Monday, November 29, 2010

Shirley he did game shows

Lt. Frank Drebin was always a hero of mine because he could make people laugh. It's a topsy-turvy world and maybe my blog doesn't amount to a hill of beans...but this is my hill...and these are my beans.

The late, justly lamented Leslie Nielsen was never more than a competent actor in serious roles from the fifties through the seventies. Then he lucked into Airplane (1980) and the rest is comic history. The subsequent decades of deadpans and double-takes made him rich, famous and funny. The last adjective was the most important for his fans (like me) though not for his bank account.

Of course, not nearly all of Nielsen's comedy flicks were masterpieces. He made his share of stinkers like anybody else. But at his looniest he could coax a chuckle from the Easter Island statues.

Leslie Nielsen's IMDb page lists many game show appearances dating all the way back to his straightman days: Gameshow Marathon, Hollywood Squares, The Cross-Wits, Match Game, Beat the Clock, Celebrity Sweepstakes, The Movie Game. Shirley he deserves at least a very nice parting gift.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sucking my thumb

With no game show news on a slow holiday weekend, it's time for a thumbsucker. That's a blog post with no real information, just my random speculations on the game show universe. In fact, this link mostly doesn't concern game shows at all. Instead it bemoans the decline of an oddly related genre, the soap opera.

Once upon a time when the world was young and the broadcast network triopoly completely dominated this country's television sets, soaps abounded in daytime. Then cable happened and broadcast budgets started getting pinched. Suddenly the fragmented daytime audience could no longer support all those actors and directors and scriptwriters. Soaps started going poof like soap bubbles.

Or as The Young and the Restless producer says in the linked story: "I hated to see great shows like that [As The World Turns, for instance] canceled and replaced by talk and game shows." Yep, unfortunately for soaps but fortunately for game shows, budgets are smaller on the game-playing street.

Except now people are predicting imminent doom for traditional game shows as well. Will it happen? Well, don't expect an answer from my thumbsucking self. The genre's cheapness is a powerful factor working in its favor, but the ancient demos work against it. As the soap actor says so wisely in the story: "Just because you’ve been around for 70 or 80 years doesn’t get you anything anymore. There’s no standing still in entertainment."

UPDATE: That soap actor can be happy about his own show, even if soaps in general are fading away. The Young and The Restless has been renewed for three more seasons. Stay tuned for more drama, suspense and unintentional laughs.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

GSN number-palooza as usual

Douglas is pumping out the GSN viewership numbers just about every week lately. Maybe he knows that I purely love the stats. Keep up the good work, Dougie. My usual noodlings about the latest week, November 15-21...

1) The network just keeps rolling down the highway with overall 380K/293K prime time/total day viewer averages. This month is shaping up as one of the best ever for GSN, as the network loaded up with new originals.

2) The usual suspects brought home the usual numbers: Jerry 559K at 6:30 PM (489K for the prime time retreads), Karn 521K at 8:30 PM, Sherri 483K at 6:00 PM (439K for her prime repeats) and O'Hurley 428K at 8:00 PM. Call 'em the four musketeers. Howie chipped in a solid 330K for the fifteen syndie runs and 311K for the sixteen network runs.

3) Carrie Ann delivered a decent 458K for her 7:00 PM debut (353K for the prime time repeats). I say "decent" because the network's recent prosperity makes what would otherwise be outstanding numbers look a little pale. A somewhat ominous note: the show faded towards the end of the week but hardly fell off the map.

4) Catch 21 pulled 270K at midnight. Okay but certainly no spiffier than what Regis was getting. Alfonso did better on weekday afternoons - 284K at 2:00 PM and 298K at 4:30 PM - and much better on weekend afternoons with 435K. The new O'Hurley-Karn combo at 12:30 AM got 282K for the hour, their usual reliable performance.

5) Lingo continues the slow recovery in the noon hour with 204K. Chuck's new prime time slot got 301K, not far from his afternoon hour at 290K. His word-game partner Chain Reaction averaged a quite acceptable 309K at 2:30 PM.

6) Best pre-1990 show was 25K Pyramid in the wee hours at 253K. As usual, thanks to Mr. Karn for the lead-in. Personal fave Match Game continued its highly respectable numbers opposite The Price is Right with 215K.

7) Poker kept languishing near the Mendoza line in prime time with a 204K average. Cut it back, folks, despite the demos.

8) Regis looks kind of lonely at 2:00 AM with only a 203K average. Is GSN sliding the show off the schedule completely? Saget still produces the numbers, though, with 359K for his four showings.

9) Odd note for the week: as a marker for what the B&W shows might be judged against next month, acey-deucey got 138K in the 3:00 AM hour. A little lower than recent averages.

Items for the weekend

After somehow surviving my usual overeating on Thanksgiving, I took a trip around the web for game show bits and pieces. Deadline Hollywood reports that Phil Gurin's Singing Bee has been renewed for a third season on CMT. I'm not much of a country music fan, and I can't sing to save my life, so I've hardly ever glimpsed this singalong gamer. But it's nice that the genre can survive on other cable networks besides GSN.

