Friday, September 17, 2010
WHEEL . . . OF . . . TCHOTCHKES!
Today's lunch convo veered to creative programming on ESPN Classic - specifically, an episode of "Celebrity Bowling" that my coworker caught the other night, featuring Pat Morita (pre-"Karate Kid") and the dentist from the Bob Newhart Show (the first one, not the one with Larry, his brother Darryl and his other brother Darryl). From "Celebrity Bowling" we got to "Battle of the Network Stars," and then to "Wheel of Fortune" - not "Pat and Vanna Wheel of Fortune," but the old-school "Chuck and Susan Wheel of Fortune." And, God, did the memories come flooding back.
For those old enough to remember "Wheel Classic," do you remember the prize room? You won a puzzle, and you had to immediately spend your winnings shopping the prize room? All of the prizes looked like they came straight out of the Service Merchandise catalog - mantel clocks, cloisonne vases, really ugly Oriental screens - and if you were watching Wheel with your grandmother, you had to be careful about dissing on the prizes, because chances are good that your grandmother had a lot of that stuff in her house. And actually found it attractive.
Remember the odd pricing? "A collection of RCA records, valued at $213"? And if there was an item with a price tag that was less than the money that you had remaining - say, you had $50 and the cloisonne vase was $47 - THEN YOU HAD TO TAKE THE VASE. And you got the remaining $3 on "credit."
Which leads me to my real topic . . . . The anatomically correct ceramic dog.
Remember him? And he WAS a he, for sure. Usually, he was a greyhound, or a Dalmatian, and he was big - looked to be waist-high - and, as I recall, definitely anatomically correct. Because the dog was always posed sitting on his back haunches, his junk always pointed right at the camera (and you, the home viewer), framed by his front legs.
Every episode, there was a dog. A big, ugly, sort of perverted-looking and completely useless dog. And, depending on whether you liked the winning contestant or not, you would root for them to either avoid the dog or get stuck with it. "Ooh, ooh, he has eighty bucks left, and the dog is seventy seven! Take the silk floral arrangement! If you take the silk flowers, you can take the paperweight, and this long, painful-to-watch nightmare will be over!"
Remember when people were FORCED to take the ceramic dog? They always sighed. Audibly. "[SIGH.] I'll take the dog, Chuck." Sometimes it was "[SIGH.] I GUESS I'll take the dog, Chuck." Like they were fooling themselves into thinking that they had some choice in the matter.
I always speculated that many of those dogs never made it to the car - oopsie, they got dropped in the parking lot, and the remains got tossed in a Dumpster. I imagined that there was a Dumpster marked just for this purpose, placed just outside the stage door: "Please deposit your anatomically correct ceramic dog remains here."
Yeah, I was a weird kid - what's your point?
Screen capture from a Wheel Classic episode above - complete with the ubiquitous "prize-room-shopping-contestant-in-a-bubble" effect. Because the producers knew that you wanted to see the winner's facial expression when he or she was FORCED TO TAKE THE DOG.