As blood to the vampire, as flesh to the werewolf, so are children's game shows to me. They are my morphine, my opaline, my laudanum, my whisky, my nicotine, my crack. I love them. It is for the heady victories, the dazzling falls from grace, the sudden tantrums, the tears, the triumphs that I long. The winner will be heaped in praise! The loser will be cast into the outer darkness!
It is because children treat victory and defeat with the seriousness it deserves: an adult is forced to stand in front of millions of television viewers after the ignominy of losing - losing! - at the Wheel of Fortune or Family Feud, and shrug his or her shoulders. Only a child can truly give vent to their feelings on such an occasion, and allow the full virtues and vices of their natures to come to the fore.
It is perhaps wrong of me to admit this. I’ll get over it.
It all began two years ago with Australia’s Brainiest Kid. The concept was devilishly simple: children from all over the nation cast into the gladiatorial arena in an ultimate blood feud! There could be only one victor! To one would fall worshipful glory; to the other, shame, despite, and ignominy. The victor would feast upon the losers tears and be feted nation-wide; the loser, thrown to the lions!
I was reminded, again, of my addiction two weeks ago when, on The Einstein Factor, children were invited on to talk about their subject areas. Appropriately enough, the subjects chosen ranged from cane toads to children’s literature to Nazi Germany. Tony T caught a bit I didn't:
Bizarre episode of the Einstein Factor last week. In a Smart Kids contest, three youngsters, one boy and two girls, were on deck to strut their stuff. The boy's special subject was Gary Kasparov and he blitzed. Can't remember what the first girl's topic was (TT: Boynton reminds me it was frogs of FNQ, or more accurately after looking it up accurately, Frogs of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. What fool said all girls think about is boys? It's not easy being teen. Teen, green: that's a joke, boy. I keep pitchin' 'em, ya keep missin' 'em.), and anyway, she was a strange zombie child. The second girl must have thought she was on Straya's Top Model the way she kept tossing he hair, but interestingly, her special subject was Adolf Hitler. She did fairly well, but at the end Barry Jones asked her "What text would you recommend as a starting point on Hitler?" To which she replied "Mein Kampf. That way you can see where he's coming from." I'm sure she didn't mean it to come out like that, but what if she did? Either way it stunned Barry, the other two panel members and Peter Berner into an embarrassed silence.
But on that night, the boy’s braces gleamed with the light of victory…
My addiction has reached virtually unmanageable levels in the past couple of days with the show Hotspell on SBS. A spelling bee program! I sat, in equal parts horror and elation, watching children stumble over letters, snaring themselves on syllables, clashing with consonants. When asked to spell ‘Inauspicious’, one contestant replied:
Another somehow misinterpreted the word ‘vivacious’ thus:
But, horror of horrors! one child was asked to spell ‘Tawny’. He answered:
An acceptable spelling - look it up in the dictionary if you don't believe me. He had no way of knowing as the word was not used in a sentence, and no way of asking as it was in the speed round.
Another child, similarly, got caught on the word ‘Cornice’. The child replied, sensibly:
The presenter was also unable to pronounce himself – ‘Timbre’, properly pronounced ‘taem-be’, was pronounced ‘tim-ber’, causing the child contestant to answer:
Terrible! After all, why should one's enjoyment of bloodsport or shows of public humiliation and embarassment be ruined by poor production values or thoughtless presenters? Exactly.
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