[Masthead] Overcast ~ 38°F  
High: 49°F ~ Low: 28°F
Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014

Basic Biittner: Revival of Game Show Theme

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Back in the 1960s, a young comedian and his side-kick hosted a network daytime game show called "Who Do You Trust?" It aired on ABC televison at 3:30 p.m., Eastern Standard Time. On the show, the announcer, one Ed McMahon, would introduce pairs of players, nearly always a man and a woman, who were chosen for their unique backgrounds. The host/comedian, one Johnny Carson, spent more time interviewing the contestants than quizzing them. In the quiz portion, Carson would tell the male contestant the category of the upcoming question; the man would then have to decide whether to answer the question himself or "trust" the woman to do so. Three questions were played per couple, and three couples competed on each show. The questions were worth $25, $50, and $75; if two or all three couples tied in the cash winnings, they were asked a question involving a numerical answer; the couple coming closest to the correct answer moved on to the bonus game.

The show's format was similar to that of another quiz show of the time, "You Bet Your Life," with another comedian,Groucho Marx. One major difference between Carson and Groucho, though, was that Carson often participated in demonstrations of the contestants' interests or hobbies. On one memorable show, he tried his hand at driving a miniature race car (and crashed into a wall); on another, he donned scuba gear and dived into a tank of water. Groucho, on the other hand, almost never left his desk, letting his announcer, George Fenneman, take part in the demonstrations.

After a few years on the show, Carson's success led he and McMahon to depart for NBC's Tonight Show, where, of course, they would gain legendary status and remain ensconced for 36 years.

Though I was around, I never watched "Who Do You Trust?," because it aired at 2:30 p.m. Central time and I, as a young pre-teen, was in school, of course. I only heard of the show (which may not have even aired on what was then known as KVTV) when Johnny and Ed made occasional references to it on the Tonight Show. I was familiar with You Bet Your Life, because it aired in the evening (although some of Groucho's asides to the contestants may have been a little over my 10-year-old head). All in all, from my description of the show, which I took from the WIkipedia on-line encyclopedia, other than the host's active participation, it doesn't sound a whole lot different from other TV game shows.

Nevertheless, I think the time may have come for "Who Do You Trust" to re-surface, this time as a "reality game show." I am not sure what the format of the game would be, but with the number of public people who have lost the trust of the public in recent years, I don't think there would be any shortage of celebrity contestants.

Alex Rodriguez, O.J. Simpson, Pete Rose and Barry Bonds are among many athletes or former athletes who could be called upon to try and bamboozle contestants into trusting them. So could any movie, TV, or music star who has lied to the media, fans, friends, and others about not abusing substances, legal and illegal, just before they entered treatment. Politicians? Take your pick.

I'm no fan of Reality TV, either, but I don't know, I think this one shows some promise. If only the producers can afford to compensate the "stars" in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner