Wednesday, November 30, 2011


What if ABC had tried Million Dollar Mind Game in prime time instead of You Deserve It? It's a conundrum worthy of the well-dressed contestants on Mind Game itself.

Of course, the contestants couldn't have answered, because we can't run history over again. But that hasn't stopped some chatter on the web about how ABC chose the wrong game show to burn off in the schedule wilderness of Sunday afternoon. Especially now that You Deserve It looks to be tanking hard, with the second episode's 1.4 18-49 rating and only 4.4 million viewers. Both numbers are well down from the debut episode's already less than impressive totals.

Since it's pure speculation, I'll opine that Mind Game wouldn't have done any better and might have flopped worse. A painfully slow quizzer with painfully hard questions does not impress me as the ticket to Nielsen paradise. At best Mind Game might have collected a small cult following, which would have organized online petitions and letter-writing campaigns to save their unpopular favorite.

That would have been fun to watch but wouldn't have saved the show. You Deserve It's game is not sensational, but it's actually a lot better paced and more fun to play than Mind Game's numbingly tough puzzles. Too bad, but the producers stuffed way too many reality moments - hard luck stories and plentiful tears - into You Deserve It. If they had just stripped the show down to the gameplay, they might have lured decent ratings.

As it is, both shows seem destined for the famous six-and-out.

Monday, November 28, 2011

GSN checkerboard

Douglas has skipped ahead to the week of November 14-20 in his GSN viewer numbers. Unfortunately, some of the times are scrambled - not complaining, Douglas, keep up the good work! - so I can't be absolutely sure of the following averages. But they're pretty close.

The huge winner in GSN's new checkerboard schedule is 5th Grader. The show landed three of GSN's top five slots for the week and racked up an impressive 372K viewer average for its five-hour Sunday marathon. Deal or No Deal also performed very well with its marathon on Thursday, a 356K average. Those are exact averages, by the way. No problem with the times on those shows.

Best that I can figure, these are the averages for the 7:00PM-12:00AM marathons on all the days in thousands of viewers...

Mon 202 - Million Dollar Password did best
Tue 272-275 - Newlywed Game (a little uncertain due to times)
Wed 304 - Baggage
Thu 356 - Deal or No Deal
Fri 250 - Pre-1990 shows, 25K Pyramid did best
Sat 293-298 - Family Feud (again, a little uncertain due to the time trouble)
Sun 372 - 5th Grader

The weak sister is clearly Monday, which has been a sore spot for a long time now on GSN. A lot of those million dollar shows have been severely rerun-abused. But the most abused of them all, Million Dollar Password, performed the best! Go figure. The pre-1990 marathon did semi-respectably on Friday but hardly set the Nielsen world ablaze, with the second-lowest average of any of the marathons. 25K Pyramid and Card Sharks delivered the best numbers. I love the first, don't love the second. Sadly, my beloved Match Game did the worst in the marathon.

The overall prime time (8:00PM-11:00PM) average for the new schedule was about 311K, which isn't terrible but ain't all that great. Again, there's a little uncertainty in this average due to the time trouble.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Really dealing

History Channel brings a Brit import to Sunday night with Real Deal. The premise is simple. A contestant brings in a more or less valuable item. A pro dealer tries to negotiate a deal for the piece. If they can't agree the item goes to auction, and the contestant's haul may or may not exceed the dealer's final offer.

In practice, the show comes off like the negotiation scenes in Pawn Stars, without all the cutesy-pie "reality" bickering between Chumlee and the Old Man and the rest of 'em. Since those reality bits often bore me on Pawn Stars, I like how Real Deal strips things down to the essential game show. Take the deal or risk the auction.

The four pro dealers on the first two episodes were personable enough. Sometimes they seemed flat-out incredulous over what the contestants asked, like the twenty grand for the Spiderman necklace. (I was pretty dumbfounded by that initial demand, too.) My favorite character on the show was actually the auctioneer, though. A heavier version of Mr. Clean, he really milked his audience for every dollar.

The first two eps showed all three possible outcomes: agreed deals between the pros and the contestants, auctions that produced more than the final offer, and - the zonk outcome - auctions that yielded less than the final offer. The hour passed quickly thanks to a brisk pace, and the items were often interesting for historical reasons. It's a nice addition to History's lineup.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

GSN number-palooza: four more days

Not all the news about GSN concerns Dancing With the Stars lately. Douglas posted the October 31-November 3 viewer numbers for the network. My thrilling comments from the GSN Schedule board:

Averages for Tuesday through Thursday were fairly respectable. Monday showed the usual weakness. Prime time/total day (in thousands of viewers)...

Mon 264/213
Tue 316/245
Wed 341/241
Thu 360/251

The top 20 for the days was familiar...

