Saturday, June 30, 2012

The replacement begins

Many game show fans have heard about Scripps' plan to replace Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune on their TV stations starting this fall. A couple homegrown Scripps products, including game show Let's Ask America, will replace the big two syndie game shows.

One of those stations, KJRH in Tulsa, has announced their plans for Let's Ask America. I posted the news on a GSN General board thread about the issue...

To get back to something remotely related to the original subject, Scripps' KJRH station in Tulsa will schedule Let's Ask America at 2:30PM starting September 17. That's where KJRH currently runs Jeopardy. The lead-in at 2:00PM is Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, by the way.

I assume the other new Scripps show will go into the 6:30PM slot where KJRH currently runs Wheel of Fortune. All this is according to Zap2It's weekly schedule for KJRH.

Keep chugging along

Noticed that Aaron the weekly game show blogger is giving up the ghost, at least for a while. If anybody's enthusiasm runs low, there's not much anybody else can do about it. No law says Aaron has to blog about game shows. If he don't wanna, he don't haveta.

I'll admit that this blog can get to be a slight burden now and then. I've got a day job and a family and things to do and places to go. But the blog's a fun way to corral my tiny bit of the Internet for a subject I'm genuinely interested in.

Rummaging around the web for bits and pieces of game show news keeps me particularly involved. Spanning the Internet to bring you the constant variety of sport - er, game show - gives me plenty of ideas for posts and faux tweets. (Sorry, I channeled the late, lamented Jim McKay for a moment.) A Chicago quizzer pits Cubs and White Sox fans against each other? Hm, that sounds intriguing.

And a zillion more items on the net help keep me blogging away. I don't make a dime off this blog, and if it ever gets to be a chore, I'll drop it in a bonus round second. But so far, so enthusiastic.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Manners, please

Been watching a few of the eight million clips of What's My Line on YouTube.

I know I've been a little rough on WML over the years. The show does rub my distrust of hoity-toitiness the wrong way. Game shows should be a raffish, (small-d) democratic kind of entertainment. The tuxes and long dresses and faux aristocratic atmosphere on What's My Line have always irked me.

And it only gets worse when an older-is-better Internet poster uses the show as a club to beat today's supposedly ill-mannered game shows. Oh, buzz off. Game shows should be ill-mannered, or at least not too scrupulous about etiquette.

But even my grubby anti-aristocratic self has to admit that WML could be (sort of) pleasant in its faultless manners. There were certain things that were just not done in John Daly's august presence. And while I can appreciate guest panelists like Groucho who tried to ride roughshod over the format, the "cultured" ambiance could occasionally charm.

Or at least it was a little different. Except I'm not sure I want to see all that culture in game shows again.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fading deal

GSN is pulling Deal or No Deal from its Thursday night schedule and replacing it with Catch 21. How the mighty have fallen. DOND blew the Nielsen doors off when it debuted on GSN in 2009 and soon dominated the network. But nothing lasts forever on TV and nothing lasts for more than a day or two (slight exaggeration) on cable.

Deal or No Deal never got much respect on the game show Internets, though grubby old regular TV viewers didn't mind it at all. I always liked mentally calculating odds and expected values and probable next offers. But I'm an actuary, so I'm strange that way.

Oh well, I dropped a note on the GSN Internet board about the show's fadeout from our little game show network...

The pdfs are up on the blog if you want to check the [Catch 21] episode numbers. I personally like Deal or No Deal a lot more than Catch 21. Don't have much use for Alfonso. But it's no big deal (pun intended) because the show has enjoyed such a long run on GSN. Once upon a time DOND was keeping this network afloat. Just looked at the numbers for April 12-18 2010, for instance. Deal or No Deal had eleven of the top twenty slots, all of them with 420K or more viewers.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


A recent comment on the GSN Schedule board praised "real contestants" as opposed to "coached actors."

I thought about this when I saw an item in Google news (noted in a faux tweet) about Houston TV personality Chita Johnson. Chita's day job is onscreen weather forecasting with KHOU. But she has a sideline as a civvie contestant on game shows, having appeared twice on Family Feud and once on The Price is Right. Does she count as a "real contestant," despite her very real training on TV?

Well, I dunno. But I posted a few debunking comments about the entire subject on the GSN board...

And one cynical note: those "real contestants" on game shows are given plenty of coaching. I've read a ton of stories about Wheel of Fortune contestants, for instance, and linked to a lot of them on the blog. They're constantly coached by the show's staffers to clap, speak loud and clear, show enthusiasm, etc.

