Thursday, November 26, 2015

Those were the days

Checked the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's for their reaction to Jim Perry's death.

Well, I should have known better. There is a thread about Perry, but it's hidden from the prying eyes of humble outsiders like moi. You need the secret decoder ring before you're let into the SOOPER SEKRET playhouse. But another thread, which somehow is visible to the mere hoi polloi, quoted this comment from the hidden Perry thread...

These very qualities are, sadly, lacking in practically all the current crop of hosts (at least those who started their gigs this century, with few exceptions). It's one of the big reasons why today's game shows, rather than being something I look forward to watching and consider an enhancement to life, are just "there", easily ignored/ignorable, and practically irrelevant to me.

As the 77 bazillionth expression of older-is-better on the oldies board to end all oldies boards, the comment is hardly worth noticing. You were expecting something different from Game Show Forum? Interestingly, though, a few posters reply that some of today's game show hosts might not be full blown terrible. The posters toss around names like Mark Walberg, Todd Newton and Tom Bergeron.

Frankly, I think that Walberg is better than all but a very few of the hallowed names from the past, and Newton and Bergeron are "competitive," as they say in sports punditry. One of the odder comments from the thread: "There's not that many game shows on anymore." Oh, really? There's this cable network that runs nothing but game shows, and other cable networks that try game shows now and then, and plenty of other outlets - like streaming services and this newfangled Internet thing - where our little genre lives on.

But when you fixate on the past of three broadcast networks and nothing else, I guess it's easy to miss all those other places.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Let's play GSN exec

You never know what those tricky programming execs at GSN are going to do.

A few days ago GSN sent out a schedule that said the last two eps of Hellevator would get burned off on the same night, December 9. This seemed logical because the show, after an encouraging start with more than 500K viewers, has collapsed to just over 200K. It looked like GSN wanted to send the show down the hellish elevator shaft as quickly as possible, and then move on.

But wait, there's the ghoulish story. GSN has now corrected the schedule and said that they will stick to the once-a-week timetable for Hellevator. So what in, er, Hades is going on?

Believe it or not, GSN president David Goldhill doesn't regularly (or irregularly) phone me with updates on the latest thinking at our little game show network. But I can take a wild blue guess, based on publicly available demo information about Hellevator. The latest run of the horrorfest got only 215K total viewers, very bad by GSN prime time standards. But 89K of those viewers - nearly half of the audience - were in the Sacred Demo of 18-49. That's been typical for the show throughout its run. Sometimes more than half of the audience has landed in 18-49.

By contrast, the latest ep of The Chase got a much larger total audience of 555K viewers, but less than a fifth of them, 106K to be exact, were in the Sacred Demo. It's obvious that Hellevator skews extremely young by GSN's usual geriatric standards. So are there second thoughts at GSN about renewing the show, maybe with some changes? Like more humor, less gore, more gameplay, less filler? Who knows?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ratings: good week for Steve and Craig

The November 9-15 week was a nice one for Family Feud and Celebrity Name Game. Things weren't so great for the other syndie game shows. TV News Check has the household ratings...

Wheel of Fortune 6.8 - down four ticks but still in first
Family Feud 6.6 - up three ticks to take second place from Alex and post a new season high
Jeopardy 6.4 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 1.3 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - up a tick to get out of solitary confinement in the basement

Some people get p.o.ed when I remind everybody that Wheel earns all its numbers from one showing each day, while other shows benefit a lot from multiple daily runs. So I'll remind everybody again.

The Chase got 555K viewers in its latest run on November 20. That's down some from the first two weeks of the new eps but still impressive. A renewal looks likely but there are issues. The show skews old and GSN might decide that they have enough episodes on the shelf. Meanwhile, TV Newser says GSN got pretty much its usual recent numbers for the November 16-22 week. 363K/305K/406K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. The network ranked 45th, 30th and 41st in the windows.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Game show connections

Game show relationships seem to turn back in on themselves sometimes. This item about Carmen Sandiego from The List brought to mind a few connections.

First, The List itself was part of Scripps' effort to replace Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune on their TV stations, including WMAR in Baltimore, the source of the linked story. The other show used as a replacement was, you guessed it, a game show called Let's Ask America. Remember it? The show suffered through three so-so rated seasons before expiring this year. The List continues on Scripps stations somehow, maybe because it's so cheap. All the show does is run lists of factoids about pop culture memes. Like Carmen Sandiego, for instance.

The most obvious connection is the PBS game show based on Carmen's geographical exploits. The List says that Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego was the network's first and longest running game show. Even this non-fan of geography can agree that there have been worse efforts for kids in our little genre. Wikipedia says 295 episodes appeared over 1991-95. The show won some Daytime Emmys and even, ahem, an august Peabody award.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


All right, I know that game shows get no respect.

Our little genre is the Rodney Dangerfield of the TV world. With the possible exception of Jeopardy, which picks up Peabody awards and other highfalutin' kudos nobody cares about, game shows regularly get drubbed as mindless fodder for stupid viewers. I know it's silly of me to get exercised about the obnoxious put-downs from elitist critics. But now and then the snobbery still ticks me off.

Case in point: this asinine article from a TV critic in Buffalo named Jeff Simon. The larger point of the dumb and dumber column is to extol Stephen Colbert as a deep thinker with a brilliant guest list, which I think is ridiculous to begin with. Colbert is an unfunny ideologue whose dull show is sinking like a sped-up Titanic in the ratings. CBS has gotten so desperate about the disaster that the network is even giving Colbert a post-Super Bowl slot in a frantic effort at revival.

But leave all that aside for now. The really galling idiocy from the article: "Jimmy Fallon's insistence on mounting the night-time relocation of a daytime game show has become close to unwatchable to me however much he, as Leno used to, leads the ratings race."

In fact, Fallon's game show segments are a whole lot more bearable than the musings of a TV critic who wants to be an intellectual but doesn't have the cerebral cortex. You'd think this genius might ask himself why Fallon leads in the ratings. It's because his game shows, and the rest of his program, entertain people.

What a novel concept. People enjoy watching game shows. No wonder snooty critics hate the genre.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Food guessing

Took a look at the Buzzr channel on YouTube today to see what those silly Fremantle kids are doing now.

As I noted a while back, Fremantle has apparently decided that it's too expensive to create any more new versions of old game show formats. You have to pay for sets and writers and hosts and all that other stuff. Maybe you don't have to pay very much, but it looks like Fremantle doesn't want to spend a dime on the channel.

So they're spending a nickel apiece on very brief videos with goofy games played in people's apartments...or on the roofs of their apartment buildings. The latest effort is Guess This Food. The name pretty well tells the story. Blindfolded contestants have to guess which food they're holding in their hand or tasting very gingerly.

The host is, of course, a YouTube kid that nobody's ever heard of. His name is Dominic DeAngelis, and he appeared as a contestant on Buzzr's versions of Family Feud and Beat the Clock. That was back when Buzzr was doing real game shows. The contestants are fellow YouTube kids that nobody's ever...well, you get the idea.

The video lasts four minutes and looks like it cost four cents (not even a nickel). A commenter questions plaintively: "When are the new seasons of Family Feud, Beat the Clock, Password, or Celeb Name Game coming back???" The obvious answer: when Fremantle decides to spend a little money on new seasons. Which may be never.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jim Perry 1933-2015

Sad news today. Jim Perry, host of Card Sharks and $ale of the Century among other game shows, has died at age 82 after a long battle with cancer.

Jim Perry doesn't often turn up in those lists of great game show hosts that appear now and then on the Interwebs. But he was always a solid, competent, reassuring presence on the sound stage. Well known in Canada, Perry hosted shows on both sides of the border, including a very long stint (1974-89) on Definition. He also hosted the Miss Canada pageant from 1967 to 1990. The unflappable emcee never lacked for work.

After hosting the short-lived U.S game show It's Your Move in 1967, Perry hit it big in the 1970s and 1980s with Card Sharks and $ale. His Wikipedia bio notes his funny turn as a celeb player on Family Feud in 1983. Richard Dawson coaxed a reply from Jim about mouthwash.

Jim Perry more or less retired after a few gigs in the 1990s. He settled in Oregon with his wife June. R.I.P.

UPDATE: On his Facebook page Wink Martindale has announced that he will post five rare eps of Jim Perry's $ale on YouTube. I assume GSN and Buzzr TV, both of which run Jim's Card Sharks regularly, will also do some kind of tribute.

T of C report

My favorite philosopher once said that it ain't over until it's over. Jeopardy's Tournament of Champions final ain't over yet. But the scores at halftime look pretty conclusive. offers the grisly details...

Kerry Greene: $3,400
Matt Jackson: $3,000
Alex Jacob: $29,600

Uh, gulp. This looks like Watson's runaway against Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. I thought Matt Jackson was the odds-on favorite. Until he ran into a force of nature and former poker player named Alex Jacob.

Alex (not Trebek) has two big things going for him. He's unbelievably fast on the buzzer, repeatedly beating even the super-swift Jackson. And he's not afraid to go all-in on the Daily Doubles. He used two huge wagers to build his lead. Then he bet nothing in Final Jeopardy and watched his opponents lose big on the tough clue.

Jacob's Wikipedia article features a hilarious picture of him with the Jewish afro to end all Jewish afros. But there was nothing funny about his play yesterday. Of course, his high-wire strategy could backfire in the second half of the final today. I'll update this entry with the results.

UPDATE: Alex (not Trebek) cruised to another big win in the second half of the final to cop the $250,000 grand prize. He nailed one more of his patented all-ins on a Daily Double and left his outmatched opponents far, far behind. Alex (the real Trebek) called it the T of C's most dominating performance ever.