Saturday, March 31, 2012

GSN ratings chatter

It's a lazy Saturday morning, so I'll just crosspost some crosstalk from the GSN Internet board. The gang and I chat about Baggage, Dancing With the Stars, and other profundities...

Other poster: Wednesday Baggage - 194K (Harvey Feud, anyone?)

To give Jerry a bit of credit, the Wednesday and Thursday first-runs averaged 259K. A long way from the 500K and 600K glory days, though.

Another poster: 259K is still poor for new episodes of anything (except Dancing With the Stars).

There are no new episodes of DWTS on GSN. The new eps on ABC do a lot better than 259K. Like 18 million or so (wink). If GSN could get the truly new episodes of Dancing With the Stars instead of ABC, this network's problems would be a lot more manageable.

Yet another poster: And the ambient temperature of Hell would decrease to -159.86° Fahrenheit. Do you really think that GSN would be willing to fork over the heavy license fees that would be required to air a first run episode [of Dancing With the Stars]?

Oh jeeze, that comment was what's known as humor. That's why I deadpanned the bit about the network's problems being a "lot more manageable" if truly first-run DWTS ever showed up on GSN. Of course, that's not gonna happen in anything approaching the present universe.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hip hopping through the squares

We've seen revivals of Figure It Out and (maybe) Name That Tune and (maybe) 100K Pyramid. Now MTV2 gets into the act with a hip hop version of Hollywood Squares, called (you guessed it) Hip Hop Squares. The press release is short on gameplay details, so I have no clue how close the new version will stick to the classic rules.

About all the release says is that the show will be more party than game show, which sounds vaguely depressing. New York radio guy Peter Rosenberg hosts. The release runs off a long list of celebs who will occupy the squares. Some of them are even hip hop artists. Then there's a football player and some guy from Jackass and the hip hop god knows who else. I don't think Whoopi Goldberg is anywhere to be found, though.

Have to fess up that I've never been a huge Squares fan, in any version. Too much scripting for my, er, unscripted tastes. I assume that the celebs on this new version will also be given their lines, if we'll really gonna "party." Otherwise, they just might natter on forever and ruin the whole party atmosphere. The show debuts May 22.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thinking hard

Never understood why Deal or No Deal is sometimes called the world's dumbest game show. Okay, at one level I can see the point. All the contestants seem to do is pick suitcases at random.

But every time I watch the show, as I just did on GSN, my brain goes into overdrive calculating expected values, wipeout odds, and possible next offers. It's not like trivia where I know it or not. I gotta think my way through this game.

You might say that Deal or No Deal is a game for actuaries by actuaries. I guess I can say it now - my boss at my previous actuarial job was a consultant for the show. He would advise the producers on probabilities and expected payouts when they had ideas for new wrinkles in the gameplay.

Which all makes that silly U.K. investigation of the show as a trivial gambling vehicle seem even sillier. The show is about calculated risk, and calculating the risk is no trivial task.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Steve debuts on GSN

Just watched Steve Harvey's first episode of Family Feud on GSN. While I've seen some of his eps, this one was new to me.

As usual, Steve didn't mind being the center of attention. He mugged and deadpanned and chuckled and cracked wise. But he got off some funny lines and at least seemed to be enjoying himself. He's boosted the syndication ratings, which is all that counts. He'll probably also give GSN some much needed help with the Nielsen Company.

As for the supposed naughtiness of his version, there was little in the episode for even the most prudish to faint over. One female contestant did say the word "breasts," but the world didn't stop. Another question asked about party games that would be more fun if played nude. Some humor ensued, but it was again very mild. The episode had no problems retaining the TV-PG rating.

With the show renewed through 2015, Family Feud has endured for nearly four decades. Maybe Mark Goodson was right when he praised the show's "dynamite format."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hoops and the sun do in syndies

Daylight Savings Time and NCAA hoops preemptions hurt all syndies in the week of March 12-18. Our four game shows didn't escape the damage. TVNewsCheck brings the bad news...

Wheel of Fortune 6.9 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.4 - down a whopping six ticks, what's with that, Alex?
Family Feud 2.8 - down a tick
Millionaire 2.4 - down a tick

TV by the Numbers provides the viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.9 million (weekend repeat 4.2 million), Jeopardy 8.4 million, Family Feud 4.0 million. Meredith just slipped off the top 25 list again.

Douglas Pucci posts another set of GSN viewer numbers for the March 12-18 week. I can see why they're shaking things up. It was another bad week with 276K/214K prime time/total day averages.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Happened to be watching an episode of 5th Grader with my wife today. She finally said: "This is a cute show with the kids and all, but the questions are too slow."

Ah yes, that pace issue again. I've blogged about it before. All things being equal (which they never are) I like a fast pace on game shows. And I can't deny that 5th Grader doesn't exactly set the land speed record in the pace department.

When Millionaire brought game shows back to broadcast prime time, the format proved that a downright slow pace was not necessarily a killer. Regis and friends took their own sweet time climbing up the money tree. But nobody seemed to mind, at least at first. The show still kept viewers glued through lots of long pauses with ominous music and puzzled contestants.

5th Grader and all the other money tree quizzers followed suit. The idea was to build tension slowly...sometimes really, really slowly. With a show like Money Drop the pace turned so ridiculously glacial that viewers tuned out.

How can you identify the magic point when a show's pace lolligags too much? Wish I could tell you. I'd make pretty good money as a game show producer.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Carnie's latest

The news that Carnie Wilson has undergone another weight-loss operation will set off more of the usual jokes.

As one of the weight-challenged myself, I'm a little more sympathetic. It's always a fight and I'm not going to rip Carnie for getting some surgical assistance. Although my cynical self has to admit that the story is getting a little old.

Carnie's legal war with GSN is almost as well known as her battle of the bulge. She finally settled with the network last December. GSN has even run a few of her Newlywed Game eps as a sort of peace offering. I never thought Carnie was a particularly good host of the show. But she didn't embarrass herself, either, though she seemed to grip the cue cards like her life depended on it (see picture).

Carnie also gets slammed a lot around the game show Internets for Unstapled, her ill-fated reality series for GSN. Really, the show was just ordinary reality fodder, not particularly irritating unless you wanted to get irritated about it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gee, I'm a star

Well, not really. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night...I mean, I did get my own thread at Matt Ottinger's board. Or at least part of the thread. Hey, it's not much but I'm easily pleased.

Seems that my tag-team partner from the GSN board, a guy named Xavier (no last name), ripped me on Matt's board:
I had an argument with him [me] the other day about Harvey Feud being more racy than any of the other versions. He continues to say that Dawson was equal to Harvey in the Racy category, and that Harvey Feud "occasionally" uses dirty answers and questions. I don't know why I waste my time with the guy, but I do.
Yeah, that ol' devil Steve Harvey's Family Feud is rated an outlandish TV-PG (same as the versions with Richard Karn and John O'Hurley). It's right up there with Game of Thrones in the racy department. Xavier was later forced to refer people to this humble blog for the GSN pdf schedules.

He calls this blog "Abell's site." Guess he figures he'll hurt my feelings if he doesn't use my first name. I did cry a lot about it. And another poster wondered if anybody still listens to me. Are you kidding? They never listened to me. Not that they should.

Funny thing, Matt Ottinger himself noted that I occasionally lurk on his board. As I just proved, right you are, Matt.

The thread eventually wandered off into bashing another poster on the GSN board, and then into figuring out the episode numbers on the pdf schedules.

Comedy central

A while back I faux tweeted about Bunk, the new comedy sort-of-game show debuting June 8 on IFC. In case you don't know, IFC is one of the cable channels way up in the nosebleed section. I think the initials once stood for Independent Film Channel. But now they stand for, er, IFC.

Basically, Bunk seems like a Whose Line-ish improv comedy show, except with more formal game show trappings. The host, Kurt Braunohler, and the "competing" comics actually stand behind podiums on a set that looks like leftovers from Win Ben Stein's Money. The show offers goofball prizes and odd ways of keeping time, like however long it takes an intern to pick up a spilled box of uncooked spaghetti.

Since my favorite game show of all time, Match Game, was essentially an improv comedy show with some silly little game thrown in, I shouldn't mind such frivolity. And I really don't, except Bunk seems to have no real gameplay at all.

If they're just gonna have comics do improv, well, why not just have comics do improv? No need to pretend we're on Ben Stein's set and playing a real game.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mr. Foxworthy

GSN's upfront plate of reality stew mostly got yawns from the entertainment media. They've seen piles of reality detritus before, after all. But one show is attracting a little attention. GSN's Bible quizzer pilot with Jeff Foxworthy actually made a few pundits notice our (supposed) game show network.

Predictable snark popped from predictable sources. A Washington Post bloggeress can't wait for the "stoning-of-adulteresses question." I'd be more interested in the stoning of Beltway bloggeresses, but that's a detail.

Enough of my biases, though. Jeff Foxworthy seems like a natural for any GSN show right now. He's the network's new star, regularly scoring GSN's best numbers with 5th Grader on Sunday nights. And he's a traditionalist sort with a squeaky clean image.

I was a little afraid that he might try to make 5th Grader into the Jeff Foxworthy Standup Act (see Feud, Harvey). And sure enough, he couldn't resist a quip or three as the show's not-breakneck pace unfolded. But by and large he let the game breathe and the contestants be the stars. I'm honestly interested in seeing if he can get the Bible quizzer on the air.

UPDATE: A political pundit rips the WaPo bloggeress. Is the Bible quizzer going, gasp, viral? GSN will take the free publicity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Once more into reality

The older-is-better folks on the GSN board are happy happy joy joy that the network has brought back Super Password, Password Plus and 25K Pyramid. But wait until they get a peek at the reality slate from programming veep Amy Davis.

We've got shows about an engagement ring business, a car dealership, weird beauty pageants, auctioneer sisters, people selling their valuables, and other people trying to out-cook professional chefs.

At least the network is also developing a new 100K Pyramid and picked Jeff Foxworthy to host its Bible quiz pilot. Sherri Shepherd gets another season of Newlywed Game.

I've seen this before in 2004, and it mostly didn't work. My guess is that the reality efforts will generally fail if they get to air at all. At least the 2004 foray into reality and other non-traditional shows eventually led to one of GSN's best originals, High Stakes Poker. I'm not sure what will come out of this bunch.

But hey, GSN says it's getting better demos. The total viewer numbers sure haven't been special lately.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Syndies stumble after sweeps

The week after February sweeps was not kind to syndicated shows in general, and syndie game shows were no exception. TVNewsCheck showers us with the bad March 5-11 news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.1 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 6.0 - down a tick
Family Feud 2.9 - down a couple ticks, this is getting monotonous
Millionaire 2.5 - not to be left out, down the famous couple ticks

At least all the shows made TV by the Numbers' top 25 syndie list. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.3 million (weekend repeat 4.1 million), Jeopardy 9.4 million, Family Feud 4.2 million, Millionaire 3.4 million. Even in an off week, these numbers hardly look terrible by current TV standards.

UPDATE: The indispensible Douglas Pucci posts another week of GSN viewer numbers for March 5-11. Another forgettable week with 279K/215K viewership averages prime time/total day. Sunday 5th Grader continues to be by far the network standout. Harvey Feud can't arrive fast enough on Wednesday night to replace the reeking Baggage reruns. To be fair, the Baggage first-runs perform much better.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Good old Nick

I've been crossposting a lot from the GSN board lately, so why not continue? This time I talk about Nick Clooney, one-time host of a 1970s game show called Money Maze. He's been involved in some recent political activity...

Other poster: Nick Clooney, George's father, was the host of the short-lived cult classic The Money Maze for ABC in 1974. He and his son were arrested earlier today for their involvement with a protest at the Sudanese embassy.

You can read Nick Clooney's own account of his Money Maze experience, courtesy of the Internet Archive. His story originally appeared in the now defunct Cincinnati Post.

And to get away from Nick for a minute, other posters on the GSN board are atwitter about Zap2it. Seems the online schedule at the site says Password Plus, Super Password and 25K Pyramid return to GSN's morning schedule April 2. GSN hasn't sent me the pdf schedules for April yet, but I'll post 'em when I get 'em.

UPDATE: Just got the GSN pdfs for April 2-8 and April 9-15, and Password Plus, Super Password and 25K Pyramid are on the schedule for mornings and late nights (and the Friday night marathon for 25K Pyramid). Departing are 100K Pyramid and both versions of Card Sharks. Next week, March 26-April 1, Harvey Feud and Chain Reaction arrive.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Richard Dawson moment

The silly huffing and puffing at the GSN board about the occasional off-color humor on Steve Harvey's Family Feud rolls on. But some folks recall memorable moments from Richard Dawson's version of the show. I link to one of those moments on YouTube...

