Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tweaking the wheel

Buy a Vowel is usually a good source for upcoming changes in Wheel of Fortune gameplay. The site says a few tweaks are coming for season 32.

The show will bow to the reality of inflation and make the minimum wedge $500, though vowels remain the best buy in the business at $250. The bonus round minimum will also rise to $32,000 in honor of, what else, the 32nd season.

One other teensy-weensy change: calling the same letter in a "Same Letter" puzzle gets you a $1,000 bonus. The show can afford that. The show can afford a lot of extra prize money.

The tweaks bring the usual grumbles from the picky folks at Buy a Vowel. Frankly, the changes don't look all that significant to me, either for better or worse. Oh, I guess cutting those itty-bitty amounts on the wheel is a good thing. After decades of inflation $350 did seem pretty picayune.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Undying format

It was Mark Goodson's favorite game show, and it never seems to go away completely. I'm talking about To Tell the Truth.

Former NBC chairman Jeff Gaspin is now teaming with Fremantle to revive the ancient lie-detecting format. The Deadline story says their version would have a "surprising new twist." What, all the contestants are lying? Anyway, they aim to land the show in broadcast prime time, where TTTT once flourished during the Jurassic Period. Deadline helpfully notes: "Once a primetime staple, game shows largely have migrated to daytime and early fringe, where they do very well."

Okay, some game shows do very well. I'm not sure how a new TTTT version would perform. The last incarnation, with John O'Hurley in 2000-02, was competently produced and played, but quickly expired. (O'Hurley, by the way, remembers the show very fondly. "My favorite show ever.")

For whatever reason game shows suddenly have a little cachet. We've got a few new ones coming to nationwide syndication this fall, and cable and broadcast networks have rediscovered the joys of low production costs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ratings: syndies slip and slide

Summer weather is a notoriously tough competitor for the TV screen. Syndie game shows rediscovered that ancient truth in the week of July 14-20. All of them slipped except for the top dog, er, wheel. TV News Check posts the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - flat
Jeopardy 5.6 - down a tick to fall a little further behind the soulmate
Family Feud 4.4 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 1.9 - down a tick as soon-to-depart Cedric slips out of the twos

Millionaire also slid out of the top 25 list at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.1M (weekend repeat 4.2M), Jeopardy 8.6M (weekend repeat 3.0M), Family Feud 6.2M. Not so bad compared to broadcast prime time in the summer.

GSN averaged 347K/248K viewers prime time/total day for July. The network took its usual position in the cable universe. 41st in prime time and 40th in total day.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An offbeat game show reference

For no special reason I was rambling through this long essay by Harry Stein about Fiddler on the Roof. Stein's father Joseph wrote the book for the now classic musical. The article was mildly intriguing but seemed to plug along forever.

And then I stumbled across this small note: "He [Joseph Stein] told Bert Convy, the actor playing Perchik, the revolutionary who embarks on a dangerous anti-czarist mission, to imagine that he's setting off to register black voters in Mississippi."

Why, was that our little genre's Bert Convy? It sure was, as Wikipedia confirmed. I had to smile a little as I imagined Perchik hosting Super Password in character. And then I smiled some more as I imagined what Convy might have thought about Joseph Stein's stage direction.

Bert always seemed to enjoy himself. So if a writer told him to make like a voter registrar in Mississippi while he was acting in Fiddler, he probably saw the inconguity in the situation. Bert even looks to have a wry smile in the photo from the original show.

But he doesn't look like the host of a game show, unless it's the 1905 Russian version of Jeopardy.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Odd complaint

Saw the screenshot complaint about Whammy on Game Show Confessions, and this is one I don't understand.

The real complaint about Whammy and its predecessor Press Your Luck was the complete lack of skill. Except for Michael Larson, it was just hit the button and see what happens. When the producers truly randomized the board on Whammy, they eliminated even the remote chance of any skill in the game.

I do remember a lot of whining about the double whammies themselves on the show. The stuff falling on contestants' heads did get a little cutesy-pie after a while. But the show needed silly stunts to disguise the lack of interesting gameplay.

Yes, I'm being grumpy. It's not like I can't enjoy PYL and Whammy (the shows are virtually identical except for the true randomization on the later effort). Sure, it's all pure chance and there's no calculating odds and forecasting possible twists and turns in the gameplay, as there was on Deal or No Deal.

But pure dumb luck can be fun to watch, at least once in a while. Both shows found an audience for a few seasons, so somebody out there liked watching 'em hit the button.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Graveyard shift

The board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's is chewing over an offbeat topic: syndie game shows relegated to late night slots. This being the oldies board to end all oldies boards, the discussion concentrates on the distant past. That would be when broadcast stations ruled the world, before cable ate the dinosaurs' lunch.

The first syndie game show which comes to my elderly mind as a late night special is Street Smarts. That show seemed made for late night, anyway, with a goofy vibe and general silliness. Which is what usually happens late at night, right? A poster in the thread actually mentions a (sort of) recent show - Cash Cab reruns in late night on a CW outlet - and I vaguely remember such reruns here in the DFW market as well.

Of course, the board goes through all sorts of shows from the misty past, all the way back to the 1980s. A lot of people have very good memories, it seems. Or they have a bunch of musty TV Guides (the paper variety) stashed in the basement. A sample: "WNBC: Matchmaker, Joker 90, TTD 90, Liars Club from the 80s, Kennedy TPIR, Jeopardy (first few months), Davidson Pyramid." Now that's a multiple blast from the hoary past.

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's about time for San Fran

This blurb for the San Francisco tapings of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me surprised me a bit. I couldn't believe it took this long for the show to settle into San Fran for a good long spell.

Politically, culturally and gameplaying-ly, the cutesy NPR comedy quizzer couldn't be more suited for Baghdad by the Bay, as the old columnist dubbed it. The linked story tells how one panelist tried to work Art Linkletter references into the show. If that shtick is going to work anywhere, San Francisco is the spot.

The story states the obvious: the city is "fertile ground for public radio listeners, as evidenced by the NPR devoted groupieship in attendance. There haven't been so many tote bags in one place since the last National Archivist Association picnic." I don't know about the national archivists, but the NPR bunch whooped it up throughout the proceedings.

Bill Kurtis has taken over as the show's announcer from long-timer Carl Kasell, who retired recently. Kurtis gained most of his renown as the true-crime guy on A&E, which somehow seems like the perfect background for this show. Wait, wait, don't tell me whodunit.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Game show airlines

A project called The Game Plane has been kicking (flying?) around for a while. Basically, it's Allegiant Air's answer to Cash Cab, only up in the air, so to speak. See the screenshot for more details than you could want to know.

Now comes news via BuzzerBlog that Mark Walberg will host the show, set for syndication this fall. Walberg retweeted the news himself, so the item looks legit. While it's not exactly Alex's gig on Jeopardy - I've been touting Walberg as a candidate for that job when Mr. Trebek finally retires - it's nice to see Mark back in our little genre.

I really don't have much to add about the show's format beyond what the screenshot reveals. I assume we won't get wild and crazy stunts while the plane cruises at 35,000 feet. Game Plane looks like a quizzer with maybe a few goofier games tossed in. And I haven't heard anything specific about the show's syndication rollout plans.

Suddenly the syndie game show universe looks crowded this fall. We've got this airplane project and Celebrity Name Game and Let's Ask America all going to the nationwide market. May the best game win.

It's official

A while back a couple commenters posted that comic Bill Bellamy will replace Kevin Pereira on the third season of Let's Ask America.

Bellamy discusses the new gig in this interview. "People will be Skyping from all over the world. I'm working my butt off, but this show is a lot of fun. It's gonna remind people of how funny I am as a host." The tapings for the new season start next month, as a recent casting call reminded wannabe Skypers.

