12/29/2004: Thought for the Day:
Once upon a time, before hapless couples tortured each other by frolicking with beautiful "singles," before a naked, ruthless corporate trainer won a million bucks for outscheming 15 opponents in the South China Sea, before "The Mole" and "Big Brother" and "Who Wants to Be," or "Marry," or barbecue, or whatever, "a Millionaire," before Oprah and Jerry and Maury and Ricki, even before we found out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real, there was "The Dating Game."
Quaint and gentle by today's standards, with its Herb Alpert theme music, giant daisy set decorations and double-entendre-laden interplay between bachelors and "bachelorettes," "The Dating Game" went on the air in December 1965 and was the first success of a producer named Chuck Barris, who had an idea whose simplicity belies its genius: People will do anything to get on TV, and other people will watch them.
Thirty-five years later, that idea dominates television. Chuck Barris, the King of Schlock, the Baron of Bad Taste, the Ayatollah of Trasherola, remembered now mostly as the loopy, squinty-eyed host of "The Gong Show," is the godfather of reality TV.
"Game shows have always operated on the premise that ordinary people are the stars of the show," says Steven Stark, author of "Glued to the Set: The 60 Television Shows That Made Us Who We Are Today," "but he raised it to an art form in the sense that you don't just show ordinary people in favorable circumstances--you may do badly on a quiz show but you still look OK anyway--but you can humiliate them and they'll still go on, for their 15 minutes of fame or whatever."
--King Kaufman [salon.com]
Len on 12.29.04 @ 05:21 PM CST