June 16th, 2007

krazy koati

They took all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum

I don't suppose I ever really considered the fact that I'd almost certainly see the final Bob Barker episode of The Price Is Right. I suppose in the 70s and 80s I was too young to consider it, and in the 90s I was often in class or on campus and only saw the show often enough to confirm all was essentially the same. Most of this decade I spent in Singapore, where where his last season wouldn't reach me for an unpredictable time, the way Star World was advertising ``new'' episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 2002 (unfortunately, from the seventh season).

I've never made secret that I love game shows. Not all game shows, and reality shows trigger such a different response I have to conclude they're not the same genre as game shows, though I admit a close evolutionary link. But generally, give me a genial host with a wand microphone, a set trimmed in flashing lights, bells and buzzers going off at odd moments, the occasional cardboard slider malfunctioning, and a round of consolation prizes going to those who don't make it to the final round, and I'm happy. And The Price Is Right has long been the pinnacle of that, with the additional joy of (for most of my life) being an hourlong production.

I was fortunate to grow up in a golden age for game shows. Game and quiz shows had a wonderful time in the 1950s and 60s, but in the late 70s and early 80s was a flourishing of splendid new game shows like Card Sharks or Pyramid and outstanding renovations of old shows like The Price Is Right and Super Password. It's difficult to balance being interesting to the viewer, varied enough to stay interesting, focused enough that the game rules can be understood (and it's amazing The Price Is Right can carry a stable of a couple dozen regularly active games and not collapse under the contestant's confusion), and the 90s were a mighty dreadful time.

The new prime-time game shows are hopeful. They haven't produced any shows that survive in daytime, except for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and nobody notices that. And I know they'll find some reasonably competent person to host The Price Is Right, but it's hard to not feel like it's the end of something truly grand, the days when I could watch Mark Goodson and Bill Todman shows from 9 am until the afternoon when My Favorite Martian came on. I can do that on Game Show Network reruns and DVD sales, but that's putting fossils on display, not showing off a lush ecosystem.

The world needs more flashing lights and buzzers.

And pity poor Teenage Data (Philip), who sat outside for five days to be on the final show, got called up in the first four contestants, and was the final Barker contestant to get up on stage, only to lose at ``Any Number'' -- which I'd figured might be the final game, since it was also the very first game way back when -- and then at the showcase. If they still rigged game shows they'd have given him a double showcase win.

Trivia: Mark Goodson claimed The Price is Right format came about when he and Bennet and Phyllis Cerf played it at home in guessing the value of a dress, a piano, and a table. Source: Quiz Craze, Thomas A DeLong.

Currently Reading: A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World, Edited by Philippe Ariès, Georges Duby.