Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday memos

Internet rumor says that Jim Thornton has won the announcer's job on Wheel of Fortune. I couldn't find any real confirmation, and I have to agree with the poster on the Wheel board who commented: "...a lot of 'rumors' like this are started on purpose just to get people's reactions as if it was factual. It's a strategy to engage people in debate and their reaction."

I don't have much reaction myself, I'm afraid. I'm sure Thornton would be competent in the job, but the announcer's role just isn't that crucial on Wheel.

Stories have popped up that Regis Philbin is regretting his decision to retire from that little daytime show. Gee, I don't think he should ever have left Millionaire. I also hear that Chuck Woolery is having second thoughts about leaving Wheel of Fortune.

GSN is running plenty of promos for Wendy Williams' new talk/relationship/game/whatever show debuting on April 11. The promos are getting on my nerves a little. Will the talkative and emphatic Wendy hit it off with GSN's grandmotherly audience? But I was doubtful about Sherri Shepherd, too, and she's done just fine. If Wendy dials it back a little and doesn't try to dominate everything, she'll probably be okay with the viewers.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Norm debuts

Norm Macdonald started his stint as host of High Stakes Poker by denigrating his own poker abilities. That was probably a good idea, given the annoyance over Gabe Kaplan's firing from the show.

As it turned out, Macdonald's commentary on the play in his debut last night was competent and sometimes humorous. But he was occasionally surprised by a frankly surprising move. Like when the pictured Doyle Brunson folded a very serviceable pair of queens.

The play itself got interesting in a hurry with two huge 400K+ hands. Poker pro Vanessa Selbst crashed and burned when she ran her pair of queens into a set of threes held by amateur Phil Ruffin. Fellow amateur Bill Klein wasn't so lucky when eccentric pro David "Viffer" Peat hit a flush on the river.

The play then simmered down as people got a bit more cautious. Still, Barry Greenstein won a gutsy bluff against Klein, who definitely took his lumps in the episode. A lot of new faces showed up at the table. Top players like Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey were MIA due to some asinine dispute between a couple of online poker sites.

All in all, I enjoyed the new season, though the show is still using Kara Scott as just routine eye candy. Not that I have anything against eye candy, but she should be doing some genuine commentary on the poker.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Howie's eventual fate on GSN

If there's one thing you can expect from the GSN Internet boards, it's complaints about overuse of Deal of No Deal, even though that overuse is now waning. My ramblings on the subject...

Other poster: Is anyone else tired of seeing Deal or No Deal on GSN all the time? Seems every time I tune in, that show's on again!

Syndie Deal has already lost all but one of its weekday slots. The network version will lose its 7:00 PM weekday slot and may lose its 11:00 PM weekday slot when Drew and Wendy debut in April. The network version also lost a couple weekend slots recently. A major cutback for Deal or No Deal is happening.

Deal wasn't doing bad at all in the latest published week, December 20-26. Syndie Deal averaged 323K for its fifteen runs, the network version 282K for its 13 runs. Hardly terrible numbers, despite massive rerun abuse. My guess is that the show will eventually turn up in the morning when GSN cuts back the pre-1990 hours. But for now GSN is giving the show some rest.

Kind of interesting that Deal has gotten at least decent numbers throughout its runs on GSN with virtually no prime time exposure at all. It's been months since it had a single prime time slot, and it never had a regular weekday prime slot.

So it wouldn't surprise me to see GSN use the show in a low-rent zone like weekday mornings sooner or later...just as one-time network dominator Millionaire now gets a late night slot (which not so incidentally used to be reserved for pre-1990 shows).

Of course, everywhere except in the most hardcore precincts Regis Millionaire would now be considered a classic itself. If you look at GSN's early schedules, a lot of the shows now called "classics" had less age on them than Regis Millionaire does now.

And I remember the same complaints on these boards about Millionaire overuse that we now hear about Deal or No Deal.

Friday, February 25, 2011

127 hours and a minute

Minute To Win It is taking its Nielsen lumps lately, but the show did garner a bit of publicity with Aron Ralston's appearance this week. Aron's the guy who survived the harrowing wilderness experience, including the self-amputation of his right arm, which formed the basis for the Oscar-nominated film, 127 Hours.

He enjoyed his time on Minute To Win It a lot more. In fact, he took home 125 Grand for an enviro group called Wilderness Workshop. Guy Fieri commented that the group was probably doing backflips as a result. In my long ago youth, I might have done a backflip if I won that much.

This story out of Aspen recounts Aron's Minute adventures minutely (sorry). Some prominent cheerleaders urged him on, including the actor who played him in 127 Hours. Aron finally bombed on a ping pong ball challenge. Those little rascals can be tricky.

The final line of the story says Aron doesn't even have a television set in his Boulder home. Sadly, not a very large percentage of TV's in other people's homes were tuned to his exploits on the show.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

National day of Vanna

The story leaked yesterday, but the official announcement didn't come until today. Katie Cantrell, originally from Wooster OH and now an art student in Savannah GA, will be Vanna-for-a-day on Wheel of Fortune.

It's easy to make fun of such stunts, and I haven't been shy about joining in. But Wheel of Fortune is the country's most watched game show, and landing a gig on it (however temporary) is not insignificant. In the linked story Katie sounds like a pleasant sort, and even a bit irreverent about the whole business.

Katie apparently taped her episode today for a March 24 air date. The story says she had plenty of time to enjoy the "L.A. lifestyle." Does that mean she got an agent? Anyway, it's nice that Vanna personally called to tell her she had won.

In a slightly related note, Pat Sajak's twitter feed and website have vanished for quite some time now. Internet speculation is that hackers are responsible. Will we ever see Pat-for-a-day?

The NFL game show

This football non-fan didn't even know about the "combine" starting this Thursday in Indianapolis. Apparently, a bunch of NFL team execs will watch prospective players run forty-year dashes, lift weights, and play Scrabble.

Okay, they really don't play Scrabble. How many football players know enough words? (Apologies for my incurable snobbery.) But a guy named Sam Westmoreland, apparently a football fan, offers some game-show-related ideas to make the combine more fun.

He'd like an obstacle course, for instance, just like Legends of the Hidden Temple. Trouble is, you'd need really large temple guards to eject the losers. He also wants to make the Wonderlic test - a quick IQ exam the league gives to all its players - into a game show called Who Wants to Play in the NFL?

Yes, I could make another snobbish comment about IQ tests for football players. But I've already hit my snobbery quota for today. As it happens, I once took the Wonderlic test myself during a job interview. It wasn't much of a game show, but I got the job.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Syndies stumble

'Twas the week before Watson, and nothing was stirring very well for syndicated game shows. Broadcasting & Cable depresses us with the grim news for the week ending February 13...

Wheel of Fortune 7.9 - down five ticks
Jeopardy 6.5 - down three ticks, but just wait for the computer's numbers next week
Millionaire 2.3 - down a couple ticks, the usually reliable Paige Albiniak forgot the number in her story but TV by the Numbers listed the household rating
Family Feud 1.8 - down a tick
5th Grader 1.0 - flat
Lyrics 0.8 - down a tick and looking forlorn

I'll post the viewership averages when TV by the Numbers gets around to them. Syndie ratings are not their top priority.

UPDATE: The TVBTN guys have now gotten around to them: Wheel of Fortune 9.1 million (weekend repeat 4.1 million), Jeopardy 7.5 million, Millionaire 2.7 million. Noticeably lower numbers for everybody. In fact, too noticeably lower. I've posted a comment asking if these are household numbers instead of viewer numbers.

TVBTN also says Minute To Win It inched up a couple ticks in 18-49 ratings for its latest episodes. But Guy Fieri and the stunt people (sounds like a band) are still getting clobbered by American Idol and other tough competition. The show's future appears in doubt, even on woeful NBC. More bad news: even Minute's tiny uptick in 18-49 ratings was adjusted away in the final numbers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday things

NBC has renewed three nonscripted shows but not Minute To Win It. The show is taking a pounding from American Idol, so its future suddenly looks iffy. If the numbers don't perk up, it could be final elimination for the stunt epic. I like the show but it may have run its course after a couple seasons and forty-some episodes. If NBC dumps Fieri and friends, GSN probably won't mind picking up the show.

A blast from my distant Cincinnati past: TV pioneer Bill Nimmo has died at age 93. He may be unknown to most folks, but I can remember him from the early, early days of Cincy TV. He left Cincinnati for a while to announce Johnny Carson's Who Do You Trust. He also hosted a short-lived daytime game show on CBS called For Love or Money.

Yeah, I'm tired of Watson, too. But one recent Watson-related story connects nicely to the original I've Got a Secret. In the wake of Watson's overwhelming triumph, computer guru Raymond Kurzweil predicts we're headed for a "singularity." That's when computer intelligence will far surpass mere human intellect. Not to mention that humans will achieve virtual immortality though technology.

Long before Watson, Kurzweil appeared as a 17-year-old on the 2/15/65 episode of I've Got a Secret. He played some music composed by a computer he had designed himself. Henry Morgan used some old-fashioned human smarts to guess this secret, as YouTube records.

Taxi talk

A while back a blog called AV Club created a silly Internet kerfuffle about Cash Cab. The blog breathlessly informed us that the show's contestants were, gasp, sometimes pre-screened before they got into the taxi! Of course, the show specifically discloses the pre-screening at the end of every episode, and this alleged "news" had been discussed for years on the Internet.

After that embarrassing foolishness, AV Club is back with another post about the taxi-bound quizzer. This time the blog proves far more reasonable. In fact, AV Club chats at length about how Cash Cab is a genuine quizzer with no fixing of the actual game. Well, gee willikers, welcome to something like the real world. Fixing a game show has been a federal crime for fifty years.

The blog mostly praises new Chicago host Beth Melewski, though she's considered "not as charismatic" as good old Ben Bailey in New York. I guess this means she's not as funny and/or rubber-faced. I just wish she would dial down the volume occasionally. She usually sounds a little loud to me.

AV Club also asserts that the contestants on Cash Cab are more "down-to-earth" than those on Minute To Win It or Deal or No Deal. Down-to-earthiness is in the eye of the beholder, and I frankly don't see much difference between contestants on Cash Cab and any other game show.

The real difference is the money, because the taxi game is so cheap. If "down to earth" means teensy-weensy winnings, Cash Cab is the down-to-earthiest of them all.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Drop back?

A rumor is making the twitter rounds that Million Dollar Money Drop will return to Fox for a summer run. I looked for reliable confirmation but couldn't find any.

A summer comeback wouldn't stun me. The show is cheap - hardly anybody ever wins big - and the numbers were at least marginally acceptable for nonscripted frivolity. Even the fellows at TV by the Numbers, who are no easy graders on the Nielsen exams, thought the show had a chance for a second go-round.

My initial review slammed Money Drop's barely detectable pace. Later episodes did pick up a tiny bit of speed, though the show will never proceed at warp factor ten. I'm a sucker for even the most glacial quizzers, so I wouldn't mind the show getting another chance. It's not like Fox has a long roster of winners for the summer, anyway.

The show received decidedly mixed reviews from other pundits besides moi. The main rip: Money Drop is just another Millionaire clone, though with a reverse money tree. That's a fair enough criticism, but Millionaire is not a dreadful model to emulate.

Bob Eubanks' demo

If you've ever checked the numbers from The Nielsen Company, you know that game shows skew old. This makes for a tough sell to advertisers, but all is not grim. Bob Eubanks of Newlywed Game renown has nestled into a profitable niche with my fellow baby-boomers.

Eubanks does a stage version of Newlywed Game about thirty times a year for "not so newlyweds." That's a polite way to describe older folks who have been married a long time. This story recounts his appearance on Hilton Head island with the stage show.

The questions remain pretty much the same, like the strangest place the couples ever made whoopee. One lady in the Hilton Head show could only answer: "We've never done it anywhere strange. I'd have to say in the bed, and it's been a very long time." Which got some laughs.

Occasionally, contestants from one of Eubanks' old Newlywed Game episodes will turn up for the stage show. On Hilton Head a couple named Cathy and John McCabe, who've been married for 43 years, played the game they first appeared on in 1968. Cathy enjoyed it: "We're still together after all these years. It was fun to play and look back."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Finger lickin' good

Now that Watson has moved on from trivia to health care and the media atrocity is winding down, the flow of game show news has slackened. So it's time for another look at ancient artifacts from a vanished civilization called "black and white TV." In fact, a pair of intriguing artifacts turned up on YouTube, as I posted on the GSN Classics board...

Rummaging around YouTube I found a funny pair of clips from What's My Line and I've Got a Secret with Harland Sanders of KFC fame...before he was too famous. The What's My Line panel stumbles around forever in what now seems like hilarious cluelessness about Sanders and his product. The colonel cops the full fifty bucks.

On I've Got a Secret the panel does better, but only with a huge hint from Garry Moore. The secret is that the colonel started KFC with his first Social Security check. The show also displays the two-million-dollar check Sanders got when he sold the business.

Other poster: I wonder if Kentucky Fried Chicken was actually good back then. Now it's disgusting. Or maybe that is why they changed the name to KFC.

I still like the chicken. Tastes the same as always...the original recipe chicken, that is. I agree the new stuff is miserable, but hardly anybody buys it, anyway.

Interesting that Sanders noted the international reach of the chain even back in the 1960s. Right now KFC's biggest growth market is China. The episode dates are 12/1/63 for What's My Line and 4/6/64 for I've Got a Secret.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Howie did fine

Fox is trying a hidden camera stunt with Howie Mandel called Mobbed after American Idol on March 31. The premise: Glee meets Candid Camera. EW.com is more precise:
A big piece of news — marriage proposal, etc. — is delivered to another person with the help of Mandel and his team, which rehearse a giant flash mob musical number throughout the episode. On the day of the event, the prankee is subjected to a huge and unexpected performance, starting with a few dancers and evolving into a giant spectacle.
Not to prejudge, but this doesn't look like my scrumptious fave. With that golden lead-in, though, the one-off special could click and morph into a regular series.

But enough of this "musical reality" whatever. Instead, I want to praise Howie for his severely underappreciated role on Deal or No Deal. Eyes were rolled and teeth were gnashed when NBC announced the high-strung comic as the host of the suitcase openings. Pundits predicted Howie would run wild over the format and make the contestants, the game, the universe look like afterthoughts.

None of that happened. Mandel wasn't afraid to inject some occasional funny, but he respected the contestants and the game. He didn't hog the camera, he let the suspense play out, and he looked genuinely sympathetic when the inevitable bomb-outs claimed their victims. All the while he ran the game with few if any technical glitches.

Some have complained about the recent trend toward comics as game show hosts. And like any trend in the entertainment junkosphere, this one can be overdone. But Mandel made NBC look good when they picked a stand-up specialist.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday flippancies

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines flippancy as "unbecoming levity or pertness especially in respect to grave or sacred matters." Sounds like a pretty good description of this humble blog. Speaking of which, this blog looks ever more humble in the voting for About.com's Readers' Choice awards. You'll notice my shameless begging for votes in the sidebar. Sadly, to this point the begging hasn't gotten me anywhere except last place.

Halfway seriously, it was a genuine honor just to be nominated. This blog's only been around for little over a year, after all. So thanks to everybody who nominated me and voted for me so far. Hey, you can still vote until March 8! (Begging, begging.) And congratulations to the other nominees, even if they're trouncing me. That's probably what I deserve, anyway.

Minute To Win It also got trounced in the latest ratings. Just a couple weeks ago the show hit its best ever numbers. But the competition has toughened and now the stunts and silliness are crashing. Meanwhile, Jeopardy is basking in its Watson glow. It may even edge ahead of Wheel of Fortune for top syndie household ratings this week.

GSN has put out the official press release about its (supposed) April schedule changes. The weekday lineup starting at 6:30 PM on April 11 will be Newlywed Game, Love Triangle, Baggage and Improv-a-Ganza. Wendy Williams gets the cushy hammock between Sherri and Jerry. We'll see if this schedule holds up or if there are more of those famous last-minute changes.

Another change on GSN concerns that poker show which used to be a network darling. Now High Stakes Poker is looking like a network orphan, and a forlorn one at that. Even new host Norm Macdonald can't understand why Gabe Kaplan got the heave-ho. Haven't seen any comments from Gabe himself, unlike the loud squawking from AJ Benza when he was shown the door.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Last entry on Watson, honest

By now this game show nut is weary unto death of the Jeopardy Watson hype. I feel like booze-fueled party animals have suddenly overrun a pleasant park.

Those animals come from the media zoo, and they've unleashed themselves on the peaceful precincts of the game show world. Many media folks – thank heavens - ignore that world. They consider it a dreary land of ancient demos and even more ancient shows dating from, like, the 1980s...eek!

But before the gate-crashers move on to the next media atrocity, they should read Ken Jennings' reflections on his distant second-place finish to Watson. Jennings keeps things light in his post-mortem, or at least as light as a loser's post-mortem can be. Most importantly, he makes the key (if obvious) point that control of the buzzer is everything in high-level Jeopardy play. And a machine can control the buzzer a lot better than mere humans.

Jennings also takes a bit of evil joy in finally beating Brad Rutter, and confesses that he felt isolated behind enemy lines on the IBM campus. But I don't know about his assertion that top-ranked Jeopardy players have never known the touch of a woman. Ken has a couple kids, I think.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sympathy for a Hogan's hero

Now that Watson has proven resistance is futile and ratings are great, I'd like to blog about something completely different. Somehow the GSN Classics board wandered into a discussion of Bob Crane, late of Hogan's Heroes and, as it turns out, many game shows.

Crane's personal demons have been so well catalogued that I won't rehash them here. But there were a few references in my comments from the thread...

Other poster: Speaking of Bob Crane although he never appeared on Match Game he did appear on a game show Larry Hovis was associated with called Liar's Club.

Just glanced at Bob Crane's IMDb page and I was surprised to see all the game shows on his resume: Break the Bank, You Don't Say, Celebrity Sweepstakes, Tattletales (hm, a very interesting item), Hollywood Squares, Match Game (sixties version), What's My Line, Password All-Stars, The Face is Familiar.

YouTube has one of the Liars Club episodes with Crane and Larry Hovis, along with Harvey Korman and Tom Bosley. You can also watch him on The Face is Familiar with June Lockhart. But wait, there's more, a Break the Bank episode with Crane and some Game Show Network bumpers from way back.

Other poster: I wonder if Bob Crane was on Tattletales with [his wife] Sigrid Valdis. That actually would be interesting to see.

What looks like the "official" Bob Crane website says that he did indeed appear with Sigrid on Tattletales. Yep, most interesting. The site says Crane also subbed for Johnny Carson on Who Do You Trust, and he turned up on Gong Show, where he got into a spat with Jaye P. Morgan over...marijuana!

There's also a reference to a show called One Thousand Dollar Pyramid. Never heard of that one (wink). But I did find a source for a Crane appearance on $10,000 Pyramid. This guy showed up on a lot of game shows.

Another poster: Yes, Bob was with Sigrid Valis on Tattletales. I think all or part of it is on YT and I've seen pics from the clip while doing other Tattletales searches.

Couldn't find the Tattletales episode on YouTube but I did find this. The final shot of the tombstone is partly touching, partly disturbing. Oh, Crane suffered a horrible death so I don't want to sit in judgment. By the way, Wikipedia (usual caveats) tells me Sigrid's birth name was a much more prosaic Patricia Annette Olson.