The idea that "real contestants" just walk in off some street without an extensive vetting and coaching process is pleasant fantasy (even, famously, on Cash Cab, the "street" game show). The key issue, of course, is whether the outcome is rigged. That. Does. Not. Happen. It doesn't happen on Baggage or Lingo or Pyramid or any other game show, given the long deep shadow of the 1950s rigging scandals. Even though contestants are thoroughly coached and some of them, gasp, may have even earned a dollar or two in acting jobs.

The last serious issue with game show rigging occurred on Fox's abortive Our Little Genius. Even the hint of rigging was enough to doom the show before it ever got on the air.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ratings: big two stumble

I'm going to title these posts "Ratings" instead of "Syndies", because I've been covering other shows and networks besides syndication.

Summer beckons and ratings soften for broadcast TV. The top two syndicated game shows weren't immune to the trend in the week of June 11-17. Pat and Vanna were particularly hard hit, as TVNewsCheck reports...

Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - down a couple ticks to a season low
Jeopardy 5.1 - down a couple ticks in sympathy with the soulmate
Family Feud 3.1 - up a tick
Millionaire 2.3 - up a tick from the previous week's season low

Despite her mild recovery, Meredith still just missed TV by the Numbers' top 25 syndie list. The viewership averages for the other three shows: Wheel of Fortune 9.0 million, Jeopardy 7.7 million, Family Feud 4.4 million.

TVNewser posted cable rankers for the latest month and quarter. GSN scored very good averages for June: 331K/254K viewers prime time/total day. Thank you, Mr. Harvey. For all of second quarter the averages were still okay but not quite as good: 296K/233K.

Cancellation bear meets hip hop

The guys at TV by the Numbers like to joke about the cancellation bear, who devours shows that can't run fast enough.

The idea is that when a hungry bear is running after you and another guy, you don't have to outrun the bear. You just have to outrun the other guy. In other words, if your show gets better ratings than other shows on your network, you're safe from cancellation, even if your numbers don't look so good in absolute terms.

Hip Hop Squares sure hopes that principle applies to MTV2. Douglas Pucci posted the show's viewer numbers for its first four weeks. After debuting with 329K viewers on May 22, the show slumped to 242K, 193K and 212K viewers for its next three runs. Those numbers look piddly compared to a lot of shows on other cable networks. But compared to the woeful numbers MTV2 usually gets, Hip Hop Squares looks halfway decent.

So unless the numbers completely fall apart, the cancellation bear may not catch the hip hoppers. A second season might be possible. And the bear will have to find other shows to munch on.

UPDATE: The cancellation bear may enjoy a meal. MTV2 sets the "finale" of Hip Hop Squares for July 10. Doesn't look like any other eps are coming.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What if they gave an awards show, and nobody came?

Forgot all about the Daytime Emmys last night. Not that I'm alone in the ranks of the forgetful. The show has wandered off to HLN, a news channel that sometimes gets fewer viewers than GSN.

Even Hollywood Reporter, normally agog at the doings of show biz folk, called it a "low-key ceremony." That more or less means nobody cares about it but we gotta report it. The story even found time to mention a murder-suicide at the hotel where the not so high-key ceremony was held.

As a faux tweet noted, Jeopardy won for the umpteenth time as best game show. Todd Newton, who sure seems happy in his picture, won for best game show host. Somebody's been peddling rumors around the Internet that Todd's show, Family Game Night on Hub, was almost cancelled. Who knows? Anyway, he will be back for a third season, and he's now got "Emmy award winning host" on his resume.

Regis also got an award for his talk show, which he doesn't even do any more.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sympathy for McLean

The recent death of Richard Dawson reminds me of the wry actor who eventually took over his front and center seat on Match Game.

McLean Stevenson is best known for the 1970s sitcom M*A*S*H, where he played the bemused Henry Blake. But Stevenson famously chafed at playing second banana to Alan Alda on the show and asked out. His acting career more or less dive-bombed afterwards, in a string of failed sitcoms.

He did find a home on Match Game, where he had already appeared as a guest panelist several times. He finally won the "Dawson seat" for the show's last year, and made it his own in an understated but witty way. He even took over as the show's host on a couple occasions, including one episode where violence erupted between Gene Rayburn and Charles Nelson Reilly.

A distant relative of politico Adlai Stevenson, McLean died of a heart attack in 1995 at age 68. Larry Gelbart, a writer on M*A*S*H, commented that Stevenson had left too soon twice in the same lifetime.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

BuzzerBlog's new guy

Noticed that BuzzerBlog has a new contributor: well-known game show contestant and Internet poster Chad Mosher.

Chad's appeared on several game shows, including the pictured Millionaire, and has often posted on Internet game show boards. He also worked with Carrie Grosvenor on her game show blog at Nice to see he has a new gig with such a prominent site as BuzzerBlog.

My own relationship with BuzzerBlog has been, oh, let's just say a little rocky. Recently BuzzerBlog's main guy Alex Davis posted a pretty funny bingo card on his Twitter feed about fan reactions to Mike Richards as host of GSN's Pyramid. The card did me a nice service by mentioning me by name. This little blog can use the free publicity.

Unfortunately, the card called me an a-hole, but that's at least a defensible position, no? My profile on this blog isn't kidding about those Internet wars over game shows. Anyhoo, to get back to Chad, in a faux tweet I linked to one of his first BuzzerBlog posts, about Scripps' upcoming Let's Ask America. I tend to agree with Chad that the show does not look promising. In fact, it looks like a pretty slow quizzer whose only claim to distinction lies in using Skype to talk with contestants at home.

Which I don't think will make much difference, especially since Scripps is using the show to replace a couple of small efforts called Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. I know, I'm prejudging Let's Ask America, which may turn out to be a dynamite format. But if Skype is all you've got going for you...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Drawn out

Typing "game show" into Google News the past couple days has coughed up a zillion hits on Draw Something.

For the less technically inclined, Draw Something is a mobile phone game app that lets users, er, draw something. Now comes news that Ryan Seacrest's production company is developing a TV game show based on the app for CBS. The reaction on the web has ranged from skepticism to ridicule to hilarity, with various degrees of derision in between.

Time, for instance, notes that the app has already faded in popularity. The story takes obligatory shots at Seacrest's other "television gems" like Keeping Up With the Kardashians and grumps that TV networks must really be running out of ideas.

Frankly, TV networks ran out of ideas in 1955 or so. They're still running the same sitcoms and dramas and talk shows and game shows and whatnot that sold advertising time six decades ago. But I'm not sure why this particular rehash should necessarily end in disaster.

Win, Lose or Draw lasted for a few seasons, after all. Okay, it wasn't a classic or even very good. But watching people try to draw stuff can pass the time for TV viewers, especially when the drawings are humorously awful. Maybe Draw Something will flop if it ever gets on the air. Most shows do flop. But maybe it might draw (sorry) an audience. Some people even watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Syndies: bad news for Meredith

Meredith Vieira has gotten better news from Nielsen than she received in the latest week. Millionaire slipped to a season low in the syndie game show ratings for the week of June 4-10. Otherwise, there wasn't much movement, as TVNewsCheck reports...

Wheel of Fortune 6.1 - flat
Jeopardy 5.3 - up a tick just to show the soulmate
Family Feud 3.0 - down a tick but monopolizes all the top slots on GSN
Millionaire 2.2 - down a couple ticks to that season low

To add insult to injury, Meredith also slipped off the top 25 syndie list at TV by the Numbers. The viewership averages for the other three shows: Wheel of Fortune 9.5 million (weekend repeat 4.5 million), Jeopardy 8.1 million, Family Feud 4.3 million. So-so numbers as we head for the summer ratings doldrums.

Meanwhile, in cable news Figure It Out scored big for Nick in its debut week of June 11-15. The show averaged 2.7 million total viewers and dominated the kid demos. Congrats on the successful relaunch of a long-lost show.

TVNewser posted their usual cable ranker, and GSN was happy with the numbers. The network averaged 347K/265K viewers prime time/total day for the week of June 11-17, and ranked 39th in each window. GSN is riding Steve Harvey's Family Feud to significantly better averages lately.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Chatting up the pyramid

With reports bouncing around the web from a couple sources about GSN's all-retro version of Pyramid, folks on the network's Internet board are talking up a storm. I chip into the palaver...

Other poster: I at least hope GSN didn't change the 7 words in 30 seconds to 7 words in 25 seconds, or something like that.

The original time limit on Dick Clark's Pyramid was 8 in 30, or 3.75 seconds per clue. You can watch an eight-clue perfect round with Sandy Duncan here. Also, Ed Asner complains about a minor technical glitch.

The loosest limit was used on the kid version of the show, 7 in 35 or five seconds per clue. I actually liked the tighter limit on Donnymid. Made perfect rounds less boringly routine. But 7 in 30 has become enshrined as the one and only limit. [The GSN version uses the hallowed 7 in 30.]

One other thing about that clip I posted from Pyramid's very first year with Sandy Duncan. As Sandy gets closer to the perfect round, you can hear the audience starting to cheer, as if they're witnessing something really rare. With the 8 in 30 limit, perfect rounds were much rarer, much more of an event. Once the limit was loosened to 7 in 30 (and Bob Stewart started finding celebs who were really good at the game) perfect rounds became routine.

But 7 in 30 is practically hallowed dogma now, though it wasn't even the original limit.

Same poster: Notice they made a mistake on Hollywood Junket by saying they add $50,000 to the Winners Circle if you get 7 out of 7.

Yeah, that would bust the budget pretty fast. I wonder if the build-the-bank feature will survive at all after scrutiny from GSN's green-eyeshade guys.

Another poster: I hope that this new revival will have REAL contestants, rather than coached actors from a talent agency.

What do you mean by "coached actors"? The show is rigged? You gotta be kidding. There's literally a federal law against that.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sizing up the pyramid

Over at Matt Ottinger's board, Chad Mosher posted a report from a source at yesterday's taping of GSN's pilot for their Pyramid remake.

Everything sounds and looks pretty retro, according to Chad's source. No big changes in gameplay or even set design from the old Dick Clark days. It seems that GSN has little interest in taking chances with the tried and true.

One small departure is that the contestants can build the bank in the Winners Circle by doing well in the front game. As others on Matt board's pointed out, this could be a budget buster for our frugal game show network. I don't know if that idea will survive to air...if the show makes it to air.

We've seen plenty of Pyramid revival attempts come and go over the last few years. CBS, TBS, now GSN. It would be nice if a remake could actually turn up on some network somewhere.

Oh, Chad's source says Mike Richards was fine as the host. Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth has occurred on the game show Interwebs about his supposed misdeeds as a producer on The Price is Right. Like I care.

UPDATE: Hollywood Junket has posted its report from the pilot tapings. The celebs on the pilot episodes were Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), Cat Cora (Iron Chef), Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy) and Horatio Sanz (Saturday Night Live). The report again emphasizes how retro the gameplay and set were.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Choosy or not

Finally got around to watching Fox's dating show plus spoof, The Choice.

On a set that was as close to The Voice as legally prudent, four celeb bachelors turned their backs to various lovelies. The girls tried to persuade the guys to pull their "love handles" (yeah, that's what they called 'em) and turn their chairs around for a look at the merchandise. The girls had thirty seconds to chirp, well, a sales pitch to get the bachelors interested.

If you think this was the ultimate in cheeseball even for a cheesy kind of show, you're correct enough. Cat Deeley hosted as calmly as possible. I guess the producers figured that such a hoity-toity accent would add some semi-respectability.

Eventually each bachelor picked a team of three girls as finalists for that just so dreamy date. Weirdly, the girls donned beauty-pageant style ribbons identifying their teams. Then each bachelor plowed through some goofy Q&A to narrow down their team to the sort of lucky girl. I frankly lost interest as the show wore on, because the elimination rounds moved more slowly than the frantic first round with the 30-second pitches.

What can I say? If you like dating shows, this one wasn't the worst. But I'll pass on the rest of the episodes.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Back from the dead?

A faux tweet noted that the rumors of Family Game Night's death were greatly exaggerated. BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis and I discuss on the GSN Internet board...

Never could find any confirmation for Alex Davis' report of the show's demise. Hub always listed Family Game Night as renewed in its press releases for the 2012-13 season. I should have believed the network instead of Alex. Here's the casting call for season three, by the way.

Alex Davis: For whatever it's worth this was a last minute decision. I had it confirmed it was a goner. I was sent an email from a source on April 14th saying Hasbro went back and were, "attempts underway to save the show from a lot of different angles," and "Right now, nothing is certain either way." I was asked to keep quiet about it, though.

And it wasn't just me. Announcer Randy West, who is awfully reliable about this stuff as everyone knows, said just about three weeks ago, "While I don't know of any formal announcement, sadly, it appears that FGN will not be back, following a season that earned its host Todd Newton another well-deserved Emmy nomination." So again, sorry for the confusion, but this was confirmed to be cancelled but Hasbro found a way to bring it back and make it work. Not sure what the situation was which caused it to be cancelled (I'm going to guess budget), but it seems to be resolved.

Never saw anything public from named sources at the network or the show to confirm the cancellation. Sure, Hub's a tiny niche network that makes GSN look like a giant. But Family Game Night is one of Hub's flagship shows, with plum timeslots on Friday and Sunday nights.

Seems that something would have broken publicly from named and verifiable sources if the show was really axed at any point, especially after Hub's public announcement of the show's renewal. Without knowing the anonymous sources involved in the rumor, it's impossible to say if the show was ever really in danger.

UPDATE: Checked Alex Davis' Twitter feed for a change. I usually pass it by lately because it's full of non-game-show stuff. But he did call me a naughty name. Nice to know I'm getting his attention!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mr. Boden and his originals

BuzzerBlog has posted a fond remembrance of Friend or Foe, one of the six-pack of GSN shows generally called the "Boden originals." The sixsome debuted in 2002-03 when Bob Boden was the programming veep at GSN. They're already acquiring that patina of nostalgic memory which seems so important for game shows to Internet posters.

In truth the six were a very mixed bag. I can't agree at all with Alex Davis' high opinion of Friend or Foe, which I thought was an irritating lie-fest with obnoxious contestants. I'll admit that Kennedy was the perfect host for the show, though her sardonic persona could get old fast, too. Wintuition was an earnest quizzer that did no great harm. But boredom kicked in early and often.

In the mid-range were Whammy and Cram. The first was a competent remake of Press Your Luck and it still gets time on the GSN schedule. But the show shared its predecessor's crucial problem: the gameplay was essentially pushing a button and seeing what happened. Michael Larson was the only guy who ever brought any real intelligence to the game.

Cram was my guilty pleasure, before GSN ran it into the ground in the second season. A cheesy combination of silly stunts and sillier questions, the show kept my attention for a half-hour, even if I felt stupider at the end than at the beginning. (I know, that's not a difficult feat for me.)

The gems, of course, were Lingo and Russian Roulette. Yeah, I'm a sucker for word games and quizzers. But these two were among the best ever in their categories. GSN improved greatly on the original Lingo with a quicker pace and terrific bonus round. And who could resist the exit gimmick on Russian Roulette? The losing contestants couldn't resist gravity, anyway.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Channeling Match Game

A recent comment string on this little blog wandered into a Match Game discussion. A commenter thought that the sometimes risqué show was "subliminal and understated" compared to modern-day game shows.

That's a large can of worms to open up. I think the warm glow of nostalgia makes a lot of things on old shows seem understated...when they were actually stated pretty loud and clear at the time. Anyway, I happened to be watching Richard Karn's Family Feud yesterday afternoon on GSN. (Come to think of it, Karn Feud is getting fairly old itself.)

Richard tossed out a mildly suggestive question: "Name a traffic sign that describes your love life." Sure enough, a contestant hazarded: "Slippery when wet." Rather oddly, the show bleeped "wet," though it was clear what the contestant said.

The audience cracked up, of course. And Karn said that the whole discussion was starting to remind him of the old Match Game, and he was starting to feel like Gene Rayburn.

Truth to tell, it did seem like a Match Game moment, much to my nostalgic delight. You can watch it on YouTube.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Syndies: big two stumble

The big guys of syndicated game shows have seen better weeks. Not that they're hurting too much compared to syndication overall. It wasn't the greatest week for syndies in general. But TVNewsCheck brings the bad news for the big two in the week of May 28-June 3...

Wheel of Fortune 6.1 - down three ticks
Jeopardy 5.2 - down three ticks in lockstep with the soulmate
Family Feud 3.1 - flat
Millionaire 2.4 - flat

At least all the shows made the top 25 syndie list at TV by the Numbers. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.4 million (weekend repeat 4.4 million), Jeopardy 8.0 million, Family Feud 4.4 million, Millionaire 3.4 million. The numbers have gotten softer as the weather has warmed up.

TVNewser has posted their usual cable ranker for the week of June 4-10. GSN didn't mind the numbers at all, with averages of 335K/252K prime time/total day. The ranks among cable networks were 41st and 39th, respectively.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Figuring it out

Nickelodeon debuts its remake of Figure It Out today, with Jeff Sutphen at the helm instead of Summer Sanders.

Normally, I would take in the debut and write a not too snarky review (I hope). But my indifference to most kid game shows got the better of me, and I only checked the Figure It Out web site. Watched some video, read some comments, got the idea. The show remains a fairly entertaining combination of I've Got a Secret and green slime. And other stuff which clutters up the set.

Really, you could do a lot worse than let your kids watch the show. They won't get too grossed out and they'll have some fun with Nick's versions of "celebs" trying to, er, figure out the secrets. My all-time fave among kid game shows, and the only one I ever watched regularly as an adult, was Legends of the Hidden Temple. But Figure It Out will do for the pre-pubescent set.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bible in August

The title is a feeble play on Light in August, for you Faulkner fans. Which is a little mean of me, because Light in August is the only Faulkner novel I ever liked at all.

But enough literary criticism. The Bible-based quizzer American Bible Challenge comes to GSN in August, if recent promos on the network aren't apocryphal (sorry). This project has already turned controversial on the game show Internets. Even Carrie Grosvenor, renowned for calm and reasoned judgment, clobbered the show with a preemptive strike way back in January, when the idea for the project first surfaced. "Let's discuss why this is a very bad idea," she began, and then she trashed the show as too limited by its religious content.

I'm willing to give the show more of a chance, though I can see Carrie's point about the specialized material. A few glimpses of American Bible Challenge have leaked, most notably when GSN programming veep Amy Davis plugged the show on CNN. And it looked like a reasonably light and humorous take on the Bible, without tumbling into obnoxious parody.

Host Jeff Foxworthy should help. He did well on 5th Grader, adding some humor without overpowering the gameplay. And Lord knows (sorry again) that he's proven popular enough with GSN's audience. 5th Grader reruns have taken up residence at the top of the network's Nielsen charts.

Will he find similar success with the world's best-known book? We'll see in a couple months.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

CNN's older is better guy

A faux tweet pointed to CNN staffer James Dinan's post on the network's web site about his lifelong love for game shows. Dinan recounts how he tried out for eleven shows and made it to three of them: Millionaire, Two-Minute Drill and 1 vs. 100.

There's a lot to like about the post, especially Dinan's fond memories of classic shows from decades ago. He says a relative once told him that his first complete sentence was "X gets the square," though he dismisses this as family legend.

He has also attended Game Show Congress, an oldies fest in California that honors classic shows and hosts. But towards the end of his post Dinan launches the same complaint we've all heard a zillion times:
As for me, I don't know what my future in game shows holds, as I haven't been impressed with the programs that have aired in recent years. Most of them seem to follow the rules of so-called "reality" shows -- larger-than-life contestants, silly conflicts and manufactured drama. A few shows stay true to the form I grew up with, but those series are few and far between.
Yikes, the same older-is-better whine I've seen on game show boards throughout the Interwebs. I'm not sure why so many game show fans (at least among Internet posters) feel compelled to trash virtually all modern-day shows. Nowadays they're making some good game shows, some bad ones, and some in-between ones. Just like they always did. Just like they did in the good old days.

Maybe it's only resentment of reality TV, which has borrowed competition formats from traditional game shows and slotted them into exotic locales and peopled them with bitchy contestants. But that's no reason to dump on just about all current game shows as inferior to the (supposedly) golden era of the genre.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Take this blog entry out

The debut of Fox's Dating Game times ten, a.k.a. Take Me Out, just flashed before my eyes. To my mild surprise, it didn't induce vomiting. I figured so much trashiness would rile my gut, or at least my easily ruffled sensibilities. (That's a joke, of course. I don't have sensibilities.)

But the show went down pretty easy. Dating shows radiate a natural cheesiness. After all, the whole idea started with Chuck Barris, who is unquestionably the world's cheesiest person and proud of it. So when in Cheesytown, just go cheeseball with everybody else. Which I did with Take Me Out, mostly.

The format is simple. Thirty young more-or-less ladies evaluate an eligible bachelor through three rounds of videos and live, er, performances. As the girls tune out on the guy, they turn off the lights on their podiums. If any lights are left burning at the end of the three rounds, the lucky guy gets to choose among the remaining femmes.

Of the four gents in the debut episode, two wiped out as all thirty lovelies waved bye-bye. I felt a little sorry for one of the losers, a Midwestern fellow who seemed like a decent enough sort. But when a video revealed that he was a hunter, I knew he was toast. The other loser was a smarm-bucket from Vegas, and I didn't sympathize.

The two winners were a drummer with the hair and tats to prove it, and a vaguely irritating charm machine from Italy. Next week we'll see how their dates succeeded, or not.

George Lopez hosted as yummily and yuckily as could be desired. The set and music were over the top because they have to be on a show like this. Dating contests are not my favorite neck of the game show woods, but Take Me Out was guilty fun. Next week I'll sample and review Fox's other dating venture, The Choice.

UPDATE: Final nationals were so-so for Take Me Out: a 1.3 rating in the 18-49 demo with 3.3 million total viewers. Second in the timeslot among the broadcast networks in 18-49, third in viewers. The Choice did a little better: a 1.8 rating in 18-49 with 4.4 million total viewers. First and second in the timeslot, respectively.


