Saturday, December 31, 2011

Home invasion

A faux tweet noted a casting call for a literally in-house game show titled Wake Up Call.

The premise? "Do you have a roommate or sibling that you live with? Wake them up in the middle of the night to compete in games for cash prizes! If they succeed, they win the money, and if they fail, you get to keep it for yourself."

The call asks for contestants aged 18-25. So it sounds like an MTV-ish effort with twenty-somethings waking up their snoozing housemates for goofball games. To me, it also sounds sort of like GSN's late, unlamented Hidden Agenda.

In that previous home invasion project, spouses would try to get their unsuspecting better halves to perform silly human tricks. For every success, the spouse earned money. At the end of the show, host Debi Gutierrez would let the unsuspecting better half in on the gag.

I really didn't think Hidden Agenda was all that bad, which made me a minority of one. GSN's audience reacted to the show with fear, loathing and near-unanimous revulsion. Hidden Agenda lasted maybe three days on the network (slight exaggeration). You can sample the premiere episode on YouTube and decide on its merits, or lack thereof.

One more note: this post is the blog's 387th and last of 2011. Happy new year, everybody!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ratings 101

I've started a thread on the GSN General board about non-GSN ratings. Some feedback from other posters and a few comments of my own...

Other poster: These [syndicated game show] ratings are steady compared to GSN. Back in the summer, you would have Lingo (8pm) have 450,000 viewers one day and 250K another day. Big difference.

All sorts of things here.

First, the syndie ratings are weekly averages across all showings on the five weekdays. Nielsen's sample is much more consistent when you average together a lot of days instead of looking at day-to-day fluctuations. Lingo does not vary in its weekly average from 450K to 250K. In its current midnight slot, for instance, the show's weekly averages have been consistent in approximately the 200K-250K range.

Second, GSN is out in the long tail of smaller networks, unlike the broadcast outlets that carry the syndies. This is where Nielsen's sample can get skittish from day to day, and where set top box data might be a useful supplement. Nielsen is using some STB data on an experimental basis. And Rentrak has emerged as the first plausible competitor to Nielsen in a long time by using STB data for local market measurement. STB data is no panacea, though. There are serious issues with its reliability, representative quality, and lack of demo information.

Other poster: I'm not Casey, but there has been some TPIR Ratings news...

Hey, you can be grateful you're not me! Anyway, The Price is Right ratings are hard to come by on the free Internet. Once in a while TV by the Numbers will print these ABC press releases that give a few TPiR numbers. And Soap Opera Network sometimes publishes pretty complete information for all daytime shows including TPiR and Let's Make a Deal. Like this.

Thanks for today's TVBTN link. I've now posted it in the sidebar on the blog for broadcast and cable game show ratings.

Rusty chains

Just watched Chain Reaction in one of its last appearances on GSN. I still think it's a good show that deserved a couple more seasons on our little game show network.

The original version of Chain Reaction was a very short-lived NBC run with Bill Cullen in 1980. As is often the case with old game shows, some of that version has made its way to YouTube. I watched this episode to see how much things changed over the years.

The answer? Not...much...really, as the chain might say. I did notice that the chains were a little more loosely connected than on GSN's version, but the basic formats of both the front game and the bonus round were pretty similar. Oh, celebs made up two-thirds of the teams on NBC, thanks to a larger production budget.

Speaking of the production budget, the linked episode features a notable reversal by the judges after one of the bonus rounds. The team got buzzed on the questions leading to "Zsa Zsa" as the answer. But the judges reconsidered afterwards and awarded the civvie the full $10,000 prize. That's twenty-six grand in today's watered-down currency, which is a lot more than poor old GSN could afford. Those were the luxuries of a broadcast network before cable got big.

Another version of Chain Reaction ran from 1986 to 1991 on USA Network, and you can watch some of those eps on YouTube, too. YouTube is Boot Hill for defunct game shows.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Going on and on

Jason Keller has now ended his nine-win rampage on Jeopardy. Which brings up the subject of returning champions on game shows.

It's a tradition that goes back forever. In fact, the bad old rigging days of the 1950s happened partly to avoid unpopular champions staying and staying on game shows. That's why Twenty One fixed Herbert Stempel's defeat by the much more popular and telegenic Charles Van Doren.

Not that rigging and returning champs go hand in hand. The honest Tic Tac Dough of the seventies and eighties - ironically produced by Barry and Enright of Twenty One notoriety - got a lot of help from Thom McGee and his victory string over 43 opponents. Of course, Jeopardy itself once had a five-win limit, but it was waived several years ago. Ken Jennings is happy about that.

Have to admit that Jason's streak got me more interested in Jeopardy than usual. But all in all, I'm a little leery of returning champs who overstay a long welcome. Let other folks play. Five wins are enough, as Family Feud's producers have long agreed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Syndies stumble except for Feud

'Twas the week before Christmas and people were shopping, or something. But they generally watched syndicated game shows a little less in the week ending December 18. Only Family Feud bucked the trend. TVNewsCheck delivers the forgettable numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 7.1 - down four ticks
Jeopardy 5.8 - a little worse than the soulmate, down five ticks
Family Feud 3.2 - up a tick, so just barely breaks the pattern
Millionaire 2.4 - down a couple ticks

When TV by the Numbers runs their top 25 syndie list, this blog will pick out the game show viewership averages just for you. Meanwhile, the broadcast network game shows pulled mostly lackluster ratings on the day after Christmas. But Who's Still Standing did get its best overall viewer number so far: 6.9 million.

The viewership averages are up at TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 11.1 million, Jeopardy 9.0 million, Family Feud 4.8 million. Meredith again missed the top 25 list.

The rumpus continues

The pile-on at the GSN schedule board continues over the network using Dancing With the Stars so much on weekends. I added a few more notes...

Really wish Alex Davis would just post the schedule pdfs he gets from GSN instead of dribbling the news out on Facebook. I know he likes the Facebook traffic, but the pdfs would attract traffic to the main BuzzerBlog site, after all.

Blaming [GSN programming veep] Amy Davis for this schedule is silly. The Dancing With the Stars acquisition had to be in the works long before she ever took the programming job. Funny how she gets all the abuse around here while [GSN President] David Goldhill skates, even with the most hardcore older-is-better posters. Anybody who thinks Goldhill isn't responsible for the Dancing acquisition and scheduling is incredibly naive. The network is staking its future on this (by GSN standards) very expensive show. This is an executive decision from the highest level at GSN, folks.

As for Bob Boden, he took the now defunct Fox Reality job after leaving GSN. Strange how some posters around here now look back on him fondly. He used to get ripped for putting too many originals on the network instead of old stuff, then got ripped for taking a job at a (gasp!) reality network. Of course, Boden and Rich Cronin kept GSN afloat and turned the network profitable after the previous administration almost sank the ship. Boden most recently worked at the Hasbro, er, the Hub.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Alarums and excursions

Alex Davis at BuzzerBlog must have gotten a new set of GSN schedule pdfs. Since he takes his time posting the pdfs, we have to make do with his Facebook descriptions. Alex says that Dancing With the Stars will get ten-hour blocks on Friday and Saturday 6:00PM-4:00AM starting the week of January 23. The hoofers will also dance 1:00PM-6:00PM Sunday afternoon.

5th Grader will get a new 3:00PM-6:00PM block on Friday and keep its Sunday night marathon. Karn/O'Hurley Family Feud moves from Saturday night to Monday night 7:00PM-12:00AM. Alex doesn't mention any other changes.

As you might expect, these changes are producing fainting and rage on the GSN schedule board. One poster does wander into a painful truth: "Obviously GSN does not care if we quit watching them or not. They think so little of the majority of people on this board."

You are correct, "flora1941." GSN worries a whole lot more about people who watch the network. And Dancing might as well be designed for those "adult female" folks. If a few dozen older-is-better posters on an Internet board get upset, well, GSN will deal with it.

UPDATE: Can't resist some of the perceptive analysis from the GSN schedule board: "you see i told you guys [GSN programming veep] Amy Introcaso-Davis is an evil spirited woman who has been possessed by the Devil or former V.P. of GSN Kelly Goode (take your pick)." Gotta love those cool, calm and collected posters. I do expect Brendy, the GSN board moderator, will take down that post. [The post's language has now been softened considerably. Don't know if Brendy intervened or if the poster just decided to look more reasonable.]

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boob tube

'Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house, this creature wasn't stirring. Instead, I was camped in front of the tube and staring at game shows. Like Match Game, which once again reminded me why it's my favorite game show ever, and that includes everything.

Charles Nelson Reilly got off the best line on the episodes I saw. The set-up: "On Mars women have light bulbs instead of [blank]." Well, you knew where that was going. The contestant answered "breasts" and matched everybody, which shows where everybody's minds were. But Charles added the clincher: on Mars, girls have forty watts instead of b-cups.

Then I watched Jason Keller continue his rampage on Jeopardy for the seventh day. He's quick on the buzzer and knows his stuff. One of his opponents hit a big Daily Double and pulled within a few thousand of Jason going to Final Jeopardy. But the New Jersey tutor won easy by knowing a bit of history about Buckingham Palace. Or he guessed that bit of history from the slyly worded clue. I'll watch tomorrow to see if Jason's saga continues.

GSN runs a marathon of my beloved Chain Reaction tonight. I'll probably sample a few episodes, especially because the show disappears from the network in January. And I'll also check out my guilty down-the-hatch pleasure Who's Still Standing. The show's snooty critics - omigod, they go to commercial in the middle of a game! - have only made me like Ben and company more.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Perils of live TV

On Christmas Day I'm giving myself a present by reviewing some of my favorite I've Got a Secret clips.

Some of the show's stunts came off pretty much as planned. But some of the funniest bits happened when things didn't quite go according to the script. Like the cow who pooped on center stage. Or Poor Jack Moseley, who almost had a coronary as he exploded the inner tube of a tire with his own breath on the January 14, 1959 episode.

Jack's lung-ripping efforts extended over two segments of the show. Guest Andy Griffith came out and watched, though he never got to do his own secret. Jack finally exploded the inner tube and fell onto the floor in complete exhaustion. But he managed to get back up and received a nice (and maybe relieved) round of applause.

There was a bit of time left after Jack finished his heavy breathing. So host Garry Moore had to vamp a little. He thanked Eydie Gorme for her guest panelist appearance and Andy Griffith for passing up his own secret to give Jack more time. The IGAS episode guide says Eydie actually guessed one of the secrets in the show. But nobody guessed what Jack was going to do, though everybody seemed to enjoy his inner tube exploits as they happened.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Number crunching

Can't keep an actuary away from numbers, even on Christmas Eve. So a few comments of mine from the GSN schedule board...

Other poster: Is a 2.5/2.6 rating even good for Who Wants to be a Millionaire in daytime?

By syndie standards it's just fine, close to the top 25. The demos undoubtedly skew old, but Millionaire is in no danger with household ratings in the mid-twos. Lots of syndies get renewed nowadays with one-something household ratings. 500-channel universe and all that.

Other poster: What stinks is that they're [GSN] messing with Friday nights, just as they found their audience.

In total viewers GSN's Friday marathon has performed so-so at best, consistently worse than Tuesday, Saturday and (much worse than) Sunday. Based on previous demo information from Douglas, I bet Friday is one of the very worst performing nights in the target 25-54 demo, not to mention 18-49. In fact, Friday is quite possibly better than only woeful Monday in the demos. (Just a hint, Douglas, but demo info would be welcome again. Not complaining, though!)

So I'm not astounded that Monday and Friday are getting the shakeups.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ho-ho-ho

Happened to catch a little of a Deal or No Deal Christmas episode on GSN last night. My daughter thought the show was "cool" but I'm more of a Scrooge about the Xmas festivities in our little genre. You might think it's only natural for game shows - which exist to give away stuff - to celebrate the biggest giving day of the year. And you'd be right. But I'm something of a contrarian.

Since every day is Christmas in the game show world, why make a big deal of December 25? Okay, I should get a life and stop grouching so much. If the shows want to deck the sets with boughs of holly and put Santa costumes on the models, why not just relax and literally play along? The Deal or No Deal episode was passable enough, and I started calculating odds and expected values and next offers like I always do.

So Merry Christmas, everybody. Yep, it's a little early but I don't want to forget. And your conscientious game show blogger will be posting and faux-tweeting throughout the holidays. It's the blogger work ethic.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Love 'em or hate 'em

As I watched Who's Still Standing tonight - it's getting to be a habit - I couldn't help disliking the main contestant. Which is probably unfair, of course. The poor guy was just trying to win some money. But he got on my nerves with trash talk and a generally acerbic attitude.

The night before on the show, the cute brunette contestant had me liking her a lot more. And not just because her skirt showed off some very nice legs, though that didn't hurt. (Call me sexist. Like I care.) She seemed modest about her ability and even admitted that she got intimidated by one of her opponents.

Both Ms. Sweet and Mr. Not So Sweet got through seven rounds before calling it quits, so both were reasonably competent. But it's weird how a few minutes on a game show can make somebody look very likable or downright unlikable. Maybe the most famous example was John Carpenter, the first million-dollar winner on Millionaire. He rubbed everybody the wrong way with a cocky attitude, especially when he mockingly burned an unnecessary lifeline on the final question.

But who knows? Most of the time Carpenter might be a downright charming guy. Do we really know anybody after seeing them under the lights for a few edited minutes? Of course we don't. But that won't stop audiences (including me) from making immediate and sometimes harsh judgments.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stylin'

Saw a couple funny tweets today about Who's Still Standing...

BothersBar: Mmm, Who's Still Standing basically not bad I thought. Either I'm getting soft or average quality is higher than it was.

shinydh: Or possibly you're more tolerant of the cartoony style than the buzzerblog crowd, most of whom didn't hate the _game_ as such.

Afraid I don't much care what the BuzzerBlog crowd thinks. But the comment about "cartoony style" got me thinking about the whole issue of style in game show production.

If I had to pick the game show with the most stripped-down style imaginable, I'd settle on Jeopardy. In fact, the Trebek epic seems almost style-less in a way, a show pared to the essential gameplay and little more. Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of the answer-and-question classic. But a slight bit of pizzazz wouldn't hurt. Trouble is, how would you fit it in?

When Millionaire brought game shows back to broadcast prime time, the show's dark foreboding style almost became a cliche with its many imitators. Maybe style went to obtrusive extremes here.

As for Who's Still Standing, I don't think its trimmings are particularly cartoony or obnoxious. The post-produced Christmas ho-ho-hos are grating but not a huge drawback. And the basic gameplay shines through the production style just fine.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Syndies wobble a little

After the big recovery in the post-Thanksgiving week, syndicated game shows barely budged for December 5-11. But your ever reliable game show blogger is still on the case. TVNewsCheck presents the less than thrilling news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.5 - down a tick
Jeopardy 6.3 - up a tick
Family Feud 3.1 - flat, why bother moving?
Millionaire 2.6 - up a tick

A truly fascinating week, no? The viewership averages from TV by the Numbers didn't move much, either: Wheel of Fortune 11.8 million, Jeopardy 9.8 million, Family Feud 4.6 million. All in all, the syndies did okay. None of them are in danger of cancellation at these levels. It just wasn't a big week for movement in the numbers.

Meanwhile, a bunch of network game shows ran yesterday. Fear Factor led the pack with a 2.5 18-49 rating and 6.3 million total viewers. Down from its debut last week but okay for NBC.

The numbers weren't so kind for the premiere of Who's Still Standing: 1.5 in 18-49 and 5.6 million viewers. Still, by NBC standards the down-the-hatch quizzer's ratings were hardly awful. We'll see how the show does for the rest of the week. ABC's You Deserve It continues to languish, deservedly or not: 0.9 in 18-49 and 3.5 million viewers.

UPDATE: Douglas has posted the December 12-18 week for GSN, and it was a clunker. Prime time/total day viewership averages were (in thousands of viewers) 280/209. Yuck. The five-hour marathons each night: Mon 200, Tue 272, Wed 244, Thu 233, Fri 256, Sat 276, Sun 364. Poor to middlin' except for Foxworthy's good numbers on Sunday. I can see why GSN messed around with the schedule again.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I can stand it

If there are two things I like in a game show, it's a fast pace and a lot of one-on-one competition. Who's Still Standing offers both.

So when I watched the show's debut, I could overlook some of its cheesier aspects, especially the post-production Christmas bits. The announcer with the ho-ho-hos got old immediately, but the rest of the show came through pretty well. Even the yelping audience and laughably melodramatic music had a certain low-rent charm.

If you've been reading this blog, you know the format features a (literally) central contestant who takes on ten competitors ringed around him. The one-on-one trivia contests flash by under extreme time pressure, and I found myself hollering answers at the screen.

Miss a question and you disappear through the floor. Except for that exit gimmick the show really has little in common with my long-lost love, Russian Roulette. And Who's Still Standing sure beats the old GSN effort for sheer pace.

Host Ben Bailey gets in a quip or three as the rounds speed by. He hardly has as much time for ad-lib hijinks as on Cash Cab, but he's not completely washed out by the format. The contestants on the debut were generally competent, though the guy with two masters degrees went down the hatch in a hurry. I don't know if the show will last, but I can see why it did pretty well in its native Israel. It's a quick and painless way to pass an hour.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Them old schedule games

Changes are about to rain down on the GSN schedule. A new originals block on Monday night replaces the ratings-starved million-dollar shows. 100K Pyramid takes over the entire retro block on Friday night. And Dancing With the Stars gets a (restrained) debut on Saturday night, January 21.

Naturally, folks chat about these and other topics on the GSN schedule board. Some of my personal chatter...

Other poster: It seems quite evident now since the show is about to disappear from the schedule completely that the lease on the 1985-1986 season of $25K [Pyramid] is about to expire.

I've seen lots of comments about GSN leases but never any evidence for the comments. Where does all this mysterious information come from? Does anybody actually have reliable info about the leases?

Other poster: Or better yet, [a return of] Donny's Pyramid, right?

The show did decent numbers in the afternoon. Three weeks of ratings were published for Donnymid. A 313K average for June 1-6, 2009, 265K for July 27-August 2, 2009, and 292K for August 17-23, 2009. Not bad. But GSN has never seemed very enthusiastic about the show. I like Donnymid's tighter time limit, but I'm not holding my breath on a return to GSN.

And by the way, I'm really not holding my breath on that endlessly rumored remake with Andy Richter. That version seems trapped in eternal development hell.

Other poster: Off topic but I was looking at ratings again from the week of December 5-11, and Lingo at midnight is not doing bad at all.

That may be why GSN is giving it the first shot in the Monday originals block. But if people complain about the rerun abuse of 400 Match Game episodes, how about the incredible abuse of those 40 eps of Engvall Lingo? It's almost ridiculous how many times each episode has been ground through the recycle crusher in the six months since the show debuted.

Have nun, will drill

For some odd reason, I have a soft spot for this one of the bazillion What's My Line clips on YouTube. I'm probably just getting old and remembering my childhood more and more fondly.

The nun in the clip looks pretty much like the sisters who tried, mostly in vain, to teach me in grade school (I was particularly bad at handwriting). Except this nun drills teeth. She's a dentist, which was offbeat enough for a nun to almost fool the panel. Only at the last minute did Bennett Cerf latch onto the right idea and identify the occupation.

There's some predictable anti-dentist humor, including a funny sequence where John Daly dances around a question about the sister's patients coming to her willingly. Everybody is excruciatingly polite, and even Dorothy Kilgallen and Arlene Francis stand to shake hands with the nun as she leaves. Whatever else you might say about that long-ago era, courtesy was more in vogue back then.

This January 31, 1960 episode isn't part of the current What's My Line Chrismastime run on GSN. But with the help of the invaluable WML episode guide, I tracked down the episode's other two segments: a pickle packer (honest) and mystery guest Nelson Eddy. Lots of complete What's My Line eps live on YouTube.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Full service blog

A faux tweet teased about one-time The Price is Right and Deal or No Deal model Kristal Marshall. Since I want to be honest with my readers - and because I can use the blog traffic - I decided to put the photo from the tweet link into this post. I aim to please around here.

Kristal really didn't work a lot in game shows, so I don't have much excuse. Okay, she chipped in competent modeling on The Price is Right, as this fan clip proves. I like how she pets the Labrador Retriever, anyway. And she did hold suitcase #5 for a few episodes in Deal or No Deal's second season.

But her main claim to fame, besides looking great, is her pro wrestling career. Wikipedia (usual caveats) goes into exhausting detail about her ring exploits. Her finishing move was the "hair pull mat backbreaker." Sounds gruesome enough. In her personal life she had a long-term relationship with fellow power-slammer Bobby Lachey.

Kristal hits the mat a few times in this clip, if you want to see her in action. Not exactly as delicate as her hand gestures on The Price is Right. But we all gotta make a living.

Faux pas

This blog doesn't usually feature housekeeping posts. But I've thought about getting rid of the faux tweets in the sidebar and just starting a genuine Twitter feed instead.

One thing stops me, though. Genuine Twitter is permanent. Every one of the comments lasts forever unless I delete it. And I don't want to bother trashing offhand comments I later regret.

So I'll just continue with the fake tweets you see alongside the regular posts. As soon as the faux items scroll off the top ten list, they're gone and I don't have to worry about them anymore.

Which of course isn't really true. I'm sure that somebody could rustle up all the faux tweets I've splattered around here. Internet Archive probably has some old stuff of mine, and somewhere the old faux tweets live on a Google database in the ever mysterious cloud. Don't know why anybody would want to get hold of my old tweets. But I'll make it a little harder to do, anyway.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Is it that time of year?

Never really enjoyed end-of-year lists. Best of this, worst of that, so-so of whatever, zzzzzzzzzz. But folks just like to list things as December 31 draws near. They won't be discouraged by my grumpiness on the subject.

In that spirit, Carrie Grosvenor offers her "Top 11 of 2011" game show moments. Can't disagree with most of them. Watson deserves a nod, along with the new announcers on Wheel of Fortune and The Price is Right, the Emmys for Pat and Alex, and even Mr. Trebek's tendon-snapping encounter with the would-be thief.

I do quibble about a couple moments from Million Dollar Mind Game, though. This show attracted an audience of literally hundreds (slight downward exaggeration) so it's hard to see how any moment from it could qualify. But Carrie lists both a 600K win and a 600K loss from the show among her top 11 items.

All right, there's no disputing tastes. Still, big money wins and losses are hardly huge news any more, especially when the victory or defeat is spread over six contestants. Million Dollar Mind Game was a glacially slow quizzer with limited (to put it mildly) appeal to most game show fans. I think Alex's thief-chase was a lot more interesting, and there wasn't even a video of it on YouTube.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Going down

NBC has posted some video from and about Who's Still Standing, due next Monday. Ben Bailey talks up the quizzer, which is based on an Israeli format, and even mentions his experience on Cash Cab.

