Here's a million-dollar question: Are TV game shows real, or is real life a series of TV game shows?
My mother began hosting "Dusting for Dollars" in the 1950s. Every Saturday morning, we contestants worked our dust rags and the old Eureka around the living and dining rooms. To ensure that we didn't "hit and miss," Mom hid coins in dark, dusty places.
Sure enough, if we didn't bother to remove the piano scarf and swipe under it, there'd be a dime lurking there - a dead giveaway that we'd slacked off.
Mom is still emceeing "Dusting for Dollars" whenever she can find a grandchild-contestant. The only things on the set that have changed are the ruffled, starched doilies with six-inch peaks that once decorated the maple end tables. Even Mom wearied of keeping them stiff.
"Magic Password" is one of the first games a contestant learns. As soon as a tyke can say "Gimme!" and lunge for a cracker, the emcee says, "What's the magic word?"
After some false grabs and whines, the tot finally remembers. "Please." The emcee hands him the whole box and a couple of door prizes, too.
Most married couples take to "Let's Make a Deal" without a single rehearsal.
"I'll clean that sludge out of the fridge if you'll change the baby's diaper," the wife says.
"No deal," the husband says. "I see flies buzzing around that diaper."
"Fine. Then I'll change the diaper while you clean the fridge and go to the store to buy milk."
Now he feels like a winner. "It's a deal!" Too late, he discovers that the gas tank is on "E."
At our house, we play "Wheel of Misfortune" at least once a week when the van breaks down yet again. The only original part left is the ashtray.
"Big money, big money," my husband says.
Do we take another spin and risk the ashtray going kaput, too, or stop and cut our losses?
A teen suggests stopping, dumping the van, and going into debt for a sporty new Eclipse, which she can drive.
"No help from the studio audience," I remind her.
Households with teens often play "The Price Isn't Right." The contestant selects a high-priced item, then haggles it out with the host.
"These are the only jeans that fit right," the teen whispers through the dressing- room curtain.
"Nope. Not paying $68," the host says.
"I'll pay you the difference between these and that dorky pair you want me to buy," the teen says.
"Nope. Price still isn't right."
After more battling of wits, the teen agrees to do some hard labor (like "Dusting for Dollars") to make up the difference in price.
My mother even hosted a game similar to "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" when I was growing up. She called it "Do You Think Money Grows on Trees?" None of us ever had enough good answers to climb too high up that tree.
The game was always good for a canned laugh, though.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society