Thursday, June 30, 2011

High (or medium) finance

Whenever I post a picture of GSN President David Goldhill, I swear he was separated at birth from baseball's Michael Young. Just a frightening likeness. Right down to the, er, sizable ears.

Anyway, I'm not running the photo just to make fun of Mr. Goldhill's facial features. As anybody can see from my photo on this blog, I've got plenty of facial issues myself. Instead, I saw this interesting MediaPost story on the ownership machinations about our little game show network.

As I posted a while back, Sony recently bought back 5% of GSN from co-owner DirecTV for $60 million, a transaction which valued the entire network at $1.2 billion. The story says that Sony will now have operational control of the network, despite its smaller ownership stake.

Seems a little unusual, and the story explains:
In March, [Sony] paid $60 million to DirecTV for an additional 5% in GSN, increasing its position to 40%. With that, DirecTV also gained the right to force [Sony] to become the new majority owner. [Sony] would have to up its stake to 58% for between $234 million to $288 million, according to a Sony SEC filing.

Using those amounts, depending on earnings, that would give GSN an estimated value of between $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion, over the period of 2012 to 2014. Based on the March deal, the current value of GSN would be $1.2 billion.
The story says that neither Sony nor DirecTV would offer any explanation for these wheelings and dealings. Writer David Goetzl speculates that Sony might want a platform for Internet games based on its extensive library of game shows. Goetzl also says that GSN would benefit from advertisers placing a higher value on older viewers. No kidding.

EVER SO SLIGHTLY RELATED UPDATE: is running a throwdown between ABC Family and GSN. The description of GSN actually mentions horrible memory Late Night Liars. Passers-by are invited to vote for their favorite of the two networks. I abstained. Gotta be objective in my game show punditry (that's a joke, folks).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

No brains, no problem?

With 101 Ways keeping almost all of its debut audience, I can't help wondering if the era of brainless game shows is upon us. Not that I necessarily dislike dumb game shows. Brainlessness can be fun, and not every game show should be a Jeopardy-style test of wits.

Wipeout led the way recently in the low-I.Q. category, but the sub-genre really dates back at least to the ancient Beat the Clock. Stupid human tricks have always been fun to watch for other humans. This is an entertainment business, after all, and if silly stunts entertain, who am I to complain?

I'll admit to preferring quizzers and word games to physical comedy in game shows. I can watch Lingo and Cash Cab every day, but 101 Ways would get old fast for me on a daily diet. But once a week is okay for silliness, even for my stuffy self. Why not relax now and then and enjoy something that won't overload any brain cells?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Syndies do this and that

It was an up-and-down week for syndicated game shows, though nothing changed all that drastically. Broadcasting & Cable recounts the seesaw news for the week ending June 19...

Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - flat, didn't get on the seesaw
Jeopardy 5.1 - up a tick, which is better than down a tick
Family Feud 2.5 - up a couple ticks into undisputed third place
Millionaire 2.2 - down a tick but at least it's still around
5th Grader 1.1 - flat and not around for much longer
Lyrics 0.8 - down a tick and fading to black

You know the drill. When TV by the Numbers posts the viewership averages, I post them here. It's (very) slight fun to predict when the site will post the syndie numbers. I bet on Wednesday. But I could be wrong, as several have noted on other topics.

I missed my bet (duh). Robert Seidman didn't post the averages until Friday. He apologized, though, which really wasn't necessary but was still a nice touch. The numbers: Wheel of Fortune 9.2 million, Jeopardy 7.8 million, Family Feud 3.7 million. Nice showing for Steve Harvey and friends.

GSN didn't crack TV Newser's top 40 cable network list in prime time or total day for the April-June quarter. Improv-a-Ganza and Love Triangle helped make the three months very forgettable for the network.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lust of the eyes

Vanessa Minnillo is replacing Jill Wagner on Wipeout. I'm sure that Vanessa is well-prepared, clever, witty, informative, charming and pleasant. It also helps that she's drop-dead gorgeous.

A few people have noticed that it's good to be pretty if you want to be on camera. Hey, it's a visual medium, right? We don't want the on-air talent looking like the Wicked Witch of the West.

