Sunday, July 31, 2016

Random act of wiki

Not having much of anything to write about on a slow weekend, I tried the random page button on U.S. Game Shows Wiki. What came back was a blurb for a comic named Debi Gutierrez. It was obviously cribbed from her website or her agent's promo material. Amid the routine puffery was a single paragraph related to game shows.
In 2010, Gutierrez completed a season as the host of GSN's Hidden Agenda. Gutierrez, whose comedy career has thrived on the communication between couples, serves as host of the show and as the couples' "cheerleader".
Hidden Agenda stayed well hidden in the Nielsen charts for its mercifully brief life. The show got teensy-weensy numbers even by the less than impressive standards of GSN in 2010. All I could find on YouTube was a 21-second promo that offered a one-second glimpse of Debi.

As I recall, I kind of liked the show. (Yes, I was extremely lonely in my opinion.) It was a hidden-camera ambush format where one spouse was in on the joke and tried to get the unsuspecting spouse to do dumb things for money. I thought the show was harmless and enjoyable. The Nielsen sample thought that it was a crime against humanity. As always, the Nielsen sample won.

U.S. Game Show Wiki classes Hidden Agenda among "flops" and they couldn't be more right. The run lasted less than two months and the show has vanished as completely as any chunk of 2010 American TV possibly can. But maybe they haven't physically wiped the show. Somewhere on a shelf at GSN a few tapes might be gathering dust.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

In jeopardy

I don't watch the network morning shows much, but my wife likes Today. So she may have seen the story the show did on Jeopardy.

Mostly it was just the 77 zillionth interview with Alex Trebek, but there were also a few glimpses of the control room and a contestant tryout session. Alex allowed that he didn't mind the Saturday Night Live lampoons. He was getting interviewed on an NBC show, after all. But he would probably agree that there is no such thing as bad publicity, at least when it comes to game show parodies.

He also told the usual story about how Merv Griffin's wife came up with the idea of just giving contestants the answers. (This was in the early 1960s, when the rigging scandals were still painfully fresh.) I've heard the story so often that I'm starting to wonder if it's only another urban legend. But I guess somebody had to come up with the reverse answer and question format. It might as well have been Julann.

Jeopardy's ratings are still just fine, even if the show skews very old. Sooner or later Alex will have to retire, of course. But The Price is Right survived Bob's departure, so Jeopardy will probably find a way to endure, too.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Reboot of a reboot

Everything old is new again in game show land. We've got so many reboots and rewinds, I'm starting to lose track. Now comes news, as linked in a faux tweet, that VH1 will bring back Hip Hop Squares. Of course, this was the MTV2 version of Hollywood Squares, with rappers instead of old-time Hollywood folks.

DJ Peter Rosenberg hosted two seasons of ten eps apiece in 2012. I thought the show was surprisingly watchable, thanks to its adherence to the tried and true format. Ice Cube, who signs as O'Shea Jackson on his legal documents, will produce the new version on MTV2's sister network VH1. "Unlike typical game shows, viewers should never know what's going to happen next." Actually, Mr. Jackson, nobody should ever know exactly what is going to happen next on a game show. There's literally a federal law about that issue. (See scandals, rigging.)

I assume this reboot of a reboot will follow the usual format. Hollywood Squares has been around so long, it seems almost sacrilegious to tamper with the gameplay. No word on who will host the new version of Hip Hop Squares. Is Peter (Rosenberg, not Marshall) available? The show is due on VH1 this fall.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hit the road, Jack

Has The Price is Right's live show visited every city, town and hamlet in the land?

It often seems that way. Whenever I need a TPiR item for the faux tweets, I can usually rely on Google News to cough up an upcoming live show somewhere sometime. In fact, I feel a little guilty about using the items because they're so easy to find. Sure enough, a couple more stories have just cropped up about TPiR's journeys to Nebraska and Spokane. (The Spokane item offers a rather humorous picture of a pre-diet Drew Carey.)

A variant on the theme is the recent interview with Mark Walberg - which I also used for a faux tweet - about his frequent host gigs on the TPiR live show. He enjoys the hoopla and gameplay. "There is something wonderful about the escapism of playing a game." Especially that game with all the merchandise.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sing for your cab ride

As advertised in a faux tweet, Spike has ordered ten eps of Caraoke Showdown.

Craig Robinson will tool around in a cab and ambush passengers with karaoke-for-cash games. If this sounds like a musical Cash Cab, you've got the idea. The project first surfaced in February and Spike has now made it official. The series will debut in 2017, after a one-time special later this year.

The stories in February brought a lot of squawking from James Corden's producers. The concept sounded suspiciously similar to Corden's Carpool Karaoke segments, though with a game show angle. "We'd be lying if we said we weren't disappointed, that you read that another production company is taking an idea that is clearly yours," grumped one of Corden's people.

The linked story mentioned the possibility of legal action, but I haven't seen any stories about actual lawsuits. The game show format might make it tough for Corden and company to cry foul. Whatever Carpool Karaoke may be, a game show it ain't. Spike seems to have decided that they don't have to worry about the lawyers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Ratings: syndies bounce back

Syndie game shows were happy to put the holiday week behind them. The numbers recovered nicely for July 11-17. TV News Check has the gladsome household ratings...

Family Feud 7.0 - up a couple ticks
Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up five ticks to take second all by itself
Jeopardy 5.6 - up three ticks for the show that's not in reruns
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat, last change for this show was 87 weeks ago (slight exaggeration)
Millionaire 1.2 - flat

As usual, ABC's game show trio gave the alphabet net (Variety speak!) a Sunday night win in both total viewers and the almighty 18-49 demo. It's safe to say that we'll see a second run of the trifecta next summer.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Telling the truth about dubbing

The death of singer Marni Nixon at age 86 recalls an odd bit of show business history. She dubbed in the singing roles for some of the biggest movie stars of the 1950s and 1960s. Among others she ghost-sang for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

The connection to our little genre is Marni Nixon's appearance on a 1964 episode of To Tell the Truth. (She ended up getting two votes from the panel.) Somehow it seems appropriate that a game show based on lying would feature a singer who was involved in something of a deception. Not that the secret of her ghost singing stayed a secret for very long. In fact, Deborah Kerr herself spilled the beans about Marni's dubbing in The King and I.

The linked story includes some pretty harsh words from Marni Nixon about one of her dubbing partners. "In the case of Audrey Hepburn, she was very smart and could say, 'I know this is not good enough, I want to keep trying myself,' but she had to accept that it wasn't quite what it should be. But I don't think that Natalie Wood's ego could take that. Frankly, I think they used to create that kind of attitude too much — allowing them to have the illusion when they knew all along that she wasn't good enough."

Well, I guess that any movie star has a pretty healthy ego and wouldn't enjoy being told that the singing voice is just too bad. Nowadays ghost singing is verboten in movie musicals, so we get some pretty abominable performances from the stars. Sometimes we have to pay the price for honesty.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Scarily legendary

This blog has covered a lot of Nick stuff lately, but that's what you get from Comic-Con.

As a faux tweet noted, the trailer for the new Legends of the Hidden Temple movie is out. For what it is, it looks like fun. Three state-of-the-art cute kids run and jump through various perils in, well, a hidden temple. The proceedings hardly look like Quentin Tarantino stuff, but they are a little scarier than the ancient game show.

The trailer has gotten good reviews from nostalgic critics. Production values do seem impressive, as Nick apparently didn't pinch pennies on the sets or effects. Of course, Kirk Fogg and Olmec (voiced by the original Dee Bradley Baker) show up, along with endless references to silver monkeys and just about every other facet of the game show.

The movie is due on Nick in November and will no doubt receive plenty of promotion. Grumpy me would still like to see some genuine game show eps, but I'll take what I can get. If the movie performs well enough, maybe real contestants will be running through a real temple - by game show standards, anyway - one of these days.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Daring

Being a dedicated game show blogger, I stayed up for the Comic-Con Double Dare live feed. It happened at 9:30 PM Pacific time, which meant a pretty late night here in the pokey old Central time zone.

Marc Summers ran the proceedings with his usual competence and enthusiasm. Things got a little, er, gamy at one point, and I'm not talking about kid games. But mostly it was innocent and dumb fun, like those nostalgic Nick shows should be.

The contestants were millennial Nick performers, who seemed bemused by all the goofy goings-on. There were trivia questions and physical challenges - my favorite was the guy sitting on balloons - which all led up to the race through the ultra-dorky obstacle course. The red team took home the final honors. It just wasn't the blue team's night.

Maybe the most entertaining part of the show was the comment stream that scrolled next to the herky-jerky video. Nick-nostalgia sufferers united to express their mad glee that Double Dare was back, if only for a half-hour at Comic-Con. I've never read so many happy happy joy joy gurglings. Well, the idea is to have a good time, isn't it?

Friday, July 22, 2016

On duty

A couple faux tweets have mentioned Armed Forces Trivia Quest, a live game show making its way around various U.S. military bases. This story about the show's stop at Fort Campbell, KY offers the most detail on the quizzer and its creator, Steve Sellers.

The show will tour 16 bases, leading up to a tournament of champions at Fort Sam Houston, TX in the fall. It's sponsored by the Super 8 motel chain and run by Army Entertainment. Which sounds like well disciplined entertainment.

There aren't many details on the actual gameplay, except that it helps to know a lot of stuff. Sgt. 1st Class Nolan Barringer won the show at Fort Campbell, and his wife lauds his trivia prowess. "One time, 10 years ago, I beat him at Jeopardy. One time. Other than that he is the trivia master."

Steve Sellers, the host and creator of the show, has nothing but praise for the military. "I'm a former schoolteacher and I have several students who are currently and have served active duty and just hearing their stories really inspired me. The fact that somebody would be willing to put themselves in harm's way so we can be free because they believe in our country is humbling."

I expect to see more stories about the show in the military press. It's not every day that a live game show comes to a military base.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tons of fun

A pop culture site called Hypable - no, I'd never heard of it, either - has listed 100K Pyramid and Match Game among their summer TV favorites. Since the shows are regularly landing in the top fifteen most watched of the week (network and cable combined) they don't need kudos from an obscure web site. But a little, er, hype can't hurt.

The site assures us that the shows are "tons of fun" and praises both hosts. Which is all true enough. The review, such as it is, does go off the rails a little bit with the obligatory praise of Rosie O'Donnell. (Sometimes I think that pop culture critics are conspiring to make us like Rosie, or else.) I agree that she was fine on Pyramid, where the tight format kept her under control. But Match Game's much looser format gave her too much room to dominate the first two eps.

The result was predictable, given how Rosie turns off so many viewers. While Match Game has done well in the ratings, there's a noticeable drop from its lead-in Pyramid. Oh well, both shows are still virtual locks for renewal, unlike some of the more obscure efforts also praised by Hypable.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Where's Regis?

Rambling through the game show articles in Google News this morning, I ran across this rather puffy piece on the - have to use the word - legendary Regis Philbin.

The first thing that struck me is that Regis has acquired a much greyer head of hair. (I know about the experience first-hand, or first-head.) At age 84 it's okay if the guy gets more silvery on top. Another thing I didn't know is that Regis grew up as an only child. His one brother wasn't born until he was 20. (Sadly, Wikipedia tells me the brother died in his twenties from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.)

Otherwise the article pretty much rehashes Regis' well-known career, including the stint on that little game show about wanting to be a millionaire. A few bit and pieces about his recent TV gigs were new to me. I didn't know that he drops in on Rachel Ray's syndie, but then I'm not big on cooking. He's also subbed a couple times for James Corden, which I missed because I'm barely aware of James Corden's existence. He's the guy who replaced Craig Ferguson at 3:00 AM, right? (Okay, I've seen Corden's karaoke videos on the YouTube front page now and then.)

