Friday, September 30, 2011

Old timer

Douglas has been listing the 18-49 numbers for GSN lately along with the total viewer numbers. Just amazingly, the demo figures show that GSN skews very old, and the pre-1990 shows skew oldest of all. I might get slammed by the older-is-better bunch, but I posted a reality-check comment on the GSN schedule board...

The 18-49 numbers for the weekday morning block are embarrassing, barely measurable by Nielsen's sampling techniques. This should not surprise anybody. The pre-1990 shows have always skewed very old. They're the oldest-skewing shows in an old-skewing genre.

Improv-a-Ganza's relatively younger skew is also no surprise because comedy has always skewed younger than traditional game shows. That's why GSN tried the show in the first place. Too bad, the show got so few viewers of any age that even the 18-49 numbers were low.

It's easy for posters on this board to say GSN should just ignore the demos and program more old stuff. This board doesn't have to sell advertising time or convince cable/satellite operators to carry the network. But the demos make the network a much harder sell than younger numbers would. GSN can live off old demos, but it's a harder slog.

UPDATE: Sure enough, I got bashed by the older-is-better bunch. I give up on the production-date-fetish folks. As I said on the GSN board...

People are dug in on production dates, so I won't argue the subject any more. Anyhoo, prime time/total day viewership averages for the last several dates published by Douglas:

September 15 303K/211K
September 16 359K/200K
September 17 384K/218K
September 23 372K/231K
September 24 216K/158K
September 25 136K/182K

The latest weekend was obviously a disaster. Up till then the prime time averages had been holding up well, though total day was usually pretty poor. Don't know if Douglas will eventually go back and fill in the missing days.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Speed freaks

Blogged before about sports quizzers. Don't really mind them except they get a little specialized for me. Maybe sports trivia really is an acquired taste.

But Speed Channel is all about motor sports, so they don't much care about my quibbles. They've ordered twenty episodes of a new game show called Pumped, described as "an ambush-style quiz show set at gas stations where customers will compete for a cash prize by answering automotive and pop culture questions."

Ambushed by an automobile quizzer? Sounds like a game that would leave me for road kill. All I know about cars is how to drive them. And I'm not particularly good at it.

Speed has also ordered new eps of its long-running game show Pass Time, where contestants guess how long it will take for a car to run a quarter-mile. Nice simple premise, only I'd be pretty helpless at it, too. I'm just not a car guy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Syndies: Jeopardy takes an ouchie

TVNewsCheck says the Watson repeats didn't play too well. All the syndie game show numbers for the week ending September 18...

Wheel of Fortune 6.1 - flat
Jeopardy 4.6 - down six ticks to a season low in the last week of reruns
Family Feud 2.6 - up a couple ticks in its debut week
Millionaire 2.4 - up a tick

TV by the Numbers provides the viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.4 million, Jeopardy 6.9 million, Family Feud 3.8 million, Millionaire 3.3 million. All pretty normal except the Jeopardy debacle.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sing like a bird

Alex Davis reports that truTV has ordered a singing game show called Killer Karaoke. TruTV was formerly known as CourtTV when the network was more respectable, which meant less favorable demos.

After syndie Don’t Forget the Lyrics crashed, burned and vanished, I thought it would be a while before anybody tried a traditional game show with contestants warbling. But hope springs eternal for the singer in us all. Alex says it’s truTV/CourtTV’s first foray into the genre since Fake Out in 2003. I’ll take his word.

The format comes from ITV in Britain (see the screenshot). Taping starts October 11. TruTV runs so much reality filler that a game show is a natural expansion into unscripted territory. Maybe they’ll slot it after that pawnshop show which is getting boffo ratings for the network.

How about a combo? Contestants have to sing well enough to get back their pawned goods. Sort of like Repo Games except the stuff is already gone and the contestants want it back. We’ll call it Sing For Your Things. Am I sounding cynical enough? I must be getting even older than I thought I was.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Telling GSN what to do

GSN's total day numbers have soured with their new schedule. On the GSN board I offer my completely unsolicited advice...

Douglas is dumping all his broadcast and cable ratings together in one long post now. Guess it makes easier for him. The prime time/total day averages for the most recent three days:

September 12 287K/227K
September 13 303K/213K
September 14 328K/215K

A couple obvious observations. Drew continues to kill late night. Get rid of him. Pre-2:00PM remains weak but weaknesses have cropped up all over the schedule. And remind me again why GSN messed around with the schedule so much. All they had to do was unload Improv-a-Ganza and Love Triangle, make some new eps of Engvall Lingo, and get some new acquisitions for the morning and early afternoon.

