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the dark side of TV game shows

Game shows have supplied a gentle provide of thrills, laughs, unforgettable moments and cult heroes since the daybreak of TV’s “Golden Age” in the Nineteen Fifties.

Yet behind that small-screen facade of cheery, completely coiffed, telegenic hosts lurks a sinister cauldron of intercourse, greed, dishonest and inappropriate conduct that sometimes rears its head, exposing its ugly underbelly to America.

Case in level: Mike Richards, who lasted all of 9 days as the new host of “Jeopardy!” earlier than quitting on Friday amidst controversy over previous misogynistic feedback and different lawsuits. He stays with TV’s top-rated game present as an government producer. Go determine.

The “Jeopardy!” kerfuffle is simply the newest in an extended line of nefarious incidents which have plagued game shows since Dwight Eisenhower was president. Here are 4 extra.

The ‘Quiz Show’ quagmire

In the Nineteen Fifties, the notorious “Quiz Show Scandals” rocked the business and virtually destroyed the style after phrase broke that producers of the NBC game present “Twenty-One” ensured that Ivy League golden boy Charles Van Doren (who was in on the plan) defeated schleppy, Queens-born trivia wunderkind Herb Stempel, who’d already gained almost $70,000 in prize money and was set to take down fan-favorite Van Doren.

The “Twenty-One” scandal was later the foundation for the 1994 film “Quiz Show,” starring Ralph Fiennes as Van Doren and John Turturro as Stempel.

Charles Van Doren on “Twenty-One,” the first of the huge game-show scandals.
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A harmful ‘Dating Game’

In 1978, Rodney Alcala — armed with shaggy hair and a disarming smile — appeared on the well-liked syndicated daytime present “The Dating Game.” As “Bachelor No. 1,” he was launched by host Jim Lange as “a successful photographer who got his start when his father found him in the darkroom at the age of 13.” Alcala vied with two different “eligible bachelors” for a date with contestant Cheryl Bradshaw — who, hidden behind a wall, requested them main questions as per the present’s titillating format.

When Bradshaw requested Alcala her first question, “What’s your best time?” he smiled and answered “The best time is night. Nighttime.” He gained the game — however Bradshaw refused to exit with him as a result of she discovered him creepy. One of Alcala’s fellow “Dating Game” bachelors, Jed Mills, advised CNN in 2010 that Alcala “became very unlikable and rude and imposing as though he was trying to intimidate … he got creepier and more negative.”

The following year, in 1979, Alcala was arrested, and later convicted, for killing a 12-year-old lady who was on her solution to ballet class in Huntington Beach, Calif., one of no less than eight murders he finally admitted to, together with two in New York (of a restaurant heiress and a TWA flight attendant, for which he was placed on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted listing in 1971). He was suspected in lots of extra crimes.

The serial killer, who was serving a number of life sentences, died in jail in July of “unspecified causes” at the age of 77. How he fooled the “Dating Game” producers, or handed a background test (if there even was one), stays a thriller.

Rodney Alcala and Cherly Bradshaw on “The Dating Game” in 1978.

Gaming ‘Press Your Luck’

Quirky “Press Your Luck” contestant Michael Larson didn’t break any guidelines — technically — however his run on the CBS daytime game present raised lots of eyebrows and compelled the present, and others, to alter the manner during which they programmed their computer systems.

Larson, 34, bearded and sporting a thrifted sports activities coat, appeared on “Press Your Luck” in 1984 to attempt his hand at successful huge dough on the game, during which contestants answered questions by buzzing in on an enormous board, hoping to keep away from the dreaded “Whammy,” which might take away all their winnings as much as that time.

Larson landed on a “Whammy” the first time round however then, in a blur of solutions and lightning-quick buzzes, he gained a complete of $110,000 in a single game, leaving present host Peter Tomarken and fellow contestants Ed Long and Janie Litras Dakin almost speechless.

