Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Putrid puppets cut back

No surprise considering the terrible ratings, but GSN has cut back the puppet disaster Late Night Liars enormously, from ten showings a week to only three. If the numbers don't improve, a complete exit from the schedule is not far in the future. The gory cuts come after only three weeks of the unfunny and sophomoric puppets.

The cut timeslots and the replacements:

11:30 PM Thursday Baggage
2:30 AM Thursday Baggage
12:30 AM Friday Baggage
3:00 AM Saturday Catch 21
3:30 AM Saturday Millionaire (Vieira)
11:00 PM Sunday Baggage
11:30 PM Sunday Newlywed Game

The network is obviously risking overexposure of the limited number of Baggage episodes but...desperate times, desperate remedies. Not even the puppets' reportedly ridiculous cost could save them from GSN President David Goldhill's terrible swift sword for underperforming originals.

UPDATE: The putrid puppets have company in their, er, Downfall. The up-on-the-roof ABC quizzer is tumbling to the pavement in the ratings. Week two saw an alarming drop to 4.1 million viewers and a 1.4 18-49 rating, nasty declines from week one. The show is also squandering its good lead-in from Wipeout. Downfall positively sparkles compared to GSN's puppet fiasco (what doesn't?) but Nielsen shows no mercy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Syndies thud

That crashing sound is syndicated game shows tumbling in the ratings as the weather warms. Broadcasting & Cable reveals the treacherous, untrimmed truth for the week ending June 20:

Wheel of Fortune 5.7 - down a tick to season low
Jeopardy 4.8 - down two ticks to season low, and it's not Weird Al's fault
Millionaire 2.3 - actually up a couple ticks, wha' happened?
Family Feud 1.4 - down a tick
5th Grader 1.2 - down a tick
Deal or No Deal 1.1 - for once B&C gives the numbers, down a tick as Howie bids farewell

At least Meredith made the top 25 list on TV by the Numbers for a change. The average viewership figures: Wheel of Fortune 8.7 million (weekend repeat 2.9 million), Jeopardy 7.2 million, Millionaire 3.2 million. Except for Meredith, syndie gamers would like to write this week off as summer blahs. Unfortunately, there are a lot more blahs to come.

Weird Al loses it

A thread on a discussion board reminded me of the greatest game-show-related song ever, Weird Al Yankovic's I Lost on Jeopardy. A luscious parody of Greg Kihn's Jeopardy, the song relates how Al flubbed the game show so badly that he didn't even get a case of Turtle Wax.

Weird Al has done us all an inestimable service by posting the song's video on YouTube. You may have to sit through some obnoxious ad at the start, but the laughs are worth the short wait. Art Fleming and Don Pardo show up along with a cast of a thousand jokers, including Greg Kihn himself.

Unfortunately the parody also reminds me of time's arrow. The song is so old that Alex Trebek wasn't even a gleam in the producers' eyes. His syndie version of Jeopardy didn't begin until three months after the song's release.

Wikipedia (usual caveats) says the song pretty much bombed on the charts, reaching only #81. But this game show nut will forever rate I Lost on Jeopardy number one with a bullet.

Monday, June 28, 2010

GSN number-palooza part limited

Douglas hasn't posted any more complete weeks, but he has listed the GSN top five in total viewers for each day June 22-24:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010
BAGGAGE 6:30P-7:00P 484K
DEAL OR NO DEAL 7:00P-8:00P 377K
DEAL OR NO DEAL 5:00P-6:00P 365K
FAMILY FEUD 4:30P-5:00P 363K
NEWLYWED GAME (GSN) 6:00P-6:30P 347K

Wednesday, June 23, 2010
FAMILY FEUD 4:30P-5:00P 442K
BAGGAGE 9:30P-10:00P 415K
BAGGAGE 6:30P-7:00P 407K
1 VS. 100 10:00P-11:00P 395K
DEAL OR NO DEAL 11:00P-12:00A 384K

Thursday, June 24, 2010
BAGGAGE 6:30P-7:00P 429K
FAMILY FEUD 8:30P-9:00P 420K
FAMILY FEUD 4:00P-4:30P 393K
NEWLYWED GAME (GSN) 9:00P-9:30P 386K
FAMILY FEUD 8:00P-8:30P 380K

Marc Berman had previously facebooked most of the June 23 numbers. Jerry continues to roll, Carnie does okay, and the three musketeers - Howie, Karn and O'Hurley - soldier on. Somehow Karn got the top show on Wednesday at 4:30 PM! Nice to see Saget's good number on June 23.

