Monday, October 31, 2011

Million dollar Nielsen bust

BuzzerBlog posted some local market ratings for the October 23 premiere of Million Dollar Mind Game. Nobody should have expected anything except near-invisible numbers, and that's exactly what happened.

My own review was tepid at best and brutal at worst. ABC knew what they were doing when they burned the show off in a throwaway Sunday afternoon slot. Still, I'll admit to a sneaking wish that a few more people would give the show a chance.

I'm not just pleading for game shows in general, though there's a little of that involved. Million Dollar Mind Game is a truly offbeat departure from the usual run of American game shows. Frankly, some of the departures, like the excruciating difficulty of the questions and the lollygagging pace, strike me as anything but favorable.

But it would still be nice to see such a quirky show somehow find a few viewers, at least the famous "cult following." I'm afraid even that may be too much to ask for the import from Russia without love (by Nielsen).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Secret garden of delights

Richard Carson is a game show fan after my own heart. His I've Got a Secret episode guide is an invaluable source for my favorite black-and-white game show ever.

The guide provides detailed production and content information for hundreds of IGAS episodes throughout the show's 1952-67 run. Even more handy are the links to dozens of clips from the show on YouTube, many of them uploaded by Richard himself. I spent hours yesterday watching some of the very best clips from one of the funniest shows ever to grace American TV.

One of the most hilarious bits came from the November 12, 1958 episode. With the panel not in on the secret, host Garry Moore and guest Peter Lind Hayes read incredibly bad jokes that had been written years before by...none other than panelist Bill Cullen.

At first befuddled by what was going on, the panel soon started ripping the jokes as downright awful (which they were). This naturally led to gales of laughter from the audience. Bill Cullen in particular dumped on the jokes as material he wouldn't be caught dead using. Bill said the jokes must have been stolen from jokebooks authored by men long since dead.

By now the audience was helpless with laughter. Bill suddenly realized that they were laughing at him, and that he must have written the horrible jokes himself. As always, the self-deprecating Cullen then joined in the hilarity. To give Bill some respect, Garry and Peter finished the bit by reading a pretty funny routine that Bill had also written years before.

It's times like these that I really, really wish GSN would bring back the black-and-white IGAS. Maybe we'll get some episodes around Christmas, as the network has done in recent years.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More inside stuff

Following up my post on super-sekret inside info...

Just to show you the kind of things that land in my inbox, I've posted a birthday photo of Pat Sajak. The folks at Wheel of Fortune sent me the happy picture to celebrate Pat's 65th on October 26.

Wikipedia tells me that Sajak took over the big zillion-colored wheel in 1981, when he was 35. That means the show has been part of his life for nearly half his life. By now Wheel of Fortune must seem like his left leg, something you'd have to amputate to get rid of.

Not that I want to call the doctor. Pat has been perfect for the show, with a low-key but quirky personality that has worn very well through however many thousand episodes he's hosted. A flashier and more intrusive host (not to mention any names, Richard Dawson) would have long since grown unbearable.

All GSN all the time

You're probably wondering when I'll get tired of posting about GSN. Well, it hasn't happened yet. Some more of my deep thoughts from the GSN Internet boards about new programming exec Amy Davis and the new prime time schedule...

Other poster, who claims inside information on Amy Davis' plans for GSN: Billy and I thought we both were receiving factual information and until we both see it, [emphasis mine] I'm going to believe what I heard and I'm sure Billy will be saying the same thing.

Until you both see what?

Another poster: So, I do think there will be some viewers who tune in on Friday nights [for the oldies block] that don't normally watch during the day/late night and therefore these episodes won't be worn out to those folks. Just my thoughts.

Sure, that's why GSN can get away with rerun abuse. Even an extremely short-run show like Million Dollar Password has managed to get decent ratings after a lot of rerun cycles. MDP's latest published number on October 15 was 330K viewers, just fine by GSN standards. Most viewers don't watch every episode of any GSN show religiously. There are always some eps that are new (or at least haven't been seen for a while) for some viewers.

When you start talking about a 400-episode order like GSN currently has for Match Game, a bunch of the eps will be new (or long forgotten) for many if not most GSN viewers.

Yet another poster: But your thoughts basically are to say "to hell with the diehards who do watch these shows." Who cares about the rerun abuse? They do.

Diehards like you describe are heavily over-represented on these boards (and Internet game show boards in general) compared to GSN's actual audience. Most GSN viewers do not watch every single ep of Match Game or any show every single day. The audience you talk about is a shifting group of people who occasionally tune in.

So when you have a huge - and it is huge by usual TV standards - number of episodes of Match Game, as GSN does, most of the network's audience will find plenty of new (or forgotten) eps to watch. It's really the secret of GSN's success over the years. A lot of game shows have a lot of episodes, so GSN can get away with grinding them through a lot of rerun cycles.

I don't know how GSN's oldies block on Friday will perform in the ratings. But rerun abuse really won't be a factor, though I'm sure classics fans will blame it if the shows don't get numbers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The real inside stuff

A few posts lately have talked about GSN, in case you haven't noticed. And a big chunk of those posts have revolved around famous "inside information."

In this case, it's info that a few folks claim to have about Amy Davis' plans as the network's new programming exec. I've been skeptical, even derisive about these claims. And I might as well be upfront: my own inside information about GSN or game shows in general is pretty near nonexistent.

Oh, now and then an email will show up in my inbox from game show folks about promotions or specials. Sometimes I'll base faux tweets on such emails. But this is pretty tepid stuff, which either is or will soon be public information, anyway.

As for insider stuff about which exec is scheming against which other exec, or what the execs are planning for us unsuspecting game show fans...sorry, no can do (or provide). I just don't have any sources like that. And even if I did, I don't know if I would believe them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Major GSN schedule conniptions

Too bad I haven't posted anything about GSN lately. Just kidding, folks. But the network has decided to rip up its prime time schedule and start all over. The numbers haven't been great recently, but I didn't think they were that bad. Still, what do I know?

We already heard about the Sunday 7:00PM-12:00AM marathon of 5th Grader starting November 6. It won't be the only show getting the five-hour treatment. Beginning that fateful week in November, we'll see 7:00PM-12:00AM marathons of Newlywed Game, Baggage and Deal or No Deal on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Hope you like those shows. Monday will be a relatively ordinary night: a lineup of Million Dollar Password, Power of 10, Saget 1 vs. 100, Regis Millionaire, and Deal or No Deal for 7:00PM-12:00AM. Friday night really goes old with pre-1990 shows for the five hours: Match Game, 25K Pyramid, Card Sharks, Dawson Feud, and 100K Pyramid. First time the oldies have invaded prime time in a while. No doubt classics fans on the GSN board will kvetch about the seasons being shown.

Nielsen stalwarts Richard Karn and John O'Hurley get tossed from weekday prime time. But not to worry. They get Saturday 7:00PM-12:00AM: Richard for the first two-and-a-half hours, John for the second. A few other changes here and there: Improv-a-Ganza, Love Triangle and Carrie Ann's 1 vs. 100 vanish from the schedule completely.

Except for the mildly risque Jerry and Sherri, this continues the trend toward older, more traditional and less edgy stuff on our little game show network. And all this before Amy Davis hardly has time to get settled in her office as GSN's new programming director. Welcome aboard, Amy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Syndies do okay

Syndicated game shows didn't do that bad in the week ending October 16. Baseball preemptions hurt a lot of syndies but our little genre came through all right. TVNewsCheck presents the decent news...

Wheel of Fortune 6.7 - up a tick
Jeopardy 5.6 - flat, couldn't quite match the soulmate
Family Feud 2.6 - flat
Millionaire 2.5 - up a couple ticks and closing in on Steve Harvey and friends

At TV by the Numbers Bill Gorman puts up the viewership averages right quick, along with a publicity photo of (who else?) Pat and Vanna: Wheel of Fortune 10.3 million, Jeopardy 8.6 million, Family Feud 3.8 million, Millionaire 3.3 million. All the shows can make a nice living off these numbers.

Douglas also posted the GSN numbers for October 10-16. The averages for the week, prime time/total day (in thousands of viewers)...

Mon 247/226
Tue 310/221
Wed 321/233
Thu 324/230
Fri 329/239
Sat 316/220
Sun 234/190

Couple of forgettable days Monday and Sunday. Otherwise, the numbers weren't great but weren't disastrous, either. Top ten for the week...

Mon 4:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 445
Thu 4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 426
Thu 10:30PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 403
Fri 9:00PM Deal or No Deal 402
Mon 4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 400
Thu 4:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 387
Wed 9:00PM Deal or No Deal 376
Wed 4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 374
Wed 10:30PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 367
Wed 11:30PM Baggage 367

The usuals. Karn, O'Hurley and Howie. Oh, Jerry snuck in.

UPDATE: Just added some ratings for The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal in the sidebar. TPiR does great in households but skews old. LMAD doesn't do very well in anything but it's cheaper than a soap opera.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Goin' wild on GSN

You may be bored stiff with all the GSN posts. And I don't blame you. But I can't help myself. So once more about the network's current direction and new programming exec Amy Davis (I'm using what I assume is her married name because what I assume is her maiden name is too easy for me to misspell)...

Best as I can figure, some big classics fans on the GSN Internet boards thought that a very traditional-minded game show person was about to become the network's new programming director. That's why they were posting happy messages on the boards and talking about which old game shows GSN would bring back.

I have no clue if this idea was based on genuine information or was just pleasant fantasy. I've never talked to or even corresponded with GSN president David Goldhill, and I have no idea who he was interviewing for the PD job. I assume he interviewed a number of people and considered many more. But that's just my uninformed opinion. Maybe he really had settled on this very traditional-minded person, whoever that person may be (and assuming that person even exists).

Now that Amy Davis has become the new PD instead, those same classics fans seem to be having nightmares over what she'll do. Again, I have no idea if this fear is based on any real information, or is just a reaction to their favored person not getting the job. But then I have no idea if that “favored person” was interviewed, offered the job, or even existed.

All I can go on is what's been happening with GSN's schedule lately. The undeniable trend has been toward more traditional, less edgy and, yes, older material. This direction runs directly counter to what previous PD Kelly Goode (Carnage, Love Triangle, Improv-a-Ganza, Late Night Liars, etc.) seems to have preferred.

Which may be the real lesson here. We do know from published information in financial statements that Sony assumed day-to-day control of the network earlier this year. The new direction on GSN's schedule followed, and Kelly Goode did not last long as PD under the new regime. Is all this a coincidence? Maybe, but I doubt it.

After all, no PD can fight City Hall for very long. If Goldhill and his corporate superiors at Sony want a more traditional direction for GSN aimed at that now-famous "core audience of adult females", that's what we’ll get. Regardless of who holds the PD job.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Million dollar siesta

Not much of a football fan, so I just watched the premiere of ABC's Million Dollar Mind Game. I can understand why the six episodes are getting burned off in the middle of schedule nowhere.

The basic idea is sort of okay. The host, Vernon Kay in impeccable evening dress, tosses out a tricky question with devious clues to the six contestants. They discuss and argue and ramble for sixty seconds, then have to answer.

There are some helps and a money tree, just like every other million dollar quizzer. If the team eventually racks up four wrong answers, they bomb out with nothing.

But there are problems. Boy, are there problems. The questions are too flipping hard for most of the audience. The pace is funereal. There's endless padding to drag the game out to an hour. And the final vote by the team to continue or leave with $72,000 was completely anticlimactic. After all, the hour was up and every viewer (all three of us, probably) knew the contestants would take the money and run.

I can see how the game became a cult favorite in its Russian homeland. The super-devious questions are mildly entertaining, and the group dynamics among the team can be mildly interesting. But it's more than mildly obvious why ABC passed on the show. Slow, way too difficult, easy to lose interest.

At least the logo offers a cute reminder of the game's Russian origins with the cyrillic character.

And yet more GSN

Sorry for the obsession with our little game show network. But the GSN boards are buzzing right now with a rumor that Amy Davis' appointment as programming chief means bizarre departures from traditional game shows. The rumors are based solely on the word of one poster, who says he's relying on three unidentified "sources."

Who knows? He may be right. But I'm skeptical, as I posted in reply...

And so far the only "sources" we have for all these rumors about GSN's future are three unnamed people mentioned by one poster, whose negative opinions about the network are well known. Those three unnamed people might be Moe, Larry and Curly for all we know.

In fact, the percentage of pre-1990 material on GSN may well continue to go down, as it has throughout the network's history. That's only to be expected as the years go by and newer acquisitions and originals accumulate. But these rumors about wild departures from traditional game shows and the complete elimination of older game shows are based on nothing more than the word of one poster, supposedly relying on three completely unidentified "sources."

And the rumors directly contradict what has recently happened and continues to happen on the network. The percentage of pre-1990 material has actually increased lately with the addition of five more hours of Pyramid. Improv-a-Ganza and Love Triangle have been almost eliminated from the schedule. Baggage is being cut back, beginning next week, in favor of the much more traditional and much less risque Catch 21. The biggest acquisition in a long time is the very traditional and family-friendly 5th Grader, debuting next month in excellent Sunday night timeslots.

Even more to the point, GSN's own press release on Amy Davis' hiring talks about focusing on the network's core audience of older women. All the recent moves by the network are consistent with such a focus and a return to more traditional and less controversial game shows. This again argues against the speculative rumors spread by a single poster with his unnamed "sources."

I realize the poster presenting these rumors has a fan club on these boards, people who share his negative opinions of GSN. But until we see some real evidence supporting these rumors, why should we believe them?

This reminds me of that famous hoax about a supposed new GSN game show involving a 300-ton pile of coal. Some posters around here fell for it hook, line and sinker (despite many indications that it was just a ridiculous joke) because they were willing to believe the worst about GSN. Unless [the poster presenting the rumors] can produce some real evidence to back up his assertions, I'm not buying.

