Thursday, September 30, 2010

After the win

Athletes often have hangovers after the big locker-room champagne dousings. But what happens to game show contestants after they pull off the big win?

An interesting story on AOL's Daily Finance site tracked the after-game-show-life of seven large winners: Brad Rutter (pictured as he put away Ken Jennings on Jeopardy), Ken Jennings (not pictured as he got put away), Millionaire's Kevin Olmstead and Ed Toutant, Twenty One's David Legler, Wheel of Fortune's Michelle Loewenstein Moore, and 5th Grader's Kathy Cox.

The most agonizing saga was Kathy's, as she and her husband endured a bankruptcy proceeding on the way to a final settlement. Looks like half of her million prize will go to three Georgia schools for deaf and blind children, and the other half to the bankruptcy trustee. I love lawyers.

The other contestants have splurged a little, invested a lot, and in a couple cases pursued show business careers. But most of the victors haven't seen huge lifestyle changes. They seem like a pretty level-headed group. Michelle speaks for a lot of us when she says: "The taxes were awful." No kidding, and they're not getting less awful any time soon.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kisses from long ago

The GSN classic board's endless whining thread about Richard Karn's new slots on the schedule has somehow wandered into a discussion of Family Feud's other Richard, the kissing bandit Dawson. My contribution to this profound topic...

The Dawson smooch never bothered me. But I have to laugh a little about what would have happened if Louie or Karn or O'Hurley or Harvey ever tried it. Oh man, the critics would have fried the host for sexual piggishness. Even Dawson himself didn't dare it when he returned in 1994.

Related note: I saw a recent New York Daily News story on Meredith Vieira that muttered about her, uh, risque comments to an attractive Navy pilot during her first year on Millionaire. And she didn't even kiss the guy on the lips. And the story appeared eight years after the event. (Full confession: I muttered about the incident myself on this blog. Truth to tell, it wasn't Meredith's finest hour. Pathetic cougar, indeed.)

Nowadays, no game show host, male or female, would risk the Dawson smooch. An quick air-peck on the cheek is the most anybody will venture.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ambling around the web

The first week's ratings weren't anything to swoon over, and at least one critic is wondering if Steve Harvey is the right guy for Family Feud. I dunno, once Steve calms down and stops trying to be funny every second of every minute, I think he'll do okay. But he should remember that the game's the thing, not the next bit of (maybe) funny business from the host.

The Hasbro outlet known as the new Hub network will sneak preview some of their shows on October 10, the night before the "official" launch. The new shows include Family Game Night, which will feature, amazingly enough, Hasbro games. All right, I promise to get less snarky about the merchandise push. We all gotta make a living, and the folks at Hasbro are no exception.

TPiR-indifference kicks in for me again, but I must report that longtime producer Kathy Greco is leaving the show, according to a Facebook post by Randy West. These things happen on any long-running show, and The Price is Right has been running longer than the Nile.

Syndies, start your numbers

The first week of syndicated game show debuts (except for 5th Grader) has come and gone, and Nielsen Media Research has finally released the weekly numbers. The twin towers, er, towered and the rest of the shows were so-so or worse. Broadcasting & Cable runs through the ratings for the week ending September 19...

Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - up three ticks, thanks Vegas!
Jeopardy 5.1 - up six ticks, thanks Roger!
Millionaire 2.1 - up a tick from previous week's season-worst number, the new format didn't help much
Family Feud 1.4 - down a tick, the new host didn't help at all
5th Grader 1.0 - down a couple ticks to all-time low, though the show was winding up its old season

The fading Millionaire fell out of the top twenty-five syndies, so TV by the Numbers only has viewership averages for you-know-who: Wheel of Fortune 9.2 million and Jeopardy 7.8 million.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Comedy central

Many have noticed the recent trend towards standup comics as hosts of game shows. To put it mildly, the trend has proven controversial. Steve Beverly in particular likes to rant that experienced game show hosts - he's usually talking about Todd Newton - don't get a chance at important gigs while comics scoop up all the goodies.

The wailing got louder when Drew Carey inherited the earth, or at least the plinko, from Bob Barker. I'm neutral on the ruckus myself. I don't mind producers looking anywhere for promising "master of ceremonies" (remember that ancient term?) talent. Jeff Foxworthy, for instance, has hardly embarrassed himself on 5th Grader.

Which is noted in this recent puff piece on the redneck comic. Not that I mind the puffiness so much. Foxworthy seems like a reasonably good guy, down to earth enough to recall his days working the mainframes at IBM.

