I’m not a big game show fan; indeed, I actively despise almost every new game show that’s appear since the nadir of televised trivia that is Who Wants to be a Millionaire debuted. (Except Wipeout. I loves me my stupid people getting hurt.)
That being said, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Wheel of Fortune.
I suspect this is more from nostalgia than anything else. I remember that when I was a kid, the winners on Wheel actually had to spend their money right then and there by buying prizes from a sponsored “showcase,” which meant that after a winner purchased, say, the television and china set they really wanted, they were then forced to spend the remainder of their money on things like life-sized ceramic dalmatian sculptures or a rhinestone-encrusted baby grand pianos or something equally atrocious. Awesome.
I was actually rather shocked to find that nowadays, Wheel contestant actually get to keep their money without being compelled to purchase a bronze statue of a humpback whale. I do find it amusing, however, that while the current incarnation of Wheel actually has a million-dollar prize, to get it a contest must (a) first collect a special card by landing on it during regular play, (b) avoid any further bankrupts, (c) win the most money during the regular course of play, (d) successfully solve the final puzzle, (e) successfully collect actual million bucks by spinning a second, mini-wheel, and finally (f) successfully square the circle, or something like that. A contestant actually has a better chance of collecting a million bucks by holding Pat Sajak hostage on air than by actually winning it in play.
Anyways, I still like Wheel. I’m a bigger fan of Jeopardy!, and since those two shows are commonly book-ended back-to-back, its always amusing to compare the contestant clientele the two shows generate. It’s always
Our next contestant on Jeopardy! is Jill Arglebaster, who holds doctorates in theoretic physics and modern American literature, has served as an public policy adviser to three presidents, and currently holds the Highfalutin’ Chair of Mathematics at Harvard…
And next on Wheel is Cletus Shnaut, who is fascinated by shiny objects and blinking lights, and currently holds the world record for the number of pencils shoved into a single bellybutton.
This might sound like I’m picking on Wheel contestants, and, well, I am. But not unfairly, I content.
I mean, think about it. Jeopardy! is a fast-moving trivia game covering a wide array of scientific, literary, historical, and cultural topics, whereas Wheel of Fortune is, for all intents and purposes, “Hangman for cash and prizes.” And whereas you can’t really fault someone who loses on Jeopardy! because they did not recognize that T.S. Eliot was the author of an obscure 1922 poem whose last stanza consists of the Sanskrit word for inner peace utter thrice, it is a God-given, divine imperative to mock the hell out of someone who, for example, loses sixty-two thousand dollars because she cannot sound out
(I shit you not.) Jeez, even the quotation itself is mocking her! HA!
As a further example, I submit tonight’s show. The category is In the kitchen, with the following letters in play:
The three contestants various work their way through the alphabet to no avail, when finally one of them has an epiphany. Without spinning, Contestant A suggests
only to be shocked that that is wrong. Quick on her feet, though, she thinks a moment more before shouting out
but is buzzed out before she can finish. Contestant B decides to run with it, and repeats FAST-BURNING STOVE again, only to find it’s wrong. He thinks about it a bit more before shouting out
but is buzzed out before she can finish. Contestant C decides to give that a shot, and tries COAL-BURNING STOVE, to find that it is also wrong. She then comes up with
which is also wrong. She gets buzzed.
Back to Contestant A, who realizes that perhaps now would be a good time to try adding a letter to the puzzle. She suggests a D, and ends up with
both of which are wrong, although the latter guess gets several knowing laughs from Pat Sajak and the audience.
Back to Contestant B, who opts to buy the missing “O” from the puzzle, only to get three:
He announces that he’d like the solve the puzzle, which comes to no surprise to Pat. With a winning smile, he turns to the camera and announces