Saturday, July 31, 2010

Writing like who?

Happened to see a blog post about a timewaster site called I Write Like. This utterly useless and absurdly addictive web destination will analyze samples of your writing and tell you which famous author your prose most resembles. So I thought, gee, maybe I write like Henry James or Leo Tolstoy or even Raymond Chandler.

Didn't exactly work out that way. I submitted the previous seven posts from this humble blog. The computer thought three of the pieces resembled Dan Brown, the Da Vinci Code guy. Not quite a literary immortal (no religious pun intended) but I sure would like his sales.

Two of the posts reminded the computer of Cory Doctorow. I can actually understand that connection a little. We're both bloggers, anyway. One post called David Foster Wallace to cyber-mind. He's an obscure academic who wrote critically praised novels that didn't sell much, and who eventually committed suicide. Tell me some more good news, please.

All these guys are contemporary writers, which makes sense because this blog is not written in 19th century English. Except for one post, apparently, which the computer somehow thought resembled Bram Stoker. Drive a stake through that one. This post itself recalled H.P. Lovecraft to the computer. And I don't even like sci-fi.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Putrid puppets disappearing

No surprise considering the horrendous ratings, but Late Night Liars is off GSN's Thursday schedule, according to the network's online listing. We'll see if the godawful puppets survive anywhere in reruns, now that the original run is mercifully finished.

Promos for the puppets have vanished completely from the network, so the show might be gone completely, too. GSN may have gotten a boatload of complaints about the puppets' crude "humor."

The usual Howie-Regis-Karn-Pyramid lineup takes over Thursday starting at 11:00PM. GSN will now have to forget about all that money wasted on the Henson bunch.

I guess they could try to recoup a few dollars by reselling the show to Comedy Central or some other gullible network. But the numbers were so terrible that it's hard to imagine anybody would be interested.

UPDATE: The puppets still hang onto the Friday midnight slot for now. This slot did get the "best" numbers, though even the best for the puppets is pretty bad. The show went from ten slots to one in a couple months. Ouch.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Carnie sues, Carnie blues

Carnie Wilson hits the courts...but not over Newlywed Game. The plus-size diva wants an extra quarter-mill or so from GSN for her "performance" on the reality bomb Carnie Wilson: Unstapled. The show flopped with audiences, critics, and the entire population of planet Earth, and it vanished from GSN long ago. But apparently Carnie thinks she deserves mo' money for failing so spectacularly.

Don't expect her back on GSN any time soon.

Meanwhile, the source ain't exactly impeccable, but GSN is reportedly looking at Jeff Foxworthy and Sherri Shepherd as replacements for the supposedly fired Carnie on Newlywed Game. The story says network honchos thought Carnie wasn't funny enough, so she got the ax. Well, no kidding.

I trust this source about as far as I can throw my house, but Foxworthy would obviously be a catch. He seems a bit pricey for GSN, though. But what the hey, they paid Springer, after all.

UPDATE: The GSN front page now says that the new season of Catch 21 will take Carnie's slot at 6:00 PM starting August 16. Before the lawsuit the network said Alfonso's new eps would debut at 5:30 PM. It's not nice to sue Mother GSN.

Mania at play

Except for the welcome news that Drew Carey has lost a lot of weight, which makes my screenshot of him with Bob Barker obsolete, there's not a bunch of new developments in gameshowland today. So let's remember when the world was young and GSN was running a late-night interactive thingie called Playmania.

It started in April, 2006 when GSN copied the Brit Quiznation, right down to bringing in one of the show's hosts, Mel Peachey. She teamed with Shandi Finnessey of Lingo fame to run through a smattering of often lame onscreen games with viewers of various intelligence levels. The show proved an oddball hit and eventually expanded to six nights a week.

Then boredom with the interactive gimmickry set in. The show tried splitting itself into two parts called Something and Something Else. (Okay, those weren't the real names.) They brought in new hosts, even including a hapless male. But ratings mercilessly declined, and the show breathed its last in October, 2007. Playmania still piled up a respectable number of episodes, almost 400.

I used to watch occasionally. For a while it was fun seeing the ladies vamp their way through endless word-jumble games and other deepthink exercises. But two solid hours of such nonsense every night couldn't last.

The network still tries interactive gameplay with its GSN Live interstitials during the afternoon. Even those segments look to be on their last legs. Most viewers just can't be bothered to call in.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When news breaks...

Bob Barker apparently said something critical about Drew Carey's hosting style on The Price is Right, then backtracked at high speed. This has set off much chatter at Golden Road and the GSN board. My TPiR-indifferent self doesn't care if Barker says Carey is a mutant arthropod from Venus with twenty eyes and fifty legs. But this full-service blog provides all the news that fits a game show fan's attention span.

Carrie Grosvenor reports that Hasbro's new Huckster, er, Hub network is planning a show based on - you'll never guess - a Hasbro game! This one is called Funglish, and I've run out of snark about how the Hub channel will urge kiddies to bug their parents into buying Hasbro product. I do like how this casting call (actually an ad for the board game the show is based on) wants "expressive faces with high energy and lots of engagement when playing the game." All you people with dull faces, low energy and disengagement can go poop.

ABC is casting a dating show pilot from Fremantle. Alex Davis says the show is Take Me Out, an international format that features a bunch of women deciding if they want to date some lucky (we hope) guy. He's got a clip of the Brit version if you'd like to take a peek. Alex also reports that GSN is shooting a pilot for a show based on flea-market buying and selling. So if you like fleas...

A bit of pleasant ratings news for GSN: their prime time average viewership in July rose 21% from the same month last year to 335K viewers. That's pretty piddly compared to the cable biggies, but just fine for a tiny niche network with itty-bitty expenses. Thank the Nielsen gods that GSN kept the putrid puppets out of prime time...and kept Million Dollar Password in prime.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Syndies get flattened

You want boring? I got boring. Syndicated game shows were flatter than ping-pong paddles for the week ending July 18. Broadcasting & Cable sedates us with the soporific news:

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - flat
Jeopardy 5.0 - flat
Millionaire 2.3 - up a tick, wow!
Family Feud 1.5 - flat
5th Grader 1.2 - flat
Deal of No Deal - never heard of it, but probably flat

TV by the Numbers chimes in with its usual viewership averages for the top three: Wheel of Fortune 9.1 million (weekend rerun 4.9 million), Jeopardy 7.5 million, Millionaire 3.3 million. Nothing to see here, move along.

Oh, one bit of non-game-show news. Oprah's fans have moved along and then some. The soon-to-depart chatter queen keeps hitting one all-time low after another in the weekly ratings.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Alfonso in the afternoon

Catch 21's new season will debut August 16 on GSN at 5:30 PM. This will obviously mean some schedule shuffles. My profound musings from the GSN board...

Other poster: I'm wondering, maybe GSN is trying for a new evening all original block from 5PM-7PM? Maybe they will premiere another new original later in the year and it will go at 5PM?

GSN has confirmed the 5:30 PM slot with a press release. Seems like a odd slot for a first-run original, quite early in the programming day. The network may be nervous about Alfonso's appeal. He certainly hasn't produced spectacular numbers lately in reruns. That's why he quickly lost the 8:00 PM slot. We'll see if he can beat Howie's 350K+ numbers at 5:30 PM.

As for another new original at 5:00 PM, I suppose that's possible. But I haven't heard of any project even remotely ready for an August 16 launch. So something else will have to fill the slot, at least in the short run. Newlywed Game is prepping a new season, but I doubt its timeslots will change.

The only hint of a new original I've seen is some very preliminary remake work on a failed pilot from the 1970s called Pass the Joke. But that show doesn't seem anywhere close to production, or even approval for production.

Maybe GSN will just drop one of the half-hour shows from the current afternoon schedule and move everything else up a half-hour to accommodate Alfonso at 5:30 PM. We'll see soon enough.

One more note: GSN now claims 73 million available households in its press releases. No big jumps lately but a very gradual rise in availability.

Prof thoughts

I noted the return of Steve Beverly to the website wars a couple days ago. At least he's only posted one long obituary so far (Art Linkletter) though he ominously promises a second part. Let's hope it doesn't grow into one of the prof's dreaded ten-parters.

Steve has now added two new pieces to the site. Neither is an obit - hallelujah - and both are juicy bashes. Beverly takes the whuppin' stick to Julie Chen in the first post and Drew Carey in the second. I have to agree on Julie. She's pleasant enough and has kept Big Brother going for 87 years. But a large dose of her chatter on Project Mom, or whatever they finally call it, will be a trial compared to a revival of Pyramid. Couldn't she have married somebody else?

As for Drew, my incorrigible TPiR-indifference kicks in. Beverly has never liked the guy and lobbied hard for Todd Newton to take over from Barker. If I watched the show I might have an opinion on the Great Drew Debate. One thing is certain: despite any supposed shortcomings Carey has kept the show alive, though with a median viewer age just short of Social Security eligibility.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Econ 101

Let's talk about money! Well, I already talked about it on the GSN board, in discussing the network's finances. Plagiarizing myself...

Other poster: There is not a fair balance [between new and old shows on GSN's schedule], in my opinion. Add up the hours of new vs. classic shows and you'll get the idea.

In fact, that's easy to do. GSN programs 30 hours of its 133-hour week with pre-1990 shows. That's 23% of the entire schedule, a very high percentage of such old material compared to most teevee outlets. Don't hold your breath until CBS tries this.

Even that percentage is misleading. GSN also programs many hours of other shows with a lot of age on them by normal TV standards, like Regis Millionaire and Karn Feud. A while back (April, to be exact) I ran an analysis of the average age of weekday programming on GSN. It was just over eleven years, again a very high number compared to most television. The weekday schedule has changed some since then but not a whole lot. The weekends are considerably newer, of course.

This quite old weekday schedule, by television standards, is understandable given GSN's economics. This is a tiny niche network that has to keep expenses low - a lesson painfully reinforced by the putrid puppets and their expensive disaster. That's why GSN covers so many hours with cheap older programming.

GSN will still pay good money for solid performance. Springer sure doesn't come cheap by GSN standards, and they just paid him for a second season. But covering nearly a quarter of the entire programming week with very cheap pre-1990 shows helps the bottom line.

Prof returns, Millionaire revamps

An e-mail from classic game show guru Steve Beverly landed in my inbox yesterday. The Union University prof announced the launch of his new website, which doesn't have much content yet except a long personal note on Steve's bout with depression and exhaustion. He promises new posts two or three times a week. I've put the link in the blogroll.

Steve has added a few of his previous historical items and one new piece: the first part of a typically long obituary on Art Linkletter. As many have noticed, the prof specializes in lengthy obits. Although I frequently disagree with him - politely, I hope - it's good to see him back from his health problems.