Standup comics do have to think on their feet and react to changing situations in a hurry. It's not such a terrible way to train for game shows while making a few bucks.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fishing with Chuck

To declare an interest, as the Brits say, I'm a fan of Chuck Woolery. For some reason Woolery never seems to have been taken very seriously even by game show fans. When GSN tried Naturally Stoned, a reality show about Chuck a few years ago, the reaction was mostly incredulous. A reality show about him? What kind of reality is there, anyway?

Well, to start with, he's an avid fisherman. Woolery now lives in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, about an hour away from Austin, and spends endless hours angling. When he catches a big bass, says Woolery, he announces "thank you for playing with Chuck" before tossing the fish back. The fish probably doesn't enjoy the gameplay quite as much, though.

To get back to game shows, Woolery has hosted a bunch of them and has always done at least a competent job, and usually much more than that. He may have gotten stuck forever on Wheel of Fortune if not for his famed salary spat with Merv Griffin. As Woolery says a little ruefully, "Pat Sajak should send me a 'thank you' card every day." But this might have been an admittedly well-disguised blessing. Sajak could be bored silly by now while Woolery has gone on to host a much more interesting variety of games, including my personal favorite Lingo.

Because of his rather stereotypical leading-man looks, Woolery has always been suspected of shallowness. But there was a moment right at the end of Naturally Stoned, after the show recounted Woolery's marital woes (he's had a few), when the camera caught Chuck as he was saying good-night at a GSN function. His face showed weariness and, to get melodramatic, even a little suffering. He didn't look shallow then.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dates to remember

After watching some of Baggage's second season, I must say that GSN's sort-of remake of Dating Game has definitely improved. I was a little dour in my review of the first season, calling the show too dull and slow. Truth to tell, the pace still lolligags, with only one date (or non-date) per episode. But the producers have moved things along a little quicker with the rapid-fire "hot spot" segment, which actually is a lot of free-association fun. And the addition of a live audience has helped banish the library-ish quietness of the proceedings.

As usual for old-timers like crotchety me, the new version calls to mind the old version, in this case Chuck Barris' original CIA-cover (chuckle, chuckle) Dating Game. The Barris epic always seemed like a cheesy embarrassment, with hopeful hookups quizzing each other on deep topics like what kind of vegetable are you. But Chuck's shows should be cheesy and embarrassing, considering their source.

Jim Lange is the host most closely associated with Dating Game, though quite a few others eventually helmed the flirtatious Q&A. But the host was never very important in the format. He was little more than an onscreen announcer who introduced the contestants, then stood and watched as the questions flew.

The Wikipedia article (usual caveats) on the show goes into excruciating detail about the celebs who appeared on Dating Game, sometimes before their celebrity kicked in. And there are plenty of YouTube clips of well-known folks looking for a little love, or at least a first date. Even the rich and famous apparently need some affection. Personally, I could use some more riches, though fame is less necessary.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fiascos and fixes

Scrounging through the Google news cache, I ran across this Bay City, Michigan production called The Great Game Show Fiasco. As you can probably tell from the title, this is not an insightful exploration of the game show condition. Instead, it's a jokey farce with a star who's "Bob Barker, Drew Carey...very friendly because he has to be, but behind the scenes, he’s pompous." Drew doesn't seem all that pompous to me, but I've never met the guy so what do I know?

Our little genre produces this kind of humor, which is only natural considering the nature of the BuzzerBeast. After all, game shows are fun and frivolity, not Serious Drama From Sophocles Or Somebody. Weird Al Yankovic had the right idea when he sent up Jeopardy in his classic video parody.

By far the most pretentious effort to examine game shows was the 1994 film Quiz Show, based on the rigging scandals of the 1950s. If game shows ever delivered a genuinely tragic episode, the fifties scandals may have been it, as people saw their lives disrupted and their reputations ruined in the fixing follies. I thought the movie got a little creepy at times, as if it had to insist on the importance of its subject. There were also some liberties with the facts, most notably in the exaggerated importance given to Dick Goodwin for uncovering the fixes.

Maybe we should be happy game shows are such a trivial pursuit (pun intended). Some things in life should not be taken too seriously...he said rather seriously.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Here and there

Alex Trebek is getting meaner as he gets older. At least that's what Alex says in this chitchat with the Techland website. Trebek does come off as something of an old fogey, probably intentionally, as he dumps on BlackBerrys and other contemporary gadgets. But he still watches a lot of TV. And he says the secret to success on Jeopardy is knowing the subject matter. Okay, sounds reasonable.