Thu 4:30PM Family Feud 482
Thu 10:30PM Family Feud 458
Wed 4:30PM Family Feud 448
Wed 5:00PM Deal or No Deal 426
Tue 11:30PM Baggage 409
Wed 11:00PM Newlywed Game 402
Wed 10:00PM Family Feud 401
Thu 4:00PM Family Feud 400
Thu 11:00PM Newlywed Game 394
Thu 5:00PM Deal or No Deal 385
Thu 11:30PM Baggage 384
Tue 4:30PM Family Feud 378
Tue 3:30PM Chain Reaction 371
Wed 10:30PM Family Feud 371
Wed 11:30PM Baggage 364
Tue 10:30PM Family Feud 360
Thu 9:00PM Deal or No Deal 356
Tue 4:00PM Family Feud 355
Wed 9:00PM Deal or No Deal 354
Tue 5:00PM Deal or No Deal 345

Lots of Karn, O'Hurley and Howie, of course. Sherri and Jerry also snuck in, as did my beloved Chain Reaction. As always, Drew killed late nights by dropping half or more of his lead-in, which really hurt the total day averages. They just had to get him off the schedule.

Highest pre-1990 show was 10:30AM 25K Pyramid on Tuesday at 291K. Wonder if Pyramid is scoring the best numbers in the Friday night block. Speaking of which, we're almost up to the new schedule now. Guess that means a new thread [on the GSN Schedule board].

Friday, November 25, 2011

More dancing, more arguing

The endless yapping over GSN's acquisition of Dancing With the Stars continues. BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis among many others has waded in. Some more of my chatter from the GSN Schedule board...

Alex Davis: I frankly, don't watch the network.

I guess Alex means he doesn't watch GSN that much. He apparently was one of the few people who liked and watched Improv-a-Ganza and Late Night Liars. But those were demo experiments designed to lure folks like Alex. They didn't work. In fact, the only demo experiment that succeeded for a long time on GSN was High Stakes Poker. And that show is just about gone now.

As for a Dancing With the Stars talk show, I think it's a far-fetched idea at best. GSN's audience does skew in Dancing's direction, but that doesn't necessarily mean they like talk shows. They like competition. That's why they tune in to GSN instead of The View.

I do agree that DWTS is a much better demo bet for GSN than Amazing Race, and a way better bet than a freaking, flipping disaster like Late Night Liars, which was one of the worst waste products ever excreted by any network anywhere. Of course, that doesn't guarantee success, but Dancing's got a much better shot with GSN's core audience.

Is Dancing a game show? Sorry, I gave up on those metaphysical discussions long ago. I will say that it's a competition show which is at least closely related to traditional game shows.

By the way, I like how Alex has now softened his description of GSN's audience to "middle-aged ladies." He has been more blunt in the past (wink).

Another poster: This will last like The Amazing Race. It will work initially but quickly go to pot once all the first run reruns of this show are used up.

I think the much better demo targeting will keep the numbers higher than with Amazing Race. I agree that if GSN abuses the show too ridiculously, the numbers will soften quick.

Thank you, Don Pardo

Now that I've rustled through Chuck Woolery's Wheel of Fortune on YouTube, I went back and looked at Art Fleming's Jeopardy.

The big difference from Wheel is that Jeopardy gameplay has changed little since that ancient 1964-75 version. Old Jeopardy didn't have shopping rounds when folks could waste time spending their loot. Sure, the cash amounts were a lot lower before the Great Inflation. And they changed cards instead of TV monitors on the board. Watson was nowhere in sight, either.

But otherwise things went pretty much the same as nowadays. At the top of this 1968 episode Art even refers to the upcoming Tournament of Champions. The think music was also the same on Final Jeopardy. By the way, I had no clue where John Jacob Astor emigrated from.

Some formats are so solid that tinkering is foolish. Family Feud has also lasted a third of a century with few format changes. Though there have been some scoring switches and a couple tryouts for a bullseye round.

Jeopardy did try a few tweaks in the 1974-75 syndie and the 1978-79 revival. But the Alex Trebek version, which began in 1984 and goes on and on, went back to the tried and true original format. Why mess with timeless success?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

BuzzerBlog meets the hoofers

I've posted a lot of faux tweets today and I'm about ready to abandon blogging for turkey. The drumsticks taste better, after all. But I can't resist one more post about the ruckus over GSN acquiring Dancing With the Stars. My blogging confrere Alex Davis at BuzzerBlog reacted to the news on his twitter feed.

I already wrote a faux tweet about this, but I might as well give the full story. (Disclaimer: Alex has said some less than complimentary things about me, which may indicate he's no fool.) From my comments on the GSN Schedule board...

BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis does provide some humor on the subject. Part of it is unintentional, but nobody's perfect. He tweets: "Are the laughable hysterics over GSN picking up Dancing With the Stars over? Can I come out of hiding? I think I'm safe."

You're safe, Alex. But earlier he got a little grumpy over the situation, though I had to smile. Another poster commented: "I remember when GSN showed reruns of The Amazing Race and The Mole - I'd far prefer that, of course." Alex tweeted in response: "The old ladies that watch GSN don't. You and I aren't what GSN cares about."

Cry me a river. Alex did have an interesting suggestion: "Given the Dancing news, if I were GSN I'd consider making some sort of Dancing talk show if they could. Works with other cablers."

I dunno, I think GSN's viewers are more interested in competition than talk.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dancing fallout

Didn't have to be a genius to predict that the GSN Internet board would explode with righteous wrath over the Dancing With the Stars acquisition. The board is dominated by super-traditionalist older-is-better fans who don't much like anything on GSN produced after 1990. Especially when it's not a traditional game show. So they're yelping and yelping some more. Some of my sassy contributions to the screamfest...

I don't expect many posters on this board to watch DWTS. But posters around here are hardly representative of GSN's audience. Check Karn Feud's ratings if you don't believe me.

Stuff like Amazing Race was a demo gamble for GSN, an attempt to reach entirely different viewers than the network's usual old-skewing, female-skewing audience. Dancing With the Stars, in contrast, really hits that demo sweet spot for GSN. In fact, it may well be the broadcast show which gets the most viewers in those famous "adult female" demos that GSN specializes in.

Doesn't mean that the show will necessarily succeed on GSN. But it's a great demo fit for the network. It's not something like Improv-a-Ganza. Comedy generally skews younger and more male, and GSN's demos are anything but young and male. DWTS skews right into GSN's demo wheelhouse.

By the way, I doubt that [new GSN programming veep] Amy Davis had much to do with the acquisition. She's only been at GSN for a few weeks, and a huge acquisition like this must have been in the works for a long time. And it must have gotten signoffs from key people at Sony. I haven't seen any financial details, but a very large piece of change, by GSN standards, must have gone for these exclusive rerun rights.

Other poster: Actually the only thing I'm erupting with is I think these kinds of shows suck no matter what channel they come on, still can't believe it's been around for 13 years, and have no intentions of watching reruns of it...or first runs of it...ever.

Thanks for proving my point. I'm sure we'll see many more similar complaints on this board.

Another poster: But what about the possibility to add on more Match Game 1970's, Family Feud Dawson episodes, Card Sharks episode, and $25,000/$100,000 Pyramid episodes to the lease packages they have? Same for getting 100% of the Goodson-Todman library rights back?

If those shows got twenty million viewers, with heavy concentrations among GSN's current and target demos, the network might well spend whatever it takes.

Just one thing. Those shows don't get twenty million viewers.

Yet another poster: Surely, the acquisition of DWTS certainly doesn't seem like good news, and I can't help but be fairly pessimistic about the general direction of GSN in the future, but still I wouldn't yet presumptuously come to the conclusion that GSN is going to be all garbage reality programming.

Garbage is in the eye of the beholder. Twenty million beholders think DWTS is pretty good. That's why they watch. I don't watch it and I don't intend to watch it because I'm not a dancing fan. But the show has gotten generally favorable reviews as an interesting competition. And it's certainly built for GSN's audience (which again has little in common with this board).

One oddity: why didn't GSN get the first three seasons as well? I'm sure they would like to have John O'Hurley from the first season as a natural tie-in with Family Feud.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

GSN spends some money

Have to admit I didn't see this one coming. Seems like too much money for our little game show network. And GSN has lately emphasized traditional game shows.

But the network just plunked down some coin for seasons 4-14 of Dancing With the Stars. Might miss my guess, but I'd say the show will easily become GSN's highest-rated. Lately, any show that gets 500K viewers can claim that distinction. And DWTS should be able to clear that low hurdle with a dazzling leap. Even in its most recent, not so hot season, the show can pull around twenty million folks.

DWTS also skews toward those "adult female" demos we've heard so much about lately, so it should fit right in with GSN's audience. I'm sure that the GSN Internet boards will erupt with it's-not-a-game-show yelps, and I don't intend to watch the show myself. But the hoofers should definitely help the network's numbers.

The danger is ridiculous scheduling that burns out the show, just as Amazing Race expired a few years ago on GSN. Not really sure how the show will fit into the network's current checkerboard schedule. We'll see starting in January.

As with Improv-a-Ganza, I'm worried about the show succeeding all too well, and GSN crowding more non-traditional stuff onto the network. Improv-a-Ganza flopped big because it was a demo misfit for GSN. But I doubt the dancers will stumble nearly as badly.

Syndies: 3 outa 4 ain’t bad

The week of November 7-13 was very nice to three syndicated game shows. The fourth one, let's just say, didn't perform quite so well. But it didn't bomb, either. TVNewsCheck delivers the numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 7.6 – up three ticks to another season high
Jeopardy 6.3 – up a couple ticks to its own season high
Family Feud 3.2 – up a couple ticks to a season high, seeing a pattern here?
Millionaire 2.5 – the party pooper, down a tick but hardly horrible

When TV by the Numbers sends out its top 25 syndication list, I’ll post the viewership averages. Three syndie game shows made the list for sure.

TVBTN keeps using that same picture of Pat and Vanna. But the Wheel duo won't mind the viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.9 million, Jeopardy 9.6 million, Family Feud 4.8 million. Meredith again missed the list.

We deserve this?

Mix Queen For a Day and a run-of-the-mill quizzer, and you get lots of tears in between the puzzle-solving. That's basically the idea for You Deserve It.

