Saturday, December 31, 2016

Big fans

The news that Celebrity Name Game got the ax naturally set off cries and whimpers on the show's Facebook page.

I'm a fan, too, so I'm not a happy camper over the show's slightly puzzling demise. Yes, CNG always finishes last in the syndie game show ratings, but the numbers look decent compared to syndies in other genres that get renewed ad infinitum. (Wow, Latin on a game show blog!)

Chatterers like Steve Wilkos and Jerry Springer and Rachel Ray and Dr. Oz get pretty much the same ratings as CNG, and they get one renewal after another. By the way, Steve and Jerry both appeared on Celebrity Name Game. As I recall, Wilkos was okay and Springer was terrible.

The only good news is that CNG will run some new eps in February, at least if the Facebook page is to be believed. I'm getting a little tired of the retreads. There was also a vague hint that Fremantle might try the format somewhere else besides syndication. GSN maybe?

Friday, December 30, 2016

You can learn some things from this blog

Hadn't dropped in for a while on my fan club at Game Show Forum. And what do I see? Bill Cullen as Santa Claus! That's a nice touch, even if the slender Bill wouldn't have made a very convincing Santa.

Also saw this thread about GSN's annual Christmas stunt - which concludes today - of graveyard-shift What's My Line and I've Got a Secret. Before the stunt began, the GSFers seemed befuddled over who was appearing on the episodes. Gee, guys, if you had read my blog instead of just dumping on it, you would have known. Way back before my detour through the hospital, I posted the information on original air dates and guest celebs.

One nice fellow at GSN is still sending me occasional info about the schedule, though I remain off-limits for the complete pdfs. Maybe they think I'm radioactive since my emergency hernia operation. Come on, GSN, break down and admit that I'm hopelessly harmless. Just send me the complete pdf advance schedules once more, and everything will be hunky-dory. (How's that for an ancient adjective?)

Thursday, December 29, 2016


I checked Game Show Newsnet today, and five of the top twelve items were obits, with those huge black borders the site seems to like so much.

Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Cindy Stowell and Zsa Zsa Gabor. The obit for Alan Thicke has just scrolled off the site's front page. Not all these people had close connections to our little genre. In fact, all I could find for Carrie Fisher was a single appearance on a Star Wars themed episode of Deal or No Deal (noted in a faux tweet).

Still, the black borders are piling up at the site. The genre seems to be closing the year with a grim death book. As somebody who just had a bad health scare myself, the effect is more than a little creepy.

I try not to dwell too much on obits here. At least I don't color in massive black borders, and I deal with most deaths in the faux tweets. (Of course, major figures in game shows get full blog entries.) But lately the distinguished thing insists on its importance.

SOMBER UPDATE: Game Show Newsnet has posted another obit with the usual thick black border. This time it's the entire death list for 2016. The grimmest year-end wrap-up you could want.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ratings: syndies edge up

Syndie game shows mostly made small gains in the latest week. In fact, the Sony soulmates both notched season highs. The bottom two also inched ahead. TV News Check has the household ratings for December 12-18...

Family Feud 7.2 - flat but leads all syndies
Wheel of Fortune 6.6 - up a tick to the new season high
Jeopardy 6.4 - also up a tick to a new high
Millionaire 1.7 - up a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - up a tick but it's cancelled anyway

It would be grim humor if Craig Ferguson makes season highs even after his show has gotten the ax. I'll also include the usual disclaimer about Wheel earning all its numbers from one daily run. Meanwhile, Millionaire has posted a blurb about its highest one-day audience this season on December 15: 2.53 million. The show has prospered with better time slots.

GSN averaged 439K viewers in prime time for 2016 (or almost all of the year). That was up a smidge from 2015's 423K. GSN's prime time numbers started strong in 2016 but tailed off in the fourth quarter with losers like Hellevator, Scare Tactics and Window Whatever.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Almost gone but not forgotten

More year-end lists are turning up on the game show Interwebs.

Entertainment Weekly, of all sites, offers a bunch of memorable game show gaffes. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you probably know about most of them. One nice thing: a couple moments from Celebrity Name Game make the sort of honor roll. The lively Pyramid knockoff will soon depart, though its ratings are hardly terrible by modern daytime standards.

The pictured contestant (named Abby) made what will probably remain the worst CNG gaffe ever. She only had one clue to nail in her half of the bonus round. But she said part of the clue and got ingloriously DQed. It was a crushing moment for all concerned.

The other EW clip from Celebrity Name Game isn't a gaffe at all. It's showrunner Courteney Cox playing a round of Friends trivia with Lisa Kudrow. They do just fine.

Monday, December 26, 2016

'Tis the season

The recently deceased George Michael is getting a lot of media kudos for his charity. One item recounts how he helped a contestant on the British Deal or No Deal with money for medical treatment. (See the screenshot.)

This reminds me of Queen for a Day, the bizarre game show where women contestants competed with stories about their terrible lives. Jack Bailey hosted in the most unctuous style imaginable. The contestant with the most appealing story got a lot of merchandise and other goodies. The other contestants also got some help.

Charitable giving is always welcome, and George Michael deserves credit for not seeking publicity for a lot of his good works. It's also nice to know that he was enough of a game show fan to tune into Deal or No Deal once in a while. The genre actually helped somebody! (Okay, lots of contestants have gotten much needed cash from game shows.)

I get a little antsy when game shows make a big deal about their charitable side. But this George Michael item is a pleasant reminder that more than a few contestants have picked up some welcome assistance.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

McPaper looks at the genre

As a faux tweet noted, USA Today did a once-over-lightly on our little genre.

Starting from The Wall, the story looked backward - including a feather-light allusion to the rigging scandals - and forward in game show history. The most colorful newspaper (do they even sell the dead-tree format any more?) seems to think that game shows are alive and well. The story does note the genre's perennial drawback, the dreaded old skew in Nielsen's demos.

But at least several game shows are holding and sometimes building their audiences. It's hard to say that about other TV shows, even the mighty NFL. The secret of such success? "Game shows can make a big, spectacular moment for a regular person." And regular people like to watch those moments.

Any TV genre is only as good as its latest numbers from the Nielsen Company. But for now game shows are keeping their heads above water...or their carcasses ahead of the cancellation bear. Except for Celebrity Name Game, anyway.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Those crosswords

On Game Show Paradise a poster commented that Wheel of Fortune has a new category: "Outside the Box."

Uh, no, as another poster pointed out. The category was actually WoF's crossword puzzle, as the screenshot shows. The line at the bottom is the clue to the crossword, which is why they label it the "clue." In case you're wondering, the four words in the solution were ribbon, bow, wrapping and tape.

The other poster said that maybe Wheel should put the name of the category, crossword, at the bottom of the screen along with the clue. I dunno, that would probably clutter things up without making things any clearer.

For what it's worth, I like the new category. It's a nice break in the routine and it pays off to nail letters in more than one word. But it probably does come as a disorienting surprise to somebody who's never seen it before.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Year in review

Yahoo has listed five top game show moments of 2016. No doubt it's only the first of several such lists that will soon turn up around the game show Interwebs.

In fact, Yahoo's list does lead off with a nice moment on Family Feud. A couple announces they're expecting their first child, and it comes as a surprise even to the other family members. But let's be honest, Cindy Stowell's recent run on Jeopardy isn't just the top moment of 2016 in game shows, it's one of the all-timers.

I haven't wanted to sentimentalize Cindy's victories too much, because her posthumous Jeopardy episodes have been getting so much publicity around the Internet and the old media. And I can understand why Yahoo (among others) wouldn't want to place such a grim reminder of mortality on their list. But now and then we all need to recall that time always wins, and our place in this life is precarious and short.

Under any circumstances I'm not a big fan of year-end lists. But Cindy tops 2016 for game shows, and maybe any kind of show.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

This program was prerecorded

Once upon a time TV was almost all live. Then along came a videotape machine.

That was about 60 years ago, when Truth or Consequences, the ancient Bob Barker game show, started prerecording its shows. It was great for Barker, who didn't have to get up so early on the left coast to make the 11:30 AM broadcast time in the Eastern zone.

Not to mention that his studio audiences were a lot more energetic. "Can you imagine doing an audience-participation show at 8:30 in the morning?" the 93-year-old Barker asks. He got some relief when, on January 22, 1957, Truth or Consequences "became the first program to be prerecorded on videotape for subsequent airing in all time zones."

The gadget that did the trick was a bulky Ampex machine which cost two hundred grand in today's money. Seems pretty ridiculous nowadays when anybody can record anything on a cell phone that costs, well, next to nothing. But the machine was state of the art back then. By fall 1957 Ampex was swamped with a backlog of a hundred orders for its videotape recorders.

And it all started with silly stunts on a game show.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Proud papa

ESPN usually isn't a source for game show stories. But most athletes aren't game show producers, either.

This article from the four-letter network tells about LeBron James, one of the showrunners for The Wall. While watching the show debut on Monday, he felt like a daddy seeing his kid go off to college...or to NBC prime time. As things turned out, a couple from Lebron's hometown of Akron, OH relieved the show of $1.3 million, which is still serious money. (Okay, it's not that serious for somebody with James' NBA contract.)