Note Howie's 384K at 11:00 PM Wednesday. The following night the putrid puppets got 123K at 11:00 PM. Sorry for stating the obvious, but Late Night Liars is a massive loser.

UPDATE: Douglas has also posted the top five for Friday June 25:

FAMILY FEUD 8:30P-9:00P 351K
BAGGAGE 6:30P-7:00P 346K
NEWLYWED GAME (GSN) 6:00P-6:30P 328K
FAMILY FEUD 8:00P-8:30P 311K
DEAL OR NO DEAL 11:00P-12:00A 307K

Relatively low ratings compared to the other days of the week. No surprises as to who landed in the top five, though. Late Night Liars stunk at 10:00 PM Friday with 139K viewers. At midnight the puppets also wasted Howie's 307K lead-in with 150K for the hour.

Ben rolls on

Nobody should care about the virtually irrelevant Daytime Emmys. But I gotta post something today, so I'll congratulate Cash Cab for its win as best game show, and cabdriver/comic Ben Bailey for copping best host honors. I've always been a fan of the minimalist quizzer, with its pleasant views of NYC street life.

Cash Cab goes syndie this fall and has apparently taped some eps in Vegas, coincidentally the scene of last night's kudofest. Ben showed up to accept his award, which was polite but unnecessary. Didn't I mention that nobody should care about the Daytime Emmys?

I saw an unintentionally funny note on the GSN General board that denounced Cash Cab as "not even a game show." Uh, right. The contestants answer trivia questions for money. I guess that makes Jeopardy not a game show, too.

To give the Daytime Emmys their due, the show did honor Dick Clark for lifetime achievement. Even the most used-up awards show can do something worthy once in a while. The Emmys averaged 5.6 million viewers with an itsy-bitsy 1.1 18-49 rating.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Puppet misery continues

Plagiarizing myself from the GSN boards...

Douglas has posted the numbers for the third week of Late Night Liars:

Thursday, June 24, 2010
- 11pm 124K
- 11:30pm 122K
- 2am 141K (late Thu/early Fri)
- 2:30am 124K (late Thu/early Fri)

A wretched 128K average. GSN can get that with decades-old shows in the morning. 25K Pyramid averaged 146K at 10:30 AM in the latest published week, for instance. Card Sharks averaged 135K at 10:00 AM. And the old shows are cheaper by light-years compared to the absurdly expensive puppets.

The only good news is that the numbers are marginally better than the 101K week two average. That week saw an almost ridiculous 87K audience for the 2:00 AM hour. But the show is still performing horrendously compared to Deal or No Deal at 11:00 PM or even Pyramid at 2:00 AM. And the show is down compared to the already miserable 154K week one average.

The ratings for Friday night aren't available yet. If the puppets did significantly better at 10:00 PM Friday than at 11:00 PM Thursday - and let's be honest, they could hardly do much worse - then GSN might move first-runs of the show there.

My dislike of the puppet show is well known. But trying to be as objective as I can, I would move first-runs to a truly late night slot, maybe 1:00 AM on Friday. And I would junk almost all of the repeats, which only dilute the first-run ratings.

This might allow the show to develop a cult following and generate at least semi-respectable numbers for the first-runs. Not so coincidentally, it would also help GSN recover a lot of lost viewers for the shows displaced by all the reruns. The current strategy of an 11:00 PM slot for the first-run episode followed by endless repeats is just a godawful train wreck.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sometimes money ain't funny

GSN's misadventure with the Henson organization on Late Night Liars reminds me of another fiasco when the Play Every Day network teamed up with a big name. That was National Lampoon's Funny Money, a supposed game show that ran on GSN for four months in 2003, which seemed like four centuries for viewers exposed to the unfunny currency.

If you're going to put "funny" in a show's title, it helps to have some laughs in the show. Funny Money forgot that ingredient and just about everything else which might have made for an entertaining product. The producers actually tried to make a game show out of standup comedy, which only ruined both genres. Two civvie contestants played along with three professional comics, and everybody had a rotten time.

GSN taped 65 eps of this loser. After burning them off to lousy ratings, the network axed the show quickly and permanently. Jimmy Pardo hosted, and let's hope he's forgotten this unfortunate part of his life.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

As the rumors turn

This really is starting to look like the endless search for Bob Barker's successor. Broadcasting & Cable reports on a new entrant in the replace-As-The-World-Turns sweepstakes. It's a talker called Say It Now, hosted by diet-ad specialist Valerie Bertinelli and an Australian guy named Rolf McManus. I don't know if Rolf has done any diet blurbs.