To be fair, the broadcast networks are sopping up a lot of the audience with their debuts at this time of year. But GSN ain't pulling too many 300K+ numbers right now except for old vets Karn and O'Hurley. So much for that fantasy schedule which almost eliminates Karn and O'Hurley from the lineup.

I'd ask NBC what it would take to pry Minute To Win It loose. Guy Fieri and friends would make a nice addition to prime time (or anywhere else on the schedule).

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Out-of-studio experience

Lots of people have noted that many reality competition shows are just game shows dragged out of the studio and the usual game-show trappings. But even in the ancient black-and-white days, at least one game show liked to get out of the studio now and then.

That was I've Got a Secret, which never minded a good stunt to entertain the masses. The June 8, 1960 episode, which I've blogged about before, was a particularly memorable example. Anthony Perkins, starring in that "new" Hitchcock thriller Psycho, showed up as the mystery guest. While the panel was blindfolded, he and host Garry Moore took down the set. The camera then followed him and Garry and the show's crew out of the studio to Delsomma's restaurant next door.

For a while the blindfolded panel was left clueless and alone on the now deserted stage. Eventually, Garry gave them the word and they came over to the restaurant for a party. The cast and crew were celebrating the show's move to a new theater the following week.

Kind of odd to see all the folks walking down the New York sidewalks and into the restaurant. It's very reality-TV-ish in an old-time black-and-white way. Technology was still primitive and Garry constantly had to warn people not to step on all the cables that made the on-location shots possible. But everybody seemed to be having a genuinely good time. Even Henry Morgan.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What's next, plaques?

If you read this blog at all, you know I like game shows' raffish, unpretentious charm. It's a cheap, down-and-dirty kind of programming, with none of the snooty yearnings after Art that TV dramas and even sitcoms can sometimes affect.

So I had mixed feelings about Jeopardy creating a Hall of Fame for itself. Okay, the hall sounds pretty simple, and even Alex Trebek says: "We don't take ourselves too seriously."

But I'm still uncomfortable with a mini-Cooperstown for a little old game show. Even if it's a terrific show, as Jeopardy undoubtedly is. Will they start inducting top contestants and giving them plaques?

I guess Ken Jennings would have to go in first. Who would vote on the inductions, anyway? Game show bloggers? Yikes!

At least we could have Hall of Fame controversies just like baseball. Does Watson deserve a plaque? Or do we give a special award to the machine's human programmers? And what about all those five-game winners back in the term-limited days? Do we have to speculate on what they would have done without the limit? I mean, we just can't put them all in the Hall.

Yes, I'm taking the parody too far. The Jeopardy Hall of Fame is a harmless bit of fun for the show's fans. It even has comic strips about the show.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Salary slugfests

Now that I've peddled a rumor about Vanna White, I might as well pass on some gossip about Regis Philbin. Seems that he's leaving his morning show in a salary dispute, according to the New York Post.

Not to impugn the Post (perish the thought) but I have my doubts. Regis certainly does not leave money on the table. I remember him grumbling to his buddy David Letterman that ABC was getting a little stingy with him back in the Millionaire salad days. ABC quickly coughed up some more coin for Regis' hosting duties.

But Regis genuinely seems tired of his morning show and the daily grind. So it may not really be a money problem.

Salary disputes involving game show hosts are hardly unknown. The most famous may have been Chuck Woolery's spat with Merv Griffin over that little show with the big wheel. Griffin finally said good-bye to Woolery and hello to Sajak. You know the rest of that story.

Producers can even have work problems among themselves. Bob Stewart left Mark Goodson's employ despite Goodson's protest that he had made Stewart "his prince." Stewart's reply has become game show legend: "Mark, I want to be a king." Pyramid subsequently made Stewart look pretty regal.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Syndies: the quartet bobs up and down

Seems a little weird to have so few syndie game shows to report ratings about. Those flipping demos have cleaned out the genre in syndication. Oh well, at least Pat and Alex loomed a little taller in the week ending September 11. But Meredith's premiere week for season ten didn't help the numbers. Broadcasting and Cable spreads the mixed news...

Wheel of Fortune 6.1 - up a couple ticks in the second-to-last week of reruns
Jeopardy 5.2 - up four ticks from previous week's season low
Family Feud 2.4 - down a couple ticks in the last week before its new season
Millionaire 2.3 - down a tick for its premiere week

If and when TV by the Numbers posts the syndie viewership averages, I won't be shy about sharing them. In a related note, I'm leaving the broadcast game show ratings in the sidebar for a little while, even though there are currently no traditional game shows in broadcast prime time. Sooner or later I'll take the old numbers down.

Also, Soap Opera Network (belying its name) occasionally publishes numbers for The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal. If any of those ratings surface, I'll post them in the sidebar.

Oh, TV by the Numbers put up the syndie viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.4 million, Jeopardy 7.8 million, Family Feud 3.5 million, Millionaire 3.1 million. TVBTN has been pretty quick with the syndie numbers lately.

Irreplaceable?

A faux tweet mentioned the rumor that Wheel of Fortune actually considered replacing Vanna with Bristol Palin. I'll leave aside the political mush about Bristol's mother. The issue is whether a long-running game show can risk firing an established host.

Let's just say it's dicey but not always a crusher. The current syndie Family Feud has dismissed a host or three and lived to tell the tale. But you could argue that Feud wasn't identified too closely with, say, Louie Anderson or Richard Karn. So the producers could afford to show those hosts the door.

But Wheel has become literally synonymous with Pat and Vanna. Could the show really send one or both packing without a disastrous rumpus from the fans? I doubt it. Luckily, the contract conniptions got sorted out and Vanna re-upped for another three years.

Besides, the rumor said Bristol wasn't into letter-turning.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hail and farewell, High Stakes

Happened to catch a couple episodes of GSN's High Stakes Poker last night. What a good show! Even without host Gabe Kaplan in the seventh (and almost certainly final) season, the poker was entertaining and sometimes downright absorbing.

But as that phrase in the parenthesis shows, I don't have any illusions about the show's prospects. The numbers have turned awful. High Stakes Poker averaged a measly 71K viewers on its latest published day. Even by GSN's not titanic standards, that's really bad.

GSN has squeezed the show to four not-ready-for-prime-time hours, and will no doubt soon drop it completely. The GSN Internet boards have long resounded with outrage over the show soiling the network's sacred game show precincts. Of course, High Stakes Poker is almost all gameplay, and a very interesting game it is.

So farewell to the show that brought poker's big-money cash games to TV with a good dose of realism. The show also featured intelligent commentary from AJ Benza (honest!), Gabe Kaplan and even the much maligned Norm Macdonald. Once upon a time, the show was GSN's highest-rated with the best demos. But that was then and this is now, and it's time to move on.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Good old time revival

On her blog Carrie Grosvenor chatted with Todd Newton about his adventures in game show hosting. The final question asked what classic game show Todd would revive.

Not surprisingly, Newton said Press Your Luck, since he actually did revive the show with GSN's Whammy. For most PYL fans Whammy was an okay revival because it stuck closely to the original's format.

Revivals are always a dicey proposition because you risk ticking off the original's fans without getting any new viewers. See Improv-a-Ganza for a nasty example of failure. But sometimes lightning strikes twice. GSN's remake of Dating Game with Jerry Springer's Baggage still does pretty good business.

Jerry's kids offer an interesting example, because the show also borrowed the suitcase gimmick from Deal or No Deal. The result was a nice blend of two familiar formats. Add Springer's sardonic if toned-down comments, and the show clicked.

Another okay combo - though game shows' usual old demos killed it on CBS - was Million Dollar Password. The show mixed classic Password and its offshoot Pyramid, with one-word clues but in a closely timed format. The median viewer age brought a quick ax from CBS, though the show got more than respectable total viewer numbers. Regis still survives on GSN and gets decent ratings.

All in all, I don't mind a clever revival of a format worth reviving. But possible disaster always lurks. Remember Extreme Gong? Few people want to remember it.

Sorta nice numbers

Haven't said many sweet things about GSN's ratings lately, but I did offer some more, uh, moderate comments about the latest published day. From the GSN schedule board...

