Monday, December 31, 2012

A summing-up

As one more year wanes, why not look back a little? A zillion other bloggers are running their top moments of 2012 in all sorts of subjects. I don't have a list but I do have a number. This will be my blog's 367th and last (barring huge news) entry of the year. That's down a bit from 2010-11, but the faux tweets explain the slight decrease. Stories that might have gotten a full entry in previous years now get a quick and dirty dust-off in the sidebar.

In fact, taking into account the tweets, I've probably spilled more phosphors on the blog in 2012 than in any other year. A surprising number of new game shows cropped up this year, each spawning a bunch of entries and tweets. If you care at all, my favorite new show was GSN's Pyramid. But I had a depressing idea (borne out by Nielsen events) that the show would suffer a been-there-done-that reaction from viewers. It was just too similar to the classic Dick Clark version.

Speaking of which, I'll probably close out the year with a few peeks at GSN's all-day marathon of old and new Pyramid. Despite continual prophecies of doom, traditional game shows somehow survive and even prosper. We'll see what 2013 brings for our little genre.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Drawing the line

I've been posting items and ratings for Killer Karaoke. Most media stories, though, call it (dreaded term) "reality TV" and not a game show.

But most everybody calls Beat the Clock and Minute To Win It game shows. So I think Killer Karaoke qualifies for the beloved title. It's just another studio stunt show, though the stunts are really gross.

The line between reality TV and traditional game shows can be notoriously hard to draw. Even hardcore reality like Survivor often looks like a protracted game show dragged out of the studio and into some godforsaken corner of the planet. And some wild-eyed fanatic might think Jeopardy isn't a game show because Alex's contestant interviews get too reality-ish.

But what the hey, I reluctantly covered Fear Factor on this blog. Killer Karaoke is more of a traditional game show than the Joe Rogan things-go-boom epic. I've also covered chess and poker shows, though the purists would flay me for calling them game shows. So Killer Karaoke is here to stay, even if I'm not overly fond of the grubby stunts.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The hosts with the mosts

My son, whose hands are visible in this blog's picture of our dog, gave me a nice Christmas present. As you can probably guess from the image, the present was David Baber's compendium of factoids and comments on 32 game show hosts.

Although written in 2008 the book leans heavily toward the past. Don't bother looking for Meredith Vieira or Howie Mandel, for instance, even though both had established themselves as successful hosts by 2008. In fact, the book would make a nice present for the older-is-better crowd on the GSN Internet board. (I'm currently having one of my periodic spats with the crowd, by the way.)

I've only begun browsing through the book's gazillions of facts about the 32 hosts. There's no way I can vouch for the authenticity of every item because I just don't know enough about these gentlemen's careers. (And they are all men, it should be noted.) But Baber does a nice job of squeezing a ton of information into a few pages for each host.

There are plenty of photos in the book, albeit in black-and-white. I'll read through some of my favorite hosts first, like Bill Cullen and Garry Moore. Eventually I'll try to hit them all, right down to Dennis James and Jim Peck.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A big win?

Browsing through the Google news cache today, I ran across this item from a local news site. I used it for a faux tweet but it may deserve an entry of its own. Seems that something big might happen on Wheel of Fortune tonight. Like the second biggest win ever on the show.

The news story is about one of the contestants on the show, an administrative assistant named Robyn Martini (see the photo), who's throwing a viewing party tonight. I have no idea if the story is accurate. I haven't gotten any tips from anybody about a big WoF win. But such things usually leak, so the story might be true.

I won't be able to watch the show tonight because of a family dinner. But for the record, the current second biggest win is reportedly $142,550 from a 2006 episode. The biggest Wheel of Fortune win, as most game show fans know, is Michelle Loewenstein's million-dollar victory in 2008.

I'll check back later to see if the show tonight lives up to the (maybe) billing.

UPDATE: Cindy Kling of Washington does take down the second biggest haul ever, $147,000. You can read all about it on the episode thread at Buy a Vowel. Or you can watch on YouTube.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ratings: good news (sort of) for Jerry!

TVNewsCheck reports that there wasn't much movement for syndicated game shows in the week of December 10-16. But poor Jerry, perennial bottom-feeder among the syndies, did get a smidgen of good cheer. Otherwise, it was mostly flat or blah. The household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 6.6 - up a solitary tick, not to be left behind by the soulmate
Family Feud 4.6 - flat but Steve won't mind this number
Millionaire 2.3 - down a tick, poor Meredith is just hanging on
Baggage 1.2 - up a tick, let's hear it for Jerry!