Worldwide leader

ESPN usually covers other sorts of games, involving large muscular sweaty people. But in honor of Watson's romp-and-stomp debut, the Worldwide Leader is running a game show popularity poll on its website. ESPN asks sports aficionados to rank their favorites among fourteen current game shows. The results so far:

1 Jeopardy
2 The Price is Right
3 Wheel of Fortune
4 Family Feud
5 Wipeout
6 Cash Cab
7 Minute To Win It
8 Millionaire
9 Let's Make a Deal
10 5th Grader
11 Money Drop
12 Lyrics
13 Singing Bee
14 Wait Wait Don't Tell Me

What, no Baggage? GSN gets no respect! Voters had only cast 467 ballots when I showed up, which indicates ESPN viewers aren't big game show freaks. But I was happy to see Cash Cab rank fairly high, and my non-NPR-listener self had little clue on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. Watson would have known everything about the show, of course.

My own ballot: Wheel, Jeopardy, Cash Cab, Millionaire, Feud, Minute, 5th Grader, Money Drop, Wipeout, Deal, Price, Wait, Lyrics, Bee. After the top half of the ballot I got a little random. Remember, these are only my personal preferences. The order would be different if I was ranking the shows in their importance in the genre. The Price is Right, for instance, would obviously rank far higher in importance.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Syndies see season highs

The top three syndicated game shows all hit season highs for the week ending February 6. The rest of the news wasn't quite as good, but it's an imperfect world. Broadcasting & Cable provides the details...

Wheel of Fortune 8.4 - up four ticks to the aforementioned season high
Jeopardy 6.8 - up three ticks to its own season high, and this is pre-Watson
Millionaire 2.5 - up a tick to another season high and maybe settling into its new format
Family Feud 1.9 - flat at season high
5th Grader 1.0 - down a tick and looking imperiled
Lyrics 0.9 - flat and looking even more imperiled

TV by the Numbers charts the viewership averages for Pat and Vanna and Alex and Meredith: Wheel of Fortune 13.9 million (weekend repeat 6.9 million), Jeopardy 11.0 million, Millionaire 3.6 million. These numbers will maintain healthy cash flow.

UPDATE: In the first news about Watson's ratings impact, Jeopardy scored an 8.7 household rating for the first night of the super gadget's three-night gig. That was the best overnight for the show in four years. On Monday Jeopardy beat the overnight household ratings for everything else on TV except Two and a Half Men. And Watson doesn't need rehab like Charlie Sheen. Especially after it crushed the mere human competition on Tuesday.

UPDATED UPDATE: The ratings news got even better on Tuesday, as Jeopardy scored a six-year household ratings high at 9.6. I just hope other shows don't run this gimmick into the ground.

Other stuff

You wouldn't know it from the Google news cache, but a few other things are happening in the game show world besides Watson the super gizmo. My first item doesn't even concern our little genre. But it affects what used to be a game show network.

GSN's non-game, non-competition, non-traditional, non-everything comedy show with Drew Carey has been delayed until April 11. Maybe the improv players didn't generate enough funny, so they have to tape some more material. The show will get the 8:00 PM and 11:00 PM timeslots. Look for even more slots throughout the day as GSN bets the house on Drew and company. And GSN viewers only have to sit through two more months of pre-debut promos!

Poor Discovery mistimed their new Cash Cab seasons with Ben Bailey and Beth Melewski. The debuts have been sadly lost in the endless Jeopardy hype about Watson. But TV Squad did take time to interview the rubber-faced Mr. Bailey. They even quizzed Ben about Valentine's Day. He missed two questions, which means he's still in the cab. He also sounded a lot more relaxed about his association with the show. In the past he sometimes seemed a little testy because people only knew him as a game show host and not as a stand-up comic.

Wheel of Fortune is running a "teen team" week. I caught the first episode last night and watched a couple seventeen-year-olds walk away with fifty grand. Hey, it's ten times what Watson won last night. A San Mateo site has put up a cheerful story about the lucky duo.

Pat Sajak hit the five grand wedge on the final spin - as he always tries to do - and the kids copped eighteen thousand in the round to score a come-from-behind win. Then they solved the bonus puzzle for another thirty large. The money will go for college, they say. If I were that young and wealthy, I'd spend a lot of the loot on beer. That's where most of my money went in college.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Watson and Beth

This entry's title sounds like a sitcom. Watson is a computer and Beth is a cab driver and they're in love. Okay, scratch that last part. They're not even on the same show, yet.

By now everybody who's interested in game shows at all has probably seen the first episode of super gadget Watson vs. Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings on Jeopardy. My first reaction to the show wasn't gloom over the coming of our cybernetic masters. I just thought, wow, this episode is padded. The show labored through one (1) round of clues and endless filler about the computer system, not to mention ninety-seven product placement plugs for IBM.

When they did get around to playing the game, it first looked like a runaway for Watson. But Brad eventually learned how to beat the machine on the buzzer, and ended up tying the gadget at five grand. Ken had a surprisingly bad day and only racked up a couple thousand. Watson's most embarrassing moment saw it give exactly the same wrong response that Jennings had just given. Otherwise, the computer would have won the round.

Jeopardy is clearly stretching the suspense over three episodes for the ratings. Understandable, of course, but it makes for a funereal pace.

Meanwhile, Cash Cab debuted new episodes from Ben Bailey and new Chicago host Beth Melewski. Ben was as jolly as ever and Beth was, well, as loud as ever. At least she avoided obvious imitations of her New York counterpart. She didn't mug at the camera or sing out red light challennnnnnnge.

But she did dial up the volume pretty high. I don't want to turn nasty towards Beth. She showed a lot of enthusiasm and related to the contestants well. But she might want to go just a tad softer on the voice.

That human on Jeopardy

The media hype for today's Jeopardy debut of Watson the super gizmo long ago leaped beyond ridiculous. So a few outlets are trying a different angle: writing up the carbon based life form who reads the questions, uh, answers. Newsweek (does it still exist?) goes longest with its Trebek examination, "Is Alex Trebek in Jeopardy?"

We learn that Alex is low-tech and doesn't blog or tweet. Too bad, because my evil self would like to see a twitter war between Trebek and Sajak. With his frequent tweet-barbs about his fellow Sony employee, Patrick certainly seems intent on a comic feud. But that Internet stuff is just not Alex's thing, man.

The story offers a few other offbeat details. Trebek's wife is a "real estate mogul," though Newsweek doesn't get into specifics on her mogul-ing. Trebek also had a long-ago ambition to be prime minister of Canada, lives in a 10,000-square-foot house, and tapes his shows on Tuesdays and Wednesdays...if you just had to know.

A few comments focus on Jeopardy's ancient demos, which are hardly a surprise. But the show draws so many total viewers that even a few of the beloved 18-49ers show up. Trebek's contract is up in 2014 and he makes a few noises about retirement. Watson doesn't buy that and neither do I.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tuned

Didn’t I say that I'm a lousy singer? The bad pipes tend to lower my opinion of singing competitions of any kind. That's why not a minute of American Idol has landed on my retinas.