The problem arises when the pretty people obviously don't have anything else to offer except their looks. Then the "eye candy" grumbles start. Game shows aren't immune to this tendency, though actually the genre is hardly TV's worst offender. Nobody would suggest a Miss Universe campaign to Anne Robinson, for instance, and she managed to hang around for a while. Drew Carey was not a thing of beauty, especially before the weight-reduction drugs, but he got Bob Barker's old gig.

Unless a game show host looks like a gargoyle (which won't happen) physical appearance is generally not an overwhelming factor. Bill Cullen was Mr. Average in the looks department, but he could run a show so well, nobody minded. If a show has models, appearance become more important for them, of course. But that's true for models anywhere.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Nothing like an obit (see below) to get me reminiscing. I vaguely remember a radio show called Monitor. This was NBC Radio's dying gasp, one last try at a network show that could stave off the ravages of television.

Monitor managed to stave off the ravages for nearly twenty years, from 1956 to 1975. When I occasionally listened to it as a teenager, my reaction was: wow, old-time radio! Elevator music, guys reading scripts, news on the hour, even that weird "Beacon" sound popping up when least expected.

Eventually the show ran out affiliates in major markets and expired. A news/talk radio guy in Fresno, Dennis Hart, has created a quirky, endearing website for Monitor. A little to my surprise, the site turns into something of a hall of fame for classic game show personalities. There are broadcast clips, often running to an hour or more, from such Monitor hosts as Monty Hall, Henry Morgan, Bill Cullen and Gene Rayburn.

When not monitoring, of course, these gentlemen took time for our little genre. There's even a publicity photo of Arlene Francis (often mentioned on this blog lately) with many other people from the show. In an unmistakable sign of times gone by, Arlene is wearing white gloves.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Just one more thing, sir...

A grim coincidence: I posted the faux tweet about Arlene Francis' death from Alzheimer's just before I learned that Peter Falk had lost his own battle with the disease. Time grinds us all down, he said sententiously. But it's true, it's true.

I was a hopeless Columbo fan back in the day. The reverse-mystery gimmick always fascinated me. We knew whodunit, now what was Columbo up to when he looked at the seemingly random clues? The shows weren't always classics. Sometimes Columbo's targets just couldn't wait to give up, even when the evidence was less than overwhelming.

But if the plotting occasionally wasn't perfect, Falk never failed as the rumpled, unprepossessing lieutenant. His constant pestering of the hapless suspects could get old, but that was part of the shtick.

Peter Falk compiled a modest portfolio of game show appearances: Stump the Stars, Hollywood Squares, I've Got a Secret, and the syndicated What's My Line. Couldn't locate any of his game show clips on the web, but there's some Columbo on YouTube to remember him by.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

GSN schedule conniptions

Some strange things happen with the GSN schedule next week. I offer truly profound thoughts on the GSN boards...

Other poster: 8:30PM Improv-a-Ganza has been given to Lingo, giving Engvall an outrageous 6 airings per day. 9:00PM Love Triangle is gone, and 1 vs 100 (Inaba) replaces it. That's right - 1 vs 100 is back in Primetime. Could this be a test to see how good it performs in primetime reruns for a possible renewal?

A double-run of Improv-a-Ganza at 11:30PM and midnight? Weird. The show usually stinks in late night. Now it will stink twice as bad. Wendy gets cut to one run a day, which probably means she's gone sooner rather than later. I really think Drew is gone, too, but the show is much more expensive so GSN has to run it for a while longer to amortize the costs. Getting shoved to the fringes of the schedule doesn't bode well, though.

The Lingo six-a-day is just ridiculous, but the show has held up to the five-a-day. I have to think that some kind of acquisition is in the works to take some of the pressure off Engvall and company. I dunno about a 1 vs. 100 renewal. I doubt it would work without Saget. But with Saget GSN might have a winner.

Just for good measure GSN also runs Engvall through two-hour marathons at 6:00PM Saturday and 9:00PM Sunday. Stop the brutality!

UPDATE: The rationale for the schedule changes hits you right between the eyes when you look at the June 16 numbers just posted by Douglas. At 8:30PM Improv-a-Ganza wastes half its lead-in from Lingo, and Love Triangle is a complete embarrassment at 9:00PM. Those shows had to go to stop the bleeding in GSN's prime time average. But Drew's new double run at 11:30PM still looks like an approaching disaster. Can either Drew or Wendy last much longer on GSN?

And it's an old story, but Richard Karn's Family Feud pulls 500K+ numbers in the 4:00PM hour, doubling its lead-in and GSN's total day average. How many networks get their biggest audience in the middle of the afternoon?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


A few reviewers on the web have complained about the slow pace of the quizzer segments on 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show. Normally I'm a pace guy myself. I like game shows to move along briskly, and I get antsy when the drama-build wastes too many minutes.

I couldn't take the glacial pace of Million Dollar Money Drop, for instance, and apparently I wasn't alone. Which is why the very sloooooowwwwwwwwwwww quizzer has vanished. And I have to admit the questions and answers don't exactly fly back and forth on 101 Ways.

But there's also a lot more going on than just some money falling down a hole, which was Money Drop's only claim to action. The ejections on 101 Ways keep rolling, flying, launching, exploding, plummeting and screaming along, even if the Q&A isn't rapid-fire. Which is the real point of this brainless show, of course, not answering some silly little questions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Syndies recover a bit

After a forgettable week syndicated game shows bounced back some in the week ending June 12. Broadcasting & Cable offers the somewhat reassuring news...

Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.0 - up a tick, not far behind the soulmate
Millionaire 2.3 - up a tick
Family Feud 2.3 - flat
5th Grader 1.1 - up a tick as the sayonara continues
Lyrics 0.9 - down a tick as darkness closes in (cue ominous music)

TV by the Numbers hasn't posted their top 25 syndie list yet. When they put 'em up, I put 'em up.

And they put 'em up: Wheel of Fortune 9.2 million (weekend repeat 4.3 million), Jeopardy 7.7 million, Family Feud 3.6 million. Meredith must have just missed the charmed circle.

GSN didn't make TVNewser's top 40 cable network list in either prime time or total day, despite some gradual improvement in the network's numbers over the last few days.

UPDATE: 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show debuted with 5.6 million total viewers and a 1.9 18-49 rating. Not bad, not great by summer standards. A little better than Wipeout before it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Emmy schmemmy

Last night’s Daytime Emmys crashed pretty hard in the ratings. I won’t pretend that I’m broken-hearted because I never watch show biz award shows. And I didn’t make an exception last night just because Pat and Alex got honored for their lifetimes.

Nothing against Messrs. Sajak and Trebek. They’ve had very nice lifetimes in our little genre. But there’s only so much self-congratulation I can handle.

The general drift in the limited media comment on the Emmys seems to be regret for the fading soaps. If I had ever been a soap fan, maybe I could sympathize. But again, the decline of the sudsers means little to me, except as a reminder that nothing lasts forever.

Bottom line, would I enjoy Cash Cab any less if Ben Bailey had lost to Meredith Vieira? The rhetorical question answers itself. So why bother with a fading kudofest?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Get Brett

The faux tweet about Charles Nelson Reilly's banana shenanigans (gee, that sounds dirty) reminds me of Charles' old sparring partner on Match Game, Brett Somers. Husky-voiced, sardonic, cynical and witty, Brett first turned up on the Rayburn epic when then-husband Jack Klugman suggested her to the producers. She never left, and now it's hard to think of the show without her.

Born Audrey Johnston in New Brunswick, Brett took her first name from Hemingway's heroine in The Sun Also Rises. Which somehow seems appropriate. Papa probably would have liked Brett. "Somers" was her mother's maiden name. She ran away from home to New York City and began toiling in theater and TV, appearing on such fifties chestnuts as Playhouse 90 and Kraft Television Theater.

The 1970s Match Game remake was by far Brett's biggest break, of course. She proved perfect for its sassy improv comedy. Her punch-ups with Reilly became semi-legendary drama, and she would occasionally appear with Charles on Match Game retrospectives in later years, and in the short-lived 1990 revival. One Match Game regular she couldn't abide was Richard Dawson. She would later describe him as "sexy as a snail."

