Saturday, April 13, 2013

I Love Me a Good Game Show

As the model of television broadcasting and programming changes, I find that everyone I know only watches “high quality” shows in large chunks. A whole season of Game of Thrones on a random Sunday, season 4 of Dexter the next week, season 1 of Walking Dead on a long weekend. It seems no one has time anymore for one of my favorite childhood pastimes – burning a half hour watching a disposable, gleefully stupid show that you’ll never have a discussion with anyone about. As a tribute to this forgotten form of television viewing, I’ve written a few longer nostalgic posts. Today’s focus: game shows. I decided to look at some of my favorite game shows through the lens of how well I would fare if I was somehow selected.

American Gladiators

How I would fare: Would sustain massive injury

Loved loved loved LOVED this show. The open embrace of 1980s-style steroids from juiceheads lovably named Nitro, Lazer and Turbo led to all kinds of over-the-top ridiculousness. One of my favorite steroid rage moments was the inexplicable decision of Turbo to punch a contestant in the face during one game (see 0:58 and 1:35 of this epic clip). Suffice it to say, I would not thrive in this environment. I don’t even think I would do as well as Steve Urkel does when he goes head-to-head with Carl Winslow in a truly underappreciated late-era Family Matters classic. Note that Urkel makes it all the way across the handbike. Could I really pull that off? Sometimes you have to ask yourself the hard questions.

Price is Right

How I would fare: Game-changing business idea

A lot of people have written about what it takes to get on the show, which is basically a lot of un-ironic enthusiasm and stupid clothing. Vish’s friend made it on in college – it’s easier to get on this show than you might think. I also think you can do pretty well on this show by just studying the pricing of a lot of basic consumer goods. But to strike it really rich on this show, you need to make the showcase showdown, and to do that, you need to be able to properly spin the big wheel. Which brings me to my awesome new business idea: The Price is Right Training Camp.

Making it onto the show could be a once-in-a-lifetime event – and you’re going to step into that situation playing a game for the very first time? In front of a studio audience? Wouldn’t  all these senior citizens want to know that they had prepared themselves for the best way to slide Plinko chips, or have mastered the Range Game under time pressure? Most importantly, wouldn’t they pay $250 apiece to master spinning the giant wheel to land on 1.00? If people will go to Ninja Warrior training facilities, I’m certain they’ll want to attend The Price is Right Training Camp.

Sequence of events: 1. I build exact Price is Right replicas in an old person place like Florida or Arizona. 2. I mint cash. I’m already oversubscribed for my Series A round.

2 Minute Drill

How I would fare: Obviously awesome

ESPN had this awesome sports game show from 2000-2001 called “2 Minute Drill” hosted by Kenny Mayne, which I actually would have tried to get onto if it wasn’t cancelled so soon. You can still play an online version of the game here

The funniest thing about this show was that the questions were read to you rapid fire (two minutes in total, hence “2 Minute Drill”), by former star athletes. While I am making no commentary on athletes in general, I will say that some former athletes do not appear to have complete mastery of skills such as reading and pronunciation. I would laugh as the contestant squirmed awkwardly as Franco Harris or Barry Alvarez spent 15 seconds to read only one question.

A few years later, one of my associates in banking revealed he was a contestant on the show, and furiously claimed the only reason he lost was because Tug McGraw couldn’t read the teleprompter. Though to be fair, this same guy claimed he “invented bottle service at clubs”, so it’s possible he would have lost regardless.


How I would fare: Pretty solidly, if I could go back to the knowledge I had at age 16.

I should start by pointing everyone who somehow hasn’t seen Leonard from Little Rock, Arkansas completely crush Jeopardy’s Teen Tournament to this incredible episode. Leonard is a boss.

When I was in high school and actively studying most of the subjects that appear on Jeopardy, I was pretty convinced one day I would go on the show. The only category that consistently stumped me was opera. In the back of my mind, I had this plan to one day learn a lot about opera, and then proceed to dominate the show. Of course, I never learned anything about opera, and also forgot everything I did know to begin with.

