Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fast, faster and fastest chess

I've done my bit for traditional game shows. So now it's on to chess shows. Like yesterday's death match on chess.com.

For those of you who don't know - which is undoubtedly just about all of you - the website chess.com sponsors three-hour online blitz matches between chess masters every month or so. Yesterday I watched a couple of grandmasters duke it out: Alexander Ipatov, originally from Ukraine and now playing for Turkey(?), and American Marc Arnold.

These death matches feature five-minute games, then three-minute games, and then the ultimate, bullet chess or one-minute games. Somehow the Ipatov-Arnold match went into quadruple overtime. Ipatov was one game down but tied the match in a buzzer-beater, the last game in regular time. Then came three excruciating draws. Finally, Arnold got a pair of queenside passed pawns to win the fourth sudden-death game and the match.

International master Danny Rensch, who runs the site, provided quick-witted commentary on the games, along with English IM Lawrence Trent. The games flew by so fast that these guys often ended up talking really, really quick. So you had to know a little about chess notation (and the rules of the game) to follow along.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Surprise! The older-is-better bunch doesn't like recent game shows

First, are Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford really that old? This must mean I'm getting really old myself. Hm...

Anyhoo, in the least surprising news since the sun rose this morning, the older-is-better crowd at what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board is trashing recent game shows. Of course, the board is enormously traditionalist. That guy at the top is Bill Cullen, who last hosted a game show a quarter-century ago.

Sorry to state the obvious, but it apparently needs stating. There have been a lot of bad game shows in every era. There were a lot of rigged game shows in the supposedly good old days. Hey, Bill Cullen hosted some bad game shows.

And a lot of the recent shows that get trashed are actually pretty good, or more than pretty good. Engvall Lingo, 5th Grader, GSN's Chain Reaction (much better than the old Cullen version, by the way), Stump the Schwab, to name a few. A lot of people enjoyed these shows and continue to enjoy some of them in reruns on GSN. But naturally they bring no joy to the older-is-better bunch.

It's really a little sad that date of production means so much to some game show fans. They just won't allow themselves to enjoy some good shows due to their ideological commitment to old stuff. Oh well, the rest of us don't have that problem.

Perils of live TV

It's a slow news weekend. So it's time again for Richard Carson's awesome I've Got a Secret YouTube channel.

This stunt comes from the May 13, 1959 episode. By the way, the 1958-59 season was the last for IGAS in the top 10 shows on American TV. The 1955-59 period was the show's golden era, at least for the Nielsen Company. I've Got a Secret averaged an unimaginable (by today's standards) 29.8 household rating in 1958-59.

Anyway, this particular stunt concerns soap bubbles. Really, really big soap bubbles. Henry Repka, a dentist from Mount Vernon, NY, tells Garry Moore his secret: he's going to put Garry inside, you guessed it, a soap bubble. In the Q&A round, the panel never really gets close to the secret.

When it comes time for Henry to demonstrate his sudsy skill, the stunt doesn't quite come off, though he gets very close. This is live TV with all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. At least Henry manages to produce some mighty big and beautiful bubbles for the audience, though he also generates some soapy fizzles which get a few laughs.

At one point Garry says the bubbles would look gorgeous on color TV. They don't look bad on black and white television, either, as YouTube testifies. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Every number tells a story

GSN is dropping reality bomb Family Trade from its schedule starting the week of April 22-28. The show's lonely supporter on the GSN board offers some hope. Which I think is completely forlorn...

Other poster: According to Futon Critic, this past Tuesday [March 26] at 8pm got 249k. I'm sure if it goes UP, they will reinstate the show in May.

Yeah, sure, if it goes up to 500K-600K, the show might be back. But it's never done anything like those numbers even when it got a huge lead-in from American Bible Challenge. The show just looks like another Beat the Chefs flop.

In the latest published week March 18-24, for instance, Family Trade got 347K viewers on Thursday at 10:00PM, losing seventy percent of the 1.15M lead-in from American Bible Challenge. The 10:30PM run of Family Trade then dropped even further to 188K. In fact, that 10:00PM Thursday run was the show's only slot during the week which got more than 250K viewers. Family Trade averaged a paltry 187K viewers for all of its runs during the week, despite mostly prime-time and near-prime-time slots and endless promotion.

And as Futon Critic points out, the 18-49 numbers are negligible, so the show isn't bringing in any younger demos. Which was the whole idea of the reality slate in the first place. No viewers, no demos, no Family Trade. It's that simple.

Oh, no?

We've got another set report from Hollywood Junket. This time the junketeers take in GSN's remake of Minute To Win It.

The show sounds like a paint-by-the-numbers re-do of the NBC version with Guy Fieri, except the top prize is a GSN-sized quarter-million.

