Monday, February 29, 2016

Watson five years on

Five years ago IBM's super Google contraption Watson won big on Jeopardy.

Since then there have been maybe 24,398,102 media blurbs about the machine. And not much else to show for it. Watson was going to revamp medicine and cure cancer. When that didn't happen, well, Watson was going to revamp cooking. When that didn't happen, Watson was going to revamp something, IBM just couldn't figure out what.

All the while, IBM itself seemed to be wheezing toward the grave, as Ginni Rometty's services have proven mostly useless, though she's quite well paid. Maybe Watson needs to revamp its Maker. "Revenues at IBM have dropped for 15 straight quarters and the company has lowered profit expectations twice since late 2014. IBM shares declined more than 15% in 2015."

So it's not surprising that stories have begun to appear with a much sourer attitude toward Watson and its parent. This blast is typical.
The next few years after its game show win proved humbling for Watson. Today, IBM executives candidly admit that medicine proved far more difficult than they anticipated. Costs and frustration mounted on Watson’s early projects. They were scaled back, refocused and occasionally shelved.
Of course, artificial intelligence still holds great promise. It probably will cure cancer sooner or later. But it's going to be a lot longer and tougher slog than Watson or IBM thought.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Playing with numbers

Over at Game Show Network News Scott Rahner has listed the total viewer numbers for all 51 new eps of GSN's The Chase.

He should know better than to give a retired actuary all those numbers to play with. I made them into the chart in the screenshot, so you can see how the viewer numbers changed over time. After a relatively slow start in August 2013, the show peaked early in its run, with a couple 800K+ viewer numbers in January and February of 2014.

The Chase never quite returned to those lofty heights, though it churned out a few more 700K+ numbers in December 2014 and January 2015. I call this the second peak. Even the latest batch of episodes in November and December 2015 produced very nice total viewer numbers by GSN standards, though the sheen had come off a little.

Scott says the show has now been cancelled. I dunno, GSN could bring it back any time they can get Mark Labbett's attention. The real problem is one not shown on the chart at all. If half or more of the show's viewers were in the Sacred Demo of 18-49, GSN would be falling all over itself to tape more eps with Mark and Brooke. But The Chase is a very traditional quizzer with the very traditional old skew.

GSN keeps promoting reruns of the show as part of its Friday lineup. So maybe there's still a little hope for the best show on the network.

Can we rerun this stuff?

A thread on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's asks the intriguing question: Game show reruns on cable peculiar?

Really, I've never wondered about this much. With GSN rolling through its 22nd year and Buzzr spreading its diginet reach onto some cable systems, it just seems natural for game show reruns to pop up on cable. But now that I think about it, repeats in our little genre do seem a bit odd. Why do people sit through the same games played by the same contestants over and over?

Well, GSN's still modest (if growing) ratings suggest that there's a limit to the attractiveness of retread game shows. On the famous other hand, syndie game shows repeat episodes constantly, and they must find some kind of audience or they would disappear. The linked thread discusses the rerun blocks on CBN and USA back in the early days of cable and how they eventually spawned GSN.

The secret may be the genre's famously low production costs. Game show producers can churn out plenty of episodes without much of a financial sweat. Nobody can remember all the contestants and results, so game show eps can seem fairly fresh even to viewers who might have seen them before.

Of course, game shows - new or rerun - have always been a niche TV genre compared to dramas or sitcoms. But fans of the niche seem to tolerate retreads pretty well.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cut-rate Hollywood

A faux tweet mentioned Game On, a knockoff of Hollywood Game Night piloted by a public TV station in Chicagoland (NCTV in Naperville, to be exact). It's not that I have anything against knockoffs. Some of my favorite formats are copies. I've Got a Secret began as Goodson-Todman's knockoff of their own What's My Line. Pyramid is pretty much the lightning round in Password, with looser rules on the clues.

Game On features party games played by two teams of four. You get the borrowed idea. They're not concealing the lift. The linked story admits it up front. "Liz Spencer, executive director for NCTV, said the new show is patterned after Hollywood Game Night, which airs on NBC on Tuesdays and is hosted by Jane Lynch." Gee, no kidding.

What's interesting to me is that the show seems like a really, really low-rent Hollywood Game Night. At least the screenshot looks, shall we say, basic. The set is a chintzy fake fireplace with artificial flowers, and not much else. Oh, there's also a big screen TV on the fake brick wall. The players show up in jeans and khakis, and I doubt that there's a live house band, or even a taped house band. The furniture appears to be thoroughly used.