Friday September 9 is up. I've been pretty rough on GSN's new schedule, and the previous numbers for Wednesday September 7 sure stunk at 268K/196K prime time/total day. But the network recovered somewhat on Friday to post 335K/225K averages. Drew still helped destroy post-midnight (134K average). And pre-2:00PM still reeked at 158K. But the 2:00PM-midnight window scored a decent 302K average. Top ten...

10:30PM Family Feud (O'Hurley) 464
11:30PM Baggage 368
7:30PM Baggage 354
10:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 354
11:00PM Newlywed Game 354
4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 349
6:30PM Baggage 324
6:00PM Lingo (Engvall) 319
9:00PM Deal or No Deal 307
7:00PM Newlywed Game 306

One of Jerry's best days lately. Regis was on the bubble at number eleven, which is nice for the old warrior.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Da rulz

Ever wondered what the Official Rules of a game show look like? Well, neither have I. But I had to write something today, so I peeked at the high-and-mighty rulebook published on Millionaire's web site.

While not as tangled and lengthy as, say, the football rulebook, the laws of Millionaire grind pretty fine. There are ten sections in all, with a zillion subsections down to the small-roman-numeral stage.

The first three sections don't even get to the game. Instead, they're all about contestant qualifications and other legal bits and pieces. Turns out you can't appear on any other game show for a year before or after, except cable shows. So you can show your baggage to Jerry Springer and answer Meredith's nagging questions in the same week, if you're so inclined.

The actual rules of the game run through sections four and five. And boy, do they get detailed. After plowing through all that stuff, I'm amazed anybody can figure out how to play this here game.

The last five sections are more legal stuff. You know what I mean. "No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited." (Those exact words begin section seven.) One interesting sentence hearkens back to the rigging scandals: "If it is determined in the sole discretion of the judges that the technical difficulty, mechanical failure or human error corrupted [emphasis mine] Game play, the question in play will be discarded and a new question will be played."

Corrupted? Gives me a little chill thinking about Dan Enright and Charles Van Doren and all the rest of 'em. Did Twenty One even have rules? I know they didn't obey some important rules, but I wonder if they bothered to put the legalese in writing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Syndies slosh with Irene

Broadcasting and Cable has finally stopped giving the numbers for syndie 5th Grader and Lyrics, so I'll stop, too. We're down to a game show quartet for the week ending September 4, when (sort of) Hurricane Irene washed out some ratings points...

Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 4.8 - down three ticks and ties season low
Family Feud 2.6 - up a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.4 - also up a couple ticks, showing up the twin towers

TV by the Numbers again is quick with the viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.1 million, Jeopardy 7.1 million, Family Feud 3.7 million, Millionaire 3.3 million. All four made TVBTN's top 25 list. Not bad for the same old syndie game shows that have been around forever.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Subbing channels

Noticed a thread on Matt Ottinger's board that wandered into a discussion of digital subchannels. Matt himself wished for a game show rarity, the Bill Cullen version of $25,000 Pyramid, on one of those proliferating channels.

Stranger things have happened, but I wouldn't bet on Bill's return. After all, game shows have never seemed like a priority for the longer-established cable nostalgia nets. Maybe they've just conceded the territory to GSN. Or maybe they think game shows are too narrow a niche compared to the usual dramas and sitcoms.

So far the digital subchannels have shown the same lack of interest in our little genre. Matt mentions MeTV and AntennaTV, but neither carries any game shows now. Instead they follow the usual nostalgia formula. "Classic TV sitcoms and dramas including M*A*S*H, Cheers, Hogan's Heroes, I Love Lucy, Star Trek, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Perry Mason" is how the linked story describes MeTV's offerings.

To be honest, the wish for old game shows on these subchannels may be just another pipe dream of the older-is-better game show internets. They can only complain for so long about GSN not running enough oldies. So now it's time to fantasize about other possible outlets for the ancient stuff.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Marathon, man

Cable network marathons are an old if not always honorable tradition. This 2003 Chicago Tribune story runs through such goodies as 46 hours of Twilight Zone on what was then the SicFi network.

The idea is to hook viewers for nice long stretches and earn better numbers than usual. GSN has certainly run its share of holiday marathons, and last week the network tried nine hours of Sherri Shepherd's Newlywed Game on Labor Day. Wouldn't you know, the network did get better numbers than usual for its weekday pre-2:00PM window.

