Friday, April 30, 2010

Britannica in Cullen-land

Having hit Wikipedia a lick, I got an evil hankering to take a whack at its august and ancient competitor, Encyclopædia Britannica. So I looked in my 2005 print set of the Britannica and found an article on "quiz shows."

It wasn't a long treatise, just four short paragraphs tucked into the Micropedia, the section of the set where little articles accumulate. No, I wasn't anticipating a 50-page disquisition. The article begins rather dourly: "Quiz show, also called game show, broadcast show designed to test the memory, knowledge, agility, or luck of persons selected from studio or broadcast audience or to contrive a competition among these people for merchandise or cash awards."

That "contrive" sounds a little snarky, but this is the exalted EB and I didn't expect gee-whiz enthusiasm for such a déclassé genre. The article confines itself entirely to U.S game shows, tracing their evolution from radio days through the fifties scandals and on to their current syndication and broadcast status. The article mentions only seven shows by name: Information Please, Quiz Kids, $64,000 Question, Twenty-One, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

The final paragraph is the funniest, with both a grudging admission of game shows' "ongoing and consistent popularity" and an amazing howler: Britannica actually states that Game Show Network debuted in 2000! Uh, sorry guys, but the network debuted in 1994, so you lose.

Maybe the mistake has been corrected in subsequent editions. But the 2005 Britannica will have to content itself with a nice parting gift.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Never to be deterred by the unpleasantness with the little geniuses, Mark Burnett is moving ahead with a pilot for Trust Me, I'm a Game Show Host, where dueling hosts try to convince contestants that they're really, really honest. Of course, one of the dastardly duo is lying and the contestants have to figure out which is the fibber. If this sounds a lot like To Tell the Truth, that's because it's a lot like To Tell the Truth.

The duelists on the pilot will be Bill Engvall and Mo Rocca. I've seen a little of both, and Burnett seems to want a balance of good ol' boy and PBS-y nerd. Maybe not a bad combo, if they can avoid the obvious stereotypes. The pilot tapes next week in Los Angeles for ABC, according to Variety. And unlike some game show hosts, Variety can usually be believed.

While we're on the general topic of trustworthiness and game shows, the long-simmering legal spat between Celador and ABC/Buena Vista over the loot from Millionaire is coming soon to an open court near you. I have no idea who is sort-of right in this tangle, and I don't care. But where there's money, there's fightin' over it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

From Russia with six

The land of Putin and vodka will provide ABC with an appropriately six-episode order of a new game show called The Six. I've blogged about this format before, when the news first surfaced that ABC was looking at the long-running Russian gamer What? Where? When? (The title still seems drearily pedestrian to me.) Experienced British host Vernon Kay will do the honors on the ABC version.

Apparently the show is more a test of logical thinking than trivial knowledge. It's questionable if logical thinking should have anything to do with game shows, but ABC looks willing to gamble on the proposition. At least the effort sounds like a somewhat interesting group-dynamics exercise, with six contestants trying to figure out answers to coyly phrased conundrums.

Wikipedia (usual caveats) splatters more information than anybody could want about the original Russian show. There's even an international competition based on the format, which sounds like the nerdiest thing since, well, me.

Question time

GSN went a little nuts with word game originals a few years back, at the end of Rich Cronin's rule. Nowadays the only survivor from the bunch is Chain Reaction, which still pulls pretty decent numbers in the afternoon and has enough episodes - two 65-ep seasons - to withstand rerun abuse. But the other wordy originals from those years have now vanished, including an intriguing if rather quiet Bob Goen effort called That's the Question.

The show challenged contestants to unscramble word jumbles and fill in the blanks of fairly long phrases. In other words, it was pretty standard word stuff, not wildly different from Wheel of Fortune and similar efforts, just without the glitz and Vanna. The show endured for a second season but eventually succumbed to fatal wonkiness and non-glamour. The eerie computerish voiceovers in the first season didn't help, either.

Goen did a more than acceptable job in a challenging, sometimes rapid-fire host's role. He later moved on to GSN Radio, an interesting Internet experiment that might have been too far ahead of its time. Maybe one of these days GSN could give him another try, though the network seems more interested in comics and characters for their latest host selections.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Syndies droop

The weather warms and the ratings wilt. Syndicated game shows saw little joy in the week ending April 18. Broadcasting & Cable spreads the bad tidings:

Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - flat
Jeopardy 5.4 - down a tick
Millionaire 2.3 - down a tick
5th Grader 1.4 - down a tick to season low
Family Feud 1.4 - flat
Deal or No Deal - almost gone and almost forgotten

TV by the Numbers offers their usual average viewership numbers for the top three syndie gamers, along with a truly alarming picture of Oprah: Wheel of Fortune 9.9 million, Jeopardy 8.1 million, Millionaire 3.2 million. These numbers are clearly softening as more and more people find better things to do than stare at a screen indoors.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Web gleanings

The Daytime Emmys (remember them?) will soldier on somehow, with the 37th retread scheduled for CBS on Sunday June 27. The woeful kudofest had dwindled to 2.7 million viewers for last year's CW telecast. Apparently the producers hope a move to Vegas and CBS might perk up the numbers. Good luck on that wish. Cash Cab keeps winning the game show award, which is okay with me. But I never watch any of show biz's self-congratulation orgies, anyway.