Often parodied, especially by Robin Quivers, Brett stayed active with personal appearances into the new millennium's first decade. She died in 2007 of stomach and colon cancer. Though Match Game will always remain her signature show, she put together a decent game show resume spanning four decades.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Filthy lucre

What's a game show blogger worth? Less than a pitcher of warm spit. Consider me, for instance.

What's a game show host worth? Well, it depends. The linked story lists this financial pecking order: Alex, a tie between Pat and Drew, and then everybody else way behind. The reporter guesstimates that Trebek pulls down $10 million a year, and Sajak and Carey $8 million. After that he gives up.

Hm, seems a little odd that the lower-rated of the twin towers would have the higher host salary. But Alex doesn't have a female co-host splitting the largesse. I certainly don't begrudge these gentlemen their compensation. Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and The Price is Right all reportedly print money for their happy owners. So the hosts deserve a nice cut.

Maybe Ken Jennings might squawk a little, though. He only got $2.5 million for his winning streak. Alex makes four times that in a year for just reading the questions, er, answers. Halfway seriously, I always thought Wheel of Fortune could afford a little more money for the contestants. There are too many picayune $300 slots on that wheel.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Big blues

Lots of stories popped today about IBM's 100th anniversary. Yes, they've been THINK-ing for a century now, and currently IBM looks pretty good for another hundred years or so. The company ran into a very rough patch in the 1990s, but a determined CEO named Lou Gerstner dug them out of the hole.

Many stories bragged about IBM's Watson triumph on Jeopardy. As the faux tweets noted, I'm completely gassed on Watson stories. But the publicity was certainly worth the processing units for Big Blue.

And the stories taught me a bit about IBM's iconic founders, the Watson father-and-son team who lent their name to the know-it-all gizmo. Seems that Daddy Watson ran into more than a few problems with the feds, who always nursed an antitrust grudge against the company. With so many players in the computer biz nowadays, though, the antitrust ruckus seems to have subsided.

Maybe IBM threatened the government with the wrath of the cybernetic Watson.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lingo's debutante week

The invaluable Douglas has now posted ratings for the first full week (June 6-10) of first-runs for GSN's new version of Lingo with Bill Engvall.

The show was neither a runaway hit nor an abject disaster. On three of the five days (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday) Lingo topped GSN's ratings. Tuesday was its worst showing, though the first-run at 8:00PM did land at number seven on GSN's list for the day. Lingo-phobes could hardly contain their excitement. (Disclaimer: I'm a Lingo fan.)

Friday was the strangest day of all. Engvall and the five-letter bunch didn't make the number one slot. But Lingo did take three of the top ten slots and four of the top fifteen. Go figure...especially because Lingo's other showings besides the 8:00PM first-run hadn't performed particularly well before Friday.

So Lingo friends and foes both have something to talk about from the first week. But BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis should be happy about one thing: Lingo seems to have helped the desperately needy Improv-a-Ganza. Four times in the five days Drew and the tedious improvisers landed in GSN's top ten, thanks to Engvall's lead-ins. That's a major improvement for Drew and gives hope for a renewal. And Alex is a huge Improv-a-Ganza fan.

I dunno, maybe comedy fans are tuning in for Engvall and staying tuned for Drew. But that was the week that was.

UPDATE: Douglas just posted the numbers for Saturday, June 11. No first-runs for Lingo on this day, but two of the show's three repeats still copped the number four and number six slots. And Improv-a-Ganza also landed a couple slots in the top ten. (Okay, four of its ridiculous six runs didn't do so great.)

It's the Bear Rule. As the gentlemen at TV by the Numbers so often say, when a bear is running after you and another guy, you don't have to outrun the bear. You just have to outrun the other guy.

In other words, Lingo doesn't have to outrun some arbitrary standard set by an Internet pundit. It just has to outrun the other shows on GSN right now. And Engvall and company might be doing just that, despite an absurd rerun schedule.

The top shows for the day were weekend stalwarts Million Dollar Password and Power of 10. These are very short-run acquisitions, so GSN can only use them on weekends. But they often deliver good numbers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Syndies stumble and bumble

Syndicated game shows have seen better weeks, as a pensive Alex Trebek seems to realize. With a couple minor exceptions everything was off in the week ending June 5. Of course, summer beckons and TV viewing lessens in general. TVNewsCheck presents the grim tidings...

Wheel of Fortune 5.7 - off six ticks to season low
Jeopardy 4.9 - suffers with the soulmate, down five ticks to season low
Family Feud 2.3 - flat, which is good for this week
Millionaire 2.2 - down a tick
5th Grader 1.0 - down a tick as it waves good-bye
Lyrics 1.0 - actually up a tick but it's way too late

If and when TV by the Numbers posts the viewership averages, I won't be shy about sharing them with you. And although GSN probably didn't crack TVNewser's top 40 cable networks for the latest week, I'll be sure to check. I'm a conscientious blogger.

TVNewser just put their list up, and sure enough, GSN didn't make the top 40 in either prime time or total day for the week of June 6-12. There's only so much Lingo can do.

Meanwhile, the viewership averages are up at TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 8.8 million (weekend repeat 3.8 million) and Jeopardy 7.5 million. Only the twin towers made their top 25 list.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Leaving in a hurry

ABC offers some video of losing contestants getting forcibly ejected from 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show, set to debut June 21. There's lots of screaming.

The show may actually be a shrewd move by ABC to pivot from its flagging Wipeout franchise. Let's face it, our sadistic selves like to see other people get tossed and thrown and tumbled about. But Wipeout has run through so many seasons and versions and episodes, that a new format for tossing and throwing and tumbling may be necessary.

I assume nobody's really been hurt on the show, or the lawsuits would have flown thick and fast. Host Jeff Suthpen comes on all smarmy and unendurable, which is what you want for a sadistic stunt show. The question-and-answer segments before the real entertainment focus on picayune pop culture, which again is just right for this brainless format.

The show could perform well. But if it bombs, will the producers get strapped into ejection seats and blasted into the upper atmosphere?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Another man's treasure

That image brings back a few memories of my fifties childhood. The skinny tie alone is enough to set off fashion nostalgia.

The guy in the screenshot is Jan Murray on only one of two episodes that survive from the 1956-59 Treasure Hunt. This ancient effort was Murray's show from the top of the treasure chest to the bottom. He was Treasure Hunt's creator, producer and host.

The show was targeted at bored (or, for all I know, desperate) housewives and their littlest kids. Although never a huge hit, the show did enough business to earn daytime and prime time slots, first on ABC and then on the better established NBC.

A modestly challenging quizzer led to a bonus round where the winner picked prizes from treasure chests. A curvaceous "Pirate Girl" (March, 1956 Playboy centerfold Marian Stafford) made the treasure motif even more clunkingly obvious. But what the hey, she looked good.

The March 20, 1958 episode on YouTube reminded me of the show's bargain-basement production values, right down to the cheesy organ music. In the 1970s Chuck Barris got hold of the format and made it something of an embarrassment, as Chuck was wont to do.

UPDATE: Being a full-service blogger, I dutifully searched the web for Marian Stafford's Playboy photos. Grim work, indeed, but it had to be done. The photos are almost absurdly demure by current standards - at least, that's what I've heard about current standards - but they do feature limited and very mild nudity. So you are officially warned.

Friday, June 10, 2011

GSN number-palooza debut

As noted in the faux tweets, GSN's new Lingo with Bill Engvall debuted to good sampling, if not a blowout number. I chatted about the ratings on the GSN schedule board with my fellow number-crunchers...

Other poster:
8:00PM Lingo 524K
8:30PM Improv-a-Ganza 219K
Oh, and Match Game at 11:30AM got a better rating (245K) than first-run Improv.

Is Improv-a-Ganza in first-runs any more? They only made 40 eps, didn't they? Anyhoo, it's no big deal to beat the improv bunch. Eighteen shows did it Monday.

By the way, at 11:00PM Drew also wasted about half of Lingo's lead-in. If the Engvall lead-ins are Improv-a-Ganza's last chance - and I think they are - the last chance is not off to a good start.

Averages for the day were 315K/238K prime time/total day. Really not bad by GSN's recent (wretched) standards.

Another poster: I know it was just the debut of Lingo but, GSN hasn't seen a 500K in awhile.