UPDATE: Things get curiouser and curiouser. Now we've got another poster claiming inside information about Amy Davis' hiring. Is the info accurate? Who knows? But I posted my reaction...

Other poster: Somebody was about to become the new programming director and that person just may have had to turn it down for family reasons. Not saying who though, but that's as much information as you are getting [emphasis mine]. The person who was going to be hired was a huge game show fan who wanted to add variety back to GSN. Going back to 2008/2009 and making them better was going to be the plan. Also, this person was very friendly with Les Moonves of CBS and was trying to negotiate a Price is Right return to GSN. The person had to stay put in the East Coast to continue running his/her company. Amy was not the 1st choice Casey!

Nobody wants to tell us anything lately (wink).

Anyway, who cares if Amy Davis was the first choice or ninety-ninth choice? No programming director can go against the general direction set by [GSN president David] Goldhill and his Sony superiors. Otherwise, the programming director becomes an ex-programming director.

I'm tempted to say...see [former GSN programming exec] Goode, Kelly. My opinion - and it's just my opinion, I'm not claiming any super-duper inside "sources" - is that Sony's assumption of day-to-day control over GSN earlier this year and Kelly Goode's exit from the network were not coincidental events.

What matters is what shows up on the network. Let's just sit back and watch. So far the recent, continuing and near-future trend is clearly towards an older, more traditional, less risque schedule. (You might call this the anti-Kelly direction.) We'll see if this trend continues.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

We want contestants

Saw a short but interesting thread on Matt Ottinger's game show board. A poster wondered about the contestant-wanted ads that used to appear in the LA Times classifieds for game shows.

Veteran game show announcer Randy West replied that the ads were an LA specialty. He never saw them in New York City. Their purpose?
A production company can never have too many prospective contestants applying, whether from in-show plugs or other referrals. It gives the show the picks of the litter without the need to "settle" on borderline prospects. That's why even Wheel of Fortune is still seeing hopefuls despite having files full of applicants. In addition, contestant coordinators use the applicants who respond to those ads for future shows.
Nowadays the Internet has taken over the contestant hunt. Casting call sites regularly invite the bright and bubbly (and often the young) of the world to take their chances on new game shows.

In fact, I recently got an e-mail from GSN that a second season Lingo casting call on the Internet was fake. I replied that I hadn't seen the call, but I probably wouldn't have believed it, anyway.

Didn't say it, but new original production seems dead at GSN right now. Maybe things will pick up with the hiring of new programming chief Amy Davis.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Question time

BuzzerBlog offers a few stills and five questions from ABC's new Million Dollar Mind Game. Host Vernon Kay follows the Russian original What? Where? When? by wearing snazzy evening dress.

Four of the five questions stumped me. But I nailed one immediately, thanks to the "2,400" clue. The query: "This song was written just over a century ago and concerns a young woman’s plea to her boyfriend. Today, it is sung by large groups of people over 2,400 times a year. What is the song?"

It's Take Me Out To The Ballgame, sung by the crowd during the seventh-inning stretch at some 2,400 major league games each year. But I really have no clue on what Barbie has had 108 times. I'm tempted to say breast implants, which would be rude.

Anyway, I can understand how the difficulty of the questions might have soured ABC on the quizzer. But they'll burn off the six episodes opposite football starting Sunday.

UPDATE: Now that I think about it, has Barbie had 108 different jobs? I know there's been Nurse Barbie and Astronaut Barbie and Fashion Model Barbie and...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Eyeing the big six-oh

Doesn't have much to do with game shows specifically. But I'm tired of writing about GSN and there's not much other news.

So hail to the CBS Eye logo, about to turn sixty. The fact that I'm turning sixty at almost the same time means that I've been around too long. And maybe American commercial television has also overstayed its welcome. But it doesn't show any signs of going away, so we might as well get used to it.

As most people have, with a vengeance. You might say that TV has been a successful invention. CBS dates back to the ancient radio days, of course, but it didn't neglect the opportunity presented by the box with pictures. Game shows have been along for the CBS ride even longer than the Eye. What's My Line debuted on the network in 1950, the year before the Eye started not blinking at us.

Even today The Price is Right chugs along at CBS, showing few signs of imminent demise. The network has seen the rise, fall, and partial rise again of the genre, and who knows what the next sixty years will bring. I'll only be along for part of that ride. But I'll be watching, as long as I can.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Syndies inch along

No big moves for syndicated game shows in the week ending October 9. Just a tick up and down here and there. TVNewsCheck brings the so-so news...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - down a tick
Jeopardy 5.6 - shows the soulmate, up a tick
Family Feud 2.6 - flat
Millionaire 2.3 - down a tick

When TV by the Numbers gets around to the viewership averages, they'll show up in this space. With the new season underway for the broadcast nets, the guys at TVBTN have more important things on their minds. Like which overrated, overhyped, underwatched piece of network crud will feed the cancellation bear this week.

They posted the viewer numbers: Wheel of Fortune 10.3 million (weekend repeat 3.6 million), Jeopardy 8.5 million, Family Feud 3.8 million. Once again Meredith missed the top 25 list.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yet more GSN

Realize this blog is looking more and more like GSN Central, but things are hopping right now.

Almost scary but GSN has taken my advice (okay, other people have been advising the same) and acquired at least one successful recent game show. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? comes to the network starting 7:00PM Sunday, November 6. Nobody seems sure yet whether it's the network or syndie version.

The hour-long network episodes seem more likely because Hub already snagged the syndie. We'll see soon enough. Meanwhile, GSN has hired Kelly Goode's replacement as chief programming exec. She's Amy Introcaso-Davis, who worked at Bravo and Oxygen.

The press release on Amy talks about GSN's "core audience of adult females." That may well indicate a future concentration on traditional game shows instead of demo experiments like the expensive bombs Late Night Liars and Improv-a-Ganza. There's also chatter about "increasing original programming," but it will probably be safer, lower-budget stuff.

UPDATE: Looks like it's the hour-long network version of 5th Grader, according to this Hollywood Reporter story. In somewhat odd programming GSN will run the show in five-hour blocks every Sunday night from 7:00PM to midnight.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

More GSN palaver

We may not resolve anything, but we love to talk about the future of GSN on its Internet board. Some of my chatter in response to various friendly and not-so-friendly comments...

First poster: I see some acquisitions for GSN during 2012. I see O'Hurley's last season, and Harvey's first season of Feud coming here within the next year. Again recent Wheel could happen and boost morning ratings.

Since original development looks dead right now, something like this may be the probable outcome. But Sony, having taken operational control of GSN, may just decide that the cable network isn't all that important as long as the online business is growing. So maybe they won't spend much money on any shows, originals or acquisitions. Instead they might put more money into online development. This web site looks more like a gaming site all the time, with the cable network as a distant afterthought.

Second poster: First, I don't scorn them [acquired shows]. Kindly keep your words out of my mouth. Once again, they are all stagnant or down from earlier this year. And once again, you completely ignore the part where there is no assurance that they can get half the stuff you ask for, especially the shows that are already in syndication elsewhere. What's the cost for those then?

The numbers for the acquisitions may not meet your expectations, but they're the best GSN has right now. So if GSN is going to spend money on the cable network at all, why not try for some other recent game shows with decent track records?

Third poster: I guess if that is so [GSN's audience lacks male viewers], then to get more men interested, GSN tried out Carrie Ann Inaba and that Dog-Eat-Dog woman as hosts, and why so many of the female contestants are young and wear short skirts and 8-inch stilettos.

You may be right about that (wink).

In fact, only the poker shows have attracted a predominately male audience to GSN. As the linked New York Times story said back in 2007: "Both GSN’s audience and online demographics skew towards middle-aged women. A Monday night block of High Stakes Poker, a casino-themed deviation from GSN’s traditional lineup, is the network’s highest-rated show, averaging 305,000 viewers. (It is also the only one that attracts more men than women.)"

There have been a few other exceptions to GSN's usual demo skews. Amazing Race skewed much younger than usual before GSN burned it out with a ridiculous schedule. The dodgeball show also did much better with 18-34 viewers before it ran out of steam in the third season.

Fourth poster: DirecTV owns GSN?

GSN's corporate parents are DirecTV and Sony. In a complicated transaction, Sony will assume majority ownership of GSN over the next few years, and has already gained day-to-day operational control.

The producer

Now and then I catch one of GSN's many runs of Pyramid. The show has won the second-most best-game-show Emmys ever, behind only Jeopardy. The guy who started the show is in the picture with a couple friends of his.

Born Isidore Steinberg in 1920, Bob Stewart joined Goodson-Todman in 1956. He came up with some of the very best G-T formats, including the original The Price is Right, To Tell the Truth, and (most importantly for his own future) Password.

In 1965 Stewart left G-T after famously telling Mark Goodson he wanted to be a king, not just a prince. His own production firm would spawn a raft of game shows, beginning with Eye Guess in 1966. But it was Pyramid that would make Stewart's day (and year and decade and century).

Essentially, Stewart came up with Pyramid's format by making everything in Password the lightning round. He then loosened the rules on clues to include more than a single word. A timeless classic was born, which sounds a little pretentious but is true.