Such a long dose of Sherri is way more than I can take. But I did catch a little of the marathon. Sherri's still pretty emphatic but doesn't overwhelm the format completely. As the Tribune story notes, marathons can be easily overdone. GSN tends to overdo everything in programming, but I don't expect another nine hours of the newlyweds any time soon.

One marathon I would like to see is the original twenty episodes of Chuck Woolery's Lingo. GSN taped those episodes on the set of the Dutch version of the show to save money. The so-called prizes were laughably cheap, and once the "winners" went away with nothing. Who knew the show would last for nine years and counting?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What's My Line didn't end in 1967, after all

Now and then the syndicated What's My Line gets a mention on the GSN classics board. So I rummaged around YouTube and found a couple complete episodes for oldies fans.

Funny how a splash of color makes the syndie seem so much more recent than the black-and-white version. But the syndie started just a year after John Daly rang down the curtain on the original. From the GSN board...

Other poster: What's My Line. Whatever happened to the episodes from 1968-1975 hosted by Wally Bruner and then Larry Blyden?

GSN has tried them in regular runs but they never did much business. A complete Bruner syndie ep on YouTube starts here. Arlene Francis and Soupy Sales and Mrs. John Daley(!)

A complete Blyden ep begins here. Again Arlene and Soupy show up. You'll notice the GSN logo on both episodes. Interesting how the Blyden version eventually squeezed down the intros to quicken the pace of the show.

I like the syndie. It was looser than the sometimes stuffy original. But I'm not holding my breath on a return to GSN.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Substitution effect

Hollywood Reporter has written up MTV's quizzer The Substitute, debuting September 12. There's also a bit of footage pitting two suitably cute high school girls against each other.

Sort of looks like the Terminator showdowns in Greed, only without Chuck Woolery looming over the grim proceedings. Instead, everything is bright and bouncy in a high school classroom. Too bad the girl in the picture had no clue about primary colors. She is a cheerleader, though.

Comic Jon Gabrus plays the ersatz substitute teacher. In the story he mouths some platitudes about how "it's cool to be playing a teacher in a positive light." What is this, redeeming social value on MTV? M-fricking-TV??

In fact, the show may be almost elegant compared to the network's usual crud. Top prize is five grand, enough to be credible but not enough to make things too serious. The show taped some eps in colleges to "catch the eye of a slightly older crowd."

Speaking of age, Hollywood Reporter kicks off the story with a snide reference to game shows' usual demos. Will the MTV crowd tolerate a fairly straightforward quizzer?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ripped off

If you follow this blog at all you've seen a lot of kvetching about reality TV. My traditionalist self thinks the whole genre - at least the competition reality shows - is a rip-off of game shows. They just get out of the studio and into bitching between the contestants...er, houseguests or whatever.

Nice to see that one reality TV blogger agrees with me:
A go-to for TV producers in a pinch is to rip off old game shows. This week on Bachelor Pad they decided to rip off The Newlywed Game. Seemed like a good idea until Graham and Michelle Money solved it like they were the MIT blackjack team. You knew something was rotten when the host asked Michelle Money how many men she had slept with and Graham correctly guessed seven. There is no chance anyone would believe that the woman who took down Carlos Boozer’s marriage has only had seven sexual conquests.
At least Michelle didn't say the weirdest place she ever made whoopee was in the...

Well, this is sort of a family blog. But it's not enough that reality shows rip off the idea of game shows. Sometimes they rip off everything about a game show. Except I honestly don't give a flip how many studs Michelle has diddled.

Why don't they just play the games and skip all the whining and scheming and crying and backbiting and plotting? Yeah, I know the demos skew younger if you add in all that truly profound crap-flinging between the contestants. So I blame The Nielsen Company.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

GSN after Kelly

As the faux tweets noted, GSN programming chief Kelly Goode is leaving the network. At BuzzerBlog Alex Davis posted a nice personal note about Kelly. (I've been pretty hard on Alex lately and he's been pretty hard on me. But credit where it's due.)

Alex also listed a lot of the shows that Kelly helped develop. And, in all honesty, the list mostly tells a tale of failure. Sure, original programming is tough for any cable outlet. Failure is common, success rare. But Kelly did not have a very good batting average.

Predictably, the comments on Alex's post are mostly older-is-better drubbings of any game show less than 80 years old (slight exaggeration). Whether coincidentally or not, the GSN schedule has gotten a lot older recently, with the addition of Regis Millionaire, Whammy and a Clark Pyramid hour to weekdays. Of course, the older-is-better crowd won't be happy until the average age of programming is at least a half-century (again, slight exaggeration).

In the short run, new originals on GSN may be few and far between. Just a natural break in development with the programming chief gone. But in the not so long run GSN needs better demos. Which probably means they'll try originals once again.

As for Kelly's replacement, your guess is as good as mine. Former GSN exec Bob Boden is out as the programming chief at Hub. Hm...

UPDATE: While we're on GSN, this whole new schedule thingie doesn't seem to be working out so swell. Douglas just posted the numbers for Friday, September 2.

I know it was the Friday of a holiday weekend. But the viewer averages were a forgettable 277K/205K prime time/total day. Howie and Regis aren't cutting it in prime time. The pre-2:00PM and post-11:30PM windows shattered (sorry) with 143K and 133K averages. Even early fringe unraveled (sorry again) to a 202K average for 5:00PM-7:00PM.

Not much is performing well and lots of things need fixing.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Syndies mixed as summer wanes

August closed out with small changes for syndicated game shows, as new seasons (or no seasons) beckon in September. TVNewsCheck brings the up-and-down news for the week ending August 28...

Wheel of Fortune 6.1 - up a tick
Jeopardy 5.1 - up a nice three ticks from previous season low
Family Feud 2.4 - up a tick
Millionaire 2.2 - down a tick
5th Grader 0.9 - down a tick as the last days count off
Lyrics 0.7 - flat and there's no reprieve from the governor

TV by the Numbers is downright prompt with their viewership averages for the week: Wheel of Fortune 9.4 million, Jeopardy 7.7 million and Family Feud 3.6 million. Meredith missed the cut on the top 25 list, as did Wheel's weekend repeat.

Variety gets statistical and explains how Nielsen's new GAA numbers help double-run syndies. The change happened last March and this will be the first full syndie season with the new measuring stick.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Clipped

On Sunday August 28 GSN trotted out three old clipfests of games shows from the '70s, '80s and '90s, which they first broadcast in 2008. I burbled about the clip shows and their ratings on the GSN schedule board...

August 28 ratings are up. The old clip shows did fine the first time around, naturally not so well in the immediate reruns. Averages were an okay 304K/250K prime time/total day.

The 10:00PM rerun of the '70s clip show pulled down the prime time average with its 176K number. Hard to understand why GSN immediately reran the clip shows. They should have just put three one-time runs in prime time and scored a nice average. Or put together a new 2000s clip show - it wouldn't have cost very much - and run that at 10:00PM. The top ten:

7:00PM Play It Back 70s Gameshows 393
8:00PM Play It Back 80s Gameshows 371
9:00PM Play It Back 90s Gameshows 366
11:30AM Catch 21 347
5:30PM Baggage 347
12:00PM 1 vs. 100 (Saget) 321
5:00PM Baggage 301
3:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 298
11:00AM Newlywed Game 296
3:30PM Family Feud (O'Hurley) 295

Other poster: As for the clipfests, I'm surprised they made the top 3.

I enjoyed the clip shows when they ran a few years back. I'm not surprised they did well this time around. The immediate reruns, though, were just strange. GSN should have spent a few bucks for a 2000s clip show - they've now got another decade to work with - and run it at 10:00PM after the three old shows. Would probably have scored the best number of the day and made the prime time average really good. The network's viewers would have enjoyed looking back on the decade when game shows returned to broadcast prime time.

Instead they reran that '70s show (pun intended), and of course it bombed since everybody had seen it just a few hours before. Which also loused up what should have been a very nice prime time average. Sometimes GSN makes really weird programming decisions.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wandering here and there

Sunday, time to kick back and wander around the game show blogosphere...

Kind of off-topic, but when BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis isn't tugging his forelock before the British, he's dissing baseball in favor of hockey. No disputing tastes, and I don't want to sound too snippy. But I'm starting to understand how Alex could have thought Improv-a-Ganza was so great.

Carrie Grosvenor continues to follow the twists and turns of Big Brother's latest season. I watched the first year but quickly tired of the show. If they just played the games and cut out all the "reality" crap, I might tolerate the show. Oh there I go again, being a game show purist.

