Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's not that easy

A faux tweet linked to a story about Broadway actor Jarrod Spector, who's a secret nerd.

To prove his nerdiness, he watches Jeopardy every night with his girlfriend. Nothing wrong with that. Alex appreciates every viewer. But then Spector takes a semi-swipe at the quizzer's soulmate: "She [the girlfriend] recently got me to watch Wheel of Fortune. That's a little bit lower brow, but I will indulge."

Okay, he's just cracking wise. But Wheel does get a lot of snobbish disdain, especially compared to Alex's endlessly honored quizzer. Thing is, I think Wheel is by far the harder game to play. I'm no genius (obviously) but it takes me a lot longer to latch onto the typical Wheel puzzle than the typical Jeopardy clue. If I say so myself, I know a lot of the clues on Jeopardy as soon as I see them. I never get any of the Wheel puzzles until a fair number of letters are in view.

I think it's the difference in atmosphere. Wheel has Vanna for decoration, fashion modeling and saying "Bye." The show is stuffed with commercials and generally takes itself a lot less seriously than Alex's august quizzer. Sajak is genuinely funny, as he's proved on Twitter, while Trebek doesn't even crack a smile for long stretches.

But "lower brow"? Not if that means the game is easy to play.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Missing in action

Even as I was posting a year-end list of game show doings, I was badmouthing year-end lists. But I'll try one more look back at 2013 from a game show perspective.

One thing I couldn't help noticing is that a few high-profile game show forums on the Net have closed down, either permanently or (let's hope) temporarily. The most obvious was GSN shuttering their Internet board. Network execs apparently got tired of the endless older-is-better slaggings of their schedule.

Another casualty, at least for the last six weeks or so, was BuzzerBlog, which has gone missing since early November.  Alex Davis has made a few noises on Twitter that he's involved in a major project that keeps him from running the long-time game show watering hole. It would be nice to see a comeback in the new year, but (cliche alert!) Alex has got to do what Alex has got to do.

To top it off, what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board is migrating to a new home and is closed to new posts, at least for now. While these developments aren't exactly swell, game show fans hardly lack for boards to fire off their opinions. A number of single-show boards remain alive, well and kicking, and several general TV forums offer frisky game show sections.

Beyond the comments on this blog, I have no intention of opening my own game show discussion forum. A commenter suggested the idea, but I just don't want to spend time and energy moderating a board. This is not my day job, after all.

UPDATE: Alex Davis just added a few posts to BuzzerBlog at year's end. The site has awakened. And Game Show Forum has completed their migration to a new hosting service. The first thread on the new site is about shows from the 1970s and 1980s. Who would have guessed that?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another Pawn Stars knockoff

I've never been in a pawn shop in my life. I wouldn't even know what to do in one of the places.

But then along came Pawn Stars, which somehow got huge ratings due to the weird items brought into the shop and the allegedly lovable interaction among the pawnbrokers. Suddenly, a cheap reality show about any pawn shop looked like the key to Nielsen riches. So knockoffs spread around the cable networks.

The latest gimmick is tying a game show to the pawn shop haggling. CMT did Win Lose or Pawn, previously reviewed on this blog (not too favorably, I'm afraid). Now Discovery has trotted out Game of Pawns, about a couple of allegedly lovable pawnbrokers in Branson, Missouri.

This is mostly dull reality fodder, as the pawnbrokers try to be as down-home folksy as possible. The tiny game show element is a quizzer they play with customers to see who gets the final price. I knew a few of the questions and I didn't know a few others. Some of the questions were ridiculously hard, which seemed unfair.

I felt a little sorry for the married couple who didn't get their price on their pedal-powered wienermobile. On their multiple-choice question, the only reasonable guess was Vienna as the city that gave the wiener its name. But the husband goofed, so he only got 200 bucks for his cute item.

Game shows are tough sometimes. And I can see why Discovery sat on this show forever and then dumped it into a throwaway Sunday afternoon slot during the holidays.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

From bass fishing to game shows

Game show news - like just about every kind of news - slows to a trickle this time of year. So when I wandered around Google News for game show tidbits, this item came back. Somehow a game show blooper reel showed up on a bass fishing forum.

Now I know Chuck Woolery was an avid fisherman and sold a lot of fishing lures in his time. But I don't think that's the connection here. Apparently news is slow in the bass fishing world, too. So they rustled up a game show blooper video from YouTube because, well, they didn't have much else to do.

Game show fanatics will recognize many if not most of the clips. The screenshot shows the poor guy who couldn't count the letters in "alligator." But his fellow team member couldn't count the letters in "frog," so he shouldn't feel too bad.

Yes, I feel a little guilty laughing at the clips. Lord knows what goofball-isms would emerge from my mouth if I was under that kind of pressure. Even bass fishers will probably show a little mercy toward the hapless contestants.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Passing the buck

I've occasionally seen comments on the game show Interwebs about people hardly ever passing on Family Feud.

This option has usually been part of the show, but it isn't used all that much. People want to play the game, I guess, even if the question is a toughie. You don't get TV time by handing the game to the other team and hoping they screw up.

Over the many years, I've seen the option work and I've seen it backfire. Trouble is, passing looks really bad when it doesn't work. If the other team cops the points, the pass looks like the dumbest, wussiest move in game show history. But that's the way it should be. The show wants to encourage people to play, after all.

Just as the pass looks pansy-ish when it flops, the steal looks gloriously unfair when it works. Mark Goodson once commented that the steal turned Family Feud into a dynamite format. Well, the format was pretty good to begin with. But the steal adds an edge of delicious larceny to the proceedings.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The show killer

Rambling around the game show Net, I came across this thread on TV Without Pity. The aficionados agree Rachel Bilson destroyed the world on the latest episode of Hollywood Game Night.

So I went over to NBC.com and watched the ep. Sure enough, Rachel did fine. She even got the judges to reverse a bad call against her. And she romped and stomped in the final round.

But let's hear it for civvie teacher Michael Ritchason, who crushed his hapless opponent. He was truly a pop culture beast (apologies to Mark Labbett). As for the show itself, I mentally grumbled through all my old complaints. The fake party atmosphere looks, well, fake. The constant pop culture drumbeat gets old. And Jane Lynch is competent but super-metallic.

But what the hey, I'm glad the teacher won a little money, even if twenty-five grand is too cheap. The ratings were soft but this is Christmas week, after all. The numbers might climb in January when the show returns.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Them freakin' numbers

It's a quiet Christmas day. So let's talk about an actuary's favorite subject: numbers.

I watched a little of GSN's Deal or No Deal marathon yesterday, and right away I got caught up in calculating estimated values, odds of best and worst scenarios, and possible next offers. That's what happens to an actuary plunked down in front of a deceptively simple game. There's a ton of probability and utility theory bubbling below DOND's seemingly mindless surface.

Numbers rule the world, after all. The entire TV industry is beholden to numbers cranked out every day by the Nielsen Company. Always the target of industry wrath, the Nielsen folks have really been catching it over the past decade from broadcast TV. The problem, of course, is that cable channels have been eating the broadcasters' lunch, dinner and next day's breakfast. So the broadcast folks whine that Nielsen is missing tons of viewers who are watching their shows...the shows with the woefully shriveled ratings compared to the good old days of the '60s and '70s.

In fact, some viewers of broadcast TV may be going uncounted. But let's get real. When the choices available to viewers exploded from the old network triopoly to today's hundreds and hundreds of channels, the old-line broadcasters were bound to suffer under any ratings system. Nielsen, with its effective monopoly of TV measurement, takes all the heat.

What does all this have to do with game shows? Our little genre has also gotten battered by Nielsen, thanks to endless data on traditional game shows' old skew. That's the kiss of death for many advertisers. So we game show fanatics can whine about Nielsen, too. Nobody likes the ref who makes the tough calls.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ratings: Santa smiles on syndies

Christmas Eve brought good news for most syndicated game shows, and there was no really bad news for anybody. TVNewsCheck spreads the holiday cheer with all the household ratings for the week of December 9-15...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 6.7 - up a couple ticks to match the soulmate
Family Feud 5.3 - up three ticks as Steve continues to distance himself from his old comedy buddy
Millionaire 2.1 - flat, at least the numbers aren't cratering for Cedric

Pat and Vanna again led the total viewer parade for all syndies. Alex and Steve joined them in the top ten, as usual. TV by the Numbers lists the viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.9 million (weekend repeat 4.2 million), Jeopardy 10.5 million, Family Feud 7.8 million. Nice figures all round, but Alex in particular has been churning out big totals.

Hollywood Game Night returned to so-so numbers: 3.5 million total viewers with a 2.3 household rating and a 1.0 18-49 rating. Pretty much the same blah numbers that closed out its summer run. We'll see if things pick up in January.

GSN had a not so great week for December 16-22. 292K/251K viewer averages prime time/total day. For once Steve Harvey's Family Feud didn't get the top slot. Chain Reaction did.

Five year-end thingies

Generally don't have much use for year-end lists. So naturally I'm going to do one. But I'll keep it light and brief. Just five game show notes...

(1) The Chase debuted to critical kudos (including mine) and okay but hardly spectacular ratings. GSN could use another Nielsen breakthrough like American Bible Challenge, but Brooke and friend weren't it. Still, the show definitely didn't flop.

(2) NBC tried a couple new formats: Million Second Quiz and Hollywood Game Night. They pulled similar numbers but only the Hollywood folks have made it to a second season so far.

(3) Cedric Kyles took over Millionaire and neither homered nor struck out. He kept the ratings pretty much where they were with Meredith for the past few seasons, maybe a tad lower. It could have been worse, but he worked no Steve Harvey Feud magic.

(4) National syndication should see a couple new shows next fall: the countrywide rollout of Let's Ask America and the Craig Ferguson project, Celebrity Name Game. Nice to get something of a revival in the game show syndication market, which dropped Jerry's Baggage after barely more than a season.

(5) And last but way, way not least...thanks to you, my readers. This blog enjoyed its most-viewed month in November and it's on track to break the record in December. Overall, 2013 will easily be my biggest year for pageviews. So thanks again and keep coming back, please. There's new stuff every day! Maybe not good stuff, but it's new...

Monday, December 23, 2013

Non-Christmas spirit

I know I should be getting into the spirit of the season. But a NY Post story on Hollywood Game Night - which I used in a faux tweet - irritates me for a couple reasons. Yes, it's just a throwaway entertainment story about a silly little game show, but jeez louise...

Does the story have to start with the required swipe at white men? This is special pleading because I'm a white guy myself, but the media seem determined to ridicule us into submission. Then there's the oohing and ahing over host Jane Lynch's female-ness.

Hey guys, Betty White won the first daytime Emmy for a female game show host three decades ago. GSN has been using female hosts for most of its history. The story itself mentions Meredith Vieira and (by slighting reference) Anne Robinson. It's not that big a deal any more.

Then the story coos endlessly over the celeb contestants on the show but dismisses the civvies as literally mere "mortals." All right, maybe there's a little humor intended in the "mortals" comment. But a photo in the story can't even bother to identify the civvie contestant, though it of course names the celebs. It's like the civvies are feudal serfs unworthy of notice.

By the way, Merry Christmas, everybody.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The envelope, please

Over at GSN The know, Pierre Kelly has handed out his second annual Know-It-All awards for the network.

If you can skip past the ads and the irrelevant music videos, there's some fun to be had. Pierre convokes an awards ceremony with all the deserving winners and losers making acceptance speeches and generally acting weird.

By and large I agree with the picks. The Best WTH Moment award goes to Family Trade. Gardner Stone (remember him from what seems like so long ago?) offers a moving - it moved him right off the network, for good - thank-you to the assembled dignitaries.

Best Show award goes to The Chase. Predictable but hard to argue. Best Host goes to Jeff Foxworthy. Predictable but...yadda-yadda. Funny thing, Steve Harvey barely gets a mention during the entire ceremony. Controversial as it might be, I would give him the Kept the Whole Damn Network in Business award.

One quibble. Sale of the Century is so not the deserving recipient of the Best Classic award. Match Game always and forever.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Deepest darkest game show Net world

Time for news from the nether world. Or the game show world on the Internet. Hard to keep them straight sometimes. Usually, I don't care about this deep inside-baseball stuff. But the latest news gives me a chance to spout off about a few bits of history.

Seems that both Game Show Forum and Golden Road have had some issues lately. Both sites went down for while, though they both seem to be working fine now. Naturally, each commented about the other's problems, GSF here and Golden Road here. Yes, such intramural ping-pong probably interests, oh, maybe seventeen persons on the planet. But those persons might like how the conversation eventually looks back to the ancient Usenet days of alt.tv.game-shows.

Even little old moi gets quoted on Golden Road about the insularity of Game Show Forum. I was mildly surprised to hear that GSF hasn't admitted any new members to its august assemblage for nearly a year. Most of the board is hidden away from the prying eyes of the hoi polloi, of course.

Once upon a long time ago I posted on GSF regularly. Then I got into a silly spat with the late David Zinkin, one of the moderators of the board. The dispute was trivial and reflected well on neither of us, I'm afraid. At least I did get this blog's reason for existence from Game Show Forum (see the sidebar). And the latest back-and-forth jogged some long-dormant memories about the history of our tiny corner of the Internet.

While I'm at it, I want to express my sadness over the terribly early death at age 29 of Travis Penery, a contributor to BuzzerBlog. I didn't know Travis personally, but Alex Davis has posted a wonderful tribute. R.I.P.

UPDATE: They've closed Game Show Forum entirely to new posts. Can't get more exclusive than that. Seems like the board is moving somewhere and will reopen sometime.

UPDATED UPDATE: In even more inside-baseball news from the game show Internet, I've been defriended by Game Show Newsnet. Didn't even notice it until today (December 23). But on August 15 I was still a friend, according to Internet Archive. By September 21 I was gone. Was it something I said?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fact-checking Jeopardy

Tonight's Jeopardy stumped me on the final clue. It asked for the 20th century literary movement whose name meant blessedness, not depression. Or something like that. I can't remember the exact wording.

After I sat there clueless for thirty seconds of think music, I learned that it was the beat movement. Supposedly Jack Kerouac intended the name to refer to beatitude, not to being down in the dumps.

Of course, I just believed the show when it revealed this. Not until an hour later did it dawn on me that even Jeopardy might not be impeccably correct. So I googled "beat movement named for beatitude" and came up with this link. Sure enough, there it was in black and white:
Kerouac went on to twist the meaning of the term "beat" to serve his own purposes, explaining that it meant "beatitude, not beat up. You feel this. You feel it in a beat, in jazz, real cool jazz".
Now maybe Google and Jeopardy are both wrong in exactly the same way, but that seems doubtful. Anyway, it's a little strange how much authority Jeopardy has acquired for me. I just assume the show knows what it's talking about on all those clues. Maybe I'm more naive than I care to admit.

UPDATE: JBoard.tv gives the exact wording of the final clue: "The writer who named this U.S. movement said the term referred to supreme blessedness, not exhaustion."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quiz the pawn stars

CMT finally debuted Win, Lose or Pawn in a lost timeslot. But I watched an episode online, and I'm here to tell you about it.

Long story short: it's Pawn Stars plus a quizzer. Contestants walk into a pawn shop through a heavily barred door and haggle with a pawnbroker named John over their prized possessions. After they agree on the money, host Frank Nicotero (from the late lamented Street Smarts) offers to add to the moolah if the contestants answer a few questions.

Many of the questions are ridiculously easy, a few are surprisingly tough. The first (tattooed and faux blonde) contestant was chosen for her possibly enhanced endowments, and she answered some of the questions. Then other contestants came in with other knickknacks and haggled a little and answered some more questions. The whole thing got repetitious in a hurry. But the first contestant's possibly enhanced endowments were still okay. See the screenshot if you don't believe me.

Really, Nicotero is the only reason to watch this thing. As always he's charming and competent. Otherwise, the show is monotonously dull and dully monotonous. Except for those endowments.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Church going

As a faux tweet noted, GSN has ordered eight episodes of the religion-based dating show It Takes a Church.

You could see something like this coming as soon as American Bible Challenge blew the Nielsen doors off for the network. Hey, if we can hit paydirt with a religious quizzer, why not try a religious Dating Game? Except we'll actually go to church to tape it. Grammy nominee Natalie Grant will host, probably with lots of smiles. She seems to be smiling in every publicity photo I can find.

I know I'm sounding a little cynical here. I can hardly blame GSN for trying to follow up its Jeff Foxworthy hit with another religion-themed show. And this dating show will probably be far more family-friendly than, say, Baggage. But will GSN try a religious word game, a religious shopping game, a religious stunt show, religious poker? After a while, diminishing returns have to set in.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ratings: syndies do okay

With the November sweeps in the books, TVNewsCheck returns to their usual format for syndication ratings in the week of December 2-8. They give the changes from the previous week, not the previous year. For the most part syndie game shows did okay, with a couple nice jumps and no big drops. The household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.2 - down a tick from a decent Thanksgiving week
Jeopardy 6.5 - up four ticks from a down week
Family Feud 5.0 - up six ticks from a really down week
Millionaire 2.1 - down a tick as Cedric pokes along behind

Cedric missed out on the top 25 list at TV by the Numbers. The other three shows turned in respectable viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.4 million to lead all syndies, Jeopardy 10.2 million to top the double digit mark, Family Feud 7.3 million.

TVNewser says that GSN produced what's becoming its usual performance. 324K/264K viewer averages prime time/total day for the week of December 9-15, ranking 44th and 41st in the windows. Not terrible, not great.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Wheeling through the world

This blog is hopelessly U.S.-centric, but once in a while the outside world breaks in. Like when Wheel of Fortune does a "Wheel around the world" week.

It's that time again, so Pat and Vanna are giving us glimpses of the international flavors. Tonight we got Hungary, Estonia, Georgia (the country, not Jimmy Carter's state) and Spain. One thing I noticed is that the foreign Vannas tend to be drop dead gorgeous. The Spanish co-host in particular was wearing shorts that were shorter than short, and she looked just fine in them.

