Wednesday, August 31, 2016

That unavoidable Mr. Harvey

Somehow it always comes back to Steve Harvey.

My recent posts about GSN and Game Show Forum have provoked a lot of comment, as I knew they would. And sure enough, one of the primary bones of contention is the gentleman pictured in this entry. Steve Harvey and his Family Feud always seem to be the traditionalist's Exhibits A and B for how GSN and game shows in general have gone to hell in a handbasket.

Funny thing, I've been critical of Steve's Feud myself. Not  for the mildly off-color humor, which I don't mind at all. (I really don't think the traditionalists mind it, either, but it makes a convenient whipping boy in their dismissal of the show.) Instead, I'm not thrilled with how he has transformed Family Feud into the Steve Harvey standup act.

But the numbers don't lie. Sure, Steve benefits from Nielsen kindly adding up all the ratings for Feud's zillion daily runs. He has still revitalized a show that was running dangerously close to empty after decades on the air. Anyway, I noticed this AV Club piece today about Steve and the weird questions he gets on his talk show. As the writer notes, he really has become the "all-purpose host of basically everything."

And that sets off a lot of hollering on the game show Interwebs.

UPDATE: The latest on Mr. Harvey is an involved legal tangle over some footage shot at his comedy club in 1993. Nothing like 23-year-old tapes to get a lawyer's juices flowing. Hollywood Reporter offers all the tedious details.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ratings: hardly a smidgen of change for the syndies

Talk about boring weeks. Family Feud moved one tenth of one point for the week of August 15-21. And that was it for the syndie game shows. TV News Check has the thrilling household ratings...

Family Feud 6.0 - up that one tick
Wheel of Fortune 5.2 - flat
Jeopardy 4.9 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.1 - flat
Millionaire 1.1 - guess what, flat!

I know you can't stand the excitement, either. Meanwhile, ABC's game show lineup has seen better days. Celebrity Family Feud and 100K Pyramid got about 5.7 million viewers on Sunday, August 28. As usual, Match Game trailed behind with 4.8 million. Okay for the August dog days, but not nearly as impressive as earlier this summer.

No matter what the weather guy says, GSN enjoyed a warm but not sizzling August. 406K/279K/404K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 40th, 34th and 39th in the windows.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The spice of life

As I expected, a lot of comments rolled up on my previous post about GSN and Game Show Forum. By now I've gotten a pretty good feel for which posts are going to provoke the most reactions.

One of the comments was the old chestnut about how GSN needs more "variety" in the schedule. As I replied in a comment of my own, the v-word is just code for "more old stuff." (Used to see this complaint all the time on GSN's old Internet board.)

And as I also pointed out, a lot of GSN's schedule has gathered a lot of dust, anyway. Today, for instance, the first three hours are more than thirty years old, the next two hours are more than ten years old, and three hours in the afternoon are more than nine years old. This has to be one of the older schedules for any cabler outside the dedicated oldies networks. (I also mentioned that Game Show Forum likes the dust a foot thick, so the schedule probably looks fifteen minutes old to them.)

As for variety, today GSN runs twelve different shows: Match Game, Card Sharks, Press Your Luck, Pyramid, Lingo, Family Feud, Chain Reaction, Catch 21, Deal or No Deal, Winsanity, Newlywed Game and Baggage.

But as the infomercials say, wait, there's more. The schedule also has two versions of Card Sharks, two versions of Pyramid and three versions of Feud.

It's certainly more variety than the new Buzzr weekday schedule has on tap. If out of all these GSN offerings covering nearly forty years of game shows, you can't find something to like...well, maybe you should try soap operas or sitcoms instead.

UPDATE: Game Show Forum has finally started rolling out their top 50 list. Looks like it will take a while to get through all of them. The bottom five 46-50 are Twenty One, He Said She Said/Tattletales, Win Lose or Draw, College Bowl and Weakest Link. I would have left the first three off my list entirely. One was rigged and the other two just weren't good enough. (Win Lose or Draw did not make GSF's 2006 top 50 list, by the way.) But all three have plenty of age on them, so it's no surprise to see them on GSF's 2016 list.

The average age of these selections is a whopping 42 years, dating from the year of the first regular U.S. TV run. My guess is that the average age of the entire list will end up close to this number. By and large I expect a moldering list from deep in the game show crypt. This is the oldies board to end 'em all, you know. Only four dozen people voted in the poll, compared to 80 in 2006. Which shows that Game Show Forum itself is starting to wither on the vine, as one brave poster points out on the thread.

A funny note: at GSF almost all the objections to the bottom five selections center on Weakest Link. Hey, the show is only 15 years old. How dare such "modern" stuff sneak onto our list!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

No respect, I tell ya

It's a truism that GSN gets little or no respect on the traditionalist game show Interwebs.

The basic "problem," if you can call it that, is GSN's need to compete in the real world of commercial television. To the everlasting displeasure of posters on Game Show Forum and other oldies-fan outlets, this means no 12-hour marathons of, say, Jackpot or Split Second. (These obscure oldies appeared on GSF's 2006 list of the 50 greatest game shows ever, as you would expect if you ever glance at the board).

But it's still a little annoying when this casual snobbery toward GSN crops up on the Internet. As I noted a while back, the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's is running a second "50 greatest" list. The votes - numbering in the thousands, I'm sure - are all in but they haven't announced the winners yet. Apparently they're building the suspense, because the world is waiting with bated breath.

Okay, enough sarcasm. The results will roll out sooner or later, I guess. Meanwhile, we get these sorts of comments on the thread: "I could see someone tossing a vote to Gambit, but Catch 21? Really? For me it's not even best of breed among the GSN shows (and closer to the bottom of the barrel but for the end game.)"

Truth be told, Catch 21 isn't a big favorite of mine, either. But is it really all that much worse than Jackpot or Split Second...or Gambit, for that matter? And the hand-waving dismissal of "the GSN shows" is aggravating. I would seriously consider the network's Lingo (Woolery) and The Chase for top ten status. And my top 50 list would also include GSN's Russian Roulette, Inquizition, Chain Reaction (Catherwood) and Baggage.

If they'd consider it a game show, High Stakes Poker would get on there, too. But that's asking way too much of Game Show Forum. In fact, The Chase and Lingo in the top ten is asking way too much.

UPDATE: Happened to see a rerun of Catherwood Chain Reaction on GSN last night. What a terrific show! This episode was particularly good because it was close through the first three rounds. And the winning team almost nailed the bonus round speed chain, though they fell sadly short on the last word.

If Chain Reaction gets onto the new Game Show Forum list at all, it will only happen because of the older, duller versions from the 1980s. But no matter. Hey, GSN, make some more eps of the show with Mike Catherwood. Your version really is one of the top 50 game shows of all time.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Last chance?

Millionaire has put out a press release for the new season.

Which is a little remarkable, because lots of people (I plead guilty!) were afraid there wouldn't be a new season. The downgraded timeslots in many markets, particularly New York City, crushed the ratings. Yes, the numbers were still pretty much on par with Celebrity Name Game, and that show never seemed in too much trouble. But the Nielsen downdraft did carry the stench of (TV) death with it.

Somehow, though, the show is back for another go-round. This time the money tree grows in Las Vegas, land of last hopes and long shots. The new eps on September 12 can't arrive too soon, because the telltale household rating is barely holding in the low ones. Sure, we're now in the 2000-channel universe - not to mention over-the-top delivery and the Internet in general - and ratings in the low ones ain't nearly as bad as they used to be. But they ain't great, either.

There don't seem to be any changes in gameplay, and the show will run through the usual specials. The bachelors and bachelorettes from host Chris Harrison's other life will return. There's a kids week and a Vegas celeb week (with Wayne Newton!) and a vets week and a hometown heroes week.

Let's just hope this won't be the last set of weeks for the venerable format.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Birthday boy

Monty Hall turned 95 this week and Buzzr sent out a press release touting some "new" (to the diginet) eps of Let's Make a Deal and Beat the Clock. Legend has it that Monty wasn't particularly thrilled with the version of BtC that he hosted, but we'll let that slide.

In a way that few game show hosts can emulate, Monty is Let's Make a Deal. He owned and produced the show and was generally the boss of everything. He even got a math problem named after him from the show, inspired by switching those infamous doors in the big deal.

Monty has received a lifetime achievement Emmy and countless other awards, as the Buzzr press release notes. It's been quite a ride for the Canadian kid who started out on a Winnipeg radio station in the 1940s. After hosting various forgettable efforts, Monty struck bartering gold with Let's Make a Deal in 1963. The show has seemingly run forever in one version of another, and it's still cranking away on CBS.

Everybody wants to make a good deal and is afraid of making a bad deal. That simple truth has kept LMAD in business for more than a half-century. Here's wishing many more happy birthdays for Monty.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

September follies

We're sitting around right now, waiting for new game show eps next month. There are two big debut dates on the docket.

Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Family Feud all kick off on September 12. Buy a Vowel tells me that WoF will start with teachers week. They know everything about the show, so I believe them. Meanwhile, Millionaire debuts its new Vegas eps in what could be a make or break season. The elderly quizzer has taken up residence in the Nielsen basement. I've heard some rumblings about better timeslots in a few markets this year, so maybe Chris and Harrison and friends might survive. Or maybe not.

The CBS daytime epics, The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal, begin their new skeins on September 19, along with Celebrity Name Game. TPiR became an institution decades ago, kind of like the Smithsonian. LMAD may be on the way to the same status. Craig Ferguson's lively Pyramid knockoff has somewhat surprisingly endured through the daytime syndie wars, where casualties are frequent and bloody. It helps that he's a very talented host.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


The NFL season starts soon (I think) and this story from a sports site is pretty typical. Except for the game show reference.

