Saturday, April 30, 2016

Handle this

I've ranted about this before. But I never let repetition stand in the way of a good rant. Today I came across this comment on Game Show Paradise: "The only show I can handle on GSN as of lately is The $25,000 Pyramid, since I've gotten tired of so many airings of Eubanks' Card Sharks and Press Your Luck and I am hoping fresh episodes of fresh classics occur later this year."

So I dug out the GSN schedule for this week. These are the game shows that are running on the network: Match Game, Card Sharks (Eubanks), Press Your Luck, Card Sharks (Perry), 25K Pyramid, Whammy, Family Feud (Harvey), Family Feud (O'Hurley), Catch 21, Pyramid (GSN), Chain Reaction (Lane), Deal or No Deal, Newlywed Game (Sherri), Baggage, Idiotest, Chain Reaction (Catherwood), The Chase.

Now out of all that, the poster can find exactly one (1) show worth watching? I realize this particular poster is an oldies fan who regards every game show since 1990 as beneath notice and beneath contempt. But puhleeeeze.

This is why I have more than a sneaking suspicion that many self-proclaimed oldies fans don't really like game shows very much. What they do like is typing on the Internet that the genre in general and GSN in particular have gone to hell in a handbasket.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Our friendly competitor

Mike Brannen, an exec producer on an Albuquerque morning TV news show, copped $117,500 on Wheel of Fortune last night.

Congrats to Mike for the big win, but here's the thing. He works for KOB, the local NBC affiliate in Albuquerque. And Wheel of Fortune runs on KRQE, the CBS affiliate. So the folks at Mike's station were in the strange position of plugging a show on their crosstown competitor. They did their duty by Mike nonetheless. After all, it had to be the biggest thing to happen around KOB in quite a while.

I guess Mike only got onto the show because he didn't work for a TV station that carries Wheel. Otherwise, hints of a fix would have been too obvious in an industry still haunted by all that unpleasantness back in the 1950s.

By the way, Mike Brannen had a viewing party with family members in Chicago and Wisconsin via FaceTime. "They were serving Vanna White Russians and Pat Sajak and Gingers." I'll drink to that.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

ABC revives 'em all

I'm starting to think that ABC believes their real competitor is GSN, or maybe Buzzr. After reviving Pyramid and To Tell the Truth, now comes news that ABC will reboot Match Game with Alec Baldwin (?) as host.

The network has ordered ten eps for a June 26 debut after Celebrity Family Feud and the Pyramid rewind. I'm not sure about Baldwin as the host, but maybe he'll keep his less likeable qualities under control. He's donating his salary - supposedly one of the highest ever for a game show host - to his wife's art charity.

No post-1982 revival of Match Game has ever worked well, for the obvious reason that the 1970s version casts such a huge shadow. We'll see if this effort by ABC fares any better than the 1983, 1990 and 1998 shows. The 1973-82 Match Game is my favorite game show ever, and that includes everything. It's great to see ABC try the ultimate revival. Good luck to them.

Renewing the world

In what has become a stylized annual ritual, CBS has renewed its entire daytime lineup, including game show stalwarts The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal.

About the only variation this year is Not Safe for Daytime, "an edgy new series of digital videos on its YouTube channel that highlights and promotes CBS Daytime's popular programs." So far the channel has produced seven videos, including this parody of a Carl's Jr. hamburger ad. I'm sorry to report that the parody features a soap star - and not Drew Carey - taking off his shirt. But sooner or later Drew will probably show up in one of the videos (with his shirt on, most likely).

LMAD and TPiR are up slightly from last year in total viewers, so both shows may well be around forever and ever, or at least for quite a while. Kind of hard to believe that Wayne has been doing his show for seven years now, and Drew for nine years. Time flies when you're having decent ratings.

The soaps and the talker also got renewals. They keep sudsing and chatting along, too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Teachers and power people

All those eps that Jeopardy taped in D.C. are about to show up on the screen, just in time for May sweeps.

First is the teachers tourney starting May 2. The main point of this exercise, besides plugging Sony's deep love for educators everywhere, is to pick an entrant for the tournament of champions, the only Jeopardy stunt that means much.

Next is the power players week beginning May 16. Some of these power folks don't look all that almighty to me. There are some comedians, for instance, both in and out of politics. But the names may attract a few extra viewers.

