Monday, August 31, 2015

More Millionaire

Blogged about the new season of Millionaire just a few days ago. But there's not much other game show news right now, so I'll blog about it again.

After all, Millionaire is making by far the biggest format changes of any returning game show this fall. The show has released a promo with Chris Harrison and the new "back to the future" setup. The traditional money tree returns along with the 50:50 lifeline. Basically, except for the plus-one lifeline, the show is pretty much the same as Meredith Vieira's version back in 2002. Oh, the hot seat is gone. Chris and the contestants stand up.

In the screenshot - enlarging it helps - you can see the money tree and the 50:50 lifeline at the left. The promo explicitly says that Millionaire is bringing back the old format and even shows a quarter-million win, which seems to be the syndie version of the (realistic) top prize.

A YouTube commenter named pixiegirl999 grumps: "I don't think they could possibly have found a more bland, beige host than Chris Harrison." Pixiegirl, that's probably what the showrunners were looking for after a year of Terry's bellowing. Chris Harrison may be the closest thing to a male version of Meredith that they could come up with. We'll see how he does starting September 14.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Scandals of all sorts

TLC is not exactly my favorite network, because I'm not exactly the network's favorite sex. In fact, the last show I watched on TLC was the debut of Labor Games. This is a full-service game show blog, after all, and I had to write a review. As I recall, I thought the show was okay, not great, not terrible.

But given the history of our little genre, I got a few smiles from this story about the network on the Fortune site. Seems that the "scandal-ridden" TLC is turning to Labor Games, among other shows, to expunge the scandalous scent. Once upon a time, like in the 1950s, the idea of a network trying game shows to avoid scandal would have been pretty funny.

Admittedly, there are different levels of scandal. Child molestation - the problem at TLC - is hellaciously more serious than rigging a game show. Anyway, the Fortune story regards Labor Games as "a bit more outrageous," though a network exec assures us that the show is "actually kind of sweet and funny and heartwarming."

Well, it's all right, I guess. Just another clone of Cash Cab, only in a delivery room instead of a taxi.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Usual attitude

Recent rumpuses notwithstanding, the most trouble I've gotten into on the game show Interwebs concerns the attitude from many posters that older has to be better.

I realize that the genre is top-heavy with history, and many posters sigh over the good old days of Bill and Monty and Dick and all the rest of the classic hosts and shows. Hey, I do some of that sighing myself. But it gets, well, old when the past is constantly used to belittle the present. Case in point: this recent thread on Game Show Forum about the new Celebrity Name Game season.

I know, you'll say what else do you expect from the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's? These guys love the past and are tepid (at best) about the present, and they make no game show bones about it. But it's still kind of deflating to read this putdown of CNG: "Except that I'm already watching a version of that with a great host, competent players and an excellent format. Why would I carve out more time to watch the inferior carbon copy?"

I don't deny the obvious. Dick Clark was a great host, a lot of Pyramid's players were excellent, and the format was one for the, ahem, ages. (Of course, Pyramid itself was a copy of the lightning round from Password, but we'll leave that alone for now.)

But here's the thing. Celebrity Name Game also has a terrific host. A lot of the celebs and civvies are very good at the demanding game. And the format has introduced some nice twists in the Pyramid formula, like teams of two guessers instead of one and the host giving the clues in one round.

I'm not saying Celebrity Name Game is the greatest game show ever. In fact, I'm afraid for the show's future after the second season. But it's a lively and entertaining contribution to the genre, and I don't like to see the past used to dump on it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Another new season

With new game show seasons busting out all over, I almost forgot Buzzr. No, not the oldies TV subchannel. I'm talking about the newsies YouTube channel, where video kids run rampant over various classic Fremantle formats.

Next month the channel launches new seasons of Family Feud and Beat the Clock. By and large I've enjoyed the Buzzr takes on the old formats, though I usually have no clue who the hosts and contestants are. The videos treat the formats with respect, and their brevity actually works well to maintain interest. (Yes, the videos are getting less brief as time goes by. The clips used to be eight minutes or so. Now they're pushing past a quarter-hour.)

Fremantle has apparently been pleased with the YouTube channel, as they're putting a little more money into the sets and production values. A lot of the videos have gone well past a hundred thousand views, and one sort of "highlight" has racked up more than three million. Like/dislike ratios have been strongly favorable.

One weird note: Fremantle seems concerned that fans might confuse the Buzzr TV subchannel and the Buzzr YouTube channel. I might miss my guess, but I doubt that there's much overlap between the two operations' target audiences.