But it's for a good cause. Ticket sales raised some money for the TV station, though the story says they'll also sell commercial time when the pilot airs Monday.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Dating Game goes literary

I never thought I'd write the title of this blog entry. If there's anything in the world that ain't literary, it's Chuck Barris' much imitated, much derided, and much watched dating epic.

But this month in Atlanta, Dating Game really will meet literature high and low. The show comes from an outfit called Transgression, which seems to specialize in wackier takes on classic (and not so classic) fiction. According to a local Atlanta web site, we'll see "some of the most notable romantic literary icons participating in ABC's classic '70s game show The Dating Game."

The bachelor will be Christian Grey of 50 Shades of Grey, played by Gavin Godfrey. I can sort of believe that role, especially if the other characters are into BDSM. The bachelorette will be Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter (really) played by Lauren Traetto. That's a lot more of a stretch, and I can imagine Nathaniel Hawthorne doing 360s in his grave as I type. Ms. Traetto says she will portray Hester as "feminist, self-possessed, very strong, flirtatious, sex-positive." Oh boy, more 360s for Hawthorne.

In fact, the show sounds like a lot of fun for those who suffered through too many English lit courses. Some of the eager contestants in the dating q-and-a include Jane Eyre, Dorian Gray, Peter Parker, Bridget Jones and James Bond. The host is Chuck Woolery, played by Jason Mallory. Why not Chuck Barris? Oh well, Woolery did host a version of Dating Game in the 1990s.

The Dating Game: Literary Icons Looking for Love is coming to Dad's Garage Theatre in Atlanta February 29. Ready or not, Nathaniel.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pitcher makes big time

Little kids dream every night of one day becoming...a clue on Jeopardy.

Okay, 99.9% of kids don't dream about that. The other 0.1% need to get a better dream. But Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander is still proud of getting his own Jeopardy clue in a recent show. A picture of Verlander popped up with the clue. "The pitcher most recently named the American League's MVP was this fire-balling Tiger."

In fact, it's a little controversial for a pitcher to get a league MVP award. The hurlers already have their own Cy Young kudo. So non-pitchers get miffed when a pitcher invades the MVP voting. But Verlander's 2011 season was so good that the writers voted him the American League honor. (The writers also regularly rip off Mike Trout by not voting him as the league's MVP, but that's another ruckus.)

Right now Justin Verlander is in Florida for spring training. This is a six-week excuse for baseball players and media guys to play golf in nice weather while allegedly getting ready for the season.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Live by the lawyers, die by the lawyers

This blog has followed the weird efforts of Fremantle's lawyers to shut down the What's My Line channel on YouTube.

The legal war looks to be a misguided effort to help Fremantle's fledgling Buzzr game show diginet. Of course, the WML YouTube channel and other game show videos on the site only create interest in Buzzr's old shows. But this obvious fact seems to escape some of the great minds at Fremantle.

So it's with a sense of poetic justice that I write about Fremantle itself getting sued...over Buzzr. A New York Internet media company created a site called Buzzr.com in 2009, and they are now alleging trademark infringement over Fremantle's use of the name. The lawsuit really gets funny - at least to me - when it mentions the "sex, obscenity and crude sensibility" of some of Fremantle's own YouTube offerings under the Buzzr brand. Like the online version of Password in the screenshot.

As a matter of fact, I kind of like the Buzzr remakes of old game shows on YouTube. Anyway, I'm not a trademark lawyer and I don't play one on this blog. So I can't comment on the merits (if any) of the lawsuit. But if it helps to keep Fremantle's lawyers too busy to persecute the WML YouTube channel, I'm grateful.

UPDATE: I'm still not a lawyer, but I can read law articles on the web. This legal site gives a good overview of trademark law. Just from reading the material, it looks like Buzzr.com might have a halfway decent case. The trademark is quite unusual - "buzzr" is hardly a common contraction - and there is some chance of confusion, especially with Fremantle's Buzzr online videos. Sooner or later Fremantle might have to pay out a few bucks, but the legal process will drag on forever, as always.

Ratings: syndies generally improve

The week of February 8-14 was mostly a happy one for syndie game shows. Everybody except Pat and Vanna gained ground, and Wheel of Fortune didn't lose any. TV News Check lists the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - flat
Family Feud 7.3 - up four ticks and there's good demo news (see below)
Jeopardy 6.9 - up a couple ticks for the college tournament finale
Millionaire 1.5 - up a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.5 - up a tick

Women 25-54 seems to be the new be-all-and-end-all demo for syndies. TV by the Numbers says that the top three game shows did just fine in the demo, with Feud leading all syndication. Family Feud 4.1, Wheel of Fortune 2.7, Jeopardy 2.3. All three landed in the top ten among syndies in W25-54.