His cabbie-quizmaster gig has taught Ben more trivia than he knows what to do with. But he admits that real trivia mavens could probably still take him down. Which is literally where the losers go in Ben's new show. Down the hatch, and the hatches look suspiciously like the trap doors on my old GSN fave, Russian Roulette. The NBC show has added footprints to the trap doors, just to be different.

The show starts by pitting a "hero" against ten other contestants. Miss one question, and you go through the floor. If the hero plummets to his game show demise, the show runs the remaining contestants through a speed round. The NBC site has an interview with a contestant on the show, who doesn't tell us what she won, if anything. Gotta maintain some suspense, after all.

In one of the videos Ben does say that the show hasn't yet given out the top prize of a million bucks. But he's confident that somebody will take home the big money sooner or later. I'll be watching, if only as a homage to that terrific little show from the Bob Boden days at GSN.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A modest suggestion for NBC

Fear Factor is grossing (as in real gross) some terrific ratings by NBC's admittedly low standards. So maybe the woeful peacock net should try another revival. Others on the web have suggested it already. Why not bring back that other Endemol show, the one with Howie and the models?

Deal or No Deal did good business for the network once upon a time. Then NBC burned the show out with a ridiculous schedule, about 200 episodes packed into little more than three years. I can't really blame the network's execs. Whenever any NBC show does halfway decent, they're naturally tempted to overuse it. When it's an easy-to-tape studio game show, the temptation gets overwhelming.

As for Fear Factor itself, what can anybody say any more? I watched some of Monday's episode on the NBC website. When the contestants started chowing down on finger lickin' good scorpions, I wasn't too thrilled. But the explosions were neat.

At least we wouldn't have to worry about scorpions on Deal or No Deal. Even if one of the critters showed up, nobody would eat it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Syndies prosper after turkey week

Once America got finished digesting those turkey dinners, it went back to watching syndicated game shows. Most of the shows got nice bounces in the November 28-December 4 week following the holiday. TVNewsCheck gobbles about the numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 7.6 - up a dozen ticks - holy letters, Vanna!
Jeopardy 6.2 - not to be outdone by the soulmate, up eleven ticks
Family Feud 3.1 - up five ticks, Steve smiles
Millionaire 2.5 - flat, the party-pooper

As always, when TV by the Numbers puts up the viewership averages, I'll repost them. Well, the TVBTN guys delivered: Wheel of Fortune 12.0 million, Jeopardy 9.6 million, Family Feud 4.6 million. Good numbers all around. Meredith missed the top 25 list but not by much, just two-tenths of a ratings point.

Meanwhile, Fear Factor grossed out some very nice numbers in its return on Monday: a 3.5 18-49 rating and 8.7 million total viewers. Downright explosive by NBC standards. Look for even more WOW OH BOY stunts if anything like this story continues.

On the downbeat side You Deserve It proceeds tearfully toward the exits: a series low 0.9 18-49 rating and 3.4 million viewers. Chris Harrison loves the show. He's part of a dwindling group.

And Real Deal bounced back in its third week to 1.9 million viewers. Fine by cable standards and probably good enough for a renewal on History. No, it ain't Pawn Stars but it ain't no flop. And I ain't no grammarian.

UPDATE: Douglas posts the GSN numbers for December 5-11, and I blather about them on the GSN schedule board...

The prime time/total day averages were 305/227 (thousands of viewers) for the week. Not so great but not a disaster.

The 7:00PM-12:00AM marathon averages: Mon 240, Tue 345, Wed 251, Thu 230, Fri 250, Sat 321, Sun 373. Pretty blah except for Sherri on Tuesday, Karn and O'Hurley on Saturday, and Foxworthy on Sunday.

As pointed out in the post above [on the GSN board], the pre-3:00PM weekday schedule remains quite poor and pulls down the total day average. I've already made my suggestion to get recent seasons of the syndie game shows for the daytime window, and I'll make the suggestion again. Not only would the syndies get better numbers in the window, but they would feed a bigger audience into the later afternoon shows.

The schedule gets bashed around next week. We'll see what happens. Do we start another thread?

Shopping channel

Like a grimly determined contestant on Wipeout, Time Warner keeps pursuing Endemol. The Dutch producer of the big-balls epic and Fear Factor and Deal or No Deal and a bunch of other game and reality shows makes such an inviting target. Time Warner has a lot of hours on a lot of channels to fill, and they could lease Endemol's huge library of shows to other media operators around the world.

TW hasn't raised the total value of its offer but has made it all-cash. The media conglomerate doesn't seem to be getting any more traction, though, as Endemol remains cool to the overture. The production outfit harrumphed:
Endemol has received a revised offer from TW. The company has passed it on to the lenders. We remain focused on our discussions with lenders and these have entered the final stages. We are confident that a solution that puts the company on a firm financial footing for the future is now imminent.
Truth to tell, Endemol does seem to be clawing out of its financial hole. Or at least the hole isn't getting even deeper. A renewal of the Brit Big Brother, among other deals, has brought some much needed cashflow to the heavily indebted firm.

I can see why Time Warner covets that big pile of game and reality shows. Why bother leasing them when you can own 'em all? But they'll probably have to blow everybody away with an apocalyptic offer to get what they want.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just the facts, ma'am

A recent faux tweet linked to a blogger who dissed Speed's new quizzer Pumped for its fact-checking. As I said, I have no clue what a black flag means in a NASCAR race. But I figure Speed would have some fact-checkers who would know.

The late, unlamented Million Dollar Money Drop got into much more publicized trouble on those pesky little facts. Seems that Post-It Notes were marketed a little earlier than the fact-checkers thought. It meant a big difference in the show's debut episode.

