#135 - Shopper's Casino
Cheap set, annoying hosts, lying to the audience, pathetic game play, lame home shopping ads and Scott Sternberg isn't involved? Truly the worst ever!


Syndication (September 1987 [there's no other info for this show])
Text by: Robert Seidelman

Well, here it is. 

It's quite rare that you get a unanimous consensus on something that outright sucks and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.  Take Tic Tac Dough 1990 for example.  While it is an inferior revival of the 80s megahit, at least they kept some good stuff to it, such as the format and the animation of the Dragon looked awesome.  If you want to go lower than that, say take Big Saturday Night for example, you'll get some people who say that Charisse Thompson wasn't bad at all and sometimes that's not saying you won money from that show (Sorry, Jim).  But then there's that one show which you will not find one person that will say they liked it, or even the slightest bit of it.  This show is so notorious among the community that if you ask about it on the Game Show Forum, you'll get people that either deny of its existence or just simply tell you that "You don't want to know".  I mean, trying to find information on it myself via Google and a link to a thread on the Game Show Forum was all that came up.  Oh, and also a link to a storage site for Chris Lambert's old site with his big list of random game show factoids and personal likes list.  His least liked shows involve the following:

    The 10 Worst game shows I've seen:
  1. Shopper's Casino
  2. Hot Seat
  3. No Relation
  4. Peer Pressure
  5. Free 4 All
  6. Shuffle: The Interactive Game
  7. Judge For Yourself
  8. The Million Dollar Word Game
  9. Strip Poker
  10. 100%

Man, that's a damned good list, having put #4 in recently for Kids Month and having watched 100% a lot when I was younger, I could tell it was horrible.  I remember turning it on to Univision and watching El Bla Blazo, even though I didn't understand the language to watch something decent.  I always wanted to mail in a postcard to get my name drawn to Play Dale Fuerte de Mucho Swerte.  Basically what it was is a big wheel that the leader of the first half got to spin filled with cash between $100 and $1000.  Not high stakes or bank breaking mind you, but still enjoyable.  But I've stalled for enough time.  What viewers would think was a random infomercial late at night would wind up being yet another new game show in 1987 at a time where there were a lot in syndication.  This would be the last season in syndication for The $100,000 Pyramid, The All-New Dating Game, Bob Eubanks on The New Newlywed Game, and a couple one and dones in Matchmaker and the Wink Martindale hosted High Rollers.  This season would also start seeing the herd in daytime being thinned with the cancellation of The $25,000 Pyramid twice and Blackout.  This would also mark the year that Finders Keepers and Remote Control made their debuts and Fandango revamped its format to give away bigger prizes.  However, little did they know that instead of being sold a sandwich/cheap pie maker or anything made by Ron Popeil would wind up being one of the worst examples of melding two things and making both sides look completely bad. 

Here it is...Shoppers Casino.  *grabs DVD to put it in*  You know that when you buy a deck of cards from a casino, it's usually a used deck, just resealed.  I remember getting a couple of new decks to play with from my mom about 13 years ago, but the deck was so maligned with cards missing and duplicates, it was amazing.  There were so many aces and royal flush possibilities that it looked like WCW's The Gambler would love to have this deck.  It would be the only way he won anything.  I mean, he never won a match in WCW......Oh all right, I'll finally get on with inducting the damned thing.

We see our hosts in Jeff Maxwell and Debbie Maffeat.  There's also a nondescript model in this shot as well named Cynthia Brooke.  And you know a show is off to a really good start when the host i.e. Jeff Maxwell is bumbling all over his words.  He spends a good 3-4 seconds going blebableababa or something to that effect and then quips "I hope the players can play the games better than the host can say them."  Much like they could have acted much better than you could, Private Igor?  How you became a featured character on M*A*S*H is well beyond my comprehension.  Essentially, he's what you don't want in a host.  He's loud, inept, fake, bad at his job, and makes you want to turn the channel when he's on.  Debbie has all those qualities as well, but less so.  However, you can clearly see she's doing it for a paycheck.  Cynthia Brooke was just happy she was working.  They introduce the main bad guy of the show, Dirty Harry.

