Friday, August 31, 2012

Overexposed

Happened to watch a lot of GSN last night with my wife. By the end of the experience, she had had enough.

Which seemed a little strange to me. We were watching game shows, after all. How could anybody get overexposed to our little genre? Well, apparently it's quite possible for a lot of people. Game shows have always been niche programming in American television, though they've had their moments of great popularity.

Maybe I needed the useful reminder that not everybody shares my interest in game shows. I get caught up in watching and blogging and arguing about the shows so much that it seems like the whole wide world must feel the same enthusiasm. Not so, you naive game show blogger. Most of the world does not care, and emphatically so.

Luckily, enough folks do care to keep the genre alive, despite frequent signs of exhaustion or extinction or both. Game shows have survived the rigging scandals, a decades-long exile from broadcast prime time, and Extreme Gong. They can probably survive a lot of folks' indifference to them.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Been there, done that

Just watched the sneak peek of GSN's Pyramid. This blog entry's title probably gives you a good idea of my overall reaction. The show was so retro that I felt like I was watching an episode of Dick Clark's Pyramid with a new host and a glossier set.

Which is hardly terrible, of course. Pyramid is one of the all-time classics, and GSN was obviously afraid to tamper with the tried and true. The excruciating faithfulness to the old Clark format will make many classics fans happy. But I was left vaguely disappointed. If you're just going to do exactly the same old thing, why bother?

Still, everybody in the GSN version was competent and entertaining. Mike Richards, despite the grief he catches from some The Price is Right purists, did a fine job as the host. He cracked wise and even replayed the old Clark bit of offering perfect clues after a failed Winners Circle. But then everything was like the Clark version. Which has to be the first and last word on this GSN effort.

Meanwhile, I finally caught an episode of Beat the Chefs. I went into the experience with a lot of doubts, mainly because I hate to cook (but love to eat). Funny thing, I enjoyed the show. Sure, host Matt Rogers shouted too much, and the trash talk between the amateur cooks and the pro chefs got old immediately. But the show moved along briskly and even held the interest of anti-culinary moi.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sneaking and peeking

We just don't have debuts of game shows nowadays. We get wow-oh-boy sneak peeks.

In fact, we'll get two of them over the next couple months. As a faux tweet noted, GSN trots out a special sneak preview of Pyramid tomorrow after the first-runs of American Bible Challenge and Beat the Chefs. The network clearly hopes to capitalize on the strong ratings for their Bible quizzer and pros-versus-joes cook-off.

SyFy will do something similar with the second season of its in-the-dark stunt show, Total Blackout. The "regular" season debuts November 13, but the famous sneak peek comes on October 29. The peek-a-boo will enjoy a marathon lead-in from hidden-camera project Scare Tactics.

Cable networks get sneakier all the time. Guess they figure a tantalizing glimpse will lead to better numbers for the regular run. Of course, if a show stinks, all the sneak peeks in the world won't impress the Nielsen Company.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ratings: post-Olympic bounce

As expected, syndicated shows of all kinds bounced back nicely after the Olympics closed operations. After a while even the most overhyped sports shindig has to end. Syndie game shows were no exception to the pleasant rebound. TVNewsCheck reports the happy news...

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up six ticks
Jeopardy 5.0 - up seven ticks, just to do a little better than the soulmate
Family Feud 3.2 - up five ticks
Millionaire 2.3 - also up five ticks

All the shows made the top 25 syndie list at TV by the Numbers, in more good news. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.1 million (weekend repeat 4.2 million), Jeopardy 7.7 million, Family Feud 4.6 million, Millionaire 3.2 million. Nice recoveries all round.

TVNewser posted a cable ranker for the month of August. Defined by Nielsen, "August" means July 30-August 26. Bolstered by Steve Harvey's Family Feud, the acquisition of Minute To Win It, and the debut of American Bible Challenge, GSN enjoyed a fine month with 380K/262K viewership averages prime time/total day. The network ranked 38th and 39th in the windows.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Searching for Mr. [The Price is] Right

Former The Price is Right producer Roger Dobkowitz continues what may be the longest interview in recorded history.