New England coach Bill Belichick mentioned $64,000 Question during a press conference. The sports site helpfully tells its readers that the show was "the 50s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire." The writer ignores that little rumpus about the show and other 1950s game shows. Or maybe he just doesn't know about it.

$64,000 Question wasn't as blatantly rigged as, say, Twenty One. But the pushy sponsor Revlon still tried to manipulate results in ways that would make modern-day S&P people apoplectic. Wikipedia (usual caveats) offers a good summary of the shenanigans.

Despite its iffy reputation $64,000 Question gets at least a little respect. The show appeared on GSN's top 50 special, TV Guide's top 60 list, and Game Show Forum's 50 greatest list. I don't want to sound like a prig, guys, but the show really doesn't deserve a place on such honor rolls. These odorous 1950s efforts should go on a separate list. Let's call them Rigged But Important.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ratings: that corrupt and boring sports show whacks the syndies

Thank heavens the Olympics are finally over. But before the endless sports show stumbled to a halt, it inflicted a lot of Nielsen damage on syndie game shows. They all got creamed. TV News Check has the discouraging household ratings for the week of August 8-14...

Family Feud 5.9 - down five ticks, even with its zillions of daily runs
Wheel of Fortune 5.2 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 4.9 - down three ticks to a season low
Celebrity Name Game 1.1 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 1.1 - down a tick

Next month the reruns will end at last, and the numbers might start perking up.

GSN continued to have less than stellar ratings by recent years' standards in the week of August 15-21. 359K/262K/362K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 42nd, 34th and 42nd in the windows. Winsanity is clearing hurting the prime time average.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Scenes from a life

So I watched an ep of Match Game '78 on GSN this morning.

The star wheel was just a week old and Gene Rayburn was still explaining its intricacies. Richard Dawson looked extremely displeased whenever the star wheel appeared or was referred to. (He would much later denounce the gadget as a "slight" to himself. He liked getting picked all the time for the big money match.)

But this entry isn't about the star wheel (mostly). Instead, an actress named Didi Carr was sitting in the bottom-left bimbo seat. I had never heard of her. So I went on a Google hunt after the show. And I got some interesting bits of a life.

In 1978 Didi Carr was making a living on a short-lived sitcom called Sugar Time about an an aspiring all-girl pop group. The show departed after one season and took the fictional group with it. On the Match Game ep I watched, Didi was wearing a t-shirt with Gloria Steinem's famous blast: "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." I thought, this might be a low-key protest against the entire concept of the bimbo seat. Maybe I was right, Didi didn't say.

The post-show Google hunt turned up this 2001 bio of the now Didi Carr Reuben (she had left show business and married a rabbi named Steven Reuben). The bio revealed that the rebbetzin - which I learned was a rabbi's wife - was "an atheist, hard-core." Hm, that seemed to fit with the t-shirt on Match Game. I moved on to this 2014 YouTube video of the rabbi's wife, talking about a friend of hers named Susan Whitmore.

Finally, I found this post from the couple's son Gable in 2015 about a fire at Steven and Didi Reuben's house. Luckily nobody was hurt. Life goes on, and Google and YouTube are sometimes there to document it.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mr. Barry goes to late night TV

One of the more interesting threads in the game show Interwebs lives on Game Show Paradise. It's called "Game Show Hosts in Other Media" and it talks about game show figures (not always hosts) and their appearances outside the genre.

A July 10 entry noted Jack Barry's February 21, 1971 turn on Dick Cavett's talk show. By an odd coincidence I mentioned Dick Cavett in an entry a few days ago. A commenter wrote that diginet Decades - yeah, I've barely heard of it, too - runs Cavett's old chatfest. The Barry episode turned up on the subchannel last month.

Louis Armstrong headlined the ep, as the screenshot shows. Satchmo looked frail and, sadly, he would die just a few months after the taping. Oddly enough, I remember Barry's appearance on the episode, though I've never seen it again in the past 35 years. As I recall, he was rather defensive about the rigging scandals - no surprise - and talked about how an unnamed politician tried to make hay on the rumpus. (Manhattan prosecutor Joseph Stone, maybe? He hauled everybody in front of a grand jury.)

I couldn't find Jack Barry's interview on the Internet. If we get lucky, somebody might upload it to YouTube.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

They want you

Usually I send casting calls to the faux tweets. But on the weekend I need something to write about at a little more length.

