Thursday, June 30, 2016

History lesson

Oldies diginet Buzzr keeps filling my inbox with press releases. That's fine with me. The e-mails give me something to write about on this blog.

The latest missive concerns the 75th anniversary of the first game show ever on American commercial TV. It was a July 1, 1941 broadcast of Truth or Consequences on New York's WNBT. Wikipedia (usual caveats) says that it was a one-time event. The show then went on a long TV hiatus until 1950, when it returned for a multi-decade run on network television and syndication.

To celebrate this U.S. debut of our little genre, Buzzr is running an all-day marathon of black and white classics tomorrow. It's the usual trinity: What's My Line, I've Got a Secret and To Tell the Truth. Wouldn't you know, one of those shows is alive and (fairly) well on broadcast TV as I type. Anthony Anderson is conducting the TTTT panel of lie detectors on ABC.

There were also a couple of WML tapings recently with the Second City comedy troupe providing the panelists and host. Nothing seems to have come of this effort, but we can always hope.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Party like it's 1955

Okay, it's only one week in summer. But our little genre landed three shows in the top ten most-watched shows of the week on broadcast TV.

These are just viewer numbers, without all the demo slicing and dicing networks like to do. But the three shows - of course, ABC's Celebrity Family Feud, 100K Pyramid and Match Game - did just fine in the advertiser-friendly demos as well.

Which got me rustling through the ancient ratings on a site called Classic Hits TV. I vaguely recalled the genre doing well among the top shows of the 1950s, before those dreary scandals cropped up. For readers with less mileage on the odometer than moi, the fifties were the decade when commercial television really barged into American households. (And it's stayed there ever since.)

Sure enough, in 1955-56 three game shows ranked in the top ten in household ratings. Yes, one of them was rigged (64K Question) and one was more of a talk show with Groucho than a game show (You Bet Your Life). The other was I've Got a Secret, which remains my black and white favorite among classic game shows.

These ratings cover the entire 1955-56 season, not just one summer week. Game shows were big back then...before all the unpleasantness.

HUMOROUS UPDATE: Just noticed that Game Show Newsnet linked to the same story and said nine of the week's top ten shows were game shows. I know the site has a mile-wide definition of "game show." But how do Person of Interest, NCIS, Big Bang Theory and 60 Minutes fit into the genre under any definition? Life is all one big game?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ratings: Wheel rolls to season low

It was a blah week for syndie game shows in general but a really forgettable week for Wheel of Fortune. Pat and Vanna hit a season low as the weather warmed up and the viewing audience dwindled. Sooner or later they'll probably have to add another daily run of Wheel to restore some ratings pizzazz. TV News Check has the household ratings for the week of June 13-19...

Family Feud 6.6 - down a couple ticks but still #1 in the genre
Wheel of Fortune 5.5 - down three ticks to the new low
Jeopardy 5.4 - down a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat and in reruns, as usual
Millionaire 1.2 - flat

The final nationals show that Pyramid's debut got over eight million viewers to go along with a 1.7 18-49 rating. Great numbers for summer broadcast. Looks like ABC may have another game show hit on its hands. Match Game did okay but not as well as its premiere mate.

GSN enjoyed a solid second quarter. 469K/311K/464K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 32nd, 30th and 33rd in the windows.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Rebuilding the pyramid

ABC's remake of Pyramid debuted, and it was just like old times. I mean exactly like old times. There was one teensy-weensy change from the ancient Dick Clark version in the tiebreaker rules, but otherwise we might as well have been back in 1985. There was even a Mystery 7 category.

No doubt this explains why the show got nice advance notices from the heavily traditionalist game show Interwebs. And since Pyramid is one of my personal fave formats, I can hardly whine, either.

Michael Strahan was relaxed, friendly and competent as the host. The ABC hour was basically two half-hour eps smushed together. The celebs in the first thirty minutes were Sherri Shepherd and Anthony Anderson. Sherri has plenty of experience on Donnymid and Celebrity Name Game, and she played just fine. Anthony has no experience on any version, and he played...beyond godwaful. I actually felt sorry for the poor civvies who had to team up with him.

Things perked up in the second half-hour, with Rosie O'Donnell and Kathy Najimy doing well. Rosie did endure one crucial blank-out moment, but it's a tough format and I'm not going to be too harsh a judge. And a couple of the civvies went home very happy after the winners circle. ABC's Pyramid is a paint-by-numbers remake, but the numbers for this format are just swell, thank you.

UPDATE: Speaking of numbers, ABC's entire game show night got nice news from the Nielsen Company. Pyramid led a sweep of Sunday night for the alphabet net. 8.09M total viewers and a 1.7 18-49 rating. Celebrity Family Feud got 7.98M and 1.6, and Match Game did 6.64M and 1.5. A fine night for the genre.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Return of the greatest?

Any reader of this blog knows my favorite game show ever is the 1973-82 version of Match Game. And that includes everything.

No surprise, but I can report that my favorite remains unchanged after ABC's remake of the blank fest. But the new version with Alec Baldwin was hardly a disaster, in my blanking humble opinion. In fact, I downright enjoyed the premiere.

It will probably be impossible for any remake to live up to the '70s version in the estimation of the Internet. Gene and Brett and Charles and Richard (at least before Mr. Dawson went sour) exist in some unapproachable pantheon of MG wonderfulness, and any new version has to fall millions of light-years short. Fair enough, but the ABC hour produced some genuine humor and a nice surprise from the host. Alec Baldwin can actually crack wise without irritating everybody or causing lawsuits and police action.

The panel was fine, even if JB Smoove showed camera-hogging tendencies (which were not allowed to get out of hand). Rosie O'Donnell took over the Dawson role as the go-to panelist for the super match. She came up with the best answers for the big money, but the civvies couldn't get the hang of it. Too bad, though the failures helped keep the prize budget under control. The other panelists played reasonable supporting parts, and everybody looked happy enough.

The questions were raunchy, of course, as they should be on Match Game. No, Uranus should never appear as a gag line anywhere in game shows. But I got an evil snicker even from the unfortunately named planet.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mindless

Not all critics go deep-think when they write about game shows. Which is a relief.

Leave it to Entertainment Weekly to catch the right note of fun and frivolity when it comes to our little genre. This EW article about ABC's game night extols the virtues of "fun, silly, mindless television," a.k.a. game shows. In fact, the mindless meme can easily go too far. Jeopardy works anybody's mind a lot harder than Game of Thrones, after all.

But the article is right about the escape value of the Family Feud-Pyramid-Match Game combo debuting tomorrow night. Let's just play some goofy games for a while and forget about the troubles of the world. The author seems a little clueless about the length of the night - it's three hours, not an hour-and-a-half - but otherwise she gets the appeal of the genre.

One specific note: the author wishes Donny Osmond got the host gig for the Pyramid revival. Oh, she's after my own heart. Donnymid got trashed so unjustly in my opinion, because it dared to tamper with the sacred format. Six-in-twenty is better!

Friday, June 24, 2016

GSN bits and pieces

I'm lazy today, so I'll just repost some of my random musings from Game Show Paradise about GSN shows past and present...

Amazing Race started out as a demo hit for GSN and even got good total viewer numbers. But the network rapidly burned it out with insane overexposure. Back then GSN execs probably couldn't believe that any show on their network was getting measurable 18-49 ratings.

I was one of those who thought Dancing With the Stars would perform well on GSN. Shows what I know. Though to give myself a little credit, I also thought Harvey Feud would do okay on the network (it did).

Happened to see the 25K Pyramid ep this morning (June 20) on GSN. It was the first episode when the show returned to CBS on September 20, 1982. There were small differences in format and even gameplay from the more familiar eps later in the run. It was funny to hear Dick Clark explaining some of the rules in detail at the start of the new CBS run. Constance McCashin and Robert Mandan were the celebs.

Also, it's kind of nice that Chain Reaction is now at 1:00 PM Central. I can watch it right after Celebrity Name Game in my market. Now if GSN would only make some more Catherwood eps.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Our little genre gets noticed

I'm always a little nervous when an august organ of the mainstream media runs a deep think piece on humble little game shows.

Our genre is raffish and disreputable. We don't want no stinkin' snooty critics offering deep thoughts on the world of buzzers and zonks. But the Los Angeles Times wakes up to the existence of game shows in this article that expounds on ABC's game night this summer. Why am I not surprised that a dinosaur newspaper takes note of a dinosaur broadcast network?

In fact, game shows are available all the time, on GSN or Buzzr or in syndication or even on the broadcast dinos. But ABC's night of Celebrity Family Feud, 100K Pyramid and Match Game is getting the media's notice. The LA Times article does offer a few nice factoids, like Alec Baldwin's $200,000-plus fee per ep on Match Game. But mostly it's pabulum about how game shows are comfort food TV with nostalgia value. Gee, no kidding.

