Thursday, October 8, 2015


Dating back to Nick Arcade and before, people have tried to make game shows out of video games. The results have not been sensational.

The problem is that the contestants on such formats don't tend to do much. They usually don't answer questions, play word games, try stunts, or even talk. They just sit at a computer and stare at a screen. This makes for less than compelling TV.

But Endemol is trying the gambit again, this time online with their Smasher network. Smasher has just posted its first Legends of Gaming episode on YouTube. Guess what. The ep shows four guys sitting at a computer and staring at a screen (see the screenshot). They play Doom 3 and compete to see who can kill the most.

Endemol is aware of the sitting-at-a-computer problem, so they make the video as short (five minutes) and punchy as possible. Host Toby Turner shouts snide and silly remarks, and an audience of eight onlookers busily makes faces and noises of various kinds. We also get lots of quick glimpses of Doom itself. There's even a post-game interview with the most successful Doom-ster.

I'm not into video games, so Legends of Gaming is not that entertaining for me. But somebody out there likes it. The video has drawn almost 100,000 views on its first day and racked up a like-dislike ratio around 3,400-60.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

More politics

There must be an election coming. Google News has lots of items comparing politics to game shows.

The comparison is always unfavorable. Internet chatterers with too much time on their hands whine like bummed-out banshees over how politics have become so much like a game show. Which means there are winners and losers, I guess, like there have always been in politics. I hear that Socrates lost the Athens vote a while back, with dire consequences.

The comparison has become such a groaning cliche that even Sting - you can find his picture next to "washed-up rock star" and "pompous ass" at Urban Dictionary - says that all politicians remind him of game show hosts. Gee, Stingie poo, nobody ever came up with that idea before.

Maybe I should be happy that game shows come to mind in the comparison. After all, game shows are the humblest genre, looked down upon by wannabe elitists and beloved (sometimes, anyway) by the great American unwashed. There is something very democratic - small "d" - about shows where ordinary civvies can win money and a teensy-weensy bit of fleeting fame. And if that irritates Sting, so much the better.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ratings: it's a tie...for last

At least Celebrity Name Game improved a little in the week of September 21-27. This meant that for the first time ever, Craig wasn't alone in last place. Which also meant really bad news for Millionaire, of course. Meanwhile, Pat and Vanna held on to the number one spot for another week. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up a tick
Family Feud 5.7 - up a couple ticks in hot pursuit
Jeopardy 5.5 - flat, when will the new season have any effect?
Millionaire 1.1 - gulp, down a tick to another all-time low
Celebrity Name Game 1.1 - up a tick, could it finally get out of the basement?

If Craig can climb out of last place, maybe he'll get another season despite pretty low numbers. Especially if he can build the ratings as we go into the peak viewing months of fall and winter.

GSN enjoyed a decent week for September 28-October 4. The numbers are down a bit from the sizzling summer, but the broadcast season is in full swing now. 394K/316K/429K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 40th, 30th and 38th in the windows.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Eek, a game show

Dread Central, a horror genre site, had one of their writers watch a rough cut of Hellevator, GSN's upcoming Jason Blum project. It's probably the same rough cut Scott Rahner saw and reviewed at Game Show Network News.

No, this post isn't about the show, which I'll review when it debuts October 21. This post is about sending the wrong person to do a job. The reviewer at Dread Central cheerfully admits: "I am not a fan of game shows."

Okay, then why did your boss send you to review something you're not going to like? The reviewer does admit that she likes reality shows. That's her right, of course, though I think she's wasting her time. (I'm not a fan of reality trash TV.)

To cut the suspense which I know is killing you, I'll reveal that, surprise, surprise, the reviewer didn't like Hellevator because it's not reality-ish enough. Or as she puts it, she didn't get to "know or care" enough about the contestants and the hosts.

Maybe somebody should have explained to her that the point of a game show is to play a game, not to get to know the people on the screen. (What she really means is that she didn't see enough of the asinine whining and backbiting so characteristic of reality trash TV.) The point of Jeopardy is the quizzer, not Alex's mercifully brief contestant interviews.

