Thursday, June 6, 2013

Beginning of the End for Polite Society (Thanks TV)

Ah, the 1980s, were we really ever like that? Did we really sport those hideous hairstyles and awful trendy clothes? I sure did! The 1980s was the era that television changed; local TV was supplanted by cable, new networks appeared by the dozens and syndicated shows began to earn more money than primetime programs.

There's no better peek into that era than the syndicated game show Love Connection, a cheeky program that purposely went after the lamest possible contestants to pair up for crass, kiss-and-tell dates.

I can say that because I actually auditioned for this show as a lark in the mid-'80s. A friend of mine in LA wanted to get on a game show so I went with her and we tried out for a bunch of shows all in one day - Joker's Wild, Card Sharks, Jeopardy, one I can't remember (but they wanted me to come back) - and Love Connection. Would you believe it, they gave us exams for each show and the one for Joker's Wild was the most difficult but the actual questions on that show were always the dumbest, celebrity trivia type. The SAT test was easier.

It was clear to me from the start that Love Connection was looking for people to make fools of themselves, they were especially fond of out of work (or never worked) actors, the bilge water of LA's entertainment industry. Before reality TV, the idea of humiliating people on the air was a fairly new concept. Sure, on games as far back as You Bet Your Life, Candid Camera and Truth or Consequences contestants would generate audience laughter, but, in those days, producers weren't looking for folks to publicly self-immolate or viciously attack someone. That changed in the mid-1980s with Love Connection.

Love Connection got away with it largely because host Chuck Woolery was such a affable, congenial host, he could gently coax the contestants back to sanity... or to battle, whichever was needed. He was frequently at a loss for words over some of the heated verbal exchanges - and Wollery was / is one of the fastest wits in the game show biz. Here's a pretty good example:

After Love Connection it was just a hop, skip and a jump to Cheaters.

Classic TV is TVparty!