Friday, February 28, 2014

Chu-ed out

Oh boy, I don't want to start writing about Arthur Chu every other day. But he's the biggest thing in game shows right now, by maybe a zillion light-years. I mean, what's the second biggest thing? Pat Sajak's most recent necktie?

I just finished watching Arthur's latest demolition derby, which makes nine straight and more than a quarter-million in winnings. By a lovely coincidence (from Sony's viewpoint) Jeopardy will now switch to the Battle of the Decades tournament for a week. Which will only let the controversy and attention simmer for a while.

Arthur's been called a "villain" so much that the hubbub has started to seem a little artificial. But there's no question that he sparked a spirited online backlash from viewers who didn't like the board-hopping, buzzer-slamming, Alex-interrupting and opponent-glaring. Mr. Chu is no slouch at self-promotion - not criticizing, just noting the obvious - and he's made the most of his notoriety by yelping on the game show interwebs about Television Without Pity and other outposts of Arthur-hate.

The most tedious part of his self-defense is his less than deft play of the race card. In fact, it's the only thing that actually rubs me the wrong way about the guy. Oh well, hate him or love him, he'll be back March 10.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Dating Game man

A couple posts back I made the trite observation that time always wins. There's more proof: Jim Lange, the original host of Dating Game, has died at age 81.

Mr. Lange was never the most prominent game show host but he racked up an impressive record in the genre. His IMDb page lists many shows he emceed, ranging from the well-known to the virtually forgotten: Oh My Word, Spin-Off, Give-N-Take, Hollywood Connection, Bullseye, Newlywed Game, Name That Tune, $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime, Triple Threat.

But the Chuck Barris dating epic will always be what he is best remembered for, of course. The show launched a sub-genre that is still going strong enough to make a lot of viewers leary of it. When Jim Lange first hosted Dating Game, though, the idea was novel enough to produce a ridiculously long life (spanning four decades) for the oddball little show.

Always ingratiating and affable with a resonant voice, Mr. Lange's first love was radio. His AP obit quotes his praise for the box without pictures:
You don't have to worry about lighting directors and cameramen or script writers and all that. Good radio is still the most fun. It always will be. Plus, you don't have to wear makeup and you don't have to shave.
By an odd coincidence, I have something in common with Mr. Lange. We were both Evans Scholars (a college scholarship program for golf caddies). He went to Minnesota, I went to Ohio State. The linked story says that he was an accomplished golfer, which is better than I ever did at the game. R.I.P.

UPDATE: In a nice gesture GSN will run a four-hour marathon of Jim Lange Dating Game episodes 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM on Wednesday March 5. Tom Selleck, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Martin and more.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ratings: syndies stumble

Olympics preemptions and general blahs hit syndies hard in the week of February 10-16. The game shows were no exception. They all lost ground, as TV News Check notes with unsparing clarity...

Wheel of Fortune 7.2 - down four ticks
Jeopardy 6.7 - down five ticks in sympathy with the soulmate
Family Feud 5.7 - down three ticks
Millionaire 2.2 - down a couple ticks for always last-place Cedric

Despite the general downdraft, the big three game shows occupied half of the first six slots on the top 25 syndie chart at TV by the Numbers. And Wheel of Fortune took its customary place as number one in total viewers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.5 million (weekend repeat 6.2 million), Jeopardy 10.6 million (weekend repeat 4.1 million), Family Feud 8.6 million. Hardly terrible numbers even in a down week.

TV Newser reports that GSN averaged 329K/306K viewers prime time/total day for February. Or at least for what the Nielsen Company calls February. The network ranked 43rd and 35th in the windows. Mind of a Man hurt prime time but the total day numbers were very good by GSN's historical standards.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Outthink the wheel

With Arthur Chu in full romp on Jeopardy, New Republic recommends some strategies for that other game.

I always thought New Republic specialized in liberal politics. But maybe they're tired of defending Obama. So William Spaniel at the site offers some hints for relieving Pat and Vanna of as much moolah as possible. A lot of his ideas are common sense, like buying vowels because they're cheap and looking for the I-N-G in "What are you doing?" puzzles.

