Humor by Jen Lancaster

I'm overwhelmed.

Much as I appreciate the 24/7 access to information from cable television, the Internet and satellite radio (plus special alerts sent directly to my phone, in case I somehow avoided all the real-time updates from the other sources), I find myself faced with news overload.

I'm not equipped to cope with endless tragic stories about war, civil unrest and escalating gas prices. I can't handle another toxic eruption from the Shinmoedake volcano . . . or the Sober Valley Lodge.

I need a break. I need good news.

I need some (non-hashtag-based) winning.

As a kid, my favorite escape from the pressure-cooker otherwise known as grammar school was watching game shows. No matter how badly I'd bombed my spelling test and regardless of any hopscotch-based playground drama, I knew salvation was but a center-square-for-the-win away.

Although I loved the kitsch of "The Gong Show" and Bob Eubank's prolific use of the word "whoopee" on "The Newlywed Game," Mark Goodson-Bill Todman productions were my drug of choice. "Match Game" boasted the best double entendres, Richard Dawson's charisma on "Family Feud" was practically infectious, and the game-stopping power of having drawn a seven on "Card Sharks" was nothing short of mesmerizing.

Could Charles Nelson Reilly mind-meld with the housewife from Yorba Linda to win $500? Would the returning champion remain victorious in the Money Cards bonus round? Might the scion of the Johnson family rally once released from the isolation booth during the fast money segment? Survey said . . . yes!

Of course, nothing was better than "The Price is Right." I adored Bob Barker's curled lip of disdain for overly handsy contestants or those who chose to spin the wheel again when they already had 90 cents. I cheered for every college student winning a roomful of indoor-outdoor carpeting and each senior citizen who went home with an electric guitar. Nothing matched my enthusiasm for those rare moments when a player guessed the cost of his or her showcase within $100 and won everything on stage.

And a new car? Don't even start me on a new car.

Game shows today aren't joyful anymore; they're just stressful. The prizes are too big. Back in the day, a year's supply of Rice-A-Roni was nice, but no one agonized over not taking it home. I recently watched a show where a pair of players could win up to a million dollars by placing the cash on the proper trap door. Drop by drop and with each wrong answer, I watched in horror as couples had their dreams crushed. Oops, there goes the money for your wedding! Oops, no college education for Junior! Oh, no! Now you'll never get to retire!

This is why I hate the new-school game shows; there's too much on the line. They don't relieve stress; they induce it. I don't want contestants' entire life and livelihood to be impacted. Watching some guy opt for what turns out to be a donkey in a straw hat behind Curtain No. 3 is hilarious; seeing folks lose the kind of cash that would save them from foreclosure isn't.

I just read about a new program coming to ABC called "101 Ways to Leave a Game Show." According to the press release, losers will be ejected by "being flown away strapped to the wing of a biplane, shot out of a cannon, pushed off the top of a moving semi truck, dragged underwater by a one-ton anchor or yanked off a dock by a speed boat."

I hate everything about this show already. With all that's going wrong in the world, the last thing I need is a program where I'm supposed to root for the players to fail in spectacularly dangerous ways.

Because I want some real winning, I'm opting for the classics on the Game Show Network.

Tune in next time, and please remember to have your pets spayed or neutered.

Jen Lancaster is author of Such a Pretty Fat, Pretty in Plaid, Bitter is the New Black and My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict's Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is t he New Black; Or, A Culture-Up Manifesto.

Humor & Satire

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