Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fool you all

With game show news slowing for the weekend, I'll write about one of my favorite clips from the ancient black and white version of To Tell the Truth. The show was never a big favorite of mine, but this segment is a gem.

On February 18, 1963 TTTT brought in three hooded contestants. The genuine guy was a turncoat Polish spy during the Cold War named Pavel Monat. And one of the impostors - unknown to the panel, of course - was Henry Morgan of I've Got a Secret and other Goodson-Todman efforts.

Henry sure knew how to play a Polish spy, right down to an ersatz accent. He ended up getting all four votes from the panel. When he pulled off his hood at the end of the segment, much hilarity ensued. Panelist Tom Poston suggested an IGAS segment with Henry as a contestant. The secret: "I was a communist spy on To Tell the Truth."

Although Henry's reveal at the end is the best part of the segment, the video also holds historical interest as a Cold War artifact. Nowadays Poland is a fairly reliable ally of the U.S., but things were rather different in 1963. Wouldn't you know, the other TTTT impostor turned out to be a Nikita Khrushchev lookalike. Panelist Art James even pounded the desk with his shoe in honor of the contestant.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Buzzy buzz

As must happen to all Jeopardy champs, Buzzy Cohen met his game show maker on Friday.

He has the consolation of nine wins, 165 grand in winnings, and a berth in the next T of C. So let's not feel too sorry for Mr. Cohen. Meanwhile, Game Show Newsnet opines about Buzzy: "WHY THE (BLEEP!) IS THIS NEWS?!: Honestly, can we go one superchamp without calling him 'controversial' or 'polarizing'? It's ANNOYING."

In fact, I think Game Show Newsnet's overuse of the caps lock key is pretty annoying itself. But plenty of noncontroversial "superchamps" have come and gone on Jeopardy. Julia Collins, Ben Ingram, Roger Craig, etc.

The difference is that the noncontroversial types just play the game, stay quiet and humble, and don't try to taunt Alex or otherwise get cute. Which is the exact opposite of how champs like Buzzy and Arthur Chu approach the show. (Not to mention Chu's subsequent political rants on the web, which are naturally and rightly going to bring disagreement.)

If you want to bend the Jeopardy format with goofy acts of random sauciness, fine. The show is not sacrosanct and can survive a little shaking-up. But then you've got to expect some jeers on the game show Interwebs. Buzzy doesn't seem to care, anyway.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Not Ken's best night

How hard is 500 Questions? Ken Jennings lasted for exactly four of the queries. He was gone almost before the first commercial break.

This is not a quizzer for the faint of heart, or head. I knew some of the answers but pulled a blank on a whole lot of 'em. Although new host Dan Harris uses a softer tone than the first season's Richard Quest, the format still doesn't mess around. Contestants are skating on the thinnest ice from the get-go, and the questions start freakin' hard and stay that way.

The challenger who benefited from Ken's early exit managed to last for 53 questions, and she racked up a few bucks. But you've got to make it through thirty questions to earn a dime, and that's no gimme on this show. The showrunners guard the prize budget better than Brinks.

500 Questions caught some grief for slow pacing in the first season. They've hurried things a bit in the second series, and added a two-minute lightning round for more giddy-up. I thought the pace complaints were overdone last summer, anyway. The show held my attention with no problems throughout the two-hour debut. The gameplay is ruthless but nastily entertaining.

UPATE: Marc Berman at Programming Insider says that the show enjoyed a "positive return" on ABC. He also puts up a picture of Richard Quest, which is pretty funny. He's no longer the host, Marc. I dunno, the numbers were kind of okay but not great. On the plus side, 500 Questions was first in household ratings among the broadcast networks in the 9:00 PM hour. Overall, the show averaged 5.06M viewers and a 0.9 18-49 rating.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bravo kills for that?

Bravo is developing a game show, which seems a little strange to me. I've never associated the home of pop culture and reality TV with our little genre. But the network says they're working on a game show called I'd Kill for That. The concept may or may not sound like a killer to you...
Double Dare meets Dolce & Gabbana and Wipeout meets Wang in this physical game show that tests how far you would go to win a Birkin bag, Louboutins worn by a coveted Bravolebrity or the latest 'it' watch. Each week, friends, co-workers and family members will compete against each other in a series of trivia, brain teasers and hilarious physical obstacles in hopes of winning an enviable object of their desire.
Looks like pop culture questions and goofball stunts are your ticket to the latest fashion accessories. There's no guarantee that the show will ever see the light of cable. But will contestants really get slimed or bounced off big balls? Just for a handbag or a watch? Seems like a tough road for not much payoff. But I was never all that interested in Birkin bags.

The network is also developing a lot of reality stuff (wow, what a surprise). For instance, "outspoken and no-nonsense infidelity expert Dr. Lisa Paz believes there is no such thing as monogamy and the cheater isn't always the villain." So Bravo is working on a show with the monogamy disbeliever Lisa. Can't wait.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cover me

You ain't nobody - I should know - until you're on the cover of People magazine. I can only dream about the possibility.

This week Steve Harvey of Family Feud and a zillion other media ventures takes his turn as cover boy for the checkout counter. It's a slightly updated Horatio Alger rags to riches saga, as Steve recounts his journey from homelessness to a $100 million fortune. (Is that a rounded figure, or does he land dead on $100,000,000?) I'm happy for Steve, who deserves his money because he works a helluva lot harder than me or just about anybody else. But what I most noticed about the cover is the company Steve is keeping.

There's the murder of a fitness instructor in church. Sounds like an intriguing mystery that may well show up on Investigation Discovery sooner or later. Then Christie Teigen tells us about her new kid, which is sweet. And Bachelorette JoJo fesses up that she fell for more than one guy. Inquiring minds want to know the exact number. Was it two guys? Five guys? Every guy on the show?

Somebody once said that reading People is like being pelted with mini marshmallows. I can see the analogy. Anyway, you can pick up a copy this week and find out about Steve's ascent to the top income tax bracket.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ratings: really ho-hum week for syndies

There may have been more boring weeks for syndie game show ratings, but I can't remember them. Four of the shows were unchanged for the week of May 9-15, and the other moved by an entire tenth of a point. TV News Check has all the tedious household ratings...

Family Feud 7.0 - flat
Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - flat
Jeopardy 6.0 - up a tick, the big mover!
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - flat
Millionaire 1.3 - guess what, flat

As the weather warmed up, GSN enjoyed a hot week (sorry) for May 16-22. 518K/319K/503K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 31st, 30th and 32nd in the windows.

The prime time and extended prime time ratings are almost all Harvey Family Feud. So much for the predictions of Harvey burnout I keep seeing on the traditionalist game show Interwebs. The Internet boards love to trash Steve, and that means exactly nothing in the real world.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Get real, as in reality TV

Just watched the first of The Price is Right's prime time specials. It was one long plug for Survivor, which I didn't mind because the basic gameplay was pretty much the same as always. We just had a bunch of castaways hanging around, plus Jeff Probst doing stuff like extinguishing torches for the unluckier contestants.

Survivor stars - I guess you would call them "stars," right? - teamed up with Survivor fans to face the pricing games. The first pair was that hairy Rupert guy, who's definitely developing a bald spot, and an admiring fan. They didn't do so great, but you can't win 'em all.

The show cranked on as usual, though the prizes might have been a bit ritzier than on your typical daytime TPiR episode. I've never been big on shopping game shows because my knowledge of the price of anything is very limited. But the accustomed pace and noise and celebrations kept my interest.

CBS did the special no favors by scheduling it against The Voice and Dancing With the Stars. But even if I'm not the biggest TPiR fan, I'd rather watch the fun and games instead of wannabe singers or wannabe dancers. What can I tell you? I'm a game show fan.

UPDATE: The special does okay in the ratings, though it obviously lagged behind the competition on NBC and ABC. Drew and company scored 6.21M total viewers with a 1.3 18-49 rating. Those were CBS's best numbers for the night.