Saturday, July 30, 2016

In jeopardy

I don't watch the network morning shows much, but my wife likes Today. So she may have seen the story the show did on Jeopardy.

Mostly it was just the 77 zillionth interview with Alex Trebek, but there were also a few glimpses of the control room and a contestant tryout session. Alex allowed that he didn't mind the Saturday Night Live lampoons. He was getting interviewed on an NBC show, after all. But he would probably agree that there is no such thing as bad publicity, at least when it comes to game show parodies.

He also told the usual story about how Merv Griffin's wife came up with the idea of just giving contestants the answers. (This was in the early 1960s, when the rigging scandals were still painfully fresh.) I've heard the story so often that I'm starting to wonder if it's only another urban legend. But I guess somebody had to come up with the reverse answer and question format. It might as well have been Julann.

Jeopardy's ratings are still just fine, even if the show skews very old. Sooner or later Alex will have to retire, of course. But The Price is Right survived Bob's departure, so Jeopardy will probably find a way to endure, too.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Reboot of a reboot

Everything old is new again in game show land. We've got so many reboots and rewinds, I'm starting to lose track. Now comes news, as linked in a faux tweet, that VH1 will bring back Hip Hop Squares. Of course, this was the MTV2 version of Hollywood Squares, with rappers instead of old-time Hollywood folks.

DJ Peter Rosenberg hosted two seasons of ten eps apiece in 2012. I thought the show was surprisingly watchable, thanks to its adherence to the tried and true format. Ice Cube, who signs as O'Shea Jackson on his legal documents, will produce the new version on MTV2's sister network VH1. "Unlike typical game shows, viewers should never know what's going to happen next." Actually, Mr. Jackson, nobody should ever know exactly what is going to happen next on a game show. There's literally a federal law about that issue. (See scandals, rigging.)

I assume this reboot of a reboot will follow the usual format. Hollywood Squares has been around so long, it seems almost sacrilegious to tamper with the gameplay. No word on who will host the new version of Hip Hop Squares. Is Peter (Rosenberg, not Marshall) available? The show is due on VH1 this fall.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hit the road, Jack

Has The Price is Right's live show visited every city, town and hamlet in the land?

It often seems that way. Whenever I need a TPiR item for the faux tweets, I can usually rely on Google News to cough up an upcoming live show somewhere sometime. In fact, I feel a little guilty about using the items because they're so easy to find. Sure enough, a couple more stories have just cropped up about TPiR's journeys to Nebraska and Spokane. (The Spokane item offers a rather humorous picture of a pre-diet Drew Carey.)

A variant on the theme is the recent interview with Mark Walberg - which I also used for a faux tweet - about his frequent host gigs on the TPiR live show. He enjoys the hoopla and gameplay. "There is something wonderful about the escapism of playing a game." Especially that game with all the merchandise.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sing for your cab ride

As advertised in a faux tweet, Spike has ordered ten eps of Caraoke Showdown.

Craig Robinson will tool around in a cab and ambush passengers with karaoke-for-cash games. If this sounds like a musical Cash Cab, you've got the idea. The project first surfaced in February and Spike has now made it official. The series will debut in 2017, after a one-time special later this year.

The stories in February brought a lot of squawking from James Corden's producers. The concept sounded suspiciously similar to Corden's Carpool Karaoke segments, though with a game show angle. "We'd be lying if we said we weren't disappointed, that you read that another production company is taking an idea that is clearly yours," grumped one of Corden's people.

The linked story mentioned the possibility of legal action, but I haven't seen any stories about actual lawsuits. The game show format might make it tough for Corden and company to cry foul. Whatever Carpool Karaoke may be, a game show it ain't. Spike seems to have decided that they don't have to worry about the lawyers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Ratings: syndies bounce back

Syndie game shows were happy to put the holiday week behind them. The numbers recovered nicely for July 11-17. TV News Check has the gladsome household ratings...

Family Feud 7.0 - up a couple ticks
Wheel of Fortune 5.8 - up five ticks to take second all by itself
Jeopardy 5.6 - up three ticks for the show that's not in reruns
Celebrity Name Game 1.3 - flat, last change for this show was 87 weeks ago (slight exaggeration)
Millionaire 1.2 - flat

As usual, ABC's game show trio gave the alphabet net (Variety speak!) a Sunday night win in both total viewers and the almighty 18-49 demo. It's safe to say that we'll see a second run of the trifecta next summer.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Telling the truth about dubbing

The death of singer Marni Nixon at age 86 recalls an odd bit of show business history. She dubbed in the singing roles for some of the biggest movie stars of the 1950s and 1960s. Among others she ghost-sang for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

The connection to our little genre is Marni Nixon's appearance on a 1964 episode of To Tell the Truth. (She ended up getting two votes from the panel.) Somehow it seems appropriate that a game show based on lying would feature a singer who was involved in something of a deception. Not that the secret of her ghost singing stayed a secret for very long. In fact, Deborah Kerr herself spilled the beans about Marni's dubbing in The King and I.

The linked story includes some pretty harsh words from Marni Nixon about one of her dubbing partners. "In the case of Audrey Hepburn, she was very smart and could say, 'I know this is not good enough, I want to keep trying myself,' but she had to accept that it wasn't quite what it should be. But I don't think that Natalie Wood's ego could take that. Frankly, I think they used to create that kind of attitude too much — allowing them to have the illusion when they knew all along that she wasn't good enough."

Well, I guess that any movie star has a pretty healthy ego and wouldn't enjoy being told that the singing voice is just too bad. Nowadays ghost singing is verboten in movie musicals, so we get some pretty abominable performances from the stars. Sometimes we have to pay the price for honesty.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Scarily legendary

This blog has covered a lot of Nick stuff lately, but that's what you get from Comic-Con.

As a faux tweet noted, the trailer for the new Legends of the Hidden Temple movie is out. For what it is, it looks like fun. Three state-of-the-art cute kids run and jump through various perils in, well, a hidden temple. The proceedings hardly look like Quentin Tarantino stuff, but they are a little scarier than the ancient game show.

The trailer has gotten good reviews from nostalgic critics. Production values do seem impressive, as Nick apparently didn't pinch pennies on the sets or effects. Of course, Kirk Fogg and Olmec (voiced by the original Dee Bradley Baker) show up, along with endless references to silver monkeys and just about every other facet of the game show.

The movie is due on Nick in November and will no doubt receive plenty of promotion. Grumpy me would still like to see some genuine game show eps, but I'll take what I can get. If the movie performs well enough, maybe real contestants will be running through a real temple - by game show standards, anyway - one of these days.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


Being a dedicated game show blogger, I stayed up for the Comic-Con Double Dare live feed. It happened at 9:30 PM Pacific time, which meant a pretty late night here in the pokey old Central time zone.

Marc Summers ran the proceedings with his usual competence and enthusiasm. Things got a little, er, gamy at one point, and I'm not talking about kid games. But mostly it was innocent and dumb fun, like those nostalgic Nick shows should be.

The contestants were millennial Nick performers, who seemed bemused by all the goofy goings-on. There were trivia questions and physical challenges - my favorite was the guy sitting on balloons - which all led up to the race through the ultra-dorky obstacle course. The red team took home the final honors. It just wasn't the blue team's night.

Maybe the most entertaining part of the show was the comment stream that scrolled next to the herky-jerky video. Nick-nostalgia sufferers united to express their mad glee that Double Dare was back, if only for a half-hour at Comic-Con. I've never read so many happy happy joy joy gurglings. Well, the idea is to have a good time, isn't it?

Friday, July 22, 2016

On duty

A couple faux tweets have mentioned Armed Forces Trivia Quest, a live game show making its way around various U.S. military bases. This story about the show's stop at Fort Campbell, KY offers the most detail on the quizzer and its creator, Steve Sellers.

The show will tour 16 bases, leading up to a tournament of champions at Fort Sam Houston, TX in the fall. It's sponsored by the Super 8 motel chain and run by Army Entertainment. Which sounds like well disciplined entertainment.

There aren't many details on the actual gameplay, except that it helps to know a lot of stuff. Sgt. 1st Class Nolan Barringer won the show at Fort Campbell, and his wife lauds his trivia prowess. "One time, 10 years ago, I beat him at Jeopardy. One time. Other than that he is the trivia master."

Steve Sellers, the host and creator of the show, has nothing but praise for the military. "I'm a former schoolteacher and I have several students who are currently and have served active duty and just hearing their stories really inspired me. The fact that somebody would be willing to put themselves in harm's way so we can be free because they believe in our country is humbling."

I expect to see more stories about the show in the military press. It's not every day that a live game show comes to a military base.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tons of fun

A pop culture site called Hypable - no, I'd never heard of it, either - has listed 100K Pyramid and Match Game among their summer TV favorites. Since the shows are regularly landing in the top fifteen most watched of the week (network and cable combined) they don't need kudos from an obscure web site. But a little, er, hype can't hurt.

The site assures us that the shows are "tons of fun" and praises both hosts. Which is all true enough. The review, such as it is, does go off the rails a little bit with the obligatory praise of Rosie O'Donnell. (Sometimes I think that pop culture critics are conspiring to make us like Rosie, or else.) I agree that she was fine on Pyramid, where the tight format kept her under control. But Match Game's much looser format gave her too much room to dominate the first two eps.

The result was predictable, given how Rosie turns off so many viewers. While Match Game has done well in the ratings, there's a noticeable drop from its lead-in Pyramid. Oh well, both shows are still virtual locks for renewal, unlike some of the more obscure efforts also praised by Hypable.