Friday, July 25, 2014

It's about time for San Fran

This blurb for the San Francisco tapings of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me surprised me a bit. I couldn't believe it took this long for the show to settle into San Fran for a good long spell.

Politically, culturally and gameplaying-ly, the cutesy NPR comedy quizzer couldn't be more suited for Baghdad by the Bay, as the old columnist dubbed it. The linked story tells how one panelist tried to work Art Linkletter references into the show. If that shtick is going to work anywhere, San Francisco is the spot.

The story states the obvious: the city is "fertile ground for public radio listeners, as evidenced by the NPR devoted groupieship in attendance. There haven't been so many tote bags in one place since the last National Archivist Association picnic." I don't know about the national archivists, but the NPR bunch whooped it up throughout the proceedings.

Bill Kurtis has taken over as the show's announcer from long-timer Carl Kasell, who retired recently. Kurtis gained most of his renown as the true-crime guy on A&E, which somehow seems like the perfect background for this show. Wait, wait, don't tell me whodunit.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Game show airlines

A project called The Game Plane has been kicking (flying?) around for a while. Basically, it's Allegiant Air's answer to Cash Cab, only up in the air, so to speak. See the screenshot for more details than you could want to know.

Now comes news via BuzzerBlog that Mark Walberg will host the show, set for syndication this fall. Walberg retweeted the news himself, so the item looks legit. While it's not exactly Alex's gig on Jeopardy - I've been touting Walberg as a candidate for that job when Mr. Trebek finally retires - it's nice to see Mark back in our little genre.

I really don't have much to add about the show's format beyond what the screenshot reveals. I assume we won't get wild and crazy stunts while the plane cruises at 35,000 feet. Game Plane looks like a quizzer with maybe a few goofier games tossed in. And I haven't heard anything specific about the show's syndication rollout plans.

Suddenly the syndie game show universe looks crowded this fall. We've got this airplane project and Celebrity Name Game and Let's Ask America all going to the nationwide market. May the best game win.

It's official

A while back a couple commenters posted that comic Bill Bellamy will replace Kevin Pereira on the third season of Let's Ask America.

Bellamy discusses the new gig in this interview. "People will be Skyping from all over the world. I'm working my butt off, but this show is a lot of fun. It's gonna remind people of how funny I am as a host." The tapings for the new season start next month, as a recent casting call reminded wannabe Skypers.

Of course, there's no word on exactly why Pereira got bounced. I thought he was just fine on the show, smartass enough without tumbling over into obnoxiousness. But for whatever reason the producers went with Bellamy as the show readies for nationwide distribution. Bill's biggest claim to previous fame was the phrase "booty call."

Bellamy seems to be enjoying a general career renaissance. We'll see if the Skype survey show helps the resurgence.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Whatever else my critics might say about this blog, nobody's ever called it a scandal sheet. So I feel a little guilty over the faux tweet about Ben Stein's sexting troubles. You remember Ben from that game show about winning his money, right?

To give Mr. Stein his due, I'll link to his own explanation of the whole salacious affair. Truth be told, his column sounds self-pitying and unconvincing. He may be a lonely old guy who just had a silly crush on a girl about a third his age. But that doesn't excuse the frankly creepy texts he sent her.

Right now the whole mess looks like a run-of-the-mill celeb sex scandal, if a "scandal" can be generated over sex anymore. Nobody appears to be alleging anything illegal or even all that unethical. Stein just seems to have let his better judgment get clouded by senescent sex fantasies. Sad and unseemly, but hardly felonious.

His political and personal enemies are having a downright glorious field day, of course. Can't say he didn't invite it. He handed them a sword and they're seeing how much blood they can draw.

New guy with the questions

As he prepares to take over Millionaire, Terry Crews is making the media rounds.

This interview with the ABC outlet in LA covers a lot of away money, being a grandfather, transitioning from the NFL to show biz, etc. Terry comes off as likeable and friendly, which is half the battle on a game show, after all. He also promises to shed his shirt if anybody ever wins the million. Terry, your shirt is safe. Nobody ever cops the top prize anymore.

