Monday, November 30, 2015

The past is always with us

In the past few days I've whined that a couple of game show boards, Game Show Forum and Golden Road, live too much in the past of our little genre. Well, maybe I'm almost as caught up in the past as they are.

The proof? An innocuous travel column - from New Zealand, of all places - that doesn't even have much to do with game shows. The columnist advises us to take our own pillows on our trips. Okay, whatever about pillows. The game show reference happens in this sentence...

Kitty Carlisle Hart, actor, opera singer, Broadway star, and wife of Broadway composer Moss Hart, but most famous perhaps for being a longtime panelist on What's My Line? (a popular television game show for those of you under 50), answered that she always travelled with a toaster, because hotel room service never delivered toast warm or crispy enough.

The game show goof in the sentence grated on my eyes. Of course, Kitty Carlisle was most famous as a longtime panelist on To Tell the Truth, not What's My Line. I'm an over-50 game show blogger, and I should know.

To give the columnist a little credit, Kitty Carlisle was an occasional guest panelist on WML. Her most notable appearance was on the November 14, 1965 ep after Dorothy Kilgallen's death. But if a travel column can annoy me so much with such a tiny error about the past, I probably shouldn't chide anybody else for obsessing over ancient game show history.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

TPiR's got rhythm

As noted before, Golden Road is a board for those who pine for Bob and Roger and the good old days of The Price is Right. This thread about the supposedly screwed-up "rhythm" of the current show is typical.

Just about everything in today's version of TPiR gets dumped on. Best as I can figure, the posters want to slow the pace down and take some of the party atmosphere out of the show. Exactly why they want to slow down The Price is Right isn't too clear, except that's the way Bob and Roger did it.

In other words, it's just another day on the traditionalist game show Interwebs. But reality does intrude with the final poster, who types a lot of sense. The money quote...

Shorter attention spans and itchy "trigger" fingers mean people often pop by, rather than making appointment viewing. And they do it on whatever day it happens to be. Where you could once count on many people staying put through an up-and-down "natural" cadence of a full hour, that's far less true today. They'll just as easily pop over to something else--and there's a heck of a lot more "something else" if what they see doesn't amuse them.

Why, yes. In the world of 1200 channels, a game show has to hit hard and fast to keep people from pushing another button or three on the remote. The ancient broadcast triopoly, with ridiculously limited choices by today's standards, is long gone and it's not coming back. In fact, it's pretty remarkable that TPiR has managed to retain such a large audience in daytime, and slowing everything down wouldn't keep that audience more glued to the proceedings.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The password is odd

Happened across a thread on Game Show Paradise about game shows in movies. One poster mentioned that a glimpse of Press Your Luck turns up in Jim Carrey's 1996 dark comedy The Cable Guy. As it happens, extensive clips from this flick are freely - and legally, I guess - available on YouTube. I ran through them in a hurry but couldn't find that bit of PYL.

I did find this scene from the movie, though, which features Carrey and a put-upon Matthew Broderick playing an off-color version of Password. The passwords, whispered by Carrey in his creepiest manner, are "vagina" and "nipple." Fortunately, no animals were harmed in the making of the scene, and no really naughty words were spoken. The picture got a PG-13 rating, after all.

The clip, brief as it is, gives a good sense of the oddity of the movie, which abruptly split critical opinion. It's not really that funny, but it's edgy in an uncomfortably intriguing way. Anyhoo, Carrey's name was enough to propel The Cable Guy to a respectable box office gross, despite many critics' misgivings.

One other note. Diane Baker is one of the "contestants" in the game. I always remember her as the gorgeous and jealous brunette in Marnie (1964). Time has moved on by 1996, though she's still quite attractive.

RELATED UPDATE: A commenter points out that the glimpse of Press Your Luck is in the opening credits of The Cable Guy. He's right, as this video proves. PYL happens at 8:16 into the video.

UNRELATED UPDATE: I've made a tiny tweak to the blogroll in the sidebar. BuzzerBlog no longer posts much on their main site. So I've switched the link to their Facebook page, which they update much more often.

Friday, November 27, 2015

History lesson

Readers of this blog know that I'm no fan of the obsession with the past which plagues the game show Interwebs. Yesterday I posted an entry that dumped on Game Show Forum, which might be the obsession's HQ.

But our little genre does have a long history, after all, and even grumpy old moi can appreciate the occasional blast from the past. I watch old game shows on YouTube a lot, and I enjoyed this article about Indiana's Lillie McClintock, a spry 91-year-old who appeared on the ancient black-and-white The Price is Right in 1957.