I've grumbled some about our little genre getting strange new respect. Somehow, I like the stuffy condescension usually accorded to game shows by hoitier-toitier critics.

But a few media types are starting to take game shows a little more seriously. Or at least they make noises like these, in an interview with Drew Carey. "For a long time, game show hosting was sort of seen, rightly or wrongly, the way soap opera acting has been - a definite underclass of entertainment. That has changed as name comedians, such as Steve Harvey, have become game show hosts."

I don't know how much Steve Harvey has to do with it. Even a high and mighty news reporter like John Daly did a game show, though Daly wore a tux while doing so. And not even Daly could make the genre totally respectable, especially when the rigging scandals hit.

Drew Carey himself has no apologies. He burbles on about the joy of hosting The Price is Right and says he's not just picking up a check. (Though I understand the check is very pleasant, thank you.) Game show hosting is easy to screw up and hard to get right. Not to mention the extra burden Carey shouldered when he succeeded a living legend.

When Alex Trebek and Jeopardy cop a Peabody, maybe things are getting a little too respectable in these here parts. But the best hosts deserve some kudos, despite the job's lingering odor of underclass status.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Syndies sweep ahead

TVNewsCheck reviews syndicated shows' performance in the just concluded May sweeps (April 26-May 23). Syndie game shows mostly did fine, especially Mr. Steve. The comparison to last May's sweeps...

Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - flat year-to-year
Jeopardy 5.6 - up a tick, shows the soulmate
Family Feud 3.0 - up seven ticks, best improvement by far
Millionaire 2.5 - up a tick and still performing pretty well

TV by the Numbers didn't bother with sweeps but just offered their usual top 25 list for the latest week, May 21-27. The viewership averages for the week: Wheel of Fortune 9.9 million, Jeopardy 8.5 million, Family Feud 4.5 million, Millionaire 3.3 million. Certainly acceptable numbers as May warmed up.

TVNewser posted its weekly cable ranker for May 28-June 3. GSN averaged 299K/240K viewers prime time/total day for the week, which is not bad by the network's usual standards. The ranks among cable nets were 41st and 42nd, respectively.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Abnormally slow

Just watched the first episode of Are You Normal America on the OWN web site. Can I have my wasted hour back, please?

My main complaint was pace. The basic idea was old but okay, pretty much the same as other survey-based shows. The show polled a thousand-plus sample on gripping whether you've ever sucked a sex partner's toes. If the show had moved along briskly, the silliness might have been halfway or maybe a quarter-way bearable.

Trouble is, they pounded every question into the ground and then dug it up and pounded it back into the ground again. Contestants Scot and Charlë didn't just have to figure out if toe-sucking was "normal" (done by more than 50% of the poll sample). We also had to get street interviews on toe-sucking. Plus views on toe-sucking from the "poll posse," ten members of the poll sample who turned up onstage. Plus extensive comments on toe-sucking from the show's hosts. By the time we had moved on to another question, I was almost sucking my own toes in sheer, screaming boredom.

The money wasn't huge, but this is cable and not even big-time cable. Host Barry Poznick was irritating, and co-host Kim Coles didn't do much. At least that kept her from grating on my eardrums like Poznick. OWN has well-publicized ratings problems, and this effort probably won't help much.

One mostly irrelevant note: there are 4,328 pictures of Oprah Winfrey on the OWN web site. I counted them. Had to do something while the show dragged on.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Final feud

One of the real giants of game show hosting - that odd combination of script reading, improvising, refereeing, and interviewing - has died. Richard Dawson has passed away at age 79.

I'm pretty much in the "nothing but good about the [recently] dead" camp, but Dawson poses particular problems. Nobody doubted his great ability. At the top of his form on Family Feud, he could run a game show better than almost anybody. A terrific improv comic and contestant interviewer, he kept Feud purring smoothly for years.

But Dawson could also be a royal pain for his fellow-workers, as the E! True Hollywood Story on Feud made all too clear. He departed Match Game under contentious circumstances and never seemed at ease in his work or his life.

Born Colin Lionel Emm in Hampshire (the old one, not New Hampshire), Dawson first came to wide notice in this country as Peter Newkirk, the wisecracking Limey on Hogan's Heroes, that bizarre POW comedy. This led to his Match Game gig and eventually to the show's semi-spinoff, Family Feud. The feudin' continues to this day, after a multiplicity of hosts, and you can watch Dawson's work on the show every weekday on GSN.

