Just about two years ago (good god time does fly) I did a whole week long look at game shows I loved. One of those articles was discussing when a sitcom will base an episode on a real life game show, with some or all of the character literally appearing on the said game show. These episodes are usually cute and silly and I love them.
In that article I mentioned that sitcoms will often do made up game shows but did not get into that subject. Well, I guess now is as good a time as any. The problem I have with these episodes is very simple-THEY’RE AWFUL!! I don’t know what it is, but every time a sitcom episode is based around a fake game show the episode is a stinker in my opinion. I guess it’s because these episodes seem geared to make the characters stupid and/or huge losers. Want some examples? Well of course!
Here are my top 5 dumbest (fake) game show episodes!!
There are two rules here–it has to be pretending to be a real game show actually airing on TV. For instance, Family Ties did an episode involving a simple PBS quiz show which was made up. But it was harmless and so simple that it would never really air even on PBS. Besides it was a good episode which forever taught me what the acronym SCUBA stood for (and Alex getting cold feet on TV was kind of funny). Also the characters have to actually appear on the show, so for instance that episode of “Friends” with Joey spending an episode rehearsing for an audition to host “Bamboozled” doesn’t count.
Of course this is all just opinion if you love any of these shows more power to you. Oh and yes this concept is not specific to sitcoms, but by now do you really expect me to discuss drama’s? Anyway…..
#5.Night Court, “The Game Show”
This isn’t the worst one ever, but it’s not a great episode. One reason it’s not a great episode is because Judge Stone is mostly absent, replaced with Judge Wilber from “My Two Dads” (yeah, that’s another article altogether!). Long story short, Bull appears on “What am I?”, a game show where the host describes something and the contestant answers “I am a….”. Well you can guess the jokes. Bull is doing OK until he panics when they roll out the clock. It looks like he’s going to lose (he’s playing for a charity he helps with) but gets the answer in time. There is a another part of he story with Dan which would take to long to explain. It’s a weak episode but not the worst because the game show is played mostly straight and the characters are not hurt or made to look stupid. Well Dan kind of is but it’s his own fault, like usual. To bad the same can’t be said for the rest of these.
#4.Full House, “The Perfect Couple”
I hate this episode for being a Christmas episode with nothing Christmas in it. But that isn’t what we’re talking about here. So Joey gets the chance to host the pilot of a “Newlywed Game” rip off called “The Perfect Couple”. It’s D.J. and Steve, Jesse and Rebecca, and Danny and Vic….oops, Vicki is running late so Danny is paired with the producer’s assistant Estelle. The funny thing in this episode isn’t so much that game show is embarrassing to the characters. It’s the host this time! Joey hosts and I am not sure what he is doing here. I guess he is playing a character but trying to make the contestants fight is pretty rotten (Ok the producer eggs him on to embarrass the contestants) and he is just annoying with his insults and cheap shots. He does quit the job in the end to redeem himself. We get some character stuff with the others but it’s Full House so of course the fighting doesn’t last. Except for Danny and Vicki who finally break up. I liked Vicki but that’s another discussion.
#3.The Golden Girls, “Grab That Dough”
Yeah this episode hurt. The four girls get to compete on a show called “Grab That Dough”, which is a basic trivia show. But..oh no! the girls have to compete against each other! Rose and Sophia are competing against Dorothy and Blanche…hijinks! I never cared for episodes where the four basically spend the show fighting, but they’re not that bad. This one is awful! They have a miserable trip to LA, and then the game show. Dorothy and Blanche are teamed with an idiot who buzzes in even though he doesn’t know the answer. So Rose and Sophia are stealing the show. In the second half Blanche and Dorothy catch up distantly and win with the spin of a wheel (yep, that’s it). The name of the game comes from the bonus, which is standing in a booth and grabbing all the money she can (did a game show ever really do this in real life???). But the final insult comes when the show becomes “Let’s Make a Deal” and Dorothy is offered a deal, keep the dough to take what’s behind one of the doors. If you’ve ever seen “Let’s Make A Deal” the gag goes as you would expect it to. They’re all losers and it’s just stupid, and yes the four make up in the end (offscreen!!!).
#2.Fresh Prince of Bel Air, “Eyes on the Prize”
Hey Bob Eubanks is in this one! And a little credit-they do really make it feel like an honest to goodness game show. Despite that…good lord I hated this episode. First of all there was a point in this show when they added a character, a friend of Will’s from Philly named Ty I think. He was stupid and annoying and thank the lord didn’t last. But he was a feature player in this really stupid episode, fighting with Jazz over who is Will’s best friend. Will gets on aÂ game show “Double Trouble”. Problem is he has three friends and can only pick on. Long story short Will goes on with Carlton while Jazz goes on with Ty to spite them. Of course it wouldn’t be fun if the characters weren’t fighting and/or competing against each other! There’s a trivia round and then a stunt round (ala Double Dare). During the game the characters are made to look foolish, Carlton can’t answer fast enough (he rambles which makes no sense when earlier we saw him answering questions quickly) and then Will and Jazz ride bikes while dressed like Carmen Miranda. I wish I were making this up, Double Dare worked because it was families (and little kids). Watching these two embarrass themselves is just…painful. Then Will and Jazz are locked in a booth (again with the damn booth’s??) they fight (literally!) and make up while Ty is so broken up watching this he can’t answer the final question. I hate this episode.
