Saturday, February 28, 2015

Drawing dead

Talked about the GSN upfront a few posts ago, and the high mortality rate for the network's development projects.

So why not look at one of the shows that never made it to the light of GSN's day? The network taped this unsuccessful 2000 pilot of Pictionary with Graham Elwood as host. The draw me a picture format had previously reached TV in a couple of short-lived incarnations.

The pilot looks like old (and much of new) GSN, with a minimalist set and spartan production values. Elwood, best known for the disrobing Strip Poker and the goofball Cram, seems quite low-key compared to those two efforts. The pilot is hardly a disaster and strikes me as more appealing than a lot of projects that eventually graced GSN. Maybe network execs thought they could get the same or better numbers by just leasing old Win, Lose or Draw eps.

A YouTube commenter suspects the pilot's contestants are hired actors - a common practice, of course - and everybody does seem way too caffeinated for the simple little game. The repetitious music gets annoying after a while, but GSN could have and certainly has done worse than this show.

Friday, February 27, 2015

R.I.P. Mr. Spock

The role of a lifetime must be the ultimate blessing and the damnable curse for an actor. The financial and career rewards are obvious, but they come with a devouring other identity that nobody - least of all the poor actor himself - can ever escape.

Was Robert Preston ever anybody besides the Music Man? And could Leonard Nimoy, dead at 83, ever flee the character I named in this entry's title? Nimoy even titled his first autobiography I Am Not Spock, for all the good it did him.

In the end Leonard seemed reconciled to his Vulcan doppelganger. In looking over his IMDb page I was a little surprised by the number of game shows he did. You Don't Say, Hollywood Squares, Pyramid, and the syndie What's My Line.

Ironically, in the linked WML appearance the panel gets sidetracked onto Mission Impossible, instead of that sci-fi show with the curt captain. Nimoy had a long and varied career as a fine actor beyond Star Trek, as his lengthy IMDb page shows. But the Vulcan guy always cast a long pointy-eared shadow. R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Time to take out the garbage

For some reason I looked at Game Show Garbage today. Hadn't stopped by in a while.

And I didn't stay long. The site looks kind of deserted. The last update was a couple weeks ago. On the main page GSG dumps on some Simpsons episode. I'm supposed to get sexed up about this? Since when did the site become Simpsons Garbage?

It's hard to avoid that clunking cliche about vaulting over a large carnivorous fish. Not that I haven't enjoyed the site in the past. Our little genre produces a lot of garbage like any other human endeavor, and somebody's got to point out the detritus.

But diminishing returns are the rule in any business, including the game show garbage business. The barrel gets scraped and pretty soon the site is left with trivia like its latest video induction, the worst game shows of 1975. Who can remember them and who could possibly care about them?

Maybe it's time to review some good stuff, guys. A little variety wouldn't hurt after all these garbage-filled years.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ratings: syndies blah out

Syndie game shows have seen better weeks. None of the shows gained for the week of February 9-15, and the top three lost ground. TV News Check presents all the downbeat household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - down four ticks
Jeopardy 7.1 - also down four ticks in sympathy with the soulmate
Family Feud 6.5 - down three ticks, Steve has hit a speed bump lately
Millionaire 1.9 - flat as Terry tries to hang in there
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - flat as usual

Despite the declines the top three looked good compared to all the other syndies at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.0M to lead all syndies (weekend repeat 6.3M), Jeopardy 11.2M (weekend repeat 4.7M), Family Feud 9.9M. The shows took three of the top four slots. Again, the numbers mean zilch for the six-time counted Weekend Adventure.

TV Newser posted their February chart. Well, okay, it was the January 28-February 22 chart. GSN liked the month, however it's defined. 434K/362K/490K viewer averages prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 35th, 27th and 31st in the windows.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Crossing over

Don't worry, I'm not going all John Edward on you with this entry's title.

I just happened to notice a bit on Game Show Newsnet that was actually about game shows for a change. Debra Jo Rupp, one of the surprisingly few people who have crossed over from appearing as a civvie on a game show to appearing as a celeb on the same show, celebrates her 63rd birthday today.

Okay, they were different versions of the same show. Debra Jo appeared on 25K Pyramid as a civvie and on Donnymid as a celeb. On the linked Donnymid video she recalls her turn on the ancient Pyramid and an unfortunately useless prize.