And speaking of impressive survival, Family Feud keeps on keeping on after a third of a century. Local media seem to delight in stories about "very family oriented – and loud" groups who end up on the show. The latest such report introduces the Howard clan from Weymouth, Massachusetts. Seems that Daddy Howard is "superstitious and hilarious. He decided he didn’t want us touching the podium the whole game. So we didn’t. But it worked." Hey, whatever wins...

Finally, a casting call has cropped up for a family quizzer from the producers of 5th Grader. The fifty grand top prize looks like cable or maybe syndication. We'll see if anything develops from the pilot.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Queen of the applause meter

A while back I took a passing swipe at Queen for a Day, the maudlin game show that invited four female contestants to dump their hard-luck stories on an unsuspecting nation. The studio applause meter would decide which of the weepers got a bunch of merchandise provided in exchange for the famous promotional consideration.

The mustachioed and vaguely creepy Jack Bailey hosted with endless layers of oily commiseration. The show actually began in the radio days of the 1940s, but it made a surprisingly successful transition to the box with pictures in the mid-fifties. The radio show predates even my ancient self, but I can still remember teevee's flickering black-and-white images of human misery on display.

The Wikipedia article (usual caveats) quotes a writer named Mark Evanier ripping the show as "utterly degrading to the human spirit." Evanier mixes in a stock p.c. slam on the show as "demeaning to women", as if the contestants were dragged kicking and screaming before the camera. In fact, the non-cheery foursomes usually seemed downright eager to share their sorrows.

My fondest memory of the show is, oddly, humorous. Even as a kid I couldn't help smiling a little when the studio audience got restless with a contestant whose story didn't seem miserable enough. Those folks in the studio wanted really hard luck, at least for other people.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Marathon runner

Watched a little of GSN's Deal or No Deal marathon today, including Tomorrow Rodriguez's pictured million-dollar win. As you might expect if you know anything about the GSN Classics board, this marathon has provoked moaning and groaning about DOND overuse and DOND rerun abuse and wah, wah, wah, why can't they run more old stuff?

It's easy to ignore such whining. After all, Howie and friends have provided the world-needs-more-winners network with one of its most consistent ratings winners. But the general issue of overuse of shows on cable is not so easily dismissed. In the 500-channel universe every hour on every network can hardly bring fresh programming. There's just not enough money to finance endless new product. So repeats reign, often at numbing length.

I've complained about rerun abuse as much as any other whiny Internet grouser. But what do we grousers expect? It's Thanksgiving day and GSN has a lot of low-rated hours to fill. The network doesn't want to spend the bucks to occupy that time with fresh originals or acquisitions. So old dependable Howie gets a marathon, just like all the many others that happen very, very often on GSN's cable competitors.

But a gleam of hope may peek through. Tomorrow GSN will run a marathon of relatively recent Wheel of Fortune eps, never before seen on the network. There's a little variety, at any rate.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Announcing and catching

Heard Rich Fields on Wheel of Fortune, and his soothing, plummy voice sounded just fine. He seems to be the sentimental favorite for the gig after his ejection from The Price is Right. But WoF producers will apparently try a few others before deciding on a permanent replacement for the booming baritone of the late Charlie O'Donnell.

Announcer news is cropping up all over gameshowland as the aforementioned TPiR will give George Gray a shot at replacing the aforementioned Rich Fields. What goes around... I've speculated that announcers can be superfluous on game shows, but I can't complain about folks getting work. George hosted syndie Weakest Link, of course, and (tragically) the horror that was Extreme Gong.

Break out the catcher's mitts. NBC must have tired of watching ABC get great numbers for people doing silly stunts outdoors. So the peacock net (Variety-speak!) is prepping a game show where people catch things...real difficult things, like "balls dropped from a helicopter into a mud pit." I hope the helicopter isn't too far off the ground.

And a follow-up to my post on money in game shows: this week I happened to catch (pun intended) the syndie Deal or No Deal episode where a pregnant lady took home $275,000. While money ain't everything on game shows, it did help this episode. The studio audience went nuts.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Syndies: the towering towers

For the week ending November 14 the twin towers loomed taller and the other syndicated game shows just sort of loomed on. Broadcasting & Cable tells how the high-rated got higher-rated...

Wheel of Fortune 7.5 - up five ticks to season high
Jeopardy 5.9 - Alex follows along, up three ticks to season high
Millionaire 2.2 - flat
Family Feud 1.6 - flat
5th Grader 0.9 - flat
Lyrics 0.9 - flat, seeing a pattern?

The bottom feeders better start improving or they may start packing. TV by the Numbers gives the healthy viewership averages for the top pair: Wheel of Fortune 11.9 million and Jeopardy 9.2 million. Once upon a time Meredith made the site's top twenty-five list, but that was then and this is now.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Money, money, money

My favorable impression of GSN's 1 vs. 100 is still intact after the first week of shows. But some grumblings have surfaced on the GSN Originals board about the show's low payouts. Usually, I'm not a big money maven when it comes to game shows. The actual gameplay means a lot more to me than massive jackpots. So I posted some sage observations on money in game shows...

