Monday, October 31, 2016

Where to drop it

One of the critical issues facing the civilized world is...where to drop the Plinko chip. On Stephen Colbert's late night show Drew Carey opined on what he considers the best strategy.

My theory is, you should drop it from the center, and the dot of the 'I' is, if you're looking at it, is off to the left just a little bit. So, you want to drop it where the break in the 'N' is on the bottom. You wanna drop it from there, that's right in the middle. If I was playing Plinko I would drop it from right there and just let it go. I wouldn't shove it or put any spin on it... that to me has the best chance of winning $10,000.

Who am I to argue? But as the linked story points out, other approaches have been successful. The story embeds the video of the lady who won thirty grand by dropping chip after chip near the "L."

What I'd like to do is just stuff the chips in the ten grand slot at the bottom. Is that legal? Maybe Michael Larson could have figured this out.

On a slightly related note, I happened to see a 1992 ep of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show on Antenna, with a new young comic named Drew Carey. He was funny! He didn't get to talk to Johnny, but another guest named Regis Philbin praised "the comic" - Reege obviously couldn't remember his name - for one of the funnier bits. Game show history in the making, and neither of them knew it.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

More on Buzzr

Another weekend and I'm lazy again. So a repost from Game Show Paradise, about my suggestion for Buzzr's future...

Other poster: Source for this [comment by another poster about Bob Barker's preferences on possible The Price is Right reruns]? Only episodes known to be banned are the fur episodes.

Agree. Only thing I've ever heard about Barker's preferences is the nyet on fur. Well, he probably wouldn't like a few of the models, either, but I've never heard anything specific on this.

Two things. First, I doubt that Barker has any legal rights to veto any TPiR eps from re-airing. Second, though Fremantle would of course only want to re-air eps that would meet with Barker's approval, they would still have no problem putting together a nice package for Buzzr. They've got thousands of episodes to choose from.

I have no idea if Barker TPiR will ever see the light of diginet. But if Buzzr really wants to build itself into a significant competitor with GSN, Barker TPiR is the kind of major property that could help make it happen. I can't think of any other Fremantle oldie (not currently on Buzzr) which would have nearly as much impact. Now You See It or Trivia Trap wouldn't exactly make a gigantic splash.

Sure, if Buzzr ever decides to go with recent shows, Harvey Feud would obviously be the impact choice. But I think Fremantle enjoys those rights fees from GSN too much. And I don't see Buzzr going away from oldies any time soon, anyway. That seems to be their niche and they're sticking to it.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Long division

Pictures of GSN's upcoming Divided have bounced around the game show Interwebs.

I've been pretty hard on our little game show network lately. The ratings have taken a tumble, and GSN seems to have lost its way with the clunker Hellevator season and the weird acquisition of icky reality junk Scare Tactics. On the plus side, recent Wheel of Fortune has come to GSN daytime and reruns of The Chase to prime time. Now the network is launching a new game show, of all things.

Divided was a short-lived Brit format that spawned a number of international versions. Teams of complete strangers debate among themselves over trivia questions. Eventually they make their case as to who deserves the biggest share of the loot. Believe it or not (and this is Wikipedia, so caveat believer) an academic paper got written about decision making on the show. It found "no evidence of a first-mover advantage and little evidence that demographic characteristics matter."

So now you know. At Game Show Network News Scott Rahner predicts Mike Richards will "likely" host. You can still watch Mike every weekday afternoon on GSN's respectable version of Pyramid. I couldn't find any independent confirmation of Scott's hunch, but we'll see. There's no debut date yet.

By the way, Scott also says that GSN has pruned the list of people who get the advance schedules. Gee, I hope my recent grumbles about the network don't cost me my place (wink).

Friday, October 28, 2016

Luck of the Irish

As a follow-up to my previous rant about Irish sensibilities, I can't resist a post about Wheel of Fortune's recent trip to the fabled isle. Pat and Vanna and a few dozen WoF staffers taped clips at various tourist traps, like the "breathtaking Cliffs of Moher" and the "restored original 15th century Knappogue Castle."

Cliffs and castles. Sounds like a board game. Vanna offered some flattering comments about Ireland, including a gush over how she would like to live in the country. She avoided any remarks about drinking, so I think she's safe from the Hibernians.

The WoF folks traveled in black Mercedes vans with blacked-out windows. Black is the color of choice, it seems. Pat and Vanna also baked scones and fed lambs, though not at the same time. Wheel of Fortune will be giving away a trip to Ireland as one of the plugs for Disney's tour operation. At least a lot of people on the show got trips of their own.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Say it ain't so, Alex

Does everybody have to apologize for everything that somebody somewhere might find offensive?

Apparently so. The latest absurd apology comes from none other than Jeopardy's Alex Trebek. Some U.S. Irish pressure group - I never even knew such groups existed - got all hot and bothered over a harmless joke that Alex made on Jeopardy. One contestant told him that "he had visited all 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland and has hill walked all of its highest peaks." Alex asked if he had been drinking when he did it.

This horrible, awful, downright evil joke (not) got some group called the Ancient Order of Hibernians rushing onto the web to scream and shout. Seems that Alex's joke slammed Irish-Americans as drunkards.

Yeah, I know it makes no sense. Trebek was just wondering if his young contestant had been completely sober on his around-and-about hill-and-dale walking trip, with no reference at all to where the trip took place. But now Alex has called up the Hibernians (wherever Hibernians hang out) and apologized. Upon further review of the tape, Trebek detected a "lilt" in his voice that some might have taken for an Irish brogue.

Oh boy. I did a few crazy things in my youth and sometimes people asked if I had been under the influence at the time. So I'm going to find all those people and demand apologies for their slurs on my ancestors, whoever my ancestors might be. Hey, I could be part Irish!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

History of a sort

Game show contestant stories are a dime a dozen on the Internet. But this one is a little different.

In both a faux tweet and a video blurb, I noted how three contestants on The Price is Right's October 17 show all spun $1.00 on the big wheel. Whether this is a sign of the apocalypse or just a goofy coincidence is a matter of dispute. But one of the contestants, Texas's Manfred Zimmer, got his fifteen minutes on the local news. Okay, the video actually runs 1:05.

Mr. Zimmer ended up winning the showcase, which included a new car. But the triple $1.00 is what he'll be remembered for, if people actually remember game show stuff. Well, I guess they recall some things that happened on game shows. I know about Michael Larson, but that may be an unfair comparison. Larson engineered the greatest solve ever.

Manfred Zimmer says he also wants to try for Let's Make a Deal. They don't have a big wheel on that show, but maybe he can win another car.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ratings: syndies bob up and down

Family Feud had a nice week for October 10-16, as it hit a season high. Otherwise there was little movement. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Family Feud 6.6 - up three ticks to the new high
Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - down a tick
Jeopardy 5.5 - flat
Millionaire 1.5 - down a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat for the 99th consecutive week (slight exaggeration)

After scoring truly awful ratings, Hellevator is gone from the GSN schedule next month (November 7-13). For some absurd reason Scare Tactics hangs around in a single time slot at midnight on Friday. Why don't they put this loser out of its misery completely? On a much better note, The Chase returns to prime time on Monday and Saturday. Only in reruns, sadly.

Meanwhile, GSN had a blah week for October 17-23. 345K/253K/354K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 41st, 37th and 42nd in the windows. At least the end of Friday Night Farts will help the prime time average.

UPDATE: Just to show what an epic, colossal, thermonuclear disaster Friday Night Farts has been, the full numbers from GSN for October 21 prime time (courtesy Douglas Pucci)...

GSN 10/21, in total viewers (adults 18-49)
8:00 Family Feud 425K (108K)
8:30 Family Feud 536K (142K)
9:00 Hellevator 161K (51K)
10:00 Scare Tactics 123K (61K)
10:30 Scare Tactics 137K (69K)

Even I didn't think the Soska twins could cut an audience of 536K to 161K. That takes hard work and steely will power. But wait, there's more. Scare Tactics somehow managed to get fewer viewers than Hellevator. That's like getting fewer votes than the Vegetarian Party. How's that demo chase going, guys?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Rummaging around BuzzerBlog

Hadn't checked the BuzzerBlog Facebook page in quite a while. So I looked in today. There were some political comments, and I think I know where they're coming from. There were also some blurbs for British game shows, and I think I know where they're coming from, too.

One non-political and non-British entry praised the Big Money Week stunt on The Price is Right. As I've confessed in the past, TPiR isn't my favorite show, probably because shopping isn't my favorite activity. I don't know the prices for just about anything. But what interested me about this entry was the commentary from the site's readers. They poked some fun at Golden Road for obsessing about TPiR's supposedly glorious past compared to the allegedly awful current show.

I've done some of this criticism of Golden Road myself. The board is part of a general trend on the traditionalist game show Interwebs to overvalue the past and denigrate the present. There seems to be a strong feeling around the net that game shows went past their prime in 1990 or so. (Though Golden Road extends the prime for TPiR until that sad day when Bob handed over the mike to Drew.)

Haters gonna hate, and if some people don't like modern-day game shows, well, they ain't gonna like them. I'm pretty much all over the place on game show history. I purely love some of the older shows and blog about them often. But a lot of the current shows look pretty good to me, too. Just can't make up my mind.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Ancient history

One of the shows I really like on Buzzr is my black and white favorite, I've Got a Secret.

So I started scrounging around YouTube for any particular goodies from IGAS. Wouldn't you know, there's now an I've Got a Secret channel on the site, which I hope Buzzr doesn't try to shut down as they did with the What's My Line channel. One of its most interesting videos is the first surviving IGAS episode, dating back to July 17, 1952. That's just a few weeks after the show debuted on June 19.

The panelists were Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, English actor Melville Cooper, and novelist Laura Hobson (Gentleman's Agreement). The first two would have long stints on the show, of course, with Bill lasting right through the final ep in 1967.