At Chad Mosher opines in favor of the current Millionaire format, including the dreaded clock. I agree with Chad completely, but he does make one odd remark: "I've noticed, though, that most people aren't fans of all of the formats with most of the vitriol directed toward the current syndicated offering." Most people? I think Chad is confusing the maunderings of a few bloggers with popular opinion. Most people who watch Millionaire seem okay with the current format. As Chad himself notes, Meredith's ratings are holding up.

Poor Wink Martindale has now seen his Friday slots on GSN hacked away. He's barely visible in Play-Ever-Day-land any more, even though the latest week (April 12-18) showed an uptick in his numbers. GSN obviously figures they can get better ratings with other shows in almost all of Wink's former slots, and GSN is probably right.

Alex Davis informs us that Family Feud is officially moving to Orlando. I didn't know that the move was ever in doubt, and I really don't care. It's another obvious economy measure for a show that's listing dangerously in the ratings, just like replacing O'Hurley with Harvey. As always, Feud superfan Alex puts the best possible construction on the news: "I think this move will end up being really good for the show." Alex thinks that everything Feud does is really good. He better hope that the show somehow hangs above the big one-oh in the ratings.

One-name blogger Aaron offers an offbeat suggestion for the new Hub network: a game show based on Dungeons & Dragons. Hm, high-intensity role-playing invades Bill Cullen territory. I think this concept might need a little work.

Minute To Win It scored a 1.8 18-49 rating and 5.6 million total viewers last night. That's down a little from last Sunday but good enough to keep the cheap, cheap, cheap show on NBC. The show finished third in its timeslot in 18-49.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Trusting puppets

Plagiarizing myself from the GSN Originals board...

Alex Davis has posted a notice about GSN's upcoming puppet game show. The provisional title is Never Trust a Puppet - or maybe Late Night Liars, it's not too clear - and the show will be hosted by Larry Miller. The description:

"A late night comedy and gameshow where human contestants face off against 5 outrageous puppets, who also happen to be celebrities and lie straight to their face. Puppets created by the Jim Henson Production Company. Hosted by Larry Miller."

Alex says that the Muppets will not be used in the least, that's the plan right now. The celebrity puppet gimmick was tried on DC Follies, a 1987-89 syndie based on the Brit Spitting Image. The syndie never developed much of an audience, maybe because of the political angle. We'll see how celeb puppets do in a game show.

Friday, April 23, 2010

GSN number-palooza part ocho

Douglas rules the number waves. He's now provided a double treat, the last two weeks of GSN numbers, April 5-11 and April 12-18. I'll try to keep the comments from spilling too far and wide...

1) GSN turned in a couple of good weeks ahead of the Baggage and Newlywed Game premieres. The prime time/total day viewership averages were 330K/268K and 337K/274K. Despite ridiculously overblown comments that GSN "badly needs a hit", these averages show solid performance.

2) As always Howie carries the load, and it's a heavy one. He shouldered a fifth of GSN's entire schedule with 363K and 368K averages for the two weeks. Fellow stalwarts Karn and O'Hurley also did their bit. The single most astounding number was Karn Feud's 276K average in the sleepy-eyed 1:00 AM hour in the second week. Overall, the Feudin' twosome turned in 308K and 320K total day averages for the two weeks, with 394K and 365K in prime time.

3) Speaking of prime time, Catch 21 was the usual downer at 9:30 PM in the first week with a 226K average. Alfonso did perk up to 295K in the second week in prime, a relatively good performance for him. And as always, he did far better in the 6:30 PM slot with 374K and 373K averages. Of course, Alfonso has now been mostly ejected from prime time and fringe by Baggage.

4) Despite heroic efforts to prove otherwise on the GSN Classics board, acey-deucey in the morning has been thoroughly so-so at best, averaging 136K and 114K for the two weeks. Okay, the timeslot ain't great but nobody's going to faint over these numbers. In the 3:00 AM graveyard hour Card Sharks turned in 118K and 129K averages. Dawson Feud has really crashed and burned at 9:00 AM with embarrassing 55K and 57K averages.

5) The best pre-1990 show for the two weeks was, surprise, the 2:00 AM run of 100K Pyramid in the second week with a 217K average. It benefited from Karn's superb lead-in.

6) Some joy for me. Personal fave Lingo romped to solid 273K and 276K averages in the middle of the afternoon. Maybe people like those second season eps, after all. Chain Reaction also did very well with 291K and 271K weekday averages. Prime time poker did fine in the first week at 369K but tumbled to 251K in the second week. GSN should cut poker back to three hours each Sunday, despite the more favorable demos.

7) And good old Regis just keeps on delivering, with 261K and 307K averages at midnight. He actually landed episodes in the top twenty for both weeks. There's even a ray of hope for woeful Wink. Instant Recall jumped to a 292K average in the second week, though the first week showed the usually dismal 178K.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Game shows loved Lucy

The recent deaths of a couple actors who appeared on occasional game shows brought to mind one of the biggest names of all who sometimes graced the genre: Lucille Ball. Lucy's IMDb page, which predictably runs longer than the health care bill, mentions many game show classics dating back to I've Got a Secret and What's My Line.

But what caught my eye most was Lucy's trifecta of appearances on three Password variants: the sixties original, the seventies Password Plus revival, and the eighties Super Password re-revival. A somewhat poignant note: the Super Password appearance came just a few months before Lucy's death.

I cropped the screenshot from Password Plus, where Lucy turned up with her son and, wouldn't you know, game show über-legend and recently the hottest thing in teevee, Betty White. And while we're in a legendary mood, I couldn't resist showing Lucy as she shook hands with host-legend Tom Kennedy, who was subbing on the show for the mortally ill Allen Ludden.

My favorite Lucy game show moment was her star turn on I've Got a Secret, when she used her acting skills to get the panelists to unconsciously imitate her emotions. Her byplay with Johnny Carson was unforgettable, including the half-rueful references to both of their troubled marital histories. Henry Morgan chipped in some memorable sarcasm on the subject as well.

As I get closer to joining many of these folks, well, you know where, maybe I'm getting way too sentimentally nostalgic. I like to do some history bits on this blog, but I have to caution myself not to go all soggy and Steve-Beverly-ish about the supposedly good old days. Still, nobody needs to be apologetic about remembering Lucy for one blog post.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A few things

Various folks have blogged about the Jeopardy celebrity tournament. The show seems to run eighty-four different tournaments a year, but I guess celebs will always attract attention. That's why they're celebrated, doncha know? Anyway, if I were Pete Rose and had to bet, I'd pick Pat Sajak to take home the goodies. Sajak would probably rank highest on any standard IQ test compared to the rest of the field. Cheech Marin? Like wow, man.

The news that CBS is shooting a talk show pilot has set off speculation about Pyramid never seeing eye network air. We'll have to wait and see, but Let's Make a Deal didn't wow Nielsen Media Research. At any rate, the talk show pilot looks lame to me, but Julie Chen has never appealed. Too skinny and wonky for your humble blogger's taste.

Bob Eubanks comes to GSN's Newlywed Game with his fellow game show icons on May 18. For the umpteenth time GSN should have used Eubanks for all the episodes, but at least he's now getting his second bite at the apple. At age 72 Bob remains as sharp and snarky as ever, and he will help Wink Martindale fetch far better ratings on this episode than on the sorry Instant Recall.

On Sunday Minute To Win It got its usual 1.9 18-49 rating and six million total viewers. The show has developed a loyal audience but doesn't seem to be growing much. Of course, as the weather warms and the outdoors beckon, this ain't the best time of year for a broadcast network show of any kind to grow its audience. Minute's decent ratings performance on Wednesday has also earned the show a summer slot on that night.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Syndies sit tight

Syndicated game shows hardly budged in the latest week ending April 11. Broadcasting & Cable reveals the largely static numbers:

Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - up a tick
Jeopardy 5.5 - down a tick, just to show it can do something slightly different from WoF
Millionaire 2.4 - up a tick
5th Grader 1.5 - flat
Family Feud 1.4 - up a tick

Poor Deal or No Deal doesn't even get a mention any more. Really, it wasn't a bad week for syndie gamers considering the warmer weather and general declines in teevee staring. The five listed shows will all return this fall, along with Don't Forget the Lyrics and Cash Cab. Meanwhile, TV by the Numbers sends along their usual viewership averages for the top three syndies: Wheel of Fortune 10.1 million, Jeopardy 8.4 million, Millionaire 3.3 million.

Match Game the First

Before Match Game there was Match Game...the 1960s NBC version. We all remember the Dawson-Brett-Charles hijinks in gloriously saturated color on CBS and syndication from 1973 to 1982. But its ancient, stiff-as-a-board predecessor enjoyed some decent years on the peacock net in the 1960s.

Maybe I'm being too nasty to the first version. Head writer Dick DeBartolo did sneak some mildly humorous questions into the proceedings, though the more outrageously risque lines would have to wait for the swinging seventies. The first version did take the gameplay with what seems like painful solemnity compared to its freewheeling descendant, though.

Not much of the 1960s show has survived the forces of time and tape-erasure, though YouTube offers a complete episode that furnished the screenshot of a slicked-down Gene Rayburn. I'm tempted to say that it's not a great loss, but that sounds cruel and probably unfair. After all, 1960s Match Game was a competent if rather wooden game show that held its own in the daytime broadcast wars. And the Swingin' Safari theme song can still get into your head.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Springer goes...respectable?

I just watched the premiere episode of GSN's Baggage, the network's offbeat sort-of-remake of Dating Game. With Jerry Springer as host, there was much anguish over the show turning trashy and embarrassing. Everybody was half-fearing, half-hoping for the fights, screamfests and obscenities we've all come to know and love from Springer's syndicated show.

Guess what. Baggage features no fights, screams, obscenities, or general trashiness. In fact, the show seems almost painfully respectable, as a hopeful contestant selects one of three potential dates. Now and then the potential hookups open suitcases with somewhat touchy personal facts, like "I want to adopt five kids." The hopeful contestant gradually eliminates two of the potential matchups.

Eventually the final pair decides whether or not to head out on the town for a get-acquainted session, after the hopeful contestant opens his own suitcase with a touchy personal fact. It's all very civilized and quiet, with everybody sitting around a tasteful living-room set and speaking in almost hushed tones. So the show is hardly an embarrassment.

Trouble is, it's not all that entertaining, either. A little trashiness would actually help the proceedings. I don't want the participants staging fistfights, but maybe they could raise their voices a little now and then. The pace also lolligags along, with only one date (or non-date) per show. Final verdict: Baggage is a rather restrained and somber effort that offers little of the cheesy charm we've come to expect from dating shows.