I also think they should do a cross-format show, where the best kid under age 9 competes against the Celebrity Jeopardy champion. It would be awesome to see a 7-year old Indian kid go mano a mano with Sam Waterston. Super compelling television.

Family Feud

How I would fare: Nightmarish. Possibly even worse than Chris Paul’s family.

The biggest problem here would be the involvement of my own family. If you surveyed 100 people on literally any topic, my dad would produce an answer that matched exactly 0 of the 100 people surveyed.

“We surveyed 100 people – what is your favorite thing to do on a Sunday?”
Dad: “Eat a $5.99 chinese food lunch special and then watch 3 movies on DVD. Also, the $5.99 meal is very overpriced, I don’t know how they can justify charging so much!”

“We surveyed 100 people, what is the first thing you would buy if your boss gave you a raise?”
Dad: “The raise pool is pathetic now, that would not happen.”

“We surveyed 100 people – what is the best kind of sandwich to put on a roll?”
Dad: “Nobody likes sandwiches.”

I would really need to carry the team here.

Hollywood Squares

How I would fare: I’m a great tic-tac-toe player and I can always tell when celebrities are lying, so I think quite well.

Honestly, I didn’t really like this show that much, the forced banter of the C and D list celebrities never much appealed to me, and watching two people play a giant game of tic-tac-toe is not exactly Kasparov versus Deep Blue. I only bring this up because I wanted to talk about a remake that recently came to my attention: Hip Hop Squares. Airing on MTV2, Hip Hop Squares is the same show, except the celebrities have changed from Martin Mull and Joan Rivers to DJ Khaled, Ghostface Killah and Fat Joe. The “Secret Square” has been renamed the “G-Spot”. In this groundbreaking television clip, Lil Duval explains that the “F-Cup” in bra sizes stands for “F*ck-Cup.” I see what you did there, Lil Duval. Well played.

Someone needs to explain to me in meticulous detail why this show did not become a worldwide phenomenon.

Next time: Nickelodeon game shows for kids.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Airplane Magazine

Let’s start this off with a few facts.

Fact 1: Compared to the average person who is not a management consultant, I know an overwhelming number of people who are or used to be management consultants.

Fact 2: Management consultants travel a lot for work, so they’re on a lot of flights, which means they either achieve status on airlines or make meaningful progress towards getting status.

Fact 3: Management consultants think it’s an exciting topic of conversation to other people to describe the various methods and tricks they used with their employers and airline companies to achieve as high a status as possible on as many airlines as possible. (Example: “I demanded McKinsey buy me a Delta ticket for my Tokyo project because I was close to status, then I got the Delta redeemable points global planetary unified alliance card, which got me status thanks to an extra mileage bonus you get for using that card only at movie theaters, which worked out perfectly since I was on the beach and had a lot of time to watch movies – a lot of people are stupid and get the Delta SkyMiles card but even though you get more miles from groceries and gas they expire more quickly which revokes status and you can’t cancel it as fast which means you might pay annual fees and I don’t buy gas, fortunately I am the world’s greatest travel genius and have solved the entire system.”)

Fact 4: Every time I experience Fact 3, I want to shove a freshly sharpened fork into my face.

As far as life burdens go, you might say that’s pretty light and I am being a whiny baby. I have no response to that, but instead, I’ll redirect the subject to something I do genuinely enjoy about flying and wish people would talk about to me more often – the airline magazine.

Not to be confused with a SkyMall or Duty Free catalog, airline carriers’ in-house magazine publications delight me to no end. I always read through the entire thing on a flight, and if I’m flying a lot in a short period of time, I’m massively disappointed when I see I’ve already been through that issue.

