It’s Not A Game, by Rich Paschall
Many game shows are centered around the idea of trust. Whom do you trust to answer a question correctly or perform a task accurately? This critical questions is, of course, tied to the winning of money and/or prizes.
In 1956 CBS television introduced a game show called “Do You Trust Your Wife?” Married couples would answer questions for the chance to win money. The husband got to choose whether he would answer a question on a particular topic or trust his wife to do it. The idea was to provide entertainment and comedy as much as to hand out small amounts of money. The show was hosted by ventriloquist and comedian Edgar Bergen, father of Candice Bergen. It was a vehicle for his famous act.
The show was handed off to a new host in 1957. Young Johnny Carson got the chance to interview guests and provide comedy. The show was later changed to “Who Do You Trust?” so that the contestant pair did not have to be a married couple. After a year Ed McMahon was brought in as announcer for the show. You probably know what happened to their careers just a few years later.
The game was similar to another popular show of the era, “You Bet Your Life?” Here the famous member of the Marx brothers, Groucho, was host. This gave the popular comedian a chance to show off his famous wit as he interviewed the contestants. Unlike Carson, who frequently participated in stunts and demonstrations with contestants, Marx stay seated and left that to his announcer. Failure to get a question right might be cause for a wisecrack from the host known for such things. The show ran for eleven years.
Many game shows that followed are based on trust or at least knowledge of the other person. The Newlywed Game is based on knowledge of a spouse. How did he or she answer certain questions? Family Feud asks the winning family to send one member to the final round. It is sometimes amazing to viewers which one they trust with the chance to win big money.
There have been many other game shows that rely on an element of trust. You might have to “Beat the Clock” to complete a task in a certain time. The task might include your partner get wet or facing broken eggs on his head, depending on how well you did the task. The little tasks were also meant to provide comedy for the audience. Trust, competition, money, comedy, entertainment! What is not to like? Perhaps you can add more shows to the list in the comments below.
This season there are new game shows and the contestants are not very funny. In fact, few find them entertaining at all. There certainly is the famous issue of trust, but in this case it is whether the audience trusts the answers of the contestants. Like all good game shows, there is a lot of money at stake. Oddly enough, these contestants will spend a large amount of money (their own as well as others’) trying to win the final prize. The show is periodic and will last until the Fall.
These shows are called the Democratic Debates and the Republican Debates. The same contestants appear each time but the ones who have performed poorly in past weeks drop out. This is so they can combine the shows into one later in the year when just one contestant from each show is left.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “The eight Republican debates so far have drawn significantly higher average viewership than the six Democratic debates.” That may be because there are more contestants and much more comedy is involved. When the leading contestant did not show for one of the Republican debates, viewership fell. This introduced an element of drama into the contest. Higher ratings and more contestants must be the reason for more debates for the Republican teams. Just like American Idol, we are all waiting for the show to get down to the final two contestants. Without Ryan Seacrest as host, the debate season seems too long.
Since the object of the debates is to get the viewers to trust them, the show is much like the old “To Tell The Truth.” In that show the viewers see one person who is supposedly the real person to be identified and the others are imposters. A series of questions are asked and in the end it comes down to “Who do you believe?”
The problem for the viewers of the current competition is that all of the candidates may not be telling the truth. The Pulitzer Award winning PolitiFact finds that all of the Republican candidates are wrong on most facts. Amazingly, the leading candidate on this show is found to be wrong almost all the time! This does not seem to bother the viewers as he continues to have a wide base of support. FactCheck.org (A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center) has dubbed the front-runner on the Republican shows “King of Whoppers.”
Can you imagine a show where the contestants consistently get the answers wrong, but win anyway? That indeed may be what is happening. For those unaware, this is No Truth and Major Consequences. It is not a game either.
Related: Fact Checking The Eighth GOP Debate, FactCheck.org, Feb. 7, 2016