Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Syndies: Wheel slips, Millionaire gains

Not a whole lot of movement for syndicated game shows in the week of February 13-19. But there were a few notable changes, as TVNewsCheck reports...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - down three ticks but still leads all syndies for the week
Jeopardy 6.4 - flat
Family Feud 3.2 - flat
Millionaire 2.7 - up a tick to tie season high

TV by the Numbers unleashes its top 25 syndie list in a hurry. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.9 million (weekend repeat 5.9 million), Jeopardy 10.0 million, Family Feud 4.7 million, Millionaire 3.8 million. After weeks of just missing, Meredith finally made the list!

Sure, the demos may skew ancient. But these total viewer numbers look really good compared to a lot of broadcast prime time shows.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Schedule it to me one more time

GSN just sent me the pdf schedule for the week of March 12-18. You can check it in the sidebar, just above the picture of our really cute dog.

As always the pdfs can only be trusted as far you can throw them after you print them out. The GSN schedule changes with the wind when the wind is in a really flighty mood. Who knows what will finally happen in the week of March 12-18?

For now, though, 100K Pyramid is scheduled to take the place of poorly performing Dancing With the Stars on Friday night. This was supposed to happen sooner, before GSN sent out new pdfs taking Pyramid away. The GSN boards erupted in one of their endless spasms of Dancing hatred when the network scrapped the planned Pyramid block on Friday.

But now 100K Pyramid is supposedly back on tap for March 16. A couple episodes with Soupy Sales feature in the lineup. He appeared on the show a zillion times. Once Bob Stewart found a celeb who could play that hard little game, the celeb got called back again and again.

UPDATE: What did I say about GSN's schedule changes? 100K Pyramid now returns starting this Friday, March 2. Soupy's episodes will run this Friday. Check the pdfs, but never trust 'em.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Way off-topic

I don't spend all my time watching game shows. Another of my guilty pleasures - appropriate term - is Investigation Discovery. The true crime channel creeps me out sometimes, though.

Especially a show called Disappeared, about people who go missing and often meet bad fates. The show almost never has a happy ending. Either the missing person gets murdered or is never found.

Happened to be watching a Disappeared rerun today about a Utah man named Steven Koecher. He went missing in 2009 under completely unexplained circumstances, and his family has been desperately looking for him ever since.

I found myself flipping over to game shows just to get away from the story. GSN was showing Richard Karn's Family Feud, and the CBS affiliate in my area was running Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. At least on game shows nobody gets killed and there are no distraught families. And the shows always end with a resolution.

There was no resolution in the Koecher case. He's still missing, and it's not a game show.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

GSN, the spinoff

A favorite fantasy of the older-is-better GSN Internet boards is GSN2, devoted exclusively to those beloved golden oldies. I knock down the latest rehash of the idea...

Other poster: Could this be a solution: Two Channels? GSN Classic and GSN Modern?

Pipe dream. GSN itself can't get full distribution, thanks to old demos and modest overall ratings. An all-oldies network, with even worse demos, wouldn't get any carriage at all from the system operators (with the possible exception of DirecTV, which still owns part of GSN).

Another poster: I can't imagine History Channel does either but there's 3 of those now I believe.

Yet another poster: But, it worked out for ESPN, didn't it?

The comparison with ESPN or History is...let's just say, wildly far-fetched. Both ESPN and History are almost fully distributed on cable/satellite because they get far bigger audiences and much more advertiser-friendly demos than GSN does. That's why they can spin off channels and still coax (or browbeat) the system operators into carrying them. The operators don't want to lose the main channels, so they accept the spinoffs.

In the latest February 13-19 week which I linked, for instance, both ESPN and History landed in the top six among all cable networks in prime time 18-49 viewers. Don't hold your breath until GSN comes within light-years of a similar performance. GSN is lucky to get any 18-49 viewers at all (slight exaggeration, but not too much of one). So wasting money to launch GSN2 would make no sense at all. Nobody would carry it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The price is okay

NPR and The Price is Right are two things I'm mostly indifferent about. Well, I do wish that NPR would get off the taxpayer's dime. And I dutifully note TPiR news here on the blog because, folks, I'm a full service game show blogger.

So it was with some trepidation that I looked at this NPR blog entry about, what else, The Price is Right. I was afraid of snotty putdowns or gushy enthusiasm, or a combination of both.

There definitely was some snottiness, especially about Bob Barker. The female author shows clear disdain for the target of several lawsuits. But she's happier with Drew Carey, who doesn't make contestants pull hundred-dollar bills out of his jacket pocket. She also doesn't like Plinko, for whatever reason.

Her overall opinion is mild and measured: "It's a really good show to put on your DVR to watch while you're in and out of the kitchen making dinner." Not exactly a high-powered endorsement, but a reasonable evaluation of the show's comfort-food quality. After all, it's fine to watch people win some cash and merchandise. Worse things happen in the world.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Live and in person

Todd Newton is taking his The Price is Right live show to a Florida casino for an eight-week run starting March 1. The press release talks about Todd's "exuberant personality," which is certainly true enough.

Live game shows are a natural for casinos, where rumor has it that a lot of games are played. (By a weird coincidence I'm listening to Alan Parson's Turn of a Friendly Card right now on my computer. Don't let me down tonight!) Todd has hosted a zillion TPiR live shows in Vegas.

And by another weird coincidence, weekly game show blogger Aaron recently saw the TPiR show in Vegas currently hosted by Joey Fatone. He can't resist a few wry observations about the show's multiple announcers. But Aaron winds up enjoying himself quite a bit. "I personally had a great time, and my throat ended up hurting a lot from all the shouting the audience is expected to do."

Aaron also took in the Name That Tune live show in Vegas. But that effort didn't impress him so much. One of the show's co-hosts, Marley Taylor, has an interesting back story.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Four dealing seasons

Wayne Brady just tweeted what had been rumored in an interview mentioned in the faux tweets. Let's Make a Deal will return for a fourth season.

I'm happy for Wayne and company, though I'm frankly not a particular fan of the show. I never even liked the classic Monty Hall version that much. Though I do get a kick out of the Monty Hall problem. It's got to be the most commonly known mathematical problem with a wildly counterintuitive answer.

The Wayne Brady version has never been a big winner in the ratings. But it's dirt-cheap compared to soap operas, which are becoming an endangered species thanks to their relatively high costs. So Wayne rolls on.

I'd like to think that some network daytime execs would learn a lesson here. There are a lot of decent game show formats that could probably do as well as Let's Make a Deal, if not better. And they really don't cost a lot. Not to mention any names...PYRAMID!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Syndies perk up a little

The week of February 6-12 was a decent one for syndicated game shows. No big jumps but a little bit of improvement. TVNewsCheck presents the news that could have been worse...

Wheel of Fortune 7.7 - up a tick
Jeopardy 6.4 - up a couple ticks, take that, Pat and Vanna!
Family Feud 3.2 - flat
Millionaire 2.6 - up a tick

You know the routine with TV by the Numbers. When they post their top 25 syndie list, I'll post the viewership averages. They're up: Wheel of Fortune 12.3 million (weekend repeat 6.5 million), Jeopardy 10.1 million, Family Feud 4.7 million. Meredith keeps just missing the list.

Meanwhile, in broadcast news Wipeout keeps bumping (or splashing) its way along a ratings trough. The show pulled a 1.5 18-49 rating and 5.1 million viewers last Thursday, February 16. I'm starting to wonder about its future on the Alphabet Net (warning, Variety-speak).

UPDATE: Douglas has posted the GSN viewer numbers for February 13-19. So-so at best. The viewership averages were 308K/234K prime time/total day. Dancing With the Stars continues to stink, but 5th Grader continues to shine.

New episodes bust out all over

GSN just dropped a long string of press releases into my inbox. New episodes of various shows start on the network the week of March 12. Forty-one new eps of Newlywed Game will run on Monday and Tuesday at 6:00PM and 6:30PM. That's why the network sent the picture of Sherri Shepherd you're looking at.

Baggage will run 60 new episodes at 6:00PM and 6:30PM on Wednesday and Thursday. Hm, a lot more Jerry, for better or worse. And the ratings disappointment Dancing With the Stars will get its twelfth season run on Saturday nights.

GSN can certainly use some new material, because the ratings haven't been all that swell lately. The new eps of the originals could help restore some of their lost Nielsen luster. And maybe a more recent season of Dancing might hoof its way to better numbers. (I'm not too confident any more, though.)

There may be some schedule reshuffles beginning the week of March 12, but GSN hasn't sent me the advance schedule pdf yet. And the way things go, the pdf is usually obsolete before its week rolls around, anyway.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Date me

Fox is looking at a dating show which sounds like Dating Game times ten.

Instead of one bachelor and three bachelorettes, it's one guy and thirty girls. It's called Take Me Out and is based on an Australian original. One by one the thirty lovelies tune out the bachelor by switching off their podium lights. Eventually the remaining ladies compete for the gentleman.

TV pundit James Hibbard wittily pegs the show as "sort of like The Bachelor: Speed Dating Edition. Or The Dating Game meets Deal or No Deal. Or Singled Out on steroids." The clip of the British version is sprightly enough, even if the dance moves at the start are a little cheesy. But the ladies seem impressed, anyway.

Hibbard points out that Fox's last two game shows, Million Dollar Money Drop and Moment of Truth, quickly foundered. Money Drop succumbed to a glacial pace, and Moment of Truth was just too slimy, even by Fox's flexible standards. At first glance this dating project looks livelier and less obnoxious. Fox supposedly plans a summer debut.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Developing in hell

Mentioned the Pyramid revival stuck in development hell. So whaddaya know, I see a play-by-play account of that hell from longtime announcer Randy West on Matt Ottinger's board.

Randy sounds a little jaded by it all. But he manages some humor. "Yes, too often it's like hell except not as hot. Other times, only occasionally, it rocks!!" Except when the rights revert to you because your buyer gets fired or loses interest.

But there's the payoff at the end: "If it's a network or cable channel, the show goes to air. Or it gets shopped by the syndicator to TV stations in January for a fall debut. If enough stations in the top markets buy it, you're on. Congratulations, and don't forget me when hiring your announcer and warm-up!"

Well, I wouldn't ever forget Randy, who wrote a terrific remembrance of announcing legend Johnny Olsen. I doubt that I'll need his half-humorous guide through development hell, though. My ambition to create a game show died long ago. Or, more accurately, it never lived at all.

Still, I can dream a little. It would be nice to see "Created by Casey Abell" at the end of Wheel of Fortune. I'd be driving a better car.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

GSN history lesson

The older-is-better bunch on the GSN boards waxes nostalgic for the 2008 schedule. I offer a different perspective...

Other poster: Looking back at the 2008 schedule, the network had a huge variety of classics, and also Catch 21, Poker and Bingo America in their prime time lineup. With classics not being aired 2-3 times a morning like now, viewers were happier.

Some viewers may have been happier, some definitely weren't. The big story on GSN in 2008 was the fate of the poker shows, as Reuters recounted. David Goldhill had taken over the year before and there was massive turnover among GSN's top staffers. Nobody knew what would happen to GSN's poker shows as a result, even though they were among the network's top performers in the 18-49 demo. Lingo, another good 18-49 show but a holdover from the Rich Cronin era, was cancelled.

Well, we all know what eventually happened. World Poker Tour left for Fox Sports, High Stakes Poker finally got renewed for a few more seasons but expired after a long run, and Lingo returned in 2011 with a new host.

2008 was a blah year for GSN ratings. They bumped along at pretty much the same as 2007's so-so levels, as GSN really didn't roll out any particular ratings winners. The next big Nielsen splash wouldn't happen until June, 2009 when Howie showed up at the network. He blew the doors off (by GSN standards) and quickly took over the schedule. The next splash after him was Jerry, who did much the same with Baggage in 2010. The Newlywed Game remake performed pretty well, too, though GSN's relationship with Carnie soon turned less than friendly.

Really, the biggest thing that's happened to GSN numbers since then may be 5th Grader, which has racked up notable ratings on Sunday. And Karn-O'Hurley Family Feud may be doing the same on Monday night. Otherwise, the Nielsen news has been bland at best for GSN.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pyramid then and now

Mentioned it in the faux tweets, but the Pyramid game played on Jimmy Fallon's show this week deserves a full post. First thing to note is the timeless quality of the format. Pyramid survived even a late-night lampooning. The audience seemed genuinely interested in the gameplay. Bob Stewart's creation endures!

A real Pyramid remake has kicked around development hell for years now. Last I heard, TBS was looking at it. I'll believe the show when I see it. Meanwhile, Jimmy's sort-of-parody will have to suffice.

A thread on Matt Ottinger's board discussed the Fallon effort. Even the older-is-better diehards who populate the board didn't seem to mind the segment. They appreciated civvie contestant Zachary, who played great and got off some decent quips. Somebody also noticed that Fallon sidekick Steve Higgins looks a lot like namesake Steve Allen. Darned if he doesn't.

The only sour note in the thread was the inevitable putdown of Donny Osmond's 2002-04 Pyramid revival. I figured it was coming sooner or later, and a grumpy traditionalist didn't disappoint. For all you old farts out there, Donnymid was a worthy remake. Live with it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Alex Trebek, teacher's pet

The college students on Jeopardy got a lot of coverage in Google news. But they went almost unnoticed compared to the teachers currently battling it out in their own Jeopardy tournament.

There are stories about California's Jessican Dell'Era, Nebraska's Brooks Humphreys, Illinois' Steve Evenhouse, Missouri's Patrick Quinn, Wisconsin's Elissa Hoffman, Massachusetts' Lisa Johnston, Texas' Catherine Whitten, and Minnesota's Kathryn Wendling. Some of these folks get more than one story. Hey, some Kardashians don't get this much coverage (slight exaggeration).

The stories often feature the obligatory photo with Alex, plus memories of watching Jeopardy (and wanting to be a contestant) for a long time. Nobody, not even grumpy me, will begrudge the teachers their chance. And the last educator standing gets a hundred grand for correctly questioning all those answers.

You might say that Jeopardy is the ultimate teachers' game. At least all that book learning comes in a lot more handy on the venerable quizzer than on, say, Wipeout.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

GSN docs

The GSN Internet board doesn't spend all its time ripping Dancing With the Stars. Sometimes we actually talk about other things. Like the documentaries GSN has done over the years...

Other poster: I've never seen the "Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Sandal" which GSN aired many of years ago and it was GSN's highest rated program of all time if I recall.

It was the first time the Michael Larson episodes had been seen in a long while. That's why the 2003 show got the big number. The documentary portions around the eps were okay but not particularly memorable. You can watch the show on YouTube starting here.

Another poster: What could they say that was fascinating? It's not like there was much behind the scenes drama for years like there was with Match Game. It was 1 taping, 2 episodes. I can't imagine there was a lot to say.

You're right. The one interesting part of the surrounding documentary was the in-depth technical stuff about the big-board patterns that Larson figured out and used. Otherwise, it was just interviews and kind of random chatter about the episodes. Plus plugs for Whammy.

Funny you should mention Match Game. I actually liked the documentary GSN did on the show in 2006. Still remember Brett Somers pronouncing Richard Dawson "sexy as a snail."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gettin' older and grumpier

I've already whined about age discrimination on game shows. So this post is nothing new.

But another casting call has gone out with an age requirement. This time it's 18-30. And for good measure, there's a gender requirement, too. Only guys need apply.

To be fair, the show is listed as an "EXTREME CHALLENGE GAME SHOW" (caps definitely in the original). Which means the project undoubtedly involves some heavy lifting in the physical stunt department. It's understandable why 75-year-old grandmothers might not want to participate.

The ideal contestant will be " adrenaline junky...dare devil." And he'll do just about anything for money. Like drinking donkey urine?

If you want to sign up, good luck. This sounds like something from Spike, though no network is listed. Safe to say it's not Oprah's outlet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Syndies don't so much

Wish I had exciting, thrilling and real swell news about syndicated game shows in the latest ratings week. But I don't. There was little change, as TVNewsCheck boringly discusses for the week ending February 5...

Wheel of Fortune 7.6 - flat
Jeopardy 6.2 - flat
Family Feud 3.2 - up a whole tick
Millionaire 2.5 - down a whole tick

Yawn and double yawn. TV by the Numbers continues its prompt service on the viewership averages. The site just hired a couple part-timers to handle the more routine posts, so maybe the promptness will continue. The numbers: Wheel of Fortune 12.0 million (weekend repeat 5.6 million), Jeopardy 9.7 million, Family Feud 4.7 million. Meredith again just missed the top 25 list.

A couple broadcast notes: Wipeout is, you guessed it, wiping out. Last Thursday the show hit a new season low: a 1.5 18-49 rating and 5.3 million viewers. The show might return for the summer, when competition is milder and ABC needs something cheap to fill the time. But the ratings have definitely seen better days. Fear Factor got crushed by the Whitney Houston Grammys and managed a 1.5 18-49 rating with 3.7 million viewers.

UPDATE: Douglas puts up the February 6-12 viewer numbers for GSN, and the network has its best week in a while. The averages were 341K/254K prime time/total day. Dancing With the Stars is still dragging down the prime time average, but the show did manage to get a couple runs above the 300K mark.

A terrible post

Somebody posted a list of the eight most terrible ideas for a game show. It's dumb to even notice lists like these, but nobody ever said I was smart. So I can't help complaining about the first show on the list: Win, Lose or Draw.

Apparently, the list-maker thinks the show was dumb because Burt Reynolds is dumb. I'll let Burt defend himself, but what exactly was so clueless about the idea for the show? I'm not saying Win, Lose or Draw was the greatest game show ever, but it was harmless and sometimes entertaining. The show lasted for a few seasons, so somebody liked it.

Most of the items on the list are more understandable. The Chair was pretty silly, because watching people trying to stay calm does not make for riveting TV. The cat show and the vomit show weren't very brilliant, either. But Rock 'n' Roll Jeopardy? I dunno, regular Jeopardy has been known to ask questions (or give answers) about pop music. What's so terrible about that?

Sure, there's no reason to bother with lists like these, which are only designed to provoke fans of the various shows. But why not get provoked a little? Gives me an excuse for a blog post, anyway.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

News from Alex

My feud with BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis has gone public a few times. He's said some unflattering things about me, and I've occasionally been less than complimentary about him. Probably the oddest thing about Alex, from my POV, is his Brit-mania. Not really sure why, but Alex just loves all things British, or at least all things British-game-show. His tagline "the British are better than us" has become well-known around the game show Internets.

But enough of the personal back-and-forth. Alex runs a non-faux Twitter feed, where I noticed a couple of interesting items recently. First, he's trying to raise money for a full-scale studio version of his War of the Words game. He's asking his readers for contributions to renting a studio and putting together a decent prize package. Again, I'm not Alex's biggest fan, but good luck on his entrepreneurial ambitions.

Another item was a string of tweets on Family Feud's off-color moments. This subject has been getting some web play lately. Alex is a big fan of Steve Harvey, and I mean a big fan. So I can well believe his tweet that he regularly deletes angry comments at BuzzerBlog about the show's less-than-clean bits.

Personally, I don't mind such material on Feud all that much. My bigger beef is with Harvey making the show into his personal comedy act. But Steve has improved the ratings, with an assist from methodology changes at Nielsen. And that's what (literally) counts in TV.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sweeping up and smarting up

We're in February sweeps now, when Nielsen does something or other that's important to the ratings. Okay, what they actually do is unleash a gazillion paper diaries on the nation to get some idea of what we're watching on TV.

Sooner or later, set top box data might replace paper, but we're not they're yet. Or at least Nielsen isn't there yet. Rentrak is boldly going where no man has gone before in STB data, especially in those pesky smaller markets where paper diaries are still used.

Anyway, a poster on Matt Ottinger's board wondered whether game shows save their "smartest" contestants for sweeps periods. Gotta admit, this is one of many, many subjects I never thought about much. Matt typed an interesting reply:
I think it's pretty obvious that Millionaire - which, as others have mentioned, has a lot of flexibility here - saves their best games and highest paydays for sweeps...they tape their games, and when they have one with a smart contestant who wins a lot of money, they set it aside and air it during sweeps. Jeopardy, again as others have mentioned, typically reserves sweeps time for their tournaments.
It's true that Millionaire just had a quarter-million winner in sweeps. And Jeopardy is, of course, running their college and teachers tournaments this month. So Matt looks to be right, or at least he has some recent evidence on his side.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Being wrong

I thought Dancing With the Stars would do a lot better on GSN than it did. The network is now cutting the show back a lot after underwhelming numbers.

As you might expect, a few of my buddies on the GSN board are letting me know how wrong I was. We all gotta take our lumps now and then...

Other poster: Yeah I went back to the original DWTS thread, and you were WAY wrong. You predicted the show would easily get about 500,000 viewers, and would easily become GSN's most watched show. You also told us all we didn't know what we were talking about, and that we didn't depict GSN's real audience. How does it feel to be wrong?

In response, I originally posted something snarky but eventually toned it down: "Won't be the last time I'm wrong. Nobody's infallible." Another of my good friends joined in: "I tried to tell you it was going to be a bomb." I just ate the humblest pie again: "You were right and I was wrong."

What can I say? Dancing looked like the perfect show for GSN's old-skewing, female-skewing audience. I blew the call. And GSN apparently blew some serious money, by the network's thrifty standards.

UPDATE: GSN's schedule changes more often than a fashion model at a real uptempo show. Now Dancing is back on Friday with a seven-hour marathon, at least for February 17. Guess they figured the demos would be better than 100K Pyramid's. But stay tuned. You never know about the GSN schedule.

And now Dancing is back on Friday February 24 and March 2, as you can see in the pdfs in the sidebar. They'll love this on the GSN Internet board.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's an election year

A faux tweet noted Chuck Woolery's appearance at CPAC, now running in Washington. Media reporters have long spotted the trend toward the political right among game show hosts. Which is something of an oddity in the definitely left-leaning media business.

It's easy to overstate the "trend." The syndie hosts, for instance, split pretty much down the middle. Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek lean right, while Steve Harvey and Meredith Vieira tend to the port side. Harvey even got upset with a couple of black pundits who dared to criticize Obama.

Politics and game shows may have collided most directly when The Price is Right's producers reportedly vetted Rosie O'Donnell as the successor to Bob Barker. After a gale of jokes about The Price is Left, they settled on the much less divisive Drew Carey. Rumor is that Drew tends Libertarian. But he doesn't lecture people about least, not very often or very loudly.

Hey, it's a free country and game show hosts can get as political as they want. Except when they're actually hosting their game shows. I don't care for politics injected directly into what should be just fun. There's an old saying about Western Union and sending a message. (Once upon a time, Western Union really did send messages.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Calling all casts

A couple casting calls have gone out for new game shows previously noted on this blog.

The CW is looking for "thrill-seeking daredevils" to play a devilish game of musical chairs in Oh, Sit! At the other end of the propriety spectrum, GSN wants folks with "great personal testimonies of coming to faith" for its new American Bible Challenge. The Bible show doesn't care for daredevils but would like "competitive spirits."

The calls have one thing in common: contestants have to live in or near the Los Angeles area. Which eliminates me, though I'm not looking for a berth on a game show any time soon. The Oh, Sit! call also says applicants must be "physically able to compete in an obstacle course." Such ability is probably not crucial on the Bible quizzer.