Millionaire's facebook page announces format tweaks this fall. In hyperbolic flack-speak the post breathlessly intones: "The new season of Millionaire is going to be a real game-changer! From the very first question – there’ll be more strategy, more unpredictability, more excitement, and the path to a million just got a bit shorter! It’s the same, great Millionaire, with some new, fun twists and turns. More details to come!"

More exclamation points to come, too! Sounds like they want somebody to beat the game for a change, so the money tree might be shortened and a new lifeline introduced. They could just make the questions easier, but that wouldn't generate as many exclamation points. Millionaire's ratings have slipped over the past several seasons along with all over-the-air TV. The show still regularly lands in the syndie top 25 in total viewers, but the demos of course skew very old.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Arguing over Bob

The GSN board has become home to an ongoing discussion about whether Bob Eubanks should return to the network's now Carnie-less Newlywed Game. Some of my deep thinking on the issue...

Other poster: She [Carnie] tried and apparently did okay enough to go three seasons, now get someone in there that can do the job both today and 15-20 years from now, which ironically is pretty much what MG74fan said.

Ain't got no time machine, but I doubt GSN's Newlywed Game will be churning out new eps 15-20 years from now. I'm not even sure GSN itself will be around 15-20 years from now.

The whole premise of this argument is weird. Very few shows anywhere on teevee, much less GSN, last 15-20 years. No GSN original has lasted even half that long. Lingo got six seasons 2002-07 before cancellation, and High Stakes Poker has lasted six seasons 2006-10. Those are the longevity records for GSN originals right now. This entire network has only been around 15 years to begin with.

Instead of this strange focus on 15-20 years into the future, the obvious issue is: what will help Newlywed Game now? Eubanks may well be the best bet to restore ratings to their first-season levels, despite the lame old-guy jokes.

The worry is older demos but this network skews pretty ancient, anyway. A younger host probably wouldn't change that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Carnie departs

Joe Adelian of New York Magazine says Carnie Wilson will disappear from the fourth season of GSN's Newlywed Game. I've always regarded Carnie's hosting style as pedestrian at best and annoying at worst, so this news doesn't ruin my day.

The Newlywed Game remake has earned good numbers in first-runs, though the ratings have eroded some from the first season. Alex Davis speculates that Bob Eubanks is the likeliest replacement, and Mr. Whoopee would probably be the best bet to get better tidings from Nielsen. Eubanks has already subbed twice on the show and seems sharp as ever. Unfortunately, plastic surgery has taken a toll.

Not long ago GSN execs were burbling about making Carnie the face of the network. Then her reality series bombed, and those execs started to realize that the plus-size diva may not be their audience's dearly beloved favorite.

UPDATE: I've taken the question mark off this post's title. GSN has confirmed Carnie's departure: "GSN’s hit series The Newlywed Game will return for its fourth season this fall with a new host. Carnie Wilson has been a member of the GSN family for the last two years, lending her considerable talents to The Newlywed Game, Carnie Wilson: Unstapled and GSN Live. She will be pursuing other opportunities and we wish her the very best in all her endeavors. We look forward to announcing the new host of The Newlywed Game in the near future."

At least they didn't try to pretend Carnage (the reality bomb) never happened. There might be real disappointment among GSN's usual viewers if Eubanks doesn't get the gig.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sorry, Pyramid

It's just an unconfirmed report from Deadline Hollywood, but Pyramid looks to have lost the race to replace As The World Turns. The unsurprising winner is the long-discussed Julie Chen View-ripoff chatfest. The only new wrinkle in the story is that Sara Gilbert will host, not Julie herself. But it still helps to have the right hubby.

Story scribe Nellie Andreeva says the talker "screened very well at the network and had been the clear frontrunner." I can name one guy at the network who probably thought the project was just swell. Except for Sara Gilbert the cast is the same as previously rumored: Julie Chen, Holly Robinson Peete, Sharon Osbourne and Leah Remini. I can honestly say that I'm not a fan of any of 'em, but who cares about my stupid opinion? (By the way, a new name has been added to the mix: Marissa Jaret Winokur.)

The hook is that all of the chatterers will be mommies, hence the rumored title, Project Mom. They could have put mommies on Pyramid, after all.

UPDATE: This story is now getting confirmed all over the place, so it looks like Pyramid is definitely a no-go for CBS. The only good news is that one source claims: "Pyramid has the best shot of finding life somewhere. Vulture hears that producer Sony Pictures Television is very keen on the idea of reviving Pyramid and could very well try to find another home for the show now that CBS has opted to go with talk in daytime."

Good luck on that one. Ironically, not so long ago Sony axed Donny Osmond's version of Pyramid despite more than acceptable ratings. Sony's talk show replacement for Donnymid quickly bombed. An omen?

Minute gets respectable

When the New York Times does a puff piece on a TV show's backstage doings, it confers at least a tiny measure of respectability. This NYT story tells us more than we wanted to know about Minute To Win It's endless search for the next screwball stunt involving household detritus...or as the Times itemizes the detritus, "beach balls, M&M’s, pantyhose, Hula-Hoops, toothbrushes and toilet paper."

The story actually entertained me with its account of how the producers entertain themselves by dreaming up new stunts. As one of them puts it, who knew that "recess would be the most important part of my school day"? Minute is pure recess with zero redeeming social value, which is why I like it.

There's an obligatory reference to Beat the Clock early in the story, but the writer won't quite say flat-out that Minute is just a ripoff of the ancient stuntfest. Of course, that's exactly what Minute is, but the producers had enough sense to rip off something good.

