Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ratings: Nice numbers for new syndie seasons

The big three debuted new seasons in the September 15-21 week. And they all got rewarded with better numbers compared to the reruns. Sadly, the news wasn’t so good for Millionaire. TV News Check has the household ratings

Wheel of Fortune 6.3 – up five ticks, as a million dollar win doesn’t hurt
Jeopardy 6.1 – up four ticks, as the mustache doesn’t hurt
Family Feud 5.1 – up a tick
Millionaire 1.9 – down a tick in Terry’s second week

I’m starting to fret about Millionaire. It’s only been two weeks, though. Let’s see how things develop over the next couple months. Next week we get the first weekly numbers for Celebrity Name Game.

Only the top three made the syndie list at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.7M, Jeopardy 9.2M, Family Feud 7.4M. Healthy numbers for these shows.

TV Newser changed their usual ratings chart. First, they covered all of third quarter, but only for Monday through Friday. Then they gave prime time, total day, and extended prime time numbers. Bottom line, GSN's viewer averages were 385K/263K/386K in those three windows. The network ranked 40th, 34th and 38th in the windows, respectively. Got all that? Long story short, it was a pretty good quarter for the network.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Deal with it

At the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's, the aficionados discuss Wayne Brady's Let's Make a Deal.

In case you were in suspense, they don't think Wayne's show is as good as Monty's old versions. Wow, this is a major surprise from that board. Okay, sarcasm off. Anybody at all familiar with the game show Interwebs would be astounded if posters on that board suggested that Wayne's show was better than or even equal to Monty's in any way.

Truth be told, I've never been a huge fan of any version of LMAD. It's my usual sour attitude toward shopping shows, which stems from my usual sour attitude toward shopping itself. But I couldn't help noticing a press release from CBS gurgling with joy over Wayne's Let's Make a Deal setting a viewership record in the 2013-14 season. The show averaged around 3.2 million viewers, which ain't bad at all by today's daytime standards. Especially when you consider our genre's famously low production costs.

With the show well set in its sixth season, a decade on the air looks very possible. Can Wayne beat Monty's 1963-76 record for a continuous run? That other game show on CBS daytime has lasted for a while.

IRRELEVANT UPDATE: There are a couple of housekeeping issues. A few e-mailers have complained that the GSN schedule in the sidebar for the current week (Sep 29-Oct 5) is only the one-page version. Sorry, that's all I have. If I had the multi-page version, I would post it. The multi-page versions are up for the next two weeks (Oct 6-12 and Oct 13-19).

Also, I do not delete comments unless they violate the guidelines I've listed at the bottom of the blog. In fact, I've only deleted one comment in the entire history of this blog, and that was for gross obscenity.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kookie, Kookie, lend me your vowel

Today I scrounged up a failed pilot from 1966 called Crossword and posted it in the sidebar. As you should do for info on any game show pilot, I headed over to The Game Show Pilot Light, a funny site with more than you could ever want to know about pilot tapes for our little genre.

While I was there, I stopped by the site's entry for Wheel of Fortune, which discusses the show's now legendary pilots hosted by Edd ("Kookie") Byrnes of 77 Sunset Strip fame. Edd has fessed up that he was drunk during the two pilot tapings, and he definitely seems to be in a happy mood during the second of them. "Whee!"

He also had a funny habit of reading from cue cards with painful obviousness. All in all, "Edd was hilarious. Unfortunately, he was not trying to be," as The Game Show Pilot Light notes with some understatement. You know how the story turned out. Merv Griffin brought in a fellow named Chuck Woolery, Woolery left Wheel, and the rest is hangman history.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


So I'm watching the U.S. trail in the Ryder Cup this morning, when I decide to also take in one of the latest uploads (the July 26, 1964 ep) on the YouTube What's My Line channel.

It must just be a golf kind of morning. The first contestant on the episode signed in as Mr. X, and turned out to be pro golfer Bobby Nichols. The panel quickly guessed him. He was something of a one-hit wonder, winning the 1964 PGA Championship with a record score that stood for 30 years. A couple guys named Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus tied for second.

To be fair, Bobby Nichols won eleven other PGA tournaments and once finished second in the Masters and third in the U.S. Open. Which is a lot better than I'll ever do in golf. (It also doesn't help that I haven't played since high school.) Peter Lawford was the mystery guest on this episode, and he lasted for quite a while with his French answers. And sorry to say it, but Dorothy Kilgallen was looking worse and worse as the 1964 eps went on.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bet on it

Jeopardy has its first four-time winner of the still young season, North Carolina's Catherine Hardee.

But tonight she barely scraped by as a co-champ. That's because challenger Alan Lange bet only enough to tie. Which has set off the usual palaver on JBoard.tv about betting strategy on that last, fateful clue. Several posters are predicting that Alan may regret not getting rid of the resourceful Catherine when he had the chance. We'll see on Monday.

This chatter was last heard during Arthur Chu's reign, when he bet for a tie with challenger Carolyn Collins and achieved exactly that...a tie. He then beat Carolyn very comfortably on the next show. Supposedly game theory says it's wise not to bet one dollar more than necessary to win another go-round. If that means a tie, so be it.

I'd bet the extra dollar myself, but then I'm never going to beat anybody on Jeopardy with any kind of bet. Anyway, it should make for an interesting rematch.

UPDATE: In something like poetic justice, both Alan and Catherine lost on Monday. By the way, Alan is an actuary, like moi. He's also almost forty grand richer (before taxes), despite his loss.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Answer for the question

A poster on Game Show Confessions reminds me of That's the Question, one of my old favorites from GSN. Sadly, the show never really performed that well for the network. It did get a second season but then disappeared without a trace.

I disagree that the stingy prize money killed the show. It was just a little too quiet and cerebral for your typical game show viewer. (I'm a typical viewer, which should give you pause.)

The gameplay was challenging but not impossible, and there was plenty of play-along value. Bob Goen did his usual faultless job in mastering the ceremonies, and the contestants were generally alert and capable. I'm a sucker for word games under any circumstances, and the circumstances were mostly favorable in this format.

But the frosty and studious nature of That's the Question probably doomed it. A little more fun and frolic was needed. Maybe some trash talk between the contestants might have helped. I dunno, some spice of any kind would have made the puzzle-solving more attractive.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Jock jep

I'm not the best reviewer for Sports Jeopardy because I'm a hopeless Jeopardy fan. As long as they don't screw with the format too much, I'm going to be an easy mark.

Well, they didn't screw with the format too much, and I'm down with the show. The only real departure was a six by four board instead of six by five. The money was cheaper, of course, since this is online streaming, not national syndication. But that format can survive cheaper payouts with no sweat.

Dan Patrick was a competent and witty host, though I thought he betrayed just a hint of nervousness. With the Specter of Alex hanging over him, I can see why he might be a bit tentative. Kelly Miyahara of the clue crew played Johnny Gilbert, and some girl from mixed martial arts looked drop dead gorgeous in one of the categories, as Dan noted repeatedly. (I shamelessly used a shot of her in a faux tweet.)

Not a huge sports fan myself, I still nailed the clues on baseball and golf (typical old guy sports, right?) The sports bar set was a little tacky, and the post-game interviews went a little long. But those are quibbles. Good luck to Crackle on the venture.

FUNNY UPDATE: Over at BuzzerBlog Cory Anotado bitches and bitches about the contestant interviews on the show. Cory seems to think the only thing that happened on the show was the interviews. But then he says that he actually liked the post-mortem palaver, which I thought went on too long.

Can't please everybody (wink).

New line?

Readers of this blog know about my addiction to old black-and-white What's My Line videos. Well, maybe, just maybe, I might be getting some new color videos one of these days.

Game show announcer Randy West is teasing on Facebook about the possibility of a new WML version. A while back there was some hubbub about a Whoopi Goldberg edition of the classic game, but nothing seemed to come of it. Randy has posted the picture of what looks like a WML set, right down to the familiar looking question mark.

Over the past decade or so we've seen attempts to revive To Tell the Truth with John O'Hurley and I've Got a Secret with Stephanie Miller and then Bill Dwyer. None of these efforts lasted very long. So the granddaddy of all the Goodson-Todman panel shows, What's My Line, might not fare so well itself. But I wouldn't mind seeing somebody try their luck with the format.