UPDATE: A commenter, clearly a hardcore traditionalist, dismisses the Buzzr YouTube channel as almost unknown. Well, to game show hardcores the channel probably is pretty much unknown. But last I checked, the channel has piled up 10,201,265 views for its videos. And unlike most YouTube channels, Buzzr gets people to sit through their videos in their entirety. Fremantle is appealing to an entirely new audience with the YouTube channel and seems to be succeeding. The Buzzr TV subchannel is for the traditionalists. Clever product differentiation, now that I think about it.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

More celebs and their names

Celebrity Name Game put out the press release today about the second season.

The new episodes begin September 21, a week after the other syndie game shows. Somebody always has to be different. The release talks up the show's performance in the women 25-54 demo. Which just shows that people in the game show business are painfully aware of demos, despite commenter rants on this blog about "ageism" and "bigotry."

The release also lauds Craig Ferguson for his Daytime Emmy. The host is clearly a major plus for this show, with his unflagging energy and often sardonic humor. There were some rumors about gameplay changes for the second season, but nothing major looks to be happening. The game described in the release is pretty much the same as the first go-round. Just a few tweaks to include a wider variety of clues and categories.

The release also lists some of the celeb players for the new season. Weird Al Yankovic shows up! Maybe he can record a parody song about losing on Celebrity Name Game.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Millionaire goes back to the future

As most of you know, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is taking a large gamble this season. The format is reverting almost entirely to the original syndie layout from the old Meredith days, circa 2002. And after a couple seasons of trying to find the ever-elusive next Steve Harvey, the producers have settled on Chris Harrison to lead the show back to ratings relevance.

The new eps start September 14, and I'll be watching to see how all the retrofitting works. My preseason attitude - as opposed to preseason football - is that the changes can't hurt and might help. I never liked all the random nonsense, anyway. Why scramble the money amounts and question difficulty for no apparent reason?

The linked press release also runs through a bunch of stunt weeks in the syndie's 14th season. (Has it been that many years already?) Old standby movie week rides again, along with (inevitably) a couple of bachelor-themed weeks for the new host. By the way, Chris Harrison tweeted a thank you to Chrysler for the spiffy wheels during the Millionaire tapings this summer. It does look like a nice car.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ratings: Steve again

Family Feud was again the top syndie game show in household rating for the week of August 10-16. But the moves up and down were very small in the dog days. TV News Check has the numbers...

Family Feud 6.1 - up a tick
Jeopardy 5.9 - up a tick
Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - down a tick, we're not moving around much
Millionaire 1.7 - up a tick for the departing Terry
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat in a flattish week

Although they were only third in the household ratings - allowing for the single run, again - Pat and Vanna still stayed on top of the viewer averages. TV by the Numbers posts the figures: Wheel of Fortune 9.3M, Family Feud 9.2M, Jeopardy 9.1M.

For the same week CBS reports good ratings news for The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal. The shows averaged 5.2M and 3.4M viewers, respectively, which was up nicely from last year.

No matter what their demos look like, GSN keeps racking up good total viewer numbers. 433K/316K/452K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time for the week of August 17-23. The network ranked 38th, 31st and 35th in the windows.

Old, older, oldest

I realize that the old skew of traditional game shows is a touchy subject for moi. After all, I'm skewing older every day. Last night, for instance, I got a letter from the Social Security Administration. A snail mail letter, in fact, just like in the, ahem, old days. I filled out the form they wanted and actually sent it back by snail mail. How ancient can you (or I) get?

So it's with some trepidation that I address GSN's efforts to take a tiny bit of gray out of their elderly audience. I'm part of that elderly audience myself, and I've got plenty of gray to prove it. But today I saw this entry on Game Show Network News that gave GSN's new reality show Steampunk'd only a 35% chance of renewal, despite its extremely high (by GSN standards) viewer numbers in the exalted 18-49 demo. I couldn't resist dissenting in this comment...

Just to show how old GSN skews, this 2013 story from the New York Times notes that GSN is one of the very few cable networks with a median viewer age over 65. "The only other networks [besides Fox News] to hit 65-plus are the game show network GSN and the rural news network RFD."

So now you know why GSN is trying stuff like Skin Wars and Steampunk'd. The network is desperate to get a little younger. Traditional game shows will always skew old, but even for GSN there's a limit to how ancient an audience they can tolerate. Anyway, if Steampunk'd maintains anything like its debut 18-49 numbers, the odds for renewal are 110%.

Look, I don't watch these reality shows on GSN, because I don't watch reality shows anywhere. And at the risk of sounding like the traditionalists who regularly plaster web sites with howls about GSN's programming, I don't like the network going away from game shows. But I can understand why they're doing it. After a while, you want somebody in the audience who doesn't get lots of snail mail from the Social Security Administration.