Last week we learned that Zooey Deschanel and Michael Bolton—an unlikely pair whose combination is somehow not the result of a press release error—will be hosting a reboot of The Dating Game called… The Celebrity Dating Game. No matter how good this new version of the show may be, however, it’s hard to imagine that it will be able to top the original’s best celebrity moments, like the episode from 1968 with a then-obscure, Texas-born comedy writer named Steve Martin appearing as bachelor number two.
The episode introduces Martin as “an entertaining guy” currently writing for the Smothers Brothers—the Game Show Network re-broadcast captured in the YouTube clip above drives the point home with a subtitle below his name that reads, “The wild and crazy guy.” In case this wasn’t enough to demonstrate that he’s funny, Martin sets about wooing contestant Deana Martin—who is, in fact, Dean Martin’s daughter—by answering questions with jokey responses about trapping himself within a closet to feel “free” and telling his date that he’s totally nude on the other side of the partition. He doesn’t rip a banjo solo or put a novelty arrow through his head, but Martin is picked by Martin on the strength of his “freaky” claim to want to hang out in a closed Goodwill store, trying on clothes all night. The pair win a trip to Italy.
This wasn’t Martin’s only time behind the show’s mod partition: He also finagled a trip to Tijuana out of the folks at Chuck Barris Productions with the help of Marsha Walker, the sister of childhood friend Morris Walker. And The Dating Game managed to book a good number of famous people aside from the Martins Steve and Deana: Over the years, everyone from John Ritter and Lindsay Wagner to Farrah Fawcett and Paul Reubens (in full Pee-wee Herman guise), showed up to put their romantic fates in the hands of a game show. With all of that history, we don’t know how an explicitly celebrity-focused reboot will outdo what’s come before, but, hey, maybe the 2021 version will be daring enough to let someone famous one-up Martin’s jokes and actually be nude on their side of the partition.
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