Monday, June 20, 2011

The Newlywed Game

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

I'm not sure how, but I managed to have a pretty good idea of how The Newlywed Game worked years before actually seeing it. Perhaps it's because various renditions exist outside of television. For instance, many Carnival cruises have a version of The Newlywed Game, and a children's edition was even tried with siblings. I believe that the first adaptation that I saw ran on Full House, where DJ and Steve played a dating couple, Danny and Vicki (who can't make it and he plays with a complete stranger) played an engaged couple, and Jesse and Becky play as a married couple. On my honeymoon cruise, my husband and I tried to play, but they wanted the "most recently married" couple, and there were several couples who got married the day before the cruise began (we were married two days before the cruise began).  

Brief history:
The history behind the show is rather long and involved. The show first aired on ABC on July 11th, 1966, in black-and-white. It was the very last commercial network series to premiere in black-and-white (which I find interesting). It switched to color a few months later. It was a hit pretty quickly, and Password, its biggest competitor, was cancelled fourteen months after The Newlywed Game began. The original run lasted until December 1974, and it was revived in syndication 1977-1980, 1985-1989 (which was mostly referred to as The New Newlywed Game), and 1996-1999. There was a primetime week of specials for Valentine's Day in 1984 as well. In 2009, GSN began doing new episodes, and the show is still currently running. Many of the oldest episodes have either been wiped or have deteriorated too much to rerun. And the phrase "making whoopee" is believed to have become popular because of the show. This euphemism for "having sex" has since been heard all over the place. There are also several versions of board games available, though I've never seen them.

The game: Four husband-wife couples play, and they've usually been married for less than a year. Before the game began, each couple would guess how many points that they would earn, and in case of a tie later, the couple closest without going over won out. (If both couples went over, closest still won, and if they guessed exactly, they'd win extra stuff.) The first round had the wives of each team brought off-stage while the husbands were asked three questions. The husbands answered the questions and the wives returned. The wives were then asked the same questions, and if their responses matched those of their husbands, they earned points. Then, the husbands were taken off-stage, the wives were asked to answer four questions, and the husbands came back. They gave their responses to those same four questions, hoping for a match. The final question is worth more than the others. On this show, the prize isn't cars and cash like it is on many others - in used to be appliances, furntiure, or trips, and is now almost entirely trips. 

Notable changes to the way the game is played: In the earliest editions of the show, the husbands went off-stage first. Also, the couples requested specific prizes before the game was taped, and those who requested the same thing competed against one another. The number of questions in the second round varied from four to three to even two at times. For a while in the 1980s, the points were replaced with cash amounts, and the couples kept the cash in the end, even if they didn't win the grand prize. The number of couples competing has been changed to three instead of the original four as well. In the 90s, rather than being asked questions when their spouse was out of the room, they were shown videos of the spouse answering questions and they'd have to answer while the tape was paused. For a while there, there were also rounds where facts would be read and contestants would have to identify whether they applied to their spouse or not. In the current version, a "goldywed" couple plays alongside the newlyweds, and is a couple who played the original game years ago. This happened every episode for a while, but seems to be a special-occasion thing now.

Special contestants: There have been celebrity games where the couple plays for charities. People from The Biggest Lose and My Fair Brady have been on in recent years. The show also now features same-sex married couples, such as George Takai and Brad Altman, as well as non-celebrity same-sex contestants.  

Favorite Rounds: I don't know if I enjoy watching the husbands or the wives more, so I'm really going to have to not list a favorite this time.

My take: I'd love to be on the show. As I mentioned above, my husband and I attempted to do it on our honeymoon cruise! Now that we're not newlyweds anymore (fifth year already!), it's a bit different. I'd still do something similar though, if given a chance. And, if you haven't fled to youtube to catch up on the show now, here's an episode from 1987:

Did you ever watch The Newlywed Game? Did you see more than one version of it, or just the current one? Would you compete?
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