Other poster: And Russian Roulette, which had no problem with a six-figure prize.

Which was won exactly three times in two seasons. GSN even made the prize next to impossible in the second season, and it was only Maria Lay's ridiculous luck on a one-in-six shot that copped the 100K.

Not so incidentally, no GSN original has had a top prize above 50K since Grand Slam, and that show only gave away 100K total over eight episodes (plus a crystal trophy, which now sits in Ken Jennings' library, I'm sure).

Sorry, I just don't care about the money on 1 vs. 100 that much. But what the hey, I'm a big Cash Cab fan. I don't mind Baggage, and that show only gives away some dates and free time on a dating service.

Other poster: Seeing someone take the entire half-hour to knock out 3/4 of the mob and only have $5,000 to their name is ridiculous, frankly.

I watch Lingo all the time, and often the winners only get a few hundred dollars after the entire half-hour. Have a nice dinner, as Chuck always says. There was one ep where the "winners" got literally nothing. They didn't even get a lousy copy of the home game, to quote Weird Al.

Doesn't seem ridiculous to me. And since Lingo has lasted eight years on GSN and still pulls decent numbers despite absurd rerun abuse, I'm apparently not the only one who can tolerate low payouts.

UPDATE: A commenter points out that I was wrong: one GSN original after Grand Slam did have a 100K top prize. It was Bingo America, and the top prize was won once in October, 2008.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More on Drew's new gig

Crossposting from the GSN Originals board about Drew Carey's upcoming improv comedy show on GSN...

Other poster: The old crew plus some new faces will be joining Drew according to this article.

Actually Carey sound noncommittal about Ryan Stiles or Colin Mochrie or anybody in particular from Whose Line:

"'We're going to have a lot of the classic crew plus a lot of new faces. We don't want to make it like we're doing Whose Line over again."

I still think Stiles and Mochrie will turn up now and then. You can't waste talents like that. But Carey seems to be trying to distance this project from Whose Line.

Couple other remarks: where are the OMIGOD IT'S NOT A GAME SHOW complaints? Usually when GSN tries something off-brand like this there's weeping and gnashing of teeth. I guess Carey's name and the Whose Line memories are enough to squelch the usual whining.

Also, the network must really be doing well financially. Carey can't come cheap. At least this investment will likely pay off better than the millions dumped down the Henson toilet.

One more unintentionally funny note on GSN: Matt Ottinger's board sounds exactly like the whiners on the GSN Classics board. They don't watch GSN any more because there's not enough old stuff. Just shows that the network must be doing something right, as their ratings this month have soared above already more than acceptable levels.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sympathy for Mr. Karn

He's been racking up some of GSN's top numbers lately, and he garnered the best ratings for any host on Family Feud's current syndie run. But somehow he gets so little respect, except from infomercial-makers. I'm talking about Richard Karn, of course, one of the most underrated game show hosts ever.

The affable Richard was never the quickest with a quip or the funniest with a double-take. But he had one quality that infomercial-makers prize: likability. This guy could really sell an audience on his niceness. Which is why he wears so well through those endless reruns on GSN.

The world-needs-more-winners network tried giving Richard another show, the second season of Bingo America. Karn did lift the numbers compared to the semi-disastrous first season with Patrick Duffy, but the show's format was fatally weak. I'd like to see him get another chance with a better vehicle.

I admit that Karn has many detractors, and they tend to hang out on the GSN Classics board, where posters pine for their beloved Dawson. Well, that other Richard could ad-lib brilliantly but he could also be very hard to like. Karn never had any problem getting audiences to like him.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Web gems

At his grumpiest Bob Eubanks does a great imitation of a sour old man. In this interview the happy homewrecker grouses that game shows have no future, game shows skew ancient, actors make lousy game show hosts, comedians make lousy game show hosts, and the Grinch will steal Christmas and not give it back. Thanks for the good cheer, Bob, and the weirdest place I ever made whoopee was on the space shuttle. Just kidding.

NBC apparently didn't get Eubanks' memo on the extinction of game shows. The network will bring back Minute To Win It for a midseason slot in January after several cameo appearances in December. Fritzed-hair wonder Guy Fieri will herd unsuspecting contestants through silly stunts for non-silly money. If Bud Collyer could do this for years, why not Guy? Oh yeah, game shows are dead.

Another happy bunch begs to differ with Eubanks. The DeCicco family is enjoying its romp and stomp on Family Feud. One of the feuders says that she knows her family is "loud, crazy and sometimes obnoxious", which makes them perfect for the proceedings.

