I'm watching an old episode of Family Feud on the Game Show Network, and I am floored. I think I'd be better at this game than anyone who has ever been on it. But more importantly, I could never bring myself to respond "good answer" to anything they say.
Name a profession with a high divorce rate? Bus Driver!
What would ruin a party? No pretzels!
Who is the most incredible woman who ever lived? Betty Ford!
My answers were "entertainment," "no guests," and "the Virgin Mary," respectively. Those were numbers 2, 1, and 1. Granted, I am in the comfort of my home whereas these people are under the hot lights of a terribly cheesy television studio.
I know that game shows are harder in person; I have been on two of them. Recently I was on Street Smarts and got my butt whooped. Yes, my nerves had something to do with it. But that's also a game based on luck. Family Feud is based on skill. The skill of tapping in to the collective conciseness of 100 morons, but skill nonetheless.
When I was 12, I was also on Video Power, a short-lived show where four pre-teens competed against each other at various Nintendo games. I did okay until the host stepped on my foot. He said he didn't want to reshoot so I lost. I got a great consolation prize so I didn't mind. Besides, who am I to argue with THE Johnny Arcade?
Until now, I never thought of looking up Johnny Arcade on the web. But now I know his real name is Stivi Pakoski and he hasn't done much since. Take that, Stivi. Serves you right for ruining my chances to get covered in Velcro and stick video games to my chest in the bonus round.
While watching the Feud, I marvel at how dumb people can be. A gentleman was just asked to name a fictional bear and he said, "polar." And of course, his family encouraged him. A quick impression of my family in the same situation:
"What are you, stupid! Get out of the family! You're dead to me! Guards!"
And that's how it should be.
Maybe I'm glad my family never played the Feud, since one of us would likely say something silly, and we'd have to go through all the hassle of selling someone on the black market.
Jeopardy is a difficult show, and even if you know the answers, someone else is likely to buzz in before you. Win Ben Stein's Money was tough, especially when Jimmy Kimmel would waste the contestant's time by stuttering over the questions. And Quiz Show was almost impossible; not only would the producers make things harder for contestants they didn't like, but you'd have to get by Ralph Fiennes.
Other shows are just too easy. Contestants on Wheel of Fortune routinely need all the letters turned in order to solve the puzzle. The last contestant on the Price is Right rarely figures out that you always bid "blank-oh-one." And contestants on Hollywood Squares don't know how to play tic tac toe, let alone the answers to any of the questions.
And yet, their families are still encouraging. I've seen people on the Wheel lose cars during a puzzle that an eight-year-old playing hangman would have solved. And when their families come up on stage at the end, they still dance and hug and say "good answer." Even though she guessed that a strawberry dessert would be the Mojave.
Perhaps it's a positive sign. A sign that we're taught to love our families so unconditionally that we hug them even when they display the IQ of Vienna Sausage. Or maybe it's a sign that we love being on TV so much that nothing else matters to us when we are.
Maybe Johnny Arcade knows. Next time I'm at Starbucks, I'll ask him.
Steve Hofstetter is the author of the Student Body Shots books, which are available at SteveHofstetter.com. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.