The various Pats and Vannas didn't all have perfect command of English, but the message got through well enough. Folks everywhere like to spin the wheel and pick up some Euros or yen or pesos. Playing hangman for cash is fun, and you get to be on TV.

Worse things have spread around the world than this game show format...like war, famine, pestilence, and death. I don't think Wheel of Fortune will unite humanity in cuddly kumbaya harmony. But it can't hurt.

UPDATE: Tonight (Tuesday 12/17) we got the curvaceous Georgian Vanna cavorting in a bikini outfit. This is my kind of special week.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Before Psycho

Got the GSN schedule for December 23-29 and noticed a What's My Line episode with Janet Leigh on the panel.

Janet also appeared as a mystery guest on WML, but this January 9, 1955 ep was her only panel gig. The full episode is available on YouTube and features a girdle model, a piano tuner and (count 'em) two mystery guests. One of the mystery folks was Tony Curtis, then Janet's husband. Sadly, his identity had leaked to at least one newspaper, so they couldn't play the game with him. They just had Tony plug his latest movie and shake hands with everybody. Then they brought out another mystery guest, tennis star Bill Talbert.

Janet proved to be a competent panelist. Although she didn't guess anybody, she pushed the questioning along. An odd note: this ep was played under the original rules, so each panelist got one free guess before the "general questioning," as John Daly always called it. Janet almost nailed the girdle model with her free guess of "swimsuit model." It was a good hunch, given the contestant's statuesque proportions.

A few years later a certain well-known director made Janet a household name as the victim of Anthony Perkins' knife attack. But that was still in the future on that long ago January night. Janet Leigh died in 2004 at age 77.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rapid fire

If all those other game show sites can cover reality shows and improv comedy and whatnot, it's time for my own departure from traditional stuff. So let's talk about Internet chess shows. In particular, the ongoing London Chess Classic.

This year the event is rapid play. 25 minutes for all your moves, plus a 10-second increment per move. Back in my ancient high school days I played a lot of five-minute blitz, but never too many half-hour games. Rapid has become popular at grandmaster level because it allows better quality play than blitz but doesn't drag out forever. And there are a lot fewer draws than at long time limits.

Magnus Carlsen didn't show up for the Classic this year after winning the world championship, but the field is still very respectable, with seven of the world's top thirteen players. The pool stages of the event went pretty much according to rating strength, and we're now in the quarterfinals.

Despite severe technical problems yesterday, the Classic has generally put on its usual excellent Internet show. Various British GMs and IMs have commented competently and jollily on the games. My one quibble: Chris Ward's purple jacket has to go (see the screenshot).

UPDATE: U.S. number one Hikaru Nakamura won the tournament. The highlight was his semifinal win over Russia's Vladimir Kramnik in an insane endgame.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Three W's

Noticed an odd thread on what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board. It concerns the long ago game show - doesn't everything on that board concern a long ago game show? - called The Who, What, or Where Game.

NBC ran this quizzer from 1969 to 1974. Hosted by Art James, the show featured contestants wagering on questions about various and sundry topics. It was hardly the worst quizzer ever, and it's developed a bit of cachet because apparently only one episode survives, which produced the blurry screenshot.

The linked thread talks about a new political novel called Dissident Gardens. Miriam, one of the novel's put-upon radicals, appears on The Who, What, or Where Game (in a discursive and fictionalized account) and finishes third out of three. You can read much of the passage for free, thanks to Google Books. The final, sad summation:
She is the mother and housewife and she has placed third, no shame, in a contest with two men. The show's end is a kind of small death, covered in applause and prizes, and Miriam now finds it incredible that Art James and his staff can bear to enact more than one of these in a single afternoon.
Wouldn't you know that after all these years, game shows are still enacting the small deaths, and more than one in an afternoon.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A daughter

Sometimes there's no excuse for a blog entry.

For instance, I know what you're thinking about this entry. You think I posted this note about Pat Sajak's daughter Maggie just so I could get a picture of the pretty pre-med student/country singer (?) onto the blog. Well, you're wrong. Hey, this story about Maggie actually mentions game shows! She even talks about Wheel of Fortune…a little, sort of.

Okay, I did want to get Maggie's picture in here. I mean, it's a lot easier to look at than my picture, right? But while I'm at it, isn't pre-med student/country singer kind of an odd combo for a résumé? Was Reba McEntire a pre-med student? At Princeton, no less?

By the way, I checked out the latest full-year tuition and living expenses at Princeton. According to this website it's a paltry $53,367. Rumor has it that the Sajak household can afford the cost, thanks to that little wheel thing. But if Maggie sells a few country albums, the extra money won't hurt.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The return of the native

Once again this largely TPiR-indifferent blogger ends up blogging about The Price is Right. But if you care at all about game shows, you know that the biggest story this week is the return of Bob Barker to TPiR on Thursday. Hollywood Reporter offers the visual evidence.

Of course, Barker's presence pervaded the show even after his departure, as fans compared him to the current incumbent. For the record - not that anybody cares - I think Drew Carey has done a generally fine job of taking over for a legend. But it would be the ginormous game show understatement of all time to say that people disagree on this issue.

As everybody knows and as there's no reason to pretend otherwise, Bob Barker left a mixed legacy at the show. The long, sorry saga of model litigation (sorry for the pun) is annoying testimony on that point. But maybe with Bob at age 90 it's time to forget about all the unpleasantness for at least a little while. Let's just welcome Mr. Barker back to, well, the studio they named after him.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ratings: a placeholder

The latest syndie ratings aren't up yet, but I do have a bit of Nielsen news. So I'll share it and wait for the syndication numbers to catch up.

GSN turned in another so-so week for December 2-8. 320K/251K total viewers prime time/total day. That's not a wipeout by the network's historical standards, but it's nothing to write home about, either. (Though I am writing in a blog about it.) The network ranked 45th and 42nd in the windows. To state the glaringly obvious, GSN could use another ratings getter besides Harvey Feud.

As always, I'll link to the full GSN viewer numbers in the sidebar when Douglas Pucci publishes them. I also have a call in to GSN - well, actually an e-mail - about any further network schedules after December 16-22. Meanwhile, Zap2it lists a Christmas Eve marathon of Deal or No Deal and a Christmas Day marathon of the clip shows, Game Show Moments Gone Bananas. And an interesting story on GSN's financials (and their Bash bingo game lawsuit) gives a 2013 estimate of $97 million in earnings on revenues of $216 million for the operation.

UPDATE: TVNewsCheck has posted the November sweeps averages for the syndie game shows and the changes from November, 2012. The news is mostly good, with one glaring exception...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - up three ticks from last November
Jeopardy 6.5 - up a couple ticks
Family Feud 5.2 - the big winner, up six ticks for Steve
Millionaire 2.1 - down a couple ticks from Meredith last year for poor Cedric

All four of the shows (even Cedric!) made the top 25 syndie list at TV by the Numbers for the November 25-December 1 week. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.7 million, Jeopardy 9.6 million, Family Feud 6.6 million, Millionaire 3.1 million. Enough eyeballs to keep everybody happy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Shopping and dropping

Happened to catch an episode of Shop Til You Drop on GSN today. So I might as well review the cult favorite.

As readers of this blog may know, I'm not the biggest fan of shopping game shows, mainly because I'm not the biggest fan of shopping. But Shop Til You Drop wasn't just a shopping game, of course. It was a combination of stunts, quiz questions and shopping. Sort of Beat the Clock meets Jeopardy meets The Price is Right.

With a few breaks in the action, the show lasted for a decade-and-a-half in various series. GSN is running the 2000 shows with Pat Finn. This guy has always been controversial as a game show host because he often comes off as the non-puppet version of Guy Smiley. But he was certainly competent on STYD and kept the hellzapoppin' proceedings running smoothly.

The best part of STYD was the sheer pace. The show kept everybody bouncing around the set in a weirdly manic blur of games and stunts. Even the quizzer had the contestants hopping back and forth. Sometimes the stunts seemed beyond silly, especially when they dragged announcer Dee Baker into alleged "comedy" bits. But at least the pace never flagged.

I can see why the show lasted. It avoided boredom, which is the first and most important goal of any game show. The intellectual challenge wasn't stupendous, but there was enough activity to keep the audience interested.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The not so respectable Kevin

Kevin Pereira isn't always a squeaky clean employee of E.W. Scripps corporation on Let's Ask America. In his less goody two shows incarnation, he posts "Pointless" podcasts on the pleasantly named Deathsquad TV.

These Internet goodies allow Kevin, among other things, to rant about how much he needs money to finance his cocaine habit. Cocaine doesn't grow on trees, you know. Well, okay, it grows on plants but there are all those processing costs.

Scripps has a drug policy, so we can safely assume that such musings are all in jest. Still, the podcasts offer Kevin a chance to splatter four, six and twelve-letter letter words around a variety of geeky subjects. In fact, most of the topics look like refugees from Kevin's late lamented Attack of the Show on the late lamented G4. Video games, computer hardware and software, and other hot topics in geekdom.

Pereira probably regards the podcasts as his freaky night out away from the suits at Scripps. Funny thing, he usually wears a suit on Let's Ask America (see the screenshot). Kevin, you're getting to be a suit yourself.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

When Kirstie Alley was a civvie...

...she was a contestant on Match Game in 1979 and Password Plus in 1980.

YouTube, which never loses anything, has plenty of clips. Just search for Kirstie Alley Match Game and Kirstie Alley Password Plus. She was actually a good player on both shows, alert and sensible. She pulled down six grand from Match Game, equivalent to nineteen thousand of today's debased dollars. I'm not sure exactly how she did on Password Plus, but the clip reveals that she won at least one front game.

Kirstie identified herself as an interior designer on both shows. Wonder if she ever designed the interior of a bar in Boston? Probably not, but it would make for a nice cosmic coincidence. She looked cool and composed in front of the camera, without any of the nerves or gushiness you sometimes see from civvie contestants. The sangfroid would serve her well in later years.

Just two years after Password Plus, Kirstie broke out of interior design with a role in Star Trek: Wrath of Khan (1982). The rest is more or less public history. But once upon a time, she was just a civvie like the rest of us.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Guy's night out on the Internet

Now that I mentioned the debut of Money Where Your Mouth Is in a faux tweet, I might as well review the Internet mini-show.

For what it is, it's not bad. And what it is, is a bunch of guys hanging around and trying to act like guys. The NFL is one of the show's sponsors, so you can probably figure where the quizzer's questions are going. Lots of football and other XY-chromosome stuff.

Jay Mohr cracks wise often enough and successfully enough to avoid sounding as obnoxious as he sometimes does. A couple of nice-looking girls show up on camera regularly to give the audience something to look at besides other guys. The gameplay is mostly a goof, but who cares? We're not competing with Jeopardy here. Hey, Wheel of Fortune looks intellectual compared to this thing.

The Q&A passes by quickly, so even if you're not thrilled with the show, you won't drop many of your life's precious minutes on it. A sour note: I didn't like it when an airman's flight suit from World War II was pretty much tossed away as one of the show's objects of contention. If it was a real WWII flight suit, it deserved much better than such cavalier treatment.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ratings: syndies don't do bad

There were no declines among syndie game shows for the week of November 18-24, and a couple of upticks. So nobody could complain too much. TVNewsCheck has the generally encouraging news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.5 - flat at a season high
Jeopardy 6.5 - up a couple ticks to a season high
Family Feud 5.5 - up three ticks to a season and post-1991 high
Millionaire 2.1 - flat as Cedric has become the new Jerry, tagging far behind

The viewer averages were very impressive for the top three. TV by the Numbers brings the figures: Wheel of Fortune 12.0 million to lead all syndies, Jeopardy 10.5 million, Family Feud 8.1 million. The shows look good heading into the winter.

GSN enjoyed a better week for November 25-December 1, with 344K/275K viewer averages prime time/total day. The network ranked 43rd and 42nd in the windows. The schedule got a makeover starting December 2, so we'll see if the numbers move any.

