Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ratings: syndies have all-round bad week

Syndie game shows would just like to forget the January 16-22 week. All the shows slid except for one, and that one show has been cancelled. Good news galore, right? TV News Check brings the lousy household ratings...

Family Feud 7.1 - down a couple ticks, maybe they should try another run each day
Wheel of Fortune 6.7 - down five ticks
Jeopardy 6.2 - down six ticks, it's all just great
Millionaire 1.7 - down a tick
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat, the soon-to-depart show stays at its usual number

Speaking of Family Feud, that contract dispute over some old comedy tapes by Steve Harvey has breathed its last. A jury said there was no contract and the warring parties ended the case. Couple more numbers: Wheel weekend got 2.9 and Jeopardy weekend got 1.9.

GSN enjoyed a solid January, once they rid themselves of Window Whatnot. 442K/305K viewers prime time/total day. The network ranked 35th and 34th in the windows.

Monday, January 30, 2017

More oldies chat

A few days ago I typed a defense of GSN, sort of.

In the post I noted that the game show Interwebs often conspire to prove my point about their traditionalist bent. It's not hard to find material to back up this claim. On the oldies board to end all oldies boards, Game Show Forum, they're discussing the shakeup in the Buzzr schedule starting February 6. (I noted the schedule change in an update to the defense of GSN post.) I'll quote one of the GSF comments and interject my own blather...

Having been in the hospital for much of the last week (leg injury, recovering nicely)...

I can identify with this, given my own recent detour through the hospital.

...I can definitely say I prefer Buzzr to GSN at this point.

What a surprise.

The latter pretty much is down to Harvey Feud and a bunch of originals that don't interest me.

Ridiculously easy to disprove, of course, but nobody on GSF cares. Today GSN is running seven shows that aren't Harvey Feud or originals: Match Game, Card Sharks, Press Your Luck, 25K Pyramid, Wheel of Fortune, O'Hurley Feud, and Deal or No Deal. Six hours of programming in all. But Game Show Forum is rarely bothered by the facts. The real problem is that GSN runs stuff with less than decades of dust on it, which is of little or no interest to GSF.

I can imagine if Buzzr doesn't have a huge number of episodes available it could get pretty tiring to the hardcore audience (read: us), but we're not really who they're trying to reach.

Huh? The GSF folks are exactly who they're trying to reach. The diginet wants nostalgia buffs who pine for the good old days.

Has anyone determined whether the Tattletales episodes are from the 1980s run? Otherwise, it looks like they're trying to push the '80s nostalgia buttons with the rest of the picks.

Don't know about Tattletales, but Buzzr is definitely pushing every nostalgia button they can find. It's an oldies subchannel, after all.

Still standing

Once upon a time GSN ran a great show called Russian Roulette, where (among other things) losing contestants fell through the floor.

From December 19, 2011 to January 30, 2012, NBC ran an okay but not great show called Who's Still Standing, where losers also dropped through the floor. Wikipedia (usual caveats) says the show itself fell through the floor due to high production costs rather than bad ratings. I found an old TV by the Numbers post which says that one ep got 6.9 million viewers. This seems like an okay number, so maybe Wikipedia might actually be right.

Wikipedia also notes that the rules changed in goofy ways throughout the show's brief run, which is completely true. Another problem was that Ben Bailey, of deserved Cash Cab fame, was a surprisingly stiff host. Maybe they should have played the game in a cab, with losers dropping onto the street.

Who's Still Standing got one of those ridiculous inductions into the Hall of Shame from the late and mostly unlamented Game Show Garbage. The show wasn't nearly that bad, just a little disjointed and confusing. If you're wondering why I'm bothering with this long defunct NBC effort, a story just turned up in Google News about the format's much more successful international versions. It's "aired more than 4,000 episodes in 20-plus territories."

You might say that it's still standing on the world stage.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Another chatfest

A faux tweet noted Celebrity Name Game host Craig Ferguson's new deal with SiriusXM for a daily radio talk show. Variety fills in more details, with a lot of quotes from the man himself.

The show debuts February 27 and Craig describes it as "kind of an experiment. It's a two-year deal. If I like them and they like me, we'll do more." At least he won't have a long commute. SiriusXM is building a radio studio in his Los Angeles house, though he will take the show on the road now and then.

