Monday, January 31, 2011

Mean streets

You'd expect a hard-ass game show from Spike, and you'd be right. The network for testosterone types of all ages from 15 to 25 has ordered twenty eps of Repo Games from the producers of - what else? - Jersey Shore.

The network says the show's concept is Cops meets Jeopardy. No, Alex doesn't get hauled off to the hoosegow. What happens is that two repo men give a debtor one last chance to keep his about-to-be-repossessed auto. If the debtor can't answer three of five trivia questions correctly, off goes the car. If he knows his trivia, the debt is forgiven on the spot.

Maybe we could take this format to hospital emergency rooms. Got a broken leg, buddy? We'll fix it and give you five hundred bucks if you can tell me who the president of Ukraine is.

Oh, I shouldn't give Spike ideas.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Freezing

This post's title is not a description of the weather in northern areas lately. Instead, I'm talking about GSN's new pdf schedules that Alex Davis posted at BuzzerBlog. I've provided the links in the sidebar, but I have my reservations. As I wrote on the GSN Schedule board...

Might miss my guess, but I wouldn't be amazed if these files prove one thing more than ever...don't trust the pdfs. GSN will go through two months with a virtually unchanged schedule? Except for dropping World Poker Tour when the new season of High Stakes Poker debuts, and the Valentine's Day marathons of Newlywed Game and Baggage?

Whatever. I'll put links to the files on the blog, but the caveat - "last-minute changes can make these files unreliable" - will probably be plenty important. It's just really hard for me to believe the schedule will more or less freeze for two months.

Anyway, we'll certainly see big changes when Drew arrives March 28.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Listing history

From the GSN Classics board, my I've Got a Secret contribution to lists for the ages...

I've been threatening to do this for a while, so I'll post a list of complete original-run I've Got a Secret episodes on YouTube. Unfortunately, it's not as long as my previous list for What's My Line, but there are still some interesting glimpses of the show as it evolved through its long run.

12/25/52. Christmas time for the first season. The panel talks about President Truman and Basil Rathbone guests. A very straightforward panel show at this point, basically Goodson-Todman's in-house knockoff of What's My Line. Things would loosen up a lot as the years went by. And Garry and Bill would shorten up on the hair.

2/2/55. We've moved along to loosier-goosier days, though things are still a bit on the reserved side. What's My Line's influence dies hard. Ed Sullivan shows up for some goofiness.

2/8/56. Lucy and Desi appear when they were still married. Things are getting looser still. You'll notice the proud announcement of TV's "number one panel show." Take that, John Daly.

3/28/56. Not sure about the date, but it fits the cast and the episode guides, and Easter fell on 4/1 that year. A thousand animals parade across the stage in an Easter special. We're not in WML-land any more, Toto...or anywhere close. The show has become much more of a variety extravaganza than a straight panel-game effort. (UPDATE: Found a source that verifies the 3/28/56 date.)

2/15/61. The legendary episode where legends meet: Lucille Ball and Johnny Carson. No, I wasn't married to Desi Arnaz. A colorized version of Lucy's memorable appearance exists.

1/23/67. We're headed for Nielsen boot hill, as Steve Allen hosts with Pearl Bailey guesting. Just a few months left.

Sometime in 2000. One of many revivals, Oxygen's effort with Stephanie Miller. The reason I added this clip is the combo of Steve Allen and Betsy Palmer returning for more secret-hunting. Sadly, this was one of Steve's last TV appearances before his death in October, 2000. His falsetto is reminiscent of that incredibly funny mystery-guest appearance on What's My Line in 1958.

YouTube offers a lot of shorter clips from the original show, including some interesting historical artifacts. Even Bobby Fischer shows up, long before he went more or less nuts.

Happenings

Did I ever mention that game shows are cheap? So networks often can't resist plugging in an episode or four whenever a sinkhole opens in the schedule. And NBC has a really sinky hole called Chase, a scripted loser about chasing people, I think.

Nobody watches Chase, so NBC is again pulling it from the schedule on February 2 for another two-part Minute To Win It extravaganza. The Beat the Clock descendant costs peanuts and pulls respectable numbers, so NBC execs can't resist filling time with the stunts and silliness. As long as NBC's scripted shows keep crashing - which has been known to happen now and then - Guy Fieri and friends will keep riding to the rescue.

Money Drop is adding an online play-along game for its season finale next week. Hey, maybe they can play it on GSN Live! The EW.com story cautions: "Should the online play-along format prove popular (and the show get another season), don’t be surprised if the online component becomes a regular part of the show." Right now Money Drop may be bubble-sitting. Ratings have perked up recently, and the show is - did I mention this before? - dirt-cheap. We might see another go-round.

The Hasbro, er, Hub network will run a Valentine's Day marathon of Family Game Night, which seems to be their highest-rated game show. Kiddie games have never been my speed, but if you like six hours of children running around madly...well, tune in.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Did ya hear the one about the Regis cake?

As often noted around here, game show contestant stories abound in the Google news cache. But this one about a Millionaire contestant from Las Vegas named Shae Wilhite stands out. In fact, the story looks like it might have occupied more than fifteen minutes of a bored reporter's time.

