'The Gong Show' Rings Again - NBC Chicago

'The Gong Show' Rings Again

The late Chuck Barris's talent competition burlesque returns to mock the TV absurdity it helped create.

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    5 Ways to Support Your Runner
    Richard Hartog/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
    "The Gong Show," a creation of the late Chuck Barris, returns to TV this week.

    The late Chuck Barris was no poet, his book, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," not withstanding. But the ethos of the schlock game show king could be summed up with a paraphrase of John Donne: Ask not for whom the gong tolls, it tolls for thee.

    It tolls again for all with Thursday’s return of "The Gong Show," via ABC. Just three months after his death at age 87, Barris' warped baby gets new life on the television landscape he helped birth.

    The show, from its premiere in 1976, never pretended to be more than a burlesque played for often-cruel laughs, with its gonged goodbyes presaging cries of "You're fired!"

    Its reach extends from this century's boom of competition shows to Reality TV programs in which being famous for being famous – or foolish – proved enough to lure viewers.

    'Late Night’: Kelly Clarkson's Son Loves Going on Stage With Her

    [NATL] 'Late Night’: Kelly Clarkson's Son Loves Going on Stage With Her

    Seth Meyers and Kelly Clarkson talk about the tour she’s going on in January and how her 11-year-old son enjoys going onstage with her at concerts.

    (Published Friday, Sept. 21, 2018)

    "American Idol," the evolved child of "The Gong Show," tweaked the formula and emphasis by showcasing prodigious talents (most famously Jennifer Hudson) while mining the early auditions to mock the awful (most infamously William Hung). "Idol" eventually imploded, in part because the program became more about the celebrity judges than the contestants.

    The new "Gong Show" appears to be focusing on star power, with the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Elizabeth Banks and producer Will Arnett racing to bang the gong. There's no sign of the paper bag-wearing Unknown Comic. But the host is almost certainly an exceptionally well-known comic in disguise: an unrecognizable Mike Myers, playing fictional British comedian Tommy Maitland, whose bio includes hosting an Australian game show called "Dingo's Got the Baby."

    The Jiminy Glick-like gimmick represents an attempt to add another ring to the circus of the odd, while toying with the distance between the real celebrities and the deluded wannabes.

    The "Gong Show" return also vies to tap nostalgia in a similar vein to ABC's summer prime-time, star-stocked revivals of the 1970s likes of "Family Feud," "Match Game" and "Pyramid" (now up to $100,000), with “Battle of the Network Stars” on the way. The network is even resurrecting "Idol" next year, two years after its last gasp on Fox.

    Time and ratings will tell whether "The Gong Show" still resonates in an era when it might seem tame compared some of the current fare and figures it influenced. It's a good bet, though, that somewhere Barris is flashing his sardonic grin, laughing at the return of the television absurdity he wrought with a gong and a mallet.

    Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

    'Tonight’: Trump Campaigns in Vegas, Plus Tweets with Beats

    [NATL] 'Tonight’: Trump Campaigns in Vegas, Plus Tweets with Beats

    Jimmy Fallon talks President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Las Vegas during his opening monologue.

    (Published Friday, Sept. 21, 2018)