Next week Bob Barker will pick up his skinny microphone for the last time, and another chapter in American television history will end. Barker will take with him one of the last survivors of real game shows, leaving only the equally-ageless Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek to carry on the legacy started with early quiz shows. I'm not going to play the 'no respect' card here, because Barker is getting plenty of it from the national press, including a generous tribute in Time and a meaty turn as this month's 'What I've Learned' subject in Esquire. In the Esquire piece, Barker states 'In all truthfulness, television is at about its lowest ebb right now.' From Barker's profession, how can you argue this when a network expect viewers to tune in to see numbers drawn for a chance to win a $5 gift certificate to K-Mart?
For quite a while now I haven't watched much television, but as a child I did little else -- especially during summer days when there was little else to do ... except go outside ... in beautiful ... Northeast Portland? (damn my misspent youth!) What I was able to glean from thousands of hours of daytime television was a good appreciation for game shows and an even larger fixation on those rare times when someone screws up so bad that you feel sick to your stomach. That's what this post is about, with me honoring three golden game show gaffes forever burned in my memory. This is by no means a complete awards list, feel free to add your own.
Winner: Double Dare dunderfuck
I think I may have watched every episode of the original Double Dare, a Nickelodeon game show for kids that combined easy trivia questions with moderately gross physical challenges and a seriously obsessive compulsive host. There were many things that you could count on for each 'Double Dare' installment: a lot of promos for British Knights sneakers and Huffy mountain bikes, a few questions that even insulted the intelligence of the 10-year-old contestants and no matter how uncoordinated the winner was, they would at least make it past the first station in the obstacle course.
This last part is what makes this kid's failing so unbelievable. The obstacle course was actually a very challenging event where the show winner had to find the red flag in all nine station. While this usually involved climbing through monkey bars or any other playground feat, there were always a few stations that required the kid to root around in dog food, and this ate up a big chunk of the one minute time limit. The kids were rarely successful, but they were almost always competitive ... outside of this kid, that is. Let me educate you on the first station in the obstacle course -- it's a slide covered in chocolate syrup that you have to climb to the top of. Since the slide is covered in chocolate syrup and thus slippery, you need to put your feet on the side railings and climb up in some sort of crab-like fashion. Every single competitor in the show's history understood this point except for today's genius: who spend the ENTIRE MINUTE TRYING TO GAIN HIS TRACTION ON A CHOCOLATE SYRUP-COVERED SLIDE! It was bad, so bad that an assistant director person had to come out on to the set and basically tell the kid: 'look it's your life, I'm not going to have to live with this moment forever, but really -- just put your goddamn feet on the side and climb up like everyone else has.' Of course he didn't figure it out in time, and collapsed into a sugary mess that he surely never recovered from.
Winner: Video Power pudge
Video Power was an obscure video game-based game show that was aired during weekday mornings to the select group of adolescent boys who dream of their video game abilities translating to some monetary value (check out this interview with a former contestant). This was a very hard edge game show, in that the set made it appear that it took place in a very small warehouse before an audience of rowdy, friend-less boys who cheer behind a chain link fence. To fill time, one segment of the show was devoted to the audience stumping 'Johnny Arcade,' the hideously knowledgeable and nearly-good looking video game nerd who hosted the show. No matter what obscure video game question the lucky audience member threw at him, Johnny Arcade would promptly answer. I think he was stumped a total of three times, and in one of those instances I swear the little brat made up the name of the video game he posed the question about.
This blunder actually could have been much worse. In the final round of Video Power, the last two contestants donned a smashing Velcro vest and answered questions, to which they were rewarded with a Velcro slice of pizza to place on their Velcro vest. The winner of this award happens to be an unfortunate young man who was so fat his vest barely covered his shoulders, and made for some awkward moments when Johnny Arcade tried to 'slap' on the pizza slice he was due. To make matters worse, during this trivia session, the fat kid is furiously trying to fasten the vest -- never coming closer than 14 inches from success. Luckily this boy did not advance to the prize round, where our competitors raced through shelves of Velcro video games that they would attach to their vest before the time ran out. It could have been even more tragic, seeing as part of the prize round is sliding through a small tunnel. Thankfully, our award recipient saved some face as he congratulated his opponent after a successful jaunt through the prize round -- he really tried hard to hold back the tears, and even gave his vest one more try.
Winner: The Price is Definitely Wrong
This has to go down in the long history of 'The Price is Right' as one of the all-time greatest chokes. I've never been so angry watching a game show (or maybe any television program) as I was this day seeing this fool embarrass himself. We're in the Showcase Showdown, and the lucky bastard has himself one of the rare quality showcases: a nice car (Chrysler 300M) a Greek vacation and like a dinette set and a tobacco pipe organizer. The 300M alone goes for about $27,000 -- so I'm guessing the showcase will go for about $34,000. The idiot of course takes much more time than necessary to decide his price, and this is what he spits out: $16,000. I just wanted to ask him: 'Have you ever seen a new car before? That isn't a Geo Metro? Do you know how much they cost?' But here's the best part -- the actual retail price was exactly twice what he guessed, leaving him with a look on his face of utter destruction.
Any other nominations for this first-ever awards banquet?
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The First Annual Bob Barker Memorial Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Game Show Humiliation (Retroactive)
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