Other poster: I bring to attention now a moment from an episode of "Family Feud" from around 1978 that included some pretty "out there" dialogue from Richard Dawson.

I won't explain the answer, but give the question and Richard's response: Tell me a crime that you've though about committing before, but haven't.

(Contestant gives answer)

Richard: Excuse me (leaves the stage and returns with money). Anybody got change for a $10?

This hilarious moment is on YouTube here. (The video quality is poor but watchable.) And we might as well reveal exactly what the lady contestant said: "prostitution."

Of course, if something like this happened on Harvey Feud, some folks would insist that nothing like it ever happened on Dawson Feud. But YouTube provides the evidence. I love that site. One of the "top comments" drubs Richard pretty hard over the "change for a ten" remark. But I think it's a brilliant comeback, though certainly off-color. Would Harvey risk something like it? Would he even think of it?

At the top of his form, Dawson was a superb improviser. He's not my favorite Feud host. Combs is. But I can't help but respect his enormous talent for improv comedy.

GSN gets squeakier cleaner

The absurd conniption over Steve Harvey's Family Feud continues on the GSN board. I point out that the show will actually make GSN's schedule even less risque, according to the program ratings...

Other poster: I seem to recall that there is an episode or two of Match Game that GSN doesn't air because of some of the material that is included in the show.

Yeah, there's a rumpus over some off-color terms used about homosexuality. I think it's ridiculous political correctness myself, but GSN has censored Match Game in the past.

In fact, by replacing Baggage with Harvey Feud on Wednesday night, GSN's schedule will turn significantly milder according to the program ratings. In one move the network will eliminate a big chunk (five hours) of its TV-14 material. The schedule will become even more overwhelmingly TV-G and TV-PG.

The GSN schedule for the week will now be 89% TV-G and TV-PG. Extremely mild by any reasonable standard. Nothing on the network is rated worse than TV-14. (By the way, I bet somebody at the network keeps track of these stats. The pdf schedules always list the program ratings.)

Pop quiz: which day on the network is all TV-G and TV-PG?

Answer: Friday. The squeakiest clean day on GSN. But Sunday, appropriately enough, comes close. It's 95% TV-G and TV-PG. The edgiest day on the new schedule will be Tuesday with the Newlywed Game marathon. It's "only" 70% TV-G and TV-PG.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Steve is just so awful

The GSN Internet board has gone into one of its strange fits of prudishness over Steve Harvey's Family Feud, debuting on the network March 28. Add in the usual older-is-better nostalgia, and you get some odd comments...

Other poster: Is GSN going to edit the episodes of the show? Or will they plaster a TV-14 rating on them?

Harvey Feud is rated TV-PG according to Zap2it, TV Guide, and the GSN pdf schedule. At most there's a little bit of off-color humor. No nudity, no violence. And no reason to be shocked, shocked by the show.

Another poster: Dawson's version was never like that.

Oh, I dunno. There was the lady on Dawson Feud who said she landed right on her...douche? As Richard said, "I get more than the general idea, honey."

Of course, if a lady said that on Harvey Feud, people would be hollering that nothing like that ever happened on Dawson Feud. But we've got the evidence from YouTube. And if Harvey (or Karn or O'Hurley or really any other Feud host) tried kissing female contestants on the lips, we'd hear yelps about sexual piggery. With Dawson, it's just so charming.

Yet another poster: John O'Hurley, the gentlemen that he is, used to kiss the female contestants hands quite frequently. He even on a few occasions kissed them on the lips. I never heard one person say anything bad about it.

I recall a little hand-smooching, but I can't remember any lip locks at all. O'Hurley seemed very conscious that he would get slammed if things got too intimate.

Same poster: And lets face it, Feud today has become more of a Dirtier version of Family Feud. Almost every episode has a different term for a man's privates. And it always seems to be on the board.

I think this is mostly the golden haze of older-is-better nostalgia so common on the game show Internets. Harvey Feud is rated TV-PG, after all. You can hardly get squeakier cleaner. Sure, there's an occasional dose of slightly risque humor, just as on Dawson Feud. But it's not "almost every episode" and "always on the board." In fact, compared to Gene Rayburn's Match Game, Harvey Feud seems downright tame.

