Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Syndies: a couple of new season highs

Not much ratings movement among syndicated game shows for the week ending January 22. But TVNewsCheck does say that a couple shows hit new season highs. The good news for Alex and Meredith...

Wheel of Fortune 7.7 - down a tick but still leads all syndies in household ratings
Jeopardy 6.4 - up a tick to that season high
Family Feud 3.2 - flat but at a nice level
Millionaire 2.7 - also up a tick to a season high

All four shows made the top 25 syndie list at TV by the Numbers. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.5 million (weekend repeat 5.9 million), Jeopardy 10.2 million, Family Feud 4.8 million, Millionaire 3.9 million. Everybody can be happy about these audiences.

In other Nielsen news, the game show pair on Monday night at NBC went out with subdued ratings. Who's Still Standing, in its last hurrah, pulled a 1.7 18-49 rating with 6.5 million total viewers. The corresponding numbers for the Fear Factor repeat were 1.5 and 4.0 million. Fear Factor got a rerun because NBC chickened out on a literally ass-inine stunt. But the show will reappear now and then.

UPDATE: Dancing With the Stars is really bombing on GSN. The best it did was 264K for one of the Friday night runs. The bad numbers dragged GSN's overall prime time/total day viewership averages down to 287K/217K for the week of January 23-29. Look for Dancing to get cut back soon. Gotta admit I'm surprised. I thought it was a great demo fit for GSN.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Good book quizzer

Last year stories popped up about a Bible-based quizzer on GSN. The network reportedly offered the host job to Mike Huckabee, ordained minister and presidential candidate, but he declined. Huckabee instead chose political punditry. GSN went into the great original production hiatus, and the Bible stories faded.

But now the stories are back. GSN is piloting The American Bible Challenge, produced by Michael Davies of Millionaire renown. Amy Davis, GSN's programming veep, says the show will feature an "entertaining, unconventional format that makes The Good Book more accessible to the whole family." Nice to know the Bible is going to be "accessible."

I shouldn't sound so cynical. The show could be an intriguing quizzer. At least greed won't be the main motivator. Not that I have anything against greed on game shows. But it might look a little odd on a Bible show. Contestants will play for their churches.

No word on format details or the host. Probably won't be Jerry Springer. This doesn't seem like a compatible project for Baggage.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Technical difficulties

Washington D.C.'s high school quizzer It's Academic just endured the dreaded technical glitch. Sadly, this glitch was a biggie. It wiped out today's entire show.

Woodgrove High School won the game but the episode didn't get recorded properly. It's Academic posted an apology on Facebook: "We are all devastated by this, and extend our deepest apologies to the three teams, their families, friends and classmates, and to the teachers who had worked to prepare them for their appearance."

GSN suffers technical foul-ups regularly, thanks to its shoestring budget. For some odd reason the network often has problems with its aspect ratio, so the picture doesn't quite fit the screen. Stories abound, of course, about technical snafus on various game shows, necessitating retakes and re-dos.

Naturally Stoned, the old Chuck Woolery reality series, showed one goof on Lingo when the judges couldn't decide if a team's W-E-A-L-D guess was a real word. After a cursing fit from producer Phil Gurin, they tossed the round and played a new puzzle. But at least the entire episode didn't disappear into vapor. It's Academic really screwed up.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Drunk or no drunk

Pat Sajak's adventures in drinking, exaggerated or not, have spawned a lot of Net chatter. On Matt Ottinger's board, a poster took the chance to debunk a (supposed) myth:
Alex Trebek was not intoxicated on the 1980 High Rollers finale. This rumor likely stemmed from the fact that the finale was the only circulating episode of the '78-80 run of HR among tape traders for many years, and many people thought that the odd jokes and non-sequiturs uttered by Trebek indicated he'd been drinking. However, other episodes that have since surfaced show him making similar jokes and comments; it was just his style of humor at the time.
Don't ask me, I wasn't there. But the Trebek story has even shown up in a comment on this blog. You can judge for yourself because the final High Rollers episode is now on YouTube.

Nowadays Trebek looks like the planet's soberest guy on Jeopardy. Gotta admit, an episode of the august quizzer would be pretty funny with an inebriated Alex. Love to hear him try to pronounce some of those polysyllabic foreign names under the influence. Hammurabi might come out Hammmmmurrrrraabbbbbaaabbbaabbbaaaaa.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Jerry gets another syndie?

Baggage, GSN's combo remake of Dating Game plus the suitcase-reveal gimmick from Deal or No Deal, may be headed for syndication this fall. The show has reportedly been sold in 70% of the country. Baggage is getting pitched at NATPE, the annual cattle call for would-be syndies.

We'll see if the show earns anything more than exposure at 2:30AM instead of vacuum cleaner infomercials. Baggage got a syndication experiment on ten stations last year with unimpressive results. Once upon a time the show was the hottest thing on GSN. But the rerun grind has eroded the numbers considerably.

GSN hasn't made any new episodes for a while and none seem to be in the works. Don't know if the syndicated episodes would just be reruns or if there are plans to restart new production. My personal opinion of the show is fair to middlin'. Some of the secrets in the singles' suitcases are funny. Some are pretty cheesy. Some are plain weird. And you could say the same about the contestants.

Jerry Springer is competent as the host, and at least Baggage doesn't tolerate fisticuffs. Which puts it a half-step above Jerry's other syndie.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The category is Food & Drink(s)

It's the biggest news in game shows since Watson! Well, sort of. Pat Sajak's half-serious "admission" that he might have imbibed between long ago Wheel of Fortune tapings has set off a fast and furious Net reaction.

Some generally respectable news outlets have joined in the liquid fun. The New York Daily News is running a poll (I swear) on this enormously significant issue. Right now the don't-care options are winning huge. Wish the News offered another choice in the poll: "I take a drink every time somebody buys a vowel."

Some Net posters have commented about the rumors of rampant boozing on the ancient Match Game. If I had been a contestant, I would have gotten good and sloshed, too. Hey, Richard, match this!

Halfway seriously, Sajak's image is hardly likely to get drubbed as a result of this silliness. Even if he batted back a few during some of the tapings, it was a long time ago. Nowadays, Wheel is so straight and sober, it makes Jeopardy look risqué. But game show bloggers everywhere are grateful for the story. I'd drink to it, in fact, except I hardly ever drink any more.

UPDATE: As you might expect, Pat Sajak now admits he was exaggerating a bit. "To be honest, and I hate to put an end to this drinking thing because we've gotten a lot of mileage out of it, but it was probably a half a dozen times we went across the street and had a margarita." Aw gee, Pat, just when the party was getting good, you take the punch bowl away.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Syndies: the big two get a little bigger

The week of January 9-15 was kind to the big two syndicated game shows, and not bad to the other two. TVNewsCheck delivers the pleasant news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.8 - up a couple ticks to a season-high and leads all syndies
Jeopardy 6.3 - up a tick
Family Feud 3.2 - flat but Steve can live with it
Millionaire 2.6 - flat but Meredith can live with it, too

TV by the Numbers posts their usual top 25 list with the viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.4 million, Jeopardy 9.9 million, Family Feud 4.7 million, Millionaire 3.7 million. Meredith made the list for once! And everybody can make money off these numbers.

In other ratings news NBC's Who's Still Standing and ABC's Wipeout got oddly similar numbers for their latest episodes. Who's Still Standing pulled a 1.7 18-49 rating and 6.4 million total viewers last Monday. Wipeout snagged a 1.8 18-49 rating and 5.9 million viewers last Thursday.

Who's Still Standing looks finished after next week. Wipeout's not in immediate danger but may be nearing its sell-by date.

UPDATE: Dancing With the Stars had an underwhelming debut on GSN last Saturday night. The five-hour block from 6:00PM to 11:00PM averaged 308K viewers. The reruns did much worse. For the entire January 16-22 week GSN averaged 283K/232K viewers prime time/total day. Forgettable, to say the least. The five-hour marathons each night: Sun 334K, Mon 200K, Tue 279K, Wed 255K, Thu 339K, Fri 210K.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Deepest trivia

Just watched the first couple episodes of MLB Network's Baseball IQ. I can say two things for sure. One, you have to be a baseball fan to appreciate this show. Two, you must have a trivial mind to appreciate this show.

Both conditions apply to me, so I found Baseball IQ oddly interesting. Two trivia mavens from major league front offices battle over questions like, "Name the fourteen perfect game pitchers since 1957." The mavens go back and forth replying to the question, until somebody blanks or gives a wrong answer.

By the way, neither of the guys remembered Sandy Koufax on the perfect game list, though I kept shouting the name at the screen. How soon we forget. Matt Vasgersian hosts competently, keeping things moving with what I'll call play-by-play commentary. There are also plenty of clips of baseball action which relate vaguely to the questions.

The show could have used a live audience. After a while the library-ish quiet got a little creepy. And the format is broken, since only the final bidding round seems to determine the outcome. But above all, folks not interested in baseball trivia should steer clear. This show is strictly for aficionados like me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Politicians still standing

I've complained about comparisons of the Republican presidential debates to game shows. It's a lazy cliché used by pundits when they run out of fresh things to say about the endless string of debates.

