Well, it’s Sunday night, and my usual televised staples — "The Amazing Race," "Celebrity Apprentice," football (yes, I do watch football) — are nowhere to be found; so what did I do? No, I didn’t read that book that my parents gave me six months ago; although, I’m starting to think I should. You see, I just wiled away thirty minutes of my life watching the second half of "Million Dollar Password," the latest incarnation of the classic game show that has regular folks team up with celebrities in an action-packed tour de force of synonyms and stuttering. It’s a tried and true formula — one that’s sure to enthrall as much as it frustrates — but as I sat there and watched Jamie Kennedy, Norm MacDonald, and their un-famous partners struggle for words, I couldn’t help thinking that somewhere along the line, the talent pool had definitely dropped a few IQ points.
This is not to say that these people were dumb. It’s just that they acted dumb when put under pressure. For instance, there was the sweet-natured but woefully inarticulate blond girl who seemed incapable of divining the word "camel" from Norm MacDonald’s clues. Never mind that he said DROMEDARY (and hump and desert). Somehow this lady wound up uttering "ELEPHANT!" not once, but twice as if her sheer persistence would earn her the win. I mean, okay, elephants have been known to trek through the desert (what up, Planet Earth), and okay, maybe the word "dromedary" is a bit advanced for certain people, but since when did elephants have humps? And if for some reason they do, since when were they the preeminent humped animal of the desert instead of, say, CAMELS?
Oh, but it got worse.
Later in the show, this poor woman was charged with supplying clues to Mr. MacDonald, and needless to say, her powers of suggestion were somewhat lacking. The password was "aluminum," which admittedly could be a tricky word to elicit. I might have started with the word "can" or "metal." Instead, this lady chirped "GOLD!" Let me remind you that there is no reasonable link between gold and aluminum beyond the fact that they can both be found on the Periodic Table of Elements. The two metals have nothing to do with each other whatsoever. Understandably, Norm MacDonald looked at his clue-giver strangely and uttered, "Silver?" To which she then replied "Bronze!" This was going nowhere fast. To be fair, I must admit that I’m recalling all this from memory (I had DVR issues); so it’s possible I have the order of the precious medals mixed up. The point is, however, that had there not been a time limit, I feared we were due for a complete tour of the Earth’s many minerals and compounds before finally stumbling on aluminum.
To the team’s credit, Norm MacDonald did actually wind up saying "aluminum," but only after his teammate had officially stated "pass," thus nullifying all their hard work. And no, they didn’t receive a point for this utterance. I wanted to throw a chair at the screen.
Of course, it’s not like Jamie Kennedy and his lovely lady partner were much better. While she showed some mild promise at first, the woman completely froze up, and when given the word "cut," she went silent for a few seconds before declaring, "PASS!" Really? REALLY? She couldn’t think of a single word to describe "cut?" Not even, I don’t know, "SCISSORS?" Maybe "KNIFE?" "TEAR?" ANYTHING?
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The whole fun of Password is watching people completely succumb to massive brain farts, and I couldn’t necessarily say that I’d do any better than any of the dolts on TV tonight. But have they always been this dim? Part of me thinks yes. I still remember watching Password in my youth and seeing Loretta Swit proudly (and incorrectly) answer "Farrah Fawcett Majors!" to the word "beautiful." But I also remember seeing those near-geniuses who were able to seemingly read each other’s minds, spitting out one correct answer after another with a consistency that defied comprehension. Those people still exist, right? Probably. But I tend to think CBS lowered their casting standards a bit because a) who wants to give away all that prize money? and b) let’s face it, at the end of the day, it’s more fun to shout at the screen than to watch someone breeze through the show.