Friday, September 30, 2016

Long strange trip

John Kiesewetter, a local Cincinnati media critic, has penned a long retrospective on the pictured gentleman.

Twice Kiesewetter refers to Jerry Springer as "loveable" back in his Cincy political days. John is trying to be nice. He well knows that a lot of Cincinnatians found Jerry much less than lovable, then and now.

Interestingly, Springer's main effort in our little genre only gets a throwaway reference. Baggage receives a quick brushoff as "a Game Show Network series." True enough, but the dating epic has developed a surprisingly good reputation. I put it on my list of the 50 top game shows, and the series even got a favorable nod from HBO's Girls.

Maybe it's because the show was quite mild compared to Springer's ridiculous talk-and-punch extravaganza. At least there were no fisticuffs, and Baggage made good use of the suitcase reveal (lifted, of course, from Deal or No Deal).

Jerry has also hosted The Price is Right's live show many times. I've even seen him make a (sadly incompetent) appearance on Celebrity Name Game. Some guys just seem to fit into game shows.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

It's for a good cause

My weekly ratings report noted some good news for Millionaire early in its new season.

The latest contestant on the show probably won't hurt those numbers. Fr. Bill Matheny, a priest from West Virginia, has made it up the money tree to a quarter-million. He knew the first name of Whistler's mother, in case you were interested. The padre has not been a quiet and restrained contestant. He specializes in jumping around the studio after each correct answer, as this video shows.

Maybe Hellevator, which is highlighting the seven deadly sins in its new season, would hector him about greed - the sin, not the late, lamented game show. But Fr. Matheny has pledged a lot of the winnings to his old grade school, named after (of all people) St. Francis of Assisi. I wonder how Francis would have done on Millionaire. I get the feeling he would have bombed out before five grand. Just not his thing.

UPDATE: Fr. Matheny walks away with the quarter-million, again showing that it's now Millionaire's real top prize. Meanwhile, Seth Wilson continues his run on Jeopardy with his ninth win. Only five players are now ahead of him on the wins-in-a-row list.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Moving up the list

University of Georgia Ph.D. theater student Seth Wilson is climbing the wins ladder on Jeopardy.

He won his seventh game yesterday, though it was a squeaker on the final clue. Sometimes you get lucky with an opponent's bet. U.S. Game Shows Wiki tells me that only twelve players have won more games in a row than Seth since the venerable quizzer went to the unlimited wins rule in 2003. The big dog of winning, of course, is Ken Jennings. His 74-game record is absurdly far out in front of everybody else. Cricket fans - I know you're out there - will think of Don Bradman towering over every other batsman with his 99.94 test batting average. I'll take non-U.S. sports stuff for $200, Alex.

Sure, nobody knows how many other people would still be in front of Seth if Jeopardy had allowed unlimited wins from its inception in 4 BC. (The show started sometime around that year.) But we're talking about more than two thousand eps under the "new" rule. It's impressive that Seth only has a dozen winners in front of him.

And now I've probably jinxed the poor guy. We'll see later today.

UPDATE: Well, I didn't jinx him, at least not yet. Seth has now won eight straight and only has eight winners in front of him on the list. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A good rant

Game Show Forum is ranting about me again.

Sometimes they just don't seem to have much else to do. Well, it's nice to know I can get under their very thin skin. For some reason they think I picked 500 Questions at #1 on my fifty best list. I actually put it at #47, but that's close enough for government work and GSF's great minds, I guess.

My real crime was picking some shows from the last 25 years. Game Show Forum regards the years after 1990 as pretty much a vast wasteland, and included very few post-1990 shows in their 50 oldies, er, greatest list. My list was much more balanced among all the decades from the 1950s through the 2010s.

Just so the folks at GSF don't strain their brains any more, my list from 1 to 50...

Match Game, Jeopardy, Pyramid, Wheel of Fortune, The Chase, The Price Is Right, Lingo, I've Got A Secret, Family Feud, Cash Cab, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, What's My Line, Let's Make A Deal, Newlywed Game, Russian Roulette, Dating Game, Hollywood Squares, Concentration, Scrabble, Chain Reaction, Password, Greed, Supermarket Sweep, Win Ben Stein's Money, Celebrity Name Game, Street Smarts, Inquizition, Baggage, That's the Question, Now You See It, 1 vs. 100, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader, Minute To Win It, Remote Control, To Tell The Truth, Weakest Link, Power of 10, Deal or No Deal, Sale of the Century, Beat the Clock, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Let's Ask America, You Bet Your Life, Name That Tune, Hollywood Game Night, The Name's the Same, 500 Questions, College Bowl, Joker's Wild, Press Your Luck.

UPDATE: Oh, I figured out why the deep thinkers at Game Show Forum imagined I put 500 Questions at #1. In my linked list of the shows - which I explicitly said ran from #50 at the top to #1 at the bottom, but I can't expect GSF folks to read too well - I also listed the age of the shows. Which was one (1) year in the case of 2015's 500 Questions. You'd think that even GSFers could understand this. But math is hard, as Barbie once said. (Then the lousy p.c. police shut her up.)

One more funny note. A poster on Game Show Forum says he's happy the board is closed to new members...because I would apply to get in. Even by GSF's demanding standards of unintentional humor, that's a real knee-slapper. I would sooner apply for an eternal stint in Dante's ninth circle. Come to think of it, the two applications would be pretty much the same.

Syndies: everybody gets happy, especially Chris

The first week of their new seasons helped Pat and Vanna and Alex and, in a big way, Chris. TV News Check has the gladsome household ratings for the week of September 12-18...

Family Feud 6.3 - up a tick in the last week before its new season
Wheel of Fortune 5.7 - up three ticks in its new season for the solitary daily run
Jeopardy 5.4 - up four ticks for the new eps
Millionaire 1.6 - up three ticks in by far the biggest percentage move
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat at its very well established number in the last week before its new season

I had heard about Millionaire getting better time slots in some key markets like New York City. Looks like the ratings are feeling the benefit. If Chris Harrison can maintain or improve these numbers, he could be in for a long run on the show. The producers have already put out a happy happy joy joy press release. Millionaire averaged 1.6 million viewers for the week, if you wanted to know. The demos also improved.

In slightly related news, Celebrity Name Game released the list of October celebs.

Monday, September 26, 2016

GSN prime time

At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner has posted a long disquisition on GSN's prime time ratings.

He uses Nielsen numbers provided by the tireless Son of the Bronx, Douglas Pucci, and slices and dices them 47 ways. I'll spare you all the gory numerical details - though as a retired actuary I love this number crunching - and cut to the chase (no reference to Mark Labbett, at least not yet). In GSN prime time Winsanity and Idiotest drop a big chunk of the lead-in audience provided by Steve Harvey's Family Feud.

This is hardly a secret. GSN relies enormously on Mr. Harvey for their prime time numbers. Nothing else the network has tried recently in the evening window has drawn a lot of viewers. Once upon a time (not long ago) GSN got very decent viewer totals for The Chase and Chain Reaction. In fact, none other than Mark Labbett has bragged that The Chase actually built on the viewer totals from its Family Feud lead-in.

But then along came demos. GSN execs have long since gotten tired of hearing that their network skews older than Methuselah in his declining years...or at least older than anything this side of the cable news networks. So they've been trying feverishly to lower GSN's median viewer age. Although The Chase and Chain Reaction piled up nice viewer numbers, they suffered the traditional old skew of traditional game shows.

So in came stuff like Idiotest and Hellevator, plus the reality shows GSN has dabbled in. These shows rarely (if ever) wow anybody with total viewer numbers, but they do skew younger.

After a while, though, lowering the median viewer age only does so much good. If your show gets seven viewers and four of them are twenty-somethings, your median viewer age will look pretty young. (This almost literally describes the ratings for Hellevator late in its first season.) You won't sell much advertising time, though. And as anybody can see from watching GSN, a lot of the advertisers are still aiming for older folks, anyway. So maybe the demo chase - again, no reference to Mark Labbett here - is a futile one for GSN. Why not get as many viewers as you can and worry about demos later?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

TPiR thanks Millionaire

Game shows have never been shy about borrowing from each other.

The practice dates back to at least the early 1950s, when Messrs. Goodson and Todman decided to rip off their own What's My Line with I've Got a Secret. The two shows eventually diverged quite a bit but started out as near clones.

The latest borrowing happened on The Price is Right this week with their new pricing game, "Hot Seat." Even the name comes from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, though the (figuratively) heated chair has long since disappeared from the current syndie.

Sure enough, the game features a money tree - well, actually a money thermometer (see the screenshot) - and if the contestant goofs anywhere on the way up, all the money goes away. I'll spoil the suspense by revealing that the happy player on the first run made it all the way to the top prize of 20 grand. Maybe they could have called it "Who Wants to Be a Twenty Thousandaire."

To climb the tree you simply have to guess if a dollar amount is above or below the price of a piece of merchandise. Five correct guesses and you're at the top of the tree, er, thermometer. It's a lot shorter trip than Millionaire. The YouTube comments are mostly favorable, if you want to know.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Final account

Today in Google News I saw an obit for Micki Marlo, a singer from the 1950s and 1960s. Normally the sad news wouldn't be of much relevance to this blog, but Micki happened to have a connection to our little genre, though a tenuous one. She co-hosted Charge Account, a game show segment on Jan Murray's NBC daytime show from 1960 to 1962.

The linked article from U.S. Game Shows Wiki doesn't mention Micki Marlo, but everybody else on the web seems agreed that she really did appear on the show. The publicity photo of her with Jan Murray also exists as visual evidence. Jan would draw letters from the contraption in the photo, and contestants would try to make as many three and four-letter words as they could with the letters. Pretty basic, but I assume the game was mainly a vehicle for Jan Murray's random wit.

The wiki article dumps on Charge Account as a "flop," which seems a little harsh. The show lasted for a couple years, after all. Micki Marlo also worked in a radio precursor to Dick Clark's American Bandstand, and she was a regular on Steve Allen's talk show. There's a long interview with her on a classic TV blog. R.I.P.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Wheel of tax

Every now and then a story crops up about game show contestants paying taxes on their winnings. While I'm a devout anti-tax believer myself, I always have to smile a little at the thought that game show winnings are somehow exempt from one of life's two certainties.

The latest tempest in a taxable teapot concerns a Wheel of Fortune winner named Matt McMahan. He copped $16,400 in cash and (after some finagling) two vacations worth $10,800. This story and a couple others trumpet that he only wound up "$6,000 richer after all his taxes are paid."

Which, if you aren't paying close attention, might make you think that Mr. McMahan got socked with a 78% tax rate on his winnings. ($21,200 in taxes on his winnings of $27,200.)

Well, no. Matt's tax rate was actually a still steep 38%. ($10,400 in taxes on his winnings of $27,200.) Remember that Matt gets to enjoy his trips worth over ten grand, plus the after-tax six grand in cash. It's hardly like he's coming out behind on the deal.

Sure, a tax rate of 38% is still way too high, but what else do you expect from the Feds combining with tax-happy California? Matt, maybe you can get Wheel to move its production to my home state, Texas. There's no state income tax around here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Daytime mastery

CBS recently bragged about how they've dominated daytime broadcast TV for ninety-nine years or so.

The eye network's (warning, Variety speak) twin pillars of game show, The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal, are holding up their end of the daytime edifice. Both are doing boffo box office, according to the Nielsen beancounters. The one trick that CBS missed might have been a Pyramid remake in the daytime. (They messed around with the idea but never committed.) The show has worked for ABC in prime time pretty well.

As the linked Cinema Blend story admits, daytime is hardly the most prestigious window in the TV day. Critics tend to look down their noses at the daylight hours as a vast wasteland of uncool stuff, unlike Game of Thrones and all those other buzzy shows that pundits love to talk to each other about. But I'm sure CBS will take the very nice revenue stream from the old reliables in the sunshine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Board of the game

So I was watching the season debut of Celebrity Name Game, and there's a blurb for the home version of the game. That made a weird kind of sense, because they play the game on a home-like set. Well, the set isn't really too homey but Craig Ferguson does shout out to imaginary celebs walking past the imaginary windows. "Hi George Clooney! Hi Gwyneth Paltrow!"

So I scrounged around the web and came up with this review of the show's home game. You get score chips, 150 double-sided cards, and an electronic timer, which is no doubt better than an hourglass. In fact, Celebrity Name Game is supposedly based on another board game called Identity Crisis. Of course, the show is really a knockoff of Pyramid, but that's a little awkward for the showrunners to admit.

So we've now got a board game version of a TV game show which is allegedly based on another board game but is really copied from another TV game show. I like Celebrity Name Game - even put it at #25 on my list of the top fifty game shows of all time - but I probably won't invest in the home game. It's a lot easier to sit back and yell clues at the TV screen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ratings: last week of summer for syndies

The week of September 5-11 was the last period before new eps of syndie game shows began to roll out. So it's no surprise that the numbers were generally blah. But Chris Harrison had a little something to be happy about. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 6.2 - down a tick
Wheel of Fortune 5.4 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.0 - down a couple ticks like the Sony soulmate
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - what else, flat at its usual number
Millionaire 1.3 - actually up a tick for the perennial cellar dweller

The ABC game shows have been drooping as their seasons went on and the competition got tougher. Match Game closed out its first season with 4.4 million viewers and a 0.9 18-49 rating. The show's seen better days.

GSN got pretty much their average numbers for the September 12-18 week. 445K/287K/438K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 35th, 31st and 36th in the windows.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Breathless revelation

Don't often get around to the game show board on Sitcoms Online. But I saw a thread today with the oddball title: "Just Found Out That the Game Show Tattletales Was A Sham!" Hm, they rigged that silly little relationship show? Well, no. Instead, the "sham" was that the more or less openly gay Charles Nelson Reilly appeared on the show with female teammates.

Of course, other posters on the board laughed off the breathless revelation about CNR on Tattletales, which was old news four decades ago. Then they discussed other gay celebs on the show, and somebody also noted that Richard Dawson showed up with whatever lady he happened to be dating at the time. There was a final comment about Buzzr cutting back Tattletales on their new all-Match-Game-and-Family-Feud-all-the-time schedule.

