The Best (and Worst) Game Shows Produced by The Gong Show’s Chuck Barris


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Chuck Barris was a trailblazer. A television producer who made memorable game shows in the 1960s and 1970s, he produced beloved programs. Some are still streaming in one form or another, even seven years after his passing.

Sadly, in his haste to get shows out there, he also signed off on a few shows that were physically painful to watch. These shows were so terrible because of the stupidity of the premise or they pitted newly married brides and grooms against one another, making ” whoopee” an excruciating exercise to witness.

Interestingly, there was no real difference in quality between his most towering television achievements and those that got immediately pulled off the air after a couple of months. So here’s our rundown of the best and worst shows Chuck Barris ever produced, and we’ll leave it to you to decide which were the good ones.

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‘The Gong Show’

“The Gong Show” was a talent competition that seriously stretched the definition of “talent.” Amateur musicians, actors and other such artisans would appear on the show to demonstrate their abilities and hopefully get through their entire two-minute act without the panel of celebrity judges striking the gong behind them, signaling that they simply couldn’t tolerate one more second. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Chuck Barris was a visionary for realizing that U.S. television audiences were more excited to see the bad acts than the good ones.

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‘The Dating Game’

One of Barris’ most iconic creations, this show featured contestants vying for a date with a bachelor or bachelorette hidden behind a screen. Such luminaries as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Farrah Fawcett and Andy Kaufman all made pre-stardom appearances on the show. Rodney Alcala was found after his 1978 appearance on the show to be a serial killer. He won the date on the episode he appeared in but the bachelorette, Cheryl Bradshaw, found him too “creepy” to go out with on a date. Always listen to your gut, ladies.

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‘The Newlywed Game’

“The Newlywed Game” was produced by Chuck Barris and was so popular that it stayed on the air in multiple incarnations for decades. Hosted by Bob Eubanks, it consisted of newlywed couples answering very awkward questions about one another. Things would get so contentious that one wonders if they had immediately hired divorce lawyers after the taping ended. One answer given by a happy wife about the strangest place she’s ever “made whoopee” has remained legendary, even decades after the episode aired.

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‘The $1.98 Beauty Show’

“The $1.98 Beauty Show” was only on the air for two glorious seasons after its 1978 debut, but in that short period, it became beloved to all who got to see it. Hosted by the great Rip Taylor, the title told you everything you needed to know about it; it was a beauty show, and the winner won $1.98 (in cash!) and what appeared to be a bouquet of carrots. Sadly, it all ended in 1980, but we’re not sad it was canceled— we’re glad it happened.

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‘The Parent Game’

Like “The Newlywed Game,” the Chuck Barris production “The Parent Game” consisted of questioning three couples, this time about their children. The parents would score points if their answers matched those of a resident child psychologist. While that’s all fun and good, what the show really delivered was unfortunate contestants digging their own metaphorical graves with stupid answers that embarrassed them in front of a national prime-time television audience.

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‘Three’s a Crowd’

In its original Chuck Barris Productions incarnation, “Three’s a Crowd” bore some similarities to “The Newlywed Game” in that it featured couples answering revealing questions. It became a crowd, per the title, because a third person such as a friend or family member would also get to weigh in on questions. It would get downright contentious (also awkward and cringeworthy), and the show was denounced by such groups as the National Organization for Women and the United Auto Workers’ Union. It was canceled after a few months.

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“Camouflage” was somewhat unrepresentative of Chuck Barris Productions’ game shows in that it didn’t seem like you were watching entire marriages self-destruct before your eyes. A revival of the show from the 1960s, Chuck Barris Productions only had their 1980 version for a single year before it was canceled after 13 episodes. The show’s premise was contestants finding hidden images in a larger picture, which is not exactly the most thrilling concept for a game show.

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‘The Game Game’

“The Game Game” is noteworthy in that it was the first Chuck Barris Productions game show to get syndicated, but the premise was too muddled to keep viewers watching. Contestants would play along with celebrities (like comedian George Carlin or author Jacqueline Susann) to determine how well they made decisions. It sounds like a total snooze, which probably explains why the show only aired for a year.

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‘How’s Your Mother-In-Law?’

“How’s Your Mother-In-Law?” proved that while the good people from Chuck Barris Productions knew what people’s pain points were, it didn’t always add up to a coherent game show. On this show, contestants answered questions to determine which of the five mothers-in-law assembled onstage was the one they would most like to have. Each mother-in-law was represented by a comedian who did the talking for them. Host Wink Martindale said in later years that the show’s format didn’t make a lot of sense, making its quick cancellation pretty understandable.

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‘Operation: Entertainment’

Chuck Barris co-produced “Operation: Entertainment,” which was a musical comedy variety show intended to appeal to military veterans. The pilot episode featured Louis Armstrong and others featured Flip Wilson, Martha Raye, and the great Aretha Franklin. They got 31 episodes out of it before the final episode on January 24, 1969, which featured a performance by Johnny Cash.

This story was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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