Thursday, March 31, 2016

MarioGS gets his day

Last Friday Robert Santoli (MarioGS at Buy a Vowel) blitzed Wheel of Fortune in a blaze of puzzle-solving glory.

I noted his great game at the time with a faux tweet, and I posted the highlight video from the show's YouTube channel. But for some reason the general media took no notice. Well, they're making up for lost time. A slew of stories about the episode have suddenly turned up in Google news.

Robert certainly deserves all the praise. His experience on Buy a Vowel and his native verbal ability produced a rampage that left Pat Sajak resigned and his opponents literally speechless (or solve-less). The Internet stories toss around words like "genius," with much justification.

Hard to say why the media initially overlooked the episode. Hoops bumped Wheel in many markets on Friday, so maybe that had something to do with it. At least Robert Santoli is now enjoying his moment in the web sun. Not to mention all the loot from Wheel.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


A faux tweet noted actress Patty Duke's death at age 69. Her sometimes chaotic life seems almost like a Hollywood cliche. The troubled child star becomes a very troubled adult star.

An odd story is bouncing around the web today. "Patty Duke dead at 69: 7 things you didn't know about Anna Marie Pearce." One of the things you supposedly didn't know is that, as a twelve-year-old in 1959, Patty Duke was involved in the rigging scandals on $64,000 Challenge. But if you read this blog often, you're probably a game show fan and this "thing you didn't know" will likely not come as a surprise.

It's impossible to blame a twelve-year-old very much, if at all, for the mess. Especially when the adults in her life stood to make so much money. Patty Duke "won" $32,000 on the show, about a quarter-million in today's debased currency. With so much filthy lucre on the line, it's no wonder the poor kid was coaxed and/or pressured into going along with the cheating. In 1962 she testified to Congress about the rigged show.

It's more than a little ironic that Patty Duke later became a strong player on real game shows, including tough formats like Pyramid and Password. The rigging scandal fell into place as just one more incident in a roller-coaster life. The customary R.I.P. assumes more importance for someone who rarely seemed at peace.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ratings: the sun takes a toll

Every year they screw around with the clocks, and every year Pat and Vanna and Alex pay a price. Not to mention the hoops tournament in March. The double whammy - no whammies! no whammies! - of Daylight Savings Time and NCAA preemptions crushed Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy in the week of March 14-20. TV News Check has the much bashed household ratings...

Family Feud 6.4 - down a couple ticks itself but gets the top spot by default
Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - down ten ticks thanks to the clocks and the hoops
Jeopardy 5.7 - down eight ticks
Millionaire 1.3 - flat in its non-affected timeslots
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat

Am I the only one who's tired of getting out the ladder twice a year to change all the clocks in the house? I know a couple of game shows that would like to end Daylight Savings Time forever. I'm not a hoops fan, either.

As the weekly reports have rolled in, GSN has clearly enjoyed a very nice March. The final numbers for the month confirm the trend. 441K/324K/461K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 38th, 31st and 33rd in the windows.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Take me out to the ball game show

A couple posts ago, I commented on the attraction of 1990s Nick game shows for Internet pundits. Turns out that those shows also exert a powerful force on minor league baseball teams.

A thread on what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board lists game show nights that are scheduled at various minor league parks in the upcoming season. Three games will feature ninenties Nick game shows, at ballparks in Salem, Lynchburg and Lake County (OH). The last game will offer Legends of the Hidden Temple player jerseys, which will be auctioned off after the game. Will the purple parrots beat the green monkeys?

There are also games with promotions based on The Price is Right, Carmen Sandiego, and game shows in general. The minor leagues have enjoyed a renaissance over the past couple decades, after almost expiring in the '50s and '60s due to televised major league baseball. The ticket price is, ahem, right for the minors, and people have figured out that the sport is a better show at the ballpark than on TV.

Pat Sajak showed up at a minor league game last year (in the pictured ballpark). The first thousand fans got a Sajak bobblehead. No, there weren't any Vanna bobbleheads.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Outrunning the bear

When the two original guys were still running TV by the Numbers, they talked a lot about the cancellation bear.

The idea is simple. When a hungry bear is chasing you and another guy, you don't have to outrun the bear. You just have to outrun the other guy. In the TV world this means that there is no absolute standard for ratings success. In order to survive, your show just has to do better numbers than the other shows on your network.

Which brings me to TBS's new game show Separation Anxiety. I gave the show an okay review, though I thought the pace dawdled. But co-hosts Iliza Shlesinger and Adam Ray did a nice job of comic vamping during the lulls. Except who cares about my opinion? What literally counts is the news from the Nielsen Company.

Well, the news is ambivalent. If Separation Anxiety were getting its current numbers on GSN, the show would be outrunning the other guys on the network by a mile. The most recent episode last Tuesday got 969K viewers and a 0.4 18-49 rating. Those numbers would make Separation Anxiety the hit to end all hits on our little game show network. GSN execs would be happy happy joy joy as they rushed the second season into production.

