Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dancing off

It's the weekend, and it's another bout of binge watching on the YouTube What's My Line channel. This time I ran across Fred Astaire's June 8, 1958 ep.

It didn't take long for the panel to zero in on the legendary dancer. Like almost everybody else in show business, they seemed genuinely affectionate toward Mr. Astaire. As Bennett Cerf said: "I think Fred Astaire is one of the great everythings of all time."

Arlene Francis then asked Fred to dance off the stage, so he did a few graceful steps as he left the premises. Fred Astaire's Wikipedia article reads almost like a saint's legend, but it offers a lot of tributes from other performers to back up the praise.

As the world's greatest klutz, I've dreamed of being able to move one-hundredth as gracefully as Fred Astaire. Sadly, I might as well dream of being one-hundredth as rich as Warren Buffett. The "suave" in the screenshot is an ironic but oh so accurate description of Mr. Astaire's every movement.

UPDATE: I got a request for Steve Beverly's ten-part What's My Line history. I give the links to the Internet Archive copies of all ten parts in the comments to this post. Some WML fans discuss the history and offer corrections.

Friday, May 30, 2014

What it's all about

There's been a bit of tsuris on the blog lately. It goes with the territory.

As my bio says, I'm a veteran of game show wars on the Internet. But once in a while, it's nice to remind myself of what the genre is all about: people playing games on TV for fun and sometimes profit. And they can't wait to try out for the experience.

This story tells about one more episode in the life of the Wheelmobile, the 36-foot van which tours the country hunting for wannabe Wheel of Fortune players. There's nothing particularly special about this appearance in Detroit. But it's nice to hear from some of the folks dreaming of a date with Pat and Vanna.

"I think that it's people who work with words — that have word magic in their heads." That's how one of the wannabes describes himself and the other hopefuls. It is magic in a way, a chance for very ordinary people to have a few minutes on TV just because they're good with word puzzles. No matter how hectic things get around here, I always have to remember that game shows are a lot of fun, after all.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Silliest recent post about game shows

And I'm not responsible for it! (Hard to believe, I know.)

The Huffington Post, gleefully scrambled by its detractors into the Puffington Host, has taken note of Julia Collins' run on Jeopardy. Only the site insists that Julia isn't getting her fair share of attention.

It's quite possible that the HuffPo scribe hasn't heard of Google News. But anybody who types "Julia Collins" into that little box at Google gets back a scad of links. They tell us everything we could possibly want to know about Jeopardy's smiling assassin. We even learn about her eighth-grade yearbook, for crying out loud.

As you might expect from the prevailing winds (of hot air) at HuffPo, the site tries to pin the supposed lack of coverage, which doesn't exist in the first place, on gender. That would be the "war on women" meme, for those who have been living under a rock. But that seems a stretch even for HuffPo. So they blather on about how Julia isn't as irritating as Arthur Chu, which apparently is unfair somehow.

Anyway, Julia won again tonight to tie David Madden for second place on the list of longest winning streaks. Back in 2005, did the then-new HuffPo complain that David wasn't getting enough coverage? I doubt it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ratings: Alex ties Pat and Vanna

Jeopardy's battle of the decades didn't just pay off for Brad Rutter. The show itself benefited, tying Wheel of Fortune for the top spot in household ratings among syndie game shows. Pat and Vanna still won the viewer average race among all syndies. So I'll give them the tiebreaker. In general, our little genre had a lot to be happy about during the May 12-18 week. TV by the Numbers spreads the joy…

Wheel of Fortune 6.8 – up three ticks
Jeopardy 6.8 – up four ticks to pull into the tie
Family Feud 5.2 – up three ticks as everybody gets healthy
Millionaire 2.2 – up a tick for soon-to-depart Cedric

The viewer averages gave the big multicolored wheel its usual triumph. Wheel of Fortune 10.7 million (weekend repeat 4.6 million), Jeopardy 10.5 million, Family Feud 7.5 million, Millionaire 2.8 million. A pleasant week for all concerned.

American Bible Challenge didn't blow the Nielsen doors off. But at least it helped GSN prime time a bit. The viewer averages were 333K/243K prime time/total day for the May 19-25 week. I backed these numbers out from the monthly figures on TV Newser.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I'm gonna do it anyway

You might have noticed the Julia Collins tracker in the sidebar. (It's hard to miss.) I thought I'd be clever and add a running total of her Jeopardy wins and cash. Then I happened to glance at BuzzerBlog. And they beat me to it!

Sigh. Oh well, I had already put together the text box in Blogger, so I'm sticking with it. And Julia won't mind getting tracked on a couple blogs, will she? Her game tonight was a joke. The other players might as well have stayed home. She piled up such a ridiculous lead that it was boring as hell. She ended with her 17th in a row and another thirty-five grand.

Still not sure what she does, other than being an expert on supply chains. What her opponents need is a supply of questions to fit the answers. So far they've run short on that chain.

When will it all end? What, do I look like a prophet? Lately Julia seems unbeatable, though she had at least one close call a few games ago. Pretty soon if not already, Ken Jennings will be the only player ahead on her on the list of most wins. My little text box will stay around as long as she does.

UPDATE: In a comment Zach Horan points out that David Madden is still ahead of Julia with 19 straight wins (back in 2005). An unrelated Jeopardy note: the teen tournament starts July 21.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The long run

GSN is now running a Memorial Day marathon of Steve Harvey's Family Feud. Okay, you can make snide remarks that GSN runs a marathon of Harvey Feud every day. Just remember the endless (well, not literally) marathons on every other cable outlet today.

Hollywood Reporter has posted a list of fifty-eight - I counted 'em - Memorial Day weekend marathons on TV. Oddly enough, they don't list the load of Feud on GSN. Maybe they figure that GSN runs a marathon of Mr. Harvey every day, too. So why bother noting today's effort?

I'm not sure when the holiday marathon got to be a TV staple. GSN has used them forever, but GSN itself only dates back twenty years. Wikipedia insists that TV marathons began in 1985 on Nick at Nite. By the way, the article notes GSN's frequent marathons when a famous game show figure dies.

There's a natural link between TV marathons and the current fad of binge watching. The ultimate debauch may be FXX's planned 12-day, 552-episode Simpsons orgy. So far GSN hasn't even tried that with Steve Harvey.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Back from the e-dead

News from the game show Interwebs: BuzzerBlog is back. The reason the blog shut down a few months ago was the obvious one, according to Alex Davis. He just got bored with the thing. Alex also says the new site will venture into reality shows and improv comedy and basically anything they want to venture into. The Game Show Newsnet philosophy, you might say.

There are supposedly four writers on the new site, but so far the only one who's posting much is Cory Anotado. He's written 13 of the 17 posts that have appeared on the revived BuzzerBlog.

In his Facebook comment on the comeback, Alex makes a strange reference to "cutting ties with many poisonous insider contacts." That's never been my problem. My only insider contact is the nice lady at GSN who sends me the network's advance schedules. She's definitely not poisonous. Very friendly, in fact, if her e-mails are any indication.

I've put a link to the new site in the sidebar. Welcome back to Cory and the other guys.

Tuesday's child

More episodes have appeared on the YouTube What's My Line channel. So naturally I've done some more binge watching.

One of the more interesting mystery guests graced the January 14, 1962 ep. Tuesday Weld, then just 18 years old, stumped the panel with very short answers delivered in a nasal yap.

Commenters on YouTube praise Tuesday's beauty and acting ability, and I can't disagree. But I have to say that she looks a very, oh, mature eighteen. By the time she appeared on WML, Tuesday was an experienced child and teen actress, and some of the experience was of the hard-living variety. Check her Wikipedia article for the astringent details. All that turmoil left its mark. Growing up fast, she was hardly a giggly teenybopper.

An odd note: she came onstage on crutches. She eventually revealed that she had kicked a camera on a movie set and bruised her foot. From all accounts, Tuesday Weld could be a temperamental, demanding actress, and there are a few hints of that on WML, too. For some reason, it seems hard even for actors to hide their true personalities on a game show.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Chasing in July

Brooke Burns tweets that season three of GSN's The Chase will arrive in July. I'm on grim record that the season will hit the million-viewer mark (no pun intended, Mr. Labbett).

After the okay but less than spectacular debut of American Bible Challenge's new season, I'm starting to get a little antsy about my, er, prophecy. I'm sure that my many not-so-fans will remind me if The Chase goes down in Nielsen flames, or even if it somewhat disappoints. I can already hear: "You will make up whatever nonsense you can to defend your inaccurate statements, won't you?" Just to take an example from somewhere at random (wink).

Well, I'm going to keep on making up whatever nonsense - which is much better than plain old nonsense - as long as Blogger is free. If I have to pay to make up nonsense, I'll find another hobby. Meanwhile, I really do think (or hope or fondly imagine) that The Chase might continue its climb in the numbers. Unlike American Bible Challenge, its second season performed better than the first. And the show seems to hold up better in reruns, too.

While the novelty of a Bible-based game show may wear off, a good quizzer never gets old. Or at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Spoilsports

Some irritating news today: Douglas Pucci will no longer post ratings lists at his Son of the Bronx blog. It's not Douglas' fault at all. Instead, the copyright police have cracked down on the ratings posts. You can read all the dismal details from Douglas himself.

I noticed that one link to Douglas' blog in the sidebar - the April 14-20 GSN ratings - was no longer working. Luckily, all the other ratings lists are still intact, but we may not get any more GSN ratings in the future. At least not complete lists.

As Douglas notes, he always acknowledges the Nielsen Company on every post. It seems pretty persnickety to force the lists off his blog, especially because they were the best advertising Nielsen could want. Also, the lists only gave total viewer numbers. There wasn't any detailed demo information, which is what really drives advertising sales.

Here's hoping that Douglas finds a way to continue providing his ratings info. I've always been interested in the numbers - natch, I'm an actuary - and it's annoying that the copyright cops came calling. Especially when the cops seem to be acting against their own best interests.

UPDATE: Speaking of GSN ratings, American Bible Challenge helped the network to a prime time average of 512K viewers last night. Good for GSN but nowhere near the record high ratings the show has gotten before.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ceremonies to master

Game shows get me thinking about odd things. Like how many little ceremonies take place in almost every game show format.

They don't call the host the master of ceremonies for nothing. Every show has its rituals that must be observed. Or the audience might feel lost, or at least slightly disoriented. Game shows are TV comfort food, after all, and viewers get comfy with the same customs day after day.

The most common ceremony, nearly universal in the genre, is the contestant interview. Sometimes it can be almost comically awkward, as so often occurs on Jeopardy, or sometimes it can flow silky smooth, as usually happens on Wheel of Fortune. But we've got to meet the players and the host has to elicit some pleasant info.

The most ceremonious game show, at least among the genre's top tier, had to be What's My Line. Long introductions and farewells, signing in on the chalkboard, "Miss or Mrs.", handshakes with the panel, formal evening wear...the show seemed almost Victorian in its elaborate punctilio. Things loosened up a little on the syndie version.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

War of the roses tweets

This blog tries to stay mostly nonpolitical. I do game shows here, not partisan analysis.

But wouldn't you know, the biggest game show story right now is political. Of course, I'm talking about Pat Sajak and the twitter skitter he ignited about global warming. As I've noted, Sajak plays the wrong side of the aisle on these issues. If he slammed Republicans as Ken Jennings did with his sour grapes swipe at Condoleezza Rice's sex life, he would enjoy a much more peaceful media existence.

But that would be pretty dull, I guess. Obviously, Sajak was satirizing the constant attacks, led by most of the old and much of the new media, on conservatives as unpatriotic racists in it for the money. (As Sajak himself now points out.) He had to know what he was letting himself in for, and he got it fast and furious.

For the record, I'm agnostic on global warming. I'm unconvinced by the alarmists but not ready to join the deniers. I gotta admit, though, I am enjoying the dustup. And now I'll return to my regularly scheduled nonpolitical blather about our little genre.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ratings: syndies skid

The weather warms and the ratings slide. It's a law of TV life. Syndie game shows were not immune in the week of May 5-11. TV by the Numbers brings all the gloomy household ratings and viewer averages...

Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - down five ticks
Jeopardy 6.4 - down four ticks but just behind the soulmate
Family Feud 4.9 - down three ticks
Millionaire 2.1 - down a tick as the poor get poorer

Pat and Vanna still led all syndies in total viewers. Syndicated shows of all kinds are seeing softer numbers in the May sun. The averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.9 million (weekend repeat 4.1 million), Jeopardy 9.8 million, Family Feud 7.2 million, Millionaire 2.8 million. The numbers still look decent compared to prime time ratings nowadays.

GSN's ratings for May 12-18 perked up a bit, according to TV Newser. 323K/252K viewer averages prime time/total day. Help is on the way May 22.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A couple Jeopardy notes

Two items from America's favorite quiz show®...

The weirdest footnote to Brad Rutter's victory in Jeopardy's battle of the decades was a tweet from loser Ken Jennings. He goofed Final Jeopardy (see the screenshot) and decided to take a swipe at one of the correct answers, Condoleezza Rice.

The tweet: "(Gordon Jump voice) As God is my witness, I thought Condoleezza Rice was straight." If Jennings were a Republican and tweeted this about Hillary Clinton, the media would rip him a new one for homophobia and sexism and ageism and a half-dozen other -isms. But Jennings is a Democrat and Rice is a black Republican, so the media mostly ignored the story.

Jennings did have to take his lumps from Twitchy.com, which labeled him a "douche." To be honest, the tweet was not his best moment.

The other item: Julia Collins extended her female contestant record to eleven straight today. But it was painfully close. She almost blew the game in Final Jeopardy. Afterwards, she didn't post any odd tweets.

UPDATE: Sure enough, the media are now ripping Pat Sajak for bashing the global warming crowd. Pat, you've got to start bashing black Republicans! Then the media will let you alone. Oh, by the way, Julia Collins is up to twelve in a row.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Mick

Last month Mickey Rooney died, and I noted his passing with a faux tweet about his many game show appearances.

As the (Gil) Fates would have it, Mickey happens to be the mystery guest on the final episode currently uploaded to YouTube's WML channel. Broadcast on New Year's Eve 1961, the show was actually taped earlier on December 3. It's appropriate that Mickey got into a New Year's Eve show, because by all accounts he lived hard and partied hearty.

The entire episode saw everybody in a jolly mood. We even learned that Bennett Cerf and Arlene Francis did the twist together at the Peppermint Lounge, home of the dance craze. (The lounge's owner was the first contestant.) The thought of the august publisher twisting the night away was rather alarming, as John Daly noted.

The second contestant was a woman pro bowler, who happened to be very attractive. Daly couldn't resist a few conferences, much to the panel's amusement. And when Mickey came on, he stumped the panel completely with a goofy little-boy voice. In fact, the panelists didn't even guess he was male until several cards had been flipped.

Mickey said it was the first time he had stumped the panel in his WML appearances. He then plugged his upcoming and now classic movie Requiem for a Heavyweight, and the episode moved on into game show history.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Googled

When I google "game show", this blog is lucky to turn up on the fourth page. Which teaches me some much needed humility. But Google also presents a colorful display of logos for its own selection of the most "frequently mentioned" game shows.

Call it Google's equivalent of those lists of greatest game shows compiled by TV Guide and GSN. By and large, the lists overlap. Google's top five are The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Family Feud and Millionaire. It's hard to quibble with that selection. Especially when it comes with a ritzy-ditzy page rank algorithm from Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

As in any good list of top game shows, Google offers a couple of offbeat picks. The logos of Jackpot and the syndie What's My Line turn up. I always liked the syndie WML, so I'm pleased that it gets a bit of Google fame. Too bad the syndie never lasted long on GSN.

For the record, this blog ranks 40th in the current Google search for "game show." If it's any consolation, Game Show Follies makes it to second place in the search for "game show blog." BuzzerBlog, which doesn't even exist anymore, takes the top spot in that search.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sqramble it up

Nice to see a lonely entrepreneur trying to make it with a live game show. I posted a faux tweet a while ago about Buzz Berry, who runs Sqrambled Scuares in Myrtle Beach. Now a long story about the guy has appeared on the local paper's web site. The story roots for Buzz a little, but he sounds like an easy guy to root for.

He stages the show on Friday night and has racked up 61 episodes. He's trying to syndicate the show in small-to-medium markets, and good luck to him. It's a simple word game where contestants have to figure out a celeb's name, a place, a title, or some such.

Wannabe contestants just show up on Friday and get picked at random from the audience. The effort looks like a pleasant, unpretentious game that's easy to enjoy. Here's hoping Buzz makes a go of it with his scuares.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

GSN can't wait

Given GSN's recent ratings, which have hardly set the Nielsen world on fire, I can't blame the network for plugging American Bible Challenge. Jeff Foxworthy has gone the media rounds lately, and now Kirk Franklin offers an (admittedly brief) interview.

I've been a little ambivalent about adding Franklin to the show. Does the Bible quizzer really need somewhat overproduced music segments? But the ratings have held up, so Kirk isn't driving viewers away.

One nice bit in the interview: Kirk really liked the nuns from season two. In fact, he thinks they had "swagger." Too bad they lost in the final ep, but even Sisters of Mary can't win them all.

GSN's viewer averages have drooped with Mind of a Man weighing on the numbers, along with a general lack of new material. Things should start to change May 22, when American Bible Challenge launches its third season with a double run.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cheap and easy predictions

Last week I called Brad Rutter, Ken Jennings and Roger Craig the favorites for the finals of Jeopardy's battle of the decades. Well, shazam, all three got through the semis and will face off in the million dollar finale. Flush with my success at prognostication, I'm foolishly venturing on several more game show predictions. All these prophecies can and will be used against me in a court of law...

1) Craig Ferguson's Celebrity Name Game will do okay in syndication. Not great but good enough to hang around for a while. Ferguson will put his late night training to good use as he ad-libs his way to minor success.

2) Millionaire's ratings will continue to erode with Terry Crews at the helm. I don't have anything against Mr. Crews, but after twelve seasons, the vital spirits are starting to run a little low. Switching to Cedric didn't help, and I don't think switching to Terry will work wonders, either.

3) The Chase will eventually break the million-viewer barrier on GSN. That's quite a milestone for our little game show network. But the beauty and the beast steadily improved their numbers in the second season, and I think the third season will prove a very nice surprise.

4) Brad Rutter wins it all. He had by far the easiest time in the semis.

UPDATE: The last prediction comes true. Brad Rutter gets another million, and he needs the money. It was dicey and went right down to Final Jeopardy on the second day. But Brad came through.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ratings: syndies get happy

It's about time for some good ratings news for syndie game shows. And the time arrived in the week of April 28-May 4. All four shows rose from the previous week, and even Cedric made the top 25 syndie list. TV News Check brings all the cheerful household ratings

Wheel of Fortune 6.9 – up three ticks
Jeopardy 6.7 – also up three ticks to stay with the soulmate
Family Feud 5.2 – up three ticks, looks like a trend
Millionaire 2.2 – up a tick, but Cedric will take anything he can get as his days dwindle down

The viewer averages at TV by the Numbers look a little healthier as we head into May sweeps. Of course, Pat and Vanna lead the syndie world. Wheel of Fortune 10.8 million (weekend repeat 4.6 million), Jeopardy 10.5 million, Family Feud 7.6 million, Millionaire 3.0 million. Nice to see some increases for a change.

TV Newser says that GSN continued its string of so-so ratings. 307K/236K viewer averages prime time/total day for the May 5-11 week. GSN ranked 44th and 42nd in the windows. At least the network is cutting back on ratings bomb Mind of a Man.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Game show fiction

Fox has picked up Mulaney, a sitcom about an aspiring stand-up comic who writes for a game show host.

The show is about other things, too, if it's about anything. John Mulaney more or less plays himself, writing for the egotistical host played by Martin Short. Neither of these guys ranks among my favorite performers, but I don't watch many sitcoms, anyway.

The critics have spotted the obvious Seinfeld vibe, with wannabe comic Mulaney surrounded by goofball friends and hangers-on. Will this effort revive the sitcom genre, which often shows signs of exhaustion and/or extinction? Not likely, but Fox has to fill the hours with something.

As for the game show host, the writers may be channeling somebody like Richard Dawson, whose self-esteem was legendary. Martin Short will probably play the role as broadly as the directors will allow. Who knows, he might upstage the mild Mr. Mulaney.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Don't tell me

If there's any game show which has aired dirty laundry in public, at length and ad nauseam, it's The Price is Right. Now we get a tell-all book from former model Kathleen Bradley. Oh, goody.

You couldn't pay me enough money - okay, that's an exaggeration - to read the book. But there's apparently a lot of gossip about fellow model Dian Parkinson's sex life. Which just endlessly fascinates me (sarcasm alert). Dian, of course, started the show's Cheese Parade by suing Bob Barker for sexual harassment and being a real meanie.

That kicked off the TPiR litigation riot, which continues to this day, much to the merriment of the game show Interwebs. Kathleen Bradley's book also contains some offbeat material, like all the cards and letters which kept coming from jailed persons.
They would send tons of fan letters into the show. All of our fan mail was screened by the production staff and some of them we never received because they were way too harsh and vulgar. I mean really crazy, racy and provocative, and some of them that we did read, were kind of out there, some of them were pleasant, cool and supportive, but most weren't.
Some of the models must have read letters from lawyers looking for quick contingency fees. The lawsuits have kept flying.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Could you?

With a slow weekend upon us, I went for my favorite innocent pleasure: the What's My Line channel on YouTube.

Of course, John Daly's verbal gymnastics have long since become part of WML lore. But nobody on the show tried a detailed parody of them...until Danny Kaye came along.

On the November 5, 1961 ep, guest panelist Kaye launched into a 30-second "question" that caught Daly's verbal curlicues perfectly. It's become such a famous bit that Wikipedia mentions it in their article on What's My Line. The WML episode guide records the query:
In this product, does the chemical content - insofar as the littered of the instance of the product - can you, in turn, with a degree of honesty, feel that there has been - not - not concerning those people who generally don't use it - but would there be - would there be, insofar as knowing a group of people as seated here - could you?
The laughing John Daly told the contestant to ask Danny Kaye to repeat the question. In response, he just hugged Dorothy and Arlene.

I vaguely remember a Mad Magazine parody of Daly running a congressional hearing. The newsman would have been right at home as a politician dodging hard questions.

Friday, May 9, 2014

New guy

Terry Crews will take over Millionaire with no previous game show experience. So some people have started talking about hiring actors and comics to work in our little genre, instead of looking for experienced hosts.

The track record of syndie Millionaire itself is mixed on the issue. Meredith Vieira did a fine job for eleven years, though she had never hosted a game show before. Then the almost completely inexperienced (in game shows) Cedric Kyles got the job and lasted one (1) year.

Who knows how Terry Crews will do with the show? Millionaire remains a strong quizzer that can work with a minimally competent host. If the host starts babbling and drooling, sure, that's gonna hurt. But anybody with a reasonable set of TV skills should be able to run the show.

That doesn't mean they'll do a good job. They could be boring, clueless, silly, bossy...or all of the above. But once upon a time somebody - to be exact, the producers of the radio quiz show Winner Take All - took a chance on the gentleman in the picture. He worked out okay.

I doubt Terry Crews will come remotely close to matching Bill Cullen's record in the genre. But he might last longer than Cedric.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Guess who won on Jeopardy

Jeopardy continues to crank through its battle of the decades. So far the three obvious favorites have made the semis. Roger Craig, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings will be around next week.

Craig seemed nervous and struggled a bit in his quarterfinal, but eventually slipped by. Rutter waltzed from start to finish, as a faux tweet noted. And Ken Jennings was, well, Ken Jennings. Intimidating to a ridiculous degree.

Funny thing, Ken started out slowly tonight, dipping into negative territory. That didn't last long. Pretty soon he was in control and began to lengthen his lead. He wrapped up the episode with an absurd display on an absurd category. You had to guess the correct person's initials, translate those initials into Roman numerals, and then give the modern-day numerical equivalent.

Somehow Jennings ran the category with insanely quick responses. He did the calculations so fast, it truly was scary. Who is this guy? Okay, he's Ken Jennings, I know, but nobody should be able to cut through those devious clues so speedily. It's not fair, Mommy. For the record, Ken won with exactly $40,000. A nice round number.

Upsets happen, so who knows how the semis will tumble next week. But I would not bet against the 74-game winner.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hurts so bad

Nothing that happens in a game show is a genuine tragedy. But sometimes things get close.

This epic fail in the Family Feud fast money round is spreading through the Net. The poor Sass family looks to have the twenty grand locked and spent. They get 182 points in the first half of the round.

Then semi-tragedy strikes. Anna Sass stumbles out of the gate in the second half, and she rapidly crumbles. By the end of her answers, everybody knows what's going to happen. So the atmosphere turns incredibly painful as one zero after another appears. By the end of the disaster, everybody is feeling queasy.

Anna has gotten over it pretty well. She tells HuffPo: "We had a great time and we still laugh about the entire experience." But she doesn't minimize the misery. "It brings back all the emotions, the feeling that I had let my family down."

Stuff happens. And even if no game show can be a true tragedy, it still hurts to fall apart in front of literally millions. To lighten things a bit, I'll offer some unrelated game show news. Millionaire has made it official. Terry Crews is their new host.

UPDATE: The Sasses lose in their fifth and final episode, so they don't get the car. Just not a really good family experience.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ratings: syndies barely budge

Syndie game shows hardly moved an inch or a tick in the week of April 21-27. TV by the Numbers has all the tedious household ratings and viewer averages. But I'll warn you that the "news" is pure boredom...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - flat
Jeopardy 6.4 - flat
Family Feud 4.9 - down a tick, a show actually moved
Millionaire 2.1 - flat, see the pattern?

Surprise, surprise, the viewer averages also look pretty similar to last week. Wheel of Fortune 10.3 million (weekend repeat 5.0 million), Jeopardy 10.0 million, Family Feud 7.2 million, Millionaire 2.8 million. Nothing to see here, move along.

TV Newser says GSN continued its string of blah ratings in the week of April 28-May 4. 301K/245K viewer averages prime time/total day. The network ranked 45th and 42nd in the windows. The new seasons and shows can't arrive soon enough.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cheap date

As various networks have done their upfronts, our little genre is getting a few new entrants, or possible entrants.

I've posted some items on History's upcoming Pawnography quizzer. And as many noted when Craig Ferguson announced his departure from CBS, his Celebrity Name Game arrives this fall.

Syfy slipped a small note into their press releases about developing Geeks Who Drink, a live pub quizzer, into a TV show. The network probably figures the title describes their fanbase pretty well. Syfy previously got a few good numbers from Jaleel White's Total Blackout, though the show didn't last long.

These projects remind everybody of game shows' enduring advantage: they're cheap. If a network wants to try a game show, they don't have to spend huge money on actors, writers, scripts, directors, rehearsals, and everything else needed for dramas or comedies. And if they get lucky with a game show, it's a cinch to churn out more episodes.

Just ask GSN. They've survived for twenty years because their products generally don't cost an arm and a leg.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spinning the bottle

I've binged so much on What's My Line lately, I'd pretty much forgotten about my first love among the black and white classics, I've Got a Secret. While IGaS isn't nearly so well represented on YouTube as its sister Goodson-Todman panel show, there are still plenty of clips and complete episodes to enjoy.

A typical example of the show at its madcap best is the October 23, 1957 episode. I just finished watching the ep and I couldn't help noticing how far the show had moved from its 1952 origins as a pallid knockoff of the older WML. Things were hellzapoppin on this episode, ending in a wild round of spin the bottle with professional blonde Diana Dors.

By a crazy coincidence, a few years later Diana would wed the kissing bandit himself, Richard Dawson. But Richard never spun the bottle on a game show, to my knowledge. As I watched the episode, I had to think that spin the bottle wouldn't have fit into WML so well. It's tough to imagine John Daly or Bennett Cerf making out with the curvaceous Diana.

The episode also included an archery exhibition, an old movie with panelist Faye Emerson, and a cavalry charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. Okay, I made up that last one. But the pace never slowed, and I can see why I've Got a Secret regularly ranked in the top ten among all TV shows during the late 1950s. The show was just a whole lot of fun.

Clip show

It's the weekend, and this week's mighty river of game show news has dried up. So I'll take a look at an Australian web site's clip show of the supposedly best contestants on U.S. game shows.

Why they don't do clips from Australian shows is a mystery. But what the hey, at least it means that most of the clips are familiar to me, and probably to most readers of this blog. The site's definition of "best" contestant is, let's say, flexible. For instance, Millionaire's Max Shuman qualifies only because of his looks and Meredith's embarrassing cougar crush on him.