This call just popped up on the Reality Wanted website. The format for the prospective game show sounds a bit different from the usual trivia galas.
Are you great at trivia? Do you know a little bit about everything; sports, current events and pop culture? Can you debate, convince and persuade anyone to side with you in an argument? Are you ready to test your knowledge and win BIG CASH while you are doing it? If you are street or book smart, opinionated and outgoing, we want to meet you!
"Outgoing" and "BIG CASH" are standard, but "persuade anyone to side with you in an argument" is a little unusual. This format might require contestants not just to know their trivia, but to convince other people that they know it. I'm more than a little weary of pop culture quizzers, but this could be an encouraging new wrinkle in the sub-genre.

We'll see if a real show materializes from the call. It's a "major cable network" doing the casting, anyway.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Gossip column

Nothing like silly gossip on a slow Friday morning. Or maybe it's not completely silly but who cares?

A site called Gossip Cop, which I had never heard of, is denying a report by another site called Life & Style, which I had also never heard of. Apparently, these sites are in the gossip business, which is a semi-legal way to make a living. The gossip this time is pretty tepid, though. It's just about a game show.

One of the sites is saying that the other site is wrong when they say that Michael Strahan doesn't want Kelly Ripa on 100K Pyramid. Yeah, I know you don't care, either, but this is a full-service game show blog. I have to report lots of weird stuff that turns up on the game show Interwebs.

Kelly Ripa has never shown up on Celebrity Name Game or any of the more recent versions of Pyramid, so I have no idea how she would do as a celeb contestant. She couldn't be worse than Anthony Anderson, right? Whether she ever appears on 100K Pyramid is not something I will lose sleep over. But I have to admit, it would be kinda fun to hear her banter back and forth with the host about old times...and old gossip.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Music is in the air

Our little genre appears ready to burst into song. We've got Caraoke Showdown, Beat Shazam and Tracks, all based on music in one (hopefully) tuneful way or another. As a faux tweet noted, Tracks will debut September 1 on Spike with Bow Wow, known to his lawyers as Shad Moss, handling the hosting chores.

Showrunner Christina Aguilera will put in appearances on the debut eps. Contestants will have to name that tune (sound familiar?) based only on individual tracks of guitar, bass, drums, etc. This actually sounds like an interesting idea. We'll see how it plays out (sorry) in practice.

The promo makes Tracks look like a concert occasionally interrupted by a game show. Spike probably wants to lure music fans of the younger variety to avoid the dreaded old skew, that fabled curse of the genre. Lip Sync Battle will precede the debut eps, which should give Tracks a decent lead-in audience to work with. Good luck on the tune fest.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

That horrible, godawful, poopie-pants new Buzzr schedule

When Fremantle first unleashed the oldies diginet Buzzr on a waiting world, the reaction from the traditionalist game show Interwebs was happy happy joy joy.

Well, there's not a whole lotta happy or a big bunch of joy any more. Buzzr gets slammed regularly for running the same eps of the same shows into fine dust particles. Now the subchannel is changing its weekday schedule to Match Game and Family Feud and more Match Game and more Family Feud, and the cries and whimpers are resounding ever louder. A few examples from Buzzr's Facebook page...
Even GSN mixes in more shows before they go Steve Harvey crazy, and if you're to the point that your rerunning is worse than GSN, it's a sign that you're in significant trouble.

Way too overboard with the Feud like "that other network."

I love Match Game and Family Feud but I can't watch them anymore as I've seen the same episodes over and over again.

I guess the people at Buzzr are clueless so I won't be watching anymore when you overload Match Game and Feud.
The comparisons to GSN are particularly cutting by the standards of the older-is-better bunch. They're like Godwin's Law comparisons to Hitler in political threads.

The tiny corps of hardcore oldies fans on the game show Interwebs is starting to realize a terrible truth. Like the evil GSN, Buzzr is not a taxpayer-supported museum of obscure old game shows. Both operations have to make a buck in the nasty and brutish world of real competition.

The dream of a 24/7 display of ancient obscurities like Whew and Hot Potato just ain't gonna happen. When ABC decided to remake game shows, they didn't say, "Let's re-do Child's Play! Zillions of people want to see that!" Instead, they remade...Family Feud and Match Game. That's because a measurable group of viewers actually knows about these shows and might like new versions.

Even in the limited world of oldies diginets, Antenna didn't go after reruns of, say, Dick Cavett's talk show. Instead, they went for (surprise!) Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Why? Because more viewers beyond a tiny clique of fanatical purists might want to watch it.

Buzzr is already skating on the thinnest ice. They're appealing to a niche within a niche, oldies fans within the already limited population of game show fans. Is it any real surprise that they're loading up on the tried and true?

Buzzr strips down

The title of this entry sounds a little risqué.

Don't worry. Oldies diginet Buzzr isn't running long-lost eps of To Tell the Truth with a stripped Kitty Carlisle. But the subchannel is running a promo about a new schedule coming August 29. Based on what is showing right now, it looks like a peeled-down lineup that emphasizes the top names in oldie game shows. In other words, there's a load of Match Game and Family Feud. Six hours a day of each of them, in fact.