TV Newser reports that GSN kept its ratings mojo for the week of February 15-21. 432K/343K/456K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 39th, 28th (again very good for total day) and 33rd in the windows.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Another contestant story

A while back I posted a faux tweet about Alabama's Sarah Tarter, a contestant on tonight's Hollywood Game Night. Wouldn't you know, the local media has done a follow-up story on her. Maybe because her winsome photo (which I have shamelessly stolen) brightens up a web page.

The story tells us: "When she isn't playing the role of wife and mother of two, Sarah Kathryn Tarter is wearing her game face." That's a nice way to introduce any game show civvie. Sarah's an avid pop culture nut and confesses to an addiction to Us Weekly. I can't think of better prep for Hollywood Game Night.

An interesting part of the story is the elaborate contestant screening that civvies on the show have to endure. I figured that Hollywood Game Night would just pick people off the street, almost. Silly me. Sarah had to go through the online app, mock games with casting directors, and "five or six" interviews before she got to rub shoulders with the celebs.

One of the celebs on her ep was Kesha Sebert - I'm not going near the legal controversy - and Sarah says that "was funny because I dressed up as Kesha for Halloween a few years ago." She didn't have to do that on Hollywood Game Night. But she will have a viewing party with family and friends.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Bye, Carrie

Some sad news on the Internet today. Carrie Grosvenor is leaving the About.com game show site.

The news really doesn't come as a surprise. Carrie had been blogging less and less, and a guy named Jason Block had been posting items on the site. In fact, the last entry on the site - a somewhat sour review of Paradise Run - went up February 5, and Block wrote it.

Carrie was always a voice of reason on the often contentious game show Interwebs. I think I would have keeled over in shock if she had ever addressed an f-word tweet to anybody. Not that she didn't have strong opinions or was afraid to express them. But she was always civil and understanding, and I only wish I could emulate her example better myself.

One sort of disclaimer: for a few years Carrie ran "Readers Choice" awards for game shows, and this blog always got a nomination in the best game show web site category. So I may be biased in Carrie's favor, but she still deserves this entry's praise, and more. Hail and farewell.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Just a Yahoo kind of week

One of the persistent themes in the Silicon Valley press is whether Marissa Mayer can turn around diminished Internet 1.0 survivor Yahoo.

To put it mildly, the jury is still out on Marissa's ministrations. But regardless of the site's future, Yahoo has come up with a cute feature called This Week in Game Shows. The latest installment reviews Drew Carey on the Tonight Show and goofy clips from Family Feud and Wheel of Fortune.

You might call it Yahoo's answer to my own "Video From Our Little Genre" mini-blog in the sidebar. In fact, the Wheel of Fortune clip - it's Paris, er, France, er, Italy - has turned up on both sites. The Yahoo videos generally run a minute and a half or so. They're quick and breezy looks at the week's weirdness.

The bare-chested guy in Drew's Tonight Show clip could use some gym sessions, though. But so could I.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Shucks, Canucks

A faux tweet noted that an odd twist is currently keeping Canadians from taking Jeopardy's online test. The culprit seems to be Canada's anti-spam law, which apparently is making Sony nervous about accepting online applicants from the great white north.

This Toronto Star story explains the ins and outs of the anti-spam legislation and its draconian penalties (up to $10 million in fines). Microsoft also got cold feet on some security patches but found a way through the law. A lawyer says: "It seems to me that those hurdles are very easy to get around." But lawyers always say that, don't they?

My guess is that Canadians will soon be taking the Jeopardy exam with no problems. Sony will jump through whatever hoops the law dictates, and we'll get back to more important issues. Like whether ties are truly obsolete on Jeopardy. I mean tie scores, not the things Alex wears around his neck.

Alex, as we all know, is from Canada himself.

Friday, February 19, 2016

More What's My Line news

In 2014 a little flurry of excitement erupted over a Facebook post by veteran game show announcer Randy West about a possible What's My Line remake.

The post featured the glimpse of the new set in this entry's screenshot. The little flurry faded fast as no new version of WML ever surfaced. But now there's news of a couple tapings this month of another What's My Line remake. Fremantle seems to be involved. At least they're the "producers of America's Got Talent and The Price is Right" in the taping notice.

