Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Spoiled rotten

Noticed a strange comment on Game Show Newsnet today...

There have been words from tapings of the season premiere of "Wheel of Fortune" from Vegas. Adhering to our policy of not wanting to spoil anything for viewers, we will wait for official notice and then report as official word becomes available.

I guess this refers to the news from Buy a Vowel about the new Express wedge on the wheel. I blogged about it a couple days ago. It's a different wrinkle in the gameplay. Is this really "spoiling" anything? I don't see how. Nobody has leaked any actual game results, as Wheel itself did about their second million dollar winner. Folks are just talking about a new game within the game.

Game Show Newsnet does seem to be getting a bit too scrupulous here. I've occasionally gotten embargoed press releases in my e-mail, and I'll respect those. But when a report about a new gameplay element is published on a site which has proven reliable in the past, I don't see anything wrong with relaying the information. The worst that can happen is that the news proves incorrect.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ratings: Wheel and Jeopardy creep up

There really wasn't much movement for syndie game shows in the week of July 15-21. But the top two did add a few tenths as they continued to recover from some season lows a while back. The news was a bit worse for Steve and Meredith, but poor Jerry got a small gift. TVNewsCheck has all the numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - up a tick
Jeopardy 5.9 - up a couple ticks and hard on the heels of the soulmate
Family Feud 4.3 - down a tick
Millionaire 2.3 - also down a tick as the clock ticks down (sorry) for Meredith
Baggage 1.0 - Jerry moves up a tenth of a point!

TV by the Numbers has the healthier looking viewer averages for the top two: Wheel of Fortune 9.2 million (weekend repeat 4.2 million), Jeopardy 8.7 million, Family Feud 6.4 million, Millionaire 3.2 million. You know, it's pretty hard nowadays for any show anywhere to average nine million viewers.

Douglas Pucci says that GSN had a decent but not outstanding week for July 22-28. 346K/275K viewership averages prime time/total day. Seen better, seen worse.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Climb on the express

Buy a Vowel reports an interesting twist in Wheel of Fortune gameplay for the upcoming season. Sounds like a gamble for some lucky (or unlucky) contestant who lands on the "Express" wedge.

When landed on, the player must first call a consonant for $1,000 each. If it's there, the player will get the $1,000 per letter and then they must decide either to take another normal turn or to "hop aboard the Express", meaning they keep calling consonants for $1,000 each or buying vowels until they solve the puzzle. However, if the player calls a wrong letter anywhere along the way, they go Bankrupt.

The board chews over the news, and there are naturally some traditionalist grumbles. But quite a few posters seem to like the idea as a nice change-up in the play of the game. The biggest complaint is that hopping on the express might eliminate some wheel-spinning. Well, yeah, but the big wheel should still spin enough to keep most viewers happy.

Love it or hate it, the Express is apparently coming to the third round this fall. At least it's something new to look for.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

All those episodes

Jeopardy wraps up season 29 this week with the kids. That'll make 230 eps in the can for the show's twenty-ninth go-round.

Which is remarkable when you think about it. Nowadays, scripted shows labor through maybe fifteen or twenty episodes and call it a "season." Every year Jeopardy (not to mention the other syndie game shows) produces hundreds of eps while barely raising a sweat. And it's not like nobody is watching. Jeopardy consistently attracts eight or nine million viewers. Okay, the audience skews older than, well, me. But a lot of scripted shows would kill for an audience that size.

Whatever else you might say about our little genre - and a lot of not so flattering things have been said - we can still churn out the product. Which gets back to one of the genre's greatest strengths: low production costs. If a game show hits big, it's no problem to crank out a bunch of episodes for very reasonable money.

In fact, the production glut can lead to overexposure, as a certain network discovered with a certain show hosted by Regis Philbin. But that's a discussion for another day.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

To close or not to close

It's been a while since I dropped by the GSN board. So when I got there today, I found out that the board wasn't there any more. Or at least it wasn't supposed to be there any more. The board was scheduled to shut down two days ago, on July 25, according to the moderator.

Except the board is still open. So I posted my farewell message today, in case the board really does shut down one of these days...