But I do have semi-fond memories of one song contest: the hardy perennial Name That Tune. This show bounced around TV in a bunch of versions from the early fifties to the mid-eighties. The edition I recall best is Tom Kennedy's nighttime syndie, which ran from 1977 to 1984.

A singer named Kathy Lee Johnson worked that room, before she married the football player and teamed up with the Millionaire host. Wikipedia (usual caveats) says that the catchphrase "I can name that tune in [some number] notes" became one of the show's "most recognizable aspects." In this case the Wikipedia caveats don’t matter, because that one silly phrase is what sticks with me most from the show.

There’s been talk now and then about a new version, most notably CBS's revival effort with Donny Osmond in 2006. But nothing has ever escaped development hell. At least a wireless phone version did show up in 2003.

GSN number-palooza delayed

Took a while for Douglas to resume his weekly number dumps for GSN. His latest batch covers the December 20-26 week. Events have overtaken the results to some extent. But my usual observations and ramblings...

1) Overall averages were decent for the traditionally low-viewership Christmas week: 345K/279K prime time/total day. Not ginormous but certainly acceptable.

2) The four musketeers again triumphed. Jerry and Sherri teamed for 499K in the 6:00 PM hour. Karn and O'Hurley combined for 487K in the 8:00 PM hour. Easy to understand why they occupy such long stretches of the schedule.

3) Carrie Ann has now lost her weekday slots, but she didn't produce horrible numbers for the week: 383K at 7:00 PM. Okay, it's not Baggage territory but she hardly flopped. Unfortunately, her numbers headed downhill afterwards.

4) Syndie Deal or No Deal has seen its timeslots cut back, too, but the acquisition produced a reasonable 323K average for its fifteen half-hours. Catch 21 also performed okay with 340K for its afternoon runs. Alfonso has now been rewarded with a slightly better 5:00 PM slot.

5) Chuck just keeps on keeping on with a 366K average in the 3:00 PM hour. His noon and prime time slots didn't do as well but were not embarrassing. Word game partner Chain Reaction also posted a more than decent 360K in the afternoon.

6) Highest-rated pre-1990 show was 25K Pyramid at 1:30 AM with 257K. It benefited from an absurdly good lead-in from Mr. Karn at 1:00 AM with 327K. The B&W shows averaged 152K in the 3:00 AM hour. Respectable but really no better than Card Sharks.

7) My offbeat observation: the soon-to-depart World Poker Tour turned in a two-hour average of 247K at 1:00 AM. Not as good as Karn, of course, but it could have been a lot worse.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Anticipation

Once upon a time Heinz ran ketchup ads with Carly Simon belting out her fulsome Anticipation as the ketchup emerged ever so slowly from the bottle. Now that I've dated myself, I'm getting something of the same feeling right now as a game show fan.

No, this doesn't mean I feel like ketchup. It does mean I'm really looking forward to Monday's man-vs.-machine showdown on Jeopardy. We may be teetering right at the tipping-point when genuine machine intelligence overtakes mere human brainpower. And besides this more esoteric interest, there's that most basic instinct which drives an audience to a game show. I want to see who (or what) wins.

It's easy for me to forget that fundamental appeal when I get bogged down in the minutia of day-to-day game show blogging. If there isn't an honest contest with an uncertain outcome, nobody gives a rodent's behind about a game show (see scandals, fifties).

And I also want to see how Beth Melewski does on Cash Cab. Like it or not, she's in a contest of her own...with that other taxi driver in New York.

Schedule this

As always, lots of chatter follows a GSN schedule overhaul. From the properly named GSN Schedule board...

Other poster: I agree with giving O'Hurley another slot.

Yeah, they might have put up another Karn-O'Hurley Family Feud hour at 4:00 PM. That seems to be the pet solution for any schedule problem. But this is clearly just a stopgap schedule until Drew Carey arrives on March 28, so it really doesn't make much difference. In a few weeks the schedule gets scrambled big time, followed by even more shuffling when Love Triangle turns up in April and Bill Engvall's Lingo in June. And who knows what else will happen over the new few months?

Another poster: When I first read the topic, I thought that they replaced Carie Ann with Richard Karn as the host of the GSN 1vs100.

The idea of Karn replacing Carrie Ann on 1 vs. 100 is not completely out of left field. GSN tried something similar with the second season of Bingo America, as Alex Davis mentioned on BuzzerBlog. This time, though, I think Bob Saget would be the replacement if a second season of 1 vs. 100 ever materializes.

Yet another poster: Glad to hear Catch 21 getting a slightly better timeslot. I hope the hiatus ends soon.

Alfonso Ribeiro's blackjack epic was in first-runs until very recently, and he's still got a three-a-day. No guarantee he'll get another season, but GSN seems to have money right now and his numbers have perked up. Catch 21's not my favorite but at least it's a game show, unlike Drew's Whose Line remake.

Still another poster: I think Card Sharks and Match Game prove that classics can draw very well.

Sorry to beat a dead horse, but if any part of GSN's schedule is headed for a squeeze as all the new material hits over the next few months, it's the morning pre-1990 shows. I wonder if their 18-49 and 25-54 demos are even detectable. The originals occasionally suffer the embarrassment of rounded-to-zero ratings in the demos, and I don't want to think about the pre-1990 numbers. I just hope the older shows can hang onto what they've got.

I also hope that I've Got a Secret returns to 3:30 AM one of these days. But then I hope for all sorts of crazy things.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A melted handkerchief and an ex-Beatle

Not even going to try to fight my I've Got a Secret history obsession any more. I'll just ride it to the end. Another post of mine from the GSN Classics board...

One more addition to my list of complete I've Got a Secret episodes on YouTube, the just-uploaded 3/30/64 installment with Pete Best (Ringo's predecessor in the Beatles) and Bette Davis. Pieces of this episode were already on the site, including Garry Moore's famous stumble over that strange "McCartney" name.

The show starts with one of I've Got a Secret's occasional Mr. Wizard-ish technology bits. This one works pretty well because you can see what's happening. Except they had to be careful not to burn down the studio. Appropriately, tech fan Bill Cullen guesses the secret.

Bette Davis proves characteristically blunt, and Pete Best can hardly be heard through the Merseyside mumbling. By the way, the audio and video are a little out of sync. And there's a glimpse of Heidi Bohay, Todd Newton and Debra Skelton on the GSN Live set at the very end! That was back in the bigger-budget days for the interstitials.

Carrie Ann carried out

Alex Davis just posted revised GSN schedules at BuzzerBlog and they show Carrie Ann Inaba's 1 vs. 100 losing its weekday slots starting February 21. Richard Karn's Family Feud takes them over, resulting in an absurd six-a-day for the smiling Home Improvement guy. That's obviously a placeholder until Drew Carey arrives with his Whose Line remake on March 28.

1 vs. 100's numbers have steadily weakened, so this is no real surprise. I still think the show could get a second season, but only with a return of Bob Saget as host and a hundred-grand top prize.

Also, network Deal or No Deal takes over the 7:00 PM hour. Catch 21 moves up to 5:00 PM to accommodate Karn's 4:00 PM hour. Alfonso Ribeiro's card frolics have shown surprising strength at 4:30 PM, so maybe blackjack ain't dead yet. Syndie Deal or No Deal now only gets one run at 5:30 PM. Its numbers haven't been too swell, much like Carrie Ann's.

Personally, I like both 1 vs. 100 and syndie Deal. But in this business The Nielsen Company reigns.

Have blonde - will travel

Hard to believe, but supercomputer Watson isn't the only game show debutant on Valentine's Day. Second City alumna (gotta get the Latin gender right) and improv comedy specialist Beth Melewski will take the wheel for the first time on Cash Cab this Monday.

The taxi-bound quizzer has ventured to Chicago for a new season, which will premiere after new episodes from old reliable Ben Bailey in New York. Beth paused from her wheel-turning duties long enough for an interview with chicagoist.com, not to mention a few photos in front of Wrigley Field.

Lucky for Beth that she's acquired a thorough knowledge of Chicago's highways, by-ways and no-ways. She says the taxi license exam made the SAT look like kindergarten. Hey, I sure wouldn't know how to "get from Rush Hospital to the Drake Hotel." Beth also recounts some of her more unusual adventures in the cash-dispensing taxi. Like when two semi-drunk guys recognized her and chased after the cab until she finally let them in.

She says that quite a few would-be game players bailed out of the quizzer because they were in a hurry or just couldn't be bothered. All in all, the Q&A sounds a lot like interviews I've read with her New York counterpart. But Beth says she's never even met Ben Bailey, which is just as well. She has to do her own thing instead of a lame imitation. She'll get enough comparisons, anyway.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Netflix promo week on Millionaire

Maybe this entry's title is a little cynical. After all, why shouldn't Netflix promote itself every which way? It's just that "theme weeks" on game shows sometimes get on my nerves. Producers seem to think that regular old gameplay is too dull, so let's jazz it with some asinine theme for a week.

All that said, Millionaire's movie-trivia theme week is a fairly long-established tradition, leading into the Oscars broadcast. Regis even did such theme shows long, long ago on the ancient network version of Millionaire. This year the week occupies February 21-25 before the Oscars on February 27. Appropriately, a local St. Louis movie critic, Matt Dekinder, will appear on the Friday episode. The sponsor, as you've probably already guessed, is Netflix.

Matt says that he and his wife have an Oscars routine: "turn off the phone, get cozy in bed, order Chinese food and enjoy the show." The story also offers some typical questions from the movie week on Millionaire. Hopeless movie non-buff that I am, I couldn't answer any of them. I bet Watson could nail them all, though. Maybe the supercomputer can turn up on Meredith's show after the gig with Alex.

The divorce game

Once on Richard Karn's version of Family Feud, a squad of ex-husbands squared off against their ex-wives. Some bitterness was evident. Divorce doesn't look like a pleasant experience.

Ask the ex-Mrs. Steve Harvey, after she bashed the current Feud host. Mary Harvey recently slammed her comic ex-hubby for all sorts of matrimonial crimes and misdemeanors. Now Steve Harvey has struck back with court documents that indicate he paid the lady a bunch of money, gave her a house or three, and amicably agreed to a custody arrangement for their son.

But that back-and-forth looks almost routine compared to the strange case of the missing Wheel of Fortune winnings. Seems that a nasty divorce has put fifty grand of Wheel prize money in legal limbo. A split Canadian couple, Scott and Carrie Dole, is feuding (that word again) over who gets what after the ex-hubby won big on the big wheel.

Is the fifty grand community property? Is it anybody's property? As always, lawyers will decide. The grimmest humor from the story:
In October 2009, the Doles went to Culver City, Calif., to film the show. Coincidentally, the couple started arguing again, Scott Dole said, and on the day of filming, they didn’t speak at all. Scott Dole said he didn’t talk to Carrie until after he won the money, when she was congratulating him on the set. "It's pretty funny how money mends wounds," Scott said.
The picture shows a briefly happy Carrie and Scott on the Wheel set. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday witticisms

The hype for supercomputer Watson's arrival on Jeopardy is reaching Super-Bowlish proportions. Seems like almost every game show story in the Google news cache concerns the question-answering (or answer-questioning) mega-gizmo. Not to mention a PBS documentary and scads of interviews with its hapless human opponents. At Broadcasting & Cable the always sensible Paige Albiniak previews the upcoming battle. Her wryly appropriate title: "Resistance is Futile."

A few mere humans remain in the game show business. One is a fellow named Pat Sajak. He hosts a certain version of hangman involving a big wheel. This local media account from Wichita offers a few items I didn't know about the quick-witted host: his father was a trucking foreman and he once worked local radio and TV in Nashville.

The secret to Sajak's success after all these centuries, er, decades? "They expect you to come out and not treat it as show number 5,950 but as show number one. It's fair to the people who hire you, it's fair to the people who watch you, and it’s fair to the contestants."

No surprise, but the ouster of Gabe Kaplan from GSN's High Stakes Poker in favor of Norm Macdonald is not sitting well with online pundits. An mlive.com writer grumps:
Kaplan worked solo in the booth last season and, while he fell a little flat without A.J. Benza, he remains poker's best commentator. MacDonald may be an 'avid' player (according to GSN's press release), but he won't be able to match the cash game experience Kaplan provided. The new season premiers at 8 p.m. Feb. 26, but I'm running out of reasons to watch.
I don't want to prejudge the Saturday Night Live alumnus. But Macdonald better be really good really fast on High Stakes Poker, or the online grumpiness will only grow.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Syndies steady as they go

Syndicated game shows bumped along at or near season highs for the week ending January 30. No real excitement but no horrible disasters, either. Broadcasting & Cable delivers the reassuring news...

Wheel of Fortune 8.0 - flat, just a tick below its season high
Jeopardy 6.4 - down a tick
Millionaire 2.4 - flat at its season high
Family Feud 1.9 - up a tick to tie its season high
5th Grader 1.1 - up a tick
Lyrics 0.9 - flat

The story also mentions that Wheel of Fortune tied for third among all syndies in 18-49 ratings with Oprah and How I Met Your Mother, behind only Two and a Half Men and Family Guy. WoF skews old but it gets so many total viewers that even its 18-49 numbers are more than respectable. You might call it syndication's counterpart to Dancing with the Stars.