“Here’s this guy who needed grooming and bought a sports coat at a thrift store on his way in [to play the game]. I just knew I could beat him. I was there to win,” Dakin advised The Post in 2019. “As it went on I was thinking, ‘Is this “Candid Camera” or one thing? There’s one thing improper right here, come on.’ ”

It turned out that Larson, an unemployed ice cream truck driver, had spent the earlier year finding out tapes of “Press Your Luck” episodes on his VCR (keep in mind these?), memorizing the game board’s 5 cash-winning patterns and, in every sample, the place a “Whammy” would pop up and take away his money.

CBS thought of stripping Larson of his winnings, however allowed him to maintain the $110,000, since he didn’t break any guidelines. No one of their wildest goals envisioned somebody memorizing the metrics of the digital game board. “Press Your Luck” retooled its game board, supposedly making it unattainable to memorize, and different shows utilizing like-minded electronics adopted swimsuit.

In the ensuing years, Larson lost most of his “Press Your Luck” bounty in a succession of get-rich-quick schemes. When he died in 1999 from throat most cancers, at the age of 48, he was being investigated for fraud by the SEC, FBI and IRS.

Michael Larson throughout his unbelievable run on “Press Your Luck” in 1984.

Wrongful actions at ‘The Price Is Right’

Broadcasting legend Bob Barker’s “good guy” facade as an animal advocate — he closed each present along with his catchphrase, “And remember folks, always spay or neuter your pets!” — was irretrievably dented in 1994, when “Barker Beauty” and Playboy centerfold Dian Parkinson sued him for a reported $8 million for alleged sexual harassment following an illegal termination.

Holly Hallstrom (from left), Bob Barker and Janice Pennington at a e-book occasion in 1994.
Ron Galella Collection through Getty

In her lawsuit, Parkinson, who’d been with the present for 18 years, claimed that she’d been pressured to have oral intercourse with Barker in his dressing room “about twice a week” for three-and-a-half years, “first by using force and later by other means of coercion,” in line with an Associated Press report. She additionally claimed in court docket docs that she had intercourse with Barker six or eight instances, fearing she could be fired if she refused.

Barker, who retired in 2007 and is now 97, countered that she’d initiated “a little hanky-panky” and copped to having a consensual relationship with Parkinson for a year and a half. A choose dismissed the wrongful termination cost in the swimsuit however let the sexual harassment cost stand. Then, in 1995, Parkinson dropped the entire shebang, citing medical stress associated to the lawsuit (a bleeding ulcer) and her incapacity to afford a expensive authorized battle.

Still, such “hanky-panky” on the set seemed to be widespread.

Kathleen Bradley at an occasion in 2018.
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“We’d come out in swimsuits and bikinis — who wasn’t going to look?” former “Price Is Right” mannequin Kathleen Bradley advised The Post about her time on the present, which led to 2000 and which she chronicled in her 2014 e-book, “Backstage at ‘The Price Is Right’: Memoirs of a Barker Beauty.” “I keep in mind CBS put out a memo — they’d what they referred to as ‘the eight second rule.’ If, for some motive, a man was taking a look at you for greater than eight seconds, it was thought of sexual harassment.

“Some of the backstage guys would rub up against you if you were coming in for the next scene. One guy was so fresh he got a Polaroid camera, got down on the ground and started taking pictures up our skirts … but after a period of time he became one of my best friends,” added Bradley, now 70.

Still, she stated, “Bob [Barker] never did anything to me that was offensive or demeaning.”

In the wake of the Parkinson lawsuit the floodgates opened, and Barker confronted a flood of litigation. In 1995, “Barker Beauty” mannequin Holly Hallstrom left the present after which sued Barker, claiming she was fired for not defending him in the Parkinson drama — and claiming he requested her to unfold false details about Parkinson. Barker countersued for slander and the case was settled out of court docket.

In October 2000, Bradley and Janice Pennington — an unique “Barker Beauty” — have been let go from the present. Pennington, who was knocked unconscious in 1988 by a “Price Is Right” digicam, signed a confidential settlement. Bradley obtained an undisclosed financial settlement.

“Bob became such a bitter guy if you didn’t suck up to him,” stated Bradley. “His ego got the best of him.”