In unrelated Jeopardy news, a much-hyped contestant named Jerry Vinokurov sadly faltered on his first (and only) episode. Jerry had compiled a sensational record in Quizbowl competitions, but as the posters on point out, Alex's quizzer is a different animal.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ratings: syndies barely budge

It was same old same old for syndie game shows in the week of April 11-17. Most of the syndies were unchanged, and the shows that did change hardly moved. TV News Check has the flatline household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - guess what, flat
Family Feud 6.5 - up one entire tick
Jeopardy 6.0 - down one entire tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - flat
Millionaire 1.3 - flat

The press release with the reality lineups on The Price is Right's upcoming prime time specials also had a bit of TPiR ratings news. The show is averaging about five and a half million viewers so far this season, up a smidge from the previous season. That's a decent number for any time of day, but it's great at 11:00 AM.

The reality is right

CBS has released the names of the reality contestants appearing on The Price is Right's prime time specials May 23-25.

The three reality shows are lined up this way on the TPiR specials: Survivor, Big Brother and Amazing Race. The host of each show will also turn up as part of the fun and frivolity. I'd like to tell you a bunch of fascinating stories about the various contestants, but I have very little idea who they are. I'm just not much of a reality TV fan. But the idea is to get true-blue reality fanatics to sample a game show for a change.

I do recognize James Huling in the screenshot of the Big Brother housemates. He took a turn on Easiest Game Show Ever, the little-watched Pop effort. James was only so-so at pop culture trivia. We'll see how he does on pricing games.

It's a nice way for CBS to plug its daytime game show behemoth and its prime time reality stalwarts. All these shows have been on forever, so a little crossover action can't hurt.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Higher lower

As a faux tweet noted, today Buzzr is launching a to-do over the Bob Eubanks version of Card Sharks.

The biggest news is that the diginet - often slammed for repeating the same game show episodes ad nauseam and ad other places - will dust off 50 "new" eps of Card Sharks over the next few weeks. Bob Eubanks will also do a twitter q-and-a session with fans of the game show oldies subchannel.

I might as well confess that Card Sharks, in whatever version, has always bored me. Acey-deucey seems like the dumbest card game this side of Go Fish. The game doesn't get any more appealing when it's tricked out with TV trappings and lots of prize money.

But who cares about my opinion? Card Sharks survived through several versions and a lot of seasons, so somebody out there liked it. And with the recent spate of game show revivals, it's not wildly out of the question that we'll again see the big cards getting dealt somewhere sometime.

For those who prefer the original Jim Perry version, fear not. GSN is still running it five times a week.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Not senile

A pop culture q-and-a column gets an interesting query. It's really interesting for me because I happen to be 64 years old.

I’m 61 years old, not senile by any means. I seem to remember Joe Garagiola and Vin Scully both having game shows on the air at one time. No one else my age seems to remember this. Please tell me I'm right.

Dear Questioner, I'm pretty much your age and I remember the two legendary baseball broadcasters hosting game shows. In fact, the late Joe Garagiola hosted several shows in our little genre, most notably To Tell the Truth (soon to be revived on ABC with Anthony Anderson). Scully doesn't have nearly as extensive a game show resume, but he did host It Takes Two, a short-lived effort in 1969-70.

The answer man in the pop culture column provides all this trivia. And speaking of senility, both Joe and Vin remained (credibly) active into their eighties in baseball commentary.

The funniest story about either gentleman's game show exploits comes from It Takes Two. As part of his hosting duties, Vin Scully opened the trunk of a car that the show was using as a prop for a particular question. Unknown to Vinnie, the crew had put a gorgeous young lady bereft of clothing into the trunk. (The camera was focused on the front of the car, needless to say.)

The unblushing naked maiden gazed longingly at Vin, but he didn't turn a hair. He just picked up the question card, gently closed the trunk, and went on with the show as if nothing had happened. Curt Smith tells the story in his book about baseball broadcasters, Voices of the Game.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pyramid fossilized?

At what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board, they're cooing over ABC's Pyramid reboot.

Several posters have attended the show's tapings and have nothing but good things to say. Given the well-known preferences of the board, this can mean only one thing. The producers have frozen the format in time, and ABC's "new" version is a DNA-match to the old Dick Clark version.

Which is hardly terrible, of course. The old version was one great format. That's why GSN also did a paint-by-numbers revival that copied the old show slavishly. I can't blame ABC too much for trying this approach.

Just one thing, though. GSN's version expired after one season of so-so ratings, though reruns continue to grind away on weekday afternoons. My guess is the been-there-done-that effect. Viewers saw exactly the same thing as the old Dick Clark reruns and thought, why bother? Sure, the oldies board to end all oldies boards prefers Pyramid's format to be dipped in liquid nitrogen and kept eternally frozen. But is this the way to develop a new fanbase in 2016?

