Top 10 Most Surreal Moments of Game Show Reruns - Part Two

Text by: James Fabiano

Part 1 was exciting, but Part 2 is even better! What are the top 5? Well, here they are! 

5) Sale of the Century returns to GSN, stays on Buzzr –

Sale is one of those shows that many fans remember from reruns on the USA Network, this also included Scrabble, Bullseye, Pyramid, and others.  Pyramid and occasionally Bullseye were in the realm of possibility for GSN, more than it seemed ever getting Sale there was.   (it was much more interesting to see Bullseye there, as it never made it to the regular lineup due to most of the series “not being converted.”)  Back to Sale, Reg Grundy Productions did get acquired by then-Pearson Television in the mid-90s, putting that show and others under the same Fremantle umbrella with the Goodson-Todman shows that occupied most of vintage GSN.  But steep asking prices for rights to the show were the issue here; nevertheless, Sale was seen as a glaring omission from what was supposed to be this all-purpose channel for game shows.    Until 2013, when amidst the focus on originals and Steve Harvey Family Feud, GSN announced that they would finally debut Sale onto the network.  They started with the alleged only surviving NBC season: the final one from 1988-89.  Episodes from the lone nighttime season would follow.  As GSN’s focus continued to change, the show would vanish from the schedule, but the nighttime episodes can still be seen on Buzzr. 

4) Press Your Luck comes to GSN/The Michael Larson episodes finally return –

Remember what I said about Sale?  Take that, multiply it by 5000 (and a spin), and you have Press Your Luck, perhaps THE fan favorite from the USA reruns.  The 1983-86 CBS show was a mainstay of afternoons for schoolers of every grade.  Even casual television viewers, even people who didn’t watch game shows at all, remembered the catchphrase “Big Bucks, no Whammies.”  The cult classic was an easy attention-getter, lights flashing around the show’s “Big Board” and hopefully stopping at a space that would give one said big bucks, or a great prize.  What contestants didn’t want was the Whammy, a red creature who stole whatever the contestants won.  Viewers may disagree due to the Whammy’s funny cartoons and memorable lines and songs.

Because the show was owned by the Carruthers Company, it could not be seen on GSN at first.  This didn’t stop legions of fans asking when Press Your Luck would show up on the schedule for the longest time.  Eventually, FremantleMedia DID acquire the rights to the show which made things easier by the time 2001 rolled along, and it was announced that PYL would make its long-awaited debut on GSN.  New shows would come in leased increments, starting with mid-1984 episodes.    Along with the original show, GSN would also create its own revival, Whammy!  Because why hold back who the star of the show was for many? 

But the surreal didn’t stop there.  Even in the days of USA reruns, there was something missing.  Aside from portions of the show’s run, there were two specific episodes never seen there, or outside of the original CBS run for that matter.  After mastering the Big Board’s patterns and taking over $100,000 from the show, Michael Larson’s appearance was the thing of legend.  Only people on the tape trading circuit could see the actual episodes as CBS had a moratorium on them…for obvious reasons.  But then, GSN was able to not only eventually get the rights to the Larson episodes, they used them as the basis for a documentary about the contestant and how he pulled off what he had done when he faced off with the Whammy.  Part of said documentary included the game spanning both episodes, including bonus footage.  The episodes as seen on CBS would enter GSN’s rotation of Press Your Luck episodes, going on Buzzr. 

And for one last surprise, despite sticking with 1984+ in the past, GSN eventually took Press Your Luck back to the very beginning in 1983, including the show’s premiere as well as episodes with future game show announcer Randy West. 

3) GSN airs unearthed run of CBS Joker’s Wild –

The syndicated run of The Joker’s Wild was a mainstay on GSN up until the mid-2000s.  Since the channel’s debut in 1994, viewers were able to sample choice seasons from hosts such as Jack Barry, Bill Cullen, and guest host  Jim Peck.  All of these came from seasons from 1977 to 1986.  However, where it all began, the CBS run of 1972-1975, remained absent for years.  It was originally said that GSN only had the last season somewhere, but this was never seen.  Other than that, the network run of Joker was believed to be another casualty of tape wiping.  Until a discovery was made at WCBS-TV in New York City.  Copies were found not only of another show, Spin-Off, but of CBS’s Joker run as well!  So then on daytime on the weekdays, fans could see the show evolve through older versions of the bonus game, and dropped features such as the Joker’s Jackpot.    

2) GSN airs the original Hollywood Squares episodes –

Another miracle find that GSN capitalized on in 2002 was the discovery that the original, Peter Marshall-hosted episodes of Hollywood Squares were not destroyed as once thought.  When looking for reruns of the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, what was described as “3,000 episodes” of the classic HS were found.   It coincided nicely with Peter himself coming out with his autobiography, naturally heavy on Squares info, and later even appearing one week on the then-current run hosted by Tom Bergeron.  What topped this being a good time to be a Hollywood Squares fan was the lease of 150 of the discovered Marshall episodes to air on GSN.  The lease never got beyond that, due to ratings and to some episodes having material that didn’t age well, however.  Still, as I said, it was an important part of the celebration at the time of all things Squared.