There are also six hours of the three black and white stalwarts, To Tell the Truth, What's My Line and I've Got a Secret. In something of a surprise, the non-color shows get two hours of prime time. This subchannel is not worried about demos.

You might notice that we're down to just six other hours in the day. That time goes to Let's Make a Deal, Press Your Luck, Card Sharks and Blockbusters. So weekdays will only feature nine different shows. Getting the heave-ho from the weekday schedule are Tattletales, Body Language, Super Password (sigh, one of the few shows I actually watched on Buzzr) and Child's Play.

Buzzr must have gathered some numbers on which shows are actually attracting a measurable audience. Those "winners" - relatively speaking for a very marginal diginet - will get a workout on the new schedule, while the losers get discarded. (Weekends may feature a few different shows.) Buzzr also promises some new eps of their shows starting August 29.

In a humorous note, some commenters on Buzzr's Facebook page are yelping that the diginet is going all GSN with the overload of Family Feud and Match Game. Comparing Buzzr to GSN? Them's fightin' words for the older-is-better crowd.

UPDATE: As gets further into the future, it looks like a couple eps of Super Password sneak back onto the Buzzr schedule (yay!) at 7:00 AM Eastern on Thursday, September 1. But the new schedule remains dominated (18 hours a day) by the Match Game/Family Feud duo and the black and white trio.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ratings: syndies tick up and down

There were no big changes for syndie game shows in the August 1-7 week. We're just coasting along in reruns, waiting for the new eps next month. TV News Check has the so-so household ratings...

Family Feud 6.4 - down two ticks but still leads
Wheel of Fortune 5.4 - up a couple ticks from last week's season low
Jeopardy 5.2 - up a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat
Millionaire 1.3 - flat

I've been a bore about this, but the comparison between Family Feud and Wheel of Fortune is ridiculously unfair. Feud gets to add up all the household ratings for as many as four runs each day. Wheel has to earn its entire rating from a single daily run.

These hour by hour ratings from Atlanta show the effect. Sure, it's only one market, though a large one (ninth in the U.S.) None of Feud's daily runs get more than a 2.0 household rating. In fact, Wheel clobbers Feud head-to-head at 7:00 PM, 5.0 to 1.4. It's the same story at 7:30 PM when Jeopardy wipes out Feud, 5.6 to 2.0.

But add up all of Feud's four daily runs, and suddenly its numbers look really big in the weekly reports.

GSN had its worst week in a while for August 8-14. (Hint: Winsanity isn't helping.) 383K/258K/378K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 38th, 36th and 40th in the windows. These rankings show that it's not just that corrupt and boring sports show on NBC. GSN is slipping against other cable nets that have to compete with the Olympics.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The honest contestant

Anybody who's ever watched any version of Pyramid has noticed how civvie contestants get stuck with, let's say, not so brilliant celebs sometimes. On the old '70s and '80s eps, Bob Stewart tried to minimize the imbalance by using the same tried and true celebs over and over. But even back in the old days there was often a clear difference in competence between the two celebrities.

A recent contestant story about a civvie named Logan Kimberly makes this uncomfortable point. Logan wants to be nice to all concerned because he did win a fair amount of money on ABC's 100K Pyramid. But he still can't help noting that one of the celebs on his ep, Daymond John, was a lot better at the game than the other one, Barbara Corcoran. (Both celebs hail from Shark Tank, for those who don't know.) Logan puts it this way.
When people tell me about how they felt Barbara did when she was my partner I usually just laugh and say "Well, at least I got her to say the f-word on national TV." Both celebrities were nice to work with, and though Daymond was definitely the better player, Barbara was a little more talkative/cordial in between takes.
Maybe we have to give celebs brownie points for being talkative and cordial. Even if they're not the best Pyramid players. It's a tough format, after all.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Bert's best

Rambling in the game show Interwebs, I came across a poll on Bert Convy's best show.

You might say the poll got a small sample: 14 votes. In a failure of democracy Tattletales beat Super Password 7-5. Which probably means that relationship shows (and distant ancestors of reality TV) are more popular than word games. No accounting for taste.

Super Password is a rare example of a remake substantially improving on the original. (The top example, of course, is the 1973-82 Match Game, which blew away the stuffy 1960s version.) The first take of Password was a studiously dull game that only came alive in the lightning round. Which Bob Stewart would notice, much to his credit and good fortune.

But if you can't make the whole game the lightning round and call it Pyramid, you can still make Password faster and more interesting with clever additions to the gameplay. That's what Password Plus and Super Password did to the stilted one-word-clue format.

