The skimpy ratings generated by summer fiascos like ”Fame” and ”Paradise Hotel” indicate that the American viewing public’s reality television binge has led to an inevitable purge. For those who feel like they’ve overindulged in the genre, the ideal remedy may be a show that’s almost 100 percent artificial: The Hollywood Squares.
Granted, the game show’s contestants are real; it’s the ”stars” occupying the giant tic-tac-toe board who are fake. During ”Squares”’ initial 1966-81 run (episodes replay on Game Show Network), such quasi-celebs as bogus hick Charley Weaver (actually acting-clan patriarch Cliff Arquette), pint-size Milquetoast Wally Cox, and the wickedly bitchy Paul Lynde became TV household names.
”Squares” is worth watching for the retro fashions alone, from host Peter Marshall’s pink tux to Lynde’s silver lame shirts. Factor in frequent appearances by flamboyant ventriloquist Wayland Flowers and Madame, and you’ve got the gayest show this side of Bravo. And the History Channel’s got nothing on GSN when it comes to vintage trivia. Where else would you learn that a 1976 Ladies’ Home Journal survey found students’ most admired person was O.J. Simpson?
The old ”Squares” can be breathtakingly un-PC – and I’m not just talking about the fur coats modeled by ”Room 222” cutie Karen Valentine (these days, she’d be picketed by PETA). Even normally benign George Gobel once joked that crossing a watermelon with a pumpkin would result in ”a jack-o’-lantern that has an Afro.”