Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hitting a bull's eye

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Old pictures

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey day GSN notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hurray for Hollywood games

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

Ratings: Pat and Vanna and Steve are happy

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 25, 2013

Decades of our lives

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Celebs? Well, sort of

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Spoiled rotten

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Prevent this, Alex

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

End of an era

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Farewell to a game show site

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ratings: syndies do fine

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2013


Sometimes things work in mysterious ways.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dating Game and its progeny

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

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

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blanking out

I've added a new item to the blogroll: Television Without Pity - Game Shows.

The pitiless addition led me to a nice find on YouTube, the full 2006 GSN documentary on Match Game called Behind the Blank. Although the video quality is a fuzzy 240p, the tape is quite watchable. The show is most valuable for its many interviews with MG's on-air celebs and behind-the-scenes production folks.

Behind the Blank doesn't shy from the most controversial part of the Match Game saga, the departure of Richard Dawson. As the New York Times review says bluntly: "The GSN back story plays Mr. Dawson as the evil foil to the sweet and fun-loving Mr. Rayburn, and indeed he comes off as sour and ego-driven."

Sometimes a personality can't help coming through even a well-scrubbed documentary. But for the most part the show stays light-hearted, which is fitting for its subject. We begin with a lot of clips about "boobs," and the fun continues throughout. It's all about Match Game, after all, which was almost always fun to watch.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Once more it's my time to take some harmless revenge on all those other sites which cover talent contests and reality yellfests and improv comedy shows as if they're game shows. In other words, it's time for me to cover online chess.

As even chess-loathing folks may have heard, Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand are playing a world championship match in Anand's native India (his hometown of Chennai, in fact). Carlsen is the challenger and by far the world's highest-rated player. Everybody's been waiting for him to take the title away from the current champion Anand. And that may be happening as I type.

It's a twelve-game match, and the first four games ended in draws. Carlsen scored the first win today in his usual grind-out-the-endgame style. In such a relatively short match, it's a huge breakthrough for the much younger Magnus.

I've been watching the commentary on the official website, and also taking in some video from other sites following the match. The official show is okay, I guess, though I've about had it with Susan Polgar's commentary. She does annoying Dick-and-Jane stuff...Chess For Real Dummies, you might say.

For instance, as the game today was headed for the decisive finish, Susan took time to explain the stalemate rule in excruciating detail. Which is a lot like a baseball announcer, in the middle of a dramatic ninth inning, informing viewers that the bases are ninety feet apart and a team wins by scoring more runs than the other team.

UPDATE: When it rains, it pours losses. Anand goofed another grinding endgame today (Saturday 11/16) and Carlsen took a two-game lead. General consensus: the match is over.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The vast waistband

Just got the GSN schedule for the week of December 16-22. As usual, the network will run What's My Line and I've Got a Secret at 3:00AM weekdays for a holiday treat.

The first episode of What's My Line dates from March 8, 1953, which stretches back almost to the start of the show, not to mention the start of me. As it happens, this ep is already available on YouTube. The show moves briskly so we get four contestants. The civvies are a cigar maker, a garbage truck driver, and a camel trainer. The mystery guest is the redoubtable Jackie Gleason.

Although he's not exactly svelte, Gleason hardly looks hopelessly obese by modern-day American standards. Which just shows how much we've, er, widened as a nation. Gleason uses a more than passable British accent to last until 8 down out of 10, when Arlene Francis finally guesses.

Among the civvies the garbage truck driver provokes the most laughter, as the panel stumbles around cluelessly about her "product." Can you put it on crackers? Well, not exactly.

Besides Arlene, Bennett Cerf and Dorothy Kilgallen take their usual places, along with then-regular Steve Allen. The next year Steve would start something called The Tonight Show, which I hear is still running. In 1953 What's My Line was using its original rules, with contestants walking back-and-forth in front of the panel and a free guess for each panelist. This is vintage material.

Just follow these 71 easy directions...

For somebody who's indifferent to The Price is Right, I sure do spend a lot of time blogging about The Price is Right. But people keep watching the show and writing about the show. So I follow along.

The latest viral sensation is a TPiR cheat sheet put together by a guy named Ben Blatt on Slate. He really did spend a lot of time analyzing data on 71 pricing games to boil down all his helpful hints into one tightly printed collection.

Blatt talks a lot about game theory and decision trees and whatnot, so you might think he's seriously cracked. But he snaps back to reality by thanking the TPiR fansites whose "absurd work made my absurd work possible."

Frankly, if you can memorize and use all the tips and hints on Blatt's cheat sheet, you should probably be doing something better than playing The Price is Right. Maybe you should try Jeopardy.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

GSN plays legal games

Ran across this item about GSN suing an online game operation called Bash Gaming.

Seems that GSN had a deal to buy Bash for $160 million. But the Bash-ers backed out and told GSN that another suitor had won the day. Never one to take no for an answer, GSN has gone to court alleging breach of contract and saying that Bash was not nice at all.

Bash's main asset is a game called Bingo Bash (see the cute screenshot) which supposedly hauls in a million and a half users per day. GSN has always been big on bingo and even tried a TV original based on the game. The show didn't work out, but GSN is forever looking for properties to add to its online gaming emporiums.

A couple notes from the story: GSN is getting big in online fun and games. In fact, the online side of the organization is starting to overtake the cable network in importance. And GSN has money to spend. Not everybody can afford $160 million for an online bingo game. Even if the game has a cute pink rabbit and a million and a half players.

Meanwhile, in unrelated GSN news, the cable network will run Blockbusters and Shop 'Til You Drop on the weekday daytime schedule starting December 2, as a faux tweet noted. See the pdf schedules in the sidebar for more info on the oldies.

Viral infection

Nickelodeon once again dips its toe into the game show pool. The network has ordered 40 eps of Go Viral.

This is the kids show for the social network era. Kids look at viral videos in each round of competition and try to predict outcomes, guess which video was most popular, and indulge in other fun and games. The showrunner is none other than Ryan Seacrest, who really doesn't have enough work lately. This show will not involve a giant hourglass, however. And Seacrest will not host.

Production is scheduled for early next year, with a summer debut in mind. Nickelodeon recently tried a revival of Figure It Out, which lasted a couple seasons and got sort of okay numbers. Maybe the network has rediscovered the pleasantly low production costs of the genre.

Seacrest continues on his path to semi-legendary media mogul status. The guy has parlayed some host gigs into a minor empire. He got his chance and didn't miss it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ratings: inching up to season highs

Syndie game shows didn't rise by leaps and bounds in the latest published week. But a lot of them did crawl up to season highs. And the viewer averages are starting to look really impressive as we enter the peak televiewing months. TVNewsCheck brings the cheery household ratings for October 28-November 3...

Wheel of Fortune 7.2 - up a couple ticks to one of the season highs
Jeopardy 6.3 - also up a couple ticks and also a season high
Family Feud 4.8 - up just a tick but the third season high
Millionaire 2.2 - flat but at least Cedric is hanging in there

The big three game shows made the top 25 syndie list at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.2 million, Jeopardy 9.7 million, Family Feud 6.9 million. Lots of broadcast prime time shows wouldn't mind total viewer numbers like these.

TVNewser reports that GSN suffered through a very lackluster week for November 4-10. 282K/248K viewer averages prime time/total day, ranking 47th and 41st in the windows. Especially for prime time, the network has seen a bunch of better weeks.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Teacher's pet game show

Jeopardy launches its umpteenth tournament today. It's the annual teachers to-do. The format is familiar. Five quarterfinals this week, three semifinals next week, and then the two-day final.

The show keeps running these things despite my occasional grumps about too many stunts. Just proves how much they listen to me. Not that any game show in its right mind would pay attention to me, anyway. This year's teachers tourney has spawned some of the usual contestant stories in Google News. One of the more extensive items introduces us to Timothy Shuker-Haines of Williamstown, MA.

When he's not phrasing answers in the form of a question, he teaches American history, religion and economics (not all at once, I hope) at Buxton High. He sounds like a sensible sort who says the worst thing about Jeopardy is smiling at the top of the show. "You're supposed to stare into the camera and smile...and all you can think about is the camera and the people watching. I was thinking, 'This is not what a normal smile looks like.'"

Come to think of it, those smiles as Johnny booms out the intros do look a bit forced sometimes. Timothy is not a trivia fanatic, though he's been known to play a round or three of bar trivia. He's not a fanatic Jeopardy watcher, either, though he drops by now and then.

The toughest part of the actual game was getting his reflexes to flex fast enough on the buzzer. "I found my response time was just a little bit slower than the others, being a little older." I can identify with the age issue.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Tennis, anyone?

Despite not so spectacular ratings, Hollywood Game Night earned a second season and a holiday special. A couple of the celebs on the December 2 special will be Andy Roddick and his wife Brooklyn Decker. (Why is such a pretty lady named after such an unpretty borough?)

The special will get a very desirable timeslot after The Voice. NBC didn't exactly sound overwhelmed with the performance of Hollywood Game Night, even when they issued the renewal announcement. But maybe they figure the celeb-civvie hijinks have some potential as more than just summer filler.

I noticed in the picture accompanying the story that Roddick was wearing a Cincinnati Reds cap. Wikipedia tells me that the Reds are one of his favorite sports teams. Who knew that A-Rod liked my old hometown baseball club? Truth to tell, I don't even follow the Reds all that closely any more. I think they just fired their manager.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Louie Louie

GSN's Thanksgiving Day marathon of Family Feud will feature a couple episodes of the Louie Anderson version. That's a first for the network. Louie has often been slammed (sometimes by me) as the worst Feud host ever.

He might deserve the dubious distinction. Louie often seemed bored with the contestants, the format, life in general. Maybe he wasn't cut out to be a game show host. Or maybe he really had better things to do. At least he lasted three seasons (1999-2002) on the show, despite a blackmail scandal and less than overpowering ratings. After he was replaced by Richard Karn, Louie predicted that the show would soon expire.

He was wrong about that, as we all know. Three hosts and a dozen years later, the families are still feuding. And now Louie will get a brief reprise on Game Show Network (as GSN once again proudly calls itself). In the 500-channel universe, hardly anything ever seems to go away completely.

Friday, November 8, 2013

What's in a name?

Recent promos on GSN for The Chase and Mind of a Man have ended with, gasp, the actual words "Game Show Network." The screenshot proves it.

This may not seem like a big deal. And in the not-so-cosmic scheme of things, it's no deal at all. Hey, GSN stands for Game Show Network, right?

Except once upon a time in 2004, our little network decided to drop the "game show" moniker and just use the initials. GSN went non-traditional and tried a bunch of reality stuff, which mostly flopped. The search for younger demos didn't go so well.

So does this recent return to the proud use of "Game Show Network" mean that GSN is getting back to its traditional, studio-based game show roots? Well, maybe, although network execs continue to make noises about expanding the range of programming. And there's some weird thing about body painting supposedly coming to GSN.

But for now, although a rose would smell as sweet by any other name, Game Show Network is once again calling itself...Game Show Network. I like that.

UPDATE: Just got the new GSN schedules through Thanksgiving Week (see the sidebar). Turkey day features a marathon of just about every Family Feud host, including Louie Anderson and Al Roker. Welcome to Game Show Network, gentlemen.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Greed lives on college

What's wrong with kids nowadays? Well, nothing much, as long as they still want the money.

A live production called The Money Tree Game Show appears to be making the rounds of college campuses. It shows up at Casper College in Wyoming this weekend. Google coughed up lots of pictures from a previous run at East Central University in Oklahoma.

The premise is simple:
There is a tree. It is made of money. Game show contestants pick the money from the tree. They can win up to $500.
Except there are all sorts of goofiness before the kids get to pluck the cash. Including but not limited to "the wildest stunts, gags and 'make fun of other game shows' entertainment." I'm all for stunts and gags and whatnot, and it's nice to know that college kids are still materialistic enough to make fools of themselves for $500.

Back when I was in college in the Mesozoic Era, $500 was real money.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Stripped of all dignity

I was a little surprised to see the latest induction on Game Show Garbage: the long-defunct USA network atrocity, Strip Poker.

I wasn't surprised that the show got inducted. I just had to wonder what took so long. By any reasonable or unreasonable standard, the show was a crime against humanity. And yet, and yet...

For the dirty-minded like moi, the show was the guiltiest of pleasures. GSG actually plows through a denunciation of the show's gameplay. That's a lot like criticizing the set design on the Miss Universe pageant. It's completely beside the point because no viewer pays any attention to what you're criticizing.

Needless to say but I'll say it anyway, nobody cared about the "gameplay" on Strip Poker. The show was all about hardbody twenty-somethings stripping down to their skivvies. Yeah, host Graham Elwood yelled a question at the hardbodies now and then. And it made zero difference because the audience was way too busy evaluating the physiques on display.

At least the GSG induction gives me an excuse to post a screenshot of partially disrobed lovelies. This is a cheap way to pile up pageviews, which I don't mind.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ratings: season highs all over

Syndie game shows wish every week could be like this one. All the shows were up and three saw new season highs. TVNewsCheck brings the sprightly household ratings for the week of October 21-27...

Wheel of Fortune 7.0 - up four ticks to a season high
Jeopardy 6.1 - not be left behind by the soulmate, up three ticks to its own season high
Family Feud 4.7 - up a tick as Steve joins in with another season high
Millionaire 2.2 - not a season high but up a tick and Cedric will take it

The good news continued on TV by the Numbers. All the shows made their top 25 list, as Cedric appeared for the first time in a while. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.9 million to lead all syndies (weekend repeat 3.7 million), Jeopardy 9.3 million, Family Feud 6.8 million, Millionaire 3.0 million. Maybe we'll see even better numbers as we move into the peak viewing months.

