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Chucky BabyIn Defense of Chuck Barris

by Mr. Stinkhead

Chuck Barris is famous for creating many popular game shows of the 1970's; including The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and The Gong Show, which he also hosted. With the recent release of a movie based on his autobiography, Barris has returned to the spotlight after almost 20 years in hiding.

In 1981, Chuck published his memoir Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. This past winter his book was retold as a movie with the same title, George Clooney starring and directing, and Sam Rockwell portraying the wily producer.

The big "controversy" surrounding the book/film is that in it, Barris claims he spent many years as an assassin for the CIA. The film and book both unblinkingly explain that Barris led a double life, and would carry out many of his missions while scouting out locations for his game show prize vacations. I was most amused in the movie, watching Rockwell/Barris sneaking around killing people and had to remind myself, this is the host of The Gong Show.

I personally believe Barris to be a genius. The Newlywed Game is one of my favorite game shows. The contestants, for the most part, are retarded. They have no business being on television. Neither did the "performers" on The Gong Show. Mr. Barris recognized how funny such people can be to watch. The whole can't-look-away-from-a-car-accident phenomenon. We know it today as the TV programs Fear Factor, Surreal Life, or Big Brother.

Barris's notion that people will voluntarily look like a fool just to be on national television, and his successful marketing of such a concept, paved the way for the current steaming shit pile of reality programming we have on television now.

Confessions of a Dangerous SingerClick here to read our review of Chuck's CD Confessions of a Dangerous Singer.

The downside to this particular Pandora's box is that though these shows brought Barris fame and success, his critics were particularly harsh on what he was contributing to society. He wasn't trying to contribute to society, he was trying to entertain the American public, clean and simple. My favorite quote from his book regards his knowledge that most Americans watch television while eating.

"If you can make something happen on the program that will stop their forks halfway between their plates and their mouths at least once each half hour, you'll have a hit television show."

This man knew how to entertain. My theory is that the critics were so judgmental because A) they were probably jealous of not having cashed in on this formula themselves, and B) the material was horrible in the first place. No one would argue how disposable the shows were. They weren't supposed to be kept forever or analyzed. Much like street mimes. They're marginally entertaining, it is an art form, however you wouldn't buy a DVD of Mimes and no one would ever argue with you if you went around saying mimes sucked.

The book and movie are both entertaining stories to indulge in. Not only was he a television producer and a hit man, Barris was a millionaire playboy as well. In the recent film, Sam Rockwell does a dead-on Barris, and Clooney's directorial debut is polished and stylistic. The movie is a must-own DVD when released. The book, though a little muddled with details, is full of great stories and anecdotes and a quick read. I would recommend it if you're already a Barris fan. Click here to read my review.

Join my campaign to get Chuck put in the International Spy Museum. Seriously.

Click here to read our review of Mr. Barris' CD Confessions of a Dangerous Singer.

Click here to order the book from

This article is copyright 2003, the photos are copyrighted by their respective owners.

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