A thread on Matt Ottinger's board about Sesame Street's parody game show host Guy Smiley (honest!) quickly runs off the rails into a drubbing of one poster for mentioning Subway sandwiches too much (also honest!) Weird stuff happens on the game show internets.

Speaking of those internets, the GSN board continues to chew over the network's latest schedule shakeup. Predictably, a lot of posters want more old stuff. I'm not so sure, and I quote some pretty awful ratings for Tic Tac Dough on its last GSN go-round. Another poster is even more emphatic that older is not necessarily better.

UPDATE: I should make full disclosure about Alex Davis. The guy (under his poster name "itiparanoid13") has badmouthed me on Matt Ottinger's board. So I'm naturally biased against him. But trying to remain as unprejudiced as I can, I still have to say that Alex's adoration of the British long ago passed beyond parody.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Kid stuff

Have I mentioned that my grumpy old self doesn't particularly like kid game shows? But this is a full service blog, so I just watched the "sneak previews" of two kid shows on Hasbro, er, Hub.

The first is The Game of Life, and it's definitely aimed at real little young'uns. Two teams of one adult and two little kids ride a car through endless CGI landscapes. They occasionally answer pretty simple two-choice questions and score "life points" or some kind of points. All the while host Frank Nicotero, of the late lamented Street Smarts, hollers and hollers some more.

There's a final stunt round when we get out of the endless CGI. In the sneak peek the stunt was wrapping and tossing hamburgers. Made me a little hungry, to be honest. When all the points are tallied, the winners go to a big wheel and spin for some not enormous prize. Happily, the team in the sneak peek copped a home entertainment system.

The second show, Scrabble Showdown, features much more serious gameplay. Two teams of an adult and an older kid compete through three rounds of games with letter tiles. These rounds are not closely related to actual Scrabble. The fourth and final round is the biggie. A realistic Scrabble board shows up on the screen, and a high-speed and quite entertaining version of the board game ensues.

If you evaluate the shows just on their gameplay, Scrabble Showdown wins easy. But my guess is that the louder, simpler and bouncier Game of Life will prove more appealing to Hub's kiddie audience. Maybe it's just that Frank Nicotero irritates me less than Scrabble Showdown's Justin Willman. A less squeaky voice, anyway.

UPDATE: On the GSN general board, frequent poster TheKid965 offers an interesting comparison of Scrabble Showdown to the ancient Chuck Woolery show. He notes quite a few similarities.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wheelin' with suggestions

A thread on the GSN general board started chatting about possible changes to Wheel of Fortune. Silly me ain't convinced the show has to change much at all. It dominates syndie game shows and, for that matter, almost all syndies in total viewers.

But a common theme in the GSN thread is dislike of the toss-ups. This is probably just a reflection of the older-is-better mentality so common on the boards. If the toss-ups had been on the show from the beginning, and the producers suddenly took them away, the posters would squawk about this terrible break with the past.

If you ask me - and I know you didn't - the toss-ups work great. They quicken the pace of the show and get more puzzles into every episode. The idea is to put as much gameplay into each episode, right?

Another complaint is the prize puzzles. Yeah, I can see how the gimmick has gotten a little stale and needs some freshening. How about giving away a trip to Boise? (Just kidding.)

Really, though, I don't see much reason to change anything on the show, except to get a little more generous with the cash. Wheel prints money, so they could afford a few higher-dollar amounts for their contestants. It's not like Pat and Vanna would need food stamps as a result.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Legacy of the final answer

This entry's title reminds me of Legends of the Hidden Temple, but I'm not writing about my favorite kid show. Instead, with Regis taking back a prime time slot on GSN, I'd like to review Who Wants to Be a Millionaire's influence on later efforts in our little genre.

The most obvious legacy is Millionaire's own syndie version, now at ten seasons and still doing pretty good business. Other clear influences are the money tree, which has shown up everywhere from Greed to Minute To Win It, and dark sets with allegedly "dramatic" lighting.

The most problematic feature that Millionaire left behind is its less than frantic pace. Don't get me wrong. I don't mind a little build in the tension as we get to more critical parts of the game. Even Alex slows down for Final Jeopardy. But Millionaire's sometimes dawdling pace has been taken to extremes on some shows, like the glacial Million Dollar Money Drop.

Oh, I'm getting too persnickety. Millionaire revived game shows in broadcast prime time after decades in exile. For that achievement alone the show deserves many thanks.