And except for a different host. There's no Fieri, and Hollywood Junket is not happy about it. They dump on Apolo Ohno, who GSN summoned to replace the Food Network fellow. The dumping is downright severe:
[Ohno's] personality is not strong enough to host a game show. Sure, he is likable, but the only thing he adds to the show is his name...he lacks the ability to connect with an audience as a host. He does not appear enthusiastic when he is on stage. People want to see someone that is happy to be there.
When the show finally turns up on GSN, we'll see if these criticisms are fair. A while back I said Ohno might be a risk because jocks tend to look lost outside their sports. I'm a little concerned to see similar comments from somebody who's been on the set. But it's not fair for me to judge sight unseen.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A post about Emmy

Hollywood Reporter has posted a story on the critical issue: what the hey is a Daytime Emmy worth? The answer seems to be not much, except to PBS. And station affiliates who like to say they're running Emmy-winning shows.

To be fair, the awards might mean a little something to game shows, which have become one of the main genres supposedly honored by the daytime kudos. Todd Newton looked pretty happy last year to win his Emmy for hosting Family Game Night. And who knows? The award may have helped the show stay on the air, after rumors surfaced that Hub might ax it.

Harry Friedman, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy showrunner, has won more of the awards than any mere mortal should. He agrees that Dear Emmy might help some shows to a renewal or three. Generally, I have little patience with Hollywood self-congratulation, even on the reduced scale of the Daytime Emmys. But if the little statues help a few game shows survive, I can tolerate them, barely.

IRRELEVANT BUT DESERVED UPDATE: Game Show Newsnet won the 2013 best game show site award from Carrie Grosvenor at About.com. They've won every year. I've been nominated every year. And I've lost every year, but am I bitter? Hell, yes! (Okay, just kidding.) Anyway, congrats to everybody at the Newsnet.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

List this, buddy

A faux tweet noted some goofball list of the top ten celebs on the old Dick Clark Pyramid. I asked how anybody could leave out Soupy Sales.

I wasn't the only one questioning the list. Over at the Sitcoms Online game show board, posters also wondered what happened to Soupy. And Nipsey Russell, Henry Polic II, Anita Gillette, Lynn Redgrave, Bill Cullen, Joanne Worley...

Game Show Newsnet calls the phenomenon "list abuse," which means no list is ever accurate or complete enough to please everybody. But the omissions from the Pyramid list seem particularly glaring. Maybe one poster at Sitcoms Online had it right: the list-maker just never watched much Pyramid.

I do top ten lists myself now and then, so I should hardly preach. But if you going to try a list, at least know a little about the subject.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What's my revived line?

Over at what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board, Chad Mosher posts that Fremantle is considering a What's My Line revival.

Whoopi Goldberg (not my fave) would be the lead panelist, with some tweaks to the gameplay. The show would lead off with the mystery guest round. Then the mystery guest would turn panelist for the rest of the proceedings. The civvie contestants would get bigger money, too.

Matt Ottinger comments - it did used to be his board, after all - that he has "mixed feelings" about all this. That's pretty much my reaction, too. Tarting up the gameplay a little isn't such a terrible idea. But Whoopi? Get somebody less polarizing.

A while back a rumor surfaced that David Hasselhoff wanted to revive WML. That went nowhere. We'll see if anything comes of this latest report.

Ratings: sun fries syndies

The TV industry does not like Daylight Savings Time. I don't have much use for it either, but who cares about me?

The first DST week crushed a lot of syndicated shows as folks stayed outside more for the later sunsets. Syndie game shows were no exception, as they mostly saw big drops in household ratings. TVNewsCheck brings the dolorous news for the week of March 11-17...

Wheel of Fortune 6.7 - down eight ticks, ouch
Jeopardy 6.2 - down eight ticks, double ouch
Family Feud 4.8 - down four ticks, those later timeslots are vulnerable to DST
Millionaire 2.2 - down a couple ticks as Meredith heads for the exits
Baggage 1.2 - up a tick, a big wow for Jerry!

The viewership averages from TV by the Numbers also showed the DST impact: Wheel of Fortune 10.8 million (weekend repeat 3.7 million), Jeopardy 9.4 million, Family Feud 7.0 million. All the shows were off big from the previous week.

Powered by American Bible Challenge and Steve Harvey's Family Feud, GSN enjoyed another blowout week (by the network's historical standards) for March 18-24, with 422K/308K prime time/total day viewership averages. GSN ranked 36th in both windows.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Just perfect

Hollywood Junket reports from the set of Perfect Score, the latest in an endless string of Dating Game remakes. What hath Chuck Barris wrought? This CW project uses compatibility scores as the latest twist on the looking-for-love format.

A couple friends gradually winnow down a field of ten possible dates to two finalists. Whichever final pair is the most compatible gets the night out and some cash. Folks, you've seen this before.

The Junket reviewer thought some of the contestants were dull. That's an occupational hazard in the dating sub-genre. The reviewer likes host Arielle Kebbel, who is "witty, attractive, and spunky." I didn't think a female host could be described as "spunky" until she was fifty years old. But what do I know?

This doesn't sound like the worst of the endless dating game permutations. But how many singles searching for romance can viewers endure? Oh well, these particular singles arrive this summer.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Taking on Alex Davis

Scott Rahner, who just started blogging at Game Show Network News, is not afraid of the establishment. As in BuzzerBlog.

Scott has criticized Alex Davis at the buzzer site for predicting success for GSN's Family Trade. With the reality show crashing in the ratings, Alex's rosy outlook does seem, let's say, inaccurate. Scott also rips Alex for applauding GSN's Dancing With the Stars acquisition, which proved disastrous. (I have to plead guilty on that charge, too.)

Alex and I have had a few go-rounds on the GSN board, so I'm not unbiased here. My main problem with Alex is that he tends to let his own personal tastes dictate his recommendations for GSN. Alex loves Whose Line, so he thought Improv-a-Ganza was a great idea. Alex likes dirty humor, so he thought Late Night Liars would perform swell. Alex is aggressively anti-religious, so he thought American Bible Challenge was a terrible project. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

I'm wrong all the time, too, so I'm a little hesitant to bash Alex for these bad calls. Anyway, Mr. Davis remains unabashed in his ideas for GSN. He still wants the network to try more non-traditional stuff, like a retread of The Mole (see the picture). And he has always advertised his lack of interest in old game shows, which continue to get a lot of air time on GSN.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The shot heard round Concentration

Sometimes things just fall together. Happened to see a thread on what used to be Matt Ottinger's board about NBC's original Concentration. That got me looking around YouTube for old episodes.

And with baseball season about to start, I found a couple eps from 1963 with the pictured Ralph Branca. Of course, twelve years earlier, Branca had allowed that home run to Bobby Thomson.

The two episodes on YouTube come from a champions' playoff between Branca and Art Levine. These were two terrific players facing off against each other. Branca had won 17 straight games in his original appearance on the show. He was the Ken Jennings of the rebus bunch, you might say. Branca lost the playoff to Levine, though not on a walk-off homer.

The YouTube tapes brought back some pleasant memories from my misspent youth of those weird picture puzzles. Not to mention the show's goofy organ music and cheesy commercials. Since the last version of Concentration expired in 1991, fans have pined for another series. Given the plodding pace of the show and the hard, well, concentration required, I'm not hopeful. 

Shakespearean

There's another change in the GSN schedule, as Scott Rahner noted and I relayed to the GSN board...

One other April 1 change that Scott Rahner pointed out at his new blog, Game Show Network News: GSN will start running John O'Hurley's bullseye Family Feud episodes from the 2009-10 season, which of course was O'Hurley's last. I didn't notice this in the pdfs, but the new eps are a fairly significant addition. I wasn't thrilled with the bullseye round, but I wasn't horrified by it, either. Just another wrinkle in the gameplay.

Other poster: I did notice the "New" designation on the O'Hurley eps. Welcome change for me, O'Hurley was my favorite of the 2000's hosts.

Roger Dobkowitz made a funny remark about O'Hurley in that endless interview he gave to Slow Boat to The Land of Parting Gifts:

There was a good description going around the stage when John O’Hurley did the test shows...it was Shakespeare’s version of The Price Is Right! John was very dignified doing the games. His deep resonating voice used perfect English with faultless enunciation. Needless to say, all of this was not a good match for our show.

You know, John did the Shakespeare version of Family Feud. I've been watching his eps a lot lately, and yeah, it's the deep voice and the perfect English and the faultless enunciation. Don't know if that's exactly my favorite style for Feud, but it sure is different from the current incumbent. Steve Harvey does the anti-Shakespeare version, which the Nielsen Company says is far more popular. Richard Karn was somewhere in-between.

Friday, March 22, 2013

They're gonna replace Alex?

The buzz about possible replacements for Alex Trebek continues. So a top ten list was inevitable.

I've already mentioned my fave, Mark Walberg. But the linked story runs through a bunch of possibilities, some of which have been chattered about elsewhere. There are also more than a few offbeat ideas. My quick and dirty reaction to all ten candidates...

10) Ben Bailey. I dearly loves me my Cash Cab, but Ben looked stiff on Who's Still Standing.

9) Pat Sajak. The guy already has this other show you may have heard about.

8) Mark McGrath. Don't send a boy to do an old-skewing show's job.

7) Matt Lauer. Heard this before. So-so, bland, who cares?

6) Tim Gunn. Who? Okay, I've heard of him, just barely. Too prissy.

5) Don Lemon. Again, who? I've absolutely never heard of this guy. Looks like a run-of-the-mill newsreader.

4) Rachel Maddow. Everybody to the right of Hillary Clinton would tune out.

3) Anderson Cooper. Another oft-mentioned possibility. His syndie just got axed and he doesn't draw much of an audience on CNN, a network going down the tubes.

2) Brian Williams. NBC is not going to let their news anchor do a game show. Any game show.

1) Meredith Vieira. She just quit a game show, after all.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Red menace

Readers of this blog know I cover chess shows on the Internet as if they're game shows. They're not traditional game shows, of course, but they're closer than Bachelorette and the other reality nonsense. People are playing a real game in the chess events, after all.

Right now the Candidates tournament is cranking along in London to choose a challenger for the world championship. If you know anything about chess, you won't be amazed to hear that Magnus Carlsen is currently tied for the lead.

But who cares about Magnus? A lot of chatter on the chess forums concerns an awful horror in the official site's live presentation of the games. In a stunning, unprecedented, humongous and all-round colossal departure from tradition, the site is using red pieces instead of black on the diagrams. Why, you'd think the world had ended, started up again, and then ended again.

This only proves that Internet traditionalists aren't confined to traditional game shows. Mess with anything that people are used to, and you're asking for yelps all over the Web.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The wipe monster

Today GSN announced a bunch of "new" old shows on the schedule.

Of course, those old shows might never have made it to GSN if the wipe monster hadn't been stopped in its tracks. Long long ago in a galaxy far far away, video tape was expensive. So networks wiped their old shows to make room for newer shows, which in turn got wiped. Or sometimes they just dumped the tapes to make room.

Game shows felt the monster's wrath very harshly. Thousands of classic game show episodes disappeared into the dustbin of history. You Bet Your Life, Groucho Marx's game (and/or talk) show, almost met the terrible fate. Luckily, Groucho's grandson Andy helped save the tapes for posterity.

Andy has written an account of the rescue, which does sound a bit self-serving. But anybody who helped save Groucho's work should pat himself on the back a little. Too bad Andy couldn't have been around for Art Fleming's Jeopardy, or Chuck Woolery's Wheel of Fortune, or so many others.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ratings: syndies shrug

Syndicated game shows didn't wander much in the week of March 4-10. A little up, a little down. But Jeopardy is closing in on its soulmate. Watch out, Pat and Vanna! Not that Wheel of Fortune had a terrible week. It tied for the highest household rating among all syndies. The latest numbers are delivered by TVNewsCheck...

Wheel of Fortune 7.5 - down a tick but still tops the syndies
Jeopardy 7.0 - up a couple ticks and close behind the soulmate
Family Feud 5.2 - flat
Millionaire 2.4 - down a tick
Baggage 1.1 - flat, the story never changes for Jerry

TV by the Numbers has the viewership averages for the top three: Wheel of Fortune 11.7 million (weekend repeat 5.4 million), Jeopardy 10.7 million, Family Feud 7.6 million. These total viewer numbers still look robust compared to broadcast prime time, even in a sort of blah week.

GSN continued to rock and roll in the week of March 11-17 with 418K/309K prime time/total day viewership averages. Very good numbers by our little network's standards.

Not everything is rosy for GSN. Family Trade crashed hard in its second week. The show averaged 213K viewers for the 8:00PM hour on March 19. The 18-49 numbers were negligible, almost certainly falling below Nielsen's threshold for statistical credibility. Unless the show stages a big rebound, I expect its stay on GSN to be brief.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fellow-blogger

Just added a new blog to the sidebar blogroll. It's Scott Rahner's Game Show Network News. As you might guess, the blog concerns all things GSN.

I have to warn you that my ugly mug shows up in a March 17 entry. Don't let that scare you away, though. Scott does a good job dissecting ratings, schedule changes, production plans, and most everything else about our little game show network.

The blog is a new arrival, having just started last month. Scott left a comment on an entry here, which alerted me to his blog. He seems to have sources at the network but maintains an independent editorial stance. That's why he calls the blog an "Unofficial-Official News Source for GSN."

Hope the blog lives long and prospers. Oh sorry, don't you just hate Star Trek references?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mark my words

The news about possible successors to Alex Trebek has the Jeopardy mavens at JBoard.tv buzzing.

A lot of the comments are goofy or dismissive of the whole idea of Alex stepping down. But there are some serious suggestions, too. We get deep into the thread, though, before anybody mentions my own favorite, Mark Walberg.

Mark, of course, proved how well he could host a quizzer on GSN's late, lamented Russian Roulette. He has the combination of entertainment chops and intellectual heft to host the "thinking person's" show. Anybody who watched Mark play Lingo on the April Fools special knows this guy is no dummy and can easily handle the Jeopardy chores. He's done well on Antiques Roadshow, which is pitched at pretty much the same demo as the answer-and-question-fest.

But we'll have to wait and see if Alex has any intention of stepping down any time soon, or not so soon.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Steve Harvey muses

Hollywood Reporter has posted a long story on media conglomerate Steve Harvey. The Family Feud host rambles about every topic under the sun. By turns he sounds righteous about religion, caustic about Hollywood, and rather conventional about race (with the usual accusations of racism).

The biggest news for me is tucked into the second-last paragraph. Steve is thinking about leaving Family Feud after a "few more" years, so he can travel more. Really? Feud only gives him his biggest audience. Bigger than the talk show, bigger than the radio show. I'm pretty sure Fremantle will find the bucks to keep Harvey from trips to the Holy Land, at least for the time being.

The story points out that Steve benefits from a demographic fact: African-Americans watch an awful lot of TV. No, I'm not saying this is the only or even a major cause of his success. Don't want Harvey accusing me of racism, after all. But the demos from the Nielsen Company played a part in Cedric Kyles getting the Millionaire gig, as everybody seems to admit, more or less.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Newbies

Faux tweets noted that speed skater Apolo Ohno will host GSN's Minute To Win It remake, and that Today's Matt Lauer is in the running to replace Alex Trebek on Jeopardy when he retires.

Guess it's the season of the game show newbie. I don't want to sound snobbish here. After all, Bill Cullen was once just a radio announcer before somebody figured he could host a game show or two, or twenty-three. We all gotta start somewhere.

Both Lauer and Ohno are comfortable in front of the camera. And they would probably do okay in the unscripted, off-the-cuff talk which a game show host has to dispense. In a close precedent for Lauer, Meredith Vieira migrated from Today to Millionaire successfully enough. At least she kept the show going for eleven seasons.

Ohno is probably the bigger risk. Jocks tend to look notoriously ill-at-east when dragged out of their sport. But it's been a while since he was really a jock, anyway, and his IMDb page even lists a credit on Hollywood Squares. So I'm guessing he will, at a minimum, prove competent on Minute. We should see later this year.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Demo, what demo?

Futon Critic published the demo numbers for Family Trade.

If the idea behind GSN's much-discussed reality slate is to get better 18-49 numbers, well, we may have to go back to the drawing board. Because Family Trade pulled a tiny audience in the demo: an average of 46K for the hour. I mean, the ancient-skewing CNBC got more than twice that number.

Sure, nothing much on GSN draws an audience in 18-49. But the reason the network is trying this non-trad stuff in the first place is to skew younger. If the reality shows just get average total-viewer numbers, as Family Trade did in its debut, and also skew as old as traditional game shows, what's the point? You might as well crank up some more Family Feud reruns. A typical night of Newlywed Game first-runs averaged 73K 18-49 viewers for its two hours.

Off-topic, but sort-of-game show Robot Combat League is crashing, burning and spewing hydraulic fluid all over the set. The latest run was down to 681K viewers, compared to 1.3 million for the show's premiere.

Un minuto, por favor

Flipping around the cable channels, I happened across Minuto para Ganar, a.k.a. the Spanish Minute To Win It.

My Spanish doesn't extend much beyond buenos días, but you don't need Cervantes' command of the language to understand most of the proceedings. This is a simple stunt show, after all. Sadly, there's no Spanish equivalent for the rhyme in the English title. So the name comes out as a rather prosaic "minute to win."

The episode I watched featured a mother-son team. The lady was the most bottle-ish of bottle blondes, which threw me off a little. I also noticed that the disembodied female voice on the blueprints didn't have an English accent. Of course, it wasn't speaking English to begin with.

The stunts were pretty much the same as on the English version. The biggest difference was the host, and I don't just mean Marco Antonio Regil was taller and darker than Guy Fieri. He was also dialed way back compared to the fiery guy. Of course, we're all pretty dialed-back compared to the static-haired fanatic from Food Network. But it was still somehow disconcerting to see such a calm host on the show.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Family flop

I promised that I would keep an open mind on Family Trade, GSN's new reality show. But I frankly wasn't expecting much.

I got even less. This show truly stinks. It's an obvious ripoff of Pawn Stars and it does everything wrong. The premise is that the Old Man equivalent, some guy named Gardner Stone, runs a car dealership in Vermont. He takes weird stuff in trade, like pigs and maple syrup. He has lots of arguments with his two grown kids and everybody else who works on the car lot. He's unlikable and never shuts up.

The family fights look about as staged and phony as any reality crud could. What GSN obviously missed is that Pawn Stars succeeded because of the interesting nature of the historical items brought into the shop. The "reality" bits of Pawn Stars are mostly insufferable.

We've still got all the insufferable reality nonsense on Family Trade. What we don't have are any interesting items to learn about...unless you're fascinated by pigs and maple syrup. As I already mentioned, old man Stone is annoying with his cowboy hat and endless b.s., and the kids aren't much better.

So all in all, there's nothing much worth watching. So I'm not going to watch any more.

UPDATE: It's not my cup of maple syrup, but the show scored decent numbers for GSN in its debut: 388K viewers at 8:00PM and 418K at 8:30PM. That pretty much matches GSN's latest prime time average of 402K viewers for the March 4-10 week. Family Trade's numbers ain't great but they're better than I expected. We'll see how the show holds up in future weeks.

Ratings: syndies sweep forward

Syndicated game shows generally enjoyed the just concluded February sweeps (Jan 31-Feb 27). And one show really liked the results. It was better living through better timeslots for Family Feud. Jeopardy also saw a nice bump, and Let's Ask America rose from its debut week last September. TVNewsCheck brings the mostly good news...

Wheel of Fortune 7.6 - up a tick from last year's February sweeps
Jeopardy 6.8 - up a very nice five ticks from last year
Family Feud 5.3 - up a whopping twenty-one ticks as the new timeslots deliver
Millionaire 2.6 - down a tick but not doing too badly
Let's Ask America 1.9 - up three ticks from its premiere week
Baggage 1.1 - last place, pretty much where it's been for all of its first year in syndication

TV by the Numbers didn't bother with sweeps but just did their usual top 25 list for the latest week, February 26-March 3. Wheel of Fortune topped all syndies with an 11.7 million viewership average (weekend repeat 5.5 million). Jeopardy followed with 10.3 million, then came Family Feud with 7.7 million.

Sort-of-game show Robot Combat League is leaking viewers along with hydraulic fluid. The last couple runs were down to a million or fewer viewers, compared to 1.3 million for the show's debut (see the sidebar). The 18-49 ratings are also eroding.

GSN scored a great week for March 4-10 by the network's historical standards: 402K/309K viewership averages prime time/total day. The network ranked 39th and 35th in the windows.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Grumping about the wheel

Gotta love the fans. No matter what, they complain.

Latest example: this thread at Buy a Vowel. The poster runs through an interview with Harry Friedman, showrunner for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Naturally, the poster interjects a running string of complaints, whines, and general disgruntlements about this, that and the other on Wheel.

An example is Harry's comment that everybody on the show, including Pat and Vanna, chips in ideas for puzzles. The suggestions then go to Friedman for final approval. Which inspires this from the poster: "Harry's responsible for the crappy puzzles because he approved them." Well, at least he isn't responsible for the good puzzles, right?

The post winds up with these kind words for Harry and his show: "I should have expected [the interviewer] to address the dubbing, the bad puzzle writing, or the broken nature of the Trip Puzzle...but not one discouraging word was said about either show. A further problem is that Friedman acts like Wheel's perfect when it clearly isn't, and the interview emphasizes the chrome at the expense of the decaying material underneath."

Gee, you'd think the guy didn't like the show or something. Seriously, if Wheel is so bad, why does he bother with the interview? Of course, the show is much, much better than the poster allows, but grumping is a time-honored privilege for us denizens of the game show Interwebs. Lord knows I do enough of it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cute kids, baseball, whatever

There's no excuse for this post, except I just suffered though the U.S. team laboring to the second round of the World Baseball Classic. The Yanks beat the Canucks 9-4 but the game was brutally close for a long tense time.

Afterwards, for the sheer nonsense of it, I searched on "game show baseball" at YouTube. This wickedly cute video popped up. It shows two teams of grade schoolers, girls vs. boys, competing on math questions in a game show format. Each time a team gets a question right, the video cuts to an outdoors shot of a kid running to the next base on a baseball diamond.

Both teams eventually get around to home, so the game goes to a tiebreaker. (Should sound familiar to anybody who's followed the World Baseball Classic.) I won't spoil the outcome, but the final question is a toughie.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Lingos we have known

Yes, I've been recycling a lot of stuff from the GSN board.

But we're supposed to recycle, right? Saves the planet or something. Anyway, folks got to talking about Chuck Woolery's Lingo returning to the schedule after a brief hiatus. I had some not so hot news from the Nielsen Company. And I also had a few good words for Chuck's successor...

Other poster: Smart move for GSN, Woolery Lingo has always performed relatively well, even in infinite reruns. Besides, Woolery is the far superior host, both pre-cohost and during. It's a shame there was something getting in the way of his return to the 2011 revival.

I like Woolery's Lingo, but he got mediocre ratings at best in his return, compared to far better numbers for Engvall. Chuck averaged 176K viewers, compared to Engvall's 341K just three hours later. Okay, Chuck was up against The Price is Right, but the ratings were still underwhelming.

By the way, I like Engvall's Lingo, too. He's always produced pretty good numbers, so I never understood why GSN canned his show after only one season. But then Chain Reaction has also gotten consistently good ratings - 350K for the 3:00PM hour in the February 25-March 3 week - and GSN dumped that show after two seasons.

Better safe than sorry

I've been having my share of disagreements with GSN posters lately. Now I get into a debate over Wheel of Fortune strategy. Sometimes you have to play it safe...

Other poster: If you saw the episode, you'll know. FINANCIAL STATEMENT. All but the C was revealed in the first word. Guy lands on $5,000 space and chooses C. Important to note, T was not revealed. He then spins again and lands on a puny figure and chooses the T and then solves the puzzle. He missed out on $15,000 and went with $5,000.

He couldn't be sure of the second word when he guessed C, because much of the word was not revealed. (All that was on the board at the time was _ _ A _ E _ E N _.) But all of "financial" was revealed except for C, so he played safe and picked a letter he knew was there. After he tucked away $5,000, he picked T for the uncertain second word.

When you've got $5,000 staring at you, you pick a letter you know for sure is in the puzzle. He ended up with $17,250 (all cash) on the show, so he hardly bombed out with his safety-first strategy. A lot of nights he would have won with that total.

By the way, the bonus round was tricky. Had to pick A and/or P to have any chance. See the linked thread for the details.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Not old enough yet

The GSN board wants more old stuff. And more old stuff after that. And still more...well, you get the idea. I quibble a bit with the latest suggestion for even more...

Other poster: But you do have to wonder with new stations coming into existence over last few years that only play old shows whether or not GSN should consider going a bit more retro with some programming.

Not a surprising suggestion on this board, to put it mildly. But here's the thing. GSN is already heavily retro, much more than most other cable outlets. They run dozens of hours of '70s and '80s programming every week. This week it's 24.5 hours of pre-1990 material, and some of the other shows, like Karn Feud, Whammy and Dog Eat Dog, are getting some age on them. If you take a peek at the top cable nets, hardly any of them run anything like that much old programming. In fact, it's pretty rare for any cable network except the few nostalgia specialists.

Never understood the bitterness toward GSN expressed by a lot of old-TV fans. If anything, they should praise the network as one of the few cable outlets which runs really old stuff for hours and hours.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Just a sports kind of guy

Somehow I never imagined Regis Philbin as the anchor of a sports network. But the Millionaire legend will soon be talking about the sporting millionaires we buy tickets to watch.

Regis is set to host Rush Hour on Fox Sports 1, the fledgling would-be competitor to the behemoth known as the Worldwide Leader, ESPN. He will go head-to-head at 5:00PM against Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption. Lotsa luck, Reege.

"I never in a million years expected to be thought of as a sportscaster," says the unassuming Mr. Philbin. Well, there were those who never thought of him as a game show host, either. Then the money tree sprouted on ABC.

At age 81 Regis is being given the rather odd task of attracting the male 18-49 demo. Fox execs swear that they believe in his appeal to everybody young and old. We'll get the final answer beginning August 17.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ratings: syndies get happy

Syndicated game shows staged a nice rally for the week of February 18-24. They certainly welcomed the good news after a definite downer the week before. Everybody except poor Jerry had something to cheer about. TVNewsCheck spreads the joy...

Wheel of Fortune 7.7 - up four ticks
Jeopardy 6.9 - up three ticks to keep the soulmate company
Family Feud 5.4 - up a couple ticks to tie its season and series high
Millionaire 2.7 - up three ticks to a much-needed season high
Baggage 1.1 - down a tick, Jerry can't catch a break or a date

In more good tidings for Meredith, she made the top 25 list at TV by the Numbers. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.1 million (weekend repeat 5.6 million), Jeopardy 10.6 million, Family Feud 8.1 million, Millionaire 3.6 million. Cedric is coming to the randomized money tree, and the numbers aren't in terrible shape.

GSN enjoyed another nice week for February 25-March 3, with 361K/288K viewership averages prime time/total day. They should have one more week of solid numbers before Family Trade debuts.

Ten I could do without

A thread on the GSN board asked for the top ten game shows you really don't miss.

This being the game show Interweb, people's lists leaned mostly toward more recent shows. Older-is-better pretty much reigns on Net game show boards. So I decided to pick shows from every decade. These are purely personal dislikes, folks. Some of these shows lasted for a while, so somebody out there liked them. Starting from the 1950s...

Two for the Money. An attempted reply to Groucho's You Bet Your Life. We found out that Herb Shriner was not Groucho.

The Name's the Same. Imagine I've Got a Secret where everybody has the same secret. Or What's My Line where everybody has the same line. No, you don't want to imagine it.

You're in the Picture. The legendary one-episode Jackie Gleason flop. At least Gleason admitted the mistake.

Match Game (1960s). Boy, it was dull. Dull, dull, dull. Did I mention dull? They finally got some comedy writers for a certain revival you may have heard of.

Bowling for Dollars. I liked Johnny Carson's suggestion of Bowling for Towels better.

Gong Show and its bastard offspring Extreme Gong. Okay, there was a little cheesy charm here. And a lot of barf inducement.

Card Sharks. Higher. Lower. Who cares? This acey-deucey epic made the poker shows look like grandmaster chess.

Press Your Luck and its really better offspring Whammy. Except for Michael Larson the game offered all the intellectual challenge of pressing a button.

Strip Poker. Embarrassing to admit, but I peeked at the hardbody twenty-somethings stripping down to their skivvies. I'm so ashamed. The show reeked by any objective standard.

Burt Luddin's Love Buffet. A combination of a game show and a behind-the-scenes scripted show. Both stunk.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Get well soon for a legend

A distressing story crossed the Internet recently about announcing legend Don Pardo. Seems that Mr. Pardo, 95, has suffered that all too common injury for older people: a broken hip.

Don missed the latest episode of Saturday Night Live. That's the one gig he still keeps after a lifetime of announcing everything from game shows to soaps to Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade to hard news to Weird Al's I Lost on Jeopardy. The list of his game show credits stretches for IMDb decades, all the way back to Winner Take All in the early 1950s.

His most famous job in our genre was probably Art Fleming's Jeopardy, where Art would thank him at the top of every episode. But he's chipped in on The Price is Right, Concentration, Wheel of Fortune, Three on a Match, Winning Streak, Eye Guess and Jackpot, among others. The latest reports say that Mr. Pardo is doing well and should return to SNL. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The ultimate cute kid

Don't mean to go overboard on old I've Got a Secret stuff. But it's my blog and I'll cry if I want to.

The October 19, 1960 IGAS episode featured one of the cutest kids ever unleashed on an unsuspecting audience. Older kid Clifton Kendrick came out with his baby brother, the ferociously cute Timothy Kendrick. Their secret? Clifton assembled a collection of forty insects for a school project. And then Timothy ate them all.

The panel had no chance to guess the secret. Timothy was monopolizing everybody's attention with smiles and spitting. He seemed really interested in flirting with Betsy Palmer. At one point Bill Cullen (unintentionally) brought down the house with a comment that Timothy was "catching flies." That's the old vaudeville term for distracting attention from other actors on stage.