The Second City troupe will supply the panelists. The taping item promises "comedy, hijinks and hilarity." But don't they always promise such things? Intriguingly, the WML logo in the 2016 story seems to be the same as the logo on the 2014 set.

My conspiracy theory self is turning active here. Fremantle has called the lawyer hounds off the WML YouTube channel, at least for now. Is it because they're planning a What's My Line revival, and somebody figured out that the YouTube channel might be good publicity for the new version? Or am I just getting lost in hazy theorizing?

Probably the latter. We'll see if these two tapings ever lead to an actual show.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Arm's length

If you read this blog much at all, you know I like to keep my distance from the game show business.

Not that I think the business is evil or slimy or a real poopie-pants. It's just that I want to keep this an independent fan's blog with no ties to anybody who might influence my (oh so precious) opinion. Yeah, I'm probably being ridiculously scrupulous. Who gives a flip about my opinion, anyway? You shouldn't care, that's for sure.

The advance schedules from GSN are the one semi-exception I make to this rule. I figure they're a service to the reader and don't really compromise anything. I'm gonna spout off about GSN any way I like, regardless of the schedules.

As I mentioned in a faux tweet, I got an e-mail from TBS's upcoming Separation Anxiety with rough cuts of three episodes and an interview possibility with one of the co-hosts. I watched some of the rough cut footage, and all I'll say right now is that the show seems pleasant enough. I'll save the rest for when Separation Anxiety actually debuts March 8.

As for the interview chance, well, sorry. What if I watch the final product and decide it ain't so great? I just don't want to have any contact at all with the people I'm criticizing. So while I appreciate the chance, you nice folks at TBS, I'll have to pass.

I am using one of the publicity stills in the e-mail. But it doesn't reveal any of the show. It's just a random shot of co-hosts Adam Ray and Iliza Shlesinger. That seems harmless.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ratings: syndies mostly slip

Syndie game shows have seen better weeks than February 1-7. None of the shows gained ground and three of them declined. Not the best way to start February sweeps, but there's still a lot of the month to go. TV News Check has the downbeat household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - flat, which is good for this week
Family Feud 6.9 - down four ticks
Jeopardy 6.7 - down three ticks as the first week of the college tourney fails to impress
Millionaire 1.4 - flat, again a moral victory of sorts
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - down a tick

GSN powered to another solid week for February 8-14. 464K/359K/494K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 38th, 26th (one of the best rankings ever for total day) and 32nd in the windows.

I'd like to report that Easiest Game Show Ever is building its numbers. The pop culture quizzer is an entertaining format. But the numbers continue to be very bad even by Pop's low standards. The latest run got 103K viewers with an almost invisible 0.03 18-49 rating.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Past blast

For whatever reason - my guess is sheer dumb nostalgia on its twentieth anniversary - the New York Daily News has brought back its 1996 review of Happy Gilmore.

The movie did decent box office but was routine and mostly forgettable. Happy Gilmore's one enduring claim to fame is the highlarious duke-out between star Adam Sandler and The Price is Right legend Bob Barker on a golf course. The Daily News review singles out the scene for its highest praise, as you would expect. "The funniest sequence finds Happy paired in a celebrity tournament with game-show host Bob Barker, who turns out, hilariously, to be more than a match for Happy, physically and linguistically."

The scene has grown its own legend over the years. Messrs. Sandler and Barker redid the fisticuffs - this time in a hospital - for a charity special on Comedy Central. The Bold and the Beautiful also got Bob to film a similar scene where he punches out an animal rights opponent. Bob loves his pets, after all. Just have them spayed or neutered. (We did with our chocolate Lab, Bob.)

Monday, February 15, 2016

More games

It's getting harder to recall that GSN also runs that little TV network. The outfit seems to be mostly a video game operation nowadays. GSN Games has just acquired UK game studio Plumbee, best known for the Mirrorball Slots app.

This is part of a long-running acquisition spree by GSN Games. The press release says the video game giant "now operates in seven locations worldwide across Boston, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Washington DC, London, Bangalore and Zaporozhye." I hadn't even heard of that last one. Turns out it's a city in Ukraine of about three-quarters of a million.

The GSN site looks more like a video game portal than any kind of cable network. There are a few links to info on the TV side of the operation, but you have to hunt for them. I wonder if the video game studio will sooner or later get spun off into a separate unit.

There are natural synergies between video games and a TV game show network, and GSN takes advantage of them to some extent. There's also welcome diversification to guard against the slings and arrows of outrageous ratings on the TV side.

GSN UPDATE: At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner says that GSN has cancelled The Chase. He bases this on a sales list from GSN's corporate site that doesn't mention The Chase as a possible show for sponsors.

The list shows the new season of Idiotest in the second quarter this year and Winsanity in the third quarter, by the way. There's no sign of Chain Reaction or Hellevator, so those shows may be goners, too. They're sure not coming back any time soon. I guess it's always possible that any or all of these shows might resurface somewhere further down the road, much as GSN revived Baggage, Lingo and Chain Reaction itself after long breaks in production.

In a post last week Scott said that GSN was trying to get a version of Monopoly Millionaires Club. That struck me as a completely unbelievable rumor, and of course the show has now been cancelled.

Now Scott says that ITV is shopping The Chase to U.S. broadcast networks. Again, I'm doubtful. Fox looked at the show in 2012 and passed.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Crusher

It's not often that a game show will post a video called "The Saddest Thing Ever" and the video really is sad. But Celebrity Name Game has done it.

On Friday's show a cute brother and sister team named Sam and Abby were a teensy weensy step away from twenty grand for college costs. In his 45-second round of the bonus game Sam had racked up nine of the ten clues. So all his sister had to do was get one answer in her 30-second round. The clue was "Get Hard" - get your mind out of the gutter - the 2015 buddy comedy with Will Farrell and Kevin Hart.

Abby started out fine, nailing the "Hard" part (pun intended) of the clue. But then she blurted out "getting" and was immediately DQed for saying part of the answer. Twenty thousand bucks went poof, and the siblings had to content themselves with the three grand they had racked up in the front game. Which was an okay consolation prize, but Abby didn't look very consoled. In fact, she looked absolutely crushed.

Game shows are set up for this kind of thing, but it's still a little uncomfortable when it happens. This is the worst zonk I can remember in Celebrity Name Game's admittedly brief history. Even the unflappable Craig Ferguson looked chagrined about the happenings.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

TPiR goes prime time

CBS is planning three prime time The Price is Right specials later this year.

The network will use the show to promote three venerable reality franchises: Amazing Race, Survivor and Big Brother. Hosts Phil Keoghan, Jeff Probst and Julie Chen will turn up, along with past contestants from the shows. The racers, castaways and house guests will play alongside fans of the reality epics.

Reality TV is sort of a descendant of our little genre, so there's something vaguely appropriate about using a game show classic to plug the CBS series. Of course, this won't be the first go-round for TPiR in prime time. The CBS version has visited night time for several runs, dating back to 1986. When you've got the head start of daytime's biggest audience, your transition to the prime hours becomes a lot easier.

The nice thing from CBS's viewpoint is that TPiR lends itself to plugging any show in the Eye network's (warning: Variety speak) stable. Just get the stars to come on down with the hoi polloi.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The WML channel lives

My previous blog entry linked to an f-word tweet (among a few) that Cory Anotado of BuzzerBlog has sent my way. This sparked a long comment string between me and Anotado and others, which may or may not be of interest to you. One commenter was obviously bored with it all. "I've no idea what the kerfuffle is here." That may be the best attitude.

Anyway, the kerfuffle - love that word - reminded me of an unrelated June 17, 2015 entry on the BuzzerBlog Facebook page. (I don't know if Anotado wrote the entry himself, or if it was one of the other BuzzerBlog contributors.) The entry referred to the superb What's My Line channel on YouTube, and it more or less took the side of the Fremantle lawyers trying to shut the channel down. The final line of the entry: "Unless you are a copyright lawyer, please limit your outrage to 'Darn, that nice thing that man did [the WML channel] is over.'"

Well, I'm ridiculously happy to say that BuzzerBlog was wrong about the demise of the WML channel, at least so far. Thanks to the sheer persistence of the channel's owner, all those What's My Line eps survive on YouTube for our enjoyment. The channel has even posted a long-lost October 1, 1950 episode, which shows how WML hadn't quite yet crystallized into the final format of the late 1950s and 1960s.

A few weeks ago the channel's owner posted a comment on this blog about his struggles with the Fremantle vultures lawyers. I'm going to quote it in full, because it contains such good news...
Thanks again for another very welcome mention of the WML channel--I really appreciate your support, going to back to when you first wrote about my woes with Fremantle last year! The good news is that the channel isn't in any immediate danger, not unless Fremantle does another 180 degree turn. For all the folks out here in game show forum-land who think that Fremantle actually does own a copyright on the CBS series, it's worth noting that I managed to get them to rescind every single false claim on my WML videos. Every one. They still allow claims to get filed automatically, but then they rescind them when I file appeals because I know the facts here, and I have an army of supporters behind me. Other folks on YouTube who have posted the same material haven't been so lucky, which is despicable of Fremantle, to take advantage this way. But they're treating my channels with kid gloves these days at least, so I hope that puts your mind at ease about the channel going away any time soon! Thanks again for your ongoing support, Casey.
I sure appreciate the thanks, but the channel's owner deserves all the credit. Keep up the great work!

It's still sad to see that the lawyers are apparently going after other posters of game show material on YouTube. Why can't somebody at Fremantle have the minimal sense to realize that such material generates interest in the old game shows on Buzzr? And Buzzr needs all the help it can get.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Nobody's perfect

The latest game show goof video comes from Family Feud.

Poor contestant Sheila Patterson thought that "Mommy" (accent on the second syllable) was a different answer from the previously given "Mommy" (accent, as usual, on the first syllable). This has set off much hilarity on the Interwebs and even made the national news. Sheila explained to ABC: "My nerves just got the best of me trying to come up with something else." Apparently.

The full ep won't air until February 23, and it should get some pretty decent ratings. Which, of course, is why Feud released the video now. It's not a bad way to generate some buzz, but I still feel a little squeamish about tossing some helpless civvie to the media wolves. Still, Sheila doesn't look too upset with her newfound fame. She got on TV, after all.

In a distantly related item, Jeopardy contestant Talia Levin has complained about crude comments on her Facebook page after her appearance on the quizzer. Talia, recently one of the usual Interweb geniuses told me to "f--k off" [he spelled out the word] over, of all things, taxpayer money going to NPR. Seriously. My advice is just to laugh off such Internet nonsense and move on.

UPDATE: A long string of comments has grown about my recommendation of humor and a "laugh it off" approach toward Internet trolls. I realize that reasonable people can disagree here, but it seems to me that anger and righteous indignation are exactly the wrong approach to use with the pathetic species Trollus Internetus. Such responses only give the trolls exactly what they want.

Still, others like a stronger approach than humor and ridicule. Fine, but it's not my style. Of course, in cases of actual physical threats or other situations involving personal peril, the police are there to help. Such cases have become all too common on the Internet.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Another one bites the dust

In the room the TV shows come and go...and nobody talks about Michelangelo.

Apologies to T.S. Eliot. (Special bonus question: what did his initials T.S. stand for?) But TV shows have been coming and going ever since commercial television dawned back in the late Jurassic period. As a faux tweet noted, yesterday brought news that Monopoly Millionaires Club will soon breathe its last. The show vanishes after the weekend of April 30-May 1.

This project was always something of an odd duck. It was not so much a normal game show designed to sell advertising time. Instead, it was the creation of a bunch of state lotteries that wanted to sell tickets to the associated lottery game. But ticket sales were always disappointing. The state lotteries cut the show back from an hour to thirty minutes in its second season. Now they've cut it back to zero minutes.

Monopoly Millionaires Club wasn't the worst effort ever in our little genre. Sure, it was a pure luck format without virtually no skill involved. But the set was sumptuous, Billy Gardell did a good job as host, and the studio audience was plenty enthusiastic because they got a cut of the winnings. Hail and farewell.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ratings: soft week for syndies

After a week when all the syndie game shows set or tied season highs, January 25-31 was pretty blah. Not that any show collapsed, but some of the sheen came off the numbers. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.4 - down four ticks
Family Feud 7.3 - down two ticks
Jeopardy 7.0 - down two ticks, this is getting to be a depressing pattern
Celebrity Name Game 1.5 - flat, somebody escapes the declines and Craig escapes the basement
Millionaire 1.4 - down a tick

Paradise Run, the kid stunt show on Nick, has generated strong ratings in its first week. The show topped out at 1.56M viewers and a 0.28 18-49 rating on Friday.

GSN enjoyed a nice February 1-6 week, though it was off a little from January's sizzling pace. 404K/340K/425K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 40th, 28th (really good for total day by historical standards) and 36th in the windows.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fan knows best

For a while I've been advising Jimmy Fallon to produce a game show. After all, he plays a lot of game segments on his late night talker. Guess what. Another chatfest host has beaten him to the production punch. The other Jimmy (Kimmel) will produce Big Fan, a half-hour game show based on the Who Knows segments on his own talker. ABC has greenlighted the project.

The concept is simple: a celeb and three superfans battle it out to decide who knows more about the celeb's life and career. If you want to see the game segment that's the basis of the show, try this edition with Katy Perry. It's kind of silly but endearing, as Katy struggles to beat the buzzer against her adoring fan.

Andy Richter will host. He helmed one of the Pyramid pilots that never went anywhere, before ABC finally decided to remake the show with Michael Strahan. Jimmy Kimmel puts things into perspective: "Andy Richter is a great host, and I can't think of a better way to terrify celebrities."

Don't know if the show will really frighten anybody, but ABC seems to like our little genre lately. Must be those nice Celebrity Family Feud ratings. No word yet on a debut date for Big Fan.

Amy speaks

GSN exec veep Amy Introcaso-Davis got interviewed at the NATPE schmoozefest. (I can never be sure if I'm spelling her maiden name right, so I'll just call her "Amy." Sounds friendlier, anyway.)

I'd like to say that Amy revealed all sorts of hot news about GSN's upcoming projects. But beyond plugging Winsanity, already taping in LA, she had little to say about the future. The NATPE person duly complimented her for her network's recent run of ratings success, which has been notable.

Basically, she offered some cliches about believing in a project if you're pitching it to GSN, and how important play-along value is for game shows. She also used the term "shiny floor game shows" for traditional studio-based efforts. For some goofy reason, the term has always bugged me. What if there's a carpet on the floor?

Amy revealed that she watched Hollywood Squares and Password as a kid, and she still catches General Hospital on DVR. She called The Chase a "great" show, which it is, but she didn't say anything about another season. Not an encouraging sign.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Wanna trance?

A while back a story surfaced that Fox would try an American version of British format You're Back in the Room.

It's a hypnotism game show. Honest. A supposedly real-life hypnotist puts civvie contestants into a trance. The contestants then have to perform various mundane tasks, but only after the hypnotist has messed with their minds by implanting all sorts of weird suggestions.

If the entire concept sounds a little weird, this promo for the Brit version looks even weirder. The show generates its humor from the trials and tribulations of the contestants, as they battle the devious suggestions rattling in their heads from hypnosis.

The show got praised and panned in Britain, and there were (definitely non-hypnotic) suggestions that the contestants were only faking their trances. Whatever the truth of those rumors, the show earned a second set of four eps in Britain and has expanded to Australia and France, according to Wikipedia (usual caveats).

Now Fox has put out a casting call for "charismatic individuals" - actors do not apply! - to play the trance game. It looks like You're Back in the Room really will arrive on a TV screen near me one of these days.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Don't blame Drew

Yahoo - remember that Internet 1.0 site? - busts Drew Carey's chops over a painful bailout by contestant Moses McClendon on The Price is Right this week. Golden Road has all the brutal details. Except why blame Drew for a contestant's bad decision? Even Moses' wife (sounds biblical) was advising him to take the money and run.

The setup was that Drew offered Moses a couple grand to bail out of Spelling Bee instead of trying for a new car. Mr. McClendon took the cash, only to discover that he would have won the car if he had stayed in the game. Sure, it's a big ouch moment, but stuff like that happens all the time on game shows. The other CBS daytime entry, Let's Make a Deal, makes a mint by crushing contestants with zonks.

I know, it's dumb to get upset with Yahoo's bashing of Drew Carey over a cash offer to bail out of some silly little game. The bashing is mostly tongue in cheek, anyway, or at least I hope it is. Drew sounded miserable after the semi-zonk - Moses got $2,000, after all - and the host's regret seemed genuine. It's just a feature of the show. Nobody forces you to go on TPiR and face the possibility (egads!) of bad luck.

I would have kept going in the game. But I'm the sort who would probably bet it all in Final Jeopardy.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Joe Alaskey 1952-2016

The faux tweets are starting to get a little heavy with obituaries, so I'll move this one to a main entry.

Joe Alaskey, who took over for Mel Blanc as the voice actor behind Bugs Bunny and all sorts of rascally Warner Brothers cartoon characters, has died at age 63. As the linked Washington Post obit says: "He switched between characters without missing a beat, an entire comedy troupe in a single man."

Alaskey's tie to our little genre is a couple turns on Hollywood Squares and the 1990 Match Game. You can watch some of the Squares eps on YouTube. At least he got his face before the camera on these gigs. Voice actors tend to be anonymous thespians, lost behind the character in front of your eyes.

As you can see from the screenshot, Joe bore a faint resemblance to Jackie Gleason. This came in handy when Gleason was looking for someone to voice himself on the "lost" episodes of The Honeymooners in the 1980s. Although Alaskey could be "temperamental and fiercely insecure at times," he remains the voice of many childhoods, as the WashPo obit notes. R.I.P.

UPDATE: A commenter says that I should mention Joe's announcer gig on Couch Potatoes (1989). You got it.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Karaoke plus car

Once upon a time I sang a karaoke version of Girl From Ipanema. I was not completely sober at the time.

For whatever reason, karoake is getting a workout lately on TV. There's Lip Sync Battle and James Corden's Carpool Karoake segments, and now there's a game show coming from Spike. Craig Robinson (Morris from America, Mr. Robinson) will cruise the streets and pick up unsuspecting civvies, who will then endure tests of their karaoke ability. Or they will have to finish the lyrics or act out the songs. Spike calls it Caraoke Showdown.

Right now the network has only scheduled a one-time special, but maybe the show will morph into a regular series. Howie Mandel is one of the showrunners, so he might get Spike to say yes to a longer-term deal (instead of no deal). Of course, the Nielsen Company will really decide the fate of the project, as always.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Pretty rough on the poor guy

A Baton Rouge website is allegedly shocked that LSU student Kevin Brown "fumbled" a couple of college football questions on Jeopardy's current college tourney.

Kevin didn't even get the questions wrong. He just didn't answer them. But I guess that Baton Rouge-ites think every LSU student should know everything and anything about college football. The site did sneak a sort of clever pun into the title: "Geaux figure."

Whether or not he impresses the folks at the web site, Kevin has a chance of advancing to the semifinals. He finished third yesterday but his $14,000 score might land him among the four wild cards. Not to mention that his movie star looks may catch the notice of Entertainment Weekly. They get all googly-eyed over handsome male contestants on the show.

When he's not playing Jeopardy, Kevin majors in environmental engineering. Does that qualify him as what we used to call a "wheelie"? All right, that was back in the Dark Ages when I went to college.

UPDATE: Kevin has lost his chance for the semis. Too many other contestants have snuck ahead of him for the wild cards.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ratings: syndies enjoy the weather

The blizzard rolled into the east coast and syndie game shows rolled to big gains for the week of January 18-24. All the shows hit or tied season highs. Steve set a series high. TV News Check has all the gladsome household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.8 - up five ticks
Family Feud 7.5 - also up five ticks
Jeopardy 7.2 - up six ticks, just to outdo the other shows
Millionaire 1.5 - up a tick, that renewal is looking more justified
Celebrity Name Game 1.5 - up a tick, of course

Millionaire likes to put out press releases touting its ratings, at least for the good weeks. This release talks up Chris Harrison's new highs in total viewers (2.14 million) and various demos (0.7 in W25-54, in particular). Sure, in the latest week the show got a lot of help from the weather. But Millionaire has survived a bunch of nasty timeslot downgrades to post decent ratings by current syndie standards.

GSN did nice numbers for January. 469K/362K/493K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 37th, 30th and 36th in the windows.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Running around paradise

Just watched the debut of Paradise Run, Nick's stunt game show for excruciatingly cute kids. The show struck me as an outdoor version of Legends of the Hidden Temple, minus the educational TV stuff. In other words the show was a lot of mindless fun, which is the best kind of fun.

The premise is simple: three teams of two kids race around a gorgeous resort hotel on the gorgeous big island in gorgeous Hawaii. Along the way they have to perform various challenges, like learning some Hawaiian dance moves. (The dances seemed less than authentically Hawaiian to cynical old moi. But the show is not targeted at cynical old farts like moi.)

One challenge involved solving a word puzzle, which was simple enough but still seemed rather intellectual for this show. Eventually all the kids got to the end of the run-around, where their parents were waiting for nice and warm reunions.

If I sound a little sour and grumpy about what is harmless fun, please forgive me. Paradise Run is a pleasant way to pass the time, with loads of attractive scenery and a host, actress Daniella Monet, who is state-of-the-art chirpy and empathetic with the kids. Everybody seems to have a good time, and that's what's important in a kid game show, right?

UPDATE: Paradise Run scores well for Nick in the ratings. 1.46M total viewers and a 0.23 18-49 rating.