Making the most of game shows on TV

Ok, I admit it. We are a family addicted to game shows.

In the TV pantheon, shows pitting contestants against each other in contests requiring obscure skills rank just above reality shows involving manufactured romances and dubious talents. They are cheap to produce, require very little intellectual input and if you hit the jackpot, draw viewers in the multiple millions.( “American Idol” is probably the best example.)

When the intellectual age aimed at by these shows it is pretty low, it is not surprising that kids are so strongly attracted to them. We started off becoming regular viewers of “Wheel of Fortune“, a game show somewhat patterned around the popular kids game of “hangman”where you have to guess a word by working out the letters. The rationalization was that anything to do with alphabets and the English language could not be all bad.

Now we have moved on to a couple of shows that are possibly the other end of the spectrum from WOF – “American Gladiators” and “Wipeout”, both shows requiring physical strength and agility on the part of the contestants. It happened when we left the TV on a few times after WOF, alas, the kids were quick to pounce on the opportunity afforded by prime-time television.

After much soul-searching, the mom in me has decided to make the most of my children’s affection for these shows. Having trouble getting my daughter upstairs to bed? Why, the stairs have become the “Travelator “( a steep slope that contestants in “American Gladiators” have to climb up just before the finish). My 5 year old is thrilled that she can beat her mom everyday! Dawdling at bedtime routines? Just put a time challenge. “I broke my 2 minute record today, mom” she crows delightedly. My frequent trips to the gym have convinced her that I am secretly training to be a “gladiator”.

I wish.

With my surly pre-teen, the rewards are more subtle. Having hit puberty a little early, the 12 -year old has decided that he, Garbo-style, “vants to be left alone”. Evenings are punctuated by the slamming of his bedroom door, behind which( I hope) he reads and listens to music. “Gladiators” draws him out of his cocoon, as he condescends to sit with his embarrassing parents and converse knowledgeably on the vital statistics of the steroidal super-humans on the screen. While watching “Wipeout”, he very astutely remarked that it was less a show about seeing contestants pit their skills against various obstacles and more a comedy about people making fools of themselves. Sniff..my baby is growing up!

So we come together as a family, starting 7:30 p.m. every weekday, and spend an hour or two putting aside our differences in age, temperament, inclinations and intellectual ability to revel in the spectacle of other people’s ambitions. Dinner gets consumed in record time and I am now given some serious respect as a word-guru( thank you Pat and Vanna) . My daughter gets plenty of cuddles from both parents and I have ventured to give my son a hug or two while he is still within reaching distance.

Maybe we’ll get tired of dumbing ourselves down one day. “Jeopardy”, here we come.

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