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Television Game Shows: Some Questions and the Right Answers

<i> Martindale, longtime host of games on networks and in syndication, also has created game shows for cable, including "Bumper Stumpers" on USA, "Second Honeymoon" on the Family Channel, and a new reality show soon to tape its pilot, "What'll They Think of Next?"</i>

Welcome, viewers and players, to our new game show, “The Greater Truth,” where it’s not just the answer that counts, it’s the truth behind the answer.

All right players, our first category is Conventional Wisdom. Question: What type of television program is a dying breed barely clinging to life?

Buzz. The Los Angeles Times answers: Game shows. Judges? Wrong! Remember, the object of our game is to find the greater truth.

Players, our second category is Wheel of Misfortune. We spin the wheel, and your question is: Name the only major network with game shows still in its lineup. Los Angeles Times, you’ve buzzed in first with your answer, CBS. Sorry, that’s technically correct, but misleading.

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(Listen, this is my game show, I’ll throw out misleading answers if I want to.)

True, ABC and NBC are pulling out of games, leaving CBS as the lone player with “The Price Is Right” and “Family Feud.” But again players, you’ve forgotten to give us “The Greater Truth.” Johnny Announcer, what’s the greater truth today?

Well, Wink, it’s true that game shows are in a lull right now. But with the demise of “thirtysomething,” “China Beach” and even “Dallas” and “Dynasty,” there are a lot of lulls going around.

Thanks Johnny. Now players, that brings us to our next category, Sex, Lulls and Videotape. Question: Just a few years ago, when situation comedy was dead in the water, what NBC sitcom changed all that?

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Buzz. “Cosby”? Correct!

Next question: What type of show has practically dominated prime-time network television for the last several years? Buzz. Yes, L.A. Times, the answer is sitcoms. Now here’s your follow-up question in search of “The Greater Truth.” Why?

Beep. Sorry, time’s up. The answer is, cycles. That’s right players, television operates in cycles. Just as sitcoms made a blazing comeback, so too will games. Unless they lose in the next category, which is, Hidden Dangers.

Question: What harm can the recent Times story (“Game Shows: The Price Isn’t Right,” Calendar, Aug. 28) on the demise of network game shows do? Buzz. That’s right, stories like that can throw cold water on a hot idea, making it even harder for game shows to bounce back.

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Which brings us to the next category, the First Amendment. Question: Are we trying to censor journalists? Answer, no. But the greater truth demands balance. Stories predicting doom can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Judges? You say The Times did report that games are increasingly popular on cable? True, but only near the end of the story, after the damaging first impressions had already been made.

The category is Quantum Leap. Question: How far back in time can you leap and still land on a familiar game show? Answer, a daytime leap hits more than 20 years of “Price,” 14 years of “Concentration,” 13 years of “Hollywood Squares.” And a prime-time leap lands on 17 years of “What’s My Line?” A 14-year leap lands on “I’ve Got a Secret,” just to name a few.

Follow-up. What’s the greater truth here? That when it comes to loyalty and longevity, a good game show is hard to beat.

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Question: What shows will replace games? Buzz. The L.A. Times answers, reality shows. Judges? Sorry, you lose 10 points for missing the greater truth. Game shows are the forerunner of reality shows. A true game show is information-based, testing and educating along the way. Now that’s reality.

All right players, the bonus round category is, Back to the Future. First question: When is the best time for networks to develop new game shows? Sorry players, we’ve run out of time so I’ll answer that one myself. Now is the best time. It’s like buying a stock. You jump at the low point, not the high.

Remember players, game shows have been given a bum rap. Some critics say they’re mindless. It makes you wonder if they could pass our typical Contestant Qualifying Test.

Name the four Presidents on Mount Rushmore. In Einstein’s equation, E equals M C squared--what’s the C stand for? Which Charlie Brown character always carries his blanket? Who replaced Margaret Thatcher as British prime minister? Augusta is the capital of what state? (Gotcha, it’s not Georgia!)

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See what your host means about reality and information?

So thanks everybody for joining us for “The Greater Truth.” Join us next time for such questions as: When will game shows be hot again? (Soon.) What hit games are waiting around the corner? (Well, I’ve got one called “Qubes,” where players square off against the news, and a word game called “Squeeze Play,” a sort of Vanna White meets the Simpsons.)

Buzz? Judges! The host is disqualified for trying to sneak in a plug for his own projects? Listen, if the L.A. Times gave you this space, wouldn’t you try too?

Thanks Wink, this is Johnny Announcer reminding you, if games are in Jeopardy, why is “Wheel” making a Fortune?

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Buzz. No, don’t answer, it’ll only encourage him.


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