The gameplay would probably have to be tarted up a little to avoid losing today's short attention spans. But people still have jobs (some of them, anyway) and you could still make a show about guessing them.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ratings: syndies frolic

Terry Crews got off to a decent start in his first week on Millionaire. He didn't send the numbers through the roof, but his new eps gained some ground over Cedric's last week of reruns. In fact, September 8-14 was a good week for all the syndie game shows, though the top three were still in repeats. Is this a good omen for their new episodes? We'll see. TV by the Numbers has the household ratings and viewer averages...

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up three ticks
Jeopardy 5.7 - up a whopping six ticks as the finale of the battle of the decades plays out in reruns
Family Feud 5.0 - up three ticks
Millionaire 2.0 - up three ticks as Terry debuts

The viewer averages also looked healthier, as you might expect. Wheel of Fortune 9.2M, Jeopardy 8.9M, Family Feud 7.1M, Millionaire 2.8M. Everybody will be showing new eps in the next reported week. We'll get the first weekly numbers for Celebrity Name Game in the reported week after that.

GSN continued its so-so numbers for the September 15-21 week. 313K/243K viewer averages prime time/total day. The network did improve its rankings to 42nd and 39th in the windows.

Monday, September 22, 2014

What's in a name?

Remember those irritating categories on Pyramid that consisted of people's proper names? They were often the toughest to guess, especially if you didn't know the people in the category.

I just watched the debut of Celebrity Name Game, and it's Pyramid with nothing but those proper name categories. Which makes it a surprisingly tough game to play well. The show concentrates on pop culture, so if you're not up on your celebs in the latest entertainment news, you're dead meat.

Two teams of two civvies duke it out in the guessing games, with the sometimes competent help of a couple celebs. In one of the rounds even host Craig Ferguson gives the clues. Over the various rounds, there are many permutations of clue-givers and name-guessers, and I'm not going to track through them all. Just watch the show and you'll get the idea.

No matter who's giving the clues or who's guessing the names, Craig Ferguson is playing for laughs. On the debut episode a decent percentage of his quips hit the mark. All that talk show experience comes in handy. The gameplay moves along briskly, and the winning civvies on the first ep went home with the twenty grand top prize. So the show ended with lots of happy happy joy joy, even if those names can be tough to guess.

UPDATE: The very early ratings news is not great for the show. On its first day Celebrity Name Game got a 0.8 metered market household average, down four ticks from the year-ago time period number. We won't get the first weekly numbers for a while.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Up in the air

Just took in the two-episode debut of Game Plane on one of the less watched DFW stations.

The first ep featured your genial host Mark Walberg. He cracked wise as always and was generally charming as always. But like everybody else on both episodes, he talked really, really loud and really, really fast. Which isn't all bad. Whatever else you might say about this show, it moves and I'm not talking about air travel.

In case you haven't heard, Game Plane springs various contests on Allegiant Air passengers while they're flying to more or less desirable destinations. As any game show fan can see, the games are often blatant ripoffs. In particular, the "big deal" at the end of each ep was a shameless steal from Card Sharks. But hey, this is a cheap and cheesy show where everybody talks loud and fast. They should rip off other game shows.

By the way, Walberg didn't host the second ep. Instead, some guy named Jay Flats ran the proceedings. I assume it was the pilot ep (pun intended) and the cheap and cheesy producers didn't want to waste the tape.

Maybe it's just my own cheapness and cheesiness, but I enjoyed the episodes. Game Plane doesn't have an ounce of pretension to intellectual challenge or aesthetic originality. It's just some dumb fun in the air.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Niche ditching

On Game Show Paradise a long thread has built up over GSN's schedule changes.

The talk gets around to cable networks ditching their original niche. Of course, the board is worried about GSN getting away from game shows. So posters fret over nets like SyFy dumping their core shows and audience. Naturally, I chime in with a lot of blather...

Other poster: ID (Investigation Discovery), I believe, hasn't screwed around with the format too much.

Once upon a time, ID was Discovery Civilization network (and then Discovery Times network) and concentrated on historical documentaries. It eventually abandoned that niche and went to true crime. So it's really not a very good example of a network supposedly ruining itself by abandoning its niche. In fact, it's a perfect counterexample. ID has prospered after the original niche was ditched.

Also, Syfy is hardly hurting. It was 13th in prime time viewership among all cable networks in the latest published week. Not quite top ten but pretty close. If Syfy has abandoned its niche, whatever it was, the network has not been destroyed as a result. Far from it, in fact.

Sometimes ditching the niche doesn't work out, of course. truTV (once Court TV) dumped its original niche and went with reality shows. The audience got younger but smaller. In the latest week, the network is all the way down to 34th in prime time viewership. In fact, Investigation Discovery swooped in and took the law-and-crime niche away from truTV, and has prospered as a result.

Like any other move in programming, ditching the niche sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. You can find plenty of examples either way. GSN's 2004 move into non-traditional stuff mostly bombed except for the poker shows, which eventually produced one of the network's biggest critical and ratings successes, High Stakes Poker.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A disappearing Hub

Discovery is tired of the Hub network not doing much against other kids cable nets. So the media operation is taking majority control of the network and will rename it Discovery Family.

The toymaker Hasbro will retain an interest in the network and control programming during the day. But Discovery intends to slant the cable net toward adults as well as kids. The obvious question for game show fans: what will happen to Family Game Night?

The show has put up good numbers by Hub standards. Still, who knows if that will be enough for Discovery? The game show looks like a natural for appealing to parents and kids, but Discovery may decide that pushing Hasbro games is no longer a priority. Also, word on the web is that execs think the show is a tad on the expensive side.

Family Game Night has enjoyed a nice run on Hub, or Discovery Family, or whatever the net is finally called. We'll see how long the new majority owners decide to keep the show around.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

500 of the little critters

They're getting that old 5th Grader gang back together.

Mark Burnett and Mike Darnell are going direct to series with a game show called 500 Questions for ABC. Set to debut sometime in 2015, details are scarce about gameplay, host, set, contestants, or pretty much anything else. Burnett does allow: "It is the first network game show to combine what audiences love about serialized unscripted hits with a huge game show event. It has ongoing characters and huge stakes."

Sounds like muti-episode reality meets traditional quizzer. We'll see if the marriage is made in heaven. The Hollywood Reporter story speculates that broadcast networks have soured on game shows since Million Second Quiz expired on NBC. But the show really didn't get such terrible ratings by summer broadcast standards. (The finale got a 1.3 18-49 rating with 4.95M total viewers. Hardly a disaster for NBC in the summer.) And Pawnography did okay this summer. So maybe ABC figures, why not?

Fox bought the Israeli format Boom a while back, though that show seems mired in internal controversy. Broadcasters aren't really where the game show action is lately, but it's nice to see a little movement. Darnell adds some hype, for what it's worth: "I have no doubt this is going to be the next international game show hit." Just some decent numbers in the U.S. would be nice for starters.

What hath the schedule wrought?

A little while ago I got GSN's one-page grid for September 29-October 5. Now I've gotten the multi-page schedule with all the episode info, and I've posted it in the sidebar. There are a bunch of changes, and I've chewed over them on a couple game show boards. But the real twist is prime time on Sunday, October 5.

Let's Ask America comes to prime time at 8:00 PM, and Baggage returns to prime time at 10:00 PM. Those are noteworthy changes in themselves. But in between comes the real curveball. At 9:00 PM GSN will run an ep of All Star Secrets. This show lasted for a day-and-a-half (slight exaggeration) on NBC in 1979. Wikipedia (usual caveats) says only four eps are known to exist, and GSN will show one with Billy Crystal.

Things get even twistier at 9:30 PM. GSN dusts off the unsold pilot of Babble, with Tom Kennedy as host. By definition, exactly one (1) ep of this show exists.

I have no clue what’s happening here. It's hard to believe GSN will just drop these shows on the unsuspecting audience. So I speculate that somebody like Wink Martindale – YouTube's specialist in game show rarities – will introduce these selections. This is pure speculation, mind you, based on no inside info beyond the schedule itself.

As to why GSN is trying this, I can only go further into wild-blue theorizing. Maybe it's to pacify the hardcore traditionalists. They've been grumping about Skin Wars and other signs of, gasp, GSN going reality. The network is also refreshing its oldies lineup, which adds a bit of credence to this crazy theory.

One other thing: the cover e-mail on the schedule said the rarities on Sunday night are "part of the Time Capsule initiative." So it does look like a continuing series of little known game shows dug up from the vault.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Spoiling for a fight (cont.)

About the only thing that wasn't spoiled was the gender of the winner.

The blurry picture previously published on the game show Interwebs seemed to show a "guy" winning really, really big. Well, it wasn't a guy. Sarah Manchester, math teacher and mother of two, won the million bucks on Wheel of Fortune tonight. The Silver Spring, MD resident was suitably ecstatic.

I had posted before about how Wheel was spoiling this win shamelessly. But on second thought, who can blame them? When you get the biggest prize on the first week of the season, it's hard not to blab. I even got an embargoed e-mail in my inbox today about the win, but I didn't see it before the show. So I wasn't completely certain that Sarah would take home the million.

But when she copped the glittery green wedge and easily guessed the bonus round puzzle (L-O-U-D  L-A-U-G-H-T-E-R, for the record), I had a very good idea what Mr. Sajak was going to announce.

He did as I expected, and everybody went nuts as the confetti rained down. The kids were adorable, Sarah and husband were thrilled, and the show had its third million dollar winner. Good for all of them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ratings: syndies slip some more

Syndie game shows continued to languish with reruns in the week of September 1-7. Cedric bowed out with a particularly bad number. But nobody had much to brag about. TV News Check offers the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 5.5 - down a tick
Jeopardy 5.1 - down a couple ticks
Family Feud 4.7 - flat, which is pretty good for this week
Millionaire 1.7 - down a couple ticks as Cedric goes out on a low note

Only the top three made the chart at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 8.6M, Jeopardy 7.8M, Family Feud 6.8M. We await the new seasons and, let's hope, better numbers.

GSN stumbled to its worst week in a while for September 8-14. 320K/243K viewer averages prime time/total day. The network ranked 45th and 43rd in the windows. Not terrible by historical standards, but pallid compared to recent weeks.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cash Cab goes airborne

It probably won't draw quite as many viewers as the big multi-colored wheel. But the airborne Game Plane goes wheels-up this weekend. The show looks like one long plug for Allegiant Air, but there could be worse plugs than a game show, right? Mark Walberg hosts, and Game Plane already has 40 episodes on the shelf.

Passengers play word games and trivia challenges and putting contests and extra-special "turbulence games." (I hope the last item doesn't involve air sickness bags.) And like a certain CBS effort, there's a "big deal" for some of the winners at the end of the show.

Game Plane is widely distributed around the country, though the stations and timeslots hardly look choice. The show's website says it gets a 5:00 PM Sunday slot in my home Dallas-Fort Worth market. I don't think the NFL has much to fear.

But your full-service game show blogger will watch an ep or two and report back. I always liked Cash Cab, so maybe the airplane version will be a pleasant way to pass the time.

Another go-round

Just finished watching the return of Alex and Pat and Vanna. Yes, the mustache is back. And the wheel has a $500 minimum.

But otherwise things are reassuringly familiar. We can't change the comfort food too much. The customers don't want wild experiments, after all. Jeopardy kicked off with a rather run-of-the-mill game. The pretty challenger built up a big lead against the returning champion. She ended up winning, though Final Jeopardy was an embarrassing triple stumper. Hasn't anybody ever heard of Dr. Seuss? I even nailed it.

It was the same on Wheel of Fortune, a ho-hum ep with no huge (or non-huge) surprises. Sure, the show seems bound and determined to issue spoilers, even on their promos. But nothing much spoilable happened tonight. Three teachers duked it out on teachers' week, and everybody won something. The bonus round was a toughie and went unsolved. We did get to see the new $32,000 minimum, and we got to hear some new-season remarks from Mr. Sajak.

Vanna said bye and it was over. The soulmates are off and running on another year.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Spoiling for a fight

Buy a Vowel is noting various, uh, hints around the game show Interwebs that something very, very big will happen on Wheel of Fortune's new season. Which happens to debut this week.

And which also happens to be an "eventful week," according to none other than Pat Sajak. Somehow, somewhere, I've seen this movie before. Game show spoilers spill over so much of the Internet that they eventually even reach this blog, and I'm way down the game show food chain.

I was planning to take in a fair amount of Wheel's new season, anyway, because last I checked, it's still the most watched game show in the country. That makes it an Important Subject for game show blogs, boards, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and pizza coupons. So you really don't have to spoil quite so hard, guys, at least when it comes to little old me.

A weird idea: what if nothing very important happens in the first week, or during the season overall? Could all the spoilers be wrong? Nah, they wouldn't do that to us, would they?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Before the blank

Time for my usual weekend browse through the What's My Line channel on YouTube. The May 3, 1964 ep featured a young guest panelist named Charles Nelson Reilly. Back then he was mostly known as a Broadway actor. Arlene Francis mentioned his Tony award for How To Succeed In Business, and John Daly praised his work in Hello Dolly.

Charles was pretty subdued on the show. Maybe it was the formal wear or the unfamiliar gameplay or the other, far more experienced panelists, but he was hardly the sarcastic, outrageous wit he would become on Match Game. He did manage one clever quip when he passed because "I'm doing so good on my debut."

The episode went off without any particularly memorable moments. The mystery guests were the McGuire sisters, who got guessed in a hurry. The oddest job was a hippopotamus trainer, and he got guessed, too. It was just another episode as the show wended its way through its final CBS years.

Friday, September 12, 2014


A thread on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's mulls over game show producers and the mark they left on their shows.

The o.p. notes that Chuck Barris' shows either had an "anti-something element" or a "social relationship element." Actually, those shows all had a "mega-cheese element." Now it could be pretty tasty cheese, like Bob Eubanks taking his swings at the newlyweds. Or it could be rotten-in-Denmark cheese like 3's a Crowd. But the curd-of-milk theme was always in evidence.

Another poster says that Barry and Enright did "straight-up Q&A formats steeped in the tradition of the '50s quiz shows, with only a few minor twists to them." One of the minor twists was that the shows weren't rigged. Which helped get the government off their backs.

As you might expect from the board, the thread is a trip down memory lane. About the only recent producer mentioned is Fremantle, with the usual sneer. "If it was a remake of an old classic show, and they butchered the hell out of a perfectly good format, then it's definitely a Fremantle show." The Nielsen Company says they're doing a pretty good job with Family Feud, but those ratings won't cut much ice on Game Show Forum.

Unrelated Feud note: TV Land and BET have picked up some of Steve Harvey's reruns. Guess they noticed the numbers on GSN.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Craig waxes philosophical, sort of

With new seasons upon us, game show hosts are making the media rounds. Usually I pass by such interviews or just give them a few faux tweets. But Craig Ferguson's recent chitchat about Celebrity Name Game actually made some good points about our little genre.

Ferguson says that he wants "a comedy show in which a game is played." Really, unless you've got the dynamite format of all time, that's not a bad approach. Keep 'em laughing and maybe they'll tune back in, even if the game ain't the greatest.

He also says that celebs seem a little more human in the humble genre: "Audiences like seeing the humanizing effect of somebody being as informal as that, because once you’re playing a game it's a little more difficult to remain aloof. If you're playing beer pong or Celebrity Name Game, it's difficult to maintain that sort of grand distance."

Funny thought: he's absolutely right. Even the most hoity-toity celebrities can turn more appealing when they're playing some silly little game. I don't know if Ferguson's show will succeed with its D-list celebs, but at least they'll probably seem a little friendlier in the format.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ratings: GSN rolls on

Syndicated game shows gave up some ground in the week of August 25-31. They were all just marking time until the new seasons in September. But that didn't make the declines any prettier. At least we should have some better numbers when the new eps arrive. TV by the Numbers has the household ratings and viewer averages...

Wheel of Fortune 5.6 - down three ticks but stays on top of the game show heap
Jeopardy 5.3 - down a couple ticks
Family Feud 4.7 - down a tick
Millionaire 1.9 - flat in Cedric's second-last week

The viewer averages were off some, too, as you might expect. Wheel of Fortune 8.7M (weekend repeat 3.6M), Jeopardy 8.0M, Family Feud 6.7M, Millionaire 2.6M. These numbers still don't look terrible compared to most other shows in August.

GSN stayed on a roll for the September 1-7 week, especially in prime time. 392K/257K viewer averages prime time/total day. The network ranked 39th and 41st in the windows.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An actuary's dream - more numbers

Usually I would post my weekly game show ratings entry today. But the Nielsen Company still has a hangover from Labor Day.

Which brings up another story in ratings. For the first time in a long time Nielsen may be getting some real competition. Rentrak continues to sign up local broadcast stations for its set top box data. The ratings service isn't quite competing all out with Nielsen yet. But all that data from millions of cable boxes might pose a major challenge sooner or later.

In fact, some Rentrak TV data may already be showing up on the web. A blogger in my DFW area was releasing some local market viewer numbers that looked a lot more Rentrak-ish than Nielsen-ish. One of these days we might see regular national viewer estimates from Rentrak to compete with the usual numbers from Nielsen.

The Achilles heel for Rentrak is demo data. Their numbers are "massive and passive," meaning there's no active entry of demo identifiers, as in the Nielsen sample. But this actuary would love to see more numbers from a Nielsen competitor. The prospect of more numbers of all kinds makes an actuary salivate like a Pavlov dog, as Mick Jagger once noted.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mr. Crews to the podium

Just got a double dose of Terry Crews, the new host of Millionaire. The good news is that Terry is really enthusiastic. He literally jumps and dances around the set, empathizes emphatically with the contestants, and delivers his lines with gusto.

The bad news is that Terry is really, really enthusiastic. When he yells "Let's play Millionaire" at the camera, he gets a wild-eyed look that almost has me worried he'll give himself a stroke. But after the more buttoned-down Meredith and Cedric, it's nice - or at least it's different - to get a high-energy type.

The new Plus One lifeline, where each contestant brings along a brainy friend to help on one question, is an interesting enough wrinkle in the gameplay. It does slow the pace of the show, but Millionaire has never depended on pace, anyway. There are some minor tweaks to the set that I barely noticed. Long story short, the show remains a good quizzer that might be nearing its sell-by date. We'll see if Terry can perk up the numbers.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Mustache sighting?

Something's going on with the most famous mustache in game show history.

The promos for the new season of Jeopardy in my home DFW market have been teasing: "The mustache is back." On a couple interviews with Alex Trebek lately, he's been tickling us with mustache rumors.

One example is this chat with Dan Patrick, host of the upcoming Sports Jeopardy. Alex tells how his "groupies" - scare quotes intended - often want the mustache back. So he promises: "We have a surprise in store for them as the new season begins." The coyness begins about 15:00 in the video.

Sounds like we're building to something when the new season kicks off September 15. A one-time return of the famed facial hair? Or maybe a two-time return? On this interview with a Chicago reporter, Alex says we'll get "two surprises this year regarding my mustache." He continues the tease by saying that one of the surprises involves a worthy (and unnamed) charity. The mustache banter starts about 2:15 in the video.

Just for the record, I think Alex looks better without it.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hello mudduh hello fadduh

The What's My Line channel on YouTube heads into the show's final CBS years, with 1964 eps now posted. One of the more interesting in a number of ways is the March 15, 1964 show with Allan Sherman as the mystery guest.

Dorothy Kilgallen's decline was sadly evident from her face, though she was alert and incisive on the show. Guest panelist Steve Lawrence was surprisingly funny, even doing a great imitation of the goofy accent Sherman used to befuddle the panel.

Once the panel guessed Sherman, John Daly recalled Allan's stint as the creator and producer of I've Got a Secret. The gentlemanly Daly didn't refer to Sherman's firing from the show in 1958. But at least Goodson and Todman were willing to bring him back to WML, so bygones were bygones for a night.

One more bit of history: Pam Sanders, the second civvie contestant, was a Time reporter who covered the Vietnam war. She was an attractive blonde who got the usual wolf whistles. After the panel guessed her, John Daly referred to the "ugly" situation in Vietnam. John, you didn't know the half of it in 1964. What's My Line, the ultimate fifties show, was living on into a new and hostile decade.

UPDATE: Pam Sanders died quite recently, last June 26. In later life she married a diplomat and wrote two books about Iceland.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Haters gonna...

Saw the pictured whine on Game Show Confessions, and the usual phrase suggested itself (see this entry's title).