While Mr. Crews may be a pleasant host, I really have to wonder if Millionaire is wearing out its welcome. The show's been through a zillion format tweaks, including a new lifeline in the upcoming season. But the numbers continue to erode. Can a different host arrest the slide? We'll see, but I'm not optimistic.

Millionaire also faces a more crowded field among syndie game shows this fall. Celebrity Name Game is set to debut, and Let's Ask America is supposed to go nationwide sooner or later. Will the now-randomized money tree survive?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ratings: syndies jump for joy

After a rough week syndie game shows bounced back in the July 7-13 period. All the shows tacked on a few tenths of a point, except for poor Cedric. But he's outa here pretty soon, anyway. TV by the Numbers posts all the household ratings and viewer averages...

Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up a couple ticks
Jeopardy 5.7 - up three ticks to close in on the soulmate
Family Feud 4.6 - up three ticks for smiling Steve
Millionaire 2.0 - flat

The viewer averages also perked up some. Wheel of Fortune 9.1M (weekend repeat 4.5M), Jeopardy 8.8M (weekend repeat 3.4M), Family Feud 6.7M, Millionaire 2.6M. Not bad for TV's July lull.

GSN's total day average nudged up a little for the week of July 14-20, says TV Newser. 351K/254K prime time/total day. The network ranked 41st and 39th in the windows, right around its usual spot in the cable pecking order.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I was a teenage contestant

Grumpy old me has complained about Jeopardy's constant tournaments and stunts. And frankly, except for the champions' tourneys, I don't have much use for all the specials. After a while there just isn't much special about 'em.

But as I watched tonight's kickoff of the show's teen tournament, even this ancient grump got to rooting a little. I wanted all the kids to do okay. When one of them bombed with a big negative score and didn't make Final Jeopardy, I actually felt a twinge of regret. What's happening to my precious cynicism?

I even felt bad when one of the other kids goofed the FJ question - which I nailed, to brag obnoxiously - and lost her lead and the game. She might still move on as a wild card, but you never know.

This tournament gets a bunch of stories in Google News, as local outlets like to cover the brainy teens. They make for cute pictures and cute quotes. At least they're enthusiastic about national TV time and the chance to show off some smarts. It's hard even for me to root against smart kids, after all.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Schwab on the radio

As sports junkies line up to play Sports Jeopardy this fall with Dan Patrick on Crackle, news comes that Howie Schwab will be part of the project.

Howie is fondly remembered from ESPN's Stump the Schwab game show. He's the ultimate sports trivia nerd, sort of the Ken Jennings of jock minutia. He'll be consulting with the Sports Jeopardy guys to make sure they don't mix up their shortstops with their cornerbacks.

The linked story features a funny interview with Howie and Dan Patrick. In a bit of bizarre gameplay, Patrick actually nails an incredibly obscure trivia question from the Schwab. Daniel seems quite proud of himself and growls at his staff for thinking it was all a set-up.

Sadly, Patrick whiffs on a second question from Schwab. There's also some reminiscing about their time at the "four-letter" network. (Which would be ESPN, for the not so well-informed.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Before Chuck and Susan

One of the nice features of the revived BuzzerBlog is "throwback Thursdays." The site looks back at the long and tangled history of our little genre.

The latest installment recalls Number Please, a minor Goodson-Todman effort that didn't last a year on ABC. The format wasn't anything special. Two contestants took turns revealing letters in hidden phrases until they got up the gumption to guess the solution. But it's obvious how the word game anticipated later efforts like that one with the big wheel. YouTube offers a sample ep.

I very vaguely remember the show, mostly because host Bud Collyer was famous thanks to Beat the Clock and To Tell the Truth. The YouTube episode just reeks of the fifties, though the show actually dates from 1961. The show refers to the contestants as "Mrs. Dewitt" and "Mrs. Secord," which nowadays might bring a sex discrimination suit (slight exaggeration).

As BuzzerBlog notes, an old-soap-opera organ also keeps playing throughout the proceedings. The whole thing seems to come from so far back, that it's crummy to realize I turned ten years old during the show's brief run. I come from pretty far back, too.