Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ending and beginning

As the final hours of 2014 tick down, I'm getting all...well, not sentimental. Just happy that this blog has attracted more readers than ever (by a wide margin) in the year that soon rolls off the world's odometer.

So thanks to everybody who stopped by, even those folks who told me how wrong I was about everything. Who knows, you're probably right. Although even clueless moi can get a few things correct now and then. I think.

I really don't make a dime out of this blog, which only means that I'm one of Samuel Johnson's blockheads. Game Show Follies is a labor of love or silliness for our little genre. Of course, the genre rarely gets any respect. But that's okay with me, because I never want goofy little game shows to get all hoity-toity and respectable.

A little over five years ago I decided to stake out this microscopic patch of the Internet. For all of you who have been along for the ride, I hope you enjoyed the bumps and bruises. There's a lot more of them coming, I'm afraid.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sympathy for Shandi

With game show news trickling away during the holidays, Game Show Confessions brings up an intriguing idea from yesteryear (see the screenshot).

Frankly, I'm surprised that anybody wouldn't have liked Shandi better than Stacey on GSN's fondly remembered - by me, anyway - Lingo. I don't want to be harsh on Stacey, but she always struck me as a bottle blonde Barbie with an English accent. This screed calls her "sexy but plastic," which is fair enough, and claims that she took over the show and never worked well with host Chuck Woolery.

I don't know about the Woolery stuff, but I do know that Shandi improved Lingo's numbers significantly when she came on board for the fourth season. She also seemed to get along with the older gentleman a lot better. For instance, the linked screed calls Shandi "a highly likable, giggling fan girl with an odd crush on Chuck." This may be overstating the crush thingie, odd or not, but it's dead-on about Shandi's likability.

After all, she helped keep the show going for three more seasons after it seemed dead in the water. So somebody out there found Shandi bearable. It probably wouldn't have hurt to bring her back for the show's 2011 revival with Bill Engvall. Shandi might have helped soften the impact of Engvall's acerbic persona.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bye-bye access hour

So I settled in to split time between Wheel of Fortune and Celebrity Name Game at 6:30 Central.

Except the 5,973rd rerun of Two and a Half Men was playing where Craig Ferguson and friends should have been. A quick look at the cable schedule revealed that Celebrity Name Game had lost its 6:30 PM and 10:00 PM slots in my home Dallas-Fort Worth market. Now the show gets the 1:00 PM hour on the CW affiliate.

This is an obvious demotion, but at least Celebrity Name Game will enjoy a healthy lead-in from Family Feud in the noon hour. And the show won't have to face the withering competition from Pat and Vanna (and from Millionaire on another station, though Terry is not the toughest foe). A while back I voiced a hope that the show would get an easier timeslot, so maybe I should be happy.

But there's a nasty edge to the time change. It's obvious that Celebrity Name Game can't handle the tough game show competition in the access hour. I've heard about similar time changes in other markets. Does this cast a pall over hopes for a second season?

The show's overall national numbers are okay but nothing special. I like the energetic Pyramid clone, so I hope the time changes aren't a sign of imminent demise. The usually reliable Paige Albiniak at Broadcasting and Cable says the show "is likely to get a second year." I hope she's right.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reviving the formerly rigged

The ancient knock on Twenty One is that the format doesn't work unless it's rigged.

I think that criticism might date back to Mark Goodson. It's certainly been heard plenty of times since the 1950s. In 1982 Barry and Enright tried a remake of the rigged oldie, and sure enough, people noted that rigging was required. That may have been one of the reasons the pilot didn't sell, though another version of the show would surface in 2000 with Maury Povich.

Maury's show didn't last long, which may prove the critics' point. Meanwhile, the old 1982 pilot is available on YouTube. (Warning: very poor visual quality.) Hosted by Jim Lange, it's not such a terrible quizzer. The isolation booths look nice, and Jim has ditched the eyeglasses. The format remains way too complicated for its own good, though.

Charlie O'Donnell is the announcer for the pilot. Nice to hear his golden baritone again.

UPDATE: A commenter helpfully supplies a link to a better quality video of the pilot. I took the screenshot from this video.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Who needs the bonus round?

Somewhere I've said that I don't really care about the horse race on Wheel of Fortune. I just want everybody to win something.

On December 26 I didn't get my wish. Matt DeSanto ran the table on Wheel, relieving Sony of ninety-two grand in cash and prizes. Pat Sajak had to dole out two pity thousands to the other contestants.

Wouldn't you know, Matt failed in the bonus round. "Wooden gavel" was just a little too tough. But he can get by without the extra $32,000. Matt's most amazing solve was the second toss-up, when he nailed "The Lone Ranger" with only one letter revealed. This prompted Pat to speculate on his mystic connection with Vanna.

Don't know about mystic connections, but once in a while a good contestant catches good luck with the wheel, and the rest is game show history. Even the jaded seen-it-all types at Buy a Vowel were suitably impressed.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Occasionally funny money

Happened to see this blurb in Google News for a live comedy show. One of the comics is Marc Price, who was an executive producer of GSN's late and mostly unlamented National Lampoon's Funny Money.

The problem with the show was simple: too often the money wasn't very funny. The show had no interesting gameplay, so Funny Money depended on the comics who showed up to crack wise. If their jokes bombed, they took the show down with them.

Jimmy Pardo hosted competently enough, but it still all came down to that day's comedians. Once in a while the funny folks scored and the show could actually be entertaining. But with too many dud routines, Funny Money died after one season and dropped into GSN's well-filled dustbin of history.

At least the show still has a Wikipedia article. Jimbo Wales' pile of pop culture trivia never forgets.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Kaboom!