CBS is smiling about the latest numbers for The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal, which averaged 5.2 million and 3.2 million viewers in the November sweeps. That was a nice bump over 2012, and the demo ratings were also up.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Model guests

The Price is Right put out a press release about their guest models for December.

I'm starting to think these guest spots are designed to minimize lawsuits. After all, the regular TPiR models have produced more lawsuits than all the personal injury shills on cable TV combined. Okay, just kidding...I think. The guests from December mostly hail from CBS soaps, like Melissa Ordway from The Young and the Restless and Karla Mosley from The Bold and the Beautiful.

As for me, I hail from The Old and the Grumpy. And since I remain largely TPiR-indifferent, I don't much care where the show gets its models. If familiar faces from daytime TV help earn a few more tenths of ratings points, it's no skin off my nose.

I realize some TPiR fans get emotionally invested in certain regular models, and they don't like these interloping guests. But what the hey, game shows have featured guest hosts from time immemorial, so guest models don't strike me as a big deal, or any deal at all.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Wheel of Fortune is bending over backwards to apologize for last night's puzzle, "The Fast and the Furious."

Have to admit I watched the show last night and didn't give the puzzle a second thought. I realize that a few folks might find the timing questionable so soon after Paul Walker's death. But I don't see why Wheel has to apologize for a show that was taped and scheduled weeks ago for December 2. There were no disrespectful references to the movie series or its actors. It was just the Final Spin puzzle and nobody said anything about it. Pat Sajak only went on to recap the final scores with the contestants.

But today the show and Sajak are apologizing plenty on Twitter for the puzzle. While I respect the show's wishes not to offend Mr. Walker's family, friends and fans, I also think this contrition for a nonexistent "crime" is a little overdone. Maybe the timing wasn't the best, but the show hardly need be ashamed. At least that's my possibly insensitive opinion. Still, the show decided to err on the side of caution.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Some other folks have taken the quiz on classic game show hosts that I linked to in a faux tweet. It's sort of nice to see that my 6 out of 10 wasn't too terrible compared to other scores. The quiz is a toughie.

The question about Gene Rayburn seems to have generated the most controversy. The answer looks suspect to me, too. But in all the thousands of episodes of Match Game, anything is possible.

A poster complains that Rod Roddy gets a question but Bill Cullen doesn't. Quizzes like this will always get hit for slighting somebody important in favor of somebody else supposedly less deserving. But I don't mind Rod getting a bit of notice. He chipped in a lot to the success of The Price is Right.

All of the people mentioned in the quiz are now dead, as you would expect from an obituary site. Maybe they might have slipped in a question about Bob Barker or Monty Hall or somebody still living. But that's not what the site does.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Report card for Cedric

We're coming up on three months of Mr. Kyles on Millionaire, so it's time for a quarterly report.

On the bottom line, which is what literally counts, Cedric has kept the show's audience at a steady level. He certainly hasn't brought home the Nielsen bonanza that his comedy buddy Steve Harvey produced for Family Feud. But the ratings haven't cratered, either. And the demos have inched a tiny bit younger.

Millionaire's format hardly lends itself to comedy stylings, as Family Feud does. Steve Harvey has more or less converted Feud into his standup show. A tightly structured and difficult quizzer like Millionaire doesn't allow the host nearly as much leeway. But Cedric has done his best to lighten the mood. It's hard to imagine august newsperson Meredith Vieira wearing a sideways baseball cap and goofy glasses (see the screenshot).

All in all I'd give Cedric a B-. Taking over for an eleven-season host is no piece of cake, and he's done pretty well. At least the show should survive with its current numbers.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hitting a bull's eye

Game show fanatics can get upset over the funniest things. One of the oddest bones of contention is the bullseye round on Family Feud.

The show tried the gimmick twice, once in 1992-95 and again in 2009-10. Both times the showrunners wanted to jazz up the gameplay because ratings were sagging with long-incumbent hosts.

I've never had any strong feelings one way or the other about the extra round of questions at the start of the show. But I've seen plenty of denunciations of the round as some kind of abomination upon Feud's sacred gameplay. The latest bashing is an induction of the round into the hall of shame on Game Show Garbage.

Well, it's more of a semi-induction. After the site goes through their usual trashing of a hapless inductee, they actually seem to like a form of the round:
If I had to have the Bullseye Round today, I'd take Bankroll, starting banks of $20,000, and questions worth $2k/$3k/$5k for a max of $30,000. The show would still be worthwhile and the additional money is more incentivized, rather than reclaiming an old flat jackpot.
So really they just want fewer questions (three instead of five) and more money (at least twenty grand in the bank). I could live with that. But a lot of other people don't want the bullseye round no way no how. One of those folks is apparently Steve Harvey, and the round has never made an appearance during his reign on Feud.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Old pictures

A thread at what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board asks for favorite game show photos. The board being what it is, the photos all date from the more or less distant past.

My personal fave of the selections is the attached black and white shot of a stage hand slotting a Nicknames category into the game board on the original NBC Tic Tac Dough. Other categories include Kings, Explorers, Newspapers, World Cities, Movies, and Rigged Game Shows.

Okay, I made up that last one. NBC's Tic Tac Dough was rigged, of course. My truly favorite photo from the show would display producer Howard Felsher imploring contestant Kirsten Falke to lie to the grand jury investigating the scandals. Sadly, such a photo doesn't exist. Or at least I've never seen it.

Another nice photo from the thread is a formal portrait of Rolf Bernischke and Vanna White from their days on Wheel of Fortune. Where have you gone, Rolf?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey day GSN notes

So I'm watching GSN's Family Feud marathon on Thanksgiving morning. Louie Anderson is hosting an episode with real lifeguards and Baywatch lifeguards.

My wife walks in and watches a little of the show. After a while she asks, who is that guy? He's terrible. He can't read the questions and he speaks badly. I tell her he's Louie Anderson and this is the first time his Feud eps have ever run on GSN. I also allow that he's generally considered Feud's worst host.

She doesn't look surprised. I have to admit that Louie doesn't particularly impress me, either. But at least it's interesting that a couple of his episodes finally surfaced on GSN.