Bill Cullen was running the show back then, of course. The story says that TPiR was the first game show to be broadcast in color, which seems a stretch. Wikipedia qualifies the claim and says The Price is Right was "Goodson-Todman's first regularly aired game show" to run in color, which looks more accurate. (It's a strange day when I'm accepting Wikipedia as seemingly more accurate than anything.)

By an odd coincidence Lillie McClintock is almost exactly contemporaneous with Bob Barker, who you may recall from TPiR lore. The linked story has a lot of fun details about how she landed on the contestant panel and how the show was run back then. She still has the radio she won on her episode, and model Bess Myerson "was as beautiful as she expected her to be."

In a nice note, Lillie McClintock attended The Price is Right's live show when it visited Indiana earlier this month. Host George Gray interviewed her about her 1957 turn on the show.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Those were the days

Checked the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's for their reaction to Jim Perry's death.

Well, I should have known better. There is a thread about Perry, but it's hidden from the prying eyes of humble outsiders like moi. You need the secret decoder ring before you're let into the SOOPER SEKRET playhouse. But another thread, which somehow is visible to the mere hoi polloi, quotes this comment from the hidden Perry thread...

These very qualities are, sadly, lacking in practically all the current crop of hosts (at least those who started their gigs this century, with few exceptions). It's one of the big reasons why today's game shows, rather than being something I look forward to watching and consider an enhancement to life, are just "there", easily ignored/ignorable, and practically irrelevant to me.

As the 77 bazillionth expression of older-is-better on the oldies board to end all oldies boards, the comment is hardly worth noticing. You were expecting something different from Game Show Forum? Interestingly, though, a few posters reply that some of today's game show hosts might not be full blown terrible. The posters toss around names like Mark Walberg, Todd Newton and Tom Bergeron.

Frankly, I think that Walberg is better than all but a very few of the hallowed names from the past, and Newton and Bergeron are "competitive," as they say in sports punditry. One of the odder comments from the thread: "There's not that many game shows on anymore." Oh, really? There's this cable network that runs nothing but game shows, and other cable networks that try game shows now and then, and plenty of other outlets - like streaming services and this newfangled Internet thing - where our little genre lives on.

But when you fixate on the past of three broadcast networks and nothing else, I guess it's easy to miss all those other places.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Let's play GSN exec

You never know what those tricky programming execs at GSN are going to do.

A few days ago GSN sent out a schedule that said the last two eps of Hellevator would get burned off on the same night, December 9. This seemed logical because the show, after an encouraging start with more than 500K viewers, has collapsed to just over 200K. It looked like GSN wanted to send the show down the hellish elevator shaft as quickly as possible, and then move on.

But wait, there's the ghoulish story. GSN has now corrected the schedule and said that they will stick to the once-a-week timetable for Hellevator. So what in, er, Hades is going on?

Believe it or not, GSN president David Goldhill doesn't regularly (or irregularly) phone me with updates on the latest thinking at our little game show network. But I can take a wild blue guess, based on publicly available demo information about Hellevator. The latest run of the horrorfest got only 215K total viewers, very bad by GSN prime time standards. But 89K of those viewers - nearly half of the audience - were in the Sacred Demo of 18-49. That's been typical for the show throughout its run. Sometimes more than half of the audience has landed in 18-49.

By contrast, the latest ep of The Chase got a much larger total audience of 555K viewers, but less than a fifth of them, 106K to be exact, were in the Sacred Demo. It's obvious that Hellevator skews extremely young by GSN's usual geriatric standards. So are there second thoughts at GSN about renewing the show, maybe with some changes? Like more humor, less gore, more gameplay, less filler? Who knows?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ratings: good week for Steve and Craig

The November 9-15 week was a nice one for Family Feud and Celebrity Name Game. Things weren't so great for the other syndie game shows. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.8 - down four ticks but still in first
Family Feud 6.6 - up three ticks to take second place from Alex and post a new season high
Jeopardy 6.4 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 1.3 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - up a tick to get out of solitary confinement in the basement

Some people get p.o.ed when I remind everybody that Wheel earns all its numbers from one showing each day, while other shows benefit a lot from multiple daily runs. So I'll remind everybody again.

The Chase got 555K viewers in its latest run on November 20. That's down some from the first two weeks of the new eps but still impressive. A renewal looks likely but there are issues. The show skews old and GSN might decide that they have enough episodes on the shelf. Meanwhile, TV Newser says GSN got pretty much its usual recent numbers for the November 16-22 week. 363K/305K/406K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 45th, 30th and 41st in the windows.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Game show connections

Game show relationships seem to turn back in on themselves sometimes. This item about Carmen Sandiego from The List brought to mind a few connections.