The game format is okay but nothing special. Each round starts with some money and a hidden answer. Contestants have to spend money to buy clues to the answer. When they finally guess the answer, whatever is left in the money pot is...well, not theirs.

Instead, the loot goes to deserving friends in need, who the contestants are playing for. You might imagine that this format produces a lot of waterworks, and you'd be right.

In the debut last night, the deserving friend was a young mother of two who recently lost her husband in a diving accident. When the young widow was surprised with the prize money at the end of the show (over a hundred grand, at least the show ain’t cheap) things really got lachrymose.

I know I'm sounding like a hardhearted old Scrooge here. I'm sure the lady can use the money and I'm happy she got some help with the bills. But the constant tug at the heartstrings pretty much tugged me out by the end of the hour.

Then again, I'm not the target demo. This one is for the ladies.

UPDATE: Preliminary ratings for You Deserve It were okay. TV by the Numbers warns of possible downward football-related adjustments, though. Against tough competition from Two and a Half Men and House, the show got a 2.1 18-49 rating (#3) and 10.0 million total viewers (#2). By no means a blowout, but hardly embarrassing by today's standards.

UPDATED UPDATE: As expected, You Deserve It got dinged in the final adjustments, down to a 1.7 18-49 rating and 8.6 million total viewers. Ah, so-so at best.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Inventing the wheel

Long long ago in a galaxy far far away, Pat and Vanna didn't host Wheel of Fortune. A couple folks named Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford did. Those ancient episodes have mostly vanished, but a handful survive and several have made their way to YouTube. I spent a few hours last night watching them. The differences from today's show were immediately apparent.

This 1975-81 NBC daytime version was much more of a shopping game, as game show mavens know all too well. The result was a significantly slower pace. Contestants spent their winnings and a lot of time on all that lovely merchandise, and Charlie O'Donnell read reams of advertising copy which also slowed things down. The show was lucky to get through three puzzles in an episode.

Things clunked along so slowly that Chuck often had to interrupt a puzzle for commercials. The contestants would turn their backs to the board during such breaks, which looks pretty funny today. In 1981 Chuck left the show - Woolery leaves Wheel, as game show fans often joke about old news - in the genre's most famous salary dispute. That paved the way for a weather guy named Sajak to take over.

Susan Stafford departed in 1982 and Vanna soon won the permanent (as in forever) job. While some older-is-better folks pine for the old Wheel with the long shopping interludes, I like the current show with its much brisker pace and many more puzzles. And contestants don't have to turn their backs to the board during commercials any more.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pump it up

Finally caught the first two eps of Pumped, Speed Channel's ambush quizzer and obvious knockoff of Cash Cab. In fact, the knockoff is so blatant that at the top of the show host Greg Fitzsimmons tells us there are a quarter-million gas stations in the country, but only this one pays out money. Ben Bailey, you've been paraphrased.

Just because a show is a knockoff doesn't mean it's bad. I honestly enjoyed Pumped. The pace is sprightly and the questions are more down to earth than the academic subjects tested on the august Discovery Channel. Cars and car racing naturally get a workout, along with other sports and pop culture in general. You can guess Speed Channel's demographics real easy from the quiz topics.

Fitzsimmons is a shorter and snarkier version of Bailey. But he never gets really nasty with the contestants who are ambushed at the gas station, and he manages some funny lines. Pumped also goes easier on contestants by starting with true-false and multiple-choice questions. And the format ensures that just about everybody walks away with at least a little cash, unlike many hapless players on Cash Cab.

One funny note: the episodes were taped before the conclusion of this year's World Series. So the Cardinals now have eleven Series victories, not ten as the show stated. The contestants still won, though. Too bad my hometown Rangers didn't.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

GSN number-palooza once more

Douglas took a little vacation from GSN numbers. After all the data he's supplied, he deserves a few weeks off. But now he's back with October 24-30, and it wasn't a great week for the network. There might have been a reason for the massive schedule shakeup. The daily prime time/total day averages (in thousands of viewers)...

Mon 222/207
Tue 364/240
Wed 354/240
Thu 296/234
Fri 231/203
Sat 325/219
Sun 220/193

Maybe the World Series didn't help on Thursday and Friday, though sports are generally not much of a threat to GSN's audience. But there were a lot of forgettable numbers. We'll see if the new schedule does any better.

The top 20 had a certain monotonous look to it...

Wed 9:00PM Deal or No Deal 413
Fri 4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 408
Tue 10:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 405
Thu 4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 403
Tue 10:30PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 401
Wed 10:30PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 389
Tue 9:00PM Deal or No Deal 375
Wed 10:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 368
Sat 8:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 361
Wed 4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 360
Sat 9:30PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 356
Tue 4:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 342
Tue 4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 340
Fri 4:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 337
Sat 9:00PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 336
Thu 5:00PM Deal or No Deal 331
Thu 10:30PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 321
Tue 8:00PM Deal or No Deal 315
Sat 10:00AM Chain Reaction 313
Wed 11:30PM Baggage 312

Karn, O'Hurley and Howie almost ran the table, though Chain Reaction and Baggage just snuck in.