Meanwhile, the network is running promos for The Chase, quoting more glowing reviews from critics, even one from the National Enquirer. And it strikes me that the show is mostly a succès d'estime. (Hey, I got culture. I know French. Pie à la Mode!)

The critics coo and flutter, but The Chase doesn't make the Nielsen Company swoon. In the latest week, the first-run episode pulled 452K viewers. Hardly a disaster by the network's standards, but not even in GSN's top ten. A couple reruns got 300K numbers, and then the ratings really trailed off for the other seven repeats.

Maybe the quizzer is just more of a show for hardcore types like moi (more French!) I keep wishing The Chase would break out to the very top of the GSN charts, but it never seems to happen.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hurray for Hollywood games

A while back NBC announced a special run of Hollywood Game Night on December 2. Well, times change, sometimes literally. Now the special is due December 23, with a regular run in "early 2014."

Host Jane Lynch has taken to Yahoo to plug the show, promising "new games, new set, new celebrities." We learn that a couple of the new celebs, tennis person Andy Roddick and model wife (sorry) Brooklyn Decker were "shouting crap at each other across the room." At least that's better than throwing the stuff across the room.

Jane professes love for classic game shows and hosts, including John Davidson, Gene Rayburn, Bert Convy and Allen Ludden. But her knowledge of the genre's history is a bit off. She credits herself (humorously, I hope) with breaking the glass ceiling for female game show hosts.

Sorry, Jane, but that barrier cracked a long time ago. It was three decades ago this year that Betty White won the first daytime Emmy for a woman game show host, on Just Men. But we can still appreciate Jane on her game nights.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


This site doesn't usually cover Ukrainian game shows. I'm busy enough with U.S. shows.

But a deadly serious story has been bouncing around the web lately about a show from our little genre in Ukraine. The show is called Detektor Brehni (Детектор брехні in Ukrainian) which translates to Lie Detector. It's the Ukrainian version of the short-lived Moment of Truth in the U.S. The American show went bye-bye after a contestant admitted an affair on TV, among other crude moments of more or less truth. The Nielsen Company turned thumbs down during the second season.

On a recent episode of Lie Detector an Israeli woman of Ukrainian origin claimed that she shot and killed Palestinian children as a member of the Israeli Defense Forces. She also said that she worked in a military canine unit, and the dogs were equipped with some souped-up TV technology. For what it's worth, she supposedly passed the lie detector test.

As you might expect, this has set off a web firestorm. Google "Ukraine Lie Detector game show" and you'll get an eyeful of links. A lot of anti-Israel sites take the story as gospel, so to speak. But pro-Israel sites have blasted it as a "blood libel" and pointed out some strange aspects of the woman's story. Very few killings of Palestinians of any age by female soldiers in the IDF, no evidence of such canine technology, a dog trainer wouldn't be shooting at anybody, etc.

Don't ask me. I report, you decide. But it's not often that a game show anywhere turns this grim.

Ratings: Pat and Vanna and Steve are happy

A couple of shows made new season highs for the week of November 11-17. You can probably guess which ones from this entry's title. TVNewsCheck has the pleasant news for the two big winners...

Wheel of Fortune 7.5 - up three ticks to a season high
Jeopardy 6.5 - flat
Family Feud 5.2 - up a couple ticks to its own season high
Millionaire 2.1 - down a tick for poor Cedric

Pat and Vanna also led all syndies in total viewers, according to the top 25 list at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.9 million, Jeopardy 10.2 million, Family Feud 7.8 million. Healthy numbers all round for the big three.

It was a so-so November for GSN, with 304K/258K viewer averages prime time/total day for the month. The network ranked 46th and 42nd in the windows. Not a disaster but not a bodacious month, either.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Decades of our lives

Blogged about it before, but I can't resist writing about this Millionaire stunt again, just because of the screenshot of Mr. Kyles. The show is indulging in "by the decades" goofiness this week. Monday is groovy '70s, Tuesday is tubular '80s, Wednesday is gnarly '90s, Thursday is "new millenial," and Friday is The Future. On Saturday we rest.

Besides the clothes so brilliantly modeled by Cedric and the contestants, the questions each day are decade-appropriate. Plus the graphics and music fit the times.

Game shows are just in a decade mood this season. Jeopardy will stage a battle of the decades with contestants from different eras competing for major money. Bob Barker will return to The Price is Right next month to celebrate nine decades of existence. Haven't heard that Wheel of Fortune will trot out any special nostalgia stunts, but the show already does classic bonus round clips.

Hate to spoil the fun, but somebody should tell Cedric that the shirt is a little much. The Afro wig has to go, too. But what the hey, it's only one episode.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Celebs? Well, sort of

Stuff about GSN's Mind of a Man, due January 8, is spilling out on the real (not faux) Twitter.

There are a bunch of nice set photos, like the one I've attached in this entry and another one in a faux (not real) tweet. Also, some of the celebs who have appeared on various episodes have chipped in some tweets and pics about the experience. Each ep features three celebs who help the female civvie contestants figure out what a survey of a hundred men said.

So far each panel of celebs seems to consist of two men and one woman, but I don't know if that's a feature or a bug. As you might expect for a mid-level (at best) cable operation like GSN, the celebs are not exactly A-listers. In fact, I'd never heard of many of them and had to Google around a lot. You can always count on Google for pop culture.

Most of the celebs seem to be comics, which is natural for this show. The format doesn't sound like it will rival Jeopardy for intellectual challenge. So we better yuk it up.

UPDATE: Hollywood Junket shows up at a taping and reports on the gameplay and the atmosphere. We are going for laughs here, folks.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Spoiled rotten

Ranted about this in a faux tweet, but Millionaire is developing an obnoxious habit of spoiling itself. In the latest example, the show blurted to the world that Chip Esten (Nashville, Whose Line Is It Anyway) made it to the million dollar question.

Just to make sure everybody knew, the show put out a video and a press release. Which means the outcomes of almost all Chip's questions were known well in advance.

At least they did withhold the result of the million dollar question. We should be grateful for small favors. In the event, Chip walked away from a ridiculously obscure query about Ben Franklin and drinking (an interesting combo).