On a quiet Christmas morning, explosions don't seem like a very plausible subject. But I saw the screenshot on Game Show Confessions.

Fox definitely appears to be going forward with Israeli import Boom, the quizzer with the ticking (and occasionally exploding) time bomb. The project has been ticking around Fox forever, due in part to internal dissension at the network. But with comic Tom Papa due to host, it looks like the bomb - the producers hope the show biz term will not apply - arrives next year.

Fox is scrambling as its ratings tank and its scripted shows fade. A remake of 5th Grader is also on tap. That show shouldn't scare anybody at the network, but we'll see if Jeff Foxworthy can rekindle the grade school magic. The show is a personal fave of mine, so I'm rooting for the reboot.

At least the broadcast networks are willing to try game shows in prime time nowadays. For decades before Regis the species was extinct on broadcast TV at night.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Queuing theory

Watched about thirty minutes of GSN's mega-spectacular, oh-my-flipping-God "two hour event" last night.

That would be The Line, a simple quizzer plus stunt show that somehow got blown up into something a bazillion times bigger than it should have been. Basically, people waited in line (in Nashville) for a chance to answer eight true-false questions. While in line they played silly stunt games.

And that was it. Somewhere, there might be a modest little game show striving to break free from this bare bones format. Instead, GSN belabored the thing for 120 minutes, including many, many commercials. Is there anybody willing to wait in line (or the TV room at home) for a simple show which lasts so long? As I said, I checked out after a half-hour or so.

Jeff Davis, known for clever improv on Whose Line, hosted rather colorlessly. Candace Bailey, known for something on Attack of the Show, led cheers and didn't do much else. The contestants seemed to have a good time, despite waiting for hours in Nashville's wilting summer heat.

By the way, I hope GSN kept those folks supplied with cold water.

RELATED UPDATE: Douglas Pucci reports that The Line drew 415K viewers for its first hour and 325K for the second. That's pretty much the same as GSN's recent prime time averages and hardly a blowout number. American Bible Challenge may have been canceled with much better numbers. Also, the big drop in the second hour shows that The Line just doesn't work at such a ridiculous length.

UNRELATED UPDATE: I ripped Sony in a faux tweet for reportedly canceling tours of the Wheel of Fortune set due to worries about the pissant Norks. So I want to give the studio credit for releasing The Interview online. Nice to see some courage.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ratings: rich syndies get richer

The week of December 8-14 was good to the top three, and so-so for the bottom two. That's the story for syndie game shows, as TV News Check tells us...

Wheel of Fortune 7.2 - up a tick to lead all syndies
Jeopardy 6.9 - up a tick to keep pace with the soulmate
Family Feud 6.3 - up four ticks as Steve is the big winner for the week
Millionaire 1.8 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - flat as it so often is

TV by the Numbers only has the top three viewer averages in its chart. Wheel of Fortune 11.7M, Jeopardy 10.7M, Family Feud 9.3M. Pat and Vanna again led all syndies in total viewers, and Alex was number two. If these shows skewed young, they'd be the hottest things on TV.

Very quietly Pawnography has become by far the highest rated game show on cable. The 10:00 PM ep on December 18 drew two million viewers and a respectable 0.6 18-49 rating. Good for the pawn people.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Thank you

In an otherwise routine contestant story about Let's Make a Deal, a sharp comment caught my eye.

"The set looks polished, but there's a lot of work that goes into it. Stage hands moving everything, setting up the games. You see the work that goes into making a show. It all ran like clockwork...I appreciate it a little more, knowing what they have to do to make it happen."

Funny thing, they make it happen around a couple hundred times a year, on all sorts of game shows. So it has to run like clockwork, or the show just doesn't go on.

So for all the technicians, stage hands, production people, and everybody else who works hard to get the shows onto tape for sour old game show fans like me, thanks and thanks again. It is easy to take it all for granted in my recliner at home. But without a lot of dedicated effort, all those episodes of all those game shows wouldn't exist at all. Happy holidays and keep up the good work.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Beg, borrow or steal

Just watched a couple eps of Game Plane. This is the cheap and cheesy, down and dirty bottom of the syndie game show barrel. So naturally I've kind of taken to the show.

Game Plane is one long plug for Alegiant Air and any other sponsor willing to spend, oh, a hundred bucks on "promotional consideration." A bunch of put-upon airplane passengers are yoked into playing dumb games that are ripped off from other, better game shows.

Really, just about everything on this show is a steal. The final round swipes from Card Sharks, and the front games pilfer from Pyramid, The Money List, the Hole in One game from TPiR, and almost any other game show the producers happened to have watched.

And it doesn't matter. After all, game shows have been swiping from each other ever since that brainy Stone Ager invented the wheel of fortune in 5,000 B.C. Game Plane just does it more shamelessly than most.

One thing, though. They've got to get Mark Walberg to host all the eps. The other guy is colorless as vodka, and just as deadly to the attention span.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Thin and game show host-y

As anybody who wanders past Google News can't help knowing, Celebrity Name Game's Craig Ferguson bid farewell to late night last night.

The final twist ending got a little too meta for me, channeling the conclusions of Newhart and The Sopranos. Plus the whole conceit relied on The Drew Carey Show. But there were still some nice touches. Drew's pinkish headscarf was almost worth the price of admission...if there had been a price of admission (the linked video is free, after all).

In bed with Drew, Ferguson suddenly awoke and started talking about how he dreamed that Carey lost weight and became a game show host. It did sound like a fate worse than slow, painful death, as Drew noted. Eventually they both calmed down and settled in for a long winter's nap.

I once dreamed I was an actuary. Scared the hell out of me.