We're up to part six now, where the Dob grinds through the audition process for candidates to succeed Bob Barker. Bottom line is that Dob intensely dislikes Drew Carey - which is no secret in the game show world - and dumps on him as some kind of unqualified party boy. "Strippers and a wild party life"...which doesn't seem so bad to me, come to think about it. Dob also praises many of the other candidates to the skies.

In particular, Dob likes Mark Walberg and - are you ready? - George Hamilton. Doesn't matter that Dob himself admits Hamilton was absurdly incompetent. At least he wasn't Drew Carey. Dob also says that CBS didn't think Walberg was handsome enough. I dunno, he's a lot more handsome than me, but that's really faint praise.

Anyway, enjoy the interview but beware of Dob's anti-Drew animus, which at least is not hidden.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I shot an arrow into the air

Enough about American Bible Challenge for now. I dropped by Richard Carson's I've Got a Secret site on YouTube for something completely different.

Like Richard's namesake Johnny Carson shooting an apple off Garry Moore's head with a bow and arrow. Of course, the show didn't subject Garry to much risk. He was behind a sheet of plexiglass, or something similar, and the apple was perched on a funnel.

But still, who knew if an arrow might not somehow get through the shield? And there was genuine pressure on Johnny to produce an accurate shot on live TV.

Which, as history records, he did. The arrow went right through the apple on the first attempt. It was even the upper part of the apple, well away from Garry's noggin. The whole bit is vaguely reminiscent of the famous Ed Ames ax murder on Johnny's Tonight Show, which was still several years into the future. Jack Paar was hosting that show in 1959, when the arrow flew.

Friday, August 24, 2012

GSN channels Glenn Beck?

The major buzz on the game show Internets right now is the blowout ratings performance - by GSN standards, of course - of American Bible Challenge. BuzzerBlog makes an, er, interesting observation about the show's promotion. I respectfully disagree on the GSN Internet board...

By the way, Alex Davis asserts in his post on BuzzerBlog that GSN went after the "Glenn Beck crowd" with their promotion of American Bible Challenge. I guess that's why GSN programming veep Amy Davis turned up on CNN to promote the show. Because, you know, CNN is such a prominent hangout for Glenn Beck fans. Hey, I even saw an ad for the show on Zap2it, for crying out loud. Another well-known haven for Glenn Beckites.

The obvious explanation isn't some devious Glenn Beck-ish promotion scheme. Beck got axed (rather unceremoniously) by Fox News, after all, where American Bible Challenge host Jeff Foxworthy appeared to promote the show.

GSN simply has no competition in what can only be called the "Bible entertainment" market. Sure, there are lots of religious programs around, but hardly any of them entertain or even try to, beyond the music. GSN actually made the Bible fun.

UPDATE: Forgot that Foxworthy also appeared on Tonight to promote the show. Who knew that Jey Leno was part of the Glenn Beck crowd? To be fair to Alex, Foxworthy did promote the show in a conversation with Beck himself. But GSN has been promoting American Bible Challenge all over the place.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bible study

Just watched the debut of American Bible Challenge, and I'll be upfront. The show wasn't nearly as bad as its detractors insist, and it wasn't nearly as good as its fans maintain.

What it was, was a decent quizzer that played every kind of question and answer game imaginable. Starting with three teams of three contestants apiece, the show winnowed the teams down to two for a final face-off that posed the toughest questions of the night.

Along the way we got some entertaining moments. The early questions were pretty easy, to lure in the not-so-clueful about the Bible. I even got a lot of them right, and I'm no scriptural genius. The difficulty level gradually rose as the show went through round after round of varied games. The final winners unfortunately had the most irritating contestant of the night on their team. But that wasn't enough to spoil the whole show.

Jeff Foxworthy did a pleasant and competent job as the host, and the show's gospel choir produced better music than the bands on Oh Sit. (Faint praise, I know. The choir really did sing well.) Sometimes the humor got cringe-worthy - "word of the Lord or Lord of the Rings?" - but it was no worse than some of Jeopardy's aching puns. I'll probably stick around for the rest of the nine-episode tournament.

One of these days I'll take in GSN's Beat the Chefs and post a review. I'm no cooking fan, but I'll try to be as evenhanded as possible.

UPDATE: TV by the Numbers says that American Bible Challenge got ratings of biblical proportions by GSN standards: 1.73 million viewers and a 0.4 18-49 rating. This was the most watched show in the network's history.