Shae managed to wheedle sixty-four grand away from Michael Davies and company back in 2001, when Regis was still a decade from retirement. She was working for a law firm at the time, and her lawyer phone-a-friend had to interrupt a deposition for her question about the Iliad. The phone-a-friend got it right and Shae lived happily ever after, or at least until the question about the Guerilla Girls (who?) induced her to walk away.

Taxes reduced the winnings to thirty-eight thousand, which Shae spent on a car, lasik eye surgery and, of course, a trip to Disneyland. She always had ambitions as a stand-up comic - the article is punctuated with some of her groaners - so she tried her jokes on the Vegas club scene for a while.

Comedy didn't work out so well. Laughs have apparently grown short in recession-wracked Sin City. But the sunny and plus-sized Shae wasn't crushed and has now started her own bakery. She's thinking about selling a Regis cake with lots of cream cheese. He's a little cheesy, doncha know.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

GSN number-palooza limited

The mighty Douglas hasn't posted any complete weeks of GSN numbers at Mediaweek lately. But he has been putting up a few numbers for some days.

I gathered all the data I could find - fifteen days from December 20 to January 24. Mostly it's ratings for Baggage, Newlywed Game, and 1 vs. 100, with just a few numbers for other shows. Some cheap and easy observations...

1) Baggage is a mortal lock for renewal. This won't come as a shock but the numbers leave no doubt. If Jerry starts demanding ridiculous money, they'll just find another host. For all fifteen 6:30 showings in the data, Baggage averaged 536K total viewers and skewed the youngest of any show.

2) Sherri will also be back if she so desires. Her 6:00 PM runs averaged 459K viewers, which would have been terrific in pre-Baggage days and still looks just fine.

3) 1 vs. 100 may be right on the bubble. Carrie Ann averaged 390K at 7:00 PM. That's hardly awful but GSN may expect more leading out of Baggage. I like the show and hope it pulls through, but things seem dicey.

4) Karn and O'Hurley continue to romp and stomp in the 8:00 PM hour. So what else is new? For their four posted days they averaged 550K in the hour.

5) There were only three days of numbers for the black-and-white shows last month, and one of the days was Christmas Eve. That's far from a fair sample but the shows still averaged 157K in the wee-est hour. Not bad at all.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Syndies smile away

Congrats if you detected the deeply buried Paul McCartney reference in the title. Unfortunately, the photo of Pat Sajak catches him in an unsmiling mood. But that was before he saw the ratings for the latest week. Broadcasting & Cable delivers the smile-worthy news for the week ending January 16...

Wheel of Fortune 8.1 - up three ticks to a second straight season high
Jeopardy 6.6 - even pre-Watson, up a couple ticks to its second straight season high
Millionaire 2.4 - up a tick, also a season high
Family Feud 1.9 - up a tick
5th Grader 1.1 - up a tick, everybody smiles
Lyrics 0.8 - flat, well, almost everybody smiles

Millionaire even made the top 25 list at TV by the Numbers for the first time in a long time. The viewership averages for the top three: Wheel of Fortune 13.1 million (weekend repeat 4.1 million), Jeopardy 10.4 million, Millionaire 3.6 million. Very healthy numbers all around.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday tidbits

In a truly bitter family feud, Steve Harvey's ex-wife Mary Harvey has taken to YouTube to slam the Feud host. She says Harvey cheated on her, ruined her financially, turned her family against her, and kicked her dog. Okay, I made up the part about the dog. Harvey's lawyer was not amused and piled into the ex-Mrs. with all sorts of legal threats. Maybe the voluble game show host should reread one of his own relationship-guru books. Harvey and his current Mrs. have now struck back.

The Google news cache always offers local media stories about game show contestants. But this one about Ocala, Florida resident and Millionaire contestant Prescilla Geissal was notable for the lady's age: sixty-nine. After Chad Mosher's justified complaints against age discrimination by game shows, the story comes as a nice change. One quibble: the article constantly refers to the 69-year-old lady by her bare last name, an irritating remnant of screechy feminism. Would it be so politically impossible to use "Mrs." or even "Ms."? By the way, Mrs. Geissal won a thousand bucks.

ABC has picked up You Deserve It, the help-thy-neighbor quizzer I blogged about a while ago. The premise still seems a little odd. I like to root for contestants who are playing for themselves, not for some more or less significant other. If those other folks deserve it so much, bring them on as contestants.

Jack LaLanne, who completed 761,239,833 push-ups in his life, has died at the ripe old age of 96. I still remember his exercise shows from the 1950s, when my childhood self would do jumping jacks in front of his flickering image on a black-and-white teevee. Speaking of the fifties, Jack once appeared on Groucho's ancient You Bet Your Life, as duly recorded on YouTube. He even said the secret word.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mood music

Not much news in gameshowland today, so I'll copy over another historical post of mine from the GSN Classics board...

Speaking of Steve Allen, I just noticed this recent I've Got a Secret upload at YouTube. The final-season 11/7/66 clip was posted in remembrance of a certain Robert O. Fletcher. You'll see Mr. Fletcher in a memorable appearance at the end of the segment, as Steve Allen engages in a bit of very politically incorrect business.

The segment also features an amazing solve by Henry Morgan (looking rather odd in his retro eyewear). Reminds me of Caitlin Burke's one-letter solve on Wheel of Fortune. And there's some of the strangest "music" you'll ever hear. Steve channels Mr. Spock when he pronounces it music, but not "as we know it."

