Charles Hirsch "Chuck" Barris (June 3, 1929 – March 21, 2017) was a sometimes-controversial Game Show producer whose work was mostly pastiches of the genre. His library of shows is currently owned by Sony Pictures Television (via their acquisition of Guber/Peters in the early 1990s; they had bought Barris' company in 1989).
Shows produced by Barris include:
- People Pickers (unsold 1965 pilot)
- The Dating Game (1965-74, 1978-80, 1986-89)
- The Newlywed Game (1966-74, 1977-80, 1984, 1985-89; actually created by Nicholson-Muir Productions)
- Dream Girl of '67 (1966-67)
- The Family Game (1967; also an unsold 1986 pilot hosted by Jeff MacGregor; later revived in a sense by Jay Wolpert as Wait Til You Have Kids for The Family Channel)
- How's Your Mother-in-Law? (1967-68)
- National Celebrity Test (1968; unsold pilot hosted by Regis Philbin)
- The Game Game (1969-70)
- Cop Out! (September 1972; at least two pilots)
- The Parent Game (1972-73; began as a 1969 pilot hosted by Clark Race for NBC)
- (The New) Treasure Hunt (1973-77, 1981-82; revival of a 1956-59 game hosted and produced by Jan Murray, began as a 1972 pilot with a very different set and the Q&A of the 1950s version)
- The Gong Show (1976-80, 1988-89; began as a 1975 pilot hosted by Gary Owens with a four-celebrity panel)
- The $1.98 Beauty Show (1978-80)
- 3's a Crowd (1979-80; began as a 1969 pilot hosted by Wink Martindale, followed by two pilots in December 1978 and a third in 1979)
- Camouflage (1980; revival of a 1961-62 game by Jerry Hamer Productions)
- Dollar A Second (February 7, 1981; unsold revival of a 1950s game hosted by Jan Murray)
- Comedy Courtroom (1980s unsold pilot hosted by Barris)
- Bamboozle (early 1986; unsold ABC pilot hosted by Bob Hilton)
Under the Guber/Peters name, they created the following shows and pilots:
- The Quiz Kids Challenge (1990-91; loose revival of the 1940s-50s Quiz Kids series)
- Countdown (unsold 1990 pilot, based off the British game show)
Also wrote the following books:
An alleged autobiography in which Barris claimed he was using his work as a Game Show producer to hide his activities as an assassin for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. This was a brilliant claim on Barris' part as, while the CIA requires all of its employees to sign an agreement never to publish anything without getting Agency approval, if they actually tried to enforce the agreement they'd be admitting that they engaged in assassinations (violating a presidential directive). So when the CIA reportedly said that Barris has never worked for the Agency, it probably wasn't believed.
The film has the following tropes:
- Alternate Character Interpretation: In-Universe—is Chuck Barris Living a Double Life as a ruthless CIA assassin, or is this all just the Power Fantasy of a game show producer to cope with the contempt he gets (and feels) for being a purveyor of tasteless television?
- Based on a Great Big Lie: Barris had already admitted he had made the story up in a 1984 interview promoting the book; he wrote the story in large part because he had been exiled from television over the controversy surrounding one of his shows, 3's a Crowd. In the same interview, Barris claimed he had applied for work with the CIA in the early 1960s but never actually entered the Agency; and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was the product of Barris imagining how his life would have turned out had he entered the CIA, and how he could have balanced it with his game show career at the same time. (Even if he had got into the CIA, it's doubtful he would have been employed as a hitman.)
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Game Show Host Chuck Barry was a CIA hitman.
- Cassandra Truth: At the end of the movie Chuck marries Penny and confesses to his double life, but she just thinks he's joking.
- Disastrous Demonstration: An instructor shows the CIA recruits how to kill a man by crushing his windpipe with the edge of the hand. He fails to pull the blow and the demonstration subject falls to the ground and starts audibly choking. Cue Oh, Crap! from the instructor who then asks for another volunteer.
- Ephebophile: A girl who rejected Chuck's advances in school makes contact again once he becomes famous. Of course, now she's older and put on weight she looks nothing like the girl he was lusting after for years. We then cut to Chuck being invited into the bedroom of some girls who are implied to be underage.
- Indulgent Fantasy Segue: When Chuck gets cut loose by the networks for poor ratings, he imagines a montage where he proceeds to kill the Bearer of Bad News in various ways.
- Freudian Excuse: CIA agent Jim Byrd recruits Chuck as an assassin because he "fits the profile". Chuck later scoffs at the idea that there's any such profile, whereupon Byrd reveals that Chuck's mother used to dress him up as a girl and he's the illegitimate son of a convicted serial killer.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Chuck is stuck chaperoning an idiot contest winner around Helsinki as cover for a CIA assignment. Later he gets caught and spy-swapped...for the same man who turns out to be a KGB agent.Chuck Barris: I don't know what was worse—that I was duped by that fat fucking bachelor, or that it took seven of us to replace him.
- Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Patricia (who is The Mole) brings Chuck a tray with two drinks; Chuck's is poisoned. She loses her attention for a moment, then comes back and notices the tray has been reversed. While Chuck isn't looking, she reverses it again. And she winds up choking to death on poison; Chuck hadn't reversed the tray, he just moved the objects on the tray around to make it look like he had.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Chuck meets a beautiful bather at a pool party who then proceeds to calmly get stuck into him for the way he sets up contestants in The Gong Show for ritual humiliation. Chuck is so shaken he flees.
- Serious Business: Peter Jenks of the Federal Communications Commission lines up the game show participants and threatens them with a $10,000 fine and/or a year's imprisonment plus unspoken other fates that will be inflicted by him during the long drive to prison should they use lascivious language on air.
- Sex for Services: Chuck sleeps with Femme Fatale Spy Patricia Watson. When Chuck gives a Dude, Where's My Respect? speech to his superior in the CIA, he reveals they sent Patricia to keep him happy.
- This Is Reality: When Jim Byrd first recruits him, Chuck is overjoyed at joining a career where he gets to wear a trenchcoat and have sex with beautiful Eastern European women. Byrd abruptly brings him down to earth. Chuck does end up having sex with a beautiful spy, but that turns out to be a setup.
- You All Look Familiar: Various characters are played by the same actor, or the same character appears in various roles. For instance Robert Burke plays two CIA instructors and a member of the FCC (and they're all hilarious).
Airing live on NBC, pretty much rigged to hell and back without the contestants' knowledge, and hosted by a stereotypical "all-smiles" emcee, The Big Question is billed as the next big thing and most of America is glued to their screens. The "winner", a sweet old lady named Vera Bundle who was just beginning to experience life again, gets the final question wrong (as the producer had planned). Shortly afterward, Vera gives a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the doctor administering the poison - after which the doctor forces the poison down her throat; Vera dies soon afterward.
A massive outcry begins against the show and NBC, presumably because almost nobody knew about the whole "death" element. While The Big Question manages to stay on the air despite this, it eventually gets canned after just three episodes,