It's not often that a TV performer hangs around long enough that his first name makes him instantly recognizable. Regis has attained that rarefied one-name celebrity.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ratings: syndies suffer

Summer is tough on syndie game shows. Almost everybody felt the heat, so to speak, and Pat and Vanna hit a season low. TV News Check has the dismal household ratings for the July 4-10 week...

Family Feud 6.8 - down a couple ticks
Wheel of Fortune 5.3 - down five ticks to the new low
Jeopardy 5.3 - down three ticks to tie the soulmate
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat, Gibraltar may tumble but this show never changes
Millionaire 1.2 - down a tick into the lonely basement

As a faux tweet noted, ABC's To Tell the Truth closed its run on a good ratings note. My guess is that the show will get another summer season, but it's not a lock.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Other people's money

News has bounced around the game show Interwebs about Richard Dawson's contract for Family Feud. It's for sale at eBay.

The contract covers the 1983-84 season and two more years. Truth be told, Richard was past his prime on Feud by 1983. Wheel of Fortune was taking over as the number one game show. Richard was starting to seem, audibly and visibly, like a burnt-out case. His show would vanish in all its forms in 1985. Of course, the format has since arisen in Nielsen glory.

I have the usual prurient interest in other people's money. By any standard Richard was well paid for his services. Feud's producers agreed to pay his agency $1,040,000 for the 1983-84 daytime network season and $300,000 more for Feud specials. The inflation calculator says this would be about $3.2 million in today's debased money.

Sure, Richard's agents took their cut, but the host was doing just fine, thank you. And this contract does not cover the nighttime syndie that Richard was also hosting.

To be fair, today's top game show hosts - Steve, Pat and Vanna, Alex - reportedly earn far more. You hear $10 million-plus figures tossed around, but who knows how accurate those rumors are. Alec Baldwin is said to earn $200,000 per ep for ABC's Match Game.

Since these hosts are such an integral part of very profitable shows, it's hard to grudge them their money. If they can get it, they're worth it. By the way, the eBay seller is asking $199.00 for Richard's contract. Cheap?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

E-I-E-I-O

This blog likes to explore obscure nooks of the game show world. Such as Wheel of Farming.

In case you're wondering about this little-known format, it's part of an Urban Farming exhibit in Rockford, IL. The name of the show is "EIEIO Family Friday" - they made up the title, not me - and it helps "explore life on the farm with the family." There's a petting zoo and a couple game shows, including the WoF effort already mentioned and Guess That Grain. Just a hunch, but in the latter game you might have to guess which grain produced which kernels.

While the game shows are going on, there are other activities. "Kids can play with their food, turn their fingerprints into a cow, play in the mud and create a crazy hat." When I was a kid I played with my food all the time, especially the vegetables. (Hated broccoli and still do.) I didn't wait for a show to come to town.

Pat and Vanna probably won't turn up for Wheel of Farming. Neither of them seem very rural.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

EW plugs Match Game

Entertainment Weekly is not exactly famous for hard-hitting criticism. It's a show biz rag (or site) that tends to burble with joy over whatever it's covering. So it's not a surprise that this EW account of a Match Game taping overflows with gushy enthusiasm.

The review does offer a few bits of info amid all the fawning. Alcohol flowed freely for the panelists, which maintains the boozy tradition of the hallowed 1973-82 Match Game. The taping took about two hours, and to keep the audience interested, the showrunners awarded a Starbucks gift card. Only fifteen bucks but it was the thought that counted.

The story raves about panelist Leslie Jones in particular. "She was all over the place." Uh-oh. I sense one of those attention hogs who can ruin an ensemble show like Match Game. Let's hope that any excessive scenery-chewing got edited out.

The review also praises Alec Baldwin, which I can agree with. He's kept his worst impulses under control and has been a surprisingly good host.

Friday, July 15, 2016

60 minutes

A thread on what's left of what used to be Matt Ottinger's board chews over hour-length game shows.

The oldies board being what it is, there's a heavy emphasis on the distant past. Say what you (or I) will about the board's obsession with by-gone days, they do come up with some interesting factoids.
LMAD and Hollywood Squares each experimented with an hour-long format for a week in 1975. LMAD was week of December 1 and Hollywood Squares was week of November 3, the same day TPIR went to an hour full time. Wheel also experimented with the hour-long format the week of November 3 and would go to 60 minutes full time on December 1. It reverted to half an hour on January 19, 1976.
So now you know about hour-length formats in the 1970s, in case you ever wondered. The thread eventually does get around to ABC's current Sunday night block of 60-minute shows. A poster points out that each show is really just two half-hour eps smushed together. It's like watching a double run of Celebrity Name Game or Jeopardy (to name a couple double-runs in my local DFW market).

A 60-minute format can feel overblown and slow, as sometimes happened with, say, Fox's Greed or GSN's Money List or TBS's recent Separation Anxiety. But to be Captain Obvious for a moment, a 30-minute format can dawdle, too, if the gameplay isn't well-designed.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Who was William Schuman?

The screenshot may give you an inkling to the question in this entry's title. William Schuman was a contestant on What's My Line.

That's not all he did, of course. Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout reminds us that Mr. Schuman was also a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and arts administrator. (Does everybody win a Pulitzer sooner or later?) Terry makes the point that William Schuman is now largely forgotten, which is certainly true. I confess that I had no idea who he was, on WML or anywhere else. He could make a nice triple stumper on Final Jeopardy.

Terry lauds a piece of music by Schuman called American Festival Overture. You can listen to it on YouTube. I sampled a few minutes but it sounded pretty dated, almost like 1950s movie music. Second-hand Aaron Copland, you might say.

One funny (and sort of sad) note: much of William Schuman's Wikipedia article is spent on his WML appearance. His turn on the show sure gets much more detailed attention than any of his musical works. He was a lively guest, sparring with the panelists until Bennett Cerf finally guessed him. Wikipedia still recalls his time on a game show, even if most people have forgotten his music.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ratings: lazy summer for syndies

Viewers drift away in summer, and syndie game shows felt the drift in the June 27-July 3 week. None of the shows tumbled a lot, but there were small downdrafts. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 7.0 - down a tick for its umpteen daily runs
Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - down a tick for its single daily run
Jeopardy 5.6 - down a tick, see the pattern?
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat, it never changes
Millionaire 1.3 - flat

GSN posted typical numbers for the July 4-10 week. 457K/306K/449K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. I'll remind readers again that GSN prime time is three-fourths Harvey Feud. The network ranked 35th, 32nd and 35th in the windows.

ABC's trio of Sunday night game shows all landed in the top fifteen for the July 4-10 week. But Match Game is clearly lagging the other two. To Tell the Truth is performing respectably on Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A mind is a terrible thing to waste

I don't follow the twists and turns of the GSN schedule very closely any more.

The nice lady at the network sends me the advance schedules and I post them in the sidebar and that's pretty much it. If you want close analysis of the schedule changes, there's always Game Show Network News. Scott Rahner does a fine job of tracking all the shifts and switches.

But I couldn't help noticing one small change in the new schedules I got from GSN yesterday. A couple Mind of a Man reruns slip into the schedule at 2:00 AM on Friday night (actually, Saturday morning).

If you don't remember this short-lived DeRay Davis effort, don't feel too bad. The show came and went in the twinkling of a man's eye back in 2014. Even YouTube, which remembers everything, only offers a few short clips. I used one of the video clips for the screenshot.

Mind of a Man was trivial and goofy, which aren't necessarily bad qualities for a game show. GSN promoted it pretty heavily but the ratings cratered in a hurry and the show vanished. I have no clue why the network is bringing it back for a few insomniacs and/or drunks in the wee hours. But if this thing can return - though only in reruns - maybe there's hope for a comeback of The Chase and Catherwood Chain Reaction.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Never can live up to the 1970s

I made a point a while ago that ABC's new Match Game could never live up to the 1973-82 version in the eyes of the game show Interwebs. Comments on the new show have confirmed this easy prediction. A typical example is this review from a pop culture site called Paste.

The reviewer is a diehard Dawson fan, which I am not. So Richard's absence naturally biases him against the new version. I might as well say this once and for all: Dawson was terrible on Match Game after he got the Family Feud gig. He was dour and sour and a royal pain in the butt of the front-and-center seat. The show improved a ton when he finally departed.

I'll admit the life-of-the-party Richard of his early Match Game years was great. But Dawson buried those memories under a mountain of scowls in his later seasons. I also disagree with the review's dump on Alec Baldwin in the new version. He's been surprisingly good as the host and ad-libs well, contrary to the review's assertions. And I can't buy Paste's tsk-tsk-ing dislike of the new show's off-color material, either.

The 1973-82 version was not designed for Victorian maidens. I watched an episode recently that featured a naked nun emerging from a birthday cake (not literally, just in the imagination of one of the celebs). If you don't like naughty jokes, neither the old nor the new Match Game is for you.

UPDATE: Every opinion is different. This guy likes Baldwin and dumps on Michael Strahan. The ratings suggest otherwise. 100K Pyramid has well outperformed Match Game. The reviewer also swoons over Rosie O'Donnell, which is a pretty good clue to his politics.

That's the problem with Rosie. She's polarizing to the max. I think Match Game made a mistake by featuring her so big on the first two eps. Turned off a lot of viewers who can't stand her, as the Nielsen news indicates.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

There's always YouTube

I've moaned and groaned on this blog about GSN canning two of their best shows, The Chase and the Mike Catherwood version of Chain Reaction. But like most game shows of seasons past, these two haven't really vanished. They just live on at YouTube. Plenty of clips and even full episodes remind us of past glories.

Which is remarkable when you think about it. YouTube and other Internet video sites have made it possible to watch pretty much anything we want whenever we want, for only the price of a web connection. Sure, there are the occasional conniption fits, like when Buzzr tried - unsuccessfully, thank God - to shut down the What's My Line channel on YouTube. But endless hours of TV faves are there for the viewing.

Not to mention music for the listening. Once upon a time I had a record collection. (For younger readers, records were flat, round black things that you put on a turntable and they spun around.) Nowadays I've got the world's biggest rack of albums at YouTube. I've become so accustomed to such comforts that I whine to myself when a song gets pulled on a copyright complaint and I have to look for another video of it. There's just no satisfying grumpy me.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Wit and wisdom

Yahoo's Week in Game Shows focuses only on Jeopardy this week because other syndies are in reruns. Guys, you can still do clips from repeats, and ABC's prime time game shows and GSN's Winsanity and Idiotest are in first-runs. But what the hey, it's their site and they can make the rules any way they want.

So we get lots of Alex Trebek's wise and witty remarks, mostly during the contestant interviews. I was never a big fan of those interviews because Alex is not the smoothest converser. I always get the feeling that he's a little bored with whoever he's talking to. But this may just be my overactive imagination.

The clips are amusing enough. But one comment by the Yahoo critic seems really odd. He calls Jeopardy a "slow and difficult" game. I'll grant him the "difficult"...but slow? Jeopardy is the fastest quizzer ever devised. The answers and questions come screaming at the poor viewer. Not until the final round - strangely enough, because the bonus round is usually faster than the front game in other game shows - do things slow down at all.

By the way, Alex is not a runner. Neither am I. At this point in my earthly sojourn, I'm barely a walker.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Funny obit

A deep thinker on a site called Koalition - can't anybody spell a word right anymore? - opines: "It's fair to think of game shows as things of the past."

He's obviously right. I can't find a game show to watch anywhere on TV...except on cable, in syndication, and on broadcast. This must mean that I'm living in the past, along with ABC, CBS, GSN, Steve Harvey, Drew Carey, Pat and Vanna, etc., etc.

I thought about sending this brilliant critic the list of this week's most watched broadcast TV shows, which puts three traditional game shows in the top fifteen. Or the list of the top syndie shows of the week, which puts three game shows in the top five. But he would probably accuse me of filching the lists from a 1978 Nielsen report.

Anyway, the superb pundit goes on to say that game shows somehow struggle on as computer apps. Which is reassuring for such a dead and/or dying genre. Pay no attention to all those people watching game shows on TV. Apps are where it's at.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A tale of Sin City

A long story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal welcomes Millionaire to the gambling Mecca.

The venerable quizzer will start taping its new season of 175 eps at Bally's this month, in the Jubilee Theater. Among other factoids, we learn that the air conditioning "will be cranked up to 11." I've been in Vegas in the summer, and I can believe it. There are also lots of quotes from showrunner James Rowley about the perfect Millionaire contestant. "It's not necessarily a game of smarts. What it really is is a game of range. So if you know a little bit about a lot of things, you will do a lot better than someone who is an expert on X or Y."

I only know a little about a few things, so I probably shouldn't try out for the show. Speaking of tryouts, the show wants lots of Vegas contestants because they're so "diverse." I thought Las Vegas residents were mostly interested in just one thing - the theory of probability - but I could be wrong.

The story rehashes the checkered history of syndie Millionaire, including the host roulette of the past few seasons. And it ends on an ominous note about Vegas-based game shows. "Let's Make a Deal at the Tropicana, Hollywood Squares at the Riviera and Caesar's Challenge at, well, Caesars each only lasted a year." The Nielsen news hasn't been all that great for Millionaire lately. Let's hope the Vegas curse doesn't claim another victim.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ratings: happy days for syndies

After a number of blah weeks, things perked up for syndie game shows. Everybody tacked on a few tenths with one exception. TV News Check has the household ratings for the June 20-26 week...

Family Feud 7.1 - up five ticks to lead all syndies
Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - up four ticks for its single daily run
Jeopardy 5.7 - up three ticks
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat, does it ever change?
Millionaire 1.3 - up a tick to get out of solitary in the basement

The previous ratings post noted GSN's solid second quarter. In fact, the network set a record in prime time, as this press release gurgles. GSN prime time is now three-quarters Harvey Feud, which the release doesn't mention.

Ethics schmethics

Our little genre had a little ethics problem some time ago, as you may recall.

We're more ethical nowadays, it seems. Not when it comes to politics or government or anything important, of course. But when it comes to morning TV talk shows, boy, we're as ethical as the July days are long. The legal eagles at ABC have made Pyramid host Michael Strahan give up his commercial endorsement deals.

They don't want any evil stain on Good Morning America, where Strahan will be the new host. After all, Michael will introduce cooking segments and show biz people plugging their latest movies. Those plugs and recipes must be free from even the appearance of impropriety.

If you detect some sarcasm, you detect right. The idea that a morning talker has to be purer than the driven snow is beyond silly. It's laughable to think that even the real news shows from the establishment media live up to any true standards of honesty or fairness.

Michael Strahan won't miss the endorsement money too much. Network TV stars rarely need food stamps. But this "ethics" dustup is still hilarious.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Oldies board reactions

A couple threads about ABC's game show remakes have developed at the oldies board to end all oldies boards.

The Pyramid thread is mostly laudatory, as you would expect for a version that preserves the old Dick Clark format in amber. Maybe the funniest thing in the thread is sour guy - anybody who reads the board will know who I'm talking about - going berserk over Anthony Anderson. Basically, he wants to get the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal back together again for Anderson's turn on the show. Other people on the board are laughing at him (the right response) or trying to reason with him (the hopeless response).

The Match Game thread isn't as full of praise for the new version. In a lively moment, sour guy goes ballistic over Sarah Palin, which prompts another poster to inquire about PMS. Generally the board gives a gentleman's C to Alec and friends, but there are lots of nits and niggles.

There's no thread for the second season of Celebrity Family Feud, of course. Steve Harvey is the board's bĂȘte noire.

Monday, July 4, 2016

One more story

ABC's 100K Pyramid is already getting absorbed into the usual fabric of game show media coverage.

A local Fresno station ran a report on substitute teacher Cody Ashford, who played the game with SNL alums Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer. The report had the usual glimpses of the watch party (at home instead of a bar) and noted sadly that Cody didn't make it to the winners circle. But he did win a trip to Greece in a Mystery 7 round. He plans to take the trip next summer.

There's absolutely nothing unusual about the contestant story, which is the telling point. 100K Pyramid has become just another U.S. game show in a long, long line of them, dating all the way back (as Buzzr reminds us) to that one-time run of Truth or Consequences in 1941. At least ABC's remake of the aged format shows early signs of sticking around, thanks to good news from the Nielsen company.

Which means a lot more contestant stories to come.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Different degrees of pop culture

On a pop culture site called Elite Daily, a writer seems somewhat shocked that a Kanye West question on Jeopardy stumped the contestants.

"One would think anyone with internet access would have known the name of Kanye's latest album, by sheer virtue of how often his name comes up," the writer harrumphs. He also tosses in an annoying, ageist and condescending comment. "Now, yes, Jeopardy seems like it only features contestants who are over 40, who spend way more nights retiring to their studies — because you know they definitely have studies instead of living rooms — than they do watching MTV."

This guy never saw the teen and college tournaments on Jeopardy, I guess. He obviously spends far more time rotting his brain on MTV than watching a game show that actually requires people to use their brains.

Oh, I'm turning too grumpy in my old age. Different strands of pop culture for different folks, right? But the writer's attitude does get irritating.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Return of the Larson

Buzzr will run the Michael Larson episodes of Press Your Luck this month, according to a promo from the oldies diginet.

That's not really huge news. The eps are readily available on YouTube, both as standalone videos and as part of GSN's 2003 Big Bucks documentary on the Larson rumpus. The saga of how Michael broke the big board and became sort of rich and sort of famous is no doubt familiar to any regular reader of this blog. But it's still an intriguing tale of a ne'er do well underdog outwitting CBS and bagging over a hundred grand.

Larson's bio is more than a little depressing. He died broke and on the run from a federal investigation (unrelated to Press Your Luck, of course). The guy was not the most honest gentlemen who ever graced our genre, but he did something nobody else ever did. And he figured it all out by just watching a game show.

Buzzr is also planning an original series called Game Changers. Alex Trebek will interview game show worthies like Vanna White. This may be the closest Buzzr will ever get to airing Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Politics ain't beanbag, it's BLANK

As a faux tweet noted, ABC's Match Game is already catching flak for one-sided politics. Most notably, an anti-Trump question on the debut ep allowed Rosie O'Donnell to restart her long (and boring) feud with the politico.

Well, maybe the show is going for some balance...or fireworks, if Rosie is around on a certain episode. Tucked away on a list of future panelists is none other than GOP firebrand Sarah Palin. If she's on the same panel with the equally fervent Rosie, we might get some mutual hair-pulling (speaking figuratively, of course).

The NY Daily News has some fun with another possibility. "Could it be a hoot seeing how the staunch Republican rolls with the show's famously liberal host Alec Baldwin? You betcha." I dunno, Alec kept his edgier side under control in the show's debut, so he might play the gentleman.

Nah. Sounds like some evil fun could be coming.

UPDATE: Sadly, Rosie and Sarah won't be doing hugs and giggles. Inside Edition reports that the other two female panelists on Sarah Palin's ep are Leah Remini and Kristin Chenoweth.