Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ratings: hardly a smidgen of change for the syndies

Talk about boring weeks. Family Feud moved one tenth of one point for the week of August 15-21. And that was it for the syndie game shows. TV News Check has the thrilling household ratings...

Family Feud 6.0 - up that one tick
Wheel of Fortune 5.2 - flat
Jeopardy 4.9 - flat
Celebrity Name Game 1.1 - flat
Millionaire 1.1 - guess what, flat!

I know you can't stand the excitement, either. Meanwhile, ABC's game show lineup has seen better days. Celebrity Family Feud and 100K Pyramid got about 5.7 million viewers on Sunday, August 28. As usual, Match Game trailed behind with 4.8 million. Okay for the August dog days, but not nearly as impressive as earlier this summer.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The spice of life

As I expected, a lot of comments rolled up on my previous post about GSN and Game Show Forum. By now I've gotten a pretty good feel for which posts are going to provoke the most reactions.

One of the comments was the old chestnut about how GSN needs more "variety" in the schedule. As I replied in a comment of my own, the v-word is just code for "more old stuff." (Used to see this complaint all the time on GSN's old Internet board.)

And as I also pointed out, a lot of GSN's schedule has gathered a lot of dust, anyway. Today, for instance, the first three hours are more than thirty years old, the next two hours are more than ten years old, and three hours in the afternoon are more than nine years old. This has to be one of the older schedules for any cabler outside the dedicated oldies networks. (I also mentioned that Game Show Forum likes the dust a foot thick, so the schedule probably looks fifteen minutes old to them.)

As for variety, today GSN runs twelve different shows: Match Game, Card Sharks, Press Your Luck, Pyramid, Lingo, Family Feud, Chain Reaction, Catch 21, Deal or No Deal, Winsanity, Newlywed Game and Baggage.

But as the infomercials say, wait, there's more. The schedule also has two versions of Card Sharks, two versions of Pyramid and three versions of Feud.

It's certainly more variety than the new Buzzr weekday schedule has on tap. If out of all these GSN offerings covering nearly forty years of game shows, you can't find something to like...well, maybe you should try soap operas or sitcoms instead.

UPDATE: Game Show Forum has finally started rolling out their top 50 list. Looks like it will take a while to get through all of them. The bottom five 46-50 are Twenty One, He Said She Said/Tattletales, Win Lose or Draw, College Bowl and Weakest Link. I would have left the first three off my list entirely. One was rigged and the other two just weren't good enough. (Win Lose or Draw did not make GSF's 2006 top 50 list, by the way.) But all three have plenty of age on them, so it's no surprise to see them on GSF's 2016 list.

The average age of these selections is a whopping 42 years, dating from the year of the first regular U.S. TV run. My guess is that the average age of the entire list will end up close to this number. By and large I expect a moldering list from deep in the game show crypt. This is the oldies board to end 'em all, you know. Only four dozen people voted in the poll, compared to 80 in 2006. Which shows that Game Show Forum itself is starting to wither on the vine, as one brave poster points out on the thread.

A funny note: at GSF almost all the objections to the bottom five selections center on Weakest Link. Hey, the show is only 15 years old. How dare such "modern" stuff sneak onto our list!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

No respect, I tell ya

It's a truism that GSN gets little or no respect on the traditionalist game show Interwebs.

The basic "problem," if you can call it that, is GSN's need to compete in the real world of commercial television. To the everlasting displeasure of posters on Game Show Forum and other oldies-fan outlets, this means no 12-hour marathons of, say, Jackpot or Split Second. (These obscure oldies appeared on GSF's 2006 list of the 50 greatest game shows ever, as you would expect if you ever glance at the board).

But it's still a little annoying when this casual snobbery toward GSN crops up on the Internet. As I noted a while back, the board formerly known as Matt Ottinger's is