This just staggers me. I thought the Bible quizzer might break the 800K mark. But the 1.7 million mark? You gotta be kidding. Of course, all the repeats won't maintain anything like this number, and we'll have to wait and see how the subsequent first-runs do. But give GSN credit for their most watched show ever. Let's face it, they have very little competition in the Bible quizzer market, unlike the cooking competition market. That's called smart business...finding a new niche and filling it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Challenging assignment

An episode of GSN's American Bible Challenge, due to premiere tomorrow, has been floating around to various reviewers. Poor little me hasn't been let in on the secret because I'm way down the game show pecking order (boo-hoo). But enough self-pity. I'll watch the show tomorrow and post my review.

So far reviews appear to divide along ideological lines. A reviewer's personal opinion of religion seems to dictate how good a review the show gets. That's an obvious temptation (biblical term!) for a show like this. I'll just try to remain as objective as I can. In other words, I'll try to review the show as if they're asking questions about novels or baseball or stamp collecting.

Meanwhile, Jeff Foxworthy has shown up on Fox News' morning show to promo the quizzer. He also tested the three morning hosts on their own Bible knowledge. GSN is pulling out all the stops to launch this project. They're even running four eps of their highest rated show, Steve Harvey's Family Feud, as a lead-in to American Bible Challenge's debut tomorrow night.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ratings: more Olympics, more pain

The second week of the Olympics brought more misery for syndie game shows. More declines, more season lows, more fun for everyone.

I've never been a huge Olympics fan, so this gives me one more thing to grump about. Anyway, TVNewsCheck delivers the thrilling numbers for the August 6-12 week...

Wheel of Fortune 5.2 - down a couple ticks to a season low
Jeopardy 4.3 - also down a couple ticks, also to a season low
Family Feud 2.7 - down a tick to just above a season low
Millionaire 1.8 - down a tick to, naturally, a season low

At least all the medals have been handed out in London, so syndies should get something of a bounce next week. The viewership averages for the three shows which made the top 25 at TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 8.1 million (weekend repeat 4.2 million), Jeopardy 6.4 million, Family Feud 3.9 million. Pretty forgettable.

Once the Olympics finished, GSN enjoyed a blowout week, according to TVNewser's cable ranker. The network averaged 430K/283K viewers prime time/total day for the week of August 13-19, ranking 39th and 37th in the windows. The only week I've seen that had a better prime time average for GSN was January 4-10, 2010 with 438K.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Phyllis and the games

Actress and comic Phyllis Diller has died at age 95. While I was never a big fan of her ugly-girl act, her IMDb page reads like a game show hall of fame. The linked obit from NBC News notes how she appeared as a contestant on Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life in 1958:
Diller, asked if she was married: "Yes, I've worn a wedding ring for 18 years." Marx: "Really? Well, two more payments and it'll be all yours."
That began a game show career which stretched to GSN's remake of I've Got a Secret in 2006. In between came most every version of Hollywood Squares (including the combo with Match Game), Super Password, Blackout, Body Language, Hot Potato, Family Feud, Tattletales, Gong Show, the original I've Got a Secret, What's My Line, and Match Game when it was a straight panel effort in the 1960s. And I'm probably missing a bunch of shows along that nearly 50-year trip.

Game shows were a natural for Phyllis because she was always playing herself...the homely girl who couldn't get a date or even a look. She wasn't really that homely, of course, but it was just part of the act. Born Phyllis Ada Driver in Lima, Ohio in 1917, she didn't get into comedy until the 1950s under the prodding of her first husband, Sherwood Diller. She parlayed her looks and all-purpose zaniness into a career which lasted into the new millennium.

She also managed to raise five children and undergo enough plastic surgery to keep a hospital's worth of surgeons occupied. R.I.P.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Old game shows

A thread on the GSN Internet board chats about Chuck Woolery's Scrabble and other old game shows possibly turning up on networks besides GSN, like Antenna TV and Retro Television Network. I'm dubious about the proposition...

Other poster: If one of them [Antenna or RTN] decided to do what USA did and have a block that was 2 or 3 hours out of the day for classic game shows, then I can't say I'd complain.

