Tuesday, March 14, 2006

TV: Memoriam • Peter Tomarken

Sometimes the news is just too depressing. I was terribly saddened last night to learn of the death of one of the great '80s game show hosts, Peter Tomarken. As if his untimely passing alone is not enough, it happened on a volunteer flight to provide transport for a needy medical patient, and his wife also perished in the plane crash. Tomarken's claim to fame was the 1983-1986 game show Press Your Luck, one of the defining games of the genre in the 1980s. In its heyday, it rubbed shoulders with The $25,000 Pyramid and The Price is Right on CBS' morning lineup. Currently airing at 11:30 a.m. daily (Central) on GSN (note to GSN: The show was on three years. Please get some different episodes.), which will air a Press Your Luck marathon this Sunday, the show was best known for its animated whammies and contestants shouting "Big bucks! No whammies!" at the big board. With its shuffling cash ($5,000 and a spin!) and prizes and randomly jumping lit square, the big board was fascinating to me as a 10-year-old. Tomarken was a perfect fit for the show, bringing humor and a genuine likeability to his role while deftly managing those great seesaw passed spin battles. Many pleasant summer vacation mornings were spent with Tomarken and the whammies. This passing hits me in that tender part of the heart reserved for nostalgia and fond memories of happy times. Like a contestant having the unlikely bad luck to hit four whammies in a row (an automatic lose), Tomarken's death while in the act of a good deed for another just seems like one of life's most senseless and cruel twists.

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