Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Saturday bloody Saturday

Two broadcast networks, ABC and NBC, put on game show reruns last Saturday night. It was Saturday, it was a holiday weekend, so why not fill a few hours with penny-pinching retreads?

With the somber image of Arthur Charles Nielsen staring at us, the game shows - Wipeout and Minute To Win It - got about the same (small) numbers as most everything else on the night. Wipeout even topped the 18-49 ratings for a half-hour.

The broadcast nets long ago gave up on Saturday night. They never waste expensive scripted shows there, because the ratings just don't justify the dollars. Game shows remain blessedly cheap, so they make natural Saturday fodder. I wonder if there's a trend a-comin'.

As a game show fanatic, I like any extra exposure our little genre can get. Cheap is good for the broadcasters on a night when cheap is essential. And low cost has always been a built-in advantage for game shows. So let 'em rip on Saturday. You can even try some first-runs instead of reruns.

Odd note: Google tells me that A.C. Nielsen was elected to the tennis hall of fame. Wouldn't you know, tennis rarely gets good ratings on TV any more.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Peeved at the wheel

An emphatic comment on the GSN General board rips the good-old-days folks who grump about the current Wheel of Fortune. The GSN boards attract a lot of nostalgia mavens who find little or nothing good in game shows produced after 4 B.C. (slight exaggeration).

I'm generally with the anti-nostalgia poster on this one. I like the current Wheel with its quicker pace and more puzzles. If the idea is play a game, why not play more games at a sharper gallop? I do disagree with the poster when he slams the tossups. Those quickies contribute to the pace and get more puzzles into the show. The lack of returning champions, another of his gripes, means nothing to me.

As for his fond memories of Chuck and Susan, sorry, but I have to confess that I can barely remember them. Nothing against their predecessors, but "Pat and Vanna" have pretty much gone into the language as a synonym for the show, and deservedly so in my opinion.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ripe bananas

On a news-free Sunday let’s watch my all-time favorite clip from my all-time favorite game show, Match Game 1973-82. This "bananas" clip has become almost legendary among us aficionados. Early on Allen Ludden warns: "This show's bananas." Everybody then proves the point. Insanity takes over.

Amid the loony rubble there's a nice bit of gameplay, as the civvie cops the five grand prize. That's 1975 money, or about twenty grand today. But the "silly" gameplay, to use Gene Rayburn's own term, is never the point. Instead, cast and crew improvise inspired comedy. Even the guys in the booth chip in some unusual belly-dancing music.

After GSN's lame try at improv with Drew Carey and his bunch, it's a relief to see the masters at work. Richard Dawson is already turning a little moody by 1975, but the other crazies pick up the slack. At least Richard helps the civvie win the big money.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wiki wacky

I once yelped that Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that any fool can edit and many fools (like me) do edit, doesn’t seem to like game shows. Several game-show-related articles have gone bye-bye for little or no reason, as a thread on the GSN General board notes. Some of my whines on the issue...

Other poster: I've thought about vandalizing GSN's wiki page.

Don't bother. Vandalism is cleaned up almost at once, often by bots. You'll also get banned in a hurry, and the checkusers [Wikipedia editors with sneaky tracking software] will nail you again if you post under another name.

Another poster: [Classic game show guru] Steve Beverly's Wikipedia page was probably deleted at his own free will.

No. The article was "prodded" by an admin named Riana, based on alleged lack of notability. This means somebody hung a notice on the article that deletion was impending. Nobody argued with the notice within seven days, so Riana gave the article the heave-ho. It sure wasn't cut at Beverly's request. Wikipedia almost never dumps an article just because the subject of the article requests it.

By the way, [game show pundit] Matt Ottinger's article got wiped on the second AfD (article for deletion process, which is more formal than "prodding"). The reason was again the alleged lack of notability. I fought the good fight but lost. The first AfD was a no-consensus. I managed to fight that one off but lost the second time around.

Yet another poster: GSN's 50 Greatest also had a page that was deleted too.

The AfD got a delete vote from an editor named Calton. He seems to have it in for game shows. The article was very good by Wikipedia's mostly bad standards. The Internet Archive holds a copy of the article, which I've downloaded.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Financial transaction (updated)

Blogged a while back that DirecTV had sold a 5% stake in GSN to somebody. Turns out that somebody was co-owner Sony, which now owns 40% of our little game show network.

Of course, Sony once owned the whole thing. In fact, Sony launched GSN in 1994 as an outlet for its large library of game shows. After gushing red ink for years GSN almost died in 2000-01. Then Liberty Media (DirecTV's corporate relative - it's complicated) took a 50% stake and brought in a no-nonsense exec named Rich Cronin to clean up the mess.

