Thursday, January 31, 2013

A second minute

Casting calls don't lie.

Well, sometimes they do. Like when they say that game show contestants have big personalities. I've seen a few small personalities in our little genre now and then. But this casting call is for real. Minute To Win It is GSN. And why not? The NBC reruns have performed pretty well for the network, after all.

BuzzerBlog confirms the casting call, and I had heard rumblings about the possibility, too. It's doubtful that Guy Fieri will return as host. He's probably a bit on the expensive side for our frugal game show network.

Remakes on GSN have enjoyed spotty success at best. The network's Newlywed Game has endured through 88 seasons by now (slight exaggeration) but the 1 vs. 100 and Pyramid remakes went nowhere fast. And GSN may have touched its lowest point ever with the remake that shall not be named, of a certain Chuck Barris project with a gong.

It's hard to see how they could screw up Minute To Win It, as long as the stunts stay goofy enough. BuzzerBlog says the order is for 40 hour-long episodes. I always liked stupid human tricks, so good luck.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ratings: Wheel hits another season high

TVNewsCheck reveals that Wheel of Fortune hit another season high for the week of January 14-20. Otherwise the news was blah for syndicated game shows, though hardly terrible. Family Feud backed off a little from its series high the week before, but the other shows kept on keeping on...

Wheel of Fortune 7.7 - up a tick to the aforementioned season high...and the NBA arrives soon
Jeopardy 6.8 - flat but Alex can live off this number
Family Feud 5.1 - down three ticks but doing fine
Millionaire 2.4 - flat, is Cedric coming?
Baggage 1.2 - flat, is Jerry going?

Only the big three made TV by the Numbers' top 25 syndie list. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.2 million (weekend repeat 5.3 million), Jeopardy 10.4 million, Family Feud 7.6 million. Pat and Vanna cracked the twelve million barrier for the first time this season. It is an eye-catching number.

TVNewser says that GSN averaged 345K/270K viewers prime time/total day for the full month (in Nielsen terms) of January. That's certainly a solid performance from our little game show network. In the week of January 21-27 Steve Harvey's Family Feud lorded over GSN's ratings, of course, as Douglas Pucci confirms.

Just a reminder: you can check the latest broadcast and non-GSN cable game show ratings in the sidebar. Right now some recent numbers are available for The Price is Right, Let's Make a Deal, Total Blackout and Killer Karaoke. Long story short: TPiR draws about five million viewers, LMAD about three million, Total Blackout a little more than a million, Killer Karoke a little less than a million.

It's worth...Cedric?

First Regis, now Cedric.

The latest rumor about Meredith's replacement on Millionaire settles on Cedric Kyles, a.k.a. "the Entertainer." Just how entertaining Mr. Kyles can be on a game show is an open issue. I thought he was competent at best on the short-lived It's Worth What. Though I'll admit the show had other problems, most notably a slow pace.

This looks like a possible replay of the Steve Harvey gambit on Family Feud. Of course, there's no guarantee and no confirmation from Millionaire's producers. But they have to be looking at Feud's resurgence in the ratings and wondering if Cedric could do the same for the somewhat worn money-tree epic.

Frankly, Jeff Foxworthy looks like a better Millionaire fit to me. He's hosted two successful quizzers - 5th Grader and American Bible Challenge - and done a very good job on both. But we'll probably hear other names as time goes on. It won't be quite like the Search For The Next Bob Barker, but that's okay. I'm not in the mood for another long national talent hunt.

UPDATE: The New York Post reports that the deal for Cedric is almost done. He'll get about $1.5 million a year, which is low pay by TV host standards. Sure enough, the story quotes one source on the Harvey connection: "They said they were looking for 'a Steve Harvey type' for the job." No kidding.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Time flies, whether you're having fun or not

Happened to be watching Wheel of Fortune the other day. A clip of Vanna and her daughter Giovanna turned up.

Pat Sajak said something about how the daughter has grown up fast. I checked Wikipedia, which would know about these things, and found out that Giovanna turns sixteen this year.

I'm used to feeling old by now. But that clip made me feel ancient. At this rate, Vanna will be a grandmother before too long. After all, she has a son two years older than her daughter.

