If someone mentions $516.32 and you’re a classic TV fan, then maybe you remember “The Gong Show.” It premiered on this day in 1976.
Talk about game shows. This is one of television’s craziest, wildest game shows ever to appear on the small screen. But there actually was a method to its madness, led by game show creator and producer Chuck Barris.
“The Gong Show” would be filled with performers doing all different types of acts. Some would sing, some would dance, and others would do whatever they would do on a stage. Its original appearance on NBC would probably not make it on TV circa 2021.
‘The Gong Show’ Changed Hosts Within Its First Season On NBC
Again, though, this was back on June 14, 1976. Barris did have a track record of producing successful game shows like “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game” on ABC. Both of those game shows would find themselves popular in syndication, too. “The Gong Show” would follow that similar path, too.
When “The Gong Show” first appeared on NBC, Jon Barbour was the original host. The zany type of chaos Barris wanted as part of the show’s environment didn’t click with Barbour. He left and it put Barris in a spot looking for a new host. Well, guess who took over as the gongmaster? Yep, Barris himself.
It also helped that Barris had some of the most interesting celebrities as judges, too. Actors Jaye P. Morgan and Arte Johnson, along with comedians Phyllis Diller and Arte Johnson, were regulars.
Game Show Had Amateur Show-Type Feel To It With Gong Being Used
The premise of the show is pretty simple. An act is introduced by Barris. They get on stage. If the act makes it through three or so minutes without getting gonged, then it would be considered for the episode’s grand prize. But the judges would have a huge gong behind them. If one of them didn’t like an act [sometimes, all three didn’t], then they would bang the gong.
What would the winner get? A nice check for $516.32.
To say “The Gong Show” is unique in TV history would be true. But it did have a sort of amateur hour feel to it. The show has been revived in recent years, getting a two-season run on ABC in 2017 and 2018. Its host was a gentleman named Tommy Maitland who, actually, was a character created by comedian Mike Myers of “Wayne’s World” and “Austin Powers” fame.
NBC cancelled the show in July 1978. It would continue to run in syndication through 1980, but the original incarnation of “The Gong Show” ended. There were, as we mentioned, revivals on ABC as well as on Game Show Network. Still, nothing will replace the original.
So, we ought to end this look back at “The Gong Show” by calling out, who else, “Gene Gene The Dancing Machine” for a performance.