Sidebar: When I lived in Washington, DC, I frequently rode Amtrak, and also thoroughly enjoyed the Amtrak magazine, which is a different animal from the airline magazine. At the beginning of the Amtrak magazine, there’s almost always an article about the importance of trains in our nation’s history, and how we should all continue to support the railroads. Haha! Amtrak, you so funny! For a period of time there were all these pages on a giant celebration for National Train Appreciation Day, with an appearance by special guest Randy Jackson from American Idol. I had trouble deciding whether it was more hysterical that the best celebrity they could get was Randy Jackson, or that Randy Jackson only appeared for 10 minutes.

End of sidebar.

Now, my favorite parts of the airline magazine:

The Top Doctor in America – I would pay over $100 to have a 30-minute chat with someone who chose an out-of-state doctor from these ads. If there is someone who was on a plane thinking, “Damn, I need full mouth rejuvenation but I won’t settle for anything less than the nation’s best doctor – whoa! Wait, here’s a list of the best doctors! Okay, and this guy is in Houston, that’s only a 2.5 hour flight for me, I’m gonna jot down this phone number and call once I land!” then I absolutely, absolutely need to meet that person immediately.

I also have a fascination with how much the doctor in the picture pays relative to the other guys who just have their names listed on the right. Invariably, the guy in the picture always seems to look like a greasy douchebag, which I think is devaluing the ad for the guys on the right. Unless the reasoning is that they all look like greasy douchebags, so including pictures of everyone would only exacerbate the problem. Or maybe the point is that these aren’t supposed to function as ads at all, it’s just like 6 friends from medical school who, back in their medical school days, always dreamed about being rich enough to blow money on one of these ads, and now they all carry a copy of this page in their wallet and show it to women at bars, but then get rejected because no woman wants to hook up with the doctor who couldn’t even afford the primo full picture placement.

I’ve also never seen a woman listed in one of these ads. I think the obviously logical assumption there would have to be that no female doctors are among the best doctors in America. Women are getting smarter every day, though, so I have hope that one day a female doctor can break through and become one of the best doctors in America. That’s going to be a landmark event – it would be really awesome if it happened in my lifetime!

Airport Terminal Diagram – Is it some kind of federal airline magazine law that multiple pages of every magazine have to be devoted to this? I tried my best to think of how this has proved useful to anyone, here’s the best I could come up with.

“Okay, we only have a 30 minute connection window in Denver. Do you think we’re going to make it?”
“It’s gonna be tight, it depends on how far away the gates are.”
“True, what gate are we coming into?”
“I don’t know.”
“Damn, okay. This connecting ticket says our next flight leaves from Gate B67.”
“Okay, I’m looking at the Denver terminal map right now. I see that Gates B65, B66, B68 and B69 are all pretty close to Gate B67.”
“Ah, good find – I see that too now. Gate B64 is actually also not too far away, so there’s a lot of good options.”
“Okay, let’s hope we come into Gate B66.”
“Yeah, hopefully not B1! Look at how far that is!”
“Well, it’s sort of hard to tell without a scale. Maybe it’s pretty close.”
“Yeah, maybe. Fingers crossed!”

Best Steakhouses in America – how has the Internet or Yelp’s mobile app not made this obsolete yet? If this ad still exists in 2015, we may be in trouble as a country.

I also am a huge fan of this recurring ad for a dress shirt. The tie is killer.

12 page section on city that maybe shouldn’t be spending city funds on 12-page magazine inserts  (Ex: Morgantown, WV, Roanoke, VA, Huntsville, AL, Peoria, IL, etc.) –  My favorite parts of these: (1) all the great world-class science research that is happening at the local university, coupled with a picture of a woman looking into a microscope or a guy pouring something from a beaker into a flask; (2) the “emerging foodie scene” which says something like “everyone knows this town has great barbeque, but now people are into farm-to-table concepts!”; (3) whenever a city that historically had a lot of slavery glosses that over by using the word “historic” a lot of times; (4) the picture of city hall; (5) the picture of some random flowers because they ran out of pictures to put in because they bought 12 freaking pages.

