Shame Goes on Game Shows

There’s a game show on Lifetime called “Shop ’til You Drop,” and I think that if you have not had the golden opportunity to see the taping of this show, as I have, you should definitely rush right out and count your blessings, because it sucks.

But you should at least watch it on TV sometime, preferably before reading this column, so you’ll understand how idiotic it is (the show, not the column). Lifetime is channel 22 on King Video Cable.

(King Video Cable, of course, was the only cable company allowed in Lake Elsinore for a long time, due to their highly efficient Vito and Eddie Department. The way this department worked is that two big guys named Vito and Eddie would frequently visit the city council members and politely “suggest” to them that they not allow any other cable companies into Lake Elsinore. Somehow, Jones Intercable was finally told they could come in, but they mysteriously changed their minds a few weeks ago, presumably because the Vito and Eddie Department went to welcome them to the community via baseball bat.)

Anyway, Lifetime is channel 22, so go watch the show now. I’ll wait.

Pretty stupid, right? For those who don’t have cable, let me explain what this show is about. The set looks like a shopping mall, only without the screaming kids relieving themselves on Santa Claus’ lap. Two husband-and-wife teams perform various “challenging” (that is, “stupid”) stunts involving retail prices and shopping knowledge, and the audience is required to yell and clap and behave as though they actually care if anyone wins. If you’re in the audience and you don’t clap, the zany and kooky fabulous merchandise announcer, Mark, will personally kick your heinie out of the studio.

Anyway, one couple is finally declared the winner, and they get to go home with whatever dignity they still have. The other couple has to stay there and play the bonus round. That’s where the show gets ridiculous. The premise of the bonus round is that the couple is given six gift boxes, each containing a gift. They are given 90 seconds to decide whether they think the gifts are valuable enough to total $1000, and if they’re not, they can exchange any or all of them at the various fake stores in the studio.

The reason it’s ridiculous is that it’s supposed to be just like shopping, but the couples don’t act like any married couple I’ve ever seen. The ones I’ve seen consist of a wife wanting to go inside every stinking store in the universe and a husband just wanting to quit spending money and go home. But on this show, the men LISTEN to their wives when they say they want to exchange something, and then they RUN to a store and exchange it, and then they COME BACK to their wives to await further instruction! I’ve never seen such a bunch of hen-pecked husbands! They all reminded me of Elmer Fudd, only slightly less masculine.

I just realized that many of these columns were rather short. I was being restricted to 15 column inches in these days, which isn't more than a few hundred words. It doesn't take very long to read them at all.

I don't mention it in this column, but my drama class had recently gone to see a taping of "Shop 'til You Drop." In fact, we had to watch THREE episodes, all filmed back-to-back. It was a really dumb show, and watching it in person did not make it seem any less dumb. However, Mark the announcer (the same wacky warm-up guy from this column) remembered our group from the last time he'd seen us, and he asked me to send him a copy of the column I wrote about the other show.

The funnest thing about seeing "Shop 'til You Drop" was when the couples were deciding which store to shop in, and the audience was supposed to yell their suggestions. There was a store called "The Bootery," and because we had an inside joke relating to boots (it's a long story, and it's not very funny, so I won't tell you), my friend Aaron and I kept yelling "Bootery! Bootery!" from the audience. We were sitting right below one of the audience microphones, so we thought for sure we'd sound pretty loud, but when we watched the show on TV a few weeks later, you couldn't hear us at all. Some sound engineer obviously earned his money that week, cutting our lusty cries of "Bootery!" out of the mix.

Oh, and naturally the best part of this column -- where I said that Vito and Eddie had greeted Jones Intercable with baseball bats -- got cut out in publication. The rest of that section made it; it was just that particular clause. The reason it would have been so good is that everyone in town HATED King Videocable. They had lousy service, lousy channel selection, and they were the only cable company in town. And it's true that when another company was FINALLY allowed to come in and give King some competition -- you know, like it's SUPPOSED to be in America -- they changed their minds and didn't come in after all. So people would have loved what I said here, but alas. True, cutting satire was hard to slip past the editors in those days.