Speaking of which, Roger Craig toppled in game seven but still became the third richest winner on Alex's little show with a nice kitty of $231,200. We'll see him in the tournament of champions, no doubt.

Before he wrote The Exorcist and scared the hell out of Linda Blair, William Peter Blatty took home some loot on Groucho Marx's classic You Bet Your Life. He won ten grand in 1950s money, which was good pay. Blatty said he would take time off from work to "write a novel." A devilish idea.

I've often referred to Weakest Link's Anne Robinson as the wicked witch, a title she would undoubtedly relish. Turns out that withcraft pays well, as the withering Anne boasts a personal fortune of sixty million pounds. It wasn't always smooth financial sailing, though. Her second divorce reportedly cost a bundle. At least she's stayed sober for decades now, unlike the earlier days she recounted in her autobiography.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Syndies droop in last week

The final week before the debuts didn't treat syndicated game shows very kindly. Broadcasting & Cable tells us how badly they performed in the week ending September 12...

Wheel of Fortune 5.6 - down two ticks
Jeopardy 4.5 - down three ticks to season low as the season expires
Millionaire 2.0 - down two ticks, bring on the new format
Family Feud 1.5 - down a tick, farewell to John (except on GSN)
5th Grader 1.2 - flat, didn't have far to fall

Tune in next week for the new season's first batch of weekly ratings. All the returning syndie gamers except 5th Grader debuted new episodes beginning September 13, and the numbers have nowhere to go but up. I hope.

Meanwhile, there's discouraging news for newcomer Don't Forget the Lyrics, which apparently forgot to get ratings. The show fetched a teensy-weensy 0.5 daily overnight number for its debut yesterday. I don't sing very well, either.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Announcing today's post

Carrie Grosvenor spent almost half of her review of today's The Price is Right premiere chatting about the show's announcer controversy. I have to plead my usual TPiR-indifference to the details about Rich Fields and, well, most everything else on the show. But her comments about Fields got me thinking (dangerous, I know). Just why do game shows have announcers in the first place?

Obviously, not all game shows have seen the need for this functionary. Millionaire's done okay for a decade without a deep voice from beyond intoning intros and blurbs. And really, who watches a game show for the announcer? People talk about Pat and Vanna, not Pat and Vanna and Charlie.

No offense to Mr. O'Donnell, who sounds like God-plus. Some shows have incorporated the announcer's role into a co-host's duties, as with the pictured Jimmy Kimmel. The irreverent Jimmy zipped through the usual announcer blather while batting Ben Stein around with put-downs and one-ups.

I guess announcers are still here because tradition dies hard in the game show world, and Johnny Olsen and his successors have been reading their lines for a half-century or so. We may always have somebody proclaiming the goodies in the prize package.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hulk-a-game-a-mania

Once upon a time I was a pro wrestling fan. Then I grew up. But for those still stuck in literal or figurative childhood, Terry Bollea is developing a new game show for kids. Mr. Bollea's much better known stage-or-ring-name is Hulk Hogan.

As one acerbic scribe puts it, the concept sounds like a cross between Double Dare and Judge Judy. The Hulkster "mediates" disputes between siblings over who farts the worst and other major issues. Some media pundits hope that Hogan might body-slam a few really obnoxious rugrats. The working title for the show is Hulk's tagline, Yeah, Brother.

Mr. Bollea himself comments in antiseptic, politically correct terms: "I am really looking forward to developing such an entertaining series with great production partners. We want this to be one of those rare shows that kids and their families can watch together, and all find something to laugh about."

Oh geez, who needs a respectable Hulk? C'mon, Terry, wreck the set and throw a couple of the brattiest runts out the window.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

More GSN schedule shuffles

Turns out that Karn getting four new slots wasn't the end of the Play Every Day schedule tweaks. Smiling Richard still has the four new slots, though arranged a little differently. But look for more wailing on the GSN classics board.

Other poster: Schedules have been updated on Buzzerblog. We have quite a few schedule changes.

9:00am Family Feud (Karn Mon Tues Fri. Dawson Wed Thurs)
9:30am Family Feud (Karn Mon Tues Fri. Dawson Wed Thurs)
10:00am Card Sharks (Perry)
10:30am $25,000 Pyramid
11:00am Match Game
11:30am Match Game
12:00pm The Newlywed Game
12:30pm Baggage

Rest same except Million Dollar Password is GONE off the schedule. 1 vs 100 returns weekdays at 10PM.


With the usual and necessary caveats about the pdfs...

GSN doubles down on Dawson at 9:00 AM three days a week? [O.P. is wrong on what the pdfs currently say. Dawson gets Tues-Wed-Thurs.] Strange, considering his bad numbers after the infomercials. Do I sense a double run for Karn coming every weekday?

Carnie at noon? I wonder how long this will last once Sherri takes over. Apparently there are no hard feelings about the lawsuit, at least among GSN programmers.

Million Dollar Password's complete disappearance is a little odd, but I have a private theory. Has to do with that rumor about a Pyramid return somewhere. I'm probably wrong, though.

Alfonso keeps his three-a-day. A little surprising. Jerry gets a three-a-day. Not surprising at all.

Into the valley of death rides Match Game. Poor Gene.

SLIGHTLY RELATED UPDATE: I've put Brandon's TV Blog back on the blogroll. Many of his posts have nothing to do with game shows, but occasionally he talks about the genre. Brandon's a predictable older-is-better guy who posts on the GSN classics board under the appropriate name matchgame74fan.

Saturday snippets

Jimmy Fallon's production company is prepping a new game show pilot for NBC based on contestants attempting weird world records. Maybe I can try for the world's most trivial blog entry. Minute To Win It has generated reasonable ratings for peanuts (or maybe even sunflower seeds) so cheap stuntfests apparently appeal to the peacock net.

As I once said, this blog usually doesn't go international. But there's such an odd story about the Brit version of Millionaire that even my xenophobic self can't resist. (No, xenophobia is not the fear of warrior princesses.) Seems that Charles Ingram, the guy caught in the cheating scandal on the British Millionaire, lost three toes in a freak gardening accident. The unsympathetic Alex Davis invites us to make our own jokes.

Bob Barker apparently fainted at a shooting range in L.A. and was taken to a hospital. He seems to be fine now, as he was quickly released and is resting at home. At age 86 these things happen. Barker, of course, has been involved in endless legal wrangles related to The Price is Right. I would discuss these courtroom conniptions if I cared about them.

Roger Craig continues to romp and stomp on Jeopardy, racking up $195,801 in his five-day rampage. He ain't the next Jennings yet, but the money sure beats grad student pay.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Get a move on

Now that I've posted a couple screenshots from the new syndie Millionaire, I might as well offer my unvarnished opinion of the updated format: this is slooooooowwwwwwww.

Okay, the show was never fast-paced, but ditching the clock and randomizing the questions has ratcheted the proceedings down to a four-month-old's crawl. This will certainly keep the show from giving away money (or doing anything else) in a hurry, which is an understandable reaction to Millionaire's steadily declining ratings.

The set changes are inconsequential. Yes, the hot seat had become iconic, but who really cares if contestants stand up, lie down, or turn somersaults? Hm, that last idea might liven things up. At least it would temper the monotony as contestants dawdle over answers.

Meredith went on Regis' morning show to shill for the new format. Regis sounded doubtful about this bashing-around of the game show he's still so closely associated with. He said the new format looks tougher, and he's right. What Regis probably wanted to mention but couldn't is the money motive. Sorry, folks, but the show has to pinch pennies.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Syndies in the old season

Several syndicated game shows have already kicked off new seasons starting September 13, as the screenshot from Millionaire demonstrates. But the ratings are still dribbling in for the final weeks of the expiring season. Broadcasting and Cable delivers the numbers for the week ending September 5:

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - flat
Jeopardy 4.8 - off a tick
Millionaire 2.2 - flat
Family Feud 1.6 - up a tick as John says a long good-bye
5th Grader 1.2 - flat

Speaking of closing out seasons, Wipeout and Minute To Win It wrapped up their summer stints last night. TV by the Numbers says the shows garnered respectable results: Wipeout a 2.7 18-49 rating and 6.8 million total viewers, Minute a 1.9 rating and 6.4 million viewers. Both shows will return after some hard-earned rest.

GSN is sticky

The endless kvetching on the GSN classics board over the new slots for Richard Karn's Family Feud has become a bore for everybody. But the discussion has occasionally taken an offbeat turn, as when I blathered about GSN's adhesive qualities...

Other poster: As for hardcore game show fans I doubt it. The average person who probably watch GSN the most often are channel surfers.

In fact, I've seen some numbers on the web that indicate GSN has strong audience "stickiness." No, this doesn't mean Grandma spills chocolate syrup on her blouse as she watches Howie. It means that GSN viewers tend to stick with the network for significantly longer periods of time than teevee watchers in general.

Of course, there are some casual channel surfers, too. But this network seems to attract viewers who are really interested in the genre and tend to watch for long periods. That's not surprising. After all, GSN is the only game show network in this country. It's not like there are a bunch of other game show outlets luring fans away, like there are for sports fans or news junkies or sitcom mavens, etc.

If you can wade through all the academese, this paper offers some interesting numbers on GSN's audience. The money quote:

"Premium cable channels and networks specializing in movies are watched for relatively long periods of time. Beyond that, an odd collection of networks with otherwise small audience shares are high on the list...FOX News Channel, TV Land, Nickelodeon, SOAP, Hallmark Channel, Court TV, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie, and the Game Show Network, to name a few."

Naturally, this doesn't always work. GSN's audience got real "un-sticky" when the putrid puppets came on and the viewers fled in droves.

But this tendency plays into Karn's new slots. GSN knows that smiling Richard is popular with their audience. If he can get GSN's viewers to watch him first thing at 9:00 AM, then a lot of those people will tend to stick around for much of the morning.

Same thing at 12:30 PM. If Karn gets his usual good tune-in, a lot of those folks will stick around for Howie at 1:00 PM, just as 1 vs. 100's large (by GSN standards) noon audience on the weekends gives lead-out Deal or No Deal a nice boost.

Looking for the next Ken

Roger Craig, a unprepossessing grad student from the University of Delaware, has made a splash in the Google news cache by breaking Ken Jennings' single-game Jeopardy winnings record. He bet thirty grand on the final question or answer or whatever, and he came up aces with The Bridge on the River Kwai. Unlike the bridge in the movie, the show didn't blow up in his face.

Even BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis, who thinks Jeopardy is a "normally mellow" snooze, got a bit excited over the big score. As you might expect, speculation immediately started on whether the show had found the next Ken Jennings. I'm a little divided on that idea. While I admire Jennings' unabashed nerdiness, he can come off as a bit arrogant.

But Jeopardy could use a nice long series of wins from somebody. The show still ranks highly in syndie household ratings, but the demos skew ancient and the numbers have definitely eroded over the past few years. Anyway, congratulations to Roger for quite an accomplishment. It's a whole lot better than I could even dream of doing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Odd thoughts from an odd guy

Just going to kick back and post some random noodlings...

I've only caught a few glimpses, but Steve Harvey seems to be doing okay on Family Feud. I do wish he would resist a little more stoutly the temptation to make Feud into the Steve Harvey Comedy Half-Hour. Relax, Steve, you don't have to be funny every minute. As Mr. Goodson once observed, you've got a pretty near perfect format to carry you.

Just when is that supercomputer going to show up on Jeopardy? The press release only says that more news will arrive "later this year." Is the machine shy or something? Don't worry, big guy, they won't toss you out of the building like they did with Weird Al.

The only mention of game shows in Broadcasting & Cable's report on syndication's first day was a bittersweet reminder that syndie Deal or No Deal has opened its last suitcase. Silly me liked the quicker pace of the syndie version. But apparently it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing of all the models steppin' out into the studio. Well, the syndie got a couple seasons, anyway.

A Wheel of Fortune contestant says that his soon-to-air appearance felt like "an alternate reality." He also tosses in the adjective "surreal." Nice to know he had some fun...I think.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Granddaddy starts all over again

Is Wheel of Fortune eighty-four years old? Or have I lived a lot longer than I care to remember? No matter, for old and new times' sake, I just watched Pat and Vanna's season premiere. At the top of the show Pat announced that Wheel had a few new wrinkles and so did he. Pat, we're all getting older unless the alternative overtakes us.

All right, I'll stop with the dotage grumbles. Wheel taped this season's first few weeks in a humongous auditorium somewhere in deepest Vegas, and everybody's voices echoed through the ornate halls of air conditioning and the theory of probability. One of the contestants announced that she was a former Miss Nevada, which fetched some cheers from the assembled masses. Too bad she didn't win, but she still copped three grand.

So did the other loser, er, non-winner. The lady who went to the bonus round was a friendly sort with her hubby and kids in attendance. Sadly, she couldn't identify "gift exchange" but she walked away with close to thirty thousand in cash and prizes. In a possible swipe at syndie Millionaire, Pat announced before she spun the little wheel that the show was upping the bonus prizes unlike "everybody else."

In the closing chitchat Pat said Vanna was eleven years old when she started turning the letters. Vanna said "bye." It was Wheel of Fortune.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Call a cab

Who woulda thunk it? Meredith Vieira purely loves Cash Cab. Nice that Meredith has joined a club which is low-brow enough to include me.

The cab's rubber-faced driver/host Ben Bailey has attracted some notice as he takes his stand-up shtick to campuses far and wide. For some reason these stories about his comedy act always give me the impression that Ben is tired of being known as just a game show host. Anyway, the story offers a loud photo of Ben in full stand-up rant mode.

Turns out that Ben's strangest cab rider was "a heavyset man wearing a bright purple bunny suit topped off with matching high heels." Well, you should color-coordinate your accessories. Even Meredith can appreciate that. Ben has a few other TV gigs on the docket. He'll do a stand-up special on Comedy Central next month. And he'll take a guest turn on 30 Rock in his Cash Cab persona.

I still haven't seen a debut date for the supposed syndie run of Cash Cab. Is this ride into syndication still on?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

GSN still hearts Karn?

Richard Karn's version of Family Feud has always brought home the Nielsen bacon for GSN. So what did the network do? They ejected Karn from prime time and cut one of his high-rated afternoon runs to make room for the ear-ripping Alfonso Ribeiro on Catch 21. But GSN honchos may be having another think or two. Yesterday Karn popped up on the network's online schedule in the 9:00 AM and 12:30 PM slots for Monday. Naturally, this has set off alarums and excursions on the GSN classics board. My profound thoughts...

Other poster: However, I am glad Card Sharks is not affected.

Different strokes. If there's any show I wouldn't miss, it's acey-deucey. Back to the original topic, Karn's new slots could well be just a mistake on the online schedule, though I'll admit that listing is usually the most accurate.

Then again...Karn's always been a winner for GSN but the network threw him out of prime time to make room for (gag) more Alfonso. Are they having second thoughts?

It would really be interesting to see how Alfonso is faring in the 8:00 PM hour, if Douglas is listening. Three eardrum-pounding doses of His Loudness every day might be proving a tad much, especially compressed into a seven-hour window. Could GSN be testing the waters for a return to the winning Karn-O'Hurley combo at 8:00 PM?

Naw, probably just a mistake on the schedule. But Dawson Feud has reeked so badly in the 9:00 AM slot, something will happen sooner or later. Averages like 83K in the latest published week get embarrassing.

Another poster: Let's face the facts folks, if GSN would not have picked up Karn a few years ago, Combs AND Dawson would still be airing in the later afternoons, like they always were.

I'm not going to FTFY, but please. Combs Feud has always had trouble staying on the schedule, regardless of any other show GSN has picked up. Ray's just the unloved middle child, I'm afraid. I rate his version very highly, but he's never been a consistent winner with GSN's viewers.

Yet another poster: Nobody needs Karn's sad replica repeating even more than it does!

GSN's audience apparently doesn't mind the sad replica. In the latest published week Karn pulled a 255K average for the graveyard shift (the 1:00 AM hour). Don't hold your breath until Dawson gets anything like that in the morning. Hey, he doesn't do that kind of average in the afternoon.

UPDATE: Hm, maybe it's not a mistake. Karn Feud is now listed at 9:00 AM and 12:30 PM on Friday as well. Something might really be happening. Could Karn return to prime time? Or get his double run in the afternoon back?

UPDATED UPDATE: A Dawson Feud fan on the GSN board, who feels much beleaguered because some other posters disagree, points out that the BuzzerBlog pdfs say Karn will not get additional slots on Monday and Friday. We'll see soon enough.

UPDATED UPDATED UPDATE: Karn definitely has the slots. The GSN classics board is whining even worse than usual. They whine about GSN a lot more than they actually watch GSN.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Syndies wait

John O'Hurley deserves one more screenshot before riding off into the Feud sunset. He kept the old nag ambling along for four seasons, and we'll see how well his successor does. Meanwhile, syndie game shows are cooling their heels until the new seasons start. In a week of fading summer blahs, as viewership levels fell by a couple million, Broadcasting & Cable delivered the ho-hums for the seven days ending August 29:

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up a tick
Jeopardy 4.9 - up a couple ticks from season low
Millionaire 2.2 - down a tick
Family Feud 1.5 - flat, John's almost done
5th Grader 1.2 - flat

TV by the Numbers only gives the viewership averages for the twin towers because Meredith toppled right out of the top twenty-five. Those new rules better work! Wheel of Fortune averaged 9.1 million pairs of eyeballs (weekend repeat 4.0 million) and Jeopardy delivered 7.3 million.

The days are getting shorter and over-the-air TV is starting to sit up in bed and stretch a bit. Speaking of which, TV by the Numbers tells us that Wipeout managed a first-place 2.7 18-49 rating on Tuesday night, with 8.0 million total viewers. Minute To Win It finished second in the demo with a 1.7 rating and 6.1 million viewers. The Wednesday Minute turned in slightly better numbers, a 1.8 rating and 6.5 million stunt-watchers. For the bargain basement price, NBC will gladly take those results.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Piddly little things

As we wait for the new seasons of syndie and broadcast game shows, a few small items have cropped up. Plenty of good seats are available for Sherri Shepherd's Newlywed Game tapings beginning September 16. Okay, a couple tapings are full up but lots of other dates remain. Wanna make a few bucks as a paid audience member? Feel free to apply.

Meredith, Meredith, how does your garden grow? I've never wondered about La Vieira's crops, but you can read about them here. Turns out that Meredith's first year in horticulture was a disaster, but now the garden produces lots of "lettuces, cucumber, tomatoes, beans, squash." I never was a big fan of vegetables.

Game show doyenne Betty White has really made it big, with her own comic book. That's right, you can read about the "Female Force" in a Bluewater comics special. Writer Patrick McCray gushes about working with the Force: "While covering a new entertainer is always fun, there is something special about profiling an icon. Not only did it allow me to savor nostalgia, it also let me catch up on areas of pop culture that had passed me by." Betty hasn't passed anybody by lately, as any teevee watcher can tell you.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Personal heresies

I hadn't peeked at Matt Ottinger's game show board for ages, but today I saw an interesting thread: Where do you differ from the norm? In regards to commonly-held GS opinions.

By "commonly held", of course, the posters aren't referring to audiences or even critics in the real world. They're only talking about a few dozen regular posters on the various game show Internet boards, who often differ wildly from the millions of viewers who actually watch game shows. Anyway, on this thread posters confess to such heretical notions as that Bill Cullen really wasn't all that great, or that Whew! wasn't a very good show.

Compared to many denizens of the game show Internets, I have a few heretical ideas of my own...

Donnymid's 6-in-20 format was a lot better than the 7-in-30 format on older versions of Pyramid. Sure, they squeezed down the limit to make room for more commercials. But the tighter timeframe quickened the pace and made perfect rounds far more entertaining instead of boringly routine.

Despite its reputation for brainlessness, Deal or No Deal ain't dumb at all...if you calculate odds and expected values and upcoming offers. Yes, most viewers can't be bothered with such mental gymnastics. But there's a lot of utility theory and probability theory cranking beneath the show's deceptively simple surface.

Richard Karn was a fine host of syndie Family Feud, as his remarkable staying power on GSN proves. He didn't try to dominate the show but just played an amiable everyman role.

The Barry-Enright quizzers - Tic Tac Dough, Joker's Wild, Bullseye - were mostly boring. Too many easy questions in flat, undramatic formats.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Toppers

Top ten lists are irresistible, and game show fans pose even less resistance than normal people. So a thread on the first ten inductees into a hypothetical game show hall of fame has cropped up on the GSN board. Naturally, I offered my conceited opinion.

Other poster: If you were starting a "Game Show Hall of Fame" and had to pick 10 shows to induct, which 10 shows would be inducted on the "first ballot."

Did this a while back on Wikipedia, but that list is gone now and I can't remember it. So there may be a few differences...

Match Game
Family Feud
Jeopardy
Wheel of Fortune
The Price is Right
Pyramid
I've Got a Secret
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
Password
Lingo

All except TPiR are personal faves as well. Lingo is the offbeat choice, but I have no problem putting it very high on the list. I've Got a Secret is a tad off the beaten track, but not very far off.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Schwabing for dollars

Sports trivia has long been an obscure but oddly interesting corner of the quizzer universe. With the advent of eighty-nine sports channels in the eighty-nine-gazillion-channel cable universe, the athletic brainteasers have become much more common if not more interesting for sports-phobes. Outside of baseball I'm not a voracious sports fan myself, but I've given the shows an occasional look.

Probably the most "cerebral" of the jock efforts was ESPN's Stump the Schwab (2004-06). The show gave athletic supporters (sorry) a chance to beat Howie Schwab, the worldwide leader's first statistician, in a multi-round jock trivia battle. Schwab was no pushover, as his 64-16 record over four seasons in the show's final round proved. But occasionally a lucky fan with a head full of jockdom would do what the show's title encouraged.

You might call it Win Ben Stein's Money for the brawn-minded. Except Howie didn't pretend to risk his own money, just a few microscopic bits of EPSN's ridiculous revenues. Stuart Scott hosted with reasonable competence and a pile of cornball catchphrases.

The show never made a huge splash in the ratings, but at least it didn't stoop to eye candy and groin-pull jokes to maintain the interest of ESPN's jock-sniffing viewers. As you can see from the screenshot, Schwab was no eye candy, though that ancient Padres uniform would humiliate anybody.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Stuff I found on the web

Aaron The Game Show Blogger doesn't post much (just once a week) but he offers interesting bits and pieces when he does write. Wonder what will fill the hiatus between As The World Turns' departure on September 17 and the arrival of the wife's chatfest The Talk on October 18?

Aaron knows: two weeks of new episodes from The Price is Right, one week of new eps from Let's Make a Deal, and one week of reruns from The Young And The Restless. By the way, why is it taking so long for Julie's talker to get on the air? Just point the camera and have them blather. What's so tough about that?

Aaron also says syndie Deal or No Deal will breathe its last on September 10. Silly me liked the show but it might have looked too cheap after the, er, full-model model. He doesn't know when syndie Cash Cab will debut, and I haven't seen any date, either.

Carrie Grosvenor advises that the new version of Millionaire is available for online play at the show's website. Did I say I'm tired of hearing about the new rules and set? Yes, I did say that, so I'll probably skip the web demo. But if you're interested, have fun with the randomizer.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pyramid lives?

Back when CBS decided for the wife's talk show, I saw a few web hints that Sony might try to shop Pyramid elsewhere. Now Alex Davis is assuring everybody that one of the greatest game shows ever will return somewhere and somehow.

Except Alex isn't saying how or where. Carrie Grosvenor has a suspicion but she's keeping mum, too. Funny, I posted a note on the GSN board yesterday that airily mentioned a possible Pyramid revival, but I didn't know anything about these latest rumors. I was just wishfully thinking based on the chatter back when Julie Chen convinced her hubby.

The pilot which didn't sell to CBS was a hour version that messed with the set and made the contestants stand up. Alex speculates, and I agree, that any return of Pyramid will fit into a half-hour and probably won't feature the abortive pilot's host, Andy Richter. But I have to plead a complete Sergeant Schultz on such details. I know nothing, nothing about the revival, much as I hope it's not just fantasy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Syndies sit tight

Despite the looming departure of Millionaire's hot seat, syndicated game shows are just sitting around until the new seasons start. No matter. At Broadcasting & Cable the tireless Paige Albiniak manfully (or womanfully) files the required story on the numbers for the week ending August 22...

Wheel of Fortune 5.7 - down a tick
Jeopardy 4.7 - down a couple ticks to season low, what's happenin' Alex?
Millionaire 2.3 - wow, up a whole tick
Family Feud 1.5 - flat
5th Grader 1.2 - flat

Speaking of the tireless Paige, she also posted an interesting account of Family Feud's new season and host. Seems that the show still makes money, but the producers are hoping for a lift from Steve Harvey. We'll see, but the show's recent modest upturn in the ratings may actually be a farewell present from O'Hurley's fans.

Meanwhile, TV by the Numbers chips in the viewership averages for the top three syndies in the latest week: Wheel of Fortune 8.9 million, Jeopardy 7.0 million, Millionaire 3.2 million. Yes, the numbers look blah to me, too. The cheery fellows at TVBTN also tell us that Wipeout and Minute To Win It ranked one-two in the 8:30 PM timeslot last night, once Obama got finished speechifying. Wipeout garnered a 2.5 18-49 rating with 7.2 million total viewers. The numbers for Minute were a 1.7 rating and 6.0 million viewers.

Gold in them thar games

The New York Times has taken notice of America's little game show network. There's no news in the once-over-lightly effort, unless you didn't know GSN was remaking 1 vs. 100. The ratings and financial numbers mainly agree with other previously published sources. To quote my ramblings on the GSN board...

Other poster: The average age [of GSN's audience] is 57? It used to be higher, right?

Yeah, I was surprised by that average age number, too. I wonder if the median age is higher. The two aren't the same, after all.

Otherwise, there were no surprises in the numbers. Baggage is the top-rated original? Shocking. Advertising revenue is closing in on a hundred million a year. A while back TV by the Numbers said GSN's subscriber rate is eleven cents per month. On a household base of 73 million, that would make about a hundred mill in subscriber income as well. So the cable network is pulling down something like $200 million annually.

The online operations chip in another $65 million, according to the story. Seems a tad high, but who am I to argue? Anyway, it looks like GSN takes in total revenue of about a quarter-billion a year. The SNL Kagan analyst in the story still sounds grumpy, though. But the quoted Northwestern Ph.D. student seems happy enough with another part of her brain working.