bad set productions. They were also very entertaining shows in most cases.

This was the era with so much veiled comical sexism, inappropriate come-ons and bad moustaches, and so many house appliance ads geared for privileged moms with no hobbies during the day…and yes, I was probably one of those privileged children of that time and boy did I love sick days from school when I could just stay home and watch game show after game show.

There are so many has-been celebrities on some of these clips that it was a non-stop series of moments with me going: “Wait…Who is that? That person was famous at some point? Why is Jackee (the actress from 227 and Amen and a slew of other shows that you probably don’t give a crap about) on so many of these shows?”

For this post, I had to choose shows that I remembered myself growing up watching, the shows that meant something to me or shows that made me cringe even back then as a youth who didn’t understand why I was cringing. I’m guessing I left out a lot of shows that maybe you grew up watching and loving, and for that I apologize, but give me a break. I did the best I could. With that, I give you a look back at the forgotten shows of our generation ( for those of you 30 years old and older).


Super Password

Wow…the special effects really grab your attention, don’t they? This show was a staple because I believe my mom told me she tried out for this show during some period of time that apparently I was blacked out during. Another “interesting” point here is that during the “research” for this, I found that almost all the game shows that included “celebrities” as guest players always included Jackee. Seriously, I went through seventy videos and I think Jackee was part of at least forty-six of them. I guess her agent is one of the “any work is good for your image” types of people.

I strongly recommend at least watching 40 seconds of this clip starting at the 3:40 mark because the exchange with host Bert Convy and one of the female contestants can best be described as “uncomfortable” as I’m pretty sure Bert made a condescending oral sex joke to the contestant…..God bless the 80’s where there was still an undercurrent of sexual harassment towards women.

The game itself is pretty easy to follow as they get a word that they need to get their partner to say. They do that until one of the teams can guess what all the words have in common. The grand prize, it looks like, was a life-changing 5 grand. I know it was the 80’s, but 5 grand still seems a little low, no? This show was a staple of the game show world as it aired throughout the 1980’s on NBC.


Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?

“Do it, Rockapella!”

I remember watching this show after school every day. I even had the shitty computer game before this show was ever on. It was a PBS show and I have to think it was probably one of their most popular shows ever. Three contestants vie to solve the “crime” of the day. They do this by answering questions and blah blah blah.

Basically, I want to talk about the end of every show when the winner emerges and they go for the grand prize by placing a post that lights up in the capital of each country/state that is chosen that day. It was always fun to see the kid that got randomly screwed because the country of that day was in Africa and not the United States or at least Europe.

Whoever won the game got to pick a state that he or she would get to take a trip to. The odd part of that was that there were never any specific details on where you would go or stay in that state, so basically, dummy would write down a state and that was the last you ever heard of it.

So if you won and you wrote down California, where would you go? Do they send you to Nor Cal? So Cal? Fresno? I swear to god, I saw one kid win one time and he wrote down Delaware….Yeah, Delaware. Everybody was horrified. Seriously, if you had a choice to go to any state in America, could you think of any scenario where you would choose Delaware first?

The elephant in the room here is that this show had a live acapella group that was featured throughout each show. The best was when a kid just got demolished by Asia or Africa and didn’t win anything except that awful, multi-colored jacket and then had to pull it together enough to join the host in closing the show with a  “Do it, Rockapella!” as the acapella group sings the same song they sang every show for five years. I guarantee anybody reading this between the ages of 30-34 will now have the song “Where in the World is…(deep voice) Carmen San Diego?” stuck in their heads.


This show hits home for me, because my cousin was on it… twice. She won the second time, but shockingly it did not end with her getting married to the guy. Basically, it always seemed like they just randomly grabbed good looking people off the street and threw them into the studio.

The two potential studs would go on a date with three different girls. The host would then present one of the studs with three answers given from the girls about their date with the Stud having to guess who said each answer. The viewer got to guess which girl gave it up on their date…

Wait. My cousin was on this show…I don’t want to go down this road. Let’s talk about the host Mark DeCarlo, who looks like the type of host who would “hand pick” the female contestants if you catch my drift. He seemed to have a general hatred of the show itself and almost seemed like he didn’t give a shit about the integrity of the game play or rules. He would haphazardly throw the correct answer lips to the players, almost at random. I don’t think the scoring was monitored by some higher gaming commission or anything.

I would like to see what Mark DeCarlo is doing now. He strikes me as someone that is either a stand-up comic or he’s bearded on Hermosa Beach and angry at the world. I don’t see an in-between with him.

I don’t think any show personifies the 90’s as much as Studs does. It just feels like the early 90’s… everything about it… the look, the music, the clothes…everything.  Since this was the 90’s, there were a lot dudes with ponytails which I’m still convinced will be folded into the hipster lifestyle at some point soon. I mean, can’t you see dudes rocking ponytails again very soon? I’m predicting, in 2016, the number of dudes with ponytails jumps up dramatically.


Supermarket Sweep

I will always remember watching this show at Incline Village, Lake Tahoe where my dad’s side of the family would go every summer. In between gambling binges that the adults would go on throughout the week, we would watch Supermarket Sweep during the days.

Basically, if you were between the ages of 28-45 years old, middle-class, frumpy and not athletic then this was the show for you. To succeed on this show, basically all you needed in your repertoire was a general knowledge of advertising for all products that are in a supermarket.

The host came off a little too nice, like you could see some Ted Bundy in him. I’m guessing he had some morbid skeletons in his closet, but that’s neither here nor there.  The climax and highlight of the show every week was the end where the three teams would race through the supermarket to try to accumulate the most money grabbing items they put in their shopping cart.

I never understood why during this final round none of the players would go crazy and just knock everything in sight into their cart. I know that there was a five item max on each item, but if I played, I would take my 6’3’’ wing span and go inspector gadget in each aisle.

The players would never do that. Instead, they would go after specific items, which granted were high-priced, but they never seemed to be aggressive about it. If I was playing that final round I would have approached it like I was in Tron.

It would be glorious.

Press Your Luck

AKA the Whammy show hosted by the late great Peter Tomarken. This game was about acquiring spins through choosing the correct answer out of three choices. Once they go through the questions, they go to the big board where they try to win money and prizes, but they must avoid the “whammy,” a cartoony red devil-looking thing that taunts you if you land on one.

Basically, if you were a dumb housewife in the 80’s (or taking a sick day from elementary school), this show was for you– very colorful things, with fun noises and graphics. I mean, it’s crazy to look back and remember that this was a show on network TV regularly.

Seriously, this was the best option to get bonbon eating women to watch their network. The top prizes seemed to always hover at around six to seven grand, except for this one guy that somehow figured out how the board worked and figured out how to time it just right. He walked away with like 100 grand.

I feel like Robert Redford should have made a movie about this scandal instead of the other one he chose to make. I feel that a serious drama about Press Your Luck would have been far more interesting, with Steve Carrell playing the host, Peter Tomarken, and Zach Galifianakis can play the part of the guy that figured out the board (You’ve got to check out the video that I posted above!).

$25,000 Pyramid

This was actually a pretty fun show to watch, as the game is at least passable as entertaining. Hosted by the immortal Dicky Clark, the game is basically password with more clues being given, and instead of guessing a single word, you’re trying to guess what the subject is. For example, one of the topics would be “Things a laundry machine would say” and you would give clues to the contestant to try to get them to guess that.

This show also employed your B- to C+ celebrities of that time, which is always fun when you have been waiting your whole life to get on this show and you get stuck with a “celebrity” who clearly never watched the game, had no idea where they were, and submarined your chance to win the game with their shitty clue giving.

Imagine finally getting on this show and a coked-up Skippy from Family Ties can’t give you a decent shot at getting the clues you need to solve the categories. Then, you look over and see your foe getting paired up with somebody like Tony Danza who clearly cares and you’re watching them connect and get point after point.