What strikes me most about the episode is how closely the early IGAS cloned its older Goodson and Todman sibling What's My Line. The show was almost all gameplay, with two rounds of questioning of each contestant by the panel. There were none of the on-stage demos or variety acts that would soon dominate the proceedings. Well, there was a hint of things to come in the last segment.

The final contestant was the daughter of then California governor Earl Warren (see the screenshot). Her father would gain his greatest fame (notoriety?) as one of the most controversial Supreme Court Chief Justices in history. Her secret was that her father was in the studio audience at the show. As the ep concluded, Earl Warren came up from the audience and shook hands with everybody on stage. That's not something that would happen on WML.

By the way, What's My Line's John Daly would eventually marry another daughter of Earl Warren. Funny how things work out sometimes.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Lazy again, plus it's the weekend. So I'll just repost some more stuff from Game Show Paradise. It's okay if you copy yourself, right? Anyway, a comment on our little game show networks...

I once referred to the "nuclear option" for GSN, if Buzzr ever showed signs of becoming a serious competitor. That option would be acquiring recent eps of Wheel of Fortune, something that Fremantle-owned Buzzr can never duplicate.

Well, GSN has gone and acquired the 2013-14 season of WoF. Does this mean they're going nuclear on their budding competitor in diginet land? I dunno, it probably just means that GSN's total day averages have been heading south lately, which is certainly true.

What would be a similar nuclear option for Buzzr to make itself into a real competitor for GSN? My guess is Bob Barker eps of The Price is Right. I have no idea if Barker TPiR is ever coming to Buzzr, but it would make the same kind of splash that Johnny Carson's Tonight Show made for fellow diginet Antenna.

A recent interview with Fremantle exec Jennifer Mullin revealed that Buzzr is currently available in 33 million households. They want to get that number up to 50 or 55 million. Barker TPiR is the kind of major property that might get them there. We'll see.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Other people playing games

Happened by Game Show Forum for the first time in a while. They weren't bashing me for a change! I felt slighted, much like Richard Dawson when Match Game hauled out the star wheel.

One thing they were bashing was the game show version of Candy Crush, recently announced by CBS. That's hardly unexpected. It's a new game show, after all, and new is a dirty word on GSF. Check their list of 50 oldies, er, greatest if you don't believe me.

One of the odder complaints came from the sensible Matt Ottinger, the guy who used to run the board when it was known as his. (Apologies for the bad sentence construction.) It's Magnificent Marble Machine or Starcade all over again. The idea that we would be entertained simply watching someone else play a game.

I agree that the show sounds like a physical stunt game, based on the sparse information available right now. Which does limit its play-along value, and that's what Matt is driving at. But you could say the same about Beat the Clock, recently enshrined in the GSF list of 50 oldies, er, greatest. Hey, they put Press Your Luck at number nine on the list, and that exercise in random button-pushing was solely about watching other people, well, push a button at random.

Play-along value no doubt helps. But it's not necessarily the be-all and end-all. Otherwise, no stunt game show would last beyond the first stunt. We'll see if this Candy Crush effort can keep us interested in other people's games.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Real estate porn

I'm always hunting in Google News for game show stuff. Some of the stranger items I run across are real estate sales by people in the industry.

These stories are a kind of web Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, with pretty pictures of the elaborate digs that the better paid folks in the genre can afford. A typical example is this breathless article about an LA condo that Burt Sugarman is selling.

For those who don't know, Sugarman produced some game shows in the '70s, most notably Celebrity Sweepstakes and The Wizard of Odds (one of Alex Trebek's more short-lived efforts). He also became part owner of Barris Industries - Chuck must have loved that name - and had a hand in the '80s revival of Newlywed Game.

The condo that Sugarman is peddling offers a nice view of downtown LA, not to mention "wide-plank oak floors and a wall of flat-screen televisions in the media room/den." Those planks better be pretty wide, because Burt wants $8.8 million for the humble abode. That would produce a good profit on the condo, which he and wife Mary Hart bought for $3.8 million three years ago.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Amy's adventures

I've been typing a lot lately. Four entries in two days plus the usual faux tweets and video blurbs. So I'll get lazy today and just repost some stuff from Game Show Paradise. It's about a GSN exec and a GSN show... 

Other poster: Is it too late for GSN to undo the stuff that [programming EVP] Amy Davis has done to it?

Amy's had some bad luck lately but she's also presided over the best ratings that the network has ever gotten. So she's pretty safe for now. But a few new hits wouldn't hurt. GSN hasn't had a new hit show for a while.

Other poster: Out of curiosity, do we know yet what numbers Scare Tactics got in its first week?

Scare Tactics total viewers (18-49 viewers). All numbers courtesy Douglas Pucci...

