Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Back and forth

My remote control got a workout tonight as I bounced between 5th Grader's debut on Fox and the ongoing 500 Questions on ABC.

I just love it when networks pit shows in our little genre against each other. ABC made a habit of this when Millionaire was hot. They neutron-bombed any competing game show by scheduling Regis directly opposite it. Oh well, at least tonight's clash made for an involved viewing experience.

The first thing I noticed is that the complainers who groused about 500 Questions' supposedly pokey pace didn't know from nuthin'. 5th Grader's debut crawled through one (1) money tree in the entire episode. Eleven mostly easy questions were very well-spaced throughout the hour. Compared to this "pace," 500 Questions zoomed at warp factor 99 bazillion.

Not to mention that the ABC quizzer posed questions that were far more challenging than Fox's schoolkid effort. (How do you spell "nickel"? Really?) I know, 5th Grader's fans - and I'm one of them - will say that the Fox show makes up for the glacial pace with cute kids, a hopelessly likable host, and lots of human interest appeal.

5th Grader did not end well and 500 Questions saw the elimination of its best player. You might call it a competition in grimness, though the main contestants still went away with some loot. And while I'm at it, 5th Grader spoiled much of the episode at the top of the show. Way to kill a lot of the suspense, guys.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Checking in with Steve

An anonymous commenter on Game Show Network News has called me "the Steve Beverly of the Internet game show world."

To put it mildly, I don't think the title is meant as a compliment. But I never had too many problems with Steve. Sure, he was opinionated and brash in his game show commentary, but so am I, and so is just about everybody else in the "Internet game show world." So I guess we're all like Steve to some extent. But the remark got me wondering just what happened to the Prof. He abandoned his game show blog a long time ago, and I hadn't really followed him lately.

Turns out Steve has been on Twitter all along. His Twitter site is a quirky but rather charming mixture of old TV news, new TV news, and various other odds and ends. Which includes screenprints of ancient TV Guides, like the one about the 1960 Preakness in this entry. (In case you're wondering, Bally Ache was the winner with Robert Ussery aboard.)

Steve still offers some game show comments, like a nod to actor John Schuck for his Pyramid skills. But he now ranges a lot more widely in his TV coverage. I'll look in now and then and see what the Prof is up to.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Further adventures of Arthur

Somehow I missed the hoohah a few weeks ago involving one of the most - let's use a delicate word - polarizing figures in our little genre's history.

Seems that former Jeopardy champ Arthur Chu has waded into the tedious Gamergate rumpus. I'm not going anywhere close to the details of this absurd stink, which is good for nothing but a few laughs from neutrals like moi. Anyway, a bar in Washington D.C. was going to host a meet-up for one side in the goofy spat.

Chu happens to be on the other side. Apparently believing that a few wins on Jeopardy make him Plato's philosopher-king, Chu sent an e-mail to the bar's owners that tried to pressure them into canceling the meet-up.

In a small but welcome victory for free speech, the bar's owners told Chu to stuff it. Sadly, some nutcase - I can't believe it was Chu himself - sent a bomb threat to the bar that brought out the cops. Don't worry, there was no bomb and they all lived happily (well, ordinarily) ever after.

If you want a scrupulously unbiased account of the happenings, try this. If you want a completely anti-Chu but thoroughly hilarious (and R-rated) account, try this.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Getting publicity at airports

I've been noticing a few stories in Google News about Game Plane lifting off from various airports.

It's a natural way to get free publicity for the show on the local news (not to mention a free plug for Allegiant Air). This story on the Quad Cities news is typical. Mark Walberg shows up to wax eloquent about the fun and games which await the lucky passengers, er, contestants. It's a slightly rowdier crowd than he usually encounters on Antiques Roadshow.

Game Plane is so cheap and cheesy in every way that I can't help rooting for it. Yeah, I know it steals from every game show in history, with the possible exception of Gong Show. But watching Walberg at work is always a pleasure. The guy ranks high on my personal list of best hosts ever. It's too bad that he's never had a huge hit to cement his reputation.

He's still my dark horse candidate to replace Alex when the trivia monarch hangs 'em up. Are you listening, Harry Friedman?

An unrelated housekeeping note: beginning today, I've decided to keep the last five "Videos From Our Little Genre" in the sidebar. The clips will scroll off after five days, similar to how faux tweets eventually scroll off.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hardcore nut

I'm on a 500 Questions kick, so I might as well stay on it for a little while. The current incumbent contestant is Campbell University librarian Steve Bahnaman. Naturally, the Campbell website carries a contestant story about him.

Steve has the required sense of humor about all this trivia silliness. He concedes that the show recruited him through "the underground apps for hardcore nuts like me." Nuts are buried underground sometimes.

He has an interesting educational background, having started in a theology Ph.D. program. "But to do that requires you caring a lot about a specific theologian or a single thing and study that for five years as hard as you can." So he switched to library science and the rest is nerd history. As you might expect, he was on a Quiz Bowl team and has always been drawn to books that have "a lot of facts in them." How did this guy not end up on Jeopardy? Oh well, give him time.

UPDATE: I was afraid that I might have jinxed Steve, but he made it through Friday's show to the 106th question. It was a perilous trip, though, as he fought off quite a few two-wrong questions and a challenger who was tough in the battles. He's piled up nearly seventy thousand in winnings.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pressure quizzer

This time I remembered to watch 500 Questions. Gotta admit, I'm happy I tuned in. Tonight's ep held my interest through the full two hours.

Richard Quest barks out questions at hapless contestants who try to answer, you guessed it, five hundred of the little buggers. No multiple choices, no helps, no lifelines, no friendly Mr. Philbin to guide you up the money tree. Just a host who seems happiest when he's reminding you (loudly) that three wrong answers in a row means you're gone.

Plus there's a challenger perched like a vulture, who occasionally gets a chance to assist you to the exit. This format piles on the pressure, which I liked in a sadistic way. Not to mention that the pace is pleasantly brisk, with just a few seconds allowed for each answer. I've seen criticism that there are too many rules and question variations, but after a while I got the hang of the proceedings.

And once in a longer while I knew something that the contestants didn't know, like Australia produces a lot of opals. But then I would goof four in a row and get reminded why I'm not cut out for this show.

500 Questions turned in respectable numbers on its first night. 5.1M viewers and a 1.2 18-49 rating. We'll see if the numbers can hold up as well as Richard Quest's voice.

UPDATE: The show slipped a bit in its second go-round. 4.6M viewers and a 1.0 18-49 rating. Still pretty decent compared to the (mostly rerun) competition.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I was going to post my review of 500 Questions tonight. Except something funny happened. I goofed and forgot to watch the show.

Yeah, there are sites advertising the full episode on YouTube. But I'm afraid the copyright police will show up on my doorstep if I try one of them. So I'll just wait until tomorrow to watch the second ep and give you my earthshaking opinion of the (reportedly difficult) quizzer. Meanwhile, I found this contestant story on Google News about a sports junkie enjoying a dream come true by playing Sports Jeopardy.

At first glance it's just like a bunch of other stories on the web about people realizing a dream by guessing prices on The Price is Right or figuring out word puzzles on Wheel of Fortune. But the story of Ty Sellers and his route to Sports Jeopardy reminds me of just how much fun a game show can be.

Which is something I have to work hard to remember, especially when I get bogged down in one of the endless arguments that are such a lovely part of the game show Interwebs. No matter how much people (including me) whine back and forth about our little genre, a lot of folks get a lot of enjoyment from watching and playing game shows. This is, after all, literally fun and games.