CBS Television Distribution taped the pilot in New York about a month ago. The B&C story also says that the View-like chatfest hosted by Julie Chen, another entrant in the sweepstakes, features Leah Remini, Holly Robinson Peete, and Sharon Osbourne. In other words, an unencouraging collection of overused C-listers.

Meanwhile, the Pyramid pilot taped yesterday, reportedly with celeb players Mo Rocca and - you guessed it - Betty White. The ubiquitous Betty will probably take over for Obama next week (he's so last year). The set is said to differ from any previous version, and the time limits are 7-in-30 and 6-in-60.

UPDATE: Hollywood Junket, which enthused over Catch 21 (nobody's perfect), has posted a brief description of the Pyramid taping. Other celebs besides Mo and Betty were Aisha Tyler, who played well and looked better on Million Dollar Password, and Rachel Harris.

There's no physical pyramid on the set because a non-pyramid set is more postmodern or something. The contestants also stand instead of sit because we're into physical fitness or something. There are several rounds of play and the top prize is twenty-five grand. Host Andy Richter seemed "obviously green" to Junket, which means he probably did okay.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Syndies flatter than a ping-pong paddle

Somehow every syndicated game show managed to stay flat compared to the previous week. You've got to plan hard for that outcome. Broadcasting & Cable unleashes the thrilling news:

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - flat at season low
Jeopardy 5.0 - flat
Millionaire 2.1 - flat at season low
Family Feud 1.5 - flat
5th Grader 1.3 - flat

Just overwhelming, isn't it? TV by the Numbers lists the average viewership totals for the top two: Wheel of Fortune 8.9 million (weekend repeat 4.7 million) and Jeopardy 7.3 million. This is so dull, it might drive me to watch soccer. Naw, nothing could do that.

ABC's off-the-top quizzer Downfall scored a 2.0 18-49 rating for its debut with 5.9 million viewers. Ominously, the show tumbled from the first half-hour to the second - much like all that stuff tumbling off the roof - but the overall numbers weren't too bad. It finished third in the timeslot in 18-49, fourth in total viewers.

My speed-dial review of Downfall: nice view from the roof, competent host, okay quizzer, a gimmick that gets old, pleasant enough contestants, nothing special.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lots of minutes

The Swedish producers of Minute To Win It have sold twenty-one more episodes of the show to NBC. The peacock net - I'm hooked on Variety-speak lately - will screen the new installments of the stuntfest beginning July 7.

The cheap show has also proved appealing to networks in many other countries. The producers brag about selling the rights to the format in thirty-four countries in just a few months. Cube fans lament that the show is a Cube-killer, but the early bird catches the network dollars. And as I've yelped before, both shows rip off Beat the Clock, so who cares if one ripoff edges out the other?

If you can trust the official NBC site, Guy Fieri will host the new eps. He's done okay on Minute, generally staying out of the way and letting the gameplay carry the show. His hair still hasn't recovered from prolonged shock treatment, though.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Free advice worth what it costs

The miserable ratings garnered by GSN's puppet disaster Late Night Liars have set off cries, whimpers and advice on the GSN Originals board. A look at some of the counsel I've dispensed...

Other poster: GSN needs to stop spending money creating new shows.

That's advice I've given to GSN myself - at least on a temporary basis - and it would no doubt be popular on the GSN Classics board. But Baggage has proven me wrong. It's okay to spend money on new shows, as long as they don't alienate the network's current viewers while trying for a new audience as well.

That's exactly what Baggage has done. Springer has brought new folks to the network, while the Dating Game remake (plus the suitcase gimmick from Deal or No Deal) has worked with GSN's existing audience.

New shows in themselves aren't the issue. Off-putting new shows like the puppet fiasco are the issue. GSN president David Goldhill has enjoyed three winners in originals: Newlywed Game, Catch 21, and Baggage. All are remakes of proven formats that don't repel GSN's established fanbase. Maybe Goldhill should play it safer and only spend money on remakes likely to appeal to his current audience.

Other poster: Perhaps have a longer block of classics at late night. Both Card Sharks and Pyramids are doing very well in their overnight hours. Why not extend it with Match Game and Family Feud (Dawson)?

The reason for the relatively good performance of old shows from 2:00 AM to 4:00 AM is the solid Howie-Regis-Karn lead-in from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM. In the latest published week, that trio averaged an impressive 296K on weekdays, almost as high as the network's prime time average.

GSN should have left those three hours alone - and, in fact, the network has left them alone Monday through Wednesday. Messing with that 11:00 PM - 2:00 AM lineup is a bad idea, whether with the puppet show or with more old shows.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Reader's digest

ABC's up-on-the-roof quizzer Downfall has wrapped taping. Set atop a ten-story industrial building in downtown L.A., the show features cars, people, money and belly-button lint tumbling off the roof. Judging from the promo, Chris Jericho hosts rather loudly. But pro wrestlers are not noted for understatement. The debut date is June 22. As Chris might say, BE THERE.

An IBM supercomputer is set to show that it can out-question Ken Jennings and all those other puny human contestants on Jeopardy. I already know that supercomputers are a lot smarter than me, so I'm not too disturbed by the machines taking over game shows. Well, actually I am a teensy-weensy bit bothered, but I won't lose any sleep.

Bob Barker is doling out money to PETA, the sometimes take-it-beyond-the-limit animal rights group. At least the critters will never sue Barker for sexual harassment.

Aw, shucks. I was really looking forward to those nude photos of Betty White and Allen Ludden. That's a joke, folks. And the entire rumor is apparently a joke, too. Such silliness turns up in the pop-cultural junkosphere whenever a celeb suddenly goes supernova.

Marc Berman has facebooked that the week two numbers for GSN's putrid puppet show Late Night Liars were even worse than the disastrous debut week. The four showings of the second episode on Thursday June 17 averaged a pathetic 101K viewers. Look for big cutbacks in the show's exposure, followed by a quick and complete exit from the network's schedule. That's what happened to Wink, and he got better numbers than the potty-mouthed puppets.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Putrid puppets bomb

I've wondered aloud exactly who was the target audience for GSN's foul-mouthed puppet show. Turns out that Late Night Liars appeals to...well, hardly anybody.

Douglas hasn't posted the latest full week, but he did provide some viewer numbers for the raunchy puppets. The ratings ranged from so-so to outright terrible for the premiere night on Thursday June 10:

11:00pm 213k [original run]
11:30pm 138k [rerun]
2:00am 149k [rerun]
2:30am 116k [rerun]

I can only imagine how the zillion other reruns performed throughout the weekend. By comparison, during the previous week Howie averaged 355K in the 11:00 PM hour and Pyramid averaged 215K in the 2:00 AM hour.

The puppets chalked up these crummy numbers despite endless and obnoxious promotion. On the famous other hand, Million Dollar Password - with no promotion - got 334K for its debut showing and 255K for the midnight rerun. Sure, the puppet show is a demo play, but right now it seems to appeal to the nonexistent demo.

Baggage continued to romp and stomp in first runs at 6:30 PM with a 545K average. The reruns at 9:30 PM averaged a very acceptable 346K.

UPDATE: The puppet show may be a demo play, but the play ain't playing so swell. Douglas just posted some demo numbers for the puppet show on its premiere night. The four showings averaged 38K viewers in adults 18-49.

Oh man, this show stinks in overall viewers and in the demo. It's just an oddity of sampling extremely small numbers, but the original showing actually had one of the lower 18-49 figures. But at these microscopic levels, it doesn't matter.

In fact, all the 18-49 numbers were probably "scratches," as Nielsen calls them. That means the numbers were so minute that Nielsen's household sample even loses statistical credibility.

It's obvious that the young, hip audience GSN was looking for didn't materialize. But then, neither did any other kind of audience.

Got the drop on you

Endemol is doing a bang-up business with the broadcast networks lately. First, it was 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show, a pilot for ABC announced last week. Now they're producing a pilot for Fox based on Britain's Million Pound Drop. The Yank version gets a more generic - and duller - title: The Money Drop.

The format is a trap-door quizzer, eerily similar to Russian Roulette. Only contestants don't fall through the trap doors themselves. Instead, their money goes down the hatch if they bet on the wrong answers to the trivia questions. As Variety notes in Variety-speak: "Money Drop follows a group of contestants who are given a wad of cash and then asked a series of multiple-choice trivia questions. They then place their bets on a trap door that represents their choice. If their answer turns out to be wrong, the trap door opens -- and their money is gone."

I've watched some of the Brit original on YouTube. It's an okay format and pulled good numbers in the Mother Country. At least the broadcast networks on this side of the pond are showing some interest in game shows. Martha says that's a good thing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Retirement home

Back when the world was young and this blog was new, I posted a semi-rant about the consistently old-skewing ratings for game shows. This tilt towards geezers like me is the bane of the genre. Otherwise, game shows would be incredibly hot properties in teeveeland because they often turn out gazillions of total viewers. But too many of those viewers fall on the dreaded old side of the vaunted 18-49 demo.

A bit of related ratings news surfaced recently on a soap opera fansite. As you might imagine, soap fans are even more upset with Nielsen Media Research than game show fans, as one daytime soap after another falls victim to the remorseless numbers.

