Saturday, April 30, 2011

GSN number-palooza barf

Douglas has posted GSN viewer numbers for April 23-26 (see the sidebar for links). Let's just say the network has enjoyed better days. I slapped some gloom-and-doom on the GSN Schedule board...

The prime time/total day averages:

April 23 182K/178K
April 24 128K/137K
April 25 228K/237K
April 26 284K/235K

These are some of the worst GSN ratings I've seen in years, since the network broke the 70-million household barrier. The Sunday numbers look like misprints (yes, I know it's Easter). And the total day numbers don't even include some of the low-rated hours at 8:00 AM and 3:00 AM.

If these numbers continue for much longer at all, I look for a major shakeup. At least the endless repeats of Improv-a-Ganza and Love Triangle should get cut back. Remember, GSN averaged 362K viewers in prime time for all of the first quarter.

I'm not heartbroken that GSN's experiments with a talk show and a comedy show have been less than a runaway success. Maybe GSN might get back to being a game show network.

In a perfect world where the network didn't have so much money sunk into Carey's comedy calamity, I would just restore the March schedule before Power of 10 showed up. That schedule was producing very acceptable prime time and total day averages...368K/282K for all of February, for instance. But GSN has to grind through the first-runs for Drew and Wendy.

Other poster: By the way, what do you think of Match Game's ratings it got on weekends at 9am (131k, and 122k, for Saturday and Sunday).

Okay, I guess, but I was more impressed with Whammy getting 204K on Saturday. Considering the godawful weekend averages, that's a real good number at 9:30AM. In fact, it was better than the prime time average for Saturday.

And the highest-rated hour on the lost weekend was, you guessed it, the Karn/O'Hurley duo at 3:00PM Saturday.

UPDATE: Alex Davis tweeted that he got the GSN schedule pdfs for May: "GSN released schedules through may. No changes will be made. Have to give stuff time to grow. Hopefully Improv does."

Alex is the die-hardiest fan of Improv-a-Ganza on the planet. So what if it averaged 139K viewers for three runs on Saturday, 132K for four runs on Sunday, 164K at 11:00PM on Monday and Tuesday, and 118K at 2:00AM on Monday and Tuesday? We love it! But then he tweeted: "Catch 21 and 1 VS 100 return to GSN on May 2nd, a week earlier than planned."

Does this mean Power of 10 is gone from weekdays, with Alfonso and Carrie Ann taking the 5:00PM slot? Well, we all know about not trusting the pdfs. Alex hasn't yet posted any of the schedules beyond May 1. And if these barf-worthy numbers for Drew and Wendy repeats continue, the pdfs beyond May 1 may not be worth much, anyway.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Updates, we get updates

Let's bring a couple of old blog entries up to date...

It's official or real close: Meredith Vieira will leave Today in June to attend to family matters. She'll remain on syndie Millionaire, though, which apparently demands less time.

This will set off a couple promotions on Today. Ann Curry takes over Meredith's job, and Natalie Morales takes over Ann's old gig as newsreader. Gee, I could read the news for that kind of money. Announcements on all the moves should come next week, according to the Hollywood Reporter story.

Another old blog entry of mine dumped on Queen for a Day, the queasy rags-to-riches gamer from the fifties. Proving that old cheese never dies, at least on TV, the format recently enjoyed a successful run in Puerto Rico.

Now the producers want a chance at the mainland U.S. market. But can they ever find a host so creepily perfect for the show as Jack Bailey?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday treats

In gun play news, some whacko started shooting and asking questions later at the crew of Repo Games, the new Spike repossession gamer. Deep thinkers everywhere can ponder whether we're getting close to Running Man territory here. To me (a notorious non-deep thinker) it just looks like a psycho flipped. Luckily, my car is paid off, so I don't have to worry about repo guys any time soon.

GSN Digital is making almost as much news (and revenue) lately as that little cable network thing. The techies have released a Facebook version of Jeopardy to partner with soulmate Wheel of Fortune for the social networking crowd. I haven't played many video games since Pacman first waka-waka-ed its way onto screens everywhere. But for those so inclined, enjoy emulating Watson!

The last time Wheel of Fortune blew into the big easy, Katrina blew in, too. Weather conditions have returned to more reasonable levels now, and Wheel recently wrapped a taping session in New Orleans. The first batch of episodes debuts next week, and it's reassuring that not even a category-three hurricane can stop the big wheel.

This mostly nonpolitical blog will take no position on Donald Trump's presidential ambitions. But pollster Frank Luntz apparently considers Trump a non-serious "game show host" and bet ten grand that Donald won't run for the White House. Hm, Ronald Reagan appeared on a bunch of game shows and he did okay on election day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Syndies slip a little

Syndicated game shows have seen better weeks than the one ending April 17. The week wasn't a disaster, though, just kind of blah. Broadcasting & Cable offers the so-so news...

