Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mental stimulation

May 12, 2011

Last summer when I was spending a lot of time recuperating, I learned to expand my television viewing. For the most part I waited daily for “Wheel of Fortune” and the Royals baseball games. Before the stroke, I watched detective shows and sports, however, during recent months, I have now become a fan of TV quiz shows.

While I like to think of myself as a well-read and knowledgeable person, whenever I watch one of these quiz show programs, I’m surprised at how many times I’m wrong. I guess what I enjoy is racking my brain to think of an answer and, even if I’m wrong, I am learning something. I tape the shows during the daytime and watch them at night.

Last summer when I was in therapy all day, several of us started watching “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” during the lunch break and it resulted in a lot of social interaction. Everyone got involved and we spent time trying to figure out answers. While it has been a long time since I was a fifth grader, I don’t remember questions being that tough. Maybe kids are smarter these days, or adults are dumber —I’m not sure which. But, whatever the case, I’m not always smarter than a fifth grader.

Quiz shows have been around for a long time. Quiz-type games were played in medieval times at festivals and have continued in one form or another throughout history. Early radio shows saw the value of the quiz-type show and there were several very popular shows. Probably one of the first radio quiz shows was “Dr. I.Q,” where a correct answer was worth “20 silver dollars.”

When TV began taking over the home entertainment market, the quiz show became a staple. The first game show to be televised was “Spelling Bee” in 1938. Early TV was dominated by westerns and quiz shows. “Strike It Rich” and “The Big Payoff” were among the most popular shows on TV. The $64 prize in one popular show swelled to $64,000. The increased prize money on all game shows led to a need for bigger audiences, and that’s when problems started to creep in and damaged the image of game shows.

“The $64,000 Question” attracted 85 percent of the TV viewing audience at one time. It wasn’t long before the TV producers began to take notice of contestants that were more popular with the viewing audience. One author stated, “It wasn’t long before producers began warming up contestants.” That is a polite way of saying that popular contestants were coached about questions and answers. In 1958, an unhappy stand-by contestant on the show “Dotto” complained that producers gave advance information to some participants. A winner on “Twenty-One” reported that the game was “fixed.”

Finally a contestant, Charles Van Doren, testified before a U.S. House of Representatives committee that he had been aided while winning $129,000 on “Twenty-One.” The admission was shocking and led to public outrage. The idea of cheating was just enough to kill quiz shows and it was a decade or so before they returned to the small screen.

For the most part, quiz shows are daytime fare. Now you can find a wide variety of such shows. Three of my favorites are on Channel 41. They start with “So You Want To Be Millionaire” at 4 p.m., followed by “Jeopardy” at 4:30 p.m. and my very favorite, “Wheel Of Fortune,” at 6:30 p.m.

I enjoy the mental stimulation of TV quiz shows. I am a trivia buff and I enjoy learning about a lot of issues. I think many people enjoy the thought of winning big bucks, too. No matter why you enjoy the shows, they are a lot of fun and can be entertaining for the entire family.

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