The segment starts with an ironic announcement that the show is broadcast in color. Sorry, the clip is just a B&W kine. And guess who shows up at the top of the show: Walter Cronkite. Remember him? The clip concludes with the beginning of an unintentionally hilarious ad about a mother-in-law's bad breath.

All in all, a very funny bit of I've Got a Secret history.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Run, man, run

This odd note turned up in the Google news cache about Arnold Schwarzenegger movies from the 1980s. The Ahnold-fanboi author has a tough time selecting just five of the muscular thespian's flicks from the decade:

"It is difficult to pick out the 5 best '80s Arnold Schwarzenegger movies simply because they're all good. It does not seem to matter which character the governator plays. His accent and bulging physique makes Schwarzenegger a very versatile actor for some bizarre reason."

My personal opinion of the former weightlifter and his growling monotone is not so kind. But enough about Ahnold. One of the movies on the top-five list is Running Man, which featured a memorable turn by Richard Dawson as, you guessed it, an evil game show host.

Typecasting? Some of Dawson's disenchanted co-workers from the old Match Game and Family Feud days might say that. In fact, Brett Somers pretty much did say it. Richard gets his comeuppance in the flick, as all evil game show hosts must, sooner or later. But before the inevitable denouement, Dawson chews enough scenery to give set designers a couple decades of work.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Da cloud, da cloud

Just for funnin' around, I went to wordle.net and created a word cloud of my January posts. Not amazingly, various permutations of "game show" turn up big. "GSN" also gets a workout because our little game show network has been making a lot of news lately, and I've been hacked off about many of the developments.

Names of various shows and hosts float about the ether, especially that "Drew" guy. Who is this mysterious "Drew," anyway? I also notice that "probably" looms rather large. That's, er, probably because actuaries like moi tend to caveat everything we say.

For more detail click on the image and the cloud will be revealed in greater splendor. Yes, I have emitted a thick fog of words this month, and January still has more than a week left. I'm just full of...words.

All in

The flood of new non-traditional product continues at GSN. Even before Drew Carey's comedy show in March and Wendy Williams' talk show in April, we get the new season of High Stakes Poker in February. Compared to the other new offerings, though, the poker production almost looks a traditional game show. At least people play a real game for real money.

Poker has suffered from overexposure on two nights at GSN. The tweet from High Stakes Poker's production company says the debut date is February 26, a Saturday night instead of the usual Sunday slot for new episodes. We'll see what happens with the scheduling. Poker should be cut back to three or four hours on a single night, anyway.

As if High Stakes Poker doesn't have enough ratings worries already, the new season will lack some of the top pros like Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey. That's due to some stupid dispute between two online poker sites. I like High Stakes Poker and wish it well, but I'm starting to think its days are numbered at GSN. At least that would make some of the usual suspects on the GSN Classics board happy. They've ranted for years about non-traditional poker defiling GSN.

Of course, those same usual suspects don't mind Carey's completely non-game comedy show on GSN at all. The Internet is weird.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday fragments

Usually I don't spend much time on web offshoots of classic game shows. But who can resist one of the cheesiest game shows ever, Dating Game, returning to an Internet near you? Yes, careful or careless date-selecting will arrive soon at social network sites like Facebook and Twitter. Jim Lange (or any of the other hosts) won't be along for the cybernetic ride, but that's not a huge loss. The emcees mostly just watched as the would-be lovers quizzed each other.

This baseball fan is looking forward to pitchers and catchers reporting. Until the longed-for day arrives, there's always the Milwaukee Brewers fanfest on January 30. You can pay ridiculous prices for players' autographs - don't these guys make enough already? - but you can also watch a Family Feud face-off between teams of veterans and youngsters. Can left fielder Ryan Braun match the top answer? Or will he drop the ball, so to speak? There's also a trivia game show with my namesake, third baseman Casey McGehee. Guys named Casey tend to have trivial minds.

I still remember bombing out of a grade school spelling bee when "icicle" stumped me. At least I didn't have to deal with a tough audience, just my somewhat sympathetic classmates. But times have changed. Now a spelling bee in Illinois will proceed in a more raucous setting. Explains one of the organizers: "We get a game show atmosphere going. The audience is strongly encouraged to participate. We tell them not to be too rude, but they can be a little rude."

Not as rude as Anne Robinson, I hope.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Drew, Drew, Drew

The GSN boards continue to blissfully disregard what Drew Carey's new non-game, non-competition, non-traditional, non-everything show means for the future of our (supposedly) game show network. Other folks on the web aren't so out of touch, as I pointed out to another poster on the GSN Schedule board...

Other poster:You sure fooled us, Casey. That's all you seem to talk about. You're so sure that Drew's going to get a number of spots.

Who's fooling now? I didn't plan this, but Game Show Newsnet has put up a link called "Between Improv-a-Ganza and Bill Engvall, is GSN the new Comedy Central?"

The link goes to snarky story that ridicules pre-1990 game shows (particularly Match Game and Dawson Feud) as shows to laugh at, not with. The story then praises GSN for "adding some shows to their lineup that might add some real laughs," namely Improv-a-Ganza and Engvall Lingo. The writer looks forward to watching Drew and the gang.

