'Gong Show' Reboot And Other New Game Shows Coming This Summer

Jun 21, 2017
Originally published on July 3, 2017 10:07 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's never too late for 1970s nostalgia. About half of all Americans were not alive in the '70s. But thanks to the magic of video, our collective memory still includes "The Gong Show."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GONG SHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: From Hollywood, almost live...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...It's "The Gong Show."

INSKEEP: And tomorrow, it returns. Here's NPR's Eric Deggans.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: They're probably going to take away my TV critic credentials for saying this, but I actually liked the first episode in ABC's revival of "The Gong Show." The original was a purposefully bad parody of a televised talent show led by producer-turned-host Chuck Barris. The new show features Mike Myers as host but in a way you've not quite seen him before.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GONG SHOW")

MIKE MYERS: (As Tommy Maitland) All right then, who's a cheeky monkey?

UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE: You are.

MYERS: No, you are. And that's why I love you.

DEGGANS: Myers is playing a fictional British celebrity called Tommy Maitland who comes off like the grown-up son of his '60s spy character Austin Powers. The show treats Maitland as if he's real. And odd as that setup sounds, they've given Myers/Maitland enough awful-on-purpose lines that he moves the show along quite nicely. Like this quip after a guy finished playing a song on the bagpipes.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GONG SHOW")

MYERS: (As Tommy Maitland) That's living proof that something beautiful can come out if you squeeze the bag just right.

(LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: So bad it's kind of funny. Like the original "Gong Show," ABC's new version features acts that are so terrible you hope they're bad on purpose. There's the woman who plays harmonica with a tarantula in her mouth and the guy with the bagpipes who was also riding a unicycle in a gorilla suit. He drew this response from judge Zach Galifianakis.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GONG SHOW")

ZACH GALIFIANAKIS: You know, I was really very impressed with the whole thing until you took the mask off.

(LAUGHTER)

GALIFIANAKIS: I thought it was a real monkey.

DEGGANS: Of course, the point of "The Gong Show" is that you're not supposed to think. ABC's new version, produced by actor Will Arnett, who also serves as a judge, mostly serves up silly, borderline-risque, sometimes offensive acts designed to make you react - squarely in the spirit of the original.

And it's not the only game show coming to TV screens this summer. On CBS next month, Mario Lopez hosts a televised version of "Candy Crush," you know, that game on your phone. ABC offers revivals of everything from "To Tell The Truth" to "Celebrity Family Feud," led by one of the hosts whose success made it cool for celebrities to host game shows, Steve Harvey. Here he is tweaking champion boxer Oscar De La Hoya during an episode of "Family Feud."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CELEBRITY FAMILY FEUD")

STEVE HARVEY: Name something a man might rub on his underwear to make them smell better.

OSCAR DE LA HOYA: (Stammering, unintelligible).

(LAUGHTER)

HARVEY: That is not the sound...

(LAUGHTER)

DE LA HOYA: Air freshener.

HARVEY: ...Of a dude that done won...

DE LA HOYA: Air freshener.

HARVEY: ...Ten damn titles.

DEGGANS: Oscar winner Jamie Foxx has even stepped up, hosting a modernized version of "Name That Tune" called "Beat Shazam." After playing a clip of the dance hit "Panda," Foxx had a question for the audience.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BEAT SHAZAM")

JAMIE FOXX: That's my boy. But does anybody know what he's talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED CONTESTANT: Zero.

FOXX: And that's - see, that's that young music. Y'all don't even know. Apparently, he's just talking about a panda. I'm going to come out with (singing) teddy bear, teddy bear, teddy bear...

(LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: When these game shows work, they succeed by having fun. They're cheap for the broadcasters to make, easy for viewers to jump into and when centered on a classic format like "The Gong Show," tinged with a hint of nostalgia. That's probably why I liked ABC's revival of a show that made me laugh as a kid. It felt like a tip of the hat to the original at a time when we could use a little more mindless fun on television. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.