Sight and Sound, Daily Racing Form, 1957-06-06


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SIGHT AND SOUND ByLeoMishkin NEW YORK, N. Y., June 5. It is one of the ironies of television, and perhaps just as indicative of its constant change as the sudden death of the comedians on the air, that "The 4,0 00 Question" will come oh tonight prepared to hand over possibly 2,000 to one of its contestants, and that such a sum is hardly more than a handful of peanuts in the quiz program business, long since outstripped by much greater booty handed out elsewhere. Why, I remember was it only a year ago, or less? when "The 4,000 Question" was THE biggest program on the air, not only from the standpoint of the prize money, but from the in-tense interest aroused all over the country " concerning the people taking part therein. I remember when such names as Gino Prato, Capt. Richard McCutcheon, Billy Pearson and Myrt Power were on the tip of everyones tongue. I remember the breathless hush that fell over the. land from coast to coast as that man from the Manufacturers Trust Co., sitting there with those two guards, handed up Hal March the card on which the No. 1 question was written, the agony of the 30 seconds that the "contestants spent in .that isolation booth trying to think of the answer, the whoops of delight of Mr. March and everybody else when the answer was finally made. I even remember the jbkes about the poor ignoramuses who didnt know any thing in their chosen categories, but had to come away with only a brand new Cadillac automobile for a booby prize. AAA I find is exceedingly sad, moreover, that 4,000 in cash money is hardly worth a quiz contestants time any more. How much did that 10-year-old kid, Robert Strom, walk away with? How muph did that English instructor, Charles Van Dor-en, make on that other show? How much, per point, did Hank Bloomgarden and Jim Snodgrass compete for Monday night on "Twenty One," after their differences on the words "sacral" and "coccyx" had been thrashed out by experts? A A A And when it talks, its astonishing how many people listen. Once again, in this kind of situation, we are brought face to face with the inescapable proposition that its the size of the pot, and not as the quiz show producer also steadfastly maintain the personalities of the contestants, that make for large audiences. The simple truth is that 10-year-old Robert Strom could have remained utterly unknown, that self-taught Teddy Nadler .could have remained buried in the encyclopedia, that Mr. Van Doren could have stood in Columbia University for the rest of his life, if it werent for the hundreds of thousands of dollars dangled before their eyes, and the eyes of millions of onlookers, every week. s- AAA IF wasnt so much what these people knew, but how much it was worth for them to know, that made them nationally famous on these quiz shows. Tuesday, on "The 4,000 Question," it wont be so much what Mr. Koo, and Mrs. Failer, and that young lady from "The Ziegfeld Follies" answer, in their separate categories, but how much they will win by so answering, that will determine the ratings of the program. As in a poker game, the higher the stakes, the higher the interest, and dont let anybody tell, you that its because all these people are such "regular folks," that they might just as equally be you, or I, or the fellow or the girl down the block or around the - corner, that makes you switch on the dial to look at them. You can look at the fellow or the girl down the block or around the corner any time you want to. Its not very often that you see them walking around with a check for thousands of dollars being waved in front of their faces, thats all. A A A V There is one ray of shining hope to be found, however. There are reports circulating around that even large sums of, money are losing the powerful attraction they once seemed, to have on TV. That audiences are becoming not only bored, but actively dissatisfied with seeing all this greenery being handed out all over the TV dials. And that quiz programs offering even hundreds of thousands of dollars for the correct answers on modern art, American history, and the names of th beones in the spinal column, just arent what they use to be. You can fool all of the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all of the time, but- you cant fool all of the people all of the time. For one shiny thin, dime, who said that?

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