The only age requirement is 18+, so neither show is blatantly discriminating on age. But I bet the CW will only pick young'uns for its target audience of twenty-something ladies. The Bible show will likely include some more mature folks.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Syndies edge down

A pretty blah week for syndicated game shows. TVNewsCheck spreads the discouraging word for the week ending January 29...

Wheel of Fortune 7.6 - down a tick
Jeopardy 6.2 - down a couple ticks
Family Feud 3.1 - down a tick, seeing a pattern?
Millionaire 2.6 - down a tick, I told you there was a pattern

Not the greatest week but hardly a disaster. Supposedly, "people using television" levels were down in the week due to unseasonably warm weather. We blame global warming, as a certain political pundit likes to say.

When TV by the Numbers puts up their top 25 syndie list, I'll post the viewership averages. But you knew that already, didn't you? Hey, they got the list up: Wheel of Fortune 12.1 million (weekend repeat 5.9 million), Jeopardy 9.7 million, Family Feud 4.6 million. Meredith just missed.

Meanwhile, Wipeout continues its ominous descent. The latest ABC run on February 2 tied a season low with a 1.8 18-49 rating and 6.0 million viewers. Yeah, it's up against American Idol right now, but the numbers were soft from the start of the season. If Who's Still Standing couldn't keep its place on woeful NBC with a 1.7 18-49 rating, I wonder how long Wipeout will hang around ABC with 1.8.

UPDATE: Douglas posted the GSN viewer numbers for the January 30-February 5 week. Overall averages were 310K/229K viewers prime time/total day. Dancing With the Stars continued to bomb but some old reliables like Deal or No Deal and Family Feud delivered.

Monday, February 6, 2012

College kids everywhere

Google news is busting out all over with stories about college kids on Jeopardy.

Besides the story about Harvard's Carrie Tian mentioned in the faux tweets, there's one about William and Mary's Zach McDonnell, and one about North Texas' Monica Thieu, and one about Stanford's Matt Olson, and one about Indiana's Sarah Bauer, and one about YouTube's Weird Al Yankovic.

Oh, scratch that last one. But the Weird Al story does mention I Lost on Jeopardy. Which, unfortunately, will be the theme song for all but one of the fifteen students when the tournament wraps up February 14. But the student left standing will get a hundred grand, which is about $99,990 more than I ever had when I was in college.

I've already grumped about too many Jeopardy tournaments. But it's hard to begrudge college kids a shot at real money. Especially when the tournament is a real-life Revenge of the Nerds. Bookworms and trivia geeks on campus get their day in the sun, or at least syndication. That's not bad at all.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hosts with the mosts

At Carrie Grosvenor reports that Best Game Show Host is a hot category in this year's Readers' Choice awards. We won't know the finalists until February 22, but the nominations are coming in fast.

Last year the five finalists were Drew Carey, Jeff Foxworthy, Steve Harvey, Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak. None of these guys put me off with their hosting style, though I'm not super thrilled with Harvey's constant standup routine on Family Feud. But Steve has breathed life back into Feud's ratings, so who cares about my picky criticisms?

Sajak won last year as part of Wheel of Fortune's overall sweep of the awards. Another win this year would not be a crushing surprise. Whatever you might think of Pat and Vanna and all the rest, Wheel draws by far the biggest audience of any game show. Pat's understated but sly style doesn't hurt. Neither will the laughable hoohah over his "drunk" comments.

One guy I wish had made the finals last year was Ben Bailey. He keeps Cash Cab fresh, as anybody could see by comparing Beth Melewski's flat style on the Chicago-based episodes. And after a pretty stiff start, Ben also relaxed and thrived on Who's Still Standing. The guy deserves his Best Game Show Host Emmys, and I hope he lands among Carrie's final five this year.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


As everybody knows, lots of old game shows got wiped. That was back when video tape was expensive and few people figured old game shows would be worth anything.

Game show boards regularly argue over the term "wiped," which is not supposed to be technically correct. Instead, we should say "reused" or "degaussed" or something. But wouldn't you know, somebody came up with an old Brit video showing a tape getting wiped. And the narrator actually says the magic word, "wiped."

