Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Party like it's 1955

Okay, it's only one week in summer. But our little genre landed three shows in the top ten most-watched shows of the week on broadcast TV.

These are just viewer numbers, without all the demo slicing and dicing networks like to do. But the three shows - of course, ABC's Celebrity Family Feud, 100K Pyramid and Match Game - did just fine in the advertiser-friendly demos as well.

Which got me rustling through the ancient ratings on a site called Classic Hits TV. I vaguely recalled the genre doing well among the top shows of the 1950s, before all those dreary scandals hit. For readers with less mileage on the odometer than moi, the fifties were the decade when commercial television really barged into American households. (And it's stayed there ever since.)

Sure enough, in 1955-56 three game shows ranked in the top ten in household ratings. Yes, one of them was rigged (64K Question) and one was more of a talk show with Groucho than a game show (You Bet Your Life). The other was I've Got a Secret, which remains my black and white favorite among classic game shows.

These ratings cover the entire 1955-56 season, not just one summer week. Game shows were big back then...before all the unpleasantness.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ratings: Wheel rolls to season low

It was a blah week for syndie game shows in general but a really forgettable week for Wheel of Fortune. Pat and Vanna hit a season low as the weather warmed up and the viewing audience dwindled. Sooner or later they'll probably have to add another daily run of Wheel to restore some ratings pizzazz. TV News Check has the household ratings for the week of June 13-19...

Family Feud 6.6 - down a couple ticks but still #1 in the genre
Wheel of Fortune 5.5 - down three ticks to the new low
Jeopardy 5.4 - down a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat and in reruns, as usual
Millionaire 1.2 - flat

The final nationals show that Pyramid's debut got over eight million viewers to go along with a 1.7 18-49 rating. Great numbers for summer broadcast. Looks like ABC may have another game show hit on its hands. Match Game did okay but not as well as its premiere mate.

GSN enjoyed a solid second quarter. 469K/311K/464K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 32nd, 30th and 33rd in the windows.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Rebuilding the pyramid

ABC's remake of Pyramid debuted, and it was just like old times. I mean exactly like old times. There was one teensy-weensy change from the ancient Dick Clark version in the tiebreaker rules, but otherwise we might as well have been back in 1985. There was even a Mystery 7 category.

No doubt this explains why the show got nice advance notices from the heavily traditionalist game show Interwebs. And since Pyramid is one of my personal fave formats, I can hardly whine, either.

Michael Strahan was relaxed, friendly and competent as the host. The ABC hour was basically two half-hour eps smushed together. The celebs in the first thirty minutes were Sherri Shepherd and Anthony Anderson. Sherri has plenty of experience on Donnymid and Celebrity Name Game, and she played just fine. Anthony has no experience on any version, and he played...beyond godwaful. I actually felt sorry for the poor civvies who had to team up with him.

Things perked up in the second half-hour, with Rosie O'Donnell and Kathy Najimy doing well. Rosie did endure one crucial blank-out moment, but it's a tough format and I'm not going to be too harsh a judge. And a couple of the civvies went home very happy after the winners circle. ABC's Pyramid is a paint-by-numbers remake, but the numbers for this format are just swell, thank you.

UPDATE: Speaking of numbers, ABC's entire game show night got nice news from the Nielsen Company. Pyramid led a sweep of Sunday night for the alphabet net. 8.09M total viewers and a 1.7 18-49 rating. Celebrity Family Feud got 7.98M and 1.6, and Match Game did 6.64M and 1.5. A fine night for the genre.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Return of the greatest?

Any reader of this blog knows my favorite game show ever is the 1973-82 version of Match Game. And that includes everything.

No surprise, but I can report that my favorite remains unchanged after ABC's remake of the blank fest. But the new version with Alec Baldwin was hardly a disaster, in my blanking humble opinion. In fact, I downright enjoyed the premiere.

It will probably be impossible for any remake to live up to the '70s version in the estimation of the Internet. Gene and Brett and Charles and Richard (at least before Mr. Dawson went sour) exist in some unapproachable pantheon of MG wonderfulness, and any new version has to fall millions of light-years short. Fair enough, but the ABC hour produced some genuine humor and a nice surprise from the host. Alec Baldwin can actually crack wise without irritating everybody or causing lawsuits and police action.

The panel was fine, even if JB Smoove showed camera-hogging tendencies (which were not allowed to get out of hand). Rosie O'Donnell took over the Dawson role as the go-to panelist for the super match. She came up with the best answers for the big money, but the civvies couldn't get the hang of it. Too bad, though the failures helped keep the prize budget under control. The other panelists played reasonable supporting parts, and everybody looked happy enough.

The questions were raunchy, of course, as they should be on Match Game. No, Uranus should never appear as a gag line anywhere in game shows. But I got an evil snicker even from the unfortunately named planet.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Not all critics go deep-think when they write about game shows. Which is a relief.

Leave it to Entertainment Weekly to catch the right note of fun and frivolity when it comes to our little genre. This EW article about ABC's game night extols the virtues of "fun, silly, mindless television," a.k.a. game shows. In fact, the mindless meme can easily go too far. Jeopardy works anybody's mind a lot harder than Game of Thrones, after all.

But the article is right about the escape value of the Family Feud-Pyramid-Match Game combo debuting tomorrow night. Let's just play some goofy games for a while and forget about the troubles of the world. The author seems a little clueless about the length of the night - it's three hours, not an hour-and-a-half - but otherwise she gets the appeal of the genre.