Of course, there's no word on exactly why Pereira got bounced. I thought he was just fine on the show, smartass enough without tumbling over into obnoxiousness. But for whatever reason the producers went with Bellamy as the show readies for nationwide distribution. Bill's biggest claim to previous fame was the phrase "booty call."

Bellamy seems to be enjoying a general career renaissance. We'll see if the Skype survey show helps the resurgence.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gossip

Whatever else my critics might say about this blog, nobody's ever called it a scandal sheet. So I feel a little guilty over the faux tweet about Ben Stein's sexting troubles. You remember Ben from that game show about winning his money, right?

To give Mr. Stein his due, I'll link to his own explanation of the whole salacious affair. Truth be told, his column sounds self-pitying and unconvincing. He may be a lonely old guy who just had a silly crush on a girl about a third his age. But that doesn't excuse the frankly creepy texts he sent her.

Right now the whole mess looks like a run-of-the-mill celeb sex scandal, if a "scandal" can be generated over sex anymore. Nobody appears to be alleging anything illegal or even all that unethical. Stein just seems to have let his better judgment get clouded by senescent sex fantasies. Sad and unseemly, but hardly felonious.

His political and personal enemies are having a downright glorious field day, of course. Can't say he didn't invite it. He handed them a sword and they're seeing how much blood they can draw.

New guy with the questions

As he prepares to take over Millionaire, Terry Crews is making the media rounds.

This interview with the ABC outlet in LA covers a lot of stuff...giving away money, being a grandfather, transitioning from the NFL to show biz, etc. Terry comes off as likeable and friendly, which is half the battle on a game show, after all. He also promises to shed his shirt if anybody ever wins the million. Terry, your shirt is safe. Nobody ever cops the top prize anymore.

While Mr. Crews may be a pleasant host, I really have to wonder if Millionaire is wearing out its welcome. The show's been through a zillion format tweaks, including a new lifeline in the upcoming season. But the numbers continue to erode. Can a different host arrest the slide? We'll see, but I'm not optimistic.

Millionaire also faces a more crowded field among syndie game shows this fall. Celebrity Name Game is set to debut, and Let's Ask America is supposed to go nationwide sooner or later. Will the now-randomized money tree survive?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ratings: syndies jump for joy

After a rough week syndie game shows bounced back in the July 7-13 period. All the shows tacked on a few tenths of a point, except for poor Cedric. But he's outa here pretty soon, anyway. TV by the Numbers posts all the household ratings and viewer averages...

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.7 - up three ticks to close in on the soulmate
Family Feud 4.6 - up three ticks for smiling Steve
Millionaire 2.0 - flat

The viewer averages also perked up some. Wheel of Fortune 9.1M (weekend repeat 4.5M), Jeopardy 8.8M (weekend repeat 3.4M), Family Feud 6.7M, Millionaire 2.6M. Not bad for TV's July lull.

GSN's total day average nudged up a little for the week of July 14-20, says TV Newser. 351K/254K prime time/total day. The network ranked 41st and 39th in the windows, right around its usual spot in the cable pecking order.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I was a teenage contestant

Grumpy old me has complained about Jeopardy's constant tournaments and stunts. And frankly, except for the champions' tourneys, I don't have much use for all the specials. After a while there just isn't much special about 'em.

But as I watched tonight's kickoff of the show's teen tournament, even this ancient grump got to rooting a little. I wanted all the kids to do okay. When one of them bombed with a big negative score and didn't make Final Jeopardy, I actually felt a twinge of regret. What's happening to my precious cynicism?

I even felt bad when one of the other kids goofed the FJ question - which I nailed, to brag obnoxiously - and lost her lead and the game. She might still move on as a wild card, but you never know.

This tournament gets a bunch of stories in Google News, as local outlets like to cover the brainy teens. They make for cute pictures and cute quotes. At least they're enthusiastic about national TV time and the chance to show off some smarts. It's hard even for me to root against smart kids, after all.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Schwab on the radio

As sports junkies line up to play Sports Jeopardy this fall with Dan Patrick on Crackle, news comes that Howie Schwab will be part of the project.

Howie is fondly remembered from ESPN's Stump the Schwab game show. He's the ultimate sports trivia nerd, sort of the Ken Jennings of jock minutia. He'll be consulting with the Sports Jeopardy guys to make sure they don't mix up their shortstops with their cornerbacks.

The linked story features a funny interview with Howie and Dan Patrick. In a bit of bizarre gameplay, Patrick actually nails an incredibly obscure trivia question from the Schwab. Daniel seems quite proud of himself and growls at his staff for thinking it was all a set-up.

Sadly, Patrick whiffs on a second question from Schwab. There's also some reminiscing about their time at the "four-letter" network. (Which would be ESPN, for the not so well-informed.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Before Chuck and Susan

One of the nice features of the revived BuzzerBlog is "throwback Thursdays." The site looks back at the long and tangled history of our little genre.

The latest installment recalls Number Please, a minor Goodson-Todman effort that didn't last a year on ABC. The format wasn't anything special. Two contestants took turns revealing letters in hidden phrases until they got up the gumption to guess the solution. But it's obvious how the word game anticipated later efforts like that one with the big wheel. YouTube offers a sample ep.

I very vaguely remember the show, mostly because host Bud Collyer was famous thanks to Beat the Clock and To Tell the Truth. The YouTube episode just reeks of the fifties, though the show actually dates from 1961. The show refers to the contestants as "Mrs. Dewitt" and "Mrs. Secord," which nowadays might bring a sex discrimination suit (slight exaggeration).

As BuzzerBlog notes, an old-soap-opera organ also keeps playing throughout the proceedings. The whole thing seems to come from so far back, that it's crummy to realize I turned ten years old during the show's brief run. I come from pretty far back, too.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bible challenged

American Bible Challenge wrapped its third season last night. The Bible Belts won it all.

While the third go-round hardly drew the whopping numbers of the first two seasons, it was still quite successful by GSN's historical standards. The show regularly got 500K+ viewers for its first-run eps. Not long ago that would have been considered absolutely terrific for our little game show network. It's still pretty good for GSN.

So I have to think that we'll see a fourth batch of episodes. Though I have no inside, outside or any-side information to guide me. The news may not be so swell for the show's religious companion, It Takes a Church. The offbeat dating show was always more of a stretch for GSN's usual audience, and its numbers have only been okay, sort of.

GSN has Skin Wars coming in August, and that show looks about as nonreligious as you can get. Maybe the network doesn't want to get typecast as some kind of Christian specialty outlet. But I doubt that RuPaul will make many references to scripture.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Greedy for more

I don't know about Chance of a Lifetime, but I definitely agree with the Game Show Confessions sentiment on Greed.

The Chuck Woolery quizzer was the best of the early Millionaire knockoffs. In contrast to the folksy Regis show, Greed offered raw competition and, well, greed for the big bucks. Woolery quizzed teams yoked together in enforced cooperation and competition. The terminator faceoffs only added to the cutthroat nature of the proceedings.

The format was by no means perfect. Teams got into a habit of bailing out with $200,000 because the questions simply turned too risky at the higher levels. Dan Avila showed the horrible fate that could await a contestant. He tried for the ultimate prize and lost on chocolate.

The show reran on GSN with some success but hasn't been seen for years. It did deserve more than 44 episodes, but them be the game show apples.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ratings: syndies tumble

Most of the syndie game shows would like to forget about the week of June 30-July 6. Sure, it's the summer doldrums for all of TV land, but the shows in our little genre really got hit. At least Cedric didn't join the downward trend. TV by the Numbers has the household ratings and viewer averages...

Wheel of Fortune 5.6 - down five ticks to a season low
Jeopardy 5.4 - down four ticks in sympathy with the soulmate
Family Feud 4.3 - down six ticks in a nasty tumble
Millionaire 2.0 - flat, which is good this week

In viewer average Pat and Vanna hung in at number two behind the sarcastic jurist. Wheel of Fortune 8.9M (weekend repeat 4.5M), Jeopardy 8.3M (weekend repeat 3.6M), Family Feud 6.3M, Millionaire 2.7M. Despite the week-to-week drops, the shows are still pulling decent audiences.

GSN posted viewer averages for July 7-13 in line with the last several weeks. 350K/239K prime time/total day. The network ranked 40th and 41st in the windows.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ready for prime time player?

Starting September 22 Craig Ferguson will get prime time exposure in the country's third largest Nielsen market with Celebrity Name Game.

WGN will run the pop-culture quizzer at 10:00 PM opposite local news on the other Chicago stations. A bit of prime time can't hurt the ratings. WGN was bombing in the slot with Arsenio, so maybe Mr. Ferguson can perk up the numbers a little.

Sure, it's a Tribune show to begin with, so prime time placement on a Tribune station isn't a huge coup. Ferguson never attracted a huge audience in late night, but most critics seem to think he did okay with his April Fools stint on The Price is Right. So maybe he'll make an ingratiating game show host.

Guessing the names of celebs doesn't sound like a super-compelling game, but we'll see how the fun and frivolity play out. The story says: "Tribune Broadcasting has high hopes for the show on its stations nationwide." That's better than low hopes, or no hope at all. But the mortality rate for new syndies of all sorts is daunting.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Line forms at the end

GSN comes to Nashville this week to tape The Line, its stunt/quizzer combo.

The network seems serious enough about the project. GSN mentions prize money of "more than $150,000." That should attract a few applicants at the online site. We also learn that "GSN loves Nashville." Never knew there were so many country music fans at our little game show network (wink).

The format sounds like Beat the Clock meets Millionaire:
Competitors on the show form "The Line" and will have the opportunity to enter "The Vault" for a chance to win money and prizes by answering trivia questions. Those waiting in line to enter "The Vault" will have to compete in physical games to move forward.
So it apparently helps if you're physically limber and a trivia maven. Maybe they stage a mass slugfest among the contestants to see who is left standing for a crack at the trivia. Just kidding, I think.

GSN talked a lot about this show at the upfront earlier this year. Looks like it's coming to stunt-and-trivia fruition.

UPDATE: A commenter points out that GSN has announced the hosts of the show: Jeff Davis from Whose Line and Candace Bailey from Attack of the Show.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Game show hall of fame

The What's My Line channel on YouTube is getting to the latter stages of the original CBS run. I binged on some of the 1963 episodes today.

The June 23, 1963 ep offered a pair of newlyweds: Allen Ludden, well known  for Password, and Betty White, famous for game shows past, present and future. Arlene Frances guessed them by saying "the password is marriage."

John Daly then stumbled into unintentional humor. He said that Allen and Betty would "do something together" for the summer. That got a wry look and a "yes" from Betty. Daly just meant a summer stock production of Brigadoon.

The civvie contestants were a lady chiropractor, a sauerkraut maker, and - fittingly enough for the World Cup final today - a soccer player from England. The panel only managed to guess the last contestant, mainly because the footballer looked trim and athletic.

At the top of the show John Daly lauded the Ed Sullivan Show as it began its 16th year. Sullivan's show would last 23 years in all. WML itself would endure for 17 years on CBS and another seven years in syndication.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pwned

Finally got around to watching the debut episode of Pawnography on the History Channel site.

As I expected, Pawn Stars' Rick Harrison proved to be an almost literal know-it-all. He got a couple questions wrong in the second round of the quizzer, but romped to nine out of ten in the final round. That smashed the hapless civvie contestant who had qualified through the first two rounds.

My big surprise is that Chumlee got an answer right! I had previously doubted poor Chum's quizzer ability. Forgive me, Mr. Russell.

The show plays on a set that looks like a slightly downscale version of Win Ben Stein's Money, with plenty of artifacts from the Harrisons' pawn shop. (In fact, the final best-of-ten round is more or less ripped off from Ben, though with a make-a-deal twist at the end.) The prizes are nifty items from the shop, introduced by Rick with his usual irritating expertise. Christopher Titus hosts with a somewhat toned-down version of his badass attitude, and there are plugs for Pawn Stars galore.

But it's not a terrible quizzer. If you like the Harrisons and their pawn show, you'll probably like the Harrisons and their game show. The debut got big numbers from the Nielsen Company, so its future looks good right now.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Third time's a charm

Reality Wanted has posted a third season casting call for Let's Ask America. The show is supposed to go nationwide this fall, though I haven't heard any detailed plans for the rollout. At least Kevin Pereira and his Skype buddies will survive into a third season on some TV stations.

The show started as E.W. Scripps' cheap substitute for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.  It's never been a huge hit, but with its low, low production costs, it doesn't have to be. Skype saves on travel costs, and there are no celebs to sop up money. Well, there's always Kevin, but he's not exactly A-list. (Don't take that personally, Kevin. You're fine on the game show, and your podcasts are a guilty pleasure, too.)

The format isn't anything special. It's just another survey show with goofy questions about the strange and wondrous preferences of Americans. But Kevin is quick with a quip, and the contestants seem to enjoy sitting in front of their home computers and chatting on Skype.

There are worse ways for a game show fan to pass an odd half-hour. Hope the show prospers in its new season.

UPDATE: A couple of commenters point out that comic Bill Bellamy will replace Kevin Pereira as the host for the third season. Gotta admit, I hadn't been keeping up with news about the show. This link from one of the commenters says: "[Bill Bellamy's] newest venture will be hosting the Telepictures/Scripps syndicated hit show Let's Ask America which will begin shooting in August of 2014 and airing in 2015 in most of the country’s major markets."

I don't know if the change was a cost-cutting measure, Pereira getting tired of the show, a disagreement between host and producers, or...take your choice. I glanced though Pereira's twitter feed, and all references to Let's Ask America seem to have been scrubbed. The feed is all podcasts and politics now. (Net neutrality! Kevin may be the one person on the planet who gets sexed up about the issue.)

It does look like Let's Ask America still plans to launch nationwide sooner or later.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Greatest hits of the doors

A thread on Golden Road notes that new doors may be coming to The Price is Right this fall.

That innocent little item kicks off maybe the most exhaustive discussion of TPiR doors ever created. I never knew that people even noticed the doors, much less kept track of their evolution though the ages. Okay, maybe I have seen how involved folks get with game show sets.

As I've commented before, unless a set is horrendously ugly, I don't much care one way or the other about a show's trappings. But I definitely appear to be in the minority among game show fanatics. People really do pay close attention to every last detail of a show's set, and they have very emphatic opinions on what a show should and should not do with its surroundings.

Jeopardy revamped its set this year, and actually slipped ahead of Wheel of Fortune for a brief time in the ratings. But I think that had a bit more to do with Julia Collins than with any set details. At least the new layout didn't send screaming fans away from the show.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ratings: Wheel rolls

Pat and Vanna got a bit of good news in the week of June 23-29. That enabled them to stretch their lead among syndie game shows. Otherwise, there wasn't much movement. TV by the Numbers has all the household ratings and viewer averages...

Wheel of Fortune 6.1 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.8 - flat
Family Feud 4.9 - up a tick in the only other move
Millionaire 2.0 - flat for the departing Cedric

Wheel rolled second to the sour judge in viewer average. In a bit of unusual news, Jeopardy's weekend repeat made the top 25 list. All the averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.5M (weekend repeat 4.5M), Jeopardy 9.0M (weekend repeat 3.1M), Family Feud 7.0M, Millionaire 2.7M.