GSN news: Drew Carey will apparently recreate Whose Line Is It, Anyway? for GSN this spring. Carey will tape 40 episodes of improv comedy at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. When improv works, it's wonderful. When it doesn't, it ain't. And speaking of lines, What's My Line and I've Got a Secret will return to the network December 13. Kind of odd that I recently blogged about both shows. Maybe if I post a lot about Russian Roulette...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

GSN number-palooza again

Douglas doesn't let me catch my breath. He just posted GSN's viewer numbers for November 8-14. Keep those figures coming, Doug. You the man! It was another kick-out-the-jams week for the world-needs-more-winners network. November is shaping up as one terrific month...

1) Overall averages were a most pleasant 389K/299K viewers prime time/total day. Even beat-down poker did a tad better (see below).

2) What's gotten into Richard Karn and John O'Hurley? They've always done yeoman work but this week they teamed for a ballistic, bonkers and bananas 568K average in the 8:00 PM hour. They did swell everywhere else, too, a 360K average for their many showings. Now you know why they have many showings.

3) The new eps from Jerry and Sherri put up a superb 523K at 6:00 PM. The prime time reruns didn't do quite as well but they sure didn't stink. Even poor old forgotten Alfonso enjoyed a good week with a solid 330K weekday average.

4) Syndie Deal or No Deal continues to grow its numbers, up to 350K for its twenty eps. Big brother network DOND produced 317K, not bad at all for the timeslots.

5) In sayonara news Bob Saget bid farewell to 10:00 PM with a nice 338K. And good old Regis said good-bye to midnight with a respectable 296K.

6) Personal favorite alert: Chuck romped with 331K in the 3:00 PM hour. He also improved the noon hour to 196K. Interestingly, his noon numbers rose as the week went on and the midday audience tumbled to his new timeslots. Meanwhile, Chain Reaction posted a more than decent 321K at 2:30 PM.

7) Poker even perked up a little, with prime time High Stakes Poker creeping above the 200K Mendoza line. The timeslots still need a big trim, though.

8) Best pre-1990 show was Card Sharks at 10:00 AM with 250K. Karn helped with a better than average 172K lead-in from the infomercial death hour.

9) And my usual odd note: Karn and O'Hurley took seven of the week's top ten slots. Absurd. And with Carrie Ann starting out very well, next week might be even better for our little game show network. The gloom-and-doomers on the GSN Classics board are having a bad month.

UPDATE: Douglas posted GSN's prime time numbers and a few others for Tuesday, November 16. Richard Karn is a force of nature. He pulled 626K viewers - tops for any GSN show, easily beating first-run Baggage - and even skewed a little younger than the network's usual crowd. Overall GSN averaged 470K in prime time, and they will take that number.

UPDATED UPDATE: The good numbers keep coming. Douglas posted some more viewer figures for Wednesday, November 17, and they were huge. Baggage got 690K date-watchers. The entire 6:00 PM - 11:00 PM window averaged a bodacious 494K viewers. GSN loaded for bear this month with a brand new original, new eps of their other originals, and a nice pickup in syndie Deal or No Deal. So far it's all working.

Syndies don't do much

Variety is the spice, so let's switch the usual syndie report. I'll crosspost a comment I left on the GSN general board in a thread about Steve Harvey and Family Feud...

Harvey's keeping the household ratings in the mid-ones, where O'Hurley had pushed them in the months before his departure. Hey, that's fine, over-the-air TV is doing okay when it just maintains.

But it's not like Feud has soared. That big increase is compared to relatively low numbers at the start of last season. Things had perked up with O'Hurley before Steve arrived.

In the latest week Feud was flat at 1.6. Other numbers if you're interested: Wheel of Fortune 7.0 (season high), Jeopardy 5.6, Millionaire 2.2, 5th Grader 0.9, Lyrics 0.9. Sub-one is the kiss of death in this genre, so Feud may be the lowest-rated syndie gamer to survive.

The viewership numbers: Wheel of Fortune 11.1 million (weekend repeat 4.8 million) and Jeopardy 8.6 million. A nice big number for Pat and Vanna.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

GSN number-palooza zowie!

Douglas delivers twice as good as ever. He's published two weeks of GSN viewer numbers, October 25-31 and November 1-7.

The first week was pretty typical for GSN lately, 307K/264K prime time/total day. Those are certainly acceptable numbers by the network's usual standards but nothing special. So I'll concentrate on November 1-7, which was a romp-'em-stomp-'em blowout...

1) The overall averages were 388K/290K, a great week for our little network. The averages would have soared to 442K/307K without woeful poker (more on that headache later).

2) New eps from Sherri and Jerry led the charge except at noon. The rhyming duo couldn't be stopped in early fringe and prime, averaging 432K at 6:00 PM and a ridiculous 483K at 9:00 PM. But at noon with a more sedate audience, well, you really don't want to know. Let's say it's pretty obvious why Chuck took over.

3) Bob Saget went out with a flourish at 10:00 PM, a 408K average. Of course, the always reliable Messrs. Karn and O'Hurley delivered 479K at 8:00 PM. They did fine most everywhere else, too.

4) Did I mention Chuck? His ground-down episodes averaged a very respectable 285K in the afternoon. But his word-game partner Chain Reaction recorded an absurd 337K at 2:30 PM. Revival, anyone?

5) Howie did okay with the syndie, 302K for the two hours. But the all-eye-candy-all-the-time network version really soared at 11:00 PM with 448K. Maybe those longer eps just needed a partial breather.

6) Alfonso might be a weekend kind of guy. Catch 21 posted 290K on the weekdays, but the weekend morning and afternoon shows jumped to 345K.

7) Into every week a little Nielsen rain must fall. Miserable poker endured another drubbing due to overscheduling. Yeah, I know about the demos, but come on. High Stakes Poker did "best" (silly term) with a 163K average. If that new season ever materializes, make it part of a much smaller poker block on Sunday night.

8) Best pre-1990 effort was 100K Pyramid on the night shift with 212K. Thanks, Richard. We'll see how Alfonso's midnight slot affects the late, late crowd.

9) And one more mention of Whammy...232K at 9:30 AM deserves a nod.

Downsized but not down and out

As observers have noted, things are cheaper in Cableland. So it's not shocking that GSN has scrimped on its remake of 1 vs. 100. The good news is that the economizing hasn't destroyed the show.

GSN's format hews pretty closely to the final NBC version, except for the obvious cut in prize money to fifty grand, tops. Mob members appear (mostly pre-recorded) on a sizable screen that's downright impressive by GSN standards. The half hour moves briskly, a definite improvement over the sometimes dawdling pace of the original.

Host Carrie Ann Inaba is no Saget with a quip, but she's friendly and cute and can talk a little. The questions get tough in a hurry to save on the prize budget. All in all I enjoyed this take on the contestant-versus-world quizzer, and I'll keep watching.

UPDATE: At Mediaweek the indispensable Douglas just posted that Carrie Ann scored an impressive 568K viewers for her debut, GSN's highest number for the day. She got a great lead-in from Baggage and didn't waste it. We'll see how the numbers develop but at least 1 vs. 100 got good initial sampling.

UPDATED UPDATE: 1 vs. 100 dipped to 473K viewers in its second night, but that's hardly awful. The rerun got 393K.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another bit of history

I'm crossposting a lot of stuff from the GSN boards lately, but this item transcends game shows and actually brushes up against some real history. In 1956 I've Got A Secret brought on the last surviving witness of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. My post from the GSN General board...

Other poster: Sadly, this episode is amongst those sponsored by Winston cigarettes, meaning that even if GSN started showing their black-and-white shows again (which they probably won't anytime soon), they'll never be able to air this one again thanks to their prohibiting all of the B&W shows with tobacco sponsors.

No reason to wait for GSN to broadcast that I've Got a Secret appearance by the last surviving eyewitness of Lincoln's assassination. You can watch it on YouTube here. The full episode, with guest stars Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, is also available, but the appearance is split over two segments of those videos.

The gentleman's name was Samuel J. Seymour. The 96-year-old Mr. Seymour fell in the hotel before the show but insisted on appearing anyway, despite the producers' misgivings. A comment on YouTube says that Mr. Seymour died two months after his appearance, on the 91st anniversary of the assassination.

The panel zoomed in on the secret quickly. Jayne Meadows actually guessed the secret after Bill Cullen had done a lot of the preliminary work. Odd note: Mr. Seymour told the producers he didn't smoke cigarettes, so the show gave him some pipe tobacco instead.

Old stuff

No, I'm not saying that Annie Duke is old stuff. Not at all, I'm a big fan of Annie's. She just figures in a post I slapped onto the GSN Classics board's latest conniption fit over the network's supposed disrespect for old game shows. I was responding to a poster named sestanley - a she, by the way. I'm afraid sestanley got upset with this post and threatened me with a spanking by Brendy the moderator (hm...), though she seems to have calmed down now. But I'm hardly ashamed of what I wrote:

And I can't resist one more quote from sestanley: "As far as everything else in your post, Casey, I'll just ignore it b/c you've said the same things 2 or 3 times over now." Is this what psychologists call projection? Because sestanley says one thing over and over and over: MORE OLD STUFF.

I mean, seriously, can't sestanley enjoy any game show from the last twenty years? Seems almost sad. I like some old stuff, too. Just relinked my list of full What's My Line eps from YouTube, and I've been watching a lot of those clips. (Still gotta admit I'm more of an I've Got a Secret fan.)

But some new game shows are also plenty entertaining. Today I watched Annie Duke's "last man standing" ep on 1 vs. 100. Terrific episode...great suspense, top-notch contestants including Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, and a perfect hosting job by Saget. I knew the outcome and still couldn't stop watching. Also saw some of Karn and O'Hurley Feud today and loved it. And I've really been enjoying the faster-paced syndie Deal or No Deal eps.