After producing many other shows, Stewart retired from the business in 1992. I've heard that he didn't like the 2002-04 version of Pyramid with Donny Osmond. Personally, I thought the show was an entertaining update of the format. The tighter time limit made perfect rounds less routine. But I don't want to disagree too much with one of the best game show producers ever.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Science fiction meets game shows?

Game show fans often complain when GSN tries non-game-show projects. I certainly hollered about Improv-a-Ganza, the (alleged) comedy effort that had nothing to do with game shows. Luckily for me, the show went up in very smelly flames, was quickly cancelled, and will no doubt soon vanish completely from GSN.

But things can work the other way around. A faux tweet noted SyFy's foray into, you guessed it, game shows. The network will try Total Blackout, where contestants face challenges in complete darkness, with creepy-crawlies like tarantulas and snakes thrown in.

I still remember the stink when SyFy changed its name to the current too-cute moniker. Hardcore science fiction fans screamed that the network was losing its focus. They won't scream any less about a game show invading their sacred precincts. It's the mirror image of game show purists like me getting antsy over GSN's ventures into other genres.

I'm really not too hopeful about Total Blackout's prospects. The show does look like a misfit for SyFy even with the tarantulas, and the concept seems hackneyed and derivative: Beat the Clock in the dark, basically.

One thing is certain. A failure wouldn't make science fiction fans unhappy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Don't need no stinkin' originals

Now that I've number-palooza-ed the network (see below) I've gotten into a spat on the GSN board about the advisability of more originals. But first I noticed something...
By the way, has original development come to a screeching halt at GSN? I haven't seen even the slightest hint of a new original on the network. Some of this may just be a natural break in development after [programming exec] Kelly Goode left. But I wonder if the green-eyeshade types at Sony have told [GSN president] David Goldhill that they really don't want any more expensive disasters like Late Night Liars or Improv-a-Ganza.
Still haven't heard a peep about new originals. As I look over the long list of GSN efforts, I can see why the network may be going a little slow on development.

Simply put, the failures far outnumber the successes. For every long-lived Lingo, there seems to be a bunch of forgotten Throut and Necks. This is hardly a problem for just GSN. Every TV network finds that success is rare in original development, and failure depressingly common.

My advice (much disputed) on the GSN board was to shelve development for a while. Instead, invest the network's money in acquiring recent game shows with good track records. But my guess is that, sooner or later, new originals will again crop up on our little game show network. TV execs want to start new shows, not just buy somebody else's used stuff. Makes 'em feel creative.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

GSN number-palooza returns

Been a while since I did a full-blown number crunch on a bunch of GSN ratings. But you can't keep an actuary away from numbers for very long.

Especially when Douglas dumps a whole week (well, Monday through Friday) in one blog post. The results for October 3-7 started out horrendous and eventually turned semi-respectable for our little game show network. So the story had kind of a happy ending. The prime time/total day viewership averages (numbers in thousands of viewers)...

October 3 176/182
October 4 272/216
October 5 323/227
October 6 383/227
October 7 340/227

No, I didn't rig those total day numbers. The last three days just turned out identical. GSN is up against the new season on the broadcast nets, and TBS was sopping up a lot of cable viewers in this week for the extended baseball playoffs.

But sports are generally no threat to GSN's old-skewing, female-skewing audience. In fact, TBS's audiences for the playoffs grew as the week went on, but GSN's numbers also rose. So I really doubt that baseball (or football, for that matter) affected GSN's ratings much. Monday was just a really, really bad day.

The top ten for the week had a nostalgic look, like when a certain suitcase-opening show was new on the network (again, numbers in thousands of viewers)...

Oct 6 9:00PM Deal or No Deal 414
Oct 7 10:30PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 396
Oct 6 8:00PM Deal or No Deal 395
Oct 5 9:00PM Deal or No Deal 364
Oct 6 10:30PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 356
Oct 7 9:00PM Deal or No Deal 345
Oct 5 10:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 344
Oct 6 6:30PM Baggage 341
Oct 4 6:30PM Baggage 331
Oct 7 10:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 330

Even after endless rerun cycles, Howie and friends have a little juice left. Otherwise, it was no surprise to see old warriors Karn, O'Hurley and Springer.

Haven't done this before, but let's look at the bottom ten for the week. Mostly it was bits and pieces from the fringes of the schedule. But there was one noticeable exception...