I have no idea whether Hellevator is any good or not. But I do know it's a game show, and somebody who wants a game show to be a reality show doesn't have a clue about reviewing an entrant in our little genre.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Five GSN originals

A poster on the game show forum at Sitcoms Online rather shyly asks the older-is-better board for their favorite GSN originalsI know a lot of people only like the older game shows but I think there have been some good GSN originals.

Uh, no, there are actually very, very few people who only like old game shows. That's why Buzzr reaches an average daily audience of 43 persons. It's just that those 43 persons post a lot on the Internet. Which makes it seem like there are umpteen gazillions of viewers who are dying to watch a Tattletales ep from 1977.

Anyway, the poster gets almost no response from Sitcoms Online - not a surprise on that board - but does give his own list of the top five GSN originals. I wholly agree with only one pick: The Chase. I half-agree with another choice: "Lingo - Chuck Woolery episodes only." Sorry, but the Engvall eps were terrific, too. Bill was actually a wittier and more entertaining host than Chuck. But those famous 43 persons dumped on him all over the Internet because, well, the older version has to be better, right?

The poster's other three choices aren't among my top favorites, though I liked them all. Grand Slam had too much Miller and filler, American Bible Challenge was too heavy on feel-good backstories and not heavy enough on actual gameplay, and 20Q was way overblown at an hour length. All good shows, but not on my personal top five list.

So what are my other three choices? Russian Roulette, High Stakes Poker, and (the real oddball pick) Inquizition.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Star games

Speaking of renewals, it looks like Hollywood Game Night has gotten a fourth go-round from NBC.

At least that's what this story says, as linked in a faux tweet. And since the source is Grant Taylor, a showrunner and the head writer for the show, the news looks reliable. We'll see more stars - or sort of stars, the show likes celebs who are more relatable (and affordable) than A-listers - at play starting January 4.

The show has become an oddball success, producing reasonable numbers for NBC and spawning a scad of international versions. Jane Lynch is a talented host, competent at running all the goofy games - Wikipedia lists about fifty of them - and always ready with a quip. She deserves her Emmys for the show, as much as anybody can deserve showbiz self-congratulation.

The idea for Hollywood Game Night has always sounded a little noblesse oblige-y, in a vaguely irritating way. NBC's own site tells us: "Two contestants are transported from their everyday lives into a once-in-a-lifetime night of fun and celebration as they step beyond the velvet rope [and] rub shoulders with some of their favorite celebrities."

Oh, isn't that nice of the high and mighty to rub shoulders with the grubby hoi polloi. In practice, though, the show proves more pleasant, as both celebs and civvies just try to win the games. The new season should bring the number of episodes up to fifty or so. Enough for GSN to grind them into dust, once the NBC run ends.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Renewed life

As a faux tweet said, two traditional studio-based game shows will ride again on ABC. (I couldn't resist the Variety-ism "alphabet net.") 500 Questions got the formal nod yesterday, and it's only a matter of time - and Steve Harvey's bustling schedule - before it's official for Celebrity Family Feud.

Speaking of Variety, the showbiz rag noted dourly that 500 Questions "only" averaged a 1.05 18-49 rating. First, that's hardly a terrible number for summer fare in these times of a splintered TV audience. Second, the quizzer got close to five million viewers for each ep, right in the same neighborhood as the often renewed Hollywood Game Night. True, 500 Questions skews a little older than the Hollywood hijinks. But maybe TV and ad execs are finding out that older people spend money. We generally do have more money to spend, you know.

Which leaves To Tell the Truth, the Anthony Anderson hosted rewind that's supposed to show up on ABC sooner or later. The network brought in Betty White to add some instant game show cred to the project, along with NeNe Leakes for the messy reality crowd. Anderson's Black-ish has performed decently for the network. We'll see if he can shepherd a third traditional game show to an ABC renewal.

Sadly, all the game shows on Fox this summer look like one-and-done. Can't win (or renew) them all.