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The Gong Show
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Gong Show is a revamped version of the 1970s variety show competition of the same name. Like its predecessor, the acts vary wildly in quality and include performers of all kinds: singers, dancers, magicians, jump-ropers, and speed-talkers, to name only a few. The focus is definitely on the offbeat and bizarre. There's a lot of sexual innuendo -- references to S&M and testicles abound -- and there are some mentions of drugs and alcohol, as when the host refers to himself as being "high." Some acts could be a bit spooky for younger or squeamish kids, like the girl who plays harmonica while holding a live tarantula inside her mouth.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The 1970s version of The Gong Show hosted by Chuck Barris was notorious for featuring an outlandish and ridiculous lineup of performers, and this reboot from executive producer Will Arnett carries on that tradition. A rotating panel of celebrity judges (Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Elizabeth Banks are among those featured) rate the acts on a scale of 1 to 10, but if the performance is so bad they just can't bear it, they'll grab a giant mallet and hit the gong to bring things to a merciful end. At the end of each episode, the highest-rated performer takes home a check for $2,000.17 and a golden gong trophy. The festivities are hosted by "British comedy legend" Tommy Maitland -- who is actually a heavily made up, unrecognizable Mike Myers (a fact that is never acknowledged).
Is it any good?
If your favorite part of the old American Idol series was the early audition episodes where the judges make fun of the delusional, questionably-talented hopefuls, this show may be right up your alley. The primary function of these acts isn't that they're marketable (or even palatable), it's that they're memorably weird. The Gong Show isn't where you'll see a sincere young girl strumming an acoustic guitar and belting out a self-penned ballad to an appreciative audience. This is, however, one of the only places you are likely to see a married couple who have developed an entire acrobatic act centered on spitting chewed-up bananas into each other's mouths.
Whether or not you dig the show's schtick is dependent upon your tolerance level for lowbrow humor and cheesy performances. Wacky is the name of the game, right down to the choice of host: comedic actor Mike Myers (Austin Powers, Shrek), who appears uncredited in the guise of British comedy star "Tommy Maitland," whose ribald sense of humor and manic energy are downright Benny Hill-esque. We've seen Myers do this type of thing before -- calling people "cheeky monkeys" is his go-to -- but it's oddly fitting for this zany throwback of a show. The overall ridiculousness wears thin at times, but viewers looking to see something different will definitely hit pay dirt.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether or not they think the performers on The Gong Show have actual talent. How might a singer from this show fare on a different talent competition, such as American Idol or The Voice?
Does the way the judges critique the performers seem sincere or helpful? What makes criticism constructive versus mean?
If you had to appear on The Gong Show, what would your talent be?
For kids who love comedy
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.