Beyond the gameplay revisions, Bert Convy was also a funnier and less owlish host than Allen Ludden. He always had a hint of naughtiness, which played well (pun intended) on what could still have been a dry, educational-TV format. And even my grumpy self has to admit that he was just fine on Tattletales, too.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The ornery contestant

Yesterday I posted about a well-prepared contestant. Today I'll post about a crotchety contestant. Except he wasn't actually a contestant. And it all happened a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. (There I go with the Star Wars stuff again. And I don't even like the movies.)

Back before inflation when Pyramid was still on ten grand in the mid-1970s, a guy named Donnie Johnston tried out for the show. He was a fan of 10K Pyramid and went to watch a taping. Afterwards he got an invite to audition as a contestant.

Sadly, the audition didn't go so well. Donnie explains that the show "wanted only smiley, happy contestants who didn't rock the boat." In fact, that's not true at all. Quite a few Pyramid contestants have been other than smiley, happy types. The real problem was that our grumpy wannabe got into an argument with an assistant producer over a clue about Harvey, the old Jimmy Stewart movie.

Long story short, he never made it to 10K Pyramid. He seems to have nursed a grudge ever since. At least he got an amusing web column out of the experience.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The well-prepared contestant

Once upon a time there was a contestant on syndie Millionaire named Molly Rubin.

She ended up relieving the show, during its one season with host Terry Crews, of $68,100. Now she's written a long story about how she prepared for the quizzer. And Molly Rubin happens to be the preparation freak of all time. Long before she got to Millionaire, she was googling every possible professor she might have in college. "I don't like leaving things to chance," says Molly in a whopping understatement.

Her prep for Millionaire included Excel spreadsheets and mathematical decision trees constructed with her father, "an admitted math wonk." She finally got the decision rules down right (or as right as she and her "dad-genius" could make them) and went off to the taping. Under the lights and the pressure, she worked her way up to the hundred grand question before finally walking away with her loot.

Oddly, her obsessive prep fails her a little for the article itself. She still lists syndie Millionaire's rules as including all that randomization jazz. (Yes, that was the format she played.) Molly, they've switched back to the classic format. The random nonsense is gone.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Knowing GSN

It's been a while since I dropped by GSN The Know, one of the many sites in the sidebar blogroll. But I happened to see this entry from earlier this month.

The entry is a grab bag of stuff, from the layoffs at GSN Games - I saw something about that in Google News - to a comparison of GSN to Buzzr. On the traditionalist older-is-better game show Interwebs, GSN will always come off worse in these matchups. Which doesn't bother GSN at all, since they're so far ahead of Buzzr in what literally counts (the Nielsen stats) that the oldies diginet might as well not exist.

The entry quotes one anti-GSN rant which denounces Shandi Finnessey, the co-host of Lingo, as "downright trashy, flirty, no class at all." In fact, Shandi pretty much saved the show, which was doing poorly after the so-so third season with Stacey Hayes. Shandi restored the ratings luster and helped keep Lingo going for three more seasons. Even when it was finally cancelled by then-new GSN president David Goldhill in 2008, Lingo was still one of the top-rated shows on the network. Goldhill was just getting rid of every original he inherited from previous president Rich Cronin.

Oh well, GSN will always catch these catcalls on the Interwebs. Who cares?

UPDATE: One more bit about GSN. Winsanity is croaking in the ratings. I left this note on Game Show Network News, which mentioned competition with that boring and corrupt sports show. "The Olympics are just a poor excuse. Winsanity has completely fallen off the cable rankings versus other cable shows that have to compete with the Olympics, too. The show is dead. I'll also predict that Window Whatever will crash and burn. GSN's reality shows don't work unless they've got naked girls."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The empire strikes again

Did I ever mention that I'm not a fan of Star Wars? So I feel a little weird stealing the reference in this entry's title.

But I couldn't resist because this Forbes story tells how Shazam's "empire" keeps growing. I didn't even know Shazam had an empire. But the music app has apparently spawned a company that's valued at $1 billion even though it never makes any money. (Doesn't that sound familiar in the online world?)

As a faux tweet and the linked story mention, the app has also spawned an upcoming game show on Fox from semi-legendary producer Mark Burnett. Beat Shazam sounds like a app-y Name That Tune, where contestants play against each other to, well, name a tune, and then play against the high and mighty Shazam itself.

Other than the basic premise, nobody's offering many details about the show. No debut date, no host, not much of anything. Fox just cancelled Burnett's dating epic Coupled, but they seem to like this game show idea of his. Or maybe they're just buying into the Shazam empire.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ratings: Wheel hits multi-year low

TV News Check seems to delight in Wheel of Fortune's recent ratings woes. The site notes that Pat and Vanna hit a nearly four-year low for the week of July 25-31. If it's any consolation, Steve didn't have his best week, either. And Wheel could always get back to the top slot simply by adding another daily run and its probable two or three household rating. Anyway, all the numbers...

