Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Classic Reborn (Again!): Match Game (1998)

On Christmas Day 2012, GSN gifted fans of Match Game with an all-day (well up to the early evening hours, anyway) marathon which included episodes of the later incarnations. We discussed the 1990 edition earlier this week. Now, let's take a look back at the 1998 series, easily the least accessible edition of the franchise.

I say that because the series didn't play in my market, and so I didn't get to see it until that Christmas marathon. The panel was reduced from six celebrities down to five, a concept that had been introduced in an unsold pilot 2 years earlier. Former talk show host Michael Berger was tapped to MC this edition (actress Charlene Tilton fronted the 1996 pilot), but, to tell you the truth, he was boring. The fact that the producers opted to create a party atmosphere, such that announcer Paul Boland introduced the celebrities and the contestants before bringing Berger out, didn't disguise the simple fact that the franchise had the wrong man at the helm.

As was the case in the 1990 series, each panelist was in play for each round of the game. In this context, since three rounds were played, as opposed to four in 1990, the most points a player could earn would be 15. I get that they wanted the game to be a little more competitive, but it was offset by the even raunchier nature of some of the questions. It's like having your cake and trying to eat it in one sitting. It doesn't work that well.

To prove the point, Steve Sadler, Jr. gifts us with a sample episode.

While 1990 host Ross Shafer was a serviceable successor to Gene Rayburn, despite the fact that he was almost a dead-ringer for Jon Bauman, Berger simply looked out of place. Small wonder, then, that he hasn't been heard from since.

Rating: C.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Advertising for Dummies: A pig at the DMV in an insurance commercial (2014)

GEICO has yet to have the Gecko meet their new mascot, Maxwell the Pig. Right now, maybe that's a good thing, because Maxwell is finding out that sometimes, being a pig doesn't always mean things work out so well. In this shortie, Maxwell (David Spade, Rules of Engagement) is at the DMV to renew his driver's license. They've already done the "pigs will fly" joke in another spot, but this came off even worse.

State Farm responded by getting cartoon icon Scooby-Doo for 3 ads. None of them had him going to the DMV. He actually needs Hooked on Phonics before he can get there.......

What Might've Been: The Good Guys (1968)

A year after Gilligan's Island signed off, Bob Denver was back in a brand new sitcom. That was the good news. The bad news? The Good Guys lasted two seasons, and never made it into syndication.

Denver was cast as cab driver Rufus Butterworth, who used an antique car (customized by George Barris, who also worked on vehicles for Batman) for his business. Not content with that, he and childhood pal Bert Gramus (Herbert Edelman), who owned a diner, were looking to improve themselves. On that point, they were trying to emulate The Honeymooners or The Flintstones. And just like Ralph Kramden & Fred Flinstone before them, Rufus & Bert's schemes never worked in the long term.

Just to remind viewers of Denver's last series, Alan Hale, Jr. was a recurring regular as Big Tom, a trucker. Since I never saw the show, I can't judge whether this was good or bad. The only other alum from Gilligan who had gotten a new series in 1968 was Jim Backus, who was co-starring on Blondie, but that lasted 1 season only. Not sure if any of the other ex-castaways appeared on either show.

So, ultimately, why did The Good Guys fail? Gilligan was too fresh in the viewers' minds to accept Bob Denver as anyone other than Gilligan, especially considering that Dobie Gillis was out of syndication by then. I would've liked to have had a chance to see the show, but, well, I was in kindergarten at the time, and......!

Considering the creative pedigree, perhaps a more appropriate analogy would've been I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, which aired on ABC a few years prior, with Marty Ingels & John Astin. Yeah, that didn't last long, either. We'll leave you with a promo taken from CBS' Fall Preview show for 1968, uploaded by Retro Goop:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Classic Reborn (Again!): Match Game (1990)

Six years after NBC's experiment in merging Match Game with Hollywood Squares ended, and less than a year than the reincarnation of Squares had faded to black, ABC picked up a revamped Match Game. That was the good news. The bad news was that, like so many game shows before it, Match Game was stuffed in a lunch hour death slot. It had become such since the 70's because local stations started running news at noon in order to get some ad revenues for themselves.

Comic Ross Shafer (ex-The Late Show) was tapped to replace Gene Rayburn as host. That was another mistake. Sure, Gene was getting on in years, and had clashed with the producers of 1985's revival of Break The Bank, leading to his ouster there, but what was Match Game without Gene? Just another game show.

The game play had changed, as you'll see in the following episode. Why Mark Goodson let this happen, I don't know. Why mess with a good thing? You know what they say. If it ain't broken, you don't fix it. Oh, and trust me, it would get worse with the next and final incarnation of the series......

When GSN ran a marathon of the franchise several months back, I was finally able to sample the Shafer version. Not too bad, but they could've put it on at 11 am (ET), where more folks could've watched. Instead, it led most of the country to ABC's soap block. Meh.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rockin' Funnies: Ho Daddy (Surf's Up) (1964)

Bob Denver was in between his two iconic TV gigs when he made the movie, "For Those Who Are Young", released in June 1964, about 3 1/2 months before Gilligan's Island premiered. One of his future fellow castaways, Tina Louise, is also in the picture, along with Paul Lynde, James Darren, George Raft, Nancy Sinatra (whose father, Frank, produced the movie through his production company), and future Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn.

Scope out Bob as a beach bum who breaks into the song, "Ho Daddy (Surf's Up)". I think this might be his only contribution to the Golden Throat archive.

Don Pardo (1918-2014)

He was, unofficially, the last original cast member of Saturday Night Live still associated with the series as it wrapped its 39th season. One would suspect that executive producer Lorne Michaels will open the show's 40th season by paying tribute to Don Pardo, who passed away Monday at his home in Arizona at 96.

Pardo was SNL's announcer for 38 out of 39 seasons, and also had announced on several NBC game shows, including Three On A Match, Winning Streak (both hosted by Bill Cullen), the original Jeopardy!, and the children's show, Choose Up Sides, which may have been Pardo's only gig for Goodson-Todman. He also was the announcer for NBC's coverage of Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade until 1999, although, as memory serves, he alternated with Bill Wendell for a few of those years. Before all that, Pardo was a war correspondent for NBC Radio News during World War II.

Pardo, who rarely appeared on camera, did so in a cameo appearance in "Weird" Al Yankovic's video for "I Lost on Jeopardy!" in 1985, along with that series' original MC, Art Fleming. His last on-camera appearance of note was in 2008, when the cast of Saturday Night Live honored him on his 90th birthday.

Rest in peace, Don. We'll miss you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Videos of Summer: Summer Breeze (1972)

To some people, nothing says summer like Seals & Crofts' 1972 top 10 hit, "Summer Breeze". The song peaked at #6 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the Adult Contemporary charts. High Desert Soul presents an acoustic rendering from The Midnight Special: