Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Buzzr at 1

Buzzr, Fremantle's oldies diginet beloved by dozens of game show hardcores throughout the galaxy, turns one year old tomorrow. The subchannel has managed to get fairly wide distribution. It's even turned up on my local cable system. No doubt the audience would still go undetected on Nielsen's sample, if Fremantle bothered to buy the numbers. But you gotta start somewhere.

Maybe Buzzr's greatest achievement is spawning a fifty-page thread (at last count) on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's. Simply called "Buzzr discussion," the thread chews over any "new" ep that might pop up on the diginet and makes much fun of Buzzr's Facebook page. Somebody has now started another thread called "Buzzr evauluation" [sic]. This seems to be for 35,000-foot views of the subchannel as it begins its second year.

One of the "evauluators" makes a rather off-center point. "My main concern is that it's a year old and they still only have one major station group. They surely can't survive just on Fox O&Os and a bunch of mom-and-pop low power stations." In fact, Buzzr really needs to get onto cable and satellite systems, where most Americans watch TV nowadays. Few people are going to bother with the antenna needed to watch the diginet over the air, no matter which broadcast stations carry it.

Time Warner, my notoriously quirky cable system, has now found a place for Buzzr, albeit in the nosebleed section up in the four-digit range. So maybe there's hope.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The last of the slime

It's the end of an era. Or at least the end of the slime.

The Nickelodeon Suites Hotel in Orlando, FL will switch to the plain old Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites and Waterpark on June 1. Which means an end to all those Nickelodeon show stunts, like the green slime - see the screenshot - from Double Dare and other old-time Nick efforts. It's hard to believe the slime could ever go away, but all things (even slimy ones) must pass.

The reporter in the linked story couldn't resist getting slimed herself, in one of the last mass slimings the hotel will ever stage. She came out of it a little wet but not too gross. The live performances of Double Dare will also soon be history, though the show will live forever - or at least as long as the Internet endures - on YouTube.

Fans of old Nick shows are packing the hotel this weekend, as it prepares to transition to just another boring tourist trap. Already the color schemes have been changed and the Nick heritage mostly expunged. Bye-bye, slime.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fool you all

With game show news slowing for the Memorial Day weekend, I'll write about one of my favorite clips from the ancient black and white version of To Tell the Truth. The show was never a big favorite of mine, but this segment is a gem.

On February 18, 1963 TTTT brought in three hooded contestants. The genuine guy was a turncoat Polish spy during the Cold War named Pavel Monat. One of the impostors - unknown to the panel, of course - was Henry Morgan of I've Got a Secret and other Goodson-Todman efforts.

Henry sure knew how to play a Polish spy, right down to an ersatz accent. He ended up getting all four votes from the panel. When he pulled off his hood at the end of the segment, much hilarity ensued. Panelist Tom Poston suggested an IGAS segment with Henry as a contestant. The secret: "I was a communist spy on To Tell the Truth."

Although Henry's reveal at the end is the best part of the segment, the video also holds historical interest as a Cold War artifact. Nowadays Poland is a fairly reliable ally of the U.S., but things were rather different in 1963. Wouldn't you know, the other TTTT impostor turned out to be a Nikita Khrushchev lookalike. Panelist Art James even pounded the desk with his shoe in honor of the contestant.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Buzzy buzz

As must happen to all Jeopardy champs, Buzzy Cohen met his game show maker on Friday.

He has the consolation of nine wins, 165 grand in winnings, and a berth in the next T of C. So let's not feel too sorry for Mr. Cohen. Meanwhile, Game Show Newsnet opines about Buzzy: "WHY THE (BLEEP!) IS THIS NEWS?!: Honestly, can we go one superchamp without calling him 'controversial' or 'polarizing'? It's ANNOYING."

In fact, I think Game Show Newsnet's overuse of the caps lock key is pretty annoying itself. But plenty of noncontroversial "superchamps" have come and gone on Jeopardy. Julia Collins, Ben Ingram, Roger Craig, etc.

The difference is that the noncontroversial types just play the game, stay quiet and humble, and don't try to taunt Alex or otherwise get cute. Which is the exact opposite of how champs like Buzzy and Arthur Chu approach the show. (Not to mention Chu's subsequent political rants on the web, which are naturally and rightly going to bring disagreement.)

If you want to bend the Jeopardy format with goofy acts of random sauciness, fine. The show is not sacrosanct and can survive a little shaking-up. But then you've got to expect some jeers on the game show Interwebs. Buzzy doesn't seem to care, anyway.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Not Ken's best night

How hard is 500 Questions? Ken Jennings lasted for exactly four of the queries. He was gone almost before the first commercial break.

This is not a quizzer for the faint of heart, or head. I knew some of the answers but pulled a blank on a whole lot of 'em. Although new host Dan Harris uses a softer tone than the first season's Richard Quest, the format still doesn't mess around. Contestants are skating on the thinnest ice from the get-go, and the questions start freakin' hard and stay that way.

The challenger who benefited from Ken's early exit managed to last for 53 questions, and she racked up a few bucks. But you've got to make it through thirty questions to earn a dime, and that's no gimme on this show. The showrunners guard the prize budget better than Brinks.

500 Questions caught some grief for slow pacing in the first season. They've hurried things a bit in the second series, and added a two-minute lightning round for more giddy-up. I thought the pace complaints were overdone last summer, anyway. The show held my attention with no problems throughout the two-hour debut. The gameplay is ruthless but nastily entertaining.

UPATE: Marc Berman at Programming Insider says that the show enjoyed a "positive return" on ABC. He also puts up a picture of Richard Quest, which is pretty funny. He's no longer the host, Marc. I dunno, the numbers were kind of okay but not great. On the plus side, 500 Questions was first in household ratings among the broadcast networks in the 9:00 PM hour. Overall, the show averaged 5.06M viewers and a 0.9 18-49 rating.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bravo kills for that?

Bravo is developing a game show, which seems a little strange to me. I've never associated the home of pop culture and reality TV with our little genre. But the network says they're working on a game show called I'd Kill for That. The concept may or may not sound like a killer to you...
Double Dare meets Dolce & Gabbana and Wipeout meets Wang in this physical game show that tests how far you would go to win a Birkin bag, Louboutins worn by a coveted Bravolebrity or the latest 'it' watch. Each week, friends, co-workers and family members will compete against each other in a series of trivia, brain teasers and hilarious physical obstacles in hopes of winning an enviable object of their desire.
Looks like pop culture questions and goofball stunts are your ticket to the latest fashion accessories. There's no guarantee that the show will ever see the light of cable. But will contestants really get slimed or bounced off big balls? Just for a handbag or a watch? Seems like a tough road for not much payoff. But I was never all that interested in Birkin bags.

The network is also developing a lot of reality stuff (wow, what a surprise). For instance, "outspoken and no-nonsense infidelity expert Dr. Lisa Paz believes there is no such thing as monogamy and the cheater isn't always the villain." So Bravo is working on a show with the monogamy disbeliever Lisa. Can't wait.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cover me

You ain't nobody - I should know - until you're on the cover of People magazine. I can only dream about the possibility.

This week Steve Harvey of Family Feud and a zillion other media ventures takes his turn as cover boy for the checkout counter. It's a slightly updated Horatio Alger rags to riches saga, as Steve recounts his journey from homelessness to a $100 million fortune. (Is that a rounded figure, or does he land dead on $100,000,000?) I'm happy for Steve, who deserves his money because he works a helluva lot harder than me or just about anybody else. But what I most noticed about the cover is the company Steve is keeping.

There's the murder of a fitness instructor in church. Sounds like an intriguing mystery that may well show up on Investigation Discovery sooner or later. Then Christie Teigen tells us about her new kid, which is sweet. And Bachelorette JoJo fesses up that she fell for more than one guy. Inquiring minds want to know the exact number. Was it two guys? Five guys? Every guy on the show?

