Archive for the price is right

Opening the Box

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, Reviews, TV advertising, TV channels, Watching TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2014 by Tom Steward

In the last few weeks I’ve watched more game shows than at any time in my life. Some of this is pure accident. I’ve been going to the gym at 9 the morning just as the mounted screens capture the moment that network TV is taken over by previously respected comedians taunting hysterical kleptomaniacs dressed as food. Now that I’m working out regularly I can sit through The Biggest Loser without feeling I should be doing so from inside an exercise wheel. It’s also partly about the age of television that we live in. The contestification of reality TV means that if you want to watch a cooking programme you have to endure some laborious competition while foraging for crumbs of culinary information under the table. Plus The Bachelor is back, which is the slowest game of Guess Who? ever played. Here’s some of the winners, losers and returning contestants:


Let’s Make a Deal/The Price is Right (CBS, mornings)

Wayne Brady withholds money from old white lady-you make up the caption!

Essentially the same programme from two parallel dimensions where the only difference is who people liked more on Whose Line is it Anyway?, these two shows feature audiences whose enthusiasm wouldn’t look out of place at the Nuremberg rally attempting to turn their capitalist pre-conditioning into prizes. In the former, incest love-child of Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima Wayne Brady sells the public toxic assets while looking offscreen for his credibility. The latter has the master of weight-to-spectacle ratio Drew Carey rewarding conspicuous consumption. Brady’s fancily dressed studio audience appear to have been plucked from a Twilight Zone episode where it’s Halloween every day and Carey’s contestants are so elated by being selected you’d think the alternative was The Running Man.

The Winner is: Free enterprise.

The Loser is: Market regulation.

Returning Contestant?: Until the gym shows something other than Bones.


The Taste (ABC, Thursdays)

‘Ok is it an animal that flies or grazes?’

It’s quicker to replace the word ‘voice’ with ‘taste’ and apply everything you know about NBC’s The Voice than to describe this primetime cooking competition. Plagiarism aside, The Taste is closer to the spirit of the blind judging concept than its sensually conjoined twin, which has ironically produced more conventional-looking winners than the image-obsessed American Idol. The judges continue to taste blind even after selecting their teams, which often results in publicly humiliating their protégés. It also reveals the astoundingly poor palettes of those in the food industry, as they bemoan the lack of protein in desserts and consistently lose at ‘guess the animal’. The lack of prejudice in the selection process is offset by the judges’ freely expressing their sexism and dietary bigotry.

The Winner is: Whoever gets the leftovers.

The Loser is: Any vegetarian.

Returning Contestant?: For as long as Anthony Bourdain is there.


The Biggest Loser (NBC, Tuesdays)

‘Why do I have to have my shirt off again?’

One mustn’t scoff at an American game show where the prize is better health instead of more stuff. But don’t be naïve enough to think this is public service television. Underneath the noble purpose is a ‘watch fatty jiggle’ voyeurism which forces contestants to turn their bodies into freakshow curiosities before losing weight. The show is padded with needless challenges and needlessly complicated rules tenuously linked to some sort of obesity fable that only makes weight loss harder and more arbitrary. And if the thing you need to lose weight isn’t made by a sponsor, forget it. The ongoing weight loss is undoubtedly a serial hook here, and the perverse satisfaction of seeing a body waste away is what keeps you coming back.

The Winner is: Subway.

The Loser is: Whoever Subway’s competitors are.

Returning Contestant?: Either that or my TV’s screen ratio keeps changing.


The Bachelor (ABC, Mondays)

‘I need that in the form of a question’

If the holiday you won on a game show turned out to be to a leper colony or the games room you risked everything for was just Ker-Plunk in a box, you probably wouldn’t go back as a contestant. However, despite former ‘winners’ chalking up an abysmal tally of estrangements, broken engagements and divorces, people keep wanting to be and wanting to be on The Bachelor(ette). Even having been a contestant seems to be life-threatening these days. Unlike other game shows, The Bachelor(ette) likes to invite its losing contestants back to occupy more senior roles in the programme, like Juan Pablo who was sent home in a previous season and is now the bachelor. It’s like losing Final Jeopardy and then next day replacing Alex Trebek.

The Winner is: Rose-growers.

The Loser is: Divorce statistics.

Returning Contestant?: I’ve watched so much I’ll be the next bachelor.