I just hope some folks around here never run across Game of Thrones. We might have some fainting spells (wink).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Britannica games

Just found out that I own an antique. I'm talking about the print edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, which has gone obsolete.

For now the online Britannica has made its content free, which is a really nice deal. It's like Wikipedia with far better writing and much clearer organization. A couple comments on our little genre are worth a peek.

The entry on TV in the U.S. offers a concise account of the '50s fixing scandals. The clincher: "If TV still had a lingering reputation as a modern technology that could take the postwar United States into a utopian new age, this reputation ended with the quiz show scandal."

Which may be too sweeping and melodramatic. I don't know that TV ever looked utopian, but the game show scandals did reinforce television's low-rent image.

A later section of the same article tells the companion story of the return of game shows to broadcast prime time, starting with Millionaire in 1999. The entry nails one of the genre's biggest pluses: "Any negative associations left over from the quiz show scandals had dissipated, and, more important, the shows were inexpensive—a crucial factor at the turn of the 21st century, when budgets for other prime-time shows were spinning out of control."

Yes, cheap is beautiful. And free is nice for the online Britannica, at least for a little while.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

24 hours, 24 shows

Faux tweeted a while back about college radio station WSIN running a 24-hour marathon of 24 game show re-enactments April 27-28. It's for charity, and the station has released a rap video (at least I think it's supposed to be rap) on YouTube about the marathon. The Price is Right theme will never be the same.

The video includes glimpses of twenty-three American and British shows. Don't ask me what happened to number 24, or even if the shows on the video will feature in the marathon. But for what it's worth, the list...

Family Feud, Millionaire, Blockbusters, You Don't Say, Countdown, Chain Reaction, Jeopardy, Pointless, Power of 10, 25K Pyramid, High Rollers, Win Lose or Draw, Mastermind, Card Sharks, Concentration, Deal or No Deal, Press Your Luck, Password, Just a MinuteWould I Lie To You, Wheel of Fortune, Million Dollar Mind Game, Three on a Match

Maybe TPiR is the twenty-fourth show. After all, its theme music gets mangled in the rap parody.

An eclectic list, to say the least. I guess black and white shows rest in peace, because What's My Line and I've Got a Secret are nowhere to be seen. But Power of 10? Um, okay.

UPDATE: In a comment, Aaron the game show blogger says that The Big Showdown is the 24th show, not TPiR. As I said for Power of 10...The Big Showdown? Um, okay.

UPDATED UPDATE: Carrie Grosvenor posts on the marathon at

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

GSN happenings

A faux tweet notes GSN's acquisition of Steve Harvey's Family Feud. I posted about the significant pickup on the GSN Schedule board...

GSN sent me the revised pdf for the week of March 26-April 1. It's on the blog. Harvey Feud gets the usual five-hour marathon on Wednesday March 28. He's not on the pdf anywhere else, but who knows what will happen? The marathon is three hours of first-runs, then a two-hour repeat of the first four shows.

I've been advocating a pickup of Harvey Feud for a while, so I can't complain about the move. Steve is frankly not my favorite host, but the numbers don't lie. He's revived the show's appeal and earned a lot of better timeslots. Maybe this means GSN might be interested in other recent game shows that have shown an ability to attract an audience. I've talked about a few of them already.

Meanwhile, Douglas Pucci has posted the February 27-March 4 week of GSN viewer numbers on his blog. My comments from the Schedule board...

Other poster: Oh wow, Dancing With the Stars is improving. This is awful.

Yeah, DWTS did decent on Saturday night but not spectacular. Baggage has overstayed its welcome, so the Harvey Feud marathon on Wednesday is no surprise. The week was very forgettable for GSN in general: 275K/213K viewership averages prime time/total day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Syndies sweep on

TVNewsCheck takes a break from its usual weekly syndication ratings. Instead, the site looks at how the syndies stacked up in this February sweeps period (Feb. 2-29) vs. last year. Guess what. Among syndicated game shows, the rich got poorer and the (relatively) poor got richer...

Wheel of Fortune 7.5 - down three ticks compared to last year
Jeopardy 6.3 - down four ticks
Family Feud 3.2 - up a whopping fifteen ticks
Millionaire 2.7 - up a nice four ticks

TV by the Numbers didn't bother with all that sweeps stuff. They just gave their usual viewership averages for the latest week, February 27-March 4: Wheel of Fortune 11.6 million (weekend repeat 4.8 million), Jeopardy 9.5 million, Family Feud 4.5 million, Millionaire 3.8 million. Certainly decent numbers for everybody.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A little money

Hollywood Junket checked out the first taping of Are You Normal America, the new poll-driven game show from OWN. (That's Oprah's network, which has been taking its lumps from the Nielsen Company.)