Truth be told, I was never a huge fan of Ferguson's late night TV talker. The humor just seemed a little too special and precious to me. Maybe I'm biased toward our little genre, but I thought Celebrity Name Game actually did Craig a favor by confining him to a tighter format, so things didn't spin too far out of control. At least the game show got him a couple daytime Emmys. Too bad it couldn't get a fourth season.

The radio show looks like it will be more or less Craig's old late night TV show, just without pictures. Ferguson is even bringing back a couple producers from the TV days. One of his comments sounds particularly insightful: "The [late night talk] shows have either become super-political or super-glitzy show business. I didn't fit into either camp particularly well." True enough, and good luck to Craig on radio.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


The game show hills are alive with the sound of cackling. There's been another massive goof on Wheel of Fortune.

Hapless contestant Samantha Philio from the Seattle area did a fine job of cracking the puzzle in the picture. She then read the obvious solution as "ice fields, water, glaciers." Of course, she was dinged for not reading "falls." The mistake cost her twenty-nine grand, and she finished the show with only $2,000. This has set off much FAIL mirth on the Interwebs.

To be fair, a sympathetic sort on Buy a Vowel noted that the puzzle omitted the expected "and" between "waterfalls" and "glaciers." This may well have tripped up Samantha when she tried to read the board.

I try not to join in the derisive laughter when things like this happen on game shows. I know only too well that I would be a hopeless wreck under the lights when serious money was at stake. But this screwup was painful...and, I hate to admit, funny.

Friday, January 27, 2017

In defense of GSN, sort of

Sometimes the game show Interwebs seem to be conspiring to prove my point about how traditionalist they are. A recent example was this exchange on Game Show Paradise...

Administrator: Does GSN still air game shows? I never noticed. (Sarcasm)

Other poster: By traditional definition of game shows, yes. Though not very many...So yeah, while GSN doesn't have as many game shows to offer like they did ten years ago, they do devote the majority of the weekly schedule to game shows, even if it's overkill of Family Feud.

That's true, if by "majority" you mean 100%. That's how much of GSN's programming schedule is now occupied by game shows. (To give the posters some credit, Window Whatever was running when this thread happened, but it quickly vanished.)

As for the "not very many" comment, today GSN is running twelve different game shows, or fifteen if you count different versions of Press Your Luck/Whammy, Family Feud and Chain Reaction as separate shows. And while there is a lot of Feud on today, other shows take 60% of the programming hours.

Compare that schedule to Buzzr, which is running ten different shows today - less than GSN, obviously - with a whopping 12 hours of Match Game and Family Feud. In fact, the MG-Feud "overkill" has become so blatant that TV News Check even asked a Fremantle exec about it. Of course, these are the two shows that get the most responses to the ads on Buzzr. Just like Harvey Feud is the show that gets the best ratings for GSN. Sorry to state the obvious, but any cable network runs its most successful shows a lot.

Don't worry, though, the two posters I quoted aren't about to complain about the Buzzr schedule. (They might complain about episodes getting repeated, but not about the shows in the lineup.) That's because they're older-is-better guys, and the shows on Buzzr are really old.

SLIGHTLY RELATED UPDATE: Divided cooled off a little in its second week. The quizzer still got okay ratings and good demos by GSN standards. 435K viewers and a 0.09 18-49 rating at 9:00 PM and 369K/0.08 at 9:30 PM.

MORE CLOSELY RELATED UPDATE: Maybe Buzzr is getting tired of those complaints about not enough variety on its weekday schedule. The oldies diginet is revamping prime time starting February 6. Password Plus, Let's Make a Deal, Sale of the Century, Tattletales, Card Sharks, Press Your Luck. Then rinse and repeat at 11:00 PM.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Smart enough?

This story in a Gannett newspaper - you can tell it's from Gannett because they all have the same online format - describes how the Blevins family from Knoxville ended up on Family Feud.

Normally I would make this a faux tweet at most. It's only a run of the mill contestant story, though it does offer some interesting detail about the two rounds of auditions the Blevins endured to get to the show. But one quote in the story caught my eye. Tim Blevins (second from the right in the picture) told his wife (far right): "I'm not watching Jeopardy with you. I'm not smart enough to watch Jeopardy. We got started watching Family Feud, and we just loved the show."

I can see the anti-Harvey folks at Game Show Forum and other sites smiling over the idea that Family Feud, especially its current incarnation, is dumb enough for everybody. Well, it's true that Feud will never win a Peabody for promoting knowledge among the great American unwashed. But sometimes you have to be pretty clever to come up with the final choice on that board.

