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David Letterman Plays the Joker in “The Riddlers”

In 1977, David Letterman was still a struggling standup comedian trying to break into television, which is the only way to explain why Letterman would ever take part in the mess of a pilot that is The Riddlers. Unless you’re a fan of David Letterman, perpetual b-list game show guests from the 70s, or things that are so bad, they’re good, The Riddlers is not worth watching.

The Riddlers‘s pilot has many things wrong with it. The most obvious are several format flaws. First, there’s the fact that Letterman is almost useless. The contestants are reading the riddles to other members of their team. The Riddler‘s doesn’t need a host and it doesn’t deserve on as good as Letterman. He exists solely to read the rules and repeat questions that have already been read. While it is necessary to repeat questions every now and then, no game show needs a dedicated echoer.

As if a built in redundancy isn’t bad enough, the starting team is almost guaranteed to win. The problem isn’t that the object of the game is to answer 9 riddles correctly. It’s that the losing team from the previous game starts the new one and keeps control of the game until they get an incorrect answer. It’s entirely possible for a really good team to win the game without the other team ever answering a question. The only reason that doesn’t happen in the pilot is because Joyce Bulifant isn’t too bright, which she has also demonstrated multiple times on Match Game, so it’s not like she was having a bad day.

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