Barry Posnick and Kim Coles co-host. The format sounds like a low-budget Power of 10. Contestants try to guess if behavior is "normal" based on polls of the Great American Unwashed. Sample questions: "Is it normal to spy on your neighbors?" "Is it normal to have had sex in a room other than the bedroom?"

So much for the format. Hollywood Junket notes that the show is designed for, shall we say, inexpensiveness.  Or as the report says:
There is an unlikely chance that any contestant will be able to win the grand total or even the extra $10,000 or $20,000 in the bonus round for that matter. This keeps the show very low budget with most contestants potentially just walking away with the $8,000 or less from the first round.
Welcome to cable. And fringe cable at that. It's not like OWN has a ton of bucks to throw around. Ask Rosie O'Donnell. She's already had to pare the budget of her chatfest on the network.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Ever notice that government bureaucrats are dumb as rocks? It's pretty much a worldwide phenomenon, as proved by the U.K.'s latest ridiculous "investigation" into Deal or No Deal.

Some idiot decided there's no skill involved in the show and it's purely gambling, even though contestants never stake a penny of their own money. Of course, there's plenty of skill involved in estimating odds and next offers, based on the expected values of the board. But nobody can expect guv'mint cretins to understand that.

I really doubt this farce will go anywhere. Deal or No Deal has run versions all over the world with no problems. As I recall, there was some minor legal rumpus about a play-at-home game offered by Deal or No Deal here in the U.S. But nothing much came of it.

The only people dumber than government functionaries are academics. Some doofus prof in Britain insists: "For some years, there’s been a blurring between gambling and gaming." Well, gee, let's abolish Final Jeopardy, too. Not to mention those lottery game shows run by, you guessed it, governments.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pro and con

Happened across a thread on Matt Ottinger's board about Reg Grundy. The legendary Aussie TV mogul is most famous in the U.S. for his role in producing Sale of the Century and Scrabble.

You might say the comments aren't complimentary. "My love for Mr. Grundy is big, hot and throbbing - like a hemorrhoid," intones a poster who happens to be one of the board's moderators. Another poster chimes in with an accusation of plagiarism: "Al Howard tells the story of Grundy arriving in a hotel room in New York with a pen and legal pad to watch American game shows so that he could 'create' his new formats."

Well, don't ask me. I don't know the guy and I have no idea if the criticism is justified. But the other side of the story is not hard to find. An account of Mr. Grundy's career in the Sydney Morning Herald begins with "Three cheers for Mr. Television" and never lets up with glowing praise for the jolly good fellow.

This might just be a conflict in Australian and American points of view. Or it could be money talking in a peculiar way. By all accounts Reg Grundy is extremely wealthy, and that kind of (non-hemorrhoid) pile usually inspires detractors...and flatterers.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Good morning, Pat Sajak

The Military Channel runs movies now and then, with Lou Diamond hosting. The title of the series is annoyingly cute: An Officer and a Movie.

Diamond interviews a guest for each movie. The flick tomorrow night is Good Morning, Vietnam, and the guest is none other than Pat Sajak. Seems that Pat did a stunt as an Armed Forces Network radio announcer in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

Sajak actually discussed this gig in his now infamous "drunk" interview with Dan Le Batard. He really liked the work because he had his biggest audience yet. And it was easy to get used to the barbed wire and tanks in Saigon.

I doubt Sajak will bring up his supposed margarita habit with Diamond. Anyway, the Google image cache coughed up the picture of an absurdly young Pat with some of his Army broadcasting buddies in Saigon. He's pretty easy to spot, even after all these years.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Old time revival

The news that Nickelodeon is bringing back Figure It Out and that Fremantle has bought the rights to Name That Tune means revival time has come for game shows again.

Not that there's anything wrong with reviving a successful format. Alex Trebek has made a nice living off that revival of a certain original hosted by Art Fleming.

The two formats in question aren't personal favorites, but they're hardly obnoxious or doomed to failure. Both shows did pretty well for themselves. In fact, Name That Tune stretched over three decades in one version or the other. Recent tries at a revival never made it to air, but Fremantle may be more determined than anybody else to bring the show back.

