I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to have fond memories of Match Game. It was a little bit before my time (not as much before my time as I’d like to pretend it is), but people who grew up watching it are quite fascinated by it, and can still remember the quirks of all the regular panelists.
As a game show, Match Game was pretty bad; one of the reason celebrity panelist game shows died out is that audiences got more interested in shows that focused on the contestants and their attempts to win stuff, and having to match the crazy drunken answers of celebrities was a big barrier to winning anything. (To win at Price is Right or Wheel of Fortune, you don’t have to know much, but you have to know something, like how to shop or how to read. But what kind of skills allow you to match the answers of Fannie Flagg?) But it was one of the last places where you could see an older type of showbiz personality: hard-drinking, bitchy, bawdy and a little anti-social. Today’s showbiz personalities, even the second-tier ones like you got on Match Game, tend to be a little more respectful of social norms, at least when they’re on camera. Match Game has been described as a daily version of a Dean Martin roast, and it was like a C-list Rat Pack, with the same fascination.
All of which is leading up to the point that last night’s parody of “Match Game” was one of the best sketches Saturday Night Live has done this season. It helps that they ended it at just the right time, instead of going on too long and killing the joke. Interesting, though, that they didn’t call it “Match Game”; U.S. laws usually allow them to call the shows they’re parodying by their right names, but maybe they just didn’t want to be forced to impersonate only the specific celebrities who were on Match Game. Or maybe they were just afraid that one or two of the celebrities would be particularly litigious. In any case, funny sketch, probably incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t watch a lot of Game Show Network.