GSN didn't get any favors from the Fourth of July weekend. But the network didn't stink up the week, either. 338K/239K viewer averages prime time/total day for the week of June 30-July 6. GSN ranked 42nd in both windows.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The big boy is back in town

GSN kicked off the third season of The Chase tonight, and the debut episode didn't disappoint. The three civvies gave Mark Labbett all he could handle. But in the end the Beast prevailed...by two seconds.

Douglas Pucci is running a contest at TV Media Insights to guess the ratings for the premiere. I'm on record calling for a million-viewer audience sometime in the third season. I don't know if the debut will make the million mark, because The Chase has gradually built its audience through the first two seasons. But a seven-figure turnout for the premiere would be nice.

GSN certainly deserves a large audience for one of its best originals yet. They stage the British import with verve and include enough humor to make sure things don't get too pretentious. The show is fast-paced and absorbing and builds to one of the best final rounds I've seen for any quizzer.

The third season will run for thirteen eps, and let's hope that several more seasons will follow. Unleash the you-know-who.

UPDATE: Should have known better after the debut of American Bible Challenge's third season. The Chase garnered a relatively modest 494K viewers for its season premiere. That's still fine by GSN's historical standards, but way short of what I was hoping for. We'll see if the numbers improve as the season goes on.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Your road show host

This isn't directly related to game shows, but I happened to see a nice story about Mark Walberg on Antiques Roadshow.

Of course, Mark was the host of the late lamented Russian Roulette, where he proved that he could run a quizzer like few others. In fact, he's my dark horse candidate to succeed Alex Trebek, when the Jeopardy inquisitor finally hangs up the daily doubles. Mark can also play the games as well as host them. He proved his gameplay chops with impressive wins on Lingo and Weakest Link.

Believe it or not, Mark Walberg is something of a rock star with the Roadshow set. "Suddenly, a murmur fills the room, and the crowd begins to perk up, people elbowing each other, eyes following the handsome guy in a dark suit and purple tie who swaggers by." That handsome guy would be our little old Mark.

But Walberg doesn't pretend to have any expertise in evaluating the household artifacts. The story says he leaves those chores to the genuine experts.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Grade making

Game Show Garbage is mellowing in its old age. Or maybe the site is just running out of really, really bad game shows. Anyway, the latest commentary on the site concerns Make the Grade, an almost forgotten Nick show from the early 1990s. And the commentary is mild, even apologetic.

Make the Grade was a ho-hum quizzer for kids, with a big board that more or less copied Jeopardy. It wasn't terrible, and Game Show Garbage doesn't pretend that it was terrible. Oh, GSG makes some sour noises about the show's "fire drill" stunts which interrupted the q-and-a. But overall the site gives the show a pretty gentle time.

In fact, the GSG video guy even apologizes (sort of) to the show's second host, Robb Edward Morris. The site previously dumped on Morris with a hall of shame induction. But now they go easy on Robb and just say he was out of place on a game show. Maybe things really have changed at GSG. Whether the change is for better or worse is your call.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Believe me

At Game Show Network News, Scott Rahner has posted two e-mails supposedly from a GSN staffer. The e-mails rip GSN parent Sony and programming source Fremantle. These two companies are allegedly asking too much money for recent Wheel of Fortune and more Steve Harvey Family Feud, respectively.

To put it mildly, Scott's claims have been met with skepticism, including some comments from moi. Scott says that the e-mails come from a "two-year intern," an idea I find absurd. Such a low-level staffer would hardly know the details of GSN's most sensitive deals. And no intern interested in continued employment would rip GSN's corporate parent (Sony) and most important source of programming (Fremantle).

The e-mails also look to be written in Scott-ese, even echoing the phrasing of an earlier post by Mr. Rahner. A while back Scott got involved in fakery allegations about a supposed contributor to his blog. I must add that Scott has always been scrupulous in crediting this blog as a source for GSN's upcoming schedules.