An interesting interview with game show writer Rick Rosner includes this discouraging word for would-be scribes:
Many questions are written but for one reason or another never make it to the show, whether because the writer can't make them work, or because the fact checker shoots holes through them or even because the head writer simply doesn't like them.
I get a grim feeling that a determined fact-checker could shoot holes in just about any question, given enough time. The Internet makes the checker's job even easier, since so many different references can be consulted so fast. It makes me all the more sympathetic to game show writers, as they try to stump the contestants while keeping the show entertaining.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

More GSN ratings chatter

We just love to chew over the GSN numbers on the network's schedule board. Some more of my profound thoughts on the November 28-December 4 ratings...

Other poster: Then again, [Dawson Feud's bad numbers] may be due to competition against a show that airs on one of the big three networks [on Friday night]. Card Sharks and The $25,000 Pyramid probably do really well because of lack of competition.

The competition from the broadcast networks is very soft on Friday. Only one network show on the latest Friday got more than ten million viewers, and that one just barely. There are plenty of viewers available all Friday night for the cable nets.

The only real effect from the broadcast networks may have happened on Monday and Tuesday, when Dancing With the Stars hammered GSN right in the demos. This was the first week with no Dancing, and Monday and Tuesday prime time did noticeably better for GSN than during previous weeks. Which also possibly indicates that Dancing will be right up GSN's demo alley when the reruns start on the network in January.

Other poster: Face it, Classic Family Feud, no matter what version, ends up not doing so great. If they could fit Dawson's Feud in a later time slot, that may work.

Dawson Feud doesn't work very well in prime time, with plenty of promotion for the retro shows and a good lead-in from Pyramid and Card Sharks. Don't know why it would work that great anywhere.

Other poster gives a list of underwhelming averages for GSN's pre-3:00PM weekday schedule.

Weekdays before 3:00PM are really forgettable for GSN. That's a big reason the total day averages are sagging around 200K for weekdays. Sorry to repeat the suggestion, but very recent Wheel of Fortune somewhere in daytime couldn't hurt. Come on, Sony, give GSN a little help. Meanwhile, GSN is getting rid of Chain Reaction, one of the shows that perk things up after 3:00PM. Shrewd programming decision.

The prime time/total day averages for each day (in thousands of viewers): Mon 264/206, Tue 361/213, Wed 278/204, Thu 282/220, Fri 265/198, Sat 388/241, Sun 433/279.

GSN can thank Messrs. Foxworthy, Karn and O'Hurley for the relatively good performance on weekends vs. weekdays. Sherri also produced a good prime time number on Tuesday.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Grade schoolers romp

Another week of GSN numbers goes up, and the news is very good for Jeff Foxworthy and his fifth graders. My chatter on the GSN Schedule board...

Douglas has put up November 28-December 4. It's getting late and I don't want to analyze much. Overall prime time/total day averages were 324/222 (thousands of viewers). Okay numbers, not spectacular.

It was a blowout week for 5th Grader. All six runs ended in the top eleven. Wouldn't you know, soon-to-depart Chain Reaction got an episode into the top ten. Guess GSN doesn't want viewers. The 7:00PM-12:00AM marathons for each day:

Mon 258 - Not great but definitely an improvement from recent weeks - no more competition from Dancing With the Stars?

Tue 312 - Solid for Sherri

Wed 257 - Okay for Jerry, could be better

Thu 250 - Ditto for Howie

Fri 239 - Dawson hurts the night (and particularly his lead-out 100K Pyramid) with his 181 - I'm tellin' ya, a lot of folks don't like Richard, no matter how much the older-is-better posters admire him

Sat 342 - As usual, Karn and O'Hurley deliver, no matter what these boards think of them - as if these boards have much in common with GSN's actual audience

Sun 456 - ZOWIE for Jeff and friends

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Immortal Raymond

After umpity-zillion episodes, Wheel of Fortune has seen its share of memorable contestants. But none developed a legend quite like Raymond Taylor.

Appearing on the show in 1993, Raymond was actually a very good player. But his reality only occasionally matched up with the humdrum reality seen by other folks. As a result, his antics on the show inspired a YouTube highlights clip called Crack Head on Wheel of Fortune. That may be a bit harsh. Still, Raymond often seemed breathless, woozy, disoriented, and out to a very distant lunch. At one point he hugged Vanna tighter than any contestant before or since.

Pat Sajak realized that he had a burgeoning legend on his hands. He announced that some performers need only one name, like Cher, Garbo, Madonna, Vanna and...RAYMOND. Sadly, the story did not end well.

A few years later in 1997 Sony filed a lawsuit that complained about Raymond's menacing behavior. He had returned as an audience member to the scene of his triumphs, but was totally disconnected from any plausible reality. Sony said that he became "aggressively hostile and had to be physically ejected from the stage." Sony also claimed that Raymond trespassed on the Jeopardy set.

Some folks can't handle fame, even in small doses. At least Raymond's greatest line will never die: "Vanna, put those L's on there!"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Syndies sweep ahead

This year the Nielsen Company gave a gift to syndicated shows with multiple daily runs, by counting all their viewers. The result was a nice boost for Family Feud and Millionaire in the November sweeps compared to last year. Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, with only one run each day, didn't benefit from the methodology change but improved some, anyway. Broadcasting & Cable presents the pleasant year-over-year news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - up a couple ticks and number one in household rating for all syndies
Jeopardy 6.2 - up four ticks
Family Feud 3.0 - up a whopping fourteen ticks, thanks to Steve and Nielsen
Millionaire 2.5 - up three ticks

TV by the Numbers has the viewership averages for Thanksgiving week, not the entire sweeps month: Wheel of Fortune 10.1 million (weekend repeat 4.9 million) and Jeopardy 8.0 million. Steve and Meredith didn't make their top 25 list.