Cronin got the network into the black before leaving in 2007, succeeded by current boss David Goldhill. Since then Goldhill has launched a major foray into online gaming, which has boosted GSN's value. The general recovery in the ad market hasn't hurt, either. After selling 15% more of GSN to Liberty/DirecTV a couple years ago, Sony must now want some of that online action. So they bought back the 5% stake this year.

Sony's overall results aren't terrific, but it has benefited from GSN's rise in value. Despite the hiccup with Improv-a-Ganza and Love Triangle, GSN should do okay. The cable network still has a pleasant niche of its own, and the online business is prospering.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Internet guide to game shows

Ten things I learned about game shows from Internet boards and sites...

(1) Richard Karn is evil inkarnate (sorry). He threatens us all with The Wrath of Karn (again, sorry). He's just karnfounded awful (stop me before I kill again).

(2) Four hundred billion TV viewers are longing for the 1976 season of Match Game.

(3) Improv-a-Ganza is a laugh riot even if it's not funny. (Okay, it's not a game show, either, yada yada.)

(4) Pyramid is always in development somewhere somehow.

(5) The Cube is so much better than Minute To Win It because it's so much better. And it's British.

(6) The British are so much better than us because they're so much better. Tell George Washington to fuggedaboutit.

(7) Steve Harvey is the greatest thing since bread. Not just sliced bread, all bread.

(8) Old game shows are either useless fossils or the greatest artworks of western civilization. No in-between.

(9) Bob Barker is either a game show hero or human excrement. And there really is no in-between. Not even a demilitarized zone.

(10) This blog came in last in the Reader's Choice Awards. Which proves I don't know the first thing about game shows, much less ten things.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Syndies get a bounce

Let's go again to TVNewsCheck for the quickest numbers on syndicated game shows. The news was mostly good in the week ending May 15...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - up three ticks
Jeopardy 5.6 - outdoes the soulmate by one whole tick, up four ticks
Family Feud 2.4 - Steve inches ahead of Meredith, up a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.3 - flat, and Meredith is supposedly a lock to stay at the show
5th Grader 1.1 - up a tick, if only the demos skewed younger, the show might have survived
Lyrics 0.8 - flat and nothing could have helped its survival prospects

Lately (no pun intended) TV by the Numbers has been taking a week to post the viewership averages. When they post 'em, I'll post 'em. Yippee, they put 'em up: Wheel of Fortune 10.5 million (weekend repeat 3.9 million) and Jeopardy 8.5 million.

Meanwhile, I've been listing the latest GSN ratings in the sidebar as Douglas puts them up at Son of the Bronx. Not much new. The top ten each day are the usual suspects: Sherri, Karn, O'Hurley. Sometimes Chuck, Jerry, Alfonso, and Carrie Ann turn up. Even Wendy gets into the top ten now and then, which gives me the heebie-jeebies. Of course, Drew's Improv-a-Ganza never makes the list. But his Power of 10 sneaks in on weekends sometimes.

Overall, GSN's prime time numbers have fallen off the table thanks to the tedious improvisers. So the network never makes the top 40 in prime time at TVNewser any more. But GSN's total day average of 231K did rank 40th in the week of May 9-15.

One other ratings note: Minute To Win It scored its best numbers in a while last night: 4.3 million viewers and a 1.5 18-49 rating. Of course, it wasn't facing American Idol. The show soon departs from NBC.

Fire in the belly

With another presidential election descending upon us, you'll hear lots of pundit chatter about fire in the belly. That always sounded uncomfortable as hades to me. Flames licking up from my gut? Yeeeeeouch.

Of course, the pundits are only referring to the metaphorical flames of ambition. Our little genre sometimes inspires similar dreams, believe it or not. No, people don't watch Wheel of Fortune all their lives and suddenly want to be President. But they do watch The Price is Right all their lives and want to be...contestants on The Price is Right.

We all need something to get us through the day. And if ambition to appear on a game show makes your motor run, who am I to complain? The family in the linked story may have o.d.-ed on TPiR desire, but I can think of a lot worse ambitions.

The family offers one bit of advice to would-be contestants: "Basically, the louder you are and the more attention you draw to yourself, the better." Sounds right to me, whether you're running for President or trying to be a game show contestant.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

From taxi to standing still

Alex Davis at BuzzerBlog reports that quizzing cabbie Ben Bailey will host Who's Still Standing, NBC's version of the Israeli drop-through-the-floor format. I couldn't find any confirmation, but Ben's new gig would be no surprise. A quick wit and plenty of game show experience make a nice combination.

No word yet on when the show will debut. I blogged before about the format channeling my late, lamented Russian Roulette, so I'm looking forward to NBC's attempt. I'm also a big fan of Cash Cab and its sardonic Emmy-winning host, so my anticipation just ratcheted up a notch.

Ben occasionally shows a softer side when hapless contestants bomb. A little sympathy for the losers never hurts a game show host. Even when the losers disappear through the floor.

UPDATE: Ben confirms his new gig but "can't say too much about it." National security considerations, apparently.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Distaff side

After my posts on Bill Cullen and Henry Morgan, I better attend to the female panelists on I've Got a Secret. After all, I don't want to be accused of sexism. (All right, I don't really care about that.)

Following a shakedown cruise of several months, the show settled on four women as regular panelists through its long 1952-67 run: Faye Emerson, Jayne Meadows, Bess Myerson and Betsy Palmer. The first three are certainly interesting, with some personal ups and downs beyond that little game show. But I was always a Betsy Palmer fan. She was the half-spacey, half-shrewd blonde girl next door, though she was a lot better-looking than most next-door blondes. (Okay, accuse me of sexism.)

Born Patricia Betsy Hrunek in East Chicago, Indiana, Betsy toiled as a modestly successful actress until her big break on IGAS in 1958. She replaced Faye Emerson, who left the show for a Broadway role, and quickly caught on with the established cast members. She clicked as the appealing semi-ingenue foil to the more worldly-wise panelists, though (like others) she had a few problems with Henry Morgan. The show had some fun with Betsy in this segment, where she memorably meets her employer, Mark Goodson.

After I've Got a Secret her career ran mostly downhill until Friday the 13th came along. She only took the Mrs. Voorhees role for some badly needed money. Her honest opinion of the flick: "What a piece of shit! Nobody is ever going to see this piece of crap."

Later Betsy mellowed in her attitude towards the cut-'em-up series. She's also returned now and then to her IGAS roots. She appeared with Steve Allen on the Oxygen version and hosted an I've Got a Secret Christmas marathon on GSN.

Bill and Drew

BuzzerBlog has posted the new GSN schedule pdfs for June (see the sidebar). They show a four-a-day for Bill Engvall's new version of Lingo on weekdays: 3:00PM, 8:00PM (first-run), 11:00PM and 2:00AM. The last three runs lead into new times for Drew Carey's ratings-starved Improv-a-Ganza.

On Saturday Drew's non-comedy dud gets a two-hour marathon at 8:00PM, again with Engvall's Lingo as a lead-in at 7:00PM. My reaction from the GSN Schedule board to all this Engvall/Carey double-teaming...

Other poster: Only one person (the same dude who praised Late Night Losers) gave Improv a good review, and its ratings are awful. I would've thought GSN had some sense to pull the plug on the shows that do poorly.

Agree completely. It's definitely Last Chance Gulch for the boring improvisers at 8:30PM. If they continue destroying the network, they won't last long...just like the putrid puppets expired. GSN is leading into Improv-a-Ganza with new episodes of Baggage and Lingo. If that doesn't work, Drew and his non-comedy troupe are gone.

Sure, the two-hour stretch of Improv-a-Ganza on Saturday night is a bad joke, even worse than most of the jokes they improvise on the show. Have GSN execs seen its latest weekend numbers? But the network has to amortize the production costs somewhere. And they're not doing any business on Saturday night, anyway. Maybe they're hoping for a rescue from the Engvall lead-in at 7:00PM.

GSN is relying on Bill to bail out Drew all over the schedule. But that may be too heavy a load, even after Mr. Carey's diet. At least Engvall has some good gameplay going for his show.

RELATED UPDATE: Douglas just posted GSN's numbers for last Tuesday, May 17. They show Improv-a-Ganza again crashing and burning at 8:00PM with 197K viewers. The light-on-laughs wreck also wiped out the remainder of the day for the network. This show is a ratings disaster.

The Shakespeare game

This blog avoids high culture whenever possible. In fact, game shows in general are a bracing antidote to the culture vultures. Our little genre usually disdains artistic pretensions and hoity-toity sensitivities (despite some of What's My Line's stuffier features).

So when I saw a reference to Shakespeare in my usual Google News search on "game show," I got a little worried. Oh gee, just what we need, the Bard meets Wheel of Fortune.

Turns out I wasn't far wrong. Only it's The Merchant of Venice meeting a "lurid TV game show called Destiny where Portia, the blonde bimbo presenter, is also the prize." The Royal Shakespeare Theater is staging this, ah, interesting experiment somewhere in England. So at least I don't have to worry about stumbling across it on TV.

Sometimes the Brits ain't better than us, no matter what BuzzerBlog says. What's next, Hamlet dueling Ken Jennings in a medieval Danish version of Jeopardy? Maybe I shouldn't give people ideas.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Full service game show blog

I'm always trying to keep you up-to-date on game show news. I'm also trying to get traffic, and some pictures get more traffic than others. So this item is perfect for both purposes.

The pictured Diana Chiafair Roberts was once a suitcase model for Deal or No Deal. Honest! I looked it up on Google! She was a substitute model during season three. Diana married Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts in 2009, which is why she's in the linked article on the hottest baseball WAGs. To state the obvious, she deserves her place in the article.