Friday, December 19, 2014

More real estate gossip

Never knew there was real estate dish until I started collecting game show bits for this blog.

I've posted before about Craig Ferguson's Malibu house. So I might as well go to the opposite coast for Meredith Vieira's - remember her from Millionaire? - new penthouse in New York City.

The cost is a gentle $8.55 million. The apartment checks in at about 2,500 square feet. Which is less than our house, and we didn't pay quite as much as Meredith. Of course, we don't have a panoramic view of New York. But then we don't have to put up with New York, either.

Variety burbles about the "11-foot ceilings, herringbone pattern wood floors, onyx window sills and direct access to an approximately 550-square-foot-plus terrace." Those onyx window sills will cost you every time. One grievous downer: the bathroom attached to the office "appears in floor plan to this boozy property gossip to be barely wide enough for a runway model to turn her slim hips around."

Meredith is pretty slender, so she should have no problems with the dimensions. Variety also breathlessly informs us about Ms. Vieira's country estate on the Hudson and her L.A. pied-a-terre. Meredith did have a nice long run on that money-tree quizzer, so it's no surprise she's a multi-Millionaire.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The year-end approaches

It's getting near that time again, when people start making lists of the biggest game show stories of the year. On the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's, they've already begun the chatter.

As so often happens on Game Show Forum, the thread soon runs into badmouthing and backbiting. But some decent ideas do emerge on the big stories of the year that was. My personal pick for number one would be the continued rise of Family Feud. Admittedly aided by Nielsen's double-counting tricks, Steve Harvey keeps building the ratings in his fifth season.

Other possibilities include the debuts of Celebrity Name Game and Sports Jeopardy, and new hosts Bill Bellamy and Terry Crews. When it comes to actual gameplay highlights, I'd give a nod to Ben Ingram upsetting Arthur and Julia in the Jeopardy T of C and Wheel of Fortune's third million dollar winner.

And there was the new guy on The Price is Right, James O'Halloran. Even though he's only the second and not the first.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's that schedule again

On Game Show Paradise, the usual complaint about not enough old stuff on GSN

Other poster: New PDF schedule for 12/29/2014 to 1/4/2015 is released...If you scroll down, you'll notice that Card Sharks and Press Your Luck will be airing five days a week. Yes, folks, that means that Throwback Thursday is done for as of January 1, 2015.

As I said on the blog, it's pretty hard to theorize about GSN's schedule from any one week. The thing bounces around from day to day and hour to hour, it seems. Maybe the oldies deal with Tylenol just ran out because the numbers weren't all that great. Maybe GSN is clearing space for the Bill Bellamy eps of Let's Ask America, which are supposed to show up on the schedule pretty soon.

GSN just had a blowout week with 383K/296K viewer averages prime time/total day for December 8-14. The network ranked 37th and 34th in the windows, which is very good by GSN's historical standards. The thing is, expectations for shows seem to be rising among GSN execs. American Bible Challenge may well be gone after getting 500K+ numbers in its third season. Not long ago, that kind of average would have guaranteed renewal. So it doesn't amaze me that much lower rated shows may not hang around forever.

The one sort of exception is when a particular sponsor is willing to make a big investment in some kind of deal. That explains the renewal of It Takes a Church with mediocre ratings. Christian Mingle is spending big money on the show and on GSN in general. Did Tylenol get tired of financing the oldies? I dunno, we'll see.

Wipeout is coming for you

The Price is Right sells out its live shows. So why shouldn't Wipeout hit the road looking for people who want to get battered and bruised?

Endemol is taking their "abuse 'em until they laugh" epic on the road to more than twenty cities in the U.S. and Canada. They're calling it WipeoutRun, which seems more with-it than Wipeout on the Road, I guess. There's a website and live sign-up locations for people who just can't wait to get big balled (see photo).

"Part of Wipeout's unique success is its ability to make people want to be a part of the experience," says an Endemol exec. I agree that somehow the show has hypnotized people into wanting broken bones, busted backs, and bashed behinds.

Now even more folks will get the chance to get the bejesus kicked out of them. Remember: "There is no shame in wiping out in style!" Or even wiping out like a schlub.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Clipped

Just watched GSN's clip show with Ben Gleib, Game Show Flashback. You know what? I loved it.

And I'm one of those jaded game show freaks who have seen just about every clip on the show. But here's the thing. GSN knew that jaded types like me would be watching. So they surrounded the clips with dumb and dumber jokes from a bunch of comics who seemed to have wandered in off the street. It was all cheap and cheesy, and it worked just fine for our little genre. These are old game shows, for crying out loud. Everything should be cheap and cheesy.

Gleib stayed sarcastic and dourly aloof from the nonsense, as he should have. There was a pop-quiz commercial with Wink Martindale, who (yes) is still alive and kicking. Eric Estrada was in the commercial with him, and need I say more? There were more pop-quiz questions about game shows for jaded types like me in the audience. I got 'em right, which made feel insufferably smug.

All in all, I wish GSN would do a lot more clip shows like this one. Sure, you can only show Betty White destroying the toaster on Super Password once (with GSN's comics rooting her on). But you can crack wise about game shows forever.

Ratings: top three syndies bounce back

In the week of December 1-7 America recovered from its turkey torpor to watch Pat and Vanna and Alex and Steve again. The top three syndie game shows roared back with big gains. Sadly, Craig and Terry didn't join in. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.1 - up ten ticks to lead all syndies
Jeopardy 6.8 - up a dozen ticks to close in on the soulmate
Family Feud 5.9 - up eight ticks
Millionaire 1.8 - flat and out of the twos (for good?)
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - maybe flat, maybe down a tick, I'm not sure

Better viewer averages went along with the better ratings, says TV by the Numbers. Wheel of Fortune 12.2M again leading all syndies, Jeopardy 10.5M, Family Feud 8.7M, Celebrity Name Game 1.7M (from TV News Check). Alex got well into double digits.

TV Newser tells us that GSN scored big in the week of December 8-14. 383K/296K viewers prime time/total day. GSN ranked 37th and 34th in the windows, which is very good for our little game show network.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Still going to Vegas?

As a faux tweet noted, state lotteries are suspending ticket sales for their Monopoly game.

Sales just didn't meet expectations. Apparently the prizes were too small and the game too complicated to lure enough lottery players. The state lotteries say they will try to retool the game and bring it back in (they hope) a more salable format.

In case anybody was wondering, the TV game show part of the project will apparently go forward. Billy Gardell is still set to host the syndie Monopoly Millionaires Club from Vegas. The linked story says: "The TV game show portion of Monopoly Millionaires Club will continue along with travel plans for the 12 Maryland Lottery players who won trips to Las Vegas to be part of the show's taping."

I've never been a huge fan of TV game shows put on by state lotteries. They've tended to be dull giveaways that are light on skill and interesting gameplay. We'll see if this new syndie effort is an improvement.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Music in the air

Saw the screenshot on Game Show Confessions, and it got me thinking about game show music. They say Merv Griffin made a gazillion bucks from the Jeopardy think music. But I'll admit that I never much notice music on game shows, unless it's really obnoxious.

One exception is Swingin' Safari, the theme of the original NBC Match Game. (That was the ho-hum version of the show in black and white from the 1960s, before they tried humor.)

Bert Kaempfert's goofy little ditty sticks in my head and always makes me smile. The cover art for the song (see photo) is mildly risqué and definitely reflects a pre-PETA era.

The tune has attracted some surprisingly respectful criticism. Allmusic.com calls it "one of the easy listening genre's most endearing recordings with the original LP being a collector's item." I happened to hear the theme again when I was snipping a screenshot for a faux tweet. As tedious as the original Match Game was, at least the theme song was catchy and fun.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hacking Sony and the NFL

The Sony hack story has mostly been a bore for me. I don't care about Angelina Jolie and I never heard of Scott Rudin. But I did notice this gem from Deadspin about Sony's displeasure with NFL preemptions of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Showrunner Harry Friedman got his knickers in a twist over how the CBS Thursday night football games would affect Sony's game show jewels.

The email chain sounds like business chatter I read all the time in my day job, though the language is more colorful in show biz. Probably the most interesting bit is this comment from Harry: "The impact on us from Thurs Night football is far greater than we were led to believe. We may need to move the Million $$$ winner episode to Wednesday, 9/17." That would be the third million dollar prize on Wheel of Fortune and, yep, it did get moved to Wednesday to avoid football preemptions on Thursday.

Grumble, grumble, CBS and the NFL. Just to show that no good deed goes unpunished, Jeopardy actually tried to support the CBS Thursday night games with a special NFL category that got worked into the show in a hurry. Friedman yelped about CBS's tepid response to the effort. "I also take issue with [CBS's] characterization that the NFL integration in Jeopardy! was just one category and didn't constitute 'going the extra mile'...We dropped everything to make this happen, and our clearance people worked through the weekend to meet the NFL's rigid standards...I'm not just angry. I'm offended."

I'm not angry or offended, just amused. By the whole debacle.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Craig will like this

With a couple of freshman syndies (Hot Bench and Meredith's taker) already renewed, Deadline Hollywood thinks Celebrity Name Game has a good chance at a second season. I'm biased on the issue because I like the lively Pyramid knockoff. Craig Ferguson has been a funny, energetic host who can actually play the game a little when his turn comes.

The linked story goes through a lot of ratings info, which I've been tracking week by week. The trend has been Craig's friend, as the household numbers have crept upward since his first week.

The demos aren't spectacular, but nowadays 0.7 in women 25-54 is a pretty good number, and Celebrity Name Game managed it in the just finished November sweeps. All in all, things are looking good for our sassy little rookie. Now if they could just give it an easier timeslot than 6:30 PM in my home DFW market. That happens to be opposite (gulp) Pat and Vanna.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Un-dirty dozen

Ken Foote is the programming director at the CBS duopoly in my home Dallas-Fort Worth area. He turns out to be a classic game show fan. At least that seems evident from his list of the twelve greatest game show hosts ever.

They're all from the oldies era except Sajak and Trebek, who have been around so long that they might as well be oldie hosts. Given the chronological bias, the only really glaring omission is Bill Cullen, but he gets an honorable mention. (Bud Collyer and Jim Lange in the top twelve instead of Cullen? Come on.)

Bob Barker gets the top nod, followed by Groucho, who is sort of a non-game-show pick. The guy with the mustache and cigar gets in for his other work, though You Bet Your Life was memorable enough as an interview and monologue vehicle, if not as a game show.

Steve Harvey wins a pick among the honorable mentions, but he seems wildly out of temporal place on this well-aged list. And sorry to be persnickety, but the name is Bert Convy, not Convey.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ratings: syndies sweep up and down

Things are a little weird this week for the ratings report. Instead of the usual weekly figures, TV News Check gives the household ratings for the November sweeps period (Oct 30-Nov 26). The site also shows the change from last year's November sweeps, except for Celebrity Name Game. Craig wasn't around with his show last year. So they give the change from his first week. Got all that?

Wheel of Fortune 7.3 - down a tick from last November but still leads all syndies
Jeopardy 6.9 - up four ticks
Family Feud 6.2 - up a whopping ten ticks from last year
Millionaire 1.9 - down a couple ticks as Terry can't stop the long-term decline
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - up a couple ticks from its debut week

Okay, now things get even trickier. TV by the Numbers doesn't bother with all this sweeps stuff. They just give the viewer averages for the week of November 24-30. The numbers are well down from the previous week as people gorged on turkey and football instead of watching Pat and Vanna and Alex and Steve. Wheel of Fortune 10.2M to lead all syndies for the week, Jeopardy 9.0M, Family Feud 7.8M. Even in a down week these are not bad figures by today's TV standards.

For the week of December 1-7, TV Media Insights reports that GSN backed off a little from its blistering pace in November. 351K/278K viewer averages prime time/total day. Still pretty good by the network's historical standards. Douglas Pucci's report also notes that an episode of Steve Harvey's Family Feud drew 901K viewers on GSN on December 9. That's rare air for our little game show network. The Chase got 743K viewers that night.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Summer smiles on keywords

HLN started out as a headline news service, became sort of a true crime outlet, and is now doing a game show called Keywords.

Things change all the time in cable land. Summer Sanders, who's got some game show experience (Figure It Out) to go along with her Olympic swimming medals, will host. It's one of those shows that try to take advantage of the Internet. "Players are given clues from an Internet search and they must correctly guess what exactly the Internet was searching for."

Actually, the Internet doesn't search for anything on its own. What happens is that people search the Internet for stuff. For instance, every day I look for game show items, like this one. I doubt my searches will get onto this show, however.

No word on exactly when Keywords might debut. It's nice to see any network try a traditional game show, but what does Nancy Grace think about this HLN project?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Extremely big balls

A casting call has gone out for a season of Wipeout Extreme. Apparently they're not just gonna wipe you out, they want you to be "seriously fit" when you get splashed and crashed.

Have to admit, I'm a little surprised to see a casting call for any variety of Wipeout. The show got extremely iffy ratings for its most recent season. Sub-one in 18-49 and maybe three million total viewers on a good night. That's not seriously fit on the Nielsen scale.

But the producers still have big balls, so they might as well put them to use (double entendre intended.) Triathletes, spartan racers, tough mudders (tough faddahs, too?) are all encouraged to try out. We're getting athletic about this show, people.

I don't particularly mind Wipeout...in small doses. After a while, like twenty minutes or so, the sardonic humor at the expense of the physically abused contestants gets annoying. But for all you tough mudders out there, this is your chance to bounce the big balls into submission.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Don't shop, don't drop

Game Show Confessions came back to life with a few posts a couple days ago. The site had gone into a long, peaceful hibernation since early November.

A screenshot from the site asks about the late and (for me) unlamented shopping round on Wheel of Fortune. In his famous interview about imbibing margaritas during WoF tapings, Pat Sajak also dumped on the shopping round, calling it "the most boring two minutes in television." From my point of view Mr. Sajak is undoubtedly correct, because I think shopping is one of the more boring activities on the planet.

Which is why I'm not a great fan of shopping game shows, beginning with The Price is Right at the top of the list and going all the way down to, well, pick any obscure shopping game from the last seven decades. I mean, I can watch 'em. I'm a hopeless fan and I can watch any game show that isn't utterly barfable (and a few that are).

But watching people guess prices to win prizes? Sorry, it's just not my speed. Now I do like to watch contestants run madly through a studio supermarket and throw fake meat into a shopping cart.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Spacey

A little odd, but the day after NASA launched its Orion vehicle, I watched a What's My Line ep that featured the once mighty space agency.

As anybody at NASA can and will tell you, things aren't like they used to be. Britain's Guardian paper, given to sneering at all things American, stuck in a predictable anti-Yank gibe at the Orion launch. "A last-ditch effort by a fading empire that will never strike back."

That might be overstating the situation just a tad. By the way, isn't Britain itself a now defunct empire that will never strike back? (A little projection here by the Brits? Oh, I'm letting my anti-British prejudice peek out.) Anyway, the Orion vehicle does show promise, so NASA is entitled to a bit of crowing. Still, the agency hardly commands much public attention any more.

But back in the 1960s NASA was big time, baby. So big that WML often had contestants connected to the space program. In the linked episode even the astronauts' secretary, Lola Morrow, got some national TV time. Sadly for the actual game, Bennett Cerf zeroed in on NASA right away.

A few more thoughts about this segment. Nowadays secretaries don't exist, at least in their 1960s version. And the wolf whistles that greeted Mrs. Morrow (even the "Mrs." now sounds quaint) would set off conniption fits today.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Pass-buzzr-word

Fremantle's Buzzr operation has already boiled Family Feud down to eight-minute snippets on YouTube. Now they look to be taking on an even more ancient classic, Password.

The attached screenshot has shown up on Instagram. It shows the predictable bunch of millenials playing Password with the #buzzr hashtag prominently displayed. No word yet on whether (or when) the game show will turn up on YouTube. Or, perhaps more importantly, whether the show will be free if it does see the light of video.

Fremantle North America CEO Thom Beers has talked about Buzzr and the plans for hipper versions of game show oldies, featuring young'uns ready to party down on the classic formats. I gave a mostly favorable review to the already released Family Feud videos, though Game Show Garbage barfed all over the production. Of course, that's what GSG usually does.

The Buzzr Password set looks almost retro. But your guess is as good as mine on how close they will stick to the old format.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ratings: syndies rack up more season highs

As we head into the peak viewing months of the TV year, syndie game shows reap the rewards. Three of them hit season highs in the week of November 17-23. And all but one of them showed an increase over the previous week. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.5 - up a tick to a season high and ties the loud judge to lead all syndies
Jeopardy 7.2 - up a couple ticks to its own season high
Family Feud 6.4 - flat
Millionaire 2.0 - up a tick and Terry says thank you for small favors
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - up a tick to a season high and finally moves off the 1.2 plateau

The viewer averages also look healthy as we get ready for the winter weather. From TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 12.3M, Jeopardy 11.3M, Family Feud 9.8M, Celebrity Name Game 1.9M (from TV News Check). That viewer number is a new high for Craig as he angles for a second season.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

GSN stuff and nonsense

Just got a new December 15-21 schedule and the final November ratings for GSN. They're both posted in the sidebar. I go on and on about the items in comments at Game Show Network News. A sample...

By popular demand, the schedule for December 15-21 is up. The usual Christmas oldies (with a little extra) plus a debut! Check it out.

Okay, there's no reason to be coy. In addition to the usual What's My Line and I've Got a Secret eps, there is an episode of To Tell the Truth and an episode of syndie What's My Line. The debut is Game Show Flashback with Ben Gleib.

One other thing pointed out by a commenter on my blog. The IGAS eps are from the 1970s revival with Steve Allen, not the original 1952-67 run. Interesting.

Speaking of record ratings, the numbers for all of November are in. GSN scored 364K/296K viewer averages for the month. I can't be sure, but that total day average may well mean that this was the most watched November in GSN history. It was certainly well up from Nov 2013 and Nov 2012.

The only November that might have matched Nov 2014 was back in 2010. GSN loaded up with new originals for that month and scored big total day numbers. This was also the month of the notorious Black Friday marathon of relatively recent Wheel of Fortune, which racked up unprecedented numbers in daytime for GSN. But I don't have a full-month Nov 2010 average to compare to the TV Newser number for this November.

Model like a man

I can't resist stories like this one, and I'm not even going to try.

Rob Wilson, the first guy to become a regular model on The Price is Right, talks about how wonderful it all was. He has particularly good words for showrunner Mike Richards. Some of this is simple diplomacy, but Rob sounds genuinely pleased with his time on the show and its effect on his soap opera career. And he should be very pleased, after all.

Mike Richards returns the favor by praising Wilson to the skies. In fact, the mutual back scratching gets a little cloying, but the experiment does seem to have turned out well for everybody concerned.

The show is now in the last stages of picking Rob's successor. Somehow, I didn't make the final cut. They just weren't looking for 63-year-old actuaries. But I do have a nice smile, if I say so myself.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Taking out the garbage

Hadn't looked at Game Show Garbage for a while, so I peeked at the latest commentary on the site. It's a review of GSN's recently announced development slate. Of course, the commentary ends on a growling downbeat. "I wish GSN success, but the shows slated here do little or nothing for me."

But here's the thing. The individual comments on the six shows aren't completely negative at all. In fact, the site seems to kind of like three of the possibilities...

Hellevator. "I will give this a shot, seeing as how you have a guy in Jason Blum, who can get the scary atmosphere right."

How-To Games. "If it makes air, I think we will be entertained."

Bingo Bash. "If it can be properly translated to a game show and get the same charm as Bingo America, it might work."

An aside: I don't share the enthusiasm for Bingo America, though Richard Karn was definitely an improvement as the host of the second season. Patrick Duffy was stiff as a starched board in the first run.

Anyhoo, even after the site seems to give at least a chance to three of the six development shows, they feel compelled to grump and dump on everything with a gloomy final paragraph. Which gets to the site's crucial problem. When you're stuck with a title like Game Show Garbage, you're pretty much chained to negativity, even if you think a show isn't really all that bad, or a development project might actually pan out.

Maybe they should just rename the site. I'd suggest Game Show Follies, but that's already been used.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Twenty years ago today

YouTube rarely forgets, so the launch montage for GSN lives on. At 7:00 PM on December 1, 1994 our little game show network blinked into life.

It hasn't always been an easy ride. The network endured a near-death experience in 2000-01, but the little engine kept chugging. Now GSN has won its way into 80 million households and looks pretty secure.

Along the way the network has alternately infuriated, delighted and bored the game show Interwebs. The latest fad for Internet game show freaks is to profess indifference to GSN because it doesn't show enough old stuff. Except the latest fad seems to have lasted, oh, maybe 16 years or so. Ever since GSN started showing their own originals.

As I'm tired of pointing out, GSN is a commercial TV network, not a taxpayer-funded museum of old game shows. But what the hey, the network still runs some oldies for the hardcores, while making its money off recent acquisitions and original shows. By and large GSN has stuck to traditional game shows, with a few forays into non-trad experiments.

In fact, this week's schedule is wall-to-wall traditional, even if there's not enough old stuff to please the Interwebs. After twenty long years it's still a game show network.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Asking for it

I'm pretty late to this party, but I finally caught an entire episode of the third season of Let's Ask America with Bill Bellamy. The show runs at midnight in my home DFW area on a low-rent station. But I've been too lazy to stay up for the survey questions.

To get around my laziness, a contestant posted his episode on YouTube. As I expected, Bellamy cracks wise far more often than former host Kevin Pereira. Bill's a standup comic, after all, and they got him for the funnies. Usually, he's at least passable in the quips, though not a screaming laugh riot.

The questions have gotten a little gamier, as I thought they eventually would. The YouTube ep has a question about straight women in gay bars, for instance. Hardly daring but a bit off-color. Scripps wants to sell the show around the country. And Family Feud is the obvious example of how a touch of blue makes for better numbers.

