Monday, May 31, 2010

GSN loads up on poker

Apparently encouraged by the improved demos for High Stakes Poker, GSN is piling up new poker shows for its upcoming Saturday night flop-river-turn marathons. I've already blogged about a couple of the new shows, the Aussie Millions tournament and the doubles event. The network has now announced a third new show for the Saturday extravaganza, the Million Dollar Challenge.

High Stakes Poker has always been GSN's top show for the younger male demos who usually can't be bothered with the Play Every Day net. GSN's other poker experiments have generally not worked as well, but these new shows will offer many of the same top pros who have made HSP an enduring GSN staple. If Douglas keeps posting full weeks of ratings on Mediaweek, we might see how all the new shows fare, at least in total viewers.

The move from Sunday to Saturday is a little risky, but GSN's poker audience will probably follow the shows to the new night. A lot of those viewers don't care much about anything else on the heavily old-skewing, female-skewing network.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Controlling Pyramid's universe

After a search that seemed like the endless quest for Bob Barker's successor, Andy Richter has been picked to host the Pyramid pilot...if it ever gets taped. There's no guarantee that the show will make it to CBS air, of course. We already know about lots of competition to replace As The World Turns, like Emeril's cookoff and Julie Chen's chatfest.

Sorry, Team Coco, but I was never a big fan of Conan's and never watched Andy much during his late-night heyday. From the little I've seen, he looks like a reasonable choice who won't screw up a format that's strong enough to withstand anything except base incompetence on the part of the host. Richter can ad-lib and possesses the essential television skills necessary to keep the show moving.

Carrie Grosvenor waxes more enthusiastic than me about the "funny, quick, personable, and as we witnessed during the recent Celebrity Jeopardy tournament, very bright" Mr. Richter. That's all very nice, but this isn't The Newlywed Game where the show depends rather helplessly on the host. Pyramid's bulletproof format will get the show on the air again, if the pilot succeeds. All the host has to do is not get in the way.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

GSN number-palooza part nine

God save the Douglas. Quick and dirty observations on GSN's viewership numbers for the week of May 17-23...

1) The overall averages are 298K/256K prime time/total day. Not such great prime time numbers, and we'll see why. Total day is okay but nothing special.

2) The single biggest lollapalooza staggering omigod surprise for me is Mr. Karn in the wee hours: 284K for the 1:00 AM hour! Incredible, almost as good as the prime time average. Put this guy back at 8:00 PM, you idiots.

3) Speaking of 8:00 PM, Alfonso could only manage 291K, compared to the 400K+ numbers Karn regularly produced. Catch 21 in general is doing so-so at 251K despite a lot of good timeslots. The new eps can't arrive soon enough, and the franchise may be running out of steam.

4) First run Baggage was a big hit at 6:30 PM with a 481K average. The reruns predictably did much worse at 9:30 PM with only 295K. The weekend runs slumped to 280K. This show can definitely get overexposed, so I understand why GSN trimmed back the runs.

5) Helped by Eubanks, first-run Newlywed Game also did very well at 6:00 PM with a 429K average. Again, the 9:30 PM retreads predictably plummeted to 284K, and the weekend showings averaged only 234K. Sounds weird to say it, but GSN seems more interested in fringe than in prime time.

6) Stalwart Howie again produced a solid 321K average for his ridiculous 27 hours of exposure. DOND just keeps on keeping on, even with almost no prime time slots. The 11:00 PM run delivered 391K, helping follow-on Regis to an impressive 331K at the witching hour.

7) How soon we forget. The remains of Instant Recall averaged 223K on weekend afternoons. Bye, Wink. The one showing of Carnage included in the numbers produced 117K in the pre-dawn patrol. Bye, Unstapled.

8) Pre-1990 shows were nothing to write home about, with an especially embarrassing 86K average for the 9:00 AM hour. The best numbers for the classics came from Pyramid in the 2:00 AM graveyard hour at 217K. Thank you for that single biggest lollapalooza staggering omigod surprise lead-in, Mr. Karn.

9) Prime time poker did okay with a 305K average, and GSN likes the demo increases they've seen. Make a value bet on a seventh season for High Stakes Poker, with or without AJ Benza.

UPDATE: Another poster on the GSN Classics board, who apparently has trouble understanding averages, took exception to my 217K figure for Pyramid in the 2:00 AM hour...

Other poster: WRONG....whopping 304 for 25 K on Friday night as the first post had already mentioned. Also, 100k 285 Fri AM.....100k 279 WEd...25 k Wed 245.... all exceptional numbers for that hour.