One specific note: the author wishes Donny Osmond got the host gig for the Pyramid revival. Oh, she's after my own heart. Donnymid got trashed so unjustly in my opinion, because it dared to tamper with the sacred format. Six-in-twenty is better!

Friday, June 24, 2016

GSN bits and pieces

I'm lazy today, so I'll just repost some of my random musings from Game Show Paradise about GSN shows past and present...

Amazing Race started out as a demo hit for GSN and even got good total viewer numbers. But the network rapidly burned it out with insane overexposure. Back then GSN execs probably couldn't believe that any show on their network was getting measurable 18-49 ratings.

I was one of those who thought Dancing With the Stars would perform well on GSN. Shows what I know. Though to give myself a little credit, I also thought Harvey Feud would do okay on the network (it did).

Happened to see the 25K Pyramid ep this morning (June 20) on GSN. It was the first episode when the show returned to CBS on September 20, 1982. There were small differences in format and even gameplay from the more familiar eps later in the run. It was funny to hear Dick Clark explaining some of the rules in detail at the start of the new CBS run. Constance McCashin and Robert Mandan were the celebs.

Also, it's kind of nice that Chain Reaction is now at 1:00 PM Central. I can watch it right after Celebrity Name Game in my market. Now if GSN would only make some more Catherwood eps.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Our little genre gets noticed

I'm always a little nervous when an august organ of the mainstream media runs a deep think piece on humble little game shows.

Our genre is raffish and disreputable. We don't want no stinkin' snooty critics offering deep thoughts on the world of buzzers and zonks. But the Los Angeles Times wakes up to the existence of game shows in this article that expounds on ABC's game night this summer. Why am I not surprised that a dinosaur newspaper takes note of a dinosaur broadcast network?

In fact, game shows are available all the time, on GSN or Buzzr or in syndication or even on the broadcast dinos. But ABC's night of Celebrity Family Feud, 100K Pyramid and Match Game is getting the media's notice. The LA Times article does offer a few nice factoids, like Alec Baldwin's $200,000-plus fee per ep on Match Game. But mostly it's pabulum about how game shows are comfort food TV with nostalgia value. Gee, no kidding.

One funny comment in the article refers to our supposed "era when quality scripted TV is abundant." Yeah, the latest eps of Scandal or Hawaii Five-0 rank right up there with Hamlet and Oedipus Rex.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Truthful review

ABC finally relented and let me watch the first ep of To Tell the Truth on their website.

Well, they sort of relented. The playback crapped out after the first segment, and I got tired of waiting for the site to discombobulate itself. By then I had figured out the basic idea of the show, anyway. Which was pretty much to copy the classic format...a little louder than before.

Host Anthony Anderson brought along his mother (who I can live without) and Betty White as one of the panelists. The show started with a nice tribute to Betty, which luckily did not linger for too long. The other three panelists were the typical minor TV celebs. (They're still a lot more major than me.)

The first three civvie contestants included a guy who dated Taylor Swift in high school. The questioning was the usual hit-or-miss effort. One difference from the classic format was that panelists fired off questions more or less at random, instead of taking turns. This just made the process seem more meandering, which has always been my problem with the TTTT format.

When it came time to vote, the panel goofed completely. Nobody nailed the right ex-boyfriend. Even Betty got it wrong. Can't win 'em all.

Anderson was reasonably funny, the panelists were okay, and one of the civvie impostors had a thing for Taylor Swift's mom. Or at least that's what he pretended. He was lying, after all.

UPDATE: To Tell the Truth lost a little Nielsen altitude in its second week. 4.11M viewers and a 0.9 18-49 rating. Not terrible for summer fare but hardly a hit.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ratings: Feud leads all syndies

We're entering the summer lull in TV viewing, so there weren't any increases for syndie game shows. But Family Feud still landed atop all syndication. TV News Check has the household ratings for the week of June 6-12...

Family Feud 6.8 - down four ticks but still beats everybody
Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - down a tick
Jeopardy 5.5 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat
Millionaire 1.2 - flat, which seems pretty common this week

It looks like the only way for Wheel of Fortune to regain the top spot would be a second daily run of the show. That would pile some points onto the weekly average. Everybody else does it, after all.

GSN enjoyed another good week for June 13-19. 490K/314K/494K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 33rd, 32nd and 31st in the windows.

Monday, June 20, 2016

NBC's July games

The fifth season of Hollywood Game Night will debut July 28, according to this newspaper story.

The item includes some ignorable political chatter, but it also quotes Jane Lynch as picking the ideal civvie contestant as somebody who is not starstruck or drunk. She also likes it if a fight breaks out or somebody tries to cheat. Sounds like good game show stuff to me.

As I've said before, I'm surprised that Hollywood Game Night is still around at all, given its anemic ratings as the fourth season cratered. In fact, NBC skipped the final eps of the fourth season because the numbers were so bad. I don't know if those omitted episodes will turn up in the summer run. Guess it depends on the news from Nielsen (duh). Who knows how long this summer experiment will last?

Hollywood Game Night is looking more than a little long in the tooth and grey in the hair. Wikipedia says the show has cranked out 49 eps over three years. I like the mindless fun, even if the pop culture obsession gets wearying. When NBC finally tires of the show for good, it might make a nice pickup for GSN.