But soap addicts have discerned a tiny ray of hope. The fansite exults that soaps really don't skew as old as game shows, and uses The Price is Right as an example. Turns out that TPiR's median viewer age in a recent week was a hoary sixty-three, considerably older than any daytime soap. This naturally encourages the soap faithful that their shows might endure a little longer.

TPiR still gets about a million 18-49 viewers just because it garners so many viewers in general. (Though as the fansite gleefully notes, that 18-49 number is down nearly ten percent year-over-year.) But let's face it, Drew's bunch is an old crowd, which is all too typical of game shows. We just have to live with it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Syndies blah into summer

Not much excitement about syndicated game shows as summer sets in. Broadcasting & Cable returns to its usual format for the weekly roundup, giving changes from the previous week. The not-so-summer-hot news for the week ending June 6:

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - down three ticks to season-low
Jeopardy 5.0 - followed its soulmate, down a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.1 - flat at season-low
Family Feud 1.5 - up a tick as O'Hurley bids adieu
5th Grader 1.3 - also up a tick
Deal or No Deal 1.0 - flat and soon to go

As the reruns pile up and the warmer weather beckons, don't expect ratings fireworks until the fall season, if then. Meredith didn't make the top-25 list on TV by the Numbers, so I only have viewership averages for the twin towers: Wheel of Fortune 8.9 million (weekend repeat 3.8 million) and Jeopardy 7.5 million. As usual, the Sony duo tops the total viewers chart for all syndies, but the numbers are noticeably soft.

Roundup

Jimmy Dean, country singer and sausage king, has died at age 81. Best known for his ancient country hit Big Bad John, Dean went on to make a fortune in his sausage business, which he eventually sold to Sara Lee Corporation. Raised in poverty, Dean was no fool with his money: "I've seen so many people in this business that made a fortune. They get old and broke and can't make any money...I tell you something...no one's going to play a benefit for Jimmy Dean."

Well, nobody did have to play a benefit for Jimmy because his net worth was estimated at $75 million in the early 1990s. Dean appeared on a number of game shows, including Hollywood Squares and I've Got a Secret.

Betty White, game show legend extraordinaire, appeared on chatfest The View yesterday - hasn't she appeared on everything by now? - and offered an interesting explanation for the failure of CBS's Million Dollar Password. "White replied that it [Password] was the perfect game show but the younger generation couldn't seem to keep up with the game. The producers want the younger people on the show, but unfortunately, they have become overly dependent on computers and are not able to think on their feet."

I'm more than a little disappointed with Betty's what's-wrong-with-kids-nowadays cliche. In fact, the younger contestants on MDP played well. The show got cancelled because it skewed too old in the ratings, not because of any drawbacks with the computer generation. Carrie Grosvenor seems to agree with me.

I really enjoyed Chad Mosher's account of his tryout for syndie Millionaire. You can read the two-part saga here and here. Things didn't go so well but Chad was not crushed. He remains amused at the ups and downs of a prospective game show contestant...even when the contestant is himself.

UPDATE: Speaking of Chad, he waxes indignant over Betty White's trashing of the younger contestants on Million Dollar Password. I basically agree with his comments, though I'm hardly as upset about the silliness. I'm just sorry that Betty fell back on cliched old-fogey complaints about those darned kids today. Couldn't she have come up with something more original?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Liar liar pants on fire

Game show producers have succumbed to an infatuation with prevarication. Them's big words for...they're in love with lying. After Late Night Liars and Trust Me, I'm a Game Show Host, we've got an NBC pilot called Who's Bluffing Who? The format sounds drearily familiar. Contestants try to lie to each other and win money. At least there aren't any unfunny puppets around.

D.L. Hughley will host. I'm not a big fan. He's too political, not that funny, and way too old for the hairdo. We'll see if the show ever makes it to NBC air. Jeff Apploff is the producer, best known for Don't Forget the Lyrics.

For a much better game where you don't have to lie, try Pyramid. The CBS pilot recently sent out a casting call and is now taking ticket applications for the June 23 taping. You get paid to watch one of the best formats ever, which is a good deal. By the way, the visuals on the application indicate a set resembling the Donnymid version. There's a photo from Donnymid itself, plus a graphic with Richter that seems to look like that set. We'll see what, if anything, eventually shows up on CBS.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Get smart

Not every attempt by a game show to be hip is as embarrassing as Late Night Liars. For five syndicated seasons beginning in 2000, the offbeat quizzer Street Smarts asked contestants to predict what sometimes dopey folks on the videotaped street would answer to sometimes dopey questions. Frank Nicotero hosted with his shirt hanging out, which was supposed to appeal to more youthful demos, along with the generally street-ish set and goofy humor.