Oct 4 2:00AM $25,000 Pyramid 105
Oct 5 12:00AM Drew Carey’s Improv-a-Ganza 105
Oct 3 2:30AM $100,000 Pyramid 102
Oct 6 8:00AM Match Game 101
Oct 3 11:30PM Baggage 100
Oct 5 8:00AM Match Game 87
Oct 6 12:00AM Drew Carey’s Improv-a-Ganza 86
Oct 4 8:00AM Match Game 75
Oct 3 12:00AM Drew Carey’s Improv-a-Ganza 53
Oct 3 8:00AM Match Game 30

In case the network hasn't noticed, nobody is watching the now-cancelled improvisers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Syndies split

It was literally up and down for syndicated game shows in the week ending October 2. The twin towers got a bit taller, and the other two got a bit shorter. TVNewsCheck has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.7 - up a tick
Jeopardy 5.5 - guess what, matches the soulmate, also up a tick
Family Feud 2.6 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.4 - down a tick

TV by the Numbers delivers the viewership averages promptly: Wheel of Fortune 10.2 million, Jeopardy 8.3 million, Family Feud 3.8 million. Meredith just missed the top 25 list, but the twin towers are growing their audiences as we head further into fall.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Love that dirty water

A faux tweet noted a raunch-and-roll version of Dating Game played at the University of Connecticut. Which reminds me of various recent complaints about off-color material on game shows.

The GSN boards have seen plenty of wailing over Baggage, Newlywed Game and Bill Engvall's Lingo. These whines mostly strike me as Victorian and prudish. After all, there's no nudity or f-bombing language on these shows. Compared to, say, Game of Thrones, GSN is squeaky-cleaner than Barney the Dinosaur.

And I can't stand Barney. Syndicated game shows are also mostly G-rated. Oh, some mildly risque talk sneaks into Family Feud. But the other three syndies are family-friendly to a fault. There's a famous Wheel of Fortune blooper, for instance, where a contestant guesses "a group of pill pushers." In disbelief Pat exclaims: "This is Wheel of Fortune!"

The genre's inherent conservatism - there are rules and some things are just not done - tends to keep the proceedings fairly harmless. In its time Match Game was considered somewhat daring, but the 1998 revival foundered when the panelists got too ribald.

If you're going to be shocked by anything on most game shows, you're probably extremely shockable. If you have any tolerance at all, most game shows will leave you unfazed.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Marcia matches up

American actress and comedienne Marcia Wallace (sounds like Wikipedia-speak, and it is) may be best known for her 1970s role as the receptionist on The Bob Newhart Show and for voicing Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons. But my game-show-obsessed self will always remember her oddly edgy semi-regular role on Match Game.

Funny thing: I never thought Marcia was particularly good on the show. She tried really, really hard to be funny and once in a while got off a good line. But maybe she was just trying way too hard. Her Wikipedia article mentions a "nervous breakdown," and I can believe it. She always seemed needy on Match Game, almost begging the audience to laugh at her lines.

The producers must have thought she brought something to the show, though. She made over 200 appearances on Match Game, usually in the lower right seat. In fact, Marcia was a good game player and often appeared on the much more demanding Password and Pyramid. So I'm being far too snotty to her.

Marcia also did a few episodes of the 1983 Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour and the 1990 Match Game revival. She showed up on GSN's 2006 Behind the Blank documentary about the show. No matter what silly me thinks, her niche in the show's history is secure.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bingo blitzed

GSN's ratings have been spotty lately at best. But the network continues to prosper online. This Multichannel story tells how GSN is generating ever more traffic from its online sites. Carlos Thrasher, a Marine stationed in North Carolina, cashed in with a $37,000 prize on Bingo Blitz, for instance.

The story says GSN's main web site receives over three million unique visitors each month, more than doubling its traffic over the last year-and-a-half. I've seen a lot of other stories about the growth in GSN's online presence and revenue. Stuck with bad demos and stagnant (or worse) ratings for the cable network, GSN is still doing good gaming business on the web.

The online games try to drive players to the cable network. Or as the story puts it: "Each online game is a little different, but they all have the same end goal: play online and watch on TV." Lately not enough people have been watching GSN, especially some of the network's uninspired originals. But people will always want to play games. As GSN constantly reminds us, the world needs more winners.

Friday, October 7, 2011


At Carrie Grosvenor is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Double Dare, the messy stunt game show for kids. The show helped put Nickelodeon on the map and a lot of slime on the set.

My grumpy self has often noted my grumpy indifference to most kid game shows. I'm afraid that Double Dare wasn't an exception to my grumpiness. The stunts were fun and harmless, I guess, but I never really warmed up to the predictable messiness and silliness.

Marc Summers ran the show competently and everybody seemed to have a good time. Audiences liked the show because it enjoyed a nice long run on Nick, followed by a lot of spinoffs which lasted for several more years. Rumor has it that one of the spinoffs, Family Double Dare, will return as part of TeenNick's The 90's Are All That programming block.