Wheel of Fortune 6.8 - down a tick
Jeopardy 5.9 - flat, a little better than the soulmate
Millionaire 2.4 - down a tick
Family Feud 2.3 - down a couple ticks, though Steve Harvey's face is all over the ads at B&C
5th Grader 1.0 - down a tick as it says the long good-bye
Lyrics 0.9 - flat as it approaches the end of days

TV by the Numbers actually got their top 25 list up pretty quick this week. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.7 million (weekend repeat 5.3 million), Jeopardy 9.1 million, Millionaire 3.5 million. Despite all those ads at Broadcasting & Cable, Family Feud didn't make the list.

Douglas has been publishing a lot of GSN numbers, which I've already analyzed in sickening detail. But TVNewser did post the network's averages for April: 303K/248K viewers prime time/total day. Not very good compared to the first quarter. Drew and Wendy haven't performed that great, and the scrambled schedule has hurt other shows.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

GSN number-palooza April 21

Good old Douglas finally came through with a complete set of daily GSN viewer numbers. April 21 was a nice day by GSN standards, with 391K/265K viewership averages for prime time/total day. My usual noodlings...

1) At least Improv-a-Ganza recovered from the preceding day's disastrous low. Drew got 399K viewers for his 8:00PM first-run, though the repeats tanked hard: 208K at 11:00PM and 219K at 2:00AM. Even the first-run number was not huge. After all, Richard Karn's tattered Family Feud at 10:00PM beat it with 432K viewers (GSN's high for the day, by the way). But any improvement is welcome.

2) Speaking of Karn, GSN viewers still like him a lot. Not only did he get the best number of the day, but his other showings did well. At 4:30PM he got the highest number of any pre-prime show (357K), and at 1:00AM he got the highest number of any post-prime show (259K). The GSN Classics board doesn't have much use for him, but Karn will keep his slots as long as he produces numbers like these.

3) Karn's running mate John O'Hurley also delivered a pleasant 411K in prime time, making the 10:00PM hour the network's highest-rated. You can see why GSN kept the Feud duo in prime as a hedge against all the new stuff flopping. Sherri Shepherd's Newlywed Game did its part with 421K viewers for the 9:30PM repeat.

4) Wendy Williams' Love Triangle didn't fare as well. The repeat at 9:00PM was the top run with an okay 334K viewers, but the 11:30PM repeat hit a horrendous low at 126K. The 11:00PM hour is a major problem.

5) GSN also has to fix the noon hour. The network built nicely until noon but Lingo did poorly in the hour with 164K viewers. Chuck performed fine at 3:00PM, though, with a 331K average. I would get the most recent seasons of Wheel of Fortune Sony will allow and plug them into the noon slot. Chain Reaction chipped in a decent 310K at 2:30PM.

6) Top-rated pre-1990 show was Match Game at 11:00AM with 277K. Take that, TPiR! The pre-1990 shows did just fine in the 10:00AM-12:00PM window with an overall 263K average.

7) Odd note: Alfonso Ribeiro's Catch 21 snagged 211K viewers at midnight. That doesn't look spectacular but he almost doubled his lead-in from the woeful Wendy.

UPDATE: Douglas just posted the full numbers for GSN on Friday, April 22. It wasn't nearly as good a day for the network with 290K/243K prime time/total day viewership averages. But Lingo did a lot better at noon, and even at 3:00PM. Wendy and Drew crashed pretty bad, though, and dragged down the averages with them.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Blurring reality

A story in the Google news cache on Survivor, CBS's never-ending reality series set in designer jungles and swamps, opines: "[Survivor is] less a reality series in the traditional sense and more a game show with a long-term focus."

Which sets off some deep thoughts...or some shallow reflections, depending on your POV. Game Show Newsnet, which trounced me and several other sites in the recent Readers' Choice Awards, has long devoted most of its coverage to competition reality series like Survivor, not traditional studio-based game shows.

There's something to be said for this approach. Many reality series are just game shows dragged out of the studio and "enlivened" (or deadened) with a lot of bitching between the contestants. Producers know traditional gamers skew ancient, but staging a game show in a jungle or a kitchen or a burned-out warehouse magically de-grays the demos. So why don't I follow Game Show Newsnet and cover those series as if they were just game shows relocated to some silly locale? Cash Cab puts people in a taxi with some cheesy lights in the roof, after all.

All I can plead is personal preference. I get bored with the trappings of Survivor and other reality series. I like plain competition served up straight in a studio, or what amounts to a studio. Forget the exotic locales and the personal back-and-forth between the contestants. All that stuff just doesn't interest me.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


As Improv-a-Ganza lurches from one embarrassing ratings low to another, the GSN Schedule board ponders What Went Wrong. I chip in some unhappy thoughts...

Other poster: One of these past few days, I think I remember seeing an advertisement on GSN for "Improv-A-Ganza with Special Guest Host Charlie Sheen - Completely Uncut".

BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis tweeted something about the late night reruns getting raunchier than the 8:00PM first-run. I mostly snoozed through the one episode I had to watch for the review on the blog. So I haven't endured much more of Improv-a-Ganza at any time. Caught a few other bits and pieces, but they just seemed long and slow and often not very funny.

Even Ryan Stiles concedes that the pace on Improv-a-Ganza creaks compared to Whose Line: "...there's only three or four scenes per show, because we like to see these scenes play out. On Whose Line we had six, seven, eight scenes per show, so everything was pretty quick."

No kidding, Ryan. It's obvious that GSN didn't have enough funny footage, so they let the skits dawdle on forever to fill time. There must have been some genuine panic to produce that two-week delay from the original debut date of March 28. I assume some re-editing happened, but it was too little, too late.

Incredibly, Alex Davis gave this show a glowing review. I should have known better after Alex fell for the putrid puppets on Late Night Liars. But the guys at Game Show Newsnet also gave Improv-a-Ganza a "B". There are some real easy graders out there.

UPDATE: Alex Davis responded to my criticism. My reply...

Alex: If I'm a PR guru for GSN and getting paid off for them I'd first love to know where my paychecks are and why I maybe talk to them once, maybe twice a year and it doesn't tend to be overly friendly.

I'm not saying you're a PR guy for GSN. But your favorable review of Late Night Liars should have made me more cautious when I saw your enthusiastic review of Improv-a-Ganza.

You did make a caveat in your review: "The tricky part comes if GSN’s core audience will accept it. I hope they do because it is, admittedly, a big gamble for the network. They don’t take risque comedy that well as is evident by the very funny panel game show Late Night Liars."

The delay in Improv-a-Ganza's debut date and the lame bits of footage that emerged before the debut (I didn't see the screener episode) should have made me a lot more skeptical. But I still thought it was more likely that Drew would hit big on GSN. Then I actually saw the show.

I really don't think it's the "risque" nature of the humor, which isn't all that risque to begin with, anyway. Baggage and Newlywed Game are just as risque, and GSN's audience has certainly tolerated them. It's Improv-a-Ganza's overall lack of humor.

If you're going to do a non-game, non-competition comedy show, make sure it's got lots of laughs, briskly paced. Improv-a-Ganza just doesn't have that many laughs, and it's anything but briskly paced, as even Ryan Stiles admits.

As I said in my original review, the show isn't completely unfunny. All that improv talent has to produce some chuckles occasionally. But the pace does lolligag, which kills a show like this. It's easy to flip to another channel when a standup comedy show hits a lull, which Improv-a-Ganza does all too often. There's no competition to generate suspense, so the audience doesn't stay tuned to watch the twists and turns and to see who wins and who loses.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A game show for keeps

Game shows and movies have never mixed very well. Cinema's most pretentious treatment of our little genre, Robert Redford's Quiz Show, got some critical kudos but always seemed overwrought to me. Everybody in the movie played their roles so flipping seriously. I wanted to shout, it's just a game show, people, even if it's rigged!

Yes, the fifties rigging scandals were the genre's closest brush with genuine tragedy. So maybe I'll cut Redford some slack for his solemnity. Now a Dutch moviemaker is planning a less serious approach to game shows. In fact, it's gamers-meet-slashers in the upcoming Quiz by writer-director Dick Maas. (Hm, the title's not far from Redford's.)

The premise in Maas' words: "It’s about a game-show host who has an appointment with his wife and daughter in a restaurant, and he’s there waiting for them at night, and they don’t show up. Suddenly, a strange man appears who claims to have kidnapped his wife and daughter, and says, 'You have one hour to answer 10 questions, and if you answer them correctly, you will see them alive again.'"

Doesn't exactly sound like a folksy Regis quizzer. The story assures us that the movie won't go as gory as Maas' previous efforts "in which bodies and heads are impaled with abandon." As Vlad the Impaler once said, if you gonna impale people, do it with abandon.

Production is scheduled for the summer.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


GSN has bowed to the government's asinine crusade to stop people from playing poker. Or maybe the network just realized High Stakes Poker was overexposed. Either way, the poker pros will get cut back to five hours Saturday night. GSN will also stop carrying Pokerstars advertising. It's so important that people not play poker online with their own money.

Hey, if we let them play poker, next thing you know, people might want freedom from government tyranny. Then we might have a revolution, all Ben Franklin and Sam Adams and whatnot. Okay, I'll get off my libertarian high horse. But jeez louise, who cares if people bet their own money at online poker sites?

The dadgummed guv'mint cares, that's who. Oh well, a cutback in High Stakes Poker was long overdue, anyway. The show has seen its numbers skid since it got splattered all over both weekend nights. In fact, HSP's days may be narrowly numbered at the old-skewing, female-skewing GSN. I always liked High Stakes Poker, thought it was one of the network's best originals. But it's enjoyed a good long run.

