In The Golden Age of television, not every second of TV-viewing has to be a prestige moment. Sometimes you just want to flip through the channels and tune out a little. That’s why shows like Shark Tank and The Real Housewives of New York are such a relief for me: my brain transforms from a tightly-wound ball of rubberbands to something that resembles Jello. It’s nice to let your brain wobble now and again.
In such a state, I’ll sometimes just click through the channels, land on whatever, and watch for a few minutes. Such was the case, a few weeks ago, when I stumbled upon ABC’s The Gong Show. Now as a former employee of ABC, I probably shouldn’t offer too critical an appraisal of this strange enterprise. Mike Meyers plays a character that’s like a deranged cousin of his Austin Powers. The world of the show is slightly unsettling: where are we? What year is this? What is happening?
I should mention here that my family is no stranger to The Gong Show: my great-grandmother, Nettie Rosenblum, appeared on The Gong Show in the 60s and sang “Never On A Sunday” with her thick Russian accent. She was subsequently kissed by Milton Berle and Ruth Buzzi. It used to be on YouTube, but sadly it was taken down.
Her son, my 95 year-old Uncle Jerry, has been outraged by this latest iteration of The Gong Show: “It’s nothing like the original!” he complained to me the last time I saw him. And he has a point: the original was campy, but there was still some authenticity to it: the acts legitimately thought they were good. This new version has too many ringers; eccentrics from central casting who are set up, specifically, to be gonged. The gonging feels empty, as does the scoring. Tens come easily to the judges who you can imagine calling their agents as soon as the show’s over: “I’m never doing this again.”
Which is all to say, I landed on this new version of The Gong Show with the lowest of expectations. And I would’ve changed the channel pretty quickly if not for this married couple that emerged with a handful of bananas.
How to set up this video you’re about to see?
All I can say is: you have to watch it all the way to the end. I’ve seen most John Waters movies, I’ve read Sabbath’s Theater and Portnoy’s Complaint, I’ve even been to a gay bar in Berlin. And this still may be one of the most shocking things I’ve ever experienced. In fact, I just watched it again and burst out laughing at the end.
You will be disgusted. You may even be angry that I posted this. And that’s what makes it so great.