The news that's fit to print isn't nearly so good for Downfall, which flopped helplessly off Nielsen's roof last night. When the bean counters surveyed the wreckage on the pavement, they found the show hit a series low 1.2 18-49 rating and 3.4 million viewers. Don't look for a second season on a roof near you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Syndie summer siesta

Yawn and double yawn as summer drones on for syndicated game shows. Broadcasting & Cable offers the snoozing news for the week ending July 11:

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up a tick
Jeopardy 5.0 - staggering, same as WoF, up a tick
Millionaire 2.2 - flat
Family Feud 1.5 - relatively perky, up a couple ticks as O'Hurley's final days unwind
5th Grader 1.2 - down a tick to tie series low

TV by the Numbers gives unremarkable viewership averages for the top three: Wheel of Fortune 9.1 million, Jeopardy 7.6 million, Millionaire 3.1 million. I say "unremarkable" but that average for Pat and Vanna would have ranked sixth among all prime time shows in total viewers. Alex's average would have ranked thirteenth. I know the demos skew older than Everest.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hook 'em up, Chuck

One of the oddest and most parochial disputes on the game show Internets revolves around Chuck Woolery's Dating-Game-in-reverse effort, Love Connection. The dispute is whether the date-and-tell epic qualifies for the beloved "game show" title. My reaction to the argument has always been a shrug. After all, winning contestants got a date and $75, which is more than I ever got from a TV show.

Game show or not, Chuck presided over would-be and sometimes-completed hookups for eleven syndie seasons from 1983 to 1994. His half-goofy, half-serious persona was perfect for the show. A too-solemn host would have been ridiculous, a too-bonkers host insufferable. When the producers tried a relaunch with Pat Bullard in 1998, the crash-and-burn wiped out much of the west coast.

Evil me always preferred the bad dates because the spats got fun. The disappointed daters would dump on each other in an attempt to win the audience's sympathy. Both usually wound up looking bad, which evil me thought was their just deserts. The good dates tended to cloy, but sentimental viewers might disagree.

Good or bad, the dates kept Woolery well-paid for over a decade. It's a little odd that he's most closely associated with this production, when it may not even have been a game show. But Love Connection might have showcased Woolery's talents better than any of his other shows. Chuck always did better at contestant interaction than gameplay bookkeeping, and there was precious little in Love Connection to keep score on (pun intended).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The rumor is right

My indifference to all things TPiR is well known. But this is a full-service game show blog, and The Price is Right is easily the most prominent daytime game show, so notice must be taken.

Rich Fields, rumored for many weeks to be out as TPiR announcer, really is out as TPiR announcer. He posted the confirmation at his website.

The producers apparently want a standup comic as the new announcer. ("Yep, you heard right," laughs Rich.) They want to reshape TPiR into more of a "variety show within a game show."

What they really want is younger demos. TPiR suffers the curse of the genre: a very old fanbase with a median age around 62. House bands and live performers should rinse some grey out of the audience, or so the producers think.

Will it work? If I cared about TPiR, I might be interested. As it is, I'm happy Fields has the weatherman gig at KCBS in L.A. Enough folks are unemployed already.

UPDATE: CBS has announced that JD Roberto, Brad Sherwood and Jeff Davis will rotate as TPiR announcers. Why not just remake Whose Line?

Friday, July 16, 2010

GSN number-palooza $%#@

I've stopped numbering these posts because Douglas is delivering as well as ever. He just posted GSN's full-week viewer numbers for July 5-11. Observations...

1) The averages improved nicely from the previous week: 336K/266K prime time/total day. There were some very visible reasons for the uptick, which I'll discuss.

2) One of the reasons was a WOW from Regis on Sunday night with a big new high of 497K viewers for Million Dollar Password, the number three show for the week. Naturally, GSN has cut one of the show's runs and steadfastly refuses to promote it. Otherwise Regis might get even more viewers and make the puppets look even worse. (UPDATE: GSN has finally consented to promote MDP a little.)

3) Speaking of the putrid crew, Rosie week was another embarrassment. Late Night Liars blew about half of its lead-ins and averaged a paltry 151K, despite endless and annoying promotion for the Rosie ep. Who woulda thunk it. Rosie's such a universally beloved figure, after all.

4) Let us take time to praise Mr. Saget, who turned in a very nice 344K average. If 1 vs. 100 does return to another network, I bet it will do just fine. Howie also did great with a 338K average over the ridiculous 26 hours. And Messrs. Karn and O'Hurley again drove the 8:00 PM hour to a most impressive 410K average.

5) Jerry and Carnie did swell at 6:00 PM, too: a 418K average to just edge the Feud duo for top hour honors. The 9:00 PM reruns didn't reach those levels, of course, but produced an acceptable 304K average.

6) Poker managed an uptick to a 196K average for its prime time airings, though this is still not acceptable. The shows wasted too much of their lead-ins, with an enormous and embarrassing dropoff on Sunday. GSN really messed things up by moving the shows around.

7) The top pre-1990 show was 100K Pyramid at 2:00 AM with a 207K average. A fine number for the timeslot, helped by Karn Feud's 242K average at 1:30 AM. Personal faves really delivered in the afternoon: Chain Reaction and Lingo scored 307K and 310K averages. Go word games!

8) My offbeat observation for this week: the WPT returned Saturday with a so-so 165K from 1:00 AM to 3:00 AM. But it beat the puppets!