TV by the Numbers brings the viewership averages for the top three: Wheel of Fortune 11.5 million (weekend repeat 4.0 million), Jeopardy 10.0 million, Family Feud 6.7 million. Said it before, but these numbers make a lot of broadcast prime time shows look pale. Yes, game shows skew old. But all of TV, like all of the world, is skewing older nowadays. Birth rates are falling everywhere, he noted demographically.

Meanwhile, Steve Harvey's Family Feud continues to dominate GSN's ratings to a ridiculous extent. The bald media conglomerate took 18 of the top 20 slots in the week of December 17-23. The viewership averages were an okay if not spectacular 308K/239K prime time/total day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Marathon reactions

Spent a lot of time with GSN's Match Game marathon today. Naturally, I had to share some of my profound musings with the GSN Internet board, especially about two rarities, the Bert Convy pilot episode for Match Game 90 and the first ever episode of Match Game 98 on the network...

Other poster: Convy was a perfect host for this show as I expected, Match-Up was not missed, and even with Brett not there, they had an all-around hilarious panel with good chemistry.

Yeah, I liked the Convy MG90 pilot better than the matched-up version that finally made it to air. More humor, less gameplay. That's the best idea for Match Game.

And somewhere there should be a Match Game circle of hell for Judy Tenuta [on MG98]. I don't know how the rest of the panel didn't strangle her. Anyway, a very enjoyable marathon. Got to watching and couldn't stop.

Other poster: Michael Burger [on MG98] is a pretty good host (better than Ross Shafer IMO), and Vicki Lawrence and George Hamilton are good panelists, but Judy just casts a huge wave of annoyance on the whole show.

I've already consigned Judy to a circle of hell, so I can't disagree with this. I don't understand how the producers could have picked her, even if she worked for free. With a Tenuta-less panel, Berger would have had more control of the show and better interaction with far more tolerable panelists like Vicki and George. As it was, the show seemed out of Berger's (or anybody else's) control because Judy just would not shut up.

One bad choice really can kill a show. By the way, it didn't take long...somebody has already posted the Convy MG90 pilot from the marathon on YouTube.


It's Christmas morning and nothing's stirring in our house except my Dell mouse. So it's as good a time as any to speculate on why I write this blog.

It's not for the money. There isn't any. The only profit I've ever made from this blog was a bottle of champagne from GSN last year. Considering how I've ripped some of the network's shows, that may not have been a brilliant investment.

It's not for the fame. There is hardly any. Oh, my name is sometimes used in vain around the game show Internet boards. But to the world at large, I'm just one of the 888 gazillion bloggers in the cybernetic junkosphere.

It's not for the art of writing. There isn't much. Yes, I've mastered the knack of spilling a few paragraphs a day on game shows, but this is not a great leap forward for literature. Some would consider it a giant step backwards, in fact.

Basically, I just want to have a tiny corner of the Internet to myself. That's a pretty pitiful reason for this blog's existence, I know. In this topsy-turvy world, this blog doesn't amount to a hill of beans. But this is my hill...and these are my beans. (R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen.)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Say it ain't so, Brendy

Christmas Eve has quieted most game show news, except for the ongoing pronunciation spat on Wheel of Fortune. But there's only so much you can say about a dropped "g".

So I'll do some real game show nerd stuff and comment on the recent notice about the GSN Internet board possibly closing. Brendy, the ever-helpful moderator at the board, posted a note that the forum may shut down due to declining traffic and the network generally not getting much out of the board. This provoked a lot of "don't do it!" posts. I chipped in my own laments...

I post here regularly, so of course I'm a "keep it" vote. Gotta admit I don't post as much as I used to because that silly little blog gets a lot of my piffle nowadays. But I crosspost back and forth a lot just to get some reactions from other posters here. I can understand why some folks at GSN wonder about this board. Is the network getting its money's worth? I'm not sure but I'd hate to see any game show forum go away.

Just one more comment about "declining traffic." That may be true but this board remains very busy compared to other game show sites like, say, Matt Ottinger's board. If this board shuts down, folks will just wander over to Matt's board and other sites. And frankly, some of those sites are a lot flame-ier and more immature than this board.

UPDATE: In other inside-the-game-show-blogosphere news, BuzzerBlog's Alex Davis posted a Christmas picture of himself and his sister. He says they'll look even more enthusiastic in the next holiday pic. One odd note: Alex looks a lot like my son minus his glasses.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Season's greetings

Even at this cynical blog I get into the Christmas spirit. Sort of. I rummaged through Richard Carson's I've Got a Secret channel at YouTube and couldn't resist this Christmas present from the December 23, 1959 episode (see the screenshot).

