Welcome to Arg – The Adventure Game (1980)

Take a little bit of Dungeons & Dragons, add a little bit of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, put it in an “escape room” format and you’ve got “The Adventure Game”, a brilliant, stylish, charming, original game show aired on BBC between 1980 and 1986. Can you tell I like it?

The game takes place on Arg, home planet of the Argonds. The Argonds are a mischevious race of dragons who are sick of all of the “trippers” from Earth coming to their planet via time (and space?) travel.  The travelers are celebrities, a different set each week.  The Argonds sometimes steal the crystals from the traveler’s ships, and the travelers must solve a series of logic puzzles and riddles to get their crystal back so that they can leave.  The viewer gets to watch each team of travelers work the puzzles out.

The rooms vary in the sorts of puzzles offered. The contestants might have to decipher a shapes and colors puzzle…

…solve an escape room puzzle with many moving parts…

…or play a text-based adventure game on a computer.

The premise and format of the show would evolve through the years; the Argonds went from being dragons to being furry creatures to being furry dragons to being…potted plants?

 

Also cool is that one of the series 1 contestants, Lesley Judd, returns in subsequent series as “the Mole”, a character who impersonates a fellow contestant but who is really an Argond.

The set and costume design are top-notch as well; the 1980s vision of the future is alive and well on Arg with its white walls, accent colors, single-tone outfits and focus on geometry.

A fun premise on a gorgeous set, with interesting puzzles and celebrities figuring those puzzles out.  No prizes, no immunities, no backstabbing, just fun.

Can I move to Arg?

Here’s an episode.

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The Game Is Very Simple – The Great American Telephone Trivia Game (1990)

The dawn of the cable infomercial and the pay-per-minute 1-900 telephone business opened up some pretty suspicious scam opportunities. TV psychics could tell your future, you could spend quality time with a pre-recorded Corey Feldman or a myriad other celebrities, and of course you could find some foxy company for the night – all delivered very slowly for an insane amount of money per minute.  I wasn’t aware of 1990’s The Great American Telephone Trivia Game until today, but this scam might really take the cake.

This “show” features original “Jeopardy!” host Art Fleming at the helm of what appears to be a standard trivia game show, but there’s an amazing futuristic twist. Thanks to the miracle of cable tv and telephone technology, viewers can now call in and play the trivia game as well.  If they answer 9 questions correctly, questions similar to the ones the contestants are answering, they win $100!

The scam is clear: the contestants on the screen are getting softball questions (“In what city does ‘Cheers’ take place?”) and the ones on the 1-900 number are much more difficult.  What’s more, I’m willing to bet that the questions are delivered very slowly and you don’t know whether you answered any of them correctly until all nine questions are completed.  At one-minute per question and $1.95 per minute, you’re in for at least $20 on this call – and that’s assuming there’s no lengthy intro or outro sucking more more time, which was another common 900-number tactic.  So best case scenario you’re up $80 assuming the questions are really just as easy as the ones on the screen. Which they’re not.

Fleming also rubs the prizes that the studio guests will win in the viewer’s face, amazing prizes that the viewer will never be able to win or afford. 

Spoiler: BOTH CONTESTANTS WIN. It’s beautiful in its terrible awfulness. Here it is, with some strange formatting that I can’t explain. What a find.

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Friday Followup: Gambit (UK)

While the US was Vegas-ing up its Gambit reboot in 1980, our friends across the pond went with a more traditional approach.  The British version of Gambit is as quaint as you’d expect, with a kicky stop-motion intro.

The set design trades in the Vegas glitz and glamour for… something resembling a Grateful Dead album cover.

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Cash and Prizes: Las Vegas Gambit (1980)


Gambit
, the blackjack-themed game show, has a sort of complicated history. Originally premiering in 1972, Gambit was an instant success, beating out competing shows Sale of the Century and a pre-Trebek Jeopardy! In 1975, though, a hot new show called Wheel of Fortune came on the scene and pretty much obliterated Gambit in the ratings, leading to its cancellation in 1976.

Cut to 1980. Failed daytime talk show experiment The David Letterman Show was pulled off of the air and the idea was to revive Gambit to take its place. The Gambit 2.0 twist came in the form of a live show from the Tropicana in Las Vegas, and Las Vegas Gambit was born.

