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Game show madness or magic?

Posted on October 27, 2013 | Comments

Game shows.  They were as prolific “back in my day” as reality shows are today.  While they may not be as popular now, at least five are still going strong—Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Price is Right, Let’s Make A Deal and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

What is it that keeps game shows alive?  Winning the unexpected car or huge amount of cash?  From the tenure of the “top five” game shows on TV, cash and cars are still quite the motivation for people to try out for game shows.  The question I have is what is the motivation to forego some pretty decent bucks and take wild and crazy risks for more or what’s behind the box?

Not sure my own experience reveals an answer.

In 1975, I was a contestant on the Price is Right.  Yes, my name was called along with those famous words, “Come on down!”  The jumping up and down, crazy screaming that you see is very real.  Even though I had a slight inkling when the cameramen were setting up for the next taping (saw one literally pointing at me), there was no guarantee.  Must admit, I did grab my brush to give my hairdo a touch up.

A freestanding fireplace was the item up for bid.  Perfect.  My husband (married at the time) and I had just been out shopping for one.  Nailed the price on the nose.  At least that is what Bob Barker said when I ran up on stage dodging cameramen and huge cables everywhere.

To understand the outcome, I need to back up just a bit.

The procedure for picking contestants occurs when folks wait in line prior to getting into the studio.  The producer and assistants talk to everyone making notes as they go.  My conversation was quite lively and funny.  It was my mother-in-law who wanted to be on the show.  Because I just went along for the ride, I didn’t take anything seriously.  Guess they liked that.

On stage, that funny personality suddenly became very serious.  My price game required some smarts to figure out the correct price of four items.  If I got them right, I could pick a number from each price to match the price of a new car.  What makes me laugh now is how I carried on quite the conversation with myself—quality of items, whether I wanted them etc—in the midst of lights, camera and action.

The price game was a little like Let’s Make a Deal.  I was given the option to stop and take the prizes which by the way I had priced correctly. Since I was married to a CPA, I figured go for the car.  No need to pay taxes on stuff I did not want.

Like so many contestants who have followed in my footsteps, I was one number off from winning the car, losing out on the four items as well.

Back then, the showcase people were the two highest winners of the earlier games.  My $267 fireplace didn’t qualify me for the showcase.  In hindsight, had I not gone for the car and taken the prizes, I would have been in the showcase.

My choice made sense to me and there were no regrets.  Not sure that is how all contestants feel when they opt to “make it a true daily double” with five-figure amounts on the line or people risking $100,000 for a 1 in 4 chance at a guess to win $250,000 on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.  Somehow the saying “I came with nothing so I can leave with nothing” makes no sense at that point.

My reasoning probably would have put game shows out of business a long time ago.  Vegas too.  Producers are banking on people taking risks.  And the rest of us, we are banking on the element of magical miracles.  That’s what keeps people watching…the fairy tale ending.  Why not?

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