Sorry, but I wouldn't hold my breath. These channels have always run schedules that are almost completely incompatible with game shows...mostly sitcoms and dramas. If they had ever shown an interest in competition shows of any kind, I'd say there would be more of a chance for game shows to turn up. It's really pretty remarkable that Crosswords gets onto RTN, when nothing else on the network remotely resembles a game show.

Another poster: I think any version of Scrabble would fit in pretty well on The Hub.

Hub has already tried its own version of Scrabble for kids in Scrabble Showdown. Didn't succeed all that much. I can't see them bringing back ancient eps of a grown-up version.

First poster: Do people remember when Pax TV had game shows and game show blocks on their schedule in conjunction with other shows?

And Pax, or Ion as it's now called, doesn't have that block any more. In fact, Ion doesn't have any game shows any more. If a network has little real commitment to game shows or at least competition shows, those kinds of blocks don't tend to last. (See USA Network.) And forget about decades-old game shows. That's a tiny niche within a niche.

Yet another poster: Most of the rest of their [RTN's] schedule doesn't even resemble a network!

Harsh but true. They tried to be a low-rent TV Land and it hasn't worked out so swell.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Scheduling Pyramid

GSN has released the advance schedule for the September 3-9 week of Pyramid's premiere. You can check the Word document in the sidebar. As previously announced, the Pyramid first-runs will fill the 6:00PM half-hour. Another tweak is that GSN will hammock the show with Harvey Feud, their highest-rated effort, at 5:30PM and 6:30PM. The network is giving Pyramid every chance to succeed.

Repeats of the show will take over the Friday night stack from the low-rated 25K Pyramid. GSN was using those old Dick Clark eps as unpaid advertising for its own version of the format. Pyramid repeats will also get a couple weekend slots.

The show gets 13 slots a week all told, which is certainly plenty of exposure. Rest assured that every single episode of the 40-ep order will get a workout over the next few months. GSN has worked hard to generate buzz for this remake, and the network will not hide its light under a bushel. At least Pyramid should withstand the abuse better than the much shorter runs of American Bible Challenge and Beat the Chefs.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Take it sitting down

Just sat through the CW's musical chairs epic Oh Sit, and I'm not a whole lot better for the experience. But I'm not a whole lot worse, either. It's not the most horrible stunt show I've seen, and it's not the least horrible.

My biggest problem was not enough stunt time. When the contestants shove and slide and flip and fight their way through the obstacle course, things get downright interesting. It's all the other stuff in the show that turns tedious. Hosts Jessi Cruikshank and Jamie Kennedy jabber way too much snark and snarl, and course-side reporter Tanika Ray adds to the yakety yak.

Once the contestants get through the obstacles and collapse into the chairs, the show also wastes too much time assigning dollar values to their cushy seats. And there are all sorts of goofy rules. One contestant got disqualified for something or other. At one point the show even stopped dead so some band could play some song. All in all, I doubt that I'll make Oh Sit must-sit-down viewing, but I don't wanna barf over it. By the way, the boy contestants wear blue jerseys, the girl contestants wear green. I guess pink was too sexist.

TV by the Numbers reports that the show got decent numbers by the CW's admittedly crummy standards: a 0.5 18-49 rating with 1.2 million total viewers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sympathy for Bill's Lingo

A few posts back I celebrated GSN Lingo's tenth anniversary.

I happened to see an episode this week of the show's Bill Engvall version, where the winners really won. A hundred grand, in fact, which is pretty good for low-rent cable. As I recall, Engvall Lingo saw two 100K winners in its only season. The version also saw endless complaints. The clues, the occasional mildly off-color humor, the set, the contestants, Engvall himself...everything about the new version got trashed.

To some extent this was just the usual nostalgia for the "older" version with Chuck Woolery. I put "older" in scare quotes because Chuck's Lingo seasons hardly date back four or five decades. But nostalgia is a potent force on the game show Interwebs. So when GSN shook up the format with a new host and some other tweaks, complaints were inevitable.

Truth to tell, I liked the sassier and funnier Engvall episodes. Sure, sometimes the humor was corny or shady, but the funny helped the puzzle-solving seem more entertaining. And the rock-solid basic gameplay remained unchanged for the purists. Sometimes I'm even a purist.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ratings: syndies get Olym-kicked

You probably figure the Olympics trashed syndie ratings in the week of July 30-August 5, and you figure right. Syndicated game shows didn't escape the carnage, with season lows galore. TVNewsCheck checks in with the grim news...