Some second basemen get lucky, and I'm not talking about a good hop on a grounder. Wouldn't you know, Brian Roberts is currently on the disabled list with concussion symptoms. At least he has some comfort at home.

Pyramid scheme

The news about TBS's Pyramid development project got me blabbing at About.com. Some of my bloviations...

Chad Mosher: 6 in 20 [on Donny Osmond's syndie Pyramid] also made perfect rounds much rarer. The focus of the game shifted from "craft 7 great clues in 30 seconds" to "spit out 6 clues as fast as you can." That’s not what Pyramid should really be about.

Guess I didn’t get the memo. I thought Pyramid was exactly about "spitting out clues as fast as you can." At least that’s what the contestants did on every version I’ve seen. There sure weren’t any Millionaire-style half-hour thinks. Not with the clock ticking loudly.

After all, Pyramid is just Password with everything made into the lightning round (and an obvious relaxation of the rules to allow for the speedup). If speed isn’t of the essence in Pyramid, I don’t know what is.

6 in 20 just heightens the challenge, which is fine with me. Pyramid is a freaking fast, difficult game. That’s why I like it so much.

Oh, one other thing. The time format has bounced around over Pyramid’s history. According to Wikipedia (usual caveats) the original limit on CBS was 8 in 30. This was then relaxed on ABC to 7 in 30. For the kid version the limit was further relaxed to 7 in 35. Then Donnymid tightened to 6 in 20.

The recent CBS pilot used 7 in 30. Don’t know what TBS will settle on, if the show ever gets to air. You know, 8 in 30 seems intriguing to me. I like getting the average per-item allowance down under four seconds, but the longer overall time period is also nice.

Ah, we’ll see.

Other poster: Two things just didn’t work with Donnymid–the host (I think he would have been capable, but he needed to watch a bunch of Bill Cullen shows to see how its done) and the too strict rules (ooh, sorry you said football players, not football positions…you lose).

We’ll just have to agree to disagree on Donny. I agree with the Emmy nominators [who gave him a nom for Best Game Show Host in 2003].

As for the rules, yeah, they’ve always been controversial on every version of Pyramid. Last Friday night (actually Saturday morning) I was watching the old Dick Clark 25K Pyramid on GSN.

Henry Polic played brilliantly in the first Winner’s Circle, taking the civvie contestant all the way to the top. Then on the final clue he got buzzed for that $%&^#@! prepositional phrase rule, losing all his hard work. I wanted to gag.

But Pyramid is a tough game. And I sure wouldn’t want to judge it, because of the crushing time pressure.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Syndies splattered

Lord knows GSN is having problems with Drew and Wendy, but syndicated game shows also seem to have caught the lower-ratings bug. For a change I'll go to TVNewsCheck for the grim news in the week ending May 8...

Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - down three ticks
Jeopardy 5.2 - down five ticks in sympathy with the soulmate
Millionaire 2.3 - down a couple ticks
Family Feud 2.2 - down a tick
5th Grader 1.0 - down a tick, do the drops ever end?
Lyrics 0.8 - flat, the drops end but nobody cares

TV by the Numbers finally listed the viewership averages for the week ending May 1. But who knows when they'll bother with the averages for the latest week. If they put 'em up, I'll post 'em here.

UPDATE: They're finally up: Wheel of Fortune 10.0 million (weekend repeat 4.2 million) and Jeopardy 8.1 million.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Improv kills

Improv-a-Ganza, GSN's non-comedy epic, is destroying everything in its path, including GSN. The horrible truth from a post of mine on the GSN Schedule board...

Douglas just posted GSN's Saturday May 14 numbers. Drew's run at 2:00PM wiped out with 148K viewers. Wendy crudded out to 166K in prime time. The woeful averages: 209K/233K prime time/total day. But there were some good performers in the top ten for the day...

12:00PM Million Dollar Password 458
1:00PM Power of 10 347
11:30AM Catch 21 331
9:30AM Whammy! 322
10:00AM Chain Reaction 299
11:00AM Newlywed Game 296
10:30AM Family Feud 294
6:00PM Catch 21 289
3:30PM Family Feud 282
4:00PM Newlywed Game 275

Drew does okay with his other show! And look at Whammy. And Regis. Did I mention that GSN should make some new eps of Chain Reaction? All the shows from 9:30AM up until the Improv-a-Ganza disaster at 2:00PM performed well - they made up the entire top seven for the day. Then the painful non-comedy show just killed everything. The day never recovered from the crash.

Improv-a-Ganza has developed into the second Late Night Liars. It nukes everything for miles around.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Inbox

The picture reminds me of the ancient days - my ancient self can remember them - when people had actual, physical, non-virtual inboxes on their desks. Those were the days, my friend...and boy, did they ever end. Nowadays electronic inboxes dominate our lives.

In particular, my e-mail inbox gets press releases now and then from folks in the game show business. At first, I could hardly believe it. My little blog that maybe five people read is getting real live press releases from real live game show people?