UPDATE: Some unintentionally hilarious comments have appeared on the GSN Internet board about the show. Seems that folks are having fainting spells over the word "penis" used in one of the promos. Of course, I didn't expect the heavily traditionalist posters on the board to like the show, but this outburst of faux-prudery is pretty funny. The real problem with Baggage is that it's too dull and slow, not too offensive.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

No way to treat an icon

Instant Recall, GSN's most recent bomb original, continues to shed timeslots. The latest run to bite the Play Every Day dust is the Wednesday 3:00 PM airing. That run got an embarrassing 101K viewers in the latest published week, compared to 252K for Lingo in the half-hour.

No doubt the show richly deserves its approaching banishment to at most a couple of throwaway slots. But I can't be happy that Wink Martindale is enduring such a disastrous return to the game show wars. Couldn't GSN have given him a genuine game show, with some interesting gameplay that might have attracted an audience? The network gave the solidly constructed Lingo to fellow icon Chuck Woolery, and that worked out pretty well.

Of course, Wink himself isn't blameless in this cringe-inducing mess. He willingly submitted to Instant Recall's lame parody of 1970s game shows, right down to the wretched CGI-added sparkle on his notoriously perfect teeth. I understand why Wink wanted to prove that he could still host a show, but he could have held out for a strong, well-designed format instead of an unfunny, unfortunate, unendurable spoof.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Twenty One rides again, briefly

With all the hoohah about Our Little Genius, I've often referred to Charles Van Doren and his misadventures on the rigged 1950s quizzer, Twenty One. The Barry-Enright effort became the uncomfortable poster-show for the rigging scandals, which chased big-money game shows out of broadcast network prime time for literally decades.

But once Regis brought big game show bucks (appropriately sanitized, of course) back to ABC in 1999, every competitor wanted to cash in on the craze. NBC, naturally enough, decided to revive its fallen angel with Maury Povich as host.

The new version of Twenty One was spiffed up with a live orchestra and chunks of cash literally served on a platter. Povich was incredibly stiff at first, even goofing up the gameplay at a critical juncture. Eventually he relaxed a little but never really seemed comfortable. Despite Maury's missteps the show was a competent enough quizzer and produced some big winners...legitimately.

But the ratings were never very good. To make matters worse, ABC scheduled a few Millionaire runs opposite Twenty One in a successful neutron-bomb mission. The live orchestra disappeared and pretty soon the entire show went away. Only nineteen episodes - two short of the magic number! - made it to air on NBC. Reruns have turned up on GSN.

At least NBC deserves some credit for trying to bury the unsavory past with a legit remake. Too bad the stench will always linger, though.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Potpourri for $200

Alex Davis reports that the rumored puppet game show really is headed for GSN late night. He mentions an 11:00 PM slot, which makes no sense because Deal or no Deal already gets great numbers (by GSN standards) in the slot. He indulges in a little of his usual GSN doom-mongering about how the network "really needs a hit badly." Which is absurdly overstated. GSN makes good money with solid performers like Deal or No Deal and Karn and O'Hurley Feud. They've just had bad luck with recent originals. We'll see if this puppet thing ever turns up on the network.

That million-dollar win on 5th Grader is still hung up in bankruptcy litigation. What a tangled web we weave when our liabilities exceed our assets. The only sure thing is that everybody wants the money.

I can't agree at all with Carrie Grosvenor's dissing of the Deal or No Deal theme. I purely love that saucy swing as the models step down the staircase. It's down and dirty enough for the eye candy on display but not ridiculously sleazy. As for the Card Sharks theme, I can't even remember it so I don't care if it's bad or good. Acey-deucey is such a bore, anyway.

Discovery has renewed personal fave Cash Cab for a sixth season. Hardly a surprise but still nice to hear. Drive on, Ben. Repeats of the show will also turn up in syndication this fall.

One-name blogger Aaron dumps on syndie Millionaire for changing some of the lifelines and introducing the clock. I like the changes because they make for a fairer, faster-paced game. But that's a matter of taste, and there's no arguing them critters. Aaron really loses me, though, when he says that "people are amazed when I tell this this [sic] show is still on." Aaron, Millionaire is the third highest-rated syndicated game show, regularly watched by over three million people. You should get out more, my friend.

The Minute To Win It repeat scored a 1.9 18-49 rating and 5.7 million viewers on Wednesday. Not boffo numbers but plenty good enough to keep this thrifty effort on NBC air. As usual, Minute increased its numbers significantly in the second half-hour. Maybe Fieri and friends would work better as a half-hour show like Beat the Clock, the ancient stuntfest Minute rips off.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Syndies amble along

Not much change either way for syndicated game shows in the latest week ending April 4. Broadcasting & Cable delivers the ho-hums:

Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - flat
Jeopardy 5.6 - for once not the same as WoF, up a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.3 - down a tick
5th Grader 1.5 - flat
Family Feud 1.3 - flat
Deal or No Deal 1.0 - down a tick and on the way out

Pretty boring, no? As the syndie season winds down and the numbers soften, nobody much cares any more. The fall shows for syndication were set in stone long ago. TV by the Numbers offers the viewership averages for only the twin towers this week: Wheel of Fortune 10.0 million and Jeopardy 8.6 million. Poor Meredith didn't make their list this week, as she usually does.

