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Author Topic: Origins of the “Game Show Host” Stigma  (Read 581 times)

Jeremy Nelson

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Origins of the “Game Show Host” Stigma
« on: January 15, 2020, 11:16:50 PM »
Game show hosts, to me (and I bet to many of you) seem to have some of the most fun jobs in all of television- you get to be on TV and play games with people, all while giving away someone else’s money and changing lives in the process.

So why is it that the job (at least up until recently) had such a negative connotation attached to it? Now, there’s more star power behind that emcee role, but before, the role was painted as the lowest form of entertainment and the butt of a lot of jokes? It’s not Shakespeare, but I never understood why the job seemed to be such a tough sell to people.

Any thoughts?
I complain about some stuff, I praise other stuff, and I say "meh" to the rest...see it all at notableneurons.com


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Re: Origins of the “Game Show Host” Stigma
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2020, 11:24:00 PM »
Bert Parks gets a share of the load. Every question would build up to an enormous climax which he would relieve by screaming “that’s right!” There we’re others, but find an episode of the original Break the Bank and you’ll see.

Also TV critics hated fun and seemed to savage game shows in their reviews generally.
Travis L. Eberle
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Re: Origins of the “Game Show Host” Stigma
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2020, 10:07:48 AM »
I think game shows in general had a negative connotation for a while. First there were the scandals, and when they made their comeback in the 70's, they were mostly seen as frivolous programming for housewives. The 70's were also just a bad decade for America in general, so the idea of a warm, friendly guy who smiles and casually awards prizes like nothing's wrong was easy for critics and cynics to make fun of.

Oh yeah, and then there's Wink Martindale.
It was Bob Barker. He was eating a bologna and cheese-ball sandwich.


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Re: Origins of the “Game Show Host” Stigma
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2020, 11:25:29 AM »
I can't think of a role where Bert Parks wasn't over-the-top Mr Gameshow.  Which is fine, he had a pretty successful career at it, but it's also a contributor to that stigma.

Chelsea Thrasher

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Re: Origins of the “Game Show Host” Stigma
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2020, 01:41:12 PM »
Anywhere you'll find creative works targeted towards and marketed towards women, you'll find a litany of critics and observers ready to scoff at, mock, belittle, and otherwise parody those works. 



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Re: Origins of the “Game Show Host” Stigma
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2020, 02:16:40 PM »
At some point, being a celebrity panelist gained a stigma as well. At one point in the 60s, high profile stars made appearances on whatever show. Then in the 70s, being a panelist became synonymous with out-of-work actor/fledgling comedian or second banana who could use the money. I wonder if hosting started to get the same reputation around that time?
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Re: Origins of the “Game Show Host” Stigma
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2020, 03:48:54 PM »
The transition from mostly primetime to mostly daytime?  I'm tracing the origin going to the year whenever WML bit the dust. Perhaps a stigma existed that daytime was second-hand programming.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2020, 08:17:43 PM by Dbacksfan12 »
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Re: Origins of the “Game Show Host” Stigma
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2020, 04:38:50 PM »
Fred Allen made fun of game show hosts as early as game shows themselves when he mocked the radio giveaway show "Pot of Gold" in 1940. Allen called it "Tub of Silver." Harry Von Zell played the overly-unctuous MC and the joke was that the show was unable to find anyone willing to accept the $50,000 it was handing out.


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Re: Origins of the “Game Show Host” Stigma
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2020, 07:31:46 PM »
There are several aspects that are of importance.

Some have already been mentioned- namely, that this has roots in the radio era, that there are aspects that relate to those regarded as being the game show audience, that the quiz show scandals and the demotion of game shows to daytime both are of relevance, and that Bert Parks (and similar hosts in his era- try to watch or listen to John Reed King) played a major role in shaping the stereotype.

Other points, however, have also played a role. One is the question of exploitation- since the radio era (look at criticism Major Bowes received from the welfare authorities in New York City in the mid-1930s), there have been continued questions about the willingness of certain game shows to exploit contestants, either through their personal suffering (Queen For A Day and the programs of that ilk) or through having a sadistic streak (Truth or Consequences, much of the Chuck Barris catalog), and this has helped with gaining an unsavory reputation.

Another aspect, and one that has been an item of criticism since the radio era, is our old pal, "Mo' Money Syndrome". Game shows that have given away a vast amount of cash and prizes for very little work have long been a target, as they have had the image of using this as a means of essentially buying an audience, and this has tended to be applied broadly to understanding game shows generally.

A final point, and one that relates to the stereotype direct, is the image of the game show host as being inherently phony- that the warmth is all on the surface, and that these folk are less pleasant the minute the cameras stop rolling. The issue here is that, throughout game show history, there have been enough examples of this (no names here, but we all should be able to think of a few) that it has tended to stick to the genre as a whole.

This isn't exhaustive by any means, but these points should help in understanding both why the stereotype came into being and why it has had vitality for so long.