It's even better when the release has EMBARGOED stamped on it, which means something really, really bad will happen to me if I post the news before whenever I should. Wow, this is like being in on secret agent spy stuff and all!

Okay, I'm exaggerating a tad. Anyway, I hope the releases keep coming. It's an easy way to keep up on the news. And it makes me feel, well, not important but at least noticed once in a long while.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday snippets

At about.com Carrie Grosvenor has some fun with Regis Philbin's not-so-possible appearance on Dancing With the Stars. She wonders about other game show hosts who might compete, and ends up wishing for Pat and Vanna. Carrie doesn't mention him, but of course John O'Hurley of Family Feud sort of "won" the first season on DWTS, though there was a lot of ratings-stoking controversy about the "victory." John can cut a very dashing figure on the dance floor.

My wife is former teacher, so I better note the winner of Jeopardy's first-ever teacher's tournament: Charles Temple, an English teacher at Ocracoke School from Ocracoke, N.C. I love that name "Ocracoke." Looks like a combination vegetable and soft drink. Wikipedia (usual caveats) tells me the town, at the south end of an island off the North Carolina coast, is mostly a tourist trap and the reputed place of pirate Blackbeard's death. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum for Mr. Temple's win.

ABC has rescheduled the debut of 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show. The forcible-ejection epic will now begin June 21 at 9:00PM. The network will give it a special Wipeout lead-in to help (they hope) with The Nielsen Company.

Stock market analysts are not known as big game show fans. But the folks at Morningstar couldn't resist a nod towards The Price is Right. They "came on down" and talked about whether some recent corporate acquisitions were overpriced. They think Microsoft overpaid for Skype, for instance. Speaking of TPiR, I hope Bob Barker doesn't show up at our house and start complaining about how we treat our Labrador Retriever. Every time I look up, the guy is whining about some animal somewhere.

Housekeeping note: I started a new feature in the sidebar, faux tweets. Now and then I'll put up 140 characters or less, and keep the last ten on view. I also posted a picture of our dog because I felt like it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Triangle forebodings

Douglas has unleashed a veritable plethora (rest in peace, Howard) of GSN numbers. See the sidebar for the gory details. Me and the gang at the GSN Schedule board have munched and crunched the data. I've come to a disturbing conclusion: Love Triangle might somehow survive. Enough to scare small children, no? From the board...

Other poster: If my math is correct, Drew and Wendy should see their season (and if GSN has any sense, series) finales on June 3rd. I'd expect significant changes the following week.

I agree that it's hard to see Drew surviving anywhere. His numbers are just godawful. But I have a queasy feeling that GSN may try to keep Wendy around. Now and then she cops a halfway decent number, though it usually depends on a good lead-in from Sherri.

The network might figure that a Sherri/Wendy combo could work someplace. After all, Love Triangle is a kinda sorta semi-hemi-demi-game show, while Improv-a-Ganza has nothing to do with game shows at all.

That personally gives me the shudders. I think Love Triangle is a reeking mess while Improv-a-Ganza is just dull and nondescript. But who cares about me? The bottom line is that Wendy usually outdraws Drew.

But then just about everything usually outdraws Drew.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chuck and critic

At BuzzerBlog Alex Davis has complained lately about the job Chuck Woolery did on Lingo. Of course, Alex can be a useful contrarian indicator for GSN’s audience.

Chuck’s Lingo, for instance, often shows up in GSN’s top ten shows for the day despite Alex’s complaints (and brutal rerun abuse by the network). On the famous other hand, Late Night Liars and Improv-a-Ganza bombed nastily despite Alex’s glowing praise.

But Alex’s comments got me thinking - dangerous, I know - about what a game show host needs to succeed. A few things are obvious: pleasant appearance, listenable voice, ad-libbing ability. Woolery certainly has those, but he also has an everyman quality that helps him wear well with viewers.

Reportedly, Chuck often asked that his flubs be kept in the tape instead of getting edited out. He knew the goofs would keep him from looking like a snooty know-it-all to the audience. I’ve noticed his mistakes on Lingo when he would compliment contestants for a guess, even though it couldn’t be right due to previously eliminated letters.

After a while, Woolery caught on to these goofs and they became less common. But in a weird way he had established his bona fides with the audience as just another guy who was having trouble with a tough word game. Viewers identified.

Alex might say that the flubs just show Woolery was unprepared and lazy. And he’d be partly right. But a lot of viewers at home are lazy, too, so Chuck’s errors didn’t bother them. Just the opposite, if Lingo’s success is any indication.

TECHNICAL UPDATE: Blogger has been up, down, around and about for the last 24 hours or so. My post from Thursday, May 12 on Pawn Games, Spike's new misery-loves-our-camera gamer, has disappeared but may be back sooner or later. At least that's what Blogger says.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pawned out

The pop culture junkosphere is converging in ways that only Nielsen could predict. Mix a batch of good ratings for pawn shop shows with another batch of okay ratings for Repo Games, and you've got Pawn Games on Spike.

The network for XY-chromosome young'uns has greenlighted a pilot for this pawn shop version of their repossession epic. I'll let Spike state the premise as only they can: "...this new series gives unsuspecting people a chance to win back their prized possessions they have just traded for a quick buck. In order to reacquire their goods, the contestant will face a series of questions and challenges, similar to the classic Let’s Make A Deal, utilizing the items found in the pawn shop."

Have I mentioned that I hate the word "utilize"? Just use "use." Anyway, the showrunner is the pictured SallyAnn Salsano, also responsible for defacing the universe with Jersey Shore. Okay, I won't prejudge, as I promised with Bill Engvall's Lingo. Pawn Games sounds like a (would-be) trendier version of LMAD, with the lately popular pawn shop locale tossed in.

Maybe they can lure Rick Harrison to guest on an episode.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday wanderings

For the four people still interested in the Daytime Emmys, the nominations have been released. One large surprise: Todd Newton gets a nom in the game show host category for his work on Hub's Family Game Night. Todd has his fans and his detractors, but this is a very pleasant kudo for him. His fellow nominees are less surprising: Ben Bailey, Wayne Brady and Meredith Vieira.

The game show category nominees couldn't be more predictable: Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, The Price is Right and Cash Cab. As previously announced, Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek will get well-deserved lifetime achievement awards. Wayne Brady will host the telecast on CBS June 19th.

Rumors have abounded for some time, and Family Feud will definitely move to Atlanta this fall. Steve Harvey more or less demanded the relocation. He's boosted the ratings, so he gets his wish. What a long-running franchise! And it all started with a kissing bandit.

Drew Carey will run in the Marine Corps half-marathon this Sunday. Drew's a lot healthier now, and congratulations to him. His comedy show on GSN could use some more robust ratings, though. Improv-a-Ganza is laying an unhealthy egg.

And John O'Hurley gave an interesting interview to a Detroit website. A little hard to believe, but his favorite television gig was hosting the short-lived syndie version of To Tell the Truth. I've seen some of the show, an okay version of the classic but nothing special. John, though, remembers it very fondly: "The celebrity panel I had, the producers I worked with and the stories we were coming up with every week, it was a joy to go to work. I miss it dearly."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Syndies shuffle around

The royal wedding - not my fave event, by the way - might have helped entertainment news shows in syndication. But it didn't do much for syndie gamers. Broadcasting & Cable posts the blah news for the week ending May 1:

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - up a tick
Jeopardy 5.7 - flat, didn't follow the soulmate up
Millionaire 2.5 - up a couple ticks and back into third place
Family Feud 2.3 - down a tick to fourth place
5th Grader 1.1 - flat as it fades into the sunset
Lyrics 0.8 - down two ticks as it fades into a black hole

When TV by the Numbers releases their top 25 list - they've been pretty prompt lately - I'll pass along the viewership averages. Well, they sure aren't prompt this week. In fact, it looks like no list at all will appear. The site is too busy exulting over Chuck's renewal. What's with this little-watched show? Is it 200-proof nerd bait?

Of course, Drew and Wendy are killing GSN's averages. Just one more piece of dismal evidence: Douglas says that Improv-a-Ganza stumbled to 203K viewers for its first-run last Friday, May 5. That's Drew's third-lowest number for an original episode. Love Triangle did even crummier business for its first-run with 196K viewers, Wendy's lowest for a new episode.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Coming attractions

Bill Engvall is bringing a stage show to Reno this Friday. So the Sacramento Bee tossed some softball questions his way. A major topic was GSN's new version of Lingo, due next month.

I've seen the Lingo promos, and the enemy is us. Okay, I don't want to turn sour on a show nobody has seen yet. But the promos give me those Improv-a-Ganza vibes. They've got too much Engvall, they try to be funny and they're not, and they're bothering me. Is this another lame attempt by GSN to morph into Comedy Central?

The Sacramento Bee story makes me even more nervous. Engvall offers: "Plus, there are big laughs in the format and this version is more interactive than previous ones...There's a lot of comedy in what people say in this show and, boy, do they get into the game!"

Uh-oh. Chuck Woolery, discarded from the show because of his age, would drop some humor into Lingo now and then. But he never halted the proceedings for "big laughs" because he realized the gameplay was so strong. I really, really hope Engvall doesn't try to take over the show with alleged comedy.

Yes, I'm unfairly prejudging Engvall. So I'll quiet my nerves and wait for the new version. Not much longer now...

UPDATE: GSN has released a couple clips with Engvall discussing the show. BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis isn't too happy with some of the changes, though he admits: "I didn't think Chuck Woolery was all that great, nor was the old version all that good."

