Friday, February 1, 2013

Let's Be Brutally Honest: The Time For A "Match Game" Comeback Is Now

At the moment we speak, we have a handful of daytime and syndicated game shows on television. There's the popular block of Jeopardy! and Wheel Of Fortune, which are perhaps the most popular, then there is The Price Is Right, Let's Make A Deal, Millionaire, and Family Feud, the first an all-time classic, the second a striving comeback, the third being complicated by so many new rules, and the fourth okay when you're able to find it. Then there are the game shows on GSN, the reboot of The Newlywed Game being the most successful. As for prime-time game shows, they are have trouble lasting during this period of time. If we want to get even more specific, it seems as if the celebrity-centered game show has become a rare to nonexistent breed. Since the cancellation of the reboot of Hollywood Squares, celebrity based game shows (game shows, not reality shows, so Dancing With The Stars and Celebrity Apprentice do not count) have not been able to last at all. The only two I remember seeing was a short-lived show called Wanna Bet? and more specifically, Million Dollar Password. On the subject of this show, it could have lasted if had a fair chance to do so. They were on a role placing Regis Philbin as host and selecting the right celebrities. It was here that Betty White's grand comeback arguably began, as she made appearances in two weeks worth of competitions. Unfortunately, the arrangement was so condensed that you could figure out that contestants were likely not going to go all the way.

If there's one game show that definitely deserves another chance during this day and age, it would be Match Game. This is a show that many confirm as the greatest game show of all time. I can confirm that this is the greatest celebrity game show of all time, but I would really have to think about whether or not I would go out and say it's the absolute greatest, bar none. The object of Match Game was simple, you were given a sentence and you had to fill in the blank and match as many celebrities as you could. In the Super Match and Head-to-Head, where you would win your money, it was somewhat shorter. Examples would include George______ or ______code. If you matched the audience in the former and the single celebrity in the latter, you would win money. 

The earliest version, with a different structure, ran from 1962-1969 and was hosted by Gene Rayburn. However, the most successful and highest acclaimed version (and my own favorite) ran from 1973-1982 and was once again hosted by Gene Rayburn. Regular panelists included Richard Dawson (until 1978, who also hosted the Family Feud from 1976-1985 and 1994-1995), Brett Somers, and Charles Nelson Reilly, while semi-regulars included Betty White, Fannie Flagg, Dick Martin, Bill Daily, Nipsey Russell, McLean Stevenson, Gary Burghoff, among others. This series could easily be split into three editions. There was the general edition that ran from 1973-1979 and was labeled by the year (Match Game 73, Match Game 74, etc. etc.), Match Game PM, which brought together plenty of memorable moments and felt slightly more laid back, and ran from 1975-1981, and the syndicated version that ran from 1979-1982, and was filmed in the season format.

After cancellation, there were three more versions that did not do as well. Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour, combining the two, ran from 1983-1984, and was hosted by Gene Rayburn and Jon Bauman (who was better known as Bowzer, but did not host the series as such). While there were attempts to relaunch the series, the next relaunch would occur in 1990, which was supposed to be hosted by active game show host and former guest Match Game panelist Bert Convy, but was replaced by Ross Shaffer after Convy was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. The only consistent regular in that series was Charles Nelson Reilly. That version ran from 1990-1991. The last version ran from 1998-1999 and was an incredible disappointment. It was hosted by Michael Burger and used just two panelists who were formerly on the show. These two were Nell Carter (who was on the final week in 1991) and Vicki Lawrence (who was actually on the first week in 1973, a week in 1978, and a frequent panelist in the early nineties). The struggle to find a network and the top prize being just $5,000 in an era where shows were giving away millions of dollars did not cut it. The most recent pilot was filmed for TBS, but instead rejected in favor of a show hosted by George Lopez.

My suggestion would be to create a Million Dollar Match Game. To make it exciting and keep people on their seats, make it so that the games are two half-hour games. The panel should be six celebrities (not five, not two, but SIX... or at least six chairs) and there should be two contestants. Hold three rounds of competition and you win money per every celebrity you match (perhaps $500 in the first two and $1,000 in the third). The winner advances to the Super Match, where they have a chance to win more money. Three answers would be enough and $5,000, $2,500, and $1,000 should be how much the answers are worth for the first, second, and third answer. Like in the PM version, this should be done twice, before you are granted an opportunity to play for ten times the amount. The head-to-head, like in many versions, would be decided by the star wheel. However, instead of so many opportunities to double, each celebrity should have three spots. One of double, one is triple, and the last is ten times. That means contestants could win up to $1,000,000 if everything works out in their favor. Keep it simple, perhaps that will work...

Another key reason to resurrect the series now of all times is because this may be the last opportunity to garner a great group of celebrities from past and present together. You have a great group of celebrities that have a history of being active on game shows to choose from, such as Brad Garrett, Neil Patrick Harris, Rosie O'Donnell, among others. Having older celebrities appear will be key as well, such as Betty White and plenty of others. Match Game has had a history of its risque humor and it could easily pick up some dirty celebrities, such as Lisa Lampanelli, Jeffrey Ross, among others, but that would be more of a Comedy Central gig. I am much more supportive of a Drew Carey kind of route, like from his sitcom, from Whose Line Is It Anyway, and from the short-lived Improv-A-Ganza. Carey would do an excellent job as host and bring plenty of celebrities who are naturally much funnier and can do so without being too raunchy, dirty, and making mention of genitals for every other answer. In the seventies, genitals were banned from being used as answers. While it shouldn't be banned, it shouldn't be center. Besides, the group of Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, Kathy Kinney, Wayne Brady, among others are just excellent as being funny and should do well on here. Plus while I don't always agree with them, Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O'Donnell (second mention) seem to prove quite entertaining on game shows, even Charlie Sheen would do great on a reboot of this show. Then you have celebrities like Betty White, Vicki Lawrence, Marcia Wallace (who voices Ms. Krabappel), Bill Daily, Jack Carter, Rip Taylor, Joyce Bulifant, Orson Bean, William Shatner, Jimmie Walker, among others that could potentially make an appearance for a week of the series. Even current celebs like Bruce Vilanch, Kathy Griffin, Sherri Sheppard, George Takei, Jim Parsons, Penn and Teller, Sarah Silverman, Norm MacDonald (Silverman and MacDonald were on an unreleased pilot), and plenty of others that would do quite well, much like Hollywood Squares did when it returned. 

Match Game should definitely consider relaunching the series for this point in time, because it could really bring back a surge and pick up new fans of a long-running franchise, which includes recognition of celebrities from different areas and periods of time. Game shows are really a special thing and they are brilliant if executed the right way. Now's the time to arrange for a relaunch of this classic and come up with what could be a grand chemistry of celebrities and happy contestants winning thousands and perhaps millions...

1 comment:

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you on this Josh. Now is the time for a comeback...keeping my fingers crossed.