You’ve got to love the music on the show, too. It’s just that perfect, cheesy 80’s game show music… fluffy, safe, and takes you back to a time where everything was presented in such a fake, happy way.


Yikes, can you believe this hunk of junk was on national TV? Hosted by yes…his name is Wink Martindale. I can imagine good ole Wink having two highballs every day at lunch, contemplating which blonde “contestant” he can “audition” in his dressing room that day.

All of these hosts of the 80’s seem like they were created out of a factory. I also like how Wink rocks the long mic that looks very ….male anatomy-ish. You don’t see the long mic much these days…I wonder why.

The game itself is pretty random. There’s an arcade-looking board which I would guess was very high-tech at that time.  You answer general trivia questions to win a few hundred dollars here and there.

For example, at the 15:00 minute clip of this video, Wink asks the female contestant a question about a Disney movie that was so blatantly racist and inappropriate that all prints of the movie, I think, have been destroyed. The movie has never been seen or spoken of in the last twenty-five years, as if you speak about it, men from Disney show up at your house and slaughter your family.

You try to win money by answering questions, and it seems that if you were lucky, you could win 11,000 dollars…life-changing….life-changing money if you get on Tic-Tac-Dough.

You should really watch the link I posted for this episode. It’s really worth the twenty-something minutes of your time. Wink really played fast and loose with his improv skills during the downtime of each question.

At one point, he cracks himself up when he introduces the family members of one of the contestants as one of them is named Gene and he says: “Hi, Jean”…and hilarity ensues. He also introduces someone named Aunt Dorothy who looks like more like an Uncle Mario. You just don’t find shows like this anymore.


This show was cringeworthy even back when I was an eleven year old watching it. I would feel douchie just watching it. Basically, the gist of the show is that three contestants would compete in fun, but very safe physical challenges. The host of the show, while the games were going on, would be screaming and hyping it up like he was narrating a real battle happening in Afghanistan. The show was basically American Gladiators for kids. The show had a “hip” rap song to open it up, asking all of us as a country if we had the “Guts”…Do you have it? Every competition, it seemed as if there were at least twelve staff members present to help the kids get through the competition, which really took away from the “danger” façade of each comp.

The big finish was climbing the Aggro Crag, which has just a slightly elevated step, filled fake mountain thing that they had to climb with styrofoam rocks in their way. If you listen to the host, it sounds like they are all attempting to climb Mt. Everest.

I might be a little bitter because I may or may not have had many fantasies about going on Guts and dominating. Look, life is full of disappointments and regrets, and so maybe not getting to shine on Guts is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life, but that doesn’t change the fact that this show was really douchie.

I love at the 48-minute mark of the clip I posted here, we get Lawrence Taylor talking about “Guts”, sportsmanship, and other admirable qualities a person should have as he’s squinting at the cue cards off-screen, reading them in a monotone voice as somebody with a bag of money that has a dollar sign on it stands off-camera waiting for him to finish this reading in one take.

Look, I loved Lawrence Taylor, but at that time he was arrested numerous times for drugs and prostitution charges, and yet Guts chose him to be their spokesman for their family-friendly show???

Win, Lose or Draw

Do yourself a favor and watch the start of this clip before reading on. I love the fact that they open up the show by making all the “celebrities” sit on the floor like they’re in the middle of playing the game. Wow…Burt Reynolds played Win, Lose or Draw!? What year was this?…or what divorce was this for him?…or what?..I’m so perplexed from this (I just Wikipedia’ed it and found that Burt was one of the producers of the show…What?).

Can you imagine George Clooney showing up to play Deal or No Deal? We also get the actress Jackee again; apparently she was very “available” in the 80’s. Once again we get Burt Convy as the host, so you knew you were in good hands from the onset.

I always sucked at drawing so this show never really spoke to me like other game shows did. Also, the contestant’s fate was at the mercy of what weekly celebrity they were partnered up with.

