In Jeopardy of Cancellation

 

“Everything that happened to me
happened by mistake.
I don’t believe in fate.
It’s luck, timing and accident.”
Merv Griffin

 

In Jeopardy of Cancellation

Art Fleming host of Jeopardy! circa 1964


For the past week, the game show Jeopardy! has been airing old historic episodes. As I watch these episodes, I came to realize I’ve been watching one of the oldest game shows on television. Since it first aired March 20, 1964, this show was so popular in my home, my parents bought us the first Jeopardy! board game which quickly became a family favorite.

Over five decades, Jeopardy! remains popular even as game shows come in and out of fashion. This show is largely responsible for re-energizing the quiz show format following a series of quiz show scandals in the 1950s. The rife scandals broke viewing audience’s trust and so began federal law that prohibited the fixing of game shows and their genre across the networks began to disappear.

In the early 1960s, Merv Griffin, a young genius in designing game shows for NBC, was not happy about all the negativity happening to his livelihood. As a television host, producer, and game show developer for NBC, he began to craft a game show that would change the format forever.

On a flight from Duluth to New York City, Griffin and his wife Julann were discussing game show ideas, when she noted that there had not been a successful “question and answer” game on the air since the quiz show scandals. Griffin recalls his wife asking, “Why not do a switch, and give the answers to the contestant and let them come up with the question?” She then fired a couple of answers to her husband and that’s where the show was born. After landing in NYC, he went straight to executives at NBC with the idea.

The shows name, What’s The Question? which Griffin first pitched to NBC executive Ed Vane was very skeptical about the show. Vane claimed the game format didn’t have enough, “jeopardies”. Griffin went back to the drawing board and came up with a new format as well as the fitting new name, Jeopardy!. NBC bought and green lit Griffin’s show without even looking at a pilot show.

Merv was searching for his game host star, when Art Fleming caught his attention after seeing Fleming in a few tv commercials and shows. Although Art was a game show novice, Merv selected him to host. The show needed background music, so the multitalented Griffin composed the current and rather suspenseful tune.

Within weeks of Jeopardy! first airing, it grabbed 40% of viewers in its daytime slot. People were playing along on college campuses and during lunch breaks. Despite its success, NBC felt fewer demanding clues would reap greater rewards. They wanted 13-year-olds to be able to keep up. Griffin refused. He wanted the program to stay smart. This was a competition between adults, and he saw little sense in diluting a game meant to highlight intellect.

Despite solid ratings, in 1975 NBC abruptly pulled the plug on the show. Executives at the network wanted to appeal to a younger, female demographic. The show was reinstated in 1978, then just six months later the show was canceled once again.

Merv Griffin never gave up on his show and in 1983 he met with executives at King World Productions about doing a syndicated version. Luckily, King World executives agreed, and they had reason for their optimism. The board game Trivial Pursuit, which had debuted in 1981, had grown into a sensation, proving consumers had a healthy appetite for trivia.

Trebek 1984

Alex Trebek circa 1984

Griffin updated his show in the 1980s with a high-tech game board made up of video monitors instead of paper cards and rerecorded his theme music with synthesizers. But,  the biggest update was in 1984 when Art Fleming was replaced with the younger, more polished Alex Trebek and the show started airing in the early evening. Ratings immediately improved in this new time slot.

In 2004 the show removed its five-game limit for returning champions. With that rule removed, contestant Ken Jennings was able to win an unprecedented 74-show winning streak making headlines across the country. The $2,520,700 he won from 2004 to 2005 during this winning streak, still holds the record for the most money an individual has ever won on an American game show making Jennings a minor celebrity.

Trebek continues to host Jeopardy!, despite his recent diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. However, during the coronavirus quarantine the show has not been taping any new shows since March, the longest hiatus in the history of the show.

There’s no denying this game show is a staple in America. It’s won 16 daytime Emmy awards for Outstanding Game Show, the most ever by one program. It will be a sad day when Trebek retires from his hosting job, but it will be a sadder day if the show ever becomes in jeopardy of cancellation.

Shine On

Funny Girl

 

“People
People who
need people
Are the luckiest
people in the world.”
Bob Merrill 

 

funny-girl1

My favorite Barbra Streisand musical Funny Girl was on television the other night. I was just a kid when my parents brought this Broadway hit album home in 1964. It didn’t take me long before I had every lyric of every song memorized, belting out each song like any other normal 8-year old.

Funny Girl became a huge hit, not only as a Broadway Musical but also as a movie. I was too young to see the Broadway version, but I was the first in line at the movie matinee theater with my elementary school friends when it was released in 1968.

I can remember sitting in the movie theater quietly singing along with each and every song. My friends were surprised that I knew all the lyrics, especially since I hadn’t told them. I just thought every kid knew the lyrics. Guess I was wrong.

To my surprise, when I watched the movie the other day, all the lyrics came back to me. How is it I can’t remember what I made for dinner two days ago, but start playing the music from Funny Girl and I start singing along without forgetting a single note or lyric. Guess I’m just a funny girl.

Shine On

The Pandumbic

 

“If you laugh with somebody,
then you share something.”
Trevor Noah

 

Trevor Noah

When the Coronavirus pandemic began, all the late-night shows such as The Tonight Show, The Late, Late Show and even Stephen Colbert began broadcasting their shows from home, usually their significant other filming their host husbands.