Jeopardy has long had the egghead reputation which garnered the Peabody but which also puts off more than a few viewers. Sony doesn't mind, though, as they count the money.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ratings: Alex smiles

Syndie game shows saw mixed results for the week of January 9-15. Alex was happy, Steve and Craig not so much. But Craig won't have to worry about the numbers for much longer, sadly. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Family Feud 7.3 - down three ticks from the previous season high
Wheel of Fortune 7.1 - flat
Jeopardy 6.8 - up a tick to a new season high
Millionaire 1.8 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - down a tick to its usual number

GSN racked up pretty normal ratings for the week of January 16-22. 423K/302K viewers prime time/total day. The network ranked 39th and 32nd in the windows. TV Newser also posted the 25-54 demo numbers for the week. GSN got 124K/76K of those folks. Reflecting the network's constant old skew, GSN ranked a worse 45th and 49th in the windows for 25-54.

I'll have a Game Show Newsnet moment and post a comment that has nothing to do with game shows. One of my guilty pleasures, Investigation Discovery, had a blowout week for January 16-22. The true crime net posted top ten numbers in every category that TV Newser listed. ID got all the way up to number three in total day for 25-54. Crime pays.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why not three French hens?

Sorry, I couldn't resist the obvious joke in this entry's title.

NBC has ordered a pilot for 5 Gold Rings, a Dutch import that runs contestants across "a big, interactive LED floor, where every pixel counts." Yes, but are all pixels created equal? Players get five gold rings to answer questions over five levels, and it gets tougher as the game goes on. Viewers can also connect to the game on their cell phones, if they want to get in on the gold ring experience. So far NBC is not planning a spinoff with four calling birds (sorry again).

The linked Variety story gushes that "game shows have roared back into vogue of late." True enough, but as I cautioned a while ago, the results have been uneven at best. Still, as I also said a while ago, at least the broadcasters are giving me more to write about lately. We'll see if this ring-a-ding effort ever gets to NBC air.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Sell the soulmates?

The New York Post is talking about a possible sale of Sony's film and TV business again.

A while back the paper said that CBS could be eyeing (sorry) the assets, which of course include Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and a controlling interest in GSN. In a weird way this makes sense, because of all the broadcasters CBS has been most immune to the disease of 18-49 obsession. The network doesn't mind skewing at least a little older, which has turned out to be a smart strategy in a rapidly aging country. And Sony's game show properties share the genre's usual old skew.

CBS may also figure that they could turn around Sony's film unit, which has dwindled to a single-digit share of the movie business. Several Chinese companies might be interested, too. But a sale to anybody doesn't look imminent, according to the Post. Sony wants to see how its summer movies perform, especially the emoji picture. For now Pat and Vanna and Alex and our little game show network don't seem to be going anywhere.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Divided we argue

Another lazy day, another repost from Game Show Paradise. This item talks GSN's new Divided and the gripes I always get when I dare to point out the traditionalist tendencies of many game show Internet sites. One poster got so annoyed that he called me a troll and put me on ignore. Oh, dearie dear, whatever shall I do? Why, I'll write my own blog where I don't have to worry about such things...

Other poster: Neither the faults of older game shows or the positives of newer ones are, or should be, ignored.

You're beating down an open door with me. Now tell this to the folks at Game Show Forum or Golden Road or the game show board at Sitcoms Online, among other sites. They make a habit of ignoring the faults of older shows and the positives of newer ones. In fact, the average age of GSF's recent list of fifty top game shows was nearly a half-century, and there was exactly one (1) show on the list that originated in the last ten years. (Hint: it featured Mark Labbett.)

That's what I was talking about when I pointed out the traditionalist tendencies of the game show Interwebs. If some posters take this as personal criticism, I can't help it. The blunt fact is that I don't expect such Internet sites to appreciate Divided. But apparently enough of GSN's audience can stomach the show, if the early numbers are any indication. We'll see what happens over the next several weeks.

By the way, I made my own list of the fifty top game shows. Although I wasn't particularly aiming for chronological balance, the list came out that way. There were at least five shows that originated in each of the seven decades from the 1950s through the 2010s. The decade with the most shows was...the 1950s. So much for the criticism that I don't appreciate older shows. I like good game shows from every era.

As for my being a troll, apparently some people can't stand the slightest disagreement with their posts. That's okay with me. But I never put anybody on ignore. I don't mind disagreement, even when it's harsh. Check the comments on my blog if you don't believe me.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Idiots and divisions

A few days ago I said I would update the blog with the numbers on GSN's new Divided.

Even allowing for a peak viewing month and a Harvey Feud lead-in, Divided did just fine in its debut. The 9:00 PM ep got 424K viewers and a 0.09 18-49 rating. The 9:30PM ep got 451K and 0.10. The build in the second ep and the nice demos (for GSN) bode well for the new show.

The new eps of Idiotest posted pretty much the same figures. 411K viewers and a 0.11 18-49 rating at 10:00 PM, and 421K and 0.11 at 10:30 PM. The puzzle fest has hung around for a good long time with such ratings. If Divided can stay in the same Nielsen zone, the quizzer may have a nice future on GSN.

To state the obvious, GSN can use game shows that get okay demos and 400K+ viewers. The network needs to lean a lot less on Harvey Feud. At least the early returns for both Divided and the new season of Idiotest are a lot more upbeat than the awful flop Window Whatnot or the disastrous return of Hellevator.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Another game show moment?

ScreenerTV, which used to be Zap2It and TV by the Numbers, now runs a column by a guy called the Masked Scheduler.

Google tells me that his real name is Preston Beckman and he used to be a broadcast network exec, back when the broadcast networks ruled the world like the dinosaurs they are. Mr. Beckman sounds pretty dinosaur-ish himself, as he concentrates almost exclusively on the rapidly imploding world of the broadcasters.

But he worked in that world for 35 years, so he has a tough time letting go. He recently noticed our little genre for one entire sentence: "On the other hand NBC appears to have a success in The Wall and we appear to be in another Game Show moment on the networks." (The only networks Mr. Beckman cares about are the broadcasters.)

It's true that the broadcast networks are looking at game shows for their famously low production costs. CBS has been churning out hundreds of The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal eps for years, at a fraction of the per-episode cost of bombing sitcoms and dramas. So other broadcasters are trying game shows in prime time.

There have been some recent successes: Celebrity Family Feud, 100K Pyramid, The Wall. But there have also been a lot of so-so results and some outright flops as well. The difference is that game show flops don't cost jillions. Dinosaur networks can't spend like they used to.

As the zillion-channel media universe inexorably chokes the broadcasters, cheap programming will be the order of the day. So maybe the antediluvian Mr. Beckman is right about game shows getting their moment. At least the broadcasters are giving me more to write about lately.

UPDATE: Mr. Beckman has more to say about game shows. "Finally I was asked how long the current game show cycle may last. The way the cycle has worked in the past is that younger (18-49) viewers catch on to one of these shows, but the pattern is for them to leave rather quickly and the audience gets very old very fast. The genre will fade out until the next shiny game show comes on the scene and then as we all know, imitation is the greatest form of television."

What Mr. Beckman doesn't seem to realize is that most shows' audiences are getting older. That's because the U.S. population is getting older. The median age has risen ten years since 1970 and continues to rise. But he's right about imitation. Take Plinko and The Wall, for instance.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Wall doesn't crumble

As always, the Nielsen Company has ruled on which show gets a renewal.

Of all the new and returning game shows on cable and broadcast over the past few weeks, The Wall has produced the consistently best numbers. So it's no surprise that NBC has sprung for twenty more eps of the Plinko knockoff. At least the folks at The Price is Right can be proud that their favorite pricing game has spawned the sincerest (and successful) form of flattery.

To give the NBC version its due, they have tarted up the gameplay with plenty of twists and turns. Chris Hardwick does his usual competent job as the host, once again proving that he could host a paint-drying exhibition and make it semi-interesting. LeBron James gets more publicity - and he really needs it - for his showrunner duties. Not to mention his prize money delivery trips.

The linked story says The Wall is going international, with a French version in the works. Le Mur?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ratings: happy post-holidays for syndies

The holidays passed and syndie game shows rejoiced. There were no less than four new season highs in the week of January 2-8. TV News Check spreads the good tidings about the household ratings...

Family Feud 7.6 - up a couple ticks to a new high
Wheel of Fortune 7.1 - up a whopping nine ticks to its own new high
Jeopardy 6.7 - up seven ticks to, you guessed it, a new high
Millionaire 1.8 - up a tick to celebrate its renewal with another new high
Celebrity Name Game 1.4 - up a tick to celebrate its cancellation?

Chilly January is a peak month for TV watching, so we'll probably see some more nice ratings over the next several weeks. Meanwhile, GSN more or less maintained their numbers in the week of January 9-15. 421K/302K viewers prime time/total day. The network ranked 35th and 31st in the windows.

Good news for another game show: The Wall gets 20 more eps, thanks to its steady Nielsen performance. It's averaged 6.9M viewers and a 1.7 18-49 rating. Plinko scores.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Divided opinions

Lazy today so I'll just repost some of my drivel from Game Show Paradise. The subject is Divided, which (believe it or not) is a new game show that GSN debuts this week. Our little game show network doesn't do such things very often any more. The last new game show they tried was Winsanity, which didn't win.

Other poster: I think I'll be staying far away from this show.

Sure, Divided probably won't have much appeal on the largely traditionalist game show Interwebs. Maybe if GSN could fool everybody into thinking it was from 1982, it might have a chance with the Internet crowd.

The question is whether Divided will lure people who watch stuff on GSN with less than decades of dust on it. I think it's got a shot, at least more than Window Whatever did. That sucker was clearly going to bomb because the audience for window decorating is pretty limited. The audience for quizzers is a lot bigger. Divided will get a Harvey Feud lead-in and a pairing with Idiotest, which has been a consistent demo winner by GSN's geriatric standards even if the total viewer numbers aren't gigantic.

We'll know when Showbuzz posts the cable ratings this Friday. The show did earn a second thirty-ep season on ITV in Britain but then ran out of steam (seven eps of the second season never made it to air). At least it lasted for 53 eps in Blighty.

One more thing I didn't post on Game Show Paradise. I already reviewed Divided (favorably) when GSN sneak-peeked it back in November. So I won't do another full-blast review. I will update this post with the Showbuzz numbers, though.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A happy celeb

I noted actor Dick Gautier's death in a faux tweet, but now that I think about it, he deserves much more attention on a game show blog.

As all of his obituaries remarked, Gautier was an enthusiastic game show player in the 1970s and 1980s. His IMDb page lists a bunch of credits on classics from Hollywood Squares to Match Game. But his biggest imprint was on Password, where he played virtually every version of the show. Just had a knack for word games, I guess.

Oldies diginet Buzzr pays quiet tribute to his impact on the genre by showing him on two different shows in their "LOL" promo, Tattletales and (you guessed it) Super Password. That's where I got the screenshot, as he yuks it up with Bert and Vicki. He was always a jolly sort on game shows, or at least he seemed to be enjoying himself. Maybe that's why showrunners wanted his services.

Dick Gautier more or less retired from show business in the early 1990s. He was never a star but didn't mind being a supporting actor (and game show player). R.I.P.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

He's flexible

As I've said a few times, I try to keep politics out of this blog as much as possible. But Google News is pumping out a lot of stories right now about Family Feud's Steve Harvey meeting with Donald Trump to discuss inner cities and whatever else. This item from the Chicago Sun-Times is typical, and at least it offers some humor about a possible Feud match-up between the Trumps and the Obamas, or the Clintons.

All this chatter demonstrates Mr. Harvey's political flexibility. He endorsed Hillary in the election, and he's spent much of the last eight years as a particularly obsequious courtier to Barack and Michelle. Maybe he just wants to get in good with whoever is currently running the show. Which may not be such a bad idea. I'm not holding my breath on the Trump-Obama Feud clash, though.

I have no idea if the meeting between the real estate mogul and the show biz mogul will produce anything. They might try a revival of Trump Card. Every other old game show format seems to be getting a reboot.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Can't kill it

As the unrelated update to yesterday's post mentioned, Millionaire will be around for at least one more year.

In fact, if you can believe TV News Check, the show will continue for a couple more years. The chart in the TV News Check story may be wrong, but the news of a one-year renewal looks genuine. It's a press release from ABC, after all.

The show has definitely nosed up in the ratings this season, thanks to better time slots and Chris Harrison's steady hand as host. After Meredith Vieira got bored with the gig, the show went on a silly search for the next Steve Harvey. This elusive creature has never turned up, and Millionaire sure couldn't find him as the numbers eroded.

Finally, they settled on a proven host in Harrison, who seems to have righted the ship. He understands that Millionaire is a challenging quizzer, not a comedy vehicle. In fact, the show is now getting numbers that look just fine compared to many syndies in other genres.

TV News Check noted in their story - no doubt correctly - that launching new syndies has become more hazardous than defusing bombs. That's because most of the newbies are bombs. Might as well stick with something that's been here since 2002.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Singin' in the car

Spike debuted Caraoke Showdown last night, and two of the contestants - black Bryan and Chinese Bryan - were pretty good.

There were a lot of other contestants, but the show insisted on cutting back and forth between them so fast that I almost lost track. As you probably know, the basic idea is a filch from Cash Cab, only with musical games instead of trivia questions. Somewhat suspecting people get into host Craig Robinson's taxi, where they play karaoke-based games mostly borrowed from Name That Tune and Don't Forget the Lyrics.

All told there were four teams of contestants, though the editing was so hyper-kinetic that you hardly got to know them. DJ Steve Aoki also showed up for a couple minutes, but you might have missed him if you blinked. Eventually the teams got whittled down to two, and Craig brought them to a bowling alley - where else? - for a final showdown to demonstrate their karaoke chops.

That's when black Bryan and Chinese Bryan - two Chippendales, by the way - wowed the assembled bowlers and won the night. (Okay, some of the bowlers just went on playing and ignored the karaoke.)

The real idea of Caraoke Showdown was to keep things moving so fast that no viewer would dare push a button on the remote. We'll see if the Nielsen Company thinks the idea works.

RELATED UPDATE: The show got so-so numbers by Spike standards. 441K viewers and a 0.18 18-49 rating. Spike averaged 817K/481K viewers prime time/total day in the latest week.

UNRELATED UPDATE: A faux tweet noted that TV News Check thinks Millionaire is safe for two more years. Now Deadline Hollywood says the show has gotten a 2017-18 renewal. It looks like Chris Harrison and company will be around for at least another year.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fox news

No, I'm not talking about the top-rated cable news network, the bane of liberals and the consolation of conservatives.

Instead, mama Fox, the broadcast network, made a couple game show announcements at the Television Critics Association thingie yesterday. As faux tweets noted, Jamie Foxx will host Beat Shazam and Andy Cohen will helm a reboot of Love Connection.

Neither news item is a huge surprise. Beat Shazam, where contestants play a Name That Tune variant updated with the music app, has been in the works for quite a while now. I have no strong feelings one way or the other about Foxx as the host, though his name certainly fits the network.

Love Connection was supposed to return a while back with Loni Love - another appropriate name - as host. But there's many a slip betwixt cup and lip, though the project made it to the pilot stage. It looks like the rewind is really gonna happen now, with fifteen eps on Fox in the summer. As everybody says, every old game show format in creation seems to be getting a reboot.

Music and love, ain't it sweet?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ratings: Steve is happy

The week between Christmas and New Year's is not usually a big ratings winner. But Family Feud hit a new season high (with its eighteen runs a day - slight exaggeration). Otherwise the syndie news was blah at best. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Family Feud 7.4 - up four ticks to the new high
Wheel of Fortune 6.2 - down a tick for its one daily run
Jeopardy 6.0 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 1.7 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat

Of all the new and returning broadcast game shows, The Wall is doing the best. The latest new ep got 7.0M viewers and a 1.7 18-49 rating. The show seems to have settled around these numbers, which should be plenty good enough for a renewal.

After a hiatus TV Newser is posting its cable rankers again. GSN enjoyed its best week in a while for January 2-8. 455K/306K viewers prime time/total day. The network ranked 35th and 34th in the windows. Speaking of windows, getting mega-flop Window Whatever off the network sure didn't hurt the averages.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Remember when video games were big clunky machines, and you went to an arcade to play them?

If you can't recall such ancient times, congratulations on your youth and inexperience. But back in the '80s a TV game show called Starcade celebrated those innocent days of arcade hopping. Contestants vied on various machines to pile up enough points to win a secret decoder ring and a year's supply of Rice-a-Roni. (Yes, I'm making those prizes up.)

Nothing ever really goes away in TV Land - cable network reference intended. An outfit called Shout Factory is planning to reboot Starcade for another generation of video gamers. I assume the machines will be a lot smaller. Miniaturization has proceeded apace over the decades.

The linked story says: "Starcade was awkward, but not in a way that a video game-loving child of the '80s would have noticed." I dunno, I think just about anybody would have noticed that the show was awkward. Plenty of eps survive on YouTube, so you can judge for yourself. We'll see if the planned reboot ever shows up on TV.

Monday, January 9, 2017

They're fans

Readers of this blog have seen links to two very different reviews of ABC's Big Fan.

One critic trashed the show as creepy, dumb and generally a threat to western civilization. The other pundit thought it was fun and entertaining, a pleasant enough way to pass a half-hour. After watching the premiere, I definitely lean toward the more positive view, though I can understand a bit of the naysayer's case.

If you don't know, Big Fan grew out of a segment on showrunner Jimmy Kimmel's late night chatterer. Three super-fans of a well-known celeb - on the debut ep the famous one was Matthew McConaughey - compete to prove their knowledge of anything and everything about the celebrity.

After a couple rounds only one big fan is left and plays directly against the celeb to answer questions about the famous person's life and times. On the debut ep the civvie won the ultimate showdown 5-4. Both my wife and I thought Matthew might have been purposely slow on the final question to give the civvie the win.

As you can probably guess, Big Fan is a long, long way from the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions. The show is mostly a hoot, as the departing fans get a photo of themselves with the celeb and some time on stage with the object of their devotion. But I still enjoyed the proceedings, especially when they created a faux movie poster of Matthew and the winning civvie.

Andy Richter hosted without too much snark. The director may have squashed him, and Andy kept his worst tendencies under control. The one questionable aspect was the sort of yucky super-fandom on display. But the show didn't go completely overboard on such undying devotion of civvie to celeb.

In fact, there was a nice moment when one of the fans, who has cystic fibrosis, said he couldn't agree more with Mr. McConaughey's advice to just keep livin'. After my own recent health scare, I'll definitely second that motion.

UPDATE: Big Fan's ratings were so-so to poor. The first ep got 3.6M viewers and a 1.0 18-49 rating, and the second ep got 2.7M viewers and a 0.7 18-49 rating. Not so hot.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Wanted: game show host

A thread on Game Show Forum considered offbeat choices to host a game show.

This being GSF, most of the posts talked about the distant past. Although one brave poster proposed Keith Olbermann as a possible host. The poster did concede that Olbermann's hyper-abrasive personality might not work so well over time. No kidding.

Although GSF naturally didn't consider this angle - the show is way too recent - I sometimes look at the celebs on Celebrity Name Game as possible hosts. One offbeat selection might be Eddie Kaye Thomas. Not only is he a good game player himself - okay, that's not necessary in a host though it certainly doesn't hurt (see Mark Walberg and Bill Cullen) - but he also has a dry wit and undoubted ability to improvise.

The drawback is that his wit might be a little too arid. He sort of gives me the Ben Gleib vibe, a host who could seem too aloof from the contestants. But I think he could run a game show with no problems and with some droll observations. Come to think of it, his partner on Celebrity Name Game, Lauren Ash, might not be bad at the job, either.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Fan review

A faux tweet linked to a grumbling review of ABC's upcoming Big Fan. It was an example of the gripes and groans from snootier TV critics about prime time game shows.

But I'm happy to report that some critics don't mind our little genre invading the sacred precincts of broadcast prime time. (Usually a lot of crappy scripted shows occupy the sacred precincts. Then the shows get cancelled or the networks string them along until they can get a syndication deal.)

This take on Big Fan sounds a lot chirpier about the premise and game shows in general. Words like "fun" and "good time" appear without snark. It's a refreshing change from the high-and-mighty disdain the genre often receives.

Of course, I haven't seen Big Fan yet. I'll give you my unvarnished opinion on Monday after the show's debut. But I promise not to trash all game shows. That wouldn't make much sense on a game show blog, would it?

Friday, January 6, 2017

If The Wall crumbles...

Chris Hardwick is auditioning to become the second Ryan Seacrest. Get as many gigs as you can.

He already does @Midnight, the Walking Dead after-show and The Wall. Now he's trying out (among 77 zillion others) as Kelly Ripa's co-host. Who knows if he'll land that job? But at least The Wall is getting cheerful numbers in its early runs.

Hardwick has no rough edges, so it's not surprising that he can fit into any format that requires talking without a script. He kept Singled Out going for a good long time on MTV, and he's a natural at the ad-libbing required for a game show host.

My guess is that he'll end up with a late night talk show one of these days. But I could see game show producers tossing another offer or three his way.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Ratings: not much Xmas cheer for syndies

'Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the house, syndie game shows were pretty much snoozing. None of them gained, though the losses were small. TV News Check has all the household ratings...

