Thursday, March 31, 2011

Substitute for MTV

There may be no substitute for MTV with today's addlepated and over-hormoned teen critters. Oh, there I go old-fogeying again. In fact, I'm so fogeyed-out that I can remember when MTV played music videos. This occurred in the late Middle Ages. Thomas Aquinas blogged about it.

The game show Substitute is MTV's upcoming Cash Cab knockoff. The premise is that a phony substitute teacher surprises a high school class of non-honor students with: "You're on Substitute! It's a TV game show played right here in my taxi, er, classroom!" (Okay, he doesn't really say that. At least, I don't think he does.) The fake subber then quizzes the kids. No word if errant answers bring detention.

As derivative and vapid as the format sounds, this might be a semi-reasonable quizzer by MTV's loose (in every way) standards. The linked story wonders how the schoolkids wouldn't suspect anything "despite the presence of cameras and a production crew." But MTV has never had problems locating sub-genius-level folks - see Shore, Jersey - so fooling the teens probably won't be a daunting task.

No word yet on exactly when the show might turn up. Maybe when Skins gets old and wrinkled. Comic Jon Gabrus will play the faux teacher. Somewhat surprisingly, Michael Davies is the exec producer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Improv and others

Chitchat continues on the GSN schedule board about current and upcoming schedule changes. And you know I can't resist chitchat...

Other poster: I always had a feeling Power of 10 would sooner or later come to GSN, but I have to agree that the rerun abuse of it will be similar to the rerun abuse of Deal or No Deal.

Rerun abuse of 18 eps of Power of 10 is similar to running 200+ broadcast eps and 180 or so syndie eps of Deal or No Deal? Um, okay.

Really, the much better comparison is Bob Saget's 1 vs. 100, with its 28 episodes. GSN ran 'em ragged. Except Saget actually got some decent ratings in his network run, something Power of 10 almost never did.

Another poster: I think Wheel and Jeopardy! will return sooner or later, probably with the most recent episodes they can get their hands on.

Always possible, but I think it was more likely back when Sony owned all of the network. Now their stake is down to 35%.

RELATED NOTE: Contradictory notices are coming from the screener episode of Improv-a-Ganza. Haven't seen it myself, but a couple folks who did watch the show have posted very different reviews. Alex Davis at BuzzerBlog predictably loved it, Brittany Frederick at Starpulse...didn't love it. Will this show be the next Whose Line or the next Green Screen?

And in case anybody hasn't heard, the Charlie Sheen episode will turn up on April 12, the night after the debut.

News cache

Google news is such a wonderful thing. How else would we know that a guy from Salem, Oregon was whacked on The Price Is Right?

Yep, Plinko just isn't enough to entertain the masses any more. Now we need game show homicides. It's right in the headline: Salem man gets shot on 'Price Is Right'‎.

Okay, I'll stop the lame humor. Of course, the story actually recounts how a Salem contestant got his shot at winning fame and fortune on Drew's little shopping show. He apparently didn't do so well, though the famous contestant waiver prevents him from going into details: "I could have done better. I wish I had listened to the crowd and my wife."

Meanwhile, a note from in the news cache informs us that Jeopardy celebrates its 47th birthday today. Wikipedia agrees that Art Fleming first gave answers and asked for questions on March 30, 1964.

The story then tries some occasionally funny Jeopardy-style clues about jogging. I sort of liked Porn To Run.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Syndies don't do much good

Basketball and daylight savings time didn't help the syndication bunch in the week ending March 20. Broadcasting & Cable says flat or down for the syndie gamers...

Wheel of Fortune 7.2 - down a tick but it's hardly suffering
Jeopardy 5.5 - down five ticks, anybody seen that computer?
Millionaire 2.3 - flat
Family Feud 1.7 - flat
5th Grader 0.9 - flat and gone
Lyrics 0.7 - flatter and goner

GSN's upcoming game-talk-relationship-whatever show host Wendy Williams ain't setting the ratings world afire with her current gig. Her talker lost a tick to an unprepossessing 0.9. As usual, TV by the Numbers is not rushing their top 25 syndie list. Instead, they're running their 4,309,231st item on whether Chuck will survive. Wish I cared enough to watch a minute of the show.

TV by the Numbers finally produced the viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.5 million (weekend repeat 4.2 million), Jeopardy 8.4 million, Millionaire 3.2 million. As always, the twin towers remain the most-watched game shows in this country.

GSN scored a 362K viewer average in prime time for the first quarter. The network didn't make TVNewser's top 40 in total day. The prime time number is okay but I've occasionally seen GSN top 400K for a week or two. (The TVNewser link tends to crash my browser for some odd cybernetic reason. Did Watson have this problem?)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday meditations

Neil Zoren, Philly TV critic last seen bashing GSN for the lame bit of Improv-a-Ganza footage on the show's promos, returns with a nice note on Lingo. Zoren watches the show at 10:30 PM, a run which will soon vanish. He finds himself yelling words at the clueless contestants, just as I do. Only the clueless contestants often come up with the right word before my even more clueless self.

Zoren also notes that Bill Engvall will replace "silly Everyman" Chuck Woolery on the new Lingo episodes in June. He regrets the change but doesn't finger the obvious reason: age discrimination. Chuck just turned 70. Zoren also repeats his misgivings about Improv-a-Ganza. We've still got two more weeks of waiting before we see if the misgivings are justified.