Family Feud 6.6 - down four ticks, could have been better and of course this is the sum of many daily runs
Wheel of Fortune 5.2 - down a tick for its one and only daily run
Jeopardy 5.1 - actually up a tick, yay!
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - up a tick and back to its seemingly inevitable rating
Millionaire 1.2 - flat

Reruns of ABC's Sunday night game show block still drew an average of over three million viewers despite competition from that sporting event run by one of the world's most corrupt organizations. Not bad.

GSN didn't have its best week for August 1-7. 421K/285K/415K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 38th, 33rd and 36th in the windows.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Trying out

George Gray, Rachel Reynolds and a bunch of wannabe The Price is Right contestants showed up at the Sycuan Casino in San Diego. George made the obvious point that enthusiasm counts. Yep, when the music's blaring and the crowd is yelling and George is booming "come on down," you don't want Eeyore contestants moping their way through the proceedings.

The local San Diego CBS station says they will pick two contestants from the audition and one will get a guaranteed chance at contestants row. Thanks to federal law they can’t guarantee anybody any winnings. But you can't win if you don't even get a chance to play.

TPiR has been at their game for a few years now. So the staff probably has a pretty good idea of who would make a good contestant and who wouldn't. I can honestly say that I would be the world's worst person - and that literally includes every adult human being on the planet - to play The Price is Right. I can't remember the price of anything, and my enthusiasm for the pricing games would run out real quick.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dream on

As if top fifty lists aren't crazy enough, those dream game show schedules also crop up on the Interwebs now and then.

Game Show Paradise has a few of the more recent wish list schedules for our enjoyment. One thing I noticed is that the current rash of game show revivals isn't confined to actual TV networks. The rewinds have invaded the dream schedules as well. And there are some doozy ideas out there. Like Joe Rogan (!) hosting a new TV version of the cutesy NPR effort Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.

If there's anybody who doesn't seem like an NPR kind of guy, it's the anarcho-libertarian Rogan. (Check the screenshot of him wearing a Ron Paul t-shirt). Another poster wants to put Mo Rocca on a Wait Wait TV reboot, which seems more believable. But I doubt that the fey NPR show could survive in the tough unsubsidized world of commercial TV, with any host.

Then there's Al Roker hosting a Concentration revival. Sorry, but his brief turn on Celebrity Family Feud proved that as a game show host, Al makes a great weatherman. Some even more offbeat ideas turn up. Like a return of the shopping round on Wheel of Fortune (yeah, that stuff was golden TV, as Pat Sajak once sardonically observed) and the notion that Jeopardy will leave syndication after its 32nd season (don't hold your breath).

Like almost all dream schedules on the game show Interwebs, there's a ton of old stuff. Even really bad old stuff, like Kennedy's misbegotten Friend or Foe. But now a lot of the old stuff on the dream lists is coming back in revivals with some, er, unusual hosts.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Live with Mark

Later this month Let's Make a Deal's live show will turn up at the Eagle Mountain Casino in California. Host Mark Walberg phoned an interview to a Fresno TV station to promote the prize-and-zonk event. Mark sounded a little hazy about the details of these particular shows - ticket prices, show times, etc. But he does so many of these events that such details probably do seem unimportant to him after a while.

As readers of this blog may know, I'm a big fan of Mark's. I've always wished that he could have hosted a really successful TV game show. He's competent, charming and quick-witted without seeming slick or overly prepared. He's one of those guys I would put on a list of the fifty top game show hosts, ahead of most of the big names from the past.

While Let's Make a Deal's live show hasn't been as successful as its counterpart from The Price is Right, the LMAD stage event has made its way here and there across the U.S. (At one point in the interview Mark inadvertently used the "come on down" phrase from TPiR and made a little joke about it.) Ticket prices for the Eagle Mountain shows are $30 and $40. Doesn't seem like too much for a chance to win...or get zonked. Plus you get to wear wild and crazy costumes.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Three obvious renewals and one not so obvious

In what has to be a clunking anticlimax, ABC has renewed all three of its Sunday night game shows.

This was a no-brainer because the shows usually won the night in total viewers and even the almighty 18-49 demo. A little more surprising was the renewal of To Tell the Truth, which got lower ratings but still did okay by ABC standards in its timeslot. Conspicuously absent was a renewal for 500 Questions, which performed worse than any of the more fun-and-games efforts. My intuition about the show's chances is not so positive.

The reboot trend in the genre may be spreading like buzzer fungus. VH1 is bringing back Hip Hop Squares, which was itself a rewind of Hollywood Squares. Wumors are wunning wampant (apologies to Baba Wawa) about new versions of everything from Press Your Luck to Password. Nick even trotted out a live version of Double Dare, and the Legends of the Hidden Temple TV movie is bearing down on us. Nostalgic comfort-food TV looks to be in demand, at least in the summer months.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Singin' in the cab

As I mentioned when Spike announced the greenlight for Caraoke Showdown, the project has provoked some squawking from James Corden's producers. There's more than a passing similarity to Corden's Carpool Karaoke segments, which goes beyond the like-sounding names. Now Craig Robinson, the host of the upcoming Spike game show, has talked to Hollywood Reporter about those complaints.

