The moment I opened my invitation for the GSN 2009 Game Show Awards and saw that red shag carpet was used as part of the invite, I knew we were all going to be in for a very cheeky affair.
The first show to ever pay tribute to game shows and all their quirky conventions was held at the historical Wilshire Theater in Beverly Hills on Saturday, May 16. Red Carpet moments included a very pregnant Carnie Wilson, the unpredictable Rip Taylor, TV legend Cloris Leachman, and Alex Trebek looking quite dapper as he ducked the press. I was slightly disappointed that the actual red carpet wasn't of the deep pile variety. I was so looking forward to the twisted yarns grabbing the heels of every woman who walked on it, but I knew I was going to have other awkward moments to relish later.
Hosted by Howie Mandel, GSN put together a somewhat schizophrenic affair. On one hand, the Game Show Awards were aware of their own shortcomings as a "real" award show and showed their self-deprecating humor with nomination categories such as Favorite Game Show Sound Effect, Favorite Parting Gift, and Favorite Game Show Catch Phrase. But on the other hand, I sometimes felt, upon the presentation of the buzzer-shaped awards that made wacky sounds when shaken, we were supposed to sit up straight and grab a tissue.
The man of the hour was Bob Barker, who received The Legends Award. The anticipation of his appearance started days before the event as the Betty White vs. Bob Barker controversy started to swirl. Although Mr. Barker is 85, I don't think there was a person in that theater who would doubt that Bob would take a swing at anyone who pissed him off. So the big question was, would anyone dare ask Bob about the rumor of him strong-arming America's Game Show Sweetheart, Betty White, not to show up at tonight's award show?
I guess we'll never get to separate the men from the boys, because Bob was suspiciously a no-show on the red carpet. When I asked one of GSN's media contacts about it, she said, "Oh - he wasn't feeling well, so he won't be here tonight." Boy, with such a last minute cancellation, I was curious to see how the producers were going fill in what was basically the highlight of the show. Well, miracles do happen and somehow, some way, Bob Barker recovered just in time to accept his Legends Award (Yes, we are still talking about the buzzer-shaped toy sounding contraption). His speech lacked any obligatory 'aw shucks' or 'golly gee' moments, but what do you expect from a legend? (Or, as he put it "THE legend".)
The ambitious two and a half hour event (well, actually, almost three and a half hours, but who's counting) lacked rhythm. Any momentum that would build would quickly stall out with a technical difficulty. Howie Mandel is a true master when it comes to filling these moments but even the master himself was running out of stream.
My personal highlight was meeting Monty Hall and Carol Merrill. Let's Make a Deal was my first game show memory. In fact, I told Carol that as a child I loved saying her name. Some kids had Dr Seuss books to rhyme with, and I had the name 'Carol Merrill' to chant. 'Carol Merrill', 'Carol Merrill', I still like to say it.
Heavy handed with shtick, contestants that didn't have a clue, and prizes that will end up on eBay, will I watch when it airs on Saturday June 6 at GSN? Heck, yeah, because ironically, that's what classic game shows are all about.