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"Gameshow Marathon" Review

By Shawn McKenzie 06/20/2006

I like game shows, but I wouldn’t say that I’m obsessed with them.  For me, they have to haven element that makes them exciting for me, which mainly includes a huge cash prize and/or an entertaining host.  NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” works for me (until someone finally wins the million…then I might start to get bored.)  CBS’s “Gameshow Marathon” is an interesting concept, but after seeing five episodes so far, there are parts of it that aren’t winning me over.

Emmy Award nominee Ricki Lake hosts this game show that features six B ½-list celebrity contestants (I would say that they are all B-list celebrities, but some of them are actually still working in projects that aren’t reality shows) competing in an elimination tournament of seven classic game shows.  Rich Fields is the announcer for the show (he is also the man who took over for Rod Roddy in 2004 on “The Price is Right,” following Roddy’s 2003 death.)  The classic game shows are (in this order):  “The Price is Right,” “Let’s Make a Deal,” “Beat the Clock,” “Press Your Luck,” “Card Sharks,” “Match Game,” and “Family Feud.”  All of the contestants competed in the first game (“The Price is Right”), and the winner of that game took one of four seats in “Finalists’ Row” and moved on to the next round of play in the fifth episode (Card Sharks.”)  The winners of the second (“Let’s Make a Deal”), third “Beat the Clock”), and fourth (“Press Your Luck”) episodes took the other three seats.  Two of the finalists competed in the fifth episode, and in the sixth episode, the other two finalists will compete (“Match Game.”)  Finally, in the seventh episode, the winner from the fifth and sixth episodes will compete against one another in the championship finale playing “Family Feud” with a 5-player team consisting of each contestant’s friends and family.

The celebrity contestants include Tim Meadows (“Saturday Night Live”), Leslie Nielsen (Airplane), Kathy Najimy (Sister Act), Lance Bass (*NSYNC), Paige Davis (“Trading Spaces”), and Brande Roderick (“Baywatch.”)  All six contestants were/are playing for individual charities, and the ultimate champion will win $100,000 for his or her charity.  These are the contestant’s charities (I put a “*” next to their charities when the contestant has already been eliminated):  Paige Davis - Donate Life* (an organ donation charity); Kathy Najimy - Girls’ Best Friend (supports and empowers teen girls in their endeavors); Tim Meadows - The Chris Farley Foundation* (educates youth on the negative aspects of drugs and alcohol); Lance Bass - Habitat for Humanity (specifically, to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina); Brande Roderick: City of Hope; and Leslie Nielsen - Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix, Arizona*.  Aside from the grand prize, a few people in the studio audience received the prizes won by the contestants (especially in the first and second episodes.)

The home audience had a way to win prizes as well.  On each episode, viewers entered to win the celebrity’s grand prize via a wireless (text message) multiple-choice trivia game.  One winner out of the correct responses was chosen randomly, and Todd Newton, the host of “Hollywood Showdown” and “Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck” (both on GSN), hosted the “Prize Delivery” segments, in which he appeared at the winners’ homes to present the prizes that they won.

The show is based on “Ant and Dec’s Gameshow Marathon,” which aired in 2005 on UK’s ITV as part of the network’s 50th anniversary.  Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly hosted that version.  The games recreated were “The Price is Right,” “Take Your Pick,” “The Golden Shot,” “Sale of the Century,” “Bullseye,” “Play Your Cards Right,” and, in the finale, “Family Fortunes.”  The celebrity contestants were Eamonn Holmes, Vernon Kaye, Patsy Kensit, William Roache, Carol Vorderman (the ultimate winner), and Ruby Wax.

In the first episode, “The Price is Right,” they give a brief history of the original game, in which the original host was Bill Cullen, but since 1972, Bob Barker has hosted it (all of the episodes will have a brief history of the original games at the beginning.)  Brande won the episode.  It was obvious which celebrities were going to “come on down,” but it was funny to see other celebrities…such as Betty White, George Foreman, Kathy Griffin, Bruce Vilanch, Adam Carolla, and Adrianne Curry…in the studio audience looking disappointed that they didn’t get to play (especially Carolla, who pretended to storm out in disgust.)  Those other celebrities will be back as the panel in the “Match Game” episode.  Except for Paige, none of the other celebrities seemed all that excited to play (in fact, Paige was the only celebrity who at least pretended that she wanted to play throughout the series.)  Another objection I had was that they changed the format around.  Only the three women ended up playing, and in the end, the women spun the Showcase Showdown wheel, with the two women getting the highest dollar amount going on to the Showcase.  The original show is in a one-hour format…why couldn’t this show stick with a one-hour format as well?  The other episodes (so far) have stuck with the original (albeit expanded, since most of them were originally a half-hour long) formats.

In the second episode, “Let’s Make a Deal,” Lance won dressed as a banana.  Gilbert Gottfried appeared twice as a “celebrity zonk.”  Paige really messed up by losing out on three cars in favor of a can of Altoids Mints (which had a check inside the tin for $3,500 cash.)

In the third episode, “Beat the Clock,” Paige won, and she won a Chrysler Crossfire Convertible as well in the final grand prize round at the end of the episode.  I have to admit…of all of the games I have seen so far, I’ve never seen the original version of this game.  It makes sense that this show is the precursor to physical challenge game shows, like Nickelodeon’s “Double Dare” and NBC’s “Fear Factor,” but since the clip about the original show was all in black & white, and I don’t regularly watch GSN, this was my first exposure to the game.

The fourth and fifth episodes, “Press Your Luck” and “Card Sharks,” were probably the best episodes, because the original shows were shows that I remembered from when I was a kid (keep in mind that I’m only 31.)  They were also better because I think that the remaining celebrities were starting to get more comfortable with the format.  Kathy won in the “Luck” episode,” and Brande beat Paige in the “Sharks” episode.  The original host of “Luck,” Peter Tomarken, was given a special tribute at the end of the episode (Tomarken, a private pilot, and his second wife, Kathleen Bradley, were killed when his plane crashed a few hundred feet offshore in Santa Monica Bay during climb-out from the Santa Monica Airport in California on the morning of March 13, 2006.)  In the sixth episode, “Match Game,” Lance and Kathy will compete, with the winner going to the “Family Feud” finale against Brande.

I liked “Gameshow Marathon” more as the show went on, but the lack of enthusiasm at the beginning didn’t make the show appealing.  I also wasn’t too crazy about Lake as a host.  Why they didn’t use a real game show host (like Newton) to host the show is beyond me.  I’m rooting for Kathy now (since Paige has been eliminated), and if CBS decides to renew this show for a second season next summer, I hope that they get a better host and more energetic celebrities (I wouldn’t mind seeing Paige come back for a second round.)  Big bucks!  No Whammys!


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