Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Vegas game show history

There's a multi-state lottery game show that recently started airing, and it's taped in Vegas.

"Monopoly Millionaires' Club" is taped at the Rio, and it's basically several games of chance that offer big cash prizes if you beat the odds. Contestants are people in the audience who qualified for the show via their local state lottery. Details about it can be found at Wikipedia. For the moment, there's a second Wikipedia article about it.

The first episode is available on YouTube. (See below) I sampled about half of it before I started this column.

The show offers some big cash prizes, and the games in which they are awarded are loosely based upon the Monopoly board game. The big hook is a $1 million prize, presumably at the end of the show. I'll know more after I finish writing this blog.

The show would be boring to watch if not for the big cash prizes during each game. It ain't "Jeopardy!" There's no trivia or knowledge required to play the game. It's not "The Price is Right." You can't play along, trying to guess the price of a bag of rice. The fact people are gambling to win big cash prizes is the only reason the show is appealing. If the top prize were $10,000, people would line up to be a contestant, but few people would watch.

Big cash prizes are an easy way to draw viewers to an otherwise uninteresting game. (See also: "Deal or No Deal")

What bugs me about the show is that it, like most attempts at some form of a game show during the past 15 years, relies upon an actor/comedian to host it. In this case it is Billy Gardell, who is currently starring on the CBS show "Mike and Molly." Usually the chosen host is a known actor/comedian who doesn't have a hell of a lot going on. Drew Carey had hosted a forgettable high stakes game show for CBS prime time when he was tapped to replace Bob Barker. Bob Saget wasn't doing much when he was asked to host my favorite big money prime time game, "1 vs. 100." Howie Mandell wasn't doing a lot of talent show judging when he was handed "Deal or No Deal."

Gardell isn't bad, but as a game show aficianado, it still bugs me that he was tapped to host the show. Ironically the show uses Todd Newton, who does have a game show host resume –– albeit for second-tier game shows and live stage shows based upon TV game shows –– as its co-host. He does what appear to be pre-recorded bits with folks playing simple games for cash prizes, separate from the action at the Rio. I've never been a big fan of Newton, and his overly enthusiastic celebration of a $10,000 win actually makes me thankful that Gardell is the host of the main game.

So the Monopoly game show is now taping in Vegas. It's not the first. I'm not an expert on this topic, but I know of a few other instances where games shows made Vegas their home.

As noted previously, the current rendition of "Let's Make a Deal" began its run at Tropicana.

Now and again "Wheel of Fortune" will tape a couple of weeks from one of the casinos. The recent episodes I saw were taped at the Venetian.

"The Price is Right" doesn't take its show on the road like WOF, but for its 30th anniversary there was a special show taped at the Rio.

In the early 1990s, as daytime game shows were falling out of favor, Caesar's Palace was the setting for a short-lived NBC game show called "Caesar's Challenge."

I don't remember this, but the final season of the original run of "Hollywood Squares" was taped at the Riviera in the early 1980s. I read host Peter Marshall's autobiography and he wrote a bit about that year, including a story about how he had an incredible run of luck gambling in the casino one night (roulette, I think) and was mysteriously robbed of his winnings while asleep in his hotel room. I might have that story wrong, but that's what I recall. I enjoyed Marshall's book, I should read it again.

Without researching the subject, those are the game shows I'm aware of that have a tie to Las Vegas.

What did I miss?

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