Merv Griffin has died at the age of 82. America owes this man a debt of gratitude for what he has brought to our culture. In addition to being an Emmy-winner, a singer, a real estate baron, and a highly successful producer, I will remember Merv as the Elevator Killer, in Steve Martin's "The Man With Two Brains", who injected his victims with window cleaner, thus causing their brains to die last (which was an important plot point.) But we should all remember him for creating two of the best, most successful, and most popular game shows in television history.
If you ever clapped your hands, even as a joke, and said, "Big money, big money" (for whatever reason), you can thank Merv. If you ever looked at someone's name with a whole bunch of consonants throughout and thought (or said), "I'd like to buy a vowel, please," you can thank Merv. And if you ever made a joke to someone about "Once you buy a prize (car, dog, lover, etc.), it's yours to keep," you can thank Merv. We get all those fun expressions from "Wheel of Fortune", the longest running and most popular game show ever. And Merv Griffin created it. Thank you, Merv.
In response to the quiz show scandals, Merv was talking with his wife about how to create a new one, in which they couldn;t be accused of giving the contestants the answers in advance. And Merv's wife said, "Why not give them the answers and make them come up with the questions?" And Jeopardy! was born. This has always been my personal favorite, and not because I can get a lot of the "responses" correct, if not always in the form of a question. One big hint is to ignore the real trivia and concentrate on what is probably the only thing you know about the person. For example (this is made up), "This Confederate Army commander once worked as a feed salesman when he was twelve." We all know who was the commander of the Confederate Army, so the correct question must be, "What was Robert E. Lee?" Who knows if he ever worked as a feed salesman when he was twelve and, as Clark Gable famously said, "Frankly, my dear, who the fuck cares?"
We can thank Merv not only for Jeopardy!, but for its famous "Think Music" that they play during Final Jeopardy!, or when the manager has the whole infield on the mound to discuss how they'll pitch to the next batter. I like when they do that because the ump usually gives them the whole thirty seconds and times his appearance to tell them to break it up just as the music is ending, as if it interrupting the music would be a sin which the fans might not forgive. Merv Griffin wrote that music.
Thanks, Merv, for giving smart-asses like me the opportunity to show off a useless talent for trivia and Hangman Puzzle-solving. We wouldn't be the America we are today without your creations. When asked once what he would like his headstone to read, it was simply this: