#69: When Did That Happen?
In the 1990's the big buzzword in the TV industry was Interactivity. Most cable networks that were airing game shows in the afternoon would have some sort of call-in number and the person at home would answer a question or solve a puzzle or something to that effect and would be entered into a drawing and would win cash or prizes. It was a big cash cow for both USA and the Family Channel who had different ways of doing those sorts of things and did well with it.
When GSN came around in 1994, they did the same thing, but instead made those types of games into an entire show. Most of them turned out alright and it was a cheap way to get original programming on the air. It wasn't something you'd call bad TV, but it all depended on who you got to host it. I know Marianne Curan and Laura Chambers both did good jobs with the shows they got, along with bonafide host Peter Tomarken. Larry Anderson was meh, but not who'd you consider bad. The more popular games during the early days of GSN to use this feat was Trivia Track, Super Decades and Prime Games. In 1998, GSN was experiencing growing pains in the fact that they were looking for more original programming that could fit a half-hour and bring more to the table than just a solid game, and solid hosting. So, they decided to replace Super Decades and put on a show, eerily similar to super decades with the same host as Super Decades, but add a new background, a co-host and some new twists and turns.
So, When did THAT Happen? Well, that's the name of the show and let's find out.
The show was hosted by the same gal who did Super Decades in Marianne Curan. She's currently known for being on GSN Radio with her husband Bob Goen. Her hosting style was quite good. I mean, she wasn't the worst out of that batch of GSN Hosts. But I thought that Laura Chambers would have been better suited for this type of show. Laura also had that sly wit that she got through her husband in the process. Sometimes the jokes were hit or miss, but that's like most hosts who have to joke around in order to stretch for time. She could have done the entire show by herself and it would have been good. But she was hampered by a co-host.
Here's her co-host. John Webber. I can basically sum him up in 4 words. Painfully annoying unfunny prick. I can't describe him in much words, however he comes off as an unlikeable Cenk from The Young Turks. I would say more, but all the things he said and did on just one episode of this show deserves an induction all by himself.
So let's get to the gameplay. Marianne Curan would give the first contestant the decade and 3 possible answers with the third one usually being a joke answer. Then the question is asked. If the contestant gets it right, they retain control. If they get it wrong, their opponents get control. Now, there are 8 questions on yellow cards before they get to the prize winning red cards. The first person to get a question right on the red cards win a prize, which was something you'd normally see in the bonus round on Shop 'til you Drop, so around $300-$500, which isn't bad for a GSN game for the time. Now, here's the problem with the format. You can get a person who can blow through the questions quite easily and get to the red cards without missing a beat, but then they slip once on a red question and their opponent lucks into the prize by guessing 1 question right. That completely breaks the game, and it actually happened once or twice during the shows 9-week run. It's the same thing that pretty much broke Make The Grade where you'd have a kid who'd just blitz the board, then stumble upon the Fire Drill and some doofus who can't tie his own shoelaces winds up winning the game and stinks up the studio in the Honors round.
In between questions, Marianne would sometimes show off her smartass humor. Sometimes it would be hit or miss, but that's the thing with game show host jokes anyways. But then we get John Webber and he has to ruin everything. He would go so far as to insult contestants if their answers were wrong, and not in a funny manner that the Family Feud hosts would do. During this time, they'd make a joke about Washington or something like that. But then they'd focus back on the game, which is good.
After another go-round with two new contestants, the winners from both rounds compete in one final round for one more prize. This time the rules are changed a bit. They ping-pong back and forth questions until one contestant gets the question wrong. Then their opponent only has to answer 1 more question to win the prize. You know, come to think of it, if that was the format for the entire show, then it would have been so much better than what the show eventually became, gameplay wise. But still, at least that's too much to hope for when it comes to a late 90s GSN original. I mean, this was during the Michael Fleming era. The same guy who gave us great shows like Burt Luddin's Love Buffet, Inquizition, Extreme Gong, Throut and Neck, All New 3's a Crowd & Mall Masters.
I don't know what it is about these shows that require some uncomfortable banter between host and co-host. I mean, it doesn't get much uncomfortable when it comes to talking about what the people got in their congratulations on the new show baskets. I mean, when the height of the show is derwood Webber eating pickled Carrots...there's something wrong. I guess that John Webber is a comedian, so he has to be funny, but most of the time it comes off as forced.
Anyways, the set is just two desks behind a green screen. It's ok for what GSN does for their interactive games back in the day. However a funny thing happened on the final show. They decided that they would strip the set piece by piece, after getting a second desk a few weeks prior. I guess John Webber got so angry at messing up Marianne's laundry that he took a crappy IBM Laptop just to make sure he doesn't forget. Either way, the set when it was together, the 2nd set just added some wicker fence and a bookshelf. Not only that, they got rid of the logo on Marianne's desk. It's a shame.
Then at the end this is what the set looked like. I much prefer this to the actual set. it seemed more dignified, especially with that poor stagehand.
And that's When Did That Happen? A 9-Week bomb that could have been a decent show, if certain things didn't bog it down, like John Webber, a broken front game, prizes that were mediocre for its time, among other things. I'm just thankful that Marianne Curan got another GSN gig in 2008 when GSN Radio debuted. I mean, it was an excellent idea and it was excellently done. But then, it got cancelled for no particular reason. I mean, it actually got terrestrial radio airplay, and it was doing a great job spreading the word about GSN. I guess, since it was actually done by some people who don't come off as fake annoying tools *cough*BobGuiney*Cough*. And that's it. When Did That Happen was no more than a small horrible bump in GSN's history.
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