Which got me thinking about the only civvie who ever crossed over on Match Game: Brianne Leary. Those are matching screenshots of Brianne on the show, as a celeb welcomed back by Gene Rayburn and as a civvie playing the bonus round. Brianne won about $9,000 in her civvie turn, equivalent to nearly forty grand today.

Not bad for an aspiring actress. Eventually she landed a role on CHiPs and went on to a reasonable if not stupendous TV career. She also co-invented a paw cleaner for pets. Honest.

UPDATE: A commenter points out that Lynn Deerfield appeared as a civvie on the 1960s Match Game and then as a celeb on the much more renowned '70s version, after she joined the cast of Guiding Light. IMDb agrees and gives a few more details.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Upfronts then and now

Media Life Magazine says that GSN will run their upfront on March 10. I don't have the foggiest as to what the network will tell the advertising world.

But I can look back to the network's last upfront on March 18, 2014. Broadcasting and Cable reported that GSN had ordered Idiotest, a visual puzzle game with a comic named Ben Gleib. Well, that worked out okay. At least the show got another season. Skin Wars had previously been announced for a debut later in 2014, and host Rebecca Romijn showed up at the gathering. GSN also announced renewals for The Chase and American Bible Challenge. One of these shows is still going.

Then things went downhill. GSN rolled out a big development slate: App Wars, Say What, The Tunnel, Heavy Betters, The Line and Star-Crossed Lovers. Sure, development projects usually suffer a heavy mortality rate. But only one of these six shows ever saw the light of cable. The Line surfaced for a two-hour special (which seemed to last two years) and then the waters closed over it.

So no matter what GSN announces at this year's festivities, keep the history of the previous development slate in mind. There's many a slip between cup and lip, especially in cable TV.

A word from our sponsors

If you didn't know that game shows skewed old, you could pick it up real easy from the typical commercials on GSN or syndie game shows. You get lots of ads for old folks' medicines and gadgets and treatment centers. Not to mention the lawyer ads for the side effects of all those medicines and treatments.

It's a telling historical fact that the last ad on the CBS run of What's My Line was for Polident, a denture cleanser. Even in the 1960s they knew that game shows weren't skewing toward the young'uns. Of course, it's not wall-to-wall old people on game show ads. Plenty of run-of-the-mill consumer products get peddled as well. There's no escaping Flo and the gecko and all those other obnoxious characters.

Our little genre has a bit of dubious history with its sponsors. Legend has it that pressure from sponsors like Revlon and Geritol for more "drama" in game shows helped lead to the rigging scandals of the fifties. There may be some truth to this, depending on which TV historian you want to believe.

Nowadays the S&P people watch like hawks for anything that smells of rigging. But we've still got the tilt toward those of a mature age in game show ads.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Memory games

A while back I mentioned Password and the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's.

Well, darned if the board isn't at it again. This thread chats (or shouts) about a story told by Carol Burnett concerning the ancient classic. Except, as so often happens on the board, things soon escalate into a screaming match. Posters are quickly at each other's throats over whether somebody is calling somebody else a liar.

The issue is whether the admittedly funny story of Carol's could possibly be true, given some chronological and photographic discrepancies. In the tale Carol recounts how a contestant gave "twat" as a clue for "tweet," thinking it was the verb's past tense. (This was long before Twitter, so "tweet" was still something done by birds and not by bored Internet denizens.)

After the board calms down a bit, Matt Ottinger intervenes: "She's spinning a funny story. May not have even happened, may have happened exactly that way, or most likely it's some combination of the two." Which is a nice way of trying to have it every which way.

My guess is that a civvie gave some kind of funny clue during one of Carol's many turns on Password. Her imagination then stepped in to embellish the tale with more goodies. At least she wasn't telling fake war stories.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Study up

At Carrie Grosvenor offers some tips to contestants preparing for Jeopardy.

The hints are all pretty reasonable, though there aren't any big revelations. One of the tips is "Keep Up With Current Events." I'd be sort of okay in some of the categories mentioned here, like politics and science. But "pop culture" might do me in.

I just don't watch sitcoms or dramas on TV very much any more, so my knowledge of the shows is close to nonexistent. Which is why I usually crap out on such categories when I sit in my comfortable chair and watch Jeopardy. As for pop music after the classic rock era, forget it. I've heard of Lady Gaga and other such persons, but as for what they actually sing, I'm as clueless as a newborn.