Back and write

Been on the road for a couple days, so let's get updated. First, those pesky numbers. For whatever reason Broadcasting & Cable decided that syndie game shows were too mundane for their notice this week. But TV by the Numbers did provide household ratings and viewership averages for the top three: Wheel of Fortune 5.7 (down a tick) 9.0 million, Jeopardy 4.9 (flat) 7.3 million, Millionaire 2.2 (up a tick) 3.0 million. Dull and sleepy summer numbers.

The broadcast shows stayed pretty much at their established levels: Wipeout 2.7 18-49, 7.8 million viewers, Downfall 1.3 18-49, 3.8 million viewers, Minute to Win It 2.0 18-49, 6.6 million viewers. In other words, two modest winners and one not so modest loser. Downfall will now only air five episodes instead of six and may be canceled due to the bad news from Nielsen.

A couple updates on previous items: Valerie Bertinelli's talker falls by the wayside in the race to replace As The World Turns, according to the New York Post. The CBS honchos apparently didn't cotton to the diet-ad diva. The Post thinks Julie Chen has the inside track now against Pyramid and Emeril and whatever other competitors. Julie definitely has the inside hubby.

And Cartoon Network is the mystery outlet for the remake of Hole in the Wall. I outgrew Cartoon Network a few (okay, way more than a few) years ago, and this remake probably won't tempt me back.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Getting my lecture

A while back I mentioned that Matt Ottinger's game show board tends to be, um, a little rambunctious. I contrasted that to the GSN board, where a more peaceful approach prevails.

Well, I don't want you to get a completely mistaken idea. Things can also get frisky in Brendyland. I got this dressing-down today on the GSN board:

Sometimes I feel like talking to you is like talking to a brick wall. Whatever people say you refuse to acknowledge it as relevant to the discussion and just completely dismiss it.

This came after I responded patiently to every one of the poster's comments, with due respect and impeccable courtesy...if I say so myself. After all, I sure didn't want to feel the banhammer.

The cause of the lecture? I had the temerity to point out that pre-1990 shows on GSN usually get small, very old-skewing audiences. This is blindingly apparent to anybody who glances at the Nielsen charts and the advertisers on the shows, but it's heresy to some self-proclaimed classics-defenders on the GSN board.

Some of those folks really believe that if GSN would just fill the schedule with ancient shows, the ratings would zoom and the demos would shine. They may also believe that the sun is a giant frog. I purely love most of GSN's old shows myself, but I'm a little saner (not much). I just hope the pre-1990 shows can hold onto their current quarter or so of GSN's programming week, despite the bad numbers.

Rumors, rumors everywhere

The wall thingie isn't the only game show project in the works, as the websites keep buzzing. Alex Davis says that a new run of 1 vs. 100 will "very likely" turn up on an unspecified network (not NBC). I couldn't find any confirmation elsewhere, so this is definitely a wait-and-see. I'd love to see after the wait, though, because 1 vs. 100 is a strong format that deserved much better from the National Broadcasting Company.

Another project mentioned by Alex is confirmed elsewhere, but it's only in development. This is a remake of an abortive format from the 1970s called Pass the Joke, where contestants try to complete a joke with a winning punchline. Milton Berle was involved in developing the show way back when, but it never surfaced. GSN is the network mulling the remake. Just don't use puppets!

Carrie Grosvenor reports that a decision looms on the replacement for As The World Turns. The venerable soap opera faces a September 17, 2010 terminus, so a verdict has to come soon. Julie Chen, in the replacement competition with her chatfest Project Mom, apparently told Craig Ferguson's tiny audience that her hubby, er, CBS will decide this week. I have no inside or outside information, but for whatever reason I'm not confident that Pyramid will win the race. I hope I'm wrong.

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall?

The game show Internets are hopping with news of a possible return of Fox's Hole in the Wall. Carrie Grosvenor first noted the possibility based on Twitter traffic and a casting call URL. She later confirmed that the game was truly afoot. Alex Davis then went ballistic over the mere thought of the show returning. Alex is not a fan, you might say.

Carrie gives no further details, not even the network which may be considering the revival. I have to fess up: I never watched the show. All I've seen is a few clips on YouTube, and it looks like a goofy stunt epic. You may recall that I usually have a soft spot for goofy stunt epics. At least the YouTube clips look better than Late Night Liars, but bubonic plague looks better than that.

We'll see if anything comes of the rumor. Minute To Win It's moderate success may have interested other networks in stunt formats, though an American version of The Cube apparently never escaped development hell.

And for something completely different, Esquire has published an exhaustive account of the now-infamous perfect bid on The Price is Right. My TPiR indifference got the best of me, and I only glanced through the first page of the five-page dissertation. But TPiR fans might want to take a peek.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Feud redo

As game show fans know by now, unless they've been doing a Van Winkle imitation, Family Feud has a new host this fall (Steve Harvey), a new set (no audience in the round) and a new location (Orlando, Florida). Most of the changes are budget-related, of course, as Feud's household ratings have slowly eroded into the mid-to-low ones.

At BuzzerBlog a reader has posted a review of the new season based on a recent taping. The reader, a guy named Brent (no last name for whatever reason), enthusiastically praises Steve Harvey, though in somewhat disquieting terms:

"Steve Harvey as a host is wonderful. As he told us during a break, his methods with comedy are that it’s based on 80% truth to get the reaction, have it relate to everyone, and that he is a straight shooter. This adds up to him mocking contestants and openly letting everyone know when someone’s answer seems to be way off base with the looks he gives and overall reaction."

Hm. This sounds uncomfortably close to exactly what I feared, that comedian Harvey might try to hog the spotlight and make himself way more important than the contestants. I won't prejudge but I wish I hadn't read this. A goofier note: does "80% truth" mean 20% b.s.?