Thinking way outside the box

Carrie Grosvenor has posted an interesting note on twelve celebs she thinks would make good game show hosts. To say that Carrie is thinking unconventionally would be an historic understatement. Truth to tell, I haven't even heard of a few of the choices, as Carrie concedes might be possible for lots of readers.

Some of the picks are just downright weird. Ancient rocker Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders? I didn't even know she was still alive. Didn't everybody else in that band succumb to overdoses? An "odd choice," indeed, though Carrie insists that she might do okay on VH1, the has-been channel. Now that I think about it, Chrissie was had so long ago that maybe Carrie has a point.

Carrie's top choice is George Clooney, but he comes with political baggage for much of the audience, just as Rosie O'Donnell would have put off much of The Price is Right's viewership. I agree most with her pick of Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs guy on Discovery. Of all the Carrie Dozen, he looks and sounds most like a game show host, and he's pretty much baggage-free. Of course, GSN is bringing in Jerry Springer...for a show appropriately called Baggage.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

GSN number-palooza part sieben

Douglas is my friend. He just keeps putting one week after another of GSN ratings on Mediaweek for my actuarial self to delight in. My silly comments on the latest week, March 29-April 4...

1) The overall averages are 304K/258K prime time/total day. A pretty good week, though the prime time numbers were a bit lukewarm. Let's investigate further!

2) With a rock-solid 349K average Howie rebounded from the previous week, which alone lifted the total day numbers nicely. GSN piles twenty percent of the entire schedule on Mr. Mandel, but he just keeps on carrying the load. Deal or No Deal scored an almost ridiculous nine of the network's top fifteen shows, despite very limited prime time exposure. No wonder GSN picked up the fourth season.

3) Richard Karn also shouldered his twenty-one-show crusher with an excellent 321K average, including 395K in prime time and a remarkable 269K in the bleary-eyed 1:00 AM hour. That's why shrewd GSN is kicking Karn Feud out of weekday prime time on April 19. John O'Hurley also chipped in his usual good 352K in prime, though the pitiful Wink lead-in hurt him on Thursday and Friday.

4) Wink had one non-pitiful number in the week, 305K on Sunday. Okay, he got a 475K lead-in from Howie for that slot. Otherwise, things were awful as always for Instant Recall. The prime time eps averaged an unsightly 172K, little better than half of the prime average.

5) The other main drag on prime time was Alfonso at 9:30 PM with 239K. We'll see if he does better with his single run at 8:00 PM Monday-Wednesday. Poker averaged 291K in prime with the new episode at 371K. Okay considering the demos. The new High Stakes Poker episode actually landed in the top twenty-five in total viewers.

6) Acey-deucey averaged 134K in the morning. Forgettable even by morning standards. To be fair, it was only four runs, so we'll have to wait and see how a full week does. The graveyard shift in the 3:00 AM hour averaged 101K, not much different from the usual ratings.

7) Some joy for me: personal favorite Lingo rebounded to a 245K average. Chain Reaction, which I like until the bonus round, also bounced back to 258K in the afternoon.

8) Despite a couple of death hour slots, Match Game '74 averaged a very nice 225K on Thursday and Friday. Again, it was only four runs, so we'll have to see how a full week does. Evergreen Regis turned in a highly respectable 277K at the witching hour, though he did enjoy a 403K Howie lead-in at 11:00 PM.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Trapped by trivia

Trivia Trap was a short-lived quizzer that suffered through six low-rated months on ABC in 1984-85. The show wasn't an embarrassment or a disaster or an abomination. In fact, it wasn't much of anything, just a nondescript quizzer where Bob Eubanks read routine trivia questions to a couple teams of contestants.

Everybody wore sweaters for some odd reason, and that costuming was probably the most memorable feature of a distinctly unmemorable show. GSN has rerun the episodes now and then, usually in throwaway late-night slots. The show has developed a very small cult following, and they hold arcane, nearly incomprehensible debates on which format was best for the show (a couple were tried during the rocky run).

Don't ask me why anybody would care about the piddly format details of this utterly routine effort. Trivia Trap was such unremarkable Q&A that I'm actually a little surprised it survived for a half-year. Maybe there were a few sweater fans out there.

While we're hitting trivia a lick, NBC has picked up a quizzer pilot called Secret Treasure from ITV Studios. Format niceties haven't yet been revealed to a wondering world, but we do know that the show "pits six contestants against one another as they answer trivia questions and attempt to steal and reveal each other's cash-filled secret treasure boxes." Jeff Apploff is the show's creator and executive producer. His previous credits include Don't Forget the Lyrics.

So will the six contestants wear sweaters?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pyramids everywhere

The game show internets are abuzz with the news that CBS is definitely taping a Pyramid pilot as a possible replacement for venerable and soon-to-die sudser As the World Turns, with Michael Davies producing. As Carrie Grosvenor wisely comments - she's always wisely commenting - "if you're feeling a sense of deja vu, that's because the exact same thing happened last summer [when Pyramid lost out to Let's Make a Deal to replace Guiding Light.]"

In other words, there's many a slip between pilot and on-air, despite all the rumors. Entertainment Tonight touts another rumor that CBS might tape a Password pilot as well. Million Dollar Password, CBS's prime time experiment, pulled okay total viewer numbers but got axed because of the dreaded demos. MDP reruns are supposed to arrive on GSN in June.

ET notes that CBS's LMAD remake is fetching 2.4 million viewers, slightly more than the ancient soap it replaced. But that number is modest at best compared to what current soaps get, and the demos of course skew very old. In fact, LMAD host Wayne Brady was recently quoted that he's not sure about a second season renewal.

