Friday, October 31, 2014

More stunts

With sweeps coming next month, Millionaire rolls out the stunts.

The biggest news has already broken: Ken Jennings will stop by for a crack at the money tree. That's part of a "Guinness World Record" week. We also have a kids week, a miscellaneous celeb week, and a daytime talk week (with Jerry Springer and the pictured Michael Gelman). I don't know if all this stuff will boost the numbers, but you can't blame the show for trying.

I've gotten used to the hyperactive Terry Crews as host of the show, but Nielsen seems less impressed so far. The numbers haven't cratered, but they've continued their long-term downtrend. Terry is lucky to hang in the twos in household ratings.

There's been some doom and gloom talk about the show in the entertainment media, but I don't know if things are really so dire. The show still averages nearly three million viewers, and in today's fractured TV universe, that's hardly a terrible number. Yes, the demos are less than spectacular. (Did I ever mention how I hate demos? You might expect that from a game show fan.)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Have we got a house for you

Somebody's always got an idea for a new game show. But this guy's idea goes beyond just a show. He wants a whole new cable network.

Bobby Atkinson, a former real estate broker from Minneapolis, wants to start a real estate network. Yes, you can argue whether the nation is ready for a network devoted to real estate transactions. But who knew there would be a network devoted to game shows?

Atkinson has lined up some big name investors for his venture, dubbed TREN ("The Real Estate Network," get it?) One of his ideas for programming is "a real-estate game show that would award winners a new home." You could call it Dream House, right? Oh, that name's already been taken. At least TREN would probably protect their show's tapes from floods.

Atkinson plans to buy a "distressed" cable net - he even speaks in real-estate-ese - and launch TREN in "early 2016." Good luck with finding buyers, er, viewers.

T of C

Jeopardy's Tournament of Champions, the one regular stunt on the show that I look forward to, will begin November 10. A sweeps period, not so coincidentally.

This story on Ben Ingram, one of the players, ends with a wry note. A game show fan once asked Ben: "Weren't you on Wheel of Fortune?" No, but you're kind of close. Ben says the T of C shows were taped in late September and early October. Naturally, he can't reveal any results, but he does make the obvious point that "these were solid gold players."

He also says that he was less nervous in the tournament than in his original eight-win run. Of course, the pre-tournament stars are Julia Collins, who outdid everybody except you know who in the winning streak department, and Arthur Chu, who outdid everybody in the Internet commotion department.

This site lists some likely players in the tournament. One note: Jerry Slowik won't turn up. He's had some legal problems.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My personal marathon

A thread on Game Show Paradise asks: what was the last game show you watched? I posted a reply on the thread, but I'll update it here. Because today's answer is "a lot of them."

In fact, beginning at 4:00 PM I watched three hours of game shows. The list: a couple syndie eps of Deal or No Deal on GSN, Millionaire's repeat (which I hadn't seen), Jeopardy's repeat (the memorable episode that ended Julia Collins' run), Jeopardy's original, Wheel of Fortune, and Celebrity Name Game.

I had to flip back and forth between the last two. Wayne Brady had a funny moment on Celebrity Name Game, which I posted in the sidebar. Wheel of Fortune featured an eerily good contestant on a Halloween set. He solved the bonus puzzle with contemptuous ease. Too bad he only won the minimum $32,000.

I also learned that greed doesn't pay (sometimes) on Deal or No Deal, and even Julia really wasn't invincible on Jeopardy. By the end of the three hours, I had seen enough fun and frolic and games. But I'll watch again tomorrow.

One more thing: I watched 25K Pyramid in the morning. I'm hopeless.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ratings: Steve ties Alex in household rating

Steve Harvey celebrated a milestone for the week of October 13-19. Family Feud tied Jeopardy in household rating. Since both shows have multiple runs each day, this is close to an apples-to-apples comparison. Alex did lead in viewer average, so I'll give him the tiebreaker. TV News Check has the ratings for all the shows and the viewer count for Celebrity Name Game, which I'll list later...

Wheel of Fortune 6.4 - flat
Jeopardy 6.1 - down a tick
Family Feud 6.1 - up three ticks into the tie
Millionaire 2.0 - up a tick in a bit of good news for Terry
Celebrity Name Game 1.2 - flat

Only the top three made the syndie chart at TV by the Numbers. The viewer averages: Wheel of Fortune 10.2M to lead all syndies (3.5M for the weekend repeat), Jeopardy 9.4M, Family Feud 8.9M, Celebrity Name Game 1.7M (from TV News Check). Sorry, don't have the count for Millionaire.

The new schedule helped GSN achieve respectable numbers for October, after a slow start to the month. 337K/266K viewer averages, 45th and 36th in the windows.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hairy game show

Just watched one of the debut eps of Hair Jacked, truTV's entry into the pop culture game show wars. It's a combo of Hollywood Game Night and Cash Cab, with contestants ambushed in a hair salon.

