austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

I see you here looking just the way you should

The early 2000's: was there another time to be a game show producer? Yes, there was, and were. But it was an era in which speculation and experimentation in the field were given freedom to develop in all sorts of directions as long as the result was on a dark, polished-metallic set with way too heavy a bass soundtrack. Fox's Shine and Hands as well as ABC's Got Yer Nose ran for two months each before anyone noticed they were just subway security camera footage, and CBS's Sad New Year ran for thirteen episodes after that. Now we've reached a new equilibrium of attempting various ways to give people money or prizes for being able to correctly name James A Garfield (the closest so far has been ``James C Garfield'', by C Garfield James of Jamesburg, who won a no-expenses-paid-but-we'll-not-actually-kick-you-or-anything trip to Garfield) so we can look back at some of the more bizarre failed experiments.

What, Or Why? appeared on NBC for six weeks in the spring of 2003, then snuck to CBS for a four-week run until it was caught and chased out by angry cameramen wielding brooms, after which it spent two and a half weeks going up and down Manhattan's Park Avenue disguised as an elevator, following which it returned to the ABC Family channel pretending to be a roommate from college, and then spent the rest of the summer as a screen saver on the back porch until the dog licked it on suspicion attempted meatballs. Despite a lack of mention, or ``buzz'' as it was known, due to bee colony collapse disorder the entire run of the show is now available by going to YouTube and banging on the office door until the employees give in to your demands. Go to the correct office as the other one on the floor there has very weak glass doors and they're very near fed up with cleaning up shards.

What, or Why? attempted to break outside the genre boundaries of answering trivia questions and attempting physical challenges through novel hybrids, including one segment in which contestants were expected to answer physical challenges. Likely this sealed the show's as on the first episode several dozen residents of C street in Garfield were presented with a tire and none came up with the correct answer of ``yes''. Also acceptable would have been ``that is a tire'', ``that is not a box of police tape'', and, ``thanks, but I had a catalytic converter for lunch''. By the second episode as contestants were attempting to assemble a President while standing on only their feet and a pre-made floor many viewers at home naturally wondered what they were watching, as they were on another channel or taking the Interstate to their friends' new apartment (none of this latter group got away with it, for want of closet space).

Viewing the episodes now I can't help being distracted by the pack of rather large ants crawling over the TV screen. They seem to be seasonal or something, and only spend a couple weeks prowling around until they finish their large ant chores, but they're startling while they're around. These aren't really giant ants, rarely more than twenty feet long and have those bulbous parts about the size of watermelons, so you'd think they were too heavy to climb up the TV screen but there you go. ``But Wally,'' you might object, ``having bugs in your home isn't the show's fault. It's probably yours for leaving your aphid butter out of the fridge.'' My name isn't Wally. I don't know whose is. Also I don't think we're really on nickname terms, except for you, Lenny. There's no need to be unprofessional.

The final segment of the last episode shows what it might have achieved. Contestants were expected to match up men's socks, and some of them had the excellent idea to match them with chilly snakes. A few weeks further along these lines and we might have found which pairs of snakes weren't really the same color and got them all slithering into ice-cold puddles.

Trivia: There are 361 regular days in the Baha'i calendar. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: Words That Make New Jersey History, Editor Howard L Green.

PS: Tipping The Toy, starting a new line of inquiry based on a question my brother gave me.

Tags: humor

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