Chuck Barris, the mastermind behind some of the strangest and most memorable moments in game show and early reality TV history including The Gong Show, The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game, has died at the age of 87. Critics nicknamed Barris “The King of Schlock,” “The Baron of Bad Taste” and “The Ayatollah of Trasherola.”
For The Gong Show, amateurs demonstrated on-stage their so-called talent in front of three celebrity judges. Barris’ original idea had been to create a show that featured fine performers, but looking for talent, he more often than not came across awful acts.
“I came back and said, ‘Let’s change the show, have all bad acts and one or two good ones, and people can make a judgment,’ ” Barris said in a 2010 interview.
Barris was not the original host of The Gong Show, but took over for John Barbour when he didn’t work out. He donned a tuxedo and a floppy hat and introduced the acts. With a focus on awful talent, any of the three judges (a roster that included futire Late Night host David Letterman) could send the bad performers packing by bashing a large gong.
Acts who appeared on The Gong Show included The Unknown Comic (Murray Langston), Paul Reubens (the future Pee-wee Herman) and Gene Gene the Dancing Machine (stagehand Gene Patton).
The Gong Show aired on NBC and in syndication from 1976-80.
Barris first made his mark in game shows when he created The Dating Game in 1965. It was hosted by San Francisco radio personality Jim Lange, and featured a bachelor or bachelorette asking three members of the opposite sex suggestive questions, then choosing one for a date.
The Newlywed Game, produced by Barris and hosted by Bob Eubanks, premiered in 1966. Four couples who had been married for a year or less competed by matching answers to questions about their spouses’ likes and dislikes.
Just like The Dating Game, it too was a hit in primetime, syndication, and would have several rebirths and new editions over the coming decades.
Charles Hirsch Barris was born on June 3, 1929. He was also a songwriter, who wrote the hit “Palisades Park” for Freddy Cannon and the author of the autobiography Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which was made into the film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind directed by George Clooney.