Carrie suggests: "The best way to keep up with this kind of thing is to read. Magazines, newspapers, and websites cover everything you need to know." That's reassuring, but if they start playing clips from current pop music, all the magazines and newspapers in the world aren't going to help me.

Not that I read stuff on dead tree nowadays, anyway. If it's not on the web, it's really not on my radar. Fortunately, I could listen to lots of current pop music on YouTube. But would I put myself through that just for a Jeopardy appearance?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Let's get ready to Plinko!

Gotta admit, I enjoyed this video more than I usually enjoy Plinko itself. The two minutes of footage show The Price is Right's always competent crew setting up the big board where the discs bounce their way to the bottom.

I was a little surprised to see all the wires and other electronic gizmoidery that goes into the goofy little game. Just hooking up the board is nontrivial. I figured they just flipped a switch and everything started purring.

One of the steps in the video is: "Bring Plinko onto the stage." Which got me wondering, where does Plinko go when he (it) isn't working? Is there a Plinko home somewhere next to the Bob Barker studio?

It's a little creepy to think of Plinko sitting in a dark closet, waiting to breathe free and go plink-plink for his (its) millions of adoring fans. It would be nicer if Plinko had a pleasant room of his (its) own, where he (it) could play with Rat Race and Master Key and all his (its) other pricing game friends.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Steve's early days

At Game Show Network News, Scott Rahner has posted a note on Steve Harvey's early Family Feud ratings. I reply in a couple comments...

There's a lot that needs to be corrected in this post. First, the big change wasn't from HH (household) to AA (average audience) ratings. It was from AA to GAA (gross average audience). This happened the week of April 3, 2011. Paige Albiniak explains it all clearly in this B and C article.

Steve Harvey took over Family Feud well before this change, in September 2010. He made an immediate impact on the show's ratings, even under the old AA Nielsen system then in place. A typical article gushed about Steve's pre-GAA ratings.

When Nielsen brought in the GAA system in April 2011, the new methodology only reinforced the impact that Harvey was already having on Feud's ratings. The rest is Nielsen history, as Feud's numbers have continued to climb right up to the present.

To follow up, during November sweeps of 2010 - before Nielsen made the switch to the GAA system - Harvey Feud averaged a 1.6 household rating under the old AA system. That was a big percentage jump over the 1.3 that John O'Hurley had produced in the November 2009 sweeps. Paige Albiniak took note in this B and C roundup.

In November 2010 there were very few syndies that improved at all from the previous year. Harvey Feud really stood out. Already Steve was driving the show's ratings much higher, and getting a lot of press notice. When Nielsen implemented the GAA system in April 2011 the numbers only jumped even more. Bottom line: Harvey was a hit from the minute he took over the show.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ratings: Steve slips

Trees don't grow to the sky, as they say on Wall Street. Family Feud's ratings don't grow forever, either. Steve slipped a bit in the week of February 2-8, but he hardly has to worry. Otherwise, things went well for our little genre. Even Terry had something to smile about. TV News Check posts the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.8 - up two ticks to lead all syndies
Jeopardy 7.5 - up a couple ticks
Family Feud 6.8 - down four ticks but still solid
Millionaire 1.9 - up a tick and Terry needs all the help he can get
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - flat at a season high

The soulmates took the top two slots on the chart at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.6M (weekend repeat 6.2M), Jeopardy 11.9M (weekend repeat 4.4M), Family Feud 10.2M, Millionaire 2.7M (from a press release). That's a season high for the Wheel weekend repeat, I believe.

Usually I post GSN's weekly averages here. And when TV Newser gets around to publishing their cable list, I will post those numbers. But I found a chart with a little longer view (click to enlarge). Like seven years. The graph shows that GSN has definitely recovered from the relatively lean ratings period of 2009-12. Harvey Feud had a lot to do with it.

TV Newser finally did post their cable list, and GSN rolled to another nice week for February 9-15. 424K/365K viewer averages prime time/total day. The network ranked 35th and 26th in the windows.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Happened to see a post on Game Show Confessions about Combination Lock. This unsold format has been kicking around for a while. YouTube offers video of a rough run-through and the failed U.S. pilot from 2006. U.S. Game Shows Wiki recaps the show's gameplay and unlucky history.

