Host: Break the Bank (1985-1986)
It’s really hard to be foisted into a bad situation and try to make it good. Especially if you are replacing a veteran host who’s had enough of a producer who thinks what he’s doing is right, yet he’s wrong. A veteran host who also thinks that the format that they did should have been light-hearted when the producer wanted it to be a serious affair, when it just looked goofy. A veteran host who’s just came off another titanic failure of a show and hoped this show would at least be decent. Of course I’m talking about this man…
Gene Rayburn. Gene Rayburn was a fantastic host on such shows as Make the Connection & Match Game. In 1983, Gene Rayburn hosted a show called The Match Game Hollywood Squares Hour with lead singer of Sha Na Na, Jon Bauman. In retrospect, it was a good idea, but it was really executed badly. The show was cancelled in 1984 to make way for other programming and Gene went home and relaxed. In 1985, Gene Rayburn signed on to do Richard Kline’s first ever foray into producing game shows, which would turn out to be Break the Bank. When the show debuted, the writing was already on the wall when Gene was told to take all the events they did in the bonus game seriously. I don’t know why, but having the contestant plug a fake kitchen product, do a fake newscast or say a tongue twister 3 times doesn’t seem like something that would go across as serious TV to me. Plus, it doesn’t help that Gene, who was nearing retirement age at the time has lost a step in the card reading department, but I’ve talked enough about this. But don’t worry, I’ll be coming back to this in the future. But after 13 weeks of this, Gene quit and a replacement host had to fill the void. Enter this guy…
Joe Farago. Now before he was selected to host this show, Joe had bit roles in movies. More notably, as the TV anchorman in the classic 1984 action movie, The Terminator. What should also be noted is that he was on the very first episode of this show as a “fast talker”. Ironic, eh? Yeah, I thought not. Now, I can easily say that he wasn’t as good as Gene was, but that’s pretty obvious from watching an episode. He tried to throw some funny lines every now and then and they wound up more pathetic than anything else.
He was also known to do some impersonations in the show, like a man underwater & Mickey Mouse. Although I’d admit they were fine, they could have been a lot better. But enough about his painful attempts at comedy, let’s look at his hosting. Well, a good host could take a bad product and make it watchable, sorta like how Bill Cullen took stinkers like Winning Streak and Blankety Blanks and made them watchable. Joe Farago took a pedestrian product and made it worse.
This was also highlighted by leading the audience and contestants in a cheer of the show’s title to toss it to commercial. Yeah, it’s just as pathetic as it sounds. Joe is also monotone for hosting this type of show. I think if they let Gene at least be allowed to have some fun with the stunt format, he might of not minded doing this show. But Farago seemed bored half the time, which as a game show host cannot be. Bored with the format, bored with the show. Although to be honest, he’s not helped here by a format done better with Password Plus & Even the Winners Big Money Game on Sale of the Century.
After more puzzles, he then does the bonus game, but first he explains about the power of the bank card. He puts this thing over like the second coming of Jesus. Telling the couple that another couple broke the bank with this very same bank card for over $45,000. I swear, it’s like if Farago would become a pitchman for the card. You know what, that’s it. He’s acting like a pitchman. An infomercial specialist. So, he continues to sell an unworking pile of junk to the couples that this could help them win big money.
Another thing that doesn’t help Joe Farago out is that he doesn’t know how to stretch for time. Mainly because at most, it takes about 8 or so minutes to play the front game, about 3 to do the end game, 2 minutes for announcer Michael Hanks to announce the prizes and fee plugs and who produced the show, leaving Joe about 6-7 minutes to stretch for time. These moments are quite painful to watch, even when the majority of the time is talking about the front game and how one person helped the other person win the game. So, with some stretching time wasted, we get to the big moment, placing the bank card into the slot and seeing what they won.
Well, the won a ceiling fan for the day, along with they money up front. And as Joe painfully puts it, a ceiling fan is kind of cool. Only one picture can sum up my feelings for that joke.
Thank you High.
And to add to the crappy pun parade, ratings were anything but high for the show and Joe was out of a job in September of 1986 when Richard Kline decided to ditch Break the Bank and make Strike it Rich. So what did happen to Joe Farago? Well, guess what. He became an ace pitchman. He can currently be seen every day, if you look hard enough selling the GT Xpress line of countertop cooking appliances, with Ms. Pudding Head herself Cathy Mitchell. I’ve seen both of them and I remember the first one where Joe said he kept on having brain lapses about Garlic Bread. Leading to this picture when Cathy told Joe that the Garlic Bread will not burn.
He probably had this same look on his face after he just got the gig for Frankenstein: The College Years.
(Thanks to Infomercial Agony for the use of the Joe Garlic Bread picture.)
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