IGAS did a few of these last-name stunts, where they got a bunch of people whose last names made up a song lyric or some such. The most famous was the off-key Sommerstein epic from 1963.

The panel guessed this Christmas secret pretty quick, with Betsy Palmer landing on the key idea of the people's names. The group was quite a multi-culti mix, as Bess Myerson observed. But they were all New Yorkers except for Mr. Years from Philadelphia, which saved on transportation costs.

So as the contestants say, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year(s).

Saturday, December 22, 2012

More on that GSN marathon

Got the e-mail from GSN and posted the results on the network's Internet board...

The revised pdf schedule with the entire Christmas Day Match Game marathon is now up on the blog. In case you're interested, the episode number for the Match Game 98 ep is MG98021, which I guess indicates a show pretty early in the run. The Bert Convy Match Game 90 pilot is just listed as "Pilot 3."

By the way, Joe Van Ginkel has uploaded his Match Game 98 episode with the same lineup of celebs to YouTube. I doubt it's exactly the same ep as in the GSN marathon, but you can watch the panel in action. Joe, of course, would later show up as a contestant on GSN's Russian Roulette. His Match Game opponent's mother and aunt were both contestants on the classic 1973-82 version.

I agree with one of the YouTube commenters that panelist Judy Tenuta was the worst. But for some reason Joe thinks Vicki Lawrence disliked him. Joe defends the 1998 version in his onscreen notes about the show. I do agree that Michael Burger did an okay if somewhat bland job as the host.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Your humble blogger likes a screaming controversy as much as anybody. And Wheel of Fortune unleashed a doozy on Wednesday when they shafted ruled against a contestant for a dropped "g" on "Seven swans a-swimming."

All sorts of phosphors have spilled on the Internet about the horrid injustice of this outrage against humanity, decency, and better and brighter game show judging. Well, I dunno. It's always a good idea on Wheel to pro-nounce ev-er-y syl-la-ble and ev-er-y sound as distinctly as possible. When you drop a "g," you're dropping it at your own risk.

Of course, the contestant who ended up winning the puzzle and the show had no regrets at all. "The experience was amazing. It was surreal. I still can't believe that I did it, until I watch it tonight," cooed winner Amy Vincenti. As they say, Amy, history is written by the winners.

Losing contestant Renee Durette grinned and bore it. She also wound up with $8,200, so it's not like she bombed out completely. For more fun and games, you can check the episode thread at Buy a Vowel.

UPDATE: An eventful week on Wheel of Fortune ends with contestant Leanne McLaughlin setting a main game record of $69,300 in winnings. She couldn't H-I-T T-H-E B-U-Z-Z-E-R in the bonus round, though.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mind game show

Let's switch from Match Game to brain games. The World Mind Games, a sort of low-rent Olympics of five different brain strains - go, chess, bridge, draughts (fancy checkers) and xiangqi (a very distant cousin of chess) - just wrapped up in China.

The event even had its own video channel on YouTube, where you could watch some of the more intellectually challenging game shows you'll ever see. Gotta admit it wasn't as much fun as Gene Rayburn and his merry band of half-drunk celebs. But I still watched a bit of the proceedings...even when I didn't have a clue what was going on, as in the xiangqi competition. What are those mysterious symbols on the pieces, anyway?

One of the go players was very easy on the eyes, and I couldn't resist a screenshot of her. Not sure how she finally did in the competition, but I hope she at least got a nice parting gift.

America's top-ranked chess player, Hikaru Nakamura, went home with nearly fifty grand in prize money plus his appearance fee. Okay, it's not Ken Jennings money, but Nakamura didn't have to come in first seventy-four straight times. In fact, he finished second three times but still took home some nice loot.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The 1998 version

The news that GSN will finally show an episode from the 1998 version of Match Game as part of the Christmas Day marathon has game show nerds chattering. This version has long been abominated as the worst ever. I chip in some deep thoughts on the GSN board...

To be honest, I've never seen much of the 1998 version. There are a few eps on YouTube, so I watched one of them. Judy Tenuta was completely obnoxious but the episode wasn't particularly dirty. Worst word I heard was "poop," and that term was occasionally heard on the classic 1973-82 version. I remember an especially hilarious use of the word by McLean Stevenson.

By the way, the NBA's John Salley showed up as a panelist. Game show vet Vicki Lawrence turned in the best celeb performance, I thought. In fact, she seemed several cuts above the other panelists. Too bad they couldn't find better partners for her on the panel. All in all, the ep was kind of bland - except for the godawful Judy - but not the worst thing I've seen. Though I have to admit Judy did her best to send me away screaming. We'll see what GSN's episode looks like.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Match Game through the ages

As a faux tweet noted, GSN has released the schedule for the Christmas Day Match Game marathon, including the 1962 pilot and the 1973 pilot.

The marathon covers every version of the show, from the 1960s through the ill-fated 1998 revival. Naturally, though, most of the episodes come from the show's 1973-82 heyday. GSN's Internet board is buzzing with the news, and I buzz right along...

The 4:00PM hour has a 1998 episode and a "TBD" episode, as listed in the GSN press release going around the Interwebs. (The release even landed in my inbox, and lots of other people got it. Chad Mosher used it for his post on BuzzerBlog.) Once the "TBD" is filled in, they'll probably send out a new pdf schedule.

I'm not sure, but has the 1998 version been shown on GSN? I don't recall it ever showing up on the schedule. The episode in the marathon features host Michael Burger and regular panelists Nell Carter, Judy Tenuta, George Hamilton, Vicki Lawrence and Rondell Sheridan.

Other poster: For the Match Game marathon, I noticed that the 1990 episode listed on the PDF is marked "New".

Hard to believe that GSN has never shown this episode of MG90, because the show's had a few go-rounds on the network. The episode will certainly be new compared to the last few years.

Match Game '90 turned up in the montage that launched GSN back in December, 1994. The show goes way back on the network. I think it might have been on the original schedule. Well, yes it was.

Ratings: syndies step back

Syndicated game shows paused and regrouped (a military euphemism) after a week of season highs.  TVNewsCheck tracks the less than inspiring news for the week of December 3-9. It wasn't all bad as a couple shows managed to hang onto what they had. But nobody took a step forward. The blah numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 7.2 - down three ticks
Jeopardy 6.5 - flat, which is better than the soulmate
Family Feud 4.6 - down three ticks
Millionaire 2.4 - flat, which ain't bad in this week
Baggage 1.1 - down a tick, poor Jerry, already trailing and getting further behind

TV by the Numbers runs through its usual top 25 list, which has the viewership averages for the biggest three game shows: Wheel of Fortune 11.2 million (weekend repeat 4.0 million), Jeopardy 9.8 million, Family Feud 6.8 million. The numbers are hardly terrible but still down from last week for WoF and Feud.

GSN averaged 305K/229K viewers prime time/total day for the week of December 10-16. The numbers could be better but they're not disastrous by the network's historic standards.

NBC's Take It All closed its run on December 17 with forgettable ratings: 1.5 18-49 with 4.5 million total viewers. The show lost altitude as the run went on, and I don't have many hopes for its survival.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Moving right along

A thread on Matt Ottinger's board discussed the vexed question: just how long is a Jeopardy round?

One poster timed a couple rounds and found that the average length was about six minutes, with all or almost all of the clues getting used. If you do the math, that means a clue every twelve seconds. We're motoring, folks.

Jeopardy does make just about every other show look poky. Well, maybe Pyramid hurries by even faster. And Jeopardy is a little odd among game shows in that the final round is the slowest of the game. After all the speed, we're ready for a change of pace, I guess.

Especially with quizzers, I've always preferred a quicker pace. But I'm getting less dogmatic as the years pile up. Maybe my ancient self is starting to tolerate a more leisurely tour through the Q and A. But I doubt that Jeopardy will slow down any time soon.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hunting the wild bargain

It's been a while since I dropped by Game Show Garbage. Turns out they've been trashing shopping shows from the 1980s.

Gotta admit this is hardly my area of expertise (as if I have any areas of expertise to begin with). I've never much cared for shopping games, as my notorious indifference to The Price is Right attests. But I decided to check out one of the shows which GSG abominates, called Bargain Hunters.

YouTube offers an episode - there aren't many in the short-lived 1987 show's run - and I settled in for a look. Really, for what the shopping sub-genre is, this show isn't awful. Contestants compete in various pricing games until three of them are left for the bonus round. In that "Super Saver" round they try to select which items would save them the most money at the announced prices.

It just seems like a cut-rate TPiR, not terrible, not great. Peter Tomarken hosts competently as always, though he tells one contestant that he likes the New York Yankees (yuk). The pricing games are occasionally interrupted by Home Shopping Network-ish pitches for the audience to buy various trinkets and knickknacks.

I know GSG has to exaggerate the sheer horribleness of their inductees to the Hall of Shame. But this show hardly seems to deserve infamy. I didn't like it much but you know me and shopping games. In fact, something like Bargain Hunters might liven up the proceedings on the current Home Shopping Network.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Circuit city

A faux tweet linked to an interesting story about Jesse Meyen, who's made a hobby out of appearing on game shows. I've made a hobby out of blogging about the things, so I guess that gives us something (sort of) in common.