Couple other ratings notes: You Deserve It continues to drop, down to a 1.0 18-49 rating and 3.6 million viewers in its third week. Say good-bye to the deserving folks. And Real Deal averaged 1.5 million viewers in its second week, which is not bad at all by cable standards. But the numbers did fall from its debut week.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Millionaire tidbits

Around here I like to keep track of contestants named Casey. You already know how scary bloggers named Casey can be. Anyhoo, Casey Kelly-Walter of Potsdam, NY didn't win the million on Millionaire. Who does? But she did haul in $19,550.

That's more than I make from this blog, which so far has netted me $0.00. Some people named Casey make more money from game shows than other people named Casey.

The other bit of Millionaire news is that the Club Millionaire audience participation gimmick is no more. The official site offers this discouraging word:
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are sorry to announce that, as of Tuesday, December 6, 2011, all activity related to Club Millionaire will be discontinued. We apologize for any disappointment this may cause and thank you for your participation of the Club. In the coming months, we will be exploring other options related to development and operation of a new Millionaire rewards program.
Don't ask me. Millionaire has slipped to fourth in the syndie game show pecking order, but it's still attracting decent-sized audiences. Guess the gimmick fell short of expectations. Sometimes things just don't work out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Two good shows

BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis, still insisting that Dancing With the Stars is a game show, facebooks - is that a verb? - that High Stakes Poker and Chain Reaction will leave the GSN schedule in January. He must have gotten a couple more weeks of the GSN schedule pdfs. So ends the story for two of the network's better originals.

Of course, neither show got much respect from the older-is-better traditionalist bunch who dominate the GSN Internet boards (and most other game show boards on the web). High Stakes Poker, though, got plenty of kudos from the poker press. They appreciated how the show caught the atmosphere of big cash games. Once upon a time HSP was the network's highest-rated show, in both overall ratings and in the advertiser-beloved 18-49 demo.

But the show fell on hard times and was clearly on the way out. I'm slightly more surprised at Chain Reaction getting the heave-ho, but not really too shocked. The network has ground through endless rerun cycles of the show's two seasons. CR could still produce decent numbers, and I often enjoyed my weekend fix of the clever word puzzles. But life...goes...on, as the chain might say.

When Alex posts the schedule pdfs, I'll link to them in the sidebar. He says that Whammy gets CR's 10:00AM weekend slots and Woolery Lingo gets the 3:30PM run. Oh, Jeopardy also gets a night owl slot at 2:00AM. GSN and Jeopardy owner Sony wants to keep Alex's reruns miles away from the access hour, I guess.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chit chat

Pretty lazy this Sunday morning, so I'll just repost some chatter of mine from the GSN Schedule board. We should all recycle, right? (Sorry for the political correctness.)

Other poster: So movement down [in Family Feud ratings] is exciting?

Oh jeeze, it was just a little irony. Everything else was flat, but at least Family Feud was slightly different. So the news wasn't completely blah.

So far this season Family Feud is actually performing very well, with average viewership up over four million most weeks. I'm sure GSN would like to get Harvey Feud.

Other poster: Where do WOF and Jeopardy rank in terms of longest continuous running programs of all time?

They're getting up there. Especially Wheel, which has now been on continuously, in one form or the other, since 1975. But Meet the Press has both of them beaten by a mile. From the Wikipedia article (usual caveats): "It [Meet the Press] is the longest-running television series in American broadcasting history, despite bearing little resemblance to the original format of the program seen in its television debut on November 6, 1947."

Other poster: If Retro Fridays do a 295 and Karn/O'H Saturdays do a 297, why is one just good and the other solid?...Another poster responds: It was probably just a different use of words. I don't think he was trying to talk down or play up one over the other.

Of course, I was just using different phrasing. The complaint is groundless.

Other poster: So I really don't think Sherri and Jerry are doing that bad.

I agree they're not doing terrible by GSN standards. The real soft spot is Monday, but that day has been a problem for GSN for quite a while now. Million Dollar Password and Power of 10 perform a lot better on Saturday afternoon than on Monday night. Weird.

Other poster: Even Match Game and Dawson Feud showed up this week.

Dawson dropped a lot of the Card Sharks lead-in, from 357K down to 252K. Again, not a terrible number by GSN standards, but I would put 100K Pyramid at 10:00PM. I think it would hold Card Sharks' lead-in better.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Miss Arlene

The object of many John Daly compliments on What's My Line, Arlene Francis added a clever combo of elegance and everywoman to a lot of game shows. Of course, she was best known for WML but her IMDb page lists a slew of classic Goodson-Todman shows, from I've Got a Secret to Match Game.

Born Arline Francis Kazanjian in 1907, Arlene worked for many years as a Broadway actress. She made her way to radio and then to the box with pictures in the 1950s. Her big break was no doubt WML. The show gave her a national audience and a forum for marital discussions with her second husband and frequent WML guest panelist, Martin Gabel.

Although not particularly known for movie roles, she did score a nice part as Jimmy Cagney's wife in Billy Wilder's Cold War comedy (not a contradiction in terms) One, Two, Three. In her final years she suffered from Alzheimer's before her death in 2001 at age 93. She'll get yet another turn on GSN in the upcoming Christmastime run of What's My Line, and YouTube offers endless clips of her work in the genre.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Falling down

NBC has put a promo on their web site for Who's Still Standing, debuting December 19.

Fans of Russian Roulette will think deja vu all over again (thanks, Yogi) as contestants disappear through holes in the floor. One obvious difference from the late, beloved GSN original is the money on offer. Standing will dole out a million-dollar top prize, which sounds familiar. Nowadays any self-respecting prime time game show has to risk at least that much cash.

For whatever reason the promo doesn't mention host Ben Bailey. You'd think his Cash Cab fame would earn at least a brief nod. But the promo is too busy showing contestants as they feel the force of gravity. No matter, Ben should run things more than competently, with an occasional quip or three.