Caution: the last 500K+ number was...Drew's debut on April 11.

Yet another poster: So, if GSN were to put almost anything in the spot after Lingo, odds are they would get better numbers than Improv.

Getting to be a bore about this, but maybe GSN might try remaking that other word game which keeps showing up the top ten [Chain Reaction], and pair it with Lingo. A couple word games together seem to make more sense than a word game followed by a completely non-game comedy show. Or what's supposed to be a comedy show.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Variety blogger Andrew Wallenstein notes the similarities between a couple of upcoming shows, NBC's It's Worth What? (with the pictured Cedric the Entertainer) and Fox's Buried Treasure. He rehashes some copycat disputes involving the networks, like the throwdown between Singing Bee and Don't Forget the Lyrics. Or the back-and-forth between The Apprentice and The Billionaire.

Game shows have a long and feisty history of copying one another. You Don't Say got into trouble by too closely aping Password, for instance. Goodson-Todman even ripped themselves off with I've Got a Secret after What's My Line did okay. (Though over time Secret drifted further and further away from its stodgy WML roots.)

There's nothing new under the sun, as a cynic noted in Hebrew some time ago. Even the Variety blogger concedes that lots of shows are trying to muscle into Antiques Roadshow territory. As long as Pawn Stars rides atop the cable ratings, lots of people on TV will be pricing artifacts for fun and profit.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Monty has a problem

A faux tweet mentioned that mathematical conundrum known as the Monty Hall Problem. As the New York Times once intoned in its deepest, most conventionally wise voice:
[The Monty Hall Problem] has been debated in the halls of the Central Intelligence Agency and the barracks of fighter pilots in the Persian Gulf. It has been analyzed by mathematicians at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and computer programmers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. It has been tested in classes from second grade to graduate level at more than 1,000 schools across the country.
The famous issue is whether to switch doors once Monty has revealed a zonk behind one of the doors you didn't select.

The famous answer is that you gain a real advantage by switching. This website, naturally named, makes the counterintuitive answer obvious by creating a wildly exaggerated version of the problem:
Imagine that there were a million doors. Also, after you have chosen your door; Monty opens all but one of the remaining doors, showing you that they are "losers." It’s obvious that your first choice is wildly unlikely to have been right. And isn’t it obvious that of the other 999,999 doors that you didn’t choose, the one that he didn’t open is wildly likely to be the one with the prize?
Well, now that you put it that way...

I once saw a fellow actuary try to explain the problem to a disbelieving audience of non-actuaries. Let me tell you, it's hard to convince people. And it's not every game show that creates a math problem all its own.

Syndie sweeping

Broadcasting & Cable offered the usual May sweeps year-to-year comparison in their latest roundup of syndicated news and views. The comparisons held no big surprises for those who have been following along...

Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.5 - flat
Millionaire 2.4 - up a couple ticks
Family Feud 2.3 - up a very nice eight ticks
5th Grader 1.1 - down a couple ticks in its last May sweeps
Lyrics 0.8 - down a tick from its first and last September sweeps

TV by the Numbers didn't bother with sweeps comparisons. Instead, they listed the viewership averages for the week ending May 29: Wheel of Fortune 10.0 million (weekend repeat 4.7 million), Jeopardy 8.3 million, Millionaire 3.4 million.

Everybody agreed that Oprah had a boffo farewell. And she needs the money!

Monday, June 6, 2011

R-E-V-I-E-W has one too many letters

Just watched the debut of Bill Engvall's Lingo. Bottom line, I L-I-K-E-D it. All the grumbles I heard over the past few days seemed way overblown.

Yes, there is some mildly risque humor, emphasized in the debut episode by a team that insisted on spelling D-I-C-K-S and S-E-M-E-N in response to somewhat suggestive clues. But it was hardly a raunchfest, just a little spicy.

The contestants were reasonably competent, though obviously the winners had more clue. Gross stupidity was not on display. It's not saying much, but the players sometimes guessed the word before I did.

The format changes, like the three rounds in the front game, were really pretty minor. It's still Lingo with the essential gameplay unchanged. The live audience and Engvall's humor brightened things up, which I didn't mind at all.

