Friday, July 27, 2007

If who got married?

The first thing I should say here is that I know that game shows determine their questions in advance, long before the producers even know who will be answering them. I learned this nearly 30 years ago watching Tic-Tac-Dough when an Air Force pilot was playing and the category "Plane Talk" came up. Wink Martindale hastened to reassure us that the show wasn't piping questions in favor of the flyboy; that's just the way it shook out. (Just as it wouldn't be fair to give a guy certain questions because they'd be easy for him to answer, it would be unfair to take away certain questions because they'd be easy to answer.)

I get all that -- and normally I'm fine with it. But sometimes I'd like them to bend the rules, because sometimes the shit I see on game shows makes me uncomfortable. And television is supposed to protect me from being uncomfortable.

We're going down this road because tonight, for the first time ever, I watched part of a horrible game show called 1 vs. 100. The details of the show aren't very important, except to say it's kind of like Deal or No Deal: There's a lot of shouting, the contestants yammer too much, hundreds of thousands of dollars go to something besides cancer research, and the host is someone who used to be really funny (in this case, Bob Saget).

I saw two different contestants. The first was a squirrelly looking white guy who answered a whole bunch of multiple-choice questions correctly and went home with $343,00o. Here are two of the last questions he had to answer:

What material is Michelangelo's original statue of David made of? A) Marble. B) Granite. C) Bronze. (The answer: A.)

What actor received Emmy nominations for playing the same character on three different series? A) Carroll O'Connor. B) Kelsey Grammer. C) Ed Asner. (The answer: B.)

So this fellow leaves with a wheelbarrow full of money, and the next contestant comes onstage. He's an affable, confident young African-American named Kwame. Here's the very first question he's asked:

If Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima got married, what would guests throw at the couple after the ceremony? One of the answers was "rice and syrup," but I missed the other two because I was choking.

When my wife and I watch Wheel of Fortune, we often joke that during their regular "theme" weeks, the puzzles should be really ham-handedly offensive. Like, during College Week, one puzzle clue could be "Activity" and the answer would be "SLIPPING HER A ROOFIE." Or during Military Week, it could be something about Abu Ghraib. The point being that someone in the production office is so blind to what's going on around them that they let something like that get through. Well, it happened for real on 1 vs. 100 tonight. Again, I know that the question was written long before they knew a black guy would be answering it (at least, I hope to God it was). But still. Perception is reality. If it looks like they did it on purpose, then they might as well have done it on purpose.

Was Kwame offended? Oh, probably not. He also probably wasn't offended when Saget asked him: "So, Kwame, do you think you can trust the mob?" Which is an unfortunate thing that they say frequently on the show. For what it's worth, I wasn't offended either.

But good God, Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima?

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