Shows how closely I've been monitoring the situation. I get to post my last comment after the board is closed down...or was supposed to be closed down...or somebody said it would be closed down. 

Anyway, it's been nice...or maybe it will go on being nice until the board shuts if does shut down. By the way, comments are welcome on Game Show Follies, which is not being shut down...or even maybe shut down.

So much for that. I've had some skirmishes on the GSN board, most notably when I tried to persuade some of the older-is-better folks that the network couldn't live forever (or even for a couple weeks) on forty-year-old game shows only. But the board was always a quirky, interesting place. Hail and farewell, if the GSN board really is going away.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cheap predictions

A bunch of game show debuts have come and gone over the past few months. So what are their odds for survival?

If I had to guess, which I don't, I'd say the most likely to reach a second season are Hollywood Game Night and GSN's Minute To Win It. Neither has garnered overwhelming total viewer numbers. But they both skew relatively young, at least compared to most of our little genre. Okay, Minute skews young by GSN standards, which means it gets more than three persons in the 18-49 demo.

Of course, one game show about to debut is already guaranteed a second season: GSN's version of The Chase. It helps when your network likes your project so much that they give you a renewal before the show even gets on the air (or the cable wire). Meanwhile, the venerable Wipeout franchise is looking somewhat fragile on ABC. I have to wonder how many more seasons we'll see of the spills and chills.

And if all these predictions turn out wrong, I won't be surprised. Who knows what goes through the minds of network execs when it comes time to wield (or spare) the ax?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The second time (and every time) as farce

Remember that Brandi Cochran lawsuit against The Price is Right? If you don't remember, I can sympathize. It's hard to keep it straight from the Lanisha Cole lawsuit or the Deborah Curling lawsuit or the Shane Sterling lawsuit or...jeez louise, I don't have time for the full flipping list.

Well, Brandi got eight million dollars from a generous jury. Except the original trial judge has now thrown the verdict out. He says he should have instructed the jury on how to turn off the lights in the jury room, or something. His decision is based on either a California supreme court ruling or a fortune cookie. He scheduled a new trial for later this year.

As you can probably tell, I don't take these legal wrangles with the complete seriousness that they no doubt deserve. Ever since Bob Barker got caught diddling one of the models - I can't even remember her name now - The Price is Right has been a lawyer magnet. It's got plenty of money, and plenty of people want some.

Maybe I should sue the show. I've got nothing better to do over the weekend.

UPDATE: Just realized that this is actually a pretty old news item, from March, 2013. But just about everything I have to say about the case remains applicable. I figure this lawsuit will last for eight more years and make several lawyers healthy, wealthy...but probably not wise.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


JUST FINISHED WATCHING - oh, sorry for the shouting - the debut of ABC Family's Spell-Mageddon. And as you might guess from this entry's title, the show was louder than seventy-six trombones leading the big parade, with a hundred and ten cornets close at hand. At least they got the right host for the show, the stentorian Alfonso Ribeiro. That guy never learned how to turn down his volume control.

The premise is simple. Put-upon contestants try to spell words while getting squirted, doused, dunked, shocked, steamed, swirled, handled, strobe-lighted and the Game Show God knows what else. This leads to endless screaming, screeching and shrieking. One by one the screamers, er, contestants are eliminated until a lucky pair faces off for ten grand, which seems cheap compensation for all their troubles.

To be honest, I got some evil chuckles watching the poor contestants endure one indignity after another. I've always had a sneaking love for stunt shows that put people through stuff nobody should be put through. Still, after a while - like five minutes - a certain sameness crept in. Yes, I know that it's tough to spell words when you're getting slammed and whammed. You don't have to tell me 99 times. There's also a fair amount of padding with lots of replays.

Oh well, the show is pitched at an audience maybe a half-century younger than this ancient blogger. The kids might like it.

UPDATE: The show doesn't make much Nielsen noise: 337K total viewers, 169K 18-49 viewers. The numbers are way below ABC Family's usual standards.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ratings: syndies perk up

Syndicated game shows bounced back nicely in the week of July 8-14. Getting past the Fourth of July festivities probably helped. Only one of the syndies saw a decrease in household ratings, and it was the woeful one. TVNewsCheck has all the good tidings...

Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - up four ticks from a season low
Jeopardy 5.7 - up five ticks from its own season low
Family Feud 4.4 - up a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.4 - up a tick as we await Cedric
Baggage 0.9 - down a couple ticks for the perpetually downtrodden Jerry

The viewership averages from TV by the Numbers reflect the better news: Wheel of Fortune 9.1 million (weekend repeat 4.2 million), Jeopardy 8.5 million, Family Feud 6.5 million, Millionaire 3.3 million. Only Big Bang Theory pulled more viewers than Pat and Vanna.

Douglas Pucci reports that GSN turned in okay averages for July 15-21: 356K/272K viewers prime time/total day. Hardly terrible by the network's standards but down from the previous week. Chain Reaction is getting pulled from Monday night due to an underwhelming performance. O'Hurley Feud returns to the slot.

Monday, July 22, 2013

No object

A column in the New York Times turned up today with memories of a game show I had never heard of.

To be fair to myself, not many will remember The Object Is, an odd word association game hosted by Dick Clark. That's because the show came and went in thirteen weeks in 1963-64. But for some strange reason, the show stuck in the memory of a NYT reporter. He tracked down one of the show's contestants, a now-retired English professor named Gerald Huckaby.

Mr. Huckaby has a few interesting recollections of the show. For instance, there were so many breaks in the taping that he read The Odyssey to keep himself occupied. As the story mentions, his episode has turned up on YouTube, where you can watch it in somewhat blurry black and white. Wikipedia (usual caveats) says that all 65 episodes of the show have somehow survived.

To put it mildly, the game was not a thriller. Contestants tried to get other contestants to guess famous personages, real or fictional, by naming objects associated with them. In the screenshot, they're trying to nail Peter Pan. Dick Clark did his best to look interested in the proceedings, but it was hard work.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Plinko and the CW

Besides the usual inductions to its Hall of Shame (which frankly are starting to get a bit old) Game Show Garbage also offers commentaries on all things gamy. The site has posted two new entries, one on the all-Plinko episode of The Price is Right, and the other on the CW's Whose Line and Perfect Score.

First, Whose Line isn't a game show so I'm not going to review it. I have no idea why other game show sites review it, either. Whose Line isn't even a competition show. It's improv comedy, for crying out loud. So what if Drew Carey used to host it, or Wayne Brady is a regular. (I did review Improv-a-Ganza, but only because it showed up on GSN. Which is still a game show network, most of the time.)

Second, I pretty much agree with the site's take on the all-Plinko ep. It's kind of a goofy idea but let's see how they run with it. Why not try a crazy notion once in a while, especially on a zillion-year-old show?

Third, the site picks up on Perfect Score's channeling of Deal or No Deal, just as I did in my review. They don't much like Deal, apparently, so they trash Perfect Score with a D- rating. I'd give it something more like a C, but then again, I like Howie's old suitcase epic.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

War story

Richard Carson has posted a fascinating clip from I've Got a Secret. A Belgian lady named Ann Brusselmans hid many American airmen who were shot down over Europe during World War II. She appeared on the show with four of the men that she and her husband concealed for a time in their small apartment.

Henry Morgan eventually guessed the secret, after guest panelist Kathryn Grant did a lot of the hard work in narrowing the search down to World War II. After the secret was revealed, the contestants told some literal war stories. Like the time the Germans searched the lady's apartment and were about to open the door into a room concealing an American. Mrs. Brusselmans persuaded them not to enter by telling them her son was sick in the room with typhoid fever.

World War II is receding further and further into history. But this game show clip makes the war seem almost eerily present. "Human wormhole" is how some have dubbed the phenomenon. In a bit of much more minor history, the December 10, 1958 episode marked Bess Myerson's debut on the show. She would stick around for nine more years.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Much ado

The game show Interwebs are atwitter with the news that Family Feud will feature the cast of Honey Boo Boo vs. the cast of Cake Boss.

Naturally, what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board takes this as a sign of the apocalypse. Then the thread runs off the rails into the usual intramural sniping. The sour fruit guy (anybody who reads the board knows who I'm talking about) takes the lead in the sniping, as he so often does.

There's also the usual nostalgia for the good old days when Feud was pure and holy, before the evil Steve Harvey defiled survey-saying. Except back in the good old days Feud was hosted by Richard Dawson. I don't want to call him a dirty old man, but he was not a boy scout.

Anyway, I've never watched a minute of Honey Boo Boo, and there won't be any minutes in my future. But who cares if Feud brings on some silly reality denizens? It's just a game show, folks.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ratings: big three syndies tumble

The Fourth of July holiday was not happy hour for the big three syndie game shows. All of them saw lower ratings for the week of July 1-7. In fact, the top two stumbled to season lows. But the poor got a little richer as Meredith and Jerry added a bit. TVNewsCheck has all the numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 5.5 - down three ticks to that season low
Jeopardy 5.2 - also down three ticks to its own season low
Family Feud 4.2 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.3 - up a tick in a small parting gift for Meredith
Baggage 1.1 - up a tick for perennial bottom-dweller Jerry

Despite the fall in ratings, the top three landed in the top seven slots on TV by the Numbers' syndie chart. The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 8.4 million (weekend repeat 4.7 million), Jeopardy 7.9 million, Family Feud 6.2 million, and Millionaire 3.2 million. Really, the numbers are far from terrible compared to most TV fare in the warm summer.

Douglas Pucci says that GSN did decent business in the week of July 8-14, with 393K/281K viewership averages prime time/total day. And the latest runs of Apolo Ohno's Minute To Win It on July 16 turned in good ratings: 481K total viewers and 165K viewers in the beloved 18-49 demo.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Looking for Mr. Compatible

Ever since Dating Game brought the meat market to our genre, Chuck Barris wannabes have been trying to engineer onscreen hookups between winsome would-be lovers. The latest try is Perfect Score on the CW.

The gimmick here is the use of compatibility scores to create kind of a Deal or No Deal vibe. On the debut episode two female roommates had to choose among ten more or less hunky males. Everybody had taken compatibility tests, and each gentleman was assigned a (secret) dollar amount depending on how compatible he was with each of the ladies. The more compatible, the bigger the amount.

(The "ladies and gentlemen" stuff sounds Victorian, I know, but I can't resist.) As the lovelies eliminated each of the men one-by-one in a series of excruciatingly silly games, his dollar amount was revealed and taken off the board. So you can see how things resembled Howie's old show. Except the top amount was fifty grand, not a million. The CW may be cheaper than cable.

Eventually one of the lovelies wound up with her $5,000 man. She got the money and a date. The show moved quick enough due to the half-hour length, and Arielle Kebbel hosted competently. The volume level was cranked way too high, but my ancient ears can only take so much twenty-something squealing. It wasn't the worst dating show I've seen, but this thing ain't pitched at my demo.

Nielsen gave the show a so-so response: 820K total viewers and 0.4/0.3 18-49 ratings for the first and second half-hours. Not terrible by CW standards but much worse than its lead-in Whose Line.

UPDATE: The CW doesn't like the show's numbers and bumps it to the Friday wasteland in August. So long, Arielle.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rumors fly about

A couple rumors flit here and there on the game show Interwebs. First, it looks like the Jackpot round will depart next season from Wheel of Fortune. This tidbit comes from Buy a Vowel, and they've got pictures! Not to mention a contestant interview.

The board erupts in complaints and conspiracy theories over the change, though blasé moi really doesn't care that much. It may be dumb to say it, but I watch the show for the puzzles, not for the money. By the way, a funny sub-thread develops about the apparently testy relationship between Buy a Vowel and what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board.

Speaking of which, a thread on that board says Jeopardy may get another set change next season. Now that's something I don't care about at all. Okay, if they unveil a fluorescent green and fuchsia mess, I might get a tad annoyed. But they could play the game in a plain concrete room and I wouldn't bother to complain. I just don't lose much sleep over game show sets.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Good for Kelly

Kelly Goode, much maligned former programming VP at GSN, has a new gig.

She will be the new vice president of original programming at ABC Family. To say that Kelly's tenure at GSN was controversial would be a ginormous understatement. She was often slammed by more traditionalist fans for supposedly dragging the network away from its game show heritage. Truth to tell, GSN has tried to get away from its heritage a zillion times, mainly to chase younger demos. Sure enough, Kelly's successor at GSN, Amy Davis, recently talked about more reality shows on the network.

Anyway, I'm happy that Kelly landed on her feet. Don't like to see anybody lose their job, and her departure from GSN could not have been pleasant. The linked story credits her for American Bible Challenge and Baggage, though success always has a thousand fathers (or mothers). I have a feeling that a certain commenter on this blog will be less than thrilled at the news of Kelly's new job, though.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Debralee unbuttoned

Debralee Scott was one of those minor celebs who made some spare change on game shows back in the '70s and '80s. She played the world's easiest girl in most of her acting roles, and she played pretty much the same in our little genre.

She piled up a decent game show resume: Password Plus, Match Game (her steadiest gig in the genre), 25K Pyramid, the original Chain Reaction, and Hollywood Squares among others. She was never a particularly witty contributor, but she was an okay game-player and didn't embarrass herself. Well, she did have one signature moment of embarrassment on Password Plus. The braless Debralee (this was the '70s, folks) got a little too jiggly in the open, as the screenshot shows. She finally noticed the extra exposure and buttoned up. But the moment was deliciously typical of her general screen persona.

Her later life turned tragic, with the death of her boyfriend in the 9-11 terrorist attacks. She died all too young herself at age 52 in 2005. There are mutters around the web that alcohol abuse contributed to her death, but I haven't seen any real confirmation. Never a game show star or anything close, she still chipped in to some classic shows, with her blouse buttoned or not.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Renewed, sight unseen (cont.)

The entertainment media clucked about GSN renewing The Chase before the show even debuts.

Now programming VP Amy Davis (I can never remember how to spell the first half of her hyphenated name) explains the rationale behind the, er, unusual decision:

"It’s a bit of a risk," Davis acknowledged. However, after previewing a number of episodes, the team thought the series, hosted by Brooke Burns, is "wildly entertaining to watch. It’s a great show for trivia, but not so hard that you wouldn't be able to play along. It gives us a feeling of a successful format."

Yeah, well, GSN has had that feeling before. I remember endless promo campaigns for Improv-a-Ganza, Late Night Liars, Family Trade, and a bunch of other turkeys. We'll see if the feeling is any better this time. At least The Chase is a traditional quizzer, so the network's audience may be friendlier to the format.

Amy also coos about the network's success in growing ratings and ad revenue, which has been noted elsewhere. And she makes the usual pitch for reality shows, which have never worked and might never work on GSN. But the lust for younger demos burns on. Otherwise there's not much news in the interview, except that the church dating show is still in development. It's been developing for a while now.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Eat, drink and be merry

The first thing to say about NBC's Hollywood Game Night is that it's not pitched at grouchy old hardcore game show types like me.

Not that there wasn't some impressive gameplay on display during the debut episode last night. One of the teams (three celebs and a civvie) played a downright brilliant round of 3-on-1 Password. But by and large the show was kept intentionally frothy for casual game show viewers.

In fact, grouchy old me thought they overdid the breezy-and-cute style a bit. But that's what you would expect grouchy old me to say, isn't it? And while I'm being grumpy, one game (identify the snack foods!) featured the clunkiest product placement ads in TV history.

At least the games were fast-paced and entertaining. A round of blitz charades zoomed by at warp speed, for instance. Among the six celebs on hand, Martin Short and Matthew Perry chipped in most of the laughs. Bright and brassy Jane Lynch hosted alertly enough, though I got a little tired of the metallic edge. The subject of most of the games was pop culture, which was not a surprise.

The show tried to recreate the old Match Game atmosphere, with plenty of on-set drinking, a house band, and an open bar. I gotta admit, the set looked like a nice place to sip some wine. No, the show wasn't Jeopardy or Pyramid or even The Price is Right. But it kept the hour moving along pleasantly enough.

In the review that literally counts, the show did okay but not great: 4.3 million total viewers with a 1.4 18-49 rating. Decent by NBC standards but maybe a tad below expectations.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ratings: abbreviated schedule

I've got a pretty brief ratings report for you this week. That's because nobody's posted the syndie ratings yet. Maybe it was the Fourth of July, maybe it was sunspots. But the syndies haven't turned up anywhere.

I do have the GSN averages from TVNewser. The network produced solid 392K/295K viewership averages prime time/total day for the week of July 1-7.

Meanwhile the latest episodes of GSN's Minute To Win It continue to trend downward, but the numbers are still acceptable. The two hours on July 9 averaged 410K total viewers with 103K of them in the beloved 18-49 demo. The show is skewing older but still looks pretty good in 18-49 by GSN standards.

Over on SyFy Exit continues to draw decent but not outstanding numbers: 659K total viewers, 265K 18-49 viewers for the July 9 show. Don't know if this will get the collapsing-room project a renewal.

UPDATE: Nielsen finally got the syndie ratings out for June 24-30. Long story short: all the shows moved up from the previous week except Millionaire.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Up among the best

Ben Ingram, an IT consultant from North Carolina, is taking his place among the best in Jeopardy history. After seven wins he's amassed $157,733, good for tenth on the all-time money list. If there's any game show where a big streak means something, it's that iconic answer-and-question thing.

Who knows how long Ben's streak will last? It could stop today. Ingram's lips are sealed by the confidentiality agreement, but he does concede, "It is going to end." I can believe that. It ended for Ken Jennings, too, after a while.

If there's any game where I fantasize about winning big, it's Jeopardy. After all, piling up a long string of wins on the show does tend to impress people, even if they have little use for game shows. Folks tend to think a long Jeopardy streak means you're smart, or at least halfway aware of the world. Yeah, it's just a silly little game like all the others, but Alex's show has that certain cachet.

Still, nobody's perfect. A lot of sports sites are chortling over Ben and his fellow contestants looking helpless on college football trivia. You can't really know it all.

UPDATE: Ben makes it eight in a row. He's getting into elite company. But sadly, all good things must end. Ben bows out after eight wins. He now holds ninth place on the all-time money list.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Meredith's walkie to the talkie

As a faux tweet noted, in case you didn't hear all the comments when Meredith Vieira walked away from Millionaire, she's got a syndie talk show.

Only now it's official, instead of an endlessly ballyhooed rumor. The show will originate in New York from a set that looks like Meredith's living room, right down to the furniture and family photos. I like those homey touches. They should really help Meredith fool everybody into thinking she's lounging around the house.

Okay, sarcasm off. But if we need another syndie talk show, I need a frontal lobotomy. According to the weekly ratings report from TVNewsCheck, we've already got Phil and Kelly and Michael and Oz and Maury and Ellen and Katie and Wendy and Steve and Rachael and the other Steve and Jerry and the Doctors and Trisha and the Better (whoever that is). How much more chatter can any same human - or even me - possibly stand?

I can understand why Meredith got tired of asking multiple choice questions. After eleven seasons of A's and B's and C's and D's, I'd probably want a new gig, too. But as the linked story points out, in a niche as overcrowded as syndie talk shows, it's not easy for even the strongest newcomer to survive. We'll see if Meredith can beat the odds with those family photos.

Monday, July 8, 2013

All-time faves

A thread on the Sitcoms Online game show board asks folks for their all-time favorite hosts. As you might expect on the game show Interwebs, the choices lean heavily toward the past.

You can probably guess the usual names. "Bob Barker! Closely followed by Gene Rayburn, Dick Clark, Bill Cullen, Bob Eubanks, Jim Perry, Monty Hall, Geoff Edwards, and basically all of the other 70s hosts."

But some offbeat selections crop up. One poster even remembers the distaff side: Vicki Lawrence from Win Lose or Draw and Stephanie Miller from Lifetime's I've Got a Secret. Frankly, I would rank both of them well behind Meredith Vieira on Millionaire. She kept the syndie going for eleven seasons, after all. But she's too recent for these folks.

The only hosts still working who get mentioned at all are the big two, Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek. And they've been around forever, so I guess even the super-traditionalist board will grant them some kudos. Don't bother looking for Steve Harvey or Drew Carey around these parts.

At least Garry Moore gets a few nods. He had a tough show to run, with wildly different stunts every week. But he kept things on a surprisingly even keel.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Game show writer blues

A while back NBC shot a pilot of Mulaney, a sitcom with John Mulaney playing a game show writer.

Some gushy reviews came out of the taping, like this one from SplitSider. But the Peacock net (just can't resist Variety-speak) passed on the project, despite Martin Short's apparently funny turn as the game show's egomaniac host. Now comes news that Fox may be looking at the show for a possible six-episode pickup.

Behind-the-scenes spoofs of our little genre are not unknown. A dinner theater production called, what else, Game Show has been making the rounds forever. And there was - horrible to recall - Burt Luddin's Love Buffet on GSN. Maybe that disaster has warned others off from the idea. Who knows if Fox will take a chance on this pilot? But I'd kind of like to see the genre get a nose-thumbing salute.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Middle link in the chain

With GSN about to give prime time exposure to their 2006-07 remake of Chain Reaction, YouTube offers glimpses of the game's versions throughout the years. The NBC original with Bill Cullen in 1980 lasted only six months. USA Network, back in the primeval days when they liked game shows, redid the show for a much longer run in 1986-91.

Geoff Edwards hosted the middle version, which was shot in Montreal to keep costs down. The front game was pretty similar to the other versions, though a cute wrinkle allowed a team to hand letters to their opponents if they thought the word was too hard to guess. The middle version did not have the question-constructing bonus round, though. Instead, the winning team tried their luck with a bonus chain.

As in the Cullen original, the chains in the USA remake were a little looser than in the GSN version (see the screenshot). The words didn't necessarily lead into each other in perfect phrases. That's not necessarily better or worse, just different.

In its final season the USA version morphed into The $40,000 Chain Reaction. (Pyramid never hit the forty grand level in its titles, did it?) They tweaked the gameplay, and the on-screen look resembled the GSN version very closely (see the second screenshot). Every version has been an entertaining and challenging word game. Who knows, one of these days GSN might take my frequent suggestion and make a few more eps.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Match Game gets violent

The news that the 1973-82 version of Match Game celebrates its 40th anniversary this week got me hunting around YouTube. One of my favorite clips comes from the show's final syndication days. Richard Dawson was long gone and McLean Stevenson had taken over the front-center seat. (Sorry, but video quality on the clip is poor. It was broadcast during GSN's early years. Note the "Winnie" logo.)

The episode taped October 31, 1980, a few weeks after the Shogun miniseries. Gene Rayburn and Charles Nelson Reilly got into an argument over the merits of Shogun. After much huffing and puffing, Charles accidentally cut Gene's lip with one of his game cards. Rayburn did a slow-motion stage collapse, and McLean Stevenson took over as host, while Gene played panelist for a round. Much hilarity ensued until order was finally restored.

A lot of fans don't much care for Match Game's final seasons after Dawson left. I always thought that losing the later, glum version of Dawson was addition by subtraction for the show. This clip shows that Match Game could perk along just fine without Richard.

Feudin' through the ages

The schedule threads on the still surviving GSN board grind on. I drop in some notes on Family Feud then and now...

Other poster: Considering that the oldest episodes of Karn's version are now *11* years old, I'd firmly *expect* to start seeing it grouped closer towards the older stuff.

By any standards except those of the game show Interwebs, Karn Feud would qualify as a "classic." The average Karn ep is nearly a decade old. In fact, by normal TV standards the show is paleozoic. Of course, so is Woolery Lingo, which by an odd coincidence is nearly contemporaneous with Karn's run on Feud.

The kicker is that Karn gets better numbers than O'Hurley, especially in the afternoon. In the latest week June 24-30, for instance, Karn pulled an average of 358K viewers for the 4:00PM hour while O'Hurley got only 258K in the 5:00PM hour. So I doubt that Karn is headed for oblivion any time soon.

If anything, I think O'Hurley's place on the schedule might be in jeopardy down the road. To be honest, I've been expecting him to lose the 5:00PM hour. I guess the numbers are still sort of okay for GSN. But O'Hurley Feud is the weak link in a strong 3:00PM-7:00PM schedule, starting with Chain Reaction.