The bonus round is harder because only one free letter is given. But GSN clearly had to toughen the round to keep the prize budget under control. A niche cable outlet can't give away too many hundred-grand prizes.

All in all, Lingo's a lot better than GSN's other recent experiments. The gameplay remains rock-solid, Engvall is a fine host, and that terrific play-along value is still intact. Good luck to Bill and company.

U-P-D-A-T-E (oh, that has one too many letters, too): In a follow-up post at Carrie Grosvenor comments about the contestants on the debut and I reply...

Carrie: I should point out that the contestants on last night’s [Lingo] premiere were brighter than those who appeared on the screener – which makes me wonder why GSN chose to send the episode I saw out to the media for review purposes.

The only real duh moment I recall was when the losing team couldn’t identify D-E-A-T-H, even though it had become pretty obvious to most everybody else in the room. Otherwise, both teams played halfway decent, though the winners had more clue. That’s why they won (duh).

An odd moment: the eventual winners got buzzed on E-M-A-I-L because of the hyphen. Seemed kind of picayune to me, and I have to wonder how long the hyphen will survive in the word, anyway. The online Merriam-Webster site accepts "email" without the hyphen, though it redirects to the entry which still uses the hyphen.

More Lingo, more stupidity

The stupid-game-show-contestant discussion ambles on at A few more of my maunderings...

Other poster: I don’t think anyone disputes that there have always been "stupid" contestants. Of course there have, even "back then." But the quote you’re referencing is a claim that this was more the exception vs. the rule then than it is now. A series of YouTube videos does nothing to establish that this claim is in error.

Well, I dunno if there’s ever been a peer-reviewed study – heaven forbid – of "Changing Levels of Stupidity in Game Show Contestants 1950-2010" (New England Journal of Medicine – June 2, 2011).

But "good old days" thinking tends to run strong on game show boards. Sorry, I remain unconvinced that stupidity has gotten more common among game show contestants over the decades. Hey, they used to RIG game shows in the good old days, which wasn’t such a smart idea.

Come to think of it, I would bet big on Ken Jennings against Charles Van Doren...if the contest wasn’t fake. Of course, Watson could take down both of them, but we’ll leave the machines out of it for now.

Another poster: Not sure I buy the idea of there being some great change. Lingo–let’s be honest game show nerds–is hardly a top tier show. That a revival might have some contestants who don’t entirely understand its complexities is not that surprising.

Sure, Lingo's hardly top tier in ratings terms. It’s on GSN, where 500K viewers is big time.

But as a quality word game, I rank Lingo very high. And it’s gotten some shrewd contestants over the years. Check the final of its only tournament of champions, where four very smart contestants put on a sensational show. Final score: 775-550 (source:, and the score sounds right from my dim memory).

Anyway, I’ll be watching at 8:00PM Eastern tonight. I’m really interested in how Bill Engvall and company will handle the format.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Game show graveyard

Rambling through the Google news cache, I found this answer to a question about a long ago game show called Treasure Isle (ABC 1967-68). I honestly don't remember this short-lived effort, but the web never forgets. Google produced more than anybody could want to know about Treasure Isle from the cybernetic mausoleum.

The premise: couples had to complete puzzles and then row a boat to an island to search for buried treasure. Shot in Palm Beach County, the show mainly existed to promote Florida tourism. At least this lively memoir from producer Sherman Adler says the show's super-rich financier John D. MacArthur wanted to lure tourists to his Colonnades Hotel and golf courses.

John Batholomew Tucker was the host, as seen with a couple babes in the attached publicity photo. There was also an off-screen narrator called "The Sage", played by Bill Templeton. You can even get the lyrics of the show's theme song from sites on the web, though I'm not sure why you would want to. A few episodes still exist, according to the infallible(?) Internet.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

GSN number-palooza boohoo

The ratings news has turned so dismal for GSN that I hardly have the heart to put up the reports any more. But my hearty self keeps finding enough stubbornness to continue. From the GSN Schedule board about a particularly crummy day...