Wheel of Fortune 5.4 - down six ticks to a season low
Jeopardy 4.5 - down six ticks to a season low
Family Feud 2.8 - down four ticks but somehow avoided a season low
Millionaire 1.9 - down five ticks to, guess what, a season low

Meredith slipped out of the top 25 syndie list at TV by the Numbers. The viewership averages for the other three shows: Wheel of Fortune 8.5 million (weekend repeat 4.7 million), Jeopardy 6.9 million, Family Feud 4.0 million. Even in a bad week Pat and Vanna put up pretty good numbers and finished second among all syndies in total viewers.

TVNewser posted their usual cable ranker for the week of August 6-12. The second week of the Olympics hurt GSN a little but not too much. Sports are generally not a huge threat to the network's old-skewing, female-skewing audience. GSN averaged 319K/231K viewers prime time/total day for the week, with ranks of 39th and 43rd in the windows. Decent numbers by the network's historical standards.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sit down

Happened to be watching MLB Network yesterday, and they showed some pre-game silliness from the Mets game. People were playing musical chairs on the field. No lie.

I didn't realize it because the MLB announcers didn't say anything, but I was watching a promo for Oh Sit. That's the CW game show debuting Wednesday, August 15. Contestants endure various obstacle course indignities to claim a chair.

The linked ESPN story offers some footage from the show, and it looks like Wipeout plus music plus chairs. Or maybe a more in-your-face, grown-up version of Nickelodeon's old Guts. The contestants push and shove each other through the stunts while sadistic hosts urge them on. Hey, this could be fun.

Not sure how CW's audience of twenty-something ladies will react to the show, but I'll take a peek and write a review.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

New family games

After supposedly surviving a near-death experience - though the source for those rumors was never identified - Hub's Family Game Night is taping its third season.

A poster on Matt Ottinger's board wrote a long report from the set. The rumors included drastic budget cuts for the show, but the poster didn't notice any major cheapening in production values. Well, Burton Richardson is gone as the announcer, replaced by a "really HOT" woman whose name escapes the poster.

The biggest change is that two families don't fight it out all hour long. Instead, up to eight different families are chosen from the studio audience to play in the various rounds. Some games have been dropped, others added. The poster generally likes the changes in the lineup of games, but personal opinions will vary, of course.

The poster also thinks Todd Newton is "feeling his oats" after the Daytime Emmy win. I think Todd always sensed his grains pretty strongly, but he may be enjoying life even more now.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bill Rafferty's other shows

The sad news of Bill Rafferty's death got me looking around for other shows besides his well-known hosting jobs on Card Sharks and Blockbusters. Found some interesting clips, as I posted on the GSN board...

Bill Rafferty's IMDb page also credits him with appearances on Family Feud, Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour and Super Password, besides his hosting gigs on Every Second Counts, Card Sharks and Blockbusters. Oddly, IMDb confuses him with hoops coach and analyst Bill Raftery.

You can watch Bill on Family Feud. His hair is a bit longer. And people are squeamish about eating brains...maybe.

One of Bill's Super Password eps is here, from March 16, 1987. A little sad to see him with the deceased Bert Convy. At one point they start to switch host/contestant roles. Bill slips in a little dig at Angie Dickinson.

Other poster: Speaking of which, I think that's from said [Family Feud] DVD set. That's too good quality to come from anywhere else.

The Feud ep is very high-quality. But the Super Password ep looks pretty good, too. And it's video from GSN. Too bad the sound is sometimes out of sync. And not to give out any spoilers, but Rafferty plays very well in that March 16, 1987 ep, right down to the buzzer. After the third part of the video, there's a GSN bumper ad for...Regis Millionaire.

There are other Rafferty eps on YouTube from that week on Super Password. Enjoy!

Another poster: When Rafferty was on Real People, didn't he also appear on Tattletales? If so, was it with the orange scoreboards or with the green scoreboards?

