Friday, September 30, 2016

Long strange trip

John Kiesewetter, a local Cincinnati media critic, has penned a long retrospective on the pictured gentleman.

Twice Kiesewetter refers to Jerry Springer as "loveable" back in his Cincy political days. John is trying to be nice. He well knows that a lot of Cincinnatians found Jerry much less than lovable, then and now.

Interestingly, Springer's main effort in our little genre only gets a throwaway reference. Baggage receives a quick brushoff as "a Game Show Network series." True enough, but the dating epic has developed a surprisingly good reputation. I put it on my list of the 50 top game shows, and the series even got a favorable nod from HBO's Girls.

Maybe it's because the show was quite mild compared to Springer's ridiculous talk-and-punch extravaganza. At least there were no fisticuffs, and Baggage made good use of the suitcase reveal (lifted, of course, from Deal or No Deal).

Jerry has also hosted The Price is Right's live show many times. I've even seen him make a (sadly incompetent) appearance on Celebrity Name Game. Some guys just seem to fit into game shows.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

It's for a good cause

My weekly ratings report noted some good news for Millionaire early in its new season.

The latest contestant on the show probably won't hurt those numbers. Fr. Bill Matheny, a priest from West Virginia, has made it up the money tree to a quarter-million. He knew the first name of Whistler's mother, in case you were interested. The padre has not been a quiet and restrained contestant. He specializes in jumping around the studio after each correct answer, as this video shows.

Maybe Hellevator, which is highlighting the seven deadly sins in its new season, would hector him about greed - the sin, not the late, lamented game show. But Fr. Matheny has pledged a lot of the winnings to his old grade school, named after (of all people) St. Francis of Assisi. I wonder how Francis would have done on Millionaire. I get the feeling he would have bombed out before five grand. Just not his thing.

UPDATE: Fr. Matheny walks away with the quarter-million, again showing that it's now Millionaire's real top prize. Meanwhile, Seth Wilson continues his run on Jeopardy with his ninth win. Only five players are now ahead of him on the wins-in-a-row list.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Moving up the list

University of Georgia Ph.D. theater student Seth Wilson is climbing the wins ladder on Jeopardy.

He won his seventh game yesterday, though it was a squeaker on the final clue. Sometimes you get lucky with an opponent's bet. U.S. Game Shows Wiki tells me that only twelve players have won more games in a row than Seth since the venerable quizzer went to the unlimited wins rule in 2003. The big dog of winning, of course, is Ken Jennings. His 74-game record is absurdly far out in front of everybody else. Cricket fans - I know you're out there - will think of Don Bradman towering over every other batsman with his 99.94 test batting average. I'll take non-U.S. sports stuff for $200, Alex.

Sure, nobody knows how many other people would still be in front of Seth if Jeopardy had allowed unlimited wins from its inception in 4 BC. (The show started sometime around that year.) But we're talking about more than two thousand eps under the "new" rule. It's impressive that Seth only has a dozen winners in front of him.

And now I've probably jinxed the poor guy. We'll see later today.

UPDATE: Well, I didn't jinx him, at least not yet. Seth has now won eight straight and only has eight winners in front of him on the list. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A good rant

Game Show Forum is ranting about me again.

Sometimes they just don't seem to have much else to do. Well, it's nice to know I can get under their very thin skin. For some reason they think I picked 500 Questions at #1 on my fifty best list. I actually put it at #47, but that's close enough for government work and GSF's great minds, I guess.

My real crime was picking some shows from the last 25 years. Game Show Forum regards the years after 1990 as pretty much a vast wasteland, and included very few post-1990 shows in their 50 oldies, er, greatest list. My list was much more balanced among all the decades from the 1950s through the 2010s.

Just so the folks at GSF don't strain their brains any more, my list from 1 to 50...

Match Game, Jeopardy, Pyramid, Wheel of Fortune, The Chase, The Price Is Right, Lingo, I've Got A Secret, Family Feud, Cash Cab, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, What's My Line, Let's Make A Deal, Newlywed Game, Russian Roulette, Dating Game, Hollywood Squares, Concentration, Scrabble, Chain Reaction, Password, Greed, Supermarket Sweep, Win Ben Stein's Money, Celebrity Name Game, Street Smarts, Inquizition, Baggage, That's the Question, Now You See It, 1 vs. 100, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader, Minute To Win It, Remote Control, To Tell The Truth, Weakest Link, Power of 10, Deal or No Deal, Sale of the Century, Beat the Clock, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Let's Ask America, You Bet Your Life, Name That Tune, Hollywood Game Night, The Name's the Same, 500 Questions, College Bowl, Joker's Wild, Press Your Luck.