"I know what your thinking.  Does Jeff Maxwell suck 6 times more than Patrick Wayne or only 5.  Well, seeing how this is the game show equivalent to Scanners and watching it can blow your head clean off.  You have to ask yourself one question?  Is there anything else on.  Well, is there PUNK?!"  Sorry, was caught up for a minute.

No, this is Dirty Harry.  How menacing.  You know you're in trouble when the best thing about the show is him.  Actually, he's just doing his job.  He's the dealer for blackjack, the croupier for Chukaluk and the roulette guy for roulette.  So, it's also kind of mean as well when you're supposed to root against a guy who's just doing his job.  Don't blame him for how much you are sucking at blackjack.  Much like people shouldn't blame Alan Alda for Jeff Maxwell sucking so bad. 

Next up they introduce the contestants and that shows off the "set" and I use the word set loosely.  This also shows off the absolute laziness of the show.  All the set has is 3 gaming tables for blackjack, roulette and chukaluk, the signs for only two of the games, the horrendous logo for the show and the prizes which are off camera on this shot.  There's nothing to say about this.  This is just lazy.  If the show is paying for 2 hosts, a model, a guy to deal cards, an announcer, why shouldn't you put more than $50 for the rest of the set.  I complained about Card Sharks 2001 having a lazy set, but at least it looked like a game show set.  This doesn't.

I guess I should talk about the games next.

Or I would, but first we have to sell you a product.  Now with the shows talked about prior, they would sell you an item at a discounted price.  Sure those items weren't very amazing to begin with, but I could see myself spending $23.38 on a clock radio with a phone attached to it.  But when one of the items you're trying to sell is $500?  That's not really an item that those that do home shopping want.  It's also embarrassing when they can't do this right.  Home shopping is all about bargains.  Watches, kitchen accessories, cookies, you name it, it's at bargain prices so you'll buy more of it.  Not only that, they want something of value.  Something like this will truly depreciate in value over the course of a day.  Because once the anniversary is over, that $500 set of Coca Cola bottle tops are going to be worth less than a 2-liter of the store brand of soda.

Now I'll talk about the games.

And there isn't much to say here.  Quite simply it's blackjack, roulette and chukaluk seriously dumbed down.  Blackjack is played like it should.  Don't go over 21 and beat the dealer.  If you do that, you win the prize offered...which is also being sold to the home viewer for its retail price.  What bugs me about this show is how poorly its shot and how everything is so cramped.  The three tables are so close to each other that it's impossible for the cameramen to do their jobs well.  When you are hindering those guys on a show to effectively shoot the action, then that's just sloppy production.

Roulette only has 4 betting options: Black, White, Odd or Even.  If the ball lands on your option, then you win the prize.  Same shooting problems apply here as it did with Blackjack.  Also while the wheel is spinning, you get another lame plug for those buy at home items, which you can just pick up out of a Sears Catalog.  After this we cut to a commercial....

which were done by the exact same production company that made this show?  Seriously, you couldn't get anybody to sponsor your show.  You couldn't get like a local burger place to sell advertising for?  So, you have to resort to making your own commercials for this show that is actually just another elongated infomercial?  What makes the show worse?  The commercials are much better produced than the show itself!  How in the hell do you mess that up?

Finally Chukaluk.  Ok, now those reading your hands right now have heard of this casino game?  I've been to a couple casinos in my history.  I went to Ballys and the Tropicana in Atlantic City.  I've also been to the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma.  I have never heard of Chukaluk ever.  All Chuckaluk pertains is rolling three dice and betting on what the number is.  For the show it's either 12 or over or 9 and under.  That's shortsighted to me since it's entirely conceivable that the roll can be a 10 or 11.  Can't this show even get a basic betting line right?  Maybe I'm just asking too much.

There's also a bonus bell, shown by this look by Igor.  If that goes off, then the point value for the game is doubled.   I guess it's to make the scoring a bit more fair because one person can win 4 of the 6 games and lose because the two that their opponent won were worth more.  For example, the first game had the coke bottle caps worth $500, whereas a later round had some stupid VCR video game worth only $100.  It would make more sense to have the most expensive items last and the lower priced items up first.  You can file this part under mathematically challenged as well.

