Is it a lack of attention span? Some kind of Adult ADD epidemic or has the entertainment industry just run out of new ideas. (This year’s Godzilla remake would strongly suggest the latter.)

Today, almost every TV talk show and many radio shows regularly play games with their guests and hosts. It is very evident on the Jimmy Fallon incarnation of The Tonight Show. Every guest is called upon to play some kind of trivia, word or “sports-oriented” game. Why? Do they have that little to talk about?

Since the days of talk show guests coming on just to talk (and get paid) are long gone, current talk show guests are on a talk show to promote something – a movie, TV show, musical release or book. Most of these promos are limited to a quick mention at the end of their appearance. A few must insist that the entire conversation deal with their project. On Fallon’s show, you can see he’s not happy when he can’t play Celebrity Corn Hole or some other equally ridiculous game with his guest.

(By the way. Celebrity Corn Hole would have contestants throwing rubber penises into the mouth holes of various starlets painted on the target box. I think it would be huge!)

It’s not just The Tonight Show. Most talk and entertainment news shows seem to shoehorn a game into their show whenever they can. Letterman is an exception and one wonders if he weren’t a lame duck if he would be joining in on all the little reindeer games.

How long is the Today Show these days? 18 or 19 hours? Some days it seems like that. In their case, the gameplay seems to be a way to fill time in a show that’s longer than the entire World Series. Might be time to cut back to the original 2 hours. Good Morning America is only 2 hours long and they’re kicking Today’s ass, as are the one hour Kelly and Michael (who also play games) and even The View. The View nixed my “Guess the Famous People Barbara Walters Slept With” game and they remain gameless so far.

Radio is just a guilty. There are shows that still play versions of The Match Game and other defunct game shows with their cast members and guests. Hello, 1988 called and wants their format back.

Game shows are game shows and talk shows are talk shows. Hybrids rarely work. I remember the much touted hybrid “Home Shopping Game” produced by HSN back in 1987. It was game show that also tried to sell products. It was just awful and mercifully only lasted a few weeks. Even the sets were horrific. One of the desks used to bring in the contestants had a defective wheel and looked like a bad shopping cart as it moved across the stage.

Along with nonsensical games, most TV news and entertainment shows have also added a “Steal a Deal” segment where they sell discounted products, most of which appear to be closeouts of some sort. I understand the concept of developing non-traditional revenue streams in the broadcasting arena, but these segments stick out worse than the games. “Tragedy as rockets continue to fall in Gaza…and now, here’s Savannah with some really nice scarves.”

I’m sure the 20-somethings that produce and write for most of these shows think that some kind of celebrity beer pong is hysterically funny TV. The real problem is mentioned back to the first paragraph, I think it’s the bad attention span of most people under the age of 30. Have you seen anyone that age that doesn’t have their face buried in their phone almost 24/7. They must fear that a quiet contemplative moment would be fatal and that anything longer than a soundbite is a boring tome.

It’s not going to change. Just like when we took over from our parent’s generation and TV, movies, music and literature got a lot more real. Today’s generation thinks games and selling segments on talk shows are good and that’s that. If we don’t like it, there are many ways to watch things, at least dramas and comedies, from “the good old days.” As for talk shows, once Letterman retires we’ll hope for the best with Stephen Colbert. But I’m not holding my breath.

Don Rickles response to why he hadn’t appeared on Fallon’s Tonight Show sums it up quite nicely. “I’d go on the show but I don’t play ping pong.”

(All posts ©2014 – No portion of this text may be copied and/or pasted elsewhere without written permission of the author.)

TV Shopping Host and Coach, Musician, Author, Teacher.

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