Sunday, May 31, 2015

Summertime and the game shows are easy

Media Life Magazine is an odd duck in the Internet world.

The site's purported audience is media buyers, which seems like a very narrow niche to target. The sacred 18-49 demo completely mesmerizes the site's writers. If you fall outside this age group, you might as well not exist as far as Media Life Magazine is concerned. The site also seems populated by NBA shills, who are constantly spinning the league's ratings to make them look as good as possible.

I used to follow Media Life Magazine fairly closely for ratings info, but other and better sources for the numbers have opened up on the Net. So I don't venture over to Gene Ely's neighborhood much anymore. But I happened to see this story about Fox's summer game shows: 5th Grader, Bullseye and Boom.

Of course, the site evaluates the shows solely on their performance in the Sacred Demo. So Bullseye gets something of a thumbs up, because its debut 1.1 18-49 rating was three whole tenths better than 5th Grader's. But hey, in today's fractured TV world, you don't turn up your nose at three tenths of a point in the Sacred Demo. And Media Life Magazine does admit that 5th Grader is a low-risk play, no matter how the ratings shake out.

The site also predicts doom for Boom (sorry) due to the terrorism overtones of exploding bombs. That's at least a possibility. All those issues surfaced when the show debuted in Israel, and last year there were reports of internal dissension at Fox over the format.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

More and more Buzzr

Maybe I'm ODing on Buzzr news. But a game show blog has to cover the launch of a game show subchannel, right? I've been chatting a lot at Game Show Paradise about the launch...

Other poster: Classic TV has thrived in broadcast television, and that's why they've launched this channel, here, rather than on cable and satellite. MeTV, Antenna, Cozi, and the bunch have some, but not a substantially larger amount of programming that originally aired in the 80s.

First, there's a whole lot of difference between old TV shows in general and old TV game shows. GSN has run old game shows for a long time. They get modest overall ratings and demos just this side of death. Sorry for the blunt language, but it's true. If old game shows were such a surefire hit - or even a modest hit or any kind of hit at all - the nostalgia cable nets and classic TV subchannels would be all over them. Those operations have seen the numbers from GSN and have passed on the "opportunity." Instead, they've stuck with old sitcoms and dramas that have far broader appeal.

As I said before, old game shows remain a small sub-niche within the already small niche of game shows. I know this isn't welcome news around here, but sometimes I have to see what's in front of my nose. Game show freaks like us always tend to overestimate the popularity of game shows in general and old game shows in particular. (I'm echoing BuzzerBlog's Facebook comments on Buzzr TV, which is rare for me but when they're right, they're right.)

Anyway, the beta Titan TV site has a Buzzr schedule up, with detailed descriptions of all the shows on subchannel 9.3. Just use the forward arrow key to reach June 1 at 7:00 AM. There seem to be slight differences from the schedule leaked on Game Show Forum. Not huge differences, though. I think Press Your Luck at 8:00 PM is a typo. It's probably LMAD, Match Game, Tattletales in prime time, as Game Show Forum listed.

A really offbeat feature of the Titan TV schedule for Buzzr is that Wayne Brady (???) is listed as host of the Let's Make a Deal eps. I have to believe this is a typo, because Monty is all over the Buzzr Facebook and Twitter sites, with Wayne nowhere to be seen. Dawson is listed as the host for all the Family Feud eps, Perry for all the Card Sharks eps, Cullen for all the Blockbusters eps, and Rayburn for all the Match Game eps. In other words, there don't seem to be varied versions of the shows. The graveyard shift also looks to be the black and white versions of the shows - WML, IGAS and TTTT - not any of the newer remakes. This really is a very old schedule, with much more age on it than GSN's launch schedule in 1994.

Who knows if the schedule is accurate or not? We'll see soon enough. Game Show Forum reports that Buzzr has already soft-launched on a Los Angeles subchannel with a repeating Perry Card Sharks ep.

Quick reaction to Chain Reaction

GSN has released a promo for the new Mike Catherwood edition of Chain Reaction. And Hollywood Junket earlier offered a sneak peek at the new eps. Putting the two together allows me some quick and dirty reactions to the new version.

First, the look and feel of the show has changed from the split-screen ladder appearance that dates from the early 1990s, if not before. I like the less cut-up look, though this is strictly a matter of taste and I'm not even gonna try to argue those critters. The essential front game looks to be untouched, though the speed chains have apparently vanished.

But the speedy stuff reappears in the new bonus round. Instead of the lame "build a question" format, the front game winners will have 45 seconds to complete a chain. This approach has been seen before in the show's long and winding history.

Hollywood Junket assures us that some of the chains are "quite crude," which is no surprise with Catherwood at the helm. I can hear the Harvey-Feud-ish complaints already. For literally years I've been whining for a Chain Reaction remake, so this is one rewind I will follow closely. There's no word yet on a debut date.

UPDATE: GSN announces that Chain Reaction will debut July 16 along with the new season of The Chase.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Getting Buzzr

As Buzzr supposedly gets ready to launch on June 1, the network still hasn't published a schedule or a list of channels where viewers can watch.

I'm starting to think that nobody's at home at Buzzr. But the YouTube cousin of the digital subchannel has managed to turn out a bunch of videos, so I assume that Buzzr TV will indeed launch as scheduled. (As reported already, a weekday schedule has leaked with Match Game running a GSN-Harvey-Feud-like eight times a day.)

The question is whether much of anybody will be able to watch Buzzr. A few posts ago I gave Wikipedia's 37% household coverage estimate for the subchannel. Now TV News Check says that even this underwhelming number may be too high. They're reporting 23%.

It looks like my household won't be among the lucky few. I haven't seen any indication that my cable provider will pick up Buzzr. And there's no way I'm going to bother with setting up an antenna on my TV for one subchannel. I don't even know how to do it.

The bottom line is that if Buzzr can't get onto cable/satellite systems, it won't even reach most of the people in the areas where it has a deal with the Fox O&O's. The overwhelming majority of people in the U.S. - me, for instance - don't watch TV over the air any more.

UPDATE: Buzzr's weekend schedule is out from the same source on what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board. Some oddball educational stuff crops up, which is required from an over-the-air operation. And some odder ball reality shows turn up on Sunday night. Otherwise, it's the same oldies as on weekdays.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Eye of the bull

Fox's Bullseye is the latest entrant in what I call the extreme Beat the Clock sub-genre of game shows. Eight contestants go through three rounds of goofy outdoor stunts to win fifty grand. The common theme is that the contestants throw something or throw themselves at, yes, bullseyes.

The stunts are okay to watch. In fact, they look like fun. At least there's far less physical abuse of the contestants than on Wipeout, probably the most successful show in the sub-genre. Trouble is, there's a lot of interview and back-story filler between the stunts, which slows down the pace too much. And watching people do the same stunt over and over does get a bit repetitious.

Kellan Lutz and Godfrey Danchimah handle the host chores competently enough, though there's not much real hosting to do beyond contestant interviews and explanations of the stunts. My suggestion for the show would be more action and less filler. The actual stunt footage could have easily been squeezed down into a half-hour. My attention wandered over the show's hour length.

UPDATE: Bullseye did okay in the ratings, not terrible, not great. 3.4M total viewers and a 1.1 18-49 rating. The demo was obviously better than the viewer number.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Buzzr's reported schedule

A source on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's is reporting the Buzzr weekday schedule. Looks like an 8:00 AM-2:00 PM block will repeat 2:00 PM-8:00 PM. Prime time is Let's Make a Deal, Match Game, and (rather oddly) Tattletales. I would have figured Family Feud in prime, but what do I know? The prime time block then repeats 11:00 PM-2:00 AM. A 2:00 AM-4:00 AM graveyard black-and-white block repeats 4:00 AM-6:00 AM.

The Price is Right is conspicuously absent, as are any non-Fremantle shows. Sorry to be cynical, but if Buzzr buys Nielsen demo data, they may set a record with a triple-digit median viewer age (slight, but only slight, exaggeration). The reported schedule, though I can't vouch for it:

6AM/6:30A Family Feud
7A/7:30A Tattletales
8A Child's Play
8:30A Body Language
9A Blockbusters
9:30 Card Sharks
10A/10:30A Match Game
11A/11:30A Family Feud
12P/12:30P Super Password
1P/1:30P Press Your Luck
2P Child's Play
2:30P Body Language
3P Blockbusters
3:30P Card Sharks
4P/4:30P Match Game
5P/5:30P Family Feud
6P/6:30P Super Password
7P/7:30P Press Your Luck
8P/8:30P Let's Make a Deal
9P/9:30P Match Game
10P/10:30P Tattletales
11P/11:30P Let's Make a Deal
12A/12:30A Match Game
1A/1:30A Tattletales
2A-4A "Buzz Til Dawn" (To Tell the Truth/What's My Line/I've Got a Secret)
4A-6A "Buzz Til Dawn" (To Tell the Truth/What's My Line/I've Got a Secret)

There's no sign of the Buzzr YouTube shorts, as had been rumored. Sooner or later - my guess is sooner - something with less dust on it will probably turn up on the schedule. And we'll restart the entire cycle of GSN-ish complaints about too much modern and original stuff and not enough classics.

Ratings: Pat and Vanna and Alex have a nice week

Syndication in general did pretty well for the week of May 11-17. The twin towers among syndie game shows also enjoyed some Nielsen love. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.7 - up three ticks to tie the vocal judge for number one among all syndies
Jeopardy 6.5 - up four ticks
Family Feud 5.9 - flat
Millionaire 1.6 - flat at an all-time low
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - up a tick as Craig tries to get out of the basement

Pat and Vanna didn't have to worry about loud Judy in total viewers. They led all syndies easily. The viewer averages from TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 10.6M (weekend repeat 4.8M) Jeopardy 10.0M (weekend repeat 3.7M), Family Feud 8.7M.

TV Newser reports that GSN did pretty much its usual ratings lately for the May 18-24 week. 354K/283K/368K viewer averages prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 39th, 34th and 39th in the windows.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Back and forth

My remote control got a workout tonight as I bounced between 5th Grader's debut on Fox and the ongoing 500 Questions on ABC.

I just love it when networks pit shows in our little genre against each other. ABC made a habit of this when Millionaire was hot. They neutron-bombed any competing game show by scheduling Regis directly opposite it. Oh well, at least tonight's clash made for an involved viewing experience.

The first thing I noticed is that the complainers who groused about 500 Questions' supposedly pokey pace didn't know from nuthin'. 5th Grader's debut crawled through one (1) money tree in the entire episode. Eleven mostly easy questions were very well-spaced throughout the hour. Compared to this "pace," 500 Questions zoomed at warp factor 99 bazillion.

Not to mention that the ABC quizzer posed questions that were far more challenging than Fox's schoolkid effort. (How do you spell "nickel"? Really?) I know, 5th Grader's fans - and I'm one of them - will say that the Fox show makes up for the glacial pace with cute kids, a hopelessly likable host, and lots of human interest appeal.

5th Grader did not end well and 500 Questions saw the elimination of its best player. You might call it a competition in grimness, though the main contestants still went away with some loot. And while I'm at it, 5th Grader spoiled much of the episode at the top of the show. Way to kill a lot of the suspense, guys.

UPDATE: In something of a surprise for me, 500 Questions beat 5th Grader in the ratings. 4.7M total viewers and a 1.1 18-49 rating vs. 3.3M and 0.8. Maybe a quicker pace does help.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Checking in with Steve

An anonymous commenter on Game Show Network News has called me "the Steve Beverly of the Internet game show world."

To put it mildly, I don't think the title is meant as a compliment. But I never had too many problems with Steve. Sure, he was opinionated and brash in his game show commentary, but so am I, and so is just about everybody else in the "Internet game show world." So I guess we're all like Steve to some extent. But the remark got me wondering just what happened to the Prof. He abandoned his game show blog a long time ago, and I hadn't really followed him lately.

Turns out Steve has been on Twitter all along. His Twitter site is a quirky but rather charming mixture of old TV news, new TV news, and various other odds and ends. Which includes screenprints of ancient TV Guides, like the one about the 1960 Preakness in this entry. (In case you're wondering, Bally Ache was the winner with Robert Ussery aboard.)

Steve still offers some game show comments, like a nod to actor John Schuck for his Pyramid skills. But he now ranges a lot more widely in his TV coverage. I'll look in now and then and see what the Prof is up to.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Further adventures of Arthur

Somehow I missed the hoohah a few weeks ago involving one of the most - let's use a delicate word - polarizing figures in our little genre's history.

Seems that former Jeopardy champ Arthur Chu has waded into the tedious Gamergate rumpus. I'm not going anywhere close to the details of this absurd stink, which is good for nothing but a few laughs from neutrals like moi. Anyway, a bar in Washington D.C. was going to host a meet-up for one side in the goofy spat.

Chu happens to be on the other side. Apparently believing that a few wins on Jeopardy make him Plato's philosopher-king, Chu sent an e-mail to the bar's owners that tried to pressure them into canceling the meet-up.

In a small but welcome victory for free speech, the bar's owners told Chu to stuff it. Sadly, some nutcase - I can't believe it was Chu himself - sent a bomb threat to the bar that brought out the cops. Don't worry, there was no bomb and they all lived happily (well, ordinarily) ever after.

If you want a scrupulously unbiased account of the happenings, try this. If you want a completely anti-Chu but thoroughly hilarious (and R-rated) account, try this.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Getting publicity at airports

I've been noticing a few stories in Google News about Game Plane lifting off from various airports.

It's a natural way to get free publicity for the show on the local news (not to mention a free plug for Allegiant Air). This story on the Quad Cities news is typical. Mark Walberg shows up to wax eloquent about the fun and games which await the lucky passengers, er, contestants. It's a slightly rowdier crowd than he usually encounters on Antiques Roadshow.

Game Plane is so cheap and cheesy in every way that I can't help rooting for it. Yeah, I know it steals from every game show in history, with the possible exception of Gong Show. But watching Walberg at work is always a pleasure. The guy ranks high on my personal list of best hosts ever. It's too bad that he's never had a huge hit to cement his reputation.

He's still my dark horse candidate to replace Alex when the trivia monarch hangs 'em up. Are you listening, Harry Friedman?

An unrelated housekeeping note: beginning today, I've decided to keep the last five "Videos From Our Little Genre" in the sidebar. The clips will scroll off after five days, similar to how faux tweets eventually scroll off.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hardcore nut

I'm on a 500 Questions kick, so I might as well stay on it for a little while. The current incumbent contestant is Campbell University librarian Steve Bahnaman. Naturally, the Campbell website carries a contestant story about him.

Steve has the required sense of humor about all this trivia silliness. He concedes that the show recruited him through "the underground apps for hardcore nuts like me." Nuts are buried underground sometimes.

He has an interesting educational background, having started in a theology Ph.D. program. "But to do that requires you caring a lot about a specific theologian or a single thing and study that for five years as hard as you can." So he switched to library science and the rest is nerd history. As you might expect, he was on a Quiz Bowl team and has always been drawn to books that have "a lot of facts in them." How did this guy not end up on Jeopardy? Oh well, give him time.

UPDATE: I was afraid that I might have jinxed Steve, but he made it through Friday's show to the 106th question. It was a perilous trip, though, as he fought off quite a few two-wrong questions and a challenger who was tough in the battles. He's piled up nearly seventy thousand in winnings.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pressure quizzer

This time I remembered to watch 500 Questions. Gotta admit, I'm happy I tuned in. Tonight's ep held my interest through the full two hours.

Richard Quest barks out questions at hapless contestants who try to answer, you guessed it, five hundred of the little buggers. No multiple choices, no helps, no lifelines, no friendly Mr. Philbin to guide you up the money tree. Just a host who seems happiest when he's reminding you (loudly) that three wrong answers in a row means you're gone.

Plus there's a challenger perched like a vulture, who occasionally gets a chance to assist you to the exit. This format piles on the pressure, which I liked in a sadistic way. Not to mention that the pace is pleasantly brisk, with just a few seconds allowed for each answer. I've seen criticism that there are too many rules and question variations, but after a while I got the hang of the proceedings.

And once in a longer while I knew something that the contestants didn't know, like Australia produces a lot of opals. But then I would goof four in a row and get reminded why I'm not cut out for this show.

500 Questions turned in respectable numbers on its first night. 5.1M viewers and a 1.2 18-49 rating. We'll see if the numbers can hold up as well as Richard Quest's voice.

UPDATE: The show slipped a bit in its second go-round. 4.6M viewers and a 1.0 18-49 rating. Still pretty decent compared to the (mostly rerun) competition.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I was going to post my review of 500 Questions tonight. Except something funny happened. I goofed and forgot to watch the show.

Yeah, there are sites advertising the full episode on YouTube. But I'm afraid the copyright police will show up on my doorstep if I try one of them. So I'll just wait until tomorrow to watch the second ep and give you my earthshaking opinion of the (reportedly difficult) quizzer. Meanwhile, I found this contestant story on Google News about a sports junkie enjoying a dream come true by playing Sports Jeopardy.

At first glance it's just like a bunch of other stories on the web about people realizing a dream by guessing prices on The Price is Right or figuring out word puzzles on Wheel of Fortune. But the story of Ty Sellers and his route to Sports Jeopardy reminds me of just how much fun a game show can be.

Which is something I have to work hard to remember, especially when I get bogged down in one of the endless arguments that are such a lovely part of the game show Interwebs. No matter how much people (including me) whine back and forth about our little genre, a lot of folks get a lot of enjoyment from watching and playing game shows. This is, after all, literally fun and games.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ratings: syndies barely budge

The week of May 4-10 was a boring ratings period for syndies. Game shows were no exception. There was hardly any movement, though Pat and Vanna did reclaim the number one slot. TV News Check brings the ho-hum household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - up a tick and second behind the abrasive judge in overall syndication
Jeopardy 6.1 - down a couple ticks
Family Feud 5.9 - flat
Millionaire 1.6 - flat at an all-time low
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - you guessed it, flat

Pat and Vanna did top the syndie list in total viewers. TV by the Numbers posts the averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.M (weekend repeat 4.0M), Jeopardy 9.2M, Family Feud 8.5M. We're getting toward the summer doldrums.

TV Newser reports that GSN didn't move much from the previous week, either. 362K/274K/383K viewer averages prime time/total day/extended prime time for the May 11-17 week. The network ranked 41st, 33rd and 38th in the windows.

More doom and gloom for GSN?

As a kind of follow-up to the previous post, a classics fan makes a prediction on Game Show Network News and I respond…

Classics fan: I don't know the actual # of potential households Buzzr will be available to, but my prediction is they'll take 50k off GSN avg. numbers.

Wikipedia (usual caveats) estimates 37% coverage in the U.S. for Buzzr. Even that is an exaggeration because many households - mine included, I'm afraid - may not get the subchannel on their cable systems.

Anyway, it's hard to see how such a sparsely distributed subchannel could have much of an impact on GSN's numbers. Every day GSN faces network and syndie game shows that are universally distributed in the U.S. and pull far larger numbers than GSN itself. If the network can withstand that kind of intense competition, I think it can survive a digital subchannel most people can't watch even if they want to.

I sure don't see a 50K knockoff of the total day average. GSN's most recent total day number was 278K, so you'd be talking about close to a 20% drop. Looks way too big to me.

GSN seems to share this lack of concern. Their June 1-7 schedule makes no changes except for a one-time Skin Wars/Harvey Feud marathon on Saturday. Doesn't exactly look like a move to keep oldies fans from flocking to Buzzr.

UPDATE: Buzzr TV has released a few videos on Facebook. All oldies, though I didn't see any black and white stuff.

UPDATED UPDATE: A poster on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's says: "Per a press source, the Buzzr launch schedule hasn't been finalized yet, so stay tuned." Gotta agree with Chad Mosher, who responds: "I don't work in running TV stations, but wouldn't that be an important thing to have figured out a week and a half before you're set to take off?" Your guess may be as good as Buzzr execs on what exactly the network will run.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Non sequitur

Saw the screenshot from Game Show Confessions, and I had to smile a little.

It doesn't surprise me that GSC is upset over the dwindling amount of pre-1990 material on our little game show network. That's a matter of taste and there's no arguing them critters. But I don't get the argument that game show hardcores posting complaints on GSN's Facebook page prove that other people besides game show hardcores are upset.

The folks who post on GSN's Facebook page are, almost by definition, hardcore Internet game show fans. I doubt that many, if any, casual fans even know about the Facebook page, much less bother to post there. In fact, I'd bet that the Facebook posters are exactly the hardcore types who will be targeted by Buzzr's new TV digital subchannel. (At least at first. Buzzr is already making noises about putting newer material on the channel, such as the videos from its YouTube outlet.)

Needless to say but I'll say it anyway, the "slew of complaints" on a Facebook page mean nothing, and I mean literally nothing, compared to the numbers from the Nielsen Company. GSN just racked up its most watched year in 2014 and its most watched quarter in January-March 2015, something I've been yelled at for even daring to mention. So the possibility that the network will change course due to Facebook complaints is zero, zip, nada, none.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Trust issues

A couple of faux tweets lately have mentioned Who Do You Trust, the ancient Johnny Carson game show from the 1950s. I can barely remember watching the show myself, which only shows how ancient I've gotten.

To my disappointment YouTube doesn't offer much of the show. I guess a lot of it got wiped, as ABC was wont to do with such goofy daytime filler. But I did find this 1958 ep, when the show was still called Do You Trust Your Wife.

The show was really a clone of Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life. Which meant the gameplay was strictly a secondary consideration. Instead, Who Do You Trust was mostly a monologue and interview vehicle for the absurdly young-looking Johnny. In the linked video he engages in some swashbuckling swordplay with an eccentric German-born fencing master. Johnny eventually stabs the guy in the back. That may not be sporting, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

Bill Nimmo was the show's announcer. This was before Ed McMahon, who joined the show a little later and went on to a fairly well-known partnership with Johnny. The cheesiest (and most endearing) part of the show was the constant organ music playing in the background. Wikipedia tells me that John Gart provided the keyboard stylings.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

500 of these suckers

ABC's 500 Questions debuts May 20, and this promo answers a few questions itself.

For instance, Pam Mueller of Jeopardy fame is one of the contestants. And I would have a tough time answering any of the 500 questions. I only got one of the five sample queries in the promo right, and that was a lucky guess. Plus the set is really big, there's a clock ticking away, three wrong answers in a row finishes you, and there is some kind of head-to-head confrontation between the contestants.

Meanwhile, host Richard Quest doesn't play Mr. Nice Guy, as he seems to delight in reminding everybody about the automatic ejection for three wrong responses. But nobody expected Quest to be a sweet fellow. Regis, he ain't.

Originally set for nine nights, the show has been pared back to seven. Does this indicate ABC's tepid expectations for the quizzer? We'll see what the Nielsen Company thinks, starting in a few days.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Games all over the place

A little blurb I found in Google News talks up Heads Up, the app that's due to become an HLN game show one of these days. Which leads to the whole subject of computer apps and traditional game shows.

The overlap is inevitable, I guess. If people like playing a computer app, they might like watching other people play the same thing on a game show. So an enterprising producer (in this case Ellen Degeneres) gets the bright idea to put the game on TV. Who knows, maybe it'll work. Heads Up is a frisky little Pyramid knockoff, after all.

Ideas for game shows come from everywhere. To go back to ancient times, Goodson and Todman decided to produce I've Got a Secret, which began as a shameless ripoff of What's My Line, because they figured they might as well copy themselves instead of letting somebody else do it. The two shows then diverged over time until the family resemblance was barely noticeable.

By the way, the guy on the extreme right in the screenshot looks like Steve Zaragoza, Internet game show host and player. Rumor has it that some of his efforts for the Buzzr YouTube channel might end up on Buzzr's TV digital subchannel. Game shows just pop up everywhere.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Babes, beer and worms

The main idea of CMT's new game show, Pontoon Payday, is to get as many bikini-clad girls onscreen as possible. Which is certainly a noble goal. My politically incorrect self is all for cheesecake on game shows.

The alleged format is that host Frank Nicotero floats into a party-boat marina in his own little skiff and peppers some randomly chosen (but always scantily dressed) contestants with trivia questions. The difficulty level would not challenge Brad Rutter. If the contestants miss one or two queries - I forget the exact number, like it's important - they have to do gross things like eating worms if they want to stay in the game.

Mostly it's just fun and sun and lots of skin. Frank does his Street Smarts party guy routine, and he's as likable as always. In fact, he's the best thing about the show, except the cheesecake. For instance, one of the nubile young ladies got so excited about her winnings that she popped out of her bikini top. Frank was a true gentleman and interposed himself between the camera and the denuded lass.

UPDATE: Pontoon Payday doesn't earn much of a Nielsen payday, only 198K viewers and a 0.08 18-49 rating. A big drop from its Party Down South lead-in.

Pants on fire

As GSN's Lie Detectors dies a slow and mostly unlamented death, I rummaged up this video from the network's Door 3 YouTube channel. It's a little game called Who's the Liar.

At least the video moves quicker than Lie Detectors. Game show legend Wink Martindale and YouTube denizen Trisha Paytas read off three facts about themselves to each other. The other person then has to figure out which of the three facts is a lie.

I'll spoil the video enough to reveal that Wink plays the game a lot better than Trisha. But you probably guessed that already. The channel posted this video late last year, when Wink was still doing his classics shtick on GSN sponsored by Tylenol. The sponsor moved on and Wink hasn't shown up on the network lately. Too bad. He can still do a game show.

By the way, a YouTube commenter doubts that Trisha really has a black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I have a tough time with that "fact" myself. Other commenters speculate about post-video interactions between Wink and Trisha. I won't go there.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Fake game show, real controversy

As a faux tweet noted, the latest game show controversy isn't even about a real game show.

Saturday Night Live parodied Win, Lose or Draw in a riff on the recent violence at the "Draw Muhammad" event. The skit about a fake game show called Picture Perfect first drew some praise for being edgy, which is the easiest thing in the world to be. Then SNL got some pans for not daring to, well, actually draw Muhammad. But these political contretemps were only the beginning.

Critics noted eerie similarities between the SNL skit and an earlier sketch on Canada's This Hour Has 22 Minutes. The comments quickly grew into blunt accusations of plagiarism, complete with huffing and puffing about intellectual property rights and other legal bombast. I'm not a plagiarism lawyer and I don't play one on a game show blog, but the sketches do seem more than a bit alike.

Did SNL writers consciously rip off the Canadian show, or was it all just accidental resemblance? Darned if I know. I didn't write the sketch. Right now SNL isn't saying anything, in an apparent hope that the tempest will expire in the teacup. Which it probably will.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ratings: syndie game shows tumble

Let's just say it was a bad week and get on with the nasty numbers. Every syndie game show slid from the previous week. TV News Check brings the grim household ratings for the April 27-May 3 week...

Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - down five ticks and falls behind the loud judge
Jeopardy 6.3 - down four ticks into a tie with the Sony soulmate
Family Feud 5.8 - down three ticks, this is getting depressing
Millionaire 1.6 - down a tick to tie the previous all-time low
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - down a tick, can't even manage to stay flat as usual

TV by the Numbers reports that the big three all fell below the ten million level. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 9.9M (weekend repeat 3.4M), Jeopardy 9.7M, Family Feud 8.7M. The total viewer numbers still look decent compared to most broadcast prime time offerings.

TV Newser says GSN got okay ratings for the May 4-10 week. 364K/278K/380K viewer averages prime time/total day/extended prime time. Not quite as good as the first quarter, but fewer people are watching TV now as the weather warms. The network ranked 39th, 33rd and 38th in the windows.

Monday, May 11, 2015

True lies

Glancing through the game show Interwebs, I came across one of the odder moments from the 1950s To Tell the Truth.

On November 26, 1957 TTTT introduced the nation to Jack Bothwell, who claimed to have played "Freckles" in the Our Gang comedies of the 1930s. The only problem was that Mr. Bothwell was a fraud who had never acted in the classic series. In an embarrassing goof, the show's producers didn't know about Mr. Bothwell's fibbing, so they presented him as a true Our Gang star. Mark Evanier tells the entire hilarious story on his News From Me blog. Another account appears in the What's My Line episode guide.

One of the admitted impostors on the segment was Barney Martin, who later became a successful actor. As for Jack Bothwell's eventual fate, Mark Evanier offers a wry comment. "Mr. Bothwell made the rounds of talk shows and did personal appearances before he passed away around 1967, complete with newspaper obits about his career in Our Gang."

Somehow it seems appropriate that a good liar fooled a game show which was based on lying. A tangled web.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Reworking 5th Grader

Fox's promo for the new run of 5th Grader shows off the set and the new cast of kids. Things look a little sleeker (techier?) than the old classroom-y set, but the basic format seems to be unchanged. They've still got grade school questions and occasionally clueless adult contestants trying to figure out the answers.

The new eps start May 26. I'd like the show to succeed but there's always a risk in reviving any format. You might lose old fans with any changes, however tiny, while not attracting enough new fans to make the changes worthwhile. 5th Grader was never a ginormous hit for Fox, though it performed respectably enough to last three seasons. We'll see if this summer run leads to anything more.

In today's hopelessly fragmented TV market, broadcast network shows don't have to haul in huge numbers to be considered successful. 5th Grader still has a favorable rep among game show devotees, so I hope enough of them will tune in to make Fox execs reasonably happy.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

GSN and Buzzr

Game Show Paradise chats about the impact of Fremantle's upcoming Buzzr subchannel on GSN. But first I note an interesting change in GSN's schedule...

Score one for you guys. Match Game goes back at 8:00 AM instead of O'Hurley Feud. Just got the new schedules for May 11-17 and May 18-24 and posted them at Game Show Follies.

Other poster: That change never really made sense in the first place, so I'm not surprised to see it rolled back just as quickly.

Now on to Buzzr...

Another poster: As far as Clark Pyramid goes, I wouldn't expect to see it on Buzzr anyway, considering it is owned by Sony and not Fremantle.

Interesting idea. Fremantle, of course, owns GSN's biggest ratings-getter. That show doesn't appear to be going away from GSN any time soon. Would Sony, in turn, consider selling some product to Fremantle for Buzzr? I'm sure Fremantle wouldn't mind having recent Wheel and Jeopardy on their digital subchannel.

Another poster: I mean, maybe if Fremantle is willing to pay some huge bucks for Wheel and Jeopardy, Sony might consider making a sale, but I can't see Fremantle having the desire to pay the kind of money Sony would be expecting for those shows.

Of course, by game show lease standards, we would be talking serious money for recent Wheel and Jeopardy. Sony might consider it if Fremantle overwhelmed them with a massive offer. As for why the shows don't turn up on GSN, your guess is as good as mine.

Let's face it, Buzzr won't get much of an audience with oldies all the time. They're already talking about putting some of their new YouTube stuff on the channel. Relatively new Pat and Vanna and Alex on the channel would do some business.

Friday, May 8, 2015


A faux tweet "reveals" that Monopoly Millionaires Club has a million dollar winner this weekend. The scare quotes around "reveals" indicate that the show itself spoiled the outcome a day ago. Stories turned up in the local Rhode Island media about Susan Campagnone's big win.

Believe it or not, I actually debated whether to post about the event. After all, some readers might have been planning to watch the show. But then I decided that I was being overly scrupulous. If the show itself is going to spoil the outcome, why should I pretend not to know about it? Anybody interested in the show could have found the news with the simplest Google search.

Game shows have been spoiling big events for quite a while now. News about all of Wheel of Fortune's million dollar winners leaked well before air time, as did the info about Ken Jennings' defeat on Jeopardy. If information about a big something or other on a game show has splashed all over the web ahead of time, I'm not going to play dumb. I'll just link to the sources. If game shows can't keep their secrets, neither should I.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Odds on another Ken

When the site is not predicting elections (better in Dem years than GOP ones) Five Thirty Eight looks at Ken Jennings.

Or, to be more exact, they look at why Ken Jennings is almost and nearly and real close to a lock as the only contestant who ever runs off a 74-game streak on Jeopardy. This may seem like a pretty obvious guess, based on cold experience. After all, nobody has come within fifty games of Ken's streak, though hundreds of skilled contestants have taken their hacks on the show.

Five Thirty Eight splatters the wall with various reasons for Ken's uniqueness. His unequaled trivia mastery, the diminished role of buzzer dominance, a better contestant pool, champs going for big dollars instead of winning streaks...and last but surely not least, sheer dumb luck. I'm not sure that I buy all these possible explanations. A lot of trivia masters are out there, and not everybody goes pedal to the metal to win dollars instead of games.

But the bottom line looks safe: Ken's record will likely stand until Jeopardy questions its final answer. And if somebody breaks the record, well, even actuaries and Five Thirty Eight aren't perfect.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Game show delivery

Some critics have described TLC's new game show Labor Games as seriously weird.

They have a point. Playing Cash Cab with a woman about to give birth is, let's say, an edgy idea. But the show actually comes off as more charming than a bare statement of the format would lead you to believe.

Yes, Lisa Arch does barge in on an expectant couple in their birthing room and ask if they want to answer some questions for cash and other goodies. And yes, in the ep I saw we had to watch the woman go though visibly painful contractions as the questions piled up. But the show's crew did know when to back off and let the on-duty nurse tend to the mother-to-be. In fact, the nurse even proved useful as a street shoutout an "umbilical cord" lifeline on one question.

Sadly, the couple missed the toughest question and didn't win the $10,000 college fund. But they won some other stuff for their newborn. And at the end of the show we got to see the new arrival, a baby boy named Cameron. He was just so cute, even if the game show preceding his entrance into the world was a little strange.

UPDATE: Labor Games gets okay ratings. The two eps attract 572K and 489K viewers and decent demos. As you might expect, the show overperforms in the female 12-34 demo.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ratings: syndies get happy

It was a rare week when every syndie game show crept up in the ratings. Okay, the gains weren't huge but it's nice to celebrate, anyway. TV News Check has the household ratings for the April 20-26 week...

Wheel of Fortune 6.8 - up a couple ticks to take the number one spot by itself
Jeopardy 6.7 - up a tick
Family Feud 6.2 - up a tick
Millionaire 1.7 - also up a tick, seeing a pattern?
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - you guessed it, up a tick

The big three syndies also landed in the top four slots on the chart at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.8M (weekend repeat 5.0M), Jeopardy 10.1M (weekend repeat 3.4M), Family Feud 9.2M. The shows won't go broke on those numbers.

GSN had a decent but not great week by recent standards for April 27-May 3. TV Newser says the network did 350K/270K/375K viewer averages prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 43rd, 32nd and 41st in the windows.

Monday, May 4, 2015

So what was wrong with syndie DOND?

Just watched a couple runs of syndie Deal or No Deal on GSN. You know what? I really liked the eps.

Which comes way too late for the syndie, I know. The pared-down syndicated version expired many a moon ago. Smaller money and fewer models - not to mention natural weariness with the format - did the syndie in, though it debuted very nicely in the 2008-09 season.

The show got a second season based on the more than decent numbers. But by early 2010 the ratings had withered and syndie Deal or No Deal was a goner. Still, the syndicated version offered a quicker pace than the original broadcast show, and it was kind of nice to see regular folks opening the suitcases instead of dolled-up models. (Not that I didn't like the models.)

For a (now retired) actuary like moi, the syndie had all of the format's usual fun of mentally calculating expected values - actuaries get fun in strange ways - and future offers. And while syndication demanded smaller dollar amounts, which predictably lessened the tension, there was something more down home about the half-hour version.

The syndie still lives in endless reruns on GSN and gets okay if not overpowering numbers. Maybe the show deserved a season or two more, but the Nielsen Company decided otherwise.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Password is old

I just blogged about Steve Zaragoza, host of the latest (albeit online) incarnation of Password. Wouldn't you know, the What's My Line channel on YouTube just put up a half-century-old ep of the CBS nighttime version of Password, in honor of Jayne Meadows. She and husband Steve Allen were the celebs on the episode.

As you might expect, Jayne and Steve were super-competent at the game, though they both pushed the rule against hand gestures. (This got really iffy in Jayne's lightning round adventures. At one point her civvie partner actually looked away as she began to gesture.) It's like they were trying to invent Pyramid a decade before Bob Stewart did.

This original nighttime version of Password featured one pair of civvie contestants after another. It got almost confusing as civvies came and went in a hurry. What didn't seem to hurry was the gameplay. One excruciatingly drawn-out round went through all ten points as the contestants flailed away at "cosmetics." The Password Plus/Super Password revivals sped up the gameplay, much to everybody's relief.

At the top of the show Jayne congratulated host Allen Ludden on his recent marriage. The bride, of course, was Betty White, who just got a lifetime achievement award at this year's Daytime Emmys. The cliche is true: history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

An online career?

An item about Rebecca Grant of ancient GSN fame (Throut and Neck, which I actually watched) brought me to our little game show network's attempt to get hip with the YouTube crowd, Door 3. If the fellow in the screenshot looks ever so slightly familiar, it's because he's branching out on YouTube game shows. He's Steve Zaragoza, last seen hosting Buzzr's YouTube version of Password. This guy is building an online career in game shows, or something like game shows. His contribution to GSN's Door 3 was Hipster Challenge, sort of his (appropriately loud) answer to Billy on the Street.

This Hipster playlist from a year ago gives you a pretty good idea. Steve remonstrates with innocent passers-by, much like Billy, and questions them on goofball stuff and oddball trivia. The videos last just over three minutes at the most, so the time commitment is not severe.

Steve didn't lose any of his volume as he went on to the more classic realms of Buzzr's Password. At least he didn't have to accost strangers on the highways and byways because he had captive contestants in a studio. Plus an actual game show format. He's moving on up in the YouTube game show world. And he's getting a lot more views on Buzzr.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Going nuclear

At Game Show Paradise we chew over GSN's future...

Other poster: Sony owns GSN. Sony also owns Wheel. There's really no reason Wheel isn't airing on GSN right now unless Sony's too stingy to pay royalties or they don't want people to do the whole compare-and-contrast thing with the first-run shows.

Of course, Wheel has aired on GSN in the past, but they were only very old eps that got mediocre numbers at best. The one time that GSN aired reasonably modern-day Wheel - it was a marathon of 2005-06 shows telecast on Black Friday, 2010 - the network got blowout numbers. Just ridiculous viewer totals, 500K+ and 600K+, unprecedented numbers for GSN daytime. And the marathon received no promotion. God knows what the numbers would have been with any kind of advertising.

So something has to be going on to keep GSN from running recent eps of Wheel of Fortune in the morning. I have no idea exactly what's happening - to some people's surprise, I don't run GSN - but I have to think the network would love to have a morning hour of Pat and Vanna from, say, 2012-13. Combine it with Harvey Feud and recent Jeopardy, and you would have a lollapalooza morning lineup, which would feed a much greater audience into the rest of the day.

I've called this GSN's nuclear option, if they feel a need to bury Buzzr at birth. But I doubt that GSN is hugely worried about a digital subchannel right now.

UPDATE: In distantly related GSN news, Rebecca Grant (Throut and Neck and the boob grabber video) will host a new show for GSN's Door 3 YouTube channel. It's called Which is Worse, which brings to mind all sorts of gibes. Debuts the first week in June.