XXX and OOO

Whoopi Goldberg takes center stage (square) on the new Hollywood Squares

Individuals of a certain age--if, for example, the first movie you ever saw was Star Wars--may remember when game shows were after-dinner, family-bonding fodder. If you rushed through dinner or ate with a plate balanced on your knees in front of the family tube you could spend hours drinking in The Joker's Wild, Jeopardy,or Tic Tac Dough, (hosted by the improbably named Wink Martindale). If you were a queer-in-the-making, however, you most likely tuned in inexplicably to Hollywood Squares, where Paul Lynde held marvelously queeny court until his death in 1982.

The show just wasn't the same after that. Gone were great folks like the sometimes-real, sometimes-faux drunks Dean Martin and George Gobel. Gone was Big Bird. In the New Hollywood Squaresincarnation, we got Jm J. Bullock in the queeny role (yawn) and Alf for the puppet (yuck). Even stunts like putting Tia Carrere into a hot tub (yum!) couldn't make a game show more interesting then your average episode of Oprah.

The chance to re-live those halcyon days of late-'70s youth returns this month with yet another incarnation of the Hollywood Squares. This time around, Whoopi Goldberg gets tagged for center-square duties, and the folks revolving around her include extra-stylish Florence Griffith Joyner (the episodes were taped shortly before her death) and extra-funny Rosie O'Donnell. Bruce Vilanch, an Advocate columnist and superstar humor writer, provides a reasonably permanent residency as the big queen. Too bad that Vilanch is even less attractive to look at than Lynde was--could the producers make him cut that tribute-to-Jerry-Garcia hair?

Of course, the game show still provides a home for lesser stars too. The show's way-too-brightly-colored web site (www.hollywoodsquares.com) touts the accomplishments of such notables as Holly Robinson Peete (who?) and Craig Shoemaker, who hosts his own game show on VH1. Nothing like game-show nepotism to keep those chairs warm.

Currently, you'd have to drive to Rochester or Mankato to catch the show, but plans are in the works to have Squares up and running in the Twin Cities market soon. Call your local TV station and insist that they put the program in that 6:30 p.m. slot where it rightfully belongs. Then call Mom and tell her you're coming to dinner, sort of.

 
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