I always thought Tattletales was the weak-tea version of Newlywed Game, but the show gets some respect and notice on the game show Interwebs. It snuck onto Game Show Forum's list of 50 oldies, er, greatest, and Buzzr still gives the show a little air time. Even I'll admit that Bert Convy was his usual cheerful and competent self as the host.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Deadly sin

Hellevator returns to GSN for an abbreviated four-episode season starting October 7. I kind of liked the first season last year, though I thought they overdid the back stories, fake blood and body parts, and faux dread. Come on, the contestants couldn't have been as scared as the production tried to make them look. They all knew it was just a game show.

But enough of my nitpicks. The twisted Soska twins are back for more horror-story fun and games. At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner has posted a review of the new season's first ep. GSN gave him a sneak peek. (By the way, I'm never sure if I should accept when a network offers me a preview of a new show. I usually want to go into a show's premiere with no preconceptions. But opinions differ.)

Based on what I can glean from the review, the gameplay has changed some, especially in the final round. Scott says the pace also seems to have improved, though he concedes that the new episodes don't really contain any more actual gameplay. I thought the pace dawdled badly last year, thanks in part to the absurdly detailed back stories for each ep. This year we're getting "deadly sins" as the theme. Hope they don't waste too much time on the phony theology.

After an encouraging start Hellevator crashed and burned in the ratings last year. The numbers got uglier than the show's bogus blood and viscera. I don't expect any big ratings rebound this year, but at least GSN is hedging their bet with the reduced episode order.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Remember that show?

The Emmys are tomorrow night.

Normally this would cue one of my rants about show biz self-love. But if you read this blog at all, you've already heard that rant. So I'll skip to the host of the Emmys, Jimmy Kimmel. In particular, I'll link to this Telegraph story about the late-night host and one-time participant in our little genre. In fact, he's supposedly returning to the genre with Big Fan, based on his talk show segment about, you guessed it, big fans of show biz celebs.

Even after all these years the Telegraph feels compelled to recount Jimmy's days on Win Ben Stein's Money. This show has developed something of a legend, though (or because) it's been out of production for almost a decade and a half. It's even one of the very few game shows from the last quarter-century to make Game Show Forum's list of the best 50.

One of the oddities about the show is how it flopped on GSN when the network tried reruns in 2004. GSN acquired a nice selection of episodes and gave the show a good timeslot and plenty of promotion. There was just one problem: the audience couldn't stand the loony quizzer. Ben and Jimmy quickly vanished from the erring game show network, never to be seen again.

I dunno, maybe GSN's viewers thought Messrs. Stein and Kimmel were jerks. Or they didn't appreciate the goofball humor. Or they saw the show as a parody instead of a real game show (which was true to some extent). Sometimes things don't work out, even for a future late-night star.

UPDATE: It breaks my heart to report that this year's Emmys were the least watched ever. Sure, broadcast ratings of all kinds continue to plummet, but it's extra nice to see show biz self-congratulation hit the skids.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dusty fifty

Game Show Forum has finally rolled out their complete list of the fifty best game shows ever.

Okay, they haven't yet announced the final order of the top ten shows. But anybody can guess the names of those shows, based on the board's 2006 list and their predictable tendencies. To nobody's surprise GSF's list is loaded with mediocre (or worse) shows from the 1950s through the 1980s. The board proudly displays the photo of a gentleman who personified those decades in game shows, and GSF makes no bones about their love for what they see as the golden age...and their distaste for what has come afterwards. Only one (1) show that originated in the last ten years made their list. That's two percent for the mathematically challenged.

To give the board credit, they did manage to find a place for The Chase, that solitary show from the last ten years. But many other fine shows from more recent times went unlisted. So I'll list them here. 1 vs. 100, Celebrity Name Game, Inquizition, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Baggage, Let's Ask America, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader, Power of 10, Minute To Win It, That's the Question, Cash Cab, Street Smarts, Greed, Hollywood Game Night, 500 Questions.

All these entertaining shows fall easily above the line drawn by the worst GSF picks. But these shows just don't have enough dust for the oldies board to end 'em all. One brave poster on the board lamented loudly and at length over the omission of Cash Cab. Why is he surprised?

The Game Show Forum list has an average age of 43 years, compared to a relatively spry 36 years for their 2006 list. It's the another-decade-of-dust effect, plus the lack of more recent shows.

Finally, I know I said I wasn't going to do this. But it struck me that if I'm criticizing Game Show Forum's list so much, I should do my own list. So I did. The picks go in reverse order from number 50 (Press Your Luck) at the top to numero uno (Match Game) at the bottom. The average age of the shows is 34 years, a lot lower than GSF's list, of course. There are a few obscure picks, a few picks for historical reasons, and a few what-the-hey picks.

I wasn't particularly aiming for chronological balance, but the list came out that way. There are at least five shows that originated in each of the seven decades from the 1950s through the 2010s. Hey, that's better than GSF, which only had three shows from the 1990s, three shows from the 2000s, and that one lonely show from the 2010s.

