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I still think about it twenty years later…

May 15, 2019, 11:46 PM

This month marks twenty years since I did The East Coast Price is Right.  That was a fun experience, and I did all of the legwork myself.  I built the set, chose the pricing games, researched all of the prizes (though we played for fun – no actual prizes were given out), wrote all of the copy, picked out all of the music, and even made and wrote out all of the nametags.  I still think about the production from time to time, and I wonder what I might do differently if I were to do it all again.

That production was the culmination of a series of writing assignments that I had done in high school.  In Mrs. Hevener’s English and composition classes at Stuarts Draft High School, we did freewrite assignments on a regular basis.  I tended to have fun with these, writing on various topics that interested me, much like I still do on here.  Some of my old freewrites ended up on Schumin Web under the now-retired “Writings” section.  In 11th and 12th grade, many of our freewrites were required to be related to the material that we were studying in class, which I resented a bit.  After all, I loved to write, and still do.  But I didn’t really much care about the literature that we were working on, and I didn’t like the poetry much, either, since the way that it was taught essentially beat the life out of it through overanalysis (by the way, what is a good way to teach poetry that doesn’t kill it?).  That said, I tended to stretch the definition of the “based on the literature” requirement until it was holding on for dear life, but doing so enabled me to continue to write about topics that I was interested in.  The problem with the “based on the literature” requirement was that in the case of the literature, we were expected to read it in massive quantities in such a short time that nothing sank in.  I tend to get the best results when I read at a slower, more thoughtful pace.  At the pace that they required, my eyes might have physically read every single word on the pages, but it wasn’t sticking, and I still couldn’t answer any of the questions about the material.  I did no better than when I didn’t read any of the literature and just BSed it, and so I went back to that.  After all, if I wasn’t doing any better in class when I read the literature than when I skipped it, there was no point in reading it.  In 12th grade, where half of the class material was about poetry, I tended to gravitate towards that, because it was easier to base stuff on for the freewrites.  I would take whatever style we were studying or had studied previously, and use that as a template to write about things that were far more interesting than whatever literature we were reading.  It wasn’t ideal, and I found it frustrating at times trying to fit to the format, but at least I could have fun with it.  Others tended to stretch it by saying that their poems were based on a poem called “Dover Beach“, which was in the poetry book.  That’s why I put “Based on the poem ‘Dover Beach'” in the introduction – because it was the catch-all poem that people often used, and that line spoofed that.

In any case, the way that Price came about was because I wanted to mix things up a bit.  Rather than just reading something I wrote, I wanted to make it exciting.  So I asked Mrs. Hevener what she thought about doing a game show.  She was fine with it, because the game material was still writing.

The first game that I did was Hollywood Squares, based on the then-new version with Tom Bergeron and Whoopi Goldberg.  That was fun, and it played out pretty well.  I transcribed the whole thing, and it’s still available on here in all of its late-1990s glory.  Then I did Family Feud.  That didn’t go as well, and through that, I realized that games of that style, which required a lot of reveals from backstage, were unsuitable for school, because they just didn’t work well in a no-tech environment.  I did Hollywood Squares again with the AP English group, though it wasn’t as much fun since the questions had to be related to the material that wasn’t all that interesting, and I had to shorten it for time, making certain that it wouldn’t go past two rounds (the original one played out for about the length of a typical episode).  That’s why that version’s not on the website: because I didn’t like it as much compared to the other one.  I did The Gong Show at the end of the first semester, and that ended when the panel “gonged” every single one of the acts (which were various writings).  I also did Win Ben Stein’s Money (as “Win Ben Schumin’s Money”), and recruited a partner for that one, since the host becomes a player later in the game, and thus I couldn’t create all of the game material myself in the interest of fairness.  I did all of my questions about the poetry, since I couldn’t stand the literature.  My partner did questions that focused on the literature, and, well… let’s just say that I lost all of my money.  Then I did All-Star Blitz, which is similar to Hollywood Squares, but instead of playing tic tac toe, contestants solved a puzzle.  Peter Marshall, the original host of Hollywood Squares, also hosted All-Star Blitz, if that tells you how similar the two games were.  I was pretty pleased with how that went, especially since it had been more than a decade since I had seen it in reruns as a small child on USA, and also working off of a description of the game from The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows.  I did the game based on what I remembered seeing as a child, as well as that description.  I recently watched an episode on YouTube, and based on that, I didn’t do too badly.  I think that Peter Marshall would be proud.  I also did this game after I had gotten accepted into college, and so with that, I said the hell with the literature, and did the questions on general knowledge.  These games were all done in the classroom, but for Price, we booked the auditorium.