Let's Ask America is already looking for fourth season contestants, so Scripps is staying with the show for now. It's dirt cheap to produce and far from the worst format ever. Now if they can only get it onto more stations.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bet on it

With a bunch of state lotteries kicking off their Monopoly Millionaires Club giveaway, including the TV game show in February, we've got the first big winner. And some criticism.

This story from my home area's Fort Worth Star Telegram tells about the New Jersey guy who pulled down $21 million and the Texas guy who took home one million. The story also mentions the upcoming syndie TV show based on the game and hosted by Billy Gardell. But state lotteries are always controversial, and the Monopoly game is drawing criticism as "too complicated and too expensive." The guy in New Jersey probably doesn't agree with the critics.

The story goes on to tell how the entire Texas state lottery is getting heat as a ripoff of poor people. There's some truth to the criticism. State lotteries do tend to be the Incredible Hulk of regressive taxation.

But my libertarian leanings say that people should be able to spend their money as they see fit. I also don't like how private gambling is often illegal while state governments rake in gazillions of gambling money. Oh well, we'll see what kind of TV game show the state lotteries can put on in February.

Friday, November 28, 2014

500 channels and nothing on

A thread on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's chats about whether Family Feud is more popular than ever.

As you might expect from the older is better board to end all older is better boards, one poster chimes in: "To me, it isn't even close. Dawson's run was the high point and everything else after that, including the first eleven years of the current series, is trailing by a significant margin." If someone on the board hadn't said this, or something close to it, I would have fainted dead away. (Okay, I wouldn't really have fainted.)

Matt Ottinger himself tosses in the usual reminder of how busted up the TV audience has become. "It would be just about impossible for the current version to be anywhere close to the number of viewers Dawson was getting, due to the continued splintering of the viewing audience for television in general."

This is utterly true, of course, as broadcast execs can and do say, at length. But I rustled up some Nielsen ratings from the dark ages of TV (1981) that make the point in hard numbers. In November 1981 syndie Family Feud chalked up a 13.2 household rating. That's way beyond the most popular syndies (or just about any other TV show) nowadays.

The U.S. TV audience is a lot bigger now, so total viewership hasn't dropped quite as much as the ratings. Then again, the current Feud's numbers are inflated by Nielsen's trick of double counting viewers from Steve's multiple runs each day.

Let's just say that TV shows don't get ratings like they did back in the bad old days of the broadcast triopoly.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

New gigs

Lots of job moves for game show hosts are in the news for CBS.

Of course, Celebrity Name Game's Craig Ferguson is leaving his late night job on the Eye Network (Variety speak!) December 19. But new host James Corden won't take over until March 9. So there's quite a gap to fill, and CBS is sending The Price is Right's Drew Carey and Let's Make a Deal's Wayne Brady to help fill it. They will both do weeks as the guest host of the late night talker.

Billy Gardell of Mike and Molly, who will host Monopoly Millionaires Club starting in February, will also fill the late night chair for a week. Sean Hayes, last seen as the showrunner on NBC's Hollywood Game Night, gets a week as guest host, too.

Carey has already enjoyed a little experience on the show, as part of that April Fools host switch with Ferguson. To be honest, there's a big overlap in TV skills between running a game show and hosting a talk show. Ask Meredith Vieira or Jimmy Fallon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hit the road with baggage

As the ads are blaring and the official press release is saying, GSN's new season of Baggage on the Road debuts January 7.

Even with Jerry cracking (sort of) wise, it's always been hard to dislike this goofball dating game. The suitcase reveal gimmick, swiped from Deal or No Deal, adds to the fun and frivolity. Now Jerry and crew have taken the show to college campuses, including UConn. A funny story from the Hartford Courant recounts how UConn undergrads Annalise Lenihan and Brian Eilers made a dinner date.

As the story accurately notes, Baggage on the Road is "pretty tame" compared to that other show with Jerry. No fisticuffs, screaming, or burly security guys. The show does have some groaner gags from Jerry, but you gotta take the bitter with the sweet.

There are plenty of pictures of one of the show's tapings in Connecticut, including crew and audience. In case you're wondering, the girl in the screenshot is Michelle Hahn, another UConn undergrad. No word on who she picked for her date. You'll just have to watch, starting January 7.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ratings: more season highs

The big three syndie game shows all racked up season highs for the week of November 10-16. The weather gets colder, the days get shorter, the numbers get higher. Except for our two bottom-dwellers. TV News Check lists the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - up a couple ticks to a season high
Jeopardy 7.0 - up three ticks to its own high
Family Feud 6.4 - up five ticks as Steve rebounds from a bad week to another high
Millionaire 1.9 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - flat, does this show ever change?

Again, Millionaire slipped through the viewer number cracks. Neither TV News Check nor TV by the Numbers gave the figure for Terry. But I've got the rest of the viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.2M to top all syndies and reach its usual twelve mill perch for winter, Jeopardy 11.1M, Family Feud 9.5M, Celebrity Name Game 1.8M. That number is the best yet for Craig, I believe.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Something gets renewed

With a couple of syndie game shows struggling, it's nice to report at least one renewal. Even if it's only online.

Money Where Your Mouth Is, the guy-knowledge show hosted by Jay Mohr, returns for a second season on Hulu. The show is nothing special, but it's far from the worst thing on the web. Mohr quizzes three male contestants on things guys should know. In the second season the show will also quiz guys on things they shouldn't know, in a segment called "girl knowledge." I'm just reading the story, folks.

I've never been a particular fan of Mohr, but he restrains himself pretty well in the few Money eps I've seen. There's plenty of eye candy to distract the guys in the audience from Jay, anyway. The show apparently pleased Hulu with big numbers in the male 25-44 demo.

