Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Peter Tomarken Killed in Plane Crash

Here's the article.

It's been apparent for some time now that a generation of game show hosts is passing. Jack Barry, Bill Cullen, Allan Ludden are all gone. Some, such as Dick Clark, Tom Kennedy, and Monty Hall, are now retired, and we'll likely never see any more games from them. Others, like the venerable Bob Barker, are still active, but Barker is clearly in his twilight years at 82. We'll never see hosts like these again.

And I'm not just saying that because talent like theirs is so rare, although one could argue that it is. But rather, the world of television production has changed so much in the past few decades that producers would, for example, never hire a person who had to walk with a limp because he contracted polio at an early age (such as Bill Cullen, who hosted more game shows than anyone else in television history). And pretty much every one of the hosts mentioned above got their start in radio when radio (and not television) was "the big thing," cultivating skills that aren't as important in television anymore, but which were essential to good game show hosting.

The trend these days is to hire comedians who already have a built-in appeal to younger audiences. This is especially important to producers because game shows tend to skew a bit older than many other forms of television entertainment, and advertisers are willing to pay more money to get younger audiences. (This is despite evidence that suggests that senior citizens tend to have far more disposable income, but I digress.) While this trend has yielded a couple of excellent hosts such as Howie Mandel (Deal or No Deal) and Richard Karn (Family Feud), it has also yielded a list of forgettable clunkers.

Peter Tomarken was best-known for the 80's hit Press Your Luck. He was, to go by his age, somewhere in between these generations. He was a decade or two younger than most of the other "greats" at 63, but was old enough to have benefited from the experience of that earlier time. Having hosted Paranoia on the Fox Family Channel only a few years ago, it seems apparent that Tomarken could easily have had a few more games in him had he lived, and this makes his tragic passing all the more painful.

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