Overlooked Gems of My Lifetime

Credit is given where credit is due regarding the overlooked gems of my lifetime.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Match Game

A couple of times a week, while flipping channels, I come to a screeching halt whenever I have the good fortune to find a Game Show Network rebroadcast of the greatest game show ever, Match Game.

We will review some of the reasons why I consider this the greatest game show ever, but the primary reason - and the reason why it is featured as one of the Overlooked Gems of My Lifetime - is that it is the one tv show that best captures my state of mind as a young adolescent on a day off from school.

With few goals ahead but the of eating an entire Entenmann's banana crunch cake, I'd plot down in front of the tube and prepare for a half hour of mindless, racy, pseudo-celebrity-panelled, game show entertainment. This was in the days when pseudo-celebrities nobly strutted their stuff on game shows, variety shows, and comedy roasts. These shows required talent. There were no quick cuts to Elaine Joyce canoodling with Nipsey Russell, no staged hissy fits by Joyce Bulifant. Pseudo-celebrities had to stand - or more likely sit - and deliver, often in the company of regular folks, the game-show contestants. When do you see pseudo-celebrities joining forces anymore with regular folks? But I digress.

There was only so much of this good stuff on in the morning before the 6 stations we received (remember getting no more than the 3 network stations, PBS, and 2 or 3 UHF stations, those of you old enough to have lived before the advent of cable?) were inundated with mostly unwatchable stuff like soap operas. The best of this good stuff was Match Game.

I could describe the rules of the game, but why bother when you can simply click here to refresh your memory or learn about them for the first time? What really made this show click were the regular cast of characters and the set itself. The set had all the requite multi-tiered panels, spinning contestant desks, pop-up question cards, and carnival-like lighting. From certain angles, the rows of lights seemed to hint at the Confederate flag. I'm sure this meant nothing, but then what would the Web be with pointless asides like this?

Host Gene Rayburn was lanky, sported a huge overbite, and yet was somehow kind of handsome, in a goofy Count Dracula way. Among his talents and tools, including the use same half dozen lame voices (eg, doddering old man, Bela Lugosi, fat-cat Texan...) he'd use while reading the questions aloud to the contestants and panelists, Rayburn carried the most distinctive wand of a microphone. Did any fan of that show not long to weild that mic wand? I know I did.

The regular panelists were Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Richard Dawson, who would branch out as a successful game show host himself (Family Feud). Frequent participants included the aforementioned Russell and Bulifant, Fannie Flagg, Betty White, Marcia Wallace, and an ace '70s game show host (eg, my second favorite game show, Tattletales) in his own right, the exquisitely coiffed Bert Convy.

It was always fun to see which panelist a contestant would bond with as he or she moved along in the game. It still is! Certain panelists seemed especially good at providing matches with contestants. Brett Somers obviously put a lot of effort into her answers, and the ladies couldn't help but rely on the relatively suave Dawson. Charles Nelson Reilly (notice: you can't just refer to him or Brett Somers by their first or last name alone), on the other hand, seemed like he was crocked and couldn't give a shit about anything but wisecracking with Rayburn and his fellow panelists. But that was cool too. I get the sense that a lot of partying went on during that show. You don't get that sense these days, on pseudo-celebrity vehicles (Taradise excluded), when even the pseudo-celebs have personal trainers.

I'd like to say the show allowed you to see "another side" of its pseudo-celebrities, but so few of them had a "side" outside the game show/variety show/comedy roast circuit. Prime-time panelists like Betty White and Bill Daily had already mastered their comic personae, so you couldn't say they were "letting their hair down." Nevertheless, they gave it all they had. This may be what it's all about here on Overlooked Gems: Giving it all you've got! I ended 2005 in a bit of a funk regarding the power of these Gems to communicate, but the time I've spent thinking about Match Game has revitalized me. If you're not doing so already, do yourself a favor and tune in the Game Show Network for a few episodes of this show. Maybe like me, you'll find yourself sitting in your favorite seat with a feeling of true contentment and simple joy.


  • At 9:13 PM, Blogger Joel said…

    Yes! Match Game rocks! I loved it as a little kid - it aired in the afternoons so I could watch it after school. I still love it and TiVo the shows for guilty pleasure viewing.


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