I don't know if I'm ready for Granny Vanna. Have I really gotten that geriatric? Well, yes I have. Even game shows remind me of how the years have piled up.

Monday, January 28, 2013

iPad game show

I don't do game shows on iPad, mainly because I don't have an iPad. I just watch 'em on TV.

But if you're one of the iPad multitudes, Braindex is getting good reviews around the app world. The game does take a bow towards our little genre, with c-list celebs answering trivia questions about this, that and the other. The host looks like a trivia nerd, which is appropriate enough.

Just like TV game shows, Braindex releases new episodes each week. The app is free, so buyer's remorse is unlikely. And there's always the thrill of victory (or the agony of defeat) if you beat (or get beaten) by the celeb. Who wouldn't want reassurance that their brain is bigger than the real-life Barbie's?

I've always been a sucker for trivia game shows, so it's nice to see a new "show" even if it's not really a show. Or have apps become shows now? This is the iPad era, after all.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Eye candy in black and white

A while back I slobbered over some of the eye candy occasionally offered on Minute To Win It. But game shows didn't discover eye candy last week. The August 24, 1958 episode of What's My Line proves that.

The first contestant was Dana Craig, a statuesque brunette who turned out to be the bouncer in a night club on Catalina Island. After some fun and frivolity, Arlene Francis finally zeroed in on the occupation.

Things were a little looser in the pre-p.c. era. The audience couldn't refrain from wolf whistles as Dana signed in. "These leaky old buildings," lamented John Daly. But everybody stayed very polite during the questioning. At least politer than on YouTube, where comments like "She is stacked!" abound.

Dana's appearance played off WML's common gimmick of selecting contestants who didn't look like their jobs. That helped with the humor and kept the panel from guessing too fast. By the way, the Chi-Chi Club, where Dana Craig kept order, still exists. If you want a little of the club's colorful history, try this.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Intramural squabble

Nothing like a food fight on the game show Internets.

Too bad the latest squabble concerns The Price is Right, a show I'm notoriously indifferent to. Shopping and shopping games just ain't my thing. I cover the show because it's one of the top game shows in the U.S., so I can't ignore it. But I rarely watch and really don't care about the incessant Internet bickering over whether Drew is a worthy successor to Bob or an evil usurper of the TPiR throne.

Which doesn't mean that other people don't care. Oh boy, do they care. One of the posters at Game Show Garbage (pointedly disclaimed by all the other posters on the site) has just dumped a steaming pile on Golden-Road.Net, the main anti-Drew site. Naturally, this has generated an emphatic response from the golden-roaders.

Frankly, the golden-road crowd seems to have the better of this argument to me. Dissing an entire site because of the questionable manners of a few posters is ridiculous. Any Internet bulletin board attracts lots of civil and lots of not so civil comments. It's always a mixed bag.

I should disclaim an interest. Before he gets to the heavy dump on the golden-roaders, the poster on Game Show Garbage also takes a hack at the GSN boards, where I hang out. Oh well, I won't lose sleep over it.

UPDATE: Just saw a thread on Game Show Forum about the dustup. It's generally critical of the Game Show Garbage guy. By the way, I think the Garbage-man has it exactly wrong about BuzzerBlog. Chad Mosher's posts are a lot more interesting to me than Alex Davis'.

UPDATED UPDATE: The Game Show Garbage guy has toned down his post somewhat. The stuff about Chad Mosher got pulled, for instance.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The family that trades together

The first fruit, sweet or not, of GSN's much maligned reality slate debuts March 5. Family Trade, based on an odd car dealership, hits the cable wires. I'm dubious about the entire project, as I mutter on the GSN board...

Saw a promo for the show a little while ago. Looks like a knockoff of Pawn bickering, that sort of thing. The old guy fills the Old Man role, natch. I like Pawn Stars but this GSN project just seems like run-of-the-mill reality fodder. Not terrible, necessarily, though of course this board will abominate it. And I can't see GSN's audience going for this show, either.

One guy's opinion, much different from my own...

Hearing these constant high ratings for the constant reality shows like Gold Rush makes me think people will be shocked when Family Trade does really well for GSN. They've tried reality in the past but not these stand-alone style shows which are popular. Wait for it. Be shocked.

Well, Alex, I will be surprised if the show succeeds on GSN. "Shocked" might be too strong a word, but I'm not expecting real good numbers.