SLIGHTLY RELATED UPDATE: In other grim GSN news, Improv-a-Ganza crashed to its lowest first-run ratings ever on Wednesday, an embarrassing 193K viewers at 8:00PM. Sure, American Idol grabbed a lot of viewers in the hour, but this number is horrendous. I guess I don't have to worry about comedy shows taking over GSN.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Syndies mosey along

Not much happening with syndicated game shows in the week ending April 10. Broadcasting & Cable presents the less than pulse-pounding news...

Wheel of Fortune 6.9 - down a tick
Jeopardy 5.9 - down a tick, same as the soulmate
Millionaire 2.5 - flat
Family Feud 2.5 - flat
5th Grader 1.1 - up a tick but who cares any more?
Lyrics 0.9 - down a tick and definitely nobody cares any more

TV by the Numbers is obsessing over cancellation prospects for scripted shows I never watch. If and when they put up their top 25 syndie list, I'll post the viewership averages. Hey, they finally put 'em up: Wheel of Fortune 11.0 million (weekend repeat 5.1 million), Jeopardy 9.1 million, Family Feud 3.6 million, Millionaire 3.4 million.

TVNewser says GSN averaged 250K viewers for total day in the week of the Drew and Wendy debuts. Not a very good number by recent standards. GSN didn't make the top 40 in prime time.

Douglas posted the April 18 5:00PM-12:00AM numbers for GSN. Improv-a-Ganza fell back down to 289K viewers for its first-run and Drew is looking more and more like a dud. Speaking of which, Power of 10 keeps dying at 5:00 PM with 222K viewers. Just pull the plug and shuffle the show off to a single run on weekends.

Love Triangle got 305K viewers for its first-run but tanked hard in the repeats. Overall it was a bad night for GSN, a 261K prime time viewership average. Drew and Wendy ain't performing so swell. GSN is even trying a Vegas trip giveaway to perk up Drew's numbers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When news breaks we break in

My TPiR-indifference kicks in again on the news that George Gray has won the job as the show's announcer. I like George, he did well on syndie Weakest Link. (We'll let Extreme Gong rest in peace.) But the announcer's role is usually not make-or-break on a game show. George will do fine, no doubt, and I'll stay hopelessly indifferent to shopping games in general and to that daytime CBS shopping game in particular.

I'm really late on ABC's cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Live. But I don't watch soaps and ABC isn't replacing them with game shows. So why do I bother to comment? Good question. The replacements, by the way, are a cooking show and a talker.

God and game shows, an unbeatable combination. Just as Newlywed Game's Sherri Shepherd tells us that she's a "Jesus groupie," a dourer columnist assures us that the Almighty couldn't care less about game shows. The "groupie" comment sounds vaguely creepy, and I won't speculate about God's interest in whether Watson beats Jennings.

I'm really tired of Bob Barker and his elephant. The former game show host and object of numerous lawsuits is lobbying the city of Edmonton, Canada to ship their zoo's elephant Lucy to a more pleasant climate. The mayor of Edmonton is firing back, telling Barker to get a job and stop bothering everybody. The elephant is quite elderly by pachyderm standards, anyway, so I figure the dispute will soon be moot.

There's some good ratings news for Drew Carey and his improv troupe on GSN. Improv-a-Ganza bounced back to a respectable 420K viewers for its first-run last Friday. That looks to have been GSN's top-rated show for the day. Wendy Williams' Love Triangle garnered 330K viewers for its first-run. Overall, GSN averaged 329K for prime time and 294K for the entire 5:00PM-12:00AM window.

Power of 10 is croaking at 5:00PM, down to 188K viewers. And Love Triangle cannot withstand three runs a day. By its final 11:30PM run, the show got an embarrassing 150K viewers.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Let's play make-a-schedule

The GSN Schedule board is happily at work fixing things for better numbers. I couldn't resist a try myself...

Other poster:
5:00PM Power of 10
6:00PM Newlywed Game
6:30PM Baggage
7:00PM Deal or No Deal
8:00PM Improv-a-Ganza
8:30PM Love Triangle
9:00PM Family Feud
9:30PM Family Feud
10:00PM - Midnight rerun of TNG, Baggage, Love Triangle, and Improv.

I don't know how long Power of 10 can last at 5:00. Its numbers are soft and getting softer, down to 263K on Thursday. With so few episodes, how low will it go under such ridiculous rerun abuse? Maybe it's time to bring back Alfonso and Carrie Ann, or syndie Deal or No Deal.

I agree with putting Jerry back at 6:30 and Howie back at 7:00. I would move the Feud duo back to 8:00, the Sherri/Jerry repeats back to 9:00 and Drew/Wendy to 10:00.

I dunno about 11:00. Don't want to rerun-abuse Howie too much. Maybe Regis Millionaire? Why not, GSN is hardly using it now and the show usually gets respectable numbers. So my idea...

5:00PM Catch 21
5:30PM Syndie Deal or Carrie Ann's 1 vs. 100
6:00PM Newlywed Game
6:30PM Baggage
7:00PM Network Deal or No Deal
8:00PM Karn Family Feud
8:30PM O'Hurley Family Feud
9:00PM Newlywed Game
9:30PM Baggage
10:00PM Improv-a-Ganza
10:30PM Love Triangle
11:00PM Regis Millionaire

In other words, I would have gone gentle on the old schedule and just put the new shows at 10:00. They probably belong in a later slot, anyway. I'd also forget about Power of 10 except maybe for a weekend slot, much like the similar short run of Million Dollar Password.

It's important to remember that GSN's new 5:00PM-12:00AM schedule isn't a complete bust, with an okay 308K average on Thursday. But that average was mostly due to old soldiers like Sherri and O'Hurley. Why not put them back to where they had success in the past?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

GSN new show number-palooza

Douglas keeps pumping out the numbers on GSN's new shows, and I keep chattering about them on the GSN Schedule board. I ramble on about the ratings for the new schedule and what they mean for the network, the world, and western civilization as we know it.

Things got even worse for Drew on Thursday night, as Douglas just posted the viewer numbers...

5:00 Power of 10 263K
6:00 Newlywed Game 341K
6:30 Newlywed Game 382K
7:00 Love Triangle 306K
7:30 Baggage 282K
8:00 Improv-a-Ganza 279K
8:30 Baggage 264K
9:00 Love Triangle 381K
9:30 Newlywed Game 450K
10:00 Family Feud 293K
10:30 Family Feud 374K
11:00 Improv-a-Ganza 278K
11:30 Love Triangle 161K

Wendy's repeat at 9:00 PM did good business, a lot better than Drew and even her own first-run. Except for that 9:00 PM repeat, the rerun-abused Karn/O'Hurley combo did as good or better than Wendy and Drew. I can see why GSN kept the Feud duo in prime time as a hedge against the new stuff bombing.

Admittedly, that little show on Fox at 8:00 PM Thursday sopped up a lot of the viewing audience. The 11:00 PM hour looked particularly bad compared to Howie's old numbers. Overall, GSN posted a 340K prime time average and a 308K average for the entire 5:00 PM - 12:00 AM window. Not the best but not horrible. Sherri produced decent numbers everywhere.

Improv-a-Ganza was delayed for two weeks. Somebody (GSN President David Goldhill himself?) must have looked at the first episodes and wondered, is this really very good?

Much as I dislike the endless chitchat - I've never been a huge talk show fan - Wendy's show could be a keeper. Alex Davis' sources may have been serious about her outperforming expectations. She's gotten some decent numbers, though Love Triangle is hardly a runaway hit. At least she's not bombing completely, which GSN may have feared.

Love Triangle looks slightly like a game show, unlike the entirely off-genre Improv-a-Ganza. Maybe GSN should remember that game show fans watch this network. Comedy fans watch Comedy Central or TBS.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday funnies

When it's not tracking mergers and acquisitions, the Wall Street Journal dissects game shows. Or at least it reviews the upcoming Game of Life on Hub. The review sighs for the good old days before computer graphics imagery, when the entire set would have to be built with old-fashioned non-virtual stuff. Nowadays Game of Life will rely heavily on cybernetic whizbangery to save money.

Tim Gunn will guest host on Millionaire next week. Meredith often takes a break from the quizzer, but maybe her possible exit from Today will change things. Have to admit I'm not too familiar with Mr. Gunn, mostly because I don't hang out much with Lifetime Television. From what I read, though, I'm sure the fashion guru will be well dressed.

BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis is tweeting that GSN's Improv-a-Ganza has fallen short of ratings expectations, while Love Triangle is beating its expectations. Not sure know what this means, if anything. I assume expectations were sky-high for Drew and rock-bottom for Wendy. So maybe both shows are just doing so-so. We'll get the first read on GSN's averages for the new schedule next Tuesday from TVNewser.

And Paul Reiser is getting panned for his new sitcom, which includes a game-show-within-the-show. Mark Burnett even shows up, though without any comments on the Our Little Genius rigging hoohah. Many eons ago, Jackie Gleason's Honeymooners included Beat the Clock in an episode. You can still watch the entertaining results on YouTube.

UPDATE: Old friend Douglas has posted the Monday through Wednesday ratings for GSN's new shows, and they don't look that great. After respectable starts, Improv-a-Ganza and Love Triangle tumbled to 364K and 316K viewers, respectively, by Wednesday.

Given the endless promotion and hype, these are disappointing numbers. GSN's well-worn Richard Karn and John O'Hurley versions of Family Feud could probably do the same without breaking much of a sweat. Maybe GSN might get back to game shows for a change.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wiped out news

A while back Britain's sometimes accurate Guardian newspaper reported that ABC's stunt game Wipeout would be syndicated or sold to cable. The story's phrasing was hard to decipher, as is often the case with the Guardian.

Turns out the newspaper knew what it was vaguely talking about. Wipeout will turn up on truTV, the reality-based successor to stodgy old Court TV. The craziness is a natural for the channel, which specializes in people getting splattered, tossed around, rehabbed, and/or busted. The story says truTV is paying for exclusive tough luck, GSN.

In not-so-positive news for the show, co-host Jill Wagner is leaving for less ballsy opportunities in acting. She told TV Guide (does it still exist?) that she's "very passionate" about her acting career. That's nice, but won't she be bored when nobody bounces off balls on the set?

I've grumped before that Wipeout isn't exactly my cup of tea, maybe because the show takes such obvious delight in people crashing and bashing. But it's a harmless way to pass an hour.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


As anybody who reads this blog (and there must be at least two of you) knows by now, I'm not happy that GSN is doing talk and comedy and anything except real games. The most obvious example is Drew Carey's Improv-a-Ganza, and I finally watched it tonight. I tried to be as impartial as I could, but I honestly was not that impressed.

Most reviews I've seen have dumped on the show's slowness, and I can't disagree. The set-ups and personnel are pure Whose Line, but the pacing is not. The skits ramble on for too long, deadening the humor even for the well-lubricated Vegas audience.

That said, Improv-a-Ganza offers occasional touches of genuine funny. With all the improv talent assembled onstage, the show couldn't be entirely humorless. But the segments do tend to run on and on and eventually into the ground. I don't know if GSN simply didn't have enough footage for forty episodes, but Improv-a-Ganza sure thins the laughs out.

At least the show will always have nostalgia value for Whose Line fans. Hey, there's Chip! And Ryan! And Colin! Improv-a-Ganza is not an embarrassment or a disaster. It's just kind of slow and meandering and often not all that funny.

Syndies get Nielsen gift

For the week ending April 3, Nielsen made a change in its syndication ratings. You can read the Broadcasting & Cable story for the gory details. Basically, the new ratings make everybody look better. So syndicated game shows all showed nice jumps, none more so than Family Feud. The glad tidings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.0 - up five ticks
Jeopardy 6.0 - up a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.5 - also up a couple ticks, everybody's happy!
Family Feud 2.5 - up a whopping eight ticks, some are even happier than others!
5th Grader 1.0 - up a couple ticks even if it's on the way out
Lyrics 1.0 - up three ticks but also gone

The syndies wish Nielsen could give them such a present every week. TV by the Numbers hasn't posted its top 25 list yet. They've been very late with it for several weeks now. If and when they post the list, I'll provide the viewership averages.

The site finally got around to the syndies. Thanks to the new Nielsen ratings, Family Feud made the top 25 list for the first time, slipping just ahead of Millionaire. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.2 million, Jeopardy 9.3 million, Family Feud 3.8 million, Millionaire 3.5 million. All four look healthy, so syndicated game shows aren't dead yet despite a couple of upcoming losses.

In the last week (April 4-10) before Drew and Wendy premiered, TVNewser reports that GSN racked up 336K/265K viewership averages for prime time/total day. Nothing special by recent standards. Next week's numbers with Improv-a-Ganza and Love Triangle should be very interesting, as Arte Johnson used to say.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Talk and talk and talk about it

Just watched the debut of Love Triangle, a game-or-something show on GSN. To be fair, there is a tiny amount of what might be called gameplay at the end. Unfortunately, we have long, long interviews with the "contestants" before the sort-of-fun begins.

The premise is that somebody has to choose between two lovers. In the debut it was a fifty-something guy choosing between his twenty-something girlfriend and his forty-something lady friend. To kill the suspense, I'll reveal that he went for younger flesh.

But we first had to endure endless chitchat about money, sex, lifestyles, travel expenses, handbags, cleaning ladies, houses, jobs, and God knows what else. They finally hooked the ladies up to lie detectors in what was the show's only mildly interesting segment, though it was obviously "borrowed" from Moment of Truth. After the polygraph did its thing, the guy made his choice.

Not that I cared by then. I'm not sure if he cared by then. At least host Wendy Williams wasn't too loud or intrusive.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eve of destruction

Yes, the title is too melodramatic but who can resist a Barry McGuire reference? As you might guess from the accompanying screenshot, I'm talking about tomorrow's debut of Improv-a-Ganza on GSN. Some game show bloggers have insisted they don't care about GSN running this non-game, non-competition, non-everything standup comedy show.

Apparently, Improv-a-Ganza is okay on GSN because, gee, Drew Carey does that little game show on CBS. Well, Liz Taylor once showed up on What's My Line. Maybe GSN can start running Cleopatra and National Velvet. They're game shows just as much as Improv-a-Ganza is.

I know I'm being a persnickety purist. But lots of whiners on the GSN boards and in the blogosphere scream bloody murder when GSN tries competition reality shows, or even poker. But they're giving this completely off-genre comedy show a pass. Just because it's a remake of Whose Line doesn't mean the show has any business running on a supposedly game show network. It's not a game. It's not within a zillion light-years of being a game.

GSN will probably get very nice numbers for the show. Then they'll do more comedy shows. Then they'll forget what those network initials once stood for. And then I hope everybody will be happy.

And that's my grumpiness for today. Tomorrow I'll post a review of the debut and I'll try to be as objective as I can.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What's My Line was in color, too

I've always had a soft spot for the color syndie version of What's My Line that ran from 1968 to 1975. They loosened the format a bit and de-stuffed the proceedings without bastardizing the show. Wally Bruner and Larry Blyden hosted more than competently. From a recent exchange on the GSN Classics board...

Other poster: I know for a fact that Wally himself was the mystery guest on at least one episode of the Wally Bruner version of What's My Line. If he was not the last, then I apologize. I could have sworn he was. I know I have seen an episode of What's My Line where Wally was the mystery guest while he was still hosting.

You can watch Wally Bruner as the mystery guest on the Blyden version of What's My Line here. Arlene Francis is on the panel and eventually guesses Wally as time runs out.

And you can watch Wally as the mystery guest on his own version here. Arlene is again on the panel, just as she was for John Daly's appearance as his own mystery guest. At one point Arlene actually wonders if Daly has returned as the guest, but nobody guesses Wally.

Funny how the color clips seem so much more recent than the B&W What's My Line clips, even though they're almost as old as the final seasons of the black-and-white show. A little color makes a big difference.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bowzer wowser

A blurb on a local New England website for Jon "Bowzer" Bauman's stage show brought back some game show memories. Not all the memories are fond ones.

Bauman hosted the Hollywood Squares half of the ill-fated Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour of the early 1980s. The show never really worked and only lasted one season. Plastering together two very different formats seemed creaky and odd, and Bauman was not the most engaging game show host to begin with.

Gene Rayburn returned for the Match Game half of the show, and he never looked comfortable in the surroundings, either. Legend has it that Rayburn and Bauman didn't get along very well, but I've never seen any real evidence for that rumor. Sounds like a story that would spread about a failed project, with or without any basis in fact.

Bit and pieces of the show are available on YouTube. The Squares half suffers from a lack of scripting for the celebs. Producer Mark Goodson forbade the scripting because he was so sensitive about any hint of rigging, but the practice is essential to make Squares work. Otherwise, the celebs just natter on aimlessly, as the YouTube clips often reveal.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lingo tweaks and twists

Said I would look for a review of the Lingo tapings with Bill Engvall, and I'm true to my word. The sometimes reliable Hollywood Junket has posted their account of the tapings. They weren't overly impressed, citing a "lack of enthusiasm" from both the host and the contestants.

Swell. The review also says that Engvall flies solo with no female co-host, similar to Chuck Woolery's effort during the first two seasons. Is GSN that cheap or is Drew sopping up too much of the budget?

Gameplay has been tweaked a bit, with Engvall giving clues to the five-letter words. One contestant tried "penis" in response to "it comes with cream." Hey, the show might need all the humor it can get.

There are also three rounds in the front game with increasing dollar values, plus prize balls to go along with the stoppers. The bonus round now runs through five puzzles in sixty seconds, with front-game winnings doubling on each solve. Nail all five and you win a hundred grand. Hm, maybe that's where the money for the co-host went.

No clues in the bonus round, though. Let's just hope the tweaks work. Lingo is only GSN's best original ever and that includes everything.

Syndies: Wheel spins down

Syndicated game shows generally did okay in the week ending March 27. But that version of hangman with the big wheel tumbled quite a bit. Broadcasting & Cable presents the numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - down a nasty seven ticks
Jeopardy 5.8 - up three ticks
Millionaire 2.3 - flat
Family Feud 1.7 - flat
5th Grader 0.8 - down a tick to a new low on its way out
Lyrics 0.7 - flat as the long good-bye continues

TVNewser reports that GSN endured a so-so week for March 28-April 3, with 310K/260K viewership averages in prime time/total day. The network placed 39th among ad-supported cablers in both categories. Power of 10 certainly doesn't seem to have helped the numbers any.

Whenever TV by the Numbers posts the syndie viewer numbers, I'll let you know. Yippee, they finally got around to them. Obsessing over Chuck's renewal prospects must leave little time for mundane syndies on the site. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.5 million (weekend repeat 4.0 million), Jeopardy 9.1 million, Millionaire 3.3 million. Wheel's numbers are noticeably softer than usual.

No tomorrow on Today for Meredith?

Let's resist wordplay with "final answer." But we might see the final good-bye for Meredith Vieira on NBC's Today. She will apparently stay on at Millionaire, though.