Welcome to the GSN's new audience, which won't give a thin dime about pre-1990 game shows...in the noon hour or anywhere else. And when GSN pushes pre-1990 shows out of the way to cater to that new audience, well, everybody was warned.

By the way, game show icon Charlie Sheen apparently showed up for an impromptu turn at one of Drew's Improv-a-Ganza tapings. At least Sheen got off a funny line about wanting a prenup. The photo released from the taping looks like a Whose Line reunion, which is what the show will probably be despite Carey's non-denial denials.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Syndies: twin towers loom, others gloom

The rich got richer, or the towers got taller, in syndicated game shows for the first week after the holidays. Otherwise, it was mostly dour tidings for the syndies. Broadcasting & Cable presents the two-toned news for the week ending January 9:

Wheel of Fortune 7.8 - up an astonishing nine ticks to a season high
Jeopardy 6.4 - up a none-too-shabby seven ticks, also to a season high
Millionaire 2.3 - flat
Family Feud 1.8 - down a tick
5th Grader 1.0 - down a tick
Lyrics 0.8 - down a tick to near-invisibility

TV by the Numbers finally got around to their top 25 syndie list. The guys at the site regularly note that there's "not enough interest in syndicated" among their readership. That's probably true. Their geeky readers are too busy obsessing over Chuck. Anyway, the imposing viewership averages for the towers: Wheel of Fortune 12.6 million (weekend repeat 3.7 million) and Jeopardy 10.0 million. A helluva lot more viewers than Chuck, even if the demos skew old.

In a bit of broadcast ratings news, Million Dollar Money Drop has been gradually recovering from the holiday blues, though it remains less than a hit. Last night the down-the-tubes quizzer pulled a 1.9 18-49 rating and 5.3 million total viewers. The show could scrape by at these levels. At least Money Drop's pace seems to have picked up a bit, though it could hardly have gotten slower.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sympathy for the Reege

It took a real old guy with beige hair to conquer the decades-long curse of the 1950s game show fixing scandals. Yes, I'm overstating the importance of Regis Philbin to the success of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the Brit import which brought big-money game shows back to American broadcast prime time in 1999. After all, Millionaire's format was strong enough to withstand almost any halfway competent host.

But Regis was much more, a relaxed TV veteran who seemed like everybody's buddy and maybe really was everybody's buddy. His common touch helped make the show's less than breakneck pace acceptable. A grating host would have irritated endlessly in those loooooong pauses before - sorry, I can't resist - the final answer.

As most everybody knows by now, Regis has announced his retirement on that syndie daytime show with the lady who's young enough to be his granddaughter. He hosted a couple other game shows in his career, most notably the sadly short-lived Million Dollar Password. But his turn opposite the hot seat in Millionaire will always be his best-known legacy to the genre. And he's still on GSN at 2:00 AM!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday snippets

Remember Love Triangle, the GSN dating game with body-aging software and lie detectors and who knows what other technocrud? Well, the show starts taping January 22. Alex Davis at BuzzerBlog says Wendy Williams will host. Looks like a March or April debut is planned, though I doubt this project will make nearly as big a splash as the Drew Carey non-game show. GSN seems to have plenty of money lately, maybe from the burgeoning online business. Their slate of originals is getting long.

Now that we've seen Pacman as a possible Wipeout knockoff, NBC has selected the hosts for their own copycat pilot, Catch. Legendary wide receiver and NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who knows something about catching things, and comic Michael Kosta will turn up on the project along with newcomer Rob Gleeson. Deadspin calls the show a complex version of the game "catch." How complex can playing catch get? As long as Wipeout keeps pleasing Nielsen Media Research, we'll keep getting these stunt epics.

GSN's Carrie Ann Inaba has sold ABC a pilot called Grace, which "focuses on a dysfunctional family set in the world of professional dance." At least it's not a professional family set in the world of dysfunctional dance. I don't like dysfunctional dancing.

UPDATE: Love Triangle debuts Monday, April 18 with an initial 32-episode run. Wendy Williams says she would give everybody a lie detector test.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I've got an upload

My favorite among the old black-and-white game shows from the fifties and sixties has always been I've Got a Secret. GSN gave us parched IGAS fans a small sip with two weeks of episodes last month. Luckily, YouTube offers a lot of clips from the secretive proceedings, though not nearly as many as What's My Line. A couple recent I've Got a Secret uploads to the site prompted a few comments from me on the black-and-white discussion thread at the GSN Classics board...

Just spotted a very nice recent upload on YouTube, the first Christmas episode of I've Got a Secret from 1952. Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows and Henry Morgan are already on hand. And Garry Moore's hair is a lot longer than usual. Funny to hear the panel discussing "President Truman."

The 1952 ep shows how IGAS started as a pretty straight panel show, similar to What's My Line. Later the format loosened considerably, with skits and stunts and musical numbers and the Salvation Army band and a cast of thousands. Once that happened, IGAS enjoyed its greatest rating success, becoming a top ten show for the 1955-58 seasons.

William Frawley's performance of Melancholy Baby on the 5/3/65 I've Got a Secret episode has also been reposted to YouTube. This was one of the eps in GSN's two-week run last month. Commented about this before, but the clip is rather sad because Mr. Frawley died less than a year later.

Friday, January 14, 2011

See Pac-Man run

Was it really so long ago when I threw quarters into a machine to play some silly ghost-chasing game called Pac-Man? I know I'm old, but this is unwelcome confirmation.

Proving that nothing in the pop-culture junkosphere ever dies, Pac-Man may return as a game show. This project might have been inevitable after Wipeout demonstrated what you can do with big balls. So why not a show with big dots from the '80s? Merv Griffin Productions exec Roy Bank leaves no doubt about the inspiration for Pac-Man, the TV game. He envisions a "big, crazy Wipeout-type event with a lot of energy."

Will there be a Ms. Pac-Man spinoff if the show succeeds? Or will the ghosts close in remorselessly on our hero and consign him forever to development hell? Stay tuned and keep thinking, waka waka waka.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Goody goody Lingo returns

I've been snarking on GSN so much lately. So for a change I'll pat the network on the back instead of kicking them in the patoot. Lingo, GSN's best original ever and that includes everything, returns in June with 40 new episodes hosted by Bill Engvall. Nope, there's no Chuck in sight. My reaction from the GSN Originals board...

Great news, though Chuck's absence is odd. Some kind of money dispute, or GSN just wanted somebody younger? Sorry, I'm still chewing over Chad Mosher's post at about.com on age discrimination by game shows.

The format is so strong that even a mostly incompetent host could handle the job. And Engvall has more than sufficient TV skills to run the show. Still, Chuck is so closely identified with Lingo that it'll be a little jarring to see somebody else.

But what the hey, I've been begging for Lingo's return forever. Thanks, GSN!

UPDATE: USA Today offers some more quotes from Engvall about his new gig. Turns out his wife is a better Lingo player than he is. As Engvall says, it's weird how life works. My wife always complains that I'm better than her at Cash Cab. Of course, none of us could beat Watson at anything.

Watson conquers

As Brad Rutter says, we're all extinct. "We" being humans...and extinct being on Jeopardy. Supercomputer Watson took on Jeopardy champs Rutter and Ken Jennings in a practice round today and won. That's a lot better than just about any human could do, so let's all just pack it in now.

The official competition happens February 14-16. It's only a matter of time before supercomputers are unbeatable at everything. So even if Ken and Brad manage to hold on in a full game, we dimwitted humans are bound to lose out sooner or later.

In fact, Watson could come in handy next time I have to explain my tax return to the IRS. Is the machine available for taxpayer consultations? Meanwhile, Game Show Newsnet delivers a megabyte of links to media reaction about Watson's triumph.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Syndies revive

After a not so merry Christmas week, syndicated game shows mostly bounced back in the week ending January 2. Broadcasting & Cable spreads the largely good cheer...

Wheel of Fortune 6.9 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.7 - unbelievable, same as WoF, up a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.3 - up a tick
Family Feud 1.9 - up a tick
5th Grader 1.1 - up a tick, getting repetitious
Lyrics 0.9 - down a tick, missed the party

Lyrics has some company in the sub-one club. In the first two days of its syndie trial, January 10-11, GSN's Baggage was not a smash at 0.9. That's down a tick from the lead-in and down three ticks from the year-ago time period. Jerry may not have a second syndicated show for long. At the other end of the scale for syndie game shows, TV by the Numbers reports that the Twin Towers recouped some of their viewership: Wheel of Fortune 11.6 million (weekend repeat 5.1 million) and Jeopardy 9.2 million.

And a broadcast show got some much-needed good news: Million Dollar Money Drop crept up to a 1.8 18-49 rating and 5.1 million total viewers for the January 12 episode. Less than gigantic numbers but a definite improvement over the miserable previous week.

A post for the ages

Been chewing over Chad Mosher's post at about.com on possible age discrimination by game shows in selecting contestants. As you might expect, the bias works against older contestants, not younger ones. The twenty-something Chad, young enough to be my son and in fact younger than my real son, finally decides that, yeah, game shows don't much care for older contestants any more.

I agree, but I can understand why. The real age problem dogging traditional game shows is among viewers, not contestants. The demos don't lie. Studio-based game shows skew older than the pyramids (Egyptian, not Bob Stewart-ian). So I can't really blame game shows for trying to fight the lethal skew with less wrinkled contestants.

In most industries such shenanigans would be blatantly illegal and might well spawn a blizzard of lawsuits. The gaping exception in the age-discrimination laws for the entertainment industry avoids that pain. It helps to have well-connected lobbyists and deep pockets for political contributions.

Chad's post reminds me of Betty White's ill-considered remarks about the supposed faults of younger folks on the late, lamented Million Dollar Password. Chad doesn't mention it but he was one of the aspersed young'uns on that show. He played very well, by the way.

Monday, January 10, 2011

More Drew

The GSN boards continue in denial over Drew Carey's new non-game, non-competition, non-everything show Improv-a-Ganza. This is the biggest threat yet to traditional game shows on GSN, but the boards mostly ignore the threat with blissful nonchalance. The latest head-in-the-sand post, and my reply...

Other poster: While Improv-a-Ganza is not a game show, it's very closely related to the genre in a couple ways. First, Drew is one of the hottest, most well-known current game show hosts in the country. And second, Improv-a-Ganza is (as you said) essentially a remake of Whose Line, which has largely been embraced by the game show community as a something of pseudo-game show.