October 7
10:00 PM 209K (79K)
10:30 PM 209K (78K)

October 9
9:00 PM 148K (51K)
9:30 PM 101K (42K)
10:00 PM 90K (38K)
10:30 PM 77K (35K)

October 14
10:00 PM 182K (69K)
10:30 PM 188K (89K)

Bad numbers all around. Repeats of the show have already been cut back on the schedule, and it will almost certainly be gone completely after this month.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ratings: syndies go blah

The week of October 3-9 was a forgettable one for syndie game shows. None of the shows gained and the big three lost a little. Still, the damage was hardly severe. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 6.3 - down a couple ticks, maybe they should add still more daily runs
Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - down three ticks, and welcome to GSN on October 24
Jeopardy 5.7 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 1.6 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat, why do they even bother publishing the same number every week?

I've ranted about GSN's weird ratings decisions for a while now. But does anybody think Window Whatever - not even a game show, by the way - will perform well for the network? Even the promos look dorky.

Meanwhile, GSN rose a little from last week's really bad numbers. But the ratings and rankings still look pale compared to earlier this year. 356K/256K/359K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time for October 10-16. GSN ranked 43rd, 37th and 44th in the windows. Pat and Vanna, you can't get here too soon.


TV execs can do at least one thing well: imitate.

Having watched ABC score with summer game shows, CBS has decided to try their hand with a new project in our little genre. The eye network (love ya, Variety) has ordered a game show based on the Candy Crush mobile app. The linked story from Hollywood Reporter is short on details, except that teams of contestants will "use their wits and physical agility to compete on enormous interactive game boards."

Maybe they could compete on that enormous game board left over from Monopoly Millionaires Club. Oops, wrong game. The story says that 18 billion game rounds of Candy Crush are played monthly around the world. Sort of like McDonald's: billions and billions served.

There are no details on a host, a debut date, or even the number of eps. But a CBS exec did say that "he was interested in exploring more of the game show arena following ABC's summer success with retro game shows like Match Game and Celebrity Family Feud."

That success ran out of steam toward the end of the summer, but it's always nice to see new entrants in the genre. Crush on.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A brief numbers note

The numbers for Hellevator stay godawful. 177K total viewers and a 0.04 18-49 rating. My snarky comments from Game Show Network News...

Hellevator is a disaster. It's not even getting demos and it makes Winsanity look like a runaway hit in total viewers. I wonder if GSN will just pull this stuff out of prime time and run it at midnight for the last two weeks. Don't even want to think about the repeat numbers, which must be a complete scratch on Nielsen's sample.

[After seeing the new pdf schedule...] GSN yanks Winsanity from prime time while leaving Friday Night Farts in prime time? Yeah, that makes sense. Is anybody at this network awake?

SLIGHTLY RELATED GSN UPDATE: The network will run some Halloween week eps from 2013-14 Wheel of Fortune on October 27 and 28. I assume we'll see the rest of Halloween week on October 31. As I commented sourly at Game Show Network News, I bet these eps get more viewers than Hellevator. But then just about anything would get more viewers than Hellevator.

Burning question

As a faux tweet noted, ABC is more or less rebooting 5th Grader and calling it Five to Survive. Five presumably smart kids will help a presumably bumbling adult up a money tree.

By the way, a number of pundits have called the new show a cross between 5th Grader and Millionaire. Guys, the cross was already embedded in the 5th Grader format itself, which borrowed the money tree from Millionaire in the first place.

The other favorite pundit game is guessing who Ricky's co-host will be. Everybody assumes there will be a co-host actually asking the questions while Ricky works with the kids (and tries to avoid too much potty mouth). This listicle runs through possibilities like Louis CK and other, more Brit-centric performers.

All the possible choices in the article are male, which is unlikely in my view. ABC has used men to host all their recent game shows, and the diversity police are probably getting antsy. Look for a woman co-host. Somebody like Iliza Shlesinger, maybe. She's got experience hosting a game show and can provide a little youthful eye candy to balance Gervais. As for when the show will turn up on the alphabet net (Variety speak!) I don't have a clue.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The password is literally phony

Rummaging around the game show Interwebs, I came across a note on the Reddit game show board about con artist and Super Password contestant Kerry Ketchem.

The linked video of the CNN report about Ketchem's time on Super Password is not just interesting for the con man's saga. It also provides a glimpse of CNN in its pre-Gulf War infancy. Ketchem called himself "Patrick Quinn" on the show and invented a story about working for the CIA. (Hello, fellow operator Chuck Barris.)

A viewer recognized Ketchem and the cops picked him up when he tried to collect his winnings. This LA Times story says he got five years for an insurance scam. The story misspells his name "Ketchum," but who knows the truth about con artists?

No matter how you spell his last name, the intelligent University of Maryland grad Kerry was a genuinely good Password contestant. He came along too late to add game show rigging to his résumé of scams and trickery. He won almost sixty grand on the show but the producers refused to pay. Ketchem filed a lawsuit, which was dismissed.

Super Password lives on in Buzzr reruns, though the show has been exiled to a few odd time slots here and there. Maybe Kerry will turn up on the diginet one of these days.

