Did you think you'd live to see Dick Clark host another game show--and in prime time?
But CBS, where the shows skew old and the suits aren't stupid, has hired that American icon, Mr. Dick "I've Got a Picture in My Attic That's Aging Rapidly" Clark to host "Winning Lines"--its new prime-time answer to ABC's game show hit "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." "When you say 'Dick Clark' you have instant credibility, instant recognition, a great comfort level," CBS Television CEO Les Moonves told The TV Column.
And how. You just can't get much more comfortable than Dick "American Bandstand" Clark, a k a Mr. "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve," a k a Mr. "Bloopers and Practical Jokes."
When you say "Dick Clark," you're also talking about a guy who's a game show been-there-done-that. Clark was involved with one of the longer-running game shows in American TV history, "The $10,000 Pyramid"--which debuted in 1973 and lasted long enough to become "The $25,00 Pyramid" and "The $50,000 Pyramid" and finally "The $100,000 Pyramid" to adjust for inflation. Then there are the memorable and/or forgettable "Challengers," "Krypton Factor," "Let's Make a Deal," "Missing Links," "Object Is," "Scattergories," "Ultra Quiz"--and don't forget Fox's new Chuck Woolery-hosted "Greed," which is executive-produced by Clark.
"Nobody does this better than he does," Moonves says. "When you're dealing with a genre where credibility may be an issue, it's important to have somebody who has it."
Can't be sure, but I think that may have been a dig at NBC, which plans to debut a remake of the scandalized game show "Twenty-One," with Maury Povich hosting, on Sunday, Jan. 9. CBS has scheduled "Winning Lines" to start the night before, and if you think that's a coincidence, you're mistaken.
Clark's show is debuting in the middle of what we here at The TV Column will call Game Show Overkill Week. Fox starts the assault on our senses with three straight nights of "Greed," Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Jan. 5, 6 and 7. Clark bows in with "Winning Lines" in its regular Saturday 8 p.m. time slot, and Povich follows the next night. Monday is the Game Show Day of Rest, after which Rege and "Millionaire" return on Tuesday, Jan. 11.
Clark says he's not surprised by the recent renaissance in prime-time game shows and says he jumped at the chance to host one. "I always wanted to, I was just waiting for the genre to come back and somebody to ask."
He's also not surprised that even youth-obsessed networks like Fox, ABC and NBC are signing up sixtysomething-ers Regis Philbin, Chuck Woolery and Povich to host their prime-time game series instead of the hot young stand-up comics of the week.
"Anybody who knows how to do a game show knows [hosts] are a hard breed of dog to find," Clark says. "There's no practice, no warm-up league; you can't go anywhere to learn it. Comics, singers, dancers, jugglers do not make good game show hosts. It's somebody who's producing, directing and ad libbing simultaneously--that takes practice."
So how does Clark size up his new prime-time competition?
Povich: "He's an old pro, and will learn the ropes quickly."
Philbin: "I've been a Regis Philbin fan for 20 years; to have this happen to him at this stage in his life makes me smile to think about."
Woolery: "Chuck and I have been competitors before; he is a workhorse and a great talent--a total professional."
Never one to pass up a speaking opportunity, William F. Buckley Jr. this weekend signs off not once but twice as host of the long-running PBS series "Firing Line."
Today at 1:30 p.m., WETA will air the final edition of the weekly political debate series that started in 1966 and amassed a total of 1,429 broadcasts, The Post's John Maynard reports. The show's swan song edition, which was taped on Tuesday, has been expanded to one hour; it'll feature Slate editor and frequent Buckley debater Michael Kinsley, along with Rich Lowry and Richard Brookhiser of the National Review and public advocate Mark Green.
But wait; there's more.
Tomorrow at 4, WETA will serve up the very last of the special two-hour debate editions of "Firing Line," which it has been dishing out for hard-core Buckleyites about four times a year since 1988. That show, taped earlier this month at the University of Mississippi, features such luminaries as Jack Kemp and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) debating an Internet tax.
Today's so-long is relatively fluffy by "Firing Line" standards: It includes interstitials that feature the likes of Johnny Carson and Robin Williams impersonating the man who knows more big words than anyone in America; toward the end of the program, Buckley raises a plastic glass of champagne--hey, it's PBS--telling his TV audience, "Say your prayers, stay healthy and thanks for sticking with 'Firing Line.' "
Tomorrow's program includes a real touchy-feely moment by Buckley standards. That's when longtime adversary Kinsley tells the live audience, "Yes, William F. Buckley is hanging up his tongue.. . . Liberals can rest easy again. Dictionaries can rest easy for that matter." After which, Buckley returns the compliment, telling Kinsley, "I must devote just one sentence to telling [Kinsley] . . . it is and has been for 20 years a great pleasure for me to argue and to disport under his masterful and witty supervision, attesting to his powers to transcend his own parochial political views."
Then, after that verbal hug, it's on to the "sordid matter of the day," says Buckley--and you can switch to the "Mrs. World" pageant on PAX-TV.
CAPTION: Perennial game show host Dick Clark is set for yet another: CBS' prime-time "Winning Lines."