ABC offers a long profile of Wendy Williams, talk show diva, not-so-competent Dancing with the Stars hoofer, and soon-to-debut host of GSN's Love Triangle. The story identifies a kinder, gentler image as the secret of Wendy's recent success. She will need to dial it back even more with GSN's grandmotherly audience.

New York Magazine talks to Pat Kiernan, local NYC morning anchor and once the voice of GSN's late, lamented Grand Slam. Kiernan says the quizzer was the hardest thing he's ever done: "In a matter of seconds, I had to listen to the answers, adjudicate the responses, and announce the score. If you get that wrong, you ruin the show."

Pat didn't ruin anything. Instead, the show suffered from too much filler and Miller (Dennis).

Sunday, March 27, 2011


BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis has tweeted his predictably positive opinion of GSN's screener episode for Drew Carey's Improv-a-Ganza. Haven't seen the screener myself and I probably won't, because I'm (correctly) nine miles further down the game show food chain than Alex.

So far the bits and pieces of Improv-a-Ganza video released to the public have not been encouraging. The delay from March 28 to April 11 also didn't seem auspicious. And Alex may not be the toughest audience for the screener. He was a Whose Line fan to end all Whose Line fans, and this new show looks like a clone.

But I accept his word that the screener is at least competent. Carey will no doubt get good initial sampling from Alex's fellow Whose Line fanatics. The question is whether he can hold GSN's usual audience and add new fans (and younger fans, the network hopes).

Alex waxed eloquent about how Late Night Liars was one of GSN's best originals ever. We saw what happened with that putrid effort. But I have to agree with Alex's positive outlook on Improv-a-Ganza, even if he miscalculated with the godawful puppets.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Yet another secret

While still trying to figure out why GSN will mercilessly rerun-abuse a handful of Power of 10 episodes, I've also been rummaging around YouTube for, you guessed it, remnants of the original I've Got a Secret.

It's a harmless pastime, after all, and once in a while a gem turns up. This 1964 segment brought on three civvie guests named Messrs. Ex, Wye and Zee. Naturally, host Garry Moore introduced them as Mr. X, Mr. Y and Mr. Z. He then turned them over to the befuddled panel.

Woody Allen was subbing for Bill Cullen, but he came no closer to the goofy secret than anybody else...until Henry Morgan stumbled onto the gentlemen's names in a sudden light-bulb moment. Morgan was so pleased with himself that he wanted the eighty-dollar prize. By all accounts, though, Henry was already well compensated.

I'm not going to make any more excuses for my fogey-ish interest in ancient black-and-white game shows. It's more fun than stamp-collecting, anyway.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happily indifferent

My indifference to The Price is Right (a.k.a. The Lawsuit is On!) is well known. Or at least anybody who reads this blog knows about it.

But I have one more reason to rejoice that I don't care about a certain shopping show. Fired model Brandi Cochran has amended one of the 88 gazillion lawsuits buzzing around TPiR's carcass. Now she alleges reverse racial discrimination.

The suit claims that TPiR's producers wanted a Hispanic model to replace Brandi, who they fired for getting pregnant or gaining weight or being white or doing something. Is there any truth to the allegation? This is where my blissful indifference kicks in.

Maybe TPiR should require a lawsuit from each of their employees, just to get 'em out of the way. I was a little surprised when deposed announcer Rich Fields didn't head for the nearest law office. But Drew did give him the gig on Improv-a-Ganza, so maybe one legal action was nipped in the bud.

Numbers and more numbers

I've slightly rearranged the broadcast game show ratings in the sidebar. The list was getting Wipeout-heavy, so I dropped the Saturday repeat numbers. Nobody watches broadcast TV on Saturday night, anyway. Which is honestly not much of an exaggeration.

I also added a new source of ratings for the daytime broadcast shows, The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal. Soap Opera Network just started posting some surprisingly complete information for those shows, including detailed demo breakouts.

In case you can't bother with all the links, I'll summarize: Wipeout does fine, Minute To Win It is dying a slow Nielsen death, and the daytime shows skew old but look healthy enough. And all the shows are dirt-cheap compared to scripted entertainment.

GSN schedule somersault

In one of the more bizarre moves by our little game show network, GSN has picked up Drew Carey's short-lived Power of 10 and installed it at 7:00 PM beginning March 28.

The show was an okay guessing game but never much of a hit, to put it gently. Meanwhile, a complete schedule shakeup for GSN, including the 7:00 PM hour, supposedly looms on April 11 with the debuts of Improv-a-Ganza and Love Triangle. My bewilderment from the GSN Schedule board...

Other poster: We'll find out for sure pretty soon, but once again, just another lesson on not trusting the PDF schedules.

That's for sure. This is just weird. Oh, it's not weird that GSN would eventually pick up a show with Drew. After all, they're betting the ranch on his comedy show. But a pickup out of nowhere just two weeks before a complete schedule scramble? And they put the show in the crucial access hour right before prime time?

There's not even time to get in all the episodes before the debuts for Drew and Wendy on April 11. I've seen some odd scheduling moves by this network, but this one ranks right up there. Just please don't ask me what's going to happen in a couple weeks. It's absolutely crazy to trust the pdfs even that far ahead. [Please note my caveat about the GSN schedules on this blog's sidebar. And please believe the caveat.]

