#171: Jack Gallagher
Big Spin's answer to blahness all around California


Host: The Big Spin (September 1996 - December 1998)

California Lottery's The Big Spin was a great example of how to do a great lottery based game show by using a simple formula of affable host, attractive co-host who can also hold her own, and a simplistic game that can hold a viewers attention while being sold the states lottery and to go buy some tickets so they too can win big money.  It also helps that the hosts of Big Spin were all veterans and knew how to work their way around a game show set and contestants who can go from zero to ultimate glee in a blink of an eye. 

When the show started in October of 1985, Chuck Woolery was there and did his usual good job.  He didn't stick around for long, leaving the show after a blistering 3 weeks because he was also doing Scrabble and Love Connection at the same time, so this was a third show and he would be dead tired.  I don't blame him, since it's really rare for someone to do three shows at one time.  Chuck is part of that rare breed that have done two shows at once and he knew that three would be overkill.  So we were given another great host in his place.

Enter Geoff Edwards.  When the game show fandom tells you that Geoff Edwards was a very underrated host, they've more than likely seen his work on Big Spin.  His work to be able to keep the show going and not only that, his work when he had to call one of the spinners next week and the conversations they had were pure gold.  Like Chuck, he would do two shows at once, but unlike Chuck, his other show was The New Chain Reaction, taping all the way in Canada.  No wonder Geoff was such a great travel writer when he retired from TV.  He was a true frequent flyer and one of the best of all time.  (Rest in Peace, Geoff Edwards)  He would host his last ever game show episode in January of 1995 making way for the new host.  After his retirement, 6 hosts were tested on air to fill the void that Geoff left.  The hosts ranged from such greats as Peter Tomarken and Ross Shafer to future Game Show Garbage inductee Wil Shriner.  But the decision was made to go with this guy.

Larry Anderson would take the helm as host from February 1995 to August of 1996.  I should also point out that Maiquel Alejo would join up as co-host in around 1992 because of the increase in spanish-speaking contestants.  Maiquel is also a good host in her own right.  Personable, charming, she helped out a lot in bringing the show together after Geoff's retiring.  As for Larry, he was ok as a host, being more of a variety style of game show host, having done The New Truth or Consequences for one month in 1987.  That's not just his stint, that's how long the show lasted.  Far from being the worst thing about that show, he would come onto Big Spin and do ok.  He wasn't as smooth as Chuck or as enjoyable as Geoff, but he held his own.  But in August of 1996, he would leave and be replaced by another tryout from that 6-week period.  Honestly, he was better than Shriner, but then again almost everyone is better than Wil Shriner.  Enter Jack Gallagher.

Now, Jack Gallagher is a comedian...not to be confused with the watermelon smashing Gallagher, but this one did have a good pedigree for his comedy, having done The Tonight Show with both Carson and Leno, including having his own sitcom on ABC for a few months in 1995 with Bringing Up Jack, which was nothing more than an even worse version of Hello, Larry.  But that's more the fault of the show than Jack.  He's got some good one-man shows in "Letters to Declan" and is a good intelligent comedian and is a good actor, especially being in the great film "Heartbreak Ridge".  However, the intelligent comedians tend to be some of the more boring game show hosts.  Sam Levinson, while good on "Two For The Money", was pretty dull as well.  Sadly, Jack fell into a trap where he really wasn't that enthralled with the show in the first place.  The show itself is dumb fun and Jack really can't do dumb fun. 

With the format of the show being really set in stone and the contestants being the only changing thing, he seriously went through the motions.  The basic segment with Jack would go as follows.  Ask contestant where he or she is from, what do they do, something interesting about them, make a truly terrible joke, ask what they'd do with the money, make another terrible joke, play game, blandly don't care about the ending.  Tim Connolly, when he was doing reviews of game shows, said he had all the personality of burnt toast.  That was an insult to burnt toast.

And that's basically all I have on Jack.  He wasn't bad in the traditional sense, he was bad in being the sore thumb that stuck out as an unenjoyable pud.  He was bland, boring, and any other synonym that you can look up in the thesaurus.  He basically rivaled Michael Young when it came to someone winning a million dollars. Heck, he was like a corpse on tv whenever he was on...wait Gallagher is Corpsing?

So in December of 1998, they did.

And we got Pat Finn.  Now I've always liked Pat Finn as a host.  I think he's vastly underrated and is one of those hosts who you can just plug into a show and he'll enjoy himself and make the contestants comfortable as well.  This is no exception.  Pat would continue on with the show until the shows end in January of 2009 when the California State Lottery thought it was a good idea to go with a JD Roth vehicle in Make Me A Millionaire and let Big Spin go.

Don't feel bad for Gallagher.  At the end of the day, he's not cut out to be a game show host.  He's one of those guys who can play a good serious role and keep being a successful serious style comic, such as his roles in Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is what he did after he left Big Spin, and also does a lot of stuff for PBS, even winning some Emmys in the process.  So, game show hosting wasn't for him.  There's a long list of people who are talented but don't make it out to be great game show hosts.  Penn Jilette, Dennis Miller, Jamie Farr, Joey Fatone, Bruce Jenner, all of these are talented in their own right, but aren't cut out to be game show hosts.  Jack just isn't a game show host.   Nothing against the guy, he just isn't.

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