I've seen comments that NBC is throwing the show away during the low-rated Christmas week. Well, December 19 isn't exactly Christmas Eve, so the show's not getting utterly dumped. It could have been worse. NBC could have run Who's Still Standing on Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Syndies: Feud slips...and nothing else

It was dullsville in syndicated game show ratings for the week ending November 20. TVNewsCheck presents the yawn-inducing "news"...

Wheel of Fortune 7.6 - flat, and not the only one
Jeopardy 6.3 - flat
Family Feud 3.0 - off a couple ticks, at least some movement
Millionaire 2.5 - yep, flat

TV by the Numbers is still using that same picture of Pat and Vanna. Come on, guys, variety is the spice. Anyway, the viewership averages from their top 25 syndie list: Wheel of Fortune 11.9 million, Jeopardy 9.6 million, Family Feud 4.5 million. Millionaire again missed out.

UPDATE: Douglas just posted the GSN viewer numbers for Thanksgiving week, November 21-27. The overall averages prime time/total day were 306/225 (in thousands of viewers). Not so great but not a disaster. The averages for the five-hour 7:00PM-12:00AM marathons on each day:

Mon 181 - Million Dollar Monday is the usual OHIM for GSN
Tue 247 - Sherri doesn't do so swell
Wed 264 - Jerry at least does a little better than Sherri
Thu 331 - Howie again delivers despite turkey dinners
Fri 295 - Good showing for the retro shows on not-so-Black Friday
Sat 297 - Usual solid performance from stalwarts Karn and O'Hurley
Sun 351 - 5th Grader shines again

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Question

What if ABC had tried Million Dollar Mind Game in prime time instead of You Deserve It? It's a conundrum worthy of the well-dressed contestants on Mind Game itself.

Of course, the contestants couldn't have answered, because we can't run history over again. But that hasn't stopped some chatter on the web about how ABC chose the wrong game show to burn off in the schedule wilderness of Sunday afternoon. Especially now that You Deserve It looks to be tanking hard, with the second episode's 1.4 18-49 rating and only 4.4 million viewers. Both numbers are well down from the debut episode's already less than impressive totals.

Since it's pure speculation, I'll opine that Mind Game wouldn't have done any better and might have flopped worse. A painfully slow quizzer with painfully hard questions does not impress me as the ticket to Nielsen paradise. At best Mind Game might have collected a small cult following, which would have organized online petitions and letter-writing campaigns to save their unpopular favorite.

That would have been fun to watch but wouldn't have saved the show. You Deserve It's game is not sensational, but it's actually a lot better paced and more fun to play than Mind Game's numbingly tough puzzles. Too bad, but the producers stuffed way too many reality moments - hard luck stories and plentiful tears - into You Deserve It. If they had just stripped the show down to the gameplay, they might have lured decent ratings.

As it is, both shows seem destined for the famous six-and-out.

Monday, November 28, 2011

GSN checkerboard

Douglas has skipped ahead to the week of November 14-20 in his GSN viewer numbers. Unfortunately, some of the times are scrambled - not complaining, Douglas, keep up the good work! - so I can't be absolutely sure of the following averages. But they're pretty close.

The huge winner in GSN's new checkerboard schedule is 5th Grader. The show landed three of GSN's top five slots for the week and racked up an impressive 372K viewer average for its five-hour Sunday marathon. Deal or No Deal also performed very well with its marathon on Thursday, a 356K average. Those are exact averages, by the way. No problem with the times on those shows.

Best that I can figure, these are the averages for the 7:00PM-12:00AM marathons on all the days in thousands of viewers...

Mon 202 - Million Dollar Password did best
Tue 272-275 - Newlywed Game (a little uncertain due to times)
Wed 304 - Baggage
Thu 356 - Deal or No Deal
Fri 250 - Pre-1990 shows, 25K Pyramid did best
Sat 293-298 - Family Feud (again, a little uncertain due to the time trouble)
Sun 372 - 5th Grader

The weak sister is clearly Monday, which has been a sore spot for a long time now on GSN. A lot of those million dollar shows have been severely rerun-abused. But the most abused of them all, Million Dollar Password, performed the best! Go figure. The pre-1990 marathon did semi-respectably on Friday but hardly set the Nielsen world ablaze, with the second-lowest average of any of the marathons. 25K Pyramid and Card Sharks delivered the best numbers. I love the first, don't love the second. Sadly, my beloved Match Game did the worst in the marathon.

The overall prime time (8:00PM-11:00PM) average for the new schedule was about 311K, which isn't terrible but ain't all that great. Again, there's a little uncertainty in this average due to the time trouble.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Really dealing

History Channel brings a Brit import to Sunday night with Real Deal. The premise is simple. A contestant brings in a more or less valuable item. A pro dealer tries to negotiate a deal for the piece. If they can't agree the item goes to auction, and the contestant's haul may or may not exceed the dealer's final offer.

In practice, the show comes off like the negotiation scenes in Pawn Stars, without all the cutesy-pie "reality" bickering between Chumlee and the Old Man and the rest of 'em. Since those reality bits often bore me on Pawn Stars, I like how Real Deal strips things down to the essential game show. Take the deal or risk the auction.

The four pro dealers on the first two episodes were personable enough. Sometimes they seemed flat-out incredulous over what the contestants asked, like the twenty grand for the Spiderman necklace. (I was pretty dumbfounded by that initial demand, too.) My favorite character on the show was actually the auctioneer, though. A heavier version of Mr. Clean, he really milked his audience for every dollar.

The first two eps showed all three possible outcomes: agreed deals between the pros and the contestants, auctions that produced more than the final offer, and - the zonk outcome - auctions that yielded less than the final offer. The hour passed quickly thanks to a brisk pace, and the items were often interesting for historical reasons. It's a nice addition to History's lineup.