Remember when I said up top that they would deceive the viewer?  Well, here's where that comes in.  In the third stanza, they would bring up a home caller to play along with the contestants.  Now, I'm not up on the history of telecommunications, but I can guarantee you that phones didn't sound that good back then.  Hell, listening to my favorite radio shows on podcast, they don't even sound that great now.  I'm under the assumption and a damned good one that they picked someone from the audience, whisked them away to the production booth and used the PA system to pretend to call in.  To make things sound worse, they would coax the caller to put over Jeff to say that he's funny and whatnot.  That my friends is truly a low.  You don't lie to not only to people watching, but to the people paying you to sell their product.  This is just pathetic.

Oh, and the bonus round where the contestant spins the big wheel.  Hmmm.  That's their big wheel.  Let me put this into perspective.

This is THE big wheel.

This is a big wheel.

This is especially a big wheel.

But this is not a big wheel.  It's cheap and it sucks.  The "winner" gets to spin this wheel and whatever color it stops on, is the prize they win.  And that's it.  That's the bonus game.  It leaves the viewer feeling even more empty inside rather than what we saw throughout the rest of the 27 minutes we spent slogging through a terrible production, a horrible pair of hosts, an announcer and a model doing this for simply a check and nothing more, a "villain" who would rather be doing this at a real casino rather than on a soundstage, a theme that wouldn't even pass as muzak, audience members who would have more excitement watching cows being slaughtered and to sum it up...this show...

is the worst game show in the history of American television.  Before I give my final words.  I'm turning it over to WDAM-TV, RockTrax Rock 104's and friend of the site, Doug Morris on his thoughts on the show.

As a game show fan, I’ve seen some great shows (“The Price is Right”, “Wheel of Fortune”, “Jeopardy!”, just to name a few). Unfortunately, for the purposes of GSG, I’ve seen some – well – garbage (“Extreme Gong”, the 2001 remake of “Card Sharks”, the 1990 remakes of “Tic Tac Dough” and “The Joker’s Wild”, again, just to name a few).

While I can tolerate a full 30-minute episode of “Temptation: The Lame Excuse of a Revived $ale of the Century” or the short-lived Jersey-based game show version of “Yahtzee”, there’s notably one clunker that I didn’t watch from start to finish.

That “honor” goes to “Shopper’s Casino”. Because I only watched no more than 15 minutes of this series, the recollections are hazy.

Object of the game: Win points by playing casino games. The point values were determined by the prices of the merchandise up for sale to home viewers. (The non-car prizes from “The Price is Right’s” Switcheroo and Pathfinder would be the kind of stuff up for grabs in “Shopper’s Casino”.)

I remember the set was quite barren. In other words, throw a bunch of gaming tables into a studio, add virtually little else and, voila, you’ve got a shopper’s casino.

But here’s what made me change the channel: The “phone home” segment. As I recall, the contestant participating from home was playing a simplified version of Roulette where the only options were “red”, “black”, “odd” or “even”. (I’m assuming a spin of 0 or 00 resulted in an automatic loss, meaning the dealer would take delight in said contestant’s failure.) Thing was the contestant on the phone line sure didn’t sound like she was on the phone. The “phone connection” was as crystal clear as your favorite game show announcer reading off the list of lovely parting gifts losing contestants got to take home.

Bottom line: “Shopper’s Casino” is the worst game show I’ve ever seen. “Thousand Dollar Bee” is a close second, based on clips I’ve seen as opposed to sitting through a full episode. While it had a terrible host, a format that later involved no spelling and an annoying theme song, “Bee” has the unfair advantage of a graphics package today’s technology can accommodate. Hence why it’s second on my list of worst game shows ever.

I will get to Thousand Dollar Bee when I finish Kids Month in June.  Thank you Doug for that testimonial.  Having suffered through it all, it is the worst show in existence.  Now I know why the folks on the Game Show Forum tell everyone that "You don't want to know" about it.  This type of show should best be used for those who want to know how not to create their own game show.

That ends this calendar year of Game Show Garbage, we'll be back after the holidays on January the 5th of 2013 for the return of The Price Is Wrong Month.  I hope you all have a fantastic holiday.

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