More news from syndie-land: as a faux tweet noted, Scripps will take Let's Ask America into nationwide syndication. They're targeting the access hour, which might be a bit of a stretch. Pat and Vanna and Alex are pretty well entrenched. But the show is cheap and might tempt a lot of stations.

TVNewser reports that GSN did decent if not spectacular business for the week of October 28-November 3. 333K/266K viewer averages prime time/total day. The network is readying the return of The Chase, which might help the numbers.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Gong show

Reviewing kid game shows is tough for me. After all, last time I was a kid, the Paleozoic Era was drawing to a close. So it's difficult for me to react to a kid show like a kid would. For all I know, kids might love stuff that I think is as goofy as, well, Japanizi Going Going Gong.

I just watched the debut of this effort on Disney XD. The show is taped in Canada but tries to capture the lovable wackiness of - you can probably figure this out from the name - Japanese game shows. Four two-kid teams bumble and tumble through three rounds of mild stunts. Don't worry, the stuntwork stops way short of Wipeout standards. Disney doesn't need lawsuits from the families of maimed children.

Hosting the show is a freaky sort named Yoshi. God knows what his real name is. I could check Wikipedia but I'm too lazy. He's probably an Oxford grad but for the duration of the show, he speaks a mangled combination of Japanese and English. He's always pointing at the camera and yelling "going, going, gong." Which is part of the show's name, I think.

The production is amped to the max to suit the attention spans of the prepubescent set. I suppose it's all harmless enough fun, so I don't want to sound too cynical. I can imagine kids watching worse stuff on TV, and the show certainly deserves its squeaky clean TV-Y7 rating.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fooding up the classics

Did something today I've never done before. I actually watched a few minutes of ABC's The Chew.

Did I ever mention that I dislike cooking? I'm not hopelessly hostile, but I like eating a lot more than all the stuff that leads up to eating. So The Chew isn't exactly must-see TV for me...or any-see TV. But I did notice that the show has recently done a couple of classic game show segments based around, what else, food.

There's Food Pyramid, which played out pretty much like the front game in the classic format. In fact, the format is so strong that I couldn't help getting interested as the show's hosts tried to get civvies to say the magic words. The hosts weren't the best at the game, but it's a tough format, after all.

Then there's Calorie Card Sharks, where a couple of the female hosts turned the cards as the audience predictably yelled "higher" or "lower." I'm never been much thrilled by the acey-deucey-based format, so this version didn't tickle me, either. But at least it wasn't less watchable than the original.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

In living Jerry

The Google News stories keep coming about The Price is Right's live show.

I keep putting up faux tweets about the live production. But that doesn't seem to discourage even more stories. This one from Amarillo is typical, about how everybody had a good time. But there's one other thing. The first line of the story reads: "'Jerry, Jerry, Jerry' echoed through the lobby and outside of the Amarillo Civic Center on Friday afternoon."

The Jerry in question would, of course, be Jerry Springer, who apparently makes decent coin hosting a lot of the live TPiR shows. Springer is used to hearing his name on that syndicated filthfest, but I have to wonder if the noise doesn't sound, let's say, a little cleaner on the TPiR stage. After all, nobody on TPiR gets into fistfights. Nobody trashes anybody else's sex life. Everybody just plays little games and sometimes they win nice prizes.

For a guy who's been though what Springer's been through, this has to be a refreshing change. I'm not defending Springer here. In fact, I don't much care for him at all. But even Jerry deserves a little love (of the purer variety) now and then. I hope he gets it from The Price is Right.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Time for a quiz

With GSN's The Chase about to return for its second season (plus a couple eps from the first season) on November 5, it's time for a little question and answer.

Truth to tell, if you've been watching the show, you have an unfair advantage on the test. And if you haven't been watching the show, you've missed a fine quizzer. The Chase is by no means a runaway hit, with its first-runs averaging somewhere in the 450K range. That's respectable by GSN standards but hardly a Nielsen blowout for the network. Still, for engrossing and often dramatic gameplay, the show is one of the best that GSN has offered.

GSN's cupboard has been a bit bare lately, with no interesting acquisitions or originals over the past several weeks. (Though it looks like Bob Saget's 1 vs. 100 will return to the network on Tuesday nights.) So the network's fans - me, for instance - will welcome the Beast's second go-round.

I'm not sure that the Nielsen Company will swoon over the second season, and the show's reruns wear thin fast with only 16 eps on the shelf. But the new episodes might at least help loosen Family Feud's recent death grip on the GSN schedule. Just about everybody would be grateful for that.