“The Hollywood Squirrels” Final answer?

Random thoughts on recent game show developments.

There’s word CBS will reboot “Hollywood Squares” in primetime next January. About all that’s known is Drew Barrymore will be the center square.

Good pick. There’s a generation, and I’ll include myself in it, who’s seen her grow up in front of the camera from “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and “Firestarter” right on up to her current hit daytime talk show, which dedicated an episode to an “E.T.” cast reunion.

“Squares” purists should hope Leslie Uggams receives an invite to the grid in this reboot. Between Uggams’ portrayals of Blind Al in the “Deadpool” movies and the overseer of Vault 33 in Prime Video’s adaptation of “Fallout”, I can see this happening. Anyone who knows anything about Uggams’ career knows there’s so much more than just “Fallout” and “Deadpool”. Producers would be wise to throw in clips from the original “Squares” series with Q&A gameplay between Uggams and original host Peter Marshall.

Speaking of producers, they would also be wise to pick up the pace. There’s word those who have run “Hip Hop Squares”, “Nashville Squares”, and the current “Celebrity Squares” for Paramount’s cable networks will run “Hollywood Squares”. Regardless of format, I can’t say I came back week-to-week as a viewer.

The pacing across this series of reboots was, and is, slow — noticeably slower than the John Davidson years in the 1980s. I recall a few times “Hip Hop”, “Nashville”, and “Celebrity” were so slow, that three Xs or circles would not be aligned in the allotted main game time. The match would boil down to who had the higher money score without scoring a tic-tac-toe. Where’s the fun in that?

So if the next “Hollywood Squares” wants a crash course in how to properly produce “Squares”, they should take a look at any recent episode of “Funny You Should Ask”. Select episodes of the Jon Kelley-hosted game show aired not long ago on CBS.

Yes, I know, “Funny You Should Ask” operates on a low prize budget. But it plays much like “Squares” — just with fewer celebrities and no tic-tac-toe element. Kelley reads a question to a pre-determined celebrity, the celebrity gives a joke answer, then the celebrity gives either the right answer or a bluff. It’s up to the civilian contestant to determine if the star is right or wrong. A correct determination awards money to the player’s score.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Question, joke, answer, is the answer right/wrong?

To be fair, on “Squares”, you can’t always go for the joke. Even Marshall admitted this in his memoir. Some celebrities were specifically positioned in the grid for quick “true/false”, “yes/no” or other quick multiple-choice questions because, usually, they’d be chosen for a block or a win. It helped with the — you guessed it — pacing.

Plus, there are secret square questions played for at least one vacation or a jackpot of prizes. In those situations, the host (Marshall or one of his successors) would ask the celebrity a multiple-choice question, the star would choose from among the selections, and the civilian would either agree or disagree.

Overall, we’ve got a long way to go before we see Barrymore and at least eight other stars on a new “Hollywood Squares” (married couples, comedy teams, soap co-stars, music groups, etc., have been known to occupy more than one square throughout the decades). We’re off to a good start.

Briefly, there’s word ABC is bringing back “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” to the network for its silver anniversary. There’s also word celebrities will play for charity throughout the season.

Call me crazy — but I’d rather see civilians play against the house for the million. Ya know — like the good old days when Reege hosted.

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