Chuck Barris, TV game show creator and host, dies at 87

Mar 24, 2017, 01:33
Chuck Barris, TV game show creator and host, dies at 87

Barris would write five other books, including the 2007 satirical novel The Big Question, in which game show contestants experience the ultimate extremes depending on their answers, and the 2010 remembrance Della: A Memoir of My Daughter, about his only child, who died at age 36 in 1998 after battling drug addiction. After being an assistant of sorts to Dick Clark in the 1950s, Barris came up with a genius game show idea that became The Dating Game.

Iconic as he was, Barris was also long dogged by critics who creatively panned him as the King of Schlock, Baron of Bad Taste, and Ayatollah of Trasherola.

Instead he started work on what would be "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", a purported autobiography in which he claimed to have been an undercover Central Intelligence Agency agent, one minute an exuberant game show host, the next a shadowy hit man. The book (and the 2002 film based on it, directed by George Clooney) were widely dismissed by disbelievers.

Television censors had to keep a close eye on the show. It's "The Gong Show" and that's a shame.

That show played into the emerging "flower power" culture of the time with a young woman or man asking flirtatious questions of unseen members of the opposite sex and then choosing one for a blind date.

"Those were the happiest days of my life", Barris told the Los Angeles Times in a 2002 interview.

Barris started as a staffer at NBC News and then worked backstage at the TV music show "American Bandstand".

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He also admitted that he feared the headline on his obituary would read "Barris gets gonged".

He created The Dating Game that debuted in the 1965-66 season followed by The Newlywed Game in the summer of 1966.

Born in Philadelphia in 1929, Charles Barris was left destitute, along with his sister and their mother, when his dentist father died of a stroke.

John Brunton of Insight Productions, a producer who helmed reality shows like The Amazing Race Canada, Canadian Idol and Canada's Got Talent, said The Newlywed Game proved that Barris had a knack for mining people for entertainment.

Gary Finn, the author of "Remembering Flint, Michigan: Stories from the Vehicle City", credits an early success of Barris to Flint radio station WTAC, which inadvertently launched a hit record written by Barris and performed by Freddy Cannon in 1962. And Chuck was once on ABC's payroll for the sole goal of shadowing Dick Clark, who was the host of the teen show American Bandstand at the time.

On the personal front, Barris's first marriage, to Lynn Levy, ended in divorce. Barris hit pay dirt again the next year with The Newlywed Game, in which recently married couples competed against one another to prove which partners knew each other best. Who knows, maybe I could use it sometime. At the end of the show, she chose her date based exclusively on their answers.