Couldn't find anything about Bill Rafferty on Tattletales. But right at the beginning of that March 16, 1987 Super Password ep, it's mentioned that he appeared on Wordplay with Bert Convy. Wordplay was that very short-lived 1986-87 game show on NBC. Well, darned if Convy and Rafferty didn't appear on the show together, if this Wikia article is to be believed.

Rafferty also appeared on Scrabble with Tom Kennedy, as you can watch on YouTube (video quality is very so-so).

No hope for me

As some have observed, I'm a hopeless game show fan. I admit the crime on the GSN board in a thread that wanders onto many subjects, including my old school...

Other poster: No matter what shows you watch, you're a fan regardless.

I am pretty hopeless. It's a rare day that I don't watch anything at all on GSN. By the way, I'm really enjoying the college shows on O'Hurley Feud this week. Got to watch my old school win. (Hint: they beat Michigan.)

Another poster: It's a shame I barely was home for the 5pm block this week. I would liked to have seen this.

Just checked YouTube. Sure enough, they have the big sudden-death decider. To show you how hopeless a fan I am, I literally yelled "lottery" before the cute coed from Ohio State did.

Just hopeless, hopeless.

Yet another poster: This thread has gone downhill in just a few hours.

Must be a Michigan grad (wink).

Friday, August 10, 2012

Big male-ing deal

Faux tweeted a while back about Drew Carey's hint of male models on The Price is Right. The show has now made it official.

For now it's a one-week-only stunt. They're recruiting a pretty male face to smile at the merchandise in shows taping for the week of October 15th. There's also a web taping for the semi-finalists in the cute guy competition.

My TPiR-indifference has long been on record, so this latest stunt leaves me thoroughly unmoved. I've seen heated arguments on the web and I just don't care either way. It's not a brave new world of gender equality, and it's not the end of western civilization as we know it. It's just a game show using pretty people to show off the prizes. What else is new?

By the way, the picture from the show's website makes it look like the female model is about to drill the male model right in the chest. She doesn't like the new competition? Oh, just kidding.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pyramid glimpses

Hollywood Junket has leaked some more details about GSN's Pyramid tapings. There are mild spoilers about some particularly clueless celebs. Chad Mosher hinted at the problems a while back on BuzzerBlog. There's also a long list of celebs who appear on the show, in case you want to know.

I've heard of some of the celebrities, but at least a few are pretty obscure. This is low-rent cable, after all. I just hope they're mostly competent and don't screw over the civvies too badly. It's a tough format, as many have observed.

Meanwhile, GSN plunges further into reality with some car dealer show. It's called Family Trade, and I know I shouldn't prejudge, but it sounds incredibly lame. Apparently a car dealer accepts weird stuff in return for cars and trucks, and his son and daughter have to sell the weird stuff. The project arrives next year, which looks like maybe ten years too soon.

UPDATE: GSN releases some video of Chandra Wilson playing Pyramid. She laughs a lot but gets the job done.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

30 is the loneliest number

If you read this blog at all, you've probably noticed dozens of links to contestant audition stories in the faux tweets.

This story could also have been faux-tweeted, but I decided to give it the full blog-entry treatment. After all, this particular contestant wannabe was selected for a noteworthy reason. She was about to turn 30.

Honest. Seems that Vanna White is celebrating her thirtieth anniversary on Wheel of Fortune this year. So the show's producers invited a bunch of literal thirty-somethings to an audition in Maryland. One of them was our heroine Emily Darrell, the author of the linked story.

Sadly, Emily didn't make it to the second round of the audition. She did solve the DIAMOND EARRINGS puzzle, but that only left her wishing she could have won big on the show and bought the earrings for real. She does graciously observe that Vanna never seems to age, as several others have noted.

For now Emily will just have to try to write the next Hunger Games-ish series. Good luck with young adult fiction, Ms. Darrell.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ratings: syndies hardly budge

TVNewsCheck offers some flat and flatter news for syndicated game shows in the week of July 23-29. There was almost no movement in the household ratings for any of the four shows...

Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - flat
Jeopardy 5.1 - down a tick, hey something happened!
Family Feud 3.2 - flat
Millionaire 2.4 - you guessed it, flat

Pretty boring, I know. All four shows did make TV by the Numbers' top 25 syndie list. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.3 million (weekend repeat 4.5 million), Jeopardy 7.5 million, Family Feud 4.5 million, Millionaire 3.4 million.