The only genuine relationship is Drew Carey. This improv comedy show has nothing else to do with game shows or even competition shows. Talent contests like American Idol are much more closely related to game shows than this improv project.

I will say that GSN has been really smart to get Drew. If they had announced, say, a non-game comedy show with Sherri Shepherd as the host, these boards would be ringing with the usual denunciations of "reality crap" infecting GSN.

Anyway, I think it's naive to believe that if (probably when) Drew succeeds, GSN won't try other non-game comedy projects. Why wouldn't they? Improv-a-Ganza will probably bring in comedy fans (and non-game-show viewers) who might well enjoy more comedy shows. Hey, I'll probably enjoy Drew's show myself.

By the way, Alex Davis has posted that all the regulars from Whose Line will show up on Improv-a-Ganza with the notable exception of Wayne Brady. Also, Rich Fields will be the announcer - a parting gift from Drew for his firing from The Price is Right? The show debuts Monday, March 28 with a daily run of forty episodes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

High anxiety

The Match Game thread on the GSN Classics board has wandered into a discussion of Bill Daily, who often took over the ex-Dawson seat before McLean Stevenson moved in more or less permanently. A couple of acquaintances have remarked on the thread about Bill's rather "highly strung" nature. I had to admit that his anxiety to score big on Match Game got a little old for me, which led into some comments about other game show folks...

As for Bill Daily on the show, I'm afraid he was never my favorite. A little too nervous, too anxious to score every time the camera pointed at him. I think the more relaxed McLean Stevenson did a much better job in the ex-Dawson seat. But Daily was a competent panelist, provided some laughs.

Other poster: Bill is just like that in person: animated, and somewhat nervous. He's somewhat highly strung.

Not surprising. He was like that in almost all of his TV appearances. After a while he got somewhat typecast in "highly strung" roles. He was always anxious to make a splash on Match Game, and it got to be wearing after a while.

Funny thing, but daily game shows - especially with a lot of ad-libbing like Match Game - tend to bring out a performer's genuine personality pretty strongly. It's hard to act every minute of every episode, even for an actor. If you're a little on the tense side, well, that's probably going to show up, as it did for Bill Daily on MG.

This tendency for extensively ad-libbed game shows to bring out genuine personalities is hardly confined to older shows. If you watch Baggage, for instance, you get a pretty good idea about Jerry Springer. A smart-arse no doubt, but a guy who sort of wants to be halfway decent, at least some of the time (wink).

Same with Sherri on Newlywed Game. Loud and show-offy, but occasionally willing to dial it back a little and show a touch of sweetness.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wiped history

An interesting thread has started on the GSN General board about wiped game shows. I posted that I'd love to see a full set of Who Do You Trust?, Johnny Carson's more physical knockoff of Groucho's You Bet Your Life. Another poster inquired about the term "wiped"...

Can someone please explain the history of the term "wiped". Upon reading the title of this thread, I was baffled as to the subject matter. After reading the replies in this thread, I have deduced that it means "destroyed" or "erased" in the context of a television show that has not been preserved, but I never heard this term before. Is this newly coined terminology?

Not at all newly coined. It refers to the practice of reusing video tape back in the fifties and sixties and even into the seventies, when tape was very expensive. New episodes would just be taped over older episodes on the same reel, so the older eps got "wiped."

Sometimes tapes could be lost or dumped somewhere, and sometimes there was unintentional destruction. A few What's My Line tapes were reportedly ruined in making the 25th anniversary special in 1975, for instance.

In the game show world, Goodson and Todman were relatively careful about preserving shows in the first couple decades of commercial television. But even a lot of episodes from their shows are gone. Still, classics like What's My Line and I've Got a Secret are preserved very well by the general standards of early TV game shows, though some eps are missing. Almost miraculously, you can watch the first episode of What's My Line on YouTube, from sixty years ago.

As the cost of taping shows came down, and cable TV started opening up more possibilities for reusing shows over years or even decades, producers became much more careful about preserving their product. That's why a more recent show like Scrabble, for example, is apparently pretty much intact. And producer Michael Davies would probably have cut off his arm before he wiped any Regis Millionaire.

Friday, January 7, 2011

All Drew all the time

Bits and pieces of video from the Improv-a-Ganza pilot are showing up at YouTube. Drew Carey's new GSN show is looking a lot like a certain old ABC show. A few comments of mine from the GSN Schedule board...

Other poster: According to the poster of the video on Youtube, Ryan Styles as well as other familiar faces will appear on this show...Wayne Brady might appear as a guest star for a few of the episodes, but not necessarily a regular.

Well, it's hard to ignore an improv talent like Ryan Stiles, who dates all the way back to the Brit original. If Wayne Brady ever does turn up, I'd love to see him paired with Chip Esten. Those guys could really cook on the musical segments. The politically incorrect description of Chip on the old Whose Line fansites was "the white Wayne."

There's another brief glimpse from the pilot featuring Ryan and Chip here. The show already has a YouTube channel and a website. And the YouTube comments make me believe all the more that Drew won't flop. There are a whole lot of people who would like to see, essentially, a Whose Line remake. Much as I fondly remember Whose Line, I get a little chill about the future of traditional game shows on GSN.