Gameplay has been tweaked back to the tried-and-true. The bullseye round is gone and the top prize is twenty grand. The new season debuts September 13, and we'll see if Harvey can arrest or even reverse the long-term ratings decline.

UPDATE: BuzzerBlog poster Brian apparently has a last name after all. It's "Terrian." He penned a longer account of the Feud taping for Orlando Attractions.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

GSN number-palooza part ??

I didn't want to sound greedy, but Douglas came through with a complete week of GSN ratings for June 28-July 4. He had already posted a lot of the figures, but it's nice to have the full list. Sundry observations and noodlings...

1) The overall averages were modest: 292K/247K viewers prime time/total day. Sunday prime time was hurt by the holiday, Saturday by GSN's goof in uprooting the poker shows. Weekday prime time did quite well in comparison with a 337K average.

2) The usual stalwarts came through: Howie, Jerry, Karn, O'Hurley and Carnie. Howie averaged 315K for his absurd 26 hours and scored three of the top ten shows. Karn and O'Hurley teamed up for GSN's highest rated hour with a 415K average at 8:00 PM weekdays. Carney delivered a 377K average for her weekday 6:00 PM first-runs, which Jerry followed with a 419K average at 6:30 PM. Jerry's numbers have softened from his first-run days, but he's still doing really well.

3) The puppets were awful, of course. They blew nearly half of their lead-ins and averaged a sad 162K. Just for good measure, the puppets also hurt their lead-out shows. The network could do better with supercheap oldies. A miserable return on GSN's huge investment.

4) Poker continues to reek on Saturday night with a 136K prime time average. GSN goofed big time when they switched nights for the shows. And silly me thought the poker audience would follow the shows to Saturday. We'll see if rescheduling some poker back to Sunday makes any difference.

5) Million Dollar Password was hurt by the holiday but still turned in a decent 272K for the Shatner rerun at 9:00 PM, the best number in prime time for the night. Imagine how well MDP might perform if GSN informed their audience that the show is on the air.

6) The best pre-1990 show was Dawson Feud's 12:30 PM run with a 217K average. Personal faves Chain Reaction and Lingo enjoyed good weeks with 265K and 293K averages in the afternoon. But the real afternoon monster was Mr. Karn with a 365K average for the 4:00 PM hour.

7) Just to note a show I never discuss: Whammy averaged 171K at 9:30 AM on weekends. Hey, it was a lot better than acey-deucey in the timeslot on weekdays! And it beat the puppets!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bulletin board

Baggage, GSN's best performing original in a long while, will debut its second season on August 16. The show will begin taping July 12 before a live studio audience, which might help solve its biggest problem for me: it's just a little too quiet and civilized. What's the use of hiring Springer for a quiet show? Maybe a live audience will add some spice to the proceedings.

Carrie Grosvenor offers three interesting suggestions on how to kill a game show: too many celeb contestants, too much manufactured drama, and overexposure. I agree with Carrie that this unholy trinity can be lethal. But the nastiest showstopper may also be the most obvious: a dull format. I've seen plenty of civvie-contestant, not overly dramatized, and non-overexposed shows fail simply because the format didn't entertain. Downfall may be the latest example. Chris Jericho's effort doesn't seem to fall foul of Carrie's three gremlins, but the quizzer's essential format is just too routine.

Cleveland.com gives some more details on the Millionaire auditions I blogged about. Looks like prospective contestants have two routes to a date with Meredith: a movie trivia test for the special movie theme week, and a general test for non-movie-buffs.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Minute's fifteen minutes continue

Minute To Win It returned with more than acceptable numbers Wednesday night. The show churned out a 2.1 18-49 rating with 6.9 million total viewers, winning the timeslot in viewers and running a close second in 18-49.

The second half-hour built solidly on the first and actually ranked number one in 18-49 and total viewers for the thirty minutes. Minute has always done better in the second half, which might indicate that God intended game shows to be thirty minutes long.

NBC will definitely keep using the cheap show at these levels. As TV by the Numbers observes: "Unlike recent Wednesdays when the 8pm and 10pm [hours] weighed down NBC’s nightly ratings average, NBC finished on top of the competition in the adults 18-49 ratings for the night." The phrase "NBC finished on top" has been heard so seldom lately that the network will certainly remain grateful to Guy and his stunts.

Q and A with a cab driver

NPR has posted the transcript of a call-in session with comical cabbie Ben Bailey from Cash Cab. Some of the answers are pretty perfunctory but Ben occasionally turns wiseacre. For instance, there's his description of how losing contestants often regret signing those release forms: "And sometimes, they come running back. Like, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, I know I signed that thing, but...could you possibly not show anyone what just happened here?"

In fact, the show does omit a lot of losing efforts, because the questions are often too tough for average New Yorkers. As Ben puts it diplomatically in response to a question on the losers:

"It's because, you know, we want it to be difficult. It's Discovery Channel. People have to be learning. It has to be challenging. To even have a game show on there, is kind of an interesting thing. So, making the questions very difficult, you end up with losing games. And you can't show all losing games all the time and a few winners. So, you know, a fair amount of games where - that people don't win actually don't make it to the show."