Game Show Newsnet has even changed their logo to join in the silver anniversary hoopla. So I'll suspend my grumpiness and wish a nice 25th to everybody who enjoyed the show.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

They're running what when?

I blogged long ago about ABC's adaptation of the long-running Russian quizzer What? Where? When? ABC taped six episodes of its version, renamed Million Dollar Mind Game.

The network apparently didn't think much of the show, and it never got on the air. Until now. For whatever reason ABC will burn off the six episodes on Sunday afternoons starting October 23 at 4:00PM Eastern. Yep, right in the middle of a football Sunday.

I assume the network expects nothing from the show and just didn't want to waste the investment. The Russian format is difficult by any standard, but particularly tough compared to most American quizzers. Reportedly, the degree of difficulty soured ABC on the six episodes.

The format is a fairly free-form quizzer where six contestants try to identify something based on devious and obscure clues. Have no idea what ABC's version will look like, but YouTube offers some samples of What? Where? When? in Russian. About all I can understand is the Thus Spoke Zarathustra theme from 2001.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Syndies rock and roll

With new seasons of all four syndicated game shows now in full swing, TVNewsCheck brings glad tidings for everybody. The happy numbers in the week ending September 25...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - up four ticks in its debut week
Jeopardy 5.4 - not to be outdone by the soulmate, up a whopping eight ticks for its debut
Family Feud 2.8 - up a couple ticks in the second week of its new season
Millionaire 2.5 - not to be left out, up a tick

In a previous post today I chatted about the particularly good news for Family Feud, which is garnering some better timeslots. If and when TV by the Numbers posts the viewership averages, I'll post 'em, too.

They posted 'em: Wheel of Fortune 10.0 million, Jeopardy 8.1 million, Family Feud 3.9 million, Millionaire 3.4 million. Very healthy numbers all round.

Congrats to Steve

TVNewsCheck presents some really good ratings news for Steve Harvey's Family Feud. Steve has boosted the venerable survey-fest nicely in the Nielsen Company's numbers. The show has earned better timeslots in several markets as a result.

I have to admit that Steve is not exactly my favorite Feud host ever. He tries a little too hard to convert every show into the Steve Harvey standup routine. But who cares about my quibbles? The Nielsen sample says otherwise, and I'm not going to argue.

GSN would certainly like to pick up Harvey's version to complement their endless reruns of the Karn and O'Hurley seasons. But that may have to wait a while. Fremantle may not want to dilute their ratings-getter right now.

At least it's nice that one of the genre's oldest formats keeps chugging along. Mark Goodson thought Feud was one of Goodson-Todman's best formats ever, and time has proven him right.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mr. Allen could play games

Now that I've bashed and been bashed by the older-is-better folks on the GSN boards, I'll do older-is-better myself.

Or at least appearing on game shows. The guy's IMDb page practically reads like the game show encyclopedia, starting with What's My Line in 1951 and continuing to Lifetime's I've Got a Secret in 2000, a few months before his death. In between, he hit a whole bunch of 'em. Sometimes it seemed like a game show wasn't official until Steve showed up.

Allen's quick wit, smiling persona, and total lack of pretension made him a natural for the genre. The screenshot comes from his 1958 "it wasn't named before me" appearance on What's My Line. One of his many contributions to that show was the bread box question, which has spawned a zillion spoofs.

Steve became a bit of a controversial figure, as he got a little grumpy about modern-day pop culture. But even here he never lost his infectious sense of humor. For instance, he liked to deadpan the lyrics to rock-and-roll songs, often to hilarious effect. A political columnist slammed him for this recently, and sneered: "Who now remembers Steve Allen?"

I do. I remember him quite well, in fact.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hanging with Chad

The faux tweets noted Chad Mosher's adventures on Millionaire. If you want to see the game show blogger and Internet Presence with Meredith on the randomized quizzer, check here. Chad also shared some comments on Matt Ottinger's board about his run to $43,550.

I really don't know Chad at all except on a few Internet threads where we've traded posts. But it's strange to see someone you've "met" (even virtually) taking his chances on a televised Q&A. Chad mentions his love of game shows to Meredith, so his appearance is a nice plug for the genre.

I also watched Chad's appearance on Million Dollar Password, when he told Regis that he wanted to be a game show host. Regis seemed a bit nonplussed. Sort of like me, probably, if Chad ever said he wanted to be an actuary.

UPDATE: Carrie Grosvenor has posted a long interview with Chad at Most interesting thing for me was that Chad thought Meredith was more emotionally involved on Millionaire than Regis was on Million Dollar Password. Shows how people can get different impressions of TV personalities. Meredith has always come across as chillier on the air to me than Regis.

Maybe all those hugs from Meredith seem a little much.