He also gives a lot of letter frequencies and warns against the crafty producers, who make the bonus round as tricky as possible. His favorite letters for the final round are the rather offbeat P, H, G and O. By pure dumb luck, tonight's contestant would have been well served with those choices for "I've got high hopes." But she taped her show a while ago and thus couldn't benefit from Spaniel's picks.

She did ride the express wedge to a lot of money, as Spaniel recommends heartily. In fact, she owed her win in the front game to that very profitable ride. And she made sure to pick every consonant before solving, to max out her reward.

UPDATE: That contestant, Charity Holley-Snell, is a Houston-area police officer. She recently helped save an infant's life by administering CPR, so good for her. Too bad about that bonus round puzzle, though.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Wayback machine

Boing Boing couldn't resist stringing together twenty intros to 1950s game shows. The effect is a little numbing. After a while you get tired of orchestral flourishes and hosts entering to rounds of polite applause. But what they hey, the clips create a sweet, goofball nostalgia trip.

Of course, there's that one little issue, which the blog notes. "Most of the shows featured in this video were legit, a few of them weren't." Just to remind us, we get Jack Barry kicking off Twenty One as if a real contest was about to begin. Much further down the road Jack would land on his feet with Joker's Wild, but we know what happened in between.

Some of the shows are obscure and pretty much forgotten. But The Price is Right is still kicking, though with drastic format changes. The first TPiR host is pictured, and he's rather famous. My own 1950s favorite, I've Got a Secret, never arrives among the clips. But we do catch a glimpse of Hal Block on a truly ancient episode of What's My Line. The guy usually seemed ill at ease with his cultured confreres, and this clip is no exception.

Time always wins, and it's a sad fact that only two of the hosts in the intro reel are still with us. Tom Kennedy and Sonny Fox are going strong in their eighties.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Take it nationwide

Now and then I post faux tweets about local high school quizzers. I figure smart kids deserve some notice, even if it's only from a dinky little game show blog. One recent item was about Massachusetts' High School Quiz Show (as I always say, a dull title). They've got a new interstate rivalry with New Hampshire's Granite State Challenge.

Last year was the first time that the winning teams from both competitions faced off in a rather grandly named "Governor's Cup." The school from Massachusetts won, which much have set off wild celebrations in Boston (ha-ha). The two shows will hold the same playoff this year. I actually like this idea. In fact, I'd like to see it go nationwide, with winning teams from high school quizzers all over the country playing in a national super-tournament.

I'm not holding my breath on this dream. It would be really tough to round up enough sponsorship (even on PBS) for a nationally televised tournament featuring a lot of smart but virtually unknown kids. But it wouldn't be the worst thing to ever hit television.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Never mind

Ran across this puff piece about GSN's Mind of a Man. It's nice to know that host DeRay Davis apparently enjoyed himself on the show. Too bad that the Nielsen Company has been delivering anything but puff pieces about his Mind. After a mildly encouraging start, especially in the younger demos GSN usually knows nothing about, Mind of a Man has tanked hard in the ratings.

You can always use the Olympics as an excuse, though I think blah gameplay and not so comic comedians are more to blame. If the numbers don't perk up after the Sochi festivities finish, the show faces a bleak future. It's hard to believe that GSN committed to 40 episodes of a so-so format with untested and largely unknown talent.

Although I'm no particular fan of the show (in case you couldn't tell) I don't like it when a traditional studio-based original flops on GSN. This only strengthens the voices of those at the network who want to pitch the niche and go for more reality stuff. At least The Chase has become a genuine hit for GSN. Now if they can only get a third season on the air sometime in the not so distant future. Meanwhile, the new season of American Bible Challenge should turn up sooner or later.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Jeopardy stuff

A lot of items have popped up in Google news about our favorite quiz show (as it likes to call itself).

First, the college tournament finished today. I just watched the second part of the final match unwind into a win for Princeton sophomore Terry O'Shea. She didn't cakewalk to the prize. Tucker Pope from Texas A&M pushed hard throughout the two-day match and would have won if he hadn't botched a pretty easy Final Jeopardy clue. (Hong Kong is nowhere near Spain, Tucker.) Says Terry: "I'm not on a sports or other competitive team, so it was nice to finally get the chance to represent Princeton."

Now that the college tourney is over, you know what that means. The contestant everybody loves to hate is poised to return. Arthur Chu comes back for more board-hopping and buzzer-slamming on Monday. In the linked interview he plays the race card about his Asian ancestry. "I kind of fit a certain stereotype of the hyper-focused, unlikable Asian nerd. And the fact that I'm the Asian guy means that I’m not the underdog, that I'm the bad guy.

Hm, that comment probably won't make him more popular. We'll see how long he keeps the string going. Meanwhile, a large person from the great white north has qualified for Jeopardy. Canadian professional football player Peter Dyakowski can't wait to question the answers. He looks pretty imposing in his photo, but he's got the right attitude: "I'm hoping I get categories like Canadian Football Rules and Tim Hortons Pastries."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Not so live any more

A while back a faux tweet noted that a live version of Family Feud was coming to a lot of sites in the U.S. and Canada. Well, that was then and this is now. Looks like the Canadian part of the tour has gone bye-bye completely. And the U.S. "tour" is down to just two locations, according to the official website.

The linked story about the Canadian tour says that tickets were not selling well, at least for the Edmonton date. Maybe they need to get Steve Harvey on the road to goose the sales a bit. Fat chance of that happening, though. You'd think that the live show would prosper with the recently much improved ratings for the TV effort. But that doesn't seem to be happening.

The two U.S. sites still on the docket are both casinos, in Minnesota and Rhode Island. Live game shows are a natural for gambling emporiums, because people in those places have been known to play games. We'll see if those dates survive or if the entire Feud tour goes kaput.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ratings: syndies wobble up and down

Syndie game shows only saw little moves up and down for the week of February 3-9. Nothing much to get excited about either way, though Cedric got a bit of welcome news. TV News Check brings all the household ratings for your Nielsen enjoyment...

Wheel of Fortune 7.6 - down three ticks
Jeopardy 7.2 - up a tick to creep closer to the soulmate
Family Feud 6.0 - down three ticks but hardly worrisome for Steve
Millionaire 2.4 - up a couple ticks and Cedric will take every tenth he can get

As always, the big three made the top 25 chart at TV by the Numbers. Even Jeopardy's weekend repeat got into the list, and Wheel of Fortune's weekend repeat made the top 10! The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.1 million (weekend repeat 7.0 million), Jeopardy 11.4 million (weekend repeat 4.2 million), Family Feud 8.8 million.

TV Newser reports that GSN went through a bizarre week for February 10-16. The network averaged 292K/290K viewers prime time/total day. That's right, the total day number was virtually the same as prime time. That's why GSN ranked 38th in total day but only 48th in prime. The network could use new seasons of American Bible Challenge and The Chase in prime time ASAP.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A guy thing

Luring the testosterone set has always been a challenge for TV shows. Especially when it comes to younger guys. They just have better things to do, like hanging around in bars. (Though not necessarily in women's clothing, despite the lumberjack song.) So when any show does okay with younger men, the media pay attention.

The game show Money Where Your Mouth Is has done decent business with the male 25-44 demo on Hulu, its online home. Hosted by comic Jay Mohr, the show is pitched at the demo with a vengeance. Sports questions and eye candy abound. The NFL is one of the show's main sponsors.

I gave the show a lukewarm review when it debuted on Hulu. It wasn't the worst thing I've seen, but Mohr can get on my nerves, and the competition is loose and silly sometimes. But what the hey, it's mainly a comedy vehicle for Mohr, sort of like what Groucho used to do. Yes, I realize it's absurd to mention those two guys in the same sentence.

The linked story hints that the show's producers may eventually try to shop it to regular television. But they say they want to concentrate on digital for now.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Finality

An interesting thread on what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board discusses "anticlimactic" moments on game shows. One poster mentions the final spin on Wheel of Fortune when one contestant is way ahead and the spin doesn't hit the $5,000 wedge.

It's true, that situation pretty much guarantees there won't be a last-minute upset of the big winner. But as another poster points out, that doesn't meant the final spin round becomes completely anticlimactic. He argues:
I disagree, since they're still playing for a reasonable amount of cash. It may not determine the winner, but the subcockles of my heart are warmed at least a little if the poor guy who spun Bankrupt three times gets to take home $4,350 thanks to the speed-up round.
I'm not sure my heart has subcockles or even regular cockles. But I can see the point. If the wheel has screwed over a contestant royally, the last chance for some cash in the final spin round makes things not so anticlimactic, even if the big winner is not in doubt. It's just another example of how Wheel's gameplay is pretty well designed. The show hasn't lasted several centuries by accident.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

They're getting in everywhere

I'm spending too much time lately on YouTube's What's My Line channel. But I can't help it, because great bits keep turning up. For instance, there's this lady atomic scientist who later in life became a restaurateur. Her name is Natalie Carbone Mangini, and she took her WML turn on August 24, 1958.

She now runs a restaurant in Pittsburgh, or at least shows up in the restaurant run by one of her daughters. In fact, Natalie's 1958 What's My Line episode is best known for another contestant, gorgeous bouncer Dana Craig, who wowed everybody with her good looks and offbeat job.

Maybe the funniest and most telling line of the WML episode came from Bennett Cerf late in the show, after Dorothy Kilgallen guessed that Natalie was an atomic scientist. Cerf lamented about women in the work force: "They're getting in everywhere." John Daly agreed, citing the bouncer and the atomic scientist as proof. They didn't know the half of it.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Def gets higher

We finally broke down when our ancient cathode ray tube TV broke down. We bought a 55-inch high-def model.

So the TV world suddenly looks a lot brighter, sharper and bigger to us. I told my wife that we can now see the blood a lot better on Investigation Discovery, my guilty pleasure. (That's what the channel calls itself, after all.)

The game show which benefits most from the impressive clarity is Wheel of Fortune. Not because Pat and Vanna are so cute any more. I ain't so cute, either, after my six decades. Rather, the show puts on the best images of tropical getaways and swimming pools and Alaska wildernesses and whatnot. Even the wheel is quite colorful, as many have noted.

GSN offers a high-definition version but my surly cable provider doesn't carry it. So the old game shows still look a bit fuzzy, though much bigger. The Beast is even more imposing on a 55-inch screen.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tortured souls

Sometimes you can't keep a bad show down.

Killer Karaoke will surface for another season starting February 20 on the hilariously misnamed truTV. This is the show that tortures unsuspecting contestants with electric shocks, water snakes, and other pleasant things. Just to whet our sadistic appetites, truTV will offer a sneak peek of the first episode on YouTube February 18. I can barely wait not to watch.

Mark McGrath replaces the semi-braindead Steve O as host for the new season. At least Mark should be more alert than the chemically addled Stevie. It's a low bar to clear.

As you can probably tell, I hate the show with undying passion. It got a well-deserved nomination on Game Show Garbage for worst new show of the year, but somehow didn't win. Which only proves that sometimes life really isn't fair. The new season will have a more complicated format, but more of that good old time contestant torture is promised.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Making out with Glenn Beck

I've been looking for an offbeat Family Feud story. Something besides the booming ratings, which have been getting plenty of media play. But even my twisted mind couldn't imagine something this weird.

On a recent episode a survey asked the usual hundred people: "Name something in a car that two lovers might accidentally turn on while making out." As the screenshot incredibly shows, the number one answer was "Radio/Glenn Beck."

For those who don't know, Glenn Beck is a conservative political pundit on radio and TV. His fans think he's great, his foes think he's nuts, and nobody ever associated him with making out in a car. Until now.

Even Steve Harvey didn't know quite what to make of it all. The video clip in the linked story shows him sighing "Glenn Beck," as if he can't believe what he just saw. Beck's own web site says: "We are seeking further clarification around the survey that found Glenn Beck's voice to be essential while 'making out' in a car. Although we're not sure we want the answer."

Yes, some of life's mysteries might be best left unexplained.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Now it's the college kids

Just because Jeopardy is running a battle of the decades doesn't mean they can't slip in a bunch of other tournaments.

I've ranted before about the veritable plethora (R.I.P. Howard Cosell) of stunts and tournaments on our answer-and-question classic. But my rants are of course meaningless in the real game show world, where the tournaments keep coming fast and thick. Jeopardy is now doing this year's bout with the college kids.

At least the contestants in this effort are young and tend to be cute. The Stanford student newspaper - or website, I don't even know if they still bother with dead trees - offers an interesting account of the various undergraduates who have faced the big board over the years. One of them has the deepest, darkest secret to success: "The most important thing about Jeopardy is timing the buzzer." Yep, Watson knows all about that.

The pictured Harvard coed (is that term politically correct any more?) is a Canadian named Julia Clark. In case you were wondering, she tells us: "It's much harder than it seems when you're playing along at home." Almost every contestant agrees, I hear.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ratings: another high for Steve

Family Feud set another record in household ratings for the week of January 27-February 2. Otherwise, the news was sort of bland for syndie game shows. TVNewsCheck delivers all the numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 7.9 - flat but hardly terrible
Jeopardy 7.2 - down a tick
Family Feud 6.3 - up a couple of ticks to the record
Millionaire 2.2 - down three ticks, an ouchie for Cedric

Once again Wheel led all syndies in total viewers. That's hardly news any more. It happens every week, in fact. TV by the Numbers posts the viewer averages for the top three: Wheel of Fortune 12.6 million (weekend repeat 5.7 million), Jeopardy 11.4 million, Family Feud 9.3 million.

GSN fell back a bit in the week of February 3-9. The network averaged 324K/298K viewers prime time/total day. That ranked 43rd and 39th in the windows. Not bad by GSN's historical standards but off a bit from January's frisky pace.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Richard

The game show board at TV Without Pity offers a lively thread about Match Game, my all-time favorite and that includes everything.

Somehow the talk always gets around to Richard Dawson. Funny how Richard exerts such a gravitational pull on Match Game threads. A recent post at TV Without Pity notes that Behind the Blank, GSN's 2006 documentary about the classic, seemed edited to make Gene Rayburn look good and Mr. Dawson look...not so good. In fact, critics spotted the slant as soon as the documentary debuted.

After all this time it's useless to rehash the old arguments. Let's just say that things didn't work out between Richard and his confreres. Another post at TV Without Pity wryly recalls Johnny Olson's opening pitch: "Get ready to match the stars!" The poster comments that not many of the Match Game panelists were really "stars" by the usual show biz standards. Though after the show got to be daytime's highest-rated, maybe a little star quality began to attach.

Another poster can't remember Brett Somers in anything before Match Game. Actually, she played quite a few character actress roles on TV before the game show, as her IMDb page attests. A few years ago I spotted her in an episode of Efrem Zimbalist's The FBI on one of the oldies channels.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Express yourself

When a venerable game show adds a new wrinkle to its gameplay, the Interwebs often frown in dismay. This is just part of the ingrained conservatism of game show websites. They generally don't like tinkering with the tried and true. The quote from Golden Road a few posts ago is typical of such wariness.

But one innovation on a long-running show seems to have met with acceptance, even enthusiasm. That's the express round on Wheel of Fortune.

It's easy to see why the express has gained some fans on the web. The round produces nice suspense as a contestant builds a bank that could suddenly go poof with just one wrong letter. Last Friday a married couple piled up their cash total to over fifteen grand as they expressed their way to CANDLELIGHT DINNER FOR TWO. They always seemed in control, though the round is most entertaining when a contestant looks uncertain of the next letter.

This video shows a typical express round. The contestant had a lot to lose, including the million dollar wedge. But everything came right in the end.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The whole show

Jay Leno's teary-eyed departure from the Tonight Show got me thinking about the guy who started it all sixty years ago, Steve Allen. Of course, Steve was a stalwart of our little genre for many years. Maybe his most notable game show role was as a panelist on What's My Line. He's the guy who came up with the "bigger than a breadbox" question, the subject of much mirth.

On May 18, 1958 Allen returned to WML as a mystery guest. He brought the house down with memorable quips delivered in an equally memorable falsetto. Thanks to the What's My Line channel on YouTube, the entire episode is now available.

The civvie contestants on the show were a mattress demonstrator, a female colonel in the Israeli army, and a male ballet dancer. Bennett Cerf zeroed in quickly on the mattress lady, which led to some predictable giggles about the product. The panel whiffed on the other civvies.

For fans of goofy fifties pop songs, Cerf also recited the "oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang" line from Witch Doctor. That prompted a reference from John Daly to now legendary DJ Alan Freed. The doomed Mr. Freed later became involved in the payola scandals of the 1950s, an odd echo of the decade's game show rumpus.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Love the cold

The polar vortex pumps out more than cold air and frostbite. It's also pumping up Mr. Nielsen's numbers, as folks huddle indoors around their TV sets.

Basking in the cold glow are The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal. CBS put out a press release gurgling with joy over the shows' performance. Drew and Wayne got their biggest audiences ever for the week of January 27-31. TPiR averaged more than six million pairs of eyeballs, LMAD about four million.

Not since Bob's heyday in 2004-05 has The Price is Right seen such viewer numbers. Even the folks at Golden Road, not known as the biggest fans of Drew Carey and showrunner Mike Richards, offered some grudging praise:
In any case, while I've been firm about what I think the show's doing wrong, what Drew could improve about his performance, and what new things I like or think work, the show does seem to be doing pretty well regardless of whatever issues or perceived issues the show still has. People right now watch it and seem to like it, so that seems to be what ultimately counts regardless of anything else.
It doesn't seem to be what ultimately counts. It is what ultimately counts.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Game shows get respectable?

As every show business website has noted, Hollywood Game Night will replace two NBC comedies in a couple weeks. The unfortunate casualties are Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox Show.

What's semi-remarkable is that at least some show biz pundits seem almost okay with this. Usually, the media whines and mopes whenever a scripted show gets the ax for, well, an unscripted show. Scripted stuff is supposed to be better than déclassé offerings like game shows.

A few critics have even allowed that they would rather watch the celebs play silly games on Hollywood Game Night than watch them recite silly lines on a blah sitcom. As one puts it:
If there's an upside to all this, it's that NBC is replacing the shows on Thursday with Hollywood Game Night, the Jane Lynch-hosted celebrity game show currently on Mondays. We love that show, and would gladly watch it over either of the sitcoms it's replacing.
In fact, I'm personally not a huge fan of the game show. Jane Lynch and endless pop culture get old for me pretty quick. And I'm not entirely comfortable with our little genre going respectable. Sure, Jeopardy gets Peabody awards. But I hope that game shows never turn into a hoity-toity fave of the critics.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

GSN notes

A couple of GSN press releases landed in my inbox over the past few days.

The first announced the host and judges for Skin Wars, that reality project which seemed to have gone off the radar completely. Now it's back in sight and Rebecca Romijn is set to host. "There is no more compelling canvas for artists than the human body and Skin Wars is the first ever competition show designed to find the country's most talented, most versatile body painting artist."

Why does this not fill me with glee? Maybe I'm thinking about all those other reality epics that have come and gone (usually in a hurry) on GSN. RuPaul is the celeb judge, along with a couple other judges I've never heard of but who are supposedly big in body painting. Eight hour-long bouts of epidermal decoration are due this summer. By the way, I used the most adorable picture of Rebecca Romijn I could find, because I didn't want to seem overly biased against her GSN project.