Oddball theory: GSN got close to a deal for syndie 5th Grader but lost out to Hub. So they turned on a dime and picked up Power of 10. Hey, the theory is no stranger than this out-of-the-blue pickup and schedule switch.

UPDATE: Power of 10 will move to 5:00 PM on April 11 and will also get weekend exposure. So they're going to grind the handful of Power of 10 episodes through a weekday and weekend wringer. Even by GSN's lax standards of rerun abuse, that's awful. The show got lousy numbers in its original run! That's why it didn't last. I looked through all the ratings from TV by the Numbers, and they were mostly terrible. Maybe GSN figures the Drew-palooza will help, but that's a stretch.

Carrie Ann Inaba's previously scheduled return with 1 vs. 100 at 5:00 PM never even made it to air. That's when you know you're going bad. She's hanging onto one solitary slot on the weekend.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rub-a-dub Hub

Product placement soars to new heights as Hasbro's Hub network introduces a slew of shows based on...wait for it, Hasbro merchandise. Clue, Game of Life, and Scrabble will all get the Hub treatment. GSN tried and tried with Scrabble a few years ago but never brought a show to air. Justin Willman will host the Hub kiddie version.

Frank Nicotero, of fondly remembered Street Smarts fame, will direct the Game of Life voyagers. No word yet on the host for the Cluesters. Will somebody play Mr. Boddy?

Another noteworthy item: Hub will pick up Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? The story indicates they're getting the Fox network version instead of the soon-to-expire syndie. I always thought GSN would swoop in on this one. But the Supposedly Game Show Network may be more interested in standup comedy nowadays. (Correction: the Hub press release says they're picking up the syndie.)

One more nugget from the story is Hub's rather anemic 107K viewer average in prime time. Hasbro probably figures the product placement bonanza is worth the investment, even if Hub's ratings are underwhelming. Along with the game shows Hub is rolling out a bunch of other originals.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday widgets

As noted before on this little blog, Katie Cantrell will take her turn as Vanna-for-a-Day tomorrow. Alex Trebek actually played Pat-for-a-day once as an April Fools prank. He did fine, though Watson wasn't competing that day. Anyway, best wishes to Katie on her letter-touching adventures.

And speaking of Pat and Alex...if you hang around long enough in show business, the awards shows figure you must be doing something right. So you get a lifetime achievement award. Messrs. Sajak and Trebek have been around for a while now, but they actually deserve the honor. So the Daytime Emmys will hand them the kudo at the annual and august ceremonies in June. Even the best game show host can't rescue a horrible format, but a bad host can spoil the best format. Nobody can accuse Pat and Alex of spoiling their shows.

In elephant news, Bob Barker is offering the Edmonton Zoo a hundred grand to treat their 34-year-old pachyderm Lucy. The city swears they love Lucy (sorry) and she's getting all the treatment she needs. I haven't talked to Lucy lately, so I don't know what she thinks of the hoohah. But the linked story does have a nice picture of Bob and his large friend. Or is it Lucy and her small friend?

Elizabeth Taylor has died at age 79. As many have noted, she rather cruelly outlived her glamour days. And her marital misadventures spawned countless easy parodies (and imitations, for that matter). But What's My Line featured a younger and possibly happier Liz in 1954. As far as I can tell, this was her one brush with the genre.

While we're sifting through black-and-white video clips, the tireless Richard Carson just posted the complete 6-18-62 tenth anniversary episode of I've Got a Secret. The show peeks inside the control room, and the behind-the-scenes folks get a little air time. Host Garry Moore chips in some creative camera work.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two syndies wave good-bye

A so-so week for syndicated game shows, and Broadcasting & Cable confirmed some obvious news. The numbers for the week ending March 13:

Wheel of Fortune 7.3 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 6.0 - down four ticks, Alex misses Watson
Millionaire 2.3 - up a tick, Meredith is happy
Family Feud 1.7 - up a tick, Steve is happy
5th Grader 0.9 - flat and Jeff is not happy (see below)
Lyrics 0.7 - up a tick but it doesn't matter (see below)

B&C's Paige Albinak made it official, though the news was clear long ago: 5th Grader and Lyrics are gone after this season. The shows were quality efforts and enjoyed decent runs in broadcast and syndication. But the genre withers a bit among the syndies, which is not good.

I'll post TV by the Numbers' viewership averages when they bother to publish them. Hey, they finally bothered: Wheel of Fortune 11.8 million (weekend repeat 4.4 million), Jeopardy 9.5 million and Millionaire 3.3 million. TVBTN obsesses over the 18-49 demo, where they note Wheel finished third among all syndies with a 1.8 rating. Pat and Vanna get so many total viewers that even their demo numbers are pretty good.

Meanwhile, TVNewser brought some okay news for GSN: 374K/256K prime time/total day viewer averages for the March 14-20 week. Not bad though the network is hoping for noticeably bigger numbers come April 11.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Back to the flea market?

Last year stories appeared about a GSN pilot based on flea market shopping. Yep, sounded weird to me, too. The cutesy-pie title for the pilot - Fleaflip - didn't help, either.

Now BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis, ever alert to casting calls, has spotted this item for "charismatic appraisers that are ready to become a cast member of a brand new NBC game show." He thinks this may be the same pilot that GSN passed on.

That's certainly a possibility, as cautious actuaries tend to say. Maybe an interesting show could grow from haggling at flea markets and junk shops around the nation. Who woulda thunk that hangman plus a big wheel could work? But shopping shows are not my very best fave, though I like the testy bargaining on Pawn Stars.

Not so coincidentally, the casting call mentions that little History Channel show with the squabbling pawnbrokers. NBC could use the ratings.

UPDATE: The show is definitely on for the summer. The title is It's Worth What?, the host is Cedric the Entertainer (or Cedric Antonio Kyles, according to Wikipedia), and the flea markets look to be gone. Contestants price items in a bunch of rounds leading (they hope) to a million bucks. Also on the schedule for NBC's summer is the previously announced Still Standing, the drop-through-holes quizzer. No word yet on times or dates for either show.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Act of congress

Hardcore game show types like me are vaguely aware of Game Show Congress, a nostalgia-fest held every year to celebrate the genre's history. This year Congress convenes on July 8-10 in Las Vegas, in association with the Trivia Championships of North America, a quizzer extravaganza for the trivially minded from across the continent.

As anybody can see from a glance at its website, GSC is heavy on the in ten tons of heavy. From the programs for the previous seven congresses, you'd think that game shows stopped dead in 1980 or so.

Which is my problem with the effort. I don't mind a little nostalgia now and then. I post a few look-back-in-fondness items on this blog, and even cull some grainy black-and-white screenshots to accompany them. The glasses on my crotchety old eyes get more rose-colored every year. I'm certainly not as hostile to game show history as, say, BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis. He once tweeted his withering contempt for older game shows: "I don't watch classics or cover them really so you're barking up a dead, wilted tree."

But when the look back gets to be the only look, I get antsy. I've gotten into plenty of trouble on the GSN Classics board with folks who seem to think that the only good game show is a dead game show. I've seen posters even go ballistic because GSN ran one season of Match Game instead of another.

That's when nostalgia gets overbearing and really pretty silly. Game Show Congress may not be all the way there yet, but it's getting a little too close for my comfort. Game shows didn't expire thirty years ago, no matter what some people think.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

History's mysteries

Don't know if it poses any threat to Pawn Stars, but former Jeopardy champ David Madden is trying to interest the History Channel in a history-based quizzer. Madden has already toured the country with his high-school History Bowl (for teams) and History Bee (for individuals). He sounds a little high-minded about it all:
It's essential for being able to do the sort of critical thinking and reflecting on why this stuff is important. If we don't have knowledge of the past, there's no way we can understand the present to prepare for the future.
To which I'm inclined to intone, with mock solemnity, amen.

Oh, I don't want to sound so smartass about Madden's project. I like quizzers, after all, and I still remember History IQ fondly. If David can get the History Channel genuinely interested in a similar show, good on him.

The linked story offers a bit of unintentional humor: "with 19 wins, he [Madden] nearly took the record for the most consecutive wins" on Jeopardy. Well, David didn't really get all that close to Ken Jennings' seventy-four wins. But when he worked at IBM last year, Madden did beat Watson in a couple of beta-testing rounds. Take that, Ken.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cash cab meets school bus

News stories pop up now and then from local media about amateur game shows. But this one caught my eye because it could have made my long-ago trips to school a lot more fun.

A parent in Stowe, Vermont named John Derienzo imitates Cash Cab by occasionally riding along on local school buses and tossing out trivia questions to grade-school kids. I don't know if he looks like Ben Bailey, but the grade-schoolers do get a shout-out to any middle and high-school kids on the bus.

Even the bus driver can answer if things get really tough. Except one bus driver doesn't like the pressure: "Once in a while he has a question that I don't know the answer to and that's when you go, please don't call on the bus driver that day," says one harried driver.

The kids don't get kicked out of the bus if they miss three questions. But they don't get any money, either. They do win some dinky prizes from the "quiz bag." Come to think of it, the adult version of Cash Cab also doesn't dole out many bucks. Is there something intrinsically cheap about game shows on wheels?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Alphabet soup

Variety speak is getting the better of me. The alphabet net (ABC in normal speak) will try two new game shows.

A taping notice has gone out for You Deserve It, the odd quizzer where people play to give other people money. Don't the real contestants get to keep anything? Oh well, Watson gave away all its winnings to charity. The machine would be a natural for this show. But who (or what) would Watson select to receive the loot?

The Bachelor's Chris Harrison will host. I never watch the sappy hookup reality epic, so I have no strong opinion one way or the other on Harrison's TV skills. But he's kept the franchise going for a long time, so he must not be basely incompetent.

ABC's other new gamer is 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show, from Endemol's Wipeout showrunner Matt Kunitz. As you might expect from the title, the show specializes in emphatic ways to eject losing contestants. Six episodes will run over the summer, with BrainSurge's Jeff Suthpen as host. We'll see if Wipeout lightning can strike twice. Does the new show have enough balls? Or will it find One Way to Leave a Network?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More secrets

When you get old, you get sentimental. And I've been enjoying a sentimental journey through the distant past with I've Got a Secret clips on YouTube. Fellow fan Richard Carson just uploaded another bunch of clips, including some great moments with Harpo Marx and Spike Jones.

But my sentimental (of course) favorite is the 6/8/60 episode, the show's last effort in the Mansfield Theater. The following week Secret would move into new digs. But they departed the Mansfield in style.

While the panel was blindfolded and clueless, host Garry Moore and guest Anthony Perkins, of then-current Psycho fame, struck the set. Then they walked next door to an Italian restaurant with the entire stage crew for a going-away party.

Lots of laughs ensued as the panel never really caught on to what was happening, until Garry finally let them take off the masks. After staring at the now-empty stage for a few seconds, the panel joined the party next door. Garry offered a toast to the stage hands and thanks to the audience for Secret's first eight years.

It was a pretty good show, after all.

Sweeping with the syndies

Broadcasting and Cable did their usual sweeps roundup on syndicated game shows. This time, though, they compared the February sweeps to the November version. The generally positive results...

Wheel of Fortune 7.8 - up six ticks
Jeopardy 6.7 - up nine ticks thanks to Watson and friends
Millionaire 2.3 - up a tick
Family Feud 1.7 - up a tick
5th Grader 0.9 - sigh, down a tick and probably headed for the exit
Lyrics 0.8 - down a tick and pretty much beyond the exit

TV by the Numbers posted their regular top 25 list for the week ending March 6. Meredith didn't make the select group but the twin towers did, of course. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.2 million (weekend repeat 5.4 million) and Jeopardy 9.9 million. Healthy numbers by any standard.

And not to neglect our little game show network, TVNewser says GSN averaged 385K prime time viewers for the March 7-13 week. The total day number wasn't available because GSN finished out of the top 40 in that category. But the prime time number looks good, a nice bump from the previous week.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday treats

Maybe this belongs in the "rigged game show" category. But Drew Carey will get inducted into the pro wrestling hall of something like fame.

Apparently Drew showed up at some wrestlemania event once. Funny note: when Congress outlawed the rigging of game shows after the fifties scandals, they used language about a "contest of intellectual knowledge or intellectual skill." This may have been designed to exempt pro wrestling from the rigging law. Everybody knew pro wrestling was rigged, but nobody could call it intellectual.

A couple of genuine-article athletes will turn up on tomorrow's episode of Minute To Win It. Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown of the LA Lakers will try their hand (and other body parts) at the stunts. The real trick would be getting better numbers for the show, which has hit the Nielsen skids lately.

Britain's occasionally reliable Guardian newspaper rambled through a long, sometimes baffling account of the financial tribulations facing Endemol, producer of Wipeout and Deal or No Deal among other shows. I won't try to disentangle all the gory accounting details, but the story offered one interesting nugget. Seems that Wipeout "is about to be syndicated across local cable channels in the US, while retaining its slot at ABC."

The language sounds odd. Syndicated across local cable channels? Does this mean the show could arrive on GSN or some other cabler? Or will it be syndicated to local broadcast stations? Both? Neither? Stay tuned.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Schedule chitchat

Lots of chatter continues about GSN's new schedule on April 11. I'm doing my best to defend the aspersed Richard Karn on the GSN Internet boards, where he's public enemy number one. Some more back-and-forth...

Other poster: I think that Karn at 9:30 is odd scheduling, too...either more Dawson or a Combs ep might fit better there, if it's meant to be a FF block. Dawson really should be on at noon, and with MG in the 11:00 hour, I think it would be a perfect pairing that would bring the ratings.

Like I said, Karn's never going to get any credit on these boards. But he's doing exactly what GSN wants, building the audience up in the morning. That's why he's still at 9:30 AM.

As for expanding the pre-1990 shows...well, I've already had my say. A glance at how GSN's schedule has developed over the years is the best answer to that question. Pre-1990 shows will be lucky to hang onto what they've got.

Other poster: I haven't dug into the ratings lists (I've been very busy with my day job this past week!), but is there any word on the 8:00 MG ratings???

No. But if I had to guess, I'd say they're real small. Four hours of infomercials ain't the best lead-in.

Other poster: If a comedy block emerges from this, I would expect to see it on Saturday nights.

Anything's possible, but weekends are the one place where Drew is not, so far. Any comedy block would probably get weeknight exposure, just as Drew is getting. But it all depends on how Improv-a-Ganza performs. If it hits big, more comedy shows will follow. If it flops, GSN might actually do some game shows. Or at least some competition shows.

Other poster: I have also not seen Karn's demos but does he really attract that many young people? Somehow I doubt that.

Nothing on GSN skews very young, though the audience has gotten slightly less grey compared to the old days of a 65+ median age for a mostly pre-1990 daytime block. But Karn Feud is one of the very few shows on GSN - Baggage is another - that sometimes got better than a 0.1 rating in the 18-49 or 25-54 demos when Douglas was publishing the info on Mediaweek.

Karn and O'Hurley got such large audiences overall in prime time that the ratings in the younger demos sometimes crept above 0.1. That's why GSN is keeping them in prime time even after Drew hedge the bet.

And now that you mention demos, they're the reason GSN is trying a comedy show in the first place.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dodge it

A brave poster on the GSN Classics board dared to suggest a return of Extreme Dodgeball. This was the network's memorable sports experiment from the 2004-05 seasons. Hard to imagine something that would upset the Classics board's ancient-is-better posters more. But I chipped in a mostly favorable response...

Other poster: A lot of people here will tell you that [Extreme Dodgeball] is not a game show & don't want to see it on GSN again but I did like it when it aired...

I really liked Extreme Dodgeball's low-key and entertaining first season. The show was a surprise hit for GSN, especially with the 18-34 demo where the network usually gets negative ratings (slight exaggeration).

GSN started to run the show into the ground in the second season. There were more rounds and just too much of a good thing. The show really got unbearable in the third season. Rip Torn showed up as a phony commissioner amidst other overdone gimmicks.

No, it wasn't a game show. But at least it was a competition show, unlike a certain endlessly promoted improv comedy project on GSN next month.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Secret garden of video

I've often confessed to my old-fogey weakness for ancient I've Got a Secret clips on YouTube. That weakness got the best of me again, as I posted on the GSN Classics board...

A fellow fan of I've Got a Secret has just uploaded a bunch of IGAS videos to YouTube. The best for me was the complete bow-and-arrow appearance by Johnny Carson, previously seen on the site in a brief clip from the William Shatner reprise special.

Carson turns out to be a pretty handy archer. He does some prank shots with a dummy - not anybody on the show, a genuine plastic dummy - that are perfectly directed. When the time comes to shoot the apple off Garry Moore's head, the host settles behind a thick glass screen to guard against unfortunate accidents. But Carson produces an accurate shot.

Ronald Reagan's appearance from that Shatner special - the "uh" retake stunt - is also available. Another nice clip is almost the entire episode from 12/26/1956. This was a memorable year for I've Got a Secret, when it ascended into TV's top ten for what would be a four-season stay. The panel gets their revenge on Garry for various indignities during the year. The long-suffering host eventually makes a remarkable exit.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Falling through holes

NBC has picked up Still Standing, a quizzer based on an Israeli original. Basically, it's Russian Roulette without the randomized spins. Unlucky contestants who miss a question are dropped though holes, as the young lady in the little black dress demonstrates in the picture.

The order is for eight episodes, which may turn up during the summer or as a mideseason replacement. I'm an easy touch for any quizzer, especially if it channels my beloved Russian Roulette. So I hope NBC's venture pays off. At least the show doesn't have to generate huge numbers to stay on the woeful peacock net.

At BuzzerBlog Alex Davis writes more on the Israeli format. Alex's item features his usual slam on Minute To Win It - can he go through a day without one? - and actually says that NBC should Americanize Still Standing a little.

For the-Brits-are-better-than-us Alex, that's almost remarkable. I guess the Israelis aren't better than us (wink).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grand theft auto and other crimes

I did some repelling off cliffs in my college days, when I was younger and dumber. But it wasn't moi who repelled into a San Fran car dealership and swiped Minute To Win It host Guy Fieri's yellow Lamborghini. The car has since been spotted all over the Bay Area, it seems, but remains larcenously at large. I wonder how many minutes the thief spent on the heist.

My appetite for kid game shows is still limited. But fans of underage gamers will be happy that Cartoon Network has renewed Hole in the Wall and Destroy Build Destroy. Now if somebody would only revive Legends of the Hidden Temple, my old grumpy self might even get interested. I liked Olmec.

Carrie Ann Inaba is either engaged or not engaged to a slightly younger guy. I'm not too fascinated either way, but at least Carrie Ann's version of 1 vs. 100 will return to GSN weekdays on April 11. The show recently got exiled to weekends after its ratings slipped.

Bob Barker has done a genuinely good deed by chipping in a couple million to the Semper Fi fund for injured soldiers and their families. Lord knows the man has endured enough bad publicity, so it's a pleasant change to report something positive.

Millionaire, the most frequently guest-hosted critter in the game show zoo, will get...a guest host next week! It's Sherri Shepherd, who's turning up on daytime TV almost more than Charlie Sheen lately.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Syndies mostly smile

Except for Watson-less Jeopardy, syndicated game shows mostly bounced back in the week ending February 27. Broadcasting & Cable spreads the newly good news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.8 - up three ticks
Jeopardy 6.4 - down eight ticks, where's da machine?
Millionaire 2.3 - up a tick
Family Feud 1.8 - up a couple ticks
5th Grader 1.0 - up a tick and out of the sub-one basement
Lyrics 0.7 - flat and looking grim

Meredith crept back into the top 25 list on TV by the Numbers. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.7 million (weekend repeat 5.5 million), Jeopardy 10.2 million, Millionaire 3.4 million. Wheel's repeat beats most syndie first-runs in total viewers. That show prints money.

Meanwhile, TVNewser offered their weekly report on GSN ratings for February 28 - March 6: 349K/259K viewers on average in prime time/total day. Not bad by the network's historic standards, but not particularly good by recent standards.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mark and Charlie's excellent adventure

Sometimes the pop culture junkosphere is just too predictable. Sooner or later Charlie Sheen and wild-man NBA owner Mark Cuban had to hook up. It's a marriage made in garbage-media heaven. Looks like Cuban may want Sheen for a game show on his cable channel, HDNet. A few possibilities...

Who Wants to Be a Fired Millionaire? Contestants compete to get canned by violating the morals clause of their choice.

Wheel of Lost Fortune. Contestants lose as much as possible in legal spats with studios, networks and passers-by.

Drug Deal or No Drug Deal. Contestants open suitcases with varying amounts of cocaine. When the amounts get too big, the banker sends the contestants to phony rehab.

Mental Jeopardy. Contestants race to become certifiably bonkers.

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader or Anybody Else? Contestants demonstrate how massive public stupidity can get you a sweet deal with Mark Cuban.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Schedule conniptions

At BuzzerBlog Alex Davis has posted the pdf he got from GSN for its new schedule starting April 11. My reaction from the GSN Schedule board...

At least we won't have to hear about Howie getting too many slots any more. On April 11 Deal or No Deal gets cut to a single run at 1:00 PM. Of course, now we'll hear about too much Drew and Jerry and Wendy and Sherri, all of whom get three runs every weekday. Another oddity is the return of Carrie Ann's 1 vs. 100 at 5:30 PM. You can check the full pdf here.

Don't really know where Engvall's Lingo will eventually fit into this schedule. We'll worry about that later. The good news for pre-1990 fans is none of those timeslots have been cut yet.

Other poster: This screams "temporary" to me. I can't see all these shows maintaining three-a-day's forever. I'd expect Engvall to replace either Inaba or half of the Sherri hour at 6 PM. And I'd also expect Howie to eventually find his way back to the evening lineup.

Gotta figure that every GSN schedule is temporary. I don't even know if this is exactly what we'll see April 11. Anyway, the other bete noire of these boards, Karn Feud, still gets a five-a-day according to the pdf.

I'm not sure about Howie in the evening. I think he'll show up in the morning sooner or later. Maybe Regis might turn up there someday as well, now that he's lost his weekday 2:00 AM slot. Who knows?

The network really is betting huge on Drew and Wendy and Jerry and Sherri. Six hours of 'em every day, including all of the crucial 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM window. They are keeping Karn/O'Hurley in prime time at 10:00 PM to hedge the bet a little.

Drew dread

In a way I hate writing about Improv-a-Ganza, Drew Carey's upcoming improv comedy show on GSN. It's not a game show, not even a competition show. So what the hades is it doing on an alleged game show network?

Okay, I know what it's doing on GSN, or supposed to do. Network execs want Drew to attract some young'uns to the ancient-skewing GSN. Comedy skews young, according to partially justified conventional wisdom. That's why the network has run Improv-a-Ganza promos for six years now (very slight exaggeration).

The latest promo features a bit of footage from the show. It's embarrassingly lame and unfunny. The show's debut has already been delayed from March 28 to April 11, indicating at least a little uneasiness with the project. As one critic accurately grumps:
When the Game Show Network began running promos for Drew Carey’s Improv-a-Ganza, a daily show debuting in April, I became excited because I enjoyed Whose Line is It Anyway? so much. Now new promos have appeared, and promise has turned to dread. If the scene pulled to attract viewers to the show is the best available preview, Improv-a-Ganza is in trouble. Note to GSN: Regroup, reshoot, and recut, or disaster is at hand.
"Disaster" might be a tad strong. The show will get at least good initial sampling from curious Whose Line fans. But the funny better be real, or a massive flop could ensue.

My evil side might not mind that. At least a flop could dissuade GSN from doing more non-game, non-competition, non-everything shows. The network has bet a good-sized farm on Drew. Will he deliver?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Math games

With not much news this weekend, I scrounged through the Google book cache for game show items. An odd but interesting nugget turned up: Probably not: future prediction using probability and statistical inference by Lawrence N. Dworsky. You probably think this was not light reading, and you're right.

But the book wasn't a complete brick, either. One section called "The Game Show" focused on Deal or No Deal. It rambled through various calculations before concluding:
In summary, playing the game totally by the mathematics makes the choices simple: So long as the expected value is higher than the offer, keep playing. If you got to play the game hundreds of times, this would certainly be the best strategy. If you get to play the game just once, then you have to factor in how you'd feel the next morning: waking up, looking at the check you brought home the night before and deciding how to enjoy your winnings.
I can't resist: well, duh. Of course, the best strategy for playing the game a zillion times is to reject all offers below expected value. It's just that real live contestants don't get to play the game a zillion times.

This is where utility theory comes in. That's big talk for "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Even if the offer is well below expected value, it's genuine money in hand. Losing that money would really sting if the next round of suitcase-openings goes pear-shaped.

Which is what makes the game a lot of fun for me to watch. How far will the contestant push the utility theory envelope? Howie wants to know, now.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Weekend whittlings

Bill Engvall's version of Lingo is now casting. No word yet on the most important cast member other than Engvall himself, the co-host. It won't be Shandi Finnessey, apparently. Too closely identified with the deposed Chuck Woolery, I guess.

MTV's crappy Silent Library returns with more gross stunts for its gross audience. I know I'm sounding like an old fart, but this show appeals to mentally challenged teens of all ages from 15 to 15 1/2. Maybe it's a tiny plus that the genre maintains an outpost on MTV. As the network's pubescent viewers grow older and (let's hope) grow some brains, they might sample less asinine game shows.

If Internet pranksters can try to recruit game show host Drew Carey for a Senate run, why not game show contestant Ken Jennings? The Jeopardy whiz and amiable loser to Watson tells us that genuine-article Democrats tried to recruit him for a Senate race in 2004. Jennings wasn't impressed. "That was when I realized the Democratic Party was f@#$ed in '04."

Speaking of which, Pat Sajak talks about why Hollywood celebs mostly lean left. It's sensible enough commentary, though rough on limousine liberals. At least Sajak doesn't interrupt Wheel of Fortune with right-wing speechifying. Can't argue with his conclusion: "I would be appalled if anyone made an important political or lifestyle decision based on the advice of a TV game show host."

Friday, March 4, 2011

GSN number-palooza from TVNewser

Douglas hasn't posted any individual GSN program numbers lately at Mediaweek (sigh). But TVNewser has been releasing their usual cable rankers. GSN averaged 354K/274K viewers prime/time total day in the latest week, February 21-27. Decent, seen better, seen worse. Household ratings were 0.4/0.3. The network ranked 40th among basic cable nets in both prime time and total day.