The whole idea of a game show is to save money, not hit it big in the numbers. Donny Osmond's 2002-04 Pyramid remake did get decent ratings but Sony axed it anyway in favor of some loser talk show. This time around, at least, it looks like game shows may win out over yakkers. But we'll have to wait and see exactly what turns up onscreen when the world stops turning in September.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Officially official GSN schedule

The new pdfs are out and they're about as official as GSN's schedule ever gets. The network is loading up the next couple weeks with new shows: Baggage, the third season of Newlywed Game, and the fourth season of network Deal or No Deal. Plagiarizing myself from the GSN board:

Alex has posted the pdfs for the weeks of April 12 and April 19 at BuzzerBlog. Oddly, he says that Instant Recall has been cut back a lot, though it still gets the same six showings as before. Otherwise, things are pretty much as I suspected from the original goofy pdfs.

On April 19 Baggage goes in at 6:30 PM and 9:30 PM weekdays, and Alfonso gets cut to a single evening run at 8:00 PM Monday-Wednesday, replacing Karn Feud. That's a silly move by GSN to replace one of their best performers, Karn Feud at 8:00 PM, but it's going to happen.

But overall Alfonso is the big loser on the April 19 schedule, dropping seven weekday slots. He was doing okay at 6:30 PM but all those slots are now gone, along with a couple of his prime time slots.

I still disagree with this scheduling. First-run Baggage should go at 9:30 PM, where the numbers are bad, and Alfonso and Karn should be left alone at 6:30 PM and 8:00 PM, where the numbers are good. Put the Baggage rerun at 1:00 AM.

A small surprise: the fourth season of Deal or No Deal is now on the schedule at 7:00 PM and 11:00 PM. GSN picked up the remaining eps. If NBC really does use Howie this summer, GSN will probably pick up those episodes, too. We'll see about the syndie. And yes, there is no sign of Million Dollar Password yet. It supposedly arrives in June.

By the way, Baggage gets a TV-14 rating, not exactly the TV-14-SD rating that Newlywed Game gets. I don't know if some of the sub-ratings may eventually get attached. These two shows are the only ones on GSN's weekday schedule with anything edgier than TV-PG.

As always, the pdfs are not infallible. GSN changes the schedule at very short notice.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Stuff from all over

As if anybody was worried, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy have been renewed forever, or pretty close to it. The final spin will keep turning and the answers will stay in the form of a question through the 2013-14 season, and both Pat and Alex will stick around for the fun and frivolity. The Soviet Union can come and go but the twin towers of syndie game shows endure without end.

Minute To Win It earned its typical 1.8 18-49 rating and six million total viewers for the original episode last night. The numbers are hardly spectacular but they're good enough to keep a very cheap game show on NBC.

The skyscraper quizzer (yes, sounds odd to me, too) Downfall is a definite go for ABC's summer schedule. The show will be paired with Wipeout, the silly stunt/slapstick show which apparently beguiles the summer masses every year.

Steve Harvey will get his feet wet - well, not literally - as a game show host by subbing for Meredith on syndie Millionaire next week. The experience can't hurt as he takes over the ratings-challenged Family Feud.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Syndies tiptoe up

Not a bad week for syndicated game shows after the big daylight-savings-time wipeout last week. Broadcasting & Cable delivers the news for the week ending March 28:

Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - up a tick
Jeopardy 5.4 - three guesses after I told you the WoF news, up a tick
Millionaire 2.4 - up two ticks, Meredith gets to brag
5th Grader 1.5 - flat
Family Feud 1.3 - flat
Deal or No Deal 1.1 - no consolation for the deceased syndie, but up a tick

Spring has sprung and the numbers are softening with the climate. In non-game-show news, only fake wrestling beat personal fave Pawn Stars among all cable shows for the week ending April 4.

TV by the Numbers gives their usual average viewership numbers for the top three syndie gamers: Wheel of Fortune 9.9 million, Jeopardy 8.3 million, Millionaire 3.3 million. The site notes that WoF and Jeopardy are, unsurprisingly, not at the top of the 18-49 or 18-34 rankings. The top five syndies in those demos are all comedies.

A minute on the web

I've seen a couple of interesting reactions from my fellow bloggers about Minute To Win It's renewal. Alex Davis indulges in what can only be described as sour grapes. Alex is still ticked that Minute rips off his beloved Cube. Of course, both shows rip off Beat the Clock, so who cares?

Carrie Grosvenor is characteristically more even-handed. She notes that the show might do better on another night besides Sunday, which is true, and calls the renewal "no real surprise," which is also true. Alex tries to maintain with a straight face that the renewal was "semi-shocking," which actually made me smile. A supercheap show gets decent ratings amid high unemployment, and its renewal is a shocker? Right.

Entertainment writers, who have wet dreams about becoming high-priced scriptwriters, are of course dumping on the show and its unscripted brethren. Sorry, folks, in this economy cheap is chic, and Minute doesn't even hand out much prize money.

Alex also talks about Downfall, a new ABC game show set atop a genuine-article skyscraper. Seems that if the contestants wipe out, their money takes a leap. And maybe the loser contestants follow the bucks off the edge, though such piddling details have yet to be worked out fully.