It’s Just Lunch – Matchmaking services for the busy professional who is also scared to date! Hey dude, don’t worry, it’s just lunch! She’s not ever going to hook up with you, it’s literally just lunch! I’m extremely curious, over the lifetime of the business, what the total cost of airline ads has been to the It’s Just Lunch matchmaking company. If you said it was well into seven figures I wouldn’t blink an eye - I think this ad has been in every airline magazine ever printed. In particular, I’m a huge fan of their probably-trademarked dating Q&A format, where no one knows who is asking the questions. The headline nowadays reads “An Insider Look at Dating in the Modern World.” I love insider information!

Here too, I wonder how they decide which woman gets the full-page picture. The crass assumption would be that they pick the matchmaker who is the most attractive. Don’t be so crass.

Route Map for large airlines: What information do I glean from this? How can anyone discern anything other than “United flies a lot of places,”? I have this image in my mind of United Airlines executives sitting in a giant conference room with a 30x20 foot route map printed on the wall.

“Dude, look at this route map, it’s so sick bro!”
“It’s almost entirely blue lines! Damn son, we even fly to Parkersburg!”
“Think we can’t get you to Rouyn-Noranda in Quebec? WRONG, try again! We have a partner airline that hooks that up!”
“Man, you know, I think more people need to know how f*cking awesome this is.”
“Hold it, hold it – IDEA GENERATION UNFOLDING - Let’s put it in the airline magazine! Heads gon’ explode, yo!”
“Wait YOU HOLD IT - I’m about to take that awesome idea and elevate that sh*t to the next level, kid – WE MAKE IT A THREE-PAGE GLOSSY INSERT!!!!”
“OH SH*T IT’S OVER!! IT’S OVER!! IT’S OVER!!!!!!!!!!!”

[white guy high-five]

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

YouTube Classic of the Week

Kevin Everett was a tight end for the Buffalo Bills who was badly injured onfield, and was given a "statistically small chance" to ever walk again. The good news is that after a long series of surgeries and rehab, he did regain full walking ability, appearing on Oprah in 2008 walking without assistance. The even better news is that News 12 Sports in West Palm Beach is notorious for major errors in their news telecasts. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Warren Buffett Sings For China

I'm just going to go totally literal here. Wearing a crew neck sweatshirt that says "Still plays with Trains", Warren Buffett, billionaire investor, sings "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad" while playing the ukulele. Behind him is a model train set. The song, broadcast on CCTV, is being directed at the residents of China in celebration of the New Year. When he finishes, he says "xie xie" (thank you) to somebody, I guess maybe all of China.

If someone could explain to me what is happening here, I would be very appreciative. Thanks.

Great Episodes of Great Shows: Full House

Continuing my recent run of nostalgia, I’m starting a new series today, “Great Episodes of Great Shows.” Today, I look back at what is arguably the greatest episode of “Full House.” Though the show was on its last legs, Season 8’s third episode, “Making Out Is Hard To Do,” remains my personal all-time favorite. To try to spice up the famously mild show, “Full House” gave middle daughter Stephanie Tanner a “bad girl” friend Gia, played by Marla Sokoloff. Thankfully for this blog post, someone on the internet (maybe James Franco?) remains completely obsessed with Marla Sokoloff, and has thankfully cut and posted “Full House” episodes with only the Marla Sokoloff scenes. Unfortunately I can't embed this video, so you'll need this link. Definitely watch it.

0:10 – 0:25: I wonder how the Olsen twins feel that their younger sister is now the new Hollywood It girl. Are they jealous? Are they supportive? Did they advise her to go into this business? I also wonder how they feel about murdering Heath Ledger. Wait, I’m kidding about that. I think.

0:28 – 0:38: This kid’s original move is to throw peas and onions at Stephanie’s neck. Remember that for later, when the kid ups his game 100,000x.

0:45 – 0:59: Given what’s on TV nowadays, it’s incredible to think that Gia seemed so slutty on this show.

