Hey, feeling a little bored tonight? Or maybe you’re not in the mood to hear how your spouse spent his or her day. Well, we know what you can do. Just turn on the TV, sit back on the Lazy Boy, tell the kids to stop fighting and turn your attention to the man on the screen.
“IT’S TIME TO PLAY AMERICAN MADNESS!”
Sure, this is what you need: applause and laughter filling the room, contestants squealing in delight. And you only have to wait there quietly as Steven Harvey gets the show rolling.
“Contestant Number One,” Steve says, addressing an attractive young housewife from Akron, Ohio. “Your first question is worth $5,000. Answer correctly and you’ll win your choice of two fabulous prizes: a three week trip to Hawaii for you and your family, staying at the Honolulu Five Seasons luxury resort or, second choice, a year’s worth of food and medical supplies for a drought-stricken Nigerian Bantu village.
Somehow all this talk about prizes makes you think about your Christmas gift list, so you hardly notice the photos that flash across the screen, first the group shot of the African villagers, about 50 in all, then a photo of the Five Seasons Hilton, as seen through a grove of palm trees.
Before you can shake free from your reverie, Contestant Number One correctly answers her question and chooses the Hawaiian dream trip, joking to Steve that she’d always wanted to wear a grass skirt.
That girl has a good sense of humor, you tell yourself. Not like some other people you could name. That starts you thinking about your boss, and if you were looking at yourself you’d notice wrinkles appearing on your forehead and the muscles around your mouth tensing up. Steve’s carnival barker voice returns your roving mind to the images on the screen.
“Contestant Number Two,” he calls. “Your first question is also worth five thousand dollars. Guess correctly and you get to choose between a genuine Tiger Woods golf cart, or securing the release of Juan Diego, a political prisoner in Venezuela who’s been imprisoned for three years.”
Contestant Number Two, a robotics repair technician from Derry, New Hampshire, reminds you of your older brother, Sam. There’s something in the way he leans his head sideways that reminds you of Sam, and you find yourself getting excited as the prize pictures flash across the screen. You even murmur a cheer when he correctly answers his question. But then, when he hesitates in choosing his prize, you experience a surprising level of irritation that relates more to your feelings about Sam than Contestant Number Two.
“Can I see the golf cart again?” Contestant Number Two requests.
Instantly, the Tiger Woods golf cart, with Tiger at the wheel, fills the screen.
“And the political prisoner…?”
As Juan Diego’s image appears, shown hidden in the depths of a tiny cell lit by a 60 watt bulb, you rise from your chair. You have it in mind to head for the kitchen, but you pause at the threshold to hear Contestant Number Two choose his prize.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I thought it was someone I knew from school, but it wasn’t. I’ll take the golf cart.”
You’re already in the kitchen by the time Steve Harvey sums up the score and leads into the commericals, saying, “We’ll be right back to see which of our contestants gets to choose between a fabulous antique Persian rug worth $10,000 OR,” he suddenly shouts, “a year’s temporary housing for twenty of America’s most desperate homeless families. But first, these important announcements.
Staring into the refrigerator, you realize you’re still bored. Or maybe you’re just hungry. In either case, you make yourself a banana and peanut butter sandwich, fetch a glass of milk and take them back to the living room.
You return just in time to see Contestant Number One shouting and jumping up in her excitement at winning the beautiful antique Persian rug.