Friday, January 20, 2017
Another game show moment?
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.