NOT WRONG. The average for Pyramid in the 2:00 AM hour was 217K, just as I said. You conveniently left out the rest of the numbers for Pyramid in the hour:

$100,000 PYRAMID Tue 2:00A-2:30A 219
$100,000 PYRAMID Thu 2:00A-2:30A 184
$100,000 PYRAMID Mon 2:00A-2:30A 130
$25,000 PYRAMID Tue 2:30A-3:00A 217
$25,000 PYRAMID Thu 2:30A-3:00A 200
$25,000 PYRAMID Mon 2:30A-3:00A 107

By the way, Pyramid can thank Karn Feud's extraordinary 284K lead-in at 1:00 AM for its performance. Of course, Karn was helped by Regis with 331K at midnight, who in turn was helped by Howie with 391K at 11:00 PM. That's the way the numbers work.

All this good stuff will get bollixed up by the puppet show in a couple weeks. I'll be very interested in the ratings that the rerun-abused original generates, compared to the very good numbers we see right now in 11:00 PM-2:00 AM. GSN has a habit of messing up good things, and then scrambling to repair the damage.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Art Linkletter has died at the ripe old age of 97. Best known for his interviews with excruciatingly cute kids, Linkletter also appeared on a number of game shows. His IMDb page lists Hollywood Squares, What's My Line, I've Got a Secret, Pantomime Quiz and You Bet Your Life. He also hosted a short-lived quizzer The Art Linkletter Show in 1963.

Linkletter saw his share of personal tragedy, including the suicide of his daughter Diane. But he was an exceptionally durable performer and man. You can watch his appearance as the mystery guest on WML here. One of the guest panelists later became a rather important historical figure, and I'm not talking about Hedda Hopper.

A while ago the famous disgruntled GSN insider on AJ Benza's blog suggested that the network was looking at the Brit cooking competition Come Dine With Me. Apparently GSN passed on the idea because BBC America is bringing the show to the U.S. It's basically a homier version of Iron Chef. BBCA will program ten original hour-long episodes and rerun twenty-two eps of the British version.

Cash Cab has gone to Vegas to tape some new episodes, according to a tweet from voluble poker pro Phil Hellmuth. Let's hope Phil doesn't flub the double-or-nothing question, or Ben may have to wrestle him out of the cab.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Syndies get happy

Syndication generally enjoyed a good week as May sweeps swept on. The game shows joined in the fun, for the most part. Broadcasting & Cable spreads the good cheer for the week ending May 16:

Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - up three ticks
Jeopardy 5.6 - up a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.2 - flat
Family Feud 1.6 - up a tick to season high
5th Grader 1.3 - the party pooper, down two ticks to season low

Maybe John O'Hurley's fans are gathering to send him off in style. TV by the Numbers offers viewership averages for the top three: Wheel of Fortune 10.2 million (weekend rerun 5.0 million), Jeopardy 8.6 million, Millionaire 3.2 million. Certainly respectable numbers for a warm-weather month.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

GSN schedule conniptions

Alex Davis has posted the new GSN schedule pdfs for the weeks beginning May 31 and June 7 here and here. New arrivals: the Aussie Millions poker tournament at 9:00 PM Saturday June 5, Million Dollar Password at 9:00 PM Sunday June 6, and the puppet show Late Night Liars at 11:00 PM Thursday June 10.

All these shows get reruns, of course. MDP and the poker tournament receive only one rerun each at midnight, but the puppet show undergoes a merciless grind of ten showings Thursday through Sunday, with even more reruns possible Monday through Wednesday.

Supposedly only eight episodes of Late Night Liars were taped, so this is crushing rerun abuse even by GSN's horrendous standards. I'm not sure this show will appeal at all to the network's usual audience, judging from the embarrassingly bad promos and the goofball premise. So I don't want to think about the ratings all those rerun slots will generate.

Regis should do well with GSN's audience on Sunday night. The network has shuffled poker off to Saturday to give the relatively heavy viewing night to Mr. Philbin. The new poker tournament might turn in so-so numbers at best. Except for High Stakes Poker GSN has never caught much luck on the flop, turn and river. Speaking of which, the endless reruns of GSN's one season of the World Poker Tour are apparently finished, at least for the foreseeable future.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Over at BuzzerBlog Alex Davis notes an appearance on GSN's Russian Roulette by Jorge Garcia, one of the actors on the finally concluded ABC conundrum, Lost. For anybody who cares, and that doesn't include me, puzzle-piece Lost got a decent but hardly colossal audience of 13.5 million viewers for its endlessly hyped finale last night. A run-of-the-mill Wheel of Fortune episode gets almost as many.

