Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Scary network

As a faux tweet noted, GSN will debut horror stunt show Hellevator on October 21. From the moment this show got a mention at GSN's upfront, it's drawn huge publicity by the standards of our little game show network.

I get in trouble for reminding folks of this, but game shows remain niche programming in the wonderful world of TV. And GSN, despite its recent ratings roll, is still a niche network. So it's a little, uh, weird - much like Hellevator's twin sister hosts (see photo) - when a site that's never heard of Bill Cullen tells its readers: "If you don’t have GSN right now, you'll want to set a reminder to call your cable/satellite provider to make sure you turn it on by October 21st."

Most of Dread Central's readers aren't looking for Dick Clark Pyramid reruns. GSN is clearly creeping out of its comfort zone to attract some new viewers. At least they're keeping within the bounds of the game show kingdom with Hellevator, instead of tumbling over fully into RealityTVLand®.

A big reason for the Hellevator buzz is showrunner Jason Blum, who's garnered critical kudos in a genre usually disdained by snooty reviewers. Also onboard is Shye Sutherland, who helped concoct the goofball stunts on Wipeout. Yesterday I saw (or heard) a GSN promo with (they swear) genuine contestant screams from the show. Just for funsies, you can listen at the linked story on Dread Central.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ratings: Steve wins 9 of 11

TV News Check says that Wheel of Fortune won the just finished syndie season with a 6.7 household rating. But Family Feud took the number one spot in nine of the past eleven weeks. Again, you have to remember the caveat about a single daily run vs. multiple runs. But there's no doubt that Steve is on a roll. The ratings for the week of August 17-23...

Family Feud 6.2 - up a tick
Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - also up a tick
Jeopardy 5.7 - down a couple ticks to fall behind the Sony soulmate
Millionaire 1.7 - flat as Terry gets closer to the door
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat

In what has become a routine consolation prize, Pat and Vanna still ranked first in total viewers among all syndies. TV by the Numbers has the viewer averages. Wheel of Fortune 9.4M (weekend repeat 4.1M), Family Feud 9.2M, Jeopardy 8.8M.

TV Newser reports that GSN kept rolling in August, though not quite at July's torrid pace. 447K/319K/466K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 35th, 29th and 32nd in the windows. The network can live off those numbers.

UPDATE: GSN burbles with joy over its summer (June through August) ratings. The three months set records in total viewers and all the demos, for prime time and total day. The network waxes downright rhapsodic about its originals.

Monday, August 31, 2015

More Millionaire

Blogged about the new season of Millionaire just a few days ago. But there's not much other game show news right now, so I'll blog about it again.

After all, Millionaire is making by far the biggest format changes of any returning game show this fall. The show has released a promo with Chris Harrison and the new "back to the future" setup. The traditional money tree returns along with the 50:50 lifeline. Basically, except for the plus-one lifeline, the show is pretty much the same as Meredith Vieira's version back in 2002. Oh, the hot seat is gone. Chris and the contestants stand up.

In the screenshot - enlarging it helps - you can see the money tree and the 50:50 lifeline at the left. The promo explicitly says that Millionaire is bringing back the old format and even shows a quarter-million win, which seems to be the syndie version of the (realistic) top prize.

A YouTube commenter named pixiegirl999 grumps: "I don't think they could possibly have found a more bland, beige host than Chris Harrison." Pixiegirl, that's probably what the showrunners were looking for after a year of Terry's bellowing. Chris Harrison may be the closest thing to a male version of Meredith that they could come up with. We'll see how he does starting September 14.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Scandals of all sorts

TLC is not exactly my favorite network, because I'm not exactly the network's favorite sex. In fact, the last show I watched on TLC was the debut of Labor Games. This is a full-service game show blog, after all, and I had to write a review. As I recall, I thought the show was okay, not great, not terrible.

But given the history of our little genre, I got a few smiles from this story about the network on the Fortune site. Seems that the "scandal-ridden" TLC is turning to Labor Games, among other shows, to expunge the scandalous scent. Once upon a time, like in the 1950s, the idea of a network trying game shows to avoid scandal would have been pretty funny.