Family Feud 7.0 - down a couple ticks
Wheel of Fortune 6.3 - down three ticks
Jeopardy 6.2 - down a couple ticks, see the pattern?
Millionaire 1.7 - flat, somebody has to break the pattern
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - down a tick to its usual number

Meanwhile, broadcast game shows are showing a mixed picture. The Wall (NBC) is fine, with 6.8 million viewers and a 1.7 18-49 rating. To Tell the Truth (ABC) is not so fine, with 3.7 million and 0.7. Match Game (ABC) is in between, with 4.9 million and 1.3.

The second season of Paradise Run keeps doing good business by Nick standards. The latest ep got 1.6 million viewers and a 0.29 18-49 rating.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

No politics, just kissing

This blog is mostly non-political. Well, a certain well-known Internet slammer once slammed me for making a joke about NPR's taxpayer money.

Still, I try to avoid politics as much as possible. But this video is too good to pass up. The Vice Presidency of the United States isn't the most onerous job in the free world. But one of the Veep's duties is apparently swearing in members of each new Congress.

Normally this would be a pretty dull affair. But Joe Biden - who's known for these tendencies already - decided to spice things up by channeling the kissing bandit himself, Richard Dawson. As C-SPAN's cameras rolled, he started smooching every lady in sight. For the most part they took it in stride, though one young girl looked kind of grossed out.

Anyway, an Internet prankster named Tim Young spliced some of Joe's osculation into old clips of Richard doling out kisses on Family Feud. It's a hilarious video, complete with a memorable parting line from Joe and breathless product plugs by Gene Wood. And it wraps up in just one minute and seven seconds.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Blah blah blah on game shows

Pity the poor TV critic who has to write about game shows. The pundit can't take the genre too seriously, unless the show in question is Jeopardy, with its Peabody award and hoity-toity appeal. So heavy doses of cynicism and archness are necessary to get through the review.

A typical example is this Vulture mishmash about The Wall. The critic - somebody named Jen Chaney who I've never heard of, but then she's never heard of me, either - calls the Plinko knockoff "the Most American Game Show on TV." Oh boy, right away you get a real good idea where this is going. Sure enough, Ms. Chaney bashes the show for sins like the largeness of the wall and the neediness of the contestants.

But in the end she doesn't want to sound too much like a snooty elitist looking down her nose at her fellow Yanks (which I suspect may be an accurate description). So she tells us that her nine-year-old son is a big fan of the show, and she can somehow tolerate it as well. That's nice, Jen.

The Wall won't win any Peabodys and it might not even win a second season, though the ratings are decent enough so far. But at least pretentious critics will not decide its fate.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Stuff about The Price is Right

In any year January 2 is bound to be a pretty blah date. The holidays are over and the reality of a dull month is setting in.

Game shows are not exempt from this dreariness. I looked through Google News today for items on our little genre, and the cupboard was mostly bare. So I just decided to write about the first story that referenced The Price is Right.

Wouldn't you know, it was this item about Forest Lawn, the oft-satirized cemetery in LA. (As if we haven't had enough of the death book lately.) The final sentence of the story: "Bob Barker, the beloved and longtime game show host of The Price Is Right is not dead — but his grave stone is prepared at the legendary cemetery."

Which is no doubt a lively thing to contemplate. At least the next item was less deathly. The Price is Right's live show is coming to Muskogee, the town Merle Haggard immortalized in Okie from Muskogee. The live show's been everywhere, so it's nice that Merle's place will get a look.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My truth about TTTT

ABC's To Tell the Truth returns tonight.

While it's always nice to see a game show format endure for decades through many different versions, TTTT has never been a personal favorite of mine. I put it on my top fifty list for historical reasons, but there are a lot of other game shows - and panel shows in particular - that I would rather watch.

My main complaint with the format is its wandering nature. The panelists bounce around and fire off questions of their own, and we never develop a consistent hunt for the solution, as on What's My Line or I've Got a Secret. On ABC's new version the questioning seems even more random, as the show hops from panelist to panelist.

I've got a lot of disagreement on this assessment, of course. No less than Mark Goodson proclaimed To Tell the Truth to be his favorite format, ahead of even Family Feud (see Irv Broughton's Producers on Producing). And John O'Hurley thought that his stint as host of one of the syndie versions was his best gig in show business. So what do I know?