Sunday, November 30, 2014

Asking for it

I'm pretty late to this party, but I finally caught an entire episode of the third season of Let's Ask America with Bill Bellamy. The show runs at midnight in my home DFW area on a low-rent station. But I've been too lazy to stay up for the survey questions.

To get around my laziness, a contestant posted his episode on YouTube. As I expected, Bellamy cracks wise far more often than former host Kevin Pereira. Bill's a standup comic, after all, and they got him for the funnies. Usually, he's at least passable in the quips, though not a screaming laugh riot.

The questions have gotten a little gamier, as I thought they eventually would. The YouTube ep has a question about straight women in gay bars, for instance. Hardly daring but a bit off-color. Scripps wants to sell the show around the country. And Family Feud is the obvious example of how a touch of blue makes for better numbers.

Let's Ask America is already looking for fourth season contestants, so Scripps is staying with the show for now. It's dirt cheap to produce and far from the worst format ever. Now if they can only get it onto more stations.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bet on it

With a bunch of state lotteries kicking off their Monopoly Millionaires Club giveaway, including the TV game show in February, we've got the first big winner. And some criticism.

This story from my home area's Fort Worth Star Telegram tells about the New Jersey guy who pulled down $21 million and the Texas guy who took home one million. The story also mentions the upcoming syndie TV show based on the game and hosted by Billy Gardell. But state lotteries are always controversial, and the Monopoly game is drawing criticism as "too complicated and too expensive." The guy in New Jersey probably doesn't agree with the critics.

The story goes on to tell how the entire Texas state lottery is getting heat as a ripoff of poor people. There's some truth to the criticism. State lotteries do tend to be the Incredible Hulk of regressive taxation.

But my libertarian leanings say that people should be able to spend their money as they see fit. I also don't like how private gambling is often illegal while state governments rake in gazillions of gambling money. Oh well, we'll see what kind of TV game show the state lotteries can put on in February.

Friday, November 28, 2014

500 channels and nothing on

A thread on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's chats about whether Family Feud is more popular than ever.

As you might expect from the older is better board to end all older is better boards, one poster chimes in: "To me, it isn't even close. Dawson's run was the high point and everything else after that, including the first eleven years of the current series, is trailing by a significant margin." If someone on the board hadn't said this, or something close to it, I would have fainted dead away. (Okay, I wouldn't really have fainted.)

Matt Ottinger himself tosses in the usual reminder of how busted up the TV audience has become. "It would be just about impossible for the current version to be anywhere close to the number of viewers Dawson was getting, due to the continued splintering of the viewing audience for television in general."

This is utterly true, of course, as broadcast execs can and do say, at length. But I rustled up some Nielsen ratings from the dark ages of TV (1981) that make the point in hard numbers. In November 1981 syndie Family Feud chalked up a 13.2 household rating. That's way beyond the most popular syndies (or just about any other TV show) nowadays.

The U.S. TV audience is a lot bigger now, so total viewership hasn't dropped quite as much as the ratings. Then again, the current Feud's numbers are inflated by Nielsen's trick of double counting viewers from Steve's multiple runs each day.

Let's just say that TV shows don't get ratings like they did back in the bad old days of the broadcast triopoly.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

New gigs

Lots of job moves for game show hosts are in the news for CBS.

Of course, Celebrity Name Game's Craig Ferguson is leaving his late night job on the Eye Network (Variety speak!) December 19. But new host James Corden won't take over until March 9. So there's quite a gap to fill, and CBS is sending The Price is Right's Drew Carey and Let's Make a Deal's Wayne Brady to help fill it. They will both do weeks as the guest host of the late night talker.

Billy Gardell of Mike and Molly, who will host Monopoly Millionaires Club starting in February, will also fill the late night chair for a week. Sean Hayes, last seen as the showrunner on NBC's Hollywood Game Night, gets a week as guest host, too.

