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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Morning: Fun House

I have a confession for you all.

You know amusement parks? I love them. Or, at least I did before I realized that I am at the age where I can get motion sickness going on a merry-go-round. But when I was a kid, I loved going to the fair or to theme parks. It was the only place where a corn dog and cheese fries were considered a nutritional dinner, and where you could spin around and around on a Tilt-A-Whirl, and still manage to maintain some degree of your equilibrium.

There were some features of certain parks and fairs that for whatever reason I didn't like.

One was the various carnival games that were scattered all over the fairgrounds. Let's be completely honest here. 90% of those games are rigged as such that it's impossible to win the gigantic sized panda bear or stuffed Dora the Explorer doll. The only games I've ever had much luck in were the duck pond where everyone was guaranteed a prize, and the Whack-A-Mole games. But that's fine, everyone should get to play one of these games at least once. I actually shake my head at the various people who spend twenty dollars just to win their significant other a prize.

There are a few rides as well that I absolutely refuse to go on. One of which is the Crazy Dance ride. You may have seen it in the movie Problem Child 2, as it's the ride that Junior speeds up that causes everyone in the park to simultaneously upchuck their corn dogs and cheese fries. My experience on the Crazy Dance wasn't quite that traumatic, but the last time I rode one, I found the compartments to be unusually tight, and I felt more claustrophobic than anything. Of course, the last time I danced the Crazy Dance, I was at my heaviest. Maybe if I got on at my current size, I'd find it much more enjoyable.

Then there's the rides that go up high in the air. Think Ferris Wheels, that ride with all the swings, some roller coasters that have upside-down loops. Yeah, NO. Not my cup of tea. I get vertigo just climbing a ladder.

And then there's the fun house attraction. I know lots of kids who LOVED going through the fun house. Climbing up those moving staircases, walking through the spinning barrels, walking across rope bridges.

Myself? I found it boring.

To me, in order for it to be called a fun house, one would think that it would have to be...well, fun. The fun houses I went through were anything but. After a while, I found the whole venture of going through the fun house to be completely dull, and a waste of two tickets that I could have spent on the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Of course, maybe my experiences were somewhat spoiled by a particular game show made for children. A game show that I used to watch religiously as a youngster, and a game show that I really wanted to be a contestant on. The only problem was that the show filmed in the United States, and since I was Canadian, the odds of me becoming a contestant were slim. Also, at the time the show aired, I was a bit too young to be a contestant. By the time I was old enough to be one, the show had been canceled.

What timing, huh?

So, what game show am I talking about? Well, it happens to be the subject for today's Saturday morning discussion. And while many stations used to air the show during the week, one affiliate used to air it on Saturdays.

Hence my reasoning for talking about it today.

The game show happens to be the show Fun House, which ran for three seasons. The first two seasons were aired in syndication between 1988-1990. It was later picked up by the FOX network for the 1990-1991 season.

The show was basically along the same lines of other game shows that aired for kids at the time, such as Finders Keepers or Double Dare. The prizes ranged from bicycles to vacations in Disneyland, and the ways that the contestants could win these prizes was to run through a gigantic version of an amusement park fun house where every room had a prize hidden inside of it. And sometimes, the prizes were well hidden. Sometimes, you had to bust balloons to find the prize inside. Sometimes you had to walk over a shaking bridge. The centerpiece of the Fun House set was a gigantic water slide that teams could slide down into a swimming pool. The house looked like it was something that came out of a child's imagination, and was probably the main reason why I found amusement park fun houses boring in comparison.

In fact, I did some digging, and found this clip of the people running into the fun house to grab everything they can. Check it out below. I'll explain it a little later in this entry.

So, Fun House was hosted by a man by the name of J.D. Roth. At the time, Roth was one of the youngest game show hosts ever. 

He was just 20 years old when Fun House premiered. Since then, Roth has made a name for himself as a television producer with shows like The Biggest Loser and Beauty And The Geek to his credit.

The way the game worked was that you had two teams of two, almost always a boy and a girl. One was in red, the other one in gold. Each team had a cheerleader backing them up.

No, seriously, they were actual cheerleaders. Jacquie and Sammi Forrest. If memory serves me, Jacquie was the red team cheerleader, and Sammi was the gold. But I could be wrong. They were twins after all.

The first part of the game involved one or both members of the team participating in some sort of stunt where they could earn points for their team. The way the stunts worked is that one stunt would be performed by just the boys. Another stunt would be performed by just the girls. The third would involve both members of the team. Some stunts took place just outside the contestants podium. Some took place inside the Fun House set.

And ALL of them were messy as heck, and the grosser the stunt, the better it was for us kids. Here's one example of one of these stunts.

Pretty cool, huh?

The winner of the stunt would get 25 points for their team. If the stunt somehow ended in a tie, both teams would get 25 points.

At the end of each stunt, the teams (which at this point were soaked with water, chocolate, green slime, or paint) would return to the contestant podium to answer some sort of general knowledge question that was loosely tied to the theme of the stunt they just performed. The first person to buzz in would earn an additional 25 points.

After the three stunts were completed, the next round would be the Fun House Grand Prix. If you click on the link below, you can see one of these in action.

Now, the Fun House Grand Prix was kind of like one of those soap box derby races. The teams would have to push some gigantic contraption (which could resemble a car, a spaceship, or even a bathtub), making at least three or four pit stops along the way to perform some mundane task, like putting peanut butter on a slice of bread, or building a tower of blocks. Along the way, they would also have to keep an eye out for black and white token chips. These chips ranged in point value from 10 points to 25 points which were then added to the contestants final total. It was imperative for teams to try and come in first, for if they did, they would get a 25 point bonus for crossing the finish line first.

The points were added up and barring a tie-breaker situation where a toss-up question was asked, the team with the most points would be allowed to enter the fun house area.

As you've seen in the clip posted above, the fun house was one extensive area filled with dozens of gift tags. Most of the gift tags in the house were green tags with a dollar amount ranging from $50 to $250, but there were some red tags available to grab which would give our players toys, games, electronics, and sporting goods.

To sweeten the deal, there was one prize tag at random that was selected to be the Power Prize. If one of the team members grabbed that tag before the two minute time limit ran out, they would get an additional prize. This prize was almost always a luxurious vacation to such places as Hawaii, Disney World, Universal Studios, and Six Flags Amusement Parks. So, needless to say, there was plenty of incentive to make it through the house as quickly as possible. In addition to the time limit, a player could only grab a maximum of three tags each time they entered the house. After they grabbed the third tag, they'd have to leave the fun house, and switch out so their partner could run in.

The show also had its own version in the United Kingdom, which ran a lot longer than the American version. It ran from 1989-1999 and was hosted by Pat Sharp. 

It was similar in every way to the US version right down to the cheerleaders. There was even an American spin-off of the show called College Mad House, which was hosted by Greg Kinnear, which saw college co-eds competing against each other. The rules were slightly changed, and the challenges were a lot more adult in nature, but it was essentially the same idea.

The original version was the best version though. It was definitely a show that could be fast-paced and messy. But looking back on it all, that fun house put any of the ones I walked through in my youth to shame.

This month, I've had some fun talking about some live-action shows each Saturday, but I promise you all, the Saturday morning cartoons will return as we close out 2011. Stay tuned!

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