Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cubesters whine

I'm not a football fan, but I hear that the most popular player with a football team's fans is often the backup quarterback. That's because he has no record and has made no mistakes, which automatically gives him an advantage with the fans over the poor schmuck who's actually in there playing.

In the U.S. The Cube has become the backup quarterback on the Beat the Clock ripoff team. Fans of the British stuntfest - which has never crossed the pond and doesn't look likely to any time soon - wail and moan that The Cube is far superior to Minute To Win It, the stunt show which is actually playing on American TV. Weekly blogger Aaron is the latest to join in the whining.

I don't get it. The Cube is very little different from Minute To Win It, except that it's slower, more padded, and has duller games. Even Aaron concedes that "the bare-bones description of The Cube sounds almost identical to that of Minute To Win It." But it's not just the bare bones. Anybody can go to YouTube and watch plenty of The Cube. They will see a lazier and less challenging version of Minute To Win It, with the contestants performing the stunts in a plexiglass cube.

Aaron tries hard to differentiate his fave from Minute, but fails to offer any genuine reason why his beloved show is better. Instead he allows that The Cube "contains some of the dumbest games I have ever seen, being played out in the most overdone way imaginable...the padding is endless...if they just played these games without it, the show would be fifteen minutes long." He's right on all counts. And he's a guy who supposedly likes the show.

In the end the only sort-of rationale he offers for Cube's alleged superiority is a bland assertion that the show is "really, really, incredibly fun to watch." Well, no accounting for tastes. I guess Aaron likes shows that he thinks are slow, dumb, overdone, and endlessly padded. But I watched a fair amount of Cube on YouTube and I didn't see a show that's better than Minute in any way. And in some significant ways - pacing and challenging gameplay - I think The Cube is definitely worse.

But it is the backup quarterback, at least in the U.S. So The Cube will always have its American fans.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Raunch & roll

When she's not getting (softly) body-slammed by pro wrestlers, Sherri Shepherd gives interviews. Her latest Q&A with AOL News has caused some eyebrows to lift. Seems that her new season of Newlywed Game on GSN will be a little raunchier than "your grandmother's Newlywed Game." Like when Sherri imitates an orgasm for a bashful husband.

There are lots of things I could say about Sherri Shepherd imitating an orgasm, but I'll just let your imagination run riot. Carrie Grosvenor grumbled a bit about the apparent raunch content on the upcoming season. The recent flop of Carnie's Newlywed Game in a noon slot on GSN could indicate that the show is already pushing the envelope a little aggressively, at least with the network's old-skewing midday audience.

I'm pretty tolerant of off-color material on game shows. After all, there's no nudity or even profanity (as long as the bleeper works). Sure, shows like Baggage are a little more frank in discussing matters sexual than, say, 1950s television. But it's just talk...and not very offensive talk at that.

Friday, October 29, 2010

GSN number-palooza yet again

Douglas delivers another pile of GSN viewer numbers to chew on. Let's hear it for the ratings dude! Random noodlings and notions for the week of October 18-24...

1) Overall averages were 305K/254K prime time/total day. Woefully rated poker really hurt the prime time average, which would have been 341K without the flops (pun intended) from the hold 'em players. More on this below.

2) Jerry didn't falter too much. His 6:30 PM run remained the highest-rated show on GSN with a 407K average, and his 9:30 PM reruns did fine at 376K. But he came a cropper at 12:30 PM with 158K. Might be a tad too early in the day for the saucy suitcases and the Medicare audience. Remember when GSN tried its version of I've Got a Secret in the middle of the afternoon?

3) It was a tale of two hours for syndie Deal or No Deal in its GSN debut. The 7:00 PM hour performed well at 364K with new (to GSN) eps and Jerry's lead-in. But the 5:00 PM hour struggled at 223K with next-day repeats and Alfonso's much less imposing lead-in. The network version is clearly softening after months of severe abuse, though the 11:00 PM hour saw a decent 309K average. Overall, the full-model brand turned in 266K for its still ridiculous 16 runs.

4) You put Karn in prime time and he performs, a 385K average at 8:00 PM and two slots in the top ten for the week, including GSN's highest-rated show on Thursday. The affable Richard even produced a 263K average in the bleary-eyed 1:00 AM hour, plus his usual solid 292K at 4:00 PM which included GSN's top show on Friday. His soulmate John O'Hurley collaborated on a pleasant 379K average for the 8:00 PM hour, GSN's highest-rated sixty minutes.

5) Alfonso is definitely fading, a 265K average at 4:30 PM. Oddly, he did a bit better at 2:00 PM with 271K. You have to wonder if the current season will be the last. To be fair to Alfonso, he averaged 298K for his weekend morning and afternoon runs.

6) Carnie isn't going too gentle into that good night, putting up good averages: 339K at 6:00 PM and 328K at 9:00 PM. But like Jerry, she didn't fare well early on weekdays with an incompatible audience, 136K at noon. Sherri's about to arrive for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till cancellation do her and GSN part.

7) Poker desperately needs a major cutback, even if GSN craves the demos. High Stakes Poker averaged a miserable 155K, and that was actually better than the hopeless doubles show. I personally liked the quick pace and interesting play of the doubles tournament, but I was apparently the only one. GSN should use the new season of HSP to reinvigorate a much smaller poker block on Sunday night.

8) Personal favorite alert: Lingo delivered 285K for the 3:00 PM hour and Chain Reaction got 286K at 2:30 PM. Certainly acceptable for two mercilessly abused shows. Did I mention that I like word games? And that they're resistant to rerun abuse?

9) Two other stalwarts were heard from: Saget at 302K for his eight runs and Regis at 296K for his four. Amazing how those tattered 1 vs. 100 eps hold up. We'll see how GSN's version does.

10) Top pre-1990 shows were the Pyramids in the dead of night at 249K. Thank you, Mr. Karn. Gene and company hung in most respectably against skinny Drew and the gang with a 194K average. Match Game forever!

11) And I hardly ever mention poor little Whammy. But the show delivered 209K in the desolate 9:00 AM hour on weekends. Not bad at all considering the infomercials.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just folks

The Google news cache offers a nice contrast for you social critics out there. There's this account of a grandma's adventures on The Price is Right and her thoughts on game shows in general. It's an endearing story about how even a silly little genre like ours can brighten up somebody's life. And yes, I know the story probably confirms common knowledge about game shows and their demos.

Meanwhile, the snark patrol at Slate turns up its collective nose at game shows and their supposed "unremitting ideology of consumption dedicated to an enthusiasm for merchandise" or some other polysyllabic blather from an over-educated nitwit. Please go soak your snarky head.

No, game shows ain't Shakespeare. They're relaxing escapes from the over-educated nitwits who make life such a joy. The sneering condescension the genre often provokes actually reassures me that game shows may still have some gas left in the tank. Shows that provoke so many idiots to jabbering nonsense must still have something good to offer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Syndies mostly strike out

Broadcasting & Cable observes that many syndicated shows got hit (pun intended) by the baseball playoffs in the week ending October 17. Most syndie game shows certainly didn't prosper...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - the exception, up a tick to season high
Jeopardy 5.5 - flat
Millionaire 2.1 - down a tick, what's this about a new format?
Family Feud 1.5 - flat
5th Grader 0.9 - down a tick and looking bad
Lyrics 0.8 - flat and cleared in only 78% of the country

Millionaire seems to have departed permanently from the top twenty-five list at TV by the Numbers. So the site only offers viewership averages for the twin towers: Wheel of Fortune 10.4 million and Jeopardy 8.4 million. The wheel spinners still attract a crowd, don't they?

Theme song

I've watched Wheel of Fortune a little more lately, so it's been hard to avoid demons and witches. No, I'm not talking about Pat and Vanna. It's the Halloween theme week, doncha know. The show is tricked (and treated) up with a haunted house and animated witches and puzzles like "Salem, Massachusetts."

Theme shows seem unavoidable nowadays in gameshowland. It's a cheap way to vary the offerings, certainly a lot easier on the budget than big money giveaways. Millionaire will get into the seasonal mood by greeting Syfy's pair of Ghost Hunters this Friday, and The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal are also going all Halloweeny.

A little variety never hurt, but too many theme shows get on my nerves for some reason. Sometimes it seems like game shows aren't confident enough that their basic formats can hold viewers' interest. But unless the theme gimmicks get in the way of the actual gameplay, I suppose there's no great harm.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Going gentle into that good night?

As I mentioned a while back, this blog generally sticks to U.S. game shows. If that preference betrays a narrow chauvinism, so be it. Other blogs will tell you that the Brits are better than us. But as for the Aussies...

A recent story in the Sydney Morning Herald posed that everlasting conundrum: is the game show a dying art? Gee, I didn't know it was any kind of art. Anyway, I'd like to generate suspense about the story's final answer but this blog has time limits, unlike the new version of Millionaire. So I'll just tell you that the author thinks game shows have only mutated into "reality, panel shows, talent quests — but they are just game shows, bigger, brasher and sexier than before."

The guy pictured by the LA Times' goofy hand-held camera might agree. Can we just call Jeff Probst a master of ceremonies, even if the ceremonies are grungy, backbiting and tedious? Somebody had the idea to haul game shows out of the studio, dispense with some of the traditional trappings, and encourage the contestants to say mean things about each other. Reality competitions were born.

Sometimes I get all gloomy and Spengler-ish about the future of traditional game shows. The demos skew ancient as moi, and I wonder if any audience for the shows will long endure. But what the hey, I can still watch a lot of 'em, and I'll let the future take care of itself.

A couple of news items about traditional game shows, whether they're dying or not...Sherri Shepherd will guest host on Millionaire, and Carrie Grosvenor is running a poll on which game show has made the best changes this season. I sure wouldn't vote for the slower randomized Millionaire, but some others apparently disagree.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Here come da judge

Happened to be watching 25K Pyramid late Friday night (or early Saturday morning for the literal-minded). Wouldn't you know, both winners circles went to replays on split-second decisions by the judge. Unlike certain sports Pyramid was never afraid of replay. On this episode the eventual decisions were split, one in favor of the contestant and one against.

Pyramid often had to use replay because the game was so devilishly difficult to judge. A wild and crazy jumble of verbal and visual clues flew back and forth as the clock remorselessly ticked down. But judging can be tricky on lots of other games, too. I remember a funny bit from Naturally Stoned, the GSN reality series about Chuck Woolery. It showed producer Phil Gurin tossing a cursing fit on Lingo because the judges couldn't decide if W-E-A-L-D was a real word.

A Wall Street Journal story about Jeopardy (honest!) related how a tournament of champions game was interrupted while the judges decided if legendary contestant Chuck Forrest had added an extra syllable to the name of the Greek god Dionysus. That decision finally went against Chuck, but he won anyway. On the E! True Hollywood Story account of Family Feud, producer Howard Felsher grumbled that Richard Dawson often disagreed with his judging decisions.

But Howard grumbled about everything Dawson. He and Richard did not get along swimmingly. Game show judges are usually neither heard nor seen nor even identified, but I can recall at least one exception. The original Password would proudly note its judge, Dr. Reason A. Goodwin. A great first name for a judge, no? But we never did find out what he was a doctor of. Maybe he had a Ph.D. in judging game shows.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Shuffle up

Once upon a time GSN had a nicely performing block of poker shows on Sunday night. Then the network sent the shows scrambling to Saturday night, except the audience didn't follow. (I thought the viewers would tag along, and I was wrong wrong wrong.) Then GSN tried spreading poker over both weekend nights, which really sent the numbers tumbling.

But the network for games is going all-in on one more season of High Stakes Poker, by far its most successful effort in the hold 'em arena. The seventh season - a record for any GSN original - will tape November 18-20, probably for a debut early next year after football stops competing for those younger male demos GSN craves and so rarely reaches.

HSP has always been a demo winner for GSN, at least until the latest schedule shenanigans. The sixth season, despite the enforced absence of A.J. Benza, saw nice demo gains before the heave-ho to Saturday night. But poker has also generated endless howls of protest on the GSN internet boards, as if its very presence somehow pollutes the network. I dunno, I'd much rather watch poker on HSP than acey-deucey on Card Sharks or blackjack on Catch 21.

No details yet on the cast of characters for the new season. The usual suspects will probably turn up, along with a few newcomers.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Final exams

Jeopardy's college tournament is coming up in a couple of weeks, so we can probably expect more stories like this one about the contestants. Stephanie Gagelin of the University of North Dakota will venture from the frozen north to question the answers against her fellow collegians.

Stephanie sounds like a friendly, personable sort. I particularly like how she reminisces about watching Jeopardy with her father, though the "I always knew the questions" comment sounds a mite cocky. I understand the questions become a little harder to find under the studio lights.

But those childhood memories got me a little sentimental. It's easy to turn cynical about our little genre. After all, nobody's ever going to place any game show episode among the greatest artworks of western (or any other) civilization. Game shows are hoi polloi programming, often provoking condescension or outright disdain.

But the worst thing that ever happens to contestants on Jeopardy is that they lose a silly little game. And the worst thing that ever happens to viewers of Jeopardy is that they learn a little trivia. A lot of very much worse things happen in this world. Game shows aren't so bad, after all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Casino dealer

After boy bands come game shows in casinos. At least that how it works for Joey Fatone, who will take a live version of Let's Make a Deal to Foxwoods starting next week. The combination of wheeling and dealing with a temple of chance is so natural that Monty Hall even moved the final season of LMAD's original 1963-77 version to Lost Wages.

Live game shows have usually worked well with casino audiences already in the mood to play. The folks who turn up for LMAD at Foxwoods won't have to wear costumes, according to the casino's website. But if somebody wants to dress up as Doyle Brunson, I guess it's okay. I remember watching the ancient sixties' LMAD pilot on GSN when everybody wore regular clothes and the show seemed funereal. So I hope a few folks will don what the Brits call fancy dress to see Joey.

Nobody will mistake him for the new Bill Cullen, but Fatone is starting to pile up a something of a game show resume, with the hosting stint on Singing Bee and the current announcing gig on Family Feud. He has that down-to-earth quality which serves game show personalities well. The genre punishes pretension of any kind, and Fatone has always seemed unpretentious to an extreme.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Syndies inch up

The week ending October 10 brought a little relief for syndicated game shows, as none of them lost ground. The numbers still aren't spectacular for the bottom dwellers, but Broadcasting & Cable says things could have been worse...

Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - up a tick
Jeopardy 5.5 - follows its soulmate up a tick
Millionaire 2.2 - flat
Family Feud 1.5 - flat
5th Grader 1.0 - up a tick to exactly the big one-oh
Lyrics 0.8 - flat and forgetting the viewers

Millionaire again slipped out of the top twenty-five syndies at TV by the Numbers. The viewership averages for the twin towers: Wheel of Fortune 10.2 million (weekend repeat 3.4 million) and Jeopardy 8.3 million. The Sony duo resumed their usual one-two dominance in total viewers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

News from all over

The vocal supporters of Millionaire's new format are trumpeting Kimberly Collins' quarter-million win as proof the new format works. The real proof, of course, will come from Nielsen Media Research, and so far those much more important numbers remain stuck in the low twos. Not the death knell for the show but nothing special, either. Still, congrats to Kimberly for a nice haul.

USA Today, our most colorful newsrag, offers a funny story about celebs chancing their luck, their intellect, and their sacred honor - okay, scratch that last item - on game shows. Turns out that Joan Rivers is a quick study and Cheech Marin is a good contestant, man.

Celebs on game shows have always provoked a mixed reaction from the game show internets. Some posters whine about shows trying to cover weak formats with big names, or at least somewhat-larger-than-usual names. I have no strong feelings one way or the other. If some charity gets a pleasant payday from a celeb's appearance, it's nice enough, I guess.

Steve Harvey is trying a weird diet. He doesn't look that heavy to me. Is this a get-skinny-like-Drew syndrome?

R.I.P. Tom Bosley. The affable Happy Days star graced a couple versions of Hollywood Squares, according to his IMDb page, and sitcomsonline.com features a photo of a smiling Mr. Bosley on Match Game.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Inane b.s. and other delights

A lively thread on the GSN classics board has erupted over the recent schedule changes and the network's general direction. A poster called TheNewNeko accuses me of peddling "inane b.s." Much as I appreciate the compliment, I'm afraid the inane b.s. is originating elsewhere...on the thread at least. I peddle plenty of the product on this blog. Let's go to the tape.

TheNewNeko: On a side note, I'm going to ignore Casey's inane bulls*** [asterisks supplied by the GSN board's software] about 1 vs. 100 -- I already told him that the tiered money system killed the show. And if you need more proof, look at this...

As Chad Mosher points out, the inane b.s. is coming from a different source.

I agree with Chad that 1 vs. 100's ratings on NBC saw a slow decline from the start. My own opinion, of course unverifiable because we can't rerun history, is that NBC's jerking around of the show - with the hiatus and the dithering over possible renewals - certainly didn't help the numbers. But by Friday broadcast standards, the show pulled respectable ratings. Episodes from both seasons have performed well on GSN by the admittedly much lower standards of a niche cable network.

The remake will get the cushy lead-out slot from 6:30 PM Baggage, only the highest-rated thing on GSN. Unless the show is a putrid Late Night Liars-style audience-repellent right from the start and drops half its lead-in, it should get at least good initial sampling. We'll see what happens from there. Unlike some other posters around here, I ain't psychic. I have no idea how good the show's going to be or what ratings level it will settle at.

Another poster: Someone did say that it [syndie Deal or No Deal] may not fail if it is paired with GSN's 1 vs. 100, but then again, we cannot predict future.

Hey, I'm glad somebody else around here is modest about psychic abilities. Of course, I agree. I have no idea what kind of ratings syndie DOND will get on GSN. The all-models-all-the-time network version has pulled really good numbers by GSN standards, but the bargain-basement syndie may not perform as well. The 7:00 PM run will get that first-run Baggage lead-in, which shouldn't hurt.

Yet another poster: To me "staying on the air" means being successful. A show can exist and fail, thus not being a success and staying on the air. A person can exist but not be a success.

To be honest, these pretty abstract comments seem, well, pretty abstract to me. So I'm willing to let this dispute lie.

And another poster: This network has survived well enough with a variety filled schedule. And it's run for 10+ years with more than 4 classics on the schedule. GSN's not going to tank if they have a balanced schedule, with more than the same few shows repeating over and over for the most part like now.

Just what is a "balanced" schedule? GSN has always repeated shows. Remember the four-hour repeat blocks?

If you want more pre-1990 shows, as your blog seems to indicate, I just don't think it's going to happen. A big appeal of those old shows for GSN programmers has always been economic, as Rich Cronin once told Steve Beverly. To be blunt, old game shows are dirt-cheap because no other network wants 'em much.

As GSN's revenues grow, that economic appeal becomes less important. Not to mention that time passes and more and more newer material inevitably becomes available from acquisitions like syndie DOND or originals like the 1 vs. 100 remake.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Do it to me one more time

Fox's Million Dollar Money Drop, the Yank version of the pictured Brit production, has struggled through a tortuous trek to the teevee screen. Last month Kevin Pollack, of Our Little Genius notoriety, taped ten or so episodes that apparently didn't impress Fox's suits. The taping didn't impress the audience member quoted in the Hollywood Junket story, anyway.

The game show internets are now reporting that Fox will try a do-over, with host and format details still undecided (or at least unannounced). This project has been simmering so long that I'm starting to wonder if the soup won't just evaporate.

The quizzer's format is somewhat suspenseful but nothing special compared to many other big-money efforts over the past decade. The gimmick of money disappearing down a hole may be slightly entertaining, but it's hardly spectacular. I liked it better when contestants disappeared through the floor on Russian Roulette.

We'll see if the show ever makes to air on Fox or anywhere else. But I can understand why the suits are hesitant. I can imagine them thinking, just another million dollar game?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Syndie Deal or No Deal rides again?

Nothing official yet, but the GSN online schedule indicates that syndie Deal or No Deal is coming to the network next week for double runs at 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM. Only reruns, but it's a bit of justice for a version which deserved better than two seasons and out.

In fact, the syndie would make a nice partner with GSN's 1 vs. 100 remake in the access hour. All this has generated some comment on the GSN board, and naturally a few posters are grumbling about the "brainless" nature of DOND. Your humble blogger has little patience with such whines, so I fired back...

Other poster: Or maybe, just maybe, people were sick of watching such a brainless game show...which is exactly what it is.

Well, they took a while to get sick of it, four network seasons and two syndie seasons. Not to mention the show's consistently good numbers on GSN despite a brutal schedule. And to be honest, syndie DOND was still performing at or above the big one-oh household rating when it got the ax.

But this "brainless" complaint always makes me smile. My brain actually works harder watching Deal or No Deal than almost any other game show. That's because I start calculating board expected values, case selection probabilities, and possible next offers as soon as the show starts. All that mental math is hard, but it makes the game very enjoyable for me. The faster pace of the syndie makes the calculation even tougher.

I know, I'm an actuary so what do you expect? But the deceptively simple surface of DOND hides a ton of probability theory and utility theory, if you look for it and calculate on it.

UPDATE: GSN's online schedule shows a couple other shuffles next week. Catch 21 loses its prime time slot to old reliable Karn Feud. And Alfonso's early fringe slot gets pushed back even further to 4:30 PM. The new season has not produced great numbers. BuzzerBlog now confirms the syndie DOND pickup and the other changes, and Alex is a big Catch 21 fan.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

FYI

Scripted shows aren't performing so great for ABC, so the network is calling on its summer stuntfest to fill some time. Winter Wipeout will debut twelve new episodes in January, with such seasonally appropriate fare as Spanker Sleds, the Wipeout Ski Lift and the Polar Bear Run. I'd run away from polar bears right quick. I hear those critters are mean. Nowadays anything that can pull a three 18-49 rating looks pretty good to any network, and Wipeout has kept the numbers coming.

Cartoon Network's Hole in the Wall, the non-automotive Japanese import that drives critics nuts, lured plenty of kids in its debut last Wednesday. About 782,000 members of the 6-11 set turned up for the hole-fitting antics. The show is harmless and goofy, even if the gimmick gets a little thin stretched to a half-hour.

A harried housewife in Missouri is amusing herself with formats for new game shows. Most of the ideas stem from her battles with recalcitrant offspring. I particularly like Name That Smell, where moms try to guess the odors emanating from their teenagers' laundry.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Syndies blah or worse

Not exactly a swell week for syndicated game shows. Broadcasting & Cable spreads the bad tidings for the week ending October 3:

Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - flat
Jeopardy 5.4 - down a tick, where's the next Roger?
Millionaire 2.2 - flat, the new format's producing numbers similar to last year's reruns
Family Feud 1.5 - flat, the new host's producing numbers similar to last year's reruns (there's an echo in here)
5th Grader 0.9 - yeeeeeeouch, down four ticks to all-time low
Lyrics 0.8 - down a tick and looking grim

At this rate the six-pack could be a quartet after this season. The bottom feeders better shape up. Howie's syndie got the ax with higher numbers. The middle two are sputtering along despite the makeovers, but should survive at these levels. And the twin towers tower on.

By the way, Broadcasting & Cable has started locking some of their content behind a subscription wall. So far the syndie ratings remain free, but your humble blogger will not shell out $199 a year if they disappear behind the barrier.

Meanwhile, Millionaire just snuck back into the top 25 syndies at TV by the Numbers. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.0 million (weekend rerun 3.4 million), Jeopardy 8.1 million, Millionaire 3.0 million. Alex suffered the indignity of finishing third behind Two and a Half Men in total viewers. He won't mind too much at eight-million-plus, though. (That's his audience, not his salary.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scientific dating

After Baggage blew the Nielsen doors off, it's no surprise GSN is trying another dating epic. Alex Davis unloads the details at BuzzerBlog.

The show is called Love Triangle, and Alex says it's Dating Game with body-aging software thrown in. Some lucky contestant gets to pick between two potential dates, but only after the computer has revealed what the dates might look like a few years down the road.

Well, Baggage is Dating Game with the suitcase gimmick from Deal or No Deal thrown in. We'll see if software works as well. The casting call says the order is for 40 episodes, so at least they won't be rerunning the same ep fifteen times a week.

Right now GSN seems flush with cash by the historical standards of this itsy-bitsy niche network. So the aggressive slate of originals is understandable. And I couldn't resist the sobering body-aged shot of Jim Morrison. At least he'd be alive if he had toned down the lifestyle a bit.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kids run amok

It's never too early to catch the young'uns. So I can't really complain about the new Hub network running a couple game shows for kids. I've seen some bits and pieces, and Family Game Night and Pictureka both feature plenty of loud and antic running-about. I hear that kids have short attention spans, after all.

The Hasbro product push is obvious but not too gross, to use a kiddie word. Everybody seems to have a decent enough time and the shows are competently produced and hosted. Kid game shows have never been my cup of orange pekoe, but if you like high-volume, high-energy scampering around the studio, you could do worse than this Hub pair.

On a completely different topic, the skinflint pawnbrokers from my guilty pleasure Pawn Stars will venture into the new Millionaire format next week. Sadly, the old man didn't make the trip from Vegas. I would have loved to watch him grumble through the Q&A.

UPDATE: The Family Game Night sneak peek on Sunday pulled 267K viewers, light-years above what Discovery Kids was getting and the Hub's most-watched show. Naturally, the network skewed heavily towards the kiddies. But the Hub fetched some 18-49ers, too. All in all, it was a very successful debut. We'll see what happens when the novelty wears off.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Demo-lition derby

A poster on the GSN classics board noted a Variety factoid that the network has lowered its median viewer age a couple years to a still grey 60. My quick and dirty reaction...

This chimes in with the recent New York Times story, which gave an average (not median) age of 57 for GSN's audience. That seemed lower than previous numbers I had seen. The Times article also noted the appeal of the much-watched Baggage to the 25-54 demo, which has no doubt helped lower the median age.

GSN still skews very old, though, the fifth oldest of all basic cable networks according to Variety. That's been the way of game shows since teevee's Stone Age. You might also note that Dancing with the Stars scores a median age (58) interestingly close to GSN's. Now you know why Carrie Ann Inaba got the 1 vs. 100 hosting gig.

Anyway, GSN is enjoying (slightly) younger demos and improved overall viewer numbers. Nowadays the network regularly clocks in with 320K+ prime time numbers, compared to 257K in 2007 before the current administration took over.

Full disclosure: your humble blogger is about to turn 59.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bowling for towels

This entry's title was Johnny Carson's suggestion for a really bad game show. Bowling has always been something of an automatic joke. It's kind of a sport but it's so silly and low-brow that it really seems like a parlor game. That down-and-dirty charm is why Bowling for Dollars became a staple of local TV during the sixties and seventies.

As the deathless cliche notes, what goes around comes around. A production company is shopping Stars & Strikes, a celebrity bowling show, to stations for a possible debut in the spring. To be honest, some of the celebs mentioned in the Variety story strike me (sorry) as well past their sell-by date: Tim Conway and Shannon Elizabeth, for instance. But that might only add to the cheesy appeal.

Sort of off-topic personal note: the greatest athletic achievement I ever saw was my wife bowling three straight strikes in a game. She's bowled maybe a dozen times in her life but somehow managed the immortal three-in-a-row. Talk about the human drama of athletic competition.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Carry on, Carrie Ann

The GSN originals board is rumbling and mumbling about the selection of Carrie Ann Inaba to host the revival of 1 vs. 100. My contribution to the profundities...

With Baggage giving the show a 500K+ viewer lead-in, GSN's 1 vs. 100 is not exactly set up to fail. That explains the 7:00 PM slot. What they do with Deal or No Deal is anybody's guess.

Howie has done well against the access hour competition as long as he's been on GSN. In the latest published week, Deal or No Deal at 7:00 PM was the network's second highest-rated hour, trailing only the Newlywed Game-Baggage combo at 6:00 PM.

I don't think this 1 vs. 100 remake is the kind of high-risk, stuff-it-in-your-audience's-face venture that the putrid puppets represented. So I doubt Carrie Ann will send GSN's audience screaming away in droves, as Late Night Liars did when it regularly dropped nearly half its lead-in.

Dancing with the Stars has shown strong appeal to the same old-skewing, female-skewing audience that GSN gets, so Carrie Ann at least has a chance. Those DWTS demos also help explain her selection in the first place. She's not going to alienate Aunt Gertie the way the obnoxious puppets did.

By the way, the recent New York Times story said GSN would put together a two-hour block of originals. Well, darned if they haven't done just that.

UPDATE: Carrie Grosvenor chips in more details about the gameplay...the money tree, the sneak peek late in the game, even the return of Sister Rose from the prime time NBC version. She was one tough nun when the questions started.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Around and about

I've never been a fan of Dancing with the Stars, so Carrie Ann Inaba is pretty much a rumor to me. But she's hosting GSN's version of 1 vs. 100, so I'll get to see her a little more. Some more details from Alex Davis' BuzzerBlog post: the top prize is fifty grand, poll-the-mob and trust-the-mob remain as helps, and the mob will be pre-taped and edited into the show. Look for the debut at 7:00 PM November 15, which means Howie's high-rated access hour will go away or get moved or something. That should make the GSN classics board happy, anyway.

And when GSN isn't reviving 1 vs. 100, they're scoring some nice receipts on Facebook. Online is getting serious for our little game show network.

Rich Fields hasn't gone quietly into that good night. His interview with Neon Tommy (painfully cute name for a blog) named names and kicked fanny over his dismissal from The Price is Right. At least he's still got plenty of work to pay the bills. As to whether the show is worse for his departure...my incorrigible TPiR-indifference takes over.

And if you can spare $2,595,000, you can buy the home of the original happy homewrecker himself, Bob Eubanks. Who wouldn't want "custom built-in cabinetry, French doors, four bedrooms, an office and 4 1/2 bathrooms in nearly 5,000 square feet of living space"?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Syndies lighten up

Syndie game shows generally enjoyed the week ending September 26. It was the second week of the new season for the top four, and they all gained some ground. 5th Grader's second season debut also improved its numbers, but Don't Forget the Lyrics suffered a forgettable entry into the syndication wars. Broadcasting & Cable delivers the goods:

Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - up five ticks with some nice demo improvements
Jeopardy 5.5 - up four ticks, bye-bye Roger
Millionaire 2.2 - up a tick, the new format may not be a hit but it's not killing the numbers
Family Feud 1.5 - up a tick, the new host may not be a hit but he's not...yadda-yadda
5th Grader 1.3 - up three ticks, new episodes help
Lyrics 0.9 - don't forget that sub-one is the death zone

When TV by the Numbers gets around to its top twenty-five syndie list, I'll post the average viewership figures...

Ask and I shall receive. Millionaire once again failed to make the top twenty-five, so TV by the Numbers only offers viewership averages for the twin towers: Wheel of Fortune 10.2 million and Jeopardy 8.2 million. These are notable improvements from the expiring weeks of the previous season.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Doing business

For whatever reason FremantleMedia is a favorite whipping boy on the game show Internets. A part of media megalopolis Bertelsmann, Fremantle gets regularly drubbed as "Dismantle" for its supposed sins on such shows as The Price is Right and Family Feud. The outfit also catches grief for not aggressively promoting its library of classic (i.e., old) game shows like What's My Line and I've Got a Secret.

Of course, there's precious little demand for such ancient shows, but game show netfreaks don't like to be reminded of that sorry economic fact. It's hard to see how Fremantle could do much more with a library of shows that hardly any teevee outlet wants. There was even a load of whackjob conspiracy theories that Fremantle was depriving GSN of its game show relics...as if even GSN wants most of them.

When it's not getting excoriated for its game show offenses, Fremantle is busy making deals. It just acquired sixty percent of product placement specialist @radical.media. So now Fremantle can figure out how to slip a Pepsi plug into the next slasher flick. At least that should be a lot easier than trying to sell What's My Line to a cable operator.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

GSN number-palooza once more

Been a while but Douglas delivered another boatload of GSN viewer numbers for the week of September 13-19, just before the latest schedule shuffles.

1) The overall averages were 321K/271K prime time/total day. Pretty typical, though the total day number looked a little better than usual.

2) Jerry cannot be stopped. His first-runs took the top three slots and averaged an imposing 505K at 6:30 PM. Even his prime time reruns did most respectably with a 359K average. You can expect a third season of suitcase openings real soon, unless Jerry demands Oprah money. He may well be GSN's biggest single ticket right now, and deservedly so.

3) Nielsen rounded up the other usual suspects. Lawsuit Carnie produced 398K at 6:00 PM and 321K for all her slots. O'Hurley chipped in 357K at 8:00 PM, and Karn produced 351K for his 4:00 PM run. Somehow, Howie kept up his ridiculous load: 381K at 7:00 PM, 361K at 11:00 PM, and 313K overall for his crushing twenty-six hours.

4) Alfonso frankly did so-so in his new season: 294K at 5:30 PM and 329K at 8:30PM. These aren't terrible numbers but they're not superb for new episodes, good timeslots, and endless promotion. Could His Loudness finally be wearing on the eardrums of GSN viewers?

5) At last, I get to trumpet my favorite number, 357K for the Lingo hour at 3:00 PM. Would a new season be such an impossible dream? Guess so. Chain Reaction also looked good with 299K at 2:30 PM. Word games work in the afternoon.

6) Best pre-1990 number was Dawson Feud with 270K at 12:30 PM. Match Game also did well with 252K at noon. My all-time fave still has a little life. Too bad Gene and crew got new eps of TPiR in the following week. I don't look for 252K against new (and skinnier) Drew. The Karn lead-in - 251K for the 1:00 AM hour - helped 2:00 AM Pyramid to 237K.

7) GSN has to do something about poker, which has been scrambled by overexposure on two nights. The shows should be cut back to three or four hours on one night. Prime time poker produced a 183K average and dragged down the prime totals.

8) Late Night Liars may or may not be gone, but its one showing got 245K on Friday night. That squandered almost half of Howie's 408K lead-in and dumped lead-out Jerry to his worst number for the week, 194K. The putrid puppets are just a black hole for GSN numbers, annihilating everything around them.

9) Not sure why Million Dollar Password got the heave-ho, except on general anti-rerun-abuse principles. Regis delivered a 370K average at 10:00 PM. Seems fine to me.

By the way, Douglas also posted top ten numbers for September 29 and 30, and I'll do a quick run-through...

Chuck got into the top ten on September 29! Those five-letter words are G-R-E-A-T. Karn somehow slipped a 1:00 AM ep into the chosen ten on September 30, along with his afternoon run on both days. Not to be outdone, O'Hurley performed well both days, too. The other usual suspects delivered: Jerry, Carnie (what lawsuit?) and Howie. Alfonso kept almost all of O'Hurley's lead-in for his prime time run.

And Regis just doesn't stop, a top ten berth on September 30. GSN viewers never get tired of the guy.

Ancient history

Once upon a time there was a box with sound coming out of it. There weren't any pictures, though, which is why the box eventually lost out to the other box this blog discusses. One of the programs on that ancient box was a game show called Information Please (1938-51). We're venturing so far back in time that I can't even remember the show, though Wikipedia tells me plenty.

The format was a primitive quizzer that mixed in a lot of comedy. Clifton Fadiman posed stumpers to various wits including Oscar Levant (between his crazy spells), Franklin Adams and John Kieran. This was when intellectuals were somewhat respectable in the mass media, instead of objects of snooty disdain. Yes, for some intellectuals the disdain is well deserved.

The show made it to the triumphant TV box for a few months in 1952 but quickly vanished. Fadiman eventually graced several other game shows on the box with pictures, including one of the very few guest-hosting stints for John Daly on What's My Line. (Daly hardly ever missed an episode.)

In his more hoity-toity moments Fadiman was a literary critic and all-round pontificator. In the 1940s he edited a selection of short stories by my personal favorite Henry James. The stories were great. Sadly, Fadiman's comments ranged from obvious to embarrassing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Selected items

Baggage, GSN's clever combo of Dating Game and Deal or No Deal, is stunting next week with cougars and geeks, seniors and baldies. The press release brags about the show's lively pace, which is traditional puffery. If the show lacks anything, it's a sprightly tempo, as one date or non-date plays out at length.

But the suitcase openings are fun to watch, and there aren't any fistfights for Jerry's kids to break up. By the way, the release says that GSN has nudged up to 74 million available households. That's still not complete distribution by the standards of the cable biggies, but the network has managed to grow despite modest ratings and old demos.

And GSN is growing elsewhere, as the network has acquired CPMStar to bolster its online presence. The tie-in to gaming sites is a natural for the Play Every Day (and hour and minute) network. GSN now claims it's number one in online games, and the recent New York Times story said the network takes in $65 million per year in web revenue. Who needs that little cable TV thing?

Millionaire hits the road to find contestants for the new format. Auditions are coming to St. Louis, Los Angeles, and my old hometown Cincinnati. The show is particularly interested in movie buffs for the Netflix stunt week. Hey, I know a lot about Wizard of Oz!

Tony Curtis died this week. I remember his recent guest question on Millionaire about his role with Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot. He looked a bit frail but still had genuine screen presence. His IMDb page also lists appearances on the original versions of I've Got a Secret and What's My Line.