SOME television shows attract a lot of attention. A breakout drama or comedy, controversial reality show or quest to find the best dancer/singer/cook/farmer-seducer will be spoken about at water coolers and urinals across the country.
But some shows never get talked about. They exist in a murky netherworld, shunning the public like a photophobic sewer mutant. Fitting into this category is the strange and mysterious genre known as the children’s game show.
So rarely do kids’ game shows get a mention, yet for generations they have been a touchstone of the adolescent experience. As a lad, these shows introduced me to such legendary names as Michael Pope, Eden Gaha, James Sherry, Tony Johnston and that guy with the hair from Challenger. And I dreamt that one day I, too, could go in front of the cameras and become the toast of the nation by giving embarrassingly off-base answers to simple questions, running through nightmarishly surreal mazes or just staring blankly into space. Such dreams are what childhood was made of. Then we got a little older and gave up those dreams, but still had hours of fun cackling like magpies at how dumb those kids were.
What fun it was to sit down after school and watch a terrifyingly enthusiastic semi-celebrity bound up to a youngster encased in an enormous foam-rubber battery and stackhat and hit them with a brain-teaser such as ”How many toes do you have?” or ”Which way is up?”, upon which the child would gaze at them with a look of vacant panic before stuttering, ”Mariah Carey?” and the host would lie and tell them it was a good try and everyone would go home with a pencil case or a Goosebumps book or something.
Happily, the genre is still very much alive. Recently, our screens have been graced by the dramatic thrill-quiz Pyramid, which revolves around schoolchildren and television personalities without jobs looking tensely at each other without any idea what the other is talking about until the buzzer goes. Two fine examples air at the moment. On Channel Nine, we have Kitchen Whiz, which combines trivia and handy cooking tips with a dreadlocked host who looks as though he’s been inflated with a bike pump, and a racial stereotype in a karate outfit who grunts and waves a wooden spoon. Like all good kids’ game shows, it is bafflingly garish and weird, and features winning demonstrations of juvenile brilliance such as the contestant who, on being asked, ”Hot cross buns are associated with which celebration?” replied, ”Baker’s Delight”.
On Channel Seven, there’s Match It, a more sedate affair in which children try to match words to pictures and ignore the audience shouting at them. It doesn’t have the fever-dream quality of Kitchen Whiz but it does have awkward interactions and bewildering answers, which are gold to the connoisseur.
The important thing is that these shows are out there, practically invisible to the wider public but still providing something for our youth to aspire to – a platform for, possibly, the finest tween minds and an excellent way to market creepy Bratzillaz dolls to the after-school market. As long as kids’ shows reign at 4pm, I’ll feel that a little bit of my childhood remains alive, like a certain children’s game show that aired in the ’90s. Let’s just say there’s a little bit of my heart that is forever A*mazing.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.