Oddly enough, the show did manage to lure some younger viewers. That's why it lasted for five seasons despite modest overall ratings. GSN picked up reruns of the show and used it for a while in any timeslot that was hurting...which meant a lot of timeslots. I liked the show not so much for its sometimes cringe-worthy tries at hipness, but for the pop psychology involved. There was genuine interest in using personal and demographic clues to predict how folks on the street would answer.

Eventually the ratings drifted too low despite the demos, and the show expired. GSN has even stopped using it. But bits and pieces survive at YouTube, so the street is not a complete dead-end.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Putrid puppets

Caught a bit of the new puppet show Late Night Liars on GSN, and it was like catching a cold. Annoying but temporary. Imagine Kermit the Frog trying to talk dirty, and you have a very good idea of how clunky, clumsy, and calamitous the effort is. The Henson organization, which charged GSN gazillions for creating the puppets, is so square that their idea of a dirty joke is "sticking a finger in a dike."

There's no gameplay worth mentioning, of course. And none of the puppets are likable or even noticeable. This is supposedly a comedy show except somebody left out the laughs. The humor looks too lame for the hip audience GSN would like to reach, and too sophomoric for their usual viewers. Oh well, BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis loves the show, so it's nice somebody is happy. If there are enough Alexes out there, the show might survive.

GSN is repeating Late Night Liars 97 times a week, so you have to try to miss it. But it's worth the effort to avoid the misery.

I'll be your pilot today

News of a couple game show pilots is percolating around the Internets today. The most tantalizing is a vague Craigslist post for contestants on a "word game" pilot. Hm, could this game involve pyramid-shaped objects? Who knows, but the post wants "a brief paragraph on why you kick major butt at word based games." My paragraph would be real short: I know lots of words. Some of them can even be used on broadcast TV.

The web offers more specifics about the other pilot. It's a quiz show called 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show and it emphatically ejects failing contestants from the proceedings. For instance, losers might get blasted from a thirty-foot-high catapult after missing a question. And they don't even receive nice parting gifts! The producers are the ones kicking major butt on this quizzer.

Endemol is taping the pilot in Argentina (cheap labor) for ABC. The alphabet net apparently figures that contorted bodies work on Wipeout, so why not on a quiz show?

Sweeping comments

Broadcasting & Cable put a different tilt on their usual weekly roundup of syndication ratings. Instead of comparing the latest week to the previous week, they compared all of the just-concluded May sweeps period to last year's. The scintillating results...

Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - down a tick from last year
Jeopardy 5.5 - up a tick
Millionaire 2.2 - down a tick
Family Feud 1.5 - up a tick
5th Grader 1.3 - of course, no comp for the rookie, but see below
Deal or No Deal 1.1 - down four ticks and out

Poor Howie. His format enjoyed a good long run but finally wore out its welcome. He's still wowing them on GSN, though (by the network's less than stratospheric standards).

5th Grader has steadily lost steam. The show may be overexposed on multiple outlets. Family Feud has ticked up slightly as O'Hurley ends his tenure. The show is mercilessly slashing every budget line, and we'll see if Harvey can keep it going. Millionaire continues to sag but still looks viable. And the Twin Towers endure and endure.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

GSN number-palooza part whatever

Douglas is my hero. Observations hurried and plentiful on GSN's total viewer numbers for May 31-June 6...

1) Overall averages were 312K/252K prime time/total day. Seen better, seen worse.

2) I thought the poker audience would follow the shows to Saturday. Shows what I know. To the delight of the GSN Classics board, poker crashed on the new night to a 122K prime time average, by far the lowest ever for the shows. Could GSN have diddled the pooch with the move to Saturday? Well, a couple weeks ago poker did 305K in prime time on Sunday. I report, you decide.

3) It wasn't so hard to put Karn Feud back at 8:00 PM, now, was it? He only generated a 357K average in the slot, well above Alfonso's numbers. This helped his buddy O'Hurley soar to 420K at 8:30 PM. Don't mess with that hour again for a while, guys.

4) First-run Baggage continues to romp and stomp with a 489K average at 6:30 PM. First-run Newlywed Game turned in a good 342K at 6:00 PM, but Jerry definitely left Carnie behind in the early fringe hour. The rerun hour at 9:00 PM was of course lower but still acceptable: Carnie 313K, Jerry 316K.

5) Bob Saget, wearied as he must be with abuse of his 28 eps, still averaged 335K in prime time. A continuing and very nice surprise from the throw-in on the DOND lease.