The guy who uploaded the linked YouTube clip says that he contacted Clifton and Timothy in 2003 to give them a copy of the tape. Turns out that Timothy went on from his IGAS appearance to do some writing for Saturday Night Live.

One other odd note: Betsy asked if the audience's reaction to the "catching flies" comment meant that the secret had something to do with baseball. The secret didn't, of course, but the very next guest on the episode sure did. He was Bill Mazeroski, who had recently launched the seventh-game home run which won the 1960 World Series. I've Got a Secret is a history book, though an uncommonly entertaining one.

Semi-number-palooza

It's been a while since I did a true number-palooza on ratings info. I write the weekly ratings posts but don't really dig as much as I used to. On the GSN board, though, I got a little number-crunchy about GSN and other networks...

Other poster: Now if we could have special marathons, that could attract Game Show fans, as well as casual viewers. Wheel of Fortune for example is long due for another marathon, and should actually be on the schedule.

As a subsequent poster pointed out, GSN occasionally does specials for the hardcores, like the Match Game marathon and the Christmas What's My Line/I've Got a Secret run. And I'm sure GSN would love to get recent eps of Wheel of Fortune. Please persuade the network's overseers at Sony.

But GSN is doing fine in the numbers with its current schedule, despite constant calls on this board for more old stuff. The latest week, February 18-24, averaged 360K/287K viewers prime time/total day, very good by the network's historical standards.

I've got a feeling that Family Trade will hurt the numbers, but I don't expect the show to last long. And the new season of American Bible Challenge should help.

Another poster: Karn and O'Hurley might eventually fade away, but for now they're still doing solid enough numbers in the afternoon and on Monday nights.

As I already commented, Karn and O'Hurley averaged 349K viewers for all their showings in the latest week. That's a lot better than "solid enough" by GSN standards. Of course, I don't expect Harvey, Karn and O'Hurley to have many fans around here. But they've got lots of fans in GSN's actual audience.

Yet another poster: Hallmark brought back I Love Lucy over night, and they are one of the highest rated Cable Networks. (Though I prefer the old Hallmark, the Insp channel fills in that void where Hallmark left off).

In case you're wondering, Hallmark averaged 563K/423K viewers prime time/total day for the month of February. That ranked 32nd/30th in the windows among cable nets. It's really a stretch to call Hallmark one of the "highest rated" cable networks. It's a mid-sized network much like GSN. (USA, the truly highest-rated network, averaged 2.8 million viewers in prime time, dwarfing both Hallmark and GSN.)

The INSP network you mentioned averaged 331K/142K, 42nd and 58th in the windows. By an odd coincidence, the prime time number was close to GSN's, but the total day number was much lower. Their schedule shows that INSP runs a great deal of religious programming outside of prime time. This may be part of the network's mission, but the religious programs don't seem to be drawing many viewers, resulting in the low total day number.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Judgment day

The faux tweet about Tina Fey playing faux Pyramid - we've got lots of faux's around here - got me thinking about the judging rumpuses on the show.

Wouldn't you know, a thread popped up on what used to be Matt Ottinger's board about Pyramid judging. The original poster dinged what he saw as unfair judging on the old Dick Clark version. Naturally, most other posters leaped to the defense of the old show. Had the o.p. complained about judging on Donny Osmond's version, posters would have agreed that it was an outrage, abomination, and all-round evil thing.

I don't recall many complaints from the hardcore fans about judging on GSN's recent, ill-fated Pyramid. But that show followed Clark's version so slavishly that the hardcores gave it a pass on just about everything. Of course, any version of Pyramid is brutal to judge. Verbal and visual clues fly by at the literal speed of sound, and the poor judge has to decide instantly whether to zap somebody.

Dick Cavett, a good Pyramid player, once expressed sympathy for "the poor fellow who, watching from the control booth, had to make — under inhuman pressure — the instant on-air decisions about what answers and clues to accept or reject." Yep, I can sympathize, too.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Rerun blues

The GSN board specializes in complaints about the network's short lease of Press Your Luck. This got me to plug one of my own faves on the network...

Other poster: I'm not an economic expert, but something tells me that the state of our economy would have minimal to no effect on the asking price of decades old episodes of game shows.

Something tells me that supply and demand rules the world. I really doubt Fremantle is charging "outrageous" prices for shows that nobody - except GSN to a very limited extent - wants.

Sorry to be blunt, but GSN is just covering some off-hours in the morning with cheap programming. Why should they spend a penny more than necessary on small, advertiser-unfriendly audiences? They could probably buy more eps of Press Your Luck for a song, but why sing the song? In the latest published week, February 18-24, PYL averaged 181K viewers with a median age of 102 (slight exaggeration). If GSN bought more eps, that viewership number might leap to...185K.

In the same week Chain Reaction - a show that has endured 88 gazillion rerun cycles, far more than the latest lease of PYL - averaged 369K viewers for its weekday hour. Now there's a show GSN might actually consider making more episodes of. But I'm not holding my breath on that one, either.