Picture it. A klaxon sounds; carnival lights flash crazily in the studio. The contestants glance around in surprise. “Uh oh, Terry,” says the host (not Mike Richards). “That means it’s time for a new Lightning Challenge!” The studio audience roars in delight.
“Five minutes before taping,” the host reads off a card, “you learn that the extremely popular eight-time returning champion of your show said something incredibly racist on Twitter!” The audience gives a theatrical oooooooh of suspense, while poor Terry visibly blanches.
“And you’re rolling in five… four… three…” Then he does the silent count for two and one, while poor Terry frantically guesses at and attempts to compose the appropriate Host Face for this nightmare scenario. You can hear air molecules brushing past each other in the studio. The host points at Terry; we’re rolling.
“Ah,” says a hollow-eyed Terry to the camera, face an insane frozen rictus of manic terror. “Hoo. Haaa.”
A buzzer sounds. Terry’s face collapses like every corresponding cranial nerve was severed all at once. The audience groans.
This was Laura Wagner’s idea, not mine! But it gets more fun the more you think about it, and I especially endorse it (and claim credit for it): a game show where the contestants compete to be the host of a game show. It could be called The Game Show Game Show, with your host, Dr. Gameshow. You are faced with adverse circumstances and earn points by handling them while demonstrating game show host traits: poise; easy charm; reasonably quick wit; the ability to keep the machine moving along one tempo ahead of the contestants, so that they’re always in a slightly frantic eager-to-please mode instead of getting comfortable and letting their dull or annoying personalities hang out; sparkling teeth. Oh no, Clark! Bruce Vilanch took a wrong turn on the way to the set of Hollywood Squares and is disrupting your show’s final round! You have 10 seconds to think of a witty one-liner that wins over the audience as you escort him off the stage!
Picture them bidding on a selection of ever more extreme adversities, like an auction. Contestant A says, “I’ll take ‘Contestant thinks he’s auditioning for a standup special’ and ‘Comic sidekick obviously having a bad acid trip,'” and Contestant B, sweaty and desperate, behind on points coming into this round, has to either surpass that bid (“I’ll take all of that, plus ‘No one can know that I have shit in my pants'”) or take the chance that Contestant A might nail it and walk off with the chance to be the next Bob Barker.
Picture a contestant spinning a wheel arrayed with various misfortunes, landing on the Mystery Disaster, reaching blindly into a velvet bag, and getting the Richard Dawson Challenge, in which they must drink themself blind and then usher a family of goobers through a recitation of weird double-entendres without falling over or bursting into tears. Picture your various Mike Richardses, the kinds of weird fame-hound ghouls who aspire to host game shows, performing their grasping desperation out in the open, rather than by fixing the audition process in their favor behind the scenes! Picture literally Mike Richards, sweating through his shirt as he faces the “Banter with a contestant who knows you’re a skeevy piece of shit” challenge, on TV for all the world to watch.
Picture Netflix optioning this idea and making me insanely rich. Alternatively, picture a stoned Laura Wagner, and not me, coming up with it.