First, The List itself was part of Scripps' effort to replace Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune on their TV stations, including WMAR in Baltimore, the source of the linked story. The other show used as a replacement was, you guessed it, a game show called Let's Ask America. Remember it? The show suffered through three so-so rated seasons before expiring this year. The List continues on Scripps stations somehow, maybe because it's so cheap. All the show does is run lists of factoids about pop culture memes. Like Carmen Sandiego, for instance.

The most obvious connection is the PBS game show based on Carmen's geographical exploits. The List says that Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego was the network's first and longest running game show. Even this non-fan of geography can agree that there have been worse efforts for kids in our little genre. Wikipedia says 295 episodes appeared over 1991-95. The show won some Daytime Emmys and even, ahem, an august Peabody award.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


All right, I know that game shows get no respect.

Our little genre is the Rodney Dangerfield of the TV world. With the possible exception of Jeopardy, which picks up Peabody awards and other highfalutin' kudos nobody cares about, game shows regularly get drubbed as mindless fodder for stupid viewers. I know it's silly of me to get exercised about the obnoxious put-downs from elitist critics. But now and then the snobbery still ticks me off.

Case in point: this asinine article from a TV critic in Buffalo named Jeff Simon. The larger point of the dumb and dumber column is to extol Stephen Colbert as a deep thinker with a brilliant guest list, which I think is ridiculous to begin with. Colbert is an unfunny ideologue whose dull show is sinking like a sped-up Titanic in the ratings. CBS has gotten so desperate about the disaster that the network is even giving Colbert a post-Super Bowl slot in a frantic effort at revival.

But leave all that aside for now. The really galling idiocy from the article: "Jimmy Fallon's insistence on mounting the night-time relocation of a daytime game show has become close to unwatchable to me however much he, as Leno used to, leads the ratings race."

In fact, Fallon's game show segments are a whole lot more bearable than the musings of a TV critic who wants to be an intellectual but doesn't have the cerebral cortex. You'd think this genius might ask himself why Fallon leads in the ratings. It's because his game shows, and the rest of his program, entertain people.

What a novel concept. People enjoy watching game shows. No wonder snooty critics hate the genre.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Food guessing

Took a look at the Buzzr channel on YouTube today to see what those silly Fremantle kids are doing now.

As I noted a while back, Fremantle has apparently decided that it's too expensive to create any more new versions of old game show formats. You have to pay for sets and writers and hosts and all that other stuff. Maybe you don't have to pay very much, but it looks like Fremantle doesn't want to spend a dime on the channel.

So they're spending a nickel apiece on very brief videos with goofy games played in people's apartments...or on the roofs of their apartment buildings. The latest effort is Guess This Food. The name pretty well tells the story. Blindfolded contestants have to guess which food they're holding in their hand or tasting very gingerly.

The host is, of course, a YouTube kid that nobody's ever heard of. His name is Dominic DeAngelis, and he appeared as a contestant on Buzzr's versions of Family Feud and Beat the Clock. That was back when Buzzr was doing real game shows. The contestants are fellow YouTube kids that nobody's ever...well, you get the idea.

The video lasts four minutes and looks like it cost four cents (not even a nickel). A commenter questions plaintively: "When are the new seasons of Family Feud, Beat the Clock, Password, or Celeb Name Game coming back???" The obvious answer: when Fremantle decides to spend a little money on new seasons. Which may be never.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jim Perry 1933-2015

Sad news today. Jim Perry, host of Card Sharks and $ale of the Century among other game shows, has died at age 82 after a long battle with cancer.

Jim Perry doesn't often turn up in those lists of great game show hosts that appear now and then on the Interwebs. But he was always a solid, competent, reassuring presence on the sound stage. Well known in Canada, Perry hosted shows on both sides of the border, including a very long stint (1974-89) on Definition. He also hosted the Miss Canada pageant from 1967 to 1990. The unflappable emcee never lacked for work.

After hosting the short-lived U.S game show It's Your Move in 1967, Perry hit it big in the 1970s and 1980s with Card Sharks and $ale. His Wikipedia bio notes his funny turn as a celeb player on Family Feud in 1983. Richard Dawson coaxed a reply from Jim about mouthwash.

Jim Perry more or less retired after a few gigs in the 1990s. He settled in Oregon with his wife June. R.I.P.

UPDATE: On his Facebook page Wink Martindale has announced that he will post five rare eps of Jim Perry's $ale on YouTube. I assume GSN and Buzzr TV, both of which run Jim's Card Sharks regularly, will also do some kind of tribute.

T of C report

My favorite philosopher once said that it ain't over until it's over. Jeopardy's Tournament of Champions final ain't over yet. But the scores at halftime look pretty conclusive. offers the grisly details...

Kerry Greene: $3,400
Matt Jackson: $3,000
Alex Jacob: $29,600

Uh, gulp. This looks like Watson's runaway against Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. I thought Matt Jackson was the odds-on favorite. Until he ran into a force of nature and former poker player named Alex Jacob.

Alex (not Trebek) has two big things going for him. He's unbelievably fast on the buzzer, repeatedly beating even the super-swift Jackson. And he's not afraid to go all-in on the Daily Doubles. He used two huge wagers to build his lead. Then he bet nothing in Final Jeopardy and watched his opponents lose big on the tough clue.

Jacob's Wikipedia article features a hilarious picture of him with the Jewish afro to end all Jewish afros. But there was nothing funny about his play yesterday. Of course, his high-wire strategy could backfire in the second half of the final today. I'll update this entry with the results.

UPDATE: Alex (not Trebek) cruised to another big win in the second half of the final to cop the $250,000 grand prize. He nailed one more of his patented all-ins on a Daily Double and left his outmatched opponents far, far behind. Alex (the real Trebek) called it the T of C's most dominating performance ever.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Newlywed Game sells chicken

Today I could write about GSN's upcoming Winsanity, but I figure Scott Rahner has that covered from seven different angles on Game Show Network News. (He does.)

So I'll post about a KFC ad campaign. But it's not just any ad campaign. First, it's in Britain, though I wouldn't be amazed to see a similar commercial here. Second, it's Christmas themed and kind of sweet. And third, it's got a game show angle.

A Newlywed Game angle, to be exact. Pairs of supposedly real best friends - that's what the linked story says - play a goofy version of Bob Eubank's old chestnut. If they "win," an offscreen extra drops a piece of chicken into their Xmas bucket. In the screenshot a couple girls are matching up their common interest in boys. You can catch a glimpse of the Christmas tree in the background.

There are more sentimental matchups, which a cynic might condemn as a crassly commercial tug at the heartstrings. But what the hey, we get all sorts of crass commercialism during the holidays, so it might as well be commercialism with a game show accent.

One more note. The Colonel himself made a memorable pair of game show appearances on What's My Line and I've Got a Secret. You can watch here and here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Another Feud whine

Any reader of this blog knows that I have little patience with the Victorian maidens who get their knickers in a twist over the mildly off-color material on Family Feud.

But now somebody has combined the prudery with a weird ethnic grievance. This column by a Portales, NM resident moans: "Over the past two decades, I've only seen one or two Hispanic families on Family Feud." Oh, really? A simple Google search rounded up plenty of YouTube clips of Hispanic families on Feud. Just for funsies I took a screenshot of one of them. The idea that Feud is excluding families of any ethnicity is beyond stupid.

To give the columnist credit, she admits that she might be wrong about the alleged ethnic snub. But then she goes on to faint over a question on Feud about, gasp, Viagra. Why, it's like nobody's ever heard of such things...except in the bazillion ads every day for ED drugs.

To top off the all-round brilliance she then mopes - get this - that we never hear about Hispanics playing chess. Somebody tell her about José Raúl Capablanca, who was only one of the most famous world chess champions of all time. Or Leinier Domínguez, currently in the top 30 worldwide.

She finishes with a plug for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Hope she doesn't get p.o.ed that there aren't enough Hispanics in the T of C.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Syndies: Pat and Vanna and Alex prosper

The Sony soulmates rocked and rolled for the week of November 2-8. Otherwise there was literally no change among syndie game shows. TV News Check posts the good news for the top two...

Wheel of Fortune 7.2 - up a whopping six ticks to lead easily
Jeopardy 6.6 - up four ticks to take the second spot away from Steve
Family Feud 6.3 - flat
Millionaire 1.3 - flat but at least staying out of the basement
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - flat

TV by the Numbers looks like a shadow of its former self and isn't posting nearly as much ratings info as before. So I don't have the syndie viewer averages for the week. But TV Newser came through with the November 9-15 averages for GSN. The network had a relatively poor prime time, though total day still looked good. 359K/301K/403K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The tanking Hellevator didn't help. GSN ranked 45th, 31st and 40th in the windows.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Unseen schedule changes

Just dawned on me that I haven't posted anything about Buzzr TV lately. It's hard to write much about a subchannel that I don't get on my cable system and that doesn't run anything new, anyway. But I did notice a slight change in the Buzzr schedule starting next Monday, November 23.

