Friday, March 13, 2009

Games People Play

Melanie over at Write Stuff posted recently about her experience attempting to audition for "Wheel of Fortune". Go read it; the pictures alone are worth the link. (Do you love that pink bra girl??)

Anyway, her story got me thinking about those two step-sister shows: "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy". Both created by the same guy, both usually shown back-to-back, both with rabidly devoted fans. And both so radically different from each other it's not even funny. Oh wait, yes it is.

I would be a terrible contestant on either show. I admit to being marginally smarter than, say, butter, but I always lose on Final Jeopardy, no matter how many Daily Doubles I get right.

And I would be disqualified from WoF simply for attempting to fly over the wheel and scratch that smarmy, condescending look off Pat Sajak's face. Yes, we get it. You're clever enough to have figured out how to make a career out of saying, "I'm sorry, there's no Q." At least Vanna has the decency to keep her trap shut about it.

The problem isn't the hosts, although do you wonder if Alex Trebek could weave together enough genius to zip up his pants if he didn't have a fistful of cards giving him directions?

No, not the hosts. It's the contestants. And I suppose it's also the fundamental 'tone' of each game, which is what breeds the contestants.

Wheel of Fortune is essentially a game of barely-controlled mania. It is clearly understood that any head which is full of the amount of helium necessary to be as terrifyingly EXCITED as the standard WoF contestant is, can not possibly be expected to also house a brain. So while these people usually need to refer to their tags to remember to answer to their own names, they are just ECSTATIC when they ask for a letter and one lights up on the board.

"Is there a 'B', Pat?"

"Yes, there's one 'B'."


Clap, clap, beam, beam.

"Spin again, Buffy."

Wink, giggle, toss blonde hair, cheer kick.


Wave, blow kiss, round off, back handspring, stick the landing.

"Reg, will you punch Buffy in the face, please?"

Meanwhile, over at Jeopardy, we've met Rhioboam, a geneticist from Friggin' Smart, Pennsylvania, Jerusha, the poet laureate of a small, central European country, and our returning champion, Flip, an unemployed comic book salesman who, according to his Star Fleet Academy credentials, is from the seventh planet in the Geekazoid Alpha system, and whose cash winnings total the GDP of Bulgaria.

There will be no cheer kicking here.

The game starts off fast and furious.

"I'll take 'Pease Porridge In Your Face' for four hundred, Alex."

"This is the secret ingredient contained in the core elements identified by Stephen Hawking as the catalyst for the Big Bang..........Jerusha."

"What is curry?"


"Let's try 'Mozart's Lesser Known Operas' for two thousand."

Impressed ooohs from the audience.

"It's the Daily Double!"

Audience claps appreciatively. Opponents commit murder in their hearts. It's only the second clue for crying out loud.

"I'll wager....let' much money does everyone else have? Oh, none? Well, I guess I'll just have to wager ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS!!"

"Um, Jerusha, you can bet up to $2,000."

"Oh, reeeally?"

"Yes. And, according to this cue card, I'm not very menaced by your sinister leer."

"Oh, all right. Two thousand dollars, then."

"In this lesser-known Mozartian opera, Syllebio falls in love with Cheepdip after being hypnotized by Ludicross who is really Syllebio's middle school oboe teacher wearing a tiny mask, which inexplicably is enough to disguise his identity despite the fact he resembles, both in size and vocal quality, a '97 Buick LeSabre."

Jerusha nods knowingly.

"What is 'Cats'?"

"Correct. And that brings us to our first commercial break. Players, put away those shivs. Jerusha, stop leering."

So while they send the brainiacs to their metaphorical corners to recharge their crania, we can check in on Buffy and Reg over at WoF.

While we've been gone, things have really heated up here at the wheel. Reg's last spin landed him on "Mystery Date", a long skinny card that promises he can take one of his fellow contestants home with him if he wins the round.

"Is there an en-yay, Pat?"

"Excuse me, isn't en-yay a letter found only in the Spanish alphabet? Looks like an N waggling its eyebrow at you?"

"Yes. I'm pretty sure the puzzle contains an en-yay."

"Well, Reg, I'm sorry. There is no en-yay. You'll have to return the Mystery Date card."

Disappointed aaaahs from the audience. Buffy performs a flaming baton routine and is elected Miss America. It's her turn to spin.

"Come on! Big money! Biiiiiiiig MO-NAAY!!"

"Twenty dollars."


"Focus, please..."

"Ummm, I'd like a 'T'?"

"Yes. There is a 'T'. And that sound means there are only vowels left in the puzzle. Would you care to solve it?"

"Ummm....let's see...."