But I can't help noting that NBC is preceding the umpteenth debate tonight with an episode of Who's Still Standing. After the grinding series of debates the candidates have started dropping through the floor. We're now down to the final four, and I'm looking for the speed round to begin shortly. Maybe we can get down to one nominee in a hurry.

Oh, enough of the clichéd comparisons that I used to complain about. Tonight was probably the second-last episode of Who's Still Standing. The show has gotten mixed reviews and mediocre ratings. Still, I like the fast pace and the cute exit gimmick, even if it was swiped from Russian Roulette.

Tonight's episode featured an intelligent central contestant who lasted through six rounds and took home significant money. The speed round among the four remaining contestants piled up twenty grand for the lucky winner, who chose to disappear through the floor. Too bad the show is apparently going down the hatch with him. Bye, as Vanna would say.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jeopardy's tournament month

As the faux tweets have noted, February will be Jeopardy tournament month. The first two weeks see 15 students battle in the college tournament. After the students finish up, the last two weeks bring on, you guessed it, 15 teachers to duke it out in the teachers tournament.

Tournaments on Jeopardy go back forever. YouTube offers a 1968 episode where host Art Fleming mentions the next tournament of champions. The ToC is the granddaddy of all Jeopardy tournaments, of course, where the best of the best face off.

Except for the ToC, which is something of an event in the annual game show calendar, I'm not really the biggest fan of Jeopardy tournaments. I guess they bring some variety to the schedule, but I like plain old Jeopardy, where a contestant can now go on forever (theoretically). It's nice that the show gives a special nod to teachers and students. But, after all, they could compete in regular episodes just like everybody else.

Oh, I'm getting too grumpy. Good luck to the teachers and students next month.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Garry and John

They must have been invented as an opposing pair. For over a decade Garry Moore and John Daly led Goodson-Todman's matched set of panel shows, I've Got a Secret and What's My Line. The first one started out as the in-house ripoff of the second. But Garry's personality pushed IGAS further and further from WML's august dignity as the years went on.

Moore was the ultimate American everyman, cheery and down-to-earth. His background was pure entertainment, first in radio and then on the box with pictures. Daly was dignified and patrician, with a hoity-toity accent and a background in serious news. He announced the Pearl Harbor attack on CBS radio and covered World War II's Italian campaign in person.

It's no wonder that the shows diverged as time went on. I've Got a Secret became more of a hellzapoppin' variety show, with the actual gameplay sometimes an afterthought. Daly had no patience with such hijinks and told the producers to stuff any ideas of similarly remaking What's My Line. As you might expect, IGAS was usually the higher-rated of the two shows. TV is an entertainment medium, after all.

But WML would get a bit a revenge in the far-off aftertime. Daly's show got the better numbers on GSN.

IRRELEVANT UPDATE: For no particular reason, I've decided to keep the last dozen faux tweets on the blog instead of the last ten. But once they're gone, they're still gone.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Drew's five million

Like ol' man river, The Price is Right keeps on rollin' along. Never a favorite of my shop-a-phobic self, the show still attracts about five million viewers every day. That makes it the most-watched daytime show on broadcast network TV.

True, the demos skew older than ol' man river. But TPiR draws so many people that it still ranks right up there in the beloved F18-49 and F25-54 demos. The show runs a gazillion different shopping games and has stayed fresh enough after four decades.

Being  about as old as that river myself, I can remember the original black-and-white version with Bill Cullen. I can even remember Johnny Olson belting out "come on down" on Match Game...and Gary Burghoff, well, coming on down. Criticizing The Price is Right has become almost pointless. It's been such a game show monument from time out of mind, you might as well criticize the Statue of Liberty.

Drew Carey has settled in as host now, and the sour comparisons with Bob Barker have mostly faded away. The show has endured an almost ridiculous string of lawsuits from various models, beginning with Barker's ill-fated and ill-considered romance with Dian Parkinson. But even lawyers have to make a living, and the litigation hasn't stopped the endless seasons from rollin' and rollin'.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vote early, vote often

Seems appropriate for an election year. And Carrie Grosvenor has been so nice to this blog that I have to return the favor. Carrie is now running the second annual Readers' Choice awards at her about.com game show site.

Nominations are now open for a slew of game-show-related categories. They range from Best Game Show (natch) to Best Mobile Game Show Site. Wheel of Fortune pretty much swept the awards last year, and a repeat for Pat and Vanna this year wouldn't amaze me. After all, it's only the most-watched game show in the country.

Carrie says that nominations close February 15, and the five finalists in each category will be announced on February 22. Last year I made the finalists in Best Independent/Fan Game Show Blog or Site. You don't want to know how I did in the final voting. Okay, I'll tell ya: somebody's got to finish last in any election! Ask Rick Perry, except he's out of the race now.

