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'Hollywood Game Night' recaptures fun of game shows of old

August 7, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
Longtime readers of this space, and the former high-fiber editions of my musings know I am quick to point out stuff on TV that stinks, turns my stomach, offends my sensibilities or is aired on NBC.

Which is why I take the time to praise whoever came up with “Hollywood Game Night” and aired it, even though it was on NBC. I saw the show on Tuesday night for the first time. I have no idea if that was the summer replacement debut or if it’s been aired before -- I don’t care enough about it to go looking for program history -- and it was entertaining. (It’s on again Thursday night, so apparently, I stumbled onto its debut. Or something.)

It reminded me of something right out of the 1960s, when you didn’t have to be fully embarassed to be in the room with your spouse or the kids, when the stars seemed to have brains and wit and game shows featured stars instead of “reality” contestant nobodies who stab one another figuratively in the back to win the prize and 15 minutes of fame.

I’m thinking here of “Hollywood Squares” or ‘$25,000 Pyramid,” “The Match Game” or “Password,” games where civilian contestants were paired with stars. There was nothing at stake but a cash prize and some trivia answers along the way. No evil intent, backstabbing or manufactured drama.

“Hollywood Game Night” managed to capture that fun, and the schtick of about six different game shows all in one. It’s ably hosted by Jane Lynch, who always comes across as part Broadway star, part comedienne and a lady I’d truly like to have a beer with.

And, for the first episode, the stars were of the non offensive kind, people with brains and talent, which seems a rare commodity given the state of Hollywood affairs most of the time. Indeed, it was refreshing when, during one game, the stars were supposed to give clues about a pop star’s name to their contestant in hopes of having the contestant correctly identify the star.

When a name appeared on the screen, actor Anthony Anderson said, “I have no idea who that is.” He said it at the exact time as The Boss (at Home) and I did. Refreshing.

Anderson was joined by stars including the entertaining Tom Arnold and Patricia Heaton (good Lord, I still have a crush on her) who traded some fun barbs with one another, and a couple of younger stars who, frankly, I don’t really know but who had brains to go with their stardom, so it was all fun.

My question is, why, oh why, can’t they do more of this kind of fun, witty, entertaining and harmless game stuff instead of “reality”? If drama is too expensive and comedy is too subjective, why not try this kind of show more often?

It was less mindless than the fourth hour of the “Today” show, and it’s nice to see stars who aren’t all idiots getting together and having fun.

Kudos on this one. Even for NBC.


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