The scribblers

In the faux tweets I linked to a video about Jeopardy head writer Billy Wisse and his eight staff writers. Game show scribblers never get enough credit. But somebody has to pen a lot of the words on each episode. Though game shows are often called "unscripted," questions have to be phrased, puzzles designed, intros written, etc.

Although the pictured Bard never tried his hand at Elizabethan quizzers, other writers have made a mark on our little genre. The Match Game group was particularly wild and crazy. Guys like Dick DeBartolo would try to sneak the most risque stuff possible past the censors. On GSN's Match Game documentary Behind the Blank, DeBartolo explained his strategy: submit some truly insane things he knew wouldn't make the cut, so the lines he really wanted on the show would look acceptable by comparison.

Game show writers may suffer from the same snobbery that besets the genre in general. After all, how many critics ever compliment "unscripted show" writers? Instead the critics heap praise on writers who churn out the hoity-toitier dramas and sitcoms that are somehow nobler than little old game shows.

But once in a while spare a thought for the people who write the questions. It's not easy to come up with an entire Jeopardy board.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ten favorites, ever

I've perpetrated a few all-time top ten lists of game shows. Except I can't remember where I put them. Anyway, the lists come in two varieties: my personal favorites, and the game shows I think have been most significant. The two are far from identical. The Price is Right would have to go on the second list, of course, but wouldn't come close to the first. Today I'm going to play favorites with myself and list the shows I like the most...

1) Match Game 1973-82. Perfect panel, perfect host, perfect writers. Can't beat it.

2) Pyramid. Just about any version, except maybe John Davidson's. And he couldn't really hurt the bulletproof format much.

3) Jeopardy. Great pace and never fails to get me talking to the TV.

4) Lingo. Maybe a surprise, but I can't stop shouting the obviously right answers (except when they turn out to be obviously wrong).

5) Wheel of Fortune. I'm a sucker for word games and nobody can run the show better than Pat.

6) I've Got a Secret 1952-67. Gets me to watch more black-and-white clips on YouTube than any sane human should consume.

7) Russian Roulette. Drop 'em Danno, er, Mark-o! By the way, Mark Walberg is my pick for most underrated host ever.

8) Family Feud. Any version except Louie's. He just didn't want to be there, unlike me.

9) Win Ben Stein's Money. Lots of people thought Ben and Jimmy were jerks. Well, they could tend that way but the show was still a hoot.

10) The Newlywed Game. Any version with happy homewrecker Bob Eubanks. Love the snark.

Five honorable mentions: Cash Cab, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, What's My Line, Deal or No Deal, Password Plus/Super Password.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Radio fun and games

The news that NPR will try a TV version of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me got me rummaging around the web for old radio game shows. These shows are even more ancient than me, and I can't remember any of them very well. But one radio show, College Quiz Bowl, eventually jumped to TV as GE College Bowl. And I remember the television version quite well, thank you.

Turns out the primeval College Quiz Bowl is "well preserved", as they sometimes say about people like me. A site on old radio game shows offers the complete March 5, 1955 episode. This was a battle of the sexes, as an all-female team from Mt. Holyoke faced an all-male team from Colgate.

Allen Ludden, in his pre-Password days, hosted. I won't spoil the suspense in case you want to listen to the episode. But I can say that Allen was racing by the end of the show, because the contest literally went down to the last minute after a dramatic comeback by one of the teams. The episode is well worth your time.

This was long before political correctness, so the members of the Mt. Holyoke team are freely referred to as "girls." One of them tells Allen that she's wearing a bone in her hair, but she won't divulge the reason. It remains an unsolved mystery.

Churning 'em out

A faux tweet quoted a Wheel of Fortune contestant marveling how they can produce six shows a day, thirty-nine days a year. Actually, I think it's five shows a day for 185 a year, but who's quibbling over numbers? Game show producers have always been able to crank out a bazillion episodes quick and dirty.

That naturally tempts network execs when they get a hit prime time game show. ABC's over-reliance on multiple weekly runs of Millionaire has become industry legend. NBC did much the same with Deal or No Deal.

But who can blame them? Get some contestants, roll the cameras, dole out the prize money, rack up the eps. It's not like scripted shows where you gotta pay prima donna actors, directors, writers, and God knows who else, and then the show usually flops, anyway. And even if the show succeeds, you only end up with a relative handful of episodes that you can peddle to syndication for some payback.

The critics who whine about the death of scripted shows on broadcast TV get little sympathy from me. Most scripted fare is garbage, and ridiculously expensive garbage at that. Frankly, I'd rather watch an episode of Deal or No Deal than just about any scripted show currently on broadcast prime time. At least the contestants are sort of real, unlike the overpaid actors.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Syndies: rich get richer

Among syndicated game shows, the big two got a little bigger in the week ending November 6. TVNewsCheck brings the welcome news for Pat and Vanna and Alex...

Wheel of Fortune 7.3 - up three ticks to a season high
Jeopardy 6.1 - not to be outdone by the soulmate, up a couple ticks to a season high
Family Feud 3.0 - flat at previous season high
Millionaire 2.6 - also flat at its previous season high

If and when TV by the Numbers posts the viewership averages, I'll list them here. And Douglas hasn't released any GSN ratings for a while. But if he puts some numbers up, I'll chat about them a little.

UPDATE: Bill Gorman at TVBTN provides the viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.3 million, Jeopardy 9.3 million, Family Feud 4.3 million. Meredith just missed the top 25 list. And Bill, let's get another photo of Pat and Vanna. You keep using the same old one!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reege after all these years

As Regis Philbin waves good-bye to that little morning show, the tributes rain down. A Fort Wayne site provides a nice slideshow of Regis' career.

The first shot displays an impossibly young-looking Mr. Philbin on local TV in San Diego. Reege and I have both aged considerably. Naturally, one of the shots has Regis in the Millionaire host's seat. Which doesn't even exist any more. They make Meredith stand through the whole show, the meanies.

Reege was perfect for the return of game shows to broadcast prime time. Everyman, folksy, completely trustworthy and non-threatening. Sure, the format was so strong that it could have withstood even an obnoxious, incompetent host. But relaxed and friendly Regis helped a lot.

Just finished watching Regis on one of GSN's endless repeats of Million Dollar Password. Again, a strong format helped, but Regis sure didn't hurt, either. Too bad the demos killed the show before CBS really gave it a chance. At least MDP still does pretty good business on our little game show network.

You'd think that Regis might consider retirement at age 80. But he's been on camera so long, I can see why he thinks he can keep going forever. I don't expect him to disappear.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


The blogroll includes a link to my guilty pleasure, Game Show Garbage. And my guiltiest pleasure on the site is "Dumb Answer of the Week."

This week the dumb answer comes from The Price is Right contestant Stephanie. She priced a nice outdoor furniture set and grill at a ridiculously low number. As the site ungallantly observes, she apparently thought the show had time-traveled back to pre-inflation days.

I can enjoy this as much as anybody. After all, I'm not the dumb contestant whose goof is being immortalized (or at least Internet-ed). But wimpy old me can't help feeling a little sympathy for Stephanie and all those other less than brilliant contestants.

It's the but-for-the-grace-of-God syndrome. That could be me up there making a fool of myself on national TV. Just like Weird Al in I Lost on Jeopardy...only for real. Oh well, I'm not filling out any applications for game shows any time soon.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Randy Richard

GSN's retro night on Friday, and my recent post on Steve Harvey's Family Feud, reminded me of the host who started it all. Yes, the kissing bandit himself, Richard Dawson.

As some of his co-workers notoriously did, I have a love-hate relationship with the unforgettable (for better or worse) Richard. The YouTube clip which provided the screenshot illustrates the issue in just a few queasy minutes.

In the clip Richard indulges in a little mutual back-and-lower rubbing with an attractive female contestant as he reveals the answers in the bonus round. Now it all seems harmless enough, though Herman Cain might not think so any more. But there's still a creepy ambiance to the whole clip that puts me off.

Am I being too prudish? Oh, probably. It's not like the contestant made a scene or even seemed to mind, though she finally planted her hand firmly on Dawson's to end the shenanigans. But Richard always had to push the envelope. When he worked at it, he was a terrific host: charming, witty, lightning fast with a quip. But at his worst he was, to be blunt, kind of a jerk.

No Feud host since Dawson has dared try his liplocks with female contestants. Even Dawson himself didn't attempt it when he returned, unsuccessfully, for the 1994-95 season. But his Playboy Club persona never seemed quite comfortable. And lordy, he was easily bored. As Family Feud and Match Game went on, he visibly and audibly lost interest.

Still, at his best, he was the best.

Contestant story

Usually I just faux-tweet the contestant stories from the Google news cache. But this one about Massachusetts' Baer family on Family Feud hit a couple of my favorite chords.

First, the family says that hour-and-a-half tapings have to be cut down to 22-minute shows. Why? "Because [host Steve] Harvey essentially does a standup routine during the show, poking fun at contestants." Yep, I'd agree. Only a lot of the standup act does makes it to the final product.

I know, the ratings don't lie. Steve's standup has helped Feud to impressive ratings increases. He's a lot funnier - and now higher-rated - than, say, Meredith Vieira. But this is a game show, and maybe the gameplay is a wee bit more important than Steve's latest riff. (Grumpy traditionalist me is talking here.)

The family also displayed an almost ferocious determination to make the show. "We're either going to get on the show or get a restraining order," one family member avows. At one audition they offered a competing family $10,000 to leave, and they were only half-joking. You gotta want it bad.

The Baers debut Thursday November 17. We'll see if their determination pays off in the actual game.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Curtains for Kara

The faux tweets have followed Chicago Sun-Times reporter Kara Spak as she dodged and weaved through Jeopardy's Tournament of Champions. Sadly, the saga has ended.

Kara bombed out in her semifinal game when she had no clue on "Hollywood History" in Final Jeopardy. In the story on her downfall, Kara admits she never heard of Joan Fontaine. Guess I really am getting old. I remember watching Joan Fontaine on TV.

Kara did create a bit of Jeopardy history with her "threesome" answer in her quarter-final game. As she sort of brags in her final story, the clip has piled up a ton of views on YouTube. Alex Trebek's Sahara-dry comeback - "Kara has obviously had much more experience...than I" - helped ensure the answer's fame.

At least it was nice that a newspaper reporter got into the tournament. Kara really brought the games alive in a series of Sun-Times stories. And she goes out on a classy note, wishing the best to engineer Buddy Wright, who beat her in the semifinal.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Christmas secrets

BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis has received the GSN schedule pdfs for the next several weeks. They show the network will grant my wish, expressed a few posts ago, and run a couple weeks of I've Got a Secret starting December 12.

This has become a Christmastime tradition for GSN. This year the run is more appropriate than usual thanks to the general move on the network's schedule toward older and more traditional material. The show will be paired with its Goodson-Todman sibling (and in-house competitor) What's My Line in the 3:00AM Eastern hour.

All the episodes come from the 1960s, when the show was not exclusively sponsored by tobacco companies. This allows GSN to skirt the rules against tobacco advertising on TV. Alex lists the episodes, and a couple segments from them are already available on YouTube. The screenshot comes from Spike Jones' appearance on February 1, 1961, which will feature in GSN's run.

At the top of the segment Garry Moore comments on the recent inaugural parade...for John F. Kennedy. It was only a half-century ago.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Syndies: Feud and Millionaire climb

Among syndicated game shows, the top two didn't get any toppier during the week of October 24-30, the first week of November sweeps. But Steve and Meredith gained a little ground. TVNewsCheck brings the news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.0 - flat
Jeopardy 5.9 - flat, along with the soulmate
Family Feud 3.0 - up a couple ticks to season high
Millionaire 2.6 - up a tick, also to season high

When TV by the Numbers lists the viewership averages, I'll post them here. And if Douglas delivers another week of GSN ratings, I'll also offer a few comments.

TVBTN's Robert Seidman posts the usual top 25 list. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.0 million, Jeopardy 9.1 million, Family Feud 4.5 million, Millionaire 3.6 million. Not bad at all.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Just when you thought it was safe...

You didn't really think I had cured my addiction to GSN posts, did you?

As I watched a lot of GSN's premiere five-hour marathon of network Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? last night, I had two thoughts. Well, actually I had a few more thoughts, like which snack I wanted from the kitchen. But the two deep cogitations I'll talk about here:

1) This show is rated TV-PG instead of TV-G? It's so squeaky clean, with kids and all. Maybe it's the references to cheating at school.

2) He who pays the piper calls the tune. This show is part of the massive move on GSN's schedule toward more traditional material. Which just happened to occur after Sony made the deal to assume operational control and majority ownership of GSN.

The second thought is by far the more important. After Sony took over, things happened in a hurry. Original production went on hiatus. The schedule got a lot older, more traditional and less edgy. Programming VP Kelly Goode was invited to seek alternative employment. The press release on her successor talked about targeting GSN's "core audience of adult females."

The news of a Richard Dawson Family Feud marathon on Sunday, November 27 is the cherry on top of this sundae. Sony has clearly decided to give up the young-demo chase, at least for now, and live with the usual old-skewing, female-skewing audience for traditional game shows.

So much for those unsourced rumors on the GSN Internet boards about an impending move in exactly the opposite direction.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Coming attractions

Carrie Grosvenor notes that a lot of new game shows are about to hit the screen. She lists four: Pumped, You Deserve It, Fear Factor, and Who's Still Standing.

Carrie doesn't mention Real Deal, discussed below, though you could argue that it's more of an antiques show. Still, the gameplay is what sets Real Deal apart from, say, a straight knockoff of Antiques Roadshow. And some might say Fear Factor oozes into the slimier realms of reality TV. (Aren't all those realms pretty slimy? Or is that my prudish, traditionalist self talking?)

But the other three projects look like very traditional game shows. They should help quiet the oft-expressed fears that the entire genre is well past its sell-by date. The older-is-better bunch makes so much noise on the Internet that it's easy to forget how game shows have staged a pretty decent comeback over the past decade, even invading broadcast prime time.

And, of course, the rise of cable/satellite TV has opened many new channels for our little genre, including one network devoted to it. Game shows' biggest drawback has always been the advertiser-unfriendly demos. But game shows' biggest strength has always been low production costs. As the TV audience fragments among a zillion competing channels, cheap never looked so good to network execs.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Johnny O

One of my favorite clips from the black-and-white What's My Line is the show's announcer Johnny Olson stumping the panel with a huge array of voices.

Johnny didn't just handle announcing chores for WML, of course. As mentioned in the clip he also worked on many other Goosdon & Todman shows. Martin Gabel rightly observed: "As long as Goodson and Todman have money, you're gonna have money."

Born in Minnesota in 1910, Johnny learned his craft at local radio stations. He broke into network radio in 1944, announcing the musical game show, Ladies Be Seated. I'm not even old enough to remember that one.

Johnny moved to the box with pictures in the late forties. He first worked for the defunct Dumont Network. In 1958 he began his long and, as Martin Gabel said, lucrative association with Goodson and Todman.

Probably best remembered for his "come on down" line on The Price is Right, Johnny was also expert at warming up the audience before tapings. After a lengthy and much-honored career, Johnny died at age 75 in 1985 from a cerebral hemorrhage. Thanks to GSN and YouTube, his voice lives on.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Making a deal

Looks like History has picked up a British import that's an odd combo of Deal or No Deal, Pawn Stars and Antique Roadshow.

Real Deal will be the title, shortened from Dickinson's Real Deal in Britain. That's because headliner David Dickinson won't be along for the ride on the American version. Basically, the format features civvies haggling with professional dealers over the value of their prized (or not so prized) antiques. If the civvies don't take the deal, the items go to auction. And the auction may or may not produce a better deal for the contestants.

Sound familiar? The clips from the British show that I've seen on YouTube look like the bargaining scenes in Pawn Stars, minus all the reality bits. In the British original, money is literally laid on the table to tempt the civvies, as the screenshot shows. Once enough bills pile up, the civvies will often but not always take the money and run.

Real Deal debuts Friday, November 25 at 9:00PM. The initial order is for ten episodes, and we'll see what develops from there. Nowadays History likes anything which remotely resembles Pawn Stars, their runaway hit. So I guess they've decided to strip things down essentially to a game show format, and leave out the cutesy-pie bickering and other phony-looking reality nonsense.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

High school days

I've been posting a few faux tweets about local high school quizzers lately. The most famous is probably It's Academic, seen around the country in various incarnations.

The Washington, D.C. version is about to lose its host of fifty years - yes, you read that right - Mac McGarry. The 85-year-old has decided to move on after a half-century of springing trivia questions on smart high schoolers.

McGarry wants to stay involved with the show in some way. "Maybe I’ll write them some questions," he comments. Well, maybe he will. He should know a few by now.

The local high school quizzers usually don't draw gigantic or even noticeable audiences. But giving a little air time to smart kids isn't the worst idea in the world. Here's wishing another fifty years to D.C.'s effort.

UPDATE: Mac McGarry talks to the Washington Examiner about his fifty years on It's Academic. I never knew Sandra Bullock was on the show. She was a cheerleader in high school, which isn't too surprising.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Feudin' through 2015

Family Feud has been renewed
through 2015 on stations covering 75% of the country. And its timeslots have been upgraded to 5:00PM-8:00PM in over half the country.

I've complained that Steve Harvey tries too hard to make the show into his personal standup routine. So you can call me a hidebound traditionalist. But even grumpy me has to admit that standup routines can be very entertaining. And Steve has entertained folks enough to reinvigorate a very old franchise.

Let's face it, the format helps, too. Mark Goodson was right when he rated Feud very highly, behind only To Tell the Truth among his personal favorites. As Richard Dawson once observed, there's something downright visceral about two families duking it out.

And now they'll be duking it out for quite a while longer. And in better timeslots.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Syndies brighten up

Syndicated game shows did pretty well in the week ending October 23. TVNewsCheck scatters the generally good news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.0 - up three ticks
Jeopardy 5.9 - up three ticks to keep pace with the soulmate
Family Feud 2.8 - up a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.5 - flat, there's one in every group

Robert Seidman at TV by the Numbers brings the viewership averages right on time: Wheel of Fortune 10.9 million, Jeopardy 8.9 million, Family Feud 4.3 million, Millionaire 3.4 million. Very pleasant numbers as we head into peak viewing season.

Douglas provides the GSN viewer numbers for the week, except for Friday. Guess his source was off that day, or something. The prime time/total day averages (in thousands of viewers)...

Mon 205/202
Tue 300/216
Wed 345/235
Thu 301/249
Sat 310/218
Sun 258/216

Again a not so hot Monday and Sunday, sort of okay for the rest of the week. The top twenty, since we're covering a whole week...

Thu 4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 476
Thu 4:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 443
Sat 9:30PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 398
Wed 7:30PM Baggage 395
Wed 9:00PM Deal or No Deal 392
Tue 11:00PM Newlywed Game 372
Thu 5:00PM Deal or No Deal 368
Wed 8:00PM Deal or No Deal 356
Thu 10:30PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 355
Tue 10:30PM Family Feud (O’Hurley) 353
Thu 3:30PM Chain Reaction 352
Sat 6:30PM Lingo (Engvall) 347
Thu 10:00PM Family Feud (Karn) 347
Tue 4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 343
Thu 11:30PM Baggage 339
Wed 4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 339
Wed 7:00PM Newlywed Game 334
Tue 6:00PM Lingo (Engvall) 329
Mon 4:30PM Family Feud (Karn) 324
Tue 11:30PM Baggage 323

Mostly the usuals. Karn got six spots, Jerry, Howie and O'Hurley got three apiece, Engvall and Sherri each got a couple, and Chain Reaction snuck in.