Sadly, the show is on TBS. And it is definitely not outrunning the other shows on that network. Every Tuesday night, reruns of Big Bang Theory are getting more than double the game show's numbers. So will the cancellation bear devour Separation Anxiety?

I'm anxious.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Catching up

A small ruckus in the radio game show world - not the biggest world to begin with - happened earlier this month. I missed it, so I'm catching up.

Wisconsin Public Radio has long produced a comedy/quiz hybrid - sort of Groucho redux - called Whad'Ya Know. I admit I was only dimly aware of the show, which had shrunk to about a hundred public radio stations around the country from its heyday of over three hundred stations. The Wikipedia article fills in all the details.

Early in March WPR decided to cancel the program. To put it mildly, host Michael Feldman did not take the pink slip with quiet resignation. Can't blame the guy. He's been doing the show for 31 years and it's hard to let go...or to be let go.

Maybe the show will live on in some other format, somewhere on the web or in commercial radio. There are some archived eps for fans to enjoy, though naturally they don't want stale repeats. No matter how nastily things ended, not many shows in any medium can claim a 31-year run.

Friday, March 25, 2016

We gotta pay Pat and Vanna

A Bloomberg article tells us what we already knew. Wheel of Fortune is the king of political ads. So far in this campaign cycle Wheel has pulled in $17.8 million of political ad money, seven times more than at the same point in 2012. Back then Wheel hauled in a total of $57 million, so we're looking at well over $100 million in this campaign.

The show's producers are hardly shy about the loot. Exec producer Harry Friedman boasts about the qualities which make Wheel pitch perfect for politicos. "We're reliable. Our viewers are very loyal. We're family friendly." Not to mention cash friendly.

I saw quite a few political ads on Wheel before the March 1 Texas primary. There weren't many close races in Texas, so I can only imagine the ad blitz in hotly contested states. "Candidates, super-PACs, and other political groups bought more than 13,600 spots on Wheel from Jan. 1, 2015, through March 1 of this year." That's a lot of spots, even for a cheetah.

Micro-targeting of political ads has become all the rage, but big buys on the old-skewing Wheel still deliver lots of folks who vote early and often. "The average viewer is 50 years old, and 70 percent say they always vote." So they'll always see lots of political pitches.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Things in the movie

Physicists say there are four fundamental forces of nature. Gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear and weak nuclear.

They forget the fifth force, more powerful than all the others. It's the attraction of Internet pundits to 1990s Nick game shows. The nostalgic force is simply overwhelming for those aging children of the late millennium. And the force has quintupled since news broke of the TV movie Nick will base on their best game show ever, Legends of the Hidden Temple.

With Kirk Fogg on board in a starring role, Zap2It lists seven more things they'd like to see in the flick. Olmec is obviously one of them, and it's already been reported that old stone face will rock and roll in the new project. I could live without some of the other Zap2it requests, like the mouth guards and the log roll. But the steps of knowledge would be nice, except how will they work a quizzer into a scripted movie?

Oh, just make some game show eps. Then Nick can bring back everything from the longed-for 1990s.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Raise the dead

Rummaging around Google News I came across this story about a DailyMotion channel for unsold TV pilots.

One of the videos on the channel is "TV gold" with David Letterman as the host of an abortive 1977 game show called The Riddlers. As it happens, that video was already available on YouTube, and in a better quality format as part of GSN's ancient "Raise the Dead" stunt with horror queen Elvira. The network ran this package of eight unsuccessful game show pilots as a Halloween stunt on October 28, 2000. Hard to believe that more than fifteen years of GSN history have flowed under the bridge since those halcyon days.

A thread on the long-lost Usenet group memorializes the stunt. It reads like current chatter on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's, when the posters chew over the oldies on Buzzr. The first post in the thread sort of congratulates GSN.
A small salute to Game Show Network for packaging the whole thing with Elvira wraparounds. For a network that has shown little imagination and less variety, this was something special and should be encouraged!
Nowadays oldies fans would love to have the classics-dominated GSN of 2000, of course. An odd note: the Elvira wraparounds look a bit like a precursor of Hellevator, except Elvira shows a lot more leg than the Soskas.

As for The Riddlers pilot, the less said, the better. Letterman was funny enough but the format was a howling dog. A YouTube commenter accurately sums up the show.
I love David Letterman, but that really was dreadful. You got the sense everyone knew what a bomb it was as it went on and on. Well, at least Dave kept up the jokes and Elvira, as always, is JUST TOO HOT!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ratings: syndies mostly fall

The week of March 7-13 was a forgettable one for syndie game shows. Every show except one slid in the ratings from the previous week. TV News Check says it was the post-sweeps blues. Whatever the reason, the household ratings were glum...

Wheel of Fortune 7.0 - up a tick in the one bit of good news
Family Feud 6.6 - down four ticks
Jeopardy 6.5 - down a tick
Millionaire 1.3 - down a tick, look familiar?
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - down a tick

Pat and Vanna took back the number one slot in the household ratings. Which is impressive for the obvious reason that they play with the ratings deck (or wheel) stacked against them.

I wonder what Wheel's numbers would look like if Sony allowed last year's eps to run in a weekday slot, similar to the other game shows. The show's weekend repeat usually gets a two or three household number. All those extra viewers every day might put Wheel into nine or ten territory in the household ratings, which is just great nowadays. And the extra run would give a nice plus to the demos, especially the almighty W25-54 numbers. But Sony guards the family jewel zealously.

GSN had a good week for March 14-20 but cooled off a little from the previous week. 426K/316K/452K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 38th, 32nd and 35th in the windows. By the way, Douglas Pucci tells me that a well-worn rerun of Chain Reaction at 8:00 PM on March 18 got 502K total viewers and 103K viewers in the Sacred Demo of 18-49. Will the new shows announced at GSN's upfront do nearly as well? Especially in reruns, if they have any rerun value at all? We'll see.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Three check marks

After reading a zillion Wheel of Fortune contestant stories, I've learned three things. 1) The wheel is really, really heavy. 2) The set is really, really small. 3) Vanna is really, really nice.

This story about a Wheel contestant named Heather Boyle hits all three check marks. Heather's a high school French teacher - Wikipedia says there was a French version of Wheel, but it's off the air now - and she does manage to avoid "surreal" in describing her experience on the show. That word is also a favorite in contestant stories. But she still talks about the heavy wheel, small set and nice Vanna. (Pat and everybody else was nice, too.)

I'm probably being too sarcastic here. Heather certainly hasn't read all those other contestant stories, so she doesn't know about the three check marks. But it's kind of funny how the same three items keep turning up. Except when Wheel goes on the road, and the set generally gets bigger.

One mildly original item is that Heather was allowed to tell her parents about the outcome of the episode, and her boyfriend was allowed to tell his parents. I thought contestants had to clam up with everybody.

UPDATE: Heather won the front game but couldn't nail "window frame" in the bonus round. Not a bad day at the wheel, though.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The password is...AllenLudden

I had to use a password to get into the blogger software and write this entry. Passwords are so common on the Interwebs that we forget how universal (and annoying) they are.

Except when people like this columnist remind us. He recalls the ancient Password series with Allen Ludden and the "ageless" - now there's an interesting password - Betty White. He ran into the show's most memorable catchphrase more than a few times. "The password is...dork, they would say when someone embarrassed themselves. (I know. I heard it plenty.)"

All this leads to his favorite Internet password...which is, drumroll, AllenLudden. I don't believe him, of course. Nobody would release their real password to the prying eyes of the web. He also says his favorite alternate password is MatchGame, which again sounds too cute to be true.

My favorite passwords don't have anything to do with old game shows. Not even the password for this game show blog. Or am I sneakily misleading you?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Judaism in Jeopardy

Most of the time this blog avoids religion and politics, though I don't dodge the subjects religiously. So I'll note a minor rumpus about a rabbi's turn on Jeopardy.

The gentleman in question is Geoffrey Mitelman, a Reform rabbi who runs a blog called Sinai and Synapses. (That's really the title of the blog. It's a little more esoteric than, say, Game Show Follies.) He was a contestant on the March 16 Jeopardy ep, where he fell victim to Philip Tiu, the guy with the massive Daily Double bets. Philip would end his run the next day, which was probably little consolation to Geoffrey.

In a HuffPo piece, Geoffrey describes his "Jewish approach" to Jeopardy. Frankly, none of his tips sound Jewish to me - they're all generic and common-sense - and it's hard to see how any particular religion could offer an edge in the answer and question game. He expands on his Jeopardy experiences in several Sinai and Synapses posts, which the HuffPo article links to.

But the rabbi has one Jewish viewer who doesn't give a flip about his Jewish approach to the game. Novelist Jack Engelhard disses the rabbi in no uncertain terms. He's really irritated that Mr. Mitelman identified himself as a rabbi at the top of the show.
No man who's the real deal would ever precede himself on a game show with that honored title, a title earned through years of toil in Torah. A rabbi is a master of Jewish Law and Divinity and there ought to be a law against man or woman trifling a designation so treasured.
The novelist rants in this vein for quite a while. Apparently he wants his rabbis traditional and non-game-showy. In any event, this rabbi lost.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Games androids play

For some reason I've never been much of a computer game player. Oh, maybe an occasional bout of Minesweeper but nothing too serious. Of course, TV game shows tend to make nice computer games, since they're games to begin with (duh).

A pundit has listed his top ten Android apps based on game shows. Okay, he lists nine game show apps plus Pawn Stars. (Trivia: the pawnbrokers did two seasons of an actual game show spinoff called Pawnography with host Christopher Titus.)

I was happy to see The Chase on the list, with a realistically dour Mark Labbett glaring at me. Somebody appreciates the show even if GSN seemingly has better things to do. (They sure don't have anything better running on the network right now.) Pointless, a well-known U.K. specialty, made the list along with Catchphrase, which began as a U.S. game show before finding love and happiness across the pond. Otherwise, the group of ten is pretty much a greatest hits collection, from Family Feud to Wheel of Fortune.

I mentioned GSN, which has almost become more of a video game emporium then a cable TV network. GSN Games is a big player in the field, especially in casino games. It's natural synergy, after all.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The elephant lady

An offbeat story turned up in my usual search of Google News for game show items. Acting city manager Linda Cochrane has gotten the full-time city manager job in Edmonton, Canada.

You're probably wondering what in hades does this have to do with game shows. Believe it or not, the game show angle concerns an elephant. The pachyderm is named Lucy and a while ago Bob Barker - you may recall him from The Price is Right - wanted her moved from the Edmonton Zoo, where's she's supposedly cold and lonely, to a balmier elephant sanctuary in the U.S.

All I can say is that I'd be happier in a warmer climate any day. That's why I moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the first place. Linda Cochrane was among those in Edmonton who resisted moving Lucy. So the elephant has remained in the Canadian city, where average low temperatures reach a pleasant -10.4 degrees Celsius in January.

The linked story about Ms. Cochrane's new job makes her sound like a hero for keeping Lucy in the frozen north. "She stood up to game show host Bob Barker." Seems like a bit of Canadian nationalism. Lucy had no comment.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Try it, you'll like it

As a faux tweet said, Spike will try an offshoot of Name That Tune called Tracks.

Instead of guessing a tune in one note, contestants will try to guess after one track (bass, guitar, whatever). Christina Aguilera is one of the producers, maybe because she got tired of not producing The Voice. The interesting thing is that Spike will debut the show as a one-time half-hour special, to gauge audience reaction.

This isn't the first time Spike has announced a try-before-you-buy approach to a new game show. Caraoke Showdown with Craig Robinson is also getting the one-time special treatment before Spike commits to a series. But the karaoke variant has run into squawking from CBS about a possible ripoff of James Corden's talk show segments, so that project may be in limbo.

The one-time special approach has some obvious pluses. If the special crashes and burns in an ugly conflagration, Spike will save themselves a lot of time, effort and money by not ordering a bunch of eps. If the numbers look good, then no harm no foul and Spike will buy a full season. We'll see what happens with Tracks and Caraoke Showdown later this year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ratings: February sweeps for the syndies

TV News Check has posted their usual February sweeps report, with changes from last year. There was a tie at the top, even if the playing field is not level. (You know why, I hope.) And Craig Ferguson inched out of the cellar. The household ratings...

Family Feud 7.1 - up three ticks from last February sweeps
Wheel of Fortune 7.1 - down five ticks
Jeopardy 6.7 - down seven ticks
Celebrity Name Game 1.5 - up a tick and the renewal is looking good
Millionaire 1.4 - down five ticks as the timeslot changes hurt

A bit of ratings news from the GSN upfront: the network's median viewer age fell to "only" 59 in 2015. GSN is demo-happy right now. That accounts for the renewal of Hellevator despite total viewer numbers which were purely putrid by the end of the first season. Meanwhile TV Newser reports good numbers for the network for the March 7-13 week. 447K/325K/474K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 34th, 32nd and 33rd in the windows.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Restoring the monarchy

Broadcasting and Cable has posted a deep think article on the status of our little genre.

As deep think articles go, it's bearable. The title is a clever goof: "Trying to Restore the THRONE of GAMES." Okay, maybe the title isn't that clever but the writer, Robert Edelstein, is trying his best. He starts with a Box of Lies segment on Jimmy Fallon's show to demonstrate how game shows have morphed into talk show bits, YouTube videos, online streaming series, and even a cable network and a digital subchannel.

Edelstein admits that current game show stalwarts are doing fine, and newcomers like Celebrity Name Game and Hollywood Game Night have survived. But his overall theme is how reality TV - game shows' bastard offspring, you might say - has stolen much of the genre's cachet, at least compared to the supposed glory days of the 1970s and 1980s. (I guess the 1950s weren't so glorious because of you know what.)

There's something to the thesis, as I sure the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's would agree. But the crepe-hanging may be a bit premature. In fact, toward the end of the article Edelstein envisions a possibility that "the pendulum will swing back," in the words of a Debmar-Mercury exec.

"It's all cyclical," chimes in GSN's Amy Davis with another groaner cliche. But some cliches are true, and who knows when game shows might again have a glory day. Or a better day, anyhow.

She's regular

Saturday Night Live and Ariana Grande are definitely not among my entertainment favorites. But Google News is stuffed with stories right now about Ariana's Jennifer Lawrence imitation on SNL's Family Feud parody. So on a slow news weekend, what else is there to write about?

Believe it or not, Ms. Grande did pretty well as the faux Jennifer, as she regularly assured everybody that she's a regular person. She even likes Pringles. I can relate to that, and so could Kenan Thompson as Steve Harvey.

Sorry, but Kenan's imitation of Steve left me unimpressed. He wasn't getting too many laughs from the studio audience, either. He shouldn't try so hard to be giggly and jolly. One thing that did impress me was Ariana's ability to fill a cleavage-baring dress. She really did look like she was going to pop out at parties. (Man, am I dating myself. But I just read a Lucille Ball bio, so forgive me.)

Saturday Night Live doesn't draw that many viewers any more. It gets four-something household ratings most of the time. But media people still swoon over it. And if the game show parodies get some publicity, who am I to quibble?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Secrets on YouTube

I've often bashed Fremantle for their silly crusade against the What's My Line channel on YouTube.

But Fremantle isn't all bad when it come to the video site. The Buzzr parent put this June 17, 1961 episode of my back-and-white fave I've Got a Secret on YouTube. Sure, this isn't pure charity on Fremantle's part. The video includes several Buzzr TV promos. But even the promos have a certain antique charm as montages of classic game shows.

The ep featured the iconic panel of Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer, Henry Morgan and Bess Myerson. They certainly weren't the show's original panel, and in fact they didn't come together as the regular cast until well into the late 1950s. But they're the panelists that game show oldie freaks usually think of first when they think of I've Got a Secret.

This particular episode wasn't the best and it wasn't the worst. The first segment was a science-y thing with a rocket propulsion unit for individual low-altitude flight (see the screenshot). This was back in the days when the space program was the sexiest thing in the country. Next came four impossibly well-scrubbed brothers, with a secret that they had all just graduated from different levels of schooling.

In the final celeb segment William Bendix subjected each panelist one-by-one to silly stunts. Unknown to the panelists, Bendix and Garry Moore were betting on how long they would put up with the nonsense. It wasn't the funniest celeb bit ever on the show, but it was passably entertaining.

All in all, it was just one more episode in the show's fifteen year run of more than 600 eps.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Remembering Burt

A number of stories about an NBC pilot called Crunch Time have recently turned up in Google News. Starring Craig Ferguson, the wannabe series cuts between a real game show and a scripted workplace comedy.

As a faux tweet points out, this format should sound familiar to those who recall the long ago days of GSN. In 1999 the still new and struggling network tried Burt Luddin's Love Buffet. The U.S. Game Shows Wiki sums up the concept in not exactly the best prose. "Burt Luddin's Love Buffet is a short-lived relationship-styled game show that was similar in the style of The Newlywed Game mixed with a sitcom wherein three married couples competed for prizes."

The wiki also classes the show under the category "Flops," which is harsh but true. In fact, the show often appears on lists of the worst programs in GSN history. John Cervenka starred as host Burt Luddin, and there were a half-dozen or so other actors in the scripted dramedy that surrounded the real game show within a show.

Casting Craig Ferguson as the fictional game show host in this new pilot is a little strange. He's hardly an unknown figure, and many viewers have likely seen him as the real host of Celebrity Name Game. I understand why NBC is interested in his strong improv abilities, but his role in this pilot sounds a little too coy and meta for me. We'll see if the pilot leads to anything.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Around the Interwebs with GSN

A few days after the GSN upfront, I rummaged around game show Internet sites to sample the reaction.

At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner didn't bother explaining his pre-upfront post that the Soska twins were "very unlikely" to attend the GSN festivities. (They did show up, of course, and got a second season of Hellevator.) Like me he then pointed out the obvious: the network really, really wants to skew younger. He also offered wild blue evaluations of which GSN projects will emerge from development hell. When it comes to GSN development, I only believe shows when I see 'em.

Game Show Newsnet did what they so often do. They copied a story about the upfront word for word from another site (MediaPost this time). BuzzerBlog did little but pat GSN on the back: "All good things for the network." GSN The know ticked off news from the upfront without much comment, beyond that it was "yet another star-studded event." Okay, they were stars by GSN standards.

Game Show Forum paused from their scores of posts about which episode of which oldie is running on Buzzr to comment on the upfront, largely about GSN's development of Divided. And on the GSN Facebook page, a commenter succinctly echoed the Game Show Forum point of view: "I've heard a lot of great things about Buzzr."

UPDATE: At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner admits that he was wrong about the Soskas not getting an invite to the GSN upfront. Well, he sort of admits it. He plows through a tortured theory that GSN execs were tossing and turning at night over whether to invite them or not, right up to March 8. It's enjoyable fan fiction, anyway.

He also insists for the 487th time that The Chase is cancelled but allows that "many years down the road" the show might return. Of course, the show could return any time Mark Labbett is available. If the new originals crash and burn - a very realistic possibility, especially for the reality shows that don't have naked girls - The Chase might be back with those 600K+ viewer numbers right quick.

Demos only get you so far. If the new shows get Hellevator-ish 200K viewer numbers, The Chase and Chain Reaction may start looking real good real fast to David Goldhill and company. The network sure doesn't mind rerunning those shows in Friday prime time and through the weekend. Don't bother looking for reruns of Hellevator, on Friday or any other day.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Heads, you lose

There's many a slip twixt development cup and on-air lip. Especially for game shows.

In our little genre development projects get shelved all the time. Some exec looks at some test audience data and decides the format just won't work. In fact, I'm starting to think that news of GSN developing a project is the kiss of death. Which is an exaggeration, of course. Some game shows do survive development hell and emerge into the light of on-air day.

Still, it's pretty rare when a developing show tapes an entire season of 65 eps and then gets dumped. But that's exactly what happened to Heads Up, the Loni Love-hosted spinoff from Ellen DeGeneres' word game segments. As a faux tweet noted, HLN has decided to pass on the project after the first full season was already in the can.

The reason is a change in programming philosophy at HLN, which has gone through more flipping philosophies than a liberal arts college. HLN started out as a headline news network (hence the initials) but has mutated into a bizarre blend of true crime, entertainment, and screechy talkers. Now its parent CNN apparently wants to turn the channel back to more hard news, especially the CNN variety.

Telepictures, the Warner Brothers subsidiary which produced Heads Up, may well shop it around to other networks. I doubt that GSN would be interested, unless the producers could prove that the show would skew younger than young. Maybe somebody else will pick it up. At worst the eps might land on a web service.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Age of anxiety

The simplest description of TBS's new Separation Anxiety is that it's a money tree quizzer.

Sound familiar? The show even has phone-a-friend (actually, lover) and ask-the-audience lifelines. But there's a twist. And here's where it gets tough to explain. A couple plays the game. Only they're really playing two games. In the debut ep I just watched, the girl thought she was playing some chintzy low-money Internet game show called Risky Quizness. Unknown to her, but painfully known to her boyfriend, she was really playing for 100 times the amount of money she thought she was playing for.

The girl was on the tacky Internet set with co-host Adam Ray. Meanwhile, the boyfriend was with co-host Iliza Shlesinger on the ritzy-ditzy Separation Anxiety set - complete with eye-candy bartender, cute dog, big audience, and cheering producers - while he watched his girlfriend work her way up the money tree. Also unknown to her, he was picking the categories for the questions.

If all this sounds too freaking complex for anybody's own good, well, the show works better on TV than in a blog entry. Separation Anxiety does have a fair amount going for it. Iliza and Adam are competent standup comics who often crack wise effectively. The debut ep ended with the attractive and sympathetic contestants reunited, fifty grand richer and agreeing on a marriage proposal (with an engagement ring supplied by the show). It was really pretty sweet.

The problem, as with that original money tree quizzer, is pace. All the comic vamping from the co-hosts couldn't conceal the obvious lulls between the questions. But no show is perfect. I think Separation Anxiety would work better in a half-hour format, and I'm not sure how it will fit into TBS's sitcom-heavy schedule. I still enjoyed the show, though, despite the tricky premise.

Full disclosure: I had seen much of this debut ep in the rough cuts that TBS sent to me. So I knew the outcome, which may or may not be affecting my opinion.

UPDATE: Separation Anxiety turns in pretty bad numbers by TBS standards. 947K viewers and a 0.4 18-49 rating. A lot worse than the night's Big Bang Theory reruns.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Ratings: syndies regain some ground

Syndie game shows perked up some in the February 22-28 week. There was a tie at the top, even though the race is of course unfair. (If you don't know why it's unfair, you haven't been reading this blog.) TV News Check has the mostly happy household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 7.2 - up four ticks into a tie for first
Family Feud 7.2 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 6.6 - up a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.5 - up a tick and out of the basement
Millionaire 1.4 - flat

In the department of the painfully obvious, GSN's weekday morning oldies get 18-49 numbers that are barely visible with an electron microscope. But the block has been around for a long time, despite GSN's youth movement.

By the way, TV Newser now posts 25-54 numbers. For the week of February 29-March 6, GSN got 440K/321K/462K total viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. But the network only got 125K/80K/132K viewers in the 25-54 demo. Now you know why GSN wants to go younger.

GSN upfront horrors (cont.)

Although the press releases haven't come out yet, the #gsnupfront twitter feed reveals a lot of info already about GSN's plans.

Despite the silly rumpus between the Soska twins and Game Show Network News over Scott Rahner's wild blue speculation, their show Hellevator will return and the sisters will be along for the ride. In fact, if there's any overall theme from the upfront, it seems to be that you better skew young (at least by GSN standards) or you're in trouble. Unless you're Steve Harvey, of course. Harvey Feud goes on forever - almost literally - at GSN.

Idiotest and Hellevator are both getting new seasons, and their total viewer numbers are modest at best. In fact, those numbers looked downright disastrous for Hellevator. But the shows get maybe half their audience in 18-49, so they survive. Meanwhile, The Chase and Chain Reaction, which get much bigger but older audiences, are in limbo. (Despite Rahner's constant assertion that The Chase is cancelled, GSN could obviously bring it back whenever Mark Labbett is available. But that won't be any time soon.)

There's also a spinoff special called Political Idiotest, some weird news/game hybrid. Kind of like CNN Quiz Show, from what I can figure. Donald Faison's Winsanity will soon arrive, along with a window dressing reality show similar to Skin Wars. If anything else develops when the press releases come out, I'll update this post.

UPDATE: Adweek has posted a piece about the upfront. I forgot to mention the Skin Wars spinoff, Fresh Paint. The window dressing reality skein is called Window Warriors. A couple other projects are in pilot. Breaking App is a competition to create, you guessed it, a computer app. The Investigation, which sounds like a bizarro import from Investigation Discovery, shows "detectives" (ha-ha) in a crime solving game.

The article says that GSN wants to keep "getting younger." No kidding (pun intended). Hellevator sure didn't get by on its rancid total viewer numbers, which were barely above 200K by the end of the first season. Meanwhile, The Chase - far and away the best thing on GSN - was still getting 600K+ total viewers, but it's in hiatus for now.

Pure guess on my part, but I think GSN will soften Hellevator in the second season. More humor and goofier stunts instead of fake blood and real bugs. Sure, the show skews young, but GSN can't tolerate those horrible (pun again intended) viewer numbers forever.

UPDATED UPDATE: The press release is out. It mentions three more projects in development. A couple of game shows, Divided and Run & Buzz, and a reality show, Glass Wars. The first makes three contestants agree on an answer, the second makes contestants run around the stage, and the third is about glass art. None of them sound like they'll get anywhere. But I'm being so negative, aren't I?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Fogg rolls back in

TMZ reports that Kirk Fogg is talking to Nick about a cameo role in the upcoming TV movie based on Legends of the Hidden Temple. Which again makes me ask, why bother with some scripted nonsense? If you get Kirk back, just have him host a new season of game show episodes. Legends wasn't a movie or a scripted half-hour. It was a real contest. Why not stage a few more real contests?

TMZ echoes earlier reports by saying that Olmec will also return, probably with new and improved animatronic technology. (The old rock was always a little stiff, so to speak.) Even the names of the teams - green monkeys, red jaguars, etc. - may also feature in the new TV flick.

So if you've got all these elements of the best kid game show ever, why not just restart the best kid game show ever? Nick's upcoming scripted movie sounds like a kid version of Quiz Show, something about a game show instead of just being a game show. Yeah, the old Twenty One was rigged, but you get the idea.

Maybe if the movie does good enough business, we might get some actual game show eps. Political correctness would probably require less scary Temple Guards, but that would be a small price to pay.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

GSN upfront horrors

A silly Interwebs rumpus has broken out about Hellevator.

At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner suggested that the GSN horror game show might return for a second season, minus the Soska twins. As you would expect, the "news" (which, of course, is just Scott's speculation) did not sit well with Jen and Sylvia. They went on a twitter binge against Scott.
That [Game Show Network News] isn't a real news source, FYI. It's just a fan site that has a lot of incorrect information. They lie to get hits.
The Soskas also blasted out a couple other swipes at the blog.

All I can say is that the GSN upfront is on Tuesday, March 8. We'll see then if the network has any immediate plans to bring back Hellevator, with or without the Soskas. But even if the show is kaput for now, GSN can always revive it further down the road. Lingo lay fallow for five years before GSN brought it back. Chain Reaction saw an eight-year hiatus before another version surfaced.

Those precedents may not be much solace to the Soskas, because both shows came back with different hosts. I have no clue what (if anything) GSN will announce about Hellevator - or any other show - on March 8. And I'm not going to pretend that I have any inside scoops. Just stay tuned, everybody.

UPDATE: On his twitter feed Scott Rahner is talking about how GSN sends him advance schedules and once sent him a rough cut of Hellevator. Apparently, this means he has inside info of some kind. Which is a goofy claim, of course. I get the GSN schedules myself and sometimes I get rough cuts of upcoming shows (most recently Separation Anxiety). But I still don't have any inside information on GSN's future plans...or anybody else's future plans, for that matter.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

WML pilot report

A couple of recent blog posts have mentioned the new What's My Line pilot eps taped a few days ago.

On what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board, Clay Zambo has posted an onsite description of the taping. Since this is Game Show Forum, he has to toss in a few swipes at the new version. Hey, it dates from after 1990.
The panelists weren't terrific, but neither were the guests. There was a fair amount of obfuscation, particularly by a guest whose line was "graffiti artist," but who answered yes to questions about his product being applied to the human body. (Apparently he also does body painting, but that seems to have nothing to do with graffiti.) And don't get me started on the burning question: are 20-something men physically incapable of sitting upright in a chair or tucking in their shirt tails?
But other than this required slam on shirt tails and whatnot, Clay actually sounds fairly positive about the What's My Line rewind. The host was Scott Morehead (lower right in the screenshot) of the Second City comedy troupe. The panel included some of the pictured troupe members.

A variant on the standard gameplay was a "history mystery" segment. One of the Second City folks - at the taping Clay attended, it was the guy in the lower left of the screenshot - played a historical character whose identity just cried out to be guessed. Clay really liked this twist, and it sounds intriguing to me, too. Reminds me of the historical names on The Name's the Same. Now there's a past blast.

Clay doesn't know where the producers will peddle the pilot. He speculates about various possibilities. "Daytime? Late night? CBS? Comedy Central? Web?" I wouldn't mind seeing the new version turn up somewhere.

Friday, March 4, 2016


As a retiree myself, I've got a new appreciation for the Jeopardy succession rumpus that arises whenever Alex Trebek's contract is up.

The last to-do happened in early 2015 and was eventually resolved when Alex re-upped through the 2017-2018 season. But for a while every pundit and busybody speculated on who would read the clues when Alex finally packed it in.

A new story in a paper magazine - do such things still exist? - called Closer Weekly covers Alex Trebek's latest thoughts on his eventual departure from the venerable quizzer and What It Means To The Known Universe. According to Alex himself, it doesn't mean that much. "Jeopardy will stay on the air long after I'm gone."

Sounds like just a smidge of false modesty, though the statement is undoubtedly correct. The Price is Right survived the handoff from Bob to Drew, after all, even if Golden Road cries and whimpers for the good old days. And Alex does confess to a not so sneaking ambition. "I'd like to win one more Emmy."

The bottom line is simple. "I'll keep hosting as long as my skills haven't diminished and I still enjoy it. The thought of retiring occurs to me every so often, but so far I am still enjoying it."

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Talent on display

It's no secret that I take a pretty traditionalist view of the term "game show."

That's why I don't cover talent contests, reality shows, cookoffs, improv comedy, etc. Not that I watch those shows much, anyway. I'm far more interested in game shows where the rules are clear and definite, and objective standards instead of subjective opinion determine winners and losers. I'll admit there can be grey areas. Even on the most objective show like Jeopardy, sometimes the judges have to make opinion calls on contestant responses.

But subjectivity should be held to a minimum. That's why cookoffs don't interest me much. Who knows how the food tastes, except for the supposedly expert judges? Same for talent contests, where experts or the great unwashed public essentially vote people on or off the island.

The reason for this palaver is that Fox has ordered eight more eps of Superhuman. In one sense this is a game show, because the standards for success or failure by the contestants are pretty clear-cut. Either you remember the order of the chess pieces (see the screenshot) or you don't. Or you successfully complete whatever other stunt you're trying, or you don't. But in the end it comes down to subjective opinion on who wins the cash, which turns the show into a talent contest.

So although I was impressed like everybody else with the blindfolded lady who recalled all those chess pieces, I probably won't cover Superhuman much on this blog.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

All we got was this lousy TV movie

Readers of this blog know that Legends of the Hidden Temple is my favorite kid game show ever, and that includes everything.

As I wrote in a faux tweet, Nickelodeon is now bringing the show back (yay!) but as a crummy little TV movie (boo!) I mean, what's the problem with just making some more game show eps? Why send scripted child actors running around a set, when you could have a genuine unscripted competition?

Nick has already borrowed the Temple Run, moved it outside to Hawaii, and called it Paradise Run. One difference: Paradise Run has friendly lifeguards instead of scary temple guards. This story about the upcoming TV movie tells how the temple guards have given one Legends contestant nightmares for the rest of her life. Sounds a little melodramatic and urban-legendish. But I can well believe that those big, mean temple dudes scared the little kids on the show out of some sleep.

Maybe someday some brilliant exec at Nick will realize that Legends works best as a real game show, not as some tacky movie. At least Olmec will still be around in the TV flick.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ratings: syndies sink

It was a bad week for all the syndie game shows. But it was least bad for Steve Harvey, so Family Feud ended up on top. Yeah, it's an unfair comparison to Wheel of Fortune. But you already know all about that. TV News Check has the grim household ratings for the week of February 15-21...

Family Feud 7.0 - down three ticks but in first place
Wheel of Fortune 6.8 - down six ticks in a big ouch
Jeopardy 6.5 - down four ticks, this is getting monotonous
Millionaire 1.4 - down a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - down a tick

Paradise Run continues to get nice numbers for Nick. The ep on February 25th topped out at 1.52M viewers and a 0.30 18-49 rating. The show is regularly turning up in the top forty on the Showbuzz lists.

GSN cruised to a very nice February. 430K/344K/462K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 39th, 29th and 35th in the windows.