I never regarded Discovery Channel as a hotbed of intellectual activity, but I'll cut them some slack because I like the cab. Ben also talks about never getting robbed, cops recognizing him and pulling the cab over to say hello, fewer cab riders refusing to play as the show has become better known, and many other adventures and misadventures on NYC streets. The transcript is definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Syndies stir a little

All in all it wasn't a bad week for syndicated game shows, by the lazy hazy crazy standards of summer teevee. The syndies mostly perked up a little in the week ending June 27. Broadcasting & Cable spreads a bit of frosting on the ratings cake...

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up a tick from season low
Jeopardy 4.9 - amazing, same as WoF, up a tick from season low
Millionaire 2.1 - down a couple ticks, and there's legal news!
Family Feud 1.5 - up a tick as the O'Hurley farewell tour continues
5th Grader 1.3 - like the twin towers, up a tick from season low
Deal or No Deal - never heard of it

The Millionaire legal news is that Celador won about $270 million in damages from Disney. If I cared about this, I might comment further. But I don't and I won't. TV by the Numbers lists the viewership averages for the top three: Wheel of Fortune 9.1 million (weekend rerun 4.4 million), Jeopardy 7.3 million, Millionaire 3.1 million. Nothing special, but it's amazing how well the twin towers perform in total viewers compared to far more ballyhooed series and events. Yes, I know the demos skew ancient.

An odd note: the household ratings from Broadcasting & Cable and TV by the Numbers differ slightly for this week. Don't ask me why. I'm just a innocent blogger bystander.

In other ratings trivia, Downfall lies splattered on the Nielsen pavement. Last night saw the worst numbers yet: a 1.3 18-49 rating with 3.8 million total viewers. Chris Jericho takes a tougher tumble than anything he ever experienced in fake wrestling. Wipeout avoided a similar wipeout and improved from last week to 2.9 in 18-49 with 8.8 million viewers.

UPDATE: In response to a question I posted, TV by the Numbers quickly corrected their syndie household ratings and now agree with B&C. Those guys don't mess around!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wanna try out?

The Who Wants to Be a Millionaire bus rolls on, as tryout camps - a.k.a. open auditions - pop up all over the U.S. this summer. So far the show's audition page lists Las Vegas on July 12, Cleveland on July 14, and Seattle on July 16. The producers are scrounging the highways and byways for trivia mavens.

If any game show might tempt me to try out, Millionaire would be it. I'm way too old and stiff for physical stunt games, and I've never been fortunate enough for luck-dominated shows. But my mind is trivial enough to tease me - for a fleeting moment, anyway - with the thought of making a fool of myself with Meredith.

Um, you know what I mean. Not that you have to dread my appearance on the show any time soon. It's a lot safer here in the peanut gallery. Getting down in the arena involves all that dust and sweat and blood that Teddy Roosevelt orated about. Even the zillion-to-one chance for a million bucks almost certainly won't lure me into actual contestant-hood. But I can always dream a little.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oldies

Took a peek at Matt Ottinger's game show board today. I used to post there a lot but got tired of the catfights. Brendy keeps things calmer on the GSN board.

One thread caught my eye: This Makes Me Feel Old..., (A July 4th Memory). The original poster commented that a couple game shows, The Big Showdown and The Money Maze, breathed their last on the Fourth of July thirty-five years ago. Unfortunately the thread quickly ran into the lovely spitting matches that I recall all too well from my days on the board.

But one poster paused from the slanging and clanging long enough to wonder about the first game show he saw. He thought it was Pyramid or Hollywood Squares. Hey, I can top that. I'm so ancient, I can remember the B&W What's My Line and I've Got a Secret from the fifties. But was either the first game show I saw? Just can't say. The answer is lost in irrecoverable childhood memories, Alex, so I lose my wager.

Which makes me feel even older.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

GSN number-palooza top ten

Douglas still hasn't posted any more complete weeks, but he's listed GSN's daily top ten for June 26, June 27, June 29 and June 30. I'd love to see full ratings for all GSN shows, but Douglas has shed so much light on the formerly inaccessible numbers that I hate to complain. I don't want to get a reputation for whining, after all (wink).

Saturday, June 26, 2010
DEAL OR NO DEAL 2:00P-3:00P 375
DEAL OR NO DEAL 1:00P-2:00P 346
1 VS. 100 12:00P-1:00P 318
FAMILY FEUD 3:30P-4:00P 295
BAGGAGE 5:30P-6:00P 266
NEWLYWED GAME (GSN) 4:00P-4:30P 259
BAGGAGE 5:00P-5:30P 255
CATCH 21 11:30A-12:00P 246
NEWLYWED GAME (GSN) 11:00A-11:30A 240
BAGGAGE 4:30P-5:00P 232

LATE NIGHT LIARS 3:00A-3:30A 55
LATE NIGHT LIARS 3:30A-4:00A 48

Sunday, June 27, 2010
MILLION DOLLAR PASSWORD 9:00P-10:00P 363
DEAL OR NO DEAL 1:00P-2:30P 359
FAMILY FEUD 5:00P-5:30P 324
1 VS. 100 12:00P-1:00P 322
FAMILY FEUD 3:30P-4:00P 302
BAGGAGE 4:30P-5:00P 294
CATCH 21 5:30P-6:00P 293
1 VS. 100 8:00P-9:00P 287
DEAL OR NO DEAL 7:00P-8:00P 270
FAMILY FEUD 3:00P-3:30P 269