Somebody once said that reading People is like being pelted with mini marshmallows. I can see the analogy. Anyway, you can pick up a copy this week and find out about Steve's ascent to the top income tax bracket.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ratings: really ho-hum week for syndies

There may have been more boring weeks for syndie game show ratings, but I can't remember them. Four of the shows were unchanged for the week of May 9-15, and the other moved by an entire tenth of a point. TV News Check has all the tedious household ratings...

Family Feud 7.0 - flat
Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - flat
Jeopardy 6.0 - up a tick, the big mover!
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - flat
Millionaire 1.3 - guess what, flat

As the weather warmed up, GSN enjoyed a hot week (sorry) for May 16-22. 518K/319K/503K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 31st, 30th and 32nd in the windows.

The prime time and extended prime time ratings are almost all Harvey Family Feud. So much for the predictions of Harvey burnout I keep seeing on the traditionalist game show Interwebs. The Internet boards love to trash Steve, and that means exactly nothing in the real world.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Get real, as in reality TV

Just watched the first of The Price is Right's prime time specials. It was one long plug for Survivor, which I didn't mind because the basic gameplay was pretty much the same as always. We just had a bunch of castaways hanging around, plus Jeff Probst doing stuff like extinguishing torches for the unluckier contestants.

Survivor stars - I guess you would call them "stars," right? - teamed up with Survivor fans to face the pricing games. The first pair was that hairy Rupert guy, who's definitely developing a bald spot, and an admiring fan. They didn't do so great, but you can't win 'em all.

The show cranked on as usual, though the prizes might have been a bit ritzier than on your typical daytime TPiR episode. I've never been big on shopping game shows because my knowledge of the price of anything is very limited. But the accustomed pace and noise and celebrations kept my interest.

CBS did the special no favors by scheduling it against The Voice and Dancing With the Stars. But even if I'm not the biggest TPiR fan, I'd rather watch the fun and games instead of wannabe singers or wannabe dancers. What can I tell you? I'm a game show fan.

UPDATE: The special does okay in the ratings, though it obviously lagged behind the competition on NBC and ABC. Drew and company scored 6.21M total viewers with a 1.3 18-49 rating. Those were CBS's best numbers for the night.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A try at the wheel

The Wheelmobile pulled into Wichita, KS and lots of wannabe Wheel of Fortune contestants turned out.

The Pat and Vanna of the tryouts are Marty Lublin and Meggan Kaiser. They run a low-tech version of the show - Meggan has to write the letters, not just touch the screens - to see who can figure out the puzzles. (At least Pat can't yell that Meggan just touches the letters and they light up for her!)

The wannabes are mostly true fans. "I've wanted to be on Wheel of Fortune, The Price Is Right – any game show – all my life. This is like pure bliss just being here." The video in the linked story does show lots of folks getting excited as the tryouts kick off. There's even a note about how one fan found her fiancĂ© through the Wheel Facebook app. Love blossoms through game shows. Ain't it grand?

The Wheelmobile will be in Wichita all weekend. Come one, come all.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

And now a problem from our sponsor

A Media Village opinion column reminisces about the supposedly good old days when a single sponsor could dominate a game show.

The writer says that such single sponsorship offered a lot of advantages to the folks paying the freight. No doubt it did, as the show became more or less one long ad for whoever was footing the bill. As the writer puts it...
Sponsorship was a rarefied status back in the day, meaning that advertisers and their agencies had major input into and control over the series to the point where in many instances they owned the programming.
Yes, that's definitely true. But it did lead to the unpleasantness back in the 1950s, when some sponsors decided that straight game shows might be too boring or unappealing.

So the sponsors pressured the producers to make sure that the gameplay was staged dramatically and the more telegenic contestants won. We all know what happened next.

The opinion column somehow omits all this less than edifying history. In fact, the rigging scandals burned the broadcast networks so bad that they made sure no sponsor could have direct control over a game show. Which is something to keep in mind when you read the column in Media Village.

Friday, May 20, 2016

What a good show!

In a little noticed change, GSN switched out reruns of Whammy at 11:00 AM for reruns of Lingo. Which gave me the first chance in quite a while to watch Chuck Woolery and the five-letter puzzles on a TV screen. And what a good show Lingo was.