I don't agree with the whine...or the whine doesn't agree with me. I liked the silly stunts on Minute To Win It, and the "sob stories" were hardly horrible, or even all that frequent. As for the money tree, who cares about a 100K step? I didn't know that federal law required it. And commercials have always been fairly common on what they call commercial TV.

The more general whine against NBC game shows doesn't cut much ice, either. Sure, the poster didn't like their shows, but nobody cares about the poster's opinion (or mine). What counts are the numbers, and NBC actually had two of the bigger post-2000 broadcast successes in our little genre: Deal Or No Deal and Minute. Of course, NBC also had some flops, but so does every network in every genre.

I'll admit that the GSN remake of Minute was a little pale, because Apolo Ohno seemed kinda listless compared to you know who. Say what you will about Fieri, he never lacked for enthusiasm.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Let's Ask America in the Rockies

A faux tweet noted a while ago that the Scripps station in Denver has picked up Let's Ask America. So naturally the station is plugging the show, which starts its third season on September 8.

This story on the station's website offers an interview with Scripps exec Cater Lee. She praises the show's new host Bill Bellamy as "a huge get for us." We'll see if Bellamy helps the show to its long-term goal of nationwide distribution.

The story notes that the show is already running on GSN, and Bellamy's eps will arrive on the network in January. I haven't seen any ratings for the show, but GSN just gave Let's Ask America more slots, albeit in the wee hours.

One thing I didn't know is that prospective contestants supposedly have to vault three layers of auditions after getting selected from online applicants. Seems a little hard to believe. I don't think that even Jeopardy contestants have to go through that many auditions. The folks on Let's Ask America are just guessing survey results, after all.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ratings: Pat and Vanna and Steve get happy

This entry’s title sounds like a threesome, as Kara Spak might say on Jeopardy. But it’s all innocent and boring. Wheel of Fortune continued to distance itself from the game show ratings field, and Family Feud also picked up a few tenths of a point. TV News Check has the household ratings for the week of August 18-24…

Wheel of Fortune 5.9 – up a couple ticks and leads all syndies, not just game shows, in viewer average
Jeopardy 5.5 - flat
Family Feud 4.8 – also up a couple ticks as Steve pleases Fremantle
Millionaire 1.9 – flat as Terry is almost here

Only the top three made the list at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.2M, Jeopardy 8.5M, Family Feud 6.9M. Things should perk up when the new seasons for all three arrive on September 15.

With three originals romping in prime time, GSN enjoyed a hot August, weather pun intended. 373K/265K viewer averages prime time/total day. A very nice month.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Macabre note

With nothing better to write about, I tried the "random page" option on the U.S. Game Shows Wiki. Much to my surprise a page about Phil Hartman appeared.

I didn't realize the doomed Hartman had anything to do with game shows, beyond occasional Saturday Night Live parodies. But the wiki informs me that he was an announcer on The Pop-N-Rocker Game in 1983. If this show doesn't ring a bell, don't fret. It only lasted one year. The show posed some questions about pop music, in between performances from various bands.

The rest of the wiki article is devoted to Hartman's tragic death and its aftermath. There's some new material (for me) about Jon Lovitz accusing Andy Dick of re-introducing Hartman's wife to cocaine, with the horrendous consequences.

Remind me not to use the random page option on that wiki any more. You never know what might turn up.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ancient ratings history

A thread on Game Show Paradise got around to GSN's 2009 Game Show Awards. This was a cut-rate Emmys for our little genre, hosted by Howie Mandel. He was big on GSN back then with Deal or No Deal reruns.

It's a quiet Labor Day, so I chipped in a bit of ratings history about the show...

For some unknown reason I happened to keep Douglas Pucci's list of GSN ratings from June 1-6, 2009. Game Show Awards got 425K total viewers. Not bad but hardly a runaway success. The show ranked 28th for GSN that week.

You'll never guess the top show for that week. Catch 21! It got 639K viewers for a 6:30 PM run. By the way, GSN averaged 377K/296K viewers prime time/total day for the week. Very good numbers by the network's historical standards. Since Game Show Awards barely performed better than the prime time average, I can see why GSN didn't try any more of them.

Of course, It Takes a Church recently performed pretty much the same as the network's prime time average, and it got a renewal. But that show has an enthusiastic sponsor in Christian Mingle.