Chuck Barris, ‘The Gong Show’ Creator, Dies At 87
NBC personality and author Chuck Barris passed away at 87.
CHUCK BARRIS DIES AT 87
Barris gained fame in the 1960s for his creative television ideas. After being an assistant of sorts to Dick Clark in the 1950s, Barris came up with a genius game show idea that became The Dating Game. The following year, in 1966, he created The Newlywed Game.
His next show was less critically successful but much more culturally effective. The Gong Show debuted in 1976 and pitted performers against each other for prizes; the performers, however, were often terrible and the prizes were nonsensical amounts of money. When the three celebrity judges couldn’t stand to watch a routine any longer, they would bang a gong to end it. Barris was featured as the irritating host.
The show ran for two years, but in that time became a sensation. At one point, the daytime version of the show garnered 78% of viewers aged 18 to 49. “In my opinion, a good game show review is the kiss of death,” Barris said in 2001. “If for some strange reason the critic liked it, the public won’t. A really bad review means the show will be on for years.”
At the time, Barris was dubbed the “King of Schlock” for the bad yet impossibly good show style he created. “Today these shows are accepted,” he said in 2003. “These shows aren’t lowering any bars.” In fact, he was correct, as the style became a popular part of game shows. Even in similar reality competitions of today such as American Idol, the judges stop a performer by hitting a buzzer.
In 1980, Barris attempted a film sequel to the show, creating The Gong Show Movie with Robert Downey, Sr., but it flopped. Barris slowly withdrew from TV and spent his time pursuing a writing career. He had already written You and Me, Babe in 1974 about a failing marriage, similar to his own. He then came out with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in 1984, which he described as an autobiography about his supposed role as a CIA assassin in the 60s. He never publicly confirmed not denied the assertion, but multiple CIA sources denied any affiliation.
He continued to write later in life, producing humorous novels like The Big Question in 2007 and Who Killed Art Deco? in 2009. A year later he wrote his most serious work, Della: A Memoir of My Daughter, Barris wrote about the life of his only daughter who died of a drug overdose in 1998 at 36. Barris was married three times and is survived by his wife Mary Kane.
While Barris wore many hats throughout his lifetime, he is most well known as a game show producer. “When you go to that great game show in the sky, would you rather be known as an author or as a TV game show producer?” he asked himself at a Q and A. “That’s the easiest question of all,” he responded. “I would love to be known as an author, but I don’t think it’s written that that’s the way it’s going to be. I think on my tombstone it’s just going to say, ‘Gonged at last,’ and I’m stuck with that.”