#143 - Burt Luddin's Love Buffet
Makes you wish that this happening in Vegas, stayed in Vegas.

 

GSN (1998-2000)
Text by: Robert Seidelman


Often on this website, I will tackle a game show because of either its reputation of being god-awful or because it is genuinely bad.  Today is a special day because the reputation for this show is god-awful and it is genuinely bad.  Not only that, there's also a bad comedy/parody show mixed in with this as well.  So, this is for the fans who like both of these types of shows and want to see the bad ones get trashed.  Here's the typical spiel I give for a show like this.  Let's mix the relationship game show, which saw a big resurgence around this time with successful revivals of The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and other new shows around this time.  Now, let's mix in the overwhelming popularity of what made The Larry Sanders Show amazing, a real life late-night talk show mixed in with the staged dealings backstage.  Put this in the hands of one of the lamest heads of GSN in Michael Fleming, who has never put on a good original game show to save his life and you wind up with one of the most hated game shows in the past 20 years.  Let's feast on the terribleness of Burt Luddin's Love Buffet. 

I'll tackle this show in two parts, the actual game show and the staged backstage dealings between the host and the production staff.  Let's start with the host and the actual game show. 

The host for this is John Cervanka, playing the role of Burt Luddin.  Burt is supposed to be this cheesy, and uncool guy.  In the game show portions, he can be overbearing but not overly terrible as a Pat Bullard or even a Lynne Koplitz.  The thing is that sometimes he can become the living parody that makes most people cringe when they think of the term "Game Show Host".  He knows how to do a good job, seeing how he's been Chuck Woolery's announcer for Love Connection from 1988-1994 and coming off of announcing for Pat Bullard's lame version which came around during this time.  I think if he played it as himself and acted like himself, it wouldn't be as bad as those who remember it. 

Now to the actual gameplay.  It's quite simply The Newlywed Game, just without hearing the explanations of the answers.  That alone eliminates over half of the reasons why we watch.  I've gone over this in the Swaps induction and countless others on here.  The reason why we watch The Newlywed Game is constructed on that we like to hear the answers from one person along with their reasons why and the reaction of the other person when they hear what the other person said.  We never get that with this show.  We just get the reaction without any context, making the entire experience seem really hollow.  There are four rounds in all with the scoring being the first round 1 heart, second round 2 hearts, third round 3 hearts and the last round being worth 6 hearts.  I hate scoring formats like this since the last round makes the first three rounds seem completely pointless.  The team with the most hearts plays the bonus game called the Bonus Buffet for a romantic trip. 

The Bonus Buffet has the contestants selecting one trip from five that are hidden.  After that, they are given a statement.  The contestants have to match up 7 out of 10 statements in order to win the trip.  To signify this, for the guy (usually) they raise up a pair of boxers.  For the girl (usually) they would raise up a pair of panties.  I honestly don't know why they thought the undies would be any better than just a him or her sign like the original form of this which was a filler stunt for Shop Til You Drop.  You know your show is terrible when you can't copy a stunt from a Stone-Stanley show right.  For the game show side, this was just a terrible relationship show, there was nothing new brought to the table, the hosting was borderline parodical and it felt like reheated stuff that we've seen before.  In that sense it was more like a buffet.  A truly terrible buffet, but a buffet nonetheless. 

Now the other half of the show, being the scripted backstage stuff.  Burt is flanked mainly by his assistant Wendell, the makeup staff and the rest of the backstage crew who helps out with the storyline of the day.  These storylines vary from the mediocre to the outright overbearing annoyingness.  Most of the time these are poorly acted and just remind us that these would never happen backstage during an actual show.  A couple of these storylines are just borderline terrible. 

One of them was when Burt Luddin was selling some Amway knockoff to make more money while complaining about how little he makes as a host with how he can't live off of six figures because he spends a lot.  This also leads to Burt Luddin's biggest problem with the viewer.  He's shown in this show as a chauvanistic greedy egotistical primadonna jackass who doesn't care about anything else, except for making money.  When the host is shown to be so overbearing backstage, then it just turns everything off when we get the disconnect from the game show part to the backstage parts and makes the show unwatchable. 

The Finale is the prime sense of this when Game Show Legend Bob Eubanks shows up.  The Hour-Long finale, yes you read right, HOUR-LONG!  The entire show was basically backstage stuff and after the show with only 10 minutes of game and bonus round.  The set-up was that Burt Luddin won the big jackpot Slotto and because of his paranoia and self-righteousness, has hired a big bodyguard to protect him from someone who wants to kill him.  During the episode Bob Eubanks congratulates him on winning it and wanting to talk to his old friend the producer.  Burt pays him a lot just to do the bonus round so he can go show Wendell a good time at the casino to help him loosen up.  At the end of the show, Burt gets shot, setting up a cliffhanger for a second season, which thankfully would never come to light.  It's bad enough to sit through the terrible acting and bad storylines for 39 half-hour episodes, but a full hour was just too damned much. 

What also makes these segments outright terrible is that they are ripped off from the producers first big show, which was a rousing success for the E! Network in its infancy.  Let me explain.  The producers of the show were Paul Abeyta and Peter Kaikko.  In 1995, the talk shows were becoming the main thing in daytime.  So, these guys decided to create a parody of talk shows with comedian Timothy Stack.  They hired a bunch of actors to create their own talk show with various off the wall subjects, mainly about prostitution and being gay.  This show was everything that Burt Luddin's Love Buffet should have been...

...Night Stand with Dick Dietrick.  It just baffles me that the same guys can get a show so right the first time can get something very similar so very wrong the second time.  If this had been a parody of a relationship style of show, with actors and everything like that, this would have been a very funny although short lived show.  But instead they melded reality with scripted and it turned out to be one gigantic unwatchable mess.  Thankfully the show will never be reran, unless GSN decides to air a marathon of "What We Did Wrong" shows, which would pretty much be filled with This, Love Triangle, Carnie Wilson: Unwatchable, Hidden Agenda, Extreme Gong, and Throut and Neck.  I spent about 1,000 words telling how bad it is, I will now sum it up in three words ala Linkara.

THIS SHOW SUCKS!!!!!!