Alex's note reminded me of another appearance on a GSN original by a contestant who would go on, not exactly greater things. Rielle Hunter, who subsequently brought 2004 vice-presidential candidate John Edwards' love child into the world, competed on Lingo in its 2002-03 second season. You can watch her bonus round here. In a wry bit of irony considering Rielle's eventual entanglement with a politician, the first word is guessed votes-voter-voted.

All in all, Rielle did better on Lingo than in her subsequent lifestyle choices. She made it through to the bonus round, though her luck deserted her - not for the last time, I'm afraid - when she and her partner went away with only $500. If you nail five words in the endgame, I think you deserve the big (by GSN standards) prize.

Rielle seemed sensible enough on the show, though her hair could have used a few brushstrokes. GSN has never avoided her episode in their endless reruns of Lingo. But the network has never hyped the episode, either, which I like.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Squared away

My dyspeptic self has occasionally splattered bad talk about Hollywood Squares around the Internets. It does seem churlish and trollish and boorish and a lot of other nasty ish-es to dump on a format that has survived for decades and presumably entertained gazillions of viewers. So let me clarify (or equivocate)...

I don't have much of a problem with Hollywood Squares as scripted entertainment. I'm just not thrilled with such heavy scripting on a game show. If I want pre-written yuks, I'll watch a sitcom. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a little more spontaneity in gamers.

I'll admit that Squares' format virtually requires extensive scripting of the celebrities. It's not like Match Game, where all six celebs get a chance to riff off the lines tossed out by the writers. With Squares it's only one celeb for each line, and if the poor sap can't think of anything interesting or funny or even barely passable to say, the show rapidly turns duller than mud.

In fact, in 1983 when Mark Goodson forbade scripting on the ill-fated Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour, the format proved unendurable. The celebs would just ramble boringly instead of offering pre-planned zingers. It's no surprise that later incarnations of the show, like Tom Bergeron's 1998-2004 treatment, returned to the good old days of thorough scripting.

No, it's not rigging and I'm not going to ride that high horse. I can only grin at the mini-scandal which erupted when news of the scripting first leaked on the ancient Peter Marshall version of the show. But the format is just too sitcom-y for my purist game show taste.

Friday, May 21, 2010

News, views and reviews

ABC's upcoming The Six has undergone a name change to a more descriptive but less intriguing Six Minds. Hosted by Vernon Kay, the Russian-based quizzer has put out a casting call for its appropriately six-episode order. No word yet on when the show will run. Carrie Grosvenor speculates that ABC might plug the show into the fall schedule when some of its debuting series wreck on the Nielsen reefs.

Still no news from CBS on what will replace the departing As The World Turns. The network has unveiled its fall prime time schedule, and The Cube is nowhere to be found. The show might surface in the summer...or it could never surface at all (dark music rises in the background). The similar Minute To Win It - both shows rip off Beat the Clock - has produced modest ratings for NBC and will return next March after its current run concludes.

I got a few mirthful moments from this La-la-land Times story about Regis Philbin hosting the Daytime Emmys. Seems that grumpy Regis has engineered a bumpy history with the fading kudofest. At least he'll definitely show up for the ceremony this time.

The promos for GSN's Late Night Liars keep getting worse. I thought the initial "porno"/"promo" ad was embarrassingly unfunny, but the followups make it look like a masterpiece. The show better be a lot better than the promos, or it will suffer the fate as Instant Recall, Carnie Wilson: Unstapled, Hidden Agenda, 20Q, Money List, Big Saturday Night, Bingo America, How Much Is Enough, etc., etc.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fluff and feathers

Alex Davis' interview with GSN president David Goldhill turned out to be much ado about almost nothing. The interview offered no news and no specific guidance on the network's future. Self-plagiarizing my remarks from the GSN Classics board...

Alex has released the interview on BuzzerBlog. It's no big deal. Basically, it's very vague and full of sometimes unintentionally humorous booster talk for the puppet show and other originals...even the ones that flopped horrendously and have almost (or completely) disappeared. There just aren't many specifics on new development projects or much new information of any kind.

On the whole the interview is mildly - and I mean very mildly - interesting. But it offers little if any news we didn't already know about classic shows or, for that matter, any other kind of shows. And the happy talk about godawful flops like Carnie's reality show is almost embarrassing, though it gave me a few smiles.

I will make one more comment: the picture of Goldhill makes him look even more like he was separated at birth from baseball's Michael Young. Clark Kent and Superman? You decide.

Other poster: I had to laugh at how he bolsters up the reality failures too. But that's his job, it's not to report on the negativity.

Okay, fair enough. I realize he has to do some p.r. damage control for the flops. But hey, Dave, we saw the numbers for Carnage. We know the show didn't "bring new people" to GSN...or any other kind of people. That's why it got axed in a hurry and was shuffled off to a couple prime slots at 3:30 AM.

Goldhill could just have said something like: "Yeah, we've had some really bad luck with originals lately, but Baggage is looking good and Newlywed Game and Catch 21 have developed into decent franchises." That wouldn't have been too negative, and it would also have been true.

As for the general improvement in the ratings, sure, it's mostly Howie and other acquisitions. He could have been more detailed about that, too. But the interview just trailed off into the vaguest generalities and happy talk. He didn't even say if Million Dollar Password is showing up next month, as rumored, much less any specifics for other acquisitions or new originals beyond the already announced and promo-ed puppet show.

All in all, this was a no-news interview that offered no detailed information on the network's plans. Basically, all Goldhill said was that GSN wants to keep traditionalists happy, new viewers happy, and everybody happy. Well, gee.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bob is a blast

Time and plastic surgery may have taken a toll on the facial features, but nothing has dulled Bob Eubanks' razor edge on the game show that will always belong to him. GSN came their senses for a second time last night and allowed Eubanks to host another episode of their Newlywed Game remake. He was every bit as snarky, funny, lively, and makin'-whoopee-ly as ever.

It helped that Eubanks had three other icon hosts as contestants: Wink Martindale (oh, the indignity of Instant Recall), Monty Hall and Peter Marshall. That gave the hip-shooting Bob plenty of opportunities for game-show-insider hijinks in addition to the the show's usual marital mayhem.

Carrie Grosvenor hosanna-ed at length about the show, and I have to concur with the cheering. As Carrie promised, I honestly laughed out loud at several moments, including Wink's naked adventure with a large, hairy...spider.

Thanks to GSN's policy of rerun abuse to end all rerun abuse, you'll get the chance to enjoy the episode several more times. Please take advantage of at least one of the opportunities.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Syndies droop

People using television - PUT is the teevee acronym - got scarcer in the week ending May 9 as the weather warmed. Syndicated game shows were not immune to the downdraft. Broadcasting & Cable provides the depressing evidence:

Wheel of Fortune 6.2 - down three ticks
Jeopardy 5.4 - followed its soulmate WoF, down a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.2 - down a couple ticks to tie season low
5th Grader 1.5 - one ray of sunshine, up a tick
Family Feud 1.5 - flat
Deal of No Deal 1.0 - down a tick, but at least it got mentioned for a change

TV by the Numbers offers viewership averages for the top two syndies: Wheel of Fortune 9.4 million and Jeopardy 8.2 million. Not particularly good numbers by their standards, and Meredith didn't even make the top 25. It was a forgettable week all round, and more forgettable weeks will probably follow as summer nears.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hub gets game

Hasbro has announced the schedule for Hub, its new TV product-pusher, er, cable network. One of the offerings is a game-pusher, er, game show called Family Game Night. The description: "Hour-long game show, in which kids and adults play for points and prizes as teams. Games are based on such Hasbro classics as Cranium, Bop-It! and Connect 4."

Who would have thought that the show would be based on Hasbro games! I didn't see that coming. Okay, I'll abandon the cynicism just long enough to allow that the show might be entertaining. Or it might be a dog. But it will be all Hasbro, and your kids will get the message to BUY THE GAMES.

Odd note: Wikipedia (usual caveats) tells me that Connect 4 has been solved mathematically. Seems that the first player can force a win by starting in the middle column. Starting in the two columns next to the middle allows the second player to reach a draw. Starting in the other columns allows the second player to force a win. It's nice to know such useless stuff, in case Jeopardy asks about it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weekend update (not from SNL)

Game Show Newsnet says CBS has reportedly renewed Let's Make a Deal for a second season. The show looked to be on the bubble due to lackluster ratings, but GSNN posts that Wayne Brady is announcing the renewal on his Facebook page. I'm not a huge fan of any incarnation of LMAD and particularly of Brady's. But if this indicates possible CBS interest in a new version of Pyramid, I'll gladly rejoice.

Vernon Kay, the host of ABC's upcoming Russian-based game show The Six, apparently got tangled (no pun intended) in some silly sex scandal in Britain. But things are just great now between Kay and wife and kiddies. At least that's what Kay says. The family is trooping to the States in July to tape the ABC show.

Good luck to Regis Philbin on his blood clot surgery. The man has displayed amazing endurance over a career that seems to have begun during the late Middle Ages. Some little old blood clot won't get him down for too long.