The puzzle looks like this: I'M _S DUMB _S GO_T CHEESE

"Yes! Yes! I totally want to solve the puzzle!"

Buffy hops, dances, clasps hands hopefully at her surgically enhanced bosom, sings 'Don't Cry For Me, Argentina', locks in the Miss Universe crown, and attempts to solve the puzzle.

"Is it 'Mary Poppins'?"

Oh, dear. Let's go back to Jeopardy.

Oh, DEAR! It's the worst, the absolute most wretched part of the show.

The contestant interviews.

"Let's start with Rhioboam. It says here that you recently had an unusual aviation experience."

"Yes. I saw a hot air balloon on my way to the studio."


"It was blue. Sort of blended in with the sky."

".....O-kaay. Moving on to Jerusha. Evidently, you had an interesting revelation involving geography and llamas?"

"Yes, Alex, it was quite amusing. Because we Jeopardy contestants all seem to possess the social skills of tomato paste, I was travelling alone in Peru. While at Machu Picchu, I bought a poncho."


"And it was Alpaca. And there I was, in the ANDES. Wearing a poncho made from ALP-aca. And I thought, 'How ironic. Two mountain ranges separated by several thousand miles of ocean and continent, and yet represented right here, draped over my bony little shoulders. Seriously, it was just much too much. Oh, and did I mention that so far, I'm winning?"

"Yes. Yes, you did. Well, then, moving on to Fl-"

"I hate you, Jerusha. That's all I have to say."

"And with that, Jerusha, you may select the next clue."

"All right, I'll take 'Sci-fi Graphic Novels' for two hundred."

The game takes a sudden and ruthless turn.

So, while Flip proceeds to waste Jerusha on the Sci-fi category, Rhioboam bides his time, confident that, although he only has seventeen cents going into Final Jeopardy, his sheer brilliance and massive cerebellum -- which in his nerdy little heart he always knew was far more impressive than good looks and an actual personality -- will ultimately win for him the whole kit and kaboodle. And then, oh-ho-ho, yes, then, they'll ALL be sorry...

So imagine everyone's surprise when the Final Jeopardy category turns out to be "How to be the Hit of Every Party".

Oh, I just can't bear to watch. I wonder what's happening over on WoF.

Well, here's a three days' marvel, Buffy has emerged victorious, mostly because the wheel seems oddly to have landed on Bankrupt every time one of her competitors so much as glanced at it. It's almost as though someone in the booth -- who come to think of it was looking a little disheveled and lip-stuck after the last commercial break wherein Buffy paid him a visit ostensibly to show him her pageant scrapbooks -- was pulling the special "that cute girl let me touch her sweater" lever reserved for duds like old Reg.

So now the Buffster is facing her greatest challenge, namely holding still for three straight minutes. She draws her card, turns to the Golden Board of Fame and Glory, and requests her letters.

"I'd like x, z, double r, and nine."

"Technically, Buffy, nine is not a letter."

"OK, then I'll take 'doorknob' instead."

"Doorknob it is. So, let's see if the puzzle contains any eckses, zees, double rs, or doorknobs."

ping, pang, pong

"Oooo. Not much to work with. Well, Buffy, we do have some lovely parti--"

"The answer is 'The Count of Monte Cristo', Pat."

Stunned silence from everyone excpet Vanna, who uncharacteristically blurts out 'Holy Mother of Purchased Vowels!'

"Why, yes. That's correct, Buffy! Well played! Let's see what she's won!"

Opens the magic card.

"Odd. It simply contains a phone number and Googled directions to our sound engineer's house."

"WHAT??!! You slimy little creep! You told me if I let you hold my pom-poms you'd guarantee I won the $25,000!! Get over here, mister! I'm gonna cheer kick your sorry..."

Let's see how Jeopardy wrapped up, shall we?

The Final Jeopardy answer was:

"Studies have shown this to be the best, most successful pick-up line in the history of any party that starts after nine and is both dimly lit and generously alcoholic."

"Rhioboam, we'll start with you. What was your question?"

"What is 'I created a new life form by genetically mutating six pounds of cabbage, but you're probably nice, too.'"

"Oh, so close. What's it going to cost you? Seventeen cents and all your sex appeal. So you're down seventeen cents. Jerusha, it's your turn. What did you say?"

"What is 'I think panty hose are just another example of male oppression in our culture. And I hate this dip.'"

"Uh, no. But it certainly explains why you were alone with those llamas. Flip, your response?"

