#132 - Faux Pause
A new look at game shows through beer goggles and bad writing.

 

GSN (1998)
Text by: Robert Seidelman

GSN in 1998 was at a crossroads.  It had a really great batch of classics with The Price Is Right, the entire Goodson-Todman library, the entire Barry-Enright library, all the Chuck Barris shows, among other fun little bits.  They also were still making originals that were either ok or just bad.  Trivia Track and Super Decades were cases of decent live originals, whereas you had When Did That Happen which was a bad retread of Super Decades with a very terrible format and co-host.

Elsewhere in the cable world, a long running show was nearing its demise.  Mystery Science Theater 3000 was nearing its end and Season 10, which saw some really memorable moments including the return of TV's Frank and Joel in the season premiere, another Joe Don Baker movie to make fun of, both Boggy Creek movies and the epic finale of Diabolik.  So, to capitalize on a dying trend, Game Show Network decided to take the idea of the show and make it about game shows.  Unfortunately for Game Show Network, it lacked the wit, charm, humor, and appeal that watching bad movies with friends had. 

Enter Faux Pause.

I'll start with the intro, which gives it away that this will suck.  We have the two hosts, Sean Donnellan and Mary Gallagher, acting out a scene from a good game show, such as The Newlywed Game and The $25,000 Pyramid.  It would usually end with some lame jokes ending with the words Faux Pause.  These were very poorly acted.  The writing never got off the ground and instead of being funny, they would have given us more facepalm moments than an overplayed internet meme. 

Let's talk about these two bozos right now in Sean Donnellan and Mary Gallagher.  Both are comedians, but that's kind of a stretch if this show is any indication.  Mary had been doing standup and bit roles on Duckman and Sister Sister.  Sean Donnellan was a standup who's only credits before this was as a writer for How To Boil Water on Food Network.  I sincerely doubt they watched any of the shows before hand or even knew about game shows outside of the big 3 at the time in Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and The Price is Right.  What made MST3k work is that the crew watched the movie together, came up with gags and jokes for the movie and about the movie rather than randomness out of nothing.  They just came up with stuff out of thin air most of the time.

Now, what made MST3k work was their source material.  All of the movies stunk, except for maybe a couple, and that helped to create comedy.  The average person can watch the movie and crack a couple one-liners with Mike or Joel and the Bots.  Faux Pause's choice of material wasn't as carefully selected.  The shows were either mostly short-lived or pilots.  The major problem was this.  A good chunk of the shows selected....were actually really really good.  While All About The Opposite Sex, the Hollywood Connection Pilot and The Diamond Head Game were terrible, they also blasted such shows as Hot Potato, Trivia Trap, Play the Percentages, Go!, Jackpot, Pass the Buck and other shows that were well done, but simply short lived due to not having found an audience or in Jackpot's case, the syndicator going bankrupt.  It's hard to glean good comedic material from good shows, unless you have a really memorable contestant or something out of the ordinary happens.  What they did was just poke fun at certain parts of the show that weren't really that funny to begin with.  For reasons to this effect, Kris Lane wrote on his old Xanfan site a great page on Faux Pause's bashing of Hot Potato.  They namely went after Bill Cullen's schtick and the steam-spewing sign at the beginning of the show.  Quite honestly, I need to do a full review on that show.  I know that show is out there, I just need to acquire it and see it for myself.

Continuing the irritation, in order to make their lame jokes or observations, they actually paused the footage and made the joke, taking the viewer away from the experience of the show.  The stop-start-stop-start way of doing bits reminds me of the machine gun approach that Seth McFarlane uses for his shows where he'll shoot off 10,000 jokes in the hope that one will hit and keep the show going for another 20 minutes.  For Faux Pause, they could shoot off 25,000 jokes and none will hit.  The writing was that bad that it made me want to actually seek out an episode of Baby Bob in order to find something to laugh at. 

The last major thing that wrecked this for any audience are the really lame sketches that the show had.  Now, they did have some relevance to the show or a moment on said show, like what MST3k did.  Unlike MST3k, these were not funny at all.  I mean, a sketch involving a clip from a parody porno film of All In The Family called Ball In The Family just sounds gross, especially when the setup is a crappy pizza guy played by Frank Nicotero in his lowest point of his career and Sean playing Edith at a high point in his career.  After a minute, they fall behind a couch with Sean's leg up initiating that they were getting it on.  This was in really poor taste.  It's so bad, not even The Cinema Snob would take a look at it and he sat through both Super Hornio Bros. 1 and 2. 

Bottom line, the show was really unfunny and proved why MST3k was king and this show was the shedded hair from Bobo's butt.  Hosts who were really annoying and bad actors that made me yearn for a Joe Don Baker movie, jokes that were way off the mark that they couldn't make The Price Is Right's Bullseye board, and sketches that left your head scratching instead of laughing.  Sadly, it wasn't the last you'd see of this concept.  The concept of Faux Pause would be used in 1999-2000 when Game Show Network utilized the format with a live host and CGI Spinner Ball in their Kidz Zone block.  The shows affected weren't their originals in Wheel 2000 and Jep, or recent addition of Click, they were saved for three older shows in Joker Joker Joker, a kids version of The Joker's Wild (which got the most inserts and the most annoying), The 70s and 80s versions of Juvenile Jury (which isn't a game show to begin with), and The Quiz Kids Challenge (which couldn't help save the show from being any good).  After they dumped the Kidz Zone, the concept was gone as well.  There were plans to try something similar to this in the form of a cartoon around 2006 where two guys were locked up in an Arctic Weather Station and got a bunch of game show tapes and watched them.  While interesting, it never saw the light of day.  Maybe it's for the best.  MST3k was perfection, this was the pits. 

Now, there is good news to this.  Mary would stick with comedy and wind up being in various other bit roles in TV sitcoms and movies, even winding up hosting World Cup Comedy in 2004 on PAX.  She proved to be decent there.  Sean Donnellan would wind up being the beneficiary of being a decent voice actor.  He would do voices for cartoons, such as Batman Beyond, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and such video games as Turok and Swat 4.  The biggest winner would wind up being a producer of the show.  Let's look at the credits.

I remember that guy!

Yeah, he made out really well.  Frank would host Street Smarts, The Game of LIFE, and get a golden gig as the warm up guy for the live shows for The X Factor.  Sadly he couldn't get the actual hosting gig, it would have spared millions from the terrible hosting of Khloe Khardasian.  But still, Frank's a great comedian and a great host.  I guess you have to suffer a bit in order to get something really really good.