The Twelve Days of Doctor Who: Days 1-6

Posted in Americans watching British TV, British Shows on American TV, Reviews, TV Acting, TV History, Watching TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2013 by Tom Steward

G and I are spending the twelve days before the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who watching stories from each Doctor in turn. I know what you’re thinking but it was actually her idea. I was being unusually gracious about the amount of time Gossip Girl and Revenge were on our TV and G smelt a rat. ‘Just you wait’, I said. ‘Why?’ said G. ‘Oh you want to watch old Doctor Who. Why don’t we do the twelve days of Doctor Who?’. I was thinking eleven – one for each Doctor – but I wasn’t going to protest. When Day 1 came I said to G ‘Are you ready for “An Unearthly Child”?. She said yes while rolling her eyes. ‘Why did you roll your eyes?’ I asked. ‘Oh you saw that?’ she replied. It was going to be a long twelve days. If this all sounds a bit familiar, it’s probably because the premise is unnervingly similar to the blog Adventures with the Wife in Space in which Neil Perryman recounts watching every classic Doctor Who story with wife Sue. I don’t wish to step on the toes of this superb blog – of which I was an avid reader – but instead offer a complimentary transatlantic version.


‘An Unearthly Child’ (G’s title: ‘Curiosity killed the Science Teacher’):

Welcome to The Price is Right!

G was taken aback at how much the original supporting cast of William Russell, Barbara Wright and Carole Ann Ford looked like contemporary TV actors. And then how much the inside of the TARDIS looked like a game show set. ‘Welcome to The Price is Right!’ she would bellow whenever the doors eased open. I’ve never seen anyone – including myself – as engrossed in the cave people story as G was, and the spell was only broken when she saw that the cavemen had underwear on.


‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ (G’s title: ‘Martin Short’s Dad in Space’):

The Mayans are coming!

Are you ready for ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’?, I shouted across the house. ‘Yes’ G shouted back. ‘Wait, I don’t know what that means’. G thinks that even the set travels back in time. ‘Wow, this looks even older that the last one. Are you sure that was before this?’. As the Doctor and his companions arrive at the tomb, G thinks she’s figured out who’s in there. ‘It’s the Mayans. Look at the pictures on the wall’. The Doctor’s witty undercutting of Krieg’s plans for world domination makes G happy: ‘After all, he’s still British’.


‘Spearhead from Space’ (G’s title: ‘Freaky Babies Take London’):

So what’s the threat?

‘He’s cool. I like his style’. G knows Jon Pertwee is my favourite Doctor but she seems genuinely charmed by him. The accents of the yokels are harder for her to get her head around. ‘I have no idea what he just said’ G admits as the poacher mumbles west country gibberish into his rabbit sack. The Autons don’t have much effect on her. ‘So what’s the threat?’ she asks whenever they’re on screen.


‘The Robots of Death’ (G’s title: ‘What’s Their Problem?):

I need my video console!

‘What do you think of Tom Baker?, I asked G, expecting the usual glowing praise. ‘There’s something I really don’t like about him. I don’t know why.’ Ok, that’s a new one. ‘The monsters are great, though. Are they playing Space Invaders?’.


‘The Caves of Androzani’ (G’s title: ‘Revenge of S & M Face’):

The Phantom of the Opera is here!

This takes us two days to get through. ‘It’s too 80s. I can tell when it’s made. With Matt Smith and the older Doctors, you can’t tell when they’re supposed to be from. It’s more magical that way’. If G thinks Peter Davison is too 80s, wait till she sees Colin Baker! We get our first glimpse of Peri. ‘Is that supposed to be an American?’, G asks. ‘The Phantom of the Opera is here’ she sings as the comparison becomes too vivid to deny. ‘Why is S & M face playing Dig-Dug? (I checked and the game came out that very year). G also sees her first regeneration: ‘It’s weird how they just sneak that in at the end of the episode’.


‘Vengeance on Varos’ (G’s title: ‘Willy Wonka and the Torture Factory’):

‘She needs a bra and I need a mirror’

‘He looks like a TV math teacher. I keep expecting him to sing “What is 4/Multiplied by 2?” and then pull an 8 out of his jacket’. Sil the slug-like tycoon appears on screen. ‘He’s freaking me out. He looks like a turd.’ The thought-provoking stuff gets through. ‘I wonder if we’ll go back to a society like that’ G asks seconds before observing ‘They need to get Peri a better bra’. ‘The tendrils! They’re poisoned…’, the Doctor explains. ‘…like the ones I just hit with my back’ G adds.


The Twelve Days of Doctor Who continues next week – or in Doctor Who cliffhangerese ‘Doctor! Noooooooooooo!!!!!!…’.

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