Friday, July 31, 2015

Numbers and their meanings

GSN kicked out the jams last night in prime time. The Chase topped 700K total viewers and Chain Reaction got over 600K. So much for those folks who keep saying that all of our little game show network's success in prime time is due to Mr. Harvey.

Even more importantly, the shows attracted some viewers who are not on Social Security. They both cracked Showbuzz's top 100 cable originals in the 18-49 demo. The death-skewing GSN rarely makes an appearance on that list.

I think both shows are among GSN's best originals ever, so I'm happy they look to be on the road to renewal. The news is much gloomier for a couple other game shows I like, Fox's Boom and Syfy's Geeks Who Drink. Last night both got so-so to downright bad numbers by the standards of their networks, and I would be surprised if either lives to see another season.

Funny thing, both shows might have done just fine on GSN. They're entertaining, nicely paced quizzers with appeal to the traditional game show fans who make up most of GSN's audience. And Geeks, at least, might have pulled some younger demos, just as Idiotest has done. If only the producers had sold the formats to Mr. Goldhill and Ms. Introcaso-Davis...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The trade deadline waits for nothing, not even Jeopardy

I'm a baseball fan as well as a game show fan, but I've never had any ambition to start a baseball blog. I'd be competing with a zillion other blogs, and it would be hard to keep up with all the news, anyway. Like the recent news which blindsided Jeopardy last night, about the trade of star Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to, of all teams, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Last night, after Tulo had just been swapped, Jeopardy posed the clue seen in the screenshot. A contestant gave the correct response at the time of taping - the Rockies - except as the other half of the screenshot shows, Tulo was already playing for the Jays. (He had a nice debut for his new team, by the way, going 3-for-5 with a homer and a couple doubles, three ribbies and three runs scored.)

The linked story speculates that if the Jays reach the World Series, Tulo might pull a pro wrestling heel turn and reveal that he's secretly still playing for the Rockies. That's not likely, though it's certainly possible that the Jays might get to the Series. They also just traded for David Price, the best pitcher on the market right now. I hope that Jeopardy didn't tape any clues about him a few months ago.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Half-hour club?

Saw an interesting post on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's. It confirms what was already public knowledge: Monopoly Millionaires Club has gotten a second season.

The new bit of information is that the show is getting cut to a half-hour. I haven't seen any confirmation of this reduction, but it wouldn't amaze me. The non-skill show looks a little overblown at a hour length, anyway. Plus, a half-hour format might save on some production costs (prize money, for instance) for the sponsoring state lotteries.

The show has always been more a vehicle to sell lottery tickets than a traditional TV effort to peddle advertising time. And you can probably sell as many tickets with a half-hour length. For now they're still grinding through reruns of the first season. We'll see what happens with the second go-round.

By the way, the news comes from a staffer at a Knoxville station. I checked, and the station does carry the show on Saturday night.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ratings: it's close at the top

The top three syndie game shows staged a near photo finish for the week of July 13-19. Pat and Vanna won on total viewers, though. Which is only fair because they don't get to pad their numbers with multiple daily runs. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 6.1 - down four ticks to help create the close finish
Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - flat
Jeopardy 6.0 - down a tick into a tie with the Sony soulmate
Millionaire 1.6 - flat as Terry lingers through reruns
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - up a tick, in a rare bit of movement

As I said, the big wheel rolled to the top spot in total viewers among all syndies. The averages from TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 9.5M (weekend repeat 4.2M), Jeopardy 9.1M (weekend repeat 3.0M), Family Feud 9.1M.

GSN enjoyed a hot July (bad pun intended). 465K/348K/482K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 33rd, 28th and 28th in the windows for the month. Summer has been very, very good to our little game show network so far.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Living color

At least Buzzr hasn't gone after any of the color syndie What's My Line eps on YouTube. Though maybe I shouldn't give them any ideas.

I always liked the syndie, which loosened up (and freshened up) WML's format but didn't destroy the basic premise. Still, game show freaks have usually regarded the seven seasons from 1968 to 1975 as little more than an afterthought to the "real" black and white What's My Line.

As a result, there's only a small number of syndie videos on YouTube compared to the CBS original. But the videos are still well worth a peek for classics fans. This one dates from 1970 and offers ice skating legend Peggy Fleming (looking about eighteen and about to get married to her teenage sweetheart Craig Jenkins) as the mystery guest.