Nickelodeon is already committed to forty episodes of Figure It Out, the literally slimy combo of I've Got a Secret and Double Dare, with Jeff Sutphen as the new host. I can't say I enjoyed the goop all that much, but somebody out there liked it. The show lasted for four seasons and over a hundred and fifty episodes.

The revival news has set off speculation about other old game shows staging a comeback. I know I'm getting to be a bore about this...but PYRAMID!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Real life

Happened to see a Deal or No Deal rerun on GSN yesterday when Hayley Marie Norman was opening all the suitcases. She was the girl usually on case #25. I didn't see the start of this particular game, so I guess the contestant really liked her and wanted her to open all the cases.

As I watched, I couldn't help thinking about the unpleasantness (delicate term) Ms. Norman was involved in last year. Don't want to overplay the story, because it sounds like pretty small stuff. I couldn't find any follow-up stories, so things must have been settled out of court.

But game show fans like me, perched on a chair in front of the tube, sometimes forget that the folks in these games have lives of their own. And stuff happens in those lives.

Another example is Stuart Somerstein, who I blogged about a while back. He was the loud, off-key singer in that memorable episode of I've Got a Secret, when a bunch of civvies with appropriate names collaborated on In the Good Old Summertime. Turns out that Stuart took his lumps in later life, including some jail time for an embezzlement case. (At least I assume it's the same Stuart Somerstein. There's only one in New York, if Google is to be believed.) It's not all fun and games.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Syndies: Feud edges up

Family Feud was the only syndicated game show to improve its numbers in the week of February 20-26. TVNewsCheck brings the mostly forgettable news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.3 - down a tick
Jeopardy 6.2 - down a couple ticks in sympathy with the soulmate
Family Feud 3.3 - up a tick to tie season high
Millionaire 2.7 - flat

TV by the Numbers is getting really quick with their top 25 syndie list. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.8 million (weekend repeat 5.4 million), Jeopardy 9.8 million, Family Feud 4.7 million, Millionaire 3.8 million. Decent numbers all round despite the so-so household ratings. All the shows are safe with audiences like these.

Monday, March 5, 2012

All the Feud's men

With syndicated Family Feud renewed through 2015, the show will have endured through four decades, except for only a couple short breaks in the survey-says action. Game show fans have argued themselves silly about who was the show's best host.

Interestingly, there's pretty general agreement about the worst host. That would be Louie Anderson, who held the post for the first three years of the current syndie. Louie has his good points as a standup comic, but he never seemed much interested in hosting Feud.

My personal favorite is the generally well-regarded but tragically ill-fated Ray Combs. He had to take over from the legendary Richard Dawson, and he did a really good job. He was always quick with a quip but never tried to dominate the show.

Which is my main quibble with the current incumbent, Steve Harvey. I know Steve has improved the ratings and has a bunch of fans. But Feud is a game show, not a Steve Harvey show. Steve often seems to forget that.

I already mentioned the guy who started it all, Richard Dawson. At the top of his form he was obviously a brilliant host. But the Everest-sized ego was tough to take.

And that leaves Richard Karn and John O'Hurley. They kept the current syndie going for a good long time, and they're now providing GSN with some of the network's best ratings. They might both be underrated.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Easily shocked

Phil Mushnick is a sports columnist for the New York Post. I never read his sports stuff, but he has an odd sideline: ripping GSN for its supposed sleaziness. His latest blast prompted a faux tweet from me. I also left a comment at the Post...

It's obvious that Mushnick hasn't watched GSN in months. Love Triangle disappeared from the network a long time ago. This week GSN ran thirty hours of Mushnick's beloved game show oldies: Match Game, Dawson Family Feud, 100K Pyramid and Card Sharks.

Of course, Mrs. Grundy, er, Mr. Mushnick better avoid Match Game. The show was known to use the term "boobs" now and then. Horrors!

I've been plenty critical of GSN. I panned the long-departed Love Triangle, for instance, because I thought it was boring and talky. But the only two shows on the network that are even mildly risqué are Newlywed Game and Baggage. Otherwise, the network is rated PG at worst.

And, would you believe, GSN is currently piloting a Bible quiz show. No lie. It will probably be too racy for Mushnick's tastes, though.