UPDATE: GSN postpones the debut of Family Trade from March 5 to March 12. As I remark on the GSN board, last time a debut got pushed back was...Improv-a-Ganza. We know how that worked out. Some panicked execs saw the first ep and ordered a lot of re-editing?

Maybe the higher-ups are remembering reality experiments gone bad. GSN's non-traditional efforts haven't always flopped, but there have been some pretty ugly crashes.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chess antics

Okay, I'm overdosing on TV chess. Or, more accurately, Internet chess.

A huge tournament is now going on in Gibraltar, of all places, with some very highly ranked players and a lot of not so highly ranked players. The official site offers live commentary from American IM Irina Krush and British GM Simon Williams. And by pure dumb luck, the tournament has hit on a very entertaining couple.

Irina and Simon are fine at technical commentary as they hop around the zillion games in the open tournament. But lots of tournaments offer good chess commentary. It's the other stuff that sets the Williams-Krush duo apart. They giggle, flirt with each other, bet (small amounts) on the games, tell war stories about themselves and other players, answer sometimes goofy questions from Internet viewers, and generally act like they're enjoying themselves.

Who knew chess was fun?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ratings: big three syndies soar

The richer got richer in syndicated game shows for the first full week of 2013. And it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of word puzzles, quiz clues and survey sayings. TVNewsCheck brings the good news to Pat, Vanna, Alex and Steve for January 7-13...

Wheel of Fortune 7.6 - up a whopping seven ticks to a season high
Jeopardy 6.8 - not to be outdone by the soulmate, up an even more whopping eight ticks to a season high
Family Feud 5.4 - up three ticks to a series high
Millionaire 2.4 - flat, not everybody can get better
Baggage 1.2 - flat, how ya doin', Jerry?

TV by the Numbers has the viewership averages for the top four, as Meredith just sneaks into their top 25 syndie list: Wheel of Fortune 11.8 million, Jeopardy 10.5 million, Family Feud 7.8 million, Millionaire 3.3 million.

The cable ranker on TVNewser says GSN had its usual decent week for January 14-20, averaging 350K/274K viewers prime time/total day. Douglas Pucci tells us the run-of-the-mill news that Steve Harvey's Family Feud dominated the network completely.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

IQ games

A while back Mensa members - the high-IQ bunch - picked the top ten game shows of all time.

These lists are a lot of fun as long as nobody gives a flip about 'em. Of course, some folks on the game show Internets took the Mensa lineup way too seriously. Over at Sitcoms Online they got upset that Match Game didn't make the Mensa grade...and that The Price is Right did make the list.

Well, Gene Rayburn and company probably wouldn't have cried big tears over Mensa dissing them. The show wasn't pitched at high-scorers on the Stanford-Binet. And I really doubt that Drew Carey will throw a party because Mensa thinks his show is number five all-time.

Or maybe Drew will throw a party. Rumor has it that he doesn't need much excuse for a celebration. I did enjoy seeing Cash Cab on the list, but I wasn't too surprised. The questions got pretty erudite as Ben's cab roamed the streets of Gotham.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Return of the Chuck

The pdf schedules that GSN sends out are notoriously unreliable, especially for weeks well into the future. By the time those distant weeks roll around, who knows what the network will have done with the lineup?

So the pdf schedule in this blog's sidebar for the week of February 25 should be taken with a cubic yard of salt. But making the wild assumption that the schedule is accurate, Chuck Woolery's Lingo will return to the lineup.

It's hard to believe that this little word game became GSN's longest-lived original, running through seven seasons from its start in 2002. The network invested very little in the show at first, even taping the first twenty painfully cheap episodes on the Dutch version's set to save a few bucks.

But the game caught on, and Chuck hosted the show until his sixth and final season in 2007. Reruns continued forever, and the network even tried a new batch of episodes with Bill Engvall and some tweaks to the gameplay. But Chuck's version finally vanished from GSN a few months ago. Well, as Mr. Schwarzenegger once said, I'll be back. Or Chuck will be back. With Shandi Finnessey in reruns of the fifth season.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Truly surreal

Readers of this blog know that game show contestants often say their appearances were "surreal." One fellow who did a turn on What's My Line may have invented that notion.

Surrealism's godfather Salvador Dali actually showed up twice on WML. But the 1952 show got wiped. We still have the January 27, 1957 episode, though. And things got surreal enough as Dali answered "yes" to just about every question from the blindfolded panelists. The guy did a lot of different things, after all.

The panel was frustrated for a while. Bennett Cerf even asked if the contestant was a human being. But Arlene Francis eventually caught on to Dali and gave Dorothy Kilgallen a huge assist in guessing him. As soon as Dorothy nailed his identity, Dali briskly strode over to the panel and shook hands.

Dali had also entered with a literal flourish. He used a large paint brush to fling "Dali" all over the chalkboard. He was quite a performer, as he insisted during the questioning.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


A poster on the GSN board suggested a revival of old chestnut Name That Tune. I commented about a rumor early last year...

Last I heard about the possibility of a TV revival was early in 2012, when the Las Vegas Name That Tune stage show closed down. A March 1, 2012 story in the Las Vegas Sun commented:

But even as the stage show is shutting down, there might be a flip side to the future of the production, as producer Adam Steck of SPI Entertainment said he plans to “re-tune” the production to coincide with the possibility the show will return to TV. The mighty FreemantleMedia, which produces “American Idol,” “America’s Got Talent,” “The Price Is Right,” “X Factor” and “Let’s Make a Deal,” holds the production rights to “Name That Tune.”

“We hope to have it back on TV beginning in the summer,” Steck said during a phone conversation today. “That’s the goal. Of course, nothing (as in, a formal deal) is done until it’s done. In the meantime, we hope to take it on the road, to Atlantic City, and see how it works there.”

Well, the show never made it to TV in the summer. I haven't heard a peep since early last year about any TV version in the works for Name That Tune. The show entails some obvious production costs which may have frightened off any interest. TV execs seem more interested in cheap shows like Let's Ask America.

Apropos of nothing, Name That Tune made a legendary, super-raunchy self-parody during the Tom Kennedy years. You can watch a chunk of it on YouTube. Warning: not safe for work, not safe for the family, not safe for sentient human beings.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Back on Jimbo's farm

Just added a new link in the blogroll to a wiki about U.S. game shows.

For those who don’t know wiki talk, a wiki is an online pile of articles. The pile relies on the kindness of strangers and/or the wisdom of crowds. Anybody can stop by a wiki and write or edit the articles. There's usually some type of self-policing to make sure the site doesn't go way off the rails.

The ultimate wiki, of course, is the huge Wikipedia, now in 12,346 languages with 598,103,276 articles. (These are slight exaggerations.) Once upon a time I worked on the Wikipedia farm for Jimbo Wales. He’s the site's founder or co-founder, depending on who you believe. Then I got tired of chipping in to somebody else's site for no money.

The U.S. Game Shows wiki is hosted by Wikia. Jimbo started that outfit as a for-profit venture, unlike the proudly profitless Wikipedia. The game show wiki looks impressive enough, with long articles on just about any American game show you can think of, and some you can't think of at the moment. It's good for random trivia and quick answers for clueless game show bloggers like moi.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Life lessons

I'm a slow learner, but years of reading contestant stories from Wheel of Fortune have taught me four things:

1) The wheel is heavy.
2) The studio is small.
3) Vanna is nice.
4) The experience is surreal.

This story about Christina Morehouse, a Houston native who relieved the show of seventy-five grand, gets around to lessons (1) and (3). Somehow she leaves out the other two.

Another lesson is that it helps to be rambunctious, though contestants often don't talk about it. But somebody in the story mentions it for Christina. "She has this rambunctious attitude," says one of her co-workers. It's the big personality that the casting calls are always looking for.

These lessons won't help you win anything on the show, of course. You've got to be halfway decent at word games. Christina owns up to a "lifelong love of puzzles." Which is pretty good prep for a turn with Pat and Vanna.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Totally blacked out

Syfy's Total Blackout returned last night after a scary (for the show's future) hiatus. The stunts-in-the-dark festival didn't make TV by the Numbers' top 100 cable show list for the night, so I'm afraid the hiatus may become permanent.