"I hope he's [James Corden's] not upset," says Craig apologetically. He points out that the Spike show will give the mic to "regular people on a game show, not great singers [on a late-night show]." In fact, the game show element of Caraoke Showdown is probably what will save us from legal wrangling.

Craig also has peace offerings of praise for James and his various talents. "He's a great host - I've been on his show and we did a duet, and it was right up my alley. He gets it. I have nothing but respect for him...I know he can sing his ass off." Robinson does admit he hasn't seen any of the Carpool Karaoke segments, but he expects to get bombarded with them on his Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


What’s left of what used to be Matt Ottinger’s board is doing another list of the fifty best game shows.

I've done some lists over the years but I've gotten out of the silly habit. I always forget some show or struggle to get the rankings "right" (as if there's any real right or wrong in such a subjective appraisal). So other than opining that the 1973-82 Match Game is my favorite game show ever and that includes everything, I've pretty well given up on list-making.

I did have to smile at the most honest comment on the oldies board to end all oldies boards.
I do look forward to revisiting my list to see what shows might have changed positions, in my mind. I wonder how many new shows I might add (I'm pretty critical of the "newer" stuff, so I doubt I'll have that many).
Yeah, I think it's safe to say that Game Show Forum will not go gaga over any show with less than decades of dust on it. Another poster wondered about a list of greatest game show hosts ever, and made a similarly honest older-is-better remark.
As it pertains to hosts there's really not anyone in that last ten years who has come on strong that was unrecognized previously (I could give Chris Hardwick a minor asterisk on the strength of At Midnight, and if Millionaire runs another nine years Chris Harrison), but the point is that someone who gets on your chart has to bump off Jack Narz, Dennis James, or any of those other guys who are just above the Mendoza Line, and I don't see Jeff Foxworthy, Brooke Burns or Mike Richards doing that.
At Midnight isn't even a real game show, and Chris Harrison either gets onto the list or he doesn't, regardless of Millionaire's survival. But if Dennis James and Jack Narz make the list - both mediocrities in my harsh opinion - Steve Harvey, Craig Ferguson, Jeff Foxworthy, Ben Bailey and Howie Mandel land on the honor roll with ease. Though I hardly expect Game Show Forum to agree with me. (Especially about Harvey. He's the board's favorite hate object.)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ratings: bad week for the soulmates

The week of July 18-24 was rough on the Sony soulmates, which often got preempted by the GOP convention. Alex hit a new season low, in fact. But Steve continued to lead all of syndication. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 7.0 - flat
Wheel of Fortune 5.3 - down five ticks
Jeopardy 5.0 - down six ticks to the new season low
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - down a tick, it finally changes but not for the better
Millionaire 1.2 - flat

There's an intriguing note from the linked story about syndie tryout Page Six TV. "The show's [Page Six TV's] best market was Atlanta, where it grew 23% in its second week to a 2.7 rating/5 share in households on WAGA, beating syndication veterans Family Feud and Big Bang Theory by 59% and 69% head-to-head."

It's only one market and the tryout didn't do nearly as well in other cities. But this note means that the particular run of Family Feud opposite Page Six got a 1.7 household rating in Atlanta.

As I've often commented, Feud's ratings are the sum of all its daily runs, up to four a day in some markets. The individual runs don't produce anything close to the 7.0 household rating listed this week. Wheel of Fortune, on the famous other hand, only gets one daily run. It really is an unfair comparison.

The weather was hot in July (duh) and so was GSN. 460K/307K/458K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 33rd, 31st and 32nd in the windows.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Controlling remotely

In a brutal bit of mutual backscratching, Rolling Stone has dropped an ultra-puff piece about MTV.

The ancient pop culture rag runs through 35 swell things that the ancient cable channel has gifted to us all. The worth of some of the items - Bill Clinton, Jackass, the Miley twerk - is a matter of taste. But most folks can agree that Remote Control was a nice addition to our little genre.

A goofy quizzer with La-Z-Boy recliners, emphatic contestant ejections, and groaner subjects (like the one in the picture) Remote Control proved that a game show could survive on a channel which depended on a hip look and the 18-34 demo. Wikipedia says the show lasted five seasons, and many remnants still litter YouTube for those who want to relive past glories.

Remote Control could turn arch and cynical, but you can say the same about any show on MTV. Archness and cynicism came with the cultural junkosphere that spawned the cabler in the first place. At least Ken Ober and company provided some simple q-and-a fun on a network that has always tried so hard to be cool and snide.