Thursday, August 25, 2016

September follies

We're sitting around right now, waiting for new game show eps next month. There are two big debut dates on the docket.

Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Family Feud all kick off on September 12. Buy a Vowel tells me that WoF will start with teachers week. They know everything about the show, so I believe them. Meanwhile, Millionaire debuts its new Vegas eps in what could be a make or break season. The elderly quizzer has taken up residence in the Nielsen basement. I've heard some rumblings about better timeslots in a few markets this year, so maybe Chris and Harrison and friends might survive. Or maybe not.

The CBS daytime epics, The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal, begin their new skeins on September 19, along with Celebrity Name Game. TPiR became an institution decades ago, kind of like the Smithsonian. LMAD may be on the way to the same status. Craig Ferguson's lively Pyramid knockoff has somewhat surprisingly endured through the daytime syndie wars, where casualties are frequent and bloody. It helps that he's a very talented host.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


The NFL season starts soon (I think) and this story from a sports site is pretty typical. Except for the game show reference.

New England coach Bill Belichick mentioned $64,000 Question during a press conference. The sports site helpfully tells its readers that the show was "the 50s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire." The writer ignores that little rumpus about the show and other 1950s game shows. Or maybe he just doesn't know about it.

$64,000 Question wasn't as blatantly rigged as, say, Twenty One. But the pushy sponsor Revlon still tried to manipulate results in ways that would make modern-day S&P people apoplectic. Wikipedia (usual caveats) offers a good summary of the shenanigans.

Despite its iffy reputation $64,000 Question gets at least a little respect. The show appeared on GSN's top 50 special, TV Guide's top 60 list, and Game Show Forum's 50 greatest list. I don't want to sound like a prig, guys, but the show really doesn't deserve a place on such honor rolls. These odorous 1950s efforts should go on a separate list. Let's call them Rigged But Important.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ratings: that corrupt and boring sports show whacks the syndies

Thank heavens the Olympics are finally over. But before the endless sports show stumbled to a halt, it inflicted a lot of Nielsen damage on syndie game shows. They all got creamed. TV News Check has the discouraging household ratings for the week of August 8-14...

Family Feud 5.9 - down five ticks, even with its zillions of daily runs
Wheel of Fortune 5.2 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 4.9 - down three ticks to a season low
Celebrity Name Game 1.1 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 1.1 - down a tick

Next month the reruns will end at last, and the numbers might start perking up.

GSN continued to have less than stellar ratings by recent years' standards in the week of August 15-21. 359K/262K/362K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 42nd, 34th and 42nd in the windows. Winsanity is clearing hurting the prime time average.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Scenes from a life

So I watched an ep of Match Game '78 on GSN this morning.

The star wheel was just a week old and Gene Rayburn was still explaining its intricacies. Richard Dawson looked extremely displeased whenever the star wheel appeared or was referred to. (He would much later denounce the gadget as a "slight" to himself. He liked getting picked all the time for the big money match.)

But this entry isn't about the star wheel (mostly). Instead, an actress named Didi Carr was sitting in the bottom-left bimbo seat. I had never heard of her. So I went on a Google hunt after the show. And I got some interesting bits of a life.

In 1978 Didi Carr was making a living on a short-lived sitcom called Sugar Time about an an aspiring all-girl pop group. The show departed after one season and took the fictional group with it. On the Match Game ep I watched, Didi was wearing a t-shirt with Gloria Steinem's famous blast: "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." I thought, this might be a low-key protest against the entire concept of the bimbo seat. Maybe I was right, Didi didn't say.

The post-show Google hunt turned up this 2001 bio of the now Didi Carr Reuben (she had left show business and married a rabbi named Steven Reuben). The bio revealed that the rebbetzin - which I learned was a rabbi's wife - was "an atheist, hard-core." Hm, that seemed to fit with the t-shirt on Match Game. I moved on to this 2014 YouTube video of the rabbi's wife, talking about a friend of hers named Susan Whitmore.

Finally, I found this post from the couple's son Gable in 2015 about a fire at Steven and Didi Reuben's house. Luckily nobody was hurt. Life goes on, and Google and YouTube are sometimes there to document it.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mr. Barry goes to late night TV

One of the more interesting threads in the game show Interwebs lives on Game Show Paradise. It's called "Game Show Hosts in Other Media" and it talks about game show figures (not always hosts) and their appearances outside the genre.

