#133 - The Home Shopping Game
Bob Goen payin' his dues while viewers buy cheap merchandise and a mediocre game.

 

Syndication (June - September 1987)
Text by: Robert Seidelman

I'll never understand trends in the world of pop culture and things that are attracted to women in general.  Especially when it comes to the world of watching hucksters for hours on end trying to hock cheap merchandise to you via being called great discounted items.  Now granted said hucksters turn out to be really good and can spawn careers outside of that and appear as hosts for game shows.  Most recognizable are Mike Rowe (who's probably more famous for Deadliest Catch), Ron Maestri (Who's aged faster an Roquefort cheese) and others who I am forgetting.  Most of the time, instead of the Mike Rowes and that ilk, you sometimes wind up with the Don West's of the world.  Thus, that little rant brings us to the magical year of 1987.

It seemed like everyone and their mom was watching game shows in 1987.  There were more than 20 game shows in both syndication and daytime around this year, with NBC Daytime clocking it at 6 at their biggest point with Sale of the Century, Scrabble, Super Password, Blockbusters, Wordplay, and Wheel of Fortune with both Classic Concentration and Win, Lose or Draw to replace both Blockbusters and Wordplay later in the year.  Cable was getting into the game as well with Fandango, Double Dare, Jackpot, The New Chain Reaction and a slew of others that followed in that year.  Syndication however, was owned by the big 3 in Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and The $100,000 Pyramid.  Hollywood Squares, The New Newlywed Game, The All New Dating Game and Love Connection were stalwards at that point, making the market even more glutted than it is.  So, during the summer when most of the shows were in reruns, we were treated to three brand new game shows to capitalize on both trends and we'll be taking a look at all 3 this month.  The first one combines the tv shopping destination of the 80s in The Home Shopping Club, Word Games and a host that deserves much better.  So grab your credit cards and play the Home Shopping Game.

And fresh off of the unmitigated disaster that was Perfect Match, Bob Goen comes in to host this show.  Now, he had one more clunker after this before he got the Daytime Wheel of Fortune job after Rolf's stint proved that Merv Griffin wasn't Mr. Perfect.  To be perfectly honest, he needs more work.  He can basically any show put in front of him and make it watchable.  For proof, watch him host a show like Perfect Match, then a completely different game in Blackout, and then on Wheel of Fortune.  It's so seamless that it's amazing. 

I'd be remiss to mention the other two people joining him in Debbie Bartlett from Dream House and other modeling and acting gigs and the man who birthed the home shopping craze on radio with prodding from then boss Bud Paxson, Bob Circosta.  Bob does his usual schtick on here and Debbie at least doesn't act like she's on crack here like she did on Dream House (No, seriously.  Check out the finale if you don't believe me).  Both of them do a really spectacular job as usual.  Especially Bob.  I think when Mom watched this back in the summer of 87, she bought a couple of things from this show.  Anyways, if both the host and assistants are aces in this show, then why is this show being talked about here.

Well, the gameplay here falls completely on its face and ruins the experience.  Two people compete in a word game.  After Circosta and Debbie show off an item for people to buy at home, Bob Goen would then give a category and three scrambled up words that pertained to the item that was just advertised.  Bob would then ask a question in said category.  Each correct answer was worth $100 and one letter in each of the three scrambled words would be put in its proper place.  If the contestant was wrong, then the opponent would get the letters.  The round continued like that until all 3 words were revealed or if time ran out and they played speedword until the three words were guessed correctly.  The first right word was worth $100, next $200 and finally $300.  The person that got the most words, won the item being sold.  In the last two rounds, all dollar amounts were doubled and the person with the most money went to the bonus round. The game play felt like it was mish mashing bits and pieces of Scrabble, the daily Jumble in the newspaper, the questioning mechanic from both High Rollers and Gambit, and having it all condensed to fit the time, so each round lasted for about 2 minutes or so.  That's the main problem with this show, the game itself is too condensed for my liking and Goen had little interaction with the contestants due to the time constraints and getting all the plugs in.  There were four rounds in all to fit in, and a bonus round as well.  So, with the plugs being about a minute each, recapping all of them took about a minute and a half, intro to the show took a minute, 8 minutes during this time in syndication for commercials, a minute for contestant intros, and the closing took a minute, that's about 12 minutes or so for four rounds and the bonus game, so with really shortened rounds, they could have taken one round out and made round 3 worth more.  That would have made the problems lessened.

The bonus round is one of those two-part games that don't really gel at all.  The first part features Circosta selling an item and then Bob shows a phrase that describes the item with the first letter in all the words revealed.  If the contestant solves it, they win $2,000.  If unable, a new letter is revealed and the amount is halved.  This reminds me of the bonus round of Headline Chasers, which was a fun little game, if not flawed as well.  The disjointment comes in with part two.

In part two, the contestant has to make new words of at least 3 letters or more out of one of the words in the phrase in thirty seconds and spelled correctly.  Each word made was worth the amount they won in the first half.  So, if they won $1,000 in the first half and got 7 words off of the second part, they won $7,000.  So, they weren't chinsy on the money here as they were on the merchandise.

I wanted to like this concept, I really did.  I love Bob Goen, and 4 of my top 10 favorite game shows are all word games, and Circosta and Bartlett did a good job too.  I also think the theme is really good and the set, while cheap was done well with the chase lighting and everything, but with all the plugging going on and the rounds being really short, it just felt like a mess.  More time could have been made for the game if it were only three rounds and round 3 having double the savings at home and double the merchandise.  But as is, it's just disappointing to the point where it only ran for the summer before being canned for other shows.  Needless to say this wasn't the worst game based around the Home Shopping craze, however this was the best out of the three.  Next week, we have another great host, a great producer (usually), but everything else either being a rip-off of another show or  just done badly.

Next week continues our look at the home shopping games of 87 with Peter Tomarken and Bargain Hunters.