In running The East Coast Price is Right, I did It’s in the BagDice GamePush OverGrand GameSwitch?, and One Away.  I cut it a little closer on time than I would have liked, filling the 90-minute period almost exactly.  And that class period end was a hard limit.  If I were to do it again, I would have replaced One Away with something like Lucky Seven,Money Game, or Spelling Bee to save time, as all of that “Ladies, do I have at least one number right” business took up a lot of time, plus I didn’t come up with a great One Away setup.  That one should have gone through a few more redesigns if I were dead set on doing One Away.  I also played too many cash games.  I did two, but I should have only done one.  It’s in the Bag was pretty straightforward, and it had to go first because of the way it was set up.  Setting it up on stage in front of the audience would have revealed the solution, but setting it up on stage before the audience arrived avoided this.  Everything else was just a matter of sticking it up on the set, already covered up.  It’s in the Bag is also why I entered from the back, because in doing some research, whenever It’s in the Bag is played first, Bob Barker entered through the audience rather than the big doors (my set also blocked the curtains’ normal movement, so that solved two problems at once).  In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done Grand Game, and would have replaced it with Double Prices or another quickie game.  Speaking of cash games, though, leading up to the show, the most requested game, not surprisingly, was Plinko.  I would have loved to do Plinko, but the construction was beyond what I was willing to spend in money and effort.  If I was going to do Plinko, I was going to do it right, and I knew that I couldn’t do it right with the resources available to me – especially after I had injured my shoulder in a fall the previous month that put me in a sling for a while.  So no Plinko, and I was upfront about that to anyone who asked about it.  There were a lot of other games that I would have loved to have done but couldn’t do for hardware reasons, and the games that I did pick were ones that could be done without any special hardware.  Trust and believe that assembling and painting the “home base” set was enough hardware work for me.  Assuming that I could have had the full functionality of the real show, I might have chosen different games.  I might have done Grocery Game, Cliff Hangers, Master Key, Punch-A-Bunch, Any Number, or Clock Game.  In any case, it’s something I periodically think about.

I also sometimes wonder what other game shows I might have done in the classroom if I were to do it again knowing what I do now, or if technology allowed me to do things that I might not have been able to do before.  I would have loved to do ScrabbleThe $25,000 Pyramid, or Match Game.  Scrabble and Pyramid weren’t feasible due to the tools that I had at my disposal at the time.  I also don’t think I could justify Pyramid for a writing project, since there was so little writing involved.  Just category names.  Scrabble would have been a stretch, but I think I could have justified it, considering that a typical episode could have 16 words and 16 clues (five words in each of the two crossword games, four words in Sprint, and two words in Bonus Sprint).  But technology made it a moot point.  Match Game would have been feasible, but I had never seen the show before (and the 1998 version didn’t air in my area), and I didn’t understand the game enough based on the descriptions that I had read (no YouTube back then, don’t forget) to feel confident doing a game.

Then there was one show that I vowed never to do: Jeopardy!.  The reason that I would never do Jeopardy! was because too many teachers decided to play Jeopardy! when it was time to do test reviews, and without fail, they violated the show’s core principle: giving the answers and having the contestants give the questions.  Anyone who’s ever seen Jeopardy! on television knows that you answer in the form of a question.  And yet all of these teachers, after you picked your category and value, would ask a question.  If you wanted to do question-and-answer, you should have picked a different game.  Even if I did the game correctly (and you know that I would have played it perfectly), I didn’t want to be lumped in with every single tired instance of playing Jeopardy! in school, because when you think of Jeopardy! in school, it’s typically something that was played wrong.

But in any case, I’ve always remembered those game shows fondly.  It was something that happened due to the circumstances at the time, and its time has since passed.  Fun memories.

Categories: School, Television