But enough about me and my woeful election results. Head on over to Carrie's site and nominate your favorites in each category.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Syndies: the big two bounce back

With the holidays finally in the rear view mirror, the big two syndicated game shows saw a nice recovery. Steve and Meredith didn't do so bad, either. TVNewsCheck brings the happy numbers for the week of January 2-8...

Wheel of Fortune 7.6 - up eight ticks and back ahead of Judge Judy
Jeopardy 6.2 - up five ticks
Family Feud 3.2 - flat but okay
Millionaire 2.6 - flat

TV by the Numbers says that Pat and Vanna also outpaced the field in total viewers. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.2 million, Jeopardy 9.7 million, Family Feud 4.7 million. Meredith just missed the top 25 list. Maybe next week.

Sure, the demos skew older than really old hills. But in the 500-channel universe, these are impressive total viewer numbers.

In other ratings news, Wipeout may be slipping a little on ABC. But the show is doing nice business, by cable standards, in reruns on truTV. The latest run on Friday the 13th scared up a 0.7 18-49 rating and 1.8 million viewers. Best numbers yet for the retreads.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is this normal, Oprah?

A few days ago I posted a note about Are You Normal, America?, a new game show coming to OWN. (That's Oprah's, er, own network.) Now it looks like a casting outfit is recruiting contestants for the show.

At least the call asks for people who can "decide what is normal to the general public." Which does sound pretty much like the premise for the OWN project. The show is supposedly "comedy-driven," so I don't expect spectacularly interesting gameplay. Looks more like an attempted yukfest.

What really catches the eye is the top prize of a hundred grand. Not bad by cable standards. Though if anybody can afford the money, it's the affluent Ms. Winfrey. Contestants should be "fun, energetic, quirky and big personalities." So if you're no fun, listless, non-quirky and a little personality...try Jeopardy. (Just kidding, Alex.)

Of course, this casting call might not be for the OWN show. But I haven't seen any other game show projects lately based on deciding what's normal and what ain't. If you want to try out, good luck.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Back and forth

Quizzers and word games are my favorites, as I've mentioned a few times here. And wouldn't you know, I just bounced back and forth between two of the best. GSN showed one of their 4,356,721 reruns of Bill Engvall's Lingo, while a local station ran an episode of Jeopardy from last season.

The remote came in handy as I flipped between the shows. Thanks to a quick thumb and some timely commercials, I caught a lot of both episodes, including the complete final rounds. I guessed some of the words in the bonus round on Lingo but bombed on the caduceus in Final Jeopardy. (It's the medical symbol with the two snakes.)

Both shows got me talking to the screen, since both are built for play-along value. Lingo has been rerun so often that I remembered the contestants but couldn't remember any of the words. Which is the secret of the show's resistance to GSN's legendary rerun abuse. Didn't have any such issues with Jeopardy. The episode was completely new to me.

One thing became clear really quick: the difference between the hosts. Alex Trebek was scholarly and gentlemanly as always. Bill Engvall was wise-ass as always. At one point Engvall told an attractive but wayward contestant: "It's lucky you're so pretty." Hard to imagine Alex saying that.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wheel of bankruptcy

We have such fun times on the GSN boards. One poster had some unusual worries, which I tried to calm...

Other poster: What do you think would happen even with a possible upcoming Dancing With the Stars fiasco of toilet ratings GSN (and its parent company, Liberty Media) files for bankruptcy? Would this mean the demise of the cable channel in 2012?

Hey, we got some humor on these boards!

First, Liberty Media is no longer one of GSN's corporate parents. Sony and DirecTV (a spinoff of Liberty Media) own the network. In an agreement between the two in 2011, Sony took day-to-day operational control of GSN and will assume majority ownership of the network over the next three years. (So much for bankruptcy this year.)

Second, GSN's recent ratings - about 300K viewers or a little higher in prime time - aren't spectacular by the network's historical standards. But they won't drive thrifty GSN into the ground. In 2007, for instance, GSN averaged around 250K viewers in prime time and still turned $50 million in positive cash flow.

Third, you're about ten years too late with your concerns. GSN did endure a brush with death in 2000-01, under the ill-fated leadership of Michael Fleming. But Liberty Media took a half-interest in the network and brought in Rich Cronin to clean up the mess. He turned the network profitable, and GSN has been generating positive cash flow ever since.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday morning chatter

Some back and forth on the GSN Schedule board between me and other posters on GSN's latest ratings. I make my usual suggestion for GSN daytime...

Other poster: Looks like the [night time] marathons are really starting to go downhill...

Really? Except for Monday the marathons didn't do bad (by GSN standards, of course). Daytime, especially pre-noon, was generally weak, and that dragged down the total day average. By contrast, the 301K prime time average wasn't spectacular, but GSN can live with it.

