Anyone searching for evidence of how life -- or at least life as portrayed on TV -- isn't as much fun as it was 30 years ago need only compare the current slate of Brit-produced game shows to what we had in the '70s. "Deal or No Deal" relies on gimmicky themes because the game itself is so weak and the host, Howie Mandel, so devoid of personality. The others, like that fifth-grader wit-matching show and the one with Bob Saget are virtually indistinguishable, hosted by failed sit-com stars in dark suits.
The situation makes a lot of us pine for delightfully odd shows like "The Match Game," which featured B-list stars who smoked on the set, appeared to be slightly pickled and issued a steady stream of double entendres. The star of "The Match Game" wasn't host Gene Rayburn (despite the crazy microphone he wielded) or some of the more famous celebrity panelists like Richard Dawson. Rather, it was Charles Nelson Reilly, a flamboyant goofball who was regularly featured on "The Dean Martin Show."
Reilly, now 74, is the star of The Life of Reilly, a film appreaing at the 2007 Wisconsin Film Festival that is the screen adaptation of Reilly's one-man show. Shot during that production's final two performances in North Hollywood, the show is a recitation of Reilly's life with a lobotomized aunt, insitutionalized father and racist mother, as only a raconteur of his caliber could deliver.
Director Barry Poltermann, a UW grad, told the Austin Chronicle how he came to make the film:
It was six or seven years ago: He was doing the show in L.A., and we were looking for something to do for our company Christmas party, and a friend suggested seeing Charles Nelson Reilly. I was surprised he was still alive. I kept reading these reviews of the show saying, "This is not what you'd expect." Most people just knew him from "The Match Game." I grew up watching him as a kid on Lidsville. When I saw his show, I didn't expect it to be quite as well acted as it was. He's a truly amazing actor.Clips are avaible on the film's website, but here's the trailer: