Monday, July 28, 2014

An offbeat game show reference

For no special reason I was rambling through this long essay by Harry Stein about Fiddler on the Roof. Stein's father Joseph wrote the book for the now classic musical. The article was mildly intriguing but seemed to plug along forever.

And then I stumbled across this small note: "He [Joseph Stein] told Bert Convy, the actor playing Perchik, the revolutionary who embarks on a dangerous anti-czarist mission, to imagine that he's setting off to register black voters in Mississippi."

Why, was that our little genre's Bert Convy? It sure was, as Wikipedia confirmed. I had to smile a little as I imagined Perchik hosting Super Password in character. And then I smiled some more as I imagined what Convy might have thought about Joseph Stein's stage direction.

Bert always seemed to enjoy himself. So if a writer told him to make like a voter registrar in Mississippi while he was acting in Fiddler, he probably saw the inconguity in the situation. Bert even looks to have a wry smile in the photo from the original show.

But he doesn't look like the host of a game show, unless it's the 1905 Russian version of Jeopardy.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Odd complaint

Saw the screenshot complaint about Whammy on Game Show Confessions, and this is one I don't understand.

The real complaint about Whammy and its predecessor Press Your Luck was the complete lack of skill. Except for Michael Larson, it was just hit the button and see what happens. When the producers truly randomized the board on Whammy, they eliminated even the remote chance of any skill in the game.

I do remember a lot of whining about the double whammies themselves on the show. The stuff falling on contestants' heads did get a little cutesy-pie after a while. But the show needed silly stunts to disguise the lack of interesting gameplay.

Yes, I'm being grumpy. It's not like I can't enjoy PYL and Whammy (the shows are virtually identical except for the true randomization on the later effort). Sure, it's all pure chance and there's no calculating odds and forecasting possible twists and turns in the gameplay, as there was on Deal or No Deal.

But pure dumb luck can be fun to watch, at least once in a while. Both shows found an audience for a few seasons, so somebody out there liked watching 'em hit the button.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Graveyard shift

The board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's is chewing over an offbeat topic: syndie game shows relegated to late night slots. This being the oldies board to end all oldies boards, the discussion concentrates on the distant past. That would be when broadcast stations ruled the world, before cable ate the dinosaurs' lunch.

The first syndie game show which comes to my elderly mind as a late night special is Street Smarts. That show seemed made for late night, anyway, with a goofy vibe and general silliness. Which is what usually happens late at night, right? A poster in the thread actually mentions a (sort of) recent show - Cash Cab reruns in late night on a CW outlet - and I vaguely remember such reruns here in the DFW market as well.

Of course, the board goes through all sorts of shows from the misty past, all the way back to the 1980s. A lot of people have very good memories, it seems. Or they have a bunch of musty TV Guides (the paper variety) stashed in the basement. A sample: "WNBC: Matchmaker, Joker 90, TTD 90, Liars Club from the 80s, Kennedy TPIR, Jeopardy (first few months), Davidson Pyramid." Now that's a multiple blast from the hoary past.

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's about time for San Fran

This blurb for the San Francisco tapings of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me surprised me a bit. I couldn't believe it took this long for the show to settle into San Fran for a good long spell.

Politically, culturally and gameplaying-ly, the cutesy NPR comedy quizzer couldn't be more suited for Baghdad by the Bay, as the old columnist dubbed it. The linked story tells how one panelist tried to work Art Linkletter references into the show. If that shtick is going to work anywhere, San Francisco is the spot.

The story states the obvious: the city is "fertile ground for public radio listeners, as evidenced by the NPR devoted groupieship in attendance. There haven't been so many tote bags in one place since the last National Archivist Association picnic." I don't know about the national archivists, but the NPR bunch whooped it up throughout the proceedings.

Bill Kurtis has taken over as the show's announcer from long-timer Carl Kasell, who retired recently. Kurtis gained most of his renown as the true-crime guy on A&E, which somehow seems like the perfect background for this show. Wait, wait, don't tell me whodunit.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Game show airlines

A project called The Game Plane has been kicking (flying?) around for a while. Basically, it's Allegiant Air's answer to Cash Cab, only up in the air, so to speak. See the screenshot for more details than you could want to know.

Now comes news via BuzzerBlog that Mark Walberg will host the show, set for syndication this fall. Walberg retweeted the news himself, so the item looks legit. While it's not exactly Alex's gig on Jeopardy - I've been touting Walberg as a candidate for that job when Mr. Trebek finally retires - it's nice to see Mark back in our little genre.

I really don't have much to add about the show's format beyond what the screenshot reveals. I assume we won't get wild and crazy stunts while the plane cruises at 35,000 feet. Game Plane looks like a quizzer with maybe a few goofier games tossed in. And I haven't heard anything specific about the show's syndication rollout plans.

Suddenly the syndie game show universe looks crowded this fall. We've got this airplane project and Celebrity Name Game and Let's Ask America all going to the nationwide market. May the best game win.

It's official

A while back a couple commenters posted that comic Bill Bellamy will replace Kevin Pereira on the third season of Let's Ask America.

Bellamy discusses the new gig in this interview. "People will be Skyping from all over the world. I'm working my butt off, but this show is a lot of fun. It's gonna remind people of how funny I am as a host." The tapings for the new season start next month, as a recent casting call reminded wannabe Skypers.

Of course, there's no word on exactly why Pereira got bounced. I thought he was just fine on the show, smartass enough without tumbling over into obnoxiousness. But for whatever reason the producers went with Bellamy as the show readies for nationwide distribution. Bill's biggest claim to previous fame was the phrase "booty call."

Bellamy seems to be enjoying a general career renaissance. We'll see if the Skype survey show helps the resurgence.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Whatever else my critics might say about this blog, nobody's ever called it a scandal sheet. So I feel a little guilty over the faux tweet about Ben Stein's sexting troubles. You remember Ben from that game show about winning his money, right?

To give Mr. Stein his due, I'll link to his own explanation of the whole salacious affair. Truth be told, his column sounds self-pitying and unconvincing. He may be a lonely old guy who just had a silly crush on a girl about a third his age. But that doesn't excuse the frankly creepy texts he sent her.

Right now the whole mess looks like a run-of-the-mill celeb sex scandal, if a "scandal" can be generated over sex anymore. Nobody appears to be alleging anything illegal or even all that unethical. Stein just seems to have let his better judgment get clouded by senescent sex fantasies. Sad and unseemly, but hardly felonious.

His political and personal enemies are having a downright glorious field day, of course. Can't say he didn't invite it. He handed them a sword and they're seeing how much blood they can draw.

New guy with the questions

As he prepares to take over Millionaire, Terry Crews is making the media rounds.

This interview with the ABC outlet in LA covers a lot of away money, being a grandfather, transitioning from the NFL to show biz, etc. Terry comes off as likeable and friendly, which is half the battle on a game show, after all. He also promises to shed his shirt if anybody ever wins the million. Terry, your shirt is safe. Nobody ever cops the top prize anymore.

While Mr. Crews may be a pleasant host, I really have to wonder if Millionaire is wearing out its welcome. The show's been through a zillion format tweaks, including a new lifeline in the upcoming season. But the numbers continue to erode. Can a different host arrest the slide? We'll see, but I'm not optimistic.

Millionaire also faces a more crowded field among syndie game shows this fall. Celebrity Name Game is set to debut, and Let's Ask America is supposed to go nationwide sooner or later. Will the now-randomized money tree survive?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ratings: syndies jump for joy

After a rough week syndie game shows bounced back in the July 7-13 period. All the shows tacked on a few tenths of a point, except for poor Cedric. But he's outa here pretty soon, anyway. TV by the Numbers posts all the household ratings and viewer averages...

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.7 - up three ticks to close in on the soulmate
Family Feud 4.6 - up three ticks for smiling Steve
Millionaire 2.0 - flat

The viewer averages also perked up some. Wheel of Fortune 9.1M (weekend repeat 4.5M), Jeopardy 8.8M (weekend repeat 3.4M), Family Feud 6.7M, Millionaire 2.6M. Not bad for TV's July lull.

GSN's total day average nudged up a little for the week of July 14-20, says TV Newser. 351K/254K prime time/total day. The network ranked 41st and 39th in the windows, right around its usual spot in the cable pecking order.