6) Regis' other show debuted with a solid 334K in Sunday prime time and held onto a respectable 255K for the midnight rerun. This fellow has always been a winner with GSN's audience, even when he gets no promotion. Folks, maybe you might whisper to your viewers that Regis has another show on the network now, and it's really pretty good.

7) And speaking of winners with GSN's audience, the tireless Howie continues to pump out the numbers, a 324K average despite his absurd 27 hours of exposure and almost nonexistent prime time opportunities. The puppet show is about to scramble the late night hours to Hades and back. But in their last uninterrupted week, the Howie-Regis-Karn trio managed an impressive 296K average for 11:00 PM-2:00 AM weekdays, almost as good as the prime time average. Of course, the prime time average improved from the previous published week because Mr. Karn returned to 8:00 PM.

8) The best pre-1990 hour was again the 2:00 AM 25K/100K Pyramid combo with a 215K average. Yes, that's about to get scrambled by Late Night Liars, too. This endlessly promoted puppet show better do pretty well, or otherwise a lot of good numbers are going to suffer.

9) A couple of personal faves: Lingo averaged 273K at 3:00 PM, Chain Reaction 263K at 2:30 PM. My pet afternoon word-game block did okay this week.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fixer-upper

Done a little work on the blogroll...or list of game show hangouts, as my peculiar self calls it. First, I've taken down the link to Brandon's TV blog. I don't have anything against Brandon, but he hardly ever posts about game shows any more. Instead his blog has become a soap opera and old teevee site with few if any game-show-related posts. Nothing wrong with that, as Jerry said so often, but I got tired of clicking on the link only to find the latest news on As The World Turns. I don't care about As The World Turns, except for what will replace it. (Let's hope for Pyramid!)

I've also linked to individual forums for the three biggest current game shows: Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and The Price is Right. The first two are official sites, which are naturally subject to, well, official oversight. The third, Golden Road, is an unofficial site that's freewheeling and sometimes rather gossipy. They're the folks who started the Rich Fields rumor, for instance. But Golden Road's gossip has been right a number of times in the past, so the link is there for the interested.

My who-cares attitude towards TPiR is well-known, so I won't use the Golden Road link often myself. But this is a full-service game show blog, and I am at your service.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Daily digest

Caught the GSN debut of Million Dollar Password last night, and was again reminded of what a good revival looks like. A clever combination of Password and its descendant Pyramid, the show easily held my interest for the hour. William Shatner played terribly but didn't toss any chairs and good-naturedly accepted Regis Philbin's barbs. Aisha Tylor put in a fine performance and helped the civvies walk away considerably enriched. The show regularly entertained ten-million-plus viewers and deserved a much better fate. But the dreaded old skew claimed another game show victim.

Courtroom drama - or, more accurately, legal tedium - has struck the game show world. The endlessly anticipated (that's a joke, folks) showdown between Disney and Celador over Millionaire profits went to trial last week. I would blog more about this story if I cared. But somehow I can't get all sexed up over whether Celador deserves even more millions than it's already made off the show.

Wheel of Fortune will return to New Orleans in April 2011 for three weeks of shows. This will be WoF's first visit to the Big Easy since Katrina rudely interrupted its last tapings there. Vanna showed up in NOLA last week to tape a few segments at various local landmarks.

Game show mega-legend Betty White is now the last survivor from Golden Girls. Rue McClanahan died last Thursday of a stroke at age 76. While hardly a game show player of Betty's caliber, Rue did appear on Break the Bank, Bullseye, Hollywood Squares, Cross-Wits and Rhyme and Reason. You can watch her on Break the Bank here.

A thread on the GSN General board is discussing the supposed firing of Rich Fields as the announcer on The Price is Right. While I don't like to see anybody lose a job, I have to plead my usual indifference to all things TPiR. Non-indifferent readers can find more comments on Matt Ottinger's board and from Carrie Grosvenor at about.com.

Alex Davis tweets that Let's Make a Deal has been officially renewed for a second season. This is not exactly a scoop because host Wayne Brady reportedly spilled the beans a while ago on Facebook, or somewhere. LMAD gets modest ratings at best, but the blessed cheapness of game shows again proves powerful.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bow wow

Now that I semi-trashed one stunt show, Wipeout, I'll make amends by praising another, Dog Eat Dog. The U.S. version of the Brit original, with much more skin and much crazier stunts, ran for two summer seasons on NBC in 2002 and 2003. Only 26 episodes were produced, and GSN gave them all a grinding workout after the NBC run concluded. This set off much wailing on the GSN Classics board, but I always liked the silliness.

To be fair, the show tested genuine athletic abilities like strength, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination. The stunts were essentially Beat the Clock on steroids, with contestants crawling, leaping, plunging, diving, climbing, swimming, and just trying to survive through various fiendish challenges.