More brevities

Family Feud host Steve Harvey is casting a covetous eye on Dr. Phil territory. He's written another book of advice to the lovelorn, Straight Talk, No Chaser. Steve's moonlighting as a relationship guru hasn't gone uncriticized. This story quotes some nasty comments about his first advice book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: "I was shocked by his misogynistic views on love and marriage" and "the book is sexist, stereotyping all men into knuckle-dragging, sports-loving hunters that just need a little sex to keep them happy." Have to admit I drag a knuckle now and then. Harvey, as you might expect, is unfazed by the razzies.

Match Game stalwart Fanny Flagg is flagg-flogging another book, I Still Dream of You. There seem to be a lot of literary efforts from game show types lately. Most of this account of Fanny's book tour has nothing to do with game shows. But she does say that one of her FAQs is: "Did you really have as much fun on the Match Game as it looked?" To my relief she always answers: "On the Match Game, we all had as much fun as it looked." Interesting how she says "the" Match Game.

Wheel of Fortune continues to grind through announcer auditions. Next week Lora Cain will try out as a possible replacement for the legendary Mr. O'Donnell. The press release says that Lora will be the first female announcer on a game show, which can't be right. Lingo, for instance, featured Randy Thomas as its (pre-recorded) announcer during the show's second season. In fact, Vanna has recently been doing some announcer chores on Wheel itself.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Syndies mostly scrooged

During Christmas week people are too busy opening presents and gorging themselves to watch much TV. Syndicated game shows were no exception to this yuletide rule, especially in the access hour. Broadcasting & Cable decks the halls with the bad news for the week ending December 26...

Wheel of Fortune 6.7 - down five ticks, ouch
Jeopardy 5.5 - down six ticks, double ouch
Millionaire 2.2 - off a tick
Family Feud 1.8 - bucks the trend, up a tick
5th Grader 1.0 - flat
Lyrics 1.0 - flat

TV by the Numbers tells us the twin towers still pulled the best average viewership numbers among all syndies: Wheel of Fortune 10.9 million and Jeopardy 8.8 million. Not bad but clearly below normal standards.

In a bit of broadcast ratings news, Wednesday's Minute To Win It scored a 2.1 18-49 rating and 6.7 million total viewers. The household rating/share was 4.1/7. Pretty usual numbers for the stunts and silliness.

UPDATE: Thursday's Winter Wipeout certainly didn't, er, wipe out with Nielsen Media Research. The show with balls bounced to an impressive 3.8 18-49 rating (its second best ever) with 11.7 million total viewers and a household rating/share of 5.9/10. Look for more winter stunts in ABC's future. The show's not exactly my glass of iced tea, but it's nontoxic frivolity. Meanwhile, Million Dollar Money Drop drooped to a predictably dreary 1.4 18-49 rating and 4.6 million viewers.

And to get back to syndicated game shows for a minute, looks like the rumors about GSN's Baggage entering the syndie wars are true...at least in Jerry Springer's (and my) old home town, Cincinnati. Local Cincy media writer John Kiesewetter says a MyNetwork station, WSTR-TV, will pick up Jerry's datefest beginning next Monday at 7:30 PM. Kiesewetter identifies Baggage as "the highest-rated weekday Mon-Fri series in GSN history."

That's probably true in total viewers, at least. Kiesewetter also has some fun with Springer's own baggage from his tangled political past in Ohio. This is a first for GSN, one of its originals in syndication.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Brief and to the point

Wanna be the next Vanna? Game show historians might quibble that Vanna herself is the next Susan, but that's reaching a long way back. No matter, Wheel of Fortune is running a Vanna-for-a-day promo this week. Send in a video if you want to touch the letters for one (1) episode.

Various web wags can't resist noting that Newlywed Game host Sherri Shepherd will soon qualify as a contestant for her own show. She just got engaged to a TV writer named Lamar Sally. Sherri accepted the proposal on the day after Christmas, or Boxing Day as the Brits (ominously?) call it. It's a triumph of hope over experience, her second experiment in matrimony. See you at the altar in Chicago this August, Sherri.

Anne Francis, who I'll always remember as the ditzy and curvaceous blonde on the '50s sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, has died at age 80. Her IMDb page stretches for miles - this lady must have been in most of the TV series ever made. A couple game shows appear in the long parade: You Don't Say and Password.

One of the endless lawsuits swirling around The Price is Right is now centering on the monumentally important diary of former model Brandi Cochran. I wish I could care more about this colossal story.

In a feat of topological complexity, Million Dollar Money Drop should soon disappear down one of its own trap doors. The glacial quizzer crashed to its worst numbers yet last night: a 1.3 18-49 rating and 3.8 million total viewers. But in keeping with the show's overall pace, the crash was very, very sloooooooowwwww.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

GSN Digital, GSN ratings

Some notes about the world-needs-more-winners channel...

A site called xconomy.com is running an interesting story about GSN's online operations. The piece starts with a dismal reminder of game show demographics but rapidly turns more positive. Seems that GSN is reaping close to $100 million in annual online revenue. Well, that's what they say.

Funniest quote from the story: "GSN Digital initially focused on using its destination gaming website, GSN.com, as a way to drive interest in the television network, but the site has recently become a strong profit source on its own." No kidding. That little cable network thingie seems like an afterthought on GSN.com nowadays.