A July 10 entry noted Jack Barry's February 21, 1971 turn on Dick Cavett's talk show. By an odd coincidence I mentioned Dick Cavett in an entry a few days ago. A commenter wrote that diginet Decades - yeah, I've barely heard of it, too - runs Cavett's old chatfest. The Barry episode turned up on the subchannel last month.

Louis Armstrong headlined the ep, as the screenshot shows. Satchmo looked frail and, sadly, he would die just a few months after the taping. Oddly enough, I remember Barry's appearance on the episode, though I've never seen it again in the past 35 years. As I recall, he was rather defensive about the rigging scandals - no surprise - and talked about how an unnamed politician tried to make hay on the rumpus. (Manhattan prosecutor Joseph Stone, maybe? He hauled everybody in front of a grand jury.)

I couldn't find Jack Barry's interview on the Internet. If we get lucky, somebody might upload it to YouTube.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

They want you

Usually I send casting calls to the faux tweets. But on the weekend I need something to write about at a little more length.

This call just popped up on the Reality Wanted website. The format for the prospective game show sounds a bit different from the usual trivia galas.
Are you great at trivia? Do you know a little bit about everything; sports, current events and pop culture? Can you debate, convince and persuade anyone to side with you in an argument? Are you ready to test your knowledge and win BIG CASH while you are doing it? If you are street or book smart, opinionated and outgoing, we want to meet you!
"Outgoing" and "BIG CASH" are standard, but "persuade anyone to side with you in an argument" is a little unusual. This format might require contestants not just to know their trivia, but to convince other people that they know it. I'm more than a little weary of pop culture quizzers, but this could be an encouraging new wrinkle in the sub-genre.

We'll see if a real show materializes from the call. It's a "major cable network" doing the casting, anyway.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Gossip column

Nothing like silly gossip on a slow Friday morning. Or maybe it's not completely silly but who cares?

A site called Gossip Cop, which I had never heard of, is denying a report by another site called Life & Style, which I had also never heard of. Apparently, these sites are in the gossip business, which is a semi-legal way to make a living. The gossip this time is pretty tepid, though. It's just about a game show.

One of the sites is saying that the other site is wrong when they say that Michael Strahan doesn't want Kelly Ripa on 100K Pyramid. Yeah, I know you don't care, either, but this is a full-service game show blog. I have to report lots of weird stuff that turns up on the game show Interwebs.

Kelly Ripa has never shown up on Celebrity Name Game or any of the more recent versions of Pyramid, so I have no idea how she would do as a celeb contestant. She couldn't be worse than Anthony Anderson, right? Whether she ever appears on 100K Pyramid is not something I will lose sleep over. But I have to admit, it would be kinda fun to hear her banter back and forth with the host about old times...and old gossip.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Music is in the air

Our little genre appears ready to burst into song. We've got Caraoke Showdown, Beat Shazam and Tracks, all based on music in one (hopefully) tuneful way or another. As a faux tweet noted, Tracks will debut September 1 on Spike with Bow Wow, known to his lawyers as Shad Moss, handling the hosting chores.

Showrunner Christina Aguilera will put in appearances on the debut eps. Contestants will have to name that tune (sound familiar?) based only on individual tracks of guitar, bass, drums, etc. This actually sounds like an interesting idea. We'll see how it plays out (sorry) in practice.

The promo makes Tracks look like a concert occasionally interrupted by a game show. Spike probably wants to lure music fans of the younger variety to avoid the dreaded old skew, that fabled curse of the genre. Lip Sync Battle will precede the debut eps, which should give Tracks a decent lead-in audience to work with. Good luck on the tune fest.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

That horrible, godawful, poopie-pants new Buzzr schedule

When Fremantle first unleashed the oldies diginet Buzzr on a waiting world, the reaction from the traditionalist game show Interwebs was happy happy joy joy.

Well, there's not a whole lotta happy or a big bunch of joy any more. Buzzr gets slammed regularly for running the same eps of the same shows into fine dust particles. Now the subchannel is changing its weekday schedule to Match Game and Family Feud and more Match Game and more Family Feud, and the cries and whimpers are resounding ever louder. A few examples from Buzzr's Facebook page...
Even GSN mixes in more shows before they go Steve Harvey crazy, and if you're to the point that your rerunning is worse than GSN, it's a sign that you're in significant trouble.

Way too overboard with the Feud like "that other network."