Scott hasn't helped his case by repeatedly deleting comments on his blog from people skeptical of his post. He may be right in his claim of inside info about GSN's dealings. But for now I remain very doubtful.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Red, white, blue and spandex

The photo says it all. On the Fourth of July, why not remember stunt show combatants who more or less wore the flag?

Truth be told, I was never much of a fan of American Gladiators. The story about its alleged greatness cautions that the show was not just a pro-wrestling "exhibition of phony athleticism." But sadly, that's what it often looked like to me. Everybody seemed more interested in showing off the buff products of steroids (okay, I don't know for sure) and gym rattiness than in actually competing.

But what the hey, the show was the ultimate muscular development of our little genre's stunt variety. It was pretty much Beat the Clock, except the stunts were more painful and less messy. Of course, you could argue that sports of all sorts are just an elaborate game show of jockiness. But I don't want to get into labored disputes over what is and what is not part of the game show kingdom.

The show's Wikipedia entry mildly surprised me. I didn't realize that the gladiators rumbled and tumbled for seven seasons. The 2008 revival only lasted a few months. Maybe spandex had gone out of style.

UPDATE: TV Guide reports that producer Arthur Smith is trying to sell a third version of the gladiators. "It's a little less red, white and blue. And there's no spandex. Spandex has left the building."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

New line

Chad Mosher, on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's, points out that Millionaire will debut a new lifeline this fall. It's called "Plus One," and Wikipedia (usual caveats) says that it's a reworked version of a lifeline used on the German version of the show.

Each contestant will bring along a companion, who can help answer one question. It's sort of phone-a-friend in person, only the friend doesn't get to sit in front of a computer and Google a quick answer. In fact, the plus one companion better not use electronic (or other) help of any kind. Otherwise, the producers get very upset.

At least this adds a little twist to the gameplay. Each contestant will still get one jump-the-question and one ask-the-audience lifeline. The obvious play is to bring along Ken Jennings as your plus one guy. Or Brad Rutter, if Ken's busy on a book tour. Or Julia Collins, if you can get her back from her world travels.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fifteen minutes

As a faux tweet noted, Alabama's Speegle family has launched a reality TV career.

The clan first came to national notice on Family Feud. As this AL.com story says, the family had a knack for goofy, offbeat answers. "The Speegle family was originally 'discovered' as contestants on the Family Feud television game show a few years ago. In one funny episode, they correctly name every place couples like to make love other than the bed. 'I gotta go to this church!' host Steve Harvey jokes in the segment."

The church Steve's talking about is the Movement Church of Madison, Alabama. The Speegle family runs the assembly with a "very positive, non-condemning message." We could all use some non-condemnation, right? TLC's cameras are following them around as they try to get the church up and running. The reality show is coming this fall, and it's called The Speegle Life.

I don't begrudge the family their quarter-hour of fame. They seem like good people who should come off well on TV. But somewhere Andy Warhol - let's be non-condemning toward him - is smiling. He may be the true father of reality TV.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ratings: syndies don't do much

Not much to report about syndie game shows for the week of June 16-22. There was little movement up or down, and no shakeups in the usual pecking order. Pat and Vanna hit another season low but stayed in charge of the household ratings. TV News Check offers all the blah news...

Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - down a tick to that season low
Jeopardy 5.8 - flat, just behind the soulmate
Family Feud 4.8 - up a couple ticks in the only positive news
Millionaire 2.0 - flat as Cedric ambles toward the door

All four shows made the top 25 list at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.2 million (weekend repeat 4.1 million), Jeopardy 8.9 million, Family Feud 7.1 million, Millionaire 2.8 million. Hardly terrible numbers for TV's summer doldrums.

TVNewser reports that GSN averaged 326K/246K viewers prime time/total day for the second quarter. Not as good as the blowout first quarter, but still respectable by the network's standards.