In more reassuring news, GSN also says that January, 2014 was their most watched month ever in total viewers and lots of different demos. (I've gotten to the age where demo talk leaves me a little cold and clammy.) The total day numbers I'd seen for the last few weeks did look impressive. So congrats to the network as they begin their twentieth year on a high.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ratings: new highs for Steve and Cedric

It was a good week for all the syndie game shows and a really good week for Messrs. Harvey and Kyles. The comedy duo hit new highs for their game show tenures. TVNewsCheck spreads all the good tidings for our four syndies...

Wheel of Fortune 7.9 - up three ticks to lead all syndies in household ratings
Jeopardy 7.3 - up five ticks to join in the fun
Family Feud 6.1 - up four ticks to a series high
Millionaire 2.5 - up three ticks to Cedric's best ever

As the cold weather continues, the ratings will probably stay strong. TV by the Numbers lists all four shows in its top 25 syndie chart. Even Jeopardy's weekend repeat makes the grade. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.6 million to lead all syndies big-time, as usual (weekend repeat 5.8 million), Jeopardy 11.6 million (weekend repeat 4.0 million), Family Feud 9.2 million, Millionaire 3.5 million. Good stuff all round for our little genre.

TVNewser says that GSN enjoyed a very pleasant week for January 27-February 2, especially in the total day window. 399K/354K viewer averages prime time/total day. The network ranked 41st and (check this) 31st in the windows. That's the highest ranking I've ever seen for GSN in total day.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Hater's fave

Already mentioned Arthur Chu, the current Jeopardy champ. He's on hiatus right now as the show grinds through its battle of the decades. But that hasn't stopped the web stories about him. This guy is the biggest thing in game show news.

As anybody who's watched him play can tell you, Arthur does a lot of board-hopping to disorient his opponents and hunt down the Daily Doubles. He also pounds hard on the buzzer and looks genuinely shocked when another contestant slips in before him. Finally, he's really good and knows a lot of stuff, and he affects no false modesty.

You get the idea. He's the perfect villain, and a lot of people have taken to the web to express their distaste for him. Personally, I don't mind the guy all that much, though his haircut and wardrobe need serious work.

Already there's fear and trepidation that he'll become another Jennings and hang around forever to annoy the haters. That's always a possibility, but Arthur doesn't impress me as quite in the Ken Jennings class. But how many members does that class have, after all?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Let's meet our award winning panel

Hub's Family Game Night has won an award from somebody for being "nonviolent, well produced and fun."

Anybody who glances at this blog knows about my cynical attitude toward show biz awards. But like the daytime Emmy won by host Todd Newton, this award might at least help Family Game Night last a bit longer on Hub. Right now the network grinds through daily reruns of the show, with okay but not great ratings by Hub standards. See the sidebar for the gory details.

Haven't heard anything about a fifth season for Family Game Night, but the fourth season first-runs performed respectably. Rumblings have reached the game show blogosphere that the real problem with the show is its high production costs for a little-watched network like Hub. Since game shows have traditionally benefited from relatively low costs, this seems like a peculiar problem for Todd and company. But I don't know enough about Hub's finances to say whether Family Game Night is really straining the budget.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Chess galore

It's the weekend and there's not much news about traditional game shows. So instead of talking about reality yellfests, talent contests, cooking shows or improv comedy, I'll talk about chess. Right now there happens to be a lot of chess on the Internet to discuss. Two high-level tournaments are grinding on at the same time, and they're both doing full-blown Net shows.

The Gibraltar Open has attracted scores of top players. As usual, English GM Simon Williams and American GM Irina Krush are yukking it up as they talk about various games. I like this pair because they don't take themselves or chess too seriously. This is a game, after all, not life and death...though some players might disagree. And when they do comment on the games, their remarks are technically competent.

Meanwhile, a closed tournament with six of the top ten players in the world is happening in Zurich. The commentary here mainly comes from Swiss GM Yannick Pelletier and Hungarian GM Peter Leko. To be honest, their remarks may well be better technically, but they're not nearly as much fun. And they don't have Irina to look at (he said oafishly).

For comic relief on both tourneys there's always Chessbomb. Along with computer evaluations of the games, you get idiot commentary from idiot commenters. Good for laughs, even if the comments sometimes turn bigoted and ugly.