Other poster: The marathons when they started had much higher ratings than this past week.

Some did, some didn't. Again, the 301K prime time average is okay by GSN's historical standards, though it was dragged down by a bad Monday. The real problem is pre-noon. I don't expect wild and crazy ratings from morning, but the numbers were very weak for January 2-8. You pointed it out yourself...

10:30AM 100K Pyramid...197K
9:30AM Family Feud...179K
11:30AM Match Game...169K
11:00AM Match Game...158K
8:30AM Match Game...151K
9:00AM Family Feud...133K
8:00AM Match Game...97K

Other poster: If you notice, the ratings perk up some when all of the regular viewers wake up.

Somehow game show fans manage to rouse themselves for The Price is Right in the morning. I'm on record advocating very recent seasons of the syndie game shows for GSN daytime. I bet more viewers would find their way to the channel in the morning and early afternoon hours for them. If you put the 2010-11 seasons of Family Feud, Millionaire, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune into a 10:00AM-2:00PM block, I think you'd get somewhat better numbers (wink).

Other poster: Do we not remember all the times they have tried newer shows in Daytime. They all failed to raise ratings, and some got worse ratings than the classics. Not even Karn can good ratings in the morning.

Gotta smile. Only on these boards could Karn Feud be considered "newer." His first eps will be a decade old this year!

You put Harvey Feud at 10:00AM, and you're kidding yourself if you think GSN wouldn't get better numbers. Follow that with last year's eps from the other syndies, and you've got a really nice daytime lineup. Millionaire, the lowest-rated of the shows, gets over three million viewers on average. Feud gets almost five million, Jeopardy nine-plus million, Wheel 11-12 million. As long as the episodes look new (and last year's would look plenty new) GSN would attract some pretty good daytime audiences for those shows.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Another new game show

Lots of networks have lots of time to fill. And game shows are cheap. So surprise, surprise, we've been getting a bunch of new game show announcements lately. Now Oprah wants in on the act. Did I ever mention that I'm not a big Oprah fan? I'm not even a little Oprah fan. I know she's worried to death about that. No matter, her OWN cable outlet has greenlighted Are You Normal, America?

Well, hey, that's an easy question for me. Nobody has ever accused me of being close to normal. But the show does things "scientifically" by taking some of those famous polls to decide if contestants are normal or...I dunno, abnormal or something. There's also "a jury of real Americans, man-on-the-street polling, real life situations shot in the field and in-studio demonstrations."

All this normality is creeping me out a little. The show is from Zoo productions (5th Grader, Lingo, Family Game Night). No word yet on host or debut date. OWN had a rocky first year but may be getting some traction now that Oprah is doing original shows herself for the network. "Slowly finding its feet after a shaky first year," is how Variety puts it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oh, sit down

A while back I heard about a Gurin Company game show pilot based on musical chairs. Yeah, it sounded like a weak joke to me, too. What's next, Million Dollar Ring-Around-The-Rosie?

But it turns out the woeful CW will take a flier on the show. The network for twenty-something lasses has ordered ten episodes of Oh Sit! - I swear that's the real title - for later this season. As James Hibbard sourly points out in the linked story, the CW has a solid track record of flops with unscripted shows. But hope springs eternal, or at least until next TV season.

The premise from the press release, as only p.r. language can describe it:
OH SIT! is a fun, high-stakes, high-octane musical chairs competition, in which 20 thrill-seeking daredevils race head to head through five physically demanding, obstacle course-style eliminations as they each compete to claim a chair, to the sounds of a live band. At the end of the hour, only one contestant will be left sitting triumphant to seize the cash prize.
Maybe I'm too cynical and the show will be entertaining enough. Really, I shouldn't prejudge. Host, premiere date, and further gameplay details will be announced later.

UPDATE: BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis saw the pitch film for the show and thinks it's pretty good. Wipeout-ish physical comedy. We'll see. Alex thought Improv-a-Ganza and Late Night Liars were great, too. Then the shows debuted, and you know the rest of the story.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Take me out to the game show

It's one, two, three strikes you're out at the old ball game...show. MLB Network will debut a baseball trivia quizzer on Tuesday, January 24. The title is Baseball IQ, which is not a contradiction in terms (I think).

Thirty-two trivia mavens will pair off for one-on-one battles, leading to the final show on February 23. Prize money is kind of chintzy, but these folks aren't represented by Scott Boras. Instead, each of the thirty major-league clubs picked a trivia buff from their front offices. MLB.com and the Hall of Fame also got selections to round out the field.