The idea is to guess sequences of numbers to unlock a cash stash. It's a cute idea that never excited anybody enough to bring the show to full production. This actuary is a sucker for numbers of all sorts, so I wouldn't mind GSN or Buzzr or somebody taking another look at the format, as GSC advises.

Marc Summers hosted the 2006 pilot with his usual competence. The set is pretty minimal but this format isn't about pretty settings. Crosswords went syndie in 2007 instead of this show, and we all know what happened to that effort.

Combination Lock falls on the dry and quiet side of our little genre, and that may have scared off potential buyers. The format doesn't exactly have the manic energy of, say, Celebrity Name Game.

Monday, February 16, 2015

This is CNN...nowadays

Last time I watched CNN much at all, James Earl Jones was intoning: "This is CNN."

That was maybe eighty years ago, when cable was young and CNN was in its pomp. The network has slipped a little (or a lot) since then. Nowadays Fox News drubs it night after night in the ratings. Nobody stays on top forever.

In an offbeat effort to lure curiosity seeking viewers, CNN just staged a game show. And I just watched it. Funny thing, it wasn't bad at all. On Presidents Day CNN Quiz Show concentrated entirely on presidential trivia, much of it incredibly obscure. Mostly it was a straightforward quizzer, though the show "borrowed" rounds from Pyramid and Final Jeopardy.

I felt ridiculously proud of myself when I managed to get any of the tricky questions right. Anderson Cooper hosted and the contestants were all CNN reporters, ranging from excellent (Jake Tapper) to godawful (Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon). Cuomo complained loudly and at length about the general unfairness of the format and his teammate Lemon's equally pathetic performance.

The Nielsen Company will decide if CNN tries any more of these stunts. But it was hardly the worst thing I've seen on a cable news network. Beats the usual stuff about winter weather and the latest scandals.

UPDATE: Maybe we'll see more eps. CNN Quiz Show was the network's most watched show of the day with 686K viewers. It also led the network in the 25-54 demo.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Final year

We're into the final year of the original CBS run on the YouTube What's My Line channel. The October 23, 1966 ep is notable for a couple reasons.

First, an absurdly young Dick Cavett turned up as a guest panelist. As the screenshot shows, Cavett looked maybe nineteen years old, though he was about to turn thirty. He was quite witty, as you might expect, and even followed Danny Kaye's example and parodied John Daly with this query:
Would I not be incorrect in anticipating a negative answer to an affirmatively stated question as to whether I might use this product?
He then observed that two could play at John Daly's game.

Ed Sullivan also put in an appearance as the second mystery guest. He didn't come with a caveman mask, as in his high-larious 1958 turn on the show. But his goofy falsetto got a lot of laughs.

Despite much humor the episode has a certain sadness about it, at least for a viewer who knows The End is nigh. The show observed the proprieties right to the finish, with formal dress, elaborate introductions and good-byes, handshakes with the contestants, and unfailing courtesy from the host.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


A thread on what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board is chewing over Fremantle's existing Buzzr YouTube channel and upcoming Buzzr digital subchannel.

As you might expect from the older-is-better choir, there's a lot of grumbling about Buzzr's eight-minute YouTube versions of old game show formats. But Matt Ottinger himself points out of that several of Buzzr's Password segments have gotten close to 100K views, a lot more than any of the old clips of the original Password on the site. In reply, another poster comments:
I'd just chalk it up to a generational divide (I'm not too far from 40 myself). Based on that, I would think that the classic G-T (or Grundy or Hatos-Hall or what-have-you) style of production may be as foreign/strange/off-putting to most under-30s as today's production style of game shows (both TV and online) is to most of us.
I'm not sure about the median age of "us" (the posters on that board). My guess is that it's less than GSN's median viewer age, reputed to be just this side of death. The dreaded old skew has long been the bane of our little genre, and the fogeyish grumblings on the game show Interwebs probably don't help the image.

But what the hey. The Internet was built for people to grumble. Check some of the posts (and comments) on this blog.

UPDATE: There's more news of our little genre's ancient skew. Over the past few months GSN has done a tiny 0.07 prime time 18-49 rating. God knows how puny the 18-34 rating is.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Good news and bad news

Jeopardy wrapped its teachers tourney today, with Colorado's Jennifer Giles winning the hundred grand and a berth in the next T of C.

That's the good news. There was another sort of news involving Jeopardy today. Former five-time champ Jerry Slowik copped a plea on sex abuse charges. He was due to play in the last tournament of champions but was replaced...for obvious reasons.

Slowik will do a little jail time and five years of probation. The facts of the case are squalid and risible at the same time, so you can read the linked story for the unpleasant details. Real life, sometimes of the nasty variety, intrudes on our little genre now and then. At least Slowik expressed regret for his actions, though who knows how sincere he was.

Anyway, congratulations to Jennifer Giles for her big win. And maybe Jerry Slowik can put his life back together.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Career move

Some people will regard this as kicking a guy when he's down. But Brian Williams has to find something to do for the next six months. Larry King suggests hosting Jeopardy, but that can't happen until Alex retires.

There could be an opening pretty soon, though. With the cable news channels all doing game shows, I'd like to suggest Quiz Battle of the Cable News Net Stars. This could be a great collaboration between Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. Teams of newsreaders from the networks could battle it out in a quiz bowl of current events trivia. (I'm only half joking about this.)

The winners get the coveted Murrow-Trebek Minutia Trophy. The host? None other than Brian Williams. Between rounds of trivia questions, he could regale us with war stories.

Another blogger has already beaten me to the punch with this suggestion, sort of. But he just wants Brian on CNN's game show. Why stop with only one cable news network?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chasing down the dream

The latest installment of GSN's The Chase attracted 667K viewers, Nielsen estimates. Sure, the show skewed old like everything else on GSN, with only a 0.09 18-49 rating.

But enough with the tyranny of 18-49 and all that other good rant stuff. The Chase remains GSN's best original quizzer in a long time, and it's a strong reminder that the network can make a good thing out of a good format. As my ratings posts have pointed out week after week, our little game show network is on a roll lately, chasing down the top 25 in total day cable viewers.

I wish a revolution of rising GSN expectations would hit the honchos at Sony. Then they might give GSN the crown jewels, also known as recent eps of Wheel of Fortune. Maybe they could even swing a deal with CBS and their soon to be competitor Fremantle for last year's The Price is Right.

It's about time that GSN moved on up. For its twenty-plus years the network has subsisted on a less than full-bodied game show diet. GSN deserves the most attractive product in the genre. Not to mention that Sony might want to hit the nascent Buzzr with a preemptive strike.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ratings: more good news for Steve…and others

The board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's can start grumbling again. Steve Harvey (a.k.a. the "dick joke guy" at Game Show Forum) jumped to another season and series high for the January 26-February 1 week. But almost all syndie game shows had something to smile about. You can probably guess the one exception. TV News Check has the household ratings

Wheel of Fortune 7.6 – up a couple ticks to lead all syndies
Jeopardy 7.3 – up three ticks
Family Feud 7.2 – up four ticks to those highs and nearly catches Alex
Millionaire 1.8 – flat, things are blah for Terry
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 – up a tick to a new series high

The top three led everybody on the TV by the Numbers chart. Pay no heed to the six-time counted Weekend Adventure. Viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 12.3M to lead all syndies again (weekend repeat 5.9M), Jeopardy 11.5M (weekend repeat 3.9M), Family Feud 10.9M. The numbers make most of broadcast prime time look forlorn. Yeah, I know about the demos and the double counting tricks.

TV Newser says GSN keeps living pretty large. 427K/360K/489K viewer averages prime time/total day/extended prime time for the February 2-8 week. The network ranked 34th, 27th and 31st in the windows. If GSN hops any higher on the total day chart, the network might get onto TV by the Numbers' top 25 list.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Still sweeping

Media Life Magazine tells us that sweeps are dead, or dying, or at least not looking so healthy.

Well, maybe in the world of broadcast prime time. But syndie game shows haven't gotten the memo yet. They're stunting away for February sweeps. Jeopardy is rolling into the big payoff week of its teachers tournament. And Wheel of Fortune has unleashed more Hawaii eps on the snowy North. The islands look pretty nice even here in relatively balmy DFW.

Meanwhile, The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal are getting lovey-dovey with Valentine's Day specials. Ain't love grand, especially on game shows? Where love can buy you money, to reverse the Beatles title. Or even a new car.

I've grumped about all of Jeopardy's stunts, but maybe I'm mellowing in my rapidly accumulating old age. We just adopted an adorable yellow Lab, too, so I'm in a placidly accepting mood.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Politics ain't beanbag, it's a game show

A faux tweet mentioned Up Against the Clock, the game show segments on Steve Kornacki's MSNBC weekend show.

So I decided to review the political quizzer and picked the final of the...drum roll, please...tournament of champions. Sorry to break the news, but the competition turned into an easy runaway for one for the contestants. The grand prize was a trip to a Brooklyn Cyclones game - in the summer, presumably - to throw out the first pitch.

Kornacki is a game show nut, and he wore his cheesy game show host jacket and brought out his Gene Rayburn long handled mike. (It was just a prop, sadly.) Given MSNBC's well known political leanings, it was no surprise that the questions took swipes at Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and the Keystone pipeline. Fox News can run a quizzer that jabs at Obama. To be fair, the questions also noted the ethics problems of a couple of lesser known state-level Democrats.

The format couldn't be simpler, just a rapid-fire series of politics questions. Alex Trebek chipped in a pre-taped bonus question from the Jeopardy set. Too bad the final score was so one-sided. Better luck on the next T of C.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A$$ game show

It's too bad that as soon as the MTV label gets slapped on something, you know what it's gonna be like. The network's latest attempt at our little genre, Broke A$$ Game Show, proves the point.

You'll get obnoxious attitude from an MTV project, with a wink that if you don't appreciate the alleged humor, why, you're a stuck-up humorless drudge. In fact, this new game show really is a little funny now and then, but after a while - like ten minutes - the attitude wears thinner than the premise.

A couple guys, I forget their names except one is stereotypically black and the other is stereotypically Jewish, wander around New York and ambush helpless civvies. They offer money for stupid stunts and stupider questions. For instance, a bunch of construction workers get fifty bucks for twerking in yellow briefs.

One thing I did notice is that attitude only goes so far. A lot of the civvies passing by the gameplay have their faces blurred out. Guess the lawyers couldn't get consent clearances. Even a show with attitude has to observe the legalities.

The debut got okay numbers by MTV standards. 750K viewers and a 0.35 18-49 rating. Not spectacular but not too broke a$$, either.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Jimmy Fallon, game show mogul?

Seems like everybody's doing Password these days.

A few days ago I splattered a few comments about Buzzr's YouTube version of the classic. Now Jimmy Fallon does his own take. As you can see from the screenshot, the set is almost eerie in its throwback realism. Which makes me wonder, why doesn't Fallon just produce a genuine game show of his own?

The guy is obviously a nut for our little genre. Yeah, I know he's busy with his day job. Or his night job, whatever. But he could still set up a production company to churn out a show for syndication or GSN or even Fremantle's upcoming Buzzr channel.

Jimmy could appear now and then on the show as a celeb contestant, much like the showrunners on Celebrity Name Game. The project might finally assuage that game show itch of his. And who knows, the show might do some business. Celebrity Name Game got a second season, after all.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


The biggest news out of Millionaire in a while is Justin Peters. If you haven't heard, he risked the half-million question and crashed and burned. $225,000 vanished in seconds. He's posted a half-sorrowful, half-defiant account of his game show rise and fall on Slate.

By the end of the piece, Justin is talking tall about how he had the intestinal fortitude to take the chance. I only half believe him because the money would have made such a huge difference in his underpaid scribbler's life. But at least he will use the $25,000 consolation prize to pursue his dream of glory in standup comedy.

Which may not sound like such a glorious end, but I'm glad Justin seems reconciled to his fate. One interesting note: he says that Millionaire hasn't yet been renewed for another season. I haven't seen any renewal notice, either, so I'm wondering a bit about the show.

The ratings keep sliding but they're still better than Celebrity Name Game, and that show hung on for another go-round. Maybe Millionaire can eke out its own win.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The world needs more televised chess

With other game show sites covering reality shows, talent contests, cook-offs and improv comedy, it's my time to get nontraditional.

Which means Internet chess. As it happens, there are two top-level tournaments on the net right now, the Gibraltar open and the GRENKE closed tournament. The tourneys are quite different. Gibraltar features hundreds of players trying to win some prize money and enjoying themselves on the rock. (One night they played a battle of the sexes with oversized chess pieces on a room-sized board.)

By contrast, the GRENKE event is a closed round-robin with eight top grandmasters, including world champ Magnus Carlsen. That's him in the green shirt in the screenshot, and he happens to be losing a game today to Germany's Arkadij Naiditsch. Carlsen doesn't lose often. That's why he's world champ.

The contrast between the two events carries through the commentary teams. Both teams analyze the games competently. But Gibraltar's Simon Williams and Elisabeth Pähtz also seem much interested in drinking, flirting and generally goofing around. GRENKE's Jan Gustafsson and Nigel Short play it a lot straighter.

UPDATE: In case you're wondering - and I know you are - Hikaru Nakamura of the U.S. won the Gibraltar event.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ratings: Steve all over

Syndie game shows didn't move a lot in the January 19-25 week. But Family Feud hit another season and series high. Steve's talk show is doing pretty fine, too. TV News Check has the household ratings for our little genre...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - up two ticks to lead all syndies
Jeopardy 7.0 - down a tick
Family Feud 6.8 - up a couple ticks to hit those highs
Millionaire 1.8 - down a tick, Terry can't catch a break
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat as usual

Only the big three made the top 25 chart at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 11.9M at the top of the list (weekend repeat 5.5M), Jeopardy 10.9M (weekend repeat 3.4M), Family Feud 10.2M. The game shows took the first three slots among all weekday syndies in total viewers.

GSN enjoyed a nice week for January 26-February 1. 429K/353K/525K viewer averages prime time/total day/extended weekday prime time. The network ranked 35th, 29th and 31st in the windows. Pretty impressive to see that 500K+ average in extended weekday prime.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Monopoly one of these days

Maybe they should rename it Monopoly Sooner Or Later Club.

Originally set to debut this weekend, Monopoly Millionaires Club has now been pushed back to late March. The lottery game has already bitten the casino dust, and the TV show hasn't gotten off the ground yet, either. Supposedly a half-dozen eps were taped in Vegas a while ago, but we won't be seeing anything for almost two months.

I haven't found any explanation on the web for the delay. This entire project has been an underachiever from the start, with poor sales of the lottery game and what now seems to be an underwhelming reaction to the TV show by the sponsoring state lotteries.

At least the pictures of the set still look nice. Now if only the show ever gets to air. The chatter about the gameplay made it sound like a huge money giveaway with little or no skill involved. Maybe we'll see what the show is actually of these days.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The password is loud

First, a confession. I have never been a big fan of the original Password. To me the format was always too slow and quiet, with agonizingly long pauses while the contestants struggled to come up with the literally perfect word.

Bob Stewart had the right idea when he got rid of the pauses, made everything the lightning round, let contestants shout out as many clues as they could, and called the thing Pyramid. But what the hey, Fremantle's YouTube channel Buzzr - not to be confused, at least partly, with Fremantle's upcoming digital subchannel of the same name - has boiled Password down to eight minute videos. I sampled one.

Host Steve Zaragozza obviously suffers from Terry Crews syndrome, which causes game show hosts to yell uncontrollably at the camera. But all the shouting doesn't hurt this format too much because, as I pointed out, it's too freakin' quiet and slow by its nature.

The eight minutes of video only get through a two-round front game and one lightning round. But again that's not all bad because we get fewer of those long, silent pauses for contestant cogitation. Speaking of the contestants, they're all YouTube young'uns nobody's ever heard of. Everybody's got to start somewhere.

Fremantle has said that they may use some of the formats from the YouTube Buzzr on the digital subchannel Buzzr. The idea is to get slightly less elderly demos. Good luck.

Cherchez la game show femme

Carrie Grosvenor doesn't blog much any more. But once in a while she puts up a few game show items at One of the recent entries counts off "six great female hosts."

Three of the picks are obvious and inarguable: Arlene Francis, Betty White and Meredith Vieira. The trouble (at least for me) starts with the other three. One is Anne Robinson, who has always been a personal bête noire. (I'm in a French kind of mood today.) But Anne did run Weakest Link forever in Britain, so I'll give her a pass.

Then there's Brooke Burns. I'll admit, she's handling the difficult quizzer duties on The Chase better than I feared. But is she a "great" host? Okay, she did demonstrate the stunts on Dog Eat Dog pretty well, and she looked great doing it.

The third questionable pick is Vanna White. Sorry, Vanna is sweet and personable, but she turns letters and waves bye-bye. Just doesn't quite make it into great host territory for me.