There was one show I had not watched before and that was  The Daily Show with host Trevor Noah. However, that changed when I began watching Trevor along with the other daily YouTube late night shows.

If you’re not familiar with Trevor Noah, he’s a 36-year old South African comedian, political commentator, writer and television host of The Daily Show. Born in Johannesburg, he began his career in 2002 as a comedian, presenter, and actor in South Africa. After coming to America in 2011, he became the first South African comedian to appear on The Tonight Show in the summer of 2013. As his popularity grew and Trevor became a recurring contributor on The Daily Show, he replaced Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show September 28, 2015.

I was a fan of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show but I must admit I stopped watching after he retired. I didn’t even give Trevor Noah a chance to show his talent. I now regret I did that, after becoming a diehard fan of Trevor.

After a few months of watching him on the Daily Show, I read his 2016 book, Born A Crime. He writes about growing up in South Africa, a child of interracial parents and apartheid South Africa. Trevor was kept mostly indoors in his youth by his mother, for fear that at any moment the government could take him away from her because of his interracial status. In South Africa before 1985, it was a crime to have interracial marriages as well as have an interracial child, hence the title of the book, Born a Crime. Against all odds, this smart, handsome, talented young comedian has made his way to the top. In my opinion, Born a Crime should be required reading for all young people.

If you don’t have cable, you can watch him on YouTube. Here’s a recent segment of  The Daily Social Distancing Show from July 22, 2020 he calls, The Pandumbic:

Shine On

More Science and Less Fiction

“You may not see massive UFO exhibits
at your local science museum, but there’s
no dearth of saucer stories infesting my email.
Every day, I receive several reports of alien sightings,
extraterrestrial plans for Earth, and agitated screeds
about the reluctance of scientists to
take the whole subject seriously.”
Seth Shostak

flying_saucer_poster-02

The news report described the sighting of a shiny saucer like object over a small sleepy town in Idaho. The early dusk sighting witnessed by a barber and his customer.

Why is it my fellow Blogaholics, the majority of flying saucer sightings are by Joe Blow from Idaho? Why are sightings rarely seen in large metropolitan areas of the World? Most importantly, when and where did the terror of flying saucer sightings begin?

Apparently, disc-shaped flying objects have been recorded throughout history since the Middle Ages. The first highly publicized sighting was by Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947. On that day, Mr. Arnold was flying his small plane near Mount Rainier in Washington State when he saw something unexplainable at the same altitude he was flying. A chain of nine objects shot across the sky, glinting in the sun as they traveled. By his observation, these objects traveled at a speed of 1,700 miles per hour, or three times faster than any manned aircraft of its time.

kenneth-arnold

Kenneth Arnold with a sketch of a disc-shaped flying object.

Mr. Arnold never specifically used the term flying saucer. At the time, he was quoted saying the shape of the objects he saw was like a saucer, disc, or pie-plate, and several years later added he had also said the objects moved like saucers skipping across the water. Both the terms flying saucer and flying disc were used commonly and interchangeably in the media until the early 1950s. Then in 1952 the United States Air Force used a much broader term, unidentified flying objects or UFOs.

As time soon proved, this was just the tip of the iceberg and the era of UFO sighting had begun. It wasn’t long until everyone was looking for these new aircraft, which according to the papers were saucer-like in shape. In just a few short weeks, hundreds of reports of these flying saucers were made across the nation. While people thought they were seeing the same things that Kenneth Arnold saw, there was a major irony that nobody at the time realized. Kenneth Arnold hadn’t reported seeing flying saucers.

Miss Flying Saucer

Today many of the alleged flying saucer sightings of the era are now believed to be hoaxes. Photographs and movies altered by someone wanting to obtain their fifteen minutes of fame. The flying saucer is now considered largely an icon of the 1950s B-movies and is still a popular subject in science fiction.

This obsession with UFOs may have started several decades ago but it still is an area of science that is unable to be explained. Who knows, maybe in the not too distant future the Miss Universe pageant will be replaced by the Miss Flying Saucer pageant and there will be proof that UFOs are more science and less fiction.

Shine On

 

Designated Survivor

 

“Without truth, there can be no trust.”
Tom Kirkman

 

KIEFER SUTHERLAND

Back in 2016, there was a new ABC television show I enjoyed watching, Designated Survivor, staring Kiefer Sutherland. If you’re not familiar with this show, you can now watch it on Netflix.

The show begins when an attack on the night of the State of the Union address claims the lives of the President and most of the Cabinet. A Housing and Urban Development secretary, Tom Kirkman is catapult to the oval office as designated survivor.

With the onset of two White House staff members testing positive to the Coronavirus, I can’t help but remember this riveting show and began thinking: Who would become our Designated Survivor if both Trump and Pence become unable to perform as President and Vice President?

The procedure for Designated Survivors originated in the 1950s during the Cold War because of possible risk of nuclear attack. There have been several changes to how our country would handle such an emergency. Under the Presidential Succession Act, the Vice President, Mike Pence would be the first in the line of succession to the presidency, followed by the speaker of the House, Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and the president pro tempore of the Senate, GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley. After those three officials are the Cabinet officials. The Secretary of State is fourth in the line of succession, followed by the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General, with the Secretary of Homeland Security — the most recently created department — in the last place.

In order to be the designated survivor, a cabinet member must be eligible to be President. For example, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, can’t be the designated survivor, as she was born in Taiwan and is thus constitutionally disqualified from serving as a designated survivor.

Shine On