Anyway, Matt Ottinger's board, after chewing over the niceties of "wiped" vs. "degaussed", got into which shows received the, er, treatment. A poster made an interesting comment:
Conversations about what exists and what (likely) doesn't always fascinate me. There are numerous other shows that had off-network reruns right through the '70s (at least in some cities, according to old TV Guides). Gambit is one that comes to mind, as is Joker's Wild. For years we thought all that was left of CBS Joker was the final season - then GSN surprised us by running most of the first season (1972-73) after the whole run was found at WCBS...I guess the real answer is, because a lot of stuff has been discovered over the years, you can never really know if something's truly gone.
For instance, those really early What's My Line eps "lost to history" (as the episode guide says) might turn up somewhere someday. Hey, maybe I've got 'em in my attic! Wikipedia often asserts that such-and-such seasons of so-and-so show are presumed lost. But as the poster says, "lost" episodes pop up now and then.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Boycott 'em

KKTV, the CBS affiliate in Colorado Springs, has bumped Jeopardy from 6:30PM to 4:00PM to make room for more news. At least one fan won't take it sitting down.

Carl Hansen, who builds race car engines for a living, squawked: "I don't need more news. And I'm willing to bet there are a lot of people like me who would rather have an intellectually stimulating program to unwind with when they get home instead of over-sensationalized hysteria about the weather, etc."

Sorry, Mr. Hansen, but TV has lived on hysteria since the dawn of the tube of boob. Anyway, Carl started a boycott-KKTV page on Facebook. So far 13 other folks have signed on, which won't inspire fear at the station.

To mollify Jeopardy fans, KKTV runs old episodes on one of its digital subchannels at 6:30PM. The CBS station in my home Dallas-Fort Worth area does the same. And this September, those famous "contractual issues" will be fixed and KKTV will start rerunning the new Jeopardy eps at 6:30PM.

Meanwhile the boycott will have no effect, of course. But Facebook exists for this sort of thing, doesn't it?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Five things I learned from contestant stories

The faux tweets link to lots of contestant stories, mostly scrounged from Google news. After a while some common themes start to emerge. Five of them...

1) The Wheel of Fortune set is small. I mean, really small. To hear the contestants talk, they tape the show in a closet. A small closet...but with a really heavy wheel. It's hard to spin that thing.

2) Jeopardy is for nerds. Don't mean this in a bad way. I'm an actuary, which makes me practically a champion nerd. But Jeopardy contestants always talk about how they're bookworms and nerdy grubbers after all sorts of trivial knowledge. Which is good preparation for the show, after all.

3) Meredith is really nice on Millionaire. Funny thing, she always seems a little chilly to me, emotionally distant compared to folksy old Regis. But contestants swear up and down that she's super-friendly and supportive. So what do I know?

4) Steve Harvey does lots of standup on Family Feud. This is immediately apparent to anybody who watches the show. And what else do you expect from a standup comic? But contestants often talk about how long the tapings run as Steve does his shtick. The episodes get edited down later.

5) Lots of people really want to be on game shows. Stories about auditions usually mention hordes of would-be contestants storming the talent evaluators in hopes of that precious TV appearance. We're all looking for that fifteen minutes, or twenty-two minutes plus commercials.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Who's Still Standing has almost certainly breathed its last. There's been no formal announcement, but there usually isn't. The show's page on says the next showing is...blank. Not a good sign.

Strangely enough, the show didn't perform that badly by NBC's admittedly miserable standards. The final episode this week fetched a 1.7 18-49 rating and six-and-a-half million viewers. Considering some of the numbers NBC regularly draws for its disaster-area prime time, the network can (and will) do worse. Much worse.

As for the quality of the show, I don't want to argue any more. Who's Still Standing got trashed a lot on the web, but I liked the pace, the exit gimmick, and the host. But like fans everywhere who see their shows get cancelled, there's not much I can do. Write a letter to NBC? Yeah, sure.

But maybe I'll put up a blog post. With a picture of Ben and a couple contestants. Why not?