Holiday times can be tough at a newspaper. Local governments are regulated to basic housekeeping. Regular sources are taking vacations. Even the crime beat can get a bit light — it’s like the dealers and the thieves pump the brakes just a little during that lull between the Yuletide and the calendar change.
What separates a good newspaper from a great newspaper is how we fill that space — and deliver to you the best content possible, even when the news cycle is a bit slow.
After an afternoon of banter about the merits of the late Ray Combs’ run on Family Feud, my editor tasked me the ultimate space-filler — rank the top five game show hosts of all time:
1 (tie). Bob Barker. Listen, while Bob Barker’s longevity calling the numbers on the Plinko board is an achievement in itself, his overall swagger and unwavering support of animals propels him to the top. Barker could be funny, he could be stern, but most importantly, he could be heartwarming. How many of us, on a sick day from school, would watch Bob hold that pin-thin microphone while a married mother of five from Duluth spun the wheel for a vacation to Hawaii? How many of us would blush when their grandmas would gush about how handsome Barker is, all these years later? “Happy Gilmore,” anyone? If you’re talking game show hosts, Barker did more than command the game, he commanded our culture.
1 (tie). Alex Trebek. Ok, so I lied here — No. 1 is a tie. Like Barker, Trebek’s decorum hosting Jeopardy made him more than a game show host — he became the game show host. What other game show became a Saturday Night Live sketch? What other game show has been an integral part of a movie, such as “White Men Can’t Jump?” Alex Trebek’s deadpan wit, his firm yet fair handling of wrong answers and late buzz-ins, and his correct pronunciation of all words that tie my tongue just reading it — that made him great. Though he was Canadian, Trebek is a national icon. It’s a pity 2020 took him from us, too.
3. Steve Harvey. A West Virginia dude, Harvey is proof you can make something of yourself, no matter where you’re from. Unlike other game shows, Family Feud is a team effort — and the more contestants, the better a host has to play off the group dynamic. In way, a good Family Feud host has to be a good family counselor — they have to be able to handle those dynamics in the blink of an eye. Harvey, who has had one of the longest tenures on the show, has proven time and again, not only can he handle any family who takes the stage, he can do it with a laugh.
4. Tom Bergeron. If the old adage is, “those who can’t do, teach” then Bergeron’s motto ought to be, “those who can’t perform, host.” Bergeron is a professional host, helming “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and formerly “Dancing with The Stars.” But it’s his work on Hollywood Squares that puts him up there. The key to being a good Hollywood Squares host is crowd control — and when the crowd is such powerhouse personalities like Whoopi Goldberg and Martin Mull, it’s easy to get run over. During his six-year run on the show, Bergeron commanded the stage time and again, allowing the stars to perform while remaining in charge of the game.
5. Pat Sajak. I have been told by my editor to put Sajak in, despite the fact I find his manner grating and his hair is terrible. Vanna White would make a much better host of Wheel of Fortune. But, as I understand it, many people like Pat Sajak. Then again, the Ford Edsel is perfect proof that the taste of the masses does not always translate into success.
Bonus pick: Chuck Woolery. Woolery had hosted about every game show around — he was the first host of Wheel of Fortune and also hosted Love Connection, Scrabble and Lingo on the Game Show Network. With such depth and versatility, Woolery is a good game show host. He’s also a hometown boy, too, though he doesn’t seem to say too much about it.
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