As for his con artistry, Ketchem never did learn. He's currently a guest of the state of Indiana, after copping a plea in yet another theft scam. He sweet talked some of his fellow workers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of auto parts. The appeals court noted "his prior seven convictions...theft of government property and breaking and entering into FBI headquarters, fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud and embezzlement, possession of a forged instrument, forgery, and conversion." It's an impressive list. As one of his own lawyers once said: "Let's face it, Kerry's a rascal."

Kerry's now in a work release facility in Evansville, IN. His earliest possible release date is January 24, 2017. You could make an interesting TV movie about his life.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The week that was

Yahoo has been in the news lately for its slow-motion sale to Verizon.

Business pundits seem entranced by this on-again, off-again deal. They just can't resist the saga of Yahoo, an Internet 1.0 giant brought low by the forces of online change and offline mismanagement. I'm not all that worried about Yahoo one way or the other, but I do like their "Week in Game Shows" feature.

I've blogged before about this video mashup of weekly highlights from our little genre. This week leads with a sweet announcement on Family Feud. A couple reveals to their other family members that they're expecting their first child. Which made me try to remember how my wife and I told people that our first kid was on the way. I think we just made phone calls. A lot more prosaic than a Feud appearance.

Yahoo then gets yucky by piling on Alex Trebek for his harmless dig at nerdcore hip-hop. Can't anybody take a joke any more? The nerdy contestant even leads into Alex's teasing comment by confessing that she and her fellow enthusiasts have trouble on the dating scene.

Then there's the 45,237,819th overamped contestant on The Price is Right. This show has an endless supply of shiny merchandise and rabid players. Yahoo wraps up with a puzzle from Wheel of Fortune, as usual. The entire video runs little more than a minute, which is nice and quick.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Is this show possible?

Imagine Wipeout on a budget of $6.95. You're imagining Almost Impossible Game Show, which debuted last night on MTV. I caught up with the first episode on the network's web site.

The only redeeming social value in a stunt show like this is the litany of fails, punctuated by snarky commentary from non-empathetic hosts. Almost Impossible had plenty of fail and snark, as six not particularly well-coordinated contestants stumbled and bumbled and crashed and bashed and whammed and bammed their way through stunts with names like Rump Pump and Slippy Hill.

Eventually all the contestants but one ran through their allotment of forty fails. The last man literally standing got five hundred bucks and a trophy which fell out of a Cracker Jack box. A couple of Irish guys called the Rubberbandits (real names Dave Chambers and Bob McGlynn) chortled and criticized as the contestants flailed away at the occasionally painful and always cheap stunts. The rubber guys never showed up on camera, and you can see why from the photo in their Wikipedia article. Faces made for radio.

I don't know if the contestants' cuss words got bleeped on TV, but the web site left the swearing in. One stumblebum named Millicent might have set a record for f-word use in a half-hour show. She bombed out in a f---ing hurry.

UPDATE: The show landed on its rump in the ratings. 262K viewers and a 0.12 18-49 rating. Fail!

Thursday, October 13, 2016


A little lazy today, so I'll just repost some of my comments at Game Show Network News about GSN's latest ratings mishaps. I know I'm getting to be a bore about this, but it's a good subject to be a bore about. The topic is "Friday Night Frights" - Hellevator and Scare Tactics - and their less than boffo Nielsen numbers...

GSN execs are tired of hearing that their median viewer age is 139 (slight exaggeration). That's why stuff like Hellevator keeps showing up on the network despite modest or downright bad total viewer numbers. Such shows still skew relatively young by GSN standards. A 0.05 18-49 rating looks and is pretty bad. But for GSN it's not absolutely terrible.

Still, I have to wonder if the demo chase is paying off much for the network. Anybody who watches GSN at all sees a parade of ads for diabetes drugs and AARP Medicare supplements. So it's not like GSN has become a babe magnet for advertisers seeking younger demos.

Why not just get as many viewers as you can? The demo chase doesn't seem to be working out very well, unless you have naked girls in the show. And even Skin Wars doesn't get huge total viewer numbers.

Top 30 [on the TV Newser cable network ratings chart] is a distant memory. In the latest week (October 3-9) GSN tumbled to 44th, 40th and 46th in prime time, total day and extended prime time. The network is already hacking away some repeats of Hellevator and Scare Tactics that are obviously killing the total day average.

My guess is that both shows will be only an unpleasant memory for GSN after this month.

ADDITION: Just got GSN's new schedule for the October 24-30 week. One show that should become a pleasant memory for GSN is Wheel of Fortune. The 2013-14 season, the most recent ever for the network, will run at 11:00 AM weekdays. Sure, it's in the death slot opposite you know what on CBS. But GSN can use all the total day help it can get.

Other weird things happen on Friday morning (October 28). Richard Dawson's Family Feud returns, and so does Whammy and Match Game '90. Looks like a Halloween stunt.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Awkwardly endearing

Last night I got caught up in the Giants' epic ninth-inning collapse to the Cubs. So I missed the premiere of Spike's That Awkward Game Show. But the web is a wonderful thing, and this morning I watched the ep on Spike's web site. (The playback was too herky-jerky, guys. Improve the site, please.) And the show was pretty much as advertised.

Parents and their grown kids tried to guess which silly secrets were true about each other, and which were just made up by the show's filthy-minded writers. As you might expect, the secrets were all about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Okay, I'm lying. None of the secrets were about rock 'n' roll. But the other two subjects got a severe workout.

I noticed that all three parent-child teams eventually walked away with some money, which was nice. After exposing so much stained laundry, everybody deserved a little cash. I was also happy when the cutest kid (pictured) went to the bonus round with her mother. Among other things, she found out that mom fondles her sleeping boyfriend's privates like a teddy bear. The mom's boyfriend, not the daughter's boyfriend.

I might as well play this game a little myself. If either of my grown kids are reading, I once had sex on a park bench in Nairobi, Kenya. Hey, the girl and I were both Peace Corps volunteers...and we were both horny. What can I say?

The show was so cheesy that it was basically irresistible. Jeff Dye hosted with the required snarkiness and a few decent ad-libs. A round of this game might actually lighten up Jerry Springer's talk show. Between fisticuffs, the combatants could try to guess stupid secrets about each other.

UPDATE: That Awkward Game Show scores okay but not great ratings for Spike. 515K viewers and a 0.27 18-49 rating. That was well down from its lead-in Ink Masters with 1182K and 0.57. By comparison, Spike averaged 579K/351K viewers prime time/total day last week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ratings: syndies have a nice week

Syndicated game shows generally did okay for the week of September 26-October 2. Poor Craig couldn't get away from his eternal rating, but everybody else had a little to cheer about. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Family Feud 6.5 - up a couple ticks
Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - up three ticks
Jeopardy 5.9 - up a couple ticks as Seth Wilson continued his run
Millionaire 1.6 - up a tick as those new time slots are helping
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat, what a surprise

Want to know how scary the ratings are for GSN's "Friday Night Frights"? Douglas Pucci offers the fearful numbers for last Friday...

GSN 10/07 in total viewers (adults 18-49)
8:00 Family Feud 302K (59K)
8:30 Family Feud 438K (99K)
9:00 Hellevator 173K (62K)
10:00 Scare Tactics 209K (79K)
10:30 Scare Tactics 209K (78K)

Steve Harvey's Family Feud would have continued to build decent numbers for the night. (Not to mention The Chase or Chain Reaction.) But along came the Soska twins and everything collapsed. If you didn't know, Scare Tactics is some soggy reality junk that GSN scraped up from somewhere. How's that demo chase going, guys?

GSN has now cut some reruns of Hellevator and Scare Tactics from the schedule. See the pdfs in the sidebar. The repeats must have been getting nearly invisible ratings. Meanwhile, the network ran very so-so overall numbers for the October 3-9 week. 330K/238K/333K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 44th, 40th and 46th in the windows. Not so long ago our little game show network was in the top 30 in total day.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The long and winding road

It's hard for me to resist a Beatles reference, and most of the time I don't even try. I feel a little guilty channeling The Long and Winding Road, though, thanks to Phil Spector's godawful overproduction on the Let It Be album. Spector eventually got his (unrelated) comeuppance, and better versions of the song have emerged over the decades.

But enough pop music history. In any version the song couldn't be a more appropriate theme for The Price is Right's live show. It's wandered over one of the longer roads in the annals of show biz. I've seen quite a few stories about the live show in Google News lately, so it looks like a lot of appearances will happen over the next several months. One of them will be in New Orleans next March.

As usual, the CBS affiliate in town is running a lottery for free tickets to the merchandise extravaganza. The instructions are pretty complicated and run longer than some Senate speeches. By the way, there's a note that the host for this particular show hasn't been selected yet. Todd Newton? Mark Walberg? Jerry Springer? Me? (Just kidding about that last horrible possibility.)

The stats keep piling up about the live show, just as McDonald's used to keep track of the number of millions of hamburgers sold (which amounts to 500 pounds of beef, as the old joke said). The Price Is Right Live has given away more than 12 million dollars in cash and prizes and sold more than 1.7 million tickets. I can believe it.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

More on Buzzr and GSN

This blog has featured a lot of chatter lately about GSN and Buzzr. So I might as well comment on a TV News Check interview with Fremantle exec Jennifer Mullin.

She talks about game shows coming back on the broadcast networks, especially ABC where senior veep Rob Mills is "a very big fan of the genre." But the interview really gets interesting when she chats about our two little game show networks. She admits that an all-oldies game show format wouldn't work in today's cable market. But "the revenue, the financial threshold, is a little bit lower" for a diginet like Buzzr [it better be lower - ed.]

Jennifer puts the actual household penetration for Buzzr at 33 million homes, with an eventual goal of 50 or 55 million [out of a total U.S. TV market of 116 million - ed. again.] The diginet has gotten onto some cable systems, but it probably needs more to become truly viable. Buzzr wants to lure some general advertisers instead of just the low-rent direct response guys. "We have to have more distribution. When we get to a certain point where we actually get rated, then we can get a crack at that."

She also responds to criticism of the all Match Game all Family Feud all the time Buzzr schedule. "We have shows that have [stood] the test of time and so we are really building the brand around those tent pole shows. Certainly, in success, you can branch out and then play around with some of the more obscure titles." Translation: the direct response advertisers want shows that people have actually heard of.

Finally, there will be no overlap in the GSN licenses and the eps on Buzzr. "You will see the same titles, but you won't see the same episodes." Hm, that might get a little tricky down the road.

SLIGHTLY RELATED UPDATE: Speaking of GSN, the new ep of Hellevator last Friday (October 7) scored very bad numbers. 173K total viewers and a 0.05 18-49 rating. Almost as poor as the rerun numbers the previous Friday. The real "Friday Night Frights" on GSN are the ratings.

Deep thinking

Nickelodeon '90s nostalgia long ago went completely out of control.

The new Legends of the Hidden Temple movie, teased at the New York version of Comic Con - how many versions are there? - is contributing to the spreading plague of Nick wistfulness. Now comes a really odd column from a site called Polygon. The Legends movie gets a bemused critic to wonder if she is a true child of the 1990s.

The short answer is who cares, and the longer answer is that I hope the column is tongue in cheek. But some of the verbiage does make me wonder. The critic concludes:
In short: Maybe I’m not the '90s kid I thought I was. But then, who am I? [emphasis in the original] Nickelodeon, I'll be sending you my therapy bills.
I doubt that the Legends movie will really send anybody to therapy, even an overwrought critic on a site that nobody's ever heard of. So I'm pretty sure that the column is all one big joke. But I always get antsy when our little genre sets off this kind of pseudo-profound speculation. Even if it's just a gag, I don't want game shows - or a TV movie based on a game show - giving anybody an identity crisis.

By the way, I'm a baby boomer. And the Legends movie doesn't change anything for me.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

They said it

I'm not really sure where Fenton, MI is, though I could look it up on Wikipedia. But a completely biased poll of five residents in a supermarket, with a 100% margin of error, shows that Family Feud is pretty popular there. Asked what game show they would like to be on, three out five dentists, er, grocery shoppers picked that show with Steve Harvey.

The reasons? "Because I want to meet Steve Harvey." "I like Steve Harvey, he's funny." "It's always really funny." Looks like funny wins the day in Fenton. One dissenter said he'd like to be on Jeopardy "because it'd be a challenge." True enough, especially if you ran across Seth Wilson. And one shopper has apparently been reading Game Show Newsnet too much. She picked Whose Line Is It Anyway. Honey, I don't care what GSNN says, Whose Line is not a game show.

This oddly charming tidbit from Fenton comes to us courtesy of "Tess DeGayner, intern." She gets credit as the compiler (not writer) of the story. Which means she bothered these five people into giving their answers and then getting their pictures taken. At least they got onto the local web site.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Filthy lucre

Prurient interest in other people's money is only exceeded by prurient interest in other people's sex lives. Forbes doesn't have much to say about sex but they do specialize in money. Now they're breathlessly informing us which TV hosts earn the most.

In case you're interested and I know you are, four game show hosts make the top 20 list. Alex Trebek $16.5M, Pat Sajak $15.0M, Steve Harvey $14.5M, Drew Carey $12.5M. It's no accident that the four most watched game shows have the four best paid hosts.

Forbes also indulges in a bit of genre-bashing, which I've already ranted about at length. The financial rag (or site - do they even publish a paper magazine any more?) notes that the four game show hosts collectively outearn the four late night hosts on the list. "This year, the four highest-paid game show hosts made more than the four top-earning late night hosts, proving that cool doesn't always equal cash," opines Forbes.

Yeah, those game shows are hopelessly uncool. But somehow the game show hosts each get more viewers than any of the late night hosts. In fact, it's not even close. Last week Jimmy Fallon averaged 3.4M viewers to lead late night. All the game shows outdrew that number by a mile.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Curated for fun

Now that I've given GSN a lick, I might as well post about our other little game show network, Buzzr.

The oldies diginet is setting up a low-rent version of GSN Games. Buzzr has made a deal with Ludia to create Buzzr Casino, a mobile app that is "packed with amazing free social slots and exciting casino games." It's just packed, I tell ya. (Reminds me of that line from '70s cult film The Warriors. "The chicks are packed, the chicks are packed!")

There are a few interesting notes from the press release. The Price is Right is included in the app somehow. Will we eventually see the show on the diginet? And the release mentions all the hosts of Family Feud except Steve Harvey. Will we see Combs and Karn and O'Hurley on Buzzr one of these days?

The release does the usual bragging about Buzzr getting into more markets and onto more systems, including cable operators. My provider Time Warner (or Spectrum or whatever) does carry the oldies subchannel now, though way up in the nosebleed section.

