Sunday, January 31, 2016

Puppet in jeopardy

You know you've made it when you get your very own lifesize puppet.

Alex Trebek won this honor in Toronto this week, as he hosted the 100th birthday party for noted puppeteer Mary Thornton. As you can see from the screenshot, the puppet looks like a younger and hairier Alex, though he doesn't have the mustache. (Can they attach one if Alex grows back the facial hair?)

Maybe the Toronto Famous People Players theater group can do Pat and Vanna puppets next year. Except they aren't Canadian, but why let such a trifle stand in the way of puppet immortality? Now that I think about it, the Alex puppet could host a Jeopardy ep. He's dressed for the part, after all.

Alex was good-humored about the event. He remarked that he is very lucky to be the host of an extremely popular quiz show called Reach for the Top. (Check Wikipedia if you don't get the joke.) The 100-year-old lady seemed very nice, and her daughter sounded very proud. The Alex puppet had no comment but looked happy enough.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Older is better, part 4,519

Rummaging through the game show boards for something to write about, I came across this wistful complaint...
Just noticed on the PDF for the last full week of January: Card Sharks with Jim Perry reverts back to #286 (last day of May 1979) on January 26. Looks like GSN leased episodes from May 31, 1979 to sometime in October 1979. Well, there's not much more of 1979 left to air for Perry's Card Sharks, and Match Game may be early-80s after this current lease. Looks like 70s material is headed off into the sunset, and mornings wIll eventually be devoted to 80s material . Enjoy the 70s material on GSN while you can.
The game show Internet boards are full of such posts, but I still don't know whether to laugh or cry. The downfall of western civilization is upon us because GSN only runs shows that are 35 years old, not 40 years old.

I'm an oldies fan myself. I just posted a few days ago about a sixty-year-old What's My Line ep. But I still find it pretty incredible that folks on the game Interwebs are emotionally invested in whether GSN runs anything from the 1970s.

Really, who cares? Or more accurately, who should care? YouTube is stuffed with old game shows, Buzzr runs nothing but old game shows, and GSN still has fifteen hours a week of old game shows. After a while, how many old game shows can anybody stand? (Yeah, I know, you probably need an antenna to get Buzzr. But for truly desperate hardcores, that shouldn't be a yuuuuuuge issue.)

At least there are a lot of old game shows around to keep the Interwebs happy, sort of.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Exporting the Sony soulmates

They have workshops all over the place, even in game show land.

CBS is bringing in Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy licensees from around the world to Sony Studios in Culver City February 3-5. The idea is to revive interest in the formats here, there and everywhere. Wikipedia says both shows have spawned numerous international versions. But a lot of the exports have gone dark, and CBS wants to brighten them once again.

A CBS exec helpfully explains. "As two of the most popular game show formats in the world, we're excited to be giving licensees the opportunity to learn more about what makes these formats such successes on U.S. television." The licensees will spend time "on set, backstage and in the control room" of both shows.

The U.S. can use all the help it can get with its trade deficit, so the workshop doesn't sound like such a bad idea. Maybe the licensees can also worship at the shrine of Merv Griffin (sorry for the lèse majesté). Wheel occasionally shows clips from some of its surviving international versions, which tend to look rather more festive than the American show (see the screenshot).

Oh well, good luck to CBS and Sony on getting the soulmates onto more TV screens around the globe.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


For those who haven't heard, Mark Labbett has taken his Chase gig down under. Apparently, the show is doing well with the Aussies, and an antipodean website caught up with him for an interview.

Sad to say, he's got no news on whether the U.S. version of the show will see another season. The numbers are still fine by GSN standards. The latest Friday rerun got 532K viewers and the demos skew no older than the network's usual fare. But maybe that's not a good sign, because GSN execs might figure repeats could get numbers just as good as new eps.

Meanwhile, Mark says he rather enjoys playing the baddie. "I remember seeing a biography on Stone Cold Steve Austin, the American wrestler, and somebody came up with one of those little aphorisms which is perfect: the best wrestlers are themselves with the volume turned up. And I thought, 'well that's me, with the volume turned up.'" He also comments on how he enjoyed sledging Aussies when he played rugby against them. ("Sledging" is Australian for trash talk.) So badmouthing Chase contestants in Oz comes naturally, you might say.

Labbett says he doesn't study up much on trivia, though he did do some homework on Australian politics. "I get my knowledge from living life." That's one way to do it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Somebody in Punxsutawney besides the groundhog

Usually I leave contestant stories to the faux tweets. But this story proved something to me. People really do live in Punxsutawney, PA. I always figured the town was just a backdrop for the groundhog. Anyway, a town resident named Vickie Amundson cleaned up on The Price is Right. "She won trips to Denmark, China, Hilton Head Island, luggage, and a camera, totaling $32,000 in prizes."

She actually wore a groundhog t-shirt on the show. You can see a glimpse of it in the screenshot. Well, Phil is the town's one claim to fame.

The linked story recounts her long and winding (not golden) road through contestants row, the flip flop game, the big wheel, and the showcase. She even hugged the losing contestant on the showcase, in a nice touch of sportsmanship. offers all the details.

Vickie is the activities director at a retirement home. Her stepdaughter made it to contestants row the following day but didn't win anything, though her son won ten grand on the show five years ago. You need some luck on TPiR.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ratings: GSN rocks

Nielsen is still in its post-holiday daze, so the syndie ratings aren't out yet. I'll update this post with the syndie figures when they finally emerge from the number munching machines. Meanwhile, GSN rocked down the highway for the week of January 18-24.

Sure, a blizzard or three in January puts a lot of people in front of a lot of TVs. But GSN's rankings among its cable peers were also very good by historical standards, along with the viewer totals. TV Newser reports that GSN averaged 504K/383K/523K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 34th, 29th and 34th in the windows.

I usually don't comment on the performance of non-game show networks. But Fox News rode the presidential campaign to number one rankings in all the windows last week. I don't recall seeing that before. The other newsnets also did well. They'd probably like a presidential election every year.

Most syndie game shows endured a forgettable week for January 11-17. TV News Check has the mostly bad household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.3 - down three ticks
Family Feud 7.0 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 6.6 - down four ticks, this is getting glum
Millionaire 1.4 - up a tick in the only good news
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - down a tick

Monday, January 25, 2016

True or false

Time Warner Cable doesn't deign to carry Pop, the old TV Guide channel. So I had to wait a few days to watch Easiest Game Show Ever, the channel's venture into our little genre. But an episode of the show has turned up on the Pop web site, so I was finally able to enjoy the delights of true-false questions about pop culture.

The contestants were a couple of housemates from one of the 88 gazillion Big Brother installments. They apparently kissed each other on Big Brother, which generated some comments from Easiest Game Show Ever host Michael Ian Black about whether tongue was involved.

There was apparently no tongue. Once we established that fact, the contestants answered twenty true-false questions, almost all centered on pop culture. Shucks, I was hoping for queries on Sri Lankan history. There was a question about Vietnam's currency, called the dong. You can fill in the punch lines.

The show then played several rounds with the contestants' answers to those questions, giving them a chance to chatter back and forth and change their answers if they had second thoughts. When all the gameplay was over, the contestants walked out with $1,950. The show is designed to minimize payouts, with a draconian final round that chops total winnings down by ninety percent for every wrong answer. Let's face it, Pop's economics don't allow for a bunch of massive wins.

Black hosted competently with a generous dose of dry humor, reminiscent of Ben Gleib on Idiotest. The show moved along briskly enough, and there was always the true-false playalong value for onlookers. It wasn't the most suspenseful and engrossing format ever, but I've seen a lot worse.

UPDATE: Even by Pop's modest standards, Easiest Game Show Ever got bad numbers. 97K viewers and a 0.03 18-49 rating at 8:00 PM and 66K viewers and a 0.02 18-49 rating at 8:30 PM. Ouch.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

So romantic

Valentine's Day approaches, and ain't love grand? In Birmingham, AL they're getting ready for Romantically Challenged, a live game show modeled after Dating Game and Newlywed Game.

The host of the show, a guy named Max Rykov, offers some lessons for life. Online dating sucks, appearances aren't everything, don't take yourself too seriously, honesty is important, and keep trying if at first you don't succeed.

My cliché meter just went off-scale high. But the truisms are accurate enough, I guess. The set for the show (see screenshot) looks beyond tacky, as if a third-hand store just emptied out its contents. The big red heart is a nice touch, too. But a show like this should have a tacky set. This is Chuck Barris country, after all.

Dating Game is a natural for live shows because you don't need any money, just willing contestants. And who isn't willing to find a little love? Good luck to all the hopeful daters in Alabama.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Did you have the misfortune to have me for your officer?

Every time I check the superb What's My Line channel on YouTube, I'm afraid that Fremantle's lawyers will have succeeded once and for all in eliminating this supposed "competition" to Buzzr. But the channel lives on, thanks to its owner's persistence. One of my favorite episodes on the channel dates from October 21, 1956. This ep featured two mystery guest rounds, the first with Broadway legends Lerner and Loewe, and the second with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.

The panel consisted of the regulars - Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis and Bennett Cerf - and guest David Niven. The panel had a good night and guessed pretty much everybody. For fans of true WML minutiae, the perp walks and free guesses had vanished by October, 1956. But the civvie contestants still didn't get to shake hands with the panel at the end of their turns. Another tiny bit of trivia: Bishop Sheen was one of the very few contestants in the show's entire history that the ladies on the panel stood up to shake hands with. Dorothy Kilgallen, the sole Catholic panelist, even kissed his ring. (Is that still done?)

There was a lot of humor during the show, as when the blindfolded Arlene couldn't figure out how the bishop could appear on TV every week and still work for a nonprofit organization. "You must have a crazy sponsor." But the best bit on the show was the fourth contestant. He was a Scotsman named Alexander McGeechin, and he turned out to have served on Malta during World War II under David Niven as his commanding officer. Niven recognized him immediately and nailed him with the question that appears as the title of this entry. (McGeechin's current job was bagpipe expert.)

By the way, David Niven's Wikipedia article says that he never liked to tell war stories. He once said:
I will, however, tell you just one thing about the war, my first story and my last. I was asked by some American friends to search out the grave of their son near Bastogne. I found it where they told me I would, but it was among 27,000 others, and I told myself that here, Niven, were 27,000 reasons why you should keep your mouth shut after the war.
One more note: the WML channel will post a previously lost episode of What's My Line from October 1, 1950. It's due tomorrow, January 24, at 10:30 PM. Of course, 10:30 PM on Sunday was WML time for many years.

Friday, January 22, 2016

More Ru

As a faux tweet noted, Logo will try a pop culture quizzer called Gay For Play Game Show, with Ru Paul as host.

As you can probably tell from the network, title and host, there will be a certain theme to the show. And as you can probably tell from the format - six celebs and two civvies - and pop culture subject matter, there may be more than a few lifts from Hollywood Game Night. The NBC effort has lasted for a while, and even if the numbers aren't overwhelming, the show has to be accounted a success. Which breeds the sincerest form of flattery.

Ru Paul has sort of brushed up against game shows with Skin Wars on GSN. At least the reality effort is on a network with lots of real game shows. I'm not the biggest fan of Skin Wars, but the young-skewing (by GSN standards) demos have produced renewals and press release plaudits.

There's no debut date for the Logo show, except sometime in spring, 2016. It's a half-hour format.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Grab it all

A faux tweet noted that a new version of Supermarket Sweep, called Superstore Sweep in a slightly updated title, is getting shopped at NATPE.

There's a little more information on the project, which is under development at Raycom. Scott St. John of Deal or No Deal renown is working on the remake, which looks to be in just the earliest stages. Who knows if the show will ever see the light of TV day, but I sort of hope it somehow makes to a screen near me. Supermarket Sweep is the only shopping show that I honestly enjoyed.

That's because the show wasn't actually about shopping but rather about stealing. It was such a naughty thrill to watch contestants set loose in a supermarket with a license to kill pilfer. Who hasn't wanted to grab everything in sight at a store and not pay a dime?

Supermarket Sweep has bounced around in a couple versions since its first 1965-67 run on ABC. As long as the spirit of larceny lives in the heart of man (and woman) the format will have some appeal. Good luck on the remake, guys.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ratings: season highs all over for syndies

As the news arrives that all five weekday syndie game shows will return this fall, Nielsen delivers great numbers for four of the shows. The exception was Millionaire, but even for Chris Harrison the ratings weren't too bad. TV News Check has the happy tidings for the week of January 4-10...

Wheel of Fortune 7.6 - up a whopping ten ticks to a new season high, just behind the vocal judge among all syndies
Family Feud 7.2 - up six ticks to a season high and a tie for series high
Jeopardy 7.0 - up nine ticks to a season high, everybody's getting happy
Celebrity Name Game 1.5 - up a tick to, you guessed it, a season high
Millionaire 1.3 - down a tick, well, not everybody's getting happy but the numbers hardly look terrible compared to other syndie genres

January is always a high viewership month as the cold weather chases people indoors to their TVs. But the syndies will take the good news and be grateful. Meanwhile, GSN turned in another solid week for January 11-17. 459K/342K/474K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 38th, 31st and 38th in the windows.


Remember that crazy winner's circle rule on Pyramid against prepositions?

I was reminded of the rule when I saw this story in TV News Check based on a press release from Buzzr, the retro game show diginet. The story burbles with joy that Buzzr is now available to 60% of TV households in the U.S. You'll notice that the story doesn't say the subchannel is available in 60% of U.S. households.

That's because Buzzr doesn't have a genuine presence in nearly so many homes. What the diginet is really saying is that (1) if you're lucky enough to have the right cable system or (2) if you're willing to go though the hassle of installing an over-the-air antenna, then you can watch our shows. Technically, Buzzr is available to my own household. But like most people in the country I can't watch it because my cable provider has better things to do and I'm not going to bother with some goofy antenna to watch one channel.

Oh, those sneaky prepositions. The story goes on to note some upcoming Buzzr stunts, like a Super Bowl Sunday of football-themed Family Feud eps and a March Madness tournament to pick the top game show host ever. That's all very nice, but I just wish somebody could get Time Warner Cable to put Buzzr on my TV.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Chugging along for another year

NATPE, the schmoozefest for TV execs of all sorts, has sent good news to a couple of syndie game shows.

As faux tweets noted, both Millionaire and Celebrity Name Game will return for the 2016-17 season. The linked stories from Broadcasting and Cable treat the items rather differently. Millionaire still gets some crepe-hanging with a comment about its declining numbers. Well, yeah, but the show got two million viewers and a 1.4 household rating in the latest week, with a 0.6 rating in what has become the new almighty demo, W25-54. Considering the timeslot downgrades the show has endured, the ratings are hardly terrible by current syndie standards.

Could a new, completely untested syndie produce such numbers? Maybe, but there is certainly no guarantee. In fact, there's not much new syndicated product in sight, anyway. There's the Harry Connick show, which could sink or swim in the flooded talker category, and the T.D. Jakes project, a preacher's effort which might prove limited in its appeal.

Meanwhile, B&C talks up Celebrity Name Game and its "potential to entertain audiences for quite some time." In fact, the show gets ratings quite similar to Millionaire's. Which only proves that the glass can be half-full or half-empty, depending on what point you're trying to make.

I'm happy both shows will be back because I like them both...and they give me more material to fill out my weekly ratings reports. One more note from NATPE: Billy on the Street won an award for best game show. Sadly, nobody turned up to accept the kudo. As host Howie Mandel joked, everybody from the show was out on the street.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Triple zip

It's kind of rare that a Jeopardy ep has two returning champs. It's really rare that an ep ends with all three players at zero.

And it's downright unique when both things happen on the same show. But it happened tonight. Our three Jeopardy co-conspirators cooked up a zero to zero to zero humdinger. At they have a lot of fun with the oddity, and one poster points out three other zip-zip-zip results. September 11, 1984, June 12, 1998 and February 7, 2013. That last ep was the semifinal of a teen tourney, which might indicate that teens back then weren't the best at Jeopardy betting.

Many posters dump on contestant Randi Kristensen. She finished the front game with $6,000, as opposed to the other two players - the returning champs - who tied at $13,800. For some reason Randi bet it all, though she should have kept at least some cash in reserve in case both leaders bet big against each other and lost.

But no, Randi had to wipe out completely, too. By the way, co-champ Claudia Corriere was returning because she took a new job and couldn't make her previously scheduled taping date. I'll make a bet of my own: she feels a little foolish about the comeback.

In case you're wondering, Claudia and Mike Drummond got $2,000. Randi got $1,000. None of them got a return date tomorrow.

Dumping on Steve

Poor Steve Harvey. The Miss Universe screwup and now this feminist rant from BlogHer.

Sure, Steve Harvey is "poor" the same way Oprah is a very loose manner of speaking. The guy owns all the media that Oprah doesn't own, and who knows, they may own some of the media in common. But even Steve might be surprised to hear about the magical powers ascribed to him at BlogHer. "Steve Harvey is the reason most women are single, including me."

Really? Gawd, what control over gazillions of lives. Anyway, the ranter hits the usual feminist notes - "Why is it so hard for Steve Harvey to realize that men are afraid of successful women?" - and then advises just falling in love the old-fashioned way, whatever that may be.

I'm personally not the biggest Steve fan. I respect the way he's brought Family Feud back to life, but I'm not crazy about how he's transformed the show into his standup act, even if it's a pretty good standup act. And he does like to dispense relationship advice, so he has to take pushback from, well, dissatisfied customers.

But he's the reason most women are single? That is a stretch.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sweet spot for political ads

I've grumped about cliché comparisons of politics to game shows. But sometimes you can't avoid politics on game shows. Or at least you can't avoid political ads.

This AP story says that Wheel of Fortune is the holy grail for political ad buyers. "The show attracted an estimated $1.5 million on more than 1,300 spots in Iowa." In case you haven't noticed, the Iowa caucuses are a couple weeks away. Pat and Vanna thank you for your support. One political guru burbles: "I think why Wheel is so popular is that it's right after the news. It's in the sweet spot."

This is one time that game shows' old skew pays off. Older people vote early and often, and Wheel and Jeopardy are two really good ways to reach them. A Wheel ep on December 22 in Sioux City, IA had nine political ads to set the record for partisan chatter in this cycle.

I always mute ads of any sort when I'm watching TV, so I don't mind the political pitches. And if politics makes game shows more attractive to ad buyers of any sort, it's okay with me.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Rumors milling

The blogroll is getting out of hand, as I've gone on a rampage of adding reddit feeds and wikis. But there's a lot of game show material out there and the links don't take up too much space.

The Jeopardy reddit feed - don't let the picture of the bare-chested Alex alarm you - has a gossipy thread about the second season of 500 Questions, due this summer on ABC. Rumor has it that the show will replace Richard Quest, the abrasive Brit host. When ABC announced the second season a few months ago, Quest's status was left tantalizingly unstated. Now it looks like the producers may be combing the highways and byways for somebody presumably more acceptable to us unwashed Yanks.

Personally, I don't mind Quest on the quizzer. 500 Questions is a cutthroat show, with contestants spending much of their time in head-to-head confrontations. An in-your-face host seems just right for that kind of gladiatorial combat. But maybe the producers think Quest overdid the kill, kill, kill atmosphere.

Are we going to see a kinder, gentler 500 Questions, at least when it comes to the host? It's hard to imagine a Mr. Congeniality type like Pat Sajak or Chris Harrison on the show, unless they remake the format almost completely. Which doesn't seem to be in the offing.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Pie, as in easy

Once upon a time there was a listings channel from TV Guide. Then digital listings took over and the channel morphed into Pop, which is sort of a catch-all low-rent entertainment outlet.

Pop has been running Celebrity Name Game reruns for a while and has now decided to try an original game show. Obviously gauged to their audience, Pop tells us it's the Easiest Game Show Ever. Basically it's a string of true-false questions which can lead to a hundred grand. Given Pop's economics I doubt that the top prize will get awarded very often.

Which means the show may not be quite as easy as advertised. Michael Ian Black hosts, and I thought he didn't do so badly on Trust Me I'm a Game Show Host. That show died a quick and ugly death, partly because of Black's unendurable co-host D.L. Hughley. Pop has made sure that D.L. is not along for this ride.

The show debuts January 22 with a 20-ep season. The premiere features twin brothers who work for the Boston fire department. Will they blaze to the grand prize? Or will the true-false stumpers douse their dreams? Your full-service game show blogger will report on all the proceedings.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Another renewal decision

A while back I plowed through GSN's renewal decisions on three of their originals. But there's another show whose fate is under further review.

You can probably guess which show I'm talking about from this entry's graphic. Syndie Millionaire has lasted fourteen seasons now, which may be twelve or thirteen more than many pundits thought possible back in 2002. The conventional wisdom back then was that Millionaire had destroyed ABC - I just checked and the network is still with us and still running game shows, at least in the summer - and the syndie would rapidly fade into the Nielsen sunset.

Four hosts later the show grinds on, in a format remarkably similar to the original money tree. This season the critics were really hanging crepe as a bunch of timeslot downgrades hit the numbers hard. I've been wringing my hands over the quizzer myself. But at least for one week the ratings look surprisingly healthy.

Sure, it's just a few days in December and January, traditionally high-viewership months. But is there no place in today's fractured syndie universe for a show that gets two million viewers and a 0.6 rating in the almighty W25-54 demo? Maybe Millionaire is a little more expensive than the run of the mill talker, but the show hardly doles out big money all that often. Tough questions have taken care of that issue.

Chris Harrison has done a nice job as host after a couple of misguided attempts to find the next Steve Harvey (who hasn't been found yet). Maybe, just maybe there's a spark of life left in the multiple choices.

UPDATE: As a faux tweet notes, Millionaire will survive for a 15th season with Chris Harrison as host. The ABC O&Os have renewed the show, with the exception of WLS in Chicago. The lineup of new syndies for the fall looks thin, and there's no guarantee that another show could get Millionaire's numbers, which are decent by current standards.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ratings: 2016 smiles on syndies

Last week I predicted that New Year's week wouldn't be kind to syndie game shows. Well, I was as wrong as wrong could be. Every  syndie rose from the depressed Christmas week levels. Steve Harvey had a special reason to smile as he took back the number one slot. Yes, it's very close among the top three, and the race isn't fair with Wheel only getting one daily run to build its numbers. But you knew about all that, didn't you?

The really good news is that the bottom dwellers both set season highs. Rumor is that Celebrity Name Game will get a renewal because Tribune likes the show compared to its aging talkers. But Millionaire needs all the help it can get, and it got some help in the latest week. TV News Check posts the household ratings for December 28-January 3...

Family Feud 6.6 - up a whopping eight ticks to take the top spot
Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - up a tick
Jeopardy 6.1 - up three ticks
Millionaire 1.4 - up a couple ticks to a new high for Chris Harrison
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - up a couple ticks to what I believe is an all-time high

GSN didn't mess around in the first full week of the new year. 469K/365K/497K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time for the week of January 4-10. Great numbers as the network tries to match tough comparisons from its record 2015. GSN ranked 37th, 30th and 36th in the windows.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Do yourself some good and watch Match Game

I should know better than to look at HuffPo advice columns. They just get me ornery and contrary and other things bad for my blood pressure.

Case in point: this smarmy advice column from Ken Budd, who spends his time on HuffPo "redefining success beyond money and power." Ol' Ken might want to have a chat with Arianna Huffington, who founded HuffPo and sold it to AOL for a mere $315,000,000. Tell her about redefining her money, Ken.

But leave aside such HuffPo hypocrisy, which often does stink to highest heaven. One day Ken found himself watching a Match Game '78 ep. And he just got so upset with himself. "That's right: I was watching a game show from 1978. And as an ascot-clad Charles Nelson Reilly puffed his pipe and harrumphed double-entendres onscreen I thought...Is this really the best use of my time?"

Well, I dunno, Ken. At least watching Match Game keeps you from dispensing unneeded advice to the (what you consider) ignorant masses. Ken goes on to talk up do-gooder activities - I was in the Peace Corps for three years, so I've got some credits banked - and/or wonderful pursuits like "studying the impact of green macro-algal mats on the invertebrate community in intertidal mudflats and whether it's affecting the wintering wading bird population."

I'm sure that studying algae seems far more noble to Ken than watching Match Game. But my God, he comes off sounding snotty and snooty. If somebody wants to enjoy a little humor from the best game show ever, why should anyone get upset about it?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Time wins again

Almost the first thing I saw on the Internet this morning was the sad news of David Bowie's death from cancer.

While I was never a particular fan, like everybody else I couldn't escape his music if I wanted to. His IMDb page lists 452 soundtrack credits. Sometimes the entire entertainment business seems to have functioned with David Bowie songs in the background.

I scrounged through the IMDb self credits hoping to find an episode of, I dunno, Hollywood Squares or something. The closest brush I saw with our little genre was a 1997 appearance on Wetten dass, the German game show plus talk/variety/stunt epic that ran forever (well, actually from 1981 to 2014). YouTube has part of Bowie's turn on the show, and if you understand German maybe you can tell me what they're talking about.

A cautionary note is that Bowie was only five years older than myself. Sooner or later time will beat me, too. David Bowie was 69. R.I.P.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Building a new Pyramid

ABC confirmed it on Saturday. A reboot of 100K Pyramid is set for summer prime time on the alphabet net (sorry for the Variety speak).

Vulture broke the story and gushes: "File this under the category of Things That Are Awesome." No doubt the format is one of the all-time best, spanning five decades in a bunch of versions since its first glimmer in 1973. After Sony foolishly axed the 2002-04 Donny Osmond syndie, CBS and TBS played with remakes but never committed. In 2012 GSN taped forty eps of its own version, which was almost identical to the classic Dick Clark format. The show grinds on in weekday reruns.

Vulture reports Michael Strahan, aider and abettor of Kelly Ripa, will host. The site says there will be no major changes to the usual gameplay. Oddly, the new ABC version will mark Pyramid's debut as a regular prime time series on a broadcast network. Of course, those networks are far from the behemoths they once were. Sony will produce the show with Vin Rubino, a game show vet who worked on GSN's current Chain Reaction, as one of the showrunners.

UNRELATED BLOG NOTE: Game Show Kingdom has gone away. So I replaced it on the blogroll with the busy Jeopardy forum at I also added the Wikipedia list of U.S. game show articles and the Mark Goodson wiki. Before today I had never heard of the Mark Goodson wiki, but it got slammed on what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board. So I figure the wiki can't be all bad. Okay, any wiki is subject to the usual caveats, but you knew that already.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Game show goes south

Finally caught an episode of South of Wilshire on KDFI, the Fox duopoly station in my home DFW area.

This is the TMZ product that's getting a test run on various Fox O&O's around the country. For what it is, it's not terrible. South of Wilshire is just a humble pop culture quizzer where contestants try to identify various celebs revolving around the media junkosphere.

Three civvies battle it out at Dulan's, a soul food eatery in LA that is, indeed, south of Wilshire Boulevard. They listen to clues delivered on tape from various other south of Wilshire locations and try to guess the celebs being described. There's a final betting round ripped off totally and shamelessly from Jeopardy. (In an odd moment, a plug from Alex for that freakin' life insurance company preceded the round on KDFI.)

The best thing about the show is the reasonably authentic LA street scenery. The worst thing about the show is the pop culture obsession. Man, I could have used a Jeopardy category on classical music after all the celeb trivia.

Well, the absolutely worst thing about the ep I saw was TMZ honcho Harvey Levin making himself one of the celebs described on the show. I don't mind a little self-promotion but let's not get too obvious. Adam Glyn hosted competently if loudly. There was a female co-host whose name I missed. She didn't get to do much except stack money in front of the contestants.

Friday, January 8, 2016

More yelling

truTV has re-upped Billy on the Street for another season of ten eps.

It's notable that the linked story doesn't mention any ratings for the show, beyond the median viewer age of 31. That's because the very loud Billy Eichner just doesn't get very good numbers for truTV. His latest efforts on January 6 got 288K total viewers and a 0.15 18-49 rating at 11:00 PM and 206K viewers and a 0.10 18-49 rating at 11:30 PM. These are so-so to downright poor numbers by truTV standards.

But the people who do tune in skew young, and the show spawns a lot of "viral videos." That, plus some critics saying nice things, seems to be enough to survive in cable land nowadays. Truth be told, I think the viral videos are about the only way to stand Eichner. A half-hour (or, God help us, an hour) of the guy is unendurable, IMO.

Billy on the Street is only vaguely a game show. But Billy does ambush civvies with goofy questions, so I guess it somehow sneaks into the genre. And now the show has snuck into another season. No matter what anybody says about him, Billy Eichner has hung around.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ratings: bah humbug for syndies

Christmas week is always a downer for syndie game shows, as people are more interested in opening presents than vegging in front of the TV. This year was no exception. TV News Check has the un-merry household ratings for the week of December 21-27...

Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - down eight ticks
Jeopardy 5.8 - down six ticks to tie for second
Family Feud 5.8 - down seven ticks, this is getting depressing
Millionaire 1.2  - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - down a tick and back into the basement

The news probably won't be much better for New Year's week, but we'll see. Meanwhile, Soap Opera Network reports that Let's Make a Deal scored its best fourth quarter ever in 2015. The Price is Right enjoyed its best fourth quarter since 2001.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Everybody's got to start somewhere

Reuters runs a monthly "First Jobs" series with various celebs reminiscing about their first gigs. Wouldn't you know, this month is the first time I ever heard about it.

Today Reuters features four game show hosts. Bob Eubanks of Newlywed Game legend has the funniest story. He got his first job as a doorman at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. He ended up getting fired after an unfortunate adventure with a ladder. So when he won a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he wanted it right in front of the Egyptian, and he got his wish.

Wink Martindale of Tic Tic Dough and hundreds (slight exaggeration) of other shows, recalls his gig as a morning DJ in Memphis. They once played a new record by some unknown named Elvis Presley, and then they got Elvis' first interview.

Well-known letter-turner Vanna White started out as a soda counter waitress. It helped her develop better people skills, she says. No word on whether the job improved her command of the alphabet. And finally, Jeopardy's Alex Trebek got his first job as a bellhop at a Sudbury, Ontario hotel courtesy of his father, who worked as the chef at the place. He was four hours late for his first day of work. "Not a good start."

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Matt Ottinger news!

Matt Ottinger has turned up in Google News, and it's not about the game show board formerly known as his.

Instead, the news story concerns plans by Michigan State University to sell the broadcasting spectrum space used for its PBS affiliate WKAR-TV. Among other things the station features Matt's long-running game show QuizBusters. (YouTube has a lot of the show, if you want to sample it.) The linked story says that 17% of the station's viewers watch WKAR-TV through over-the-air antennas. Those folks would get shut out if the station couldn't use the broadcasting spectrum.

So when Michigan State ran a public forum on their plans to sell the spectrum space, they got an earful. Matt himself speaks at length in the article about how he wants to continue doing the quizzer, no matter what happens with the spectrum sale. "I love doing the show and I want to do it in whatever format possible." The story says that Matt has spent more than two decades as the host and associate producer of QuizBusters. Yeah, it's been that long.

Monday, January 4, 2016

To renew or not to renew

Coming off the network's most watched year ever, GSN has some interesting renewal decisions on their hands.

Three decisions, to be exact: The Chase, Chain Reaction and Hellevator. The renewal decisions on these shows are "interesting" because, of course, they get tricky numbers from the Nielsen Company. If total viewers ruled the roost at GSN, The Chase would be a lock for renewal. The show regularly pulls 500K+ or even 600K+ viewer numbers. Sadly for Brooke and Beastie, the best show on GSN skews very old for a network that already skews very, very old. You would expect this from a completely traditional quizzer, and you would not be disappointed.

GSN has also piled up 51 eps of The Chase and might figure that's enough for endless repeats. I think another season of fifteen eps or so would make the repeats more palatable, but I'm not running the network. Meanwhile, fellow traditional game show Chain Reaction has gotten so-so overall viewer totals and demos. The latest runs on Christmas Day and New Year's Day did perk up, so a late favorable trend might get the show another go-round.

Still, I'm afraid Chain Reaction may end up like GSN's version of Pyramid, a one-season wonder that lasts forever in afternoon reruns. That would be too bad, because the Mike Catherwood update solved all the problems of the old Dylan Lane version, while keeping the addictive gameplay. Hellevator is the oddest duck in the bunch. The twisted sisters started out strong and then saw their total viewer numbers fall off a really steep cliff. But the show has always skewed extremely young by GSN's geriatric standards.

I would try a second season with less grubbiness - get rid of the bugs and most of the fake blood, along with the tedious back stories about homicidal nurses and nutty undertakers - and more humor and more gameplay. This might make the show more palatable to GSN's usual viewers while retaining a lot of the young'uns.

Scott Rahner notes that all three of these shows turned up in GSN's Happy New Year promo. My guess is that the promo means exactly nothing, but we'll see soon enough.

UPDATE: Today brings news items about both our little game show networks.

Buzzr will start running some new eps of their current oldies, according to the diginet's twitter feed. This might make complaining Internet hardcores happy but will do little to lift the subchannel's fortunes in the real world. Sooner or later Buzzr will have to run modern shows - like Harvey Feud or Carey The Price is Right - to get traction with a broader audience than the tiny clique of oldies fans.

Scott Rahner says that GSN is developing a couple new shows: Divided, a version of a Brit quizzer, and #Friendtrip, a reality show where comedians compete to survive on the road without money(?) Unlike the Buzzr news this is just a report by Scott with no official confirmation that I can find. And, of course, there's no guarantee that either show will get to air.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

NYE games

NBC tried a live New Year's Eve version of Hollywood Game Night to pass the time before the big ball came down. It's kind of ridiculous to review the show because it was basically just another HGN ep. But I gotta write about something, so I watched the show on the NBC web site.

There were a few differences from the usual format. Jane Lynch was off somewhere, so Andy Cohen hosted. He had been hitting the booze early and often and called Carson Daly "Carson Davy." They also got rid of the civvie contestants, who are always an afterthought anyway, and just used eight sort of celebs. Panic at the Disco was the house band, and the show began with a painfully unfunny make-up room skit.

Otherwise, it was normal Hollywood Game Night service. Some of the celebs were more competent at the games than others, but nobody was completely terrible. Everybody got to plug their various projects. There was lots of confetti and dancing at the end, and lots of looks at Times Square outside (with Carson Davy Daly). The show got blah numbers by NBC prime time standards. 3.72M total viewers and a 1.0 18-49 rating.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year's resolution

At least as far back as the cautionary tale of Sid Caesar - younger readers can google the name if they don't know who I'm talking about - TV has gotten a reputation for destroying performers' lives. So it's a nice change when TV folks actually put their lives back together while working in the medium (so called because television is neither rare nor well done - an old joke.) The Price is Right's Drew Carey falls into that fortunate category.

In a long story in this month's Success magazine, Carey recounts his well-known bouts of suicidal depression as a teenager, and his lifelong struggles with physical health issues. As anybody can verify from watching The Price is Right, Drew has shed a lot of weight and a lot of other problems, including a nasty drinking habit. Just to test himself Carey recently tried an experiment in Germany...

I'm not an alcoholic, but I used to drink a lot. So I decided to go to a beer hall in Berlin and get drunk for the first time in almost five years. And I didn't like it. I didn't like being drunk, didn't like the after-effects because I can't think. I didn't enjoy it, so I probably won't ever do it again.

Carey goes on to advise young people to set goals in life and stick to them. Sounds like simple, almost clichéd advice, but it's worked for him. A personal note: I can't say I've emulated Drew's weight loss - far from it, I'm afraid - but I did stop drinking a long time ago. That helped.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Picayune contestant

It's a new year, and I was scrounging through Google News for game show items to write about.

The second story I came across in my "game show" search had a doozy of a headline. Picayune woman to be featured on Wheel of Fortune. I thought that was a pretty harsh way to refer to a lady contestant. The Google dictionary says "picayune" means "petty, worthless," as in "the picayune squabbling of party politicians." The second definition isn't much better. "A small coin of little value, especially a 5-cent piece." That didn't sound like a favorable omen for Wheel of Fortune.

As it turns out, Picayune is the name of an actual the south, of course. Picayune, Mississippi is a town of ten thousand people located about 45 miles from New Orleans, and the Big Easy is involved in the town's name. Seems that a local writer named the place after the Times-Picayune newspaper in NOLA. Previously, Picayune had been called Hobalochitto. Gotta admit, the name change was an improvement.

The Picayune Wheel lady is a grandmother named Christine Kennard. She won her chance at the big round spinning thing in a New Orleans audition last May. She taped her episode November 20 for a January 20 air date. "It was nerve-wracking but fun. Pat Sajak is a doll."

And on that doll of a note, this blog is off and running for 2016.