Monday, May 28, 2007

Farewell Chuck

It wasn’t by design, but the new game show tape I popped into the VCR while doing the dishes happens to include episodes of Match Game.

I just read this morning that Charles Nelson Reilly died at the age of 76. It saddens me to lose one of the great game show personalities of my youth.

I remember watching Match Game in the 1970s and early ‘80s. It ran in some form or another for about nine years. It was a CBS show for years, and survived a final few years in syndication.

It wasn’t until seeing it as a rerun on the Game Show Network in recent years that I was able to appreciate Chuck’s humor as a celebrity panelist on the show. I enjoyed most game shows as a kid, and was quite entertained by the show, but I certainly don’t remember why Match Game tickled my fancy. A lot of the humor was over my head, and Chuck was responsible for plenty of it.

As a youngster I didn’t know what homosexuality was, so the thinly veiled references to Charles being gay were lost upon me. The way he would give his response, sometimes going against stereotype, sometimes hamming it up, are quite amusing to watch as an adult.

I knew he had a background in acting and the theater, but I didn’t realize he was as successful as he was until I read his obit. That success came before, during and after Match Game, but I can’t claim familiarity with any of it. I only know him from his game show career, which included several appearances on other games shows after Match Game. My appreciation of him is limited to that, and that show may be how he is best remembered. I’m not sure if he’s my favorite celebrity in the history of game shows, but if not, he’s in the top three.

His game show career ended years ago, because of his age, the diminishing number of games dotting the television landscape or a combination of those things. So his passing isn’t going to deprive me of any future entertainment. Yet it always makes us sad to know those who entertained us in the past are no longer here.

But it makes me doubly sad to know that today’s Charles Nelson Reilly’s aren’t entertaining us as celebrity partners on game shows these days. His passing reminds me of that, and that depresses me more than Chuck BLANKING beyond the pearly gates of heaven.

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