Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ratings: top three syndies inch ahead

The week of December 14-20 didn't see big changes in the household ratings for syndie game shows. But the rich got a little richer as the top three added a smidgen here and there. TV News Check has all the numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 7.1 - up a tick and second among all syndies to only the obnoxious judge
Family Feud 6.5 - up a tick to stay just ahead of Alex
Jeopardy 6.4 - up a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat but celebrating its second week out of the game show cellar
Millionaire 1.2 - flat

TV by the Numbers is too lazy to post total viewer numbers for syndies any more. But they do have women 25-54 ratings, for everybody who's got to know about narrow demo niches. The top three game shows all did fine in the demo, landing in the top nine among syndies overall. Family Feud 3.5, Wheel of Fortune 2.2, Jeopardy 1.9.

Meanwhile, Soap Opera Network ground through all the gory details of demo ratings for daytime broadcast network shows, including The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal. I'll spare you most of the minutiae. But TPiR and LMAD averaged 5.2M and 3.4M total viewers for the week of December 7-11.

And as previously noted in an update, GSN did great in 2015. Best year ever, in fact.

Who are these people?

Having nothing better to do on New Year's Eve Eve, TLC dumped the pilot of a game show called Bet on Me at 10:00 PM. It's yet another street-level ambush show (see Eichner, Billy).

The good news is that host Casey Jost isn't nearly as obnoxious as Eichner. The bad news is that host Casey Jost isn't nearly as obnoxious as Eichner, which makes Bet on Me a little dull. But fortunately for anybody who happened to watch, Bet on Me isn't a total train wreck.

The format is simple. Jost accosts a complete stranger, who becomes the contestant, and starts asking them questions about another complete stranger (who, we hope, is blissfully unaware of Casey and the contestant.) Eventually Jost and the contestant intrude on the second stranger and find out if the answers were correct.

The questions range from innocuous ("has she ever been on stage?") to mildly irritating ("has she ever had a one-night stand?") But when everybody gets together to find out which answers were right, the show becomes sort of fun. At least the get-togethers which made it into the finished pilot were sort of fun. I can imagine that some people got annoyed at being tracked as prey for a game show.

I doubt that Bet on Me will survive past the pilot stage. My guess is that most viewers will find it silly and even slightly creepy. At one point Jost asks a contestant: "Doesn't this feel like we're stalking somebody?" Well, yes it does, a little.

UPDATE: Bet on Me gets 454K total viewers and a 0.16 18-49 rating. Not that great by TLC standards.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A game show obscurity for the holidays

Rambling through Game Show Paradise, I came across some links for YouTube videos of Blackout.

In case you don't remember this 1988 CBS puzzle-solving effort, don't feel bad. It only lasted thirteen weeks before the Nielsen monster devoured it. Bob Goen hosted with a porno mustache that has since vanished into the ash heap of history. The front game plodded along with each puzzle taking a long time. Two civvie/celeb teams took turns trying to fill in four blanks in the puzzle sentence. Each team had a "blackout button" to wipe out parts of the clues that the other team would give each other.

If it sounds too complicated, it was. The bonus round had nothing to do with the front game, as they ditched the blackout button and the civvie just had to identify something from a few clues. All in all, it's not hard to see why the tedious, intricate game died a quick death. Wikipedia (usual caveats) also blames fan discontent over the show replacing Pyramid. But YouTube never forgets, so several eps are available for your holiday enjoyment.

COMPLETELY UNRELATED UPDATE: As I have been noting for a while, GSN kicked out the jams in 2015. By almost any measure it was the little game show network's best year ever. TV Newser reports the final 2015 viewer averages. 413K/322K/444K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 38th, 29th and 34th in the windows. Congrats to the folks in Santa Monica.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Just super

A faux tweet mentioned Fox's upcoming two-hour game show/talent contest SuperHuman.

The home of the Simpsons and Empire will run the special January 4. I guess we could see more eps if the numbers look good enough. Some contestant stories have already popped up, like this blurb for Yusnier Viera, a calculation wizard originally from Cuba.

The format looks pretty simple from the Fox teaser video. Twelve people with unusual mental abilities will compete in various challenges. A panel of judges, which weirdly includes ex-pugilist Mike Tyson, and the audience will then decide who wins the hundred grand prize.

Actor Kal Penn hosts. He doesn't claim to be superhuman, but some of the contestants look pretty impressive. If pattern recognition and quick calculation appeal to you, this may be your show. And if you just want to listen to people sing, there’s always The Voice.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Accepting middle age

Gotta admit I never spend a minute on HSN or any of the other shopping networks that litter my cable system. I'm just not in the market for knickknacks and trinkets. So I was mildly surprised to learn that HSN actually runs a sort of game show on Friday night.

If you want a peek at the show, try this YouTube playlist that will give you more than any sane person could need. Host Sean Daly plays various games - mostly ripped off from other shows - with call-in viewers. One segment shows him playing a gift-card version of Card Sharks with a lady viewer who just can't get the hang of it. She guesses "lower" on a fifty-dollar card and bombs out.

But the linked story is more about Mr. Daly's acceptance of encroaching middle age than about the details of his show. (Though he does offer a funny story about Shaquille O'Neal, who guested on one ep.) Sean finally makes peace with "new blemishes, new eye bags, new bloat every morning." I know the feeling, pal. You're only in your forties. Wait until you get to your sixties.

He does invoke a few icons of the genre in his struggle with the accumulating years. "Did Alex Trebek and Gene Rayburn and Bob Barker go through this? Someone get me Sajak on the phone."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Game show politics

Linking politics to game shows has become achingly commonplace, especially with the rise of Donald Trump in the 2016 race.

For the most part I just ignore the stories, which have gotten way too clichéd and arch. But when somebody tells the story in pictures, well, the cliché turns a little more bearable. Which is what Powerline, a political blog, did this weekend with the Miss Universe screw-up by Steve Harvey (of Family Feud fame, of course).

In case you didn't notice from the linked "Week in Pictures" feature, Powerline is a right-wing blog. Its moment of glory came in the Dan Rather disaster, when the blog's lawyerly - three of the five writers on the site are, yeah, lawyers - dissection of Dan's goofs proved fatal to the former CBS newsman.

It's more than a little ironic that the site uses Steve Harvey's faux pas at the beauty pageant to attack Obama and the Democrats. Harvey's actual politics mostly consist of Obama butt-smooching. But then Powerline also uses Steve to dump on the Dallas Cowboys (see the screenshot). I don't know if Steve is as big a fan of the Cowboys as he is of Obama.

The site's best shot doesn't feature Harvey directly. They show Harry Truman holding up the iconic newspaper headline: "Colombia Defeats Philippines."

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Them old time numbers

No surprise to see a long thread called "Daytime major network game shows 1970s and 80s" on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's.

An outsider could be forgiven for thinking the entire board is one long thread about the '70s and '80s. (With some stuff about the '50s and '60s thrown in.) Anyway, this particular thread leads off with a long-winded dissertation on the ins and outs of various game shows of the period. Somehow the poster also tosses in the obligatory dig at Steve Harvey's Family Feud. Which is required on any Game Show Forum thread with a non-zero number of posts.

The thread also includes the usual intramural sniping, but that's no surprise, either. What caught my eye about the otherwise predictable goings-on was a long list of daytime TV ratings from 1975. Match Game led the list with, get this, an 11.3 household rating and a 35 share.

Ah, the days of the long vanished broadcast triopoly. With so few choices available, Gene and friends could command over a third of the TV sets in use. Nowadays a broadcast show can survive with a twentieth of the viewing audience, and cable shows with much less than that.

One other note about the list of daytime ratings. There's not a talk show or a court show in sight. Who knew what was coming in the daytime hours?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas entry

On Christmas Day Google News provides an cute item about a Christian school play set as a game show. The school is in the Anza valley in California, and the play was called Fact or Fiction, the Christmas Edition.

More or less, it sounds like they staged an episode of American Bible Challenge, with an emphasis on the Christmas story. "The play called Fact or Fiction, The Christmas Edition, was set as a modern game show with a game show master of ceremonies Benjamin Clegg as Blink Hostalot, a 10th grader in the upper level school."

I guess "Blink Hostalot" is a nod toward Wink Martindale, who has hosted a lot of game shows. The linked story goes on: "The play continued with Bible questions being asked by Mr. Hostalot and the two teams responding, showing some typical human behaviors of jealousy, sadness and envy."

Hm, jealousy, sadness and envy. Sounds like your state-of-the-art game show format. The story carefully credits all the kids in the play/game show, which will make their parents happy. They've even got DVD's of the show, if you're interested.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Watch the people

It's not every day that a namesake of mine turns up in the game show news.

A standup comic named Casey Jost, originally from Staten Island according to Wikipedia and this article on a local news site, will host Bet on Me December 30 on TLC. It's a people watching game show, if that makes any sense. Actually, the premise sounds kind of interesting. "People-watching is transformed into a game show where real people make judgments on the people around them based solely on watching them. What's their situation or relationship? Where do they come from? Where are they going and what they will do next?"

This seems like a distant cousin to Street Smarts, where contestants had to make snap judgments about people on the street based on little more than appearance and, well, street smarts. TLC hasn't bought the show yet. They're just running the pilot episode at a throwaway time of the year, which doesn't bode well for a pickup.

Wikipedia and the linked article also mention that Casey Jost has a more famous brother Colin, who works the Weekend Update desk for Saturday Night Live. You may know what I think of SNL from my rant a few posts ago. But I won't hold Casey's family relationships against him. I'll try to approach Bet on Me with an open mind, if I remember to watch it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The first item is a nice one

Game show news has slowed to a trickle during the holiday season. So I'm doing something I've done a few times before: write a blog entry about the first game show item I see in Google News. Luckily for me, the item is a nice one. And it fits right in with the Christmas spirit. Celebrity Name Game's Craig Ferguson has made a large donation to a children's hospital in Scotland.

The hospital is in Aberdeen, and the donation is described as "transformational." Which I think means "really, really big." The linked story says: "The Ferguson family have requested that the donation amount remain a secret, although it is believed to be six-figures." I assume the six figures are all to the left side of the decimal point.

My cynical self gets a little queasy when the media report loudly on large charitable donations by celebs. Wouldn't quiet giving be a little more, I dunno, sincere? But hey, money is money and I'm sure the hospital can use the funds.

Craig Ferguson comes from Scotland, of course...Glasgow, to be exact. He's now a naturalized U.S. citizen and has even written a memoir called American on Purpose. But he still has some ties to the old country. Wikipedia (usual caveats) says he's a fan of Partick Thistle Football Club.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ratings: Steve and Craig smile

The week of December 7-13 saw a couple shuffles at both ends of the syndie game show pecking order. Family Feud enjoyed a nice week to jump into second, and Celebrity Name Game crept out of the basement for the first time ever. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.0 - flat
Family Feud 6.4 - up five ticks as Steve gets some good news after the Miss Universe fiasco
Jeopardy 6.3 - down a tick to slip into third but the show's in no trouble, of course
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - up a tick to lead Millionaire for the first time ever
Millionaire 1.2 - flat and not looking happy

I'm worried about both the bottom dwellers, but Millionaire really looks critical. Celebrity Name Game has managed to stay even with last year's numbers despite reruns all month, and the show may be on track for a third season.

TV Newser hasn't posted their weekly cable ratings yet. But based on this partial link from Ratings Intelligence, I'm pretty sure GSN averaged 349K viewers in prime time for the week of December 14-20. It also looks like the network averaged 89K 18-49 viewers and 110K 25-54 viewers.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Live TV, folks

Maybe Steve Harvey really is working too much.

Amid Family Feud, the TV talk show, the radio talk show, the books, the movies and the baseball cards (just kidding about that last item), Steve tried to shoehorn in the host gig at the Miss Universe pageant. He's probably regretting that career move right now. Last night Harvey managed to screw up the one moment anybody pays attention to the host of a beauty pageant: when he announces the victor.

Yep, somehow Steve managed to announce the wrong winner. He gave the crown to Miss Colombia instead of the true winner, Miss Philippines. As you might expect, the Interwebs exploded in glee and disbelief over the massive goof. It didn't help that in an apology on Twitter, Steve managed to misspell the names of both countries involved.

Just to add insult to goof-up injury, the former owner of the pageant, a guy named Donald Trump, tweeted that the gaffe would never have happened if he were still running the show. (In a spasm of political correctness, NBC forced Trump to sell the pageant earlier this year. A few months later a chagrined NBC was bringing the GOP frontrunner back as host of Saturday Night Live.)

Usually I pay zero attention to beauty pageants. The Miss Universe pageant - which, despite the name, is still confined to contestants from a little planet revolving around a middling star - has always been of no concern to me, though I did get a faux tweet out of Steve Harvey's host gig. But now I've gotten an entire blog entry out of the contest. So I'm happy, anyway.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Another Saturday night, another SNL game show parody

Saturday Night Live gets a great press despite being funny as a crutch, and a broken crutch at that.

Okay, I'm a grumpy old man, but it's hard to understand why the Interwebs still swoon over this show. Not that many people watch it any more. The critics gushed that SNL got its second best rating of the season last night, a 5.1 household number. Which means 95% of the households in the country found something better to do than watch the braindead comedy. Wheel of Fortune gets a lot more households every night of the week.

The critics also got all googly over a game show parody called Meet Your Second Wife. This skit might have thrilled the pedophile bunch, but otherwise it was a grim pounding into the ground of one asinine idea. The faux game show brought out little girls and told three husbands that these kids would eventually turn into their second wives.

I laughed so hard it hurt my rib cage (not). Yeah, I know the premise was supposed to be edgy and uncomfortable and all that, but it was really just dumb to begin with and got progressively dumber as they rehashed the lame idea. A lot of critics insisted this parody was the highlight of the episode. Which tells you all you need to know about the rest of the episode.

Once upon a time SNL's game show parodies might have been funny. Once upon a time the show in general might have been funny. The time has passed.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

More and more on 2015

This year-end retrospective stuff is getting out of hand.

Now even AOL is doing a blooper reel of 2015 game show moments. This is remarkable because who knew that AOL still existed? It's a blast from the floppy-disk online 1.0 era, back in the dark ages when Star Wars hadn't gotten past movie number four.

In fact, I was already vaguely aware that AOL was still around. I heard about them when they bought HuffPo in a goofy attempt to get hip. (You know you're square when you think HuffPo is remotely approaching hip.) In fact, AOL owes the game show blooper reel to HuffPo. At least there's a logo spinning around in the lower right-hand corner.

As blooper reels go, it's not terrible, despite the cutesy music. We get subtitles for the dialogue, which has to mark some kind of technological advance in bloopers. And I had forgotten the "pointed desert" moment on Wheel of Fortune. Which is interesting not just for the klutzy solve attempt, but also for Pat Sajak's barely concealed exasperation. Of course, it's not the first time that Pat has gone off a little...

I do everything, dammit. I have to interview those people. I have to keep track of the rules. She just touches the letters. And they light up for her. I can't stand it any more.

Sometimes Mr. Sajak has to let some exasperation show.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Comedy stuff

I'm getting fearful for the bottom dwellers in the weekly syndie game show ratings. But there's a new game show possibility for fall 2016 in syndication.

Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios is peddling Funny You Should Ask. This looks like a real game show, as opposed to standup comedy shows like Whose Line. The format will "feature a panel of professional standup comics who interact with contestants for cash and prizes."

If you're wondering about gameplay details, I don't have any. The linked Deadline story is mum on the nuts and bolts, except "the stakes increase in every episode as the game progresses." Does that mean there's a carryover payoff from one ep to anther? How exactly will that work in syndication? Can't say right now.

One thing seems clear: r-rated humor is apparently out. Allen says the show will offer "comedy for the whole family." So unless the whole family is like the clans on Family Feud, the humor will probably stay well on the PG side. Maybe that's the idea, a cleaner comedy game show than Feud. We'll see...if the show gets to air.

More on 2015

After I saw a few stories in the general entertainment media about game shows in 2015, I started to look at the game show boards for any retrospectives. What's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board offered a brief thread on the topic.

The original poster included a couple non-game show items in his list of Big Things in 2015. And most of the thread argued about one item only: "Jeopardy's Matt Jackson becoming the anti-Arthur Chu." I'm not much interested in this subject, because I don't really care what an anti-Chu might look like. I'm tired enough of the original Chu.

But that's not what caught my eye the most. As I should have expected on the oldies board to end all oldies boards, the top item on the original poster's list was "the debut of Buzzr." Have to admit, I had forgotten all about the digital subchannel when I looked back over 2015 myself. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Like most people in the country I can't get Buzzr on my cable system, so it's easy to forget about the diginet, even for a game show blogger.

But, yeah, Buzzr's launch is an important development, though more for its potential as a competitor to GSN than for its current status as an oldies outlet for a few Internet hardcores. GSN has barely noticed its upstart rival so far, as David Goldhill's operation is romping to its most watched year ever. But down the road things might get interesting as Buzzr switches to more recent shows and starts attracting a few more viewers.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

That was the year that was

Year-end approaches, so various web sites are doing retrospectives on the wonderful and wacky twelve months of 2015.

A few sites even look at all the goofy and/or interesting stuff that happened on game shows during the year. Entertainment Weekly grinds through a slideshow of various personalities and mishaps in our little genre.

The first slide spotlights Matt Jackson on Jeopardy, which is fair enough. But EW, in what is maybe a bit of courtesy but more likely a simple oversight, forgets to mention that Matt lost big in the 2015 T of C to Alex Jacobs. You'd think that Alex deserved a shoutout for one of the most dominating tournaments ever, but his name is nowhere to be found in the slideshow.

Otherwise, it's mostly the usual bloopers and blunders, like Manuela Arbelaez inadvertently giving away a car on The Price is Right. I chronicled a lot of the incidents in my blog posts, faux tweets and video clips because that's what I do. I'm a game show blogger, after all.

One contestant, Tom Flynn of Jeopardy, appears solely for his looks. EW probably wouldn't try that with a female contestant for fear of sexism yelps. But they have no problem gushing over "the hot Jeopardy guy."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

One bites the dust

Broadcast networks seem reluctant to cancel any of their shows nowadays. Most shows get such small slivers of the audience in the 1200-channel universe that it's tough to pick the outright losers. But NBC has accomplished the task with Best Time Ever, the variety and game show blend with Neil Patrick Harris. The show is officially axed after one so-so season.

Funny thing: the show really didn't get such bad numbers, at least by current shriveled broadcast standards. But Best Time Ever was allegedly expensive to produce because of all the live action, and NBC execs had to prove that they could cancel something. Otherwise, why have any NBC execs at all? (I'm just kidding, sort of.)

I thought the show was a mix of okay stuff and bad stuff. The game show segments were all right. They went by quickly and didn't embarrass anybody. But the celebrity prank segments were godawful. They dragged on forever and looked phony as a faked orgasm. The song and dance segments were run of the mill, not terrible, not great.

I don't know if Harris was the right choice for host. Maybe somebody with more mainstream appeal might have made everything work better. Was Steve Harvey too busy? (I am kidding about that.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ratings: the top two recover big

Thanksgiving week is always rough on syndies, due to preemptions and people consuming turkey instead of TV. But Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy bounced back nicely in the November 30-December 6 week. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.0 - up nine ticks from the turkey hangover
Jeopardy 6.4 - up eleven ticks to take back second place
Family Feud 5.9 - up three ticks
Millionaire 1.2 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - up a tick

A very interesting ratings case is GSN's The Chase. The show ended its fourth season last week with just over 600K viewers. That's almost double GSN's recent prime time averages. But the show skews old, drawing about 100K 18-49 viewers. What will GSN do with its critically praised quizzer? Fifty-one eps now sit on the shelf. Will GSN execs figure that's enough for perpetual reruns?

Meanwhile, GSN's prime time numbers perked up a bit for the week of December 7-13. 391K/304K/414K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 39th, 31st and 47th in the windows.

A related GSN schedule note, as I posted on Game Show Paradise...

Well, here's something to contribute to conspiracy theories. GSN still hasn't sent out the pdf advance schedules, but Monday, December 21 is now available at No changes that I can see, except one that will set off weeping and gnashing of teeth. The 8:00 AM hour of Match Game is gone. In fact, there's nothing scheduled in the hour.

I don't know if this is a mistake or if GSN has really decided to sell infomercials in the hour. But that's what the online schedule says as I type. A commenter points out that it could be a typo, because Match Game is listed in the 8:00 AM hour on Saturday, December 19. Which makes no sense. That hour has been infomercials for a long time. We'll see as the online schedule develops. And sooner or later GSN will send out the pdf advance schedule for the week.

Also, O'Hurley Family Feud is listed at 12:00 PM instead of Harvey Feud. One more note: Zap2it has Match Game still safe and sound at 8:00 AM for the December 21 week, in what appears to be an updated schedule. It could be they got the advance schedule but a copy hasn't made its way to little old me. Which has happened in the past. Zap2it is way higher on the food chain for the schedules than I am, as you would expect.

UPDATE: Finally got the schedule for December 21-27 courtesy of Scott Rahner and posted it in the sidebar. Match Game is safe at 8:00 AM.

Another nostalgia net

I really don't spend much time on old-television cable nets and subchannels. YouTube has plenty of old game shows when I feel nostalgic, and I'm not much interested in ancient sitcoms, dramas and talk shows. Truth be told, I'm not much interested in current sitcoms, dramas and talk shows.

So I had never heard of getTV, a Sony nostalgia net that specializes in old variety shows and talkers, like Merv Griffin's chatfest that ran from the '60s to the '80s in various formats. But I ran across an item in Google News about getTV which had a game show angle. The diginet threw a little party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Merv's entrance into the syndie talk wars back in 1965. getTV regularly runs the show throughout the week.

The game show angle, of course, is Merv's pair of Sony soulmates that still ride comfortably atop the syndication ratings. Vanna White from Wheel of Fortune showed up at the bash and praised Merv effusively. She obviously has good reason to like Mervyn, as she admits...

He was the kindest, gentlest, sweetest man I've ever known. Seriously. I'm not just saying that because of what he did for me. I said earlier, he was intoxicating. You were around him, you wanted to be around him. He was addicting. He made you feel so good.

Well, there was that time when Merv showed up at The Kiss. He probably made Vanna feel pretty good then.

Monday, December 14, 2015

No surprise?

Game Show Newsnet should rename itself Unscripted TV Newsnet, because the site spends so much time on anything except game shows.

But the site doesn't make stuff up. If they report something - on game shows or, as so often happens, on some other kind of show - you can usually take it to the bank. So their tweet this morning that ABC has renewed Celebrity Family Feud is almost certainly accurate, though I haven't yet been able to find any confirmation on the web.

The renewal would come as no surprise, of course. Steve Harvey and his celeb buddies produced one of last summer's genuine hits with the six-week run of the venerable format. A renewal was a foregone conclusion, as soon as Mr. Harvey's hectic schedule would allow. ABC wasn't going to pass on the chance for more nice numbers next summer.

Family Feud was Mark Goodson's second favorite format, after only To Tell the Truth, and the feuders are still going strong after all these decades. The Nielsen survey says so.

UPDATE: A commenter points out that BuzzerBlog broke the story of the renewal. But Alex Davis' post now has this disclaimer...

FremantleMedia has reached out to let us know that the On-Camera Audience posting stating the show would tape in March was uploaded in error. Neither FremantleMedia nor ABC have officially announced that the series has been picked up, or any potential tape dates.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Those freakin' schedules

Not sure exactly why, but GSN's advance schedules get a lot of attention around the game show Interwebs.

Maybe people haven't noticed, but the schedules really aren't that important. GSN is always changing things at the last minute, so the advance schedules are tentative at best. That's why I have the big bold black disclaimer above the schedules in the sidebar.

My not so sneaking suspicion is that the traditionalist-leaning Interwebs are eager to seize on the schedules to prove that GSN is abandoning old stuff. The few hours when GSN runs ancient shows get a vastly disproportionate amount of attention from the schedule-watchers around the web. A case in point comes from Game Show Paradise, where a fan of the old shows saw imminent disaster...

Looks like December 14 is do or die for black-and-white overnight. If the next PDF comes out and no black-and-white shows prevail, then it will be safe to declare that black-and-white shows on GSN are officially done, possibly due to Buzzr, and that may be an indicator of disappointing things to come for die-hard fans of pre-1990s programming on GSN in 2016.

Well, the December 14-20 schedule came out and What's My Line and I've Got a Secret were there as usual for the holidays. The end of western civilization has been pushed back for a few weeks.

As for when I post the schedules, for the last time to complainers, I post 'em as soon as I get 'em. If that's not fast enough for you, too bad.

UPDATE: While GSN hasn't released the full schedule for December 21-27, much to the annoyance of some, they did post on Facebook the What's My Line and I've Got a Secret eps for the week. So I've given a link in the sidebar and a screenshot here. After all, most of the interest in the schedules seems to center on the old shows.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Star Wars doesn't have to worry about this

On this blog I've been pretty hard on Jeopardy champ Arthur Chu. I've bashed his effort to suppress free speech on the Internet, his attempt to intimidate bar owners who hosted a meeting he didn't like, and his sour grapes grump that Ben Ingram's win in the T of C deserved an asterisk.

So I probably won't chip in to the crowdfunding effort for a movie about Mr. Chu. The linked begging article says they've already raised $15,000, anyway. But they still need $5,000 more for "kinetic sequences of Arthur's life on the Internet and his rich inner world." Not to mention yet another $5,000 for "a veteran editor to consult on the almighty story."

I'll just have to pass on the almighty story and rich inner world of Arthur Chu. But I do hope the movie gets made. Arthur is sort of a nerd hero, despite his political and personal rants. I catch a lot of grief on the web, too, so I can sympathize a bit with the oft-criticized Jeopardy maven.

But his idea to have his lawyers police the Internet still sucks.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Ask me

Samantha Bennett, a Pittsburgh columnist, went on an obscure radio game show and wrote a long contestant story about it.

The show was Ask Me Another, an NPR offering that's sort of public radio's answer to You Bet Your Life. In other words, it's an interview vehicle for the host, a standup comic gloriously named Ophira Eisenberg, with some quiz questions here and there. Nobody will rate Ophira anywhere close to Groucho as a comic talent, but she tries her best. She does have kind of an annoyingly coy voice. But my voice ain't so great, either.

Anyhoo, contestant Bennett did fine on the show. You can listen to her effort here. In her column Samantha says that Ask Me Another was "very civilized, very cordial, very NPR." Most importantly she "managed to sound goofy without giving a single wrong answer."

Nice to know that our taxpayer dollars are going to a radio game show. At least we're helping to give a civilized experience to a Pittsburgh columnist.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Just another category

Didn't see Jeopardy last night - well, actually I watched the rerun from last year - so I missed the category based on the Broadway musical Hamilton.

But not to worry. The linked story from Playbill filled me in on all the Hamiltonian answers and questions. I feel ridiculously proud of myself for knowing the correct responses. To be honest, though, the category seems awfully simple for anybody who's had a course in American history. (They still teach that subject in high school, don't they?) George III is a pretty easy guess for the English king, after all, and the other clues aren't exactly obscure.

Jeopardy can make me feel like an idiot, just like anybody else who's ever watched the show. But when I nail a category, I get all impressed with myself. Which is silly because the correct responses only prove that I've misspent my life on dumb trivia.

Meanwhile, I'm a little antsy thinking about how many of today's high school students would have a clue about Alexander Hamilton. Is he just the guy on the ten dollar bill to them? He may not even be on the bill much longer.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Ratings: syndies wobble compared to last November

It's the end of November sweeps, and TV News Check does their usual comparison to last year. Syndie game shows generally gave up a little ground, except for a big Millionaire decline. The household ratings and the change from 2014...

Wheel of Fortune 7.0 - down three ticks from last November
Jeopardy 6.5 - down four ticks
Family Feud 6.4 - up a couple ticks
Millionaire 1.3 - down six ticks as worse time slots take their toll
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - down a tick

Despite the decline from last year Pat and Vanna still took second place among all syndies behind only the obnoxious judge. Alex and Steve took the number three and four spots in all syndication. Things could have been worse.

TV Newser reports that for the November 30-December 6 week GSN got pretty much its usual numbers lately. 356K/308K/393K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network did rank a little higher than usual, 41st, 28th and 38th in the windows.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Billy dies in the ratings but escapes from Scientology

It was probably predictable. Billy on the Street is dying on truTV. The latest run was almost invisible in the numbers: 131K viewers and a 0.05 18-49 rating.

That's less than a third of truTV's November prime time average. Ouch. Mr. Eichner's act is fringe cable stuff at best. Most viewers seem to get tired of him in a hurry. But Billy still gets a lot of love from various corners of the Interwebs. His latest "Escape from Scientology" video has gone semi-viral.

In the excruciatingly long skit, Billy sends Rachel Dratch through a bizarro obstacle course to parody Leah Remini's escape from you-know-what. As always with Billy, he pounds the joke into the ground, digs it back up, and pounds it in again. Hard to believe, but the segment might make some viewers more sympathetic to Scientology. They might figure that with Billy for an enemy, the religion must be doing something right.

Billy is fun for maybe a minute and a half on a YouTube video. But I really have to wonder why truTV thought he would succeed with a half-hour show on what is still a fairly mainstream cable net.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Buzzr buzzings

To check back in with Buzzr, the game show subchannel I still don't get on my cable system, the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's again discusses why the diginet constantly reruns only a few eps of each show.

The latest theory blames GSN. Which is not surprising, because GSN is a favorite bogeyman on the oldies board to end all oldies boards. The network runs game shows that are less than thirty years old, after all. A poster speculates that GSN threatened Fremantle with a lawsuit (?) if they gave Buzzr more than 50 eps or so of any show.

Even on Game Show Forum this theory gets some "huhs?" GSN is an established cable net that averages three hundred thousand viewers throughout the day and close to four hundred thousand in prime time. Buzzr is a dinky diginet that averages 39 Internet hardcores for its programming. It's pretty hilarious to think that GSN would even care about how many eps of forty-year-old game shows appear on Buzzr.

Even while that conspiracy theory gets knocked down, another theory surfaces. GSN will supposedly drop all their Fremantle leases if and when Buzzr gets any traction as a competitor. Uh, no. You will have to pry the Harvey Feud lease from GSN's cold, clammy hands. But at least the oldies board can get happy thinking that GSN might start leasing tons of old stuff from other rights holders. Good luck on that scenario.

One poster reluctantly applies the term "rerun abuse" to Buzzr. Them's fightin' words on a board that usually lauds the diginet while trashing GSN. Meanwhile, Buzzr is apparently planning a holiday stunt with Betty White (see the screenshot). Maybe a marathon of her game show eps hosted by the lady herself?

UPDATE: The thread at Game Show Forum has wandered on to a general discussion of diginets and how (or if) they make money. The king of the subchannels, MeTV, is averaging 580K viewers in prime time season to date. Certainly a decent number compared to a lot of cable nets, including GSN. MeTV does skew old with only 90K 18-49 prime time viewers, but you would expect that with their programming. A couple other diginets, Bounce and Cozi, average 290K and 150K viewers in prime time.

Of course, these are widely distributed general interest subchannels with sitcoms and dramas. A sparsely distributed niche diginet like Buzzr can only dream about these kinds of numbers.

UPDATED UPDATE: Buzzr sends out a press release with details of the Betty White holiday special. Her game show eps will be featured starting December 14, leading up to an all-day marathon on Christmas.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Military weeks are nothing new for game shows. Wheel of Fortune seems to have one every year. So it's no big surprise that Millionaire will feature contestants in uniform starting December 14. As one of the show's producers says: "It's a nice way to say 'Thank you for your service,' but also to kind of put them on a pedestal — to say, 'Hey, here’s a chance to win some real money.'"

Military Times, formerly owned by Gannett and resembling USA Today in its layout and style, reports on the week in a long article. Apparently the contestants were, as you might expect, a lot more disciplined than the usual game show civvies (pun intended). "We hear 'sir' a lot more." The format for the military shows was pretty much the same as always for Millionaire, though the article says there was an extra lifeline. No word on exactly what that lifeline was.

In the end for the military personnel, it came down to answering the questions and climbing the money tree, just like any other contestant. Host Chris Harrison cautions...

That is the risk you run with these theme weeks. You want it to be a positive experience. But at the end of the day, it's a game, and they have to be able to play that game somewhat well to be able to get some money. You do run the risk of them walking out of here without it, which is terrible. For the host, it's the last thing I want. I want the happy ending.

We'll see how many happy endings happen in the week of December 14.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Streamin' on

It's the weekend, so it's time for me to get nontraditional. But instead of covering reality crud or cooking shows or improv comedy or talentless talent contests, as other sites do, I'll cover Internet chess. Which at least has the excuse of being a real game, with objective rules and verifiable winners and losers.

In particular, I'll cover the sometimes seedy underside of Internet chess, the streamer community. These are guys who "stream" their games online. In other words, they play blitz (three or five-minute games) or bullet (one-minute games) while streaming their more or less witty comments at the same time.

Some streamers, like grandmaster Peter Svidler (Russia) or international master John Bartholomew (U.S.), always keep their streams family friendly and educational. In particular, IM Bartholomew has posted a huge number of videos on his YouTube channel, which is well worth a look for its instructional value. Other streamers...well, not so much on instruction. They're more in the entertainment side of the business. And sometimes it's R-rated entertainment.

Which can be a lot of fun, of course. Case in point: Chessbrah, the YouTube home of GMs Eric Hansen (Canada) and Robin van Kempen (the Netherlands). This is not a channel for those of sensitive ears. For instance, Eric and Robin once played an online bullet match against each other, which set some kind of all-time chess record for use of the f-word and other words.

At one point van Kempen threw a banana at the screen in reaction to a brutal checkmate. This prompted a comment from Hansen about what he was going to do with his own banana.

Friday, December 4, 2015

We gotta get outta this room

A while back Science Channel tried a game show called Race to Escape.

Based on the amusement park fad of escaping from a locked room, the show wasn't bad for what it was. But Science Channel being science-y, they made the show too erudite for its own good. The clues to the teams in the locked rooms were obscure and kind of nerdy, and host Jimmy Pardo kept interrupting with lectures on selective perception and other faux-educational bits from Psychology 101. Race to Escape suffered through one low-rated season and vanished.

Now Pop, the one-time TV Guide Channel, is developing an almost identical format. But it sounds like they've learned from Science Channel's mistakes. The teams in the locked rooms will include celebs with the civvies, and the clues will be pop culture-based, "ranging from zombie apocalypse to a totally tubular 80's teen dream." In other words, the format will get dumbed down, which is exactly what it needs. Honest.

I doubt that Pop's show will offer any lectures on selective perception. The working title for the project is Celebrity Escape Room, which is already pretty basic. I'll check back if and when the show ever sees the light of cable.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ratings: Sony soulmates soar

Pat and Vanna and Alex had a lot to be happy about in the November 16-22 week. Both of the Sony shows jumped big to hit season highs and easily lead the genre. Only the loud judge outpaced them in household ratings. Otherwise, there was little movement among syndie game shows. TV News Check has all the numbers...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - up six ticks
Jeopardy 6.9 - up five ticks to take second place from Steve
Family Feud 6.5 - down a tick
Millionaire 1.3 - flat as usual
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat as usual

TV by the Numbers has stopped posting viewer numbers and instead started posting a narrow demo number, women 25-54. For what it's worth, the three top syndie game shows did fine in that demo. Wheel of Fortune 2.4, Jeopardy 2.1, Family Feud 3.5. The shows all landed in the top ten in the demo among all syndies.

TV Newser reports that GSN averaged 356K/309K/395K viewers for prime time/total day/extended prime time in November. The network ranked 46th, 31st and 40th in the windows. Hellevator isn't helping the prime time average. Its latest ep got only 207K viewers on December 2.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hypnotic suggestion

Game shows enter a trance state (maybe) with You're Back in the Room. Fox has ordered eight hour-long eps of the Brit format.

The basic idea is that contestants are hypnotized, then have to perform various everyday tasks. The show has endured a mixed reception in the mother country. Wikipedia (usual caveats) says that some critics have trashed the show as semi-fake, with contestants supposedly just going along with the ruse and not really being in a trance.

Whatever the truth of such complaints, the show got good enough numbers to earn a second season in the UK. It's also spread its hypnotic appeal internationally, with versions in France, Holland and Australia.

Here in the US the show is set to begin production in 2016. No word yet on who will host. They're probably looking for a magnetic and hypnotic personality.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Age of anxiety

I usually try to make faux tweets from recent news stories. But I just made an exception for TBS's upcoming Separation Anxiety.

A current faux tweet about the show refers to a story that appeared a month ago. That's pretty old stuff for a tweet, faux or not. But the story gave the first detailed summary I've seen anywhere of the TBS project, reportedly due in 2016 and about to tape in Atlanta.

The source of the description is Iliza Shlesinger, standup comic and host of the show. She first displays a bit of the usual snobbery toward our little genre when she says: "They offered [Separation Anxiety] to me and I said, 'Ya know, I don't really want to host a game show.'" I'm not sure exactly why she didn't want to host the show, beyond run-of-the-mill disdain. She gladly appears as a contestant on Celebrity Name Game, after all (see the screenshot). But then she gets enthusiastic about the format...

They explained the premise of it and I was like, "This is amazing!" I am not even saying this because it is my job! I have never seen a game show like this. The whole premise is that you take two people who know each other really well, which could be your wife, best friend or sister, and you think you are on an Internet game show to win $2,500. What you don't know is that you are actually playing on national TV and the prize is actually a quarter of a million dollars. One of you knows it, the other one doesn't and we separate you. It is the anxiety that comes with the person who knows how much money is at stake watching the other person play and they aren't taking it as seriously.

Early stories about the show promised a "unique twist," and I guess this is it. I'm not sure how the producers will convince one contestant that they're playing some dinky Internet game for no money. But what the hey, it does sound like an intriguing idea if they can pull it off. Originally slated for late 2015, the show has now been pushed back into 2016. We'll see how the format plays out if and when Separation Anxiety gets to air.