UPDATE: Oh, I figured out why the deep thinkers at Game Show Forum imagined I put 500 Questions at #1. In my linked list of the shows - which I explicitly said ran from #50 at the top to #1 at the bottom, but I can't expect GSF folks to read too well - I also listed the age of the shows. Which was one (1) year in the case of 2015's 500 Questions. You'd think that even GSFers could understand this. But math is hard, as Barbie once said. (Then the lousy p.c. police shut her up.)

One more funny note. A poster on Game Show Forum says he's happy the board is closed to new members...because I would apply to get in. Even by GSF's demanding standards of unintentional humor, that's a real knee-slapper. I would sooner apply for an eternal stint in Dante's ninth circle. Come to think of it, the two applications would be pretty much the same.

Syndies: everybody gets happy, especially Chris

The first week of their new seasons helped Pat and Vanna and Alex and, in a big way, Chris. TV News Check has the gladsome household ratings for the week of September 12-18...

Family Feud 6.3 - up a tick in the last week before its new season
Wheel of Fortune 5.7 - up three ticks in its new season for the solitary daily run
Jeopardy 5.4 - up four ticks for the new eps
Millionaire 1.6 - up three ticks in by far the biggest percentage move
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat at its very well established number in the last week before its new season

I had heard about Millionaire getting better time slots in some key markets like New York City. Looks like the ratings are feeling the benefit. If Chris Harrison can maintain or improve these numbers, he could be in for a long run on the show. The producers have already put out a happy happy joy joy press release. Millionaire averaged 1.6 million viewers for the week, if you wanted to know. The demos also improved.

In slightly related news, Celebrity Name Game released the list of October celebs.

Monday, September 26, 2016

GSN prime time

At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner has posted a long disquisition on GSN's prime time ratings.

He uses Nielsen numbers provided by the tireless Son of the Bronx, Douglas Pucci, and slices and dices them 47 ways. I'll spare you all the gory numerical details - though as a retired actuary I love this number crunching - and cut to the chase (no reference to Mark Labbett, at least not yet). In GSN prime time Winsanity and Idiotest drop a big chunk of the lead-in audience provided by Steve Harvey's Family Feud.

This is hardly a secret. GSN relies enormously on Mr. Harvey for their prime time numbers. Nothing else the network has tried recently in the evening window has drawn a lot of viewers. Once upon a time (not long ago) GSN got very decent viewer totals for The Chase and Chain Reaction. In fact, none other than Mark Labbett has bragged that The Chase actually built on the viewer totals from its Family Feud lead-in.

But then along came demos. GSN execs have long since gotten tired of hearing that their network skews older than Methuselah in his declining years...or at least older than anything this side of the cable news networks. So they've been trying feverishly to lower GSN's median viewer age. Although The Chase and Chain Reaction piled up nice viewer numbers, they suffered the traditional old skew of traditional game shows.

So in came stuff like Idiotest and Hellevator, plus the reality shows GSN has dabbled in. These shows rarely (if ever) wow anybody with total viewer numbers, but they do skew younger.

After a while, though, lowering the median viewer age only does so much good. If your show gets seven viewers and four of them are twenty-somethings, your median viewer age will look pretty young. (This almost literally describes the ratings for Hellevator late in its first season.) You won't sell much advertising time, though. And as anybody can see from watching GSN, a lot of the advertisers are still aiming for older folks, anyway. So maybe the demo chase - again, no reference to Mark Labbett here - is a futile one for GSN. Why not get as many viewers as you can and worry about demos later?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

TPiR thanks Millionaire

Game shows have never been shy about borrowing from each other.

The practice dates back to at least the early 1950s, when Messrs. Goodson and Todman decided to rip off their own What's My Line with I've Got a Secret. The two shows eventually diverged quite a bit but started out as near clones.

The latest borrowing happened on The Price is Right this week with their new pricing game, "Hot Seat." Even the name comes from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, though the (figuratively) heated chair has long since disappeared from the current syndie.