It does have some appeal, though, as it is fun to watch dumb, famous people try to draw and be competitive in quick stretches of time where they forget that they’re famous people and are just people playing a game that all of us play, too. I guarantee though that all of them had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit when they were there playing the game, which made that era so great, I guess.


Classic Concentration

You’ve got to love that the opening puzzle that they chose to use in that clip is the name of a racist character from a Mark Twain book. It is jarring to see Alex Trebek hosting anything not named Jeopardy. He looks like a cross between Gomez Adams and the grandfather from The Munster’s with his dark hair on top and the grey on the sides.

The game is pretty fun to play along with. Those types of puzzles are fun to try to solve as they can be challenging, and the game incorporates the memory game when you have to try to remember which prize was behind which number. The game could be hard. If you watched the clip I posted you could see that, in round one, they couldn’t solve the puzzle even with everything uncovered.

The prizes on here weren’t exactly to die for, as in one round here, the guy won a filing cabinet and some cheap security alarm for his house. The highlight of the prizes were the cars that they showcased…not one of the cars on this clip, I think, is still made in any way, shape, or form today. I guess back then, though, they were quite the prize.

I want to know how one would ever get on this show. Do you just have to live in the area and show up at the door in the morning? I would love a documentary on this subject: people who got on game shows in the 80’s. How did they get there; what was the process like? I’m sure there would be some fascinating stories. Who would not watch that documentary if it were made!?

Love Connection

“Old fashioned romance meets modern day technology”. Really it got no better than Love Connection, hosted by the Hall of Fame game show host Chuck Woolery.

I would give anything to be able to go on this show now that I’m “grown up”. Every male contestant had a classy porn-star moustache like it was a requirement to be an eligible bachelor. The game was simple: the contestant had a choice of three people whom they are shown short video clips of. The audience also gets involved as they vote for the one they think would be best for the contestant. If the contestant and the audience agree on the same person then they win.

The “modern technology” was the video clips, I guess, and the graphic that shows the percentage of the votes. Really was futuristic stuff on this show. What I also loved about this show was that since it was the 80’s, all the females on the show had their occupations listed as either secretary or office assistance…every single one of them.

All the women on the show are complete dummies parlayed with all the guys being one break-up away from evolving into serial killers. It really brought out the best in society. It’s so awkward that your only choices to meet new people back in the day was either at a bar, blind date set up, or Love Connection. Seriously, maybe that’s why the divorce rate skyrocketed then.

Dating now is like car shopping with the internet. You can find the make and model and all the specifications that you want. If I want to date a one-legged, Asian girl that is over 6’7’’ I can plug that in and date that person. I can’t imagine a world without internet dating in it now. I’m going to write about this one day soon.

I love the stark white couches and the awkward thirty seconds that Chuck interviews the winning couple as they look on horrified with deer-in-the-headlights looks on their faces. The whole set looks like a giant, empty swingers’ club. I think I would be a great contestant on this show. I’m such a smartass, though. I would care more about trying to be shocking in the video I would make for the potential female contestant by saying inappropriate things like: “I’m Scott. I don’t believe the Holocaust ever happened, I’m a registered sex offender in fourteen different states, I like long walks on the beach, and I sell Bibles door-to-door”.

It would be funny if I still got 3% of the audience vote from probably the older crowd in the audience. In all seriousness, I think I could use the help of a Love Connection audience to choose a girl for me to date. I can’t be trusted on my own. I need to not choose the girl who posts the staged selfie where she’s looking at a sunset with her eyes not looking at the camera… Like even though she took the photo herself, she is pretending that somebody just happened to take the photo of her being contemplative with an out of place, forced Ralph Waldo Emerson quote underneath the photo to showcase how deep she is…Yeah, I need help. I want to live in a world where Chuck Woolery can help me find love.


  • Sean

    Mark DeCarlo’s first claim-to-fame was being one of the top players on another classic 80’s game show, Sale of The Century. The host, Jim Perry, was involved in some low budget Canadian game-shows from the early 80’s where winning over $1,000 was a big deal and I presume a big-blow to the prize budget.