Carey has already enjoyed a little experience on the show, as part of that April Fools host switch with Ferguson. To be honest, there's a big overlap in TV skills between running a game show and hosting a talk show. Ask Meredith Vieira or Jimmy Fallon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hit the road with baggage

As the ads are blaring and the official press release is saying, GSN's new season of Baggage on the Road debuts January 7.

Even with Jerry cracking (sort of) wise, it's always been hard to dislike this goofball dating game. The suitcase reveal gimmick, swiped from Deal or No Deal, adds to the fun and frivolity. Now Jerry and crew have taken the show to college campuses, including UConn. A funny story from the Hartford Courant recounts how UConn undergrads Annalise Lenihan and Brian Eilers made a dinner date.

As the story accurately notes, Baggage on the Road is "pretty tame" compared to that other show with Jerry. No fisticuffs, screaming, or burly security guys. The show does have some groaner gags from Jerry, but you gotta take the bitter with the sweet.

There are plenty of pictures of one of the show's tapings in Connecticut, including crew and audience. In case you're wondering, the girl in the screenshot is Michelle Hahn, another UConn undergrad. No word on who she picked for her date. You'll just have to watch, starting January 7.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ratings: more season highs

The big three syndie game shows all racked up season highs for the week of November 10-16. The weather gets colder, the days get shorter, the numbers get higher. Except for our two bottom-dwellers. TV News Check lists the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - up a couple ticks to a season high
Jeopardy 7.0 - up three ticks to its own high
Family Feud 6.4 - up five ticks as Steve rebounds from a bad week to another high
Millionaire 1.9 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - flat, does this show ever change?

Again, Millionaire slipped through the viewer number cracks. Neither TV News Check nor TV by the Numbers gave the figure for Terry. But I've got the rest of the viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.2M to top all syndies and reach its usual twelve mill perch for winter, Jeopardy 11.1M, Family Feud 9.5M, Celebrity Name Game 1.8M. That number is the best yet for Craig, I believe.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Something gets renewed

With a couple of syndie game shows struggling, it's nice to report at least one renewal. Even if it's only online.

Money Where Your Mouth Is, the guy-knowledge show hosted by Jay Mohr, returns for a second season on Hulu. The show is nothing special, but it's far from the worst thing on the web. Mohr quizzes three male contestants on things guys should know. In the second season the show will also quiz guys on things they shouldn't know, in a segment called "girl knowledge." I'm just reading the story, folks.

I've never been a particular fan of Mohr, but he restrains himself pretty well in the few Money eps I've seen. There's plenty of eye candy to distract the guys in the audience from Jay, anyway. The show apparently pleased Hulu with big numbers in the male 25-44 demo.

Soup behemoth Campbell is Money's main sponsor, and there's lots of soupy product placement on the show. A small price to pay for another season.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Time moves on

It's the weekend and new episodes have been accumulating on the YouTube What's My Line channel. They're from 1965 as the show was winding down its original CBS run. And they tell how time strolls along.

The first contestant on the May 16, 1965 ep, a pretty blonde named Pat McGee, had a job demonstrating a newfangled thing called a skateboard. In a bit of panel brilliance, Arlene Francis guessed her before a card was flipped. Except Arlene thought the contraption was called a "skating board" or some such.

John Daly mentioned that "Miss" McGee - those were the days - appeared on that week's Life magazine cover. This was back when Life was a magazine, and it was printed on dead trees. A contraption called the Internet, unimaginable in 1965, verifies that she indeed graced the cover.

The mystery guest was Liza Minnelli, looking like a teenager. She was a teenager, in fact, and just starting her career. She was quickly guessed, and Bennett Cerf even felt compelled to mention that her mother was Judy Garland. This was a while ago, after all.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Wow, Pat and Vanna are still on?

Rummaging through the game show board at Sitcoms Online, I came across a thread about Vanna White's new boyfriend. He's "talk dark and handsome," and Vanna is just so happy.

Well, that's nice. But what's really weird about the thread is that a couple posters express amazement that Wheel of Fortune is still around, and that Pat and Vanna are still doing the show. I posted an entry a while ago about how most folks don't care about our little genre, and that's okay. But these are people posting on a game show board! One clued-in comment...

"Wow Wheel of Fortune is still on TV and it's been on since 1975. I didn't know that. My grandmother used to watch it often...Pat Sajak and Vanna White are still on Wheel of Fortune? Wow that's amazing."

Several other posters on the thread assure this person that, yes, Wheel is still going strong and Pat and Vanna show no signs of retiring. Maybe this person also posts on baseball boards about how amazing it is that there are ninety feet between bases.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Arthur who? Julia who?

For the last few decades Jeopardy has been advertising the clash between Arthur Chu and Julia Collins in the Tournament of Champions. So naturally they both lost. Quiet guy Ben Ingram took home the quarter mill instead.

The two-day final turned on two clues. Ben was the only guy to nail a very tough American history puzzler in Final Jeopardy on the first day, which gave him a big lead. Then Arthur goofed a gimme Daily Double (he's never heard of "global village"??) on the second day to really set himself back.

But things could still have turned around on the second day's Final Jeopardy. The players got a brutal Shakespeare clue which became a triple stumper. Ben's lead stood up and he won it all.

Ben played politician in his comments during the final. He thanked his fellow champions for being such great people, etc. Mr. Ingram is a lot better in the p.r. department than one of his opponents.

UPDATE: has a thread with some notable postmortems on the tournament. Arthur's video is not to be missed.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Word of mouth

You stumble across the weirdest things on game show sites. The board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's chews over (appropriate term) this anecdote about contestants' mouths on game shows...

"One very bizarre (and rather scary) story that [British game show host Bob Monkhouse] recounted was that of an American game show host he had met, who apparently refused to read anything about or meet his contestants before the show. Monkhouse asked him what he did if the contestants were getting cocky or talking too much and the American host said that he used the 'mouth tear.' When asked what that was, he explained that he'd put his thumb into the contestant's mouth and grab hold of his/her cheek, but the camera angles were such that it appeared that he was simply putting a friendly hand on the contestant's shoulder rather than grabbing hold of his/her mouth."

The board seems to think the story is pure fiction, and it looks physically impossible to do something like that without the camera catching it. Not to mention that a lot of contestants would have blabbed about such an obnoxious technique.

But if any host might have tried something like it, the board agrees that Richard Dawson is The One. The kissing bandit did have an attraction for mouths on his show. But it's hard to imagine even Dawson trying something so outlandish.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Happy holidays

Next week CBS rolls out Thanksgiving stuff all over its daytime schedule, including The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal. You can expect lots of turkeys, pilgrims, pumpkins, dining rooms, etc.

Game shows get a little giddy around the this time of year, except for stern old Jeopardy. Alex and company just keep grinding through the answers and questions.

Another tradition at this point in the calendar is the holiday marathon. Next week GSN runs skeins of The Chase and Game Show Moments Gone Bananas. They will also show long swatches of Steve Harvey's Family Feud, but the network doesn't need the holidays for them.

A less appetizing feature of turkey week is preemptions. LMAD bites the dust both Thursday and Friday, and TPiR gets the heave-ho on Thursday. We've got parades and football games, folks, so wait until the week after Thanksgiving for regular game show service.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Deadline reports that GSN keeps developing and developing. We'll see if any of the projects surface on our little game show network.

The biggest stir comes from Hellevator, a product of Jason Blum's fevered imagination. Contestants enter a dark warehouse via a mysterious elevator and weird things happen to them. I'm pretty sure all the contestants physically survive, but you never know. GSN is also working on Steampunk'd, which sounds like a Skin Wars spinoff. Artistic types try to turn everyday objects into works of art. I think it's too late for my beat-up Chevy Cavalier.

Other projects include Bingo Bash, based on the online game GSN paid so much for, and Winsanity, where contestants try to organize facts in numerical order. Which is a nice order for facts to be in. Then there's How-To Games, where contestants watch videos and see if they can do what the videos are trying to teach them to do, and Face 2 Face, yet another dating show. The world needs more dating shows, right?

Finally, Danica McKellar (Wonder Years) is officially onboard as the host of the previously announced App Wars. It's Shark Tank for computer apps.

Ratings: Pat and Vanna heart Hawaii

Those gentle Hawaiian breezes wafted Wheel of Fortune (how poetic!) to a season high and number one in household rating and viewer average among all syndies for the week of November 3-9. Put a Hawaiian shirt on Pat and Nielsen swoons. Jeopardy also got good news. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.2 - up three ticks to tower over everybody, including the loud judge
Jeopardy 6.7 - up a couple ticks to a season high of its own
Family Feud 5.9 - down three ticks, not the best week for Steve
Millionaire 1.9 - up a tick and Terry will take whatever he can get
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - flat as usual

TV by the Numbers has the big three on its chart, but Terry seems to have fallen off the list for good. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.7M, Jeopardy 10.6M, Family Feud 8.6M, Celebrity Name Game 1.7M (from TV News Check). We'll see if Alex gets a boost from the Tournament of Champions in the next reported week. He's doing fine already.

TV Newser reports that GSN really kicked out the jams for the November 10-16 week. 381K/304K viewer averages prime time/total day. The network ranked 41st and 33rd in the windows. That's the best total day number I can recall for quite a while.

Monday, November 17, 2014

By George

Sometimes there's no excuse for a blog entry, except I just felt like it. This is one of those entries.

I've always liked George Gray, even enough to forgive GSN's wretched Extreme Gong. Okay, maybe I don't like anybody enough to forgive that abomination. But George has always been a competent host and/or announcer. I thought he was a lot more bearable on Weakest Link than the wicked witch, for instance. And he's done a fine job on that shopping game in the morning.

Seems that George is in Miami for a few days, so the Miami Herald took note. The story is nothing special, just a little celeb blurb about Gray as he takes some vacation. George's best TPiR memory? "The show when a woman lost her footing and flew head first towards my crotch, knocking us both down." Of course, YouTube remembers the moment.

I wouldn't mind seeing George get another chance at hosting a game show. The guy is alert, witty and likable. A decent combination, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Martin Short's faux game shows

Martin Short is going down with the ship as the egomaniac game show host on Fox's doomed Mulaney. But Salon caught up with the funnyman to get his recollections of his one year as a Saturday Night Live regular, way back in the show's tenth season. (It's incredible that the thing has hung around for forty seasons now.)

Wouldn't you know, Short's interview goes into huge detail about his most famous game show parody. Maybe he's got the Mulaney flop on his brain. Anyway, Salon questions him extensively about Jackie Rogers Jr.’s $100,000 Jackpot Wad, SNL's now legendary Pyramid spoof. YouTube has the skit's most bizarre moment: "Chocolate Babies."

Short also talks about Pat Sajak. Short's SNL character Ed Grimley was obsessed with the game show host, but Short never actually met Sajak until last year. Turns out that Pat "was hilarious. He was really funny." Well, recently Sajak did have that hilarious moment when he got tired of contestants' horse obsession.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tattling on GSN

At Game Show Paradise there were some of the usual complaints about GSN not running enough old shows. This has been a web staple for as long as GSN and the Internet have coexisted.

At least to some extent I defended the network on the thread. I also had to dump cold water on one suggestion. Some of the comments...

Game Show Paradise poster: GSN puts the [old rarities] shows in terrible time slots.