To borrow the phrase from Roger Dobkowitz, O'Hurley does the Shakespeare version of Family Feud. Karn does the Everyman version, and Harvey does the Everyclown version. Everyclown and Everyman beat the Bard, on GSN at least.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


A thread on the GSN board (miraculously still in existence) chats about possible changes to Wheel of Fortune. As a very sensible poster notes, WoF is still the most watched game show in the country, so it's not like a bunch of changes are urgent. But game show fans being who they are, the thread collects a zillion ideas for tinkering with the gameplay.

I realize that the summer heat has melted down WoF's recent ratings to some extent. But the show still sits comfortably atop the game show heap. So I have a novel idea. Don't change anything. Yep, just keep spinning business as usual.

Whenever I watch the show, I'm struck by how well-designed the current format is. Nicely paced with plenty of puzzles, challenging but not impossible gameplay, a pleasant mix of different variations on a theme. Not to mention the perfect pair of co-hosts in Pat and Vanna. So why mess with the damn thing?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Schedule this

For a while the GSN schedule was unusually stable. The network was rolling and there wasn't much reason to mess with success. But the last few weeks have weakened noticeably, so a shakeup is coming the week of July 15. See the schedule files in the sidebar for all the details.

The biggest changes hit the old show block on weekday mornings. This block hasn't gotten any numbers lately, so the lineup gets a major shuffle. One mild surprise is that Bill Engvall's Lingo also gets replaced, despite a pretty good ratings performance. But you can only run those 40 eps so far into the ground.

Another interesting change: Chain Reaction nighttime stacks on Monday and Friday. All of a sudden GSN seems to love the show. The network also sent me the schedule for the week of August 5, with all the first-runs and reruns of The Chase. To say the show gets a bunch of slots is a Godzilla-sized understatement. GSN is betting big on the quizzer. As always, the schedules are subject to last minute changes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ratings: syndies wipe out

The week of June 17-23 was downright brutal for syndicated game shows. The best news was that one show stayed flat with the week before. Otherwise, it was grim tidings for all concerned. TVNewsCheck posts the sorrowful numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 5.6 - down three ticks to yet another season low
Jeopardy 5.3 - down a tick to its own season low
Family Feud 4.3 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 2.3 - flat, which is pretty good for this week
Baggage 0.9 - down a couple ticks in more great news for Jerry

Syndication generally skidded for the week, so four of the game shows made the top 25 list at TV by the Numbers.  The viewership averages: Wheel of Fortune 8.4 million (weekend repeat 3.9 million), Jeopardy 7.8 million, Family Feud 6.4 million, Millionaire 3.1 million. The numbers probably aren't going to get better as the summer goes on.

TVNewser says GSN enjoyed a very nice second quarter with 382K/275K viewership averages prime time/total day. Thank you, American Bible Challenge and Steve Harvey's Family Feud. In other GSN news, Minute To Win It continued to get decent numbers on July 2: an average of 428K total viewers with a very high (by GSN standards) 178K 18-49 viewers.

Finally, the sidebar offers the latest ratings for Oh Sit, Exit and Wipeout. Long story short: the first two get about 700K viewers, the last a little under four million.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Renewed, sight unseen

Rumors had been flitting about, including a comment left on this site. I posted a faux tweet about it, with a slight disclaimer. Well, now it's official. GSN has renewed The Chase for a second season of eight eps before the first season even debuts on August 6.

As the Variety link points out with some astonishment, this is a very unusual strategy. The story mentions Starz ordering a second season of Boss before it ever debuted, but such jumping of the gun has rarely been seen anywhere. (A possibly ominous note: Boss got canceled after its second season.) The Nielsen Company will either make GSN's strategy look brilliant or...not so brilliant.

The buzz out of the tapings has been very positive, particularly about hostie girl Brooke Burns' rapport with beastie boy Mark Labbett. At least they've posed for some interesting pictures together, as the photo shows. I'm happy that GSN is showing such commitment to a traditional quizzer. I just hope The Chase For Ratings proves successful.