Sure enough, the game features a money tree - well, actually a money thermometer (see the screenshot) - and if the contestant goofs anywhere on the way up, all the money goes away. I'll spoil the suspense by revealing that the happy player on the first run made it all the way to the top prize of 20 grand. Maybe they could have called it "Who Wants to Be a Twenty Thousandaire."

To climb the tree you simply have to guess if a dollar amount is above or below the price of a piece of merchandise. Five correct guesses and you're at the top of the tree, er, thermometer. It's a lot shorter trip than Millionaire. The YouTube comments are mostly favorable, if you want to know.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Final account

Today in Google News I saw an obit for Micki Marlo, a singer from the 1950s and 1960s. Normally the sad news wouldn't be of much relevance to this blog, but Micki happened to have a connection to our little genre, though a tenuous one. She co-hosted Charge Account, a game show segment on Jan Murray's NBC daytime show from 1960 to 1962.

The linked article from U.S. Game Shows Wiki doesn't mention Micki Marlo, but everybody else on the web seems agreed that she really did appear on the show. The publicity photo of her with Jan Murray also exists as visual evidence. Jan would draw letters from the contraption in the photo, and contestants would try to make as many three and four-letter words as they could with the letters. Pretty basic, but I assume the game was mainly a vehicle for Jan Murray's random wit.

The wiki article dumps on Charge Account as a "flop," which seems a little harsh. The show lasted for a couple years, after all. Micki Marlo also worked in a radio precursor to Dick Clark's American Bandstand, and she was a regular on Steve Allen's talk show. There's a long interview with her on a classic TV blog. R.I.P.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Wheel of tax

Every now and then a story crops up about game show contestants paying taxes on their winnings. While I'm a devout anti-tax believer myself, I always have to smile a little at the thought that game show winnings are somehow exempt from one of life's two certainties.

The latest tempest in a taxable teapot concerns a Wheel of Fortune winner named Matt McMahan. He copped $16,400 in cash and (after some finagling) two vacations worth $10,800. This story and a couple others trumpet that he only wound up "$6,000 richer after all his taxes are paid."

Which, if you aren't paying close attention, might make you think that Mr. McMahan got socked with a 78% tax rate on his winnings. ($21,200 in taxes on his winnings of $27,200.)

Well, no. Matt's tax rate was actually a still steep 38%. ($10,400 in taxes on his winnings of $27,200.) Remember that Matt gets to enjoy his trips worth over ten grand, plus the after-tax six grand in cash. It's hardly like he's coming out behind on the deal.

Sure, a tax rate of 38% is still way too high, but what else do you expect from the Feds combining with tax-happy California? Matt, maybe you can get Wheel to move its production to my home state, Texas. There's no state income tax around here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Daytime mastery

CBS recently bragged about how they've dominated daytime broadcast TV for ninety-nine years or so.

The eye network's (warning, Variety speak) twin pillars of game show, The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal, are holding up their end of the daytime edifice. Both are doing boffo box office, according to the Nielsen beancounters. The one trick that CBS missed might have been a Pyramid remake in the daytime. (They messed around with the idea but never committed.) The show has worked for ABC in prime time pretty well.

As the linked Cinema Blend story admits, daytime is hardly the most prestigious window in the TV day. Critics tend to look down their noses at the daylight hours as a vast wasteland of uncool stuff, unlike Game of Thrones and all those other buzzy shows that pundits love to talk to each other about. But I'm sure CBS will take the very nice revenue stream from the old reliables in the sunshine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Board of the game

So I was watching the season debut of Celebrity Name Game, and there's a blurb for the home version of the game. That made a weird kind of sense, because they play the game on a home-like set. Well, the set isn't really too homey but Craig Ferguson does shout out to imaginary celebs walking past the imaginary windows. "Hi George Clooney! Hi Gwyneth Paltrow!"

So I scrounged around the web and came up with this review of the show's home game. You get score chips, 150 double-sided cards, and an electronic timer, which is no doubt better than an hourglass. In fact, Celebrity Name Game is supposedly based on another board game called Identity Crisis. Of course, the show is really a knockoff of Pyramid, but that's a little awkward for the showrunners to admit.

So we've now got a board game version of a TV game show which is allegedly based on another board game but is really copied from another TV game show. I like Celebrity Name Game - even put it at #25 on my list of the top fifty game shows of all time - but I probably won't invest in the home game. It's a lot easier to sit back and yell clues at the TV screen.