Hollywood Junket posted an interview with host Jaleel White as the show did a publicity stunt at a L.A. shopping mall. Jaleel seems a friendly enough sort, laughing a lot as the interviewer goes through a bunch of the usual questions. He does allow that he prefers acting to game show hosting.

The show itself is okay, a little grubby at times but not completely crude. Trouble is, the gimmick gets old fast. You can only watch people stumble around in the dark for so long before you want to turn on the lights. And a game show seems out of place on a science fiction network, anyway.

If I want to watch stupid human tricks, I'll stick with Minute To Win It. At least the contestants on that show can see what they're doing.

UPDATE: Spoke too soon about Total Blackout's ratings. Somehow TV by the Numbers missed the show on its list, but Futon Critic didn't. The show got 1.13 million total viewers and a 0.6 18-49 rating. Very respectable numbers. So maybe Jaleel and friends will hang around.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ratings: Feud hops, skips and jumps

Syndicated game shows generally enjoyed a nice week to start off the new year. But Family Feud really hit the jackpot. TVNewsCheck brings the good news for Steve Harvey and company for the week of December 31-January 6...

Wheel of Fortune 6.9 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 6.0 - up a tick
Family Feud 5.1 - up five ticks to a season and series high, Steve smiles even wider
Millionaire 2.4 - down a tick as Meredith rides off into the game show sunset
Baggage 1.2 - up a tick for last-place Jerry

The viewership averages for the top three from TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 11.0 million (weekend repeat 4.2 million), Jeopardy 9.3 million, Family Feud 7.7 million. All very impressive compared to broadcast network TV.

GSN enjoyed a decent week for January 7-13, according to TVNewser. The network averaged 338K/257K viewers prime time/total day, ranking 39th and 40th in the windows.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Kiddie litter

A poster floats an idea on the GSN board for a kids' game show network. I'm not too hopeful...

Other poster: Here's a wonderful idea for GSN to consider: a channel aimed at kids ages 9-12 that features original game shows and lots of interactive game shows designed for kids to play along on the computer and daily contests to win awesome prizes and a special interactive call-in show where kids can ask for hints and help on many game show video games and of course repeats of kids game show favorites.

Except for Child's Play, which is very questionably a kid show, GSN has never shown much interest in acquiring game shows for the young'uns. They did try Jep! and Wheel 2000 for kids way back in the network's prehistoric period. But mostly GSN has left children's game shows to children's networks.

In general I can't see GSN trying any spinoff networks. The mother ship can't even get full distribution on the country's cable/satellite systems, after nearly twenty years of buzzers and bonus rounds. Seems like an entirely new network would be a costly use of resources better spent elsewhere. GSN sure looks a lot more interested in its online gaming operations than in new cable networks.

A favorite project on this board has always been GSN Classics, an all-oldies net. That idea has never gotten anywhere, and I'm not holding my breath for GSN Kids, either.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Flunked out of pilot school

Once upon a time GSN ran a Thanksgiving Day marathon of failed game show pilots. Turkeys, you might say. A poster on the GSN board dug up this failed pilot from 1975 called 20 Questions.

This was an attempted revival of an original from the earliest days of commercial TV. Experienced game show producer Ron Greenberg got together a panel of four celebs, including a frighteningly hirsute Gene Shalit and a winsome Anne Meara. They tried to help a couple civvies guess mystery clues by playing the usual parlor game of, well, twenty questions.

Jack Clark hosted the pilot with skill and some surprisingly pleasant humor. The main problem with the game was that it was just so flipping hard. The panel tended to stumble around forever before guessing the elusive clues.

But the show was hardly a disaster and might have made it to air except for a glut of other game shows during the 1970s. Another producer made a pilot of the format in 1989 but that didn't sell, either.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Buzzer chess

It's Saturday and I'm taking a break from traditional game shows.

So I watched a chess TV show. Well, you can't say chess isn't a game. Anyway, the first big tournament of the year kicked off today in Wijk Aan Zee, Holland. They've been playing this tournament for 75 years now, and its current title is the Tata Steel tournament after the sponsor, a metal-refining conglomerate based in India. But everybody still calls it Wijk Aan Zee (rhymes with "like on say").

