Yes, an opportunity came up to go to Sin City, and I happily snapped up tickets to some shows, including The Price Is Right: Live In Las Vegas at Bally’s, a show that’s pretty darn famous among game show nerds. My show-by-show report, which came out to five pages when I typed it up in Word:
February 20, 2012 - Name That Tune: Live In Las Vegas at Imperial Palace
Name That Tune is the only other game show besides The Price Is Right to have a Las Vegas recreation right now. The producers announced it together with The Sing-Off: Live In Las Vegas, but that one is showing no signs of happening.
When I bought my tickets, I found there was a limited time promotion where you could get a guaranteed slot as a contestant. Naturally, I did it. I soon found out why this promotion was happening – after arriving half an hour before showtime for contestant registration and waiting another fifteen minutes to go into the theater, I found that said theater was about half full.
Anyway, the show began with a little video about the history of the TV show Name That Tune, after which announcer and DJ Jimmy Z introduced host Zowie Bowie (no, not Duncan Jones – his real name is Chris Phillips) and assistant Marley Taylor. The pair, apparently veteran Las Vegas entertainers, came on stage singing a terrible lyrical theme song, sang another song after the first two rounds, and occasionally sang bits of whatever song the contestants had just named.
The format then – while the ads I’ve seen for Name That Tune promise anywhere from fifty to one hundred contestants per show, at the show I saw there were “only” thirty, called out of the audience in three groups of ten. The first two groups called onstage play a round in which Jimmy Z plays songs one at a time, and the first player to buzz in with the correct song title gets one point. When you get two points, you move on the next round and leave your podium, and the round continues until three contestants have won. The third group does the same thing, only four contestants move on to the next round instead of three. For the record, I was in the first group and I did get one point. The twenty contestants eliminated in this round win some free tickets to other Las Vegas shows.
After all three groups have played, the ten remaining contestants are split into five pairs. The members of each pair play against each other in…no, not Bid-A-Note…Bid-A-Second. Zowie reads out a clue, after which the two contestants bid on how many seconds of the song they will need to hear to identify it (“I can name that tune in six seconds”, “I can name that tune in four seconds”, etc.). Once one player has challenged the other to name that tune, a correct answer is worth one point, while an incorrect guess awards the point to the other player. The first player to get two points moves on to the next round. The five eliminated contestants get a slightly bigger set of free tickets to other Las Vegas shows.
Once all five pairs have played Bid-A-Second, five giant whiteboard stations are wheeled out for the five remaining contestants to write on. Jimmy Z plays a thirty-second mash-up of snippets from ten songs connected by a common theme (as I was seeing this on President’s Day, the theme was songs about America). The contestants write down their answers while the mash-up is playing, and the player who gets the most songs correct is the winner for the show. The four eliminated players get…yeah, more tickets to other Las Vegas shows. Zowie also invites the audience to play along via pieces of paper and pens on their seats – you get free tickets to another Las Vegas show if you get eight right, which nobody did. The correct answers for this round are revealed via a giant screen that comes down from the ceiling, leading to a lot of jokes about this being the reason The Phantom Of The Opera is closing in Las Vegas. For the record, the real reason Phantom is closing in Las Vegas - at least according to rumor - is to make room for Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark. Honestly, my first thought upon seeing Name That Tune's answer board wasn't The Phantom Of The Opera's chandelier, but rather “The answers will now be revealed to the audience via the incredible Pentium-powered laser display board…”
The day’s winner then plays a bonus round in which you have sixty seconds to identify songs. When you think you know the title, you buzz in and the clock stops while you give your answer. You can also choose to buzz in and use one of your two methods of help – you can pass on one song and poll the audience on another (and by “poll the audience”, I really just mean Zowie turns around and says “Does anybody know it?”) If you give one wrong answer, the round ends immediately; if you get fifteen songs correct in sixty seconds, you win $10,000. This, as far as I can tell, is the only way you can win a prize that isn’t tickets to another Las Vegas show, and let’s face it, it isn’t going to happen (the guy I saw managed nine). I had fun, and being onstage was surreal, but there’s a reason the theater was only half full, and being a contestant would have been a lot more fun if I hadn’t reserved the privilege.
I ended up walking away with vouchers for two tickets to another performance of Name That Tune (without the guaranteed contestant slot) and two tickets to another show at Imperial Palace, Divas (a show whose tagline is “You won’t believe your eyes because these girls are really guys!”). A $200 value, to be sure, but (A) the Name That Tune voucher turned out to have expired five days before I received it, (B) I couldn’t go to Name That Tune again anyway as it conflicted with shows I had actually paid for and (C) come on…the drag show?