1) Classic Concentration returns, The Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour to be rerun on Buzzr

And here is the news that brought us here today.  The first part of this one-two punch came some months ago when Buzzr added Classic Concentration to its lineup, again out of nowhere.  The Concentration franchise was one that many game show diehards wanted to see again, long after the last rerun of the newest series aired on NBC in 1993.  Even casuals remembered “that other show Alex Trebek hosted ” and the rebus puzzles that were its trademark.  But NBC had a stranglehold on the format and that made it seem like a longshot to ever see it again on cable.  Apparently the odds were too insurmountable for GSN’s entire existence, moreso given its current direction. 

But nothing would compare to the news of the coming of the Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour.  MG/HS is an interesting case in that most people desire to see the show out of either nostalgia or curiosity.  It only lasted one season, and is widely recognized as not doing what it set out to accomplish: combining two of the most popular comedy-driven game shows of the 70s into one presentation.  This lies on Mark Goodson not using or not wanting to use what made Squares work.  As a result we got a toned-down version of Squares with a miscast and inexperienced host, which paled in comparison to Goodson’s own Match Game with its original veteran host and format firmly in place, not to mention its bonus round being back with even higher stakes. 

At any rate, after leaving the air in 1984, MG/HS stayed in limbo because of the dual ownership issue between Mark Goodson Productions and Orion Television, and their successors.  A story that Gene Rayburn vetoed the show ever airing again is likely a Mandela Effect concerning his run on Break the Bank in 1985, which he did have pulled.  Along with comments by fans, and interviews with his colleagues suggesting that Gene did not have a good time with this show.   Nonetheless… outside of off-air copies, an episode or two present at the Paley Center, and one episode posted on Wink Martindale’s YouTube channel, the game show fandom was pretty sure we’d never see the show aired officially again. 

Until the news that February 17th would see a mini-marathon on Buzzr of…The Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour, followed by a place on Buzzr’s regular schedule.  Now, to some it seems like a curious choice as the show was not a hit, nor the best representation of either franchise.  Then again, they do trot out Temptation every so often.  And hey, if you listen to Jon Bauman, it did have the merit of featuring the ONLY HONEST version of Squares, as “celebrities didn’t have punch lines taped to their desks.” 

But on the other hand, I feel it’s a win on Buzzr’s end, as 1) it is a rarity and obscure show.  2) You get to see more Match Games hosted by Gene Rayburn on the network; think of it as if Buzzr decided to start rerunning Richard Dawson’s comeback on Family Feud from 1994 to go along with the classic episodes.  And 3) is assuming that Fremantle negotiated themselves with MGM for their blessing on their half of the show.  (Which is why I think getting to air MG/HS was easier than it was for GSN, as you have Fremantle owning their own channel, and thus not having to sit with MGM as a Sony middleman moderated.  Same with NBC and Concentration)  Anyway, if Fremantle and MGM were able to come to this agreement…is it possible that we may some day see more come out of Leo’s holdings…obviously thinking of the original Marshall Squares?  The John Davidson version, even?  Is  MG/HS a way to get Buzzr’s audience used to seeing the Squares on the channel?  Which brings me to a possible 4) : call this a wild theory, but is Buzzr testing out placing an hour-long show on its regular schedule and seeing how it would be accepted?   Maybe in preparation of a certain other fabulous 60 minute game show?????  Given the surprises Buzzr has unleashed that and more may be quite possible in the time to come. 

So…which surprises are likely? 

The addition of MG/HS makes one wonder…what could be next?  What “impossible” acquisition will Buzzr be able to clear after this?  The most realistic would be things that are actually in Fremantle’s reach.   Wishful thinking says there’s that other, slightly more successful hour-long game show.  And if Fremantle sweet talked NBC into Concentration, is the price…not too expensive over at CBS?  One name that comes up a lot is Scrabble.  The Chuck Woolery version of everybody’s favorite crossword game is being held up by Hasbro, the current owners of the board game.  Can Buzzr be convincing to the toy giants as well?    Here’s one I thought of….if Buzzr could sweet talk MGM and NBC, how about doing the same for Chuck Henry and unearthing his Now You See It revival?  Going back to MGM….besides the possibility of more Hollywood Squares, maybe more from the Heatter-Quigley library if we’re lucky?    

How about deals with, say, Sony, to get some Merv Griffin content?  Barry & Enright?  Pyramid?  (all of which are relevant today…Wheel and Jeopardy, nuff said.  Joker’s Wild is on TNT now, and Pyramid is on ABC. ) 

A longshot – hint, hint -- going out of the way to acquire fan favorites not under a corporate library?  It happened with Supermarket Sweep, after all.  Short-lived!  But still fun!  A cult following amongst fans!  A combination guaranteed to make you say…

…stay tuned and see what happens.  That will be the most fun of all. 

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