The official webcast doesn't have audio commentary, but the Internet Chess Club provided that on another site. The ICC commentators were hyping the games a little. For instance, they insisted world champ Vishy Anand was bashing U.S. champ Hikaru Nakamura all over the board. Computer evaluations (and my own patzer brain) saw the game as much more even. Sure enough, after a critical rook exchange on c8, the game ended in a draw after only 28 moves.

An odd note: yesterday the players selected the tournament pairings by hitting a red buzzer that looked like it fell out of Family Feud. Steve Harvey did not put in an appearance, though.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Post-Meredith syndrome

Just as Millionaire hits a season high in the ratings, the news breaks that Meredith Vieira is leaving the show at the end of this season, her eleventh.

I've been tepid about Meredith as a Millionaire host from the start. She always seemed like a dry news type to me, especially compared to Mr. Folksy Regis. Contestants raved about her warm and friendly personality, though, and she did keep the syndie going for a long, long time. So somebody out there liked her.

Meredith says she's got a nice gig at NBC and a YouTube project in the works. Millionaire's numbers have eroded over the years, but the producers will keep the show going for season number twelve. Which has naturally set off lots of speculation about Meredith's replacement. For a truly offbeat list of possibilities, try this.

I haven't the foggiest about who will step in. Various guest hosts have asked the questions, including Cat Deeley and (yes) Steve Harvey. The producers could try somebody completely new, but that's a huge risk with an aging franchise. We'll probably hear lots of rumors over the next several months.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ratings: only Meredith smiles

Syndicated game shows mostly got lumps of coal during Christmas week, December 24-30. But Santa brought some goodies for Meredith. She can use the cheerful news. The household ratings for the syndie game shows, according to TVNewsCheck...

Wheel of Fortune 6.7 - down six ticks
Jeopardy 5.9 - down five ticks, the soulmates get an ouchie
Family Feud 4.6 - down a tick
Millionaire 2.5 - up a couple ticks to a season high, yay for Meredith
Baggage 1.1 - flat for Jerry

Despite the falloff during the week, the top two still copped the #2 and #3 slots among all syndies, behind only Big Bang Theory. The viewership averages from TV by the Numbers featured a couple of unusual guests: Wheel of Fortune 10.8 million (weekend repeat 5.5 million), Jeopardy 8.2 million (weekend repeat! 3.8 million), Family Feud 7.0 million, Millionaire! 3.5 million. Nice to see Meredith and weekend Alex in the top 25 for a change.

GSN kicked off 2013 with a more than decent week. Douglas Pucci says the network averaged 335K/274K viewers prime time/total day for December 31-January 6. Steve Harvey's Family Feud took the top seventeen slots. Ridiculous. By the way, Steve's talk show has been renewed for a second season. The bald media conglomerate rolls on.

MAJOR UPDATE: Just saw a large surprise in the Google news cache: Meredith Vieira is leaving Millionaire after this season, her 11th. Wonder what it means for the future of the show, if there is a future. I'll comment some more tomorrow. There's already a lot of speculation around the game show Internets on possible replacements.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Distasteful necessity

I've resisted but finally given up. This is my one and only post on Rodney Alcala, the Dating Game killer.

Alcala's crimes are repulsive, and I don't want to talk about him at all. But he's been in the news again for two more murders he committed. Every story seems to mention his episode of Dating Game back in the 1970s.

There's little to be learned from this miserable tale. Except the obvious: looks can be deceiving with game show contestants as much as anybody else. Alcala seems completely normal in his Dating Game turn, even though he had already been convicted of rape. (Great background checking by Chuck Barris' organization.)

Evil comes in all shapes and sizes. It's even been known to arrive as a contestant.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Eye candy

On GSN today I happened across one of the Miss USA episodes from Minute To Win It.

For some odd reason the show required the lovelies to compete in tight skimpy tops and tighter skimpier bottoms. They also had the lissome contestants bend over a lot during the stunts. I can't imagine what the producers were trying to do. Well, okay, I can imagine pretty damn well what the producers were trying to do.

Game show fans can get puritanical about eye candy in our little genre. Some folks seem to think that such visuals somehow cheapen what should be the pristine appeal of the gameplay. Me, I ain't so picky. For prurient moi, one of the best features of the much maligned Dog Eat Dog, for instance, was the pleasant flesh on display.

Am I too much of a dirty old man? Oh, probably. But I did take some time to watch Minute To Win It today.

Monday, January 7, 2013

That was the GSN year that was

TVNewser got around to the full-year viewership averages for every cable network under the sun. GSN enjoyed a decent year in 2012, averaging 326K/242K viewers prime time/total day.

The biggest splash, of course, came from American Bible Challenge. Mr. Foxworthy and friends posted the best numbers in the network's history, including a ridiculous (by GSN standards) 1.7 million viewers for the debut. The show didn't perform well in reruns, and we'll see how the second go-round fares beginning March 21.

Steve Harvey's Family Feud took over the network's ratings week after week. Not surprisingly, it also took over the network's schedule. And the other acquisitions, 5th Grader and Minute To Win It, did okay business for GSN. Old-faithful originals Baggage and Newlywed Game also kept chugging along. Jerry even went syndie, with very modest results.

Then there were the losers. Dancing With the Stars expired messily, and so did Beat the Chefs. You cannot win them all. But for the most part, GSN shouldn't complain about the past twelve months.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Demography is destiny

Time again to sample Richard Carson's terrific I've Got a Secret channel on YouTube. I didn't pick this 2/5/1958 video for its humor. Though Bill Cullen and Jayne Meadows do stumble through some funny moments, similar to one of the earliest IGAS videos on YouTube.

Instead, the 1958 video shows that the mills of demography grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small. The secret: Mrs. Walker of Syracuse has two sets of triplets, as part of her family of nine kids. Henry Morgan guesses the triple double, or double triple.

Of course, 1958 was the height of America's postwar baby boom, so big families were common. Nowadays a family of eight will get you a show on TLC. And we're just starting to deal with the collapse of the baby boom and the aging of America.

In fact, you can expect a lot of squabbling as politicians try to blame each other for the nasty reality of fewer young workers supporting ever larger numbers of aged retirees. And you thought the fiscal cliff posturing was silly. Anyway, the video shows how I've Got a Secret reflects so much of our history. Right down to those grubby demographics.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


GSN made a truly weird decision when they brought Improv-a-Ganza back from the dead on Friday night. Wiser (or at least more conscious) heads have now prevailed. Drew Carey and company have once again departed, replaced by Baggage. I make some comments on the GSN schedule board...

I didn't think Improv-a-Ganza was an embarrassment or a disaster. It's just that too many stretches of the show were pretty light on laughs. Which is a problem for an alleged comedy show.

Maybe GSN just couldn't afford to tape enough footage to edit the show down to high-quality material. A straight comedy project with no gameplay was always going to be a tough sell on GSN. So the show had to be really funny to succeed. Improv-a-Ganza just wasn't all that funny, and it sank like the boat which hit the iceberg. I don't know why GSN execs thought a second go-round would produce better results.

I'm bad, I'm nationwide

A couple of news items have accumulated lately on this blog about Let's Ask America. Which is a little strange because folks in most of the country have never seen the show.

Will that change? A TVNewsCheck story noted: "Warner Bros. is a partner on Let's Ask America and will take the game show into syndication if it deems the ratings on the Scripps stations are strong enough." Oh yes, those pesky numbers. Last I saw, Let's Ask America was doing 1.8-ish household ratings in its seven markets. Decent for a daytime show in today's fractured TV world. But not a slam-dunk for national syndication, especially given the old-skewing demos of traditional game shows.

Let's Ask America was first intended as a cost-cutting measure, of course. Scripps execs got tired of paying the fees for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and rolled out the Skype cheapo on seven of their stations to save dollars. The show got some interesting numbers and now there's a little buzz about nationwide exposure.

It's an okay survey show, but they might have to make it edgier to succeed nationally. Right now Let's Ask America is all mom-and-apple-pie. Not that I have anything against mom, though I prefer peach pie. But Family Feud demonstrated that some spice can help the numbers.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Ratings: syndies generally droop

The week before Christmas didn't bring too many nice presents to syndicated game shows. They mostly edged down but the damage was not severe. And one show managed a tiny move up. TVNewsCheck brings the blah news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.3 - down a tick
Jeopardy 6.4 - down a couple ticks in sympathy with the soulmate
Family Feud 4.7 - up a tick, Steve has even more to smile about
Millionaire 2.3 - flat
Baggage 1.1 - down a tick for poor last-place Jerry

The viewership averages for the top three shows from TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 11.4 million (weekend repeat 5.3 million), Jeopardy 9.8 million, Family Feud 7.1 million. Gee, it would be nice to see Meredith in their top 25 syndie list one of these weeks.

Douglas Pucci tells us that GSN enjoyed its best numbers in a while for Christmas week, December 24-30: 356K/281K viewers prime time/total day. Santa was kind to the network. Steve Harvey's Family Feud dominated the ratings completely, of course.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Too dirty? Not dirty enough?

I've heard a zillion complaints about Steve Harvey's Family Feud getting too dirty. So now I have to listen to complaints about another game show being too clean.

The show is the new Canadian version of Match Game. A pundit in the great white north seems to think the show is too tame by modern standards, whatever those standards are. From what I've seen on YouTube, the show does seem a little bland. But that's only because the panelists aren't enormously funny, either dirty funny or clean funny.

The show isn't terrible. It's pleasant enough and doesn't send you scampering away from the screen. What humor there is, is mildly off-color but hardly obnoxious.

The linked article complains that no panelist makes a particularly noteworthy impression. A fair enough gripe, I guess, though Sean Cullen does his best to grab attention. The article does offer a compliment for the host's wardrobe. At least Darrin Rose is dressed for success.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

More controversy!

Not twelve hours into the new year, I've got my first controversy. A poster on the GSN board doesn't like my comment on a published news story about the second biggest Wheel of Fortune win...

Other poster: Basically you just confirmed that you indeed did NOT report it first, but instead attempted to post an unconfirmed spoiler earlier in the day on the same day BEFORE the episode aired. Nobody likes a spoiler. Buzzerblog REPORTED it first. The word "reported" means shared the information AFTER it happened.

If anybody thinks I care about such word-splitting over "reported"...well, let's just say that's not correct. And I never claimed to have reported anything first. The local news site did that, not me and not Buzzerblog. The "rumor" at the site was obviously well-confirmed by a source who was at the taping (one of the contestants). The news story also turned out to be completely accurate.

And I didn't spoil a thing. Anybody who searched on Google News for Wheel of Fortune - not exactly a difficult thing to do - saw the local news item. It was even mentioned on Buy a Vowel. So forget the phony indignation over "spoiling." If I get an embargoed press release from a show in my inbox, I will respect the embargo. But there is no reason to ignore a published, well-sourced and accurate news story that is easily found by anybody looking for game show news.

By the way, I search Google News everyday for game show items. I'll continue to comment on what I find. One other thing: these kinds of stories about big wins almost always leak. Often the show does the leaking itself in an attempt to goose the numbers for the upcoming episode. So the faux indignation over "spoiling" really is kind of funny.

Ten easy comments

Hello, 2013! The previous post mentioned bloggers who uncork top ten lists at the end of the year. One of those guys is Alex Davis at BuzzerBlog. He asked his readers to pick the top ten new game shows of the year. The picks and my lazy reactions to each of them:

#1 Let's Ask America. Okay survey show. Cheap as hell. Got good enough numbers to please penny-pinching Scripps execs. They replaced the much better Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune on their stations with this low-rent Skype project.

#2 The Exit List. Brit show. Don't know much about it.

#3 Pyramid. My personal fave of the new shows. But it was so much like the Dick Clark version that viewers yawned. The format is still rock-solid but needs a few tweaks to make it work again with the Nielsen Company.

#4 Figure It Out. The literally slimy I've Got a Secret for kids returned to Nick. Not a bad revival if you're into kid shows.

#5 Blockbusters. Brit show. Don't know much about this particular version. Heard that it had the same problem as Pyramid. Too slavishly imitative of the old version.

#6 The Bank Job. Brit show. Don't know much about it.

#7 Breakaway. Brit show. Don't know much about it.

#8 Hip Hop Squares. Deserves a higher place on the list, I think. The contestants were kind of clueless and the hip hoppers were drunk as skunks. My kind of show.

#9 Match Game. Canadian show and predictably cheap. Pretty close to the original and the panel was more or less bearable.

#10 American Bible Challenge. Deserves a much higher place on the list but wasn't going to get it from Alex's bunch. A really quirky and innovative idea paid off huge for GSN.