Monday, April 5, 2010

GSN number-palooza part SIX

Good buddy Douglas is really pumping out the total viewer numbers for GSN. The latest week is March 22-28. My usual insouciant comments:

1) Not such a hot week but not a disaster at 317K/236K viewers prime time/total day. There are some obvious weaknesses, and we'll take the most glaring one first...

2) Stop the insanity with Wink. Instant Recall is just reeking up the numbers and hurting everything around it. The overall average for Wink's nine showings was 164K, the prime time average was 176K (OUCH!), and the new episode got 174K (double OUCH!) All the numbers stink, the show stinks, get rid of it. Sorry to be so harsh on a game show legend, but this thing must go. Don't just cut a lot of the showings, cut all of them.

3) As usual, Howie, Karn and O'Hurley are the network heroes. They accounted for 21 of the network's top 30 shows. Howie's numbers are starting to soften, though, from a brutal schedule. His total day average was 306K, still very good but down from previous weeks. That average comes in 40% above the non-DOND average of 218K, but 27 hours of exposure will take a toll on anybody.

4) Remind me again why GSN is breaking up Karn and O'Hurley's 8:00 PM hour. They averaged 405K in the hour, even with preemptions for the pitiful Wink. They got a good lead-in from Howie with 379K at 7:00 PM and built on it.

5) Very surprisingly, the 9:30 AM run of Match Game jumped to 174K. A most respectable number for so early in the morning. Of course, shrewd GSN got rid of the run for acey-deucey. The best pre-1990 show was the 10:30 AM run of 25K Pyramid at 175K. Ray Combs went out with a sort-of okay 150K average at 10:00 AM. Alex got crushed in the death hour, as you would expect, but managed a respectable 196K at 1:00 AM in his swan song. Password departed with a nearly invisible 63K.

6) The prime time retread of Carfonso at 9:00 PM still doesn't work very well, averaging 273K. But it could be and has been worse. Jerry gets the 9:30 PM slot beginning April 19, if you can believe the pdfs, while Alfonso gets cut to a single run at 8:00 PM.

7) Poker anted up a 295K prime time average on Sunday. An acceptable number considering the demos but down from the previous week.

8) Nobody cares because nobody watched, but the last outpost for Carnie reality on Sunday afternoon continues to wither away at 145K. Why is this bad memory still on the schedule? Karn got 249K on Sunday afternoon, with a pitiful Wink lead-in! Howie got 353K and 342K. Saget got 316K.

9) In general, Bob Saget gets a small measure of revenge on NBC for his premature cancellation. He averaged a useful 300K for his eight hours.

10) Woe is me. Personal favorite Lingo sank to 205K in the afternoon. It was still better than Wink's 161K in the timeslot, but that is a very small achievement.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Puppets, muppets, whuppets?

Craigslist has posted a casting call for a "late-night comedy game show on a major cable network," where presumably human contestants face a bunch of celebrity puppets. The humans have to figure out which puppets are lying. Top prize is chump change, fifteen grand, which sounds like GSN territory. Also, the famous Disgruntled Insider on AJ Benza's blog mentioned a Muppets show supposedly in development at GSN.

Or this call might have nothing to do with GSN at all. A new original in late night doesn't seem to fit Goldhill's empire. The originals generally debut in early fringe and prime time, with late nights occupied by acquisitions and oldies. And GSN's new originals have all crashed and burned lately, so they might be shying away from any more offbeat experiments.

Grumpy me was never all that thrilled with the Muppets, anyway. The fuzzballs are just way too cute (and politically correct) for their own good. I'm sorry it's hard being green, Kermit, but we all got our problems. Of course, there's no guarantee that this casting call has anything to do with the Muppets, either. Maybe there's some other tribe of puppets out there looking for a cable home.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Clock beating

After mentioning it so often in my comments on Minute To Win It, I might as well discuss the ancient show ripped off by the Fieri-fest, Beat the Clock. The archetypal stunt gamer first ran on CBS and ABC from 1950 to 1961, hosted by the silky/oily (depending on your POV) Bud Collyer. Yes, we're reaching back almost to the flickering dawn of American commercial television.

The screenshot shows Jackie Gleason, as Ralph Kramden in a show-within-a-show BtC skit on The Honeymooners, subjected to the slings and arrows of outrageous stunts. Contestants endured all sorts of indignities as they struggled to beat the big, charmingly analog clock. James Dean was never a contestant but he was a stunt-tester on the show before he became a cause-free rebel. He was supposedly very good.

The show did not take the rules too seriously because the money was never that big. Collyer actually came off as less oleaginous than on To Tell the Truth because he had so much more to do, as he scrambled across the stage demonstrating the stunts. His trademark "stop the clock" worked its way into American slang.

The show was revived many times. Monty Hall even hosted a short-lived remake in 1979-80, though he wanted to be anywhere else and looked it. The show was so goofy that I never could resist any version. Even tricked up with a million-dollar money tree and irritating computer graphics on Minute To Win It, the format still appeals to sucker-for-a-stunt me.

Friday, April 2, 2010

News and notes

John Forsythe, ever smooth and dapper star of prime time soap Dynasty and many other TV shows and movies, has died at age 92 of pneumonia. He appeared on many game shows, including Hollywood Squares, Beat the Clock, Match Game, 10K Pyramid, Password, What's My Line and The Name's the Same. Like the recently deceased Robert Culp, he appeared on both classic Squares and the Tom Bergeron remake.