COMPLETELY UNRELATED UPDATE: Seth Wilson ends his Jeopardy run at twelve straight when he bets too small on the final clue. That ranks him fifth on the all-time list.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

GSN's favorite demo

I've been pretty harsh on GSN for chasing that ever elusive 18-49 demo.

To be blunt, I think this crazy demo desire has led the network into some flat-out wrong programming decisions, like getting rid of The Chase and Mike Catherwood's Chain Reaction - two superb shows and solid Nielsen performers - in favor of stuff like Steampunk'd and Window Whatever. So it was with a sneaking wish for bad numbers that I asked Douglas Pucci for the ratings on GSN's Hellevator marathon last Friday (September 30).

To say I got my wish would be an understatement. Douglas' reply...

GSN 9/30, in total viewers (adults 18-49)
9:00 Hellevator 150K (56K)
10:00 Hellevator 79K (37K)
11:00 Hellevator 96K (34K)

Sure, these were reruns of the first season, which ended in a smoking Nielsen wreck. But even I didn't think the show would turn in these all-time wretched ratings. It's obvious that Hellevator mainly appealed to the nonexistent demo. (The first hour "benefited," if you can say that, from a Harvey Feud lead-in.) The numbers were so godawful that they crushed GSN's weekly averages, as I noted in my post yesterday.

Thing is, I don't mind Hellevator that much, compared to some of the other demo chasers the network has tried. At least it's a game show, even if it's a slow-paced and goopy one. Who knows, maybe Hellevator's new season this week will get better numbers. It could hardly do worse. But why doesn't GSN just run shows that get viewers, and then worry about demos later?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ratings: Pat and Vanna and Alex get happy

Family Feud still ruled the syndie game show ratings by adding up its twenty runs per day (slight exaggeration). But during the week of September 19-25 Wheel of Fortune crept closer with its single daily run. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Family Feud 6.3 - flat
Wheel of Fortune 6.0 - up three ticks to cut Steve's lead
Jeopardy 5.7 - up three ticks to keep pace with the soulmate
Millionaire 1.5 - down a tick but still out of the basement
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - what else, flat

All the syndies are now in their new seasons, and the effect on the Sony soulmates and Millionaire has been noticeable. Not to mention the improved time slots for Chris and friends.

GSN suffered its worst week in a long time for September 26-October 2. 349K/252K/350K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network plummeted to 43rd, 37th and 44th in the windows. How's that chase after younger demos going?

Monday, October 3, 2016


ABC is ransacking the oldies shelf for game show reboots. The latest alphabet net (Variety speak!) effort is a new version of Gong Show.

Okay, this is a subjective talent (or anti-talent) contest, not a real game show with objective rules. But life is full of exceptions, and the show has been grandfathered into the genre. Naturally, it made the Game Show Forum top 50 list because of its age, though I left it off my own list. Because, after all, it's not really a game show.

Of course, nobody in the real world will bother about such quibbles. Will Arnett is the showrunner, and the order is for ten episodes. No word on host or panel, beyond a generic "revolving panel of judges featuring Hollywood stars." That could obviously mean just about anybody.

No debut date, either, but I assume next summer. Bang a gong, get it on. Gee, I wish somebody would do a reboot of The Chase. Guess there's not enough nostalgia value yet.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

No respect, I tell ya (cont. again)

I don't want to become a pest about this. But do game shows ever get any respect?

A review of an online version of Wheel of Fortune kicks off with this condescending remark...

Wheel of Fortune Free Play is a game that's simultaneously quite fun and utterly forgettable. Kind of like the TV show it's based on. We've all enjoyed a few episodes of Wheel of Fortune here and there, but I can't imagine anyone has thought "I can't wait to see the next show!" The gaming equivalent is much the same. It's fun, but you won’t exactly be rushing to return to it.

I don't know how many people are dying with anticipation for any TV show. But enough folks over the years have decided that Wheel of Fortune is worth watching. That's why it's lasted through four decades of continuous broadcasts. Still, it's just a game show, so it's fair game for the snidest of the snide.

Maybe I should be happy that game shows get zero respect from self-important critics. The snobbery might help to give the genre a pleasant down-to-earth appeal.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

No respect, I tell ya (cont.)

It's an old story that our little genre is the humblest on TV. Game shows get heaping helpings of disdain from media people of all sorts.

The 777 zillionth example occurs in this puff piece about Bea Arthur, the late actress best known for Golden Girls and Maude. Amid endless praise heaped on the actress, her son comments: "My mom was the real deal. I think she felt she was more of an actress than Betty [White]. Mom came from Broadway. Betty starred on a game show at one point."

Cue the gagging. Of course, Betty starred on game shows a lot more than "at one point." She was one of the genre's best and most enthusiastic performers throughout the decades. But it's telling that her efforts on game shows have become a count in some sort of asinine indictment against her.

The estrangement between Betty White and Bea Arthur has never been a secret. Betty herself commented about the contentious relationship. I tend to think that Bea Arthur did look down her nose at her fellow performer, at least in part because of those déclassé game shows. I'm the real actress, honey, you're just some game show player.