1:45 – 1:55: For reasons that escape me, the laugh track still exists on shows today. I always hated the laugh track. But I DID ridiculously enjoy whenever they played that “OOOHHH” recording when something scandalous happened. I don’t think TV shows have the “OOOHHH” thing anymore, which is a real shame. “Saved By The Bell” was the king of that, they used at least one “OOOHHH” per episode. But what really took the cake is when they added this dude who would say “BUS-TED!” when everyone else went “OOOHHH.” It always slayed me to imagine 6 people in a sound studio, as a producer says “You five people, you’re gonna go ‘OOOOHH’ and then you, you’re the ‘BUS-TED’ guy, the whole thing really sits on your shoulders.”

1:57 – 2:00: I like how polite these kids are. Even though everyone wants to make out, no one starts until Stephanie gets there so Bobby doesn’t have to sit there alone, not making out. I thought that was nice.

2:15 Р2:26: I was not getting invited to a lot of parties like this in middle school. Or ever. I guess come to think of it, this party would be way too risqu̩ for me even now.

2:35 – 2:44: Bobby ain’t fuckin’ around here, Steph.

3:10: “Steph, this is not a talking party.” That might be my single favorite line from any show, ever. Next time some girl talks to me at a party, I’m dropping that line.

3:20 – 3:40: “Don’t you like me?” “Then what’s the problem?” “Then why don’t we kiss while you figure it out!” Damn, dude, Bobby’s swag is on a million right now. I don’t want to break up a good time here, but what are the odds Bobby went on to roofie someone in college? 3:1? 5:2? I could probably be talked into even lower.

3:56 – 4:03: “How long are we supposed to do this?” “Until everyone else stops!!” I also plan to steal this line. Bobby is a child genius. Doogie should be ashamed. I also note that all the other kids gave Steph and Bobby the prime spot for making out, the couch. There’s literally two kids making out on the floor in the back corner. It seems kind of rude for everyone to go out of their way to make Steph comfortable, and then for her to bail like this.

4:32 – 4:37: Marla Sokoloff delivers the line “I’m really sorry Steph” like Stephanie just was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

4:45 – 4:55: Whenever I watch something where a character depends on a land line, I get all confused. It’s amazing how many movies and shows make absolutely no sense once you watch with the perspective that cell phones exist. It’s pretty much ruined the “character shows up for dinner date, sits at restaurant alone for 3 hours because the other person flaked” scene that I must have seen 300 times.

5:40 – 5:50: Okay, I get that it’s just a show, but “Laryngitis Bob Saget” sounds nothing like Candace Cameron. Come on Steph, it’s dumb moves like this that eventually made you into a meth addict. Although I guess that set the stage for history’s coolest intervention, so maybe it was all worth it.

5:51: I just saw Bobby is playing a handheld video game. I like that Bobby thought, “Well, I’ll probably be making out all party long, but just in case, I need a backup plan. Video games!” Bobby = my idol.

6:16: Bobby is the first one out the door. Nice move, Bobby. One thing I don’t get about this – do they all live within walking distance? How are all the kids going to get home? Stephanie obviously doesn’t live within walking distance, or she wouldn’t have needed to call Bob Saget. In case you’re wondering, I perform this rigorous logical analysis of every 1990s TV show. I am a lot of fun to be around.

Tune in next time for the greatest episode of “Family Matters” – I’m agonizing right now over which episode that is - there’s so many good candidates.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jimmy Kimmel - Christmas Presents Part II

The sequel is on par with Godfather, Part II. The girl with the deodorant at 1:25 and the kid who gets the potato at 3:25 are so awesome. Those kids are being raised the right way. And to the girl at 3:16, believe in yourself. Age ain't nuthin' but a number.

Let's Go To The Mall!