Meredith keeps hanging onto her perch in TV by the Numbers' top 25 list. The viewership averages for the top three syndie gamers: Wheel of Fortune 12.9 million (weekend repeat 5.5 million), Jeopardy 10.1 million, Millionaire 3.3 million.

Lost legends

The legends aren't really lost, just doing other things. I'm talking about the hosts of the late lamented Nickelodeon GAS game shows, including the pictured Kirk Fogg from Legends of the Hidden Temple.

Nick GAS's sad fate is a cautionary tale for its grown-up counterpart, GSN. Luckily, the grown-up game show network has survived and even prospered. Hey, they can pay Drew Carey!

This Flavorwire story tells us what's happened and is happening with five former Nick GAS hosts: Fogg, Double Dare's Marc Summers, Figure It Out's Summer Sanders, Wild and Crazy Kids' Omar Gooding, and Nickelodeon GUTS's Mike O'Malley.

You probably know about O'Malley, who's found work on some show about high school glee-ers. The other folks have bounced around TV's unscripted precincts, ranging from Summer's stint on Celebrity Apprentice to Marc's efforts on the Food Network, plus some scripted gigs.

But Kirk, who's made a lot of commercials and a few movie appearances, gets off the funniest line in the story. He swears that he can remember only one disembowelment by the temple guards on Legends.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Norm storm

One online poker pundit first thought it was an early April Fools joke. But it's no February joke: one-time comic Norm Macdonald will replace Gabe Kaplan on the seventh season of GSN's High Stakes Poker, debuting February 26. Gabe must have gotten too pricey or muttered something nasty under his breath about GSN president David Goldhill.

This really looks like the swan song for the show, which I've always liked. Except GSN desperately needs some non-geriatric viewers, and High Stakes Poker is one of the network's few offerings which skew slightly younger than ancient. So maybe GSN honchos actually hope Macdonald can keep the series alive for awhile.

Or things could be as they appear: GSN is preparing a burial. Getting rid of Kaplan would just be the final nail in the felt-covered coffin. Not to mention that many top pros like Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey will miss the new season because of some asinine dispute between two web sites. Oh well, High Stakes Poker was nice while it lasted.

UPDATE: Sometimes it seems like GSN wants to become Comedy Central. At least our little game show network wouldn't mind the younger demos of its comedic rival. Anyway, Comedy Central is also bringing back Norm Macdonald for some kind of sports comedy effort. Maybe they'll show baseball bloopers.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Interesting positions for $2000, Alex

Type "game show" into the Google news cache on Super Sunday, and you get lots of stuff about pre-game nonsense for that football thingie. But an intriguing notice from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania also turned up:
SEXUAL JEOPARDY PROGRAM

Think you know all there is to know about sex? Let's test your knowledge! The BACCHUS Club is sponsoring a program called "Sexual Jeopardy" on Tuesday, February 8th, from 8:30 to 9:30 pm, in the Henry Student Center Ballroom. Join us for an hour of fun and education! There will be a question/answer exchange. This program is a game show format designed to educate students about sexual issues and concepts. Its purpose is to encourage you to continue to seek information and realize that no one is more important than yourself. Please contact Health Services at ext. 4730 with any questions. Prizes will be distributed to the winning team! Pizza and soda will be served.
I like how they're serving pizza and soda while the students phrase sexual answers in the form of a question. And I don't even want to think about the prizes they're distributing to the winning team.

This "game show format" might cause Jeopardy-playing supercomputer Watson to overheat. I've got all sorts of ideas for the Final Jeopardy category, but this is a family blog, sort of. By the way, I realized long ago that there is no one more important than myself...except for just about everybody else.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Distant antiquity

This history jag is getting ridiculous, but on a slow-news Saturday I can't resist. Another post of mine from the GSN Classics board, this time about an ancient show with all sorts of firsts to its credit...

Going back even further is this clip from Goodson-Todman's first game show, Winner Take All. Bill Cullen hosts this 1952 version, his first of many, many game show hosting gigs, but the show started in radio in 1946.

GSN has shown what's left of Winner Take All, and there's a "Game Show Network" bumper at the start of the clip. There's also a GSN anniversary logo on the clip, but I can't make it out very clearly. Could be GSN's second anniversary. It's definitely from the network's early years, with the "Winnie" figure.

Video quality of the YouTube clip is very poor but Bill is funny as ever. And thank you, Don Pardo, for announcing. Wikipedia tells you more than you'd ever want to know about the show, which was mostly wiped.

Besides the G-T and Cullen firsts, the show has historical importance for first employing a lockout buzzer system. In Producers on Producing Mark Goodson mentions Winner Take All as his first game show with Bill Todman.

Jazzed history

I'm on a history kick with I've Got a Secret lately. A couple more posts of mine on the subject from the GSN Classics board...

Just uploaded to YouTube: this nice bit from I've Got a Secret's 12/5/66 episode. The all-female Kit Kat band from the then-running Broadway musical Cabaret performs the show's theme song in 1930s jazz style. Steve Allen has some fun with the introductions. IGAS was just a few months from bye-bye, but it could still entertain.

By the way, the entire I've Got a Secret segment with the Kit Kat band, including the panel Q&A, was previously posted on YouTube. Henry Morgan gets buzzed at a strategic point, and Betsy Palmer wanders into some, er, delicate areas. There's also a really nice comment from a daughter of the band's pianist at YouTube:
I cannot thank you enough for posting this video. My mother was Maryann Burns on the piano, and the other ladies in the Kit Kat Band were among her dearest friends. Not to mention, together they comprised one hot jazz quartet!! I have not seen this broadcast since I was 2 years old. *Amazing.* Thank you again!
Not sure how she could remember a broadcast from when she was two, but the comment seems authentic otherwise. Oh well, she was probably told about the broadcast later. You never know what you're going to find once you start poking around those videos.

And Google tells me that the band's drummer, Viola Smith, was called "the Female Gene Krupa for the way she would hurl her drumstick onto her drum, then jump up in the air and catch it as it bounced." Viola was apparently something of a feminist crusader in the jazz ranks. In a 1942 issue of Down Beat magazine she extolled the virtues of "hep girls" in jazz bands.

Minute to chase Chase

The Cube-sters will cry big tears over this one. Minute To Win It has terminated NBC's scripted loser Chase with extreme prejudice. Fieri and friends hit a series high 3.0 18-49 rating and 9.5 million viewers in the 9:00 PM hour last Wednesday. So NBC has waved bye-bye to Chase and will now run two hours of Minute repeats and originals every Wednesday night.

