I should have been born in 1955, not in 1973. This much I know. I could have been in puberty during the sexual revolution of the '60s (but missed Vietnam...barely), and then I would have been around to understand every joke during the awesome television era of the '70s. And let's not even get into the music...or the fashions! Instead, I got stuck growing up in the '80s and early '90s, blah puke boring. That's why I spend so much time screwing around on YouTube looking for gems from pop culture past. Today, in the first (and still possibly only--we'll see) entry in this blog, I'm focusing on game shows, the high temple of double entendres and terrible one-liners during the Best Decade. (That's the '70s. The Best Decade. I'm doing that now, like the Greatest Generation or something.) No game show produced as many stunning moments of comedy as the legendary Match Game. Marked with a vintage in most years (Match Game '73, '74, '75, etc.), and also by the time of day when it ran (Match Game PM!), the Match Game is a living archive (full of dead people...) of the era when '50s showmanship and bluster met '60s bawdiness and '70s don't-give-a-crap to create a magical elixir of semi-rude entertainment. Most of the time, the comedy on the Match Game was implied and tongue-in-cheek rather than brute force. That was what made it so great. The fill-in-the-blank questions almost always had a hilariously dirty obvious answer, but what made the game exciting was the ability of the panel, legendary host Gene Rayburn, and sometimes even the contestants to dance around the obvious and go with the clever instead. In other words, these people knew what they wanted to say, but they didn't say it because they couldn't. They had to come up with something else. It took some thought. Behold: (If these embedded videos don't work, and they might not, please have the temerity to click through to YouTube. Thanks.)
Not only could the panel not give the answers they really wanted to give, but at least one regular, the infamous Charles Nelson Reilly, couldn't be who he really was. He was gay--well, of course he was!--but he couldn't be openly gay in the mid-'70s, so he had to settle for being obviously, fabulously, flagrantly gay...but all under the guise of being straight-ish. Sort of. I guess. Here, he goes off the rails a bit, but the innuendo remains subtle-ish yet ever-present. And by the way, yes, Richard Dawson was the perfect man of the '70s:
Of course, the Match Game didn't always deal in subtlety. Sometimes it just couldn't. But the beauty of the '70s was that pretty much nothing was off-limits unless somebody dropped one of George Carlin's seven deadly words or made a direct reference to a below-the-belt body part. So, if a girl on the show had big boobs, was it OK to talk about them? OK? It was encouraged! By the host! If this lady is still with us, she must have to carry a wheelbarrow in front of her at all times. I can't imagine: http://youtu.be/8aTsSvncE4Q Then there were those episodes of the Match Game when the contestant and the panel said exactly what everybody was thinking...and got away with stuff that would lead to riots in the streets today. I'm not biased against anybody, but try to tell me this isn't funny. (Besides, Charles Nelson Reilly approves of it, so that makes it OK for the rest of us.) By the way, not to be a spoiler, but I love how the word "fairies" is considered a match for the contestant's answer in this question about Batman and Robin. Yes, this is gay stuff. Also, look at Dawson thinking 40 years ahead of his time: http://youtu.be/6K9OKF8HX5Q The beauty of celebrities in the '70s was that enough of them dated back to an era heavy in brutal stand-up and pressure-packed live TV that they could actually think on their feet, or at least while sitting in the studio. Many of today's fully automated TV "stars" (especially the idiots of reality TV) would have bombed 40 years ago because they can't think for themselves and wouldn't have been able to come up with witty lines on the spot. Or, they would have just said something overtly dirty for cheap laughs. That's why the '70s, that bridge between the confusion of the '60s and the sterility of the '80s, was so fantastic. That and the ability to openly discuss some random woman's boobs are what made spontaneous TV back then so effective in a way it couldn't be today. Remember, this was all network TV--no cable, no satellite, no HBO. Everybody saw it, kids and all, especially the daytime game shows. There was nothing else on TV. There were three channels, maybe four, in most cities. And when supply was low and demand was high, the quality of TV was often excellent. I'm going to end this entry with a bit of a twist, moving away from the Match Game and to that other, far better known, celebrity-quip game show, Hollywood Squares. Hollywood Squares had its own Charles Nelson Reilly in the person of Paul Lynde, who, in all honestly, was probably more popular and famous than CNR. Again, gay in every way except overtly, Lynde rocked the center square for years. The whole show, though--deserving of at least one other entry at some point--featured '70s wit at its very best. Even Florence Henderson, Mrs. Brady, got into the mildly bawdy review (as promised in the title of this entry). By the way, pay attention at 2:57 for a quintessential '70s experience: (I haven't been able to embed this video, but it's worth a click.) http://youtu.be/J947DhD7kHc That's it for now. If I'm ever to type while messing around on YouTube again, I'll be back. In the meantime, love, peace and soul (there's an entry there, too).