Another contestant - you might call him a semi-civvie - was Oscar-winning makeup artist John Chambers. He created the then-revolutionary masks and makeup effects for the original Planet of the Apes series. Mr. Chambers brought along a series of photos showing Kim Hunter getting transformed into a lady ape. This was typical of the I've Got a Secret style bits that the syndie WML used effectively.

The panel was Soupy Sales, who did a lot of the syndie eps, Sandy Duncan (also looking absurdly young), Bennett Cerf and Arlene Francis. Bennett and Arlene proved they hadn't lost a step by guessing all of the contestants. Arlene also got pretty angry when host Wally Bruner read a question from a home viewer which implied that panelists were cheating by peeking under the masks in the mystery guest segments.

Arlene more or less read the riot act to the viewer. She really got p.o.ed.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Feuding for fun and profit

Celebrity Family Feud wraps its season tonight, and ABC execs are burbling with joy. As Adweek points out, Steve Harvey's romp with celebs of all sorts is "the top new show in total viewers (8.3 million) and adults ages 18-49 (with a 2.0 rating)...the rare exception - a true summer TV hit."

Although nobody is saying when the show will return - Steve is busier than the fabled one-armed paperhanger - another run is certain. I doubt that ABC will go hog wild on the show as they did with Millionaire all those many years ago. But nobody can pass up more ratings like these.

The real question is whether more celebrity versions of old formats are in the offing. A six-ep run of To Tell the Truth (Mark Goodson's favorite show, just ahead of - you guessed it - Family Feud) is coming to ABC. But can host Anthony Anderson duplicate the Harvey splash? Well, other game shows have hunted the next Steve Harvey for a while, and he's been very elusive.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Get me outa here

Science Channel debuts their new locked-room game show Race to Escape today at 10:00 PM.

But the dirty little secret is that you can watch the debut ep right now on their website. So I snuck a peek because I just couldn't help myself. The format is simple to begin with and gets ridiculously more elaborate as the show goes along. Two teams - blue and red for the colorfully minded - are locked in identical rooms stuffed with artifacts. The effect is something like getting locked into a leftover set from Win Ben Stein's Money. Each team then has to figure out five clues from the artifacts to unlock the doors of the room and rejoin the rest of the civilized world and win some money. Not much money but some.

There are all sorts of special rules and helps in the format, and I'm not even going to try to explain it all. This is Science Channel and the show has to seem arcane and complex. Just to add the required dose of jargon, host Jimmy Pardo appears now and then and explains that the teams are showing "selective perception" or "the availability heuristic" or "cortisol" or some damn thing or another.

If any game show is too complicated for its own good, Race to Escape qualifies. Anyway, I won't spoil the outcome. I will say the game was close throughout. Both teams got a little frazzled, and there were plenty of bleeps as they cussed their way through the clues. Just remember to squirt champagne all over France.

UPDATE: Race to Escape pulled 242K viewers with a 0.08 18-49 rating. So-so by Science Channel standards. By comparison, the network averaged 272K/179K viewers prime time/total day for the full month of July.

Friday, July 24, 2015

GSN money

At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner notes that Nielsen now estimates GSN is available in 80 million households in the U.S. I offer a few comments...

Just found a very early estimate from TV by the Numbers. 68.5 million households for GSN in June, 2009. And the New York Times number I goofed from 2007 was 64 million, not 68 million. It's been slow but steady growth. GSN's creaky demos and lack of sister channels with clout have not helped the spread of the network.

You should know better than to get an actuary going on numbers. The growth from 64M to 80M for GSN households 2007-15 means an annual growth rate of 2.8%. Not huge but decent growth.

What literally counts is the bottom line, of course. The most recent financials I could find for GSN come from 2013. $97 million in earnings on $216 million in revenue.

These are SNL Kagan estimates, which the industry regards as pretty close. So my guess is that GSN - both the cable network and the gaming operation - will earn more than $100 million in 2015 on around $250 million in revenue. Sure, this guess might be off a little. But there's no doubt that GSN has become a tidily profitable enterprise, thank you.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Usually I don't make a big deal about game show hosts' birthdays. They come around every year, after all, just like mine. And I don't like to be reminded of all the birthdays I've piled up.

But yesterday Alex Trebek hit the big 75, which is something of a milestone. Not long ago wumors were wunning wampant that Alex would soon let somebody else remind everybody about the form of a question. Rumored replacements ranged from Matt Lauer to Dan Patrick to (my offbeat dark horse) Mark Walberg.

The Alex re-upped for another three seasons through 2017-18, and such talk quieted down. The guy will be 78 when the contract extension runs out, though, so the talk has only been postponed for another day. Meanwhile, Jeopardy has prospered in the ratings, even nosing ahead of its Sony housemate, Wheel of Fortune. Sure, Alex gets a boost from his daily double-run compared to Pat and Vanna, but that's the way Nielsen counts the beans.

So I'll send slightly belated birthday greetings to Mr. Trebek, along with hopes for many more. Not to mention a lot more categories and clues.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Not knockin' on heaven's door

Ambush game shows are getting on my nerves. Yes, Cash Cab is a classic. But I'm tired of smarmy hosts surprising contestants with silly games.

So I wasn't thrilled with the premise of Knock Knock Live. The idea is that cut-rate celebs knock on unsuspecting people's doors and give them money. Sometimes the people have to meet some kind of challenge (or sometimes they don't even have to do that).

Ross Matthews, not my favorite cut-rate celeb, kicked off the show by knocking on some poor family's door in Covina, CA. The mom in the family had to answer a tough question: what is her neighbor's favorite baseball team? She guessed the Dodgers, which is a good guess in that neighborhood, right?

In response to answering this difficult query, the show blasted $25,000 in various bills all over the street. We then got to watch the superb spectacle of people from the neighborhood going down on their hands and knees and scooping up the money as fast as they could. It reminded me of that memorable scene from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, where all the money blows away to the crowd below. Except it wasn't nearly as entertaining.

At this point I checked out. If I want an ambush game show, I'll stick with Ben and his cab.

Knock Knock Live got croak croak dead ratings. 1.7M total viewers with a 0.6 18-49 rating. At least Ross Matthews probably won't be annoying too many more families.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ratings: Steve rides high

Yes, it's an unfair comparison due to Family Feud's multiple daily runs. But Steve Harvey has set up shop as the new king of syndie game shows. TV News Check has the household ratings for the week of July 6-12...

Family Feud 6.5 - up three ticks
Jeopardy 6.1 - up a tick to stay ahead of the Sony soulmate
Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - up a couple ticks, try another daily run to go back to the top
Millionaire 1.6 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat, with format changes coming in the new season?

Steve also led the viewer averages at TV by the Numbers. Family Feud 10.0M, Wheel of Fortune 9.5M (weekend repeat 4.0M), Jeopardy 9.3M (weekend repeat 3.2M). Looks like Celebrity Family Feud may be luring a few more viewers to the daily syndie runs. And the Victorian maidens on the game show Interwebs will have plenty more Feud clips to tsk-tsk about.

GSN keeps rocking down the highway. TV Newser says the network averaged 482K/348K/498K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time for the week of July 13-19. GSN ranked 32nd, 28th and 28th in the windows. Again, great numbers and ranks by GSN's historical standards.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Buzzr news

Haven't reported much about the Buzzr game show subchannel lately, because there hasn't been much to report.

But a post on the Buzzr Facebook page promises placement on at least some Cablevision systems around the country. While this doesn't do me any good - my provider is Time Warner Cable - it's nice news for the nascent subchannel. Buzzr has to get on cable to get anywhere. Few people watch TV over the air anymore.

Another note comes from Game Show Forum. While you would expect that board to be Buzzr's biggest cheerleader, some gripes about repeating episodes have surfaced. It does seem a bit odd for Buzzr to repeat thirty and forty-year-old game show eps, when so many are available from its Fremantle parent. But I guess Fremantle charges Buzzr something per episode, even if it's an internal transaction.

The best news is that Buzzr's jihad against the What's My Line channel on YouTube appears to have quieted down. The channel operator had to take some videos private, but most of the episodes are still up.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ben makes out

When I see a story in Google News about a game show host doing his standup act somewhere, most of the time I only give it a faux tweet. If I notice it at all.

But this story about Idiotest host Ben Gleib appearing in Calgary, of all places, piqued my interest. Probably because Ben couldn't resist giving an example from his love life to prove his point - Idiotest-related, of course - that life makes us all feel like idiots now and then (or more often). "I felt stupid around girls a lot, and still kind of do. I was making out with a girl a while back and she told me to stop making a certain noise I was making. She said I sounded like an old man. I felt kind of stupid that day."

Come to think of it, I am an old man now, and I never knew that noises during makeout sessions can make you seem elderly. I probably could have used these words of wisdom during my college days, several centuries ago.

I also can't help thinking that Bill Cullen, Monty Hall and all those old-time game show guys never said much about their makeout sessions, though I assume they had a few. It's pretty hard to imagine Bill or Monty making weird noises while making out.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ratings, we get ratings

The numbers are in for the debuts of Chain Reaction and Geeks Who Drink. On Game Show Network News, I chat about the ratings and what they might mean for the shows...

Scott Rahner: Casey, it's [Chain Reaction's 0.07] average for 18-49 on GSN, isn't it?

Well, yeah, and average is far from awful. As you point out yourself, the afternoon run got 0.04 in 18-49. That's pretty typical for much of GSN's programming day, undoubtedly higher than most of the morning stuff. I wonder if the morning shows get any realistically measurable 18-49 viewership.

But as I say on the blog, I don't think GSN pays much attention to 18-49. They say they target 25-54, and I think they really look at 30-64. Just to make sure they're not skewing toward the walking dead.

Other poster: Chain Reaction only had that many 18-49 viewers?

This is GSN. How many of the ancient-skewing network's shows get 90K 18-49 viewers? Said it before, say it again. The 18-49 performance is far from awful for GSN.

Other poster: [Geeks Who Drink] was also at 11 pm. SyFy should have picked a better timeslot for the show. WWE Smackdown is their highest rated, they could have aired the show right after that.

All that would have happened after the WWE is that Geeks Who Drink would have looked even worse compared to its lead-in. Traditional game shows skew old and female. Check GSN's demos if you don't believe me. Traditional gamers are just way out of place on a young and male skewing science-fiction (and wrestling) network.

Unless Geeks improves its performance dramatically, it's a goner on Syfy. It was always a risk for the network. Too bad, I kind of like the show.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Drinking game

The Syfy cable channel seems like an odd outpost for our little genre. Unless aliens play Name That Galaxy.

Or unless a bunch of proud geeks drink a lot and answer trivia questions about the geekiest subjects imaginable. Like which trivia bits apply to Superman, and which apply to Batman. If it's the non-alien premise, then you're watching Geeks Who Drink, a geeky and alcoholic quizzer that just debuted on the network formerly known as Sci-Fi.

Based on the pub game, the show isn't bad for what it is. After a while - like ten minutes - the unbearable geekiness of the subject matter does get a tad annoying. But with all the drinking and general raucousness going on, I can forgive the super-specialized queries.

At least nobody can complain about the pace. Host Zachary Levi - he of Chuck, the geekiest show ever - spits out questions in every category of geekdom at a truly astonishing rate. Just to lighten the trivia load, there's one silly stunt involving the celeb leaders of the two dueling teams. In the debut ep the celebs tossed jello into a basket. Yeah, it's that kind of stuff happening.

The party atmosphere on the bar set does occasionally seem a bit forced. But things happen so fast that nobody can much mind any atmosphere, anyway. And the contestants, the audience, and (for all I know) the crew get to drink up every time the score is tied or we go to commercial. That's a lot of drinking.

UPDATE: The guzzling geeks produced not-so-hot numbers by SyFy standards. 381K total viewers with a 0.15 18-49 rating. A big drop from the Dominion lead-in of 1020K/0.30.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Forging a new chain

Just watched the sneak preview of GSN's new Chain Reaction with host Mike Catherwood. The natural inclination is to compare and contrast to GSN's previous effort with Dylan Lane. So long story short: there are lots of pluses in the new version, and no minuses. Really.

Catherwood is a whole ladder full of steps above Lane. Dylan wasn't quite the hopeless stiff of game show Interweb legend, but the new guy is far more relaxed, witty, and personable with the contestants. Mike can actually talk without it sounding like a painful effort. The set is also an improvement over the gloom and doom of the previous edition. It's light and airy, in tune with the pleasantly addictive gameplay.

Most importantly, the old show's build-a-question bonus round, which all too often turned into a giggling disaster, has given way to a blistering speed chain that will hold any viewer's interest. Overall, the new version has kept everything that made the old show a success, and tinkered away all of the previous version's defects. It's a winner-takes-all.

One more note. This ep was squeaky clean and fully deserved its TV-G rating. There had been some talk - from me, for instance - that Mike (Hey There Vagina) Catherwood would preside over a kinkier show. Didn't happen in the preview, anyway.

UPDATE: Chain Reaction posted decent numbers by GSN standards. 550K and 517K viewers for the 9:00 PM and 9:30 PM runs, with a 0.07 18-49 rating. The show retained most of its viewership lead-in from The Chase, though the 18-49 demo dropped. But I don't think GSN pays much attention to 18-49. The network says it targets 25-54, and I bet they really look at 30-64. Just to make sure they're not skewing beyond the grave.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Changing of the guard

As readers of this blog have noticed, there's a new top dog on the syndie game show charts.

In an odd reversal of the changing of the guard during the 1980s, Family Feud has taken back the number one perch from Wheel of Fortune. Back in the eighties Pat and Vanna displaced Richard Dawson as the leaders of the game show pack. After a long run on Feud, poor Richard had become visibly and audibly a burnt-out case.

Nothing like that seems to be happening to Mr. Sajak and Ms. White, so I don't expect Wheel of Fortune to vanish suddenly (or even slowly). In fact, as I've pointed out many times, the single run of Wheel of Fortune each day no doubt draws many more viewers than any single showing of the multiple-run Family Feud.

But the way Nielsen piles up the numbers for all those runs does put Feud on top. And it brings to mind a reversal of 1980s fortune (sorry). The goddess Fortuna's wheel spins on.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ratings: GSN keeps on keeping on

Still in the grip of post-holiday hangover from the Fourth of July, the Nielsen Company hasn't published this week's syndie ratings yet.

When they get around to them, I'll add the numbers to this post. Meanwhile, there's continued good news for GSN in TV Newser's cable ratings and rankings for the July 6-12 week. The network averaged 474K/357K/491K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 33rd, 28th and 30th in the windows.

The problem - and it's a nice one to have - is the revolution of rising expectations. Nowadays a GSN original practically has to do 500K+ numbers at least some of the time, or it looks kind of dowdy. (We'll leave aside demos for the moment.) GSN only averaged 256K viewers in prime time for 2007. Times have changed and the bar has risen.

With the usual caveat about multiple vs. single runs, Steve Harvey led syndie game shows for the June 28-July 5 week. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 6.2 - flat
Jeopardy 6.0 - down a tick
Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - down a couple ticks to a season low
Millionaire 1.6 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat

TV by the Numbers says Feud topped the viewer numbers, too. Family Feud 9.3M, Jeopardy 9.2M (weekend repeat 3.0M), Wheel of Fortune 9.2M (weekend repeat 4.0M).

Monday, July 13, 2015

Finally wiped

A thread on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's says that goofy stunt epic Wipeout has finally, you guessed it, wiped out. I've been hanging crepe for the show since 2013 as the ratings have shriveled, so the news comes as no surprise to moi.

It was something of a surprise to see Matt Ottinger himself decrying the goof factor on the show. "I never cared for the fact that Wipeout was 100% totally dedicated to the goofy spills." That 100% figure might be a little high. I'd say it was more like 99.44%, as the ancient Ivory Soap ads might say.

The goofy spills, of course, are exactly what kept the show around for seven seasons beginning in 2008. The show always aimed for the full scorpion as contestants got launched, battered, dumped and dunked. Toward the end of each episode the ambiance got a teensy-weensy bit more serious, but not enough to spoil anything.

If the big balls really have bounced their last victim, at least it was a good long run for the slapstick silliness. Hail, farewell, and look out below.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

No bull

Happened to see a Richard Karn episode of Family Feud today. That got me thinking about the Bullseye round.

Which is kind of strange because Karn Feud never had the round. In fact, the Bullseye round has only shown up for the last hurrahs of Ray Combs and John O'Hurley. The round was a final forlorn effort to help the ratings for both these gentlemen.

If the game show Interwebs ever agree on anything, it's that the Bullseye round, well, sucks. My not so sneaking suspicion is that, if the round had been part of the original format, the Interwbs would be happy as a clam about it. But online game show fanatics are not known for their embrace of innovations in old formats (or any other kind of format).

My contrarian self doesn't mind the round at all. It's a nice bit of quick gameplay in a format that (before the bonus round) does not proceed at a breakneck pace. GSN is running the O'Hurley Bullseye eps right now, and I enjoy the rapid showdowns on the buzzer. But I'm a lonely voice in the Internet wilderness. The Bullseye round is almost friendless.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Reaction to the chain's schedule

At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner thinks GSN is goofing up by running a sneak peek of its new Chain Reaction at 3:30 PM on July 16, before the "official" debut at 9:00 PM. I have a little fun in the comments...

Scott: I am hearing that the Chain Reaction at 3:30pm next Thursday is the 39th filmed (of the 40).

Gee, which super-secret source did you hear that from? Oh, on the pdf schedule the episode number is 1139.

Here's another super-secret scoop: I'm hearing that the eps at 9:00 PM and 9:30 PM are the ninth and thirty-second taped. Maybe that's because their episode numbers are 1109 and 1132. Wow, we've discovered a super-secret pattern!

And what's with this assertion: "In the case (and a likely case) that an afternoon viewer does not like the new Chain Reaction..." How does anybody know if afternoon viewers will "likely" reject the new version? None of GSN's viewers have even seen it yet. Of course, the Nielsen Company will decide how smart GSN's strategy is. Right now the network is on a roll with great ratings by its historical standards.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Celebs then and now

Saw a funny thread - okay, it's only three posts - on the Sitcoms Online game show board. The o.p. titles the thread: "Why celebrity shows like Hollywood Game Night are so repugnant."

Repugnant? The pop culture emphasis on the show gets a little old. But "repugnant" should apply only to atrocities like Ariana Grande licking donuts. My guess: the real problem on the older-is-better board with Hollywood Game Night is that the show debuted after 1990.

Another poster praises the allegedly celeb-lite ambiance of What's My Line and other G-T panel shows. Hey, I loves me my WML and I'm a devoted fan of the What's My Line channel on YouTube. But WML was a freaking celebfest, for crying out loud. Six (at least) celebs - the panel, the host, and one or two or five mystery guests - hobnobbed in chummy familiarity. A couple civvies did sneak on and got to answer "yes" or "no."

The o.p. quotes a dour Wash Post columnist. "Large swaths of network TV...have been given over to constant, publicist-pleasing opportunities for stars to advance their own brands, unchallenged, and pass off their self-promotion as the very definition of fun." True, no celeb ever plugged a TV show or movie or album or night club appearance or play or [fill in any other form of showbiz] on What's My Line. It literally never happened.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

GSN schedule games

GSN has sent me new schedules for July 13-19 and July 20-26. I've posted them in the sidebar.

There are a couple of interesting moves with the new originals, Chain Reaction and Steampunk'd. On July 16 GSN will sneak a peek of the new version of Chain Reaction at 3:30 PM, before the "official" debut at 9:00 PM. On July 22 GSN will show a two-minute promo for Steampunk'd after Skin Wars. That Skin Wars episode is called "I'm Steampunk'd" and looks like sort of a preview of the upcoming show. (Which debuts for real on August 19 after the Skin Wars finale.)

On Game Show Network News I blather about the rationale for the scheduling...

The Nielsen Company, as always, will decide how stupid (or not) GSN's programming moves are. Lately the network has been doing just fine with their schedule, as the impressive numbers show.

The thinking behind the Chain Reaction scheduling is obviously to get fans of the old eps to take a look at the new version, by slipping in a Mike Catherwood episode where Dylan Lane has lived for quite a while. As for Steampunk'd, the entire Skin Wars episode before the two-minute promo will apparently be something of an advertisement for the new show. GSN must figure the audiences for the two shows will be pretty similar.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ratings: Hollywood Game Night debuts nicely

Usually I start with the syndie ratings, but there's interesting news for Hollywood Game Night. The show kicked off its third season last night with a series high in 18-49. The ratings from TV by the Numbers: 5.2M viewers with a 1.5 18-49 rating. If the show maintains anything like these numbers, a fourth season is a certainty. Sadly, the Fox game shows, 5th Grader and Bullseye, didn't do nearly as well. 2.5M/0.6 and 1.7M/0.5.

Turning to the syndies, the order for the top three was exactly reversed between the household ratings and the viewer numbers. From TV News Check for the June 22-28 week...

Family Feud 6.2 - up three ticks to lead in household rating
Jeopardy 6.1 - up two ticks to beat the Sony soulmate in household rating
Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - up a tick (but see below)
Millionaire 1.6 - flat, Terry's reruns plod along at a series low
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - up a tick

Pat and Vanna got their revenge in viewer average. From TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 9.4M (weekend repeat 4.0M), Jeopardy 9.3M, Family Feud 9.2M. Of course, it's a ridiculously unfair competition. Steve (in particular) and Alex benefit mightily from multiple runs each day. Pat and Vanna have to pile up all their numbers on a single run.

TV Newser says GSN kept rolling in the June 29-July 5 week. 453K/364K/473K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 33rd, 27th and 29th in the windows. Another really good week by GSN's historical standards.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

19th-century street urchins?

Hollywood Game Night kicks off its third season tonight, and for the most part the show has gotten favorable reviews.

But there are always exceptions. One of the stranger pans I've ever seen for any game show comes from the Orange County Register. Apparently, the reviewer is in a Dickensian mood, or something. "Mostly we watch celebrities and a couple of contestants play party games and have a good time, while like 19th-century street urchins in a snowstorm we press our noses against the glass and watch the warm glow within."

I can honestly say that Hollywood Game Night has never made me feel like a 21st-century urchin, much less a 19th-century one. The show has made me feel that the pop culture obsession is a little much. I wouldn't mind seeing a bit more variety in the game material.

But an urchin? Uh, no. Maybe the reviewer has been reading David Copperfield lately. Anyway, the party games and the good times start up again tonight, and you can press your nose against the TV screen if you're so inclined.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Gee, our old LaSalle ran great

A column on a pop culture site for kids starts with a truism: "Nostalgia basically means reliving the past."

Why, yes it does. And there are several TV networks that will assist you in the reliving. I just posted about one of them, Buzzr. The column goes on to list ten TV shows that the author fondly remembers from her childhood. Two are game shows: Figure It Out, recently revived on Nick, and Legends of the Hidden Temple.

My appreciation of kid game shows is pretty limited, probably because I've reached a grumpy old age. (I just collected my first Social Security payment. It's a horrible fact.) But I agree that the two named shows were among the best kid gamers, even if the goopiness got a little tedious on Figure It Out. I don't have any quibbles about Legends, though, which was a clever combination of quizzer and stunt show.

Somebody should revive Legends. Kids would still enjoy running through that goofy temple, right? It was incredibly difficult to beat the obstacle course, but now and then an intrepid young'un would accomplish the feat.

One other odd note. That column on the pop culture site has a weird echo of À la recherche du temps perdu, for you highfalutin' literature fans. "There's always a picture, a scent, a texture or even taste that brings you vast memories of things long ago." Yep, Proust wrote a vast novel that started with tasting a bit of cake.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


I'd like to report on Buzzr's first month in existence, but there are a couple problems. The subchannel isn't on my cable system and there's no sign it ever will be on my cable system. So I can't watch it. The other problem is that the only real news I've seen about Buzzr lately was its Fourth of July lineup. That lineup was good for a faux tweet, anyhow.

I track Buzzr through its Facebook page, which is much more informative than the subchannel's website. Another source is what I can only call the fanboi thread about Buzzr on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's. To be fair, there have been some faint complaints about Buzzr on that thread. But mostly it's rah-rah for the network from the older-is-better board.

Buzzr seems to be making little progress toward its most important goal: getting onto cable. The subchannel has picked up a few low-power over-the-air stations in Kansas City, Albuquerque, Fresno and Lubbock. But OTA, especially low-power OTA, counts for little nowadays, when the overwhelming majority of people get their TV from cable or satellite. As far as I can see, the schedule is little changed from the debut lineup, one of the oldest anywhere in television. Which will continue to limit the audience to a tiny club of hardcore oldies fans...if they can watch the subchannel in the first place.

The good news is that Buzzr hasn't managed to shut down the What's My Line channel on YouTube. Unfortunately, the channel's creator had to take about a hundred videos private, out of more than seven hundred on the site. But this might indicate that much (or most) of the material is public domain and safe from the lawyers.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fuzzy wuzzy

On her site Carrie Grosvenor rambles through some To Tell the Truth history, now that the show is coming back. In the never-knew-that department, I found out that gonzo journalism legend Hunter S. Thompson once appeared as a contestant. (He was the truth-teller, it seems.)

Can I allow myself some lèse-majesté? I never thought highly of Thompson as a writer. Too much of his stuff was a jumble of random thoughts punctuated by dull political rants. He battled writer's block and eventually subsisted off crumbs from ESPN(!) The suicide was, sadly, not a surprise.

But as a counter-culture celeb Thompson was a lot of fun, at least for a brief moment in the sixties. He played off that rep for a while, even appearing on TTTT in February 1967. YouTube offers a hilarious fragment, where the very proper Kitty Carlisle intones an incongruous question. "Number two, the Merry Pranksters gave a party for the Hell's Angels. Were you there...that lasted two days?"

This is not a question anybody would expect from Kitty, and Hunter looks temporarily taken aback. Or maybe his cerebral cortex, foggy from too much acid, is trying desperately to place this party among a zillion others. Somehow, he finally manages a "Yes."

A commenter on YouTube implores: "GOOD LORD! POST THE WHOLE THING PRONTO!!!!!" Oh boy, do I ever agree. I'd love to see Thompson's entire appearance.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Once upon a Pax

A poster on Game Show Paradise recalls the heyday of game shows on Pax TX (later Ion Television).

I had forgotten just how many game shows came and went on Bud Paxson's upstart operation in its early days. Wikipedia offers a helpful list. It includes everything from Twenty One reruns (not the rigged version) to Reel to Reel Picture Show, proud owner of a Game Show Garbage induction.

Like so many GSG inductees, Reel to Reel wasn't that terrible. It was just a plodding quizzer about movies, with past-prime celebs and Peter Marshall looking bored. YouTube never forgets anything, so several videos of the Pax game show originals survive in slightly tarnished glory. You can see some of the telltale color bleeding in the screenshot.

I have to agree with another poster on the Game Show Paradise thread that Ion TV won't try anything from our little genre for a long, long time, if ever. They gotta cram too many infomercials and cop shows into the fleeting hours. But once upon a time, game shows had a pretty solid perch on Pax.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Monopolizing the media

You've played the board game. You've watched the TV game show (well, maybe). Now you can go the movie, if everything works out.

Yes, that multi-hour rainy-day timewaster for almost a century, Monopoly may finally get to the big screen. Hasbro and Lionsgate have enlisted Truman Show's Andrew Niccol to script the flick.

It's supposedly a rags to riches - or Mediterranean to Boardwalk - story about "a boy from Baltic Avenue who uses both Chance and Community in a quest to make his fortune, taking him on a fun, adventure-filled journey. Along the way he will have to make his own luck, while hoping to avoid going directly to jail."

The linked story bewails the groaner Monopoly puns, but why bother? The jokes are too obvious to stop. I know, this project really doesn't have anything to do with game shows, except it may become a show based on a game. But then Monopoly Millionaires Club doesn't have much to do with Monopoly's actual gameplay, either.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Telling the truth once more

A ticket site leaked the news a few days ago, as noted in a faux tweet. But ABC made it official today. The network is rebooting To Tell the Truth for a six-ep run.

Anthony Anderson will host, with his mother as "scorekeeper" (?) and general insulter of her son. Betty White and NeNe Leakes will be two of the panelists, along with TBD in the third seat. The format sounds pretty much like the classic two fibbers and a truth-teller, though there will no doubt be some new angles. Like a house band (honest).

To Tell the Truth has been revived so often that Wikipedia spills plenty of phosphors in describing all the versions. It was famously Mark Goodson's favorite format, and apparently a fair number of producers have agreed with him about TTTT's appeal. ABC hasn't set a debut date for the latest incarnation.

Anthony Anderson's selection looks like yet another attempt to find the elusive next Steve Harvey. It was no accident that Anderson helped kick off ABC's current Celebrity Family Feud.

Bar food

A faux tweet mentioned Win it for the Bar, a YouTube quizzer that debuted June 29 on the aptly named Beer 'N Stuff channel.

So I might as well play Review it for the Blog, a fun game show enjoyed by bloggers around the world. The first episode was quick and light, featuring extensive Anheuser-Busch product placement and lots of questions about sandwiches. In fact, the cutesy name for the ep was "Sandwich of Fortune." Ouch.

For what it was, it wasn't bad. A contestant got ambushed in a bar and, under acute social pressure, agreed to answer questions. If there were enough right answers, everybody got sandwiches. This was not Jeopardy, and the intellectual challenge was not enormous. But it was a six-minute pop culture video, after all. If you want intellectual challenge, you can always take a course in differential equations.

Harley Morenstein hosted with a bartender's cynicism and occasional quips. The contestant was reasonably alert and the bar ambiance seemed genuine enough. For a quick game show snack, you could do worse.