We also find out that LeBron watched a lot of The Price is Right when he was a kid. Seems that his mother was a big fan of Mr. Barker and company. Speaking of TPiR, LeBron says that the initial presentation of The Wall was like a Power Point display. To be honest, they might have well have shown a clip of Plinko and said that they were really going to jazz up the gameplay.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ratings: syndies barely budge

There was hardly any movement in syndie game show ratings for the week of December 5-11. But there were still two new season highs, if just barely. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Family Feud 7.1 - up a tick but good enough for a new season high
Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - flat
Jeopardy 6.3 - like Steve, up a tick for a new season high
Millionaire 1.6 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat

GSN perked up a little for the December 12-18 week. 405K/269K viewers prime time/total day. The network ranked 38th and 36th in the windows. Window Whatever won't last forever.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Up against the wall

Just watched NBC's sneak peek of The Wall, the Peacock Net's (warning, Variety speak) homage to Plinko. The contestants were a married couple, and the wife was the excitable type. I mean, she was almost literally bouncing off the wall.

The good news is that the rest of the show was better than she was. Sure, the basic idea is a blatant steal from The Price is Right's favorite pricing game. But NBC has souped up the gameplay with trivia questions, offers to bail out, multiple balls bouncing around the nooks and crannies, good balls that make money and bad balls that cost money, and heavy doses of impressive electronic whiz-bangery.

In the end things worked out just fine for our married friends, and they walked away with $1.3 million. I assume that NBC did not want a godawful wipeout in the sneak peek. But such wipeouts are certainly possible, which does add a nice edge to the proceedings.

Chris Hardwick hosted with enthusiasm, which kept him from being drowned out completely by the shrieking wife. The format built suspense right until the end, though we knew that the couple were either gonna win big or win really big. And that $1.3 million was really nice.

UPDATE: The show gets respectable numbers. 6.5M total viewers and a 1.6 18-49 rating. Not spectacular but decent.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Why must I lose to this idiot?

As a faux tweet noted, on January 19 GSN will pair the debut of Divided with the season four (already?) premiere of Idiotest.

Time flies when you're having fun with idiots. The Ben Gleib visual puzzle epic has ground through 145 eps since its debut in August, 2014. Reruns have also abounded, which only proves that idiocy is a saleable commodity.

I like the small doses. After a while I miss too many of the puzzles and start feeling like a, well, you know what. I goofed the puzzle in the screenshot, for instance. (Hint: check the first syllable in "rations.") Another problem for me is Ben Gleib's hosting style. He often seems to want to score sarcastic points off the contestants, instead of wanting them to win the damn game. I don't like an obvious cheerleader as host of a game show, but Ben could be a little kinder to the players.

Idiotest has never been a runaway hit in total viewers, but the show does skew young by GSN's geriatric standards. So season four dawns next month. Happy new year to all us idiots!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

So polite

AV Club goes round the board with their writers for nooks and crannies of pop culture they discovered in 2016.

Joe Blevins picks What's My Line as his personal fave of the year. Thanks to YouTube he's found the charm of the simple job-guessing show. Oddly enough, he doesn't mention the WML YouTube channel by name, especially considering that it's one of the very best game show sites anywhere on the web.

He also doesn't talk about Fremantle's absurd attempt to close down the channel, or even about WML's regular and extensive presence on Buzzr. Joe does say that he was a GSN freak back in the early 2000s, but he ignores the network's usual Christmas stunt of graveyard-shift What's My Line and I've Got a Secret. (Which begins Monday.)

Joe's impressed that everything and everybody were so polite on WML, even when an intruder strolled up to Melina Mercouri and John Daly. The intruder was quite genteel and he was ejected courteously.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Telegenic contestant

It's just another contestant story, but this SF Weekly article about San Francisco's Brette Humphrey on The Price is Right has a few interesting features.

For one thing, Brette got some hints that she would be picked for Contestants Row. The demos were working for her, as the studio audience that day was mostly older. (Sorry, demos are brutal in this business.) And then there was the hand sign and the glimpse of a name card...

A brief, one-on-one interview with a "guy that's been part of The Price Is Right for like 30 years" resulted in a hand motion that seemed promising, flagging her as a likely contestant. And because it's so loud in the studio that people don't always hear their names called, someone holds up a sign — and Humphrey spotted a quick glimpse of part of her name, so she had a second to get prepared.

So next time you spot your name on one of those cards, get ready to bid. The story also asks whether Brette got p.o.ed over the $1 overbid that another contestant laid on her. "You know you're on camera, so you don't want to look too upset." Not to mention that she did the same thing to another contestant.

Everything eventually worked out fine for Brette. She won over fifty-two grand in cash and merchandise, including a Chevy SUV.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Heavy metal

With Big Fan about to descend on us, Jimmy Kimmel did one of the segments that inspired the show.

Rock 'n' roll Hall of Famers Metallica took on one of their superfans, a fireman from Cleveland (home of the HOF, by the way) named Dave. The contest went the band's way, as they knew their own trivia pretty well. But Dave still got a nice consolation prize, a free trip to one of the band's concerts next summer.

The segment was a lot of fun to watch as a raucous frat-boy atmosphere prevailed. I don't know how well the fun and games will translate to the new ABC game show, but the idea works pretty well as a late night talk show segment.

Andy Richter will host Big Fan. He's always struck me as a little too prissy for his own good, but maybe he'll loosen up for the superfan high jinks. This won't exactly be Jeopardy, after all. Just a lot of goofiness about various celebrities.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The distinguished thing

The title of this blog entry is what Henry James once called death. And on that lively note...

As somebody who just had a serious health scare, I'm probably a little more sensitive to today's game show news. Alan Thicke, host of Pictionary and GSN's 3's a Crowd, is dead at age 69. He also wrote several game show theme songs, including Wizard of Odds and Wheel of Fortune. And Cindy Stowell won her first episode of Jeopardy, although the show aired after her death on December 5.

Sorry for all these grim tidings, but our little genre seems to have an affinity for the dark side right now. Critics usually regard game shows as somewhere between trivial and silly...except for Jeopardy, maybe, which wins Peabody Awards and other highfalutin' things. No doubt game shows are usually on the lighter side of the TV menu, though certain commenters on this blog like to remind everybody of the celebrity bucket-kickers club.

Still, time always wins. R.I.P., Alan Thicke and Cindy Stowell.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ratings: top syndies get happy

The week of November 28-December 4 was a good one for the top three syndie game shows. All of them hit season highs, as they rebounded from low Thanksgiving week numbers. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 7.1 - up a whopping eleven ticks from the preceding week
Wheel of Fortune 6.5 - up nine ticks
Jeopardy 6.2 - also up nine ticks to its new season high
Millionaire 1.6 - down a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - the departing show stays flat at its usual number

GSN racked up what have become its normal numbers and rankings for the week of December 5-11. 390K/258K viewers prime time/total day. The network ranked 41st and 38th in the windows. Window Whatever continues to be a drag on the numbers, with a mere 155K viewers for the latest run in prime time.

Monday, December 12, 2016


This blog has pretty much managed to escape the Kardashian phenomenon, or whatever you want to call it.

But no more. Big Fan, ABC's upcoming game show for, you guessed it, big fans of various celebs, will feature the perfect celeb for the role, Kim Kardashian. Her ep was taped back in May, which means a lifetime of famous-for-being-famous has passed in the meantime. Of course, Google News is full of chatter about Kim's appearance, like this Daily Mail outpouring.

Kim is the ultimate creature of reality TV, the bastard offspring of our little genre. So I guess it's only appropriate that she will finally turn up in an actual game show. She looks surprisingly winsome in the stills from the show (see the screenshot). I'm sure she'll treat her big fans nicely on Big Fan. That's the least we can expect from a celeb, no?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hitting the Buzzr

Seems a little strange to ask what's new on Buzzr. Our little diginet doesn't exactly specialize in new stuff of any kind. But there's usually "news" of a sort about the oldies subchannel.

What's getting to be a Christmas tradition begins again on December 19. Lots of Betty White episodes of various shows will descend on the network. It's always nice to see the game show doyenne doing her thing on different formats.

Buzzr continues to accumulate new outlets around the country. The latest is KBTU-LD, a low-power station in Salt Lake City. Buzzr now occupies channel 23.3 in the market. As always, Buzzr needs to get onto more cable systems for long-term viability.

Finally, the diginet wants to know why you love game shows. Well, I love 'em because I love to blog about 'em (and I like to watch 'em, too). You can upload a video about your own fondness for the genre.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Three for the money

Three new entrants in our little genre are about to take their bows. ABC's Big Fan, NBC's The Wall, and Spike's Caraoke Showdown. So the natural question is which has the best chance to succeed.

The natural answer is to wait for the numbers from the Nielsen Company, but that's so boring. Let's try some cheap and easy prognostication, based on the trailers and other info already out there on the web.

All three of these shows seem to have some plusses. The Wall has, well, the wall, which has entertained people in a lower tech version for decades on The Price is Right. Big Fan has celebs galore and the endless allure of celeb-worship. Caraoke Showdown has more than a passing resemblance to James Corden's late night segments, which have racked up impressive YouTube stats.