Two unsuspecting civvies walk into a salon and get jumped (not literally) by host Jon Gabrus with a bunch of lightweight questions and silly stunts. The kicker at the end of the show is that the contestants can risk a wild and wacky haircut for the chance at some more cash. On the ep I watched, a guy with an unpronounceable Aztec name took a bizarre hair hacking for $2,500. He clearly needed the money pretty bad.

Jon Gabrus is no stranger to such ambush silliness, after his work on MTV's The Substitute. He runs the show well enough, with a quip or three to provide the required goofball atmosphere. Game show hardcores might complain about the points system, which makes all but the last round irrelevant to the final score.

But complaining about the scoring system on this show is like whining about the color of the napkins in a restaurant. Hair Jacked is in it for the laughs, not the points.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


I've been watching so many What's My Line videos, I almost forgot my first love among the black and white shows, I've Got a Secret.

So I rambled through some of the YouTube IGAS riches. So much video from the show has piled up on the site that YouTube's software has automatically generated an IGAS channel. One of the complete shows on the channel is the February 21, 1966 episode.

Steve Allen had taken over the host gig as the show wound down its CBS run. In fact, both What's My Line and I've Got a Secret would expire the following year, though both would also return in syndie and/or cable versions. There are even whispers of another syndie WML run in fall 2015.

Arthur Godfrey and Phyllis Diller guested on the episode, along with regulars Betsy Palmer and Bess Myerson. Godfrey had a great night, by the way. He guessed just about everything. Another regular, Henry Morgan, ambled in as the show went along.

The civvie contestants were a girl who sewed all the dresses for her adorably cute sisters and mother, and Henry Armstrong, a former boxer who held three world titles at the same time. The celeb player was none other than John Daly, who crossed over from the hoity-toity WML. He played an interesting game of guessing historical events from newspaper headlines.

The history lesson was a little highfalutin' by IGAS standards. But you would expect that from Mr. Daly, wouldn't you?

Numerical analysis

Believe it or not, there is a specific type of math called "numerical analysis." (Check the Wikipedia article.) I had to take an actuarial exam once on the topic. It was a thrill.

Anyway, this entry doesn't have anything to do with that subject. Instead, I'm going to look a little deeper at the Nielsen household ratings I report each week.

BuzzerBlog is gurgling with joy over Family Feud's rising ratings. Since the site often seems like a wholly owned subsidiary of Steve Harvey Enterprises, that's not surprising. But as a few commenters point out, the household ratings are "enhanced" by the multiple daily runs of the syndie show. Here in DFW, for instance, syndie Feud runs four times a day.

For Feud (and all syndies) Nielsen reports "Gross Average Audience" (GAA) ratings. Nielsen defines the term: "The sum of the percent of households or persons tuning or viewing during the average minute of each telecast of the program, including repeat telecasts during the report interval. Duplicated tuning and viewing to the same program (or its repeat telecast) by the same household during the report period is counted each time."

In other words, all those percents for each daily run of syndie Feud get piled on top of each other to produce the reported rating. Now Steve Harvey has helped the ratings a lot, no doubt about it. But number games help plenty, too, especially compared to Wheel of Fortune. Pat and Vanna only get one (1) daily run in their markets.

So take the BuzzerBlog hype with a metric ton of salt. Far more people are watching Wheel's single run each day than are watching any particular run of Feud.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Just noticed that Game Show Garbage is trashing (natch) a low-rent YouTube version of Family Feud. It's on Fremantle's Buzzr channel at the site. So I decided to sample an ep to see if it justifies GSG's usual rhetoric about the end of western game show civilization as we know it. Well, yes and no and mostly no. Which sounds noncommittal, I know.

The problem with rubbishing the YouTube effort is that the format is just so ridiculously strong. It was Mr. Goodson's second favorite show (after To Tell the Truth, a bit strangely) and even a stripped-down version can't destroy the format's appeal.

The worst thing about the ep I watched was a screaming, incompetent contestant named Jess Lizama. Omigod, she's annoying. Host Josh Leyva did an okay job even if he couldn't keep his eyes off the camera. The other contestants were acceptable. Everybody was a "YouTube celebrity," which means nobody's heard of them.

Since this is YouTube, everything is cheaper and smaller with teams of three, only two rounds in the front game, and a combination fast money round for the two teams. But that's not necessarily a terrible thing. We're on YouTube time, after all, and it's nice to squish an entire show down to 8:14. And they use the original theme!

UPDATE: Reaction on the game show Interwebs is, of course, negative on the show. It's not like Dawson's version, after all. But the casual viewers on YouTube give the show thumbs up, by ratios of 10-1 to 15-1. Sound familiar? It's pretty much like the split in the reaction to the Harvey version.