Monday, April 23, 2012

Dick Clark tribute: The Gamer

We know Dick Clark from his time in pop music, especially on American Bandstand, and the tributes in light of his death have favoured his pop music career. However, for me, as I grew up in the 1980's, and our ABC affiliate (WOLO) was notoriously weak and would skip Bandstand in favour of Crockett Wrestling, we'd use the Charleston or Augusta affiliates to get the show, but I wasn't into pop music (and still isn't, considering my classical music background). But it was some days watching the various forms of Pyramid that made me think of Dick Clark first as a game show host. We know him from Pyramid, but I remember him from hosting three other games, The Challengers (1990), Scattergories (1993), and the domestic version of The National Lottery Winning Lines (2000), and produced one of the more nerve-racking shows on television history, Greed (1999-2000), which came after college graduation and in a fall of frustration where I was humiliated to a bad point of watching losers every week, I badly wanted to see winners and even damaged things watching that show!

But there were other game formats he hosted that weren't as well-known (and I wasn't born then or was too young to remember) -- The Object Is (1963), Missing Links (1964), and The Krypton Factor US (1981).

And this doesn't include all the pranks on Bloopers and Practical Jokes, the various music awards shows (with the MDA Telethon falling under R. A. Clark for the first time this fall), and even the original Star Search as judge for his old partner in crime Ed McMahon.

For some reason, Clark was best at nerve-wracking game shows, either hosting or producing.

1963 (The Object Is): Dick's first game show.

1981 (The Krypton Factor): One of two British formats hosted by Mr. Clark, neither lasted long. A mentally tough game, this summer series crowned its champion, and the top two went to Britain to face the British top two of that year. The British won.

1990 (The Challengers): The unfortunately short-lived revival of The Who What or Where Game originally featured a nerve-wracking end game format. Contestants who won three games originally earned the right to a big-money Ultimate Challenge, where contestants had to answer three questions correctly, in increasing difficulty, to claim a jackpot. The shows were taped on a weekend and aired the next week, effectively making the show a JIT format. It was also known for its distinct video wall, something Jeopardy! would not offer for another season. (Oddly, in my market, Jeopardy! aired as a 5:30 PM game show when The Challengers was a 7 PM game.)
1993 (Scattergories): This parlor game wasn't the Dick Clark-style game we expected, and it didn't last long when NBC considered it faced a huge CBS juggernaut that hasn't changed for 33 years as of April 2012, despite the changes to that show in the past five years.

1999 (Greed): While Clark was only on the production staff, Dick Clark Productions did a short-lived challenge to ABC's Celador (now Sony) production Millionaire with a much more technical superb gameplay and drama. The drama on the seventh and eighth questions were unmatched on game shows. Chuck Woolery hosted Dick's last original format game show, and absolutely heartbreak with a two million dollar question format that was high stakes gaming at its best, and what made game shows exciting. When you sat through having to hear losing every week at the football games, you wanted to watch winners. This was so heartbreaking I felt lowest of lows because of the situation at the time. Somehow, Dick Clark found a way to develop the format into an edge of your seat style just like Pyramid and Challengers, and was sold worldwide.  Here's Dan Avilia's heartbreak.

And of course, the most humiliating moment on television, one that I laughed so hard because I don't watch MTV (and haven't in over 20 years). What did Dick Clark's staff do to give us this clunker?

2000: (The National Lottery Winning Lines): The short-lived US version was marred by a poor main game (based on a British lottery format, henceforth I've used the full name of the format), and was built on the end game. While it could have been better as a pure game format and not based on a big-money jackpot, as the late 1990's was all big money jackpots, this was his last game show as host.

However, when it came to game shows, the Bob Stewart 1973 format Pyramid, which he spent parts of 15 years hosting the celebrity-civilian game, associated him with this game as host, and panelist on the syndicated Bill Cullen and Donny Osmond versions. The versions he hosted were The $10,000 (CBS and ABC), The $20,000 (ABC), Junior Partner (ABC, parent-child instead of civilian-celebrity), The $50,000 (syndicated), The (New) $25,000 (CBS), and The $100,000 (1980's version only; syndicated). The only format he did not appear was the John Davidson (1990-91) The $100,000 format. The syndicated versions featured the tournament of champions format, and it wasn't until the Cullen-era $25,000 Pyramid format that the two-game format that I am most familiar was developed.

While Bill Cullen and John Davidson used it, Donny Osmond didn't. And for all Sony plans to revive the format, please keep the signature phrase of Pyramid's Winner's Circle, complete with the intensity as we came closer to the start. Mr. Clark's signature phrase of the show became its trademark: "Here is your first subject. GO!"

Maybe Kari and or R. A. need to be part of a Dick Clark Tribute. 
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