Printer Friendly

Quiz Craze, America's Infatuation with Game Shows.

QUIZ CRAZE, America's Infatuation With Game Shows by Thomas A. DeLong (Praeger, 315 p.) starts, quite properly, with an attempt to find the root meaning of the word "quiz" (nobody really knows who coined it, but it might have a Gaelic origin) and ends with the observation that game shows represent "the deeply ingrained dream to strike it rich, break the bank, hit the jackpot."

In between, DeLong offers an often fascinating history of quiz, game and panel programs on radio and television, shows which today mesmerize some 70 million viewers and fill up to 50 hours a week in most viewing markets.

Inevitably, perhaps, some of the information particularly in the war and pre-war years sounds dated, but there is still a lot of good "meat" to chew on, including the information that "the broadcast industry generally had associated quiz and game shows with lotteries and eyed them as not in the public interest."

Young generation readers will probably fail to make much of the 1934 Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour or the later Vox Pop and We the People programs, but DeLong has dug up enough interesting detail to bring back an era long gone.

Perhaps inevitably, the quiz shows grew fatter and richer, and the prizes became more and more generous and attractive, peaking perhaps with the $64,000 Question. In fact, by 1948, the game show bonanza had reached between $2 million and $5 million in money, goods and services, enough to move the FCC to warn the networks. But by that time, the broadcasters were neck-deep in the game show craze. On top of that, the FCC lost a court challenge on the issue.

Quiz programs proliferated and were then adapted to television, though not all of them survived the transition. Still, shows like Information Please, skippered by the popular Clifton Fadiman, attracted huge audiences and served both informational and entertainment functions. Later came Pot O'Gold, The Treasure Chest, the appealing Quiz Kids, Truth and Consequences, People are Funny, Take It or Leave It, the Kay Kyser Kollege of Musical Knowledge, Double or Nothing, Can You Top This, and Break the Bank.

Quiz Craze brings back an era with a great deal of skill, attempting at the same time to identify both the creative processes and audience tastes. DeLong draws on many sources, and his research is generally faultless, though--strangely--he fails to mention the world's only game show publication, TV Game Show magazine, now a folded monthly, which detailed many of DeLong's findings.

The book spends a good deal of time on The Price Is Right, Tic Tac Dough, Family Feud (which even won an Emmy) and others.

Rightly, DeLong details the $64,000 Question scandal, which brought to light the advance coaching of contestants and for a while, threw a dark cloud across the game show horizon. That chapter, entitled Cash Pyramid, is a thoroughly entertaining and revealing look at the mentality of both the quiz program producers and the general audience.

In Quiz Craze, DeLong has managed to combine both trade and popular interest, and this is much to his credit. Using a lively style, the quotes, anecdotes and interviews in the book provide an inkling of the evolution of television into a world of pure entertainment, with little pretense of conveying information as well. Today, what generates ratings is simply audience identification with lucky winners of big prizes. Nothing else counts.
COPYRIGHT 1992 TV Trade Media, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:My two cents.
Next Article:Losing the Light - Terry Gilliam and the Munchausen Saga.

Related Articles
Prime Time and Misdemeanors: Investigating the 1950s TV Quiz Scandal.
Fold'N Quiz.
Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America.
Looking for links; weak ones OK.
Edugaming--a bad idea for all ages: the edugaming craze is based on ignorance.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters