Thursday, April 30, 2015

Summer debuts

Just when I thought Carrie Grosvenor had packed it in for good, she returns with a helpful list of summer game show debuts.

To quibble a bit, Carrie also includes some reality stuff that might pass for a "game show" on Game Show Newsnet. But I'm more of a traditionalist fuddy-duddy, so I'm not going to call Big Brother or Skin Wars a game show. I'm also not going to watch 'em, but enough other people will tune in to keep the shows on the air.

Enough of my grumpiness. The debut dates:

May 20 - 500 Questions (ABC)
May 26 - 5th Grader (Fox)
June 1 - Buzzr TV, the network for fuddy-duddy traditionalists
June 21 - Celebrity Family Feud (ABC)
June 25 - Boom (Fox)
July 7 - Hollywood Game Night (NBC)
July 16 - Geeks Who Drink (SyFy)
Mid-July (?) - The Chase (GSN)

A couple other premieres that Carrie omitted:

May 6 - Labor Pains (TLC)
May 14 - Pontoon Payday (CMT)

At least I'll have a lot of shows to track in the ratings sidebar. Not to mention my snarky reviews!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Let's put 50 seconds on the YouTube clock

As mentioned a few posts ago, Fremantle's Buzzr channel on YouTube just released their next show, Beat the Clock.

The traditionalists will grumble about the skimpy timeframe - 10:47 for this ep - but for me, the charm of the videos is exactly how quickly the gameplay develops. In this ep we got through three rounds of silly stunts in no time at all. I won't tell you if the girls team beat the boys team, but you won't have to spend too much time to find out.

The stunts were the usual BtC fare, although the first bit of silliness, which involved balls in panty hose, was a little gauche. The production values continue to improve slightly as Fremantle spends a few more dollars on these YouTube efforts. Beat the Clock even featured a couple of lovely assistants, though for some reason they wore ugly outfits with knee-high socks.

Elliott Morgan did an okay job as host, commenting with appropriate archness on the goofball proceedings. One of the female contestants got on my nerves with too much chirpiness. But she has more than a hundred thousand subscribers to her YouTube channel, so who am I to complain?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ratings: Jeopardy ties Wheel again

It was generally a blah week for syndies of all sorts, including game shows. The only bit of real news: Pat and Vanna slipped back into a tie with Alex. Overall, the numbers were mostly down. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 6.6 - down a tick but ties for Sony bragging rights
Family Feud 6.1 - up a tick, the only syndie game show to rise at all
Millionaire 1.6 - down a tick to tie its all-time low
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat as (nearly) always

Pat and Vanna again won the total viewer tie-break. The averages from TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 10.4M (weekend repeat 4.5M), Jeopardy 10.1M (weekend repeat 3.4M), Family Feud 8.9M. So-so numbers as May sweeps approach.

Cute kids

Fox reboots 5th Grader starting May 26, and the cast of kids is now on the show's site. Needless to say but I'll say it anyway, the kids are all state-of-the-art cute and friendly.

Oh, dour old moi is sounding cynical. There are worse concepts than to have smart kids show off their skills on national TV. I'm sure that Angela, Dee, Lauren, Mason (I posted a faux tweet about him), Reagan and Tres will all do fine on the show.

One thing I noticed is that Fox doesn't publish the kids' last names. I guess there are privacy concerns for the children, but Mason's last name has already appeared in a news story (referenced in that faux tweet). And a bit of googling could probably rustle up the other last names if you're so inclined.

As you might expect, the panel of six is split down the middle between boys and girls. There would probably be murmurings one way or the other if it didn't come out three-and-three. There's also an ethnic mix to forestall any other murmurings.

As cynical as I sound, I'm actually looking forward to the remake. 5th Grader was always a favorite of mine, even if the pace was a bit poky.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Plinko will feel good about this

A thread on the Sitcoms Online game show board asks for people's favorite games on The Price is Right.

If you guessed that Plinko got the most votes, you are CORRECT (as Terry Crews might bellow). This really wasn't a tough guess, of course, as Plinko has long ruled the game roost at TPiR. The plinkety-plunkety game got an episode all its own, which will probably never happen for, say, Double Prices.

A couple other notes from the thread. On the older-is-better board, this comment or something close was inevitable: "I stopped watching when Bob left, it's a piece of crap now." If such a comment hadn't shown up somewhere, I would have suspected chicanery and/or foul play.

An odd post was a list of supposedly typical contestants: little old ladies, military people, college students, happy women, and anybody named Kimberley. The poster then says that the show no longer has "regular Joes/Janes." Well, yeah, if you're named Kimberley, you can't be a (regular or not) Joe or Jane.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The genre gets no respect

Some writer for Conan O'Brien has complained about the "game-show-ification" of his beloved late night talk shows. A couple of TV critics chew over the comments.

Along the way the critics point out how Jimmy Kimmel played Family Feud with the Avengers cast when they might have been three (or four or ten) sheets to the wind. Then they sort of blame it all on Jimmy Fallon for playing too many games with his guests.

To give the critics some credit, they don't seem to think that having celebs play game shows late at night is a threat to western civilization as we know it. But the original whine about game shows only proves that our little genre really doesn't get much respect. Apparently there's supposed to be some pure and holy version of late-night comedy not defiled by silly little games.

To be nastily honest, I'm bored stiff by most talk shows...daytime, nighttime or any time. Watching canned chatter about the same old topics is not my idea of compelling TV. So if game shows invade late night talk, it's just fine with me. No matter how much a Conan writer whines about it.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Odds on

This site proves that you can get odds on anything. Even the Daytime Emmys, which most people probably don't know still exist.

In case you're interested, and I know you are, the latest odds on best game show host are Steve Harvey 8/11, Craig Ferguson 14/5, Todd Newton 6/1, and poor Pat Sajak 33/1. The oddsmakers just don't like the Wheel guy. Maybe they have trouble with word puzzles. The odds on best game show: Jeopardy 1/3, Family Feud 4/1, The Price is Right 20/1. The oddsmakers must not like shopping, either.

Do these odds reflect anything real? I doubt it. The great American unwashed is not wagering gazillions on game show categories in a hopelessly obscure show biz awards show. In fact, the handle on the sixth race at Podunk race track probably exceeds the total betting on the Daytime Emmys.

I wonder if you can get odds somewhere on the winner of Monday's Jeopardy. Probably.

UPDATE: Jeopardy and Craig Ferguson won. The show drew 719K viewers, a shadow of the glory years in the 1990s when the kudofest drew 14-22 million.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Declaring a noninterest

The Brits like to "declare an interest," which means owning up to a partisan or financial interest in a dispute before commenting on it.

Fair enough, so it's time for me to declare a "noninterest" about all my game show comments on this blog and elsewhere. The issue has become important, believe it or not, because a few people seem to think I have some kind of magical control over GSN. Except I literally and absolutely have nothing to do with GSN beyond the weekly schedules they send to me.

In fact, now and then I've been offered a chance to interview people in the game show business or participate in conference calls with them. I've always declined because I want this blog to remain strictly an outsider's fan site.

This may seem overly scrupulous. But I'm afraid that if I get close at all to people in the game show industry, I'll find myself consciously or unconsciously influenced in my comments. It's a lot easier and simpler for me to stay impartial when I have no relationship to game shows or the people who work in them.

So if you want somebody to get GSN or any other game show outfit to do something, I'm not your guy. And if you want somebody to blame for what GSN or any other game show outfit does, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ratings rumpuses

I get ranted at disagreed with on Game Show Network News. It's a lot of fun...


Ever heard of turning off your caps lock key? I can't get fired from GSN because I don't work for GSN. I don't have anything to do with GSN or their programming decisions. I couldn't get a show taken off GSN if I wanted to, which I don't. The only connection I have with GSN is the weekly pdf schedules they send to me (along with a zillion other people).

Another poster: Casey, talk to me in about 6 months and we'll see if you're still on your know-it-all high horse.

I can guarantee that I won't be on a know-it-all high horse because I'm not on one right now. I'm only pointing out the facts: GSN just had its most-watched quarter ever. Sorry, but that's what the Nielsen Company says, not my high horse (or low horse).

Second poster again: Let's talk again on 10/1 and discuss ratings, shall we?

Sure. I follow GSN's ratings regularly. Although the only thing that could probably have real impact on the ratings between now and 10/1 would be losing the Harvey Feud lease. Which I don't think is going to happen, but we'll see.

I'm a little slow, so I finally caught on to what you were talking about. You must think that Buzzr will have a big impact on GSN's ratings. Well, that's always possible but I think it's unlikely.

Throughout the day GSN faces competition from syndie and broadcast game shows that are much higher-rated than anything on GSN itself. Even a relatively low-rated syndie like Celebrity Name Game regularly gets a million and a half viewers or more, a far higher number than GSN ever gets. Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy pull 10-12 million viewers day after day, week after week.

If GSN can withstand much tougher competition like that, I doubt that a digital subchannel with limited distribution like Buzzr, offering little or no first-run material, will have much of an impact on GSN's numbers. But who knows? Time and the Nielsen Company will tell.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Buzz about Buzzr

Fremantle's Buzzr channel on YouTube continues to put out snippet-length versions of various game show formats.

The somewhat alarming screenshot shows a taping of Buzzr's Beat the Clock. I'm not sure exactly what the stunt is, but it looks like one of the more obscure pages in Joy of Sex. The contestants and host are the usual young'uns, as Buzzr on YouTube tries to appeal to the elusive 18-49 demo.

Meanwhile Buzzr's TV subchannel readies its launch on June 1 with completely different material. The TV operation will specialize in old game shows, though there are rumblings that some of the YouTube videos could eventually surface on TV.

Just what the TV version of Buzzr will show remains something of a mystery. As this thread on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's discusses, nobody has seen a prospective schedule for the channel. (Warning: the thread rapidly runs off into the usual slanging match about irrelevant topics.) The typical web story about Buzzr TV talks in generalities about Match Game and Password and To Tell the Truth and, well, you get the idea. Oldies galore.

I'm not sure if my cable provider here in the DFW area will pick up the subchannel. Here's hoping. I'd like to see what they run out there.

UPDATE: Beat the Clock goes up on Buzzr's YouTube channel on April 28. You can watch a promo if you want to.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ratings: Pat and Vanna break the tie

Wheel of Fortune inched back into first place in the syndie game show derby for the week of April 6-12. But Jeopardy was only a tenth of a point behind. They're neck and neck down the stretch, as Tom Durkin might say. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.8 - up a couple ticks to lead all syndies
Jeopardy 6.7 - up a tick to fall just short of the leader
Family Feud 6.0 - down three ticks, not the best week for Steve
Millionaire 1.7 - up a tick from an all-time low as Terry gets ready to depart
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat

Pat and Vanna also led all syndies in viewer average. The latest from TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 10.8M (weekend repeat 4.3M), Jeopardy 10.2M (weekend repeat 3.4M), Family Feud 8.9M. The big three game shows took three of the top four slots.

TV Newser says that GSN scored what have become their normal good numbers in the week of April 13-19. 401K/302K/439K viewer averages prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 40th, 31st and 37th in the windows.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tell me sweet little lies

From To Tell the Truth and even earlier, game shows have had a thing about lying. Maybe it's because we all do it, with or without a twinge of guilt.

The latest in the prevarication sub-niche of our little genre is GSN's Lie Detectors. I just watched the debut and I'm here with the review. The Cliff Notes version is that it's not the best and it's not the worst in the fibbing category. The show just sort of sits there in the middle of the lying pack.

Three comedians tell tales about this and that to a studio audience and only one of them is the real Dr. Seuss, the other two are impostors...oops, I'm channeling TTTT again. Anyway, only one of the comics isn't lying, and the audience votes on which one it is. Sometimes the audience is right and sometimes they're wrong, which you would expect.

The final round brings the best truth-detector up from the audience for a game all their own. The comics again go through their maybe-fibbing routines and the civvie has to pick the non-liar. In the debut ep the civvie goofed, but I goofed right along with him. Which shows that I'm a sucker for a good story.

