Parenting and game shows have more in common that you might think. This declaration might give the impression that I’ve appeared on a television game show. Actually, I haven’t and that my quiz career peaked at the age of ten and a half when I was a member of Newport Primary School’s prizewinning Scotquiz team. Anyway, here are the five examples that I feel show what game shows can teach us about parenting…
1. Deal or no deal. On this game show that the UK copied from a French version, contestants keep opening boxes with differing amounts of money in them until there are fewer and fewer left. At various stages the banker (who is never visible or audible but supposedly phones the host) offers the contestant various sums of money in return for the contestant deciding to surrender whatever their box has in it.
Believe it or not, this game show is like our baby son’s bath time routine. The deal is that one of us fills the bath (a clear plastic bucket-like thing) with water and also gets out his pyjamas and toothbrush. The other one has to take off his day clothes and then his nappy in preparation for bath time. When I’m the one who’s about to remove the nappy (=diaper) before putting him in the bath, I feel like a contestant on deal or no deal as I speculate about whether or not there’ll be any nappy contents that will require a clean up operation before bath time can begin.
2. Going for Gold. This was a general knowledge quiz shown on BBC television during the 1980s and early 1990s presented by the ever amiable Irish broadcaster Henry Kelly. Contestants from all over Europe competed against each other, although I did sometimes wonder if they were really all people who now lived in the UK but had been born and brought up somewhere else. We’re trying to bring up our son bilingually using Welsh and English and hope that he’ll be able to do different fun things in both languages.
As it happens, I remember joking a few years ago that I’d like to learn Welsh to a standard that would enable me to compete on Welsh language channel S4C’s quiz show Dim ond Un (Only one!). In this show, contestants living in Wales competed to make it through to the final round where they would have a chance to win a foreign holiday if they could outscore an ex-pat who was seeking to win a trip back to Wales. I haven’t made it onto the show (and think that it may have actually stopped running anyway), but I did appear in an S4C comedy sketch show two years ago where I had to speak French to a chain-smoking plastic pigeon.
3. Autumnwatch or Springwatch. Actually, these are really nature programmes rather than game shows. However, I see them as a mixture of television reality shows such as Big Brother and traditional television nature programmes. Basically, there are nightly or weekly episodes about what wildlife that it has been possible to observe in certain areas using little cameras. It kind of feels like a reality show for birdwatchers and the BBC could make more of it by getting viewers to phone or text in about which birds and creatures they wanted to be kept on the show for the next episode.
This may sound like a bit of a tangent, and that’s mainly because it is. However, these sorts of nature programmes are a bit like being a parent to a small child as there’s something both fascinating and kind of cute about seeing them do the smallest things as they gradually get older and start to engage with the world around them. When our son was only a few days old and still in hospital, I used to love watching him do really big yawns and try to film or video it on my phone.
4. Catchphrase. In this UK gameshow that was for many years presenting by the friendly Northern Irish comedian Roy Walker, contestants had to guess what well know phrases or sayings were being represented on an animated screen that often featured a little robot-like figure called Mr. Chips. I always liked the way Roy Walker was an encouraging host and became associated with phrases like ‘that’s good but it’s not right’ and ‘keep pressing and guessing’ when a contestant gave a wrong answer. A correct answer would often result in him saying ‘riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!’ in an enthusiastic manner.
In some ways, I guess that this sort of patience and encouragement is something that it’s good to demonstrate with kids. At the same time, being a first time parent can involve quite a bit of ‘pressing and guessing’ (…well perhaps not literally) when it comes to finding out what does and doesn’t work. As I said in a recent post, I feel that I’m still learning all the time about so many things to do with parenting.
5. Takeshi’s Castle. When a housemate of mine subscribed to a satellite television package when I was a graduate student, I ended up watching this Japanese gameshow even more than the live football that was the thing to which I was looking forward more than anything else. There was something really amusing about watching the crazy challenges as contestants sought to do things like run through a maze full of doors without falling into a mudpit or being pushed in by a series of loudly dressed villians wearing wigs. There were also games where contestants had to slide along a runway on a tray and try to stop at a specific point. If they went too far, they’d end up slipping into a swamp-like pool. If they stopped too soon, an angry swamp-dweller would leap up and push them in.
Thankfully we haven’t had too deal with too many wild and somewhat deranged characters since becoming parents. However, there are all sorts of bizarre challenges to get used to along the way. Getting used to changing the nappy of a wailing newborn at 3am, brushing our son’s two teeth for the first time, bathing him and starting to feed him solid foods can at times be every bit as messy as some of the crazy challenges on Takeshi’s Castle.
Are there any other gameshows where contestants have to do things that have some sort of parallel with being a parent? Are there any other television programmes that have unexpected links to what it’s like to being a parent? If so, feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.
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