Tip of the hat to the Our Vantage Point podcast for finding this forgotten chapter of TV history.
Local television, 1994
Loyal ‘Crappers, I’d like you all to be the first to know that after six and a half years on this site, it’s time that I take a break.
A Bingo Break, that is!
And what does bingo have to do with wrestling? Well, if you’ve ever tried to make an old WWF show more entertaining, a lot.
Not only that, but Bingo Break, the short-lived Baltimore daytime television show from 1994, was created by Nelson Sweglar, producer of Tuesday Night Titans and Prime Time Wrestling.
But the big draw for wrestling fans is the choice of hosts. Joining Caron Tate is none other than…
…Bob Marella. That’s right; not Gorilla Monsoon, not Gino, not even Robert.
Sweglar apparently tried to downplay the wrestling connection to his show, as evidenced by this article in the Baltimore Sun that described Marella as simply a sportscaster, failing even to mention his prior association with his on-air colleague, ESPN’s Sean Mooney.
That would be Bingo master, Sean Mooney.
I suppose that is the proper terminology, but I have a hard time seeing how even Steve Austin could have overcome such a nickname.
Rounding out the crew is François, the useless artist, and Fred, the sentient bingo computer.
Though the show apparently lasted 65 episodes, only one has surfaced online: namely, the April Fools’ edition.
“Bob” is certainly in the spirit of the holiday, but Caron sounds like a character from a holiday film who needs to learn the true spirit of April Fools.
Though I imagine all the episodes for the week were taped in one day, that didn’t stop certain cast members from playing April 1st tricks on other cast members…
…okay, mostly Sean (seen here getting pelted by bingo balls).
Bingo Master Mooney suffers the first indignity when he discovers, the hard way, that some prankster had drilled a hole in his coffee mug.
Gorilla “Bob” Monsoon, of course, plays coy.
Later, Fred tells Sean in so many words (or blinking lights) that today’s game would be a free-space special, meaning every card automatically wins. You’ve got to be a real schmuck to get played by a computer running on MS-DOS.
But there’s no time for dilly-dallying, as “Bob” tells Sean that he hears it’s a “hot game” today. Marella is mistaken, of course, as instead it’s just going to be some guy calling out random numbers until somebody gets five in a row.
Sean suffers yet another mishap, as his balls just start flying everywhere!
Not only that, but somebody tampered with the tumbler.
Sean calls out five entire numbers before it’s time to take a break from Bingo Break.
During a musical interlude, the leader of the house band can’t manage to get a sound out of his flute, discovering that someone has jammed it with either a breadstick or a flute-cleaning rod.
Talk about flaut-ing convention! Hey, I’m never going to get a chance to make that joke again.
After that boner, Monsoon asks the house band to “whack something out”… by which he means “Twist and Shout”… by which he means to play that song.
Hey, I thought he said no rock and roll!
Don’t worry, as the band’s Muppet-like rendition is anything but. Normally on a talk show, when the band starts playing a song, the show goes to commercial.
Not so here – with no live audience to entertain, the musical breaks are targeted at you, the home audience, who get to hear all three and a half minutes of it. And no, you’re not crazy – that really is way too long a time to play Twist and Shout.
“Hot stuff!” says Gorilla, generously.
Gorilla and Sean remind each other to conduct self-examinations (early detection is key!) before we play another round.
This time, as Shawn explains how viewers can pick up their Bingo cards free of charge at Neighbor Care pharmacy and Metro Food Market, his sample card gets yanked away by a poltergeist.
Sean calls five more numbers, and the game abruptly ends altogether when Fred the bingo computer determines that a particular card has won…
…at which point a canned sound bite from a very Baltimorese crowd plays for the home audience. Bing-geh-ew!
Who won? Who knows! Unlike every other game show (except McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania), you never get to see any of the players, as they’re all at home watching on TV.
If that doesn’t sound exciting enough already, Sean Mooney isn’t even sure if this is a real Bingo or just another April Fools’ joke from Fred. Fred is evidently more intelligent than Sean, who failed to pull of any pranks today. Just think of all the work that went into developing Fred’s AI, and for only 13 weeks of episodes!
But it isn’t a joke, nor, unfortunately, is the prize for whoever happened to have card #2199:
Didn’t that Sun article say Sweglar sank a quarter million dollars into this show?
With all the Bingo action over for the day, the Dave Smith Five play Twist and Shout again heading into the final commercial.
Next, host Caron is joined by two psychics from the American Association of Professional Psychics.
I don’t know Gail’s qualifications as an astrologer, but if she couldn’t see this show getting cancelled after 13 weeks, I have to question her credentials.
You don’t need to be a psychic, though, to guess that her associate Linda is a local.
Our psychic guests get interrupted by a familiar voice. Why, it’s Bobby Heenan!
The Brain is so excited, he almost forgets what promotion he’s working for! “I’m Bobby Heenan with World Wrestling – World Championship Wrestling.”
Bobby tells the psychics about his unshakeable feeling of being stalked by animals – specifically “big hairy apes”. I don’t think he means King Kong Bundy, either…
…and I’m sure if Gorilla Monsoon were on the set, he’d say he resembles that remark.
Heenan desperately needs to have his feet “read” and tells an anecdote of a psychic who tried to do that for him, but ended up vanishing because he was wearing Odor Eaters. Jerry Lawler was apparently watching this episode of Bingo Break, as he stole that joke to use on Stu Hart the following year.
The Brain is even gracious enough to offer to conduct the reading in the nude.
Soon, Bobby is fast asleep and has no idea where he is when he comes to. Once he finds out he’s on a game show, he wants to win some money…
…but Sean Mooney, who has to pretend he’s never met “Mr. Heenan”, tells him the bad news that they’ve already given away “a lot of money… all this money”. That means Bobby can’t get his cut of the quarter-hundred dollars in prize money.
Mooney, who can’t quite figure out where he’s seen Heenan before, invites The Brain to spin the bonus wheel.
The Brain and the Bingo Master come back over to the couch, where Gorilla finally yells, “Will you just stop!?”
And amazingly, it’s not to Bobby Heenan, but François, who keeps badgering Monsoon about his painting.
In Monsoon and Heenan’s last-ever on-screen interaction, Bobby implies that he found the psychics’ number on a condom dispenser.
It’s just a shame Bobby and Gorilla couldn’t host the show full time. Baltimore’s Fox 45 was tailor-made for two of wrestling’s best friends forever.
Why do you think they call it WBFF?