I guess I feel a little sorry for folks who can't enjoy a good game show, even if the date of production isn't in some "approved" range. But what can I say? I'm a hopeless fan of silly little game shows from all eras.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wild blue yonder

The GSN board is ruminating over the news that fairly recent Wheel of Fortune episodes will get a Black Friday marathon on the network. This tempted me into some crazy thoughts, even by my loose standards...

Other poster: The problem is a whole day marathon on a Holiday would hardly tell GSN how much people would watch on a regular day.

Well, it'll offer some idea. If the marathon craps out completely, GSN might look elsewhere or maybe just leave Chuck alone at noon. If the marathon does spectacular numbers, GSN could pay whatever Sony wants for newer seasons. (And chances are Sony would want pretty good money for recent seasons that look a lot like the current eps.)

If the marathon does so-so...gee, I dunno. Then it might depend on how well Lingo performs at noon and how much the network wants something else there.

At least we can be grateful that Sony still owns 35% of GSN. Without that relationship I doubt any version of WoF would turn up on GSN, ever. Instead, Sony might act like that other outfit which jealously protects that other cash cow...you know, the one with a skinnier Drew this season.

A really wacky thought experiment. Let's imagine GSN could somehow pry exclusive rights to first-run Wheel of Fortune from Sony. Yes, I know it's a laughable scenario.

But can you imagine the numbers? Right now GSN gets excited about 600K for Baggage. In the latest published week first-run WoF averaged 10.6 million. The weekend repeat got 3.4 million.

I'll return to the real world now. Though once upon a time, people might have thought some cable outlet getting Monday Night Football was laughable, too. Just saying (wink).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Potpourri for $0, Alex

Rich Fields has posted on his Facebook page that he will announce 35 more episodes of Wheel of Fortune in addition to the dozen he's already taped. Looks more and more like TPiR's loss may be WoF's gain. Fields is probably the sentimental favorite after his unceremonious axing from that other show.

Meanwhile, in other Wheel-related doings, Pat Sajak and Keith Olbermann have gotten into a snit. The two are polar opposites politically, and they don't seem to hit it off personally, either. Sajak has always cultivated an easygoing public persona, while Olbermann...hasn't. In fact, Olbermann has picked fights with most of the planet, including (lately) his own network. I doubt this tiff will last long, though.

More Wheel-ie stuff...I was going to pull the link from the blogroll due to inactivity, but Steve Beverly has finally posted some new material on his Game Show Fix site. As you might expect, he offers a long obit for Charlie O'Donnell. The Prof still dreams of becoming the chief obituary writer for the New York Times. He also rants that people should accept Caitlin Burke's miraculous solve as honest-to-goodness. Hey, Steve, I believe.

Finally, to veer away from the multicolored wheel, I read an entertaining interview with Match-Game-wit turned novelist Fanny Flagg. Seems that when Fanny started her career as a soberly respectable writer, publishers tended to dismiss her as "that girl from the game shows." Well, so she was, and she did some of her best work on the shows.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

1 vs. 100 peekaboo

GSN has posted a couple glimpses of its 1 vs. 100 remake, set to debut next Monday. My first reaction was positive, as I posted on the GSN Originals board...

Other poster: The dancing is going to eventually get annoying.

The set looks good, and I doubt that excessive dancing will be much of an issue. My guess is that 98% of the time, nobody's gonna be dancing anywhere. The show seems reasonably faithful to the final format of the NBC version, which is fine with me because I liked that format. I'll definitely be watching Monday.

One more bit of GSN news: the network will run a Wheel of Fortune marathon on November 26, Black Friday. The episode numbers look like recent seasons. Might be a test to see if the midday audience cottons to newer episodes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Syndies...incomplete right now

The poster girl for the one-letter solve, Caitlin Burke, reminds me that it's time for the weekly syndie ratings again. Unfortunately, Broadcasting & Cable is running late with their usual roundup. But the cheery guys at TV by the Numbers offer the household ratings for the twin towers, including Caitlin's favorite...

Wheel of Fortune 6.7 - up four ticks to season high
Jeopardy 5.6 - not to be left behind, up a couple ticks to season high

I'll post the rest of the numbers for the week ending October 31 when B&C gets to them. Hey, they got to 'em...

Millionaire 2.2 - down a tick post-Kimberly
Family Feud 1.6 - finally budged, up a tick to season high
5th Grader 0.9 - flat and grim
Lyrics 0.9 - flat and grimmer

The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.6 million (weekend repeat 3.4 million) and Jeopardy 8.6 million. Meanwhile, Caitlin is making the media rounds after her miraculous puzzle-busting on WoF. She's assuring everybody that game shows aren't fixed any more. Well, she wasn't on Our Little Genius, after all.

And while I'm posting ratings, Douglas has unleashed some numbers for Sherri Shepherd's debut week on GSN's Newlywed Game. Let's just say that the rhyming duo Jerry and Sherri did just fine.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Finally dropped

For a while the project seemed eternally damned in development hell, but Fox's Million Dollar Money Drop will make it to a teevee screen near you for the holidays, December 20-23. Kevin Pollak, survivor of the Our Little Genius unpleasantness, will host.