Meredith is facing some real family problems, which I can only sympathize with. But I have to be honest and say she's never been a great fave of mine. Just seems a little too chilly and android-ish to me. Okay, maybe I'm too influenced by Regis' folksy everyman act on the old network Millionaire.

Syndie Millionaire's big remake this season hasn't earned any real ratings gains. But the show has kept its comfortable third position among syndie gamers and regularly draws over three million viewers. That's way behind the twin towers, of course, but plenty good enough to keep the show around.

Meredith deserves at least some credit for the franchise's long run. I hope her family issues take a turn for the better.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Errata and addenda

Just love those big Latin words in blog titles. First erratum concerns a post of mine about Clue, the new show coming to the Hub. Apparently this is not a game show but just a ensemble-cast mystery effort. I still don't know if anybody will play Mr. Boddy.

In the addendum department, the Substitute-ing MTV is also rolling out Money from Strangers, a game-reality hybrid where comedians convince unwitting contestants to pull pranks. Hope nobody pulls a muscle during the pranks.

Another addition to a previous item: Lingo started taping the new season with Bill Engvall today in L.A. Maybe a review from somebody in the audience will pop up somewhere on the web. I'll keep looking around and about for any news. Hope the new season succeeds, though I wish Chuck hadn't gotten axed just because of his age.

And this summer ABC will debut Take the Money and Run, another apparent game-reality hybrid. We just have to haul the contestants out of the studio nowadays. Make things more "real," don't you know.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


CBS is looking at a pilot called Secret Fortune, which is more or less Deal or No Deal with envelopes instead of suitcases. The Beeb already has a version up and running in the mother country, as the picture demonstrates. The envelope in the screenshot turns out to be a four-thousand-pound number, not overly huge. (That's pounds as in British currency, not weight.)

Eventually all but one of the twenty-four envelopes is tossed aside, and the remaining amount goes to the lucky or unlucky contestants. Sound familiar, Howie? Sadly, no hot-looking models show up onstage. American Idol's Nigel Lythgoe is developing the CBS pilot.

In a somewhat related item, TV Guide speculates that ABC may ax two long-running and long-suffering soap operas, All My Children and One Life To Live. The note talks about a possible "reality show" (a.k.a. game show) replacing one of the imperiled sudsers. CBS looked at a Pyramid pilot when the network dumped As The World Turns last year. But the talk show with Les Moonves' wife predictably got the nod instead.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B&W laughs

Sometimes not even an April Fools joke is enough to brighten a soggy day. But YouTube provides some black-and-white game show clips I can always rely on for at least a small smile.

Like this clip of Ed Sullivan channeling the GEICO cavemen several decades before their time. Sullivan was not noted for humor, but this 1958 appearance on What's My Line has even the YouTube commenters laughing. The stiff-as-a-starched-board Sullivan dons a caveman mask for his mystery guest segment. And the caveman looks like he just woke up from a very rough Saturday night.

A little sadly, many of the YouTube comments predictably trash current TV in favor of a "golden age" that never existed except in the memoirs of old TV personalities. But the clip remains unspoiled and can lighten the most depressing day. Another What's My Line goody from 1958 is this mystery guest turn by Steve Allen, formerly a regular panelist on the show. Steve cracks wise in a memorable falsetto: Is the show named after you? It wasn't named before me!

Not to ignore the civvie guests, this 1963 I've Got A Secret segment brings on Milton Larson, the last person living in Ironton, Colorado. The amiable elderly gentleman always answers "yes" even when a "no" answer is appropriate. Henry Morgan, subbing for regular host Garry Moore, tries to keep Mr. Larson on the straight-and-narrow but eventually gives up: I know when I'm beat. The next five answers are yes!

And we shouldn't ignore even our animal friends. I've Got a Secret liked stunts with the critters but this 1959 segment ends with some unexpected bovine defecation. The joys of live TV. The cow even kicks a bucket as she poops her way off stage. Next week she returns to the show with a much more restrained performance.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Casey Abell to host Wheel of Fortune

About time they got rid of Sajak. I mean, this guy's been around since the Athens-Sparta Super Bowl.

I'm making a few changes. Vanna's gonna wear shorts. What's the use of having legs like that if nobody can see 'em? The new announcer will be Drew Carey, but only if he gains back the weight. I don't want an announcer who's skinnier than me.

We're gonna do some Latin puzzles because I really want to screw up the contestants. I figure "Veni, Vidi, Vici" should be a real doozy. Whoever picks "V", anyway?

Speaking of V, has that thing on ABC been cancelled yet? Put it out if its misery, please.

Oh, back to Wheel. I've been thinking about squaring the circle. Literally. I'll have the contestants spin a square thing, just to get something new into a show that's older than Everest.

And I'm getting rid of the chitchat with Vanna at the end of the show. We know she can say "bye."