Engvall does commit too much shtick in the clips, but maybe GSN will realize that Lingo's gameplay is more appealing than Engvall's comedy. I'm trying real hard not to prejudge.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Repo me with your best shot

Game show blogger Carrie Grosvenor got introduced to Repo Games, Spike's new repossession game show, by her husband. I got introduced to it by some clips on YouTube. This one, in particular, told me all I needed to know.

I don't want to be uncharitable. But the contestant in the clip wouldn't have given Watson much trouble on Jeopardy. She goofed one gimme question after another. She got Ben Franklin and Bill Clinton mixed up. (Well, they both had active sex lives.) She couldn't pronounce "Japan." She didn't know about Snap, Crackle and Pop in Rice Krispies commercials.

So off went her car. The actual repossession is supposed to make the show edgy and real for the testosterone kids in Spike's audience. But it just made me feel sort of crummy. After all, game shows shouldn't leave contestants worse off than when they started. Game shows are supposed to be fun, aren't they?

The show is competently produced, but I get tired of the shots of the camera crew taping the proceedings. This just looks staged, though it's again intended to make things more "real" (that word again). The hosts are suitably large men who look like they could repo a car or three. Just dodge the bullets when necessary, guys.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Good old Bill

Now that I've sort of eulogized sour old Henry Morgan, I have to mention the unfailingly sunny side of I've Got a Secret, Bill Cullen.

Of course, Cullen has a few other credits in our little genre, maybe a gazillion or so. His lightning-quick wit and Mr. Congeniality persona kept him in demand among game show producers well into the 1980s. Legend has it that Michael Davies even considered him for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in the late 1990s, until he learned that Bill was unfortunately deceased.

But Secret may have been his most pleasant gig. As a panelist he didn't have to worry about the endless technical details of hosting the show. He could just turn up, toss off a few quips, and brighten the stage a bit. In December, 1956 I've Got a Secret honored him with an inspired segment where Garry Moore and Art Linkletter collected junk from the studio audience for "good old Bill."

The blindfolded panel was clueless about what was happening, until the junk was presented to the bemused Mr. Cullen. The show also invited the home audience to send in junk for Bill. The following week they showed some of the proceeds...among almost 150,000 useless items received.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Financial transaction

Our little Game Show Network has lately run into a couple problems named Drew and Wendy. But that doesn't mean GSN is headed for bankruptcy. DirecTV, one of the network's corporate parents, has sold a 5% stake in GSN for $60 million. The transaction values all of the network at $1.2 billion, which seems pretty good for the home of Match Game reruns.

The press release doesn't specify the buyer. Maybe Sony bought back the stake to add to their previous 35% share. Maybe somebody else wanted a slice of the pie. DirecTV says they realized a $25 million pre-tax gain ($16 million after-tax) on the sale, which reduces their ownership of GSN to 60%.

I mentioned Drew and Wendy and, yes, they are problems. Douglas just posted GSN's viewer numbers for Tuesday, May 3. Until Love Triangle and Improv-a-Ganza appeared on the scene, the network was enjoying a very nice day. Sherri Shepherd chipped in 400K+ viewers for each of her Newlywed Game episodes in the 6:00PM hour. Richard Karn's Family Feud did its usual good business with another 400K+ number at 4:30PM. Several other shows tossed in 300K+ contributions.

Then Love Triangle hit at 7:00PM, losing half its lead-in from Sherri. Improv-a-Ganza did about the same dismal number at 8:00PM, and the deadly duo's repeats later in the night really crashed and burned. That dragged down GSN's overall viewership averages for the day to 259K/249K prime time/total day. (Grubby little technical note: the total day number excludes the 8:00AM and 3:00AM hours.)

Sooner or later the $1.2 billion network will get tired of Wendy and Drew screwing things up, and we'll see major cutbacks in their timeslots.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thursday tidbits

Is Monty Hall on Facebook? I don't know, but his signature game show will soon enter the social networking wars. Let's Make a Deal will debut this fall on the site in a format developed by RealNetworks, the folks behind RealPlayer. Will the Facebook zonks get really nasty? Or will dealers live happily and socially-networked ever after?

As a couple of new originals struggle mightily on GSN, I'm reminded of Wink Martindale's disastrous Instant Recall on the network last year. The show died a quick and merciful death, but Wink is fortunately still with us. He will do a good deed by hosting a fundraiser in Thousand Oaks, California for local high school choral programs. The fundraiser has to turn out better than that wretched game show on GSN.

My wife happens to be a distant relative of Philo T. Farnsworth, one of the inventors credited (or debited) with the origin of electronic television. The Farnsworth Invention, a Broadway play about the dispute over exactly who invented the box with pictures, is turning up here and there and recently landed in Boise. Farnworth's only appearance on network TV was a mystery guest turn on I've Got a Secret. None of the panelists had any clue who he was.