A related item tells how GSN is climbing up the Facebook ladder with its online games at the site. What does all this mean for the cable network? Probably some more money to play with. I'm starting to understand how they could afford Drew Carey.

TV by the Numbers has posted four top-25 lists of 2010 vs. 2009 cable network gainers and losers in prime time and total day. Somehow, GSN didn't make any of the lists, which is actually pretty remarkable.

What this means in real numbers is that, on average from 2009 to 2010, GSN didn't gain more than 25K viewers in prime time or lose more than 14K. The range for total day was even narrower: between an 18K gain and a 4K loss.

I would ask the guys at TVBTN about GSN but they're already getting a bunch of requests. They won't publish full lists because, as one of them says, Nielsen would get upset. Really, it makes little difference. GSN's averages were essentially unchanged from 2009 to 2010.

Which makes sense as I look back. GSN caught a huge winner in 2009 with Deal or No Deal. Howie blew the Nielsen doors off and basically took over the network.

In 2010 DOND started to fade under the relentless pounding, and GSN's originals crashed and burned in the first half of the year. But then Jerry and Sherri and Karn and O'Hurley picked up the slack, and Douglas' numbers at Mediaweek indicate that GSN went out of 2010 on a pretty decent roll. If I had to guess, I'd say Drew will make 2011 an overall better year for GSN, but we'll see.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Another contestant

Now and then the contestant story pops up in the Google news cache.

The story runs through the experience of a not particularly notable game show contestant who won some money but not too much. The contestant says things like: "I've been a fan of the show and game shows in general," and "I've been playing trivia games my whole life, but no experience can match standing there with the lights on you and the questions in front of you."

Those quotes come from Seth Robison, a Schaumburg, Illinois resident who took home $20,500 from Millionaire (he's not the guy in the picture). His contestant story runs through the questions he answered and the questions he skipped and the question he walked away from. We find out that he wants to use his winnings on a trip to Japan and kitchen renovations.

Unfortunately, he won't have enough money for both. Seth's job is described, his parents are mentioned, and even Millionaire's non-disclosure agreement is reviewed. It's a nice little story about an everyman contestant who won't be remembered but found some fun (and some cash) on a game show.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I pick Caitlin

Just one more end-of-year retrospective. I realize reminiscing isn't required just because the calendar turns over. But I couldn't resist Carrie Grosvenor's poll on the top game show moments for 2010.

This post's title probably tells you how I voted. Caitlin Burke's incredible one-letter solve on Wheel of Fortune obviously got my ballot. The solve was just a stunner when I watched, and it doesn't seem any less stunning in YouTube replays.

Right now Roger Craig's one-day record on Jeopardy is leading the pack in votes. Nothing against Roger, but sooner or later the one-day record was bound to fall. Sooner or later, though, such an out-of-the-blue solve on WoF wasn't bound to happen.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What could have been

New Years Day is a nice time for looking back. Luckily, at least a few disasters have been averted in human history. One of them almost overtook GSN in 2001, before president Michael Fleming was relieved of his duties in favor of the pictured Rich Cronin. From a post of mine on the GSN Classics board...

Just rummaging around the web, I found this gem from March, 2001: Game Show Network Debuts New Development Slate for 2001; Original Programming Continues to Represent a Significant and Growing Portion of GSN's Program Line Up. I won't quote all of the article, but it shows what might have happened if the change in administration hadn't occurred:

"Game Show Network (GSN), cable's only 24-hour programming service devoted exclusively to game shows and interactive game play, continues its commitment to creating new and innovative programming by unveiling a new development slate for 2001. Titles included are Shoot for Love, Hell Yes I'm a Redneck, Billboard Living, E-Match and Grab the Mic. All shows are being developed as half-hour programs with interactive elements and will begin rolling out in late spring.

"'A year ago, we created a mandate to fill the program schedule with 50% original content by 2003 while providing unique and entertaining game shows in the process,' stated Kristin Peace, vice president, programming, GSN. 'This new development slate represents our determination to meet that goal.'"

Fortunately, the new development slate never got off the ground. The description of Hell Yes I'm a Redneck makes Lingo look like a timeless classic (which it is, actually). But the story reveals how long ago the decline in pre-1990 material began. This has been going on for a long, long time.

UPDATE: I can't resist one show description, because it sounds like something out of The Onion: "Billboard Living places teams of contestants on billboards across the country, where they will live and compete against one another for prizes...and toiletries." Yeah, I wanna live on a billboard for toiletries. Reminds me of that old Johnny Carson joke about Bowling for Towels.

Other poster: Hell Yes I'm A Redneck.......... Did they get Jeff Foxworthy to host?

This was pre-Foxworthy. I vaguely remember a GSN guy who used to post on these boards. He mentioned this show as part of the horrible lineup the previous regime was planning. I had never seen this press release before today, but now I understand what that GSN guy was talking about.

Truth to tell, a lot of godawful stuff did get to air back then, like Burt Luddin and Extreme Gong. So I can only imagine what this batch of originals would have looked like. The Boden originals which eventually replaced this development slate weren't all great, but they shined like gold in comparison. Even Friend or Foe looks good compared to Billboard Living.