Monday, May 25, 2015

Checking in with Steve

An anonymous commenter on Game Show Network News has called me "the Steve Beverly of the Internet game show world."

To put it mildly, I don't think the title is meant as a compliment. But I never had too many problems with Steve. Sure, he was opinionated and brash in his game show commentary, but so am I, and so is just about everybody else in the "Internet game show world." So I guess we're all like Steve to some extent. But the remark got me wondering just what happened to the Prof. He abandoned his game show blog a long time ago, and I hadn't really followed him lately.

Turns out Steve has been on Twitter all along. His Twitter site is a quirky but rather charming mixture of old TV news, new TV news, and various other odds and ends. Which includes screenprints of ancient TV Guides, like the one about the 1960 Preakness in this entry. (In case you're wondering, Bally Ache was the winner with Robert Ussery aboard.)

Steve still offers some game show comments, like a nod to actor John Schuck for his Pyramid skills. But he now ranges a lot more widely in his TV coverage. I'll look in now and then and see what the Prof is up to.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Further adventures of Arthur

Somehow I missed the hoohah a few weeks ago involving one of the most - let's use a delicate word - polarizing figures in our little genre's history.

Seems that former Jeopardy champ Arthur Chu has waded into the tedious Gamergate rumpus. I'm not going anywhere close to the details of this absurd stink, which is good for nothing but a few laughs from neutrals like moi. Anyway, a bar in Washington D.C. was going to host a meet-up for one side in the goofy spat.

Chu happens to be on the other side. Apparently believing that a few wins on Jeopardy make him Plato's philosopher-king, Chu sent an e-mail to the bar's owners that tried to pressure them into canceling the meet-up.

In a small but welcome victory for free speech, the bar's owners told Chu to stuff it. Sadly, some nutcase - I can't believe it was Chu himself - sent a bomb threat to the bar that brought out the cops. Don't worry, there was no bomb and they all lived happily (well, ordinarily) ever after.

If you want a scrupulously unbiased account of the happenings, try this. If you want a completely anti-Chu but thoroughly hilarious (and R-rated) account, try this.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Getting publicity at airports

I've been noticing a few stories in Google News about Game Plane lifting off from various airports.

It's a natural way to get free publicity for the show on the local news (not to mention a free plug for Allegiant Air). This story on the Quad Cities news is typical. Mark Walberg shows up to wax eloquent about the fun and games which await the lucky passengers, er, contestants. It's a slightly rowdier crowd than he usually encounters on Antiques Roadshow.

Game Plane is so cheap and cheesy in every way that I can't help rooting for it. Yeah, I know it steals from every game show in history, with the possible exception of Gong Show. But watching Walberg at work is always a pleasure. The guy ranks high on my personal list of best hosts ever. It's too bad that he's never had a huge hit to cement his reputation.

He's still my dark horse candidate to replace Alex when the trivia monarch hangs 'em up. Are you listening, Harry Friedman?

An unrelated housekeeping note: beginning today, I've decided to keep the last five "Videos From Our Little Genre" in the sidebar. The clips will scroll off after five days, similar to how faux tweets eventually scroll off.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hardcore nut

I'm on a 500 Questions kick, so I might as well stay on it for a little while. The current incumbent contestant is Campbell University librarian Steve Bahnaman. Naturally, the Campbell website carries a contestant story about him.

Steve has the required sense of humor about all this trivia silliness. He concedes that the show recruited him through "the underground apps for hardcore nuts like me." Nuts are buried underground sometimes.

He has an interesting educational background, having started in a theology Ph.D. program. "But to do that requires you caring a lot about a specific theologian or a single thing and study that for five years as hard as you can." So he switched to library science and the rest is nerd history. As you might expect, he was on a Quiz Bowl team and has always been drawn to books that have "a lot of facts in them." How did this guy not end up on Jeopardy? Oh well, give him time.

UPDATE: I was afraid that I might have jinxed Steve, but he made it through Friday's show to the 106th question. It was a perilous trip, though, as he fought off quite a few two-wrong questions and a challenger who was tough in the battles. He's piled up nearly seventy thousand in winnings.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pressure quizzer

This time I remembered to watch 500 Questions. Gotta admit, I'm happy I tuned in. Tonight's ep held my interest through the full two hours.

Richard Quest barks out questions at hapless contestants who try to answer, you guessed it, five hundred of the little buggers. No multiple choices, no helps, no lifelines, no friendly Mr. Philbin to guide you up the money tree. Just a host who seems happiest when he's reminding you (loudly) that three wrong answers in a row means you're gone.

