Square Pegs

Connecting the X's of Hollywood Squares reveals a queer lineage

Saddest of all, Harry Hamlin, star of the low-rent Movie Stars, a reputedly horrendous sitcom about washed-up celebrities, lived out one of his characters' story arcs by making an apparently coerced appearance with costar Jennifer Grant. It was way too meta for me: Will we now see an episode in which Harry's character rejoices at a guest shot on Hollywood Squares, pathetic has-been that he is? Even worse, during his stint in the bottom corner, nobody asked poor, dignified Harry a question. Gifted with a couple of reaction shots by a director who is doubtless instructed to allot everyone a moment onscreen, he looked pained at best as the jests lumbered by.

Making Whoopi: As executive producer of the show, Ms. Goldberg occupies center square
Making Whoopi: As executive producer of the show, Ms. Goldberg occupies center square

Consistent with those hints of time warp (Harry Hamlin!), the jokes themselves seem mired in the Seventies. "America's dairyland is in...?" Bergeron asks Cheech Marin. "Pamela Anderson's bra," Cheech smirks. Maybe this is compensation for all the star power that women project on this show; maybe it reveals a certain discomfort with a program that gives more time and volume to female voices. But these reactionary jokes are far outweighed by the gravity of Whoopi, Rosie, and their cohorts. Though it may linger around the bottom of the dial, this Hollywood Squares is a breath fresher than Oxygen, where the only joke on offer is its media hype.

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