I always liked how the Donny Osmond version of 2002-04 wasn't afraid to tinker a little with the classic format (though the winner's circle sneak peek in the first season was a big goof). Apparently there ain't any tinkering going on in ABC's rewind. Let's just hope that the Celebrity Family Feud lead-in does the trick for the old format.

Friday, April 22, 2016


I was going to watch a rerun of Political Idiotest and review it. But then I noticed that hardly anybody bothered to watch the show's debut.

The special got 176K viewers, godawful by GSN standards, and a 0.05 18-49 rating, very so-so by GSN standards. So just which idiots thought this thing was a good idea? The same idiots who didn't want to tape new eps of Chain Reaction and The Chase, which have both produced far better viewer numbers and reruns.

The debut of Skin Wars also got lukewarm numbers at best, despite endless promotion. But it's not a game show so I don't care. Maybe I just don't get what GSN is trying to do with its schedule lately. The idea seems to be to get rid of high-rated shows - except Harvey Feud because something has to sell the network to advertisers - and instead put on low-rated shows. The Chase and Chain Reaction get the heave-ho, with viewer numbers in the 500K or 600K range. Idiotest and Hellevator get renewals, with viewer numbers in the 100K or 200K range. Shrewd, no?

GSN has been riding a ratings high, as the network's execs (justifiably) bragged at the upfront. But good Nielsen news doesn't last forever. It's only as reliable as your latest shows. Maybe GSN should think twice about getting rid of proven performers in favor of stuff which turns in far worse numbers.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sports Jeopardy lives on

Guess I should learn not to listen to rumors on the game show Interwebs.

A while back I posted that Sports Jeopardy was heading for the showers, as reported in a podcast from an Internet pundit. Turns out that the show has found a new home on NBCSN, the peacock net's (Variety speak!) cable channel for sports of various sorts. The announcement comes from Crackle's upfront presentation. NBCSN will also have access to Crackle's current library of Sports Jeopardy episodes.

It's not clear if any new eps of the show will get produced for Crackle after the move to the sports cable network. Maybe that's how the rumor of the show's demise got started. Sports Jeopardy will debut on NBCSN during the summer Olympics in August. Then it will return in the fall on Wednesday nights after the network's coverage of the NHL.

It's always nice to see a show in our little genre escape the ax. The quizzer is probably better suited to a sports cable outlet than to a general Internet streaming service, anyway. Here's hoping that Dan Patrick and friends enjoy their new digs at NBCSN.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

ABC gets gamy

Even Deadline can see the pattern in ABC's summer season press release. "ABC Sets Summer Schedule Full Of Game Shows." Why, yes, that's exactly what they're doing. Even if you don't count Battlebots as a real game show - I think of it as Popular Mechanics gone wild - the alphabet net (Variety speak!) is betting big on our little genre for the summer months.

500 Questions with new host Dan Harris debuts on May 26. Harris may well soften the format's jagged edges, in contrast to the first season's host, abrasive Brit Richard Quest. The Anthony Anderson version of To Tell the Truth follows on June 14. I didn't even know if this show was still around. The chatter about the TTTT reboot had gone so quiet. But Anthony will bring along game show doyenne Betty White and game show newbies NeNe Leakes and Jalen Rose.

The inevitable second season of last summer's big hit Celebrity Family Feud debuts June 26. In a critical decision, the Pyramid rewind with Michael Strahan will then get the plum leadout slot from Steve and the dueling celebs. ABC is giving its new take on Pyramid every chance to succeed. I love the format, so I'm happy happy joy joy with this call.

As always, game shows' famously attractive production costs make the genre a natural for the low-rent summer months on a broadcast network. Good luck to ABC with their summer quartet.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ratings: blah week for syndies

The week of April 4-10 was a forgettable muddle for game shows. Not terrible, just a flat to down week. TV News Check has the mediocre household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - down a tick but takes the top slot
Family Feud 6.4 - down three ticks
Jeopardy 6.1 - also down three ticks in its now accustomed #3 slot
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - flat but out of the basement
Millionaire 1.3 - flat

Speaking of blah weeks, GSN fell out of the top thirty in total day for the week of April 11-17. But the news wasn't all that bad. 433K/298K/428K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 37th, 33rd and 35th in the windows.

After a kind of okay start Separation Anxiety has hit the Nielsen skids. The show began with 900K+ viewers, not very good by TBS standards but maybe acceptable. Now the show has tumbled to 300K viewers or so. Either Separation Anxiety does a lot better real fast, or it will get separated from the TBS schedule.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Alex's half-century

If you think Alex Trebek has been hosting game shows for a century, you're only half wrong. It all started fifty years ago on an ancient Canadian high school quizzer called Reach for the Top.

There's been a boatload of questions, answers, prize money, and Colonial Penn ads since then. NPR recently caught up with Alex as he took Jeopardy on its D.C. road show. Besides the obvious monetary rewards, he says that the best part of the job is hanging out with smart people. Apparently Jeopardy has quite a few of them, and so did all those other quizzers over the years.

He reviews the origin of Jeopardy, which is probably well known to you if you're a regular reader of this blog. Merv Griffin's wife wanted to give the answers to the contestants above the table, after all that unpleasantness in the 1950s.

Alex also suffers from insomnia, which can make him doze off at very inopportune times. And since this is NPR, he makes sure to take a swipe at hedge fund managers, who are not among NPR's favorite people. By the way, the comments on the NPR site tend to trash Alex as arrogant and rude. I think this says more about the commenters than about Alex Trebek, but that's just my irreverent opinion.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Things fall apart

The What's My Line channel on YouTube has posted a 25-minute blooper reel. When a show lasts seventeen years, bloopers and goofy moments accumulate, despite (or because of) John Daly's best efforts to keep everything under control. In fact, one part of the blooper reel shows various mistakes that Mr. Daly made over the years, including the moment when he gave away the identity of mystery guest Steve Allen. At least Steve got a gag line out of the blunder.

The video also shows Groucho Marx and Victor Borge destroying the format in various ways. There are several fashion miscues, like Arlene Francis' unfathomable hat (see the screenshot). Speaking of Arlene, we get a lot of the 1963 ep when she was not completely coherent and having the time of her life. "I'm speaking of a four-footed animal that Miss Levishon could either ride upon or alongside of without diminishing the appearance of the other animal." Got that?

Then there was the time when guest panelist Paulette Goddard had a little trouble getting onto the set. She finally made her way through the wrong curtain, but she got to her chair. Milton Berle shows up a lot on the video. Weird things seemed to happen when Uncle Miltie put in an appearance, like the intruder who shook hands with him and then vanished into TV history.

The video ends with Bennett Cerf asking if a contestant "plucks" sheep. He finally corrects himself to "shear" sheep, but not before much hilarity ensues. He was a New York publisher, after all, so he didn't work a lot with farm animals.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Local color

Not every game show gets ten million viewers, like Wheel of Fortune on a good day. Some shows just poke along with a few regulars watching local cable.

Case in point: restaurant owner Galon Barlow hosts a local phone-in quizzer called What Do You Know in Bourne, MA. Galon also dabbles in local politics. His show has been running twice a month on cable for nearly nine years. Prize money is not huge. The top caller to the show wins $20. There's also a Groucho-style secret word that doles out a small prize, like an Amazon gift card.

The show gets trivia questions from here, there and everywhere. A favorite source is old family board games that show up at Dorothy's Swap Shop in Bourne. The show's co-host, Pauline Sampson, says she sometimes gets questions stuck under her door.

What Do You Know has now compiled 200 episodes. It's even gone on the road. Okay, "the road" means an annual trip to New Bedford for that town's waterfront festival. Not exactly Jeopardy's journey to Washington, DC. But this is local cable, after all.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Kirk's secrets

With the endless yearning for Legends of the Hidden Temple, I figured it was only a matter of time before People magazine got into the nostalgia act.

Sure enough, People has posted an interview with Kirk Fogg about the show and the upcoming TV movie on Nick. We learn a few interesting things, like Kirk never copped many souvenirs from the show because Legends got the ax while it was on hiatus. He does have the blue denim shirt, though. Also, a lot of those scary temple guards were really producers and writers on the show. "Everybody got a chance at being a temple guard. I didn't!" Well, somebody has to be the host, Kirk.

He also reveals that his favorite team was the silver snakes. No real reason. "They were next to me at the gong, where I was doing the play-by-play. They were the first ones to come over. But I'm telling you, they were kind of rag-tag. They always seemed a little disheveled and their hair wasn't quite right and their shirts were kind of untucked." Oh, those silly snakes.

If you wonder what Kirk Fogg has been doing all these years, he's kept busy flipping houses. I guess the real estate market has healed enough to make the flips profitable.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

BuzzFeed, not Buzzr

Lots of buzzing in the game show world lately.

Now BuzzFeed, the Internet site that spawns a load of copyright lawsuits, plagiarism complaints, "unreliable" ratings in opinion polls, and racist and sexist discrimination allegations, wants to get into our little genre. (Yeah, I know the critical material comes from Wikipedia. But BuzzFeed has had a certain reputation for a while now.)

Anyway, the site's head honcho Jonah Peretti mused at a developer confab that an online game show might be just the ticket for BuzzFeed. I'm all for people trying game shows, but BuzzFeed?? I doubt that Wheel and Jeopardy have much to worry about.

Peretti also thought that he might try a reality show based on the thrilling happenings in BuzzFeed offices. This sounds like an even wackier idea. I can't imagine anything more gripping than a bunch of nerds at their monitors in a BuzzFeed location. See the screenshot for a typically stirring view.

If you detect heavy sarcasm in this post, you detect right. I'll believe The BuzzFeed Game Show when I see it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Playing around

Logo isn't exactly my favorite cable channel, which gives me something in common with many other TV watchers. Last week the network got an average of 60K viewers in prime time. That ranked it 90th out of 97 cable nets. Logo did beat the soon to be defunct Al Jazeera America, which finished 97th out of 97. But Logo just launched Gay For Play Game Show, so I did my blogger duty and watched the debut episode.

Long story short, it's a pop culture quizzer with the vibe you would expect from Logo, if you watched the network. The normal set-up is a couple of civvies answering the questions, while a panel of six celebs - arranged in Match Game fashion, maybe intentionally - helps them with the goofy quizzer. On the debut ep the "civvies" were Rebecca Romijn (co-star with the show's host RuPaul on GSN's Skin Wars) and her husband Jerry O'Connell. Don't worry, they were playing for real civvie viewers at home.

Everybody seemed intent on laughing a lot, even when the jokes weren't all that funny. They finally got to a 69-second bonus round - the innuendo on this show is not subtle - and one of the at-home civvies eventually won some stuff.

By Logo standards the show got really good numbers. The two eps drew 183K and 137K viewers, which is a lot better than the 60K average.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ratings: syndies get happy

Freed from hoops preemptions, syndie game shows bounced (sorry) back nicely in the week of March 28-April 3. In particular, the Sony soulmates saw big jumps (again sorry). Craig won the battle of the cellar dwellers. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.7 - up a whopping ten ticks as the NCAA lets the show breathe
Family Feud 6.7 - up three ticks into a tie for first
Jeopardy 6.5 - up eight ticks to follow close behind the leaders
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - up a tick despite all the reruns
Millionaire 1.3 - flat

GSN hung onto its top thirty position in total day viewers, but just barely. 437K/317K/442K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time for the April 4-10 week. The network ranked 35th, 30th and 34th in the windows.

Monday, April 11, 2016

My first hour with Buzzr

As an update to a previous post noted, my cable provider has suddenly seen fit to carry Buzzr, the game show oldies diginet.

So I sat down for my first sixty minutes with the subchannel. Right upfront I'll admit that I probably didn't pick the best show to start my Life With Buzzr. Double Dare - not the long-lived, very entertaining kid show - was an earnest, plodding quizzer with a ten-ton rulebook. It lasted for a few months in 1976-77 and is mostly remembered for the hirsute, prehistoric version of host Alex Trebek.

Still, Fremantle owns the rights and apparently enough viewers like the show to keep it around Buzzr on Sunday nights. So I took in a couple eps and kept thinking that the isolation booths came from Twenty One, minus the rigging.

But enough of the so-so quizzer. I was mainly interested in the Buzzr ambiance. Which seemed to consist of the lowest-rent ads imaginable, along with mildly amusing promos that stitched together various bits of ancient game shows. At least Buzzr can sell ad time to somebody, and the uniformly cheesy ads did lend a certain icky charm to the proceedings.

I also noticed that Buzzr included all the fee plugs and end-of-show promos - stay tuned for Love of Life! - which enchant the hardcore oldies fans. No doubt about it, the diginet truly is a time capsule experience. Just ask Alex's hair.

That's the ball game

A rumor bouncing around the game show Interwebs says that Crackle is sending Sports Jeopardy to the showers after this season, the show's second. The rumor apparently originated with an April 6 podcast by Stu Shostak. I haven't been able to listen to the podcast in question. You have to pay for it, which I don't want to do. (Yeah, it's only 99 cents. I'm cheap.)

Frankly, the axing wouldn't surprise me. When Crackle announced its shows for the 2015-16 season, Sports Jeopardy was dead last on the list. The dead last slot is often the dead slot. It's the "we're renewing it but we ain't crazy about it" slot. Sports generally skew male and young, which is not the usual demo target for a traditional game show.

