Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's not that easy

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 30, 2013

Missing in action

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another Pawn Stars knockoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

From bass fishing to game shows

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 27, 2013

Passing the buck

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The show killer

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Them freakin' numbers

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ratings: Santa smiles on syndies

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

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

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

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

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

Five year-end thingies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 23, 2013

Non-Christmas spirit

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

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

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

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

By the way, Merry Christmas, everybody.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The envelope, please

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Deepest darkest game show Net world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fact-checking Jeopardy

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quiz the pawn stars

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Church going

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ratings: syndies do okay

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

Wheeling through the world

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Before Psycho

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rapid fire

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Three W's

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

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

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A daughter

Sometimes there's no excuse for a blog entry.

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The return of the native

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ratings: a placeholder

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 9, 2013

Shopping and dropping

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The not so respectable Kevin

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

When Kirstie Alley was a civvie...

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

Guy's night out on the Internet

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ratings: syndies don't do bad

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Model guests

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


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

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

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

Monday, December 2, 2013


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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Report card for Cedric

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

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

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

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