Saturday, October 21, 2017

Changing the game

Just watched the debut of Buzzr's two-hour documentary Game Changers. For what it was, the show was okay. But it wasn't anything more.

Julius Caesar once said that all Gaul was divided into three parts, and if he were still around today, he could say the same about Game Changers. The first hour was more or less a history of the genre from its start in radio to 1980 or thereabouts.

This hour was occasionally hard to distinguish from a long promo for Buzzr's usual lineup. In fact, when the diginet ran promos after each segment, they seemed to blend right into the documentary. We saw some of the classic clips, like the bit of anality on Newlywed Game and Billy Crystal's quick trip up the pyramid in the winner's circle.

Amid the clips Alex Trebek interviewed a lot of the folks who were there. It was familiar history to game show buffs like moi, though I did learn that Peter Marshall took the Hollywood Squares gig mostly to spite his personal foe Dan Rowan. (The story has appeared before. I just wasn't aware of it or had forgotten about it.)

The second part of the doc was a half-hour paean of praise to Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. I don't know if Sony paid for the promotion, but they might as well have. The only interesting bit was Chuck Woolery's recounting of his famous salary dispute with Merv Griffin on Wheel. The story is painfully well known, but it was fun to hear the details from Woolery himself.

The third part was a half-hour on game shows from the late nineties to the present, almost exclusively about Millionaire, Deal or No Deal, and Drew Carey's The Price is Right. The documentary skipped over an awful lot from the last thirty-five years, including (not surprisingly) the launch of GSN in 1994. Well, you can't expect a plug for a direct competitor. Though to give Buzzr credit, they did offer brief comments from Todd Newton and Mark Walberg, who were identified on-screen as the hosts of Whammy and Russian Roulette.

Since Buzzr didn't even want to breathe GSN's name, there was nary a glimpse of fine originals like Lingo and The Chase. Not to mention superb shows on other cable networks like Remote Control, Win Ben Stein's Money, Legends of the Hidden Temple and Cash Cab. I know you can't squeeze everything into a couple hours. But the "modern" half of the show should have been more than a half-hour plug for Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, another half-hour of Regis and Howie and Drew, and a fleeting glimpse of ABC's recent prime time revivals at the end.

Maybe the most moving moment in the entire documentary was the concluding "in memory" notices for people who gave interviews on the show but died before the debut. (This production had a longer gestation period than most elephants.) Monty Hall, Alan Thicke and the game show encyclopedia's Fred Westbrook were among those remembered. R.I.P.

SLIGHTLY RELATED UPDATE: Louie Anderson's Family Feud gets a couple runs on Buzzr at 6:00 PM Eastern starting October 30. GSN never much wanted Louie's eps, but Buzzr will try them.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Live on your mobile app

An interactive game show has long been a dream in our little genre.

GSN has tried a few experiments in real-time interactivity, as have other networks. Things have never really worked out, maybe because most viewers just want to watch a game show instead of playing one. Now a couple of Vine co-founders, Rus Yusupov (sounds like a chess grandmaster) and Colin Kroll have launched HQ, an interactive app that offers a real-time live trivia game show every day at 3:00 PM and 9:00 PM Eastern.

It's not like HQ is drawing an enormous audience. The linked article says that 4,700 people tuned in for one of the latest runs. Buzzr probably draws a lot more viewers, and GSN pulls more than a hundred times as many for their top-rated shows. But host Scott Rogowsky still has fun challenging the assembled multitudes with queries that sound like they were borrowed from Cash Cab. Except the questions have multiple choice answers.

Good luck on the idea. I'm all for game shows getting into any niche where they can survive.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What's the name of that song?

A faux tweet noted the new pilot of Name That Tune for CBS.

The linked story does a reasonable job of tracing the long and storied history of the format, from its origins on NBC radio in the 1950s to the latest sort-of reboot on Fox, Beat Shazam. The Fox effort incorporates a music app, something that probably not even Isaac Asimov could have imagined in the fifties. Well, maybe he could have imagined it, even if he never lived to see it.

VH1 tried another twist on the format in 2001 with the short-lived Name That Video. Karyn Bryant hosted the effort, which was a reasonable attempt, though a little on the dry side. YouTube offers a few samples if you're interested.

This new pilot is in the early stages of development. The showrunners are Ralph Rubenstein and Noah Rubenstein of Prestige Entertainment Group, which owns the rights to the title. Time will tell if the show ever sees the light of broadcast on CBS.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


One of the strongest myths on the game show Interwebs is that celebrity versions of game shows are inevitable flops.

One older-is-better guy put it this way: Goodson-Todman learned nothing from Beat the Clock '79 and Password All-Stars. Heatter-Quigley learned nothing from Celebrity Baffle and The All-Star Magnificent Marble Machine. And Barry-Enright learned nothing from Celebrity Bullseye and Celebrity Hot Potato.

And it looks like this poster has learned nothing from Celebrity Family Feud, which just happens to be the most successful game show currently in broadcast prime time. Only I doubt that this poster cares much about any game show from the last thirty years.

My guess is that the strength of the format and the ability of the host count for much more in a game show's success than whether celebs or civvies are playing for the points. Hip Hop Squares has gone to an essentially all-celeb format, and it's done just fine on VH1. (I personally think that civvie contestants should play the game, but that's just my opinion.)

By the way, I really doubt that the oldies boards care much about Hip Hop Squares.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ratings: good week for syndies at the top

The top three syndie game shows all added a few tenths in the October 2-8 week. Nothing spectacular but every little bit helps. There were no changes down below. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 6.2 - up a couple ticks
Wheel of Fortune 5.9 - up a couple ticks into a tie with the soulmate
Jeopardy 5.9 - up a tick
Millionaire 1.6 - flat
Funny You Should Ask 0.4 - flat and still barely visible

Given the un-Funny ratings, remind me again why Celebrity Name Game had to go. At least GSN continued to show better numbers in October. 343K/247K viewers prime time/total day for the week of October 9-15. The network ranked 44th and 36th in the windows.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Swept up in enthusiasm

A faux tweet noted that Fremantle has acquired the rights to Supermarket Sweep and plans to bring the grocery larceny show back to TV markets around the world.

I know about the power of game show nostalgia, but this news set off incredible happy happy joy joy all over the Interwebs. Last I counted, there were more than fifty stories in Google News about the revival, all of them gurgling with bliss. Who knew that there was such pent-up demand for Al Howard's old chestnut from the 1960s (plus the later rewinds)?

This spasm of exaltation from a site called Romper is typical. Supermarket Sweep Is Coming Back, Because Dreams Do Come True. Well, gee, I hope the revival - whenever it arrives - fulfills the writer's dreamy hopes. I liked the show myself, because it spoke to the universal human desire to shoplift and get away scot-free. But I've never had dreams about it.

The linked story hopes that Fremantle doesn't mess too much with the format. As long as the merry thieves get to run wild though a supermarket, most viewers should be happy.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

November return

Bouncing back and forth between the Dodgers-Cubs game on TBS - the Cubs lost, yay! - and Cash Cab on GSN, I saw a promo for the return of Winsanity in November.

I guess GSN has to burn off the show's second season sometime. But I wonder if the execs thought about deep-sixing the unaired eps. Winsanity's ratings went downhill in a hurry, which is why GSN pulled the second season. Funny thing, I thought the format for the new season was a definite improvement on the original structure.

By the way, GSN is allowing Cash Cab some Harvey Feud-sized marathons. The taxi quizzer's eight-ep skein on Saturday night occupies all of prime time and then some. Ben and friends must be getting decent news from the Nielsen Company. They're listed for 32 rides on GSN per week for the next couple weeks.

UPDATE: Wouldn't you know, GSN has shuffled the schedule. The Chase now gets weekend prime time slots and Idiotest gets prime time every weekday. Cash Cab still runs a lot on the network, though. Meanwhile, Divided goes into exile at midnight despite good numbers for its latest runs.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Alex chats

With Game Changers debuting October 20 on Buzzr, Alex Trebek is making the media rounds to promote the game show documentary. He talked to the New York Post about the show and various other things.

He says that he doesn't mind the parodies of Jeopardy, such as the SNL spoofs. If they're parodying you, after all, it means you've arrived as a pop culture item. He also thought twelve-time winner Austin Rogers was good for Jeopardy. Some web pundits thought Alex disliked the oddball champ, but Trebek denies any hard feelings.

He observes that people don't quiz him any more to see if he's really a smarty-pants. That apparently happened a lot during his first few years on Jeopardy. One other note: he doesn't answer interviewers in the form of a question.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The host who vanished

Happened to be watching a rerun of Chain Reaction on GSN today when I started thinking deep thoughts, like whatever happened to Dylan Lane?

Turns out that Google doesn't know the answer. Or at least my quick search didn't turn up anything about the Chain Reaction host after 2007. His IMDb page gives his last acting gig as "Justin Carter" on What Goes On in that year. After that entry, it looks like anybody's guess.

I suppose that a more determined search could come up with something about Mr. Lane. I don't think he's gone off the grid and/or into the witness protection program, though I didn't want to pry too much. But he certainly seems to have quit show business.

Dylan got slammed for his stiffish hosting of Chain Reaction, though that hasn't stopped GSN from grinding the 130 eps into rerun dust. He even received a coveted Game Show Garbage induction, which - as so often happens with the site - is ridiculous overkill. He wasn't that bad.

GSN eventually remade the show with a better host, Mike Catherwood. But that version is off the network now, for whatever reason. And Mike is definitely still in show biz. IMDb has him working on a documentary this year.

UPDATE: A commenter tracked down Dylan's Linkedin page. He has definitely quit show business. He now works in renewable energy for GE. He's also got a beard.

SLIGHTLY RELATED UPDATE: Now that I blathered about a GSN original, there's a bit of good news for another one. Divided scored 406K viewers and a 0.08 18-49 rating for one of its runs last night. If the show can stay anywhere close to those numbers, a third season is a lock. And while I'm looking at ratings, Face Value's latest run on BET earned the show's best numbers yet. 359K viewers and a 0.16 18-49 rating. Maybe I was a little too quick to write off the show after poor initial numbers.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Quiet, please

Remember Sprout?

You probably don't remember because it was a cable channel that nobody watched. Well, Sprout has now become Universal Kids, which is a brand spanking new cable channel...that nobody watches. Okay, I'm getting a little sarcastic. For the latest week the network averaged 48K viewers. Hey, that's better than the Tennis Channel!

In an attempt to get somebody to watch, Universal Kids has bought a couple game shows from Fremantle. One seems like a quiet version of the other. Let me explain. The Noise debuts October 23, and the format features kids who "complete various tasks without making a sound, with the 'Noise-O-Meter' constantly listening. The less noise they make, the more points they earn."

You may recall the old saying that children should be seen and not heard. Faruq Tauheed hosts the show, and I assume he will make some sound. Meanwhile, the kids version of Beat the Clock - where children can and will make noise while completing various tasks - debuts on Universal Kids next spring.

All in all, I like game shows with sound better than game shows without sound. But there's no disputing tastes.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ratings: syndies slip a little

September 25-October 5 was a pretty blah week for syndie game shows. There were little losses here and there but nothing major. The race at the top is very close. The race for last place isn't close at all. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 6.0 - down a tick
Jeopardy 5.8 - flat, which is good for this week
Wheel of Fortune 5.7 - down a tick
Millionaire 1.6 - flat
Funny You Should Ask 0.4 - down a tick and just about invisible

GSN got some much needed good news with better numbers for October 2-8. 330K/242K viewers prime time/total day. The network ranked 43rd and 35th in the windows. Maybe all that Harvey Feud and Cash Cab is starting to pay off.

Not exactly ratings news, but I'll call it "audience response" news. A few posts back I noted that Buzzr was holding off on its schedule for the October 16 week. I figured that Monty's marathons had made the phones ring, so the diginet might be mulling a return of Let's Make a Deal.

Close but not quite. Monty's Beat the Clock comes back to weekday prime time starting next Monday.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Merrill Heatter 1926-2017

Various sources are reporting that fabled game show producer Merrill Heatter has died at age 90.

Best known for producing Hollywood Squares along with his longtime business partner Bob Quigley, Heatter's career in the genre spanned over fifty years. He created his first game show, Video Village, in 1960. He and Quigley broke through with the signature hit, Hollywood Squares, in 1965. In one form or another the show has weathered the TV storms ever since, with recent version Hip Hop Squares now running on VH1.

Merrill Heatter's next most successful show was probably the 1970s' Gambit, which much later spawned Catch 21 on GSN. (It reruns on the network to this day.) He had a long list of credits to his name, and there's even a wiki dedicated to Heatter and Quigley's shows. Check the sidebar if you don't believe me. R.I.P.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Money money everywhere

Google News coughs up some odd game show items. This article in a Princeton alumni newsletter, of all things, recalls the ancient Diamond Head Game.

A very short-lived syndie from 1975, the Hawaii-based show featured a "money volcano" where contestants literally tried to grab cash blowing in the wind. That's why the Princeton newsletter is interested in the show. An alum has co-written a book about how people manage or mismanage their money. We're all in a chaotic money volcano, get it?

As so often happens, YouTube offers a fair amount of the show, including a funny clip where host Bob Eubanks briefly thinks he's on Newlywed Game. (He catches his own mistake and laughs about it, as the screenshot shows.) Diamond Head Game got an induction from Game Show Garbage, which makes me think better of the effort than it probably deserves. At least the volcano was fun.

GSN reran Diamond Head Game a couple decades ago. Then it slipped down the memory hole, except for a Princeton alum.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

No respect, I tell ya (cont.)

A faux tweet linked to political writer Jonathan V. Last's entertaining column on the Monty Hall Problem. He does a fairly good job of explaining the conundrum, though he should go with the expanded example of a hundred doors to drive the point home.

Overall, the column seems to treat game shows with affection and even a bit of, yes, respect. For instance, Last links to a terrific story about the contestant who broke The Price is Right. But right at the end comes an insufferable comment... 

Charles Nelson Reilly was one of those people who were inexplicably famous during the 1970s. Don't get me wrong—he was glib and kind of funny. But everyone in America knew who he was despite him having no discernible talents or achievements. God bless him.

Oh dear, where to begin. Let's say Charles had appeared for nine years in some critical TV darling like Mad Men or Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. (I know, it's hard to imagine CNR in any of these shows, but go with me for a minute.) Would Last have so cavalierly brushed aside Charles' career if he had that credit on his IMDb page?

Of course, CNR graced the greatest game show ever, Match Game, for nine years, but that significant achievement cuts no ice with the snooty Last. It was just a stupid game show, after all. Not great art like the latest skin scene in Game of Thrones.

Jonathan V. Last is best known for an unintentionally hilarious piece arguing that the Empire is good in Star Wars. I'm bored beyond belief with Star Wars, so the absurd seriousness that Last accords the endless and tedious movie series can't help but make me smile. You see, the dumb George Lucas creation is, ahem, Cinematic Art...unlike some silly little game show.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Quirks of the game

Before the new Jeopardy season, we saw Alex Trebek on promos touting a great new champ. We now know who the promised champion is: a New York bartender named Austin Rogers.

In fact, I've got kind of a sinking feeling that the country will be hearing about this guy for a while longer. He's already at nine wins and counting, and the preseason promos compared him to some of the legendary champs of the past, up to and including Ken Jennings. So he'll probably put up quite a string before he's finished.

Or maybe he'll lose his next game. Who knows? Anyway, his goofball personality has abruptly divided Jeopardy watchers. He's either "a delightful cross between Willy Wonka and a wacky Hogwarts professor" or "awkward, arrogant and even casually racist for a joke he allegedly made about the Dalai Lama."

He is certainly not a bland know-it-all who just quietly wins his games and doesn't bother anybody. At this point he hasn't gotten close to Chu-level unbearable, so his antics are probably good for the show. Let's see how far he gets up the ladder of Jeopardy success.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Tributes galore

Tributes continue for the late Monty Hall.

CBS will run a special episode of Let's Make a Deal today "with trademark games and footage of the former host's most memorable moments on the show." Standing on the empty LMAD set, Wayne Brady introduces the ep with praise for the legendary host and producer.

Meanwhile, tomorrow Buzzr will run another marathon of Monty's Let's Make a Deal and Beat the Clock. (Oddly, Interweb legend has it that Monty never liked his version of BtC.) I assume the first marathon got the phones ringing, and I wonder if LMAD will make a comeback on Buzzr's regular weekday schedule. So far the diginet hasn't released its lineup for the week of October 16.

GSN's tribute marathon rolls the day after tomorrow for six hours. It's all Let's Make a Deal.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

More on winning Ben Stein's money

Little bits and pieces about Win Ben Stein's Money keep turning up online.

There's a proxy fight at Procter & Gamble, the consumer products giant based in Cincinnati. An outside investor named Nelson Peltz is seeking a seat on the board, and P&G management is resisting. In case you're wondering what in hades this has to do with game shows, Ben Stein of the aforementioned WBSM once wrote a nasty article about Peltz.

The article concerned some of Peltz's financial deals a long time ago at an outfit called Triangle Industries. Who knows (or cares) if Stein's criticism was justified? But in his non-game show life Stein has authored a long list of books and articles about finance and moneymaking.

Stein claims to be neutral on Peltz's current proxy fight with P&G. The linked article at least mentions Ben's old game show, in between lots of boring stuff about business dealings.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

No respect, I tell ya

Ran across a gossipy article on Jimmy Kimmel. Saw a few things I knew and a few things I didn't know.

Jimmy's politics are leftish, which I vaguely knew but didn't care about. He had an affair with Sarah Silverman that broke up his first marriage, which I didn't know and really don't care about. He idolized Letterman and feuded with Leno, which is beneath knowing or caring about for anybody.

And, oh yeah, the article mentions in passing that he used to be on Win Ben Stein's Money. It's a throwaway reference in a single paragraph, as if the writer knows that nobody could possibly be interested in some dumb little game show.

Of course, that game show is the only thing in Jimmy Kimmel's entire life and career that I do care about. I gave it a place on my top 50 list, and it still hurts a little that the show flopped so badly when GSN tried reruns. (Ben and Jimmy were a bit too offbeat for the network's grandmotherly audience.)

So the linked article's condescension toward the terrific WBSM is just another depressing reminder that our little genre gets no respect. Rodney Dangerfield, I feel your pain.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Oldies on another diginet

My screenshot a couple entries ago included the Decades logo. Wouldn't you know, the diginet has decided to run a few ancient game shows in October. Maybe they're giving Buzzr a run for their money.

It looks like mostly public domain stuff, which does save on the programming budget. You Bet Your Life gets a workout, for instance. A poster on Game Show Forum runs through the full schedule...

October 16
2:00PM You Bet Your Life - Hand 
2:30PM You Bet Your Life - Head
3:00PM You Bet Your Life - Chair
3:30PM You Bet Your Life - Clock
1:00AM You Bet Your Life - House
1:30AM You Bet Your Life - Voice
2:00AM You Bet Your Life - Door
2:30AM You Bet Your Life - Food

October 19
2:00PM People are Funny - featuring John Wayne
2:30PM Beat the Clock
3:00PM Truth or Consequences
1:00AM People are Funny - featuring Hal Ashby
1:30AM Beat the Clock
2:00AM Truth or Consequences

October 30
2:00PM Do You Trust Your Wife - March 27, 1956
2:30PM Do You Trust Your Wife - Undated episode from 1956
1:00AM Do You Trust Your Wife - March 27, 1956
1:30AM Do You Trust Your Wife - Undated episode from 1956

This looks like a one-timer, but you never know. If the phones ring, the diginet could always dig deeper into the bag of B&W game show freebies.

Ratings: soulmates perk up

The week of September 18-24 was kind to the Sony soulmates and rather blah to other syndie game shows. Nobody suffered any declines, though, so the week could have been worse. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 6.1 - flat despite all those daily runs
Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up three ticks despite only one daily run
Jeopardy 5.8 - up three ticks to keep pace
Millionaire 1.6 - flat
Funny You Should Ask 0.5 - up a tick but in a distant last place

Among syndie newcomers Funny lagged behind the two tabloid shows, Daily Mail and Page Six. Jon Kelley and company did beat Kellie Pickler's talk show, for what that's worth.

GSN continued its run of bad numbers. 275K/219K viewers prime time/total day for September 25-October 1. The network ranked 46th and 40th in the windows. GSN is going with more of old reliable Harvey Feud, and it's also trying more Cash Cab. Ben and friends get 28 taxi rides this week and 30 next week.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Ring those phones

There have recently been a few odd programming moves at Buzzr, with shows coming and going at alarming rates. So I got curious as to just how execs at our little game show diginet make their decisions. A bit of enlightenment comes from this TV News Check article on the generally healthy state of diginets in 2017.

Buzzr obviously doesn't buy Nielsen ratings for such a narrow niche operation. (A few diginets like MeTV and Cozi do buy national Nielsen numbers.) But Buzzr execs get clued in pretty fast on which shows are working for their advertisers. Buzzr chief Ron Garfield explains...

Over the last 60 days, I've had the opportunity to meet with over 40 ad agencies in markets all over the country that are spending money in this space [diginets]. And these agencies are really loving the fact that this is a new platform for them to be spending on. I learned from my meetings that diginets drive business. They make the phones ring.

And those phone calls (and probably web hits) are the main metric for Buzzr. Like most diginets, the game show oldies operation makes its money off direct response ads. If there's not enough direct response, they start shuffling the lineup in a hurry.

Now you know why Match Game and Family Feud are all over Buzzr. It's the phone calls, folks.

Sitcom follies

I haven't watched sitcoms in years, which makes it easy for me to ignore sitcom news in the entertainment media.

But this week ABC's Fresh Off The Boat will feature a couple of series regulars appearing on Wheel of Fortune. If you want to see cast interviews and production footage from the episode, YouTube is at your service. Best as I can figure, one of the characters is thrilled to be on the game show and one of them isn't. At least that's what the screenshot indicates.

Crossovers between game shows and sitcoms date back for decades. Jackie Gleason's Honeymooners put Ralph and Alice on Beat the Clock in the 1950s. It makes for easy joke writing, and the sitcom can piggyback on the reputation of the game show.

By the way, we now know why those eggcrate displays showed up a few months ago on some photos from the Wheel of Fortune set. They were for this sitcom, which is set in the nineties. Fresh Off The Boat seems to have made no other attempts to "retro-fy" the WoF set, though.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The biggest dealer

Have to admit, I was a little scared when I posted a couple entries about game show notables age ninety and older.

As an actuary, I'm all too familiar with how steeply the life curve is falling at those ages. I'm afraid the inevitable has happened, as one of the all-time greats of the genre has died at age 96. Monty Hall, who made deals like nobody before or since, has left Let's Make a Deal once and for all.

I doubt that Monty himself would want obsequious mourning. His show was always a hoot, with zany dealmaking and zanier zonks. As David Schwartz notes in the linked obit, "Monty had to be a very likable con man; he had to convince people to give up a bird in the hand for what's in the box."

He also had to keep a hellzapoppin' show on track, which wasn't too easy with oddly dressed contestants jumping up and down all over the set. Although he hosted other game shows, LMAD will always remain his greatest legacy. The show is still more than holding its own in the broadcast network wars. R.I.P.

UPDATE: Buzzr has announced a tribute to Monty on Tuesday, October 3. It will be an all-day marathon of his Let's Make a Deal and Beat the Clock eps. GSN will also run a tribute with a six-hour marathon of Monty's LMAD on Sunday, October 8.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Face it

Finally got around to watching Face Value on the BET web site.

From the promos the show looked like a Street Smarts knockoff - they seem to be popular nowadays - and that's pretty much what it was. Passers-by in Vegas got asked various personal questions and two teams of contestants tried to figure out how they answered. You've seen it before and Face Value did not offer a particularly fresh take on the format. But the show wasn't all that obnoxious, either, despite (or because of) titillating promises of political incorrectness.

On the debut ep Sheryl Underwood, who plays every game show in sight, and Brandon Jackson led the two teams. Deon Cole hollered a lot as the host, but you have to yell when you're on the same show with Sheryl. The questions were goofy and personal enough to entertain the studio audience, which liked to shout out suggestions to the teams.

Sad to say, the show laid an egg with the most important reviewer. Nielsen pegged its viewer number at 176K. Since BET averaged 426K viewers in prime time in the latest week, Face Value may face a bleak and brief future.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Another nonagenarian

Just after I noted a bunch of game show celebs age ninety and older, up pops another one with a Guinness world record.

I'm talking about the esteemed Johnny Gilbert, who just earned a Guinness award for longest tenured announcer on a single game show. The show is Jeopardy, of course, where Johnny booms out "This is...[you know what]" every ep. By now Johnny is an announcing legend and he's got a pretty impressive Wikipedia article, recently updated with the Guinness honor.

The article also offers a photo of an impossibly young Johnny from a 1945 ad. For those who flunked a few history courses, that was the year World War II ended. By the way, Johnny was born just six years after World War I ended. We're talking about a show biz veteran here.

While he was in the army in the 1950s, Johnny was the lead singer in a musical called Xanadu. I'm not sure how that prepped him for Jeopardy, but every little bit of experience helps.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Game show longevity

Maybe there's something about game shows that keeps people living longer.

A list of celebs aged 90 and older includes no fewer than four game show stalwarts: Bob Barker, Monty Hall, Betty White and Hugh Downs. A fifth celeb on the list, Rose Marie, gets a nod for her many appearances on Hollywood Squares. A number of the other listed notables can boast of turns on various game shows, like Marty Allen on Match Game, I've Got a Secret, Password, Tattletales, etc. Nielsen has long told us that game shows skew old, but this is really getting old.

Even at my advanced age, the big nine-oh seems a far way off. I just hope that I can make it to the big seven-oh. After my detour through the hospital several months ago, I'm not taking anything for granted.

Luckily, I'm feeling fine nowadays. But you never know.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Long term numbers

I already did my weekly ratings report, but a few longer term numbers have cropped up on the Interwebs.

CBS can't (and shouldn't) resist crowing about their 857th straight year of top daytime ratings. Okay, it's actually 31 years but that's almost half my well-aged lifetime. Leading the way in total viewers for the 2016-17 year was the second half-hour of The Price is Right, at 5.40 million. Why does Nielsen split the show into two parts, anyway? Must be a legacy of ratings from the cuneiform era. The first half-hour was third in total viewers, by the way.

Let's Make a Deal's second half-hour also snuck into the top five, with 3.36 million viewers. CBS only gave Wayne and friends a one-year renewal, which seems a little stingy. I doubt that LMAD is in any kind of danger, though.

Meanwhile, GSN had an okay but hardly spectacular third quarter of 2017. 346K/260K viewers prime time/total day. The recent weeks have come in much lower, unfortunately. For the quarter the network ranked 44th and 39th in the windows. Can we get another hit besides Harvey Feud? The bad numbers have eliminated Snap Decision from the schedule starting the week of October 2. GSN had already cut back Emogenius to a few late-night throwaway slots.

And for those who like more recent ratings, Millionaire brags about its nice demos for the first week of its new season. It's that "key Women 25-54 demo," don't you know?

Finally, in a move that may have been affected by some kind of metrics though not full Nielsen numbers, Dream Maker disappears from Buzzr the week of October 9. Old stand-by Family Feud replaces it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ratings: syndies perk up a little

The season debuts brought mostly happy news for syndie game shows. It wasn't a blowout week, but almost everybody had a little to cheer about. TV News Check has the household ratings for the week of September 11-17...

Family Feud 6.1 - up a tick
Wheel of Fortune 5.5 - also up a tick
Jeopardy 5.5 - up four ticks into a tie with the soulmate
Millionaire 1.6 - flat, not everybody got a bump from the season debuts
Celebrity Name Game 0.6 - down three ticks in what should be the last report

I haven't seen any numbers for Funny You Should Ask, so I don't know if the show is getting Nielsen ratings at all. We'll see if anything shows up. Oh, now I see a column from Paige Albiniak at B&C. She says that Funny is not nationally rated. But guess what. She just updated the post with a poor 0.4 rating for the Byron Allen effort.

UNRELATED UPDATE: The universe just felt a jolt. Twitter is trying out a new limit of 280 characters. Rest assured, my faux tweets will remain limited at 140 characters. Okay, I cheat by not counting spaces, but it's my blog and I'll cheat if I want to.

Monday, September 25, 2017


Google News turned up a mostly uninteresting combo of TV criticism and political rant, which does have an odd game show connection.

The author is Jeff Simon. No, I've never heard of him, either, but he's never heard of me so we're even. In the midst of his cynical maunderings, he recalls a bit of childhood history.

When I was a kid way back in the middle of another century, my mother took my brother and I to see New York for the first time and somehow managed to score tickets to the game show Strike It Rich, starring the less-than-immortal Warren Hull. It was his job to solicit the grim life stories of people seeking the show's money. I was shocked at the applause signs and the number of times we were commanded to work for our free seats.

Somehow I doubt that he was all that shocked, but this is a quibble. Warren Hull may not have been immortal - not too many people are, including cynical TV critics and even more cynical bloggers - but a bit of his work on Strike It Rich survives on YouTube. It's a delicious slice of '50s daytime TV, complete with cheesy organ music, harsh lighting, and overpowering product placement (see the screenshot for Fab.)

You might call the show a slightly classier version of Queen for a Day. Wikipedia tells me that Strike It Rich lasted a surprisingly long time and spawned a couple of revival attempts. (The 1986-87 Joe Garagiola show of the same name was a completely different format.) YouTube hasn't forgotten about it, anyway.

UNRELATED UPDATE: A couple days ago I posted about Buzzr yanking Wordplay from prime time after only three airings. The replacement was old reliable Match Game. The diginet has made the change more or less permanent with a Facebook post of their prime time lineup. People are predictably whining about too much of Gene and friends. Shades of GSN and Harvey Feud. Sorry, guys, but the shows that do the most business get the most runs.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Random Elaine

With a slow news weekend for our little genre, I hit the random page button at U.S. Game Shows Wiki.

With my luck it took a while to get to an actual game show article. Instead I got several reality show and talent contest pages. Who's running this wiki, anyway? Game Show Newsnet? But finally a game show entry did turn up, a brief bio of Elaine Joyce.

The article says that Elaine is best known for Match Game, which is fair enough. The wiki also notes that she hosted a version of Dating Game in the 1980s, as the screenshot illustrates with plenty of '80s big hair. One thing I did not know: Elaine's birth name is Pinchot. Silly me, I thought Joyce was her last name, but it's actually her middle name.

The article credits Ms. Pinchot with "a countless number of game show appearances." I dunno, I guess somebody could count 'em if they had a lot of extra time on their hands. But I'm not going to try, even on a slow news weekend.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Happy days are here again

You might call it a wheel of fortune.

A few entries ago I mentioned that Drew Carey was talking about a big moment on the premiere week of The Price is Right. Well, we've now seen what the big moment was: $80,000 getting doled out to three contestants for their lucky spins on the big wheel.

I gotta admit, it was fun to see the fortunate trio dancing around together. It reminded me of game shows' essential reason for existence: to make civvies healthy, wealthy and wise. Or at least to give them a lot of extra bucks.

Drew seemed suitably impressed by the wild and crazy goings-on. The studio audience went nuts, of course, even by the nutty standards of TPiR audiences. And the big payoffs probably didn't hurt the show's debut week ratings, or The Price is Right's chances for another multi-year renewal by CBS.

Friday, September 22, 2017

That was quick

As a comment thread on this blog points out, our little game show diginet Buzzr has made a strange programming decision.

No, I'm not talking about the Richard Simmons Dream Maker experiment, which Buzzr has already announced as a "limited run only." (My guess is that it will be very limited.) Instead, I'm referring to the decision to pull Wordplay after only three airings. Now that is a really limited run.

The Buzzr announcement talks about "unforeseen circumstances" behind the quick hook. This has set off some wild-blue speculation that some performer or production company yelped about the long dead show seeing the light of diginet.

As I blathered in the comment thread, that's always possible. But a lot of Wordplay has been available on YouTube for a while now, and nobody's yelped about that. Maybe we can use Occam's shaving utensil and speculate that Buzzr execs just thought the show was a dog. So they gave it the heave-ho and replaced it with their most reliable performer, Match Game. Gene and friends should be on Buzzr in prime time, anyway.

On the Buzzr Facebook page one viewer notes that Wordplay "is about as exciting as watching show melt." That's a little harsh, but there was a reason the show only lasted eight months in its original run.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A keen go-cart racer

A ramble through the game show Interwebs turned up this thread on Game Show Paradise about celebs who originally appeared as civvie contestants on game shows.

Truth be told, I already knew about a lot of them, like Vanna's turn on The Price is Right (no, she never got off contestants row.) Or Brianne Leary's jump from civvie to celeb on Match Game (the only one who ever made the journey across the stage.) But I didn't know that Simon Cowell of talent contest infamy made his TV debut as a civvie on the UK Sale of the Century.

They introduced Simon as a motor racing fan and a keen go-cart racer. Maybe he offered sour opinions about his competitors' driving, as sort of a warmup for Idol. The thread runs through some other performers whose game show adventures I wasn't aware of, like actress Kellie Martin. She played on Card Sharks and later voiced Daphne on Scooby-Doo, among many other roles. Always thought the cartoon was a little unfair to Daphne, making her more brainless than necessary.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ratings: last week of syndie reruns

The last week before the fall premieres saw only small changes for syndie game shows. By the way, I don't know if this will be the last we see of Craig and friends, or if we'll get one more weekly ratings report. Anyway, TV News Check has the blah household ratings for September 4-10...

Family Feud 6.0 - down a tick
Wheel of Fortune 5.4 - up a tick
Jeopardy 5.1 - flat, not much going on
Millionaire 1.6 - up a tick
Celebrity Name Game 0.9 - flat and soon to depart

GSN continued to languish with really bad numbers. 281K/227K viewers prime time/total day for September 11-17. The network ranked 47th and 43rd in the windows. The schedule indicates that GSN is trying to establish some other shows in prime time besides Harvey Feud. But they're paying a ratings price.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Limited time only

Happened to be flipping through the nosebleed section on my cable channels, and I ran across Dream Maker on Buzzr.

To be honest, I had forgotten all about this...whatever getting a regular slot on the game show oldies diginet. But Buzzr's Facebook commenters haven't forgotten. They are loaded for bear in their remarks...

It is the worst thing I've ever watched. Couldn't change the channel fast enough. Not even a game show.

How is Dream Maker even REMOTELY considered a game show? What's next, re-runs of Jenny Jones and Geraldo?????

Oh dear god, no!!! Don't give them any ideas!!!

There's much more where that came from. When Net denizens are running through punctuation marks at this rate, you know the reaction is, let's say, unfavorable. By and large Buzzr has gotten fawning notices from the heavily traditionalist game show Interwebs. But this experiment with Richard Simmons and friends has riled the online masses.

The only good news is that Buzzr itself promises that the show's run is "limited." It can't get limited fast enough, as far as the Internet is concerned.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Him again

Is there a more tiresome game show personality than Arthur Chu?

Of course not. Which is why we've got to have a movie about the guy. Wouldn't you know, the linked story hits almost every item that everybody got to know and love about dear Arthur, whose only claim to fame is winning a few times on a game show.

Playing the race card. Check. Literally obscene political rants. Check. Pseudo deep think about Twitter and Facebook. Check. Cashing in with a ridiculous ticket price for his ridiculous movie. Check.

Ken Jennings, a much better Jeopardy player, has parlayed his streak into a career, which is mildly tedious but understandable. Chu just seems to annoy everybody for the sheer joy of the sport. And when people express their extreme boredom with him, he shouts race or politics or life's general unfairness.

What a guy. The perfect game show contestant for whines and whimpers.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Shoes of fortune

Always on the lookout for weird game show items, I couldn't resist this oddity about football cleats.

The sports site with the linked story seems befuddled by Minnesota Viking Stefon Diggs' choice of footwear. The reaction on Twitter is decidedly mixed, ranging from "These cleats are stupid!" to "Low-key fresh!"

My guess is that the reaction will get a lot more negative after the game today, which Minnesota lost 26-9. Even worse, the football squad suffered the indignity of getting outscored by the baseball team in town, as the Twins won 13-7. (Hm, a football score, now that I think about it.)

You might call it a wheel of football misfortune. Maybe Diggs will try Jeopardy shoes next week. Alex might look nice in purple.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Games TPiR people play

With The Price is Right about to debut its tenth season with Drew Carey, the show is filling the media with hoopla and hubbub.

In particular, the show is highlighting a new game called Gridlock. Inspired by the traffic in Los Angeles, contestants playing for a car must "navigate" their mini game vehicle out of a lane of traffic and into an empty lane by correctly giving the price of the vehicle.

Cars and game shows go together like a horse and carriage, no doubt. Meanwhile, Drew himself offers some thoughts on various TPiR games. He dislikes Stack the Deck and That's Too Much because people lose too often. The games are okay, just too hard. But Cliff Hangers is fun because people win most of the time. Drew waves off a compliment from the interviewer about creating Rat Race. Gee, I like that game.

Drew also teases about "a moment coming up during premiere week that is so outrageous." He thinks it's going to be TPiR's biggest viral moment ever. Maybe I'll have to put it in the video blog in the sidebar.

UPDATE: A commenter notes that 2017-18 will actually be Drew Carey's 11th season. He's right. TPiR is celebrating the tenth anniversary of Drew's first show on October 15, 2007.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ratings: syndies almost all flat

There was virtually no movement among syndie game shows for the week of August 28-September 3. TV News Check has the Irma-delayed but still boring household ratings...

Family Feud 6.1 - down a tick in the only move
Wheel of Fortune 5.3 - flat
Jeopardy 5.1 - flat
Millionaire 1.5 - flat, get the idea?
Celebrity Name Game 0.9 - flat as we're almost done

We've got one more week of reruns in the ratings before we get new numbers starting September 11. Maybe then we'll see some movement.

I watched one of the last runs of Celebrity Name Game in my home DFW market today. Next week the station replaces it with something called Couples Court. Just what we need, another phony judge show.

GSN crashed and burned for the week of September 4-10. 292K/220K viewers prime time/total day. The network ranked 49th and 43rd in the windows. Horrendous numbers. Maybe Amy Davis knew something when she jumped ship.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Moving on

Don't know if this has anything to do with Mark Feldman taking over from David Goldhill as GSN president, but programming veep Amy Intracaso-Davis is also moving on.

It probably does have something to do with the change at the top, but nobody at GSN tells me anything, so it's all speculation. Anyway, Amy will return to NBC's cable operations as the programming chief at the E! networks. I didn't realize it at first, but the linked press release reminds me that she has been around at GSN since 2011. I'm not sure if that's the longest tenure for any programming veep at the network, but it has to be close, at least.

The release also mentions her role in American Bible Challenge, Skin Wars, and The Chase. Well, two outa three ain't bad. (You can probably guess which one of the shows I'm not crazy about. It's the show that didn't get an Emmy nom.)

In more pertinent news by show biz standards, Amy's tenure saw GSN pull its biggest annual viewership numbers ever. I have no idea what her departure means for the network's future course. GSN is currently wall-to-wall traditional game shows, with no Skin in sight. We'll just have to stay tuned to see if that changes.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Host chat

Buzzr will launch its first original October 20, and it's not a game show. But it's all about game shows.

Called Game Changers, the show features interviews with various people in our little genre. The link promises "Wink Martindale, Howie Mandel, Alex Trebek, Drew Carey, Todd Newton, Bob Eubanks..." Sure enough, the accompanying promo shows most of these gentlemen offering their thoughts on game shows.

Alex Trebek conducts the interviews, except the one where he gets interviewed himself. Maybe Pat Sajak was unavailable. The locations seem to be the hosts' homes, unless they built a really homey-looking set.

I vaguely remember that Vanna White is on the show, though she's not in this promo. Game Changers has been kicking around at Buzzr for a while, but it's finally got a debut date. The presence of hosts from non-Fremantle shows will naturally set off speculation about Buzzr acquiring other shows outside the Fremantle library. Who knows?

UNRELATED UPDATE: YouTube has scrapped its game show channel. Don't know why. It was a useful portal to thousands of game show videos on the site. So I took the now dead link off the blogroll in the sidebar.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Choose and/or lose

A while back I noted that winning contestants on Wheel of Fortune would get to choose from three categories for the bonus round in the new season. Well, the first choice happened last night on Wheel's season premiere.

Krissy Williams picked "What Are You Doing" instead of "Phrase" or "Food and Drink." Maybe she should have tried another category because she couldn't solve "Unpacking Bags." If it's any consolation, she would only have won the minimum thirty-five grand. And she still had $15,292 in loot from the front game.

Not to mention that she will now have a small place in Wheel lore as the first contestant who picked her own category for the bonus round. I would have gone for "Food and Drink" myself, but that's only because I like to eat too much.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Funny enough?

Just watched the debut of Funny You Should Ask. The easiest way to describe the show is Hollywood Squares minus three celebs and the tic-tac-toe game. I'm also tempted to say minus the laughs, but you'll can decide that one for yourselves. At least the show moves along briskly, if not too humorously.

Jon Kelley hosts in a bland and generic manner. Two civvies try to decide if a celeb - there's a panel of six of them, and each answers in turn - is right or wrong when Kelley asks them a general knowledge question. Before their answers the celebs deliver scripted punch lines, which mostly lack punch in my sour opinion.

After three rounds of this frivolity, the winning contestant plays a bonus round of three questions, again with scripted and supposedly funny answers. The poor civvie has to pretend to laugh along and to pick which answer is correct. In the ep I saw, the civvie nailed all three and got an extra five grand. Yippee.

I know I'm sounding grumpy about the show, but I thought the humor was pedestrian and the format was routine. The only saving grace was pace, but pushing things along quickly doesn't help much when things aren't that entertaining. It's unfortunate that this show replaces the far superior Celebrity Name Game among syndie game shows, but bad stuff happens sometimes.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Pageant news

Back in February I wrote about a TPiR contestant named Kaitlyn Schoeffel, who also happened to be Miss New Jersey.

Tonight is the final of the Miss America pageant - hosted by another person with game show connections, Chris Harrison - and Kaitlyn is around to try for the prize. A New Jersey news site, possibly biased toward the hometown Miss, says that Kaitlyn has a decent chance.

Miss New Jersey makes her living as a dancer on cruise ships, so she did a bit of dancing in the talent content (see screenshot). If you want to hear from Kaitlyn herself about the pageant and The Price is Right and other things, try this video. She talks about her TPiR contestant interview and her winning ways on the show. She copped a sailboat and a bunch of other stuff, plus some cash to help pay the taxes.

Good luck in Atlantic City.

UPDATE: Too bad Kaitlyn didn't win. She did pretty well, though, as the second runner-up.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Only child

A charming bit of game show history turned up today on the Interwebs.

On November 26, 1962 I've Got a Secret ran a segment with Rhonda Hogstad from Watertown, SD. Her secret was that she was the only student in her grade school. Accompanying Rhonda was her only teacher, Irene Franklin. The screenshot shows the two with Garry Moore.

A story in the Watertown Public Opinion - at least it's not a Gannett newspaper, so it doesn't have the boring one-size-fits-all USA Today look - recounts the saga of Rhonda and her game show appearance. In later life she was appreciative of her time on national TV, often talking about her turn on IGAS and saving various mementos.

Wouldn't you know, Bill Cullen guessed the secret with just a few questions, much to Garry Moore's chagrin. Henry Morgan got in a funny line about the entire student body standing in a corner. As so often happens, the episode endures on YouTube, thanks to a viewer who uploaded it from Buzzr. (You can barely see the Buzzr logo in the lower right-hand corner of the screenshot.)

Sadly, both student and teacher are now dead, as are all the cast members on the episode. One techie note on early TV from the linked story: this particular IGAS ep didn't air live in the Watertown market, so Rhonda's family drove to North Dakota to watch it. The taped version of the show made its way to Watertown a few weeks later. This was the pre-satellite era.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Master of the mall

Google News coughed up an item about Millionaire's Chris Harrison "returning to his roots" as a guest sportscaster on ESPN.

That's all very well, but Harrison more or less returns to his roots every season on Millionaire. A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, Chris hosted Mall Masters on GSN. This 2001 effort from Stone-Stanley didn't last long on our little game show network, but it wasn't Harrison's fault. He was his usual friendly, competent self. It's just that the format was tedious, routine, and overloaded with pop culture.

Like so many old game shows, Mall Masters has left behind a debris trail on YouTube. Chris' screenshot makes him seem thirteen years old, but Wikipedia tells me he was really twenty-nine at the time of the tapings. Some people look younger than others.

Harrison labored in the TV trenches as a sportscaster and host until he got his ginormous break in 2002 with the Bachelor franchise. The rest is show biz history.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Gaming the numbers

TV Series Finale, a site that tracks ratings and tries to predict whether shows will survive in the Nielsen jungle, has posted their analysis for the fifth season of Hollywood Game Night.

All in all, the news could be worse. The site reckons that the show averaged 4.1M viewers and a 0.95 18-49 rating. That's pretty close to the numbers for the fourth season, which obviously got Jane Lynch and company a renewal. Could Hollywood Game Night somehow endure to a sixth season? All that TV Series Finale says is "stay tuned."

All right, I'll stay tuned for any renewal or cancellation announcements. Hollywood Game Night no doubt benefited from the America's Got Talent lead-in, but the numbers are certainly respectable for broadcast summer fare nowadays. And the show offers our little genre's low production costs.

GSN tried reruns of Hollywood Game Night, but the show bombed and disappeared in a hurry. I don't mind Jane and friends playing their goofy games, though the pop culture obsession gets old. A sixth season wouldn't be the worst thing that ever happened in TV history.