Get Ready to Match the Stars!

February is my least favorite month for writing a blog post, because it’s the shortest—month, not post. I know what I want to write about: a current obsession. The current obsession: the 1970s version of the TV program Match Game. But what angle should I take? If you write without a point, that’s journaling, and I hate journaling. Apparently, however, I’m a fan of stream-of-consciousness blogging.

What I’d really like to know is why watching grainy YouTube videos of this forty-year-old comedy/game show makes me so happy. (I launched a similar inquiry into Christmas music several winters ago, and again the following holiday season.) I won’t belabor the precise format of Match Game, but contestants try to anticipate answers given by celebrities to fill-in-the-blank-style questions. Originally, in the 1960s, the questions were straightforward: “Name something you pour gravy on.” They evolved to be more suggestive: “Mary likes to pour gravy on John’s _____.” (The shift was a ratings boon.)

Why do I love 1970s Match Game?

a. The campy host, Gene Rayburn

b. The big-name panelists, including regulars Richard Dawson, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Betty White

c. The irreverent, off-the-cuff humor

d. The party atmosphere

e. All of the above

But “all of the above,” in this case, isn’t everything. If it was, I would have the same warm fuzzies for the latest incarnation of the show, hosted by a quick-witted Alec Baldwin and frequented by funny people such as Jason Alexander, Cheryl Hines, Tim Meadows, Jane Krakowski, and Jenna Fischer.

What does 1978 Match Game have that 2018 Match Game lacks? Charm, I think.

What makes 1970s Match Game charming?

a. The retro (then au courant) hair and clothing styles

b. The need to tailor answers to get past the censors

c. The lack of political correctness

d. The low-tech set (relative to today’s standards)

e. All of the above

I (barely) remember watching Match Game as a kid; I’m sure I didn’t understand much of the banter. My clearest recollection is of the audience saying, for example, “How dumb is she?” in response to a question that started, “Dumb Dora is so dumb . . . .” Seeing the show now gives me self-perspective: “I was six, or eight, when this was filmed. The dated references reflect the world in which I grew up, and of which I was just beginning to become aware. I am a product of this time.”

At the very least, I think my heavy exposure to Match Game’s ad-libbed comedy has improved my cartoon captions!

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