Jesse's a teacher in L.A., so he needed something to do during those long summer months. He got tired of mundane odd jobs and decided to try out for Deal or No Deal. That audition didn't click because Jesse apparently didn't have the "big personality" so beloved by casting directors.

But Jesse disagreed. He thought his personality was big enough to get onto a game show somewhere. He tried an MTV project but got bounced because he didn't fit the youth demo. Still, the casting folks passed his application on to 5th Grader. He missed the network version but finally got his turn on the syndie and won $6,500.

His hobby was already paying a lot better than mine. A fellow teacher suggested he make the rounds of the "game show circuit." He tried Minute To Win It but didn't get to the 60-second circle. He did get a gig on NBC's short-lived Who's Still Standing. Sadly, he didn't stand for long. But he still liked the show and wondered why it got axed so quickly. I liked the show, too, by the way.

All along Jesse had his eye on the granddaddy of them all, Wheel of Fortune. Finally, his chance came and he made good for $16,700 of loot. "I spent 30 minutes — actually 22 minutes of actual film time, and it only took about 30 minutes all together — and came away with the money." Now he's thinking about Family Feud. Good luck.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sixty-four thousand dollars

I've gotten into a black-and-white-show rut here, but I'll get out of it soon enough. Besides, the only mildly interesting current game show news is that Take It All is crashing and burning in the ratings. Which is kind of depressing for the genre, even if the show isn't the greatest ever. Anyway, from the GSN board about the upcoming What's My Line/I've Got a Secret run...

Other poster: GSN just might think of expanding the block to also include other favorites and perhaps bring back the original Password with Allen Ludden and bring some new favorites like the 64,000 Question...

Please. GSN would never run a show tainted in the rigging scandals. Although 64K Question wasn't as blatantly rigged as, say, Twenty One, the sponsor Revlon still tried to manipulate the results in ways that would bring down the wrath of Standards and Practices nowadays.

Though GSN would never touch the show, YouTube isn't so scrupulous. You can watch a typical episode here. Joyce Brothers shows up! The married contestants know their Sherlock Holmes...if the episode is on the up and up.

Another poster: Yeah, but watching a show like 64 K or Twenty-One would be fun knowing the brilliant answers were probably rigged.

Joyce Brothers actually won her 64K Question money fair and square. Revlon was trying to rig the show to get rid of her. They couldn't do it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Blocked out

GSN kicks off its annual holiday run of What's My Line and I've Got a Secret next Monday. The first WML ep dates from almost sixty years ago, February 8, 1953. Your humble blogger was one year old at the time, and What's My Line panelist Hal Block got fired after the episode.

Block would actually appear on three more episodes, but his fate was sealed. He was just too crude for the show, as this attack on Miss America demonstrated. (Note John Daly's sour face after Block's shenanigans.) Back then Block's unwanted attentions to the young lady were semi-acceptable. Nowadays he'd get a sexual harassment suit, and he might get slugged.

Block was replaced by the far smoother and more debonair Steve Allen. He was hardly ever mentioned on the show after his departure, and he has mostly slipped down the memory hole. But What's My Line used his services for a couple years as the show struggled to establish itself. Once WML found its feet, Mark Goodson felt secure enough to serve Block his walking papers. Gil Fates did the deed, and Block did not accept the firing graciously.

Hal Block died on June 16, 1981 at age 67. Wikipedia offers an extensive biography.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Back and forth on Take It All

Got into a spirited discussion with another poster on the GSN board about Take It All. Some of the back and forth...

Other poster: Some general info about those aspects of the production are explained by the warm up announcer [on The Price is Right]. That's NOT coaching. That's necessary production housekeeping information that is conveyed to the audience as a whole. AFTER the contestants are selected and have made their way up on stage and completed their game segment, then they are given some general stage instructions, regarding spinning the wheel and then later participating in the showcase round.

Those "instructions" are what's called "coaching." I'm not alleging anything nefarious or that TPiR is rigging anything. Standards and Practices is on the job. But you didn't like that Take It All's contestants are coached. So are TPiR's. So are every game show's contestants. Big deal. The shows aren't rigged, which is what counts.

Other poster: The term "Coached" contestants refers to those who are selected through a lengthy audition process. Price is Right has never employed that aspect of it's production design.

TPiR has done auditions around the country. Who cares? The link shows lots of interesting photos from a Minnesota audition. The process looks pretty "lengthy" to me. Hundreds of folks showed up to be vetted for a second round of auditions. But again, who cares about the length of the audition process? By the way, I like the wannabe contestant with the "Make my Drew come true" t-shirt.