GSN Live may be on the way out. The network has released a coy statement about "a new brand, format and schedule for our play-at-home games, which will be introduced in August." Sounds like the end of days for the interstitials, which have steadily diminished in timeslots and personnel.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Modest suggestions

Douglas keeps putting out numbers and they keep getting worse for GSN. The Friday April 29 ratings were really, really bad, which set off howls and whimpers on the GSN Schedule board. My picayune ideas...

The Friday numbers are horrendous, 212K/197K prime time/total day viewership averages. Funny thing, the network was doing kinda okay until 5:00PM. Not great but semi-respectable. Karn Feud got 354K viewers at 4:30PM, Chain Reaction 323K at 2:30PM. But then GSN just fell apart with Drew and Wendy (surprise!) leading the collapse.

Improv-a-Ganza crashed to its worst first-run ever, an embarrassing 183K at 8:00PM. Love Triangle's first-run was almost as bad, 220K at 7:00PM. You don't want to know about the repeats (hint: they averaged 169K). Even Power of 10, which had been holding up relatively well, wasted its good Karn lead-in and got 224K.

You can sense the desperation at GSN as they bash around the schedule. Four suggestions:

1) Get rid of the Drew and Wendy repeats. Just eat the sunk costs.

2) Move the Drew and Wendy first-runs to midnight or 1:00AM. They won't do any business but at least they won't destroy the rest of the schedule. Once the first-runs are finished, forget you ever heard about them, just like Late Night Liars has disappeared down the memory hole.

3) Otherwise, restore the February schedule, which did more than respectable 368K/282K averages for the entire month.

4) Hope that Engvall doesn't crud out like Drew and Wendy.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Syndies: Feud's number three

A little shuffle in the game show ratings for the week ending April 24. Broadcasting & Cable brings the good news for Steve Harvey and company...

Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - down three ticks
Jeopardy 5.7 - down a couple ticks, following the soulmate
Family Feud 2.4 - up a tick into third place
Millionaire 2.3 - down a tick into fourth place
5th Grader 1.1 - up a tick for those still keeping track
Lyrics 1.0 - up a tick and nobody's keeping track

TV by the Numbers is getting very prompt lately with their top 25 syndie list. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.4 million, Jeopardy 8.8 million, Family Feud 3.6 million. To add insult to injury, Meredith slipped out of the list as well as losing third place in the household ratings.

With Improv-a-Ganza and Love Triangle performing badly, GSN crashed out of TVNewser's top 40 cable network list for the week of April 25-May 1. This new schedule just isn't working out. Which is why GSN is again scrambling the lineup beginning May 9. Sherri Shepherd's Newlwywed Game will get five showings every weekday. That's a whole lotta Sherri goin' on.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Like a game show?

Never watch talent contests myself, but NBC's The Voice is getting some good reviews and good ratings. A recurrent theme in the reviews is the "game-showy" nature of the project. Pundits are finally noticing that many competition series are just game shows in drag. Our little genre survives, even if the trappings change a little.

Switching gears to a completely non-game show, Drew Carey's Improv-a-Ganza continues to sputter on GSN. Last Wednesday the show got a measly 251K viewers for its first-run and really crashed in reruns, down to embarrassing 179K and 141K figures. Last Thursday the first-run did even worse with only 215K viewers. Sooner or later the network will have to pull the plug on the repeats, at least. The show just ain't that good or that funny, no matter how much BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis insists to the contrary.

And speaking of GSN, High Stakes Poker has found a new and legal sponsor after the government's asinine crackdown. I still think the show is headed for its finale on the network, which has never been a good demographic fit.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sympathy for Mr. Morgan

As I rummage through I've Got a Secret clips on YouTube, it's hard not to fixate on good old Henry Morgan. The invaluable Richard Carson keeps uploading new doses of the sort of lovable curmudgeon every week. Morgan clearly reveled in his role as the dark side of the show, a perfect counterweight to the endlessly sunny Bill Cullen.

Born Henry Lerner Van Ost, and always irritated by his anglicized stage name, Morgan honed his sarcastic persona in radio during the thirties and forties before crossing over to the box with pictures. He relished his constant run-ins with execs and sponsors and never scrupled to bite the commercial hand that fed him. In his darkest moment he punched his first wife, which really made the suits nervous.

I've Got a Secret was his biggest break and he didn't flub it, helping the show to top ten status in the late 1950s. After Secret finally folded, Morgan took his cantankerous act to magazine columns, talk shows and any other venue that could tolerate him. His 1994 memoir, Here's Morgan! The Original Bad Boy of Broadcasting, veered towards unrelieved bitterness about many of his fellow performers. Always a heavy smoker, Morgan died in May of that year from lung cancer.

Henry could be what's delicately called an acquired taste. Luckily, he wasn't afraid to laugh at himself, which did make his sourness more palatable. At his worst he was plain annoying. At his best he was funny as hell.