A story in TV Media Insights says that GSN will show rarities monthly. And the rarities aren't getting a terrible time slot at all. In fact, they're getting a Harvey Feud lead-in on Sunday night, which helped Crosswits pull okay (though hardly spectacular) numbers. GSN just doesn't want the oldies in prime time, hurting the average. If you want the details of the Tattletales eps on November 30, check the schedule at Game Show Follies [okay, a shameless plug for this blog].

Another poster: Suggestion if they wanna dip into the B&W pool. Connie Hines' Dotto episode. The series as a whole was solid (too bad it was rigged) plus a future celeb's playing.

You can forget about GSN ever running a show that's known to have been rigged. They'd have to smother the thing in disclaimers. You'll have to check YouTube for those shows.

Friday, November 14, 2014

15 and counting down

A really interesting episode of What's My Line has gone up on the show's YouTube channel.

The 15th anniversary ep from February 14, 1965 features two mystery guest rounds, some old footage from the show's past, and even a mention of long-departed panelist Hal Block. The YouTube video also includes the original commercials, which don't do much for me but will delight the completists in the audience.

Gloria Swanson was the first mystery guest, and the spouses of the panelists played the final round. Both got guessed, along with the civvie contestant in between. The civvie had the newfangled job of playing records in a disco. This was 1965, folks.

The show would never make it to its 20th anniversary, of course. The writing was starting to form on the wall. Nielsen was putting out a lot of demo information by the mid-1960s. WML's old skew and generally shrinking audience would end the CBS run a couple years after this episode.

In fact, game shows of all sorts would soon depart broadcast prime time. They wouldn't return until the late 1990s with a show that offered a million bucks.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Records are made to be broken

Tomorrow Ken Jennings turns up on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. I hope the quiz wiz gives the show a much needed numbers boost. Terry Crews is slipping toward the Nielsen twilight zone, another dimension of space, time and cancellation.

Jennings' appearance is ostensibly part of Guinness World Records Week on Millionaire. So naturally the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's splits every excruciating hair over just which world record Ken holds (or held). This is the kind of stuff that incorrigible game show freaks do on the Internet, instead of living real lives. Just ask me.

I'll be watching the episode, though I admit that the frazzled Terry wears on me after a after three shows, maybe. It's nice to see some energy, but man oh man, this guy looks ready to pop all the gaskets in the machine. I find myself muttering calm down to the screen every fifteen seconds (slight exaggeration).

The show says that Jennings lasts into Monday, so he must do halfway decent in his try at the randomized loot. At least he won't have to play against Watson.

UPDATE: Ken takes home a hundred grand. Not a bad payout for a couple hours.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Julia loses??

Sometimes life just surprises you. Julia Collins was rolling to an okay if not overwhelming win on her first Jeopardy Tournament of Champions show tonight.

Then she ran into habeas corpus. That was the Final Jeopardy stumper which sent Julia to second place with $9,100. Joshua Brakhage romped home with the correct response for an automatic berth in the second week. Julia could still make it as a wild card, but we'll have to wait and see.

Arthur Chu, the other pre-tourney favorite, had no problems at all in his first game last night. He ran away with a big win and looks like a ferocious (and slimmer) foe for the rest of the field. He still jumps all over the board but somehow seems less grating than in his eleven-win run. Maybe he's trying to smile more.

Drew Horwood, my extreme dark horse pick to win it all, gets his first game tomorrow. I shouldn't say this because it will probably jinx him, but he seems to have a relatively easy draw against one of the college champs.

UPDATE: Oh boy, I jinxed him good. Drew didn't even make it to Final Jeopardy. So much for my pick in the tournament. And the college champ I stupidly dissed? She won big. Also, tonight's results guarantee Julia Collins a wild card for next week.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ratings: big three rock and roll

The rich got richer among syndie game shows for the October 27-November 2 week. Pat and Vanna and Alex and Steve (sounds like a 1970s sex comedy) all hit season highs. The news wasn't so bright in the steerage section of our little genre. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.9 - up four ticks to tie the loud judge for the lead among all syndies
Jeopardy 6.5 - up a couple ticks
Family Feud 6.2 - up three ticks to round out the season highs
Millionaire 1.8 - flat and I'm worried
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - flat but at least Craig gained a tenth in the V.I.D. women 25-54

Pat and Vanna put Judy away in total viewers, even if they could only tie her in household ratings. TV by the Numbers has the viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.1M, Jeopardy 10.0M, Family Feud 8.9M, Celebrity Name Game 1.6M (from TV News Check). Sorry, Terry fell through the cracks on viewer numbers. Looks like Wheel is headed for its usual perch around 12 million viewers for the winter. And once again, that’s a real number. No Nielsen cheatsies for multiple runs each day, like Feud enjoys.

In its return to History Channel, Pawnography got as many viewers as Craig. The pawn guys did okay in the demos, too. Meanwhile, GSN kept reaping the rewards of its new schedule. 348K/287K viewers prime time/total day for the November 3-9 week. The network ranked 41st and 34th in the windows.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Two hours of waiting in line

No matter what you say about GSN - now fast approaching its 20th anniversary on December 1 - the network is willing to try new stunts.

On December 23 GSN will unveil a two-hour special version of The Line. It's a quizzer based on, you guessed it, waiting in line. The show was taped in Nashville, with Jeff Davis of Whose Line and Candace Bailey of Attack of the Show doing the host chores. As the press release says, it's an alternative to the usual Santa stuff and holiday marathons at Christmastime.

The premise sounds so goofy (a bunch of people play games while waiting in line for their chance at the trivia questions) that it just might be entertaining. The kicker is that everybody who showed up for the tapings had a chance to play.

Davis should be a lively host, quick with an improvised quip or three. We'll see if the "competitive entertainment," as GSN calls it, will compete well in the Nielsen wars.

UPDATE: In other GSN news, the network adds Wink Martindale interstitials to its time capsule oldies and throwback Thursdays. GSN also plans Game Show Flashback, a special on the genre's history hosted by Idiotest's Ben Gleib.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Chasing perfection

GSN's The Chase returns this week with the second half of season three. Celebs turn up for the debut episode this Tuesday. Will they do any better than the civvies against the Beast?

That and other deep issues are discussed in a puffy piece about the show. The story centers on the big guy in the middle, as you might expect. Mark Labbett turns out to be a perfectionist. "I have only about 10 perfect games in Britain after about 200 episodes. I've got four in America and I would like the fifth."

He also allows that one of the celeb contestants was such a strong player that he could be on any trivia team. We'll have to tune in to see which one is the bright guy.

The show is doing its fourth season now, twenty episodes at a two-a-day pace. Each ep takes about three hours to tape. The writers produce 166 questions for each episode. Any that don't get used are rolled over to another show. By the way, Brooke and Mark really do get along pretty well. At least that's what everybody says.

UPDATE: The Chase scores nice but not outlandish numbers for GSN, with 610K total viewers. Idiotest benefits from the lead-in.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A not so heavenly match

At GSN The know Pierre recalls Match Game Hollywood Squares Hour, the short-lived combo from 1983-84.

He's upset that GSN won't touch the show, along with classics in general. Sorry to disagree, but I'd rather have the hour of Match Game that GSN runs every weekday instead of the rather forlorn MG-HS mashup. And as it does so often, YouTube comes to the rescue of classics fans. Wink Martindale offers a relatively pristine episode for starved fans, and there's plenty of other MG-HS video on the site.

Pierre notes that Gene Rayburn seemed uncomfortable on the show, which is true, and that he never wanted to see reruns of the thing, which is also true. (Peter Marshall was definitely not a fan, either.) Also, Jon "Bowzer" Bauman was uninspiring at best as the other host. What Pierre doesn't mention is that Mark Goodson forbade scripting of the celebs in the Hollywood Squares half of the show.