Minute To Win It will return to NBC on Sunday night next March following the reign of football. Which leaves two months of something else on Sunday between football and the March schedule. Nobody seems to know exactly what will fill those two months of Sundays. Of course, Minute might also get the call for another hour on NBC's schedule when (not if) the network's new scripted shows begin to crash and burn.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Question time

An interesting thread has erupted on the GSN Classics board about Alex Davis' interview with GSN head honcho David Goldhill. (Off-topic, but the picture of Goldhill makes him look frighteningly like baseball's Michael Young. Has anybody seen those two guys together?)

Seems that Alex didn't ask Goldhill any questions about classic game shows on the network. As you might expect, the Classics board has palavered about this omission. I'll copy my major contribution to the profound discussion...

Other poster: As far as Alex asking about classics, I think he knows that classics really don't have much of a future on GSN, so why bother wasting time?

Whether there's a future for classics or not on GSN, Alex doesn't care. That's why he didn't ask about the shows. He doesn't watch them and doesn't care about them. He says so himself, and there's no reason to doubt him.

If Steve Beverly had gotten the interview, he would have asked plenty about classic shows, whatever their future on GSN might be. And no, I'm not putting down Alex...or praising Beverly, for that matter.

I'm just pointing out the different interests of different interviewers. Beverly used to rag GSN in general and Rich Cronin in particular about classic shows all the time. Alex doesn't bother because he's not interested. Fair enough.

BARELY RELATED GSN NOTE: Today I first saw a promo for the upcoming puppet show Late Night Liars. Never prejudge, but if the show is as bad as the promo...well, alleged humor based on poorly faked confusion between "promo" and "porno" is putrid.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Winning minute

Never underestimate a Jonas brother, much as I would like to. One of my least favorite heartthrobs, Kevin Jonas, helped Minute To Win It to its best numbers ever last night, a 2.2 18-49 rating and 6.9 million total viewers. The show won its timeslot in 18-49 and placed second in total viewership. The competition was not brutal, an odd assortment of reruns and second-tier shows. But at least a smidgen of bragging rights are due.

Game show aficionados will probably now fear a rash of celeb guests on the stuntfest. Their fears may be justified, but watching celebs make fools of themselves is not the worst way to pass time. It's become an Internet commonplace to denounce game shows for chasing celebrity guests instead of supposedly (why?) nobler civvie contestants. But the numbers rule, and Minute may well fetch other celebs for more stunts and silliness.

Busting some blocks

One of Bill Cullen's final shows was Blockbusters, an amiable, slow-paced quizzer than ran on NBC for a couple of modestly rated years from 1980 to 1982. The show has turned up on GSN as occasional filler (you might notice the garish logo plastered over the hapless contestant's head). Blockbusters was hardly the best and brightest of the genre, but it was far from an abomination.

Bill ran things in the slowpoke way of his later years, which sounds like nasty criticism of a game show icon. Well, it is nasty criticism, but it's also a fact. Funny thing, though, the slow pace was actually part of the show's charm. Blockbusters was hardly a high-pressure, big-money nerve-shredder. It was just a pleasant walk in the quizzer park, stopping now and then to answer some silly questions and watch the hexagonal puzzle pieces accumulate on the board.

NBC brought the game back in 1986 for a few months with Bill Rafferty. They tweaked the rules a bit and Rafferty was a little more uptempo. But nothing much really changed. The show takes a minor but in no way disgraceful place on the genre's second shelf, a nice enough memory for quizzer freaks like me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Little things for today

My enthusiasm for GSN Live, the tedious interstitials which interrupt the network's shows every weekday afternoon, is strictly limited. But even grumpy me enjoyed this blooper reel of takes for one of the show's promos. The %^$#@*! $1000 sign just wouldn't stick. Congrats to Bob Guiney for finally getting it right.

Carrie Grosvenor seems upset over the omission of Millionaire from the Daytime Emmy nominations. If I thought this sadly diminished self-congratulation orgy had any meaning, I might be a bit perturbed myself. The oddest nom goes to Carnie Wilson for hosting Newlywed Game. Sorry, but Carnie seems pedestrian at best to me. Ben Bailey's going to win, anyway, and deservedly so.

Wayne Brady also got an at least questionable nomination as best game show host...and he's not even that crazy about being a game show host! The voluble Brady spouts: "I have no desire to turn into the king of game shows. I consider myself an actor foremost, and a writer and singer, and I still tour and do Broadway shows." Gee, Wayne, we're sorry that the sniffed-at genre falls so far beneath your talents. Don't worry, though. Nobody will rank you with Bill Cullen as king of any game show.