In case you're interested, the decade with the most shows on my list is...the 1950s. So much for the criticism that I'm biased against older shows. But a mere seven shows from the last quarter-century on Game Show Forum's list? I'll let you draw your own conclusions about bias.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mauling Jon Lovitz

Time magazine's biggest gift to our little genre is the iconic 1957 cover portrait of Charles Van Doren (of Twenty One notoriety). But the magazine - or the web site, who reads paper magazines any more? - still occasionally deigns to notice silly little game shows. Time just posted a long and interesting contestant story from 100K Pyramid player Sean Gregory.

To spoil the suspense immediately, I'll reveal that Sean won big with a major assist from celeb partner Jon Lovitz. Mr. Gregory blanked out on the final clue in the winners circle, but Mr. Lovitz nailed the answer from nowhere and got a big hug (or mauling) for his trouble. "Things that hold water" was the winning clue, just for the record.

Sean's article recounts his lifelong affection for Pyramid. He even played an impromptu version of the game with his college basketball teammates. He omits the fact that GSN still runs the old Dick Clark eps, but you can't squeeze everything into a Time article. Or maybe he just doesn't get GSN from his cable provider.

By the way, Sean is diplomatic about the other celeb player on his episode, Deion Sanders. But you can sort of figure out that Deion wasn't the greatest Pyramid player ever.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ratings: syndies slip a bit

As syndie game shows ran through the final weeks of summer reruns, nothing much happened in the ratings. Oh, Steve and Pat and Vanna slipped a little. TV News Check has the household ratings for the week of August 29-September 4...

Family Feud 6.3 - down three ticks
Wheel of Fortune 5.6 - down a tick
Jeopardy 5.2 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat at its usual number
Millionaire 1.2 - flat, to round out a dull week

By recent standards GSN had a so-so week for September 5-11. 432K/289K/418K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 39th, 35th and 40th in the windows. GSN hasn't scored any big Nielsen winners with original shows lately.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Coming your way, awkwardly

Having more or less wiped out with Tracks, Spike will try another game show. It's awkward. Very awkward.

In fact, that's the title of the little program. That Awkward Game Show debuts October 12. The network has released a promo and the usual blather about how "hilarious" the proceedings are, and how a "large cash prize" is at stake. Someday I'll read a press release that says a show isn't funny at all and the prizes are chintzy.

The show features parents and their adult kids trying to guess which awkward family secrets are true, and which are only fantasies of the show's writers. Would you believe that this nice suburban mom makes out with lots of guys and stashes weed in her fridge? Well, maybe she the same time, even.

Tracks flopped because the show targeted its music at too narrow a demo. Awkward is obviously looking for a broader age sweep. The old timers in the audience (like me) can identify with the parents, while the young'uns can cheer for the grown children. We'll see how it works next month when comedian Jeff Dye hosts the awkwardness.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hog heaven

10:00 AM in my home DFW area is hog heaven for me. I get to bounce back and forth between my favorite game show ever and that includes everything, Match Game (on Buzzr), and a show that easily ranks in my top ten ever and that includes everything, Lingo (on GSN).

Right now Buzzr is running some very early 1973 eps from Match Game. By a nice coincidence, the screenshot shows the pretty contestant who was winning on today's eps. She was a bartender, in case you're interested. The questions were still too simple and often not very funny, and Brett and Charles were nowhere to be seen on these episodes. But Jack Klugman was around. The producers tried him a lot until they figured out that his (then) wife was the keeper.

GSN is currently running the Stacey Hayes season of Lingo, where I got the screenshot of Chuck. I'll admit that Stacey was built like a brick outhouse, but she was way too coy and simpering for me. The producers dispensed with her services after one year and brought on Shandi Finnessey, who had her own detractors. But Shandi helped keep the show going for three more seasons, so she must have been doing something right.

By the way, the guy who posted the YouTube video of the third season Lingo ep says that Stacey was the hottest game show host ever. So she's got fans.

MOSTLY UNRELATED UPDATE: A couple other shows I like to watch landed press releases in my inbox. Wheel of Fortune starts its new season today. The crossword puzzle round becomes a regular feature, and the minimum bonus round prize goes up to thirty-four grand.

Celebrity Name Game kicks off its new season next week. The list of celeb players for September includes a few new faces and a lot of previous ones, including showrunners David Arquette and Courteney Cox.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Trying out

Family Feud showed up in Baltimore for a contestant audition, and they got a pretty good turnout.

A staffer says the show received seven thousand e-mails from wannabe Baltimorean feuders. Not quite that many actually made it to the audition, but hundreds did turn up and tried out. A couple of enthusiastic types even turned handstands. Who knows, maybe the gymnastics will help get them on the show.

"We went upstairs," said Richard Minor, Minor family captain. "It was a line of people. I didn't realize it was gonna be this many people. So it was kind of intimidating a little bit."

Wait until you get out there under the lights, Mr. Minor. Just don't choke up on the survey questions.

"We're gonna pack up," said Danielle Bixler. "We're gonna get in hopefully an RV, drive down to Atlanta and get right on TV with Mr. Harvey."

Maybe John Steinbeck could have written a novel about a family named Joad from Oklahoma. They get tired of the Dust Bowl, load up the truck, and head for the promised land...a Family Feud taping.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Knowing GSN

The sites on my blogroll tend to be pretty staid.

They're mostly standard blogs, comment boards, Facebook pages, and wikis. Nothing too outlandish. Except for GSN The know. You might call this blog the madcap, bouncing-off-the-ceiling counterpart to Game Show Network News.

A guy named Pierre Jason Kelly in Memphis, TN runs GSN The know. The blog careens from wildly off-topic (and off the wall) notes - There's been a three-car fender bender due in part to a red shell accident on Halstrom Road, you may want to use Lee avenue as a alternate route unless there's a banana or a moving green shell towards it - to calmer discussions of GSN news and views. This typical post mashes up ratings analysis - the network keeps Idiotest around to hold down the median viewer age - with comments on the political leanings of GSN hosts and congrats to DeRay Davis for the Hip Hop Squares gig.

Mr. Kelly seems to have a good time with the blog, anyway. He posts just once a week, but there are only so many red shell accidents to blog about. I drop by now and then to get a glimpse of a banana or a moving green shell as they mess with GSN.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Long live Game Show Forum!

Lord knows I've had a lot of less than complimentary things to say about Game Show Forum. And they've drubbed me a few times, too. But I don't have any problems praising the board's latest set of choices in their slowly unfolding list of the 50 greatest game shows. From my post on Game Show Paradise...

Maybe I should take back all of the nasty things I've been saying about Game Show Forum! Oh well, I won't go quite that far (wink). But today's set of five shows 26 through 30 has an absolutely brilliant choice that somewhat redeems all the mediocre, overrated oldies the board is so fond of. And the other four picks are just fine, too. Numbers 26 through 30: The Chase, Newlywed Game, I've Got a Secret, Beat the Clock, Win Ben Stein's Money.

For once I can't disagree with any of these shows. Oh, Beat the Clock isn't my favorite format. I like the addition of the money tree in Minute To Win It (which of course won't make GSF's list). But BtC is hardly a bad selection.

Needless to say but I'll say it anyway, The Chase is the real goodie. The placement is still way too low - as I've said, I would put it in the top ten. But I was worried it would miss out altogether on the oldies board. I was also a little anxious that Win Ben Stein's Money would miss out, but it landed almost exactly where it did on the 2006 list. I've Got a Secret is my favorite of the old black and white shows - I'm enjoying the reruns on Buzzr - so I would like to have seen it in the top twenty. Same for Newlywed Game, the best of the relationship shows, in my opinion. But these are quibbles. All in all, this is easily the best set of five so far. No clunkers that only get on GSF's honor roll because they're old.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

O Canada

Recall that weird story a while back about how Canadians couldn't take the online test for Jeopardy? It had something to do with Canada's nasty online privacy laws. It looks like the lawyers have figured out a workaround, because when Jeopardy opens the new season's online testing this month, Canucks can join us folks south of the border in trying their luck.

"I always say the contestants are the real stars of Jeopardy, and I encourage those of you who enjoy playing along at home to try out for the show" said Jeopardy host [and Ontario's own] Alex Trebek.

Registration for the test begins the same day as the new season, September 12. College students can take the test starting September 28, while grownups can join in beginning October 4. This is Alex's 33rd season with the quizzer to make the world safe for quizzers. And the format dates back more than a half-century to the ancient Art Fleming days. What hath Merv Griffin's wife wrought?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


At Game Show Paradise I've been commenting on Game Show Forum's list of the 50 greatest game shows as it very slowly rolls out. I've gotten some pushback, which is fine. One of the harshest criticisms was about my dismissal of the rigged shows. So I added a teasing comment to the thread. It's a paraphrase of what Bill James had to say about Shoeless Joe Jackson (google him if you don't recognize the name) getting into baseball's Hall of Fame...

One of the roaringest debates about game shows is whether rigged programs should be honored with a place on a list of the greatest ever. My opinion is, of course they should. It's just a matter of priorities.

After all, we should also list radio shows from the pre-TV era, like Information Please and Quiz Kids, which paved the way for the television programs. And then we should include shows that committed no crime except short runs, like You're in the Picture and The Rich List. It's not these shows' fault that Nielsen was grumpy about them. And how about state lottery shows and Monopoly Millionaires Club? The association with government sponsored gambling should not be held against them. Then there are shows from foreign countries, including Great Britain, Cambodia, Uruguay, Luxembourg and Vatican City. We don't want to be chauvinistic, do we?

And then finally, when we have listed every honest game show ever broadcast anywhere on the planet, every honest show that helped make our genre such a great source of entertainment and enjoyment for countless millions of people instead of spreading the poison of deceit and fakery, then and only then should we hold our noses and put the rigged shows on the list.

Ratings: syndies get happy after that corrupt and boring sports show

When the Olympics are away, syndie games shows will play. All the shows bounced back nicely in the week of August 22-28. We should get further gains in September with the new seasons. TV News Check brings the pleasant household ratings...

Family Feud 6.6 - up a half-dozen ticks when you add up the zillion daily runs
Wheel of Fortune 5.7 - up five ticks for its lonely daily run
Jeopardy 5.2 - up three ticks
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - up a couple ticks to its customary number
Millionaire 1.2 - up a tick but still in the basement

Spike's Tracks fetched putrid ratings for its debut, and now (surprise, surprise) I can't find the show anywhere on the upcoming schedule. In fact, I can't find any evidence on Spike's web site that the show ever existed. Who knows when (or if) it will return.

GSN's numbers perked up a bit for the week of August 29-September 4. 473K/291K/449K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked  36th, 33rd and 36th in the windows.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Random walk through the Interwebs

Without much to write about today, I hit the random page button on one of the lesser-known items in the blogroll, the Mark Goodson wiki. The page that came back was minimal, just a picture of Kyle Aletter, a model on The Price is Right back in the (now seemingly) ancient Bob Barker days. This set me off on a random walk through the game show Interwebs.

Google and Wikipedia told me that Kyle (born 1960) is the daughter of Lee Meriwether and Frank Aletter, both of modest show biz fame. I saw Lee on a GSN Match Game ep not long ago. The Price is Right wiki, another item in the blogroll, offered a much longer article on Kyle that sounded agent-y and/or web page-y. She's now known as Kyle Aletter Oldham, after her marriage to Rory Oldham in 1992. They have one daughter.

Sources differ as to whether the marriage has ended or not. Google seems to think that it lasted until 2006. Kyle Aletter Oldham has a twitter feed, but it's mostly political - she loves Hillary and hates Trump - and the personal tweets are few and far between.

To be honest, I had never heard of the lady before today, but I'm not the world's biggest TPiR fan. I did find some YouTube video of her work on The Price is Right, which produced the screenshot. And speaking of politics, IMDb told me that she was in The Day After, the 1983 TV movie that tried to scare us all into thinking Reagan would start World War III any minute. Who could have known that the USSR and the Cold War would both end less than a decade later, without any nuclear contretemps?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Life sucks, then you die in a game show

Since we all need a good dose of cynicism, gloom and doom, and full-volume, cry-me-a-river whining once in a while, a British web site offers this piece of tripe.

The sourpuss writer goes on at length about how life is like a rigged game show, so why even try? I hate facile comparisons of life, politics or sex (or just about anything else) to game shows. So I have no love lost for such woe-is-me wimpishness.

Game shows are just game shows, folks. Trying to cram them into a far-fetched comparison to make a pseudo-philosophical point is silly. And the linked column certainly checks the box for maximum silliness, not to mention maximum annoyance and maximum icki-poo.

Before he closes with a Porky Pig reference (honest) the writer quotes deep thinker Chuck Barris.
I came up with a new game show idea recently. It's called The Old Game. You got three old guys with loaded guns onstage. They look back at their lives, see who they were, what they accomplished, how close they came to realizing their dreams. The winner is the one who doesn't blow his brains out. He gets a refrigerator.
Last I checked, Chuckie baby hasn't blown his brains out. Maybe he thinks life is worth living, after all. He's 87 and still trying.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Everything old is new again

Whenever I post about the game show oldies diginet Buzzr, I get the feeling - probably accurate - that I'm really talking to the hardcore fans.

I mean the folks who know exactly when What's My Line got rid of the free guesses for the civvie contestants. (I've watched a ton of WML but I couldn't tell you just when the free guesses disappeared. It was 1955 or thereabouts, I think.) Anyway, as these hardcore fans know, Buzzr changed their schedule on August 29. On weekdays the diginet now runs Match Game and Family Feud and the black and white trio - WML, I've Got a Secret and To Tell the Truth - for 18 of 24 hours. Let's Make a Deal gets three of the remaining hours and everything else gets squeezed.

To put it mildly, the new schedule is not a hit, at least with Facebook commenters. One viewer posted a long blog entry that reviewed Buzzr's scheduling issues and suggested possible remedies. These complaints added to the yelps about rerun abuse that have plagued the diginet since it first blinked into existence a little more than a year ago.

All I can say is, what did people expect? Buzzr doesn't buy Nielsen ratings because they would be so miniscule. But they must get feedback on the direct-response ads that litter the network. And apparently Richard and Gene and the B&W shows make the phones ring more than anything else. So you're going to see those shows more than anything else.