Soup behemoth Campbell is Money's main sponsor, and there's lots of soupy product placement on the show. A small price to pay for another season.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Time moves on

It's the weekend and new episodes have been accumulating on the YouTube What's My Line channel. They're from 1965 as the show was winding down its original CBS run. And they tell how time strolls along.

The first contestant on the May 16, 1965 ep, a pretty blonde named Pat McGee, had a job demonstrating a newfangled thing called a skateboard. In a bit of panel brilliance, Arlene Francis guessed her before a card was flipped. Except Arlene thought the contraption was called a "skating board" or some such.

John Daly mentioned that "Miss" McGee - those were the days - appeared on that week's Life magazine cover. This was back when Life was a magazine, and it was printed on dead trees. A contraption called the Internet, unimaginable in 1965, verifies that she indeed graced the cover.

The mystery guest was Liza Minnelli, looking like a teenager. She was a teenager, in fact, and just starting her career. She was quickly guessed, and Bennett Cerf even felt compelled to mention that her mother was Judy Garland. This was a while ago, after all.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Wow, Pat and Vanna are still on?

Rummaging through the game show board at Sitcoms Online, I came across a thread about Vanna White's new boyfriend. He's "talk dark and handsome," and Vanna is just so happy.

Well, that's nice. But what's really weird about the thread is that a couple posters express amazement that Wheel of Fortune is still around, and that Pat and Vanna are still doing the show. I posted an entry a while ago about how most folks don't care about our little genre, and that's okay. But these are people posting on a game show board! One clued-in comment...

"Wow Wheel of Fortune is still on TV and it's been on since 1975. I didn't know that. My grandmother used to watch it often...Pat Sajak and Vanna White are still on Wheel of Fortune? Wow that's amazing."

Several other posters on the thread assure this person that, yes, Wheel is still going strong and Pat and Vanna show no signs of retiring. Maybe this person also posts on baseball boards about how amazing it is that there are ninety feet between bases.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Arthur who? Julia who?

For the last few decades Jeopardy has been advertising the clash between Arthur Chu and Julia Collins in the Tournament of Champions. So naturally they both lost. Quiet guy Ben Ingram took home the quarter mill instead.

The two-day final turned on two clues. Ben was the only guy to nail a very tough American history puzzler in Final Jeopardy on the first day, which gave him a big lead. Then Arthur goofed a gimme Daily Double (he's never heard of "global village"??) on the second day to really set himself back.

But things could still have turned around on the second day's Final Jeopardy. The players got a brutal Shakespeare clue which became a triple stumper. Ben's lead stood up and he won it all.

Ben played politician in his comments during the final. He thanked his fellow champions for being such great people, etc. Mr. Ingram is a lot better in the p.r. department than one of his opponents.

UPDATE: Jboard.tv has a thread with some notable postmortems on the tournament. Arthur's video is not to be missed.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Word of mouth

You stumble across the weirdest things on game show sites. The board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's chews over (appropriate term) this anecdote about contestants' mouths on game shows...

"One very bizarre (and rather scary) story that [British game show host Bob Monkhouse] recounted was that of an American game show host he had met, who apparently refused to read anything about or meet his contestants before the show. Monkhouse asked him what he did if the contestants were getting cocky or talking too much and the American host said that he used the 'mouth tear.' When asked what that was, he explained that he'd put his thumb into the contestant's mouth and grab hold of his/her cheek, but the camera angles were such that it appeared that he was simply putting a friendly hand on the contestant's shoulder rather than grabbing hold of his/her mouth."

The board seems to think the story is pure fiction, and it looks physically impossible to do something like that without the camera catching it. Not to mention that a lot of contestants would have blabbed about such an obnoxious technique.

But if any host might have tried something like it, the board agrees that Richard Dawson is The One. The kissing bandit did have an attraction for mouths on his show. But it's hard to imagine even Dawson trying something so outlandish.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Happy holidays

Next week CBS rolls out Thanksgiving stuff all over its daytime schedule, including The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal. You can expect lots of turkeys, pilgrims, pumpkins, dining rooms, etc.

Game shows get a little giddy around the this time of year, except for stern old Jeopardy. Alex and company just keep grinding through the answers and questions.

Another tradition at this point in the calendar is the holiday marathon. Next week GSN runs skeins of The Chase and Game Show Moments Gone Bananas. They will also show long swatches of Steve Harvey's Family Feud, but the network doesn't need the holidays for them.

A less appetizing feature of turkey week is preemptions. LMAD bites the dust both Thursday and Friday, and TPiR gets the heave-ho on Thursday. We've got parades and football games, folks, so wait until the week after Thanksgiving for regular game show service.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Developing...

Deadline reports that GSN keeps developing and developing. We'll see if any of the projects surface on our little game show network.

The biggest stir comes from Hellevator, a product of Jason Blum's fevered imagination. Contestants enter a dark warehouse via a mysterious elevator and weird things happen to them. I'm pretty sure all the contestants physically survive, but you never know. GSN is also working on Steampunk'd, which sounds like a Skin Wars spinoff. Artistic types try to turn everyday objects into works of art. I think it's too late for my beat-up Chevy Cavalier.

Other projects include Bingo Bash, based on the online game GSN paid so much for, and Winsanity, where contestants try to organize facts in numerical order. Which is a nice order for facts to be in. Then there's How-To Games, where contestants watch videos and see if they can do what the videos are trying to teach them to do, and Face 2 Face, yet another dating show. The world needs more dating shows, right?

Finally, Danica McKellar (Wonder Years) is officially onboard as the host of the previously announced App Wars. It's Shark Tank for computer apps.