Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Drew all the time

In one of the show's more imaginative Halloween stunts, The Price is Right dressed all the on-air crew as Drew Carey (see the screenshot).

That would sure scare the bejesus out of Internet oldies fans who still carry a torch for Bob. A lot of them hang out at Golden Road, where one guy's signature - "How anyone is still enjoying the show is beyond me" - sums up the pining for Barker. But even on Golden Road some of the posters seem to have finally labored through all the stages of grief to Acceptance of Drew as The Host.

In fact, next season will be Carey's tenth on the show, and TPiR has long since taken the stamp of his personality and hosting style. The Price is Right still pulls an outsized audience by broadcast daytime standards, as CBS likes to brag now and then. Even on the traditionalist game show Interwebs, change can be eventually accepted. It's not always evil in itself and catastrophic by definition.

Speaking of traditionalists, I just noticed a funny exchange on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's. Game Show Forum was chewing over GSN's schedule - only the oldies, of course - when one poster wrote that he hadn't seen the schedule for October 28 on my blog. To which BrandonFG - no idea who he is - grumped: "Your source was your first mistake."

Nice to see that I've still got adoring fans in oldies land. In case Brandon's interested, which he isn't, I posted the GSN schedule for October 28 (and the inevitable revisions) a while back. I post 'em as soon as I get 'em.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Martian has a secret

Long before the current movie, Ray Walston played a real - okay, Hollywood real - Martian in the 1960s sitcom My Favorite Martian. I vaguely recall the silliness, especially Walston's goofy antennas.

Almost everything that was ever on TV ends up on DVD, and this sitcom is no exception. At Google News I found this rave review of the recently released My Favorite Martian DVD set. The game show angle? The review mentions Ray Walston's turn on I've Got a Secret, included as an extra on the DVD release.

The IGAS ep happened on October 26, 1964, according to the superb I've Got a Secret episode guide. By then Steve Allen had taken over the show, which had about two-and-a-half more years to run. Walston's secret for the Halloween show was that he had a jack o' lantern that lit up in response to audience applause. Maybe not the best secret in the show's history, but they can't all be super winners. The panel was the regular crew: Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer, Bess Myerson and Henry Morgan.

The real point of Ralston's appearance was to plug his movie Kiss Me, Stupid, where he played opposite Dean Martin and Kim Novak. One of Billy Wilder's lesser efforts, the flick bombed with critics and audiences. After My Favorite Martian closed in 1966, Ray Walston played many character roles in TV and movies. He died on New Year's Day, 2001 at age 86.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Building a wall

As a faux tweet noted, Chris Hardwick of @Midnight and Talking Dead is getting a real game show.

NBC announced a while back that they were developing a game show with hoopster LeBron James. Don't exactly know what particular game show expertise LeBron brings to the project, but his name has publicity value, no doubt. Yesterday the waiting world learned that Hardwick will host the show, called The Wall. The reason for the name is that a ball bounces around a wall and that determines something or other in the trivia quizzer. Or as the Deadline story puts it:
The 10-episode series will feature two-person teams related by family, friendship or life experience. They’ll compete for cash that can be won or lost in an instant, depending upon whether a ball bounces their way, or a trivia question is answered correctly.
My guess is that the trivia won't be Jeopardy $2,000-level difficult. Pop culture, anyone?

Oh, maybe I'm just being snobbish because LeBron James is tied to the project. The show might be a clever quizzer that will entertain and enlighten millions. I have to stop prejudging (slapping myself silly for daring to doubt NBC). No word on when the show will debut.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Remember the humor, guys

In case you haven't noticed, another rumpus has erupted over politics on game shows. This time it happened on Jeopardy.

Last Friday the Final Jeopardy clue showed a picture of a flower and asked for its name, which was also "a disparaging term for people on the political left." The correct response was "bleeding heart," but contestant Becky Sullivan - an NPR producer, of all things - wrote "pansy."

Of course, much jollity ensued on the Interwebs over Becky's choice of flower. Odd note: the "thinking" sequence on this particular clue had to be reshot, apparently because of a technical screw-up. But the answers were still real. It's literally a federal crime to rig a game show.

For whatever reason the guys at Game Show Newsnet chose to be definitely Not Amused. They grumped in one of their "lightning round" comments...
#ICYMI: right wing galvanized by an apparent brain fart on Friday's Jeopardy!. Because The INTERNET. Read the article before you hurt someone over this piddle of a shareline, people.
The emphases are in the original. Game Show Newsnet was really irked. An aside: how does that site get away with reprinting, word for word, one entire article after another from other websites? Don't they ever get copyright complaints? And while I'm at it, they should rename the site Unscripted TV Newsnet. Many if not most of their items are non-game show related. Talent contests, reality stuff, comedy shows, etc.

I guess folks on the left were long used to dominating the old media in the U.S. It's that durned INTERNET - to use Game Show Newsnet's all caps - which broke the dominance.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ratings: it's tight at the syndie top

All of one tenth of one rating point divided the top three syndie game shows for the week of October 12-18. TV News Check posts the photo finish in the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.2 - down a couple ticks to help create the logjam
Jeopardy 6.2 - up a tick as Matt Jackson ended his run
Family Feud 6.1 - up a tick
Millionaire 1.2 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.1 - flat, it's lonely at the bottom

TV by the Numbers says that Pat and Vanna led all syndies in viewers. Wheel of Fortune 10.0M, Jeopardy 9.7M, Family Feud 8.8M (weekend repeat 3.0M). The Sacred Demo ratings for the shows were 1.2, 1.3 and 1.8, respectively.

FABLife, the Tyra Banks talker that bumped Millionaire into some obscure time slots, is doing lousy numbers. The NY Post has the grim news. The show is getting a 0.7 household rating, which makes Millionaire look like a Nielsen behemoth. Sooner or later TV execs will realize that talk shows have glutted the market.

Nielsen says "October" means September 28-October 25. We all look at the months differently. However you define it, October was a good month for GSN. 402K/316K/431K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 40th, 30th and 35th in the windows.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The nicer side of Feud

My last post relating to Family Feud was a sour note about Steve Harvey and two Miami college students. I have my doubts about the tuition-offer story, but it's gone public on the local Miami news. So I hunted around for nicer Feud bits and found a couple in the local Omaha media.

The Skaff family from Omaha appears on Family Feud today. Like many game show contestants they're planning a viewing party for the episode. But in a nice twist, they're inviting the Kirshenbaum family, another group of Omahans - that's apparently the correct term, though it looks a little strange - who appeared on Feud last month.

You can read about the two families' experiences here and here. Honest to God, a member of the Skaff family uses the s-word. "All of us grew up with the show, and suddenly you're on the show. It's a surreal moment [emphasis mine]. You're in the backroom, they lead you onto the stage, and within a matter of minutes, here comes Steve Harvey."

Meanwhile, one of the Kirshenbaums offers the usual kind words about Steve, with a little extra. "Family Feud host Steve Harvey is the nicest guy and has the softest hands." Now you know about Steve's hand texture.

UPDATE: In a distantly related item Broadcasting and Cable, a.k.a. the Steve Harvey fan club, gushes over Family Feud's ratings. The story does note that Feud benefits a lot from its multiple daily runs, compared to single-run Wheel of Fortune. B&C also repeats rumors about possible syndie runs for Chain Reaction and Monopoly Millionaires Club. Then they toss in speculation over 500 Questions and Heads Up joining the syndie fray. The story is oddly upbeat about Celebrity Name Game but hangs crepe for Millionaire.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Buried history

Sometimes we all need a grim reminder of mortality.

How's that for a lively first sentence in a blog entry? I stumbled across this slightly weird story - just in time for Halloween - about a semi-retired Purdue professor named Dale Hoppe. Instead of collecting stamps or writing a blog, he visits gravesites of the well-known and the sort of well-known. He takes pictures of the graves and keeps them in binders labeled "Famous Dead People." There's a photo of Mr. Hoppe to prove this.

One of his first finds was the grave of Password legend Allen Ludden, shown in the picture. This is how his hobby got started...
Some years ago, I went with my wife, Mary, to stay at a bed and breakfast in Mineral Springs, Wis., which is right over the Illinois state line. While at breakfast, some of the others around the table started talking about how Betty White's husband, Allen Ludden, the game show host, is buried just down the road in the cemetery near this little inn where we were staying. As it turns out, he was originally from Mineral Springs. So when he died at age 63 in 1981, he wanted to be back home.
It's a little sad that Mr. Hoppe first remembered Allen Ludden as the husband of Betty White. The guy had other claims to fame, after all. One thing I didn't know but learned from the photo of his grave is that Ludden was an Army captain in World War II. Wikipedia says he won the Bronze Star.

Mr. Hoppe wishes that more of the famous dead from his northwest Indiana area would have made the last trip home to be buried. "I wish some of the big names like Betsy Palmer, who was from East Chicago...would have made a final return to Indiana." I checked Find a Grave but couldn't discover exactly where the I've Got a Secret panelist is buried. R.I.P., wherever.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Feud over tuition

With game show news drying up on the weekend, I decided to write about the first Family Feud item I ran across in Google News. Did the same thing a while back with Wheel of Fortune.

I was expecting the news item to be some routine contestant story about how funny Steve Harvey is or how "surreal" the taping was. Instead, I got this lollapalooza from, of all people, Perez Hilton (real name Mario Armando Lavandeira, if you want to know).

Seems that Mr. Harvey allegedly promised to pay college tuition for a couple of Miami sisters, Alexis and Marcia Carter. All they had to do was graduate from high school and not get pregnant before graduation. (Was there anything about pregnancy after graduation? Don't ask me.)

Anyway, the girls say they held up their end of the bargain, but Steve Harvey welshed on the deal. They haven't gotten a cent for their college educations from the media mogul. Alexis and Marcia have taken their complaints to the local news, with a video clip in the linked story.

Couple things. First, if a celeb ever promised me any kind of serious money, I would get a pack of lawyers, notaries and witnesses to nail every freakin' detail in writing, with all the required signatures. Oral contracts are enforceable, but it's a ginormous chore to prove them. Second, I'm not crazy about the public-shaming routine the sisters are trying. It's got more than a whiff of shakedown.

Steve Harvey has a reputation for charitable work, so maybe this will all get settled with some money. But if I were a celeb who wanted to finance kids' educations, I'd work through a vetted organization like the UNCF.

Friday, October 23, 2015

TPiR news and views

The Price is Right's models can't stay out of the comedy news, fictional or real-life. On the heels (bad pun) of Showtime developing a sitcom about Barker's sometimes disgruntled Beauties, one of the show's current models has trouble with her own heels. Amber Lancaster stumbled backwards in her high heels and broke one of the 74,593 light bulbs on TPiR's set.

Maybe they can work that incident into the sitcom. Or maybe not. Showtime seems intent on making Barker into the bad guy boss - haven't we seen that stereotype before, like 74,593 times? - and they probably don't have much use for anything on Carey's version of the show. Though the models' lawsuits have certainly continued under Drew's reign. Whatever else you might think about the show, The Price is Right is a very effective jobs program for lawyers.

Speaking of Bob Barker, he recently tripped and fell himself, with much more serious effects. The 91-year-old legend was taking his usual daily walk when he fell to the sidewalk and sustained a cut on his head. Luckily, he seems well on his way to recovery. All sorts of news items are collecting around The Price is Right in the past few days.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Old, older, oldest

Wouldn't you know, I add the Buzzr Facebook page to my blogroll, and a minor hoohah erupts on the site. Seems that a certain Mr. Dudnikov is upset that Buzzr is replacing the really ancient black-and-white shows on Sunday night with slightly less ancient color shows (see the screenshot).

At what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board, they ridicule Mr. Dudnikov for daring to criticize Buzzr.  Despite some whines about reruns, the oldies subchannel is much beloved on the oldies board. Anyway, the hoohah is just a preview of the screaming rumpus that will arise when Buzzr puts some modern-day shows on its schedule.

Which will happen, of course. Sooner or later Fremantle will realize that the 43 hardcore Internet classics freaks aren't enough to support even a teensy-weensy game show subchannel. In will come Steve Harvey (a.k.a. the Antichrist on the oldies boards) and other current shows despised by the classics faithful. The complaints by Mr. Dudnikov - a terrific Russian name, as Matt Ottinger himself notes - will look piddly compared to the yellfest when Harvey Feud shows up on Buzzr.

By the way, Mr. Dudnikov can still watch plenty of What's My Line on the YouTube WML channel. He better hurry, though, before Buzzr's lawyers shut the channel down.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hellaciously funny

Just watched the debut ep of Hellevator on GSN, and I can honestly say that I was never scared. I was, however, mightily amused.

This is one of the funniest shows GSN has ever developed. The premise is simple: a combo of Beat the Clock and Friday the 13th. Three put-upon contestants have to complete timed stunts in an abandoned warehouse full of screams, fake corpses, fake corpses doing a lot of screaming, stage blood, stage guts (and other body parts), fiery furnaces, eerie lights, and various low-paid extras playing creepy undertakers and nutcases.

To top it off, the twisted Soska twins mess with the contestants from a control room somewhere in the warehouse. It's all a lot of goofy fun, like a slasher flick where nobody really gets slashed. There's also a fair bit of suspense as the poor schlubs try to finish the stunts while the clock ticks down. Though the corpse of Bud Collyer never turns up, his spirit seems to hover above the ghoulish proceedings. Except the Soskas don't yell stop the clock.

In the debut ep the contestants managed to relieve the producers of $28,000. They deserved it, just for getting splashed by all the faux gore. Meanwhile, I was flipping over to the NLCS during the commercials. The Cubs were going through their own hell. At least they didn't have to put up with the Soskas.

UPDATE: Hellevator turns in decent numbers for GSN, especially in the Sacred (or Scared) Demo. Showbuzz says it got 503K total viewers and a 0.15 18-49 rating. If the show can maintain anything like that demo rating, it should get a renewal. Douglas Pucci chips in that Hellevator was by far GSN's top show of the night in both total viewers and 18-49 viewers.

UPDATED UPDATE: The board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's dumps on the show - why am I not surprised? - as "boring and drawn-out." This may assure a renewal. Not to mention all the usual whines from oldies fans on GSN's Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ratings: Feud slides into third

It was mostly a bad week for syndie game shows. The ratings generally drooped for October 5-11, with a noticeable downdraft in Family Feud's numbers and ranking. Steve slipped into third place, where he hasn't been for a while. But it's still very close among the top three. TV News Check posts the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 6.1 - up a tick to buck the trend as Matt Jackson's run proceeded
Family Feud 6.0 - down four ticks as Steve has seen better weeks
Millionaire 1.2 - flat at a bad number
Celebrity Name Game 1.1 - down a tick into the basement all by itself

Sigh, not a good week for the genre. At least Matt Jackson helped out with a bit of good news. Meanwhile, Billy on the Street and Broke A$$ Game Show are getting 350-450K viewers, pretty much in line with their networks' prime time averages. They're also getting about 0.2 in the 18-49 demo, which ain't great but ain't a disaster, either.

By recent standards GSN had a so-so week for October 12-18. 365K/290K/393K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 42nd, 30th and 37th in the windows. Hardly terrible but not great compared to most weeks lately.

UPDATE: Well, what do you know? TV by the Numbers has started posting their syndie viewer totals again. Pat and Vanna led all syndies. Wheel of Fortune 10.1M, Jeopardy 9.4M, Family Feud 9.0M (weekend repeat 3.2M). TVBTN even has the 18-49 ratings. The site is obsessed with the Sacred Demo. 1.2, 1.1 and 1.9 for the three shows, respectively.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Burning off the labor

Labor Games didn't deliver (sorry) enough viewers for TLC. But hardly anything ever disappears completely in cable land. So the second season eps will get burned off on Discovery Life, one of the more obscure networks in the far-flung Discovery empire, starting October 22.

Host Lisa Arch gave an interview to TV Grapevine about the delivery-room quizzer. First, she told us about herself: "I'm a wife and mom. I'm on the PTA. I'm an actress and a host who started out in sketch comedy. I'm a generally nice person." Wikipedia (usual caveats) fills in a few more details. Her husband's name is Russell and they have one kid, a son named Garrett.

These kinds of personal details always make me a little uncomfortable. I suddenly realize that the performers I talk about so cavalierly on this blog are genuine breathing human beings with lives and careers. If I thought about this too much, I'd probably start to pull my punches, though I doubt that any of the performers ever read the stuff I post here.

Well, okay, at least a few of them do. I've gotten e-mails now and then. That's why I've always turned down opportunities to interview cast or crew members on a game show. I don't want to get close at all - even on a conference call interview - with people in the business.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Back at GSN

Haven't posted much about GSN lately, so I might as well use the latest legal news as an excuse. In case you haven't heard or you don't care or both, GSN looks like they're about to lose the endless tussle with cable carrier Cablevision over tier placement. The silly tiff began five years ago and has dragged on forever before the FCC.

Meanwhile, GSN has grown plenty in viewership and household availability and is doing just fine. But the lawyers have kept arguing and arguing, because that's what lawyers do. At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner notes the proceedings, and I respond. I also chip in some cheap and easy comments about renewal chances for Steampunk'd...

I polished the Cablevision nonsense off in a faux tweet. It's a nothing burger, a stupid case that has dragged on for 50 years (slight exaggeration). Right now GSN is rolling to its most watched year ever, by a wide margin. The network just hit 80 million available households and is close to being fully distributed. Who cares about this ancient spat over tier placement?

As for Steampunk'd, anything that can get 100K in 18-49 has a chance for renewal on GSN. The downside is that the show has no rerun value - it's a cliche that reality reruns badly, as GSN has found out several times - and the total viewer numbers are marginal at best. The show may be right on the bubble for another season.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Blogroll blues

A couple sites on the blogroll look to have gone dormant, or sort of defunct, or something.

Game Show Garbage is the stranger case. The site seems to have gone out of the game show business. The last (loosely) game show related item was posted on September 27, and the last item of any kind on October 3.

Apparently due to personal issues with GSG's main game show proprietor, the site will no longer run any game show material. GSG may continue with "tooncrap" and whatever other crap they like, but I'm not interested. I'll track the site for a few more weeks, but its days on the blogroll look numbered.