Various reports about the Trust Me, I'm a Game Show Host pilot are floating around the web. The show still sounds like To Tell the Truth, only with a mob of truth-seekers - thank you, 1 vs. 100 - instead of a panel of four. Already the naysayers are dumping on the show. I'll reserve judgment until (and if) the show gets to air.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Syndies perk up

May sweeps started with small pickups for syndicated game shows. Broadcasting & Cable spreads the good news for the week ending May 2:

Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.6 - same as WoF as usual, up two ticks
Millionaire 2.4 - up a tick
Family Feud 1.5 - up a tick into fourth place
5th Grader 1.4 - flat at a season low
Deal or No Deal - R.I.P.

TV by the Numbers chimes in with their usual viewership averages for the top three: Wheel of Fortune 10.0 million, Jeopardy 8.3 million, Millionaire 3.3 million. Pretty standard numbers for this time of year.

Double your GSN poker fun

Again self-plagiarizing from the GSN Originals board...

Alex Davis directs us to a tweet from Phil Hellmuth about a new poker show coming to GSN called Doubles Poker Championship. It's a doubles game with some specialized rules. Two players team up and bet alternately. Found an interesting blog post from a photographer who worked on the show, with some photos of the players (Annie Duke, Erik Lindgren, Phil Laak).

The game sounds a little gimmicky, and GSN's other poker originals besides High Stakes Poker have never worked very well. No air date is set for the new show.

Also found a French tweet about the show (no, that's not a joke). The text:

"D'autres se préparent à jouer le nouveau show de @Poker_prod, The Doubles Poker Championship sur GSN (la chaine des High Stakes Poker). Le concept est simple les joueurs s'affrontent par équipe de deux ! @LaceyJones sera la journaliste autour de la table. @Annette_15 , @philgalfond, @RealAnnieDuke, @phil_hellmuth font partie du casting."

My French is just about nonexistent, but I can figure out that some of the players are Annette Obrestad, Phil Galfond, Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth. On Annette's own twitter feed, she mentions that she was teamed with Annie Duke and Huck Seed for the show. Looks like poker babe Lacey Jones (pictured more demurely than usual) will host. Sorry to spoil the fun by choosing a more restrained photo of Lacey, but you can get the racier stuff at her website.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Numbers up and down

Game show super-duper-and-beyond legend Betty White blew the doors off Nielsen Media Research in her Saturday Night Live appearance. She got the best numbers for the show in eighteen months: an 8.8 household rating and a 5.1 18-49 rating. At TV by the Numbers Robert Seidman pleads mea maxima culpa (he must have been a good Catholic boy) for doubting Betty's drawing power. He predicts that Betty will now take over for Jay Leno, Simon Cowell, and the entire cast of every broadcast and cable show. Okay, slight exaggeration.

Things went the other way for Minute To Win It on Sunday. The show fell to a new low for an original episode: a 1.6 18-49 rating and 5.1 million total viewers. They've been messing with the format, which doesn't look like a good idea. Just do the stunts. Yes, I know numbers are down all over broadcast TV as summer nears (except when Betty appears). But the "last man standing" gimmick looked too much like desperation.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Gong me with a spoon

Sheer tastelessness has always appealed to me, since I'm such a tasteless guy. So I often watched and enjoyed Chuck Barris' most memorable offense against good (or bad or indifferent) taste, The Gong Show. Running on NBC and syndication from 1976 to 1980, the show managed to gross everybody out except Chuck, who genuinely seemed to relish the hosting duties.

And while we're talking about taste, I'll admit the show was an acquired one...and an easily lost one as well. When I see the show now it seems almost self-conscious in its tackiness, an intentional put-on designed to offend instead of just letting the offense occur naturally. Attempts to revive the show have never worked very well because just about everybody else has lost their taste for bad acts, worse judges, and worser humor.

Nowadays talent contests have to be at least semi-legit to attract and hold an audience. That's probably for the best. But Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine and all the rest did deserve their fifteen minutes. Just don't try to make it into an hour, folks.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Stuff and nonsense

Michael McKean took home the celeb Jeopardy tournament crown. You know what happened to my choice, Pat Sajak. I was very surprised that Cheech Marin lasted to the finals. Some brain cells must have survived the onslaught.

I can't agree with Carrie Grosvenor's pick of Anne Robinson as one of the top three female (or any other variety of) game show hosts. The Wicked Witch act got old fast for American viewers. That's definitely one of the reasons Weakest Link burned out so quickly. The show hasn't even been able to stay on GSN, such is the audience-repelling force of the unlovable Anne.

No surprise, but Catch 21 returns for a fourth season. I think Alfonso is way too loud and in my face, but GSN viewers apparently disagree. By the way, Alfonso has now taken over the last of Wink Martindale's weekday slots on the network. Instant Recall proved that a sorry game show parody doesn't get any less sorry with an icon host.

