Sort of a passing fancy post as its been a few days since the last one however there’s not much else on. Those of you interested in US gameshow historia (I don’t think that’s a legitimate word but it feels like the legitimate word) should go and have a look at Wink Martindale’s Youtube channel (for the uninitiated, Wink was a very popular gameshow host of the seventies and eighties fronting classics like Tic Tac Dough, Gambit and High Rollers and now plays up his image somewhat comically) where his team have been uploading unusual and rare clips of pilots and old shows past.
Anyway recently they stuck up a twelve minute edit for the pilot of Shop Til You Drop. You might not have heard of it, but for a time it was the biggest game on cable television and has been produced on and off for the best part of fifteen years (at one point a channel bought repeats in and it proved so popular they started making new first run episodes). Most series hosted by Pat Finn, the final series almost ten years ago by JD Roberto.
It is, to all intents and purposes Funhouse In A Mall. In it two teams of two compete in games (sidenote: in the US these are routinely referred to as “stunts”. In the UK a stunt would AT THE VERY LEAST be a man jumping out of a burning building onto a crash mat. Filling your face with marshmallows and then trying to repeat a phrase would be considered a “mild diversion.”) based loosely around shopping and pop culture in a set designed to look like a mall. They vary from the sublime to the ridiculous – using objects to spell out given phrases to trying to suck up ping ping balls with a vacuum pipe attached to the head, with some balls also included that are too big for the pipe. There’s then a 90 second buzzer quiz to determine the winner.
The end game is a thing of beauty. It manages to be both a bit lousy as a game but also fun and memorable. One of the couple reveals objects and between them they must decide whether to keep the object or run off into the mall and exchange it for another one, sight unseen. The aim is to have at least $2,500′s worth of prizes on the table at the end of ninety seconds. The decision making is frankly much of a muchness – all the prizes are worth around $300 except for a few in the mall which can be worth around $700 but you’ve no way of knowing which is which so it’s a blind game of chance. But it’s a blind game of chance with COUPLES SHOUTING and A VERY REAL POSSIBILITY SOMEONE MIGHT BREAK THEIR NECK. We came across this video which sums it up pretty well, listen out for the rather kicking clock music (fast forward to 14:50):
What a pro, none of your six hour records here thank you very much. Anyway having binged on a couple of episodes throughout the ages on Youtube last night (they did in fact used to show this on UK cable back in the day) quickly came to the conclusion that you don’t really need to watch more than one in a sitting, but it still does some quite nice things – some of the stunts dress up pretty standard fare quite inventively, there is a real attempt at a comedy announcer sidekick years before Le Juste Prix and musically, certainly in its milennium incarnation, its pretty good.