MLB Network anchor Matt Vasgersian will host. He certainly has some applicable experience, like the gigs on Sports Geniuses and GSN's blackjack shows. Vasgersian has endured a few controversies during his sportscasting career. But he's sharp and witty enough and should keep the proceedings lively.

The rules (naturally a baseball game show has a published rulebook) say the game is played in, of course, nine innings. In fact, contestants can even go for "big innings." There are no relief contestants, though, if somebody tires in the late innings. Anyway, this baseball and game show fan will be watching.

Syndies: down and up

The week between the holidays saw syndicated game shows wobble. The big two slipped some but the bottom two edged up. Political left-wingers might be happy that the rich got a little poorer and the (relatively) poor got a little richer. TVNewsCheck brings the bad and good tidings for the week ending January 1...

Wheel of Fortune 6.8 - down three ticks, as Judge Judy pulls further ahead in household ratings
Jeopardy 5.7 - down a couple ticks
Family Feud 3.2 - up a couple ticks to tie a season high
Millionaire 2.6 - up a tick

TV by the Numbers got their top 25 syndie list up in a hurry. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.0 million (weekend repeat 5.2 million), Jeopardy 9.0 million, Family Feud 4.8 million. Meredith just slipped out of the list. Pat and Vanna did beat the loud-mouthed judge in total viewers, anyway.

The Monday, January 9 ratings saw an interesting split in NBC's game shows. Who's Still Standing got more viewers but Fear Factor snagged the higher 18-49 rating. You know who's gonna win that one.

UPDATE: Douglas just posted GSN viewer numbers for the January 2-8 week. The network averaged a so-so 301/227 viewers (in thousands) for prime time/total day.

Dancing With the Stars takes over soon, but the old checkerboard schedule did pretty well with the five-hour marathons on every night except woeful Monday. The averages: Mon 194, Tue 276, Wed 285, Thu 282, Fri 287, Sat 260, Sun 374. 5th Grader accounted for the big Sunday, of course.

Meanwhile, Wipeout continues to slip. The January 12 episode scored 7.1 million viewers and a 2.2 18-49 rating. Not exactly danger territory, but the show may be headed for a fall (like most of its contestants).

Monday, January 9, 2012

More fear, no standing

No surprise considering the numbers, but Fear Factor is locked in for a ten-episode order and will probably reappear now and then on NBC. I'm not a big fan because there's only so much arthropod-eating I can, uh, stomach. But in the disaster that is NBC prime time, any show which can pull a two-something 18-49 rating will hang around somewhere.

The news is predictably sourer for Who's Still Standing. Even by NBC's low standards the show did not perform particularly well and looks to be finished this month. I watched tonight and enjoyed a double dose of the speed round, not to mention a drop for the unlucky hero in the main game.

I still found myself yelling answers at the screen and having a good old time. But the show looks like a goner once The Voice takes over Monday night on NBC next month. Lots of folks on the web didn't like the production, though the basic game seems to have gotten a little more praise. I dunno, it was a fun way to pass an hour for me, but the ratings were always mediocre at best. Hail and farewell.

Over at ABC Wipeout still does okay business, but the ratings may be slipping and sliding a little off the big Nielsen balls. The show is not in imminent danger but the bounce-and-bash novelty might be wearing thin.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sometimes destiny is wrong

My guilty pleasure Game Show Garbage has selected a contestant ominously named Destiny for the coveted "Dumb Answer of the Week" award. Appearing on The Price is Right, Destiny Ramsey was already semi-famous for mauling Drew Carey and guest celeb Neil Patrick Harris.

Sadly, Destiny's, er, destiny was to bomb out on the Grocery Game by guessing way too many cans of soup. It may not have been a hopelessly dumb strategy, but it was certainly a risky one.

At least Destiny took home $1,000 from the Big Wheel and a digital camera, so her destiny - okay, I'll stop it - wasn't all grim. Maybe she can buy some shoes for her next appearance on a game show. That would keep the barefoot contessa's footsies a little cleaner.

Truth to tell, I would bomb out even worse than Destiny on pricing games. My dislike of shopping leaves me mostly clueless on prices. To give myself credit, I might do a little better on quizzers and word games.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Picture this apology

An interesting thread at Matt Ottinger's board talks about game show hosts putting down their own shows. Or at least some features of their own shows.

Like Pat Sajak obviously groaning over the "Megaword" category on Wheel of Fortune. Or Richard Dawson publicly disagreeing with some judging decisions on Family Feud. Or Drew Carey reacting sourly to the perfect showcase bid on The Price is Right.

One poster notes what might have been the best example of a host ripping into his own show. In 1961 Jackie Gleason tried a game show called You're in the Picture. The legendary bomb lasted only one episode. Really, it shouldn't have lasted that long.

Gleason appeared next week and apologized to his audience for the disaster. The apology was far more entertaining than the game show, as you can see on YouTube. Of course, Gleason managed to survive the bomb and went on to many more years in prime time.

To my knowledge nobody has ever apologized for GSN's Late Night Liars. Now there's a show that could have used a mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. For non-Catholics, that's "my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault." And Late Night Liars was really grievous.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Success and failure

A couple comments on the GSN General board got me reflecting on how easy it is for a TV show to flop. This is not huge news, but it helps to keep some perspective...

Other poster: Look at GSN's history, and it is clear to see that all of the ratings blockbusters on the network have been GAME SHOWS: Deal or No Deal, Newlywed Game, Baggage, Millionaire, Lingo.

High Stakes Poker used to be the network's highest-rated show both overall and in 18-49, and it lasted seven seasons over six years. While HSP was a competition show with interesting gameplay, it was not a traditional studio game show. Other non-traditional series have enjoyed at least some success on GSN, including World Poker Tour, Celebrity Blackjack, World Series of Blackjack and Extreme Dodgeball.

Other poster: On the other hand, all ratings failures have been NON-GAME SHOWS: Carnie Unstapled, Improv-a-Ganza, Instant Recall, Love Triangle, etc.

Lots of traditional studio game shows have flopped on GSN. Camouflage, Funny Money, Late Night Liars, Starface, Money List, 20Q, How Much is Enough have come and gone in a single season. And those are just some originals. Many traditional game show acquisitions, like Win Ben Stein's Money, have crapped out with GSN's audience.

Success on any network is relatively rare, failure all too common. A traditional game show format is no guarantee of success on GSN, and a non-traditional format does not mean inevitable failure.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Carnie's back, sort of

Posters on the GSN board noticed something about the schedule pdfs I posted in the sidebar last night. And darned if they ain't right...

Other poster: Carniewed returns to have some air time on Tuesday nights. Um, wow. I thought those would never see the light of day again.

Carnie and GSN just settled their lawsuit, as I noted in a faux tweet on the blog. So it's not a complete surprise. I'm not sure about those pdfs, though. Never trust 'em, though Alex Davis posted the same ones at BuzzerBlog.

Well, maybe you can trust them a little. The GSN online schedule says Carnie is back on Tuesday, too, at least next week. Interesting. My faux tweet reads: "Carnie Wilson and GSN settle their legal spat. No terms are disclosed, but I doubt that Carnie gets her Newlywed Game gig back." I still don't think she'll be hosting any new eps, but a few of her reruns are back on the network.

Other poster: Maybe one of the terms of the settlement was that GSN had to start giving Carnie's version of NG some airtime on the network again...Probably not, but it's just a thought.

Doubt seriously that it was a formal part of the settlement. But GSN probably intends a good will gesture that will provide Carnie a few bucks. She's had some financial difficulties over the last few years.

Syndies: Feud slips ever so slightly

Not a whole lot of shakin' goin' on with syndicated game shows for the week ending on Christmas day. TVNewsCheck dutifully provides the numbers, anyway...

Wheel of Fortune 7.1 - flat, and just barely lost the household ratings race to Judge Judy
Jeopardy 5.9 - up a tick
Family Feud 3.0 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.5 - up a tick and still in safe mid-two territory

TV by the Numbers was very sprightly with the viewership averages this week: Wheel of Fortune 11.4 million (ahead of Judge Judy in total viewers - take that, your honor), Jeopardy 9.2 million, Family Feud 4.7 million. Sure, the shows skew old, but these total viewer numbers are far from terrible even by broadcast network prime time standards. Of course, those standards ain't what they used to be.

UPDATE: Ratings for the prime time broadcast game shows this week, from TV by the Numbers and Zap2it...

Wipeout - 8.4 million viewers, 2.7 18-49 rating, 4.8 household rating
Fear Factor - 6.0 million viewers, 2.4 18-49 rating, 3.2 household rating
Who's Still Standing - 5.6 million viewers, 1.5 18-49 rating, 3.2 household rating

Sadly, my personal favorite Who's Still Standing did the worst and skewed the oldest. Afraid its stay on the air may be brief, even on woeful NBC. Wipeout got the best numbers of the three, but Thursday's show was its lowest-rated season debut ever. Fear Factor may be back for more episodes. Anything on NBC that can get a two-something in the demo is likely to hang around.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wiping up

You may have noticed ratings for Wipeout in the sidebar. And you may wonder where those numbers come from when Wipeout is off the air. (The show returns to ABC tomorrow.)

The answer: old game shows never go off the air, they just go to cable. The ratings come from Wipeout repeats on truTV, the Time Warner outlet formerly known as Court TV. Back in the old days, Wipeout wouldn't have fit in with the network's courtroom proceedings and true crime sagas.

But nowadays truTV has gone mostly reality in the endless hunt for younger demos. So the big-balls project seems right at home. The repeats are also generating quite respectable ratings, thank you. For the latest Friday, December 30, Wipeout got 1.53 million viewers and a 0.6 18-49 rating. Both are just fine by cable standards, especially for a retread.

On the GSN board I once wondered why our little game show network didn't seem interested in acquiring Wipeout. I dunno, maybe GSN tried and got outbid by Time Warner's deep pockets. Or maybe the network didn't like the show as part of its "adult female" targeting. But a million and half viewers look really, really good compared to GSN's usual paltry numbers.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bloody Sunday afternoon

Got some grief from a commenter about my irreverent attitude toward Million Dollar Mind Game. Sorry, folks, but the first episode still bored me to near slumber, and I didn't go back for any more Sominex.

Very few others sampled the mind-twister, either. The show quickly vanished after ABC burned off the six episodes which had sat on the shelf for many months. The weird Sunday afternoon scheduling gave the show's dozens of fans (slight exaggeration) a convenient excuse for its speedy demise.

But a glance at the Google news cache shows that ABC will try again on Sunday afternoon. Not with Mind Game, of course, but with a reality project called Bud United Presents: The Big Time. Yeah, the title seems swell to me, too. I don't cover reality shows, and this one looks like a loser from the get-go.

The Deadline story talks about ABC's experiment in "filling its weekend afternoon time slots with original, primetime-like programming." I don't think Mind Game would have stood a chance in prime time, and Deadline admits the quizzer was just Sunday filler when the NBA went on strike or lockout or whatever. (As if anybody misses the NBA in November.)

But Sunday afternoon is one strange place for any new show.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Drop in and stay a while

Just watched the new year's first episode of Who's Still Standing. The annoying Santa Claus narration was gone, which improved things immediately.

But I did notice some odd rules discrepancies. The episode ran through two complete games. One of them was played with two passes for the central contestant, one with three. And the second game allowed the main contestant to walk away after just three rounds, instead of the five rounds necessary on preceding shows.

Guess they taped the second game earlier or later than some others, and tinkered with the rules in the meantime. But what they hey, the rounds were still fast-paced and entertaining, and Ben Bailey seems to be getting more relaxed outside the taxi.

I see that the BuzzerBlog crowd voted Million Dollar Mind Game the best new show of 2011. Which proves there really is no disputing tastes. I could barely stay awake through that Russian-based snoozer with its funereal pace and numbingly difficult questions. Who's Still Standing, rules discrepancies or not, is a whole lot more fun and moves a whole lot faster.

Remaking history

GSN is running a marathon of Whammy tonight. Which gets me thinking about game show remakes.

Whammy, of course, is a faithful remake of the 1980s Press Your Luck. Though this time the board was truly randomized to avoid any Michael Larson replays. I'm not a huge fan of either version, because the gameplay - other than Larson's brilliance - was not much more than pushing the button and seeing what happens.

Game show remakes often get drubbed on the Internet boards, which tend to be dominated by fans of older shows. And for those folks, few if any remakes can come close to the divine splendor of those older classics. I'm not such a knee-jerk foe of newer versions myself. After all, my favorite game show ever, the 1973-82 Match Game, was an inspired comic remake of the sadly square 1960s original.

Once in a long while, a show remakes itself in the course of a long run. Millionaire is probably the clearest current example. Over the years the syndie has drifted further and further from Regis' ABC version (which was a faithful adaptation of the Brit original). There is still a money tree, though oddly randomized, and some multiple choice questions, and the ask-the-audience lifeline.

But otherwise not much is left of the original. And yet it's still recognizably Millionaire. And most importantly, it's still on the air.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

That Barker fellow

I've twitted Bob Barker on this blog for his obsessive support of animal rights. Maybe it's just because I like a good hamburger. Or maybe there's something more important about the 88-year-old legend that bothers me.

I'm not talking about Barker's endless legal travails on The Price is Right. To be blunt, I don't give a thin (fully rights-protected) rodent's behind about those shenanigans. Barker asked for big trouble with the lawyers when he diddled one of the models. He got what he asked for, but I have no idea - and I absolutely don't care - if he really deserved it.

Maybe it's the perfect hair. No, that's just a detail, but a telling one. Barker was always so in control, so the literal Master of Ceremonies. They might as well have coined the title for him. Perfection can't help but irritate a little, and Barker was real close to perfect for a long, long time.

So he has to command respect for his ability, even from my carping self. Criticism seems almost beside the point for anybody who was that good for that long at his work. I'll still give him a little grief about the critters, though.