LATE NIGHT LIARS 11:00P-11:30P 121
LATE NIGHT LIARS 11:30P-12:00A 110

Tuesday, June 29, 2010
FAMILY FEUD 4:30P-5:00P 465
FAMILY FEUD 8:30P-9:00P 425
CHAIN REACTION 2:30P-3:00P 414
NEWLYWED GAME (GSN) 6:00P-6:30P 405
CATCH 21 2:00P-2:30P 397
DEAL OR NO DEAL 1:00P-2:00P 384
BAGGAGE 6:30P-7:00P 384
DEAL OR NO DEAL 5:00P-6:00P 381
DEAL OR NO DEAL 7:00P-8:00P 360
FAMILY FEUD 4:00P-4:30P 359

Wednesday, June 30, 2010
FAMILY FEUD 8:30P-9:00P 479
FAMILY FEUD 4:30P-5:00P 453
FAMILY FEUD 8:00P-8:30P 433
BAGGAGE 6:30P-7:00P 416
NEWLYWED GAME (GSN) 9:00P-9:30P 409
BAGGAGE 9:30P-10:00P 407
FAMILY FEUD 4:00P-4:30P 389
NEWLYWED GAME (GSN) 6:00P-6:30P 377
WWTB MILLIONAIRE 12:00A-1:00A 327
1 VS. 100 10:00P-11:00P 313

A lot of the usual suspects: Karn, O'Hurley, Jerry, Carnie and Howie. But Alfonso and Saget also get some props. My personal fave Chain Reaction puts in a notable appearance.

And look at that unpromoted, unnoticed, apparently-unknown-to-GSN's-brass Million Dollar Password! Not to mention an appearance by Regis' other show at midnight. Makes all that money and all that promotion wasted on the putrid puppets look, well, even more wasted.

Of course, the puppets stink but we already knew that. Moving poker to Saturday continues to look like a major mistake, as none of the shows hit the top ten for the day. At least it cleared a Sunday slot for MDP, but that show would probably have done well on any night with GSN's audience.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pyramid theorizing

Now that the Pyramid pilot has taped, some odd thoughts are floating around the web. I replied to one of the odder ones.

Other poster: If they [GSN] can reinstate the $25K/$100K Pyramid hour in that same time slot on Thursday nights, that would be great; but if they didn't do it last night, I wonder if this is an omen that the end may be nearing for Dick Clark's Pyramids on GSN, in anticipation of the new Pyramid revival that may likely replace As The World Turns on CBS this fall? If this is the case, I can see why they chose not to reinstate both same-day repeats of the Pyramids in that same time slot. It's probably not worth it, and Dick Clark's Pyramids may be gone [from GSN] before Labor Day.

Let's look at this interesting theory...

The 2:00 AM hour of Pyramid easily gets GSN's best numbers for any pre-1990 show, thanks at least in part to the high-rated Howie-Regis-Karn lead-in. That's why the hour has been left alone on four of the five weeknights. My guess is that the fifth weeknight will soon return to Pyramid after GSN burns off the last four eps of the rapidly disappearing puppet disaster, just as Regis has now gotten back his Thursday midnight slot.

As for the CBS pilot, there's absolutely no guarantee that Pyramid will replace As The World Turns. In fact, that's far from "likely" with several other candidates - Emeril, Julie Chen, Valerie Bertinelli, and others we may not know about - competing for the slot.

Even if Pyramid makes it back to CBS, there's no reason GSN would drop its versions of the show. CBS has no interest in or control over GSN. The rights to the Pyramid versions currently running on GSN are controlled by Sony, not CBS, and there's no reason at all that GSN would defer to CBS by removing Pyramid from its lineup.

If anything, a CBS version of Pyramid might make it more likely GSN would continue running the Dick Clark versions, in order to benefit from the free publicity about the show. GSN sure didn't mind running Deal or No Deal at the same time CNBC was carrying it, nor do they mind carrying O'Hurley Feud or Meredith Millionaire while those shows are currently in syndication.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bull...something

For some odd reason a short-lived quizzer called Bullseye (1980-82) seems to have a devoted cult following on the Internet. Whenever GSN runs a viewer's choice marathon, this nondescript show attracts lots of support. Of course, Brussels sprouts attract lots of support, too, so there's no disputing tastes.

But I still can't understand the appeal of this Barry & Enright effort. The pace slumbered along, and the questions weren't overly interesting. It must be the set that appeals to some game show fans. Elaborate and garish, the set featured enough pre-digital bells and whistles to endear itself to a few aficionados.

Jim Lange hosted competently but no more. The show barely scraped through a first syndie season of abysmal ratings, then tried the treacherous all-celeb route for its second go-round. It didn't work, and Bullseye retreated to old-teevee territory: reruns on USA Network during the 1990s and a very occasional glimpse on GSN.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

News desk

The gimmick didn't work so well for Howie, but NBC is not deterred. Minute To Win It will feature a million dollar mission when the stuntfest returns July 7. Some lucky sap from the studio audience will get a shot at a million bucks for bouncing coins off something into something else. Sounds as goofy as everything else on the show, which is why I have a soft spot for Minute.

A lobbyist and political operative named William L. Taylor has died at age 78 in Washington. This resolutely nonpolitical blog would not normally record this passing, but Taylor was also a contestant on the rigged Tic Tac Dough of the 1950s. Supposedly he was one of the honest contestants who refused answers from the producers but still won a bundle.

A while back I noted ABC's new pilot, 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show. The casting call has now gone out for contestants who don't mind getting emphatically ejected from the proceedings if they miss a question. Good luck on the thirty-foot-high catapult.

Alex Davis at BuzzerBlog has linked to the taping dates for the second season of GSN's dating epic Baggage. The show will tape beginning July 13. I assume the new season will premiere within the next six-to-eight weeks.