In somewhat related news, a Scripps exec pitched the replacement shows for Wheel and Jeopardy almost apologetically to Wall Street analysts:
Now, for the record, there’s nothing wrong with Wheel and Jeopardy. I have arrived home from work many an evening over the years and enjoyed a bowl of canned soup while Vanna turned the letters and Alex announced the categories.
Yeah, but the letter turning and category announcing have just gotten so expensive. So we're doing these two cheap replacements.

TVNewser posted their usual cable ranker, and the Olympics hurt GSN along with lots of other cable networks. But the damage wasn't horrendous, as the network averaged 306K/239K viewers prime time/total day for the week of July 30-August 5. Not bad by GSN's historical standards. The network ranked 39th and 41st in the windows.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

It was ten years ago today, Sgt. Chuck taught the band to play

Yes, ten years ago today GSN debuted a little word game called Lingo. Based on a short-lived 1980s syndie and taped on the set of the show's Dutch version, nobody realized that Lingo would run continuously on GSN for ten years and counting.

By now seven seasons and two hosts and two co-hosts of the five-letter-fest have come and gone. But the reruns grind away. On the GSN Internet board I've suggested that at least the Woolery version be given a breather. Lord knows Chuck and Shandi and all the rest of 'em have given endless hours of often high-rated programming to the network.

The numbers are now wearing down, as you should expect. The new version with Bill Engvall got okay but not spectacular ratings, though it still hangs around the schedule, too.

I'm a big fan of the show in all its GSN incarnations. Just a sucker for five letters at a time, I guess. When I watched the debut ten years ago, I had a real feeling (and hope) that GSN might have its first huge success with an original. By pure dumb luck, I was right.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Irrelevant Hitchcock post

Okay, this post is not completely irrelevant. Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles both have credits on What's My Line, don't they?

Yes, I'm reaching. Anyway, a political site I hang around - oh, why be coy, it's NRO - has been chewing over Vertigo vs. Citizen Kane. (Can't talk politics all the time.) I'm definitely on the vertiginous side, as I comment...

Always thought Citizen Kane was a dull Depression sermon: the rich are evil, the rich are evil and...did I mention the rich are evil? No wonder most movie critics still say they love it, even if they're secretly bored silly.

Things really turn sleepy as old man Kane gets older and older and more and more evil. I mean, jeez Orson, we get the flipping point already. Got anything else for us? Oh yeah, "Rosebud." BFD.

Meanwhile, making out with Kim Novak - or just watching Jimmy Stewart make out with Kim Novak - is definitely not boring. Vertigo actually gets more interesting as things go along, not duller and preachier.

But what the hey, everybody has a nose and everybody has an opinion.

The trouble with GSN

GSN's massive schedule changes later this month have set off much chatter on the network's Internet board. Of course, I can't resist tossing in a comment or five, especially about GSN's permanent problem...

Other poster: Looks like GSN is kicking DOND to the curb. Second show that gave GSN great ratings and they are tossing it in the trash.

Welcome to commercial television. Once upon a time Deal or No Deal gave NBC really good ratings, too. The ratings went away, and DOND followed.

Pure unadulterated fantasy: GSN runs a 7:00PM-11:00PM stack of last year's Wheel of Fortune on Sunday night. It would make Harvey Feud's numbers look picayune. Check the daytime Black Friday, 2010 marathon if you don't believe me. Even further-out fantasy: a 7:00PM-11:00PM stack of last year's The Price is Right on Monday night.

But that's the problem with GSN. It's not really Game Show Network. It's Game Shows They Let Us Run Network. If GSN could only get the top-of-the-line stuff like recent Wheel and TPiR, they could rack up really good numbers and maybe get full distribution on the cable/satellite systems.

But for one reason or another, GSN doesn't have access to the top-shelf programming in the genre. Even though it's the only game show cable outlet in the country.

Garry in a crate

News has slowed to a trickle on a lazy Saturday. So it's time to dip back into Richard Carson's superb collection of I've Got a Secret clips on YouTube.

Richard has uploaded the entire December 26, 1956 episode. The panel took "revenge" on host Garry Moore for various indignities during the past year. The episode was actually a little clunky, but it did end in a great stunt. The panel literally crated up Garry and sent him off to the NYC jazz club Birdland to play drums with Count Basie's band.

