I’M WITH STUPID: There might be something in the social and cultural air that will explain the return of The Gong Show, but I’m actually a little afraid to bother tracking it down. The original show debuted on NBC, while the new show is a product of Sony Pictures Television and Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison productions, and airs on the Comedy Network starting tonight.
All I do know is that the original show, featuring host and producer Chuck Barris, hit the air in 1976, when I was 12 years old, and unemployment was hovering around eight per cent in the U.S. (It was 7.2 per cent last month, so draw your own conclusions; all I know is that the last thing we need right now is a return to toe socks and double live albums.)
The original was a hit, especially during its second season, when it ran in what was once known as the “after school” slot at 4 p.m. and featured guest judges that included Steve Martin, David Letterman, Jamie Farr and now-a-footnote Jaye P. Morgan. It made “celebrities” out of Gene Gene The Dancing Machine and The Unknown Comic, and gave child actress Andrea McArdle the national exposure that got her cast as Annie on Broadway.
The new judges include Andy Dick, a Sopranos cast member and Brian Posehn from the Sarah Silverman Program, who had the one really great line of the first show: “I had to give him a good score because he reminds me of my dungeon master.” And for fans of the original show, it got the ball rolling with an act that shamelessly echoes The Popsicle Twins, the act that supposedly killed the original show. You felt like a moron when you watched the original show; you do with the new version, though since so much TV today evokes the same feeling, you’ll probably hardly notice.