Game Show Garbage might have been a good idea once upon a time. But the site soon ran out of truly horrible game shows. The writers then had to pretend that mediocre (at worst) shows deserved the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal. That pretense got old fast.

Game Show Confessions hasn't posted anything for three months now. It was mostly an oldies site, though the posters occasionally found something good to say about a current show. I'll drop it from the blogroll in a few days if nothing new shows up. Meanwhile I'll start hunting for replacement sites for the sidebar.

UPDATE: I replaced the sites with the Buzzr and GSN Facebook pages. The first tends to be super fanboi and the second tends to be super anti-fanboi. Of course, this is due to the heavy older-is-better skew among the few hundred people who post about game shows on the Internet. Buzzr is the oldies channel so the commenters love it. GSN has gone away from oldies so the commenters hate it.

Sure, the comments on the Facebook pages hardly reflect the relative popularity of the two networks in the real world. GSN has a huge audience compared to Buzzr. But the pages do attract lots of posts. So they're in the sidebar.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Deconstructing the genre

Broke A$$ Game Show can get on my nerves a little with the goofball stunts. The show sometimes seems designed more to ridicule the contestants than to entertain the viewers.

But once in a while the deconstruction works fine. An example: the pointless - no reference to the Brit quizzer intended - stunt they launched with a hapless contestant named Lora. It was called "New York Minute." They set Lora loose among a bunch of oddball game show props - a stuffed animal, a watermelon, a big Wheel of Fortune-ish clock - and told her to play the game.

Except they didn't tell her how to play the game. Because there was no game. There were no rules, no hints, no directions, no nothing for Lora to follow. The poor lady was just forced to wander around the props for a minute, while the hosts shouted random nonsense at her. She kept asking what to do, but of course they weren't going to tell her what to do.

Finally she picked up the watermelon and splattered it on the sidewalk. Which I thought was a nice touch. She got $50 for a minute of TV. That's not a bad hourly wage.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Once upon a talk show

Everybody gets a talk show sooner or later. (Okay, slight exaggeration. I've only gotten a blog, and lots of people don't even get that.)

But Pat Sajak, who you may know from the big wheel thingie, really did get a talk show on CBS in January, 1989. It lasted for fifteen tumultuous, mostly low-rated months. The big problem was a guy named Johnny Carson, just entering the homestretch of his nearly thirty-year run.

But Sajak himself was probably too low-key and vanilla to prosper in the late night wars. The same aw-shucks persona that has served him so well on Wheel of Fortune made the talker look and sound snoozy.

Splitsider has posted an entertaining look at Pat's misbegotten effort. Maybe the oddest note in the story is the comment about "Sajak's average of 3 million" viewers. Hey, Fallon gets about that many viewers, and he looks like he'll be on forever. Just shows how the TV audience has splintered. Back in the day, Carson easily doubled that three million figure.

The story is packed with funny anecdotes and other yummy trivia that might make for a good Jeopardy category...if anybody could remember the show.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A possible explanation

I don't get Buzzr on my cable system. But I figure I should post about it now and then. It's the only other game show network around besides, well, Game Show Network.

One complaint I've often seen about Buzzr is the constant rerunning of a handful of episodes. People seem to think that with 40,000 or so eps on Fremantle's shelf, Buzzr should offer a much greater variety of episodes. On the board formerly known as his, Matt Ottinger voiced the criticism. I wish I understood why they're constantly rerunning a relatively small number of episodes -- I really think there's something we don't know at work there. But this far in, I was really hoping for more, even from a tiny operation like this.

Having worked in corporate finance for longer than I care to recall, there may be a pretty simple reason: internal accounting. Like every other Fremantle subsidiary, Buzzr has a profit-loss statement. I'm sure Fremantle anticipated some startup costs, but shareholders don't want any sinkholes gobbling up corporate dollars. Which could be better spent on, say, shareholder dividends.

So Fremantle's bean counters have to estimate what Buzzr would pay for leasing game shows in an "arm's length transaction." Since Buzzr is no doubt bringing in very little (if any) ad revenue right now, the finance folks see hardly any dollars to offset those arm's length costs. So Buzzr only gets a small number of eps.

I can't say for sure that this guess is accurate. But I suspect that the green eyeshade crowd doesn't want Buzzr to look insanely unprofitable on an arm's length basis.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ratings: happy days are here again for syndies

For whatever reason - fall weather, fewer preemptions, good astrology - the Nielsen Company smiled on syndie game shows for the week of September 28-October 4. Every show jumped, sometimes by a lot. Even poor old Chris and Craig had reason to smile. TV News Check posts the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - up a whopping eight ticks
Family Feud 6.4 - up an almost as impressive seven ticks
Jeopardy 6.0 - up five ticks as Matt Jackson begins his run
Millionaire 1.2 - still not great but up a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - up a tick and again not in last place all by itself

It looks like TV by the Numbers has canned its weekly viewer totals for syndie shows. Too bad. My guess is that Pat and Vanna led all syndies in viewers, but I can't prove it. Anyway, it's nice to see some good news for the genre. The numbers should continue to improve as we head into the peak viewing months.

GSN kept racking up good ratings and rankings for the week of October 5-11. 393K/302K/430K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 38th, 29th and 33rd in the windows. Those ranks, especially for total day, were just fine by GSN's historical standards.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Easy peasy

We all like easy game shows, right? Or at least we like game shows that don't leave us feeling like complete fools. A couple of producers, Nigel Lythgoe and Gail Berman, are betting that the great American unwashed will enjoy a less than brutal quizzer. They're taping Easiest Game Show Ever for Pop, the one-time TV Guide channel.

Michael Ian Black will host the twenty-ep effort, which will debut in early 2016. I thought Black was an okay host on Trust Me I'm a Game Show Host, the short-lived TBS effort. He sure looked good compared to co-host D.L. Hughey, who was beyond terrible.

Two contestants work together on Easiest Game Show Ever to answer twenty true-false questions on pop culture. Since they've got a 50-50 chance on each query, chances are they'll pick up some loot. In fact, they only have to get fifteen of the questions right to win the top prize of a hundred grand. What could be easier?

The linked story lists the question categories as "entertainment, food, fashion and culture." In other words, don't expect any entries from the more obscure categories on Jeopardy. Sorry, Matt Jackson, this show isn't pitched at your level.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Live TV, folks

It's been a while since I dropped by the What's My Line channel at YouTube. I was almost afraid that the channel had vanished under Fremantle's legal assault.

Luckily for WML fans like moi, the videos are still in place, as the channel's proprietor vows to keep fighting the good fight. I just finished watching the May 10, 1959 ep, which was notable for an odd incident that broke into the show's usual calm production.

Just after the panel nailed mystery guest Milton Berle, a man ran onstage, shouted "I made it - for Mother's Day," shook hands with a strangely smiling Berle, and ran offstage. Well, it was Mother's Day, and Berle seemed happy enough to greet a possible fan. After the intruder's exit, Milton quipped: "My agent."

In fact, the WML producers never did find out who the intruder was. He seemed harmless enough, probably just a goofy sort who only wanted to get on TV and shake hands with a celeb. As the panel said their good-byes, Bennett Cerf speculated (jokingly) that he might have been Dwight Eisenhower's press secretary, Jim Hagerty.

Otherwise, it was a pretty ordinary episode. British WML host Eamonn Andrews joined the three musketeers - Bennett, Dorothy and Arlene - on the panel. The civvie contestant who bought maternity clothes got the most laughs.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The model late night host

Late night talk shows have never been my fave. In fact, I can't remember much about any of them except Carnak the Magnificent. (Man, am I dating myself.) But an odd item has cropped up in Google News about late night host James Corden filling in as a model on The Price is Right. And you know I can't resist odd game show items.

The chunky Corden seems to be a good sport about it all. He talks about how he's going back to his runway roots and putting the regular models to shame. TPiR hunk James O'Halloran agrees that Corden's hip thrusts are noteworthy. "I haven't seen such a thing." Neither have I, now that you mention it.

Meanwhile, it looks like Drew Carey will take a turn on Corden's show. Somehow he hasn't made an appearance yet. Drew shows up everywhere sooner or later.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Creepy good

Matt Jackson crushed two badly outclassed opponents today - one of them didn't even make it to Final Jeopardy - to win his 11th straight on Alex's venerable quizzer. Matt has drawn a lot of media hype, partly because he's so freakin' good and partly because of his creepy intros. The slow smile, the hand-counting of the wins, the eerie cool. It adds up to a genuine media shtick.

Matt also does the Forrest Bounce around the board, endlessly hunting the Daily Doubles. That habit got on viewers' nerves with Arthur Chu, the lovable (sarcasm alert) Jeopardy champ whose winning streak he tied today. But Matt doesn't seem to provoke the kind of vitriolic reaction Arthur inspired. Maybe it's because he appears almost otherworldly in his nerdy excellence, compared to Chu's kickass aggression.

I sort of figured that if anybody ever challenged Ken Jennings' record, the gifted contestant might come off as almost robotic. (I'm sticking to carbon-based life forms here. Sorry, IBM.) Matt may come closest to such a human Watson, with the macabre smile adding the final touch to his air of cybernetic supremacy. If HAL ever smiled, he would look like Matt.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Dating back to Nick Arcade and before, people have tried to make game shows out of video games. The results have not been sensational.

The problem is that the contestants on such formats don't tend to do much. They usually don't answer questions, play word games, try stunts, or even talk. They just sit at a computer and stare at a screen. This makes for less than compelling TV.

But Endemol is trying the gambit again, this time online with their Smasher network. Smasher has just posted its first Legends of Gaming episode on YouTube. Guess what. The ep shows four guys sitting at a computer and staring at a screen (see the screenshot). They play Doom 3 and compete to see who can kill the most.

Endemol is aware of the sitting-at-a-computer problem, so they make the video as short (five minutes) and punchy as possible. Host Toby Turner shouts snide and silly remarks, and an audience of eight onlookers busily makes faces and noises of various kinds. We also get lots of quick glimpses of Doom itself. There's even a post-game interview with the most successful Doom-ster.

I'm not into video games, so Legends of Gaming is not that entertaining for me. But somebody out there likes it. The video has drawn almost 100,000 views on its first day and racked up a like-dislike ratio around 3,400-60.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

More politics

There must be an election coming. Google News has lots of items comparing politics to game shows.

The comparison is always unfavorable. Internet chatterers with too much time on their hands whine like bummed-out banshees over how politics have become so much like a game show. Which means there are winners and losers, I guess, like there have always been in politics. I hear that Socrates lost the Athens vote a while back, with dire consequences.

The comparison has become such a groaning cliche that even Sting - you can find his picture next to "washed-up rock star" and "pompous ass" at Urban Dictionary - says that all politicians remind him of game show hosts. Gee, Stingie poo, nobody ever came up with that idea before.

Maybe I should be happy that game shows come to mind in the comparison. After all, game shows are the humblest genre, looked down upon by wannabe elitists and beloved (sometimes, anyway) by the great American unwashed. There is something very democratic - small "d" - about shows where ordinary civvies can win money and a teensy-weensy bit of fleeting fame. And if that irritates Sting, so much the better.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ratings: it's a tie...for last

At least Celebrity Name Game improved a little in the week of September 21-27. This meant that for the first time ever, Craig wasn't alone in last place. Which also meant really bad news for Millionaire, of course. Meanwhile, Pat and Vanna held on to the number one spot for another week. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up a tick
Family Feud 5.7 - up a couple ticks in hot pursuit
Jeopardy 5.5 - flat, when will the new season have any effect?
Millionaire 1.1 - gulp, down a tick to another all-time low
Celebrity Name Game 1.1 - up a tick, could it finally get out of the basement?

If Craig can climb out of last place, maybe he'll get another season despite pretty low numbers. Especially if he can build the ratings as we go into the peak viewing months of fall and winter.

GSN enjoyed a decent week for September 28-October 4. The numbers are down a bit from the sizzling summer, but the broadcast season is in full swing now. 394K/316K/429K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 40th, 30th and 38th in the windows.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Eek, a game show

Dread Central, a horror genre site, had one of their writers watch a rough cut of Hellevator, GSN's upcoming Jason Blum project. It's probably the same rough cut Scott Rahner saw and reviewed at Game Show Network News.

No, this post isn't about the show, which I'll review when it debuts October 21. This post is about sending the wrong person to do a job. The reviewer at Dread Central cheerfully admits: "I am not a fan of game shows."

Okay, then why did your boss send you to review something you're not going to like? The reviewer does admit that she likes reality shows. That's her right, of course, though I think she's wasting her time. (I'm not a fan of reality trash TV.)

To cut the suspense which I know is killing you, I'll reveal that, surprise, surprise, the reviewer didn't like Hellevator because it's not reality-ish enough. Or as she puts it, she didn't get to "know or care" enough about the contestants and the hosts.

Maybe somebody should have explained to her that the point of a game show is to play a game, not to get to know the people on the screen. (What she really means is that she didn't see enough of the asinine whining and backbiting so characteristic of reality trash TV.) The point of Jeopardy is the quizzer, not Alex's mercifully brief contestant interviews.

I have no idea whether Hellevator is any good or not. But I do know it's a game show, and somebody who wants a game show to be a reality show doesn't have a clue about reviewing an entrant in our little genre.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Five GSN originals

A poster on the game show forum at Sitcoms Online rather shyly asks the older-is-better board for their favorite GSN originalsI know a lot of people only like the older game shows but I think there have been some good GSN originals.

Uh, no, there are actually very, very few people who only like old game shows. That's why Buzzr reaches an average daily audience of 43 persons. It's just that those 43 persons post a lot on the Internet. Which makes it seem like there are umpteen gazillions of viewers who are dying to watch a Tattletales ep from 1977.

Anyway, the poster gets almost no response from Sitcoms Online - not a surprise on that board - but does give his own list of the top five GSN originals. I wholly agree with only one pick: The Chase. I half-agree with another choice: "Lingo - Chuck Woolery episodes only." Sorry, but the Engvall eps were terrific, too. Bill was actually a wittier and more entertaining host than Chuck. But those famous 43 persons dumped on him all over the Internet because, well, the older version has to be better, right?

The poster's other three choices aren't among my top favorites, though I liked them all. Grand Slam had too much Miller and filler, American Bible Challenge was too heavy on feel-good backstories and not heavy enough on actual gameplay, and 20Q was way overblown at an hour length. All good shows, but not on my personal top five list.

So what are my other three choices? Russian Roulette, High Stakes Poker, and (the real oddball pick) Inquizition.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Star games

Speaking of renewals, it looks like Hollywood Game Night has gotten a fourth go-round from NBC.

At least that's what this story says, as linked in a faux tweet. And since the source is Grant Taylor, a showrunner and the head writer for the show, the news looks reliable. We'll see more stars - or sort of stars, the show likes celebs who are more relatable (and affordable) than A-listers - at play starting January 4.

The show has become an oddball success, producing reasonable numbers for NBC and spawning a scad of international versions. Jane Lynch is a talented host, competent at running all the goofy games - Wikipedia lists about fifty of them - and always ready with a quip. She deserves her Emmys for the show, as much as anybody can deserve showbiz self-congratulation.

The idea for Hollywood Game Night has always sounded a little noblesse oblige-y, in a vaguely irritating way. NBC's own site tells us: "Two contestants are transported from their everyday lives into a once-in-a-lifetime night of fun and celebration as they step beyond the velvet rope [and] rub shoulders with some of their favorite celebrities."

Oh, isn't that nice of the high and mighty to rub shoulders with the grubby hoi polloi. In practice, though, the show proves more pleasant, as both celebs and civvies just try to win the games. The new season should bring the number of episodes up to fifty or so. Enough for GSN to grind them into dust, once the NBC run ends.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Renewed life

As a faux tweet said, two traditional studio-based game shows will ride again on ABC. (I couldn't resist the Variety-ism "alphabet net.") 500 Questions got the formal nod yesterday, and it's only a matter of time - and Steve Harvey's bustling schedule - before it's official for Celebrity Family Feud.

Speaking of Variety, the showbiz rag noted dourly that 500 Questions "only" averaged a 1.05 18-49 rating. First, that's hardly a terrible number for summer fare in these times of a splintered TV audience. Second, the quizzer got close to five million viewers for each ep, right in the same neighborhood as the often renewed Hollywood Game Night. True, 500 Questions skews a little older than the Hollywood hijinks. But maybe TV and ad execs are finding out that older people spend money. We generally do have more money to spend, you know.

Which leaves To Tell the Truth, the Anthony Anderson hosted rewind that's supposed to show up on ABC sooner or later. The network brought in Betty White to add some instant game show cred to the project, along with NeNe Leakes for the messy reality crowd. Anderson's Black-ish has performed decently for the network. We'll see if he can shepherd a third traditional game show to an ABC renewal.

Sadly, all the game shows on Fox this summer look like one-and-done. Can't win (or renew) them all.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Syndie scuttlebutt

With NBC signed up for ten eps of a new game show based on the QuizUp app, rumors have started about possible syndie gamers for fall 2016.

Frankly, it seems pretty grim for a couple of syndie game shows in fall 2015. As anybody who has glanced at this week's ratings knows, Millionaire and Celebrity Name Game look screwed, blued and tattooed. But hope springs eternal in game show land, so GSN is supposedly looking at a possible syndie version of its new Chain Reaction. The show has endured something of a checkered ratings history at our little game show network. But Sony might figure that hunky host Mike Catherwood could lure enough of the almighty W25-54 demo.

Another possibility for next fall, says the linked story from TV News Check, is Monopoly Millionaires Club as a weekday strip. The money would clearly need to be reduced. The set looks so gorgeous, though. Maybe the producers want to use it more often.

Then there are even less tangible rumors, like possible remakes of Love Connection, Make Me Laugh and He Said She Said. The details are thoroughly vague on these projects, and it's iffy at best that any of them will materialize as an actual show.

UNRELATED UPDATE TO A PREVIOUS POST: Buzzr has revamped its website. Don't look now, but along with the oldies there's lots of stuff about the YouTube originals. Could we be seeing some of the new shows on the TV subchannel? Can't wait for screams and hollers from the classics fans if that happens.