Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The pain of Arthur

The screenshot shows Jeopardy champion Arthur Chu giving Alex Trebek his usual glare.

It was this sweet and friendly demeanor that made Arthur such a hit during his stay on Jeopardy. He seems to think that his run on the show lasted 200 episodes or so, but it really only trudged along for twelve painful eps, including the one he lost. He then capitulated to Ben Ingram in the T of C, to most everybody's delight.

As a faux tweet noted, instead of finally going away and bothering nobody except his immediate family, Chu has made himself into an ongoing Internet pest. In fact, he's waded into the Gamergate controversy, a monumentally stupid fuss which looks designed for his endearing and affable persona. His latest broadside in the Gamergate idiocy suggests that we should turn over control of the Internet to liability lawyers. Because, apparently, lawyers are such lovable lunks like himself.

Various commenters on Chu's article have ripped him to shreds and then ripped the shreds to shreds. The best (and funniest) reply comes from a blog named Popehat. Honest. The title of the response: "Arthur Chu Would Like To Make Lawyers Richer and You Quieter and Poorer."

Which is an all too accurate summary of Chu's goofball rant. I realize that Chu caught a lot of grief during his run on Jeopardy and afterwards. I catch a lot of grief on this blog and elsewhere. Anybody who expresses an opinion on the Internet about any flipping thing catches grief. It comes with the cybernetic territory.

Chu wants his lawyers to be able to sue away all the grief he gets. Well, tough. The world doesn't want or need your lawyers, Arthur.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ratings: gulp for Chris and Craig

If the first week of the new season is any indication, you may be seeing only three syndie game shows in these posts before too long. The new was grim for Millionaire and Celebrity Name Game. Those nifty timeslots aren't doing the shows any good. Meanwhile, Pat and Vanna slipped ahead of Steve into the number one spot. TV News Check has the household ratings for the week of September 14-20...

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up a tick
Family Feud 5.6 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.5 - flat, it's like the new season never happened
Millionaire 1.2 - down four ticks to a new all-time low, yeeeeouch
Celebrity Name Game 1.0 - down two ticks in the last week of reruns, don't know if this is an all-time low but it's close

TV by the Numbers says Wheel took second place in viewer average among all syndies, behind only the snarky judge. Wheel of Fortune 9.1M (weekend repeat 3.1M), Jeopardy 8.4M, Family Feud 8.2M. As always, Pat and Vanna got their numbers on a single run, which is impressive. As for the bottom two, it's getting dark down there. Maybe the doomsayers for Millionaire, who have been chirping for years, will finally be right.

GSN inevitably cooled off a little in September against tougher competition from the broadcasters. But the network still enjoyed a terrific third quarter. 434K/320K/455K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 36th, 28th and 32nd in the windows. The network put out a press release that burbled with joy over the numbers. GSN had its best September ever, which makes it eight out of nine months in 2015 for best ever.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Open up

A thread on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's discusses opening spiels on game shows.

As you might expect from Game Show Forum, most of the discussion revolves around shows from long ago. That sort of includes Jeopardy, which has been going for a few years now. I have to agree with the poster who comments: "This is Jeopardy!" is up there for me. I actually like it in its current form better, because it seems that Johnny Gilbert puts even more punch into those three words than back when J! still had the swooshy globe thing on their logo.

It's a little odd to see a comment on the good-old-days board that something might actually have improved on a game show in recent times. No doubt Johnny still puts plenty of punch into Jeopardy's intro, despite his 91 years. I also liked Craig Ferguson's goofball openings on Celebrity Name Game in the show's first season. He would call the civvie contestants "frisky possums" or some such. Too bad, but he seems to have switched to a more canned and staid opening for the new season, along with the more canned and staid category names.

The Game Show Forum thread eventually wanders off into a discussion of British game shows. One poster sighs: British game shows as a whole tend to put me to sleep, unless they involve the phrase "let's rotate the board". Too broad a generalization, but I have little patience with pundits who find Brit game shows superior in general to the Yank variety.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Buzzr mentions Celebrity Name Game?

Except for reviews of two old game show pilots on Buzzr, I haven't commented much about the digital subchannel lately. I really don't have much to say about Buzzr because - like most people in the U.S. - I don't get the subchannel on my cable provider. And sorry, I'm not going to bother with a digital antenna hookup for one oldies outlet.

But now and then I drop by the Buzzr Facebook page just to see what's going on with the Fremantle project. The strangest thing I saw lately on the page was the entry shown in the screenshot. Celebrity Name Game has somehow appeared on the Buzzr site? That's like an iPad popping up in the middle of a Smithsonian exhibit of 18th century colonial artifacts.

Wouldn't you know, one commenter on the page sputtered: Is this a joke, Buzzr? A calmer poster pointed out that CNG is a Fremantle show, so it's not exactly unnatural for Buzzr to plug it. That didn't pacify the original commenter who huffed: Surprised as I wouldn't think most people who watch or follow buzzr here would give this a shot. Maybe I'm wrong...I cant speak for others...but, it doesn't appeal to me...

That's probably true about most of Buzzr's (not enormous) viewership. Already I can detect a bit of panic that Buzzr might actually, gulp, one day run shows that don't carry decades of dust. Heavens!

But another commenter may be looking forward to such a grim eventuality: so we're doing more recent shows on Buzzr now? can we get WITWI Carmen San Diego? Well, it's true that the 20-year-old Carmen Sandiego is more "recent" than Buzzr's usual fare. But of course it's not a Fremantle show, so don't hold your breath.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Wrong is right

It didn't take long for Chris Harrison to get his first big winner on Millionaire.

Joe MacLeod, who writes for a Baltimore alternative newspaper under the name "Mr. Wrong," won the show's real top prize of a quarter-million. Okay, higher amounts are possible but are never reached with the syndie's brutal questions. Joe begged off the half-mill query about Shirley Temple's opinion of various laps she sat in. (No, she didn't give anybody lap dances. She was a cute child star.)

Meanwhile, critics around the Interwebs look to be mostly positive about Chris Harrison. Pundits seem relieved that the old-line quizzer has a calm, professional host in command, instead of a Steve Harvey wannabe. This is a serious quizzer for potentially big money, after all.

At least in Baltimore Millionaire hasn't been exiled to late night or some other God-forsaken spot. It gets the noon hour in the market, maybe not the best timeslot but halfway decent. Congrats to Joe and best wishes for the rebooted Millionaire. We'll get a first look at Chris Harrison's ratings in a few days.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Jeopardy for jock sniffers

Sports Jeopardy kicked off (sorry) its second season this week. I dropped by Crackle for a look.

Not much has changed from the first go-round. The biggest tweak is returning champions instead of one-and-done. Which seems like a natural. This is Jeopardy, after all. The champs get to come back on Alex's show.

Sports Jeopardy still takes advantage of host Dan Patrick's talk radio background. He chats with the contestants for a while, both during and after the game. One of the players on the debut ep was nicknamed "Cream Cheese." Dan had some fun with the moniker.

Speaking of Dan, he seems more relaxed to me in this episode, though this is only my subjective impression. Maybe he's not so worried any more about living up to Alex's example. He looks and sounds more assured and in control of the show.

The debut ep came down to Final Jeopardy, and plenty of surprises ensued. I won't spoil the outcome, but the losing contestants came up with the same answer as I did. Which just proves that I don't know much about sports except for baseball and golf.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

More celebs

Celebrity Name Game keeps sending me stuff. Which is okay because I'm a game show blogger and game shows send me stuff all the time. CNG is a little different because they send me long lists of the celebs who will appear on the show. The long list for October...

Oct. 1 Candace Cameron Bure and Shannen Doherty
Oct. 2 Rick Fox and Rachelle Lefevre
Oct. 5 Randy Jackson and Sara Rue
Oct. 6 Cristela Alonzo and Wayne Brady
Oct. 7 Ian Gomez and Weird Al Yankovic
Oct. 8 Jane Leeves and Marilu Henner
Oct. 9 Yvette Nicole Brown and Will Sasso
Oct. 12 Brian McKnight and Nia Vardalos
Oct. 13 Ana Gasteyer and Michael Ealy
Oct. 14 Mario Lopez and Cat Deeley
Oct. 15 Megyn Price and Teri Polo
Oct. 16 Gilles Marini and Tichina Arnold
Oct. 19 Melissa Peterman and Willie Garson, Betsy Brandt and Tom Arnold
Oct. 20 Bill Engvall and Nicole Sullivan, Nicole Ari Parker and Jenna Ushkowitz
Oct. 21 Mark Duplass and Kate Flannery, Katie Aselton and Nia Vardalos
Oct. 22 Iliza Shlesinger and Colin Mochrie, Russell Hornsby and Vivica A. Fox
Oct. 23 Kate Walsh and Melissa Peterman, Colin Egglesfield and Kate Flannery
Oct. 26 Angela Kinsey and Scott Wolf, Iliza Shlesinger and Colin Mochrie
Oct. 27 Ross Mathews and Megyn Price, Megyn Price and Teri Polo
Oct. 28 Ian Gomez and Weird Al Yankovic, Cristela Alonzo and Wayne Brady
Oct. 29 Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow, Dascha Polanco and Matt McGorry
Oct. 30 Sheryl Underwood and David Arquette, Ali Landry and Hana Mae Lee

Apparently CNG will start double-running eps from the new season on October 19. Right now the daily double-run ep is from last year, with the slightly different format.

The celeb list has lots of returnees from the first season, as the show sorts through which celebs can play the demanding game. But there are some new faces. I'm looking forward to Weird Al and Colin Mochrie. Too bad they're not on the same episode.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Game show network

Haven't posted an entry about GSN for a little while. Seems like those entries get a lot of comments, maybe because the network closed down their own comment board a while back. They got tired of reading endless posts about how they should run more forty-year-old stuff. Also, a GSN entry gives me an excuse for the screenshot from Baggage. Who doesn't like a little cheesecake? (I'm talking about the girl, not Jerry.)

As I mentioned in the latest ratings post, GSN has finally gotten rid of the Man v. Fly interstitials. The arthropods were certainly not helping the prime time averages, and might have been hurting them a little. In general, GSN can't expect its prime time lineup to prosper nearly as well against the broadcast networks' new seasons, which are beginning as I type. GSN enjoyed a sizzling, record-breaking summer, but that was against mostly low-rated reruns and filler on the broadcasters.

The network continues its reality experiments with Steampunk'd. This show first looked like a demo winner but now seems like a general loser. No naked girls, after all, as on the far more successful Skin Wars. The latest season of The Chase got more than respectable numbers, and Chain Reaction looks okay in the ratings if not a runaway success. Idiotest, always a demo fave for GSN, may already have won another season, if casting calls can be believed.

Which leaves Hellevator, GSN's oddest try at expanding its viewership beyond people who quiver over Press Your Luck reruns (a.k.a. hardcore game show fans). Gotta admit, I'm a little intrigued by this project, and not just because of those annoying promos with screams from a female contestant. Can GSN produce a convincingly creepy horror game? We'll find out next month.

UPDATE: GSN has announced a spin-off of the Skin Wars franchise for 2016. This will be a more game-show-ey version, with self-contained episodes awarding ten grand each. The network has ordered eight hour-long eps. It's still more of a talent contest than a game show, though, with subjective judging by experts in painting naked people.

UPDATED UPDATE: Scott Rahner got a rough cut of Hellevator from GSN and reviewed it favorably at Game Show Network News.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ratings: Steve edges to the top in reruns

The final week of reruns for the top three syndie game shows produced a close finish. Family Feud slipped ahead by one tenth of a point. Next week we'll get a look at the new season's first numbers. But for now TV News Check posts the household ratings for the week of September 7-13...

Family Feud 5.8 - up a tick
Wheel of Fortune 5.7 - down three ticks to fall just behind Steve
Jeopardy 5.5 - also down three ticks
Millionaire 1.6 - up a tick for Terry's final week
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - up a tick in a welcome bit of good news

Some folks get annoyed when I remind everybody of the single vs. multiple run issue. But the issue is still there. Anyway, TV by the Numbers says that Pat and Vanna finished first among game shows in viewer average. Wheel of Fortune 9.0M, Family Feud 8.5M, Jeopardy 8.4M. Wheel was second only to the loud judge among all syndies.

TV Newser says that GSN slumped a bit for the week of September 14-20. Well, the broadcast competition is getting tougher as we go into the fall season. The numbers were still pretty good by the network's historical standards. 367K/279K/394K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 42nd, 31st and 38th in the windows.

In possibly related news GSN is dumping the Man v. Fly interstitials. The insects sure weren't helping the prime time ratings.

Labor in vain

As a faux tweet noted, Labor Games' second season debut crashed and burned on TLC.

Now it looks like Lisa Arch and her expectant parents have vanished completely from the network. Something called Cake Boss - I never watch TLC because they don't want XY chromosome types - is taking over the show's slots for the next two weeks. Labor Games is nowhere to be found on TLC's schedule. The show's page is still on the network's web site, but with no indication of when, if ever, it will return. I assume the second season eps will get burned off somehow, sometime. Maybe Christmas morning?

Although I was only lukewarm on Labor Games, it's always a little depressing when a traditional game show - even one in a delivery room - gets the ax. This was hardly the greatest quizzer ever, but the idea was kind of cute. Maybe too cute. TLC's viewers apparently didn't like women in labor getting pestered by the arch (sorry) Lisa and her silly questions.

Geeks Who Drink is dying a similar death on Syfy, though the network hasn't pulled the show from the schedule. The genre could use a cable hit somewhere to get other networks interested. Oh well, CNN Quiz Show isn't doing too bad in the ratings.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Names of all sorts

Just sat through the second season debut of Celebrity Name Game. As widely advertised, there were a few tweaks to the gameplay. Nothing drastic or even very consequential. The basic structure of the lively Pyramid knockoff remains the same.

One thing you'll notice is that the goofball category names are gone. Those category monikers could get a little annoying, but I kind of liked the cornball humor. Anyway, the category names in the first round are now just letters. "B" and "G" in the debut ep, much like the tiebreaker rounds on the old Pyramid. The other category names are dully descriptive. "Famous docs and doctors" and that sort of thing. Sigh.

Most importantly, we're not just guessing celebrity names any more. Now the answers can be pretty much anything. People, places, things, whatever, as Craig might (and does) say. This gives the show even more of a Pyramid feel.

Another tweak: in the round with Craig as cluegiver, the answers are only gradually revealed - a few letters at a time - to the great American unwashed viewing audience. I like this change. It helps the playalong value of the show when you have to guess with the contestants.

Otherwise, things are pretty much the same as in the first season. Craig is as drily witty as ever, and Tom Arnold is just as frantic a celeb player. Tom's pretty good at the game but always seems on the verge of a coronary. Calm down, big guy.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Final answer

Hard to believe in today's fragmented TV world, but in February, 2000 thirty million people watched an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

They saw Rudy Reber, a telemarketer and former standup comic from Newport News, VA, wipe out on the $500,000 question. "Who directed Michael Jackson's video for the song Bad?" His phone-a-friend Will Durst - remember that pre-Google lifeline?- said John Landis. Which was the answer Rudy gave to Regis.

And he was wrong. $218,000-losing wrong. Landis directed the Thriller video. Martin Scorsese directed the Bad effort (pun sort of intended).

A where-are-they-now story on a Virginia news site catches up with Mr. Reber today. He currently lives in Alameda, CA and is mostly retired at age 67. He still remembers the dazed look from Regis when the Big Goof happened. "He paused for a moment, and at first I thought he was stalling for dramatic effect. Then I realized, oh Jesus, that's not a 'dramatic effect' look in his eyes. That's a 'hit in the head with a two-by-four look.'"

The subsequent years have been kind to Rudy. He appreciates the thirty-two grand he got from Millionaire, and holds no grudges against the phone-a-friend who steered him wrong. In fact, he's meeting Will Durst in San Francisco at this year's Comedy Day in Golden Gate Park. "Thinking about all that money I could have had would have been counterproductive." That's one way to look at it.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Back to the TPiR future

A faux tweet mentioned the decades stunt which kicks off The Price is Right's new season Monday.

Now Entertainment Tonight publishes some fun video of Drew Carey repeating Bob Barker's original spiel from TPiR's seventies debut. Back then it was The New Price is Right, to distinguish the show from the ancient black-and-white version with Bill Cullen. Drew next week (and Bob back then) assures the audience that the basic idea of guessing prices remains the same. We're just introducing a few new twists, folks.

The new twists have helped the show last forty-four years now. That's not nearly as long as I've lasted, but it's still pretty impressive. It's such a simple idea - figuring out the prices of merchandise - but it's mutated into a slew of different pricing games. All the games have kept the show fresh enough to endure through several wars and eight different presidents. Politicians come and go but TPiR is forever, or as close to forever as TV usually gets.

Just one thing. Drew looks a little weird in that black wig.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The first Wheel story I came across

Just for funsies I'm doing a blog entry about a Wheel of Fortune story. But not just any story. This blog entry is about the first item that came up when I typed "Wheel of Fortune" into Google News.

I was half-expecting a contestant story, and Google did not disappoint. It was a simple item on a Pennsylvania news site. Seems that Joette Leshinski, a graduate of a local high school, will appear on Wheel's October 2 episode. To offer a little local flavor, the story gives the addresses of her parents and her grandmother.

Ms. Leshinski currently lives in Los Angeles. She "works behind the scenes in entertainment productions. In addition, her voice talents are utilized in the production of audio books."

So at least her voice should sound pleasant on WoF. I don't know anything more about Joette beyond her winsome picture included with the story. Well, wait a minute. She's a graduate of Bloomberg University. And she has an item in Google News about her appearance on a game show.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A variety of stuff

Finally got around to watching the debut of Best Time Ever on I'll only review the game show bits, which were scattered among a lot of other things.

There was Singalong Live, where hidden cameras nailed three home viewers into a tarted-up version of Don't Forget the Lyrics. In the studio Gloria Gaynor belted out I Will Survive, and the folks at home had to fill in some blanks in the lyrics. One poor contestant goofed but two others won a thousand bucks. I kind of liked the cheesy disco-redo atmosphere.

Then there was Neil Vs., where host Neil Patrick Harris competed with guest announcer Reese Witherspoon in climbing a fifteen-story tower. Don't worry, they had safety cables. I didn't like this stunt game as much as the singalong, maybe because Reese's voice always gets on my nerves. Neil won, by the way.

Finally there was Get Lucky, where an audience member came on down - I don't know how they resisted the catchphrase - to play a pop culture quizzer. She wound up winning a fair amount of loot. Not the most brilliant quizzer format I've ever seen, but it went by in a hurry so who cares?

Otherwise it was a bunch of celebrity pranks and song and dance numbers and audience participation bits. Not to mention plugs for The Voice. Just a TV smorgasbord of this and that. Neil did a nice back flip off a pogo stick.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ratings: Pat and Vanna lead the reruns

Although most syndie game shows have already begun their new seasons, Nielsen is still catching up with the week of August 31-September 6. Every show was then in reruns, and Pat and Vanna topped the household ratings. TV News Check has the numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - flat but good enough to win
Jeopardy 5.8 - up a tick
Family Feud 5.7 - down four ticks in not the best week for Steve
Millionaire 1.5 - down a couple ticks to a season low as Terry lingers in repeats
Celebrity Name Game 1.1 - down another tick as the show keeps sinking

Wheel also led the viewer averages by a pretty good margin. The totals from TV by the Numbers: Wheel of Fortune 9.7M, Jeopardy 8.8M, Family Feud 8.3M.

Best Time Ever, the NBC variety/game show package, got decent sampling for its debut. 6.6M viewers and a 1.8 18-49 rating. I'm not sure if the show can hold at this level as TV heads into the fall.

TV Newser says GSN perked up a bit in the September 7-13 week. 411K/292K/435K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 42nd, 33rd and 37th in the windows. Certainly good numbers by GSN's historical standards, if not as hot (sorry) as the summer months.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Another hunt

Once upon a time I was a kid. It was the 1950s, and I vaguely remember watching Treasure Hunt and thinking Jan Murray was kind of creepy.

Murray was probably no more or less creepy than any other TV denizen, but I couldn't help my childhood impressions. The 1950s Treasure Hunt has long since vanished almost entirely. Wikipedia says only two episodes remain. One of them lives on YouTube, if you want a glimpse of 1950s kitsch complete with incredibly cheesy music. A contestant on the episode brings along her pet monkey. Maybe the simian had something to do with the ep's survival.

Chuck Barris revived the show in the 1970s because the king of kitsch couldn't resist. Now it looks like another version may be coming. Barry Poznick, fresh from his rewind of To Tell the Truth for ABC, is partnering with Wink Martindale (who else?) and John Ricci on a remake.

It sounds like they want to keep the basic premise intact but inject plenty of "comedic distractions." Like a pet monkey or three? We'll see if an actual show ever materializes from the effort.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Professional quiz

Just watched my first episode of Millionaire with Chris Harrison and the retro rules.

I don't think it was the "official" premiere episode, just a double-run ep from later in the series. But it was plenty enough to form a key conclusion about the drastic changes Millionaire has made this season. After God knows how many experiments with new hosts and random questions, Millionaire finally looks like a serious quizzer again.

Harrison is competent, friendly, professional, and always in control of the game and himself. It's like watching a grown-up do the show instead of a scenery-chewing kid. The money tree makes sense as it always did, with the questions gradually increasing in difficulty. Not that the queries start out easy. There are challenges right from the beginning, and the first contestant on the episode wiped out before she got to the first safe level at five grand.

The second contestant made it up to seven grand, but not without burning all her lifelines. I'll tune in tomorrow to see how she does. It's nice to have a real quizzer back again, instead of an attempt at comedy hour (or half-hour).

News and views

Stuff rolls into my inbox from the oddest places. Celebrity Name Game just sent me a list of their celeb players for the first eight eps of the new season, plus a couple of video sneak peeks (which are available on YouTube). I can tell you that Kim Kardashian's butt - the clue, not the actual item - shows up on the September 22 ep.

The celebs for the first episodes:

Sept. 21 Betsy Brandt and Tom Arnold
Sept. 22 Sheryl Underwood and David Arquette
Sept. 23 Billy Bush and Kit Hoover
Sept. 24 Billy Bush and Kit Hoover
Sept. 25 Alex Borstein and Terrell Owens
Sept. 28 Russell Hornsby and Vivica A. Fox
Sept. 29 Colin Egglesfield and Kate Flannery
Sept. 30 Ross Matthews and Virginia Madsen

These are mostly returnees from the first season, with a few new faces. The entertaining Pyramid knockoff is doing what Pyramid used to do. Once they find celebs who are good at the demanding game, they use those same celebs over and over.

I like the show, so I hope the second season proves successful. Gotta admit, I have my worries about CNG's future.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Survey says...this board?

I was surprised to see a thread about GSN's upcoming Hellevator on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's.

After all, this is the board that picks nits over Buzzr possibly skipping a thirty-year-old episode of Body Language. It's a ginormous understatement to say that Game Show Forum's interest in any new show tends to be rather limited. But somehow a six-message thread about Hellevator did appear on the board.

Of course, the thread begins with a putdown. The show is new, which makes it automatically suspect. And for the most part the thread predictably grumps about how lousy we can expect Hellevator to be. (There's one exception. A brave poster allows that the show "might be quite watchable." Bold words on that site.)

But here's the thing. The original poster mentions that Sony actually surveyed him for his reaction to the show's proposed format. I mean, seriously? Sony asked somebody on what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board for an opinion on a new game show? What did they expect, a favorable reaction?

Naturally, Sony got a dump in return. The poster grumped that Paranormal Activity blew - a shot at Hellevator showrunner Jason Blum - and that the show's hosts would be annoying. Next time, Sony might as well ask for my opinion on an upcoming show. At least the results might be slightly less forseeable.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Trimmed down

Just watched the debut of Monopoly Millionaires Club's second season. The new half-hour length works well for the skill-free giveaway. The toughest decision a contestant on the show has to make is when to stop. The producers have made the right decision in stopping the proceedings at thirty minutes.

Speaking of the contestants, they tend to be the down-to-earth types you would expect to buy tickets from a state lottery. Like the guy in the first game tonight, a Grizzly Adams sort from Maine who liked to hunt and fish. Which gives the show that blue-collar feel sought by political consultants in election ads.

But overlaying the blue-collar-ness is a massive blanket of Vegas glitz, with one of the ritziest-ditziest sets you'll see on any game show. The electronic whizbangery works pretty well, though, because it's based on that humblest of rainy day pastimes, a game of Monopoly.

Billy Gardell hosts agreeably, looking like a Pittsburgh Steelers fan (which he is) who got dressed up and wandered onto the set. The studio audience whoops it up emphatically because they get a cut of the loot. It's not the most challenging gameplay ever, but the show passes a half-hour pleasantly enough.

Friday, September 11, 2015


Carrie Grosvenor has posted (or reposted) an entry on her game show site at concerning free stuff.

I'm talking about free episodes of game shows on the Internet. Carrie gives a bunch of sources, including broadcast and cable network sites, Hulu, YouTube, the Museum of Broadcast Communications, and BlinkX. There are a lot of free eps around the Interwebs, and I've enjoyed a fair number of them.

There are always intellectual property issues, of course. Buzzr has proven that in their misguided crusade against the What's My Line channel on YouTube. By and large, though, most copyright owners have allowed game show content onto the web. YouTube is the biggest storehouse, as it is for videos of just about every kind. The site's search box is the gateway to almost every game show conceivable, and some that are inconceivable.

Carrie's final remark about the lack of free Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune episodes is not quite accurate. YouTube offers some freebie eps, including fairly recent ones. How long Sony will permit them is an open question. But for now the videos are there for the viewing.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Knock me out with a quiz

Now that I've ripped one of the failed game show pilots shown by Buzzr this week, I'll praise another one. TKO was a fast-paced 1989 quizzer hosted by Peter Tomarken, and an "interesting little game" according to Game Show Pilot Light.

The Light knows what it's talking about. TKO obviously rips off Jeopardy to some extent, but with enough twists to make it a worthy quizzer in its own right. The first couple rounds have a three by five board of questions. The contestants get three possible answers for each question, only in the form of initials (see the screenshot). They have to pick the right set of initials and then call out the full phrase. TKO is a group of initials itself, get it?

There's a kicker called a "knockout question," where a correctly answering contestant gets to knock off the dollar value from one of the competing contestants' totals. In the final round, this becomes pretty much the whole game, as every question is a knockout. The idea is to whittle away your competitors' stashes while keeping some loot yourself. The final survivor gets whatever dollars are left plus five grand.

Tomarken runs the game with his expected competence, and the pace never flags. It's pretty much the Jeopardy approach - keep the questions coming fast enough to tie down the viewer's attention.

Hard to say why this entertaining quizzer never got to air. The Light speculates that the game show market was just too glutted in 1989. That's possible, though the ruthless nature of TKO's competition might have scared off some execs. At least on Jeopardy the contestants don't knock down each other's cash totals. But TKO still deserved a chance, in my not so humble game show opinion.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ratings: August closes blah

We're grinding through the final weeks of syndie game show reruns as August limps to a close. There wasn't much movement anywhere for the week of August 24-30. TV News Check has the dull household ratings...

Family Feud 6.1 - down a tick but manages to hang onto the top spot
Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - up a tick to beat the Sony soulmate
Jeopardy 5.7 - flat
Millionaire 1.7 - flat, yawn
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - down a tick and I'm getting worried

Single-run Pat and Vanna still bagged their usual win in viewer average, says TV by the Numbers. Wheel of Fortune 9.5M (weekend repeat 3.9M), Family Feud 9.0M, Jeopardy 8.5M. Will Millionaire ever return to TVBTN's top 25 list? We'll see in the new season with Chris Harrison.

GSN endured its worst week in a while for August 31-September 6, TV Newser reports. 380K/285K/407K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 43rd, 35th and 42nd in the windows. The Steampunk'd disaster didn't help.

And in offbeat ratings news CNN Quiz Show was the network's second most-watched show for September 7. The show did skew old, even by CNN's geriatric standards. The curse of the genre, though I get in trouble with some people for daring to mention it.

A word from our stars

A long time ago in a GSN far, far away, there was a Thanksgiving stunt with failed game show pilots. Turkeys, you might call them.

Nowadays, the oldies subchannel Buzzr is trotting out the gobblers. One of them is the 1983 pilot for Star Words. This was a simple word association game, where a civvie and a celeb tried to come up with the same word associated with a pair of terms.

Usually they failed, which was only the start of the problems with the pilot. In fact, the bonus round got easier because the game was reversed. Host Nipsey Russell gave the associated word to the civvie and the celeb, who then had to pick the pair of terms from a list of ten. I honestly enjoyed the bonus round, which bumped up the pace considerably and at least had some correct guesses. Maybe they just should have played the bonus round for a half-hour and forgotten about the glacial front game.

But there were other issues. One of them was Nipsey, who was okay in small doses as a celeb contestant on shows like Match Game, but wore on my eyes and ears as the host of this pilot. The voice, the grin, the was too much for an entire half-hour. And there weren't many chances for laughs, though Charles Nelson Reilly tried his darnedest.

A couple other game show sites have trashed this failed pilot, and I can't really disagree with the verdict. Somewhere in the bonus round a viable game show might have been lurking. But the pilot overall was a dud.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Maybe another season

Sage Young, apparently the real name of a Bustle writer, wants another season for Hollywood Game Night. I agree, if not overwhelmingly.

The show gets on my nerves a little with the jackhammer pop culture emphasis. Can't they find any other subject material? But this is meant to be light entertainment, not a Jeopardy tryout. Or even a Cash Cab segment. The idea is to get celebs to play goofy games and look more human than celebs usually do. Which the show does pretty well most of the time.

Jane Lynch runs things with enough authority but doesn't get too Patton-ish. Hollywood Game Night has produced okay numbers, four-and-a-half to five million viewers with 18-48 ratings in the mid-ones. Hardly an embarrassment for NBC on a summer night. The network hasn't announced a renewal, but does NBC have a flock of terrific shows for June through August? Maybe there will be another batch of episodes.

If not, GSN could pick up the 38 existing eps and grind them into dust. That's a pretty sizable run by GSN standards.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Road map

Hadn't dropped by the TPiR board Golden Road for quite a while. This mainly reflects my tepid attitude toward The Price is Right. I'm not a fan, I'm not a foe, I'm just not much of anything when it comes to the CBS merchandise fest. Sure, I respect the show's longevity and its continued appeal to a sizable fanbase. It's just that shopping games have never been my fave. Personal taste, yes, but what can I do about it?

On the game show Interwebs Golden Road has a reputation as, to put it bluntly, Bob's board. Many G-R posters seem far more interested in reminiscing about the glorious Barker years than in discussing the current version of the show. Sure enough, there's a pinned thread at the top of the main category about - hallelujah! - Bob's appearance on a podcast. This leads into much chat about Bob's relationship to Rod and other minutiae from twenty or thirty years ago.

The overall attitude of the thread - and G-R in general - looks to be summed up in one poster's tagline: "I haven't actively watched the show for almost a year now...because the show is no longer fun for me to watch. How anyone is still enjoying the show is beyond me."

The Nielsen Company says that every day five to seven million people still somehow find the show watchable. And to be fair, it's always a mixed bag on any Internet board, and some G-R posters think Drew's eps are at least discussable. But the heavy atmosphere of nostalgia for Bob is ever-present.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Goodbye to all that

When game show hosts take their standup acts on the road, you get lots of interviews with local media.

Usually, the chat is predictable and shallow. These guys are just promoting their standup shows, after all, so you don't expect deep ruminations on the human condition. This Maclean's (a Canadian newsmagazine) interview with Craig Ferguson, though, is a little meatier than most. Later this month Ferguson will tow his standup act around Ontario, so the magazine asked him about the vagaries of late night talk shows. Craig did one for ten years, you know.

Ferguson sounds happy happy joy joy to be out of the late night wars. "I don't miss it. And I don't kind of pine for it, I don't think I would ever do it again, but it was great. I don't think I'm in any way shape or form desperate to do it again." And then he goes on at length as to why he doesn't miss it.

To some extent Craig might be protesting too much. After all, he was reportedly interested in doing a syndie talk show until the project fell through. But on the famous other hand, maybe he does like the greater freedom of a game show schedule, where you can run off the episodes and then have plenty of time to hit the road with your standup act. Not to mention that you might win an Emmy, which is something that the late night talk show never got you.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Can't please everybody

Not content with handing out only one WORST THING IN CREATION award, Game Show Garbage split the voting into two categories.

One vote picked the worst Internet game show of the year. Reflecting the fastidious opinions of GSG's readers, Buzzr's Password "won." Well, it got all of 193 votes. The GSG voting base is not exactly massive. I doubt that Fremantle is worried about the putdown. (Hey, I doubt that they know about it.) At last count, the fourteen eps of Buzzr's Password had garnered over 800,000 views, with like/dislike ratios on each video of 600 to 15 or thereabouts. Fremantle can probably live with 193 naysayers.

Host Steve Zaragoza may have rubbed the GSG faultfinders the wrong way. He does have Terry Crews syndrome and often shouts madly at the camera. Unlike Terry, though, he occasionally gets off a funny line. The rest of the show is fine.

The other vote for worst TV show was really weird. They voted for something that wasn't even a game show, CBS reality dog The Briefcase. Go figure.

Friday, September 4, 2015

A contestant

The new version of Chain Reaction has gotten to be a pet show of mine. It pretty much improves away all the faults of GSN's previous try at the word ladders. Mike Catherwood is a genuinely talented host who has a future in the genre, if he wants one.

Like a lot of game shows nowadays, Chain Reaction only gives the audience the first names of the contestants. Maybe it's a privacy thing in the Google era, I dunno. But sometimes the secret is easy to crack.

One of the contestants on last night's second ep was a stuntwoman named Katelyn. That's not exactly a common name (or spelling, anyhow) and I figured there couldn't be too many stuntwomen kicking around Hollywood with the moniker. So I tried "stuntwoman Katelyn" in Google and hit paydirt.

The lady's full name name is Katelyn Brooks, and she seems to specialize in name-taking and ass-kicking, according to her YouTube channel. Her movies have names like Slug Street Scrappers: Beat Em Up, which kind of gives you the idea. And in case you might think she's a dumb jock, she was a terrific player on Chain Reaction, landing some tough guesses.

She apparently can also land some tough punches. Beat 'em up!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

September song

September has rolled around, and with the cooler weather comes the debut of gazillions of new TV shows. Our little genre is not immune to the rash of premieres. In fact, there's a bigger bunch of game show debuts than normal. Maybe networks and syndicators are catching on to the famously low production costs of fun and games. We've got no fewer than ten premieres over the next few weeks.

September 12. Monopoly Millionaires Club. State lotteries kick off a second season of the now stripped-down half-hour syndie. They hope you buy lots of tickets.

September 14. Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Family Feud, Millionaire. The syndie establishment rolls into their umpteenth seasons. Millionaire is making by far the most drastic changes, with a new host and retro gameplay. But then Millionaire is easily the Nielsen Company's least favorite of this group.

September 15. Labor Games. A second season for the neonatal version of Cash Cab. Lisa Arch pesters parents-to-be with goofy questions for money and stuff.

September 21. The Price is Right, Let's Make a Deal, Celebrity Name Game. The CBS duo proceeds into yet another year of giving away merchandise of all sorts. And the spunkiest kid among the syndies fights to stay afloat in its second season.

September 23. Game Plane. The flying version of Cash Cab sends Mark Walberg to Discovery Family, with the playful passengers of Allegiant Air.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Scary network

As a faux tweet noted, GSN will debut horror stunt show Hellevator on October 21. From the moment this show got a mention at GSN's upfront, it's drawn huge publicity by the standards of our little game show network.

I get in trouble for reminding folks of this, but game shows remain niche programming in the wonderful world of TV. And GSN, despite its recent ratings roll, is still a niche network. So it's a little, uh, weird - much like Hellevator's twin sister hosts (see photo) - when a site that's never heard of Bill Cullen tells its readers: "If you don’t have GSN right now, you'll want to set a reminder to call your cable/satellite provider to make sure you turn it on by October 21st."

Most of Dread Central's readers aren't looking for Dick Clark Pyramid reruns. GSN is clearly creeping out of its comfort zone to attract some new viewers. At least they're keeping within the bounds of the game show kingdom with Hellevator, instead of tumbling over fully into RealityTVLand®.

A big reason for the Hellevator buzz is showrunner Jason Blum, who's garnered critical kudos in a genre usually disdained by snooty reviewers. Also onboard is Shye Sutherland, who helped concoct the goofball stunts on Wipeout. Yesterday I saw (or heard) a GSN promo with (they swear) genuine contestant screams from the show. Just for funsies, you can listen at the linked story on Dread Central.

UPDATE: Another experiment from GSN, reality show Steampunk'd, crashed and burned horrendously in the latest ratings. The show had previously done great in demos and sort of okay in total viewers. But it really crumbled on September 2. Look for a quick ax if these numbers continue.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ratings: Steve wins 9 of 11

TV News Check says that Wheel of Fortune won the just finished syndie season with a 6.7 household rating. But Family Feud took the number one spot in nine of the past eleven weeks. Again, you have to remember the caveat about a single daily run vs. multiple runs. But there's no doubt that Steve is on a roll. The ratings for the week of August 17-23...

Family Feud 6.2 - up a tick
Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - also up a tick
Jeopardy 5.7 - down a couple ticks to fall behind the Sony soulmate
Millionaire 1.7 - flat as Terry gets closer to the door
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat

In what has become a routine consolation prize, Pat and Vanna still ranked first in total viewers among all syndies. TV by the Numbers has the viewer averages. Wheel of Fortune 9.4M (weekend repeat 4.1M), Family Feud 9.2M, Jeopardy 8.8M.

TV Newser reports that GSN kept rolling in August, though not quite at July's torrid pace. 447K/319K/466K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 35th, 29th and 32nd in the windows. The network can live off those numbers.

UPDATE: GSN burbles with joy over its summer (June through August) ratings. The three months set records in total viewers and all the demos, for prime time and total day. The network waxes downright rhapsodic about its originals.