I love Match Game and Family Feud but I can't watch them anymore as I've seen the same episodes over and over again.

I guess the people at Buzzr are clueless so I won't be watching anymore when you overload Match Game and Feud.
The comparisons to GSN are particularly cutting by the standards of the older-is-better bunch. They're like Godwin's Law comparisons to Hitler in political threads.

The tiny corps of hardcore oldies fans on the game show Interwebs is starting to realize a terrible truth. Like the evil GSN, Buzzr is not a taxpayer-supported museum of obscure old game shows. Both operations have to make a buck in the nasty and brutish world of real competition.

The dream of a 24/7 display of ancient obscurities like Whew and Hot Potato just ain't gonna happen. When ABC decided to remake game shows, they didn't say, "Let's re-do Child's Play! Zillions of people want to see that!" Instead, they remade...Family Feud and Match Game. That's because a measurable group of viewers actually knows about these shows and might like new versions.

Even in the limited world of oldies diginets, Antenna didn't go after reruns of, say, Dick Cavett's talk show. Instead, they went for (surprise!) Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Why? Because more viewers beyond a tiny clique of fanatical purists might want to watch it.

Buzzr is already skating on the thinnest ice. They're appealing to a niche within a niche, oldies fans within the already limited population of game show fans. Is it any real surprise that they're loading up on the tried and true?

Buzzr strips down

The title of this entry sounds a little risqué.

Don't worry. Oldies diginet Buzzr isn't running long-lost eps of To Tell the Truth with a stripped Kitty Carlisle. But the subchannel is running a promo about a new schedule coming August 29. Based on what is showing right now, it looks like a peeled-down lineup that emphasizes the top names in oldie game shows. In other words, there's a load of Match Game and Family Feud. Six hours a day of each of them, in fact.

There are also six hours of the three black and white stalwarts, To Tell the Truth, What's My Line and I've Got a Secret. In something of a surprise, the non-color shows get two hours of prime time. This subchannel is not worried about demos.

You might notice that we're down to just six other hours in the day. That time goes to Let's Make a Deal, Press Your Luck, Card Sharks and Blockbusters. So weekdays will only feature nine different shows. Getting the heave-ho from the weekday schedule are Tattletales, Body Language, Super Password (sigh, one of the few shows I actually watched on Buzzr) and Child's Play.

Buzzr must have gathered some numbers on which shows are actually attracting a measurable audience. Those "winners" - relatively speaking for a very marginal diginet - will get a workout on the new schedule, while the losers get discarded. (Weekends may feature a few different shows.) Buzzr also promises some new eps of their shows starting August 29.

In a humorous note, some commenters on Buzzr's Facebook page are yelping that the diginet is going all GSN with the overload of Family Feud and Match Game. Comparing Buzzr to GSN? Them's fightin' words for the older-is-better crowd.

UPDATE: As gets further into the future, it looks like a couple eps of Super Password sneak back onto the Buzzr schedule (yay!) at 7:00 AM Eastern on Thursday, September 1. But the new schedule remains dominated (18 hours a day) by the Match Game/Family Feud duo and the black and white trio.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ratings: syndies tick up and down

There were no big changes for syndie game shows in the August 1-7 week. We're just coasting along in reruns, waiting for the new eps next month. TV News Check has the so-so household ratings...

Family Feud 6.4 - down two ticks but still leads
Wheel of Fortune 5.4 - up a couple ticks from last week's season low
Jeopardy 5.2 - up a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat
Millionaire 1.3 - flat

I've been a bore about this, but the comparison between Family Feud and Wheel of Fortune is ridiculously unfair. Feud gets to add up all the household ratings for as many as four runs each day. Wheel has to earn its entire rating from a single daily run.

These hour by hour ratings from Atlanta show the effect. Sure, it's only one market, though a large one (ninth in the U.S.) None of Feud's daily runs get more than a 2.0 household rating. In fact, Wheel clobbers Feud head-to-head at 7:00 PM, 5.0 to 1.4. It's the same story at 7:30 PM when Jeopardy wipes out Feud, 5.6 to 2.0.

But add up all of Feud's four daily runs, and suddenly its numbers look really big in the weekly reports.

GSN had its worst week in a while for August 8-14. (Hint: Winsanity isn't helping.) 383K/258K/378K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 38th, 36th and 40th in the windows. These rankings show that it's not just that corrupt and boring sports show on NBC. GSN is slipping against other cable nets that have to compete with the Olympics.