Monday, June 30, 2014

Help with debt

With not much news about game shows today, I saw an interesting item on the MSN Money site.

The story tells how a couple stumbled deeply into debt and finally worked their way out of it. The game show hook is that the wife went on The Price is Right and won a camper. She and her husband wanted to use the camper but sold it instead to pay off some of the debt load. Eventually debt-free, the wife now makes a career writing and speaking about household finances.

I've always had a puritanical distaste for debt of any kind. I don't even like the mortgage on our house, though it's very manageable and we can use the interest deduction on our tax return. If I ever won significant money on a game show - which will never happen, by the way - probably the first thing I'd do is pay off the mortgage. Boring, I know.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bright ideas

On the Game Show Paradise board, a poster lists many suggestions for Wheel of Fortune gameplay in season 32. Since the show is already set to tape the Hawaii eps for the new season, the list may come a little late. But the ideas are worth discussing, and the board chats about them.

More money and an easier time for the contestants seem to be common themes in the list of ideas. I'm indifferent on the former and generally opposed on the latter. Wheel shouldn't be as tough as soulmate Jeopardy, but it shouldn't be a breeze, either.

One odd idea which gets a lot of agreement on the board is to cut one of the toss-ups. I couldn't disagree more. The toss-ups have always irritated some traditionalists who pine for days of the ceramic Dalmation and the shopping rounds. But I love the quick-paced puzzles and, if anything, would like to see more of them. More gameplay, not less gameplay, is usually my preference.

There's the usual rumpus about getting rid of the prize puzzle. Some folks get really upset about the prize influencing the final outcome of the game too much. A game show confession: I don't care at all about the horse race among the contestants on Wheel of Fortune. I just don't want anybody to get stuck with the pity thousand. So the prize puzzle is fine with me.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A critical question

Rummaging through Game Show Confessions, I came across the pictured question. This topic is something I never wondered about much.

In fact, before I wrote this entry, I probably spent maybe twenty seconds of my life thinking about fonts on game shows. But now that I'm typing...Wikipedia tells me that Impact is "a realist sans-serif typeface designed by Geoffrey Lee in 1965 and released by the Stephenson Blake foundry. Its ultra-thick strokes, compressed letter spacing, and minimal interior counterform are specifically aimed, as its name suggests, to impact."

I'm not real sure what "minimal interior counterform" means in the world of fonts, or any other world. But it looks impressive. The Impact font seems serious and imposing, which is why a show like Weakest Link would want it. Something like Dating Game would go for goofier fonts, no?

Turns out that the Game Show Confessions poster isn't the only person intrigued by our little genre's fonts. A font blog - yeah, you read that right - called Fonts In Use goes into detail on the typefaces used by Jeopardy. The show sets the clues in ITC Korinna, which sounds like a woman with an important title.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A handsome question

Another day, another viral game show video. Jeopardy player Ari Voukydis finds a very funny way of giving up on the final clue. See the screenshot for the details.

In case you have to know, the correct question was: "Who is Alfred Nobel?" The Final Jeopardy clue was: "In 1891, this European said: 'Perhaps my factories will put an end to war sooner than your congresses.'" As we all know from bloody experience, Nobel's factories didn't end war. They just made it more explosive.

An aside: I recall the notorious gibe that we should forgive Nobel for inventing dynamite. But we can never forgive him for inventing the Nobel Peace Prize. Anyway, Ari's question got some laughs and even an amused look from Alex Trebek. The linked story says that Ari is "an avid BuzzFeed writer and a teacher at UCB." Too bad he can't add "successful Jeopardy contestant" to the resume.

By the way, the final clue was a triple stumper, which is a little surprising. I happened to know about Nobel's quote, but then I've been reading a few articles about the Nobel Peace Prize. Sometimes the weirdest stuff comes in handy on Jeopardy.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The good, the bad and the game show player

Usually I put celeb obituaries in the faux tweets, unless the deceased is a major game show figure. But I happened to see the news of Eli Wallach's death and decided to take lengthier notice.

That's because I purely loved his antics in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. He played the final role with enough gusto for a dozen roustabout actors' careers. And the horsefly which followed him around also turned in an Oscar-worthy performance.

Eli Wallach's IMDb page reveals that he appeared in a surprising number of game shows way back when. Password, What's My Line, Stump the Stars, To Tell the Truth, Personality, You're Putting Me On. YouTube offers the March 14, 1965 WML appearance - with co-stars Anne Jackson (his wife, of course) and Alan Arkin from a play called Luv - which eventually results in Arlene Francis guessing the trio.

Maybe it's just my imagination, but Dorothy Kilgallen looks a little at sea in the segment. She wouldn't live out the year, as WML fans know all too well. Mr. Wallach would survive her by almost a half-century, but time always wins.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Syndie speculation

Pundit Kevin Downey takes to the pages of TVNewsCheck to conjecture about the syndie season. Not this fall's debuts, but the season starting next fall - 2015.

For the most part he only offers airy thoughts about what might or might not happen. Downey does say that "syndication executives" think Sony may be working on new game shows for the 2015 season. This is not much of a scoop, since Sony produces the twin towers, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. You'd expect that they might be interested in other game show projects. But Downey has no specifics.

Downey also points out that neither Millionaire nor the new Celebrity Name Game is guaranteed to return in the fall of 2015. Millionaire's drooping ratings are starting to attract attention. As for Craig Ferguson's game show debuting this fall, the mortality rate for new syndie shows of all kinds is scary. We'll see if he can beat the odds.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ratings: good news and bad news for Wheel

It was the proverbial good and bad for Wheel of Fortune in the June 9-15 week. The good: Wheel went back to lording over syndie game shows all by itself. The bad: the show hit a season low in household ratings. But everybody's slumping this time of year, including the Chicago Cubs. TVNewsCheck presents all the Nielsen ups and downs...

Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - down a tick to that season low, but back on top
Jeopardy 5.8 - down three ticks as it falls out of the tie with the soulmate
Family Feud 4.6 - down a tick
Millionaire 2.0 - up a couple of ticks as Cedric just barely gets back into the twos

TV by the Numbers only has the viewer averages for the top three, as Cedric didn't make their list. Wheel of Fortune 9.2 million (weekend repeat 3.8 million), Jeopardy 8.8 million, Family Feud 6.7 million. Pat and Vanna again ran number two behind the judge named Judy.

June 16-22 was a so-so week for GSN, says TVNewser. 349K/244K viewers prime time/total day. Not horrible, not great. The network ranked 43rd and 41st in the windows.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The envelope for disaster, please

Like almost everybody else on the planet, I didn't watch the online Daytime Emmys last night. In fact, I forgot all about them. Apparently a lot of other people wish they could forget. The reviews have not been kind, to put it mildly. A Washington Post blogger pounds out an especially pungent trashing.

In a way, I'm sorry I missed Sharon Osbourne's musings on oral sex, among other great moments. It must have been a wonderful cougar lecture. Oh, they gave out a couple of game show awards. Steve Harvey won for best game show host, but he couldn't be bothered to attend the proceedings. Jeopardy won its umpteenth award for best game show.

I like to think this might be the last Daytime Emmys, online or anywhere else. What the world needs now is less show biz self-congratulation. Unfortunately, I suspect the show will struggle on, even if no TV network will bother to carry it. You can put anything online nowadays. This blog is proof.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rejiggering the Millionaire set

Millionaire continues to mess around with things. Given the ratings trend, I can't blame them. First, a new host. Now a new podium.

The daytime quizzer has gone through so many makeovers, I've lost count. Although the numbers aren't horrendous yet, the ratings have slid far enough that critics may soon start wondering about the show's survival.

The new screens for the contestant and host - if that's what the picture is really showing - probably won't make much difference. Unless a set is aggressively ugly, I don't much care about it and I doubt that most viewers care, either.

Will Terry Crews help the show's faltering fortunes? Darned if I know. Cedric seemed to get a lot of folks upset. They were even bashing his hats, not to mention his jokes and his comments and his general hosting style. I would definitely advise Mr. Crews not to wear any headgear, at least.

Slumming

Normally The New Republic keeps busy trying to make Obama look good, or at least passable. But recently the site took time for a mild slumming expedition in our little genre. They anointed Alex Trebek "the last great game show host."

The title itself irritates me, because I think the current crop of game show hosts is pretty good. And I generally don't buy that anybody is the "last great" anything. In a few more years (or weeks), somebody else will get the "last great" title. It's just a lazy way of saying that somebody's okay at their job.

The story also takes a swipe at Art Fleming, who did a fine job as host of Jeopardy's first incarnation. (Tell the bratty little New Republic writer that Mr. Fleming only kept the show going on network TV for eleven years. Where it got excellent ratings, thank you.) The story also zips past Trebek's generally conservative politics, so it doesn't offend the tender sensibilities of New Republic readers.

More goodies: the story rips Wheel of Fortune as "little better than a televised jumble puzzle." I bet the bratty little writer couldn't solve the puzzles to save her bratty little life. And there's the standard lament over Jeopardy doing too much pop culture nowadays. Which makes the writer look snooty and bratty. Just to be consistently obnoxious, the writer slams Jeopardy's staff as "older and dowdier" than the apparently glamorous staffs of all those other glamorous shows.

You might have figured out by now that I thought the story sucked.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

From Norway with check

On a slow weekend for game show news, let's do some more chess. In fact, there was huge news in the chess world this week. Norway's Magnus Carlsen decided to win every world championship in sight. He was already the "classical" (slow chess) champ after routing India's Vishy Anand last year. But FIDE, the international chess federation, also runs world championships in rapid (faster) and blitz (fastest) chess.

The rapid and blitz tournament happened this week in the wilds of Dubai. Arab oil barons put up a $400,000 prize fund, which lured nearly all of the world's top players. And in the end there was just one truly top player in every form of the game.

Carlsen won the rapid a half-point ahead of Anand and Italian-American Fabiano Caruana and the blitz a full point ahead of Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi and American Hikaru Nakamura. It wasn't all smooth sailing for Carlsen. In the pictured blitz game against Nakamura, he comically knocked a rook off the board on the way to a draw.

You can watch all the tournament rounds at the official site. The commentator doesn't speak the most expert English, but that's a quibble. In the end he seems amazed that out of all the millions of people in the world who play chess, there's only one guy who holds all the world championships. After watching Carlsen for a while, it's really not so amazing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Another year

Wheel of Fortune has gone into repeats as the final new ep of the season aired last Friday. I've gotten used to Wheel grinding through the years, so I barely noticed the end of another season. At least I didn't notice until I watched this week and saw a contestant who looked familiar. In fact, I had posted a faux tweet about him when he first appeared in March.

We'll see if there's any news over the summer about new wrinkles in the gameplay. Last summer rumors flew about the express wedge, which turned out to be a clever and entertaining addition to the show. It's a safe bet that there won't be any rumors about Pat and Vanna leaving. I think they're under contract for the next millennium (slight exaggeration).

One of these years Wheel will roll off into game show history. Nothing lasts forever, not even R S T L N and E. But that final day seems pretty far off right now. If The Price is Right can make it to forty seasons, I'll bet on Pat and Vanna doing the same.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I've got an anniversary

Today is the anniversary of my favorite B&W classic, I've Got a Secret. On June 19, 1952 - about eight months after I plopped into the world - Garry Moore and company launched what was then a pretty close knockoff of What's My Line. At least Mark Goodson and Bill Todman were knocking off their own product.

The earliest YouTube bit from the show is the Martin Rafferty segment of the August 21, 1952 episode. Mr. Rafferty was an NYC cop whose secret was that he had just become the father of triplets.

Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Melville Cooper and Laraine Day were the panelists. The first two would stick around on the show for many seasons. Bill stumbled through some unintentionally hilarious questioning - "was there gunplay in this thing?" - before Melville Cooper guessed the happy secret.

The guest star at the top of the show was Mischa Auer, a nearly forgotten Russian-born actor. There was a slight difference in gameplay, as the questioning could go around the panel for two rounds instead of one. As the years went by, I've Got a Secret broke away from a rigid panel-game format and became more of a variety show, with skits and stunts galore. But this early segment still looked very WML-ish.

After the initial 1952-67 run the show would be revived several times but without much success. Happy anniversary!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chumlee for the answer

As a faux tweet noted, Pawnography hits the waiting airwaves July 10.

The quizzer with the folks from Pawn Stars has tapped Christopher Titus as host. I don't know a lot about Titus, but I wonder how his rather harsh brand of humor will translate to a game show. My guess is that he will sugar things up, at least a little bit.

The guy I'm really interested in is Austin "Chumlee" Russell. He plays the stoner doofus on Pawn Stars. The obvious question: is the act real or is it Memorex? If Chumlee is genuinely as clueless as he plays in the Gold and Silver Shop, we might be in for some fun and frolic. Sorry to be catty, but his general alertness level doesn't appear to challenge that of, say, Brad Rutter.

The Wrap has published a few pictures of the set, and it looks like leftovers from Win Ben Stein's Money. Many artifacts from the pawn shop are scattered about, and some of them will apparently be prizes on the show. One thing I noticed from the pictures is that Corey Harrison has lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of facial hair. He's working on a ZZ Top starter set.

Semi-spoiler: the answer to the question in the photo is "Astros." The team was the Colt .45s when they began play in 1962. I assume the correct choice hadn't been posted yet when the picture was taken.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ratings: Cedric hits season low

TV News Check offers some interesting ratings news for the week of June 2-8. Alex fell back into a tie with Pat and Vanna for the top spot in syndie game show household ratings. And Cedric hit a season low as he makes his way to the exit. It was generally a blah week at best as the weather got warmer...

Wheel of Fortune 6.1 - flat
Jeopardy 6.1 - down three ticks as Julia departs
Family Feud 4.7 - flat
Millionaire 1.8 - down a tick to the season low

TV by the Numbers has the viewer averages for the top three shows. Wheel of Fortune 9.7 million (weekend repeat 3.3 million), Jeopardy 9.4 million, Family Feud 6.9 million. Judge Judy beat 'em all in total viewers. Did I ever mention that the judge gets on my nerves?

GSN enjoyed its best week in a while, most notably in prime time. 373K/252K viewer averages prime time/total day for the week of June 9-15. Although It Takes a Church hasn't been a huge success, it hasn't bombed, either. Same for the third season of American Bible Challenge.

Monday, June 16, 2014

An intriguing revival idea

You can probably figure out the revival idea from the Game Show Confessions image (see the screenshot). As a confirmed Remote Control fan, I agree that a revival is in order.

But why stop with kids or teens? Us grownups could use some of the fun, too. The show was undoubtedly MTV's most pleasant try at our little genre. Offbeat, goofy, never taking itself too seriously, the pop culture quizzer with the emphatic contestant exits passed the time quite enjoyably, thank you.

I guess those exits are what gave the Tumblr poster the idea for a kids version. We could probably work some green slime into the exits, too.

Sadly, Ken Ober isn't with us anymore, but Colin Quinn might be coaxed into returning. There are always plenty of pop culture follies and foibles to quiz people about. I could see a revival working well on a cable outlet looking for low-budget laughs.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Daddy's day

This father of two knows what today is. So I can't resist the video of Alex Trebek and his daughter Emily on The Talk, which has bounced around the web.

Almost always, I can definitely resist The Talk and all the rest of the female yakkers, but this segment actually plays the Jeopardy think music. Plus we get some embarrassing family photos from the good old days. What more could you want?

I can't help noticing that Julie Chen's hair is getting bigger as she gets older. By the time she's 80, her hair may have grown to fill the Milky Way Galaxy. Anyway, Alex is charming as always on the segment, with self-deprecating humor about how he's usually mistaken for Pat Sajak, though Sajak is never mistaken for him. His daughter seems appropriately filial, with lots of praise for Alex's parenting skills.

In another game show note, Carnie Wilson shows up as one of the guest yakkers on the segment. It's a little hard to remember, but she hosted Sherriwed on GSN before there was Sherri. Her relationship with the network ended in a nasty lawsuit over a reality show. They eventually settled, and GSN ran an old Newlywed Game ep of hers as a peace offering.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cheating

Everybody looks for an edge. In the U.S. the need to cheat led to a little game show rumpus back in the 1950s.

In Spain folks take such things more lightly, it seems. A bottle blonde model named Adrianna Abenia brought along a mobile phone - between her legs, naturally - to get clues when she played on a quizzer. Everybody thought the cheating was a hoot. Just shows what being a bottle blonde can do for you. By the way, what's with that big red bulb on the show? (See the screenshot.) Looks almost phallic, in a big red bulbous sort of way.

The Anglosphere frowns upon game show cheating somewhat more, whether or not bottle blondes are doing it. Ask Charles Ingram, the guy who used suspicious coughing on the British Millionaire. Or the producers of Fox's abortive Our Little Genius, who had to pull the show before it was aired. The little geniuses were getting a little under-the-table help with the questions.

Cheating on a game show is still literally a federal crime. To my knowledge nobody's ever served the one-year sentence, but there could always be a desperate producer or contestant who might try something. Maybe not a mobile phone between the legs, though.

Friday, June 13, 2014

It was thirty years ago today

To be more exact, it was thirty years ago this week. A guy named Michael Larson showed up on a CBS daytime game show called Press Your Luck on June 8 and 11, 1984. The rest is curious history.

As many game show fans and quite a few other people know, Larson had cracked the show's non-randomized big board. So he just kept winning and winning, until his reflexes tired so much he was in danger of losing it all. I'm not the biggest fan of Press Your Luck or its descendant Whammy. But I have to admit that Larson brought genuine brilliance to a game of pressing a button.

As Wikipedia recounts in unsparing detail, the rest of Larson's life was not a triumph. In 1999 he died a lonely and impoverished man, on the lam from the law for peddling a dodgy lottery. But for a couple of brief shining half-hours, he was the center of the game show universe. That may not be everybody's idea of undying glory, but Michael could press his luck like nobody before or after.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Worldwide catch

Catch 21, the GSN original which was a semi-remake of the 1970s Gambit, is going global. As in Global Agency, a Turkish outfit which has acquired format rights to the show outside North America.

Created by Merrill Heatter (who also produced Gambit) Catch 21 has enjoyed a long run on GSN. The show went out of production in 2010 after GSN piled three hundred eps on the shelf. Reruns keep grinding away on weekday afternoons.

Have to admit the show was never a personal fave, partly but not entirely due to the volume level of host Alfonso Ribeiro. He did keep the show moving briskly, though, and co-host Mikki Padilla provided pleasant eye candy. I'd tune in now and then for the final round, an almost pure luck play of three blackjack hands which paid off twenty-five grand once in a (long) while.

The simple and fast-paced show might succeed in some markets. It should sure be cheap enough. All you need is a big deck of cards, some basic computer graphics, and a couple of onscreen performers with passable TV skills.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The family that wipes out together

Wipeout returns for God only knows which season on June 22. The debut ep is a two-hour family special.

The press release promises a "true bonding (and bruising) experience" for the lucky family teams. All sorts of goodies will show up, like the Shed Zone, the Big Balls Bonanza, and the Classic Sweeper. The phrases even sound painful.

Speaking of painful, Wipeout's ratings have looked battered and sore lately. The show is getting long in the bashed-in tooth, and apparently viewers can only watch so many flips and flops, splashes and crashes, whams and bams, splits and splats.

The usual crew returns with sardonic comments and goofy interviews: John Anderson, Jim Henson and Jill Wagner. The show has made a not so small mint for exec producer Matt Kunitz, and it's always a brainless diversion into the silliest slapstick. I'm a Three Stooges fan, so the sillier the slapstick, the better.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ratings: Alex climbs the hill

The final eps of Julia Collins' run pushed Jeopardy to the summit, where it hadn't gone since another long run by you know who in 2004. Congrats to Alex and company, though Pat and Vanna shouldn't feel too bad. They’re still doing more than okay compared to almost all other syndies. TV News Check brings the historic household ratings for the week of May 26-June 1…

Jeopardy 6.4 – up a tick to the peak
Wheel of Fortune 6.1 – down a couple ticks but hardly a disaster
Family Feud 4.7 – down a tick
Millionaire 1.9 – down a tick as Cedric falls out of the not so terrible twos

TV by the Numbers only has the viewer averages for the top three. Jeopardy 9.8 million, Wheel of Fortune 9.6 million (weekend average 4.3 million), Family Feud 4.7 million. Yep, Alex led all syndies, not just game shows, in total viewers.

GSN recovered a bit, especially in prime time. 339K/244K viewers prime time/total day for the week of June 2-8. The network ranked 43rd and 42nd in the windows.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Remembrance of things past

So I settled in to watch Jeopardy tonight. And one of the contestants was named, cross my heart and hope to die, Jack Barry.

No, it wasn't that Jack Barry returned from the dead. The Jeopardy player was just the CFO of a solar panel company. But the name got me reflecting on the old canard that American lives have no second acts. The more famous Jack Barry disproved that silly adage, as he rose from the ashes of the rigging scandals and eventually prospered in the industry that ostracized him.

I'll confess that I was never a particular fan. Barry always seemed too smarmy for me, and not just because of his unfortunate past. But I had to admire how he persevered after the 1950s disasters brought him low.

It was no easy ride for Barry. Driven out of the game show business, he bought a small radio station in LA and gradually began to rebuild his career. As game show mavens know all so well, he finally hit it big with Joker's Wild and Tic Tac Dough in the 1970s and 1980s. Just when he seemed well reestablished in the business, he died in 1984 of a massive heart attack while jogging.

Unlike his namesake, tonight's Jeopardy Jack Barry won't get a second life in game shows, at least for now. He finished a long way behind the winner.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Perfectly clear

A thread at what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board discusses the death of standard def on the major U.S. broadcast networks.

Big Brother and Let's Make a Deal were the last holdouts, but they will now move to high definition. Technical issues with all of the cameras on Big Brother held up the transition for that show. Not sure why LMAD took so long.

The thread at Game Show Forum quickly runs off the rails as the predictable poster predictably falls for some troll bait. Oddly, the troll bait concerns Wikipedia's habit of referring to game show hosts as "presenters" and game show announcers as "narrators." This is just Wikipedia's usual nose-in-the-air pose of superiority to "U.S.-centrism." But the troll bait still works.

To get back to the subject, my cable provider stubbornly refuses to provide the GSN high def feed. So things still look a little fuzzy and squashed on the network. Which makes the Beast appear even more massive and foreboding. Oh well, I'll still show up for the new season of The Chase starting July 8.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Take me out to the feud game

Today I spent a lot of time watching and listening to baseball, as is my wont at this time of year. The Phillies and Royals are pretty hapless this season. Both teams are laboring with sub-.500 records. The Phillies rely on a bunch of old guys who are breaking down, and the Royals rely on a bunch of young guys who have never developed to their supposed potential.

But once upon a time, 1980 to be exact, these two teams met in the World Series. The Phillies won, four games to two, for their first Series triumph ever. (Their only other Series win would come in 2008.) The man most responsible for the victory was the pictured Mike Schmidt, by common consent the greatest third baseman ever.

Well, so much for baseball. The real showdown in 1980 between the Phillies and the Royals happened on a special week of Family Feud episodes. Richard Dawson suffered through a kissless week as five members of both teams, including Schmidt on the Phillies side, did battle over the surveys. YouTube offers one of the eps.

Rather strangely, Royals star George Brett didn't show up for the festivities, as a YouTube commenter notes. Brett is now also in the Hall of Fame, and you'd think the producers would have wanted him on the show. Even without Brett, the Royals got a bit of revenge by winning this episode. Catcher (and future Royals manager) John Wathan then became the MVP of the bonus round.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Another day, another fail

Game show fails race around the Internet. The latest is some poor sap not recognizing a lyric from an ancient Jan and Dean song on a Wheel of Fortune toss-up. Instead, he coughed up: "Surf clay, where we go."

Lots of folks have chuckled over whatever surf clay is supposed to be. Maybe it's playdough that some kid left on the beach. And several have also pointed out that "go" is not spelled c-o-m-e.

Okay, I'll admit that I recognized "Surf city, here we come." But I hate to think what may have emerged from my dry mouth if I faced the lights and pressure as an actual Wheel of Fortune contestant. I might have said: "Surf copy, bore me home." Or some other intelligent guess.

Yes, it's a cliche to remind everybody that game shows are a lot easier to play from a couch in your den. But that won't stop the Net hilarity over awkward contestant fails. At least Stephen Dryer, the hapless Wheel contestant, eventually took home $7,200.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

It takes a dating show

The dating sub-genre has always been the cheesiest game show precinct. What do you expect from Chuck Barris' progeny, dating (sorry) all the way back to The Dating Game? So it's tempting to describe GSN's new It Takes a Church as the cheese-free alternative to all those other shows.

Whether the effort will appeal to you depends on your appetite for cheese. As the title implies, a faith community picks four bachelor suitors for an eligible bachelorette in the church. She then spends the rest of the show settling on her favorite. The winnowing process is so family friendly and squeaky clean that it cries out for a TV-G rating. (The show is actually rated TV-PG, which seems absurdly harsh.)

In the first episode the bachelorette was a pretty 30-year-old engineer named Angela, who's had some man troubles. The bachelors were all friendly and mature and reasonable and thoroughly Christian, or at least that's what we saw of them onscreen. Angela finally picked an inspirational speaker named Nick, who assured us that he's chosen celibacy until marriage. Which was the first time I can recall hearing the word "celibacy" on a dating show.

Natalie Grant does an okay job as host and even sings a bit. Everybody is so wholesome and appealing that you'll find the show either cloying or uplifting...or maybe both. What you won't find is anything remotely like the usual dating show, including GSN's own Baggage. If fact, this show is the anti-Baggage if there ever was one.

UPDATE: It Takes a Church gets respectable but not heavenly ratings by GSN standards. 417K total viewers, 106K 18-49 viewers. Okay, nothing special.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ratings: Jeopardy still in a tie

Julia Collins helped keep Alex in a dead heat with Pat and Vanna in household ratings. But really the news was a downer for syndie game shows in the May 19-25 week. They all lost ground. You have to expect that as warmer weather beckons. TV by the Numbers brings the sour ratings

Wheel of Fortune 6.3 – down five ticks
Jeopardy 6.3 – down the same five ticks to stay neck and neck
Family Feud 4.8 – down four ticks
Millionaire 2.0 – down a couple ticks as poor Cedric can’t catch a break

The big multicolored wheel edged the six-by-five board by an ever so slight margin in viewer average. Wheel of Fortune 9.9 million (weekend repeat 4.3 million), Jeopardy 9.8 million, Family Feud 7.1 million, Millionaire 2.7 million. For once Pat and Vanna didn't lead all syndies in total viewers. Judge Judy nudged past them.

TV Newser says GSN endured a very so-so May 26-June 1 week. 306K/240K viewer averages prime time/total day. Far from disastrous by the network's historical standards, but quite soft compared to recent numbers.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Letters, we get letters

A few posts ago, I referred to a bit of tsuris on the blog. Some of the turmoil came from an anonymous AOL commenter hiding behind what the service delicately calls an "opaque identifier."

