Ever since I was a kid, I have been addicted game shows. Growing up, on the days I wasn't in school, I watched them incessantly. Some were totally silly, but fun–remember "Match Game" with Gene Rayburn? It was absolute sex-laced trash, but it made a 14-year-old feel sooooo "hip" to laugh at the double entendres thrown out by Charles Nelson Reilley and Bret Somers. Then there were just plane goofy ones, like "Press Your Luck" (BIG BUCKS!!!! BIG BUCKS!!!! NOOOOOOO WHAMMIES!!!!)
I particularly loved shows that tested the contestant's knowledge, like "Password" with Allen Ludden (and the hushed voice of the announcer when the word flashed up on the screen as he whispered –"the password isÃ¢â‚¬¦Ã¢â‚¬¦[insert word here]") and "Concentration" with the venerable Hugh Downs (I still remember the sound those weird, scary puzzle pieces made when they flipped them around, and flipped them back). What I loved wasn't just the lure of instant riches, although that was pretty cool. I loved and admired the knowledge, the trivia, the imagination that game show contestants had to have to win. This is what started my passion for odd and obscure trivia, which endures to this day. I still play a mean game of Trivial Pursuit. :)
Later, during college, I got hooked on "The $10,000 Pyramid" with Dick Clark. It got so bad that I actually scheduled classes around the show. By the time I graduated and was working for my first airline, two things had changed: one, the show had been promoted to "The $25,000 Pyramid," and two, I had the ability as an airline employee to travel to Los Angeles to audition. I began auditioning in 1983, and never got past the second callback for quite a while. However, in 1986, I did. And on a July evening of that year, my phone rang, and I was invited to be a contestant on the show. I nearly fell out of my chair.
Our taping date was in about two weeks, and while I spent the next fourteen days feverishly watching episodes of the show that I'd videotaped and playing along, my former spouse spent her time looking for the new house we'd buy with the massive amount of money she was certain I'd win. The night before taping, my former spouse and I flew to Los Angeles, and the morning of the show we drove to CBS Studio City, where I was taken with the other contestants for that day's shows into the bowels of the studio.
Three hours later, I walked outÃ¢â‚¬¦.a loser. I lost both rounds by a single point. In round one, with the word being "eraser" I got buzzed and lost a point for using part of the word (to this day, I maintain that I was stammering and saying "um, er" trying to think of a way to describe the pink end of a pencil!). In round two, the "star" somehow thought it was acceptable to try and get me to say "bra" by shouting out "A LADIES BRASSIERE!" (he obviously didn't understand the etymology of the word "bra"). I played fast. I played well. And I still lost. It was a loooooong, silent drive back to LAX, and an even longer, quieter flight back to DFW.
Game shows have really evolved since then. Of course, we still have "Jeopardy!" (which I also auditioned for, once–the test they administer is akin to taking the S.A.T.) and, of course "Wheel Of Fortune," but while most game shows in the '60s, '70s and '80s were thirty-minute daytime events, game shows today have mostly become one-hour marathons aired during prime time. Today's contestants are all beautiful with perfect pearly-white teeth. And I still watch most all of them, when I can. "Deal, Or No Deal" is wonderfully watchable, although I always wonder if it's scripted. "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader" is just a hoot, mostly because I've always been redneck enough to like show host Jeff Foxworthy. And the "vote-off" game shows" like "American Idol" and "Survivor" are wonderfulÃ¢â‚¬¦if stressful!
I've not auditioned for a show since 1986, but I think I may make yet another run at it. For example, I'd LOVE for the Blog Team here at "Nuts About Southwest!" to be part of the "mob" on "1 vs. 100" with Bob Saget. I mean, PEOPLE–how cool would that be? We might not win much, but it'd be fun to see how we'd fare playing against such diverse other mobsters as Victoria's Secret models, prison guards, and drag queens. And members of the mob keep playing until they lose–so eventually, maybe we could win at least enough for a nice celebratory dinner!
The other show I would KILL to get on is "The Amazing Race." GeeÃ¢â‚¬¦an airline geek, who has to maintain a working knowledge of geography, airports, and the schedules of airlines all over the world, on a round-the-world travel game? I smell a winner here. I would of course have my kid, Officer Owen, as my partner–he could do all the heavy lifting, physical challenges, and act as my personal bodyguard, while I'd do all the food challenges and handle the travel. Talk about having all of your bases covered! But that show requires a commitment of being away from home for weeks on end. As nice as John and Pete, Schedule Planning Bosses, and Colleen and Gary areÃ¢â‚¬¦I wouldn't want to, ahem, "press my luck."
Who knowsÃ¢â‚¬¦maybe you'll see me on another game show. Or maybe not. It may be just as fun, and less stressful, to watch someone else sweat. Of course, that means someone else wins the money, too, so I'll keep mulling the option over in my mind. But in the meantime, if you see a repeat of "The $25,000 Pyramid" on the Game Show Network, think of me. And if you see a guy in one of the episodes that looks like a much younger, trimmer, and less gray version of meÃ¢â‚¬¦change the channel. He didn't win.