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I’m game

By Don Canney - Telegraph Columnist | Jul 7, 2019

Ok, I admit it. I like game shows. I enjoy the usual classics like Jeopardy (especially the episodes for kids where I can provide the correct questions to the answers), Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud. My favorite is probably a lesser known contest called Cash Cab. Although Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy are old classics, many of their counterparts are being resurrected. Do you remember what you were doing when some of these TV icons first aired?

For a little history on Jeopardy, it was one of the original classic game shows developed by none other than the late Merv Griffin (himself a TV icon). It premiered on March 30, 1964 and was hosted by Art Fleming. Oddly enough, the first category introduced on the show was History. The prize offerings then were far from the, “I’ll take potpourri for $1,000 Alex,” that they are today. If contestants walked away with a total of $1,000 then, it was a very good day.

Wheel of Fortune, also the brainchild of Mr. Griffin, was originally hosted by a guy named Chuck Woolery, who went on to host many other game shows. Susan Stafford played the role of today’s Vanna White. Originally debuting in 1975, Wheel was based on the game we all once played, Hangman. Prizes then were also nowhere near the potential $1,000,000 a contestant can win today. In fact, they played for prizes like washer-dryer combinations, TVs and stereos. Today they probably couldn’t get any contestants to even compete for such prizes.

Originally debuting March 26, 1973, a game show known as the $10,000 Pyramid, hosted by the late Dick Clark has been adjusted for inflation so we now have the $100,000 Pyramid, hosted by Michael Strahan. I guess $10,000 just doesn’t cut it anymore. But I certainly wouldn’t balk at someone dropping $10,000 into my checking account.

And who could forget Password, originally airing on October 2, 1961, where sweethearts and future husband and wife Allen Ludden and Betty White first met? Contestants would pair with celebrities to try to guess a secret word when provided only one word as a clue. It later resurfaced in multiple forms with various hosts.

Other game shows now resurfacing include To Tell the Truth, originally hosted by Bud Collyer on December 18, 1956 and now hosted by Anthony Anderson, with his Mama added as comedic a twist, where a panel tries its best to figure out who is lying and who isn’t, Card Sharks, a spin on the card game of poker and Press Your Luck (originally hosted by Jack Barry), where contestants push the envelope on a One Armed Bandit to try to avoid the Whammy.

All these shows are classics and were popular enough to bring back, even in today’s electronic world. I can remember other game shows that were quite cool for their time but have faded into the sunset. Do you remember them?

Seven Keys (debuted September 12, 1960) was a game show based loosely on Chutes and Ladders, where contestants would try to earn enough keys to win the big prize, typically a car. Concentration, (hosted by Hugh Downs starting in 1958 and later none other than Alex Trebek) was a game where contestants tried to match squares revealing half of each prize. It required nearly a photographic memory to exceed. Not one that I did very well at.

You Don’t Say, originally hosted by Jack Barry in 1962 and then Tom Kennedy in 1963 (no relation, as he’d remind us when signing off) was a game similar to Password, where contestants would get clues to say a word that was used as a part of three clues to build the answer they needed to win.

Camouflage was a game show hosted by Don Morrow back in 1961 and revived for a brief period in 1980 by Chuck Barris, of Gong Show fame. Contestants answered true-false questions to accumulate points for a chance to trace on a glass board an object that was identified prior to the start of the game.

No matter what your preference, game shows are and were a good step away from reality, allowing us the opportunity to have some fun and imagine we are the contestant. Let’s call it Game Show Therapy.

I’ll take, Game Shows for $600, Alex.”

Don Canney is a freelance writer and professional voice artist. He was born and raised in downtown Nashua with great interest in Nashua history circa 1950-1970. He now resides in Litchfield.


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