Other poster: I stick to my opinion that the endgame as presented on Friend or Foe was indeed much more heartfelt due to the fact that it was not polluted by the illusion of winning artificially inflated dollar amounts.

I agree that Friend or Foe was dirt cheap. This was GSN, after all. Didn't make the show any more heartfelt. Just the opposite, in fact. Contestants lied to each other's faces for a pitifully few bucks.

Other poster: And Kennedy was a thousand-fold more sincere and believable of a host than Mr. Howie.

Sorry, never was much of a Kennedy fan. To me she usually came off as chilly and sarcastic. That's probably why GSN got her for such a coldhearted show as Friend or Foe.

Other poster: All that said, episode Two of Take It All was much more entertaining than episode One.

Really? I thought the second ep was pretty much the same as the first, except the contestants ended up shafting each other in the prisoner's dilemma round.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ratings: season highs all over

Syndicated game shows rebounded with a vengeance after a (literally) turkey week. As the nights get longer and the PUT levels rise, everybody gets happy in Nielsen country. Well, almost everybody. Broadcast network TV ain't feeling so swell as cable and satellite and the Internet continue to devour more share points. But TVNewsCheck spreads good cheer and glad tidings for syndies in the week of November 26-December 2...

Wheel of Fortune 7.5 - up twelve ticks to a season high and leads all syndicated shows
Jeopardy 6.5 - not to be left behind, the soulmate moves up ten ticks to a season high of its own
Family Feud 4.9 - up eight ticks to another series high for the current syndie run
Millionaire 2.4 - up three ticks and Meredith can use the good news
Baggage 1.2 - flat, poor Jerry

TV by the Numbers has the impressive viewership averages for the top three: Wheel of Fortune 11.9 million and knocking on the twelve mill door, Jeopardy 9.9 million and knocking on the ten mill door, Family Feud 7.3 million and busting through the seven mill door. People just like word puzzles, quiz clues and survey sayings.

TVNewser says that GSN stuttered to its worst week in a while for December 3-9. The network averaged 287K/233K viewers prime time/total day, and ranked 44th and 42nd in the windows. I look for some changes in prime time if the bad news continues.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Take it or leave it

Once upon a time I played white elephant with my wife's church choir. Can't remember what prize I ended up with. Which probably means it wasn't worth much.

So Howie Mandel's new game show Take It All seemed vaguely familiar to me. Five contestants played three rounds of white elephant. They either kept a prize from the show or tried to take a prize away from another contestant. At the end of each round the player with the cheapest prize went home with nothing.

This part of the game had a The Price is Right-ish feel, as our heroes had to figure out if their prizes were expensive enough to get them to the next round. We got hit with bouts of screaming and crying as Howie revealed the prize values at the end of each round. Wouldn't you know, one particularly weepy contestant really got on my nerves. Of course, she was one of the two players who survived to the endgame.

That endgame didn't have anything to do with white elephant. Instead, the two remaining contestants faced off in a Friend or Foe-like prisoner's dilemma round. They tried to talk each other into being friendly and sweet and not trying to hog all the prizes. And again, wouldn't you know, the contestant who got on my nerves played screw-thy-neighbor, locked in the "take it all" choice, and walked off with all the loot. Because the other guy played nice with the "keep mine" choice.

The poor guy who got screwed looked like Santa Claus, by the way. No ho-ho-ho for you, pal. Take It All was loud and almost brainless, but it passed the time well enough. Howie seemed to be enjoying himself, anyway. And although I didn't like the lie-fest in the prisoner's dilemma round, I have to admit that it produced some genuine suspense.

UPDATE: Take It All does okay but not spectacular numbers. A 2.2 18-49 rating with 7.1 million total viewers. Second in the timeslot in both measures behind 2 Broke Girls.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mr. Bill

Some folks on the GSN board belatedly noticed that the network's new version of Pyramid has lost its weekday slot. A poster gets upset about the replacement...

Other poster: However, Engvall's garbage Lingo replacing [GSN Pyramid]? Are you serious? That show sucks!

Disagree completely. I thought Engvall Lingo was a nice change from what had become a pretty stale version with Chuck and Shandi. Yeah, people whined about the slightly off-color humor, but Engvall was funny and pleasant as the host. People also whined about the clues but they gave an interesting extra dimension to the gameplay. The clues could be both distracting and helpful to the contestants. A clever touch.

Anyway, the show did generally decent ratings, so somebody out there liked it. But Engvall Lingo was a change from a long-established traditional version, so it was bound to take its lumps on the largely traditionalist game show Internet boards.