Yes, I can understand why the show thinks such almost-all spoilers help build ratings. But just for once I wish game shows could keep their mouths shut. Wheel of Fortune leaked its second million dollar win last May, and plenty of other shows have whispered (or shouted) about big wins or almost-wins. Guys, we'll see the episodes soon enough, and I'm not sure that spoilers help the ratings all that much, anyway.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Prevent this, Alex

Happened to watch Jeopardy a couple nights ago. The show is grinding through its teachers tournament, which wraps today.

But enough with the teachers. They just remind me of my bad old school days. The reason for this blog entry is the Astros. They're a baseball team in Houston and they're really bad. I mean, really really bad. As in the worst team in the game.

This year the Astros coughed up the most runs in the majors and scored the second-fewest. So they got blown out a lot. Which brings us to the Jeopardy clue in the picture, which I saw as it happened. The correct question: "What is a blowout preventer?" The Astros had all too few of those preventers, as the show noted archly.

This got some sportswriters chuckling around the web. Google "Jeopardy Astros" and you'll get a generous selection of snickers and giggles. It's gotten so bad for the Astros that their current owner is suing their former owner alleging fraud in selling the team and its woeful TV contract. Most people in Houston can't watch the team on television, even if (for some weird reason) they wanted to.

By the way, John Pearson won the Jeopardy teachers tournament and the hundred grand. Trivia can pay well. John hails from my home DFW area.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

End of an era

Not much is going on with traditional game shows today. So I'll try my pet offbeat subject: online chess broadcasts. There was this incredible game today which pretty much decided the world chess championship.

It was the ninth game of the 12-game match. The champion Vishy Anand was two games down to challenger Magnus Carlsen. Which means Anand had to play all-out for the win. An absurdly complex game erupted as a result, including two black queens on the board. The game finally ended on an awful blunder by Anand (28 Nf1?? to get technical). That allowed Carlsen's 28...Qe1, forcing immediate resignation.

The commentators, IMs Lawrence Trent and Tania Sachdev, almost collapsed in wailing and lamentation over Anand's disaster. Technically, the match isn't yet over, but Carlsen only needs one draw from the final three games to clinch the title. He'll get it.

Who says chess is boring? Well, sometimes it is. But not today.

UPDATE: Carlsen got it. And then he got thrown in the swimming pool.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Farewell to a game show site

Never like to see another game show site bite the cybernetic dust. So it's with regret that I note Tammy Lee Warner's site Those Groovy Game Shows!!!!! (exclamation points in the original) is going bye-bye.

Tammy is a traditionalist, to put it mildly. Her dream GSN schedule makes little room for post-2000 or even post-1990 shows. Almost all the pages on her site emphasize the past rather than the present. But the genre's got a long past, after all, and I do a lot of historical entries, too.

One of the pages on the site is a bio of Bud Collyer. Have to admit I was never Bud's biggest fan, though Beat the Clock did wipe some of the oiliness off his personality. He was a lot busier on the stunt show, which I thought made him more bearable.

The list of game show gag lines is pretty funny. Maybe the "prescription for...Quaaludes" is my favorite. It's so '70s, even though it actually happened in 1980. Anyway, thanks to Tammy for maintaining a pleasant corner of the net for our long-lived genre.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ratings: syndies do fine

November 4-10 was a nice solid week for syndie game shows. There were a couple of new season highs, and none of the shows declined. We're getting into the big months for TV watching. TVNewsCheck has the more than acceptable household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.2 - flat but ties a season high
Jeopardy 6.5 - up a couple ticks to a new season high
Family Feud 5.0 - also up a couple ticks to a season high
Millionaire 2.2 - flat but hanging in there

The household ratings at TV by the Numbers don't agree with TVNewsCheck or Broadcasting and Cable. So take their viewer averages with a grain or three of salt: Wheel of Fortune 11.4 million, Jeopardy 10.1 million, Family Feud 7.4 million. Cedric just missed the list.

Japanizi did okay in its first week (November 4-10) on Disney XD. The first-runs all landed in the top hundred for the network, and three of them made the top fifty. Could have been worse.

TVNewser reports that GSN continued its lackluster ways for the week of November 11-17. 275K/249K viewer averages prime time/total day. The network slid all the way to 49th in prime time, 42nd in total day. Our little game show network could use a ratings getter in prime time.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Sometimes things work in mysterious ways.

Today I ran across an item about Lauren Hutton on To Tell the Truth. I made a faux tweet from it because Lauren was so easy on the eyes. And wouldn't you know, a few minutes later I ran across a thread on what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board about, you guessed it, the many hosts of To Tell the Truth.

Garry Moore gets a lot of nods on the thread as the best host, and I tend to agree. Garry could always come up with a decent quip, and he was so friendly with everybody else on the set that everybody else relaxed and performed well.

This clip with then unknown popcorn wizard Orville Redenbacher is typical of Garry's work on the show. He munches down on popcorn as he cracks wise and conducts the proceedings with disarming ease. The panel goofs completely as the real Orville keeps his answers too short. But Garry doesn't mind as the fibbers walk off with a little cash.

Better known for his work on I've Got a Secret, Garry also fit in very well with the fun and frivolity on To Tell the Truth. Interaction with contestants and panelists was always his strong suit, and he kept the show going for eight seasons in syndication.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dating Game and its progeny

It's amazing how many references to Dating Game keep cropping up on the web. I wandered around Google News and found this item about a CMT reality show called Sweet Home Alabama, which is dubbed a "Dating Game Redux."

Now don't worry. I'm not about to start covering reality shows. I never watch 'em, much less want to blog about them. And this CMT effort sounds like a southern-accented Bachelorette, which really makes me run away screaming. I did appreciate one comment in the story from a contestant:
Meanwhile, [the hapless contestant] was under the direction of producers when being filmed, creating a tension between what was real and what was acting. "After they would stage something and they would say, 'Now go act normal,' he said. "I had a flannel shirt on and it was 90 degrees out, how am I supposed to act normal?"
Yep, there's nothing more real than reality TV. Anyway, NBC recently put out a casting call for a studio-based game show that sounds like yet another offspring of Chuck Barris' bright idea. We're all looking for love, after all.