And then died again a year later, but whatever.

Wink Martindale hosted both iterations of Gambit.  Is Wink Martindale the poor man’s Chuck Woolery, or is it the other way around? Wink’s game show career started earlier, making him the incumbent. However, Woolery’s first game show gig, the aforementioned Wheel of Fortune, spelled the original Gambit’s demise.  Woolery’s got the more impressive resume: while Wink had some solid shows including Tic Tac Dough! and Debt, Chuck’s got Love ConnectionScrabbleThe Dating Game, and (a personal favorite) Lingo.  Personally, I’m going to give the point to Chuck.  Wink’s got an unsettling way of talking to the audience, to his contestants, and to women in particular. I’m not saying he’s our reality’s Randall Flagg, I’m just pointing out that he’s never been in the same room as Randall Flagg.

There are a few things about Las Vegas Gambit that are special – first of all, the set is a fantastic tribute to Vegas-style gaudiness.  Covered in gold and rich in font treatments, the first part of each Gambit match is a trivia round with correct answers rewarding cards which are then built into a blackjack hand.  Two teams compete, the first team to reach as close to twenty-one as possible without busting moves on to the final round.

The final round, the Gambit Galaxy is some sort of casino from the (1980s) future, boasting a wall of screens and a single craps table.  The contestants roll oversized dice, using the resulting numbers to clear out the screens. If they can do so, they win it all.

The other noteworthy thing about Las Vegas Gambit is the enthusiasm. Part of this is thanks to the era; these were the days of Let’s Make a DealPress Your Luck, and the original The Price Is Right, and contestants in general were just generally more amped-up than they are these days. Still, though, it comes down to whoever’s job it is to pick contestants picking good contestants, and Las Vegas Gambit got that part right.  In the below episode, this lady’s life changes.  That’s significant.

Speaking of this episode, it’s a real roller coaster. I recommend watching the whole thing.

By the way, Las Vegas Gambit had awful ratings and was cancelled in 1981.  Sorry, Wink.  Speak more considerately to all genders next time.

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Five Things – 07.04.16 – You’re Weird Too, Then

Dollar a Second

This 1981 reboot of a 1950s game show seems centered around insulting and humiliating people while occasionally throwing them a few dollars, and also about confusing the rest of us.

Dollar A Second

Bob Eubanks conducts this train wreck in which contestants earn the titular Dollar A Second for as long as they’re on stage.  A counter overhead keeps track of how much they’ve earned.  The contestants are dressed ridiculously (by the show) from the get-go, putting them at an instant disadvantage.

DAS Contestant

They’re then given a string of “A or B” questions and tasks to perform in either case instead of just verbally answering.  Once a contestant gets an answer wrong they’re taken to the next level of humiliation, where they Pay the Penalty.

Penalty 2

Here they’re given a Russian Roulette sort of choice to make, where all but one choice could put them back into the game and the fourth embarrasingly knocks them out. There’s not really a final round – they count on the players quitting and taking their winnings or continuing and getting knocked out.  Pretty half baked.  The pilot didn’t get picked up, so we’ll never know if it would have evolved past a crude trivia show that got cheap, uncomfortable laughs from captive audience members.

Here’s an episode. Like I said, train wreck.  Hard to watch, hard not to watch.

 

My Weekly Reader

Dreams of Space has a couple of roundup posts for a weekly children’s publication called My Weekly Reader.  These editions predictably focus on our 1950s efforts to conquer space and because of this they’re right of my alley.  Hit the link for all of them, here are some of my favorites.

1960nov7weeklyreader

1965weeklyreader

1958nov10weeklyreader

 

The 1976 Travis 4th of July Parade

This Super 8 footage of Travis, RI’s Bicentennial Parade really gets me.

 

1991 Sizzler Promotional Video

This 4+ minute image piece for the Sizzler is the most dramatic, most nineties, most beautifully perfect image piece for a family-and-budget-friendly restaurant I’ve ever seen.  They don’t make image pieces for family-and-budget-friendly restaurants like this anymore!

 

Sony Super Walkman

It’s slightly smaller!

 

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