I've seen some of the Brit original on YouTube, and the concept is simple: a reverse money tree. Contestants start with a million and bet on trivia questions. Wrong answers send all or some of the loot through the floor and out of pocket. The press release offers a sample question on the most popular side dish at Thanksgiving. I say it's mashed potatoes, but I ain't betting on it.

The show has done pretty well in various international incarnations. The first tapings apparently didn't impress Fox's suits, but the network eventually warmed to the quizzer. At least it's nice to see a traditional Q&A format getting a chance in prime time.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A bit of history

The GSN Classics board is grumbling through one of its periodic complaint sessions about the lack of older shows on the network. I've taken it and dished it out on the thread, but I'd like to crosspost a more neutral comment of mine. I once compiled a list of complete What's My Line episodes available on YouTube. Much to my delight I discovered that almost all the episodes are still on the site...

Kind of off-topic - well, not really - but I've been looking through the list of links I posted to those What's My Line episodes on YouTube. Almost all the links still work, fortunately, and they provide a quick trip through the show's history. The Groucho ep is still my favorite...just hilarious especially with the lady wrestler and the Nikita Khrushchev lookalike.

A link I didn't post in the list - it wasn't available at the time - is this one to the 1950 premiere episode of the show. It's over sixty years old now! Omigod it's older than me! That's classic TV by any definition. The technology is primitive, as commercial television was in its infancy.

Dorothy and John were there, but none of the other eventual regulars. A few bits of this show would turn up on the final CBS ep in 1967, along with all the contestants (seventeen years older).

Besides the full episodes, lots of other WML bits and pieces can be found on YouTube, especially the mystery guest appearances. Most of the YouTube material comes from the CBS run, but there are some clips from the syndie version.

Wheel watchers

Couple of interesting items about the granddaddy of all syndie gamers...

Carrie Grosvenor is running a poll on who should take over for the late Charlie O'Donnell. Right now Rich Fields is walking away in a bigger landslide than we saw on November 2. It must be a sympathy vote after Rich's abrupt firing from The Price is Right. But WoF would certainly be getting a super-competent announcer if they picked Fields. I hope his tryout on the show goes well.

I happened to see an amazing solve on the show this week. Contestant Caitlin Burke nailed "I'VE GOT A GOOD FEELING ABOUT THIS" with only the "L" showing. Sajak seemed flabbergasted, which is pretty rare on a show he's done since the Jurassic Era. You can watch the improbable doings here. There was also an oddity on the following $3,000 toss-up, when a contestant (not Caitlin) solved correctly but got dinged for pausing too long between words.

As you might expect, Caitlin went on to the bonus round, where she of course won thirty grand. Sajak joked that she had already solved the bonus puzzle sight unseen in a preceding commercial break. YouTube also offers the Charlie O'Donnell tribute that ended the show Friday.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A big pile of shows

I've been so grumpy about Millionaire's new format that my guilty self enjoys an opportunity to congratulate the show. The syndie version just ran its 1,500th episode, which inspired some deep thinking - all right, some shallow notions - about our little genre.

Game shows can churn out so many episodes so quickly that we sometimes forget just what an oddity they are in TV land. How many prime time sitcoms or dramas ever make it to 1,500 episodes? Probably none, is what I'm thinking. But with game shows, it really is no big deal. The Twin Towers passed that mark eons ago and are still going strong. A lot of other game shows have piled up a thousand-plus eps.

Even the prime time version of Millionaire chalked up nearly four hundred installments, an almost unthinkable number for other prime time genres. Yes, some other types of shows like talkers and soaps also accumulate imposing episode lists. I guess you could say sports even put up big "episode" numbers.

But game shows, despite their low-rent status as something of a niche genre, have supplied a lot of teevee product over the decades. For better or for worse, they have filled a zillion hours on the idiot box. Which is something of an achievement in itself.

Strip, baby, strip

Some time ago I remarked that USA Network's Strip Poker (1999-2000) should easily make the all-time list of worst game shows. That's perfectly true, as a certain former President often said, but the show was still a very guilty pleasure of mine. Okay, I could only endure it for a few minutes at a time.

But the spectacle of hardbody twenty-somethings stripping to their skivvies was, I admit, pruriently entertaining. Once upon a time long long ago, I was a hardbody twenty-something myself, and the show brought back some not unpleasant memories.

Graham Elwood hosted with unendurable cheesiness (which was just right for the tacky proceedings) and occasionally yelled out a question at the contestants. The questions had nothing to do with the "gameplay", of course, which was all about hardbody twenty-somethings stripping to their skivvies.

There was no actual nudity. This was USA Network, not the Playboy Channel. But the show would always end with a loud strip-a-thon, where the contestants divested themselves of whatever garments yet remained...up to legal limits. Pure cheese for the cheesy-minded.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Celebs and more celebs

Alex Davis has spotted a casting call for a GSN show in development called The Fame Game, which looks like a pop-culture quizzer. Alex points out seeming similarities to Starface, the short-lived GSN Q&A with Danny Bonaduce, and pretty much predicts failure.