Dawson played an evil game show host (typecasting, some would say) in 1987's Running Man opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger. But otherwise he settled into a fairly reclusive retirement, though he tried an unsuccessful return to Feud in 1994-95. R.I.P.

UPDATE: GSN will run a special marathon of Dawson Family Feud and Match Game episodes 7:00PM-11:00PM on June 7. The run will include the "September" ep and Dawson's return to Feud in 1994.

Recycled tweets

A poster on the GSN Internet board has started recycling some of my faux tweets there. I express my thanks and discuss the faux tweets in general...

Nice to see that [the poster] is keeping track of my faux tweets. He's recycled several of them to these boards lately, including the one with the old 1970s photo of Let's Make a Deal contestant wannabes.

Anyhoo, my faux tweet about the Beat the Chefs casting call...

The casting crew for GSN's Beat the Chefs chats about contestants they want. They're seeking "great home cooks" and describe the project as a game show.

By the way, you've got to check the faux tweets regularly, or you'll miss them. The tweets generally last three or four days at the most on the blog before they scroll off into the Internet Hereafter. I don't keep them around anywhere, and once they're gone, they're gone. (Well, not really. You could probably find them on some Internet archive site somewhere. Nothing really vanishes on the Internet.)

Faux tweets on the blog right now (June 3) include a brief obit for a Screen Test writer (remember Don Adams' weird game show?), an interview with Wayne Brady where he semi-disses Let's Make a Deal but tells a really touching story about the show, a National Spelling Bee contestant who wanted to "buy a vowel," the anniversary of the start of Ken Jennings' Jeopardy romp, and other game show bits and pieces.

If you're wondering, almost all the items for the faux tweets come from Google News. It's fun hunting down the news stories. But I did get the Family Feud Hatfield and McCoy item from our very own TheKid965 [another frequent poster on the GSN boards]. Thanks, Kid! And I got the idea for the faux tweets from Game Show Newsnet's "Lightning Round" lists of brief items. Only that site covers a lot of (gasp!) reality shows.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

That wonderful shopping round

Remember the interview with Pat Sajak when he fessed up to imbibing a few margaritas during long-ago Wheel of Fortune tapings? Well, if you don't remember it, you're not a game show fan (so what are you doing here?) or you've got a really bad memory.

An overlooked part of the interview was Pat's trashing of the shopping round, which used to litter Wheel like a non-housebroken dog. You know, that thrilling interlude when housewives would slowly pick prizes from the stage. Then Charlie O'Donnell would read War and Peace sized reams of advertising copy.

I bring this up because a thread on Matt Ottinger's board recently got into old Wheel, including the dreaded shopping round. One poster actually had the guts to admit that the old version of Wheel got tedious because of the round. "I found the shopping to be deadly dull. Glad they got rid of it." Admitting that an old version of any show might somehow be inferior to the current version is almost heresy on Matt's super-traditionalist board.

Oh, somebody else suggested a change to the current version's bonus round. To which one of the board's loudest posters elegantly replied that the current bonus round was better, and if you think otherwise, you can "go screw yourselves." Just another day at Game Show Forum.

Friday, June 1, 2012

GSN ratings chatter

Douglas Pucci has listed another week of GSN viewer numbers. Your humble blogger and some other posters chew over the figures on the GSN Schedule board...

Douglas just posted the ratings for May 21-27. Haven't had any time to analyze them. But I can say that Steve Harvey's Family Feud and 5th Grader accounted for an almost ridiculous eighteen of the top twenty shows.

Looked at the numbers quick. The viewership averages were 300K/242K prime time/total day for the week. Not bad by GSN standards. Friday prime time continued to stink and Tuesday was even a little worse. Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday prime time were rock solid as usual, and Monday was acceptable.

Other poster: No viewers mean no GSN either. And eventually, that's what's going to happen when Family Feud's ratings fall due to over-abuse of it on the schedule. When that happens, GSN will be left with a hole the size of a crater in its schedule, since most of the current schedule is filled with airings of Family Feud.

If I were running this network, I would use Harvey Feud (and Family Feud in general) just as much as the shows are getting used now. Otherwise, I might be relieved of my duties.

Deal or No Deal took over the network, until it lost viewers as it got old. Then Baggage took over the network, until it lost viewers as it got old. Then Harvey Feud took over the network, until it lost viewers as it got old...

See a pattern here? GSN, like every other cable network, rides their hot show for all it's worth...until it gets old. Then they desperately start looking for another hot show. It's the way of the world in the cable business.