I watched a few eps of Sports Jeopardy and posted a mostly positive review. But the narrow subject matter was always a risk. Would the old-skewing, female-skewing audience for traditional gamers really watch a bunch of answers and questions about ice hockey and hoops and retired jocks? Would that audience even find a show on an Internet streaming service in the first place?

The first few weeks produced encouraging numbers, but I guess Sports Jeopardy ran out of steam...assuming the rumor of its death is not greatly exaggerated.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Not the Feud stuff again

The NY Post - home of the headless body in the topless bar - has posted the 4,156,783rd article about how TV has gone to the dogs (or some other animals).

For the most part the article relishes, er, condemns various violent scenes from the TV series you would expect. Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Scandal, etc. But there is an odd mention of Family Feud. Okay, it's not so odd. Steve Harvey's incarnation of Feud has long been the target of prudes who want to protect us from the word "vagina." Which is the word that upsets the NY Post writer.

I did have to smile when she called the Richard Dawson version of the show "wholesome." That's close. If Harvey ever tried the Kissing Bandit's shenanigans, he would get drubbed as a sexist pervert acting out rape fantasies. (I'm not kidding. That's exactly what the critics would say.) It just shows how the golden haze of nostalgia can make anything look wholesome and fresh and ever so lovely.

Truth be told, Dawson's obsessive smooches got some adverse comment before his version of Feud became a worshiped classic beyond any criticism. There always was a dirty old man aura about the spectacle, which Richard enjoyed a lot. He did have an eye for attractive contestants of the female persuasion.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

GSN promotes a game show!?

It's hard to believe, but once in a while GSN promotes an actual game show instead of a reality skein with naked girls.

Well, they're sort of promoting a game show. This YouTube link offers a glimpse of Winsanity, a game show due later this year on the network. Except the link says: "This video is unlisted. Only those with the link can see it." Looks like GSN doesn't want too many people to find out that the network is still in the game show business. I only found out about the link from Game Show Network News.

Winsanity is a pop culture quizzer hosted by Donald Faison of Scrubs fame. Contestants stack numerical answers from highest to lowest, as the screenshot shows. It would obviously help the pictured contestant (who's blocking Donald from view in the screenshot) to know a lot about Disney theme parks.

It's tempting to talk up Winsanity for the simple reason that it's a traditional game show. Most game show fans would probably like GSN to keep producing those things once in a while. But I'll call Winsanty as I see it when the show debuts, reportedly in June.

UPDATE: Maybe I didn't make things clear enough in the original post. The Winsanity video works fine. You just can't find the video with a YouTube search because it's not listed. You have to know the link. Then you can watch the video with no problems. That's how I got the screenshot in this post.

And sorry to state the obvious, but I really don't think that GSN is trying to hide the fact that they're still in the game show business. That was just a joke, folks (sort of). GSN probably made this video unlisted because they didn't want to spoil the on-air promos planned for Winsanity.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Jeopardy in DC

Jeopardy goes to Washington in a political year. Somehow it seems fitting. At least the people in D.C. are waiting with interest. Tickets for all the tapings are long gone, though a local morning show will raffle off a few this week.

The venerable answer-and-question epic will tape the power player eps on Saturday, the teachers tournament Sunday, and the teen tournament Tuesday and Wednesday. As the screenshot shows, they've started making over the DAR Constitution Hall for Alex and friends. The stage already looks pretty impressive.

In the past I've grumped about all the Jeopardy stunts. Except for the tournament of champions, I doubt that any of the stunts really means much. But it's a way to vary the usual routine, and going on the road lets more fans into the studio audience, anyway.

There's another story out of D.C. with a game show angle, and it's a really odd one. The former exec producer of Cash Cab is agitating for a ban on leaf blowers in the area. I guess everybody has to have a cause.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Buzzr finances, again

Once again the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's is chewing over Buzzr's finances.

One poster goes on at length about how poor little Buzzr can't afford to digitize and store all those game show eps. Sorry to point it out, but poor little Buzzr is a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, the media giant that had revenues of €17.1 billion (with a "b") last year. If they wanted to, Bertelsmann could digitize every game show ep in creation for a rounding error in their revenue.

The reason Buzzr runs a limited number of game show episodes is accounting. The diginet's parent can't just hand them every game show ep in the library with no "charge" on the internal books. Buzzr now pulls in about zero revenue, so they can't afford a lot of those charges without the books going way out of whack. Digitization and storage expenses – chump change for Bertelsmann - are not the biggies here. The media behemoth can write off those expenses as very minor startup costs.

The lengthy post also rips people who question Buzzr.
As someone who knows why Buzzr is doing what they're doing, and appreciates the heck out of a classic-game-show-rerun TV channel being a thing that even still exists in 2016, the last thing I care to see are a bunch of complaints and whining just because yes, they're rerunning that 1983 Child's Play episode again.
Sorry, but you're still going to hear complaints. On the Interwebs game show fans just love to complain. I love to do it, for instance.

UPDATE: A commenter notes that Time Warner Cable has picked up Buzzr in major markets. Sure enough, my local TWC system in the Dallas-Fort Worth area has Jim Perry hosting Sale of the Century as I type. It's in the nosebleed section on channel 1261, but it's there.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Host and hypnotist

Fox has named the key people for its upcoming hypnotism game show You're Back in the Room.

At least that's the working title. They may have another moniker by the time the show begins production in July. Maybe they'll call it The Taye and Keith Show. Just kidding, though the host will be actor Taye Diggs and the professional hypnotist will be Keith Barry from the UK's original version.

The format has already expanded to France, Holland and Australia and is under option in a slew of other countries. There seems to be a crying need for hypnotism stunts around the world. I noticed a few funny stories from Australia about how the show bombed on Twitter but still somehow got great ratings. As if Twitter means a twit.

I have no clue how the show will fare in the U.S., though some of the clips I've seen on YouTube are kind of cute. The appeal is basically slapstick, as we watch the silly things contestants do under post-hypnotic suggestions. That is, if they're really hypnotized in the first place. There's been a little controversy about that.

Fox has ordered eight eps. No debut date yet.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ratings: the soulmates slip some more

It was another blah week for Pat and Vanna and Alex. In fact, Wheel of Fortune hit a season low. At least next week the numbers won't get bashed by hoops preemptions. Otherwise, there was literally no change in syndie land. TV News Check has the household ratings for the March 21-27 week...

Family Feud 6.4 - not a great number but flat with last week
Wheel of Fortune 5.7 - down three ticks to that season low
Jeopardy 5.5 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 1.3 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat, are we ever getting away from reruns?

Media Post lists the viewer averages for the syndies from September 7, 2015 through March 27, 2016. Wheel of Fortune 10.9M, Jeopardy 9.8M, Family Feud 9.8M, Millionaire 1.8M, Celebrity Name Game 1.8M.

Hollywood Game Night is gone from the NBC schedule after posting some really tacky ratings. I don't know how many eps are still on the shelf or if they'll ever see the light of broadcast.

GSN crept back into the top thirty cable nets in total day viewers for the week of March 28-April 3. The network got 441K/321K/452K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 37th, 29th and 34th in the windows.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Boxing up the data

If you read this blog at all, you know that I post weekly ratings reports. The numbers all come from the Nielsen Company, which has long had a stranglehold on measuring TV audiences.

Nielsen is getting some competition lately, though. Rentrak and comScore merged a little while ago. The combined company is using set-top box data to crank out TV ratings, especially in smaller local markets where Nielsen's sample is tiny and skittish. Set-top box data, a.k.a. STB data, comes from that box which feeds the cable signal to your TV set.

Now Nielsen itself has made a deal to buy a load of STB data from Dish Network. Nielsen will first use the info for their local ratings, though sooner or later they may work the data into their national numbers. As a Nielsen analyst pointed out years ago, there are real issues about how complete and accurate STB data is. But Nielsen will always have its 40,000-household national sample to fine-tune the ratings.

All this may seem like a steaming pile of techie mumbo-jumbo. But STB data could affect ratings for a lot of TV shows, particularly those on minor cable networks that don't show up big in Nielsen's current sample. In general the use of the data would seem to favor cable vs. broadcast, because by definition only cable households produce STB numbers. I don't expect wild swings in Nielsen's numbers, but there could be an impact over time.

Cable nooks and crannies

I don't often get around to Discovery Family and Pop, two of the more obscure cable channels out there. In fact, my provider doesn't carry Pop at all, so I couldn't watch it if I wanted.

But as I scrounged through the Showbuzz cable ratings, I ran across Celebrity Name Game on Pop for March 31. Not that the rerun pulled massive numbers. Craig and friends only attracted 131K viewers, maybe okay by Pop's modest standards but hardly a huge audience. But the show is still holding down the 6:00 PM timeslot on the channel, so I guess Pop execs think it's not performing too badly.

Game Plane used to run on Discovery Family, but it looks to be grounded for good. Showbuzz provided a few numbers for the show early in the season last year, and the audience was nearly invisible. Now Mark Walberg and the Allegiant passengers are completely invisible on the network's schedule. Family Game Night still lives on Discovery Family in reruns, though. Todd Newton and the dueling clans get a throwaway morning weekday slot, but at least the show isn't gone altogether. Just don't look for any new episodes.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ambush the drunks

MTV2 is trying Billy on the Street with a few changes. Their new show is more of an actual quizzer, the contestants are all millennials, a statuesque female co-host provides ample eye candy, and everybody is pretty smashed. The result is Binge Thinking, where barflies stumble out of bars and encounter Mac Lethal and Amber Diamond asking them tough which country did the U.S. declare its independence from.

One sloshed contestant answers "North of Nebraska," which is not correct. In fact, the show gets a lot of its humor from the truly stupid replies that buzzed people give to simple questions. Okay, some of the contestants do get a few of the queries right. I don't know if they're smarter or just a little more sober than their fellow street denizens. One girl (not the best contestant, I'm afraid) assures us that she's really smart because she's a math major. I was a math major myself, honey. It's no guarantee of intelligence, as my many critics can tell you.

For what it is - yet another street-level ambush show - Binge Thinking isn't so terrible. The highlight of the first episode is a game of charades, where a feeling-no-pain guy does some nice work to get his girlfriend to identify "Gymnastics" and "Sex Pistols," among other clues. Too bad he also stumbles over some stone steps, but he's been drinking, er, thinking.

Mac Lethal hosts with bemusement and Amber Diamond looks great, which is her job. The Philadelphia nighttime street scenery is nice enough, even if MTV2 has a rule against showing anybody over 30. Binge Thinking offers nothing new, but at least it moves along briskly at a half-hour length.

UPDATE: Binge Thinking passes out in the ratings. 70K total viewers and a 0.03 in 18-49. This binge won't last long.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Author and publisher

I've been digging out books that have sat unread for a long time in my library.

One of them is Joseph Blotner's 700-page bio of William Faulkner, the grandmaster of southern melodrama, madness, mayhem and misery. While Faulkner is hardly my fave writer - though I vaguely remember liking Light in August - I figured his biography might make interesting reading. I'd heard he had a drinking problem, for instance, and that might have spawned some intriguing anecdotes.

So I started reading the first few pages of Blotner's bio. And then I glanced at the index in the back of the book and saw a familiar name from, of all places, game shows. Right there on page 760: "Cerf, Bennett" followed by more than two dozen page references. Duh, it suddenly dawned on me that Random House had published much of Faulkner's fiction. And we all know who ran Random House. That guy who sat on the What's My Line panel for all those years.

Cerf has a surprisingly large presence in the biography. His basic attitude toward Faulkner appears on page 371. "We didn't think he would ever be a commercial success, but he would be the greatest possible adornment to the Random House list." As it turned out, Faulkner did pretty decent business for the publishing house, and Cerf also helped get him more than a little cash from the movie industry.

Faulkner always did have problems with the bottle, though. Cerf and his wife once took him to a posh New York party, where Faulkner wound up snookered and snoozing on the carpet. When Faulkner died in 1962, Cerf attended the funeral in Oxford, Mississippi. "For twenty-five years Bill Faulkner has been trying to get me to come to Oxford, and I waited too late."

Sad to say, Blotner's bio contains no references to Cerf's role on What's My Line. I wonder if Faulkner ever watched his publisher on the show, and what he might have thought.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Going downhill and loving every minute

The Sitcoms Online game show board is kind of a junior version of Game Show Forum, the oldies board to end all oldies boards. Posters regularly bewail the present and venerate the past.

So it's hardly surprising to see a thread on the board called: "Am I dreaming or has GSN been going downhill?" Naturally, everybody agrees that GSN is so far downhill it's practically invisible. At Game Show Forum they don't even bother to ask the question any more. They just ignore GSN and concentrate on which ep of which oldie is playing on Buzzr this week.

The translation of all these complaints, of course, is that GSN doesn't run enough old stuff. In fact, the network runs fifteen hours of thirty-year-old (or more) shows every week, but oldies fans aren't content with anything except the full schedule...or at least a lot more of the schedule. There's also the usual gripe about too much Harvey Feud, even though as I type the network is running thirteen other shows today. But again oldies folks won't be content until Steve and friends are more or less banished from the network. (If Steve ever shows up on Buzzr, some people will go ballistic, bonkers and bananas.)

Meanwhile, GSN is heading uphill in all the measures that literally count. The network is doing its best Nielsen business ever and sometimes inches into the top thirty cable nets in total day viewers. Which probably irritates oldies fans all the more.