My wife and I frequent game show television. Nothing is quite like yelling at the tube with answers that we think are super easy. At the same time the contestant is shaking in their boots not knowing how to stand let alone answer.
All eyes are on them, if they answer wrong or in an accidentally offensive way they could become the meme of the week. I don’t envy such unlucky contestants, however who doesn’t envy the winners !?
Nostalgia and the Past
As a ’90s kid game show television was my bread and butter. American Gladiators, The Price is Right, Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Nickelodeon Guts, Double Dare!!, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, Legends of the Hidden Temple; these were all part of my daily entertainment. Some were action oriented (American Gladiators, Nickelodeon Guts, Double Dare!! and Legends of the Hidden Temple) and influenced new shows like American Ninja Warrior (NBC) and Ultimate Beastmaster (Netflix). These were like watching wrestling or NFL to me as a child. Living vicariously through these athletes was invigorating.
Progression and Evolution
The intellect driven shows (Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?) interested me a bit back then. However, as they evolved in to the Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Weakest Link of the early 2000’s, I grew more attached. I began putting knowledge on a higher pedestal than athleticism.
The crowd or societal games (The Price is Right and Family Feud) haven’t progressed much, but they are always entertaining. The model obviously works because these are two of the longest running game shows of all time. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, right?
Current State of Game Show Television
Competitive games are part of human nature. So, it really interests me when a game show goes to the way side. How did Weakest Link and Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader both air for 2 years? And how Deal or No Deal gets views is beyond me. Yes, there’s something to probability, but picking briefcases while negotiating with a shadow figure through a germophobe (Howie Mandel) is frankly garbage programming. Enough people like it to keep it on the air though, so what do I know? More vicarious viewing, but it is really just virtually playing the lottery and the ticket price is your time. The marketing pumped into this specific form of entertainment is astronomical. Keep that in mind the next time you’re folding in on yourself from a contestant’s terrible answer.
From a designer’s perspective it all makes perfect sense. Bright lights, ads, good looking people, money and toys are all laid out in front of this dopey looking every-man. They succeed, and you feel like you’ve succeeded because you’re them. And look what they got, just for answering a question! You think A) “I could do that!” or B) “I deserve that”! But, either way the marketing is successful.
I want some substance out of my game show television, not just beautiful people and applause. Soon I’ll have a blog on entertainment versus education. Until then, spend your time wisely and have your pets spayed or neutered!
Eric Benz is a graphic artist and production guru living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He frequents conventions in Canada to hold panels about art and production, networking with motivated artists focused on honing and promoting their craft. Find contact info below to become part of his artist mastermind group.