For the full month of February, GSN averaged 368K/282K viewers prime time/total day, a 39th place finish in each category. Other weeks and months are available from the site, though GSN sometimes finishes out of the top 40 and is thus not listed. All in all, GSN had a pretty good month in February by the network's historic standards, but not a blowout like last November.

The month to look for is April when GSN is again loaded for bear. Drew and Wendy debut and a new season of Sherri's Newlywed Game begins.

Antiquarian me

Nothing like a big word in a blog entry title. I used the long a-word in my previous post when I wrote about my rambles through YouTube for game show pottery fragments.

Yesterday I spotted a few 1950s shards of What's My Line and I've Got a Secret, my favorite targets in these digs through the ruins. It's a harmless pastime, and a recent story from a Canadian town confirms that other folks indulge, too. The guy from the great white north seems mostly interested in old clips from The Price is Right, but there's no accounting for tastes.

As I close in on my sixtieth birthday this year, creeping fogeyism is taking its toll. The ancient days of early commercial TV - which just happen to coincide with my dimly remembered childhood - appear more and more fascinating to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not hopelessly addicted to antiquities. I'm not a knee-jerk older-is-better guy like so many on the GSN Internet boards.

But the sometimes grainy black-and-white images somehow look better every year. There's a reason for that, and I try not to think about it too much.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The vote is right

This resolutely nonpolitical blog will endorse no candidate for anything. But some other Internet wags aren't so scrupulous. They've launched Operation Draft Drew 2012. The drafters (supposedly) want Mr. Carey, the newly svelte game show host, to oppose incumbent Sherrod Brown in the 2012 Ohio Senate race.

I'm not holding my breath on this one. Drew has made some vaguely right-libertarian political noises in the past. But a real live run against a real live politician? Yes, the Democrats will be hard-pressed to defend all their Senate seats in 2012. But Carey vs. Brown seems like a stretch beyond even a perfect bid on a showcase.

Of course, who woulda thunk that Al Franken would earn a desk in the august Senate chamber? Drew would be funnier than him.

UPDATE: This has absolutely nothing to do with Drew Carey, but my antiquarian self can't resist...

We've got more goodies from YouTube. Three complete What's My Line episodes were recently posted: 2/14/54, 2/19/56, and 5/6/56. And a cute segment of I've Got a Secret from the 11/11/53 episode about a date with Marilyn Monroe also recently appeared on the site. Secret was still a pretty buttoned-down panel show at this point, in just its second season. Garry Moore even explained the rules at length...and they followed the rules!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Syndies slide except for Watson

Watson may have lost to a congressman, but the computer triumphed where it really counts. Jeopardy enjoyed its best ratings week in four years. Sadly, every other syndicated game show stumbled and bumbled in the week ending February 20. Broadcasting & Cable presents the sour news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.5 - down four ticks
Jeopardy 7.2 - up seven ticks thanks to the machine, but still couldn't overtake Wheel for the week
Millionaire 2.2 - down a tick
Family Feud 1.6 - down a couple ticks
5th Grader 0.9 - down a tick, will it never end?
Lyrics 0.7 - down a tick to finish the miserable list

TV by the Numbers resumed their usual viewership averages after a week of household numbers: Wheel of Fortune 12.2 million (weekend repeat 6.6 million) and Jeopardy 11.6 million. Meredith missed out on the top 25.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jimmy Kimmel's squeezable buns

Sometimes a game show news story really grabs your attention. Or it grabs your ass. Or both.

Jimmy Kimmel, currently host of a late night chatfest and previously co-host of beloved game show Win Ben Stein's Money, has told an intriguing story of flesh-pinching. Seems that while Jimmy was playing sidekick to Ben Stein, contestant Arianna Huffington - of Huffington Post fame and fortune - started squeezing Mr. Kimmel's hindquarters. Jimmy didn't quite know what to do, so he just turned red.

Or that's how he described the close rear encounter last night to Bill Maher, who was guesting on Jimmy's talk show. Maher seemed slightly incredulous but the "crazy" Arianna doesn't deny the story.

She chuckles that, if she squeezed Jimmy's Charmin, she did so only because her "buzzer was broken." Of course, if Jimmy had put the squeeze on Arianna's rear, an 88-gazillion-dollar sexual harassment suit would have resulted. This is one big advantage the ladies have nowadays, he said grumpily (and truthfully).

Grind it into sausage

Any cheap game show that can snag 18-49 ratings somewhere in the not-so-terrible twos will get ground through a zillion runs. Wipeout is no exception to this remorseless rule. We've had summer Wipeout and winter Wipeout and now spring Wipeout will arrive St. Paddy's Day.

It's only a four-episode run, but's Carrie Grosvenor is still a little concerned. She writes:
What I worry about now though is scheduling abuse. We all saw what happened with other game shows we love - networks enjoy a ratings boost, decide they need MORE MORE MORE! and overdo it, and then people stop watching because the show is on all the time and getting stale.
Guess what. Carrie's right. And I'm not just saying that to get a few extra votes in her Readers' Choice poll. (Though if you want to vote for this blog...hint, hint...shameless begging.) Networks always grind hit game shows with brutal overuse because they're so cheap and easy to produce.

Then the ratings tank and the networks move onto the next quick-and-dirty date. Sounds like my long-ago love life as a single.