GSN's Newlywed Game has wrapped production on its third season, which will debut April 19. The network is loading the week with new shows. Baggage, Jerry Springer's sort-of remake of Dating Game, also debuts that week. There was some concern for Carnie Wilson, who became lightheaded during one Newlywed taping. Luckily, the problem was not serious, and Carnie finished the season with no further trouble.

BuzzerBlog reports on contestant interviews for Trust Me, I'm a Game Show Host, Mark Burnett's game of sneaky emcees. The format still sounds a little odd, but at least there are no indications of Our-Little-Genius-style chicanery.

Carrie Grosvenor weighs in on the earthshaking issue I yakked about a while back: just what is a game show? Carrie comes down more or less on the traditionalist side of the never-ending but oddly entertaining dispute.

GSN is starting something called Dumbville on Facebook. I have no funny for this and won't even try. You can check the details in the press release.


Everybody else has blogged about it, so I might as well toss in $.02 on Hasbro's new merchandising outlet, er, cable network called Hub. Actually, I've already spouted some about the venture, but we now have a firm launch date, October 10. The network does look to include at least a few game shows based on, natch, Hasbro board games. You'll notice Monopoly, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit tucked into the screenshot from the Hub promo.

There's no real word yet on how many gamers (if any) will adorn the network's initial schedule, or what age bracket they'll be aimed at. The Broadcasting & Cable story generally indicates Hub will target very young kids, which doesn't bode well for any game shows for grownups.

I doubt seriously that, at least in its first few years, Hub will furnish any real competition for GSN, despite some fervent wishes I've seen on the web. Nick GAS came and went without affecting GSN much at all. It wouldn't seem smart strategy for a fledgling network to charge full-tilt into GSN territory with adult-level game shows.

Down the road a little, maybe Hub might broaden its product line and try some game shows pitched at the post-pubescent set. But I don't look for many such offerings from the network any time soon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My pigtail got cut, waaaaaaaaaah

You can't say the GSN Classics board ain't entertaining. You'd think they'd be happy that GSN is going retro with thirty hours of ancient game shows every week.

But no, now they're complaining that, while GSN is showing ten hours a week of Match Game and Dawson Feud, the network isn't running the right years or the right versions, or something.

I had the temerity to call this a little whiny, and got told that I cried like a little girl with my pigtail cut off when GSN dropped What's My Line. (Hence this entry's photo.) Another poster scolded me for being in a foul mood, but corrected the pigtail poster on my attitude about WML. This other guy seems to think I hated the show.

Anybody who's interested in my profound thoughts on the John Daly epic can read them here. Short version: I liked a lot of things about the show but thought it was too stuffy.

And I never had a pigtail in my life. Just not my style.

Minute beats Mercy, at least

Maybe Minute To Win It's ratings aren't so terrible, at least by NBC standards. Last night's repeat finished second in its timeslot in 18-49 rating and total viewers. As TV by the Numbers comments: "CBS was totally in repeat mode last night, and NBC was repeats for two of its three hours. But a repeat of Minute to Win It significantly outperformed last week’s [new] episode of Mercy. Look for more 'death of scripted content' comments! Oh joy."

Wouldn't you know, one commenter at TV by the Numbers was actually happy about Minute's performance: "They are great numbers for a repeat of Minute to Win It. I guess there is a good chance NBC will air new episodes of that show on weekdays next season. 6.29 million viewers too...NBC needs shows that attract large audiences. A lot of their shows seem to be hovering around the 4-5 million mark. The more people watching, the more buzz a show can generate and that will inevitably translate to better 18-49. Hopefully."

Of course, the show is ridiculously cheap compared to scripted content that often does little better (or much worse) on NBC. Jay Leno might quibble with that argument, but Minute's budget doesn't include anything like Jay's salary. And yes, I couldn't resist a screenshot of Guy Fieri that resembles this blog's title image. Guy does favor more electrified hair and less businesslike fashions.

Return of the prof

At first I thought it was one of those unfunny April 1 stunts. But no, my e-mail inbox really did contain a fresh installment of Steve Beverly's game show newsletter. Steve explained that he had been kidnapped by his announcing duties on hoops tournaments, which do seem to go on longer than Senate speeches. One of these years the NBA playoffs will run into next season's games.

Of course, Steve is an old-game-show freak to end all old-game-show freaks. So it was no surprise that the newsletter ground through a long - and I mean long - fourth section of Steve's ten-part (gulp) history of To Tell the Truth. I've mentioned that TTTT is not my favorite among Goodson-Todman's 1950s panel shows, and Steve's endless, minutia-filled account did not make my heart grow fonder. Steve suffers from the academic's usual addiction to minuscule detail.

The newsletter didn't offer much else. Oh, Steve promised a full obituary of Ira Skutch one of these days, and I have no doubt he will deliver. Nobody does interminable obits like Steve. He also noted Minute To Win It's less than stellar ratings, which are hardly news.

The funniest bit was an endorsement of Instant Recall, Wink Martindale's hidden-camera embarrassment on GSN. Needless to say but I'll say it anyway, old-game-show freak Steve was only being nice to Wink. If Debi Gutierrez hosted this hunk of junk, Steve would savage it. Somehow the prof maintained with a straight face that IR might have a chance at success. Yeah, right. The numbers are horrible and the show has already lost almost half its slots. Further cuts and not-so-eventual extinction are inevitable.