Match Game: ABC hopes Sunday night bet on game shows pays off

ABCs Sunday Fun and Games sees three old 70s formats back from the dead, with Alec Baldwin hosting Match Game. But is three shows in one night overkill?

There is one certainty in TV: whenever the networks locate a hit, theyll try to replicate it until everyone is sick of it. To that end, ABC just ordered a revival of 70s staple Match Game to join last summers surprise hit Celebrity Family Feud and a new version of that other 70s game show (and syndication giant) $100,000 Pyramid, which they ordered in January. The three shows will all air in a three-hour block on Sundays this summer starting 26 June. Theyre calling it Sunday Fun and Games. What, does some drunk frat boy own the copyright on Sunday Funday?

Match Game will be hosted by Alec Baldwin, who guides two civilian contestants while they try to win cash and prizes with the help of a panel of celebrities. Baldwin will read Mad Libs-style sentences and the contestants will try to fill in the blank with the same word as the celebrities. For example: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many peppers did Peter Piper … blank. (The same format ran as Blankety Blank in the UK, hosted by the late Terry Wogan.)

Originally created in the 60s on NBC and played straight, Match Game returned on CBS in the 70s. The new version was much funnier, thanks to panelists such as Charles Nelson Reilly and Brett Somers, famous for their double entendre-laden banter in completing sentences like: Mary felt apprehensive about her wedding night because she discovered her BLANK was missing. Since then there have been attempts at a revival in 1983, 1990 and 1998, to little success.

The Baldwin-hosted incarnation could be different, considering hell have all his celebrity friends to call on, including all the comedians that were his co-stars on 30 Rock. The network would also be smart to enlist Betty White, a national treasure who was also a frequent guest in the 70s. RuPaul would also be a good addition, since shes kept Match Game in the zeitgeist thanks to an annual challenge on RuPauls Drag Race called Snatch Game where the drag queens impersonate celebrities. RuPaul also is hosting a new gameshow on Logo called Gay for Play that has a format similar to Match Game, with six celebrities helping people win prizes.

Last summer all the networks bet big on game shows because theyre cheap, fun and easy to produce. Knock Knock Live was an immediate disaster; a revival of Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader was a disappointment; and 500 Questions was a moderate success. Celebrity Family Feud, hosted by Steve Harvey who currently hosts a syndicated non-celebrity version of the show as well was the only certified hit, averaging almost nine million viewers over its six-episode run.

ABC seems to have settled on a combination of celebrities and game shows, which has also proven a success for NBCs Hollywood Game Night. The $100,000 Pyramid, with Michael Strahan filling in for legendary host Dick Clark, will also feature famous people trying to help the plebs win money while trying to guess phrases without saying any of the words.

While this seems like a fun night of programming, someone should remind ABC of <a href=”” data-link-name=”in” body link” data-component=”in-body-link” class=”u-underline”>Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, a smash hit that it put on the air five times a week and ran into the ground, unseating it from its throne as the most-watched network in the country. The stakes arent nearly as high with these shows, which will never reach the 30 million viewers that Millionaire did at its height, but it just goes to show that with game shows, sometimes less of a good thing is … blank.

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