Well, who knows? Pop culture is hardly the kiss of death for game shows. The World Series of Pop Culture even put the phrase in the title and managed to survive for a couple seasons. And questions on entertainment news and celebrity doings have turned up on such excruciatingly respectable shows as Jeopardy.

Starface failed mainly because of a clumsy format with celeb masks and other nonsense. Plus, Bonaduce was tough to take in large doses. A straight-up quizzer on pop culture with a less irritating host might fare better. It's not like the show has to pull a huge audience to succeed on GSN, anyway. Something like four hundred thousand viewers for the first-runs would virtually guarantee a second season.

Unrelated update to yesterday's post: NBC is adding two more eps of Minute To Win It in December to replace some flop called Undercovers. Game shows serve as cheap filler for the 4,872,394th time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lotsa stuff

Alex Trebek has gone back to where it all began...Ottawa. He's receiving a gold medal from the Canadian Geographical Society. That must be like the National Geographic Society, only further north. Trebek gave an interview to an Ottawa website about his return to the city of his alma mater. He says that he enjoys the college reunions, and he sort of denies being the smartest man in the world.

In much more somber news Wheel of Fortune will feature a short tribute to Charlie O'Donnell tomorrow. A montage of his work on the show will reportedly be shown, with comments from Pat and Vanna. Hard to believe Charlie's gone. His voice sounded so young despite his 78 years. Sajak has tweeted that former The Price is Right announcer Rich Fields is taping some WoF episodes as the show looks for a permanent replacement.

GSN has admitted failure for the Carnie/Jerry experiment at noon. A ridiculously incompatible audience led to terrible numbers. Chuck will take over the hour for the time being, just as he did when GSN's I've Got a Secret (and then Friend or Foe) flopped with the network's daytime audience. But Lingo will also get a 10:30 PM slot starting November 15 after the rerun of GSN's 1 vs. 100. That means a five-a-day for the five-letter game, which can't long endure even for an old reliable like Lingo. Hey guys, why not make some new eps?

Now that I mentioned The Cube so unfavorably a few days ago, NBC is bringing back Minute To Win It for three holiday episodes in December. Cheap game shows always tempt TV execs into using them as stopgaps when more expensive shows flop. And NBC has been flopping a lot over the last few years.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Syndies down and up and flat

Syndicated game shows were all over the place in the week ending October 24. Broadcasting & Cable unveils the confusing news...

Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - down three ticks
Jeopardy 5.4 - down just one tick, take that, Pat and Vanna
Millionaire 2.3 - up a couple ticks to season high, hey we love the new format, at least with Kimberly
Family Feud 1.5 - flat, never seems to budge
5th Grader 0.9 - flat and looking like its last season
Lyrics 0.9 - up a tick but looking like its first and last season

Meredith's season high in household ratings wasn't enough to get her back onto TV by the Numbers' top 25 list. The viewership averages for Pat and Vanna and Alex: Wheel of Fortune 9.9 million (weekend repeat 3.9 million) and Jeopardy 8.2 million.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stilled voice

A while back I remarked that Charlie O'Donnell sounded like God-plus. Sadly, that perfect voice is gone now, as Mr. O'Donnell died late Sunday night at age 78, reportedly of heart failure. His voice was pure velvet to the end, and I'm happy he died in harness, so to speak, announcing his upteenth season of Wheel of Fortune.

Charlie got his first big break as the announcer on American Bandstand, and a voice like that was always going to be in demand. His IMDb page lists a slew of game shows he graced with a perfect delivery and a resonant baritone. He was also a news anchor in Los Angeles for station KCOP, where Wikipedia says he inspired the joke about Announcer Charlie O'Donnell introducing Newscaster Charlie O'Donnell.

He announced for so many events and dignitaries, from the Rolling Stones to the Pope (an interesting range), that it's almost pointless to list all his gigs. He did a thoooouuuuu-sand announcing jobs, and he did them all very well.

Minding Millionaire's business

You might have noticed a new entry in the blogroll, Jeff Gross' running account of syndie Millionaire's ups, downs and abouts. The blog offers endless stats on questions answered and money won, so it's a natural for your humble actuarial blogger. The entries also include blow-by-blow (or money-step-by-money-step) accounts of the big winners and how they, well, won big.

My dim opinion of Millionaire's new format is on record, and so far Nielsen remains unimpressed as well. But the show is still an interesting quizzer even if the quiz has been diddled with seven ways to Sunday. I've always had a soft spot for the fundamental Q&A format on game shows. Just answer the question, please, and you can win some money. A simple idea that's spawned a bazillion episodes.

Once upon a time I took the Wonderlic test as part of a job interview. Maybe all those hours I've lavished on teevee quizzers paid off. I got the job.