The news that Peter Tomarken, host “Press Your Luck,” one of my favorite game shows growing up, had died was beyond tragic. I don’t know if it’s because I had no idea that was his name or because I hadn’t thought about him for at least 15 years, but knowing that someone who played such an important role in the days I stayed home sick from grade school was just gone made me feel cheated in one respect, like a cheater in another. Cheated because Tomarken, who died when his plane, which he was piloting, crashed shortly after taking off from Santa Monica en route to pick up a patient in San Diego for medical transport, deserved better; a cheater because I’m guilty of having become wrapped up in the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and “Deal or No Deal” whirlwind without ever paying proper respect to the men like Peter Tomarken who started it all.
To quell my feelings of guilt I’ve decided to pay tribute not only to Tomarken, but to all the game shows I grew up with. Well not ALL of them because I had a lonely and disease ridden childhood and recounting all the shows I watched while home sick from school could take me weeks (“Supermarket Sweep?” “Win, Lose or Draw?” I’m starting to feel bad for myself . . .) But I’ve pared down the list to my favorite five.
The only qualifications for the list are that my memories of it must predate my Eight Grade graduation (thus, while Alan Thicke had some priceless moments on “Pictionary” in the mid-90’s, I won’t be recounting them here) and “Jeopardy” doesn’t count because, between the Saturday Night Live” skits and Alex Trebek’s haughty and ageless demeanor, I could go on for pages and pages about this show. Let’s just say it’s a fantastic show, just not for the concerns of this list.