Even though nobody knows you're a dog on the Internet, anonymity isn't perfect. From the commenter's politics, language, references, and some other hints I'm not going to discuss, I've got an idea about a possible identity. I could be flat wrong, though, so I'll keep my idea to myself.

Not that it really matters. I'm not going to stop anonymous comments on the blog. I'm also free and easy about personal insults and obnoxious language directed at moi. The commenter was obviously trying to provoke me into a crackdown, but I didn't want to provide the satisfaction. A long time ago I did delete one (1) post from another commenter for gross obscenity.

I always use my real name when I post anything on the Internet. A true identity does offer some valuable restraint when the pixels get heated. (Can pixels actually get heated? I don't think so.) It would be nice if everybody followed the same rule. But that might make the Internet a far more boring place, might it not?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Stop the presses

Had to happen sooner or later. Julia Collins met her match today. His name was Brian Loughnane, and he won decisively on the Final Jeopardy clue after staging a terrific comeback in the DJ round.

Julia looked wry after the defeat, as if she couldn't quite believe what had happened. She had rolled up a big lead in the first round, only to spin her wheels and watch as Brian got his game on and took a small lead into that big, last clue.

She bet it all and lost. Brian bet nearly all and won. And that was that. Alex commiserated briefly, promised we'd see Julia again in the tournament of champions, and shook hands with the contestants. The theme music played.

A bittersweet bit of game show history. I'm glad I checked back for the DJ round. I almost went away for good after Julia cruised through the early going. Figured it was another romp in the making. Wouldn't you know, something else was in the making.

Web for the head

Just watched the premiere of Nick's Web Heads. I learned that I'm not a kid any more.

But I could still tolerate the show. At least it wasn't insanely loud and obnoxious, and it actually tested a few observational skills. The setup is simple. Four kids - in the episode I saw they were of all ages from 12 to 12 - watch silly YouTube videos. Then they answer questions about the videos. Like what's going to happen next? Or what insignificant detail did you notice (or not)? Or can you buzz in at the right time when something crashes in the video?

One kid is eliminated in each of three rounds until the winner faces the final frontier. This consists of arranging four videos in order of trending popularity within ninety seconds, while dancing through a whirligig obstacle-course thingie. In the episode I watched, the winner beat the clock and lived happily ever after. Okay, he actually got a confetti shower and a big TV.

Each kid eventually climbs onto a faux surfboard and either gets wet or slimed. Carlos PenaVega hosts with some oomph and even seems to like the kids. This show won't rival Jeopardy for intellectual challenge, but the videos were cute and the kids were cuter.

UPDATE: Web Heads garners 2.1 million viewers and a 0.4 18-49 rating. The numbers aren't bad at all. We'll see if the show can maintain the good Nielsen news.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Coming attractions

Summer has gotten to be a boom time for our little genre. Networks far and near try game shows in the low-rent months. It's a low-rent genre, after all, with low low LOW! production costs.

ABC already debuted the second season of Bet On Your Baby last night. For reasons I don't quite understand, this harmless toddlers show has attracted huffy criticism about child exploitation or some such. While I don't think the show is the greatest ever or the greatest any time, it's hardly a monstrosity.

This week will see the series debuts of Nick's viral video effort Web Heads and GSN's dating epic It Takes a Church. Maybe they could combine the two into a game show about viral videos of church couples.

Web Heads is a traditional studio-based show, with Carlos PenaVega quizzing kids on, you guessed it, Internet videos. Nick promises everything "from wacky physical challenges to epic slimes and slemes." Meanwhile, It Takes a Church has roused some predictable gripes about GSN going "reality." The complaints look overdone to me. The show seems very game-like, though it's taped in churches instead of those famous "shiny floor" sets. Unless the church happens to have a shiny floor.

Finally, Wipeout crashes into its umpteenth season later this month. Ratings for the big balls have deflated steadily even if the balls themselves have not. We'll see how the latest skein performs.