But what any new show really needs is gentle comparisons to other shows on its network. The cancellation bear effect, in other words. By this standard, Craig Robinson's karaoke project looks to have the easiest ticket to success. It takes a lot fewer viewers to survive on Spike than on a big four broadcast network.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Physical therapy

So my physical therapist shows up for the first at-home appointment after I get back home from the hospital.

We're chatting about this and that and my wife tells him that I write a game show blog. Which gets him smiling and asking about that LeBron James show with the big wall that sort of looks like...and here he trails off, but I'm guessing he means Plinko on TPiR. Sure enough, I tell him that I've written a little about the show on the blog already.

After he leaves I rustle up this sizzle reel from the show, and The Wall is certainly a tall sucker, much like its executive producer. The likeness to Plinko is painfully evident, and CBS is probably doing a slow burn over the sincerest form of flattery. You might call it Plinko 2.0, a souped-up electro-whiz-bang version of the simple little thingie on The Price is Right.

Hosted by Chris Hardwick, the show gets its first sneak peek December 19. Your faithful game show blogger will be watching and reporting.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ratings: sweeping with the syndies

This week TV News Check does its round-up of sweeps numbers for syndie shows.

November sweeps this year ran from October 27 to November 23, for those keeping score at home. Family Feud was the number one game show. I've often whined about the unfair comparison between Feud's many daily runs and Wheel of Fortune's single run. But Steve continues to produce impressive numbers. Meanwhile, Chris Harrison also can be happy about his ratings. All the household averages with changes from last year...

Family Feud 6.7 - up three ticks
Wheel of Fortune 6.2 - down eight ticks
Jeopardy 5.9 - down six ticks, the Sony soulmates have seen better sweeps
Millionaire 1.6 - up three ticks with better timeslots and a steady hand from Chris Harrison
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - up a tick, like it matters any more

GSN endured a so-so week for November 28-December 4. 367K/252K viewers prime time/total day. The network ranked 42nd and 38th in the windows.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

While I was gone

While I was on my winter medical vacation, the biggest game show story was the surprising cancellation of Celebrity Name Game after three seasons. Sure the show regularly trailed the field among syndie gamers, but the numbers were hardly terrible compared to other genres. In the latest available week, Craig Ferguson and buddies had actually scrambled to a season high.

The show couldn't have been that expensive. Prize money was chintzy and the top prize was tough to get. The celebs on the show were not high up the alphabet lists, and Craig himself hadn't moved into the later expensive years of a host's career on a show.

All the execs involved made the usual noises about how great the show was and how great Craig was and how greatly they believe in the format. So everything is great except the show is dead. I really liked the lively Pyramid knockoff, and at least it had three good years.

By the way, school's been out for the last couple weeks in the comments on this blog. For the most part the comments have been reasonable and civil, but there have been exceptions. I run a loose ship on comments, anyway, but I'll be watching things a little more closely now.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


Just a brief note literally from an IPad as I lie in a hospital bed. The worst is definitely past, and I'm well on the way to that fabled total recovery. The details are not germane to the blog, and HIPAA is invoked. Let's just say that if the situation wasn't life threatening, it was a helluva lot closer than I wanted. Extensive emergency surgery was required. My enormous thanks to all the superb medical professionals who got my unruly system back on track.

I expect to resume blogging within the next five to seven days. See you then.

UPDATED UPDATE: Well, I changed my mind about HIPAA. Seems like weird theories grow on the web in the absence of full facts. I warn readers that the facts here are not for the squeamish.

Last Thursday I developed sharp pain in my abdomen. I also had a lot of gas, and not sweet smelling gas, either. Things got worse over the next several days. Finally I was retching uncontrollably and vomiting what looked like liquid excrement.

What had happened was that a small hernia had opened in my abdominal wall. A part of my small intestine had gotten caught in the opening, producing a complete blockage. With no way to rid itself of the poison, my body was ejecting excrement back through my stomach and up the esophagus.

Monday night my wife and I went to an emergency room. The capable staff quickly diagnosed the problem from x-rays and cat scans. I was ambulanced to Lewisville Medical Center and scheduled for emergency hernia repair.

Luckily the surgery was successful. (If it hadn't been successful, I wouldn't be blogging now, would I?) Again, many thanks to all the great people who got me through this literally rancid experience. And thanks for the concern and good wishes from readers. For better or worse - and I know that opinions differ - this blog will soon resume normal business.

One other thing. Just be happy I didn't include any pictures with this post.