Meredith was still getting razzed about that incident years later. But she wasn't driven out of polite society, as a male host would have been for a similar gaucherie. Who said life is fair?

The Aussie site also posts the endlessly seen clip of John Carpenter getting cocky as he wins his million, plus the far more inspirational Trent Girone on his recent Wheel of Fortune ep. A couple of TPiR clips, with Drew before and after the great slimming, and a pleasant Millionaire clip of an excitable winner round out the collection.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

When the panel was too snobbish

Readers of this blog know I sometimes post entries on chess and often post entries on What's My Line.

In one of my binges on the YouTube What's My Line channel, I ran across the intersection of the two interests. On May 21, 1961 WML brought on Lisa Lane for their first contestant. The panel wasn't blindfolded and there was no attempt to hide her name. She happened to be the U.S. women's chess champion at the time.

She also happened to be very attractive, which didn't make things easier for the panel. (As the producers probably anticipated.) They stumbled around until Lisa won the game. Guest panelist Abe Burrows then confessed that the panel had been snobbish. They couldn't imagine that such a pretty young woman could have such an intellectual line.

Lisa's looks helped to get her onto the cover of Sports Illustrated, one of only two chess players, along with Bobby Fischer, to receive the honor (or jinx). By an odd coincidence, the current U.S. women's champ is also very attractive, Irina Krush. Would the panel guess her on a hypothetical modern-day WML?

Probably not. The only American chess player who might be guessed is Hikaru Nakamura, and that's unlikely. Chess just ain't that big in these parts. Now it would be different on a Russian What's My Line.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Smiling all the way to the bank

Nowadays every Jeopardy champ who doesn't irritate people gets called the "anti-Arthur." That's to honor Mr. Chu, who cheesed off lots of Internet posters with his board hopping and grim demeanor.

The latest approved champ is Julia Collins, who pushed her female contestant record to ten straight tonight. Julia is friendly and smiles a lot, and Net fans have gushed about her "hotness." She follows the clues in the usual order, cares little about game theory, doesn't glare at opponents or interrupt Alex, and makes no big show of pounding hard on the buzzer.

In other words, she's just adorable. Okay, I'm being too catty. Julia is a terrific player and seems like a genuinely nice person. But she's a smiling assassin to her hapless opponents. She's dumped twenty of them so far.

Her romp will pause for a while as Jeopardy returns to its battle of the decades. Julia's every bit as good as many of the players in that super tourney. She'll certainly be a formidable foe in the next tournament of champions.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Nominate this

The Daytime Emmy noms are out and about. If you read this blog at all, you know about my less than reverent attitude toward show biz self-congratulation. But this is a full service blog, so I'll note the game show nominations.

Six entries are up for best game show, and four are the usual suspects: Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Let's Make a Deal and The Price is Right. The twist this year is a couple of offbeat noms from our little game show network: American Bible Challenge and The Chase. Nice to see GSN get a bit of notice for two very successful originals.

For some odd reason, the nominators could only round up four people for best game show host: Steve Harvey, Todd Newton, Wayne Brady and Jeff Foxworthy. GSN's Brooke Burns didn't make the grade despite her show getting a nom. I think she does pretty well on the demanding quizzer. The naysayers who dumped on her before the show debuted have mostly quieted.

The august ceremonies will happen at the Beverly Hilton. The hotel is "controversial" for some reason. Still no word on which brave network will carry the show.

Another pawn porn pun

I’ve been tracking the news on the Pawn Stars game show, and the History channel finally let out all the details.

They're calling the show Pawnography (ouch) and the network has ordered ten eps for the summer. We get all the pawnbroker stars except the old man, who probably grumped that trivia wasn't worth his time. Over three rounds of increasingly tough questions, civvies battle Rick, Corey and Chumlee for prized possessions from the "world famous" Gold and Silver shop. (Do folks in, say, Zimbabwe really know about this pawn shop?)

History has some previous history (couldn't resist) with game shows. History IQ was a worthy effort with Marc Summers, but it tended toward the dull and nerdy. I assume the channel will try to inject some comedy into this new project. Chumlee should provide a few laughs, at least. Will this guy really know any trivia?

As always, I'll do my best not to prejudge. I'm a sucker for quizzers, but I'll review it when I see it.