The show also put its definitely young-skewing contestant pool into the skimpiest outfits imaginable. A few of the stunts even forced contestants to strip articles of clothing as they failed each challenge. You can imagine how my filthy-minded self enjoyed those proceedings. (Needless to say but I'll say it anyway, no actual nudity was shown onscreen. This was NBC, not the Playboy Channel.)

Politically incorrect in the extreme, the show garnered okay ratings but eventually faded out. A then-blonde Brooke Burns hosted in appropriately revealing attire. She didn't make anybody forget Bill Cullen, but she definitely provided some of the eye candy that was the show's memorable specialty.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Syndies do what?

For whatever reason Broadcasting & Cable hasn't offered their usual weekly roundup of syndication ratings for the week ending May 23. But TV by the Numbers did dish out their standard top twenty-five syndie list of average viewership figures. So I'll have to content myself with just three shows this week:

Wheel of Fortune 9.553 million - down 651K
Jeopardy 8.169 million - down 419K
Wheel of Fortune weekend repeat 4.091 million - down 935K
Millionaire 3.107 million - down 77K

A very forgettable week if the top three are any indication. An odd note about the syndie lists on TV by the Numbers: the site keeps track of the syndicated Legend of the Seeker, though the show never lands in the top twenty-five and has reportedly been cancelled. It must be the kind of geeky fantasy fare that appeals to the site's readers. Chuck meets the Middle Ages, you might say.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More product placement

It's getting silly to complain about Hasbro's endless product placement on its soon-to-debut cable network, the Hub. After all, only the terminally naive would expect the channel to be anything other than an outlet to move Hasbro product.

But I do have to wonder if Hasbro will leave any of its board games unpushed. The latest announcement informs us of a game show based on Pictureka, the kids' game of identifying objects buried in busy designs. Hasbro should just formally promulgate the No Child Left Unpitched policy for its cable net.

Another bit of press-released news caught my eye. Chris Jericho, a pro wrestler of some repute (ill or otherwise) will host ABC's new Downfall. Will Chris wrestle recalcitrant contestants off the roof? He seems like a natural for such duties.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wiped

ABC's stunt-a-rama Wipeout debuted its third season last night...or had its "sneak preview" in ABC-speak. For some odd reason I've never been a huge fan. Normally I love stunts and slapstick and other people making fools of themselves. (Foolish me does that all the time, but I can't watch myself.)

So this show would seem designed for my down-and-dirty tastes. But my glimpses of Wipeout have always left me strangely cold. Maybe the slapstick is just too broad and clumsy and sometimes literally over the top. Or the obvious glee the producers take in the pratfalls might put me off a bit.

That's why co-host Jill Wagner's comments about the show ring a little harshly in my ancient ears: "But it’s so funny to see how their bodies contort and to hear what comes out of their mouths. Grown men scream like little girls, and it gets me every time. People falling down is always going to be funny." Call me (accurately) an old fuddy-duddy, but I'm a little uncomfortable with such overt delight in contorted bodies.

Of course, nobody cares about my opinions. Where it really counts, Wipeout does just fine. Last night the show fetched a very respectable 3.0 18-49 rating and 8.3 million viewers for two hours of people falling down.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Noted

Gary Coleman continued the bizarre curse of Different Strokes with a sad early death at age 42. His messy family and financial affairs became embarrassing tabloid fodder and don't need additional comment. Coleman's life was almost a cliche E! True Hollywood Story of a child star who painfully outlived his fifteen minutes. He appeared on a few game shows, including Hollywood Squares, Weakest Link, and Who Wants to Be Governor of California: The Debating Game, GSN's goofy gathering of several candidates in the 2003 California recall election.

Thanks to the wonders of press releases, more details have surfaced about Downfall, ABC's offbeat up-on-the-roof quizzer debuting June 21. The weirdest gimmick: a contestant's relatives or personal belongings might get the heave-ho off the roof. Look out below...

The Daytime Emmys, previously subjected to snarky ridicule on this blog, will do something nice for a change. Dick Clark will be honored for American Bandstand, a little dance show you may remember. I'd like to see Pyramid mentioned as well, but that might be too much to ask.

GSN's never-ending schedule conniptions...well, never end. Now Catch 21 reruns have been ejected from prime time and Richard Karn's Family Feud restored to its rightful 8:00 PM weekday slot. And Instant Recall, Wink Martindale's excruciatingly unfunny return to the game show wars, has vanished completely from the schedule, losing its last two weekend slots. Wink deserved much better than such a lame parody.