They rolled the crated Garry to a pickup truck waiting outside the studio and sent him off to his jazz gig. The primitive technology of the day made it all a bit clumsy and badly lit, but that's sort of charming to watch nowadays. You get a genuine feeling of New York City street life as Garry is hoisted into the truck and then rolls away to his date with Basie.

I've Got a Secret was always willing to try silly human tricks. Sometimes the stunts flopped, but this was live TV, folks.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sports are trivial

Comcast SportsNet Chicago is adding another sports trivia show this Sunday called Gas Money.

The network already runs The Batter's Box, a baseball trivia show, which I guess has done halfway okay. Otherwise, it's hard to see why the network would try another sports quizzer. This new effort "hits the streets of Chicago and takes viewers to the biggest sporting events in town to test Chicago sports fans knowledge on some very challenging Chicago sports trivia questions."

Outside of baseball, my knowledge of sports trivia is very limited, and Chicago sports trivia is really terra incognita for Latinate moi. The pictured Luke Stuckmeyer will host, adding to his current chores on Batter's Box. The contestants could win $130 in gas money if they know enough stuff. At least the prize budget won't break the bank.

Sports networks have tried lots of trivia shows over the years. It's such a narrow niche within a niche that the shows generally don't prosper. But maybe Chicago fans are different.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Eat this up

Confession: I don't like to cook. But I did like Iron Chef, more for the goofy Japanese fake-mythology than the actual culinary art. GSN has decided to try a down-home version of those cooking battles in Beat the Chefs.

Hollywood Junket got a reporter into one of the show's tapings, who proceeded to give the project a rave review. "Beat the Chefs is a guaranteed winning show that I predict will be perhaps the network’s most successful show yet! And I mean extremely successful." Um, okay. GSN's audience has usually not received offbeat shows too kindly over the years.

The premise for the cook-off is simple. Amateur chefs in a homey kitchen try to whip up better food than professional chefs Jeff Henderson, Antonia Lofaso and Beau MacMillian, who work in a state-of-the-art restaurant setup.

As with Iron Chef, the judges decide the winners with a taste test at the end of the show. The two permanent judges are food experts (so I'm told) Brad A. Johnson and Christy Jordan. Each week also brings an amateur judge, like reality starlet Melissa Rycroft. The host is Matt Rogers of American Idol notoriety.

This is a risk for GSN, no doubt. We're not talking about a quizzer or word game here. Will GSN's viewers decide this project belongs on Food Network? We'll start getting the answer on August 23.

UPDATE: GSN has sent out the pdf schedules for the weeks of August 20-26 and August 27-September 2. You can check them in the sidebar. American Bible Challenge and Beat the Chefs get lots of repeats besides their first-runs on Thursday night, as you might expect. The repeats even show up in prime time on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I've seen this movie before with short-run GSN originals, and it generally doesn't work out well.

Other changes: Deal or No Deal disappears completely - it once dominated the network - and 5th Grader and Whammy get some new slots.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Back for more clues

GSN's Pyramid debuts on September 3. At BuzzerBlog Chad Mosher chats about some of the tapings.

Without going into all the details, the show plays everything very retro. The conventional (though not original) seven-clues-in-thirty-seconds format is used. Even the set doesn't depart too much from the old Dick Clark layout, though things look a little plexi-glassy. At least there are triangles all over the place.

GSN is trying a few differences in the cash prizes and the tie-breaker. But those are just minor tweaks. A lot of The Price is Right traditionalists hollered about host Mike Richards, due to his alleged crimes and misdemeanors as TPiR producer. I'm notoriously TPiR-indifferent, so those yelps never bothered me. Pyramid's format is so strong that any competent host can carry the show.

Chad's biggest complaint concerns some supposedly less than expert celebs. It's true that Pyramid is a demanding format, and Bob Stewart brought the same celebs back again and again because they could play the game well. GSN will probably find some reasonably good players sooner or later.

All in all, I'm looking forward to September 3. It's been a long time coming for a Pyramid revival. Tomorrow I'll post about Hollywood Junket's report on GSN's Beat the Chefs tapings.