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Strip Poker? I Hardly Know Her!

The great thing about television is that it brings programs from around the world into my home. And your home, I guess, but what do I care about that?

There are programs from Britain, there are programs from Japan, there are programs from Uruguay, there are programs from wherever the World's Strongest Man competition is this year. There are programs from all over.

And, in the case of Strip Poker, there are programs beamed direct to my living room from the brain of Satan himself. It's a game show, in much the same way that the Spanish Inquisition was a game show, except that the audience at the Inquisition got to enjoy itself. A Strip Poker audience just gets dumber and dumber until flies start flying in their gaping mouths. And then the flies get too dumb to fly out, and what you're left with is an audience of slack-jawed buffoons, their drooling mouths packed with drooling flies.

It's on that bastion of programming excellence, USA, which has been starved for quality drama ever since Rhonda Shear left. If she's left, that is. For all I know, she's still hosting Up All Night. I wouldn't know, because one of the few points of pride I have is that if I am, in fact, awake all night, I'm probably not watching USA.

The show starts with the Strip Poker logo, which is in one of those jazzy hipster bowling-shirt type of fonts, and then there's this montage of people in their underwear. These people are all attractive, which makes me suspect they recruit real-life strippers to be contestants. And if they do, what's in it for the contestants? I mean, the stripping is supposed to be some kind of penalty, but if the contestants are taking their clothes off every day... never mind. There'll be plenty of time for investigation, bitter reprisals, and maudlin weeping later on. Our hostess is greeting us:

"Welcome to Strip Poker. Get ready for a hot game of five-card Stud. Men against women, and the losers strip!" It's not often you see a show introduced by the exact words that were spoken at the pitch meeting. Ah, who am I kidding? The pitch meeting probably went like this:

"Bob, I've got a crappy idea for a show. Can we have mostly-naked college students being forced to remove clothing?"

"Okay, but if we run your idea this year, I get to run Fraternity Haze-O-Rama! next year."

The hostess ("Jennifer") has the important job of turning over cards. The host is named "Graham Elwood." Sure he is. He looks exactly like the fresh-faced, well-scrubbed contestants.

First, two cards appear (like a ten of clubs and a nine of spades). Then, either the ladies or the fellas get asked a question about the other sex. The girls would be asked about G.I. Joe, and the guys would get asked about nail polish. The winner gets fifty dollars and choice of the card. After five cards, the loser team takes off an article of clothing. Repeat.

It's interesting to watch the show decree what constitutes "male" and "female" behavior. Apparently, knowledge of Alice in Wonderland is girly. It's also interesting to watch the contestants not know nothin' about poker. Every time I've watched the show, the people who got to pick the card have gone for a straight instead of a pair. Which is odd, what with the last two cards being face down. In other words, there's no way to force the last, vital card. These kids today. There's a reason the phrase "drawing to an inside straight" is synonymous with, um, whatever it's synonymous with.

Once a team is told to strip, it's handled in the most tasteful way possible: The audience (which we don't ever see, so I expect it's a recording) starts chanting "Take it off! Take it off!" along with the host and the other team. The stripping team takes clothing off with a smile and dances for the next twenty seconds while the cameraman staggers back and forth like he's on ESPN2 or something. The losing team doesn't seem all that put out by it. I'm not demanding tears or anything (we'll save that for Haze-O-Rama, which I've just realized would get better ratings if it were prefixed with "Sorority" instead of "Fraternity"), but they could at least pretend they're not used to getting naked in public.

In the second round, everything's the same, including the questions ("For a hundred dollars, not only is this wrestler Stone Cold, he also borrowed his name from the Six Million Dollar Man. Who is he?"), but there's stripping after every question. The WobblyCam is revealing the rafters of the abandoned Los Angeles warehouse they shot this turkey in.

By now, you're asking, "Monty, do the questions on this show suggest a gender bias in any way? That is, does the phrasing of any of the questions reveal, perhaps, whether they were written by men or women?" Let me answer you this way: "For one hundred dollars, what fashion magazine is a girl's name that rhymes with 'inane?'"

The answer, by the way, is Jane, which none of the four people in the game knew. Although the card-turner girl knew that it's Jane Pratt who used to edit Sassy. At this point, I'd also like to suggest that if the competitors wish to appear fresh-faced and virginal, perhaps they should not be wearing pink vinyl hotpants as their underthings.

I'd also like to say that the card-turning girl is no match for the person who used to turn the cards on Card Sharks. I can't do that, because A) she's actually quite good at her demanding job, and B) I have no idea who did it on Card Sharks. It's just the only other show I can think of that had a card-turning girl.

The show ends with the Lightning Round. Of course it does! ALL game shows end with Lightning Rounds! The competitors blow whistles and blurt out answers, and the losers take off clothing. I bet that comes as a surprise. This show is part of the new game show boom, of course, because it combines exhibitionism with a penalty for the losers.

Before the Lightning Round, I should point out that there are "new" episodes of Strip Poker aired on local channels in three cities. Whoo! The show so bad it could only get halfway onto USA!

At the end of the Lightning Round, all the competitors are down to their underwear. Well, they all wear three or four layers of underwear, but they appear to be down to the last couple of layers. And the losing team is required to come down to the center of the stage and "go all the way", which for basic cable means "go down to the last layer of underwear and gyrate."

But is that fair? Of course not! So the other team joins them, and both teams get sort-of-naked. And gyrate. I don't see any tattoos or piercings, so I guess they're not really strippers. Not experienced ones, anyway.

So there you go. a game show starring people who are not exactly members of Mensa (in fact, the best guess the four yahoos I was watching could come up with was that Mensa was a club for people who were extremely "male"), taking off their clothes. And they get nearly as naked at the end as the people on Survivor are all the time.

I therefore advise the populace of America to not waste its time watching Strip Poker. Did you know Bravo is showing Moonlighting reruns?


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