The Brit-worshipping Cube-sters will whine about how padded and slow Minute is, but that's a really bad joke. Cube is the slowest, dullest, most padded game show ever foisted on teevee watchers. The even-tempered Brits can apparently somehow tolerate the glacial proceedings. After all, they lost an empire with little more than a shrug. Us unreconstructed Yanks can be thankful that CBS spared us an American version when they didn't pick up last year's pilot with Neil Patrick Harris.

Trouble is, if Minute keeps pulling big numbers, CBS may change their mind and splatter the interminable Cube on our screens. Well, that's the price you pay for success. Meanwhile, Minute will soon face tougher competition in the 9:00 PM hour than the repeats it confronted last Wednesday.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Taxman cometh

George Harrison's Taxman has been nominated as the greatest conservative rock song of all time. The fab four working-class stiffs from Liverpool suddenly found themselves facing confiscatory British tax rates in the 1960s, and they didn't like it one bit. So George sang about how the tax collectors take nineteen of every twenty.

By the way, Paul McCartney played the wild and crazy guitar solo on the song. Paul always did want to be the band's lead guitarist.

Even the Brits have eased their tax rates a little since then. But as this AOL story reminds us, game show contestants can still get nailed with impressive tax bills. A favorite scam of the tax collectors is slamming contestants with California's high state tax rates if the show is taped in the once-golden state.

The tax grabbers also like to value non-cash prizes at inflated amounts to get a few extra bucks. They've got lots of nasty ways to ding you, like all nefarious tax collectors throughout history. The story concludes with sensible advice about "saving the money and not going on wild spending sprees."

Several commenters at the site also suggest calling Dave Ramsey. Was he ever a game show contestant? If he was, I bet he figured his taxes as he played.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A lot more Sherriwed

In the non-amazing department, a post of mine from the GSN Originals board...

Absolutely no surprise given the ratings and demos, but Sherri Shepherd's Newlywed Game has been renewed for a whopping 130 episodes. A big commitment for GSN, but they seem to have lots of coin lately.

The new season debuts in April along with Love Triangle, GSN's new talk-game-whatever show with Wendy Williams. The shows will form a block of programming with Baggage, Jerry Springer's top-rated dating circus. Could Catch 21 and 1 vs. 100 lose out? With Drew debuting on March 28, the schedule is due for a major shakeup.

Sherri isn't my favorite cuppa tea, but she hasn't been as annoying as I feared. She'll occasionally dial it back and doesn't try to dominate the show completely. The press release lists GSN's hosts in this interesting order: "Sherri Shepherd is part of a GSN talent roster that includes Drew Carey, Wendy Williams, Bill Engvall, Jerry Springer and Carrie Ann Inaba."

You'll notice Drew is number one, 1 vs. 100's Carrie Ann trails the field, and Catch 21's Alfonso Ribeiro is nowhere to be found.

Minute to win ten million

No, the top prize on NBC's stuntfest Minute To Win It hasn't suddenly grown tenfold. But last night the Fieri fireworks managed to draw over over ten million viewers in the final half-hour of its two-hour run. More important for the almighty advertisers was the show's series-high 2.4 18-49 rating over the entire 120 minutes of silly human tricks, despite competition that included some talent contest called American Idol.

I've already confessed my soft spot for this latest knockoff of Beat the Clock. Even Guy Fieri becomes tolerable after a while because he's either having fun or faking it real good. For some odd reason, though, certain game show Internet posters (you know who you are) seem to begrudge the show its success.

Those folks still whine and whimper for The Cube, that supposedly superior British stunt show which has yet to leap the pond. I dunno, I've seen a fair amount of Cube on YouTube and it just seems slower and duller than Fieri and friends. CBS tried a Cube pilot with Neil Patrick Harris a year ago, but it never escaped development hell. Maybe the Eye network (Variety-speak!) figured NBC had beaten them to the punch.

But if Minute keeps pulling elephant-sized numbers for peanut-sized production costs, CBS may yet pay the show the sincerest form of flattery. So take heart, Cube freaks. Your day may come in the U.S.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Engines, Vannas, cabs

A couple posts ago I joked about the freezing weather up north. My big mouth gets me in trouble again. Here in Dallas-Fort Worth we're now covered with ice, literally. But while I'm shivering, I'm blogging, too...

Inspired by supercomputer Watson's upcoming joust with mere humans on Jeopardy, a computer geek tried a couple bazillion Alex-style clues on various search engines. Google supposedly won, which will make the parent of this blog site happy. But it was close, so maybe Larry Page and Sergey Brin better refine their algorithms a little more. The competition is closing in, guys.

The five finalists for the biggest contest in the galaxy have been selected. We're talking about Vanna-for-a-day, folks, and it doesn't get bigger than subbing for Vanna. On Wheel of Fortune's website you can sample (only visually) the would-be letter-touchers and vote for your fave. Why not give them all a chance on Vanna-for-a-week? Seems nicer. Everybody wins!

Ben and Beth will do double duty starting on Valentine's Day. That's Ben Bailey and Beth Melewski on Cash Cab, everybody's favorite taxi ride. Okay, it's my favorite taxi ride. As always Ben will prowl the highways and by-ways of Manhattan at 6:00 PM Eastern, while Beth tools around Chicago at 6:30. I'm honestly interested in how Beth will manage her voyages. Sure, anybody can ask the questions, but can she mug for the camera like the rubber-faced Benjamin?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Syndies shrug

After a rock 'em sock 'em week of season highs, syndicated game shows mostly blahed out in the latest week ending January 23. The shows were down a shade or flat with one long-suffering exception. Broadcasting & Cable provides the so-so details...

Wheel of Fortune 8.0 - down a tick
Jeopardy 6.5 - down a tick like its soulmate
Millionaire 2.4 - flat but still at a season high
Family Feud 1.8 - down a tick
5th Grader 1.0 - down a tick, gee, ain't there any good news?
Lyrics 0.9 - yes, an itsy-bit of good news, up a tick for the perpetual cellar-dweller

I'll post TV by the Numbers' viewership averages when they get around to them. UPDATE: They still haven't gotten around to them, but they did post the numbers for Money Drop's season finale: 1.8 18-49 rating with 5.1 million total viewers. The site's opinion: "Not a bad run for a reality show, I’d guess it returns." I'd guess they may be right.

UPDATED UPDATE: TVBTN finally did get around to the syndie game show viewership averages. And Meredith once again made their top 25 list. The numbers: Wheel of Fortune 13.0 million (weekend repeat 5.7 million), Jeopardy 10.3 million, Millionaire 3.5 million. Lots of folks watched the top three. Now if the demos only skewed a little younger...