One funny comment in the article refers to our supposed "era when quality scripted TV is abundant." Yeah, the latest eps of Scandal or Hawaii Five-0 rank right up there with Hamlet and Oedipus Rex.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Truthful review

ABC finally relented and let me watch the first ep of To Tell the Truth on their website.

Well, they sort of relented. The playback crapped out after the first segment, and I got tired of waiting for the site to discombobulate itself. By then I had figured out the basic idea of the show, anyway. Which was pretty much to copy the classic format...a little louder than before.

Host Anthony Anderson brought along his mother (who I can live without) and Betty White as one of the panelists. The show started with a nice tribute to Betty, which luckily did not linger for too long. The other three panelists were the typical minor TV celebs. (They're still a lot more major than me.)

The first three civvie contestants included a guy who dated Taylor Swift in high school. The questioning was the usual hit-or-miss effort. One difference from the classic format was that panelists fired off questions more or less at random, instead of taking turns. This just made the process seem more meandering, which has always been my problem with the TTTT format.

When it came time to vote, the panel goofed completely. Nobody nailed the right ex-boyfriend. Even Betty got it wrong. Can't win 'em all.

Anderson was reasonably funny, the panelists were okay, and one of the civvie impostors had a thing for Taylor Swift's mom. Or at least that's what he pretended. He was lying, after all.

UPDATE: To Tell the Truth lost a little Nielsen altitude in its second week. 4.11M viewers and a 0.9 18-49 rating. Not terrible for summer fare but hardly a hit.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ratings: Feud leads all syndies

We're entering the summer lull in TV viewing, so there weren't any increases for syndie game shows. But Family Feud still landed atop all syndication. TV News Check has the household ratings for the week of June 6-12...

Family Feud 6.8 - down four ticks but still beats everybody
Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - down a tick
Jeopardy 5.5 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat
Millionaire 1.2 - flat, which seems pretty common this week

It looks like the only way for Wheel of Fortune to regain the top spot would be a second daily run of the show. That would pile some points onto the weekly average. Everybody else does it, after all.

GSN enjoyed another good week for June 13-19. 490K/314K/494K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 33rd, 32nd and 31st in the windows.

Monday, June 20, 2016

NBC's July games

The fifth season of Hollywood Game Night will debut July 28, according to this newspaper story.

The item includes some ignorable political chatter, but it also quotes Jane Lynch as picking the ideal civvie contestant as somebody who is not starstruck or drunk. She also likes it if a fight breaks out or somebody tries to cheat. Sounds like good game show stuff to me.

As I've said before, I'm surprised that Hollywood Game Night is still around at all, given its anemic ratings as the fourth season cratered. In fact, NBC skipped the final eps of the fourth season because the numbers were so bad. I don't know if those omitted episodes will turn up in the summer run. Guess it depends on the news from Nielsen (duh). Who knows how long this summer experiment will last?

Hollywood Game Night is looking more than a little long in the tooth and grey in the hair. Wikipedia says the show has cranked out 49 eps over three years. I like the mindless fun, even if the pop culture obsession gets wearying. When NBC finally tires of the show for good, it might make a nice pickup for GSN.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

More Buzzr tie-ins to ABC's game shows

A while back I speculated that oldies diginet Buzzr would tie into ABC's Match Game remake.

We didn't have to wait for long. A press release from Buzzr just landed in my inbox about "new" eps of Match Game 73 on the subchannel. The new-to-Buzzr episodes start Monday, June 20 and run up to the debut of ABC's remake on Sunday, June 26. For good measure Buzzr will toss in celeb versions of Richard Dawson's Family Feud, to take advantage of Steve Harvey's celebfest also debuting its new season on June 26.

As noted before, Buzzr can't do much with Michael Strahan's remake of Pyramid because it's not a Fremantle format. Maybe they could run Password as "the forerunner of Pyramid where Bob Stewart decided to make everything the lightning round." Okay, that wouldn't work.

As the screenshot shows, the fashions on Match Game 73 look pretty insane nowadays. Even with the standards of the day, Gene Rayburn caught a lot of grief for the technicolor suit in the picture. He was unrepentant about his couture.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Another game night

ABC isn't the only outfit doing a game night this summer.

NCTV17, a community TV station in Chicagoland, knocked off Hollywood Game Night for a second time this week. The show is called Game On, and it features the familiar teams of four battling it out in silly party games. NCTV17 has posted a story about the effort, with a few glimpses of the gameplay.

The idea is to raise money for the station, and Game On is apparently working out okay. At least they'll try a third edition in September. I've posted about the low-rent show before, and the stripped-down set still has a certain cheesy charm. The counterpart to Jane Lynch is host Danielle Tufano, a DJ on a local FM classics hits station. (The Wikipedia article says she doubles as program director at the radio outlet.)

I was a little surprised when NBC announced a fifth season of the original Hollywood Game Night. The ratings for the fourth go-round tapered off to near invisibility. But I guess it's cheap filler for the peacock net's (Variety speak!) schedule.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Aggro

Nick nineties nostalgia exploded out of control a while back, and nobody's been able to get it back under wraps yet.

The latest blast from the '90s past was a one-day shot at the Aggro Crag from Guts. Nick brought the fabricated mountain out of mothballs (or wherever you store a fabricated mountain) for New York City millennials to try the perilous climb. A few brave souls went at the Crag, much to the delight of an onlooking Uproxx writer.

She noted the extensive product placement - also a Nick tradition - and the heavy air of rosy nostalgia. The Aggro Crag proved a tough go for the challengers. "Even with most competitors at least a decade older than they would have been on the original game show, people still had plenty of trouble reaching the top."

The Crag was never supposed to be easy. Mike O'Malley and Mo Quirk weren't around, but you can't recreate the past exactly.

UPDATE: A commenter notes that Mike O'Malley actually showed up for the festivities. I stand corrected!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Get ready to match these stars

We now know some of the celebs for ABC's Match Game reboot. This story lists: Adam Goldberg, Ana Gasteyer, Bobby Moynihan, D.L. Hughley, Debra Messing, Edie Falco, Horatio Sanz, Isaac Mizrahi, J.B. Smoove, Jenna Fischer, Rosie O'Donnell, Sherri Shepherd, Sutton Foster and Tituss Burgess.

I recognize some of the names from the genre. Sherri and D.L. hosted game shows, though the latter probably wishes he could forget the effort (TBS's disastrous Trust Me, I'm a Game Show Host.) There are also a few players from Celebrity Name Game, which seems to be the AAA team for ABC's game shows this summer.

It's really hard to say how any of these folks will perform on the show, because Match Game is such an ensemble format. A celeb who tries too hard or hogs too much camera time can spoil everything. I assume the producers will sit pretty hard on somebody like Rosie O'Donnell, who might be inclined to a rant or three.

Alec Baldwin calls the proceedings to order on June 26. As Johnny Olson used to say, get ready.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Demo rant

I was going to write my review of ABC's To Tell the Truth this morning. Only ABC's web site keeps me from watching the show for another week. Seems that Time Warner, my cable provider, isn't on their list of approved systems. Grrrrrr. I could try one of the virus traps that advertise on YouTube, but I'll wait until I can watch worry-free. I know, I should have remembered to watch the broadcast last night.

So my review will just have to wait for a few days. While I'm irritated, I'll rant on another subject, the 18-49 demo obsession. At TV by the Numbers they laud some ABC sitcom called Uncle Buck for a "solid premiere." But here's the thing. Uncle Buck actually got fewer viewers than its fellow ABC debutant To Tell the Truth. (Okay, it was close. Uncle Buck got 4.9 million viewers and the TTTT eps both got 5.2 million.)

But the sitcom managed a 1.5 in the all-important, ever-so-crucial, we-gotta-have-it, only-thing-that-counts 18-49 demo. The TTTT eps only got 1.0 and 1.2 18-49 ratings. Those few tenths of a point may not look like squat, but the demo-obsessed TV industry covets those 18-49 tenths madly.

In a way this is special pleading. Traditional game shows, the subject of this blog, notoriously skew old. That's why programming execs have always been wary of them. The demo obsession has worked against our little genre for a long time, and the bias shows no signs of receding.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ratings: bad week for syndies except Feud

Memorial Day week (May 30-June 5) was a tough one for most syndie game shows. The exception was Family Feud. Steve seems immune to Nielsen downdrafts as he cements his number one spot among the syndies. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Family Feud 7.2 - up four ticks from the previous week
Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - down three ticks
Jeopardy 5.5 - down three ticks in sympathy with the soulmate
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - down a tick
Millionaire 1.2 - down a tick to have the basement all to itself

GSN cooled off some for the week of June 6-12. 461K/314K/455K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 37th, 30th and 37th in the windows. Not a bad showing, but not as torrid as the previous week.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Those were the days

Millenials are proving just as prone to nostalgia as any other generation. They seem especially fond of the kid TV shows they grew up with. As the first true cable generation, gifted with 57 channels (and somethin' on), they recall 1990s Nickelodeon shows as if they were all classics.

Well, a few of them were really good. Like Legends of the Hidden Temple, lovingly noted in this listicle on a pop culture site.
Legends was something special, a game show that captured the imagination with the stories behind its challenges. Nothing even remotely similar exists on Nickelodeon today. We can only hope that the upcoming Legends of the Hidden Temple movie will lead to a reboot of the show, and inspire a new generation of children.
"Inspire" looks like a mighty big word. I would just settle for "entertain" and leave inspiration to more personal sources. But Legends is my personal fave among kid game shows, and that includes them all. I also hope that the scripted TV movie leads to some more actual game show eps. But I'm not holding my breath until I turn blue (barracuda).

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hit parade?

A faux tweet noted The Wrap's opinion that ABC's 100K Pyramid reboot has a chance to be a hit this summer, at least compared to the Match Game rewind.

In an odd coincidence, the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's agrees on the sanguine prospects for Pyramid. Of course, the oldies board is mostly impressed by how the format has apparently been preserved in amber, with hardly a touch to the classic Dick Clark version.

It's funny how the thread includes at least one swipe at Steve Harvey's Family Feud. It's just not a legal thread on the board without a dump on Steve. In fact, Pyramid's showrunners strongly hope that Mr. Harvey performs his usual Nielsen magic this summer, because his celeb version of Feud will lead into the Pyramid remake. (Don't bother looking for Game Show Forum to give Steve any credit if Pyramid gets good numbers.)

One poster is after my heart with a comment about Weird Al Yankovic's fine play on Celebrity Name Game. Weird Al is coming to Pyramid, and he can only help the show.

UPDATE: ABC tried a rerun of last year's Celebrity Family Feud on June 12. The results were encouraging. The repeat got 5.07M total viewers and a 1.2 18-49 rating against tough competition (by June standards). Maybe the Sunday game night will work when new eps start June 26.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Betty and the truth

Buzzr has sent out a press release to hop on board the train with ABC's To Tell the Truth.

The oldies diginet will run a TTTT marathon on Sunday, June 12. Betty White will be the star, as you might expect from her role on ABC's new version. But the real treat of the marathon will be the TTTT pilot episode - never before seen on television - with Mike Wallace as the host.

The producers called the pilot Nothing But the Truth, and it runs at 8:00 PM Eastern. Taped in 1956, the pilot has spawned umpteen versions of the show over the decades. To Tell the Truth was famously Mark Goodson's favorite format, which has always surprised me a little. The questioning on TTTT does tend to wander, as the panelists go off on their own tangents. But the show has endured (off and on) for sixty years, so somebody out there likes it.

Buzzr will also probably try to take advantage of ABC's new version of Match Game, though the diginet already makes heavy use of the Gene Rayburn classic. Sadly, Buzzr can't do much with ABC's Pyramid remake. It's not a Fremantle format.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The final frontier

The Wheelmobile is just the first step.

In Oklahoma City, a final tryout round happened for about sixty of the thousands of people who turned out for Wheel of Fortune's initial contestant search in the city. As you might expect if you read casting calls, the contestant supervisor laid down the law. "We want energy, we want enthusiasm, we want people who are going to be smiling and clapping and having a good time of it."

Everybody sure seemed pretty happy and smiley at the tryout. A little discouragingly, only a few of the finalists will get the coveted letter summoning them to that studio which is smaller than it looks and that wheel which is just so heavy.

But why not go for it? Okay, there's a chance you could crash and burn in game show infamy, like the more clueless puzzle-solvers who have left their mark on YouTube. And there's also a chance you could win a fair amount of money and throw one hellacious viewing party. Sounds like a risk worth taking.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lots of noise

Just watched the premiere of Winsanity, GSN's new show about numerical order. Which turns out to be more interesting than alphabetical order.

The premise is simple. A contestant has to arrange ten numerical facts from bottom to top. The facts are trivia items from pop culture and general silliness. How many Thriller albums were sold in the U.S., how many portable toilets exist worldwide, etc. If all ten facts fall into the correct order, the contestant and the studio audience win cash and various goodies. Like groceries and a car and gift cards and who numerically knows what.

Donald Faison (of Scrubs, most notably) hosts in an unrestrained manner. In fact, everybody in sight lets loose with nonstop cheering, yelling and all-round happy happy joy joy. Even the announcer, comic Kira Soltanovich, gets loads of camera time to urge the contestants on to greater glory.

Which is my main problem with the show. Amid all the hooting and hollering, the actual gameplay proceeds at the pace of a sedate snail. It took a half-hour to get through one contestant and ten facts, which meant plenty of loud filler. But Winsanity is not a lot slower than Millionaire, after all. And it's more fun.

UPDATE: Winsanity produces decent but not sensational numbers by GSN's current standards. 501K and 416K viewers for the two eps, with 0.10 and 0.08 18-49 ratings.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ratings: Steve and GSN get happy

Before I get to the syndie ratings, a word about GSN for the week of May 30-June 6. I'm not sure, but the week may have set a record for GSN in prime time. Of course, the prime time average is almost all Steve Harvey Family Feud now, but the network still rocked to 557K/338K/533K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 28th, 29th and 29th in the windows.

As if that weren't enough testimony to Steve's Nielsen magic, he also finished second among all syndies in the recently concluded May sweeps. Yes, he gets the benefit of multiple daily runs. But so does much of his competition. TV News Check has the household ratings and changes from last year for May sweeps...

Family Feud 7.1 - up eleven ticks from last May
Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - down a tick
Jeopardy 6.0 - down four ticks
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - up a tick as Craig escapes the cellar
Millionaire 1.3 - down three ticks as the worse timeslots take their toll

Interestingly, Steve's talk show was unchanged from last May. What happened? Meanwhile, Separation Anxiety drew 745K viewers and a 0.30 18-49 rating for its season finale on June 7. Good enough for a renewal? I have my doubts, but we'll see.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Across and down

The screenshot looks a little off-kilter, despite Vanna's reassuring presence. Wheel of Fortune is switching up the puzzle board for the first time, well, ever. They're trying a new crossword puzzle round, with interlocking words running across and down.

Very early returns look reasonably encouraging. Even the heavily traditionalist Buy a Vowel board didn't run away screaming, and a few posters actually liked the new round. I'm sure there will be grumbles and rumbles, but this gimmick (borrowed from the Spanish version of the show) may be here to stay.

My cynical self thinks that Wheel may not have tried something so unusual if Steve Harvey hadn't muscled his way to the top of the syndie ratings. Sure, it's a completely unfair comparison between the single-run Wheel and the multiple-run (up to four times daily) Feud. But the weekly numbers still say Steve is number one, and the Wheel folks can't like the sight.

Even the most tried-and-true formats can use a little refreshing now and then. Nice to see that Wheel isn't stuck in a time capsule.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Not ready

An odd casting call for a new game show has shown up in Google News. The show is apparently not ready for prime time...or any other time on TV.

The production is a Newlywed Game clone, except the teams consist of parents and their adult children. This actually sounds like an interesting idea, though the questioning would have to be a little different. It would be hard to ask for the strangest places the teams have made whoopee, unless the families are rather unusual.

But if you're shy about turning up on the tube, fear not. The show won't air on TV, as the call assures us...
We are currently looking for parents and their adult son or daughter (18-25 years) to be in a live game show run through on Wednesday, June 8th. Each Participant will be compensated $200 for that day, and it will not air on TV. The run though will be similar to the gameshow The Newlywed Game, except this time with a young adult and his or her parent!
Looks like the producers just want to see how the concept works, instead of actually taping a pilot. If you're a Los Angeles resident with nothing better to do on June 8, you can give it a shot.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

An exec quits

Game Show Newsnet has made a big deal about Steve Mosko stepping down as the main honcho at Sony Pictures Television.

No doubt SPT is a big player in our little genre. See Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. But there's no evidence that Mosko had any real involvement with game shows, so I doubt that his departure will mean much at all to the productions.

Mosko did make a maybe unintentionally relevant comment in his "exit interview" with the media. "Television tends to be somewhat the stepchild of the industry and it is what it is. The Hollywood machine is built around big movies and that's great. Television is this little bit blue-collar business...it's the working side of the business."

In fact, Wheel and Jeopardy are the working side of Sony Pictures Television. They're the cash cows that crank out big and reliable money year after year. Meanwhile, it's the showy prestige projects like Breaking Bad - which Mosko singles out for praise in the interview - that lend glamour to SPT.

Mosko does get credit for not dumping on Sony as he leaves. He does not seem to be that notorious creature, the disgruntled former employee.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Requiem for a heavyweight

Time always wins, but sometimes it creeps up on you so slowly, you hardly notice.

The news of boxing legend Muhammad Ali's death at age 74 reminds me that the clock only runs one way. Ali seems like a remnant of a very distant past, but it's the same past as mine. Once upon a time he was a universally known figure in sports, politics, the media and just about everywhere else. But for the last couple decades he was barely visible, trapped in a grim spiral of Parkinson's disease and remorseless disability.

"Nil nisi and all that," as a P.D. James character once said, but more than a few have questioned Ali's sometimes mean-spirited trash talk about his opponents. Sure, it was partly an act to gin up the box office, but even the obsequious New York Times notes some of the nastier edges. So it's with pleasure that I link to Ali's one brush with our little genre, his September 19, 1965 turn on What's My Line.

Muhammad Ali could not have been more gracious, soft-spoken and appealing in this appearance. The panel quickly guessed him, despite the funny little girl voice he used. In a sad bit of irony, one of the guest panelists was fellow sports figure Joe Garagiola, who himself died not long ago.

The world heavyweight championship has left American shores for many years now. This makes Ali seem like even more of a relic from a vanished past. But the WML ep lives on, showing the champ at his best. R.I.P.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Is sex in jeopardy?

A minor tittering has erupted on the game show Interwebs about a recent Jeopardy contestant.

Doctoral candidate Liz Miles took her interview time with Alex to tell us that Japanese men really do have sex. Since Japan has produced a number of new generations over the centuries, I didn't think this was in doubt. But it's always good to be reassured. Alex seemed a little flustered by the subject but managed to move on.

Sex on game shows has risen (sorry) to prominence with the constant catcalls about Family Feud's mildly off-color humor. This soggy complaint from AV Club is typical of the rants about "boner jokes" and other horrors. I'm a little surprised that the faux prudes - they're not really scandalized, of course, they just want to sound more noble than the rest of us - haven't bashed Craig Ferguson and the more than occasional blue notes on Celebrity Name Game.

But then hardly anybody watches Celebrity Name Game compared to Family Feud. Plus Craig has gotten a couple Emmys, which might protect him a bit from criticism. Meanwhile, Liz Miles lost her game on Jeopardy, so we probably won't hear any more chatter about Japanese sex on Alex's august quizzer. At least for a while.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pyramid celebs

ABC has released the list of celeb players for the Pyramid remake due June 26.

My first impression is that they got some of the better players from Celebrity Name Game. I counted nine celebs with experience on the show, and I might have missed a few. Makes sense, as Craig Ferguson's effort is a lively Pyramid knockoff.

The list seems a little ritzier in celeb terms than the usual roster on Celebrity Name Game, though. But I might be imagining what constitutes "ritzier" celebs. I'm happy to report that Weird Al Yankovic will show up for an episode. It's hard to go wrong with Weird Al.

A few past and future game show hosts dot the list: Sherri Shepherd, Anthony Anderson, Terry Crews, Alfonso Ribeiro, Kevin Pollak. It's a little surprising how many people end up hosting a game show sooner or later. Our little genre goes though a lot of masters of ceremonies.

Everybody seems to agree that the reboot will maintain the classic gameplay almost intact. Which will please traditionalists and doesn't bother me all that much. Though I wish producers didn't think they have to keep formats frozen forever.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Ratings: Steve smiles

Steve Harvey sure enjoyed the week of May 16-22. Family Feud topped all of syndication. Yeah, the show gets the Nielsen benefit of multiple daily runs, but it's still a nice achievement. Otherwise, there wasn't much movement among syndie game shows. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Family Feud 7.4 - up four ticks to lead all syndies
Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - up a tick
Jeopardy 6.0 - flat
Millionaire 1.3 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - down a tick to share the basement

Hard to know exactly what will happen with 500 Questions. The show didn't crash and burn in the ratings, but it didn't set the Nielsen world alight, either. The final installment got 4.51M viewers with a 0.8 18-49 rating. Good enough for a third season? We'll see.

The month of May was merry for GSN. 475K/305K/463K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 33rd, 30th and 34th in the windows.