Another poster: Correct, this isn't the first time that the Pyramids got mixed up on [Zap2it's] schedules. Before it actually did say "The Pyramid" as in GSN's version, and now it does show Donnymid for this weekend and next...... hmmmm guess we'll just have to wait and see.

The blog has GSN pdf schedules well into January now. In fact, I previously noted the replacement of GSN's Pyramid (and Deal or No Deal) on another thread.

You can't trust the pdfs, of course, but I tend to think they're more reliable than Zap2it's revival of Donnymid. Though I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Donnymid back on the schedule somewhere. Just as with Engvall Lingo, Donnymid got trashed on the game show Internets because it dared to tinker with a traditional format. But I liked the tighter time limit.

UPDATE: Zap2it was just wrong again. It's GSN Pyramid on today.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Who wants to be a quarter-millionaire

Let me first say that I'd be plenty happy to win $250,000.

But Millionaire's name looks more and more like false advertising. The last time anybody won a million on the show was in 2009, and that was a special "Tournament of Ten" stunt. The last time somebody won a million in regular gameplay was in 2003. Meanwhile, lawyer Dan DeLisio just became this season's third quarter-million winner.

Which, as I pointed out, is a very nice piece of change. And Dan deserves all the congratulations in the world. But it's become apparent that the show has little or no intention of handing out the (allegedly) top prize.

I really can't blame them. Millionaire's ratings have dwindled to an increasingly forlorn fourth place among syndie game shows. You have to expect a little penny-pinching, though I'm sure the show is still profitable at these levels. Nowadays a two rating means decent money in syndication, and Millionaire regularly achieves that number.

But golly gee whiz, it would be nice if the show really lived up to its name just one more time. Where have you gone, John Carpenter? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A cameo for Chuck?

The GSN board wanders into some offbeat discussions now and then. Lately posters have been chewing over a possible appearance of Chuck Woolery on that show with the big wheel. You know, the one Woolery left a while back...

Other poster: I would say the chances of Chuck appearing on WoF is slim to none - and slim is at the exit door.

I recall that Betty White turned up for a walk-on cameo on Wheel of Fortune a while back. I dunno, I could see something similar happening with Chuck (and Susan Stafford, for that matter) one of these years. Come to think about it, I could see them showing up together for a quick bow.

Another poster: There was some reference to Chuck Woolery on a syndicated Wheel of Fortune episode at one point. I think it was in the 1990s, or maybe even 1989, and it was a CLUE puzzle being "FIRST WHEEL OF FORTUNE HOST" (or along the lines).

Not so many years ago on WoF Pat Sajak got into a GSN-bashing mood and was joking about how Chuck had seventeen shows on the network. At the time, Woolery really did have a lot of shows on GSN. Now he's nowhere to be seen on the network.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's a scream

Watched Wheel of Fortune tonight with my wife. One contestant - I don't remember her name and she's not the one in the picture - got on my wife's nerves. This contestant happened to be good at the game, and every time she solved a puzzle she would let out a scream or three. Pretty soon my wife was rooting against her, in a vain effort to shut off the hollering.

Sadly for eardrums around America, the high-volume contestant kept winning, and screaming, right up to the bonus round. I realize game shows often recruit contestants for their vocal cords. Loud reactions make for raucous TV, and raucous is supposed to be better than quiet. But after a while diminishing returns set in. When a contestant yells after every success, the bellowing soon seems more forced than spontaneous.

Producers should still look for excitable contestants who visibly enjoy themselves on game shows. Fans like emphatic reactions to the gameplay. But it might not be a bad idea for contestants to tone it down a bit after letting out a few good squeals.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ratings: sweep up the syndies

TVNewsCheck tracked syndicated game shows for the entire sweeps period, October 25-November 21. They compared the ratings to last year's November sweeps. The big winner was Family Feud with better timeslots and media conglomerate Steve Harvey. Otherwise, the moves were relatively small...

Wheel of Fortune 7.1 - down three ticks from last year
Jeopardy 6.3 - up a tick
Family Feud 4.6 - up a whopping sixteen ticks
Millionaire 2.3 - down a couple ticks
Let's Ask America 1.8 - new kid on the syndie block is doing okay in its seven markets
Baggage 1.1 - other new kid on the block is barely visible

TV by the Numbers only offered the viewership averages for the top three shows during Thanksgiving week, November 19-25: Wheel of Fortune 10.0 million (weekend repeat 4.8 million), Jeopardy 8.5 million, Family Feud 6.1 million. All the shows were down from the week before, thanks to turkey dinners and other holiday festivities.

