Everyone loves to take at least one TV show that they are totally obsessed with and watch it until they can recite every other line and the theme song becomes a running loop in their brain.
For Cory Anotado, Bob Hagh and Christian Carrion, that show is, well, game shows.
“It’s just a glimpse into the surreal life of people,” Hagh said from his home in Cary, NC. “It’s unscripted and unpredictable and you get to see someone’s life change in front of you. People get really happy when they see someone win whether it’s a neighbor, colleague and even someone from your state. You genuinely want to see someone win and it’s not fake.”
“Visually, nothing on TV tops them,” Carrion said by email from his home in Leola, PA. “Ever since the early 70s, when the sets of game shows began to take on these brilliant pastel-neon-shag rug lives of their own, nothing else on TV has managed to look alike. Most importantly, the TV game show is the most real, honest form of programming that’s ever been on the air. Other than the news, there’s really nowhere else to turn on television to see people in their purest form, reacting naturally and acting with all the spontaneity and unpredictability that makes us as humans so interesting to watch and study. And the news is so damn sad anyway.”
Tomorrow, the three game show devotees will team up in Philly to do something that would sound insane to even the most hardcore game show fan. They will play game shows for 24 straight hours in a studio. It’s part of their annual fundraiser called the 24-Hour Game Show Marathon. Starting at noon, they’ll compete against each other in new and classic game shows like Jeopardy!, Minute to Win It and @Midnight while raising money for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The first marathon took place three years ago at Southern Connecticut State University where Carrion worked as the general manager of the student radio station WSIN. Anotado, a Philadelphia native who lives in Baltimore, MD, said he got the idea from a similar British broadcast in which Little Britain star David Walliams reenacted a series of British comedy panel shows live on television for 24-hours to raise money for a special charity. He took the idea to Carrion and the two set up a feed through his laptop computer to the Internet while they broadcast their marathon on the terrestrial airwaves. It attracted a big audience online and on the air, broke the campus record for the longest continuous broadcast and raised just over $1,250 for the American Cancer Society.
“After we finished, we said let’s do this again,” Anotado said. “It was amazing. I think it was just the novelty aspect of making a big spectacle about playing game shows, which is always fun and we get to do this while helping sick people, which is extra good as well. It was a lot of fun. It really brought the game show community together to say, ‘Hey, let’s watch these three idiots do something awesome. It’s a unifying kind of nonsense.”
The second round in 2013 took place at Anotado’s office, a graphic design firm in Baltimore, MD. It was “better from a presentation aspect because it felt more like a game show,” Anotado said. However, it did take place in a small, windowless room and no air conditioning vent so by the time they were done, they probably smelled like they ran an actual marathon.
The next one will take place in a warehouse space owned by the animation community Newgrounds in Philadelphia. They have multiple cameras that aren’t just laptop mounted webcams, a small audience to help cheer them on and (thank God) air conditioning.
They also plan to do 24 games, one for every hour they are on the air, some of which require their own challenges to pull off like Minute to Win It, a physical challenge game in which contestants have to pull seemingly impossible stunts with ordinary objects.
“You can’t have someone from Skype play,” Hagh said. “So we’re going to have people come to studio to play. It’s going to be a little more unique.”
The evening will also feature cameos from game show dignitaries such as Mark Labett better known as “The Beast” on the Game Show Network’s The Chase.
“He wanted to play Jeopardy! with us and if he was anywhere near us, I would send a car to get him.” Anotado said.
The list will also include some games that aren’t familiar to American audiences like Just a Minute, a British panel game show and Carrion’s favorite.
“Four celebrities take turns speaking on these randomly-generated subjects for a minute, without hesitating, repeating any word they’ve said, or deviating from the topic at hand,” Carrion said. “I think it’s a tremendous mental workout, as well as an exercise of one’s wit. I have a great time with that.”
Of course, the biggest challenge is staying awake the entire time and still having the cognitive capacity to rack your brain for the names of 18th century French poets in Jeopardy! or naughty cereal names for @Midnight’s “#HashtagWars.” Anotado actually overdosed on caffeine after the first 24-hour marathon and had to spend a day in the hospital.
“I often compare doing the Game Show Marathon to eating an entire pizza alone,” Carion said. “You’re really excited to start, you have a slice, everything is good. Two slices down, still awesome. But it’s that third slice, man. You hit that wall. Then, if you’re like me, you just sort of wait for it to get cold before that second wind kicks in. Then it’s smooth sailing.”
Danny Gallagher is a freelance writer who can be found on Twitter @thisisdannyg.