Defending poor little Shandi

Not everybody is a fan of Shandi Finnessey, Chuck Woolery's sidekick on Lingo for three seasons, and one of Playmania's co-hosts. In fact, a poster on the GSN boards called her, well, read on...

Other poster: now as you know i will never be a fan of this degenerate [Shandi Finnessey].

Shandi's "degenerate"? Yeah, right. Jeez, she's squeaky clean by usual TV standards. Last I checked, she wasn't on Jersey Shore.

A different poster: But if the question is asking "Was Shandi good for Lingo's ratings?" then yes I'm guessing she was.

For what it's worth, Alex Davis reported here and here that Lingo's fourth season, the first with Shandi, manage to raise its timeslot's ratings by 56%. That's why the network did two more seasons with her and Chuck.

The original source for Alex's comments was this James Hibbard column from 2005 in TVWeek, which mentioned the big ratings increase that Shandi's first season on Lingo produced. Interesting note: Hibbard also reported that NBC was developing a little game show called Deal or No Deal, and Discovery was working on a new project called Cash Cab. Meanwhile, CBS was planning Game Show Marathon, and GSN was piloting an I've Got a Secret revival. Ah, a blast from the 2005 past.

But the Hibbard column also talked about a GSN pilot called Poll This, which never seems to have made it to air. Maybe it was something like Power of 10?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

This and that

It's Saturday morning and I'm posting some dribs and drabs on the GSN board about the network and game shows in general...

Other poster: I just wish they would show some more episodes of The Newlywed Game when Carnie hosted. They'd basically be fresh episodes to us, and would do well in ratings. I'm getting tired of Sherri's season 4 episodes weekend mornings at 11am. Carniewed could air then.

GSN has run a few Carniewed eps since they settled the lawsuit with her last December. Maybe she'll be back regularly one of these days. That's a lot of episodes sitting on the shelf.

Another poster: I know it's just beating a dead horse, but man...Price is Right skews old.

Another report once said that TPiR's median viewer age is 63. Which means half their audience qualifies for Social Security.

Sure, the median age for the entire TV audience is creeping up. The U.S. (hey, the whole world) is getting older as birth rates fall everywhere. But The Price is Right skews old by any standard. Not saying that's terrible, but it's a fact. As the report notes: "Game shows per se traditionally draw among the oldest viewers."

Friday, March 2, 2012

A shot across the bow?

Scripps will use its own shows to replace syndies on some of its stations this fall. A couple targets of the move are Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. While the shows are in no imminent danger, nothing lasts forever on TV.

Scripps explains its move as partly a cost-cutter. "By replacing some syndicated fare with programming it effectively owns, Scripps could theoretically reduce programming costs and boost revenues while exploiting locally generated revenues."

That's the theory. But replacing two of the most popular syndies with untested new shows is hardly a guaranteed win. Wheel and Jeopardy skew old like almost any game show, but they pull ten or twelve million viewers for each episode. Which is more than a lot of prime time broadcast shows can claim. Still, the Scripps move may be a harbinger of things to come, as broadcast stations look to pare costs in the face of the cable/satellite monster.

I'm not worried about Pat and Vanna and Alex yet. But the Scripps move is a reminder that even the most popular shows are vulnerable to the accountants. Just ask the producers of daytime soap operas.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Way back machine

A thread on Matt Ottinger's board chats about childhood memories of game shows. Some of those young whippersnappers actually talk about watching '80s and '90s shows when they were kids.

Well, my childhood memories go way, way back to the B&W days. I can still recall the Somerstein episode from I've Got a Secret, and even its lame follow-up the next week. You might say I'm getting to be an old fart, and you'd be right.

I also remember Jan Murray's Treasure Hunt from the 1950s, and my prurient interest in the pirate girl's legs. She may have been slightly plumper than the ideal female nowadays, but the 1950s were a curvier decade. What's My Line bored me a little, especially because the Sunday night timelsot meant that I had to go back to school the next day. Still depresses me thinking about it.

Game shows are notorious for appealing to kids and oldsters, with a noticeable falloff in the intervening ages. That's why the genre doesn't thrill the 18-49 demo beloved by advertisers. This trend seems to be playing out in my own life. The older I get, the more I'm regressing to my childhood fondness for game shows. I don't think that's a sign of progress, except toward the grave.