Which put a huge crimp in the proceedings. Squares just doesn't work without scripting, as several versions have proven. Otherwise, the celebs tend to ramble in boring and unfunny and sometimes clueless ways.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Our little world

My wife recently had a hip replacement, and an old friend of hers visited this week to help out.

So one evening the three of us started watching Wheel of Fortune. And my wife's friend suddenly said, "You mean she doesn't turn the letters anymore?" I was tempted to answer, "Yeah, and Woolery left the show, too." But I just sort of smiled instead. The friend, who's no fool, quickly admitted that she hadn't seen Wheel in a long time.

Which put some things into perspective for me. Lord knows I've gotten into my share of arguments with fellow game show freaks on the web. That blurb at the top of the blog about "Internet wars" is not just window dressing.

But even my tag team partners in the arguments have been game show fans. We all watch a lot of the shows a lot of the time. We even watch game show videos on YouTube and elsewhere. We're hopeless, I tell you, compared to normal people like my wife's friend. Hard as it is for us to believe sometimes, most people on the planet don't care about Vanna at all, whether she's still turning the letters or not.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Really good contestants

The picture doesn't show this year's contestants for the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions. Instead, those are last year's players. That's why you don't see Julia Collins or Arthur Chu.

The show has released the full list of players for the 2014 T of C. They don't give the first round pairings, so you'll just have to tune in. Naturally, Julia and Arthur get the most attention in the press release, which means that neither of them will survive to the second week. (Just kidding. How would I know?)

The release also says the players have collectively won a hundred games. A couple college champs and the teachers champ are seeded into the field, which I'm not crazy about. But nobody asked me to make the rules.

So who do I think is going to win? Do I look like Nostradamus? (I don't even know what he looked like, anyway.) But I'll pick a dark horse: Drew Horwood from way back in March, 2013. No particular reason. Just want to be contrarian.

UPDATE: The show has posted the first week matchups. Arthur on Tuesday, Julia on Wednesday, if you want to know. I also got a screenshot of this year's contestants.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


The screenshot from Game Show Confessions seems to want to start an argument. I'm always game for one of those.

In fact, I like both of the mentioned shows. But is 1 vs. 100 really better than Deal or No Deal? Well, it's a matter of personal taste and there ain't no arguing that. The quizzer obviously required more knowledge, but calculation skills came in handy on Deal. Especially when you were trying to figure odds and possible next offers under various scenarios.

In terms of ratings success, there's no comparison. 1 vs. 100 struggled through a couple dozen so-so rated episodes in its original NBC run. GSN tried a revival but it never really worked. Meanwhile, Deal or No Deal lasted for over 200 episodes on NBC and two more seasons in syndication. And GSN reruns Howie's suitcase epic to this day (currently the syndie version).

As for sheer spectacle, Deal also has the edge, I think. The studio audience really got wrapped up in the big-money decisions. 1 vs. 100 was cooler and more cerebral, as you might expect from a quizzer. The audience responded more sedately.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ratings: Alex breaks the tie

He doesn't need to grow the mustache back. Alex Trebek shook free of the tie with Steve Harvey in the week of October 20-26. But I'm getting worried about Millionaire as it hit a season low. Terry might just be freaking out too many viewers with "Let's play Millionaire!!!"

Celebrity Name Game dropped from 0.9 to 0.6 in the V.I.D. women 25-54, while flatlining in total viewers. Maybe it's time to worry again about Craig, too. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - up a tick
Jeopardy 6.3 - up a couple ticks
Family Feud 5.9 - down a couple ticks to please the prudes
Millionaire 1.8 - down a couple ticks to that scary season low
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - flat but a big drop in that demo

The top three made the syndie chart at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.3M to lead all syndies as usual (weekend repeat 3.0M), Jeopardy 9.7M, Family Feud 8.5M, Celebrity Name Game 1.6M (from TV News Check). Give Pat and Vanna a lot of credit. They don't get any cheatsies from Nielsen for two or three or four runs every day.

GSN's new schedule keeps putting up good numbers. 362K/298K viewers prime time/total day for the week of October 27-November 2. The network ranked 42nd and 32nd in the windows.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Demo-lition derby

A couple posts ago, I said that I hated demos. Game show fans have gotten used to hearing gibes about our little genre's ancient audiences.

But there may be a tiny bit of good demo news for at least one show. Celebrity Name Game is getting some notice for its numbers in women 25-54, supposedly a V.I.D. (very important demo). In fact, the producers have put out a press release talking up the Nielsen tidings.

Paige Albiniak, syndie specialist at Broadcasting and Cable, agrees that "if that [demo] trend continues, Celebrity Name Game will be in a good position for renewal." I like the lively Pyramid knockoff, so I hope that Paige knows what she's talking about. (She usually seems well informed.)

In related news, rumors about a syndie talk show for Craig Ferguson continue to swirl. (Rumors always "swirl," like clouds always "gather.") I just hope he doesn't end up competing with himself.

UPDATE: While we're on ratings, somebody named "Prizes" on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's is warning the benighted masses about moi: "For however you view Abell's ratings, which seem one of the few things to trust him on..."

This deep thinker apparently believes I collect the numbers myself. Hey pal, they're not my ratings. They're the numbers from the Nielsen Company published on TV News Check and TV by the Numbers, among other sources. Which is what I say every week.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Reinventing the wheel

BuzzerBlog wasn't asked, but they have a bunch of suggestions for Wheel of Fortune.

Frankly, the ideas strike me as either dubious or trivial. In the trivia department, there's a "new look and feel." BuzzerBlog wants new theme music and different colors. Meh. The Wheel set already changes all the time, especially compared to the other members of the syndie big three, Jeopardy and Family Feud.

BuzzerBlog also wants "more interesting prizes." Their main suggestion is cars and more cars. Sony could make the show into Motor Trend Meets Hangman, but I doubt that would goose the ratings.

As for actual gameplay ideas, BuzzerBlog suggests more expensive vowels (why?) and returning champs. The site recalls Jeopardy's Julia Collins - they have an amusing crush on Julia - and says that returning champs would make a big difference in the ratings. Well, Jeopardy has had returning champions forever, and the numbers haven't moved much. Besides, there's so much chance built into Wheel of Fortune [my emphasis], that the best players wouldn't necessarily get very long runs.

BuzzerBlog also offers a complicated idea about a Battle Round that lasts until the entire puzzle is filled in, with no solving allowed. The site admits that the idea would "probably not" work. Okay, then why suggest it?

If the goal is to beat Family Feud at its own game - which seems to be the motivation of the BuzzerBlog piece - you could try off-color puzzles and invite Steve Harvey to replace Pat. I don't think that would work very well. Wheel's audience is not Feud's audience, for better or worse. Ten million people (and that's a real number, without any Nielsen double-counting tricks) watch Wheel every night for a reliable product, not a Feud wannabe. Why bash the show around?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A well known mystery guest

I made my usual weekend trip to the What's My Line channel on YouTube, only to find that no new black and white eps have been posted for a while.

To soothe my WML itch I rustled up this memorable clip from the syndie What's My Line, which began running in 1968. It was Bennett Cerf's first appearance on the syndie, where he would eventually become a semi-regular panelist up until his death in 1971.

This time, though, Bennett was the mystery guest. The panelists, including Bennett's old running mate Arlene Francis, stumbled around cluelessly for a while, before Phyllis Newman finally guessed. Bennett then reminisced a little about the old days on the CBS broadcast version. And he couldn't resist a groaner pun, his WML trademark.

I always liked the syndie What's My Line. It seemed a little looser and fresher than the august broadcast version. The producers brought a bit of I've Got a Secret into the show, with contestants demonstrating their skills or products. The syndie lasted seven years and actually piled up more episodes than the original.