A return to old games

In Hollywood, everyone’s looking for the next sure thing.  That’s why spin-offs and modern-day versions of classic hits sound like such a good idea.  They’ve got a built-in audience – at least for the first few episodes.  And they get instant industry buzz as soon production begins.

In some cases, the new versions look and feel almost nothing like the original.  But one format that generally doesn’t require much tweaking to be a successful re-boot is the gameshow.  In 2016, Match Game was resurrected most recently with Alec Baldwin as host.  Producers kept the same music, set, and graphic style as the 60-year-old original. 

That same summer The $100,000 Pyramid was re-born with host Michael Strahan presiding.  Again, producers chose to leave the show and its set primarily the same as it was in 1973 – although the original show was only $10,000 and every time they bring it back, the top prize increases.

But one of my favourite game shows has just now been brought back to its original glory:  Password.  The show premiered on ABC back in 1961, long before I did.  It moved to CBS in 1971.  And then NBC took it over in 1979.

The idea was simple:  match up Hollywood stars with a contestant and each must guess a word based on a one-word clue.  They could spice up the clue with suggestive intonation and slight body language, but no hand gestures or pantomimes.

Compared to the likes of Jeopardy! or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? with their teams of researchers, Password is very simple and low tech.  Write a word on paper, put it in an envelope and let the on-camera talent have fun with the rest.

In a world of mass shootings, war, climate change, a pandemic, the economic and social fall-out from the pandemic, and the general state of anger in society today, we could use some simple, uncomplicated fun.  The grand prize will barely buy a car so unlike other shows, it’s not about the money.  And with just one-word clues and answers, Password doesn’t run the risk of offending anyone like Match Word sometimes tried.

Plus, Betty White was known for appearing on numerous episodes over the years and even met her husband, the show’s original host, Allen Ludden on the set.  And who doesn’t like a show that’s synonymous with Betty White? (That would be like bad-mouthing our beloved Florence Henderson’s Wesson Oil.)

In fact, the producers dedicated their first episode to the late actor and the celebrity guests shared stories of working with her.  Then the games began.

It’s a lot of fun to watch.  Much like an after-dinner party game full of laughter and silliness with friends, Password is a balm in the midst of crime procedurals and cut-throat reality shows that seem to revel in people’s worst behaviour.

Password certainly won’t change anyone’s life.  It’s just a game.  But Tuesday nights at 10pm, it’s a great reminder that we can still laugh and have simple fun in this complicated world.