#1.Mr.Belvedere, “Brain Busters”
What happens in this episode is supposed to very funny…I do not find it funny. I get it, but I don’t like it. Maybe I am taking it to seriously, but it’s one of those things were the idea is so moronic I just can’t find it funny. The setup works, and it’s a simple one. Wesley and George get on a show called “Brain Busters” where kids and adults are teamed up. When George is kicked off, Wes joins with Mr.Belvedere…who becomes so pompous by showing of that he takes all the fun out of it for Wes. Mr.Belevedre really deserved a comeuppance…and he gets one. The twist in the game is that the winning team has to compete in the new super goopy lightning round. That has never been seen before and that they were never told about! Dumb. Mr.Belvedere is strapped (yes, strapped) down and if the kid gets the question wrong something real goopy happens. Wes sees his chance for revenge, so intentionally gets the questions wrong. Mr.Belvedere is then dumped with an egg, oatmeal, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a pie in the face.Â There is a reason every one of these episode involve stunts, it makes sense that in the heat of competition the characters get messy. Maybe if this had been more of a “double dare” stunt scenario I’d like it, but just dumping these things on the unwilling Belvedere’s head comes off as very mean spirited. Plus if a game show was going to do that they would certainly tell the contestants not spring it on them. I give Christopher Hewet credit for actually tolerating that, but the whole thing makes me ill. If you’re wondering why I’m am so hard on this, it just isn’t my kind of humor. I never liked pie fights either, why is throwing a pie at someone funny?? At least Belvedere does get even, in the tag he dumps a bucket of chocolate sauce on Wes’s head.
Some Honorable Mentions :
Some may be wondering why Perfect Strangers “Games People Play” isn’t on here. I don’t really remember it, but the game show they’re on is “Risk it All” and appears to be another “Double Dare” rip off and that kind of works on a Perfect Strangers episode. Larry tries to avoid the stunts and just answer questions, until a chance to win a cruise presents itself. I couldn’t find a copy of it to re-watch it and it does sound like they treat the characters with dignity for the most part. There is a very long episode summary online and it does sound like a typical episode, of course the guys get carried away and lose. If you want you can count it as an honorary 6th spot.
Also there was an episode of Webster called “Don’t Jump George”, but in that one the characters aren’t humiliated or treated like idiots, it’s a typical episode with the game show serving as the back drop rather than being the main focus. The show is called “Don’t Jump” and doesn’t make sense really. I was ready..I really was..to give this episode credit! Then the payoff scene came, when George gets the bonus round or whatever they call it. George is given a smock (which is more than Belvedere had!!) and has a pie thrown at him. However, it was mostly off screen and doesn’t compare to the humiliation on Belvedere. InÂ fact if Belvedere had taken Webster’s approach, I would have been easier on it. By the way, how come I don’t remember so much innuendo on Webster? That’s another discussion however.
Laverne & Shirley had an episode called “The Quiz Show”. The show is called “Silly for Dollars”, sort of a mix of Match Game and Price is Right. There is no setup the girls are just there in the audience. When they naturally get called in to participate. It’s a game with trivia questions and crazy stunts–ohÂ where have I heard that before? To be fair this show aired before all of these, some could argue this is the one that set the standard the rest of these episodes followed. There was no Double Dare yet, so where did the idea come from for this episode? Oh and you’ll never guess how it ends…they get greedy and lose. Shocker!! To be fair the episode is OK and the crazy stunts fit in on Laverne & Shirley just like they did on Perfecy Strangers.
Happy Days also had an episode regarding the quiz show scandals of the 50’s involving Richie playing in a fixed game show ala “21” which sounds corny and lame. I mean, what do you think Richie is going to do in the end? Murphy Brown had an episode where the gang went on a quiz show and competed against college students. It should almost be on this list because of how stupid the characters are made to look. On Small Wonder The Lawsons and Brindles faced off against each other on “Beat Thy Neighbor”. You won’t believe it, it involves stunts and the characters acting silly!Â Yeah think Family Feud meets Double Dare with a touch of Match Game thrown in. The real shocker? The Lawson’s win in the end!! And finally, Boy Meets World had an episode called “Quiz Show” where the gang participated, and were annoyed at the pandering and dumbed down questions.
If I forgot one (which I’m sure I did) please comment and let me know. Of course, this same thing happens with made up talk shows to. Guess I just got my next blog idea folks. 🙂