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ABC game shows rescue pandemic summer

| August 5, 2020 12:29 PM

By TYLER WILSON

Coeur Voice contributor

I’m missing the spectacle of blockbusters this summer. It might still be awhile before we get to see “Tenet” or any other big budget adventure on the big screen, so I’ve had to look to other places for comforting entertainment.

Luckily, the folks at ABC filmed much of their summer game show slate before the pandemic shut down TV production.

The best show on television, by far, is the second season of “Holey Moley,” an extreme mini-golf competition show that features animated “course pro” Steph Curry explaining the origins of each pratfall-inflicting hole (obviously not every aspect of the production was completed before COVID-19, as Curry was there in person for Season 1).

Look, I like mini-golf as much as any red-blooded American, but “Holey Moley” wouldn’t be much without the color commentary provided by sportscaster Joe Tessitore and comedian Rob Riggle. Their dynamic is simply magnificent, with Tessitore serving as a bewildered straight man to Riggle’s inspired and relentless comic performance. Riggle is channelling Fred Willard from “Best in Show” and funneling it through his own manic style, and it’s especially hilarious when he (frequently) gives Tessitore the giggles. Give these two men Emmys. Now.

Another regular delight: ABC’s “Don’t,” a game show in which a family of four makes boatloads of money on physical and mental challenges centered around “not doing things.” For example, in “Don’t Drink,” a player must eat HOT peppers without drinking water. In “Don’t Use Fowl Language,” the family must determine if a celebrity’s name also contains the name of a type of bird. Ex. Russell Crowe.

Unlike the manic energy of “Holey Moley,” “Don’t” relies on the deliberate awkwardness of host Adam Scott, the “Parks & Recreation” and “Big Little Lies” alum. He’s playing a character who definitely doesn’t know how to host a game show, and his command is frequently undermined by voice-over narration provided by Ryan Reynolds, operating in full, meta-”Deadpool” mode. Some of the funniest bits have involved voice-over asides related to the pandemic, including the mocking of “hero-themed” commercials that repeatedly utter the phrase, “in these uncertain times.”

Veteran game show “Match Game” continues to be a lark (bird name!), mostly because it is still odd to see Alec Baldwin interact and tease hapless contestants, as well as the panel of B and C-level celebrities. Another decades-old entry, “Family Feud,” is also here with Steve Harvey doing his daytime routine but with celebrities. I’ve probably watched a little too much “Family Feud” over the years, and so it’s the only show in ABC’s current game show lineup I’m not watching on a regular basis. No shade, though.

For whatever reason, I never want to watch another classic revival, the Anthony Anderson-hosted “To Tell the Truth,” that is, until I get hooked on its simple delights after about 30 seconds or so. A celebrity panel is tasked with identifying a cool person from a panel of three (two of them being liars), and it’s surprisingly tough to suss out the real culprit.

“Press Your Luck” is a very loud show. Contestants scream, “No whammys, no whammys, no whammys, STOP!” while the crowd hollers constantly in the background. Still, movie star Elizabeth Banks makes for a fun host, and you can’t help but be excited by the volume of cash and prizes available here. I watched one where someone walked away with $450,000. Compare that to some episodes of “Match Game,” where the total cash out sometimes won’t exceed $5,000. “Press Your Luck” might be even better in a post COVID-19 world… no audience = quieter television.

Two other shows currently missing from ABC’s lineup - the Joel McCale revival of “Card Sharks” and the Michael Strahan-led “Pyramid.” Both great shows. “Card Sharks” apparently didn’t film before the shutdown but is now back in modified production. I don’t have info on “Pyramid,” but Strahan is a pretty busy guy. ABC already proved they could do an audience-free, celebrity version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” with Jimmy Kimmel earlier this spring, so maybe both could return soon to supplement a sure-to-be-thin fall schedule.

These programs will tide me over for now, or at least until daily stalwarts like “The Price is Right” can return to the fold. Some shows you can do without a crowd, but that’s not one of them. The world won’t be normal until we have real “Price is Right.”

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Tyler Wilson has been writing professionally about movies since 2000. He’s been watching game shows regularly since 1986. He can be reached at twilson@cdapress.com.

Images courtesy of IMBD.