Looks like Match Game gets ejected from prime time in favor of Card Sharks. I know it's silly of me to care at all about this teensy-weensy schedule change on a channel I can't watch, but it's still a little bit of a downer. Match Game is my favorite game show ever and that includes everything. Card Sharks is a boring variant of acey-deucey, a boring game to begin with.

There are a few other minor switches, which nobody except the hardest core Internet game show hardcores will care about, or even notice. The big hoohah will come - and it's inevitable - when Fremantle decides that it's time for Buzzr to make a few bucks. In will come Harvey Feud and other modern-day shows, and out will come the screams and whimpers on Buzzr's Facebook page.

But that's still in the future, though my guess is that the future isn't so very far away. After a while the green eyeshade guys at Fremantle will want to see at least a little money from Buzzr.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A small triumph

A poster on what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board noted that The Chase returned to GSN with new eps on November 6.

This is a little unusual in itself, because the oldies board to end all oldies boards usually treats GSN with contempt. The network runs shows that are less than three decades old, after all. Of course, various posters quickly started dumping on GSN's version of The Chase - one of the best game shows of this or any other era - because, well, it's less than three decades old. We don't like Brooke, we don't like the contestants, we don't like the questions, we don't like the theme shows, blah blah blah.

One of the sillier complaints - even by the lax standards of the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's - was that Mark Labbett doesn't lose often enough on GSN. It's obvious that most of the posters on Game Show Forum don't watch the show, because Mark actually tends to lose pretty often on GSN's version. A brave poster pointed out the stats...

Mark's win rate in Britain: 77% 
Mark's win rate in USA: 68% 
Maybe you just don't like the Chase at all. It's fine if you don't. But Mark loses a lot more here than on the mothership (if you weeel).

That stopped at least one of the complaints dead in its tracks. One small triumph for common sense on the board. The stats are no surprise to anybody who's been paying attention. GSN's version naturally features more U.S.-related material, where Mark has somewhat less expertise than back at home.

As I noted before, The Chase returned with a huge audience by GSN standards, almost 700K viewers. Which once again shows how out of touch Game Show Forum is with most game show fans. But you knew that already.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Lift me up

Game Plane tried Cash Cab on an airplane. Labor Games tried Cash Cab in a delivery room. Now an entrepreneur wants to try Cash Cab on a ski lift.

Virginian Kelly Robinson is trying to crowdfund a pilot for Trivia Lift, where unsuspecting skiers on a lift get bugged with trivia questions. As the meter clicks, er, I mean as the ski lift rises, the questions get harder and the stakes get higher. There's even an available shoutout to other skiers riding the lift behind the contestants.

Robinson would host the show himself. If he raises enough money, he plans to tape a pilot in March and peddle it to streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. He already has a crew lined up for the pilot, including a couple tech guys from the Canadian version of Cash Cab.

Kelly says he got the idea for the show when he was watching Cash Cab with his father last December. The elder Robinson told his son: "You know, they don't make new episodes of this show." That's when Kelly started imagining the show on a ski lift.

But now that I think about it, why doesn't somebody try making a few new eps of Cash Cab itself? Ben Bailey is available, isn't he?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Second verse, not quite the same as the first

A while back I wrote about Justin Peters, a contestant who flamed out spectacularly last season on Millionaire. He dropped $225,000 of hard-earned cash to finish with twenty-five grand. Sure, that's not a bad payday for answering trivia questions, but it was still a painful comedown.

That was then and this is now. Justin got a second chance on Millionaire this week, and he ended up doing a little better, with fifty grand in winnings. That makes $75,000 in all if you're counting. Which means that Mr. Peters can no longer be called a game show loser in any meaningful sense of the word.

He's still got a goofy sense of humor, though. His facial expressions indicate, let's say, some eccentricity, and his comments on his second Millionaire appearance don't disappoint. He says that Millionaire's new host should introduce the show by saying: "I'm your host, Chris Harrison; please do not climb me like a tree." (See the linked story for an explanation.)

Justin also refers to Millionaire as a "struggling lightly-watched syndicated game show." Well, yeah, the show has taken its lumps this season from worse time slots and sometimes no time slots in various markets. But at least it managed a season high in the most recent household ratings.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What are you doing?

Back when it was doing game show stuff, Game Show Garbage had a section called "Dumb Answers." Too bad the site wasn't tuned to Wheel of Fortune last Tuesday.

Contestant Nura Fountaneaux had a pretty good night on the show. She won the front game with $13,970 in loot, which is $13,970 more than I've ever won on a game show. She didn't nail the bonus round but nobody's perfect.

But what has the game show Interwebs buzzing is the speed-up round. For whatever reason Nura played the round like she was trying to lose. She guessed "Z" and "Q" and "X" and didn't guess at all for a couple turns. Even Pat Sajak, who's been hosting the show for two or three years now, didn't know what to make of it all. As a poster on Buy a Vowel said: "'What are you doing' has never been a more appropriate category."

The kindest interpretation is that she knew she had the front game in the bag and was trying to spread the wealth around to her fellow contestants. In fact, contestant Steve Jostes ended up solving the puzzle for $6,400, which saved him from the pity thousand. It's veterans week on the show, and some tweeters thought that fellow-feeling among the vets might have motivated Nura.

Guess we'll never know for sure unless Nura publishes her memoirs one of these days. But if I ever get on the show - fat chance - remind me not to guess "Z" and "Q" and "X" in the speed-up round.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

News from Tbilisi

Usually I stick to U.S. game shows only. You might call this purblind nationalism, but it's really just laziness. If I tried to cover every game show development on the planet, I'd never get away from the keyboard. Besides, except for snippets on YouTube, I can't watch most foreign shows. And the coverage would tend to be Anglosphere-centric, given my lack of language skills. As any reader of this blog knows, I can barely talk English any good.

But I did notice this item from Georgia (the former Soviet nation, not the Jimmy Carter state). Georgia's capital city Tbilisi will host the 13th world championship of What? Where? When? November 12-15. If this game sounds ever so slightly familiar, it's because ABC tried a version a few years ago called Million Dollar Mind Game. ABC execs quickly saw that the game was too freakin' arcane for us short attention span Yanks, so they burned off the eps in a throwaway Sunday afternoon slot.

The original Russian game show, Что? Где? Когда? for Cyrillic alphabet fans, is still going strong after 39 seasons, according to Wikipedia. The show has inspired lots of club players around the globe, who will be meeting in Tbilisi this month for the world championship. One funny note from the linked story: when the players aren't competing in What? Where? When?, they can try their luck at Jeopardy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ratings: not much happens with the syndies

The October 26-November 1 week was frankly boring for syndie game show ratings. Millionaire got a tiny bit of good news, after a rough season so far. Otherwise, the numbers barely budged. TV News Check yawns through the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - flat
Family Feud 6.3 - down a tick but keeps second place
Jeopardy 6.2 - flat
Millionaire 1.3 - up a tick to a season high and Chris will take any good news he can get
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - flat

GSN knew what they were doing when they set the return of The Chase on Friday, November 6. The broadcast competition is weak on Friday, and the show scored a whopping 695K total viewers. The Chase doesn't skew very young, but the overall audience was so large that the show still got 186K viewers in the Sacred Demo.

UPDATE: The big numbers for The Chase helped GSN's weekly averages, according to TV Newser. 392K/315K/427K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time for the November 2-8 week. Unfortunately, Hellevator is tanking in the ratings, hitting a very poor 215K total viewers and a mediocre 0.07 18-49 rating for the latest November 11 run.

Monday, November 9, 2015

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly

A faux tweet noted that a low-power station in my old hometown Cincinnati will pick up Buzzr, the oldies game show subchannel. The station's call letters are WOTH. And get this, its sister station is WKRP.

Which does bring back memories for a few of us. WKRP in Cincinnati was a terrific CBS sitcom that ran from 1978 to 1982. The network moved the low-rated show around the schedule all the time, but WKRP eventually found success as a syndie. In 2008 Cincy's low-power TV station WBQC took the call letters for nostalgia's sake.

Anyway, WOTH is bringing Buzzr onboard because Tribune Media pulled Antenna TV from the station. Antenna will run Johnny Carson's Tonight Show starting January 1, and Tribune wants to get the subchannel onto high-power stations carried by local cable providers. Time Warner Cable, the main provider in Cincinnati, doesn't carry WOTH. So most Cincy viewers won't be able to watch Buzzr, like most people in the U.S. Not that the oldies subchannel is getting much of an audience anywhere. It does get nice comments on the web, though.

To get back to WKRP in Cincinnati, YouTube recalls the show's most inspired moment. Those turkeys did not die in vain.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

TPiR comes to town

Sooner or later The Price is Right's live show will come to your town. And when it does, the local news will notice.

This story from the NBC affiliate in Utica, NY recounts TPiR's visit to what is apparently a historic local theater called the Stanley. The venue does seem to have a lot of cheesy but endearing rococo decoration. It also had 2,200 cheering wannabe contestants packing the place.

It was certainly an event that excited many. History was made today in Downtown Utica. That's how the story concludes in a hushed tone of reverence. Which sounds hilariously overdone, but what the hey, the show probably was a pretty big deal for Utica. Oddly, the story doesn't name Todd Newton, who ran this particular show, or Drew Carey, who I understand does the TV version. This was the NBC station, after all, and maybe they didn't want to give too much free publicity to the competition.

Bob Barker does get a shout-out, and there's a nice glimpse of Johnny Olson - see the screenshot - even if his name goes unmentioned. The Stanley's executive director, a gentleman named Jerry Kraus, enthuses about the event: "We've had concerts, comedy, seminars...and now we bring a real, bona fide game show to the Stanley." Yep, it's a bona fide game show, all right.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Original originals on Buzzr

Just stopped by the Buzzr YouTube channel to see what's going on with the Fremantle effort.

Well, what's going on is original originals. In other words, Buzzr has posted a couple game shows, Big Batsu and Boyfriend Wars, that aren't remakes of old formats.

As you might guess from the title, the first show is an attempt to recreate the craziness of Japanese game shows. This episode offers people sucking seeds through straws. The girl contestant also shows off her cleavage. I like the cleavage better than the seeds. The video has a 127-33 like-dislike ratio, not so hot by Buzzr's usual standards. The good thing is that the video only lasts five minutes.

The second show presents a guy named Nicola Foti and his boyfriend. I guess the same-sex relationship is the hook for this show, which consists of the boyfriends challenging each other with trivia questions. It's a lot quieter than the Japanese-inspired show, so it has a better like-dislike ratio. Again, the video flips by in six minutes, so the time demand is very light, whether you like the show or not.

The players on both these shows are the usual YouTube young'uns that nobody's ever heard of. Production values are intentionally nonexistent, to give the shows a cheap found-footage feel. While it's nice to see the channel try something different, I kind of agree with this sour comment...

Bring back the Game shows we know and love this is just not what I subscribe to. First yellow paco's [Big Batsu] and now this [Boyfriend Wars]. I mean I want a Host, contestants, and game show set. Or at least let us know when Buzzr will come back.

Oh, maybe Buzzr will eventually make some more episodes of Password and Family Feud.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A surprise for GSN

Wednesday night Nielsen sent very unusual news to GSN. Hellevator and Idiotest (one of the runs, anyway) both got an audience mostly in the 18-49 demo. For a network that sells oodles of ads for AARP and diabetes meds, that's a real stunner. As recently as summer, 2014 GSN got 18-49 numbers that were barely visible in prime time. (Forget about the even more ancient total day demos.)

The problem is that neither show did all that well in total viewers. Both only got 300K or so viewers in all age groups. That's not a disaster for GSN but it's not great compared to the network's recent prime time averages. Of course, if you listen to TV by the Numbers, you hear that total viewers don't mean squat and only the Sacred Demo counts.

I don't want to rehash all the yelps about TV's fixation on 18-49. But it's silly to deny that the fixation exists. You can even see it at our little game show network. Idiotest has always drawn only modest total viewer numbers compared to GSN's overall averages. But Ben Gleib and friends have earned a couple renewals based on their 18-49 showing, which is quite good by GSN standards. My guess is that Hellevator will also get a demo-based renewal, unless the numbers just fall apart.

One other note. It's easy to see why the black comedy Hellevator, with its screams and gore, doesn't appeal to GSN's usual grandmotherly audience. But I'm not sure why Idiotest, a studio-based puzzle game, has a problem with Grandma. Maybe it's Ben's edgy persona.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bachelor party

It ain't exactly the T of C, but Millionaire is also stunting this week. The past sell-by date quizzer is bringing back notables from Chris Harrison's other gig on The Bachelor(ette).

The screenshot shows Ryan and Trista Sutter going happy happy joy joy over a right answer. Other worthies this week include Ali Fedotowsky, Sean and Catherine Lowe, Chris and Desiree Sigfried, and the appropriately named Michelle Money. I'm only vaguely familiar with these folks because I've never spent a minute on the bachelors and bachelorettes. I'm just not a reality TV kind of guy.

But if the names lure a few more viewers to the sinking Millionaire, I won't mind. Timeslot changes and general weariness have brought bad Nielsen news for the quizzer, though Harrison is doing a nice job as host. At least he's not bellowing at us like a certain other person.

The linked story says that Millionaire gets the 11:00 AM hour in Oklahoma City. That's not prime real estate on the daily schedule, but it's better than 1:37 AM (as in New York City).

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

T of C

November sweeps arrive, and with them comes the one Jeopardy stunt I like. The Tournament of Champions.

By game show standards, this stunt has practically achieved classic status. Older than the Super Bowl - Jeopardy's first T of C ran in 1964, three years before that football game (or parade of ads) got started - the show doesn't use roman numerals on the tournaments. For which we can be grateful. But counting the events on Wikipedia yields XLII for next week's tourney, if the show were so inclined.

Actually, that's cheating a little because the forty-two tournaments include a couple of unusual stunts, like the Battle of the Decades. But what the hey, let's not get too persnickety here. Do we have to phrase everything in the form of a question?

The odds-on favorite for this year's tilt is Matt Jackson, of course. But there's many a slip betwixt cup and lip. One bad bet on Final Jeopardy could scramble everything. It all starts Monday, November 9.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ratings: an okay week for syndies

Syndie game shows have seen worse weeks than October 19-25. Three of the shows gained and none of them lost. The numbers weren't tremendous but they were far from awful. TV News Check posts the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - up four ticks to finish second among all syndies
Family Feud 6.4 - up three ticks to slip ahead of Alex
Jeopardy 6.2 - flat
Millionaire 1.2 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - up a tick to get out of solitary confinement in the basement

This is old news, but I saw a Variety story about the woes of cable nets during the summer (June-August). A conspicuous exception was GSN. The showbiz rag noted that our little game show network averaged a record 137K 18-49 viewers in prime time for the three months. That was up 73% from summer, 2014. Which means GSN got a tiny 79K 18-49 viewers back then. The network's audience is getting a bit younger, after all. GSN also averaged a record 471K total viewers in prime time for summer, 2015.

TV Newser says that GSN didn't fare so well in the most recent October 26-November 1 week. 347K/309K/380K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 42nd, 31st and 41st in the windows.

Monday, November 2, 2015


As very few of you may know, Game Plane - Allegiant Air's attempt to put Cash Cab into the sky - has landed (sorry) on Discovery Family for its second season. It's been a crash landing, and the plane has sustained heavy damage. Showbuzz has been inspecting the Nielsen black boxes that recorded the bumpy ride. A poster asked Mitch Salem, the site's always helpful writer, for Game Plane's latest ratings. The amusing exchange:

Poster: Hey, It looks like The Game Plane is back into season 2 produced shows. So how went the trip, good sir?

Mitch: Game Plane: 0.01/16K (a caution: don't look for us to be reporting this show on a weekly basis with numbers at this level)

Poster: Somehow I don't think that'll be an issue much longer. That's anemic even for Discovery Family levels.

"Anemic" doesn't begin to describe the disaster. Sure, Discovery Family is a little-watched network, with 176K/80K/166K viewer averages for prime time/total day/extended prime time in October. But all those numbers look ginormous compared to the infinitesimal ratings Game Plane is pulling. In fact, the audience is probably too small for Nielsen's sample to track it accurately.

The show may just be too cheap and derivative to get anybody to watch, even with a fine host like Mark Walberg. I kind of like the low-rent nonsense, but I'm a low-rent kind of guy.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Another journey

As The Price is Right's live show wends its way through every nook and cranny of the Great American Hinterland, Let's Make a Deal's live show is not far behind.

The traveling LMAD spectacle is wrapping up a five-day stay at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, after a couple shows in Michigan. The game of chance and zonks is a natural for gambling emporiums. Mark Walberg is hosting the show because he can host anything. Tickets are thirty bucks apiece, and everybody's got as good a chance as everybody else to get onstage and get a deal. There's no prescreening, though costumes are encouraged.

The linked story has a few details about Walberg that I didn't know. He has two grown children, a daughter who's a ballerina in Kansas City and a son who's a Navy pilot. Ticketmaster says that the next stop for Let's Make a Deal's live show is Charles Town WV. A couple dates at Binghamton NY and Rockford IL have been cancelled. Guess the tickets sales weren't brisk enough.