May 29, 2020

No ZOOM at the Inn?

Why Does This App Seem Like a Game Show?

By Ed Goldman

Of the thousands of you who attend ZOOM meetings—by computer, pad, smartphone or SPCA chip implant—please answer this question with absolute candor:

Every time during the meeting when someone else checks in, how many of you hope it will turn out to be Charles Nelson Reilly, Paul Lynde or Jaye P. Morgan from “The Hollywood Squares”?

I’ll admit my question flirts with the supernatural since the first two of those TV personalities are presumed dead. Even so, there are cable channels on which you can still catch them in their already faded glory. I say “already faded” because no one who was still “hot” in show biz went on “The Hollywood Squares”—not the panelists and certainly not its succession of hosts, from Peter Marshall to John Davidson, then Tom Bergeron, who reminds me a bit too much of Soupy Sales (also presumed dead). Don’t get me wrong, all those hosts were as affable as can be. And all were as dull as Miracle Whip® on Ry-Crisp®.

By the way, Jaye P. Morgan joined “The Hollywood Squares” after losing her gig as a regular panelist on “The Gong Show” for flashing her breasts during a taping. I’m not kidding. Can you imagine being booted off ”The Gong Show” because you offended someone’s sense of good taste? And that your penance consisted of becoming one of “The Hollywood Squares”?

These two shows are among the programs often cited to explain why Newton Minnow called television a “vast wasteland” when he was head of the Federal Communications Commission. He actually said this in 1965, though, which was a year before “Hollywood Squares” made it onto the regular TV schedule and 11 years before “The Gong Show” premiered. So he was more likely talking about “The Beverly Hillbillies” (1962-1971) and “Petticoat Junction” (1963 to 1970). Perhaps this prescience is why Newton Minnow is called a visionary, despite having a name that makes him sound like a tiny fish cookie. (Yo, Pixar! How about a character named Newton Minnow for the next “Finding Nemo” sequel? Message me.)

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As of this writing, I’ve ZOOMed exactly twice. I enjoyed the experiences. They were with some of my high school theatre buddies and I’d meant to join them for a few earlier sessions but was having trouble with the technology. Something as seemingly easy as installing an app and following the instructions counts as technology for someone like me, who’s still trying to determine where his lap goes when he stands up.

Once I finally was able to fill one of the eight squares—after no fewer than three of those buddies coached me on it, off-line—I found the whole thing fun and quietly chaotic, not unlike attending a cocktail party where you’ve already had a little too much to drink and have to whip your head in different directions every time someone says your name because you’re never quite sure where the voice is coming from. This is because the positions of the squares change. Also because you may have had a little too much to drink.

I have no idea what a ZOOM meeting is like if the subject matter is serious, so feel free to write me here at The Goldman State. If I receive enough letters, maybe we’ll set up a ZOOM meeting of our own to discuss it. I’ll see if Jaye P. Morgan is available to join us.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).