The main problem with the show is that the pace seemed to lag. The audience just sat around while the comics did their shtick. There wasn't any back-and-forth questioning like on the show I've already mentioned a couple times. The good thing is that the stories were occasionally funny, and the comics - all of them unknown to me - were likable enough (as Obama once said about Hillary).

Rolf McManus hosted competently but rather blandly. Lie Detectors was an okay way to pass a half-hour but not very memorable or suspenseful. One grace note: at the very end of the show they paid homage to TTTT with a will-the-real-truth-teller-please-stand-up moment. The producers couldn't resist.

UPDATE: Lie Detectors lays a Nielsen egg with 282K total viewers, 51K 18-49. Not much by GSN's recent standards for the late afternoon.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

News you can use

With the completion of the original CBS run, the What's My Line channel on YouTube has started posting related videos. One of them is the May 11, 1951 debut of It's News To Me, a short-lived game show hosted by John Daly from 1951 to 1953. Walter Cronkite (!) hosted a summer revival in 1954.

The format was pretty simple. Daly would give a civvie contestant and a panel of four "celebs" (loosely defined, I never heard of any of them) a hint about a story in the current news. One of the panelists would then try to identify the news story, and the civvie would have to decide if the celeb was bluffing or not. Sort of like Liars Club, as a YouTube commenter points out.

There was also a question round, when a civvie had a secret related to a past news story and the panelists did some q-and-a to figure it out. The civvie on this ep was involved in the 1927 Dempsey-Tunney "long count" prize fight. The panel guessed correctly after some clever questioning.

With the 1951 baseball season just beginning, one of the news stories was the first home run of Mickey Mantle's career. John Daly produced the baseball hit by the Mick, and Mantle himself showed up to tell the story of the homer. He looked vaguely like modern-day baseball star Mike Trout. I wonder if Trout has his first home run ball. Probably.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

This renewal and that renewal

The folks at Game Show Paradise chew over Millionaire's renewal with Chris Harrison as the new host.

Other poster: I'm guessing Tom Bergeron's lower on the totem pole, then.

There's always been a rumor that Bergeron never wanted to host another game show after Hollywood Squares. It's probably an urban legend, I dunno.

By the way, a lot of entries have gone up at BuzzerBlog based on leaked e-mails. Most of the posts are pretty obvious. Steve Harvey is considered a hot property, in case you were wondering, and studio execs get antsy when the on-air talent spouts off about politics. And God help us, there's yet another post about Alex's likeliest successor. Anderson Cooper is the site’s choice, which is not surprising. Who knows? They may be right, eventually.

But one of the posts goes through a long argument about how Millionaire had to stay on the air for some financial reason or other. If the ratings get bad enough, nothing "has" to stay on the air because the finances just get too hopeless. But Millionaire's numbers are still decent compared to most other syndies getting renewals. As the guys at TV by the Numbers would say, the show has stayed ahead of syndies which have been munched by the cancellation bear.

In fact, the only current syndie game show that won't make it to another season is Let's Ask America. And it’s a special case because the show never got truly national syndication exposure. Even the low-rent Game Plane got a renewal.

UPDATE: Cory Anotado, the author of the BuzzerBlog posts, has written an f-bomb tweet about me. About all I need to say is that it's typical of Anotado.

UPDATED UPDATE: Maybe I should comment a little more fully about the non-family feud Cory Anotado has waged against me. I've never met Cory but he often seems consumed by anger. His twitter feed tends to be one long obscenity-splattered rant. Which is entertaining for a while but does get old.

Thing is, Anotado often – or at least sometimes – has interesting things to say about game shows. This BuzzerBlog post, for instance, offers some sound advice to those of us who litter the Net with game show musings. Sure, there's an irritating air of superiority to the advice, but it's still correct enough.

I just wish that Cory would heed some of his own counsel. Like the comment about not shooting from the hip.

Morbid thoughts

Happened to see the screenshot on Game Show Confessions, and that got me thinking about which game show host I'd like to meet from beyond the grave.

It's a little morbid, I know. But if I had to choose among the honored departed, I'd pick Bill Cullen. He goes back literally to the old radio days and the earliest dawn of our little genre on the box with pictures. I'd love to hear some war stories about such ancient history, especially (I'll admit) the rigged history. It would be like listening to the Thucydides of game shows.

