Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A special public service announcement - The Gong Show!

Chuck Barris

The Gong Show was a television variety show spoof broadcast on NBC's daytime schedule from June 14, 1976 through July 21, 1978 and in first-run syndication in the U.S. from 1976 to 1980. The NBC incarnation and the later years of the syndicated version were emceed by Chuck Barris who also produced them. Gary Owens hosted the first syndicated season.

Show Format

Each show presented a contest between amateur performers of often dubious talent, with a panel of three celebrity judges. The program's frequent judges included Jaye P. Morgan, Arte Johnson, Rip Taylor, Jamie Farr and Anson Williams. Rex Reed was notorious for being the harshest critic often giving acts a 9 when they received 10s from the other judges. If any one of the judges considered an act to be particularly bad, they could strike a large gong thus forcing the performer to stop. Most of the performers took the gong with sheepish good grace, but there were exceptions.

Originally, panelists had to wait 20 seconds before they could gong an act (later extended to 30 and finally 45). Knowing this, some savvy contestants deliberately stopped performing just before the 45 second rule kicked in but Barris would overrule this gambit and disqualify them. On other occasions, an act would be gonged before its minimum time was up but Barris would overrule the gong, and the hapless act would be obliged to continue with the full knowledge their fate was already sealed.

When an act was on the verge of being gonged, the laughter and anticipation built as the judges patiently waited to deliver the coup de grace. They would stand up slowly and heft their mallets deliberately like baseball players in the on-deck circle letting everyone (including the contestants) know what was coming.

Sometimes, pantomimed disputes would erupt between judges, as one celebrity would attempt to physically obstruct another from gonging the act. The camera would cut back and forth between the performers onstage and the mock struggle over their fate.

If the act survived without being gonged it was given a score by each of the three judges on a scale of 1-10 for a maximum score of 30. On the NBC run, the contestant with the highest combined score won the grand prize of $516.32 (reportedly the Screen Actors Guild's minimum pay for a day's work) and a "Golden Gong" trophy. On the subsequent syndicated run, the prize was $712.05. In the event of a tie, three different tiebreakers were used at various times during the show's run. At first, the studio audience decided the winner by their applause. Later, the producers chose the winner - later still, the celebrities picked the winner. When Barris announced the final score, a dwarf in formal wear (former Munchkin Jerry Maren) would run onstage throwing confetti while balloons dropped from overhead.

On one memorable occasion, all the acts were so bad that everybody had been gonged. When the time came to announce the winner the curtains opened on an empty stage - but Barris still made his usual triumphant curtain speech, exulting, "We just saved $516.32!"

Originally, the show was advertised as having each day's winning contestants come back after a few weeks (this is also mentioned in the pilot episode) to compete in a "tournament of champions" with the winner being given the chance to appear in an unspecified nightclub act. However, only one of these tournaments was ever held. The winners on the NBC version became eligible to appear on the syndicated version for a chance to earn that show's prize.

Source: www.wikipedia.com


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Clare,

Here's the link to the Vice President of the Metis Nation of Alberta and Metis Matters you might be interested in... http://www.metismatters.com/2004-01-01.asp

7:41 PM  

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