"What is 'This reminds me of that episode of Star Tre--'"

"And how much did you lose, Flip? Nothing? Finally, a Jeopardy contestant who knows his limitations. This makes you a two-day champion with a butt-load of money which we can safely assume will be spent entirely on stick-on Vulcan ears and schematics for the DS9 space station.

"The correct response was, 'I have a job and don't live with my mother'. It was a safe bet none of you would know that one."

So, nope, you won't find yours truly on either of these wildly popular game shows. Too dense for one, too snide for the other. But I haven't given up hope just yet. I made the call backs for "What Not to Wear." And while I may be as dumb as goat cheese, I've got me one wicked cheer kick.


SO said...

Poor Jerusha and Rioboam.

I can't stand WOF but Jeopardy I do enjoy every once in a great while. I have't watched it forever.

The one I REALLY can't stand? Deal or no Deal. Hate that show.

David Handy said...

As it turns out, I have no job and live with my mother. Next time y'all see me, I'll be cleanin' up on the game show circut.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

You, my dear, have watched way too much television. But it makes for a GREAT post, so good for you. Put in a good word for me at WNTW... I'm hoping for the "complete makeover on a law-school budget: WNTW hits Target, Wal-Mart and Old Navy" episode. I'm a shoe-in.

aunt dyanne said...

DeNae - I think you should create us a game show...all the answers could be these word verifications...

i mean- "paboxeca" sounds like something from under the tongue of a .... well ya'all are gonna have to come up with that... i'm NO good for a game show....

Brooke said...

I haven't watched WOF since they stopped putting the winner's face up in a floating bubble, while she tried to decide whether to spend her winnings on a new living room set or a trip to Bora Bora. (As if there was even a decision to be made. I mean, c'mon, some of those couches were orange paisley! Who wouldn't want that??)

My favorite game show was Press Your Luck. I would be screaming "NO WHAMMYS!!" right along with the studio audience. And the Whammy poems at the end . . . you could base an entire college course on those.

Lara said...

I unashamedly admit it: Those are my two favorite game shows. But you sure have pegged these people. The Jeopardy! contestants are so boooo-ring that it's a good thing I like answering trivia questions (but don't usually get Final Jeopardy right, either) and the WOF people are annoying. And I will never understand why they buy vowels when the answer is OBVIOUS! Keep your money, people!

What not to Wear? That's another favorite.

Melanie J said... Hysterical! Except that based on the W of F audition I saw, it seems to mainly be old people trying to get on the show. I think 32 of the 40 people were retired form something. Or maybe that's just who hangs out in the casino where the audition was. But I wouldn't put it past one of those oldy oldster blue haired ladies to try to sweeten up the sound booth guy. Hussies.

AS Amber said...

Oh my gosh! WHERE do you come up with it? Those Jeopardy! questions were hilarious! And the Alpaca & Peru dang FUNNY! Do you just have these things floating around in your brain? I bow to your infinite cleverness.

R Max said...

How many times can I say you are too funny?

I don't watch either of those shows either but after this, I may have to!

AS Amber said...

Oh and I meant to bear testimony to DeNae's cheer kicking. As I'm sure all of you did, too, at Thanksgiving we 4 sisters did our best toe-touches and cheer kicks and I did the splits (and almost peed myself laughing). I spotted our two sisters with their toe touches but DeNae refused spotting for hers. She performed her first (and last as far as I know) toe touch. It. Was. A. Maze. Ing. Don't tell me the rest of you didn't do that after your turkey dinner, too.

DeNae said...

Thank you, Amber, for that testimonial. I'm sure we have all been edified by this story.

I'm just glad I've finally lost enough weight that I can even reach my toes.

But, yes, it was quite a spectacular toe-touch. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders better watch their backs. There's a new sheriff in town...

Kristina P. said...

Hey, look! I'm back! Stupid Google Reader!!!

And the only way I would go on Jeopardy would be if Will Farrel was Alex Trebec. Seriously.

Jessica said...

4 words...The Price Is Right! Now that is a show with contestants. I learned all of my shopping skills by watching that show. Go ahead, ask me how much it costs for Denture Cleaner.

Mariel said...

Very funny! You're a great writer!! I'm always telling my hubby I dress like a frump JUST SO I can get that $5,000 buckaroos to spend on clothes on What Not to Wear! How long do I have to dress like this???

Della Hill said...

You wanna hear a crazy, but totally true story?
My husband's parents got divorced when he was 6 and he never saw his father again, until... one day 18 years later - on Jeopardy.
No kidding.
His mother was watching and recognized one of the contestants as her x-husband.
She stuck a tape in and recorded it.
He won 1900 dollars. Not even close the child support he owes.
(We didn't bother trying to contact him).
Great post!