TVNewser's cable ranker revealed that GSN got 317K/248K prime time/total day viewership averages for the week of November 26-December 2. Nothing special but not terrible. Meanwhile, The Futon Critic tells us that truTV's gross-out singing game Killer Karaoke debuted with 1.21 million viewers November 23 but slipped to 837K on November 30.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Disney money

As if all the lawsuits on The Price is Right weren't enough, Millionaire also spawned a legal spat. The show's Brit production company Celador sued Disney for not sharing enough profits, or not being nice enough, or just for having too much money.

A while back Celador won a $320 million verdict against Mickey Mouse's kingdom. Naturally, Disney's lawyers appealed because they had nothing better to do. As noted in a faux tweet, the U.S. 9th Circuit has tossed the appeal, so the Mouse Bunch may have to pay up.

Or they may not have to pay up. These corporate legal wrangles go on forever. This suit has been percolating since 2004, for instance. The Disney folks keep a tight hand on their money and who knows what the next legal twist or turn might be.

There's money in successful game shows. And where there's money, there's lawyers. And where there's lawyers, there's...well, you get the idea. Just another lawsuit in our litigious little genre.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Llama lloss

Happened to see an episode of Minute To Win It on GSN today when the contestants bombed out on the first stunt. The word "llama" came to mind.

Game show nerds will know immediately what I'm talking about, and I'll let the rest of you in on the secret. When the world was new and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was young in August, 1999, an unlucky contestant named Robby Roseman clanked the very first question. The screenshot tells the story. Robby thought that Hannibal used llamas to nearly conquer Rome.

This might have been an interesting military tactic. Who knows, the Roman legions might have quailed before a herd of onrushing llamas. But Hannibal decided that elephants would be more impressive.

Regis had to give Robby the bad news that, despite his supposedly lucky underwear, he was gone before the hot seat even got warm. Ever since that unfortunate night, "llama-ing out" has meant crashing on the first level of a money-tree show. At least Robby got his fifteen minutes of fame and even a Honda Civic from Rosie O'Donnell.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A firing

All The Price is Right lawsuits remind us of the occasional spats behind the scenes in our little genre.

A classic like I've Got a Secret was not immune to such conflicts. On YouTube Richard Carson just posted the 6/11/58 episode, the last ever produced by Allan Sherman. The guest segment with Tony Curtis was seen as such a flop that Mark Goodson fired Sherman afterwards.

The segment does seem like a bore, with everyone yakking about kid games. Finally Tony Curtis tells substitute host Henry Morgan his secret: he's going to become a father (of Jamie Lee Curtis, by the way). You'll have to decide for yourselves if the segment was bad enough to get Allan Sherman fired. There was supposedly bad blood between Goodson and Sherman dating back to the show's origins. A YouTube commenter adds this note:
Allan's autobiography says that Goodson and he were at odds for awhile. He claims that Goodson bought the game concept from him and never gave him proper compensation or credit. After Allan became an overnight sensation in the early 1960's, he and Goodson made up and apologized.
An offbeat story, anyway, even if I can't vouch for it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Food and games

The chatter keeps going at the GSN board about Sony taking majority ownership. Somehow Food Network enters the palaver...

Other poster: Well, what kind of value would you give the Food Network and compare to GSN. can't compare 'em. One has food shows, and the other has game shows. And you didn't think I knew that?

Sure you can compare them. They're cable networks, after all. In the latest month Food Network averaged 948K/574K viewers compared to GSN's 315K/233K. In other words, Food Network did, oh, close to three times GSN's audience. The demos have to favor Food Network because you could hardly have less favorable demos than GSN. The foodies are also fully distributed on the nation's cable/satellite systems, unlike GSN.

So the revenue side has to weigh heavily in favor of the food folks. But there's the expense side, too. Guy Fieri and the other foodie talent doesn't come cheap. GSN, on the famous other hand, can fill lots of hours with reruns that cost pennies. So you might get a wider profit margin with our little game show network. Food Network also doesn't have the online gaming operations which have become so important for GSN. 

All in all, I'd say that if GSN deserves a $1.3 billion valuation, Food Network would have to be worth $2.5 to 3 billion, maybe more. But the $1.3 billion figure for GSN looks inflated to me, to be honest.

UPDATE: Just found some numbers on Food Network's finances. The network had quarterly revenues of $218 million in 2012 2Q. If the network really is bringing in something like $800 million in annual revenue, the above valuation looks reasonable unless expenses are completely out of control. Which they don't seem to be from the general numbers for Scripps Networks, the foodies' owner. The market capitalization for all of Scripps Networks is $9 billion or so, and Food Network looks like it deserves about a third of that because it generates about a third of the entire operation's revenue.