Admittedly, there are different levels of scandal. Child molestation - the problem at TLC - is hellaciously more serious than rigging a game show. Anyway, the Fortune story regards Labor Games as "a bit more outrageous," though a network exec assures us that the show is "actually kind of sweet and funny and heartwarming."

Well, it's all right, I guess. Just another clone of Cash Cab, only in a delivery room instead of a taxi.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Usual attitude

Recent rumpuses notwithstanding, the most trouble I've gotten into on the game show Interwebs concerns the attitude from many posters that older has to be better.

I realize that the genre is top-heavy with history, and many posters sigh over the good old days of Bill and Monty and Dick and all the rest of the classic hosts and shows. Hey, I do some of that sighing myself. But it gets, well, old when the past is constantly used to belittle the present. Case in point: this recent thread on Game Show Forum about the new Celebrity Name Game season.

I know, you'll say what else do you expect from the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's? These guys love the past and are tepid (at best) about the present, and they make no game show bones about it. But it's still kind of deflating to read this putdown of CNG: "Except that I'm already watching a version of that with a great host, competent players and an excellent format. Why would I carve out more time to watch the inferior carbon copy?"

I don't deny the obvious. Dick Clark was a great host, a lot of Pyramid's players were excellent, and the format was one for the, ahem, ages. (Of course, Pyramid itself was a copy of the lightning round from Password, but we'll leave that alone for now.)

But here's the thing. Celebrity Name Game also has a terrific host. A lot of the celebs and civvies are very good at the demanding game. And the format has introduced some nice twists in the Pyramid formula, like teams of two guessers instead of one and the host giving the clues in one round.

I'm not saying Celebrity Name Game is the greatest game show ever. In fact, I'm afraid for the show's future after the second season. But it's a lively and entertaining contribution to the genre, and I don't like to see the past used to dump on it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Another new season

With new game show seasons busting out all over, I almost forgot Buzzr. No, not the oldies TV subchannel. I'm talking about the newsies YouTube channel, where video kids run rampant over various classic Fremantle formats.

Next month the channel launches new seasons of Family Feud and Beat the Clock. By and large I've enjoyed the Buzzr takes on the old formats, though I usually have no clue who the hosts and contestants are. The videos treat the formats with respect, and their brevity actually works well to maintain interest. (Yes, the videos are getting less brief as time goes by. The clips used to be eight minutes or so. Now they're pushing past a quarter-hour.)

Fremantle has apparently been pleased with the YouTube channel, as they're putting a little more money into the sets and production values. A lot of the videos have gone well past a hundred thousand views, and one sort of "highlight" has racked up more than three million. Like/dislike ratios have been strongly favorable.

One weird note: Fremantle seems concerned that fans might confuse the Buzzr TV subchannel and the Buzzr YouTube channel. I might miss my guess, but I doubt that there's much overlap between the two operations' target audiences.

UPDATE: A commenter, clearly a hardcore traditionalist, dismisses the Buzzr YouTube channel as almost unknown. Well, to game show hardcores the channel probably is pretty much unknown. But last I checked, the channel has piled up 10,201,265 views for its videos. And unlike most YouTube channels, Buzzr gets people to sit through their videos in their entirety. Fremantle is appealing to an entirely new audience with the YouTube channel and seems to be succeeding. The Buzzr TV subchannel is for the traditionalists. Clever product differentiation, now that I think about it.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

More celebs and their names

Celebrity Name Game put out the press release today about the second season.

The new episodes begin September 21, a week after the other syndie game shows. Somebody always has to be different. The release talks up the show's performance in the women 25-54 demo. Which just shows that people in the game show business are painfully aware of demos, despite commenter rants on this blog about "ageism" and "bigotry."

The release also lauds Craig Ferguson for his Daytime Emmy. The host is clearly a major plus for this show, with his unflagging energy and often sardonic humor. There were some rumors about gameplay changes for the second season, but nothing major looks to be happening. The game described in the release is pretty much the same as the first go-round. Just a few tweaks to include a wider variety of clues and categories.

The release also lists some of the celeb players for the new season. Weird Al Yankovic shows up! Maybe he can record a parody song about losing on Celebrity Name Game.