The GSN Betty White marathon mostly featured Match Game '74 eps. Naturally, some posters on the GSN Classics board went around the bend over this...not that it's a long trip for some of those folks. They really do only have Match Game '74 - THIS IS DEVASTATING! reads one overwrought thread (capitals and exclamation point in the original). For the record, I watched a little of the marathon and was not devastated. In fact, I enjoyed it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wham bam

Game show sites are buzzing about a new Emeril Lagasse cooking show pilot ordered by CBS. Everybody seems annoyed and/or fearful that the Bam! guy will prevent Pyramid from ever gracing CBS daytime when As the World Turns finally stops spinning.

The supposed premise for Emeril's pilot: hapless souls from the studio audience cook desperately in a savage competition supervised by the loud chef. Yes, I'm embellishing a little, but the general idea looks like Iron Chef meets Amateur Hour. At least we won't need subtitles or translators.

The Deadline story I've linked to says that CBS may be shaking up daytime in more slots than one. Or as an alleged source comments: "The potential for there to be more than one time slot is very good." So maybe Pyramid will survive after all, though Let's Make a Deal hasn't lit up the Nielsen skies.

But we probably haven't heard the last of CBS projects to lure daytime viewers more cheaply than soaps can lure 'em. We've already got Pyramid, Julie Chen, and Emeril. How many more rumors will surface? Who knows, but I can say that I won't be doing a pilot for CBS...this week.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Puppets and an upset

So what do I know? My pick for the Jeopardy celeb tournament, Pat Sajak, crashed and burned in the semis. Oh Pat, how could you do this to me? Thankfully, I didn't bet the house (or anything else) on the fallible Mr. Sajak.

It's official: the GSN puppet show arrives June 10. The puppets have excruciatingly cute names, which I refuse to type because they might push my blood sugar too high. The title is Late Night Liars, not the other one (Never Trust a Puppet) tossed around the web. Larry Miller will host, as mentioned before.

I agree with the foreboding Alex Davis experiences about the show. This looks like an attempt to lure a new audience to GSN, and those tries have generally flopped except for Springer's crowd on Baggage and the poker fans on High Stakes Poker. Alex also says the show costs a bundle and only has eight episodes, which could generate the savage rerun abuse that helped doom Hidden Agenda, Instant Recall, and Carnie Wilson's reality show. Finally, the 11:00 PM slot takes the place of one of the network's highest-rated shows, Deal or No Deal. Not to mention that cutesy-pie celeb puppets were tried before on DC Follies, and that effort died a quick death.

Other than that, everything looks fine.

UPDATE: Self-plagiarizing from the GSN Originals board...

Other poster: I'm surprised that this show is so expensive. I guess the Henson company's non-Muppet puppets don't come cheap.

By all accounts the Henson organization doesn't work cheap. They have the top brand in puppetry and they charge more than a puppet's arm and leg for it.

I was a little surprised that GSN didn't go with a much cheaper organization. If GSN isn't getting the muppets, what's the advantage of the Henson name? The puppets that are going to show up onscreen, assuming the publicity photo is correct, don't look muppet-y in the least. The network could have gotten those puppets a lot cheaper.

Which means they could have made a lot more than eight eps and avoided a lot of rerun abuse. One of Baggage's big advantages over the other recent originals is the sheer number of episodes. GSN doesn't have to run the same ep ragged all week and see the numbers crumble for all the rerun slots.

Maybe GSN figures that Springer's name helped sell Baggage, so Henson's name will help sell Late Night Liars. Only nothing but un-Henson-ish puppets will turn up onscreen.

Syndies flatline

Wish I could make the news more interesting, but sometimes reality is just dull. Syndicated game shows barely budged in the latest week ending April 25. I don't know why I bother, but Broadcasting & Cable presents the tedium:

Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.4 - flat
Millionaire 2.3 - flat
5th Grader 1.4 - flat
Family Feud 1.4 - flat, flat, FLAT
Deal or No Deal - what's that?

But wait, there's more! As usual, TV by the Numbers lists the average viewership numbers for the top three syndie game shows: Wheel of Fortune 9.8 million, Jeopardy 8.1 million, Millionaire 3.2 million.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More Lynn

A hunt around the web turned up lots of interesting material about Lynn Redgrave and game shows. Plagiarizing myself from the GSN board...

The earliest game show appearance I could find for Lynn was the 3/12/67 Password episode with Cliff Robertson. She had just turned 24 at the time and was coming off her Georgy Girl splash.

