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Almost Anything Goes


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When ‘Almost Anything Goes’ Came and Went

by Cary O'Dell

It’s one of those shows that almost no one seems to remember but me.

It’s a show that was like “Battle of the Network Stars” but with a little less dignity (if that’s possible).

It’s a show that seems to be a (swinging rope) bridge between the cartoon-ish stunts of “Beat the Clock” and almost every current reality TV competition show. 

It was called “Almost Anything Goes” and was a short-lived gameshow that aired on ABC primetime from 1975 to 1976.

Though certainly some of its lineage can be found in “Beat the Clock” and “Truth or Consequences,” “Almost” was actually the Americanized version of a long-running UK series titled “It’s a Knockout” (which itself was adapted a French TV series “Intervilles”).  “Knockout” aired in England from 1966 to 1982.

Regis Philbin in Almost Anything GoesThe US version “Almost Anything Goes” began on ABC on July 31, 1975.  LA DJ Dick Whittington was the program’s original host though sportscaster Charlie Jones and former NBA star Lynn Shackleford provided the show’s “color commentary.”  After the first “season” –which was only basically two months long—was over, when the series returned, the indomitable Regis Philbin took over for Whittington for the show’s 1976 episodes.

The contest of “AAG” involved physical stunts in which—in accordance with the show’s name—almost anything did go.  The games they played were inventive but proudly ridiculous.  There’d be a “horse” race but the horse was actually two of your teammates in a vaudeville-era two-person horse costume.  And, yes, the other teammate/jockey had to jump up onto their backs to start!

Or, in another competition, you and your teammates were dressed up as little Dutch girls and, along with the blond wigs, wide skirts and wooden shoes, you had one of those rod-things (technically called a “shoulder yoke”) across your shoulders with a milk pails dangling off each side.  Once fully decked out in the costume, you had to carry milk in the pails from one location to another and this included running over a spinning platform! 


So…think “American Gladiators” with fewer steroids.  Think “Double Dare” but with adults and less green goo.  (Though “Anything” did have a fondness for incorporating squirting water and loads of “whipped cream” into their stunts.)

In each episode, three teams of six (three men and three women each) faced off with each other in every episode.  The teams were —like most game shows and most later reality shows—not made up of any famous folks, just real people—just like you and me!  They were volunteers who were selected from various small towns (all with populations under 20K) or had to live with 200 miles of each other in these rather rural areas.  And though teammates had to all be from about the same place, they may never have met each other before being picked to compete together on the show.  Before appearing on the show and though they never knew what type of contests they’d be playing in, they were free to meet and train, boning up on any skills they hadn’t practiced since their days of high school PE.  Additionally, teams could acquire local coaches to assist with their prep.

Teams came from the four corners of the USA:  The North, The South, etc.…  Then, to build up even more of a home team spirit, episodes were filmed in local stadiums or area sports fields in one of the towns competing.

Like any tournament, winners of local heats moved on to regional and then to the national finals.  

Teams were usually chosen by local boards or the local Lions Club or other community organizations.  A 1976 article in “TV Guide” attempted to understand why grown adults with real jobs and lives would want to be on “AAG,” especially since the only prize given out in the end were bragging rights and a bit of civic pride.  The article, along with noting the “what the heck” reasoning many people employed, also invoked Andy Warhol’s “famous for 15 minutes” quote to explain the desire to be on the show.

Originally, “Anything” was supposed be a one-month long summer fill-in show.  But the craziness of it all caught on and, as mentioned, the program, now hosted by Regis, returned in January 1976 where a new televised tourney which aired until April of ’76.

Soupy Sales in Junior Almost Anything GoesThen there were the spinoffs.  As could probably be surmised, the show was a big hit with kids so Soupy Sales debuted as host in “Junior Almost Anything Goes” for airing on Saturday mornings on ABC in September 1976. 

He was assisted by someone named “Fast Eddie” Armstrong.   Though the prime-time version of the show was one-hour in length, “Junior” episodes were only 30 minutes.  “Junior” would air for one year.

Then, there was the “All Star Anything Goes.”  This was a celebrity laden program usually featuring the casts of then popular TV shows and other “names” facing off against each other.

In one instalment, child and teenage stars from “Little House on the Prairie,” including Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson, took on members from the latest incarnation of “The Mickey Mouse Club” including such now-forgotten Mouseketeers as Todd Turquand and Allison Fonte.  Yes, it was “The Mouse” vs. “The House”!


Another episode featured three actors from the daytime soap “The Doctors” versus three of the younger cast members from “One Day at a Time”—Valerie Bertinelli, Mackenzie Phillips and Scott Columby. 

In one installment of “All Star,” infamous “first brother” Billy Carter appeared and competed.

“All-Star” was hosted by Bill Boggs while Billy Healy did the play-by-play and Judy Abercrombie was scorekeeper.  This syndicated, celebrity version aired weekly for one year.

Not surprisingly, “AAG” did not excite too many critics.  “Time” magazine said at the time that it was “the worst show on television.”  And renowned TV critic Bill Carter said, “It’s just another game show—with the most idiotic games.  On most game shows, people are emotionally embarrassed [I assume he’s thinking of “The Newlywed Game” and the like]; here, they are physically embarrassed.  Embarrassment apparently sells on TV.”

But other critics, enjoyed the irreverent, not-taking-itself too seriously all-out-ness of the program.  Some even considered it satire, a send-up of big time TV sports.

And the public loved it too.  In fact, sometimes towns across the country put on their own evening of “AAG”-like competitions, not to be televised, of course, but for fun or to fundraise for a good cause.

But…  for whatever reason—faster than you can “Twin Peaks”—“AAG” was like a super-nova; just as quickly as its popularity went up, it came down.  By 1977, all incarnations of the series had left the air.  Too much of a good thing?  Too “hip” to last?  (Once something is “hip” to like, it soon becomes even more “hip” to not like it.)

But, even it “AAG’s” endurance was short, its influence has long been felt, in the (as mentioned) variety of “challenges” on shows like “Big Brother,” “Traitors” and MTV’s various programs and certainly it is the parent of such successful derivatives as ABC’s “Wipe Out” (with its big red balls) and “Holey Moley,” its crazy twist on the “sport” of miniature golf.

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