When I was in the habit of putting together top ten lists of game shows, I'd often include GSN's original Lingo. Not that I didn't like the Bill Engvall reboot - which was unfairly maligned, in my opinion - but the original was just about perfect. The format had everything you could want in a game show. Clever gameplay, a quick pace, lots of play-along value, an assured and competent host, even some touches of humor. What's not to like?

Woolery's GSN version was so good that even a few posters at Game Show Forum - not given to praising any show with less than three decades on it - have favored it over the 1987 original. Of course, GSN's version was a tremendous improvement over that slow, clunky first incarnation of Lingo with Michael Reagan. But it's still almost treasonous on the oldies board to end all oldies boards to favor such a recent version of any game show. (Sure, other posters on the board have disagreed with this heresy. But it's telling that anybody at Game Show Forum would dare to prefer a version with relatively little age on it.)

Strangely enough, one of the few real controversies about the show erupted over the female co-hosts. The Lingo eps currently running on GSN feature Shandi Finnessey. I don't mind the eye candy she provides, plus the bookkeeping chores she handles for Chuck. On the famous other hand, my wife wishes she would shut up and go away. Even the best shows can't please everybody about everything.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Jezebel, the web site that puts the cat into catty, is upset over Jeopardy's latest celeb player stunt.

Over the years I've groused a lot about Jeopardy's sweeps stunts, so I can't really complain when Jezebel joins in. But as you might expect, the meow-ing site gets personal with the catcalls (sorry). Under the title "Celebrities Should Not Play Jeopardy," one of Jezebel's more feline critics - and that's saying something - dumps on Anderson Cooper, Lara Logan and Michael Steele for their less than stellar gameplay.

The odd thing is that the critic undermines her own thesis by praising another set of celeb players - Chuck Todd, S.E. Cupp and Jonathan Franzen - for their good gameplay. So I guess her real position is: "Celebrities Who Are Bad At Jeopardy Should Not Play Jeopardy." I can agree with that. But then civvies who are bad at Jeopardy shouldn't play the game, either.

As I've written a zillion times, the only Jeopardy stunt that means much is the Tournament of Champions. But when the show tries for a few extra ratings tenths with some celeb contestants, I can live with it. Sure, some of the celebs won't do so great at the game. But you can say the same about lots of other contestants who have tried the tough format.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Richard the jerk

A faux tweet linked to a WGN podcast from Nick Digilio that rambles through a discussion of various old game shows.

The main topic is the stupid parting gifts that losers got. But Nick and company range over a wide variety of classic game show arcana. In particular, Digilio dumps on Richard Dawson for being a jerk on Match Game after he got the host gig on Family Feud.

I've done some of that dumping myself over the years. There's no doubt that Dawson was visibly and audibly sour during his last three years on Match Game. But you gotta remember that Dawson's schedule was getting crowded with Feud romping as the number one game show. Match Game must have seemed like more and more of a chore to him, and nobody likes to do chores.

The podcast also rips the old Wheel of Fortune for spending so much time on shopping for silly overpriced merchandise. At least the show has cut out that nonsense now, much to everybody's relief. There's also the standard complaint that Buzzr repeats episodes too much. Well, as another faux tweet noted, the subchannel will run some "new" eps of Monty Hall's Let's Make a Deal next month.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ratings: a blah week for syndies

Syndie game shows have seen better weeks than May 2-8. It wasn't a disaster but the numbers generally slipped. TV News Check has the not so hot household ratings...

Family Feud 7.0 - down a tick but Steve keeps the top slot among game shows
Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - down three ticks in a forgettable week
Jeopardy 5.9 - down a couple ticks
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - flat
Millionaire 1.3 - flat, the basement is looking like a permanent home

On the really low end of the totem pole, Binge Thinking enjoyed its best outing yet on May 13. 150K total viewers and a 0.08 18-49 rating. Those are hardly enormous numbers, but they're great for this show.

GSN got pretty much its usual numbers for the week of May 9-15. 452K/298K/449K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 33rd, 31st and 35th in the windows.

Fill in the blank application

A lot of stuff from various game shows finds its way into my inbox. For some bizarre reason people in the business seem to think that I have a little influence in the game show world. To feed my ego, I try to maintain this silly fiction as best I can.

So I was flattered to see a blurb from ABC's new version of Match Game amid the usual pile of e-mails this morning. As I've written many times, the 1973-82 version of Match Game is my favorite game show ever and that includes everything. The ABC version is now casting contestants for tapings in mid to late June. While I'm still not sure about the sometimes irascible Alec Baldwin as host, I'm happy to forward the casting news to anybody who might be interested.

The casting site wants pictures and a video and all the normal info. You can't be in the business, you can't have a criminal record, you can't have a temporary restraining order against you, you can't be from Mars, etc. You should also try to be in New York sometime in the second half of next month because that's when and where the cameras will be rolling. If you can get ready to match the stars - R.I.P. Johnny Olson - the application form awaits.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Another day at the oldies board

Happened across a thread at what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board. A poster gave a link to a BuzzerBlog rumor piece about a possible ABC Password revival.

Hey, there's always a chance. Password never dies - it's been revived umpteen times - and ABC seems really interested in old game show formats lately. But that's not what interested me most about the thread. Instead, I liked the usual dynamics on Game Show Forum.

The discussion rapidly ran off the rails into whining about the title the o.p. selected for the thread. Honest. People didn't like the teaser title and wanted something more descriptive. None other than Matt Ottinger himself offered some criticism of the dastardly title. (Matt then noted that he doesn't run the place any more. It is the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's.)

Besides the inevitable grousing - the board specializes in it, after all - there was also the required swipe at a modern version of Password...the one posted on YouTube by Buzzr about a year ago. In fact, this version was very watchable. It respected the format while speeding up the gameplay. Buzzr's Password attracted a lot of views and likes. For instance, the video shown in the screenshot has drawn 86,640 views, 1,143 likes and only 25 dislikes at last count. Not to mention that Buzzr's videos compiled a retention rate of 70%, almost unheard of for YouTube. Pretty good, no?

But this is Game Show Forum, the oldies board that leads with a photo of a gentleman who last hosted a game show three decades ago.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

NBC games

NBC's schedule for the 2016-17 season is out, and a couple of game shows make the list.

Much to my surprise Hollywood Game Night will return in a fifth go-round as a midseason replacement. At least the press release says the show will be back sooner or later. Jane Lynch and company produced some stinky ratings and I thought the show was a goner. Luckily for NBC, I don't run the network.

NBC's other traditional game show is The Wall, the much ballyhooed LeBron James project. Chris Hardwick will host, and the format involves a forty-foot wall and "quick thinking, shrewd strategy and a little luck with giant swings of fortune and millions of dollars changing on every ball." Sounds like the negotiations for an NBA superstar's contract. Maybe that's where LeBron got the idea (just kidding, I think).

The Wall will also fill in as a midseason replacement. We'll see if it lasts as long as Hollywood Game Night (surprisingly) has lasted.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Where's the strangest place?

Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota there lived a young boy named Bob Eubanks.

Well, he's not so young any more, though he looks to be in really good shape for a 78-year-old. As a faux tweet noted, Newlywed Game (and a bunch of other game shows) legend Bob Eubanks is bringing a live mash up of various formats to the actual Black Hills of South Dakota.

The Beatles reference is appropriate. In the linked TV interview, Eubanks recalls how he promoted the Fab Four's L.A. appearances. He even mortgaged his house to bring the moptops to the City of Angels. He also talks about his game show career, which has now spanned eleven shows. (His count, I didn't bother to verify it.)

Eubanks has three grown children and a 12-year-old son who wants to be a pro soccer player. Maybe the kid will decide on game show hosting instead, while there's still time. Bob also manages to flummox his female interviewer by asking her for the strangest place she made whoopee. Sadly, she doesn't answer the question.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Chris wants you

Millionaire is holding auditions for next season. Which is something of a surprise to lots of people, who figured that Millionaire would never see a new season.

The show is not prospering. It's taken up residence in the basement of the syndie game show ratings. Still, it's not far behind Celebrity Name Game, which is said to be some kind of a hit. At least Craig Ferguson keeps getting Daytime Emmys.

My personal opinion is that Chris Harrison deserves an award for restoring order to the show. After a couple of misguided efforts to find the next Steve Harvey, Chris has brought a nice gravity to the tough quizzer. Going back to the classic money tree has also helped.

Trouble is, timeslot downgrades have hit the show hard. But could a new syndie do any better? The mortality rate among rookies is scary in the syndie world. Maybe Millionaire will keep on keeping on for a few more seasons.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Not idiotic

Happened to see a note that Ben Gleib of GSN's Idiotest is taking his standup act to Vancouver.

Which reminded me that my last comment about Idiotest was a pretty sour one. I whined about GSN trying a Political Idiotest special that bombed horrendously in the ratings. Meanwhile, the network has dumped a couple of my favorite shows, The Chase and Chain Reaction, even though they got very good total viewer numbers.

So I just want to say that I don't mind plain old Idiotest all that much. It's not my fave of all time from GSN, but at least it's a game show. I should encourage the network when they try one of those things instead of reality skeins with naked girls and RuPaul.

Also, regular Idiotest is getting okay numbers if not spectacular ones. The latest two original runs on GSN got 346K and 333K viewers. That's below the network's prime time average but not awful. And the demos were fairly young by GSN's geriatric standards. (I could insert a rant against ageism here but I won't.)

Ben Gleib is a little acerbic as a game show host for my taste, but he's certainly competent and witty. He's kept Idiotest going on GSN for quite a while now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Smart kids

I like to keep tabs on high school quiz shows around the country.

When I see a story about one of the shows in Google News, I'll often use it for a faux tweet. I figure that smart kids deserve a little notice. Jock kids get lots of notice, after all. Of course, more people pay to watch the athletes do their stuff.

A couple of long-running high school quizzers are nearing the end of their current seasons. High School Quiz Show (yeah, it's a boring title) in Massachusetts and High-Q (a little more inventive title) in Georgia are wrapping things up. This story recounts the High-Q season finale and even has a bit of video of the deciding question. If I say so myself, I think I got the question right, but the video stops before the reveal.

Nobody gets rich off these quizzers, though sometimes there's decent scholarship money at stake. It's mostly pure love of the game, which is nice for a change.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ratings: Steve prospers

Family Feud jumped like a scared bunny rabbit in the week of April 25-May 1. In fact, it was a good week in general for syndie game shows. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Family Feud 7.1 - up a whopping ten ticks to take the #1 spot among all syndies
Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 6.1 - also up a couple ticks
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - up a tick to break the last-place tie
Millionaire 1.3 - flat

Binge Thinking continues to garner almost invisible ratings on MTV2. 72K total viewers and a 0.03 18-49 rating for the latest run. I kind of like the bingers, but their time is just about up.

GSN kept rolling with a nice May 2-8 week. 459K/297K/449K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 34th, 30th and 35th in the windows. GSN returned to the top 30 in total day, barely.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Reg Grundy 1923-2016

Australian media mogul Reg Grundy has died at age 92. As the linked story from the Sydney Morning Herald says, he was famous in Oz for importing U.S. game shows and making them successful, like Wheel of Fortune and Match Game. He also produced a couple of memorable shows here, Scrabble and $ale of the Century.

Grundy churned out many soap operas and other dramas. The screenshot is a reminder that he had a passion for wildlife photography, which Australia's fauna help to gratify. He lived his later years in Bermuda, where he died on Friday. He won an OBE for his media career.

Reg Grundy sold his production company and its various properties to Fremantle. Many have long wondered when Scrabble might show up in reruns after USA Network ran repeats from 1991 to 1995. I guess that one of these days the show could surface on Buzzr. With the recent spate of game show revivals, the classic word game might also be an interesting candidate for a new version.

The oddest note is that Reg Grundy's name has become Aussie rhyming slang for underpants. He probably appreciated the humor. R.I.P.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Greed is good

Greed is such a powerful force in human nature that preachers have made it one of the seven deadly sins. Modern day preacher and conspiracy nutcase Oliver Stone followed suit with his parody "greed is good" speech in Wall Street. (In case you're wondering, Oliver Stone's net worth is estimated at $50 million. Like so many nutcase preachers, he really thinks that greed is only bad in other people.)

So why am I pontificating about greed on a game show blog? Because greed is a big motivator for game show contestants, of course. Except few contestants want to admit it. One of the notable exceptions is Millionaire player Ashley Ward, whose ep runs on May 10. In her contestant story she makes no bones about why she tried the show. "I thought it would be good to have a little extra money...It was all pure greed."

Well, that's sort of a joke. But just sort of. Ashley is an actress and writer who doesn't pull down Oliver Stone money, so she really could use the extra bucks. She's also honest about her nerves on the show.
It was very stressful...It was the most nervous I'd ever been. It's just a really weird feeling. It reminds me of when I was a kid, I was a good speller and I was in the school spelling bees and standing up in front of people showing them how smart, or how not smart, I was. So, you feel pressure, and you think, well, I don't want to look like an idiot but what if my brain stops working or I say something dumb?
On Millionaire if you say something dumb it can cost you real money. So greed combines with performance anxiety into a nasty cocktail.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Good news

We all need a break from bad news, right? So a California Patch site offers a long list of supposedly uplifting stories from the latest week.

At the top of the list, believe it or not, is a contestant story from The Price is Right. A high school teacher named Crystal Rienick took home a pile of loot from Drew and company. The story offers the usual contestant recall of the TPiR experience.
I don't remember much once they called me to "Come on Down!" It was just a haze of jumping up and down and squealing. I was pretty embarrassed once I saw the actual episode — I pretty much lost my mind.
Crystal, the folks at the show want you to lose your mind. It makes for good TV. The story isn't all fun and games, though. The teacher recounts how she will have to sell some of the goodies. California is hitting her with a 39 percent prize-winning tax. I knew California taxes were steep but this is alarming.

In a curiously related note, another item on the list of allegedly good news describes California governor Jerry Brown dissing Florida governor Rick Scott. Seems that the Florida guv is trying to lure businesses with the Sunshine State's lower taxes. Tell Crystal about it.

Friday, May 6, 2016

No redeeming social value

Fantasies about dystopian game shows have been around for a while.

The Urfaust (warning: highfalutin reference) of the sub-genre is probably Running Man. Richard Dawson played a wildly over the top version of, well, Richard Dawson in a campily evil game show that offered much picturesque killing. Richard finally got what was coming to him. But it was all so stylish.

The latest entry in this lovely category is HIT TV. Sadly, the host of the literally killer game show has been reduced to a pair of purple-red and presumably female lips on a TV screen. She (or they) encourage contestants in the audience to kill each other for thousand of "love points." There's even a bonus round for extra special homicides. Hard to believe, but some folks do what the lips want them to do.

The result is the usual fake blood splatter and high phony corpse count. It's tough not to laugh at it all, but I resisted because I knew the creators of this kitsch desperately wanted some chuckles. Those creators will try to parlay their concept - currently limited to a twelve minute intro - into a feature film and even a TV show. As the linked article intones ominously, they want "to turn this 12-minute short into an empire."

Let's hope this empire never strikes back.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

1000 and counting

Family Feud has sent out a press release touting Steve Harvey's 1000th episode, due May 25.

Things are tarted up a bit for the milestone. The prize money is fifty grand, and there's an unidentified and "very special" guest. Well, it can't be Richard Dawson. My money is on Michelle Obama for Steve's unfailing flattery of the current administration. But we'll see.

The traditionalist game show Interwebs often resound with complaints about Mr. Harvey and his version of the ancient format. At the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's, no thread is official until somebody dumps on Phallic Feud, or whatever groaner pun occurs to the posters. This makes no difference in the real world, of course, where Steve's boffo ratings have won him a long and profitable stay on the show.

The off-color humor on Feud is as mild as a bleating lamb by current-day standards. But the traditionalist game show Interwebs have little use for the current day, after all. Needless to say but I'll say it anyway, Steve Harvey doesn't care about such silliness as he shows no signs of slowing down on the show. Congrats on such a major milestone.

UPDATE: In somewhat related news the lineups are out for Celebrity Family Feud this summer. Sure enough Game Show Forum is grousing that the celebs are nothing special and the show sucks yadda yadda. That board is not exactly Steve's fan club.

UPDATED UPDATE: A couple commenters point out that the 1000th ep originally ran March 22. I guess this is a repeat for May sweeps. Anyway, the congrats on the milestone still hold.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

O Canada

One of the weirder stories in game show history looks to be nearing an end. You might say our long Canadian national nightmare is almost over...at least for Jeopardy.

Earlier this year Jeopardy closed its online test to Canadian citizens. Nobody ever really explained the move all that closely. There was some muttering about Canada's online privacy law. But fear not, the show seems to have figured out a way to comply with the law and avoid those $10 million fines. None other than Alex Trebek now says that Jeopardy will reopen the online doors to the great white north later this year.

I wasn't losing any sleep over the rumpus. And that's not just because I live about as far away from Canada as you can get in the lower 48. Sooner or later I thought sanity would prevail and Canadians would rejoin the answer and question fest. By the way, Alex is now the honorary head of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. Maybe he passed an online test about the Yukon.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Ratings: syndie slide

April is proving to be the cruelest month for syndie game shows, ahead of May sweeps. Most of the shows slipped for the week of April 18-24. TV News Check has the tumbling household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - down three ticks but still number two among all syndies
Family Feud 6.1 - down four ticks, it's a dismal week
Jeopardy 5.9 - down a tick, not so bad
Millionaire 1.3 - flat, good for this week
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - down a tick and back into a tie for last

GSN enjoyed a pretty good week for April 25-May 1. 465K/303K/455K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 35th, 32nd and 36th in the windows. The prime time and extended prime time averages are almost all Harvey Feud now.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Did something happen?

If a Daytime Emmy falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it...

My sour attitude toward showbiz kudofests is well known to anybody who reads this blog. But even grumpy moi is starting to have a little sympathy for the Daytime Emmys. When a TV awards show can't even get on TV, you gotta feel a bit sorry for it. The Daytime Emmys also produced near-zero buzz in the online world. The event did generate a few stories because Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan won an awkward Emmy for their soon to be dissolved partnership. Neither showed up at the ceremony.

The game show awards went to Craig Ferguson (Celebrity Name Game) for best host and The Price is Right for best show. That's number two for Craig and number I-don't-know-how-many for TPiR. I think Alex Trebek said a while back that he would like to win one more Emmy. Sorry, Alex, but Mr. Ferguson looks to have cornered that award for now.

General Hospital also won a lot. That is all.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Just to be upfront about it, this entry contains Family Feud spoilers. So don't read any further if you don't want to be spoiled.

A faux tweet mentioned the Hare family of the Louisville area. Actually, they're from Oldham county, which Wikipedia says is the wealthiest county in Kentucky and in the top 50 nationwide. The family's main claim to fame is their appearance on Family Feud, which the local media have chronicled. This story is a much longer and more detailed account of their time on the show than the link in the faux tweet.

That's all very nice. But both stories about the clan's Family Feud adventures say that they were on the show for three episodes: April 29, May 2 and May 3. Which, of course, is a major spoiler about the outcome of those eps. I assume the spoiler wouldn't have appeared without the show's consent. I've seen similar Feud spoilers over the years in other contestant stories.

I guess Feud's producers think the show's main appeal is comedy and Steve's general goofiness, not the outcome of the game. No doubt they're right, and Feud's ratings will hardly suffer from the released info that the Hares won two eps and then lost the third. Other shows guard their outcomes much more zealously, though even Wheel of Fortune has been known to leak the news about a million dollar winner or three.