You can watch one of her John Davidson Pyramid episodes on YouTube here. She appeared with a ridiculously young-looking Jason Alexander. Amusing note: there's a comment on YouTube from a poster now banned on the GSN boards. As usual, he's dumping on Donnymid!

YouTube also has an episode with Lynn on 25K Pyramid. LeVar Burton was her mustachioed opponent. The episode includes some funny GSN promos.

Lynn's IMDb page lists other game show appearances on Hollywood Squares, Password Plus, Family Feud, syndie What's My Line and I've Got a Secret. The IGAS ep was memorable, the final installment of the original CBS run on 4/3/67. The episode guide has the details.

The Match Game episode guide shows a MG '75 week for Lynn, plus a week in the final 1981-82 season of the syndie. And YouTube offers a nice rarity: Lynn on Bullseye. This was the first episode of the "official" celeb version. She played against Harvey Korman.

Lynn was a peculiar sort for game shows. Her accent might have made her seem a little hoity-toity for such a groundlings genre, but she had plenty of the common touch. She was also a good game player, which helped.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Lynn Redgrave, always a favorite of mine compared to her over-political sister Vanessa, has lost her battle with breast cancer at age 67. She never scrupled to appear on game shows, dating all the way back to the original 1960s Password. The screenshot shows Lynn in the winner's circle on the almost forgotten John Davidson version of Pyramid.

Casting calls abound as summer nears. Here's one for ABC's new skyscraper epic, Downfall, and there's another for syndie Millionaire. While we're talking about Meredith, Chad Mosher offers helpful hints to wannabe contestants. My advice is simple: have a pack rat mind. If trivia never interested you, there's always Wheel of Fortune.

And while we're talking about Pat and Vanna, WoF is rolling out a million-dollar home game for May sweeps. I've always wondered if these stunts really pick up any extra viewers, but every last Nielsen tick helps.

As Betty White's Match Game marathon on GSN approaches this Saturday, I took a quick peek at the show's episode guide. I was a little surprised that Betty appeared in over five hundred of the show's more than two thousand episodes. She's usually referred to as an MG "semi-regular", but the numbers make her look a lot less semi and a lot more regular.

Minute To Win It copped its usual 1.9 18-49 rating and 5.7 million viewers last night. The thrifty show isn't growing but it's not shrinking, either. Which is okay as more and more teevee watchers head outdoors.

In an otherwise unobjectionable glance at a possible Pyramid revival, blogger Chico Alexandar takes what seems to be the required swipe at GSN's Chain Reaction. I've never understood the condescension displayed by some online typists towards this show. Dylan Lane often comes in for a drubbing because he's not Bill Cullen reincarnated (who is?) and the contestants are frequently labeled dunces (as if the labelers could do any better). Luckily, GSN's viewers know better and have kept the show on the air, if only in reruns.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Covered and buried

My note on Mark Walberg reminds me that even the best hosts suffer their missteps. In 2004 Mark emceed an ill-fated venture on PAX (the distant ancestor of the current Ion network) called On the Cover. The show somehow got cancelled after two days, then returned weeks later as part of a game show hour with another uninspired effort called Balderdash. Both shows limped along for a while and eventually vanished, leaving only a few traces on YouTube.

On the Cover wasn't an embarrassment or an outrage or, unfortunately, even a guilty pleasure. It was just a pop-culture-obsessed quizzer based on magazine covers of various celebs. For viewers fixated on trivia about pop semi-icons, the show might have been endurable. But for those less than fascinated by the usual run of actors, singers, comics and whatnot, the show was only a timewaster and a pretty tedious one at that.

As always, Walberg turned in a competent and charming performance, but the format ran shallower than most puddles. Apparently, even the most avid People readers couldn't bother with night after night of literally trivial celeb questions.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mark the great

Carrie Grosvenor has crowned her three worst celebrity contestants of all time. Predictably, William Shatner puts in an appearance with his hilarious, never-to-be-forgotten chair-hurling on Pyramid. Captain Kirk gives primal scream therapy a solid workout.

But let's look on the brighter side and give deserved props to a very good celebrity guest, Mark Walberg. I've previously chatted about his 500-0 romp on Lingo, followed by a masterful nine-solution bonus round. Mark also won on Weakest Link, where he even admitted that he voted Ben Stein off the show because he couldn't beat trivia-master Ben. Admirable honesty, but I wish the two had squared off in the final round. Never bet against Stein, but Mark might have given him a real contest.

Walberg is also a superb host in his own right, of course, and I still carry a torch for the late, much lamented Russian Roulette. Somehow Mark even brought a touch of class to Temptation Island, and that's saying a very big something.