Growing up, my local mall* was a lot like yours, except mine was prominently featured in “Jackie Brown” and also was the largest mall in the entire western hemisphere. The “Del Amo Fashion Center” held this title until I got to middle school, when some stupid mall in Canada (Edmonton?) built an environmental travesty/indoor water park that connected to their mall, thus surpassing my beloved local mall’s square footage. As a child, despite having an annual income of $0.00, I could scarcely think of anything more exhilarating than a trip to the Del Amo mall. The mall was this unending world of possibilities – it seemed to me the complex housed any product anyone could ever dream of wanting. Like if I could somehow physically step into while eating a hot dog on a stick. The Del Amo mall even had two completely separate multiplex movie theaters. Two different movie theaters! In one mall! The hedonism boggles the mind.

(*There was another mall near my high school, but no one ever buys anything there, so I don’t count that place. After Christmas I stopped in the Banana Republic – the sales clerk was so shocked to see a “customer” that she tripped while trying to greet me. The entire place must be a front for money laundering).

As you obviously know, no one goes to the mall anymore, for reasons I fully appreciate and agree with. Things are so bad for malls that Sbarro filed for bankruptcy. I stopped by Del Amo mall in January, and it looked awful. I saw boarded-up storefronts, signs that hadn’t been replaced in 20 years, and the same old beige-and-maroon patterned floor – I started to wonder if I had entered a time capsule.

Over the years, “Mallrats” has established this image of kids at the mall as slackers with nothing to do and nowhere to go, so hey, might as well hang out at the mall. While I like that movie, I want to forcefully assert that this is total nonsense. I used to be really, genuinely fired up to go to the mall, and so were most of my friends. If someone’s mom was driving to Del Amo, nobody ever passed on that opportunity.

It’s not that I am idiotically hoping indoor malls will make a comeback – it’s clearly good for society that Sbarro’s reign of inedible, disgusting, wasn’t-even-good-when-it-first-came-out-of-the-oven pizza/terror is coming to an end. But I had so many good times that I thought it would be nice to look back to better days, and my favorite spots at the mall.

Hat Kiosk – Oh man, there were so many hats! All in one place! I especially enjoyed the black LA Dodgers caps that Asian guys started wearing in their mid-90s effort to disown colors completely. I never had one, mostly because I look terrible in hats. But I was nevertheless excited by this kiosk.

Movie Theaters – Did I mention there were two?

Cinnabon – There were also two of these. I preferred the one in the main corridor because everyone would eye you with jealously when you bought one. The Cinnabon by the Marshall’s and Sam Goody just didn’t have the same glamour. Kind of like when Spago expanded out of Beverly Hills.

GameStop – To prevent kids from standing around playing the demo games, GameStop had a perfect solution. Every demo machine was always broken. GameStop is managed by business wunderkinds.

Things Remembered – I didn’t actually go in here, but I did want to share my super-awesome idea for a secondhand gift exchange for engraved items from Things Remembered. So if you have a candy box that reads, “To Lisa - I love you”, someone else dating a Lisa can buy it from you for 25 cents on the dollar. Payment declines the weirder your name is. This could be the best idea I ever had.

Poster Store – Poster store, I have no idea what you were called, but damn if you didn’t have a whole lot of posters. I was a particular sucker for Ken Griffey, Jr. posters when he was a Seattle Mariner. At age 11, the only difference to me between a Griffey poster and an original Matisse was that the Matisse looked like total ass. As an aside, basketball announcers always say “posterized” when someone gets dunked on, but it’s nearly impossible to find a poster where that’s actually the case. Whenever an announcer screams, “THAT’S GONNA BE ON A POSTER!” I yell back at my inanimate television, “I AM SKEPTICAL OF THAT OUTCOME!!”

The Sharper Image – How did this store stay in business for so long? Someone once gave me a $50 gift certificate to the Sharper Image. I couldn’t find anyone who would buy it from me for $35.

Sweet Factory – I finished every trip to the mall with a stop here. The variety of candy was staggering, there was a whole wall devoted to sour punch, sour straw and sour bands. I always denied to my mom that I was eating candy at the mall, but the red and green sour punch stuck in between my teeth was not super helpful to my case.

Farewell, mall. The memories are forever.