Douglas keeps putting 'em up. Saturday, May 28 really stunk with 190K/180K prime time/total day viewership averages. Poker is on the way out with terrible numbers, and Improv-a-Ganza didn't help, either. Once upon a time, at least, High Stakes Poker got good ratings. The top ten, and note Wendy's ominous appearance:

12:00PM Million Dollar Password 340
11:30AM Catch 21 296
3:30PM Family Feud 283
9:30PM Newlywed Game 264
1:00PM Power of 10 261
10:30AM Family Feud 249
4:30PM Love Triangle 232
11:00AM Newlywed Game 228
5:30PM Baggage 225
8:30PM Baggage 225

Regis has always been berry berry good to GSN. And it still looks like the network revived the wrong Drew show.

UPDATE: GSN's Monday, May 30 numbers sing the same old song. Improv-a-Ganza just crushes the network. Up until Drew arrived at 8:00, GSN was rolling. Karn Feud pulled 400K+ viewers in the 4:00PM hour, and many other shows did 300K+. Then Drew skidded to 249K at 8:00 PM and 173K at 11:00PM, and the day never recovered.

As a result, prime time averaged fewer(!) viewers than total day: 232K vs. 245K. Lingo arrives soon at 8:00PM, and GSN can't wait.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fear the factor

Lots of news today on the coming revival of Fear Factor. As the faux tweets disclose, I'm not a fan. The show was just too teenaged gross for my middle-aged tastes (no pun intended about the "food" stunts).

Stunt game shows always have a tendency to blur over into reality TV. For instance, this story from Reality TV World claims Fear Factor as its own. Of course, a cynic could say that any game show is reality television of a sort. And why bother with such picayune distinctions, anyway?

The story offers some interesting quotes from NBC's reality boss, Paul Telegdy. He says Fear Factor pulled good numbers in cable repeats, which got NBC looking at a revival. I dunno, Deal or No Deal did good numbers in CNBC and GSN reruns. But the peacock net (warning, Variety-speak) appears completely uninterested in recalling Howie and the models.

Joe Rogan may not return as host even if the new Fear Factor gets to air. I didn't recall this, but Rogan trashed the show after it closed. Maybe not such a good career move, Joe.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


As noted in the faux tweets, I haven't seen the screener episode of GSN's new Lingo. So I can't comment on the details of Carrie Grosvenor's review which relate specifically to the show. But one general remark in her review got me blathering...

Carrie: There have been clueless contestants on many, many game shows. I'll bet most of you could name at least three recent ones right off the top of your head.

It ain't just recent shows. Look at the blooper reels on YouTube and you'll see plenty of clueless contestants from the good old days. What month does a pregnant woman start to show? September! (From Richard Dawson's Family Feud, of course.)

The good old days of supposedly brilliant or more varied or somehow better contestants never existed. In fact, the good old days had some supposedly brilliant types rigged with the answers.

To blather on a little more...I was unkind a while back on this blog to a less than great contestant on Repo Games. It's just human nature to poke a little fun at our fellow travelers to the grave when they look not so brilliant. But I wonder how I would do under the pressure of a nationally televised game show.

Probably about as bad. Or quite possibly worse.

THE REST OF THE STORY: The image looks too dumb to be true, and of course it is. Hoax-Slayer assures us that the image is just a gag and the actual contestant did well. I've attached the genuine screenshot, where the lady answered correctly.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Syndies don't do squat

This blog occasionally has to report boring news. So I'll gulp and offer the latest dull-as-dog-poop numbers on syndicated game shows. Broadcasting & Cable lulls up to sleep with the ratings for the week ending May 22...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - flat, and not the last
Jeopardy 5.6 - flat, what else?
Millionaire 2.5 - up a couple ticks, somebody's got to be different
Family Feud 2.4 - flat
5th Grader 1.1 - flat
Lyrics 0.8 - flat, hope my car tires don't get any ideas

When TV by the Numbers posts the viewership averages, I will type them into the window. They're finally here: Wheel of Fortune 10.5 million (weekend repeat 4.9 million), Jeopardy 8.6 million, Family Feud 3.6 million, Millionaire 3.5 million.

An offbeat bit of ratings news: the supposedly game-show-like Voice outdrew the NBA finals in total viewers. But the final ratings may put hoops on top by a little. And the basketballers skewed a tad younger.