And while we're on the rigged happenings, I'd like to meet Jack Barry, too. I was never a particular fan of his, but he sure would be worth hearing on how the chicanery got started. And once and for all, I could clear up just how much he knew about the shady occurrences on Twenty One. I don't know if the issue has ever been resolved with complete clarity.

Then there's Dick Clark, who could tell me all about one of my favorite formats of all time, that show with the pyramid. And Gene Rayburn could while away the hours with stories about my favorite game show ever and that includes everything. Oh, I better stop this nonsense before I get completely lost in the shades of the past.

Friday, April 17, 2015

TPiR goes to college

The bane of game shows is the dreaded old skew. So it makes sense for The Price is Right's live show to play some colleges. Might as well attract a few fans who are under 60.

Todd Newton took the live TPiR extravaganza to Penn State last night, and a good time was had by all. As the story in the local newspaper says:
"Even though I wasn't picked to play a game, I still felt like I was involved throughout the whole show," said Francesca Marchese, a Penn State sophomore who isn't a longtime fan of the show. "It was definitely worth every penny."
Maybe Francesca will turn into a longtime fan one of these days. That's the idea of the live show, after all. It's why they've been towing the show around the country for twelve years now, since its debut in Reno in 2003.

By the way, Todd Newton was in the mix to succeed Bob Barker on the TV version. But according to an interview with then showrunner Roger Dobkowitz, the TPiR powers that be thought he was a little too set in his ways from hosting the live show. Oh well, he's still got a lot of the live gigs, along with Jerry Springer and Mark Walberg.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, on that other version of the show, Drew is marrying couples galore. He's got the power vested in him by the state of California.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Poker players play games

Former poker player and current securities trader - at least that's what he says on his bio - Alex Jacob has now rolled up five wins on Jeopardy.

Poker websites have begun to take notice. Though he's no longer active on the poker circuit, Alex still ranks among the top 400 players in cash winnings with $2.6 million. His Jeopardy money hasn't grown to such levels yet.

This story reviews a few of Alex's biggest poker wins, like his eight hundred grand at the 2006 U.S. Poker Championship main event. The story goes on to mention some other poker players who have graced game shows over the years. They remember all the way back to "Phil Gordon's awkward stint on The Dating Game several decades ago." People always recall those awkward stints on Dating Game.

The story also says that Annie Duke's turns on game shows - I watched her long run on 1 vs. 100 - may have been "financed by [now defunct online poker operation] Cereus in an example of guerrilla marketing." Don't know if that's true, but Annie was a very good 1 vs. 100 mob member. She nailed a long string of questions.

UPDATE: It looks like Phil Gordon may have done Blind Date, not Dating Game. We've got to get these vital details right.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Game shows all over

As a faux tweet noted, HLN will try another game show, Heads Up. It's an Ellen Degeneres production hosted by Loni Love, due sometime next year. But HLN isn't the only offbeat network where game shows are cropping up. SyFy will debut Geeks Who Drink July 16.

In a case of appropriate casting Zachary Levi, the ultimate geek from Chuck, will host. News about this show has circulated for a while. An adaptation of the pub trivia game, Geeks Who Drink will feature teams of (naturally) geeks who "will battle it out each week in rapid-fire quizzes that cover topics ranging from pop culture to science fiction." Two civvies and a celeb will make up each team.

I guess the sci-fi questions are natural for SyFy. The network has programmed other game shows like Exit and Total Blackout, so our little genre is not a complete stranger in the neighborhood. This is the first traditional quizzer for SyFy, though.

We probably won't see any actual drinking. Maybe a more honest title would be Geeks Who (Metaphorically) Drink.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ratings: Alex ties Pat and Vanna

TV News Check says that Jeopardy snuck up a few ticks to tie Wheel of Fortune in household rating for the week of March 30-April 5. But Pat and Vanna still led in total viewers, so I'll give them the tiebreak. Meanwhile, Terry Crews is posting record low numbers as he gets ready to depart. All the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 6.6 - up three ticks to tie for the top slot
Family Feud 6.3 - up a tick
Millionaire 1.6 - down a couple ticks to a season and series low, ouch
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat

As I said, Wheel still got the edge in viewer numbers. TV by the Numbers has the averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.5M (weekend repeat 4.1M), Jeopardy 10.1M, Family Feud 9.3M. It's tight among the top three. We'll see if Chris Harrison can stop the bleeding in Millionaire's numbers. If he can maintain something like the season-to-date 1.9 household rating, the show should survive.

TV Newser says that GSN cooled a little from its torrid pace in the first quarter. But the network still put up decent numbers for the week of April 6-12. 386K/310K/435K viewer averages prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 40th, 30th and 35th in the windows.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ongoing saga goes on

My blog entry didn't have anything to do with it, but the Millionaire situation has clarified. The show will go on but Terry Crews won't. Chris Harrison will take over for the syndie's fourteenth season.

Gotta admit I didn't see anything like this coming. Bringing on the host of The Bachelor? That's an offbeat move, to say the least. Harrison is certainly competent enough but I figured the producers would sink or swim with Terry.

The press release says that Crews will leave due to the demands of other projects. While I'm sure those other projects are demanding, the news from the Nielsen Company has not been kind. The show's ratings have continued to erode.

Will Chris Harrison be able to reverse the steady decline in the numbers? Well, he probably won't yell at the audience, which may come as something of a relief. But the franchise may just be getting tired. It's been a long, long run in broadcast and syndication, and the format has been tweaked almost beyond recognition. Still, it's nice to see the quizzer get one more chance.

So with the exception of Let's Ask America, all the syndie game shows will return this fall. My ratings posts will still have a bunch of shows to cover.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

It was just a wrong answer

Sometimes the social network gets weird...really, really weird. Like when Tom Imler gave a wrong answer on Jeopardy.

The clue was: "In common law, the age of this, signaling adulthood, is presumed to be 14 in boys and 12 in girls." Poor Tom blurted out: "What is the age of consent." Which almost immediately got the game show Interwebs in an uproar that the father of three was a sexual predator looking for consenting 12-year-old girls.

He just made a wrong guess, for crying out loud. In an NY Daily News interview, Tom blasts his Net critics, calling them "trolls" (which is accurate enough) and dismissing the whole hoohah as "utterly ridiculous."

He got thrown by the phrase "common law," which evoked thoughts of common-law relationships. Tom blames a "poorly worded" question for the kerfuffle. In fact, the wording was fine. Jeopardy wants to lead the contestants astray sometimes. It's supposed to be a hard game to play.

Tom's had his uncomfortable fifteen minutes, and life will go on. He finished third on his ep, so it's not like he'll be around for a while to catch even more silliness.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Ongoing saga

It's turning into a game show cliffhanger. Will Millionaire last another season?

On the plus side the show still rates higher than Celebrity Name Game, which got a renewal. On the not so plus side, the numbers continue to erode with the leather-lunged Terry Crews at the helm. And on the who-the-flip-knows side, the show will hold an open audition for contestants later this month in New York. The casting call doesn't necessarily mean a renewal, but it's a slightly hopeful sign.

Just on general principles, I'd like to see any entrant in our little genre survive. Millionaire remains an iconic brand, after all, even if the audience has shriveled and the gameplay bears only a vague likeness to the Regis classic of oh so many years ago. I'm a sucker for quizzers, and Millionaire is one of the toughest ones around. All the random nonsense in the current version bugs me a little, and Terry wears on the ears after five minutes or so, but I hope the syndie squeaks through for a fourteenth season.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sympathy for five-letter words

A story on the Woman's Day site recalls a bunch of game shows we're supposed to have forgotten. Except they're mostly classics that the game show Interwebs have never forgotten.

I was happy to see Lingo sneak in at the very end of the list. This is a show that never got major exposure in the U.S., except on that little game show network. And it's not 80 years old...or at least the successful, long-running Chuck Woolery version isn't too old. The basic Lingo format dates back to 1987 with Michael Reagan.

For the longest time GSN ground their hundreds of Lingo eps though legendary rerun abuse. But the show finally disappeared from the schedule. Nice to see that somebody in the general entertainment media still remembers it. I even liked the remake with Bill Engvall, though it was much drubbed on the Net.

I've got a feeling the format will resurface somewhere one of these days. Those five-letter puzzles get habit-forming in a hurry.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

ABC gets game

The warm weather arrives and brings game shows with it. Networks are looking to catch the same summer lightning in a bottle that produced Regis and the show with a million bucks.

As a faux tweet noted, ABC will debut 500 Questions on May 20. This Mark Burnett project has already generated some buzz. It's a nine-night game show "arc," to use a pretentious word. Trivia buffs face "the most difficult general knowledge questions ever devised." Is that all? Miss three in a row and you're gone. CNN business guru Richard Quest hosts.

I'm not the only one who has noticed Steve Harvey's nice ratings. ABC will give the rubber-faced comic a six-ep run of Celebrity Family Feud starting June 21. I hear that Steve is familiar with the format. The network says they will use "fan favorite" celebs, which makes sense. Fan-hated celebs don't get the same numbers. Steve will yuk it up as always.

Will either of these efforts succeed? It's hard to see how Harvey could miss. He's Nielsen magic lately. The hardcore trivia show might have more limited appeal.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Good old days

Older is better is a common theme on the game show Interwebs. An odd example cropped up in the screenshot from Game Show Confessions.

I haven't noticed that "the same tired lines" are getting used over and over again nowadays, as compared to the supposedly good old days. Maybe I've just watched too many What's My Line eps over the past few months. But I must have heard "Miss or Mrs?", "sign in, please", and "one down and nine to go" 400 times or so (slight exaggeration). If anything, there seem to be fewer canned lines in today's shows, exactly to avoid that kind of monotony.

But the myth of the golden age dies hard. Once upon a time all was good and fair in the game show world. Then 1990 hit - or something hit - and everything went down the drain.

Of course, there are good shows and bad shows and in-between shows today, just as there have been since the dawn of game shows in the ancient radio days. And hosts in every era have used canned lines, though I see no real evidence that the practice is increasing. The more things change...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ratings: Alex back at number two

Syndie game shows had a blah week for March 23-29. Alex got a little bit of good news, though, as Steve slipped back to number three. But it's bunched up close at the top. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - down two ticks
Jeopardy 6.3 - flat and back at number two
Family Feud 6.2 - down three ticks
Millionaire 1.8 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - down a tick, it was a forgettable week

Pat and Vanna led all syndies in household rating and viewers. The viewer averages from TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 10.2M (weekend repeat 4.5M), Jeopardy 9.5M (weekend repeat 3.5M), Family Feud 9.2M. The temps are getting warmer, the days are getting longer, the ratings are getting softer.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Feeling guilty

I hate rooting against contestants on game shows. It's a lot nicer and less wearing just to root for everybody. Plus I don't feel guilty.

But sometimes I can't help myself. The current four-day champ on Jeopardy is a lady named Kerry Greene. I'm sure she's a very nice person, kind to everybody including strangers and dogs, and even strange dogs.

But her manner on the show just bugs the hades outa me. She answers in a bored flat tone, as if she's irritated at having to answer at all. It's like we're cutting into her free time with this stupid game. She doesn't intend this effect, of course. It's just an unconscious mannerism.

Today she was in third place going to Final Jeopardy. As much as I tried to fight it, I couldn't help rooting for either of her opponents to end her streak. Which didn't happen. She got lucky when both her foes goofed the clue. She'll be around again tomorrow.

Maybe I should start rooting for her. Reverse hex? Oh jeeze, I feel so guilty.

UPDATE: Just to prove that Kerry doesn't know (or care) what I think, she's now won her fifth game. She again had a bit of luck in Final Jeopardy as the leading contestant goofed it.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The goof seen round the world

I've used it for a faux tweet (two of 'em, in fact) and a video of the day. So I might as well get an entry from it, too.

As the screenshot shows, I'm talking about model Manuela Arbelaez' goof on The Price is Right. In case you've been adrift in the South Pacific for the last few days, Manuela mistakenly revealed the winning price on a new car while the game was still in progress. Much social media hilarity and general rumpus ensued. At last count, the video of the goof has piled up over ten million hits on YouTube.

Manuela is taking it in stride, tweeting some jokes about the gaffe and making the media rounds. It's no doubt the best thing that's ever happened to her career, not to mention that the show has garnered planeloads of free publicity. Of course, The Price is Right didn't fire her or penalize her in any way. They should give her a free trip, in fact.

She does say that she'll be super-careful on her next "Five Price Tags" segment.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Money out the wazoo

Around the game show Interwebs, you hear some grumps about "mo' money syndrome." That refers to game shows which throw huge money at otherwise unremarkable games.

The people who grump about this syndrome probably won't like the Vegas-based Monopoly Millionaires Club. This show comes to you courtesy of state lotteries, known for having more money than God and the Federal Reserve put together. And the lotteries have thrown tons of money at the games in this project. Check the first episode on YouTube if you don't believe me.

There's no skill required of the contestants, other than knowing when to stop getting greedy. Which is a useful ability in Vegas, after all. Contestants just roll dice or pull switches or press buttons at random, and hope that the money keeps piling up and that they don't go broke.

Despite the fluky nature of the gameplay, there's a lot to like about the show. The Monopoly-themed set is spiffy-diffy, the audience is super-enthusiastic because they get a cut of the winnings, Billy Gardell hosts with natural aplomb and an occasional quip, and the pace is pleasantly brisk. So if large-money games of pure dumb luck are your cup of tea, drink up.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Birth of a game show

Somebody at TLC had a bright idea. Let's take Cash Cab into the delivery room!

The result is Labor Games, which will get a May 9 preview during TLC's "The Mother of All Weeks." Isn't that so sweet? I'd like to report that Ben Bailey, dressed as an obstetrician and wearing a surgical mask, barges in on the parents-to-be, flips a switch for lights in the ceiling, and shouts: "You're on Labor Pains! It's a TV game show that takes place right here in my taxi, I mean, my birthing room!"

Sadly, we only get Lisa Arch gently introducing herself to the expectant parents and asking politely if they'd like to be on a game show. Though they do set off a few visual effects...because this is TV, after all. Then they ask mom and dad seven questions, and each correct answer earns the anxious couple some baby-related merchandise. If they answer all seven, they earn some cash.

It sounds like such a high-sugar-content show, it might just work. TLC is the right network for it, anyway.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Sometimes our little genre produces the wrong kind of history.

Whitney Shields, a University of Arizona pharmacist and a really good puzzle solver, cruised through the front game on Wheel of Fortune tonight. She piled up over forty-one grand in cash and prizes and ran away from the competition by miles. She also went to the bonus round with the million dollar wedge.

And that's when things got awful. She drew a nasty puzzle: "Without a doubt." She got little help from the letters she called and never came close to solving. So Pat Sajak said his usual words about how we didn't want to see the million dollars in the envelope. And sure enough, we saw the million dollars, as the screenshot proves. Yeeeeeeeeeeouch.

This is the first true million dollar loss on the show. Game Show Kingdom has all the painful details, and video of the brutal moment has already gone up on YouTube. It's not like Whitney didn't win anything. After all, one contestant on this ep went away with only the pity thousand. But it's still a tough, tough loss.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Not a joke, unfortunately

Every show biz awards show has been canceled. People just got sick of the self-congratulation.

Sadly, April Fools. The Daytime Emmys, the unloved stepchild of an unloved genre, will go on. And on and on. I have to report on them because there are a few categories for game shows.

Feud, TPiR and Jeopardy are the nominees for best show. Craig Ferguson, Pat Sajak, Steve Harvey and Todd Newton are the nominees for best host. Jeopardy, LMAD and The Chase are the nominees for best direction.

And that's it. Game shows appear in a few other technical categories, but who cares? The show rolls April 26 on the old TV Guide channel, now called Pop. Expect dozens (okay, slight exaggeration) to watch.

Halfway seriously, why don't they just call it a day on the Daytime Emmys? The show got exiled to an online site last year because no TV network wanted it. Back when soap operas were big, the show might have made some sense. Now it's the merest of afterthoughts.