Buzzr did make good on its promise of "fresh" (to the diginet) episodes of Match Game. They're putting on some shows from very early in the run in 1973, when Match Game was still on its shakedown cruise. The questions were less elaborate (and less funny) and Gene's long mike was still well into the future. The show seemed a little stilted compared to the smoother-flowing eps later on when the cast hit their stride. But at least Richard Dawson was still the life of the party in those early days, instead of the grump he eventually became.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

DeRay gets the gig

Apparently comedian DeRay Davis will host VH1's reboot of Hollywood Squares reboot Hip Hop Squares. Got all those squares and reboots?

When it comes to hosting a game show, DeRay was last seen on GSN in a forgettable effort called Mind of a Man. Reruns of the show have recently slipped back onto the network's schedule. Did GSN execs know about this upcoming Hip Hop Squares gig? Dunno, but it's hard to understand why else they would dig Mind of a Man out of the crypt.

The format was a weak blend of survey show and improv comedy. Neither worked very well, and the combo was toxic. The show quickly expired, to nobody's particular regret. It was hard to judge DeRay's game show hosting chops from such a flimsy, short-lived effort.

Davis will certainly benefit from the much stronger Squares format, assuming this reboot of a reboot doesn't make radical changes in the show, which I don't expect. We'll see how he manages the x's and o's.

Friday, September 2, 2016

36 to 40

I said I wouldn't make a habit of this on the blog, and I won't. But at Game Show Paradise I've been commenting on Game Show Forum's top 50 list as it very slowly rolls out. I'm lazy today so I'll just copy my latest maunderings. They've attracted some older-is-better bashing at GSP, as you might imagine...

Another couple days, another set of five shows 36 through 40: Lingo, Remote Control, Carmen Sandiego, Gong Show, Treasure Hunt.

First, the good stuff. The placement is ridiculously low - I would put it in the top 10 - but Lingo at least gets onto the list. And the vote-collectors don't indulge in the same snide remarks as they did with Russian Roulette. They even admit that GSN's version with Woolery was by far the best. Hey, some honesty! To state the obvious, Lingo was just a terrific show and I'm loving the current reruns in the morning. Addictive gameplay, great play-along value, a perfect host who lightened things with occasional humor, and often very spirited competition. What's not to like? GSF is crazy to think that there are thirty-five game shows better than Lingo, but as I said, at least it gets onto the list somewhere.

Remote Control was always a personal favorite, and this time I think the placement on the list is about right. The show could get a little arch and cynical, but this was MTV, after all. Gotta love the contestant ejections. Almost as good as Russian Roulette.

I have a blind spot on Carmen Sandiego. I'll admit a terrible secret: I'm not much of a fan of kid game shows in general. I would put Legends of the Hidden Temple on my top 50 list and that would be about it. (Legends didn't make GSF's list in 2006 - neither did Carmen Sandiego - and I'm afraid it might miss out again. No accounting for tastes.) Anyhoo, Carmen was just too educational TV for me. Yeah, I know it was on PBS, so what did I expect? And Lynne Thigpen's consistent hamminess left me cold.

Gong Show wasn't really a game show with objective rules but rather a subjective talent (anti-talent?) contest. The vote-collectors more or less admit this, but what can they do? In a way, the show has been grandfathered into the genre, and its 1970s provenance will always get it onto GSF's list. I'm so-so on the show at best. Okay, I get the humor but it was too often just cruel. I'd probably find 50 real game shows to rank ahead of it.

Treasure Hunt was sort of Deal or No Deal without the interesting math...which means it didn't have much of anything, in my harsh opinion. It's off my list, but the show dates to the '50s and lasted a long time in several versions, so it's a lock for GSF.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Tracking down Spike's new show

Tracks, Spike's sort of rewind of Name That Tune, debuted tonight.

Through some fault of its own, the show reminded me again of how old I'm getting. I qualify for Medicare next month, and my knowledge of recent pop music is unsurprisingly slim. Since this show did nothing but recent pop music - with the sole exception of Stevie Wonder's Superstition, which I actually knew something about - I was mostly at sea during the gameplay.

But the game was still fairly clever. It was a mix of pop music questions (again, mostly recent) and individual tracks to various songs. The two pairs of contestants had to answer the questions and then identify the songs from those individual tracks...drums, bass, keyboards, etc. Showrunner Christina Aguilera turned up to belt out one of the tunes, a sweet and sentimental love ditty called Fighter. (Okay, it wasn't sweet and sentimental. That's a little joke.) Bow Wow, known as Shad Moss on his birth certificate, hosted with the required oomph.

I did get one question right, about which pop star sold the most tickets to their movie. Christina was one of the choices, and I knew they wouldn't insult the producer. Otherwise, I was left wanting a classic rock version of this show. Which I don't think is going to happen. Spike is pitching Tracks at an audience half my age, or less. Sigh.

UPDATE: Tracks didn't wow the Nielsen Company. The two runs got 265K and 198K total viewers with 0.12 and 0.10 18-49 ratings. Winsanity on GSN got a lot more viewers.