Plus there's a challenger perched like a vulture, who occasionally gets a chance to assist you to the exit. This format piles on the pressure, which I liked in a sadistic way. Not to mention that the pace is pleasantly brisk, with just a few seconds allowed for each answer. I've seen criticism that there are too many rules and question variations, but after a while I got the hang of the proceedings.

And once in a longer while I knew something that the contestants didn't know, like Australia produces a lot of opals. But then I would goof four in a row and get reminded why I'm not cut out for this show.

500 Questions turned in respectable numbers on its first night. 5.1M viewers and a 1.2 18-49 rating. We'll see if the numbers can hold up as well as Richard Quest's voice.

UPDATE: The show slipped a bit in its second go-round. 4.6M viewers and a 1.0 18-49 rating. Still pretty decent compared to the (mostly rerun) competition.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I was going to post my review of 500 Questions tonight. Except something funny happened. I goofed and forgot to watch the show.

Yeah, there are sites advertising the full episode on YouTube. But I'm afraid the copyright police will show up on my doorstep if I try one of them. So I'll just wait until tomorrow to watch the second ep and give you my earthshaking opinion of the (reportedly difficult) quizzer. Meanwhile, I found this contestant story on Google News about a sports junkie enjoying a dream come true by playing Sports Jeopardy.

At first glance it's just like a bunch of other stories on the web about people realizing a dream by guessing prices on The Price is Right or figuring out word puzzles on Wheel of Fortune. But the story of Ty Sellers and his route to Sports Jeopardy reminds me of just how much fun a game show can be.

Which is something I have to work hard to remember, especially when I get bogged down in one of the endless arguments that are such a lovely part of the game show Interwebs. No matter how much people (including me) whine back and forth about our little genre, a lot of folks get a lot of enjoyment from watching and playing game shows. This is, after all, literally fun and games.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ratings: syndies barely budge

The week of May 4-10 was a boring ratings period for syndies. Game shows were no exception. There was hardly any movement, though Pat and Vanna did reclaim the number one slot. TV News Check brings the ho-hum household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - up a tick and second behind the abrasive judge in overall syndication
Jeopardy 6.1 - down a couple ticks
Family Feud 5.9 - flat
Millionaire 1.6 - flat at an all-time low
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - you guessed it, flat

Pat and Vanna did top the syndie list in total viewers. TV by the Numbers posts the averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.M (weekend repeat 4.0M), Jeopardy 9.2M, Family Feud 8.5M. We're getting toward the summer doldrums.

TV Newser reports that GSN didn't move much from the previous week, either. 362K/274K/383K viewer averages prime time/total day/extended prime time for the May 11-17 week. The network ranked 41st, 33rd and 38th in the windows.

More doom and gloom for GSN?

As a kind of follow-up to the previous post, a classics fan makes a prediction on Game Show Network News and I respond…

Classics fan: I don't know the actual # of potential households Buzzr will be available to, but my prediction is they'll take 50k off GSN avg. numbers.

Wikipedia (usual caveats) estimates 37% coverage in the U.S. for Buzzr. Even that is an exaggeration because many households - mine included, I'm afraid - may not get the subchannel on their cable systems.

Anyway, it's hard to see how such a sparsely distributed subchannel could have much of an impact on GSN's numbers. Every day GSN faces network and syndie game shows that are universally distributed in the U.S. and pull far larger numbers than GSN itself. If the network can withstand that kind of intense competition, I think it can survive a digital subchannel most people can't watch even if they want to.

I sure don't see a 50K knockoff of the total day average. GSN's most recent total day number was 278K, so you'd be talking about close to a 20% drop. Looks way too big to me.

GSN seems to share this lack of concern. Their June 1-7 schedule makes no changes except for a one-time Skin Wars/Harvey Feud marathon on Saturday. Doesn't exactly look like a move to keep oldies fans from flocking to Buzzr.

UPDATE: Buzzr TV has released a few videos on Facebook. All oldies, though I didn't see any black and white stuff.

UPDATED UPDATE: A poster on the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's says: "Per a press source, the Buzzr launch schedule hasn't been finalized yet, so stay tuned." Gotta agree with Chad Mosher, who responds: "I don't work in running TV stations, but wouldn't that be an important thing to have figured out a week and a half before you're set to take off?" Your guess may be as good as Buzzr execs on what exactly the network will run.