Wednesday, March 22, 2017
"The Gong Show"
Oh, no! Chuck Barris just died.
For those of you under 40, Barris was the funniest, most influential person in television. He produced "The Dating Game," "The Newlywed Game" and, my favorite, "The Gong Show" which he also hosted. The last one was a parody of talent shows. Parody was unknown to TV back in the Seventies.
"The Gong Show" was truly subversive. It mocked the seriousness of contemporary TV by showing raw, even rude stuff. One segment showed two attractive young women seductively sucking popsicles as their "talent." Another episode had every contestant singing the same dumb song, "Feelings." And, of course, Chuck wore wacky clothes and acted like an idiot.
The judges on the show were Jamie Farr (Klinger from "M*A*S*H"), Arte Johnson ("Rowan & Martin's Laugh In") and Jaye P. Morgan -- who once bared her breasts on live TV. Everyone loved Gene Gene The Dancing Machine and The Unknown Comic (a guy with a paper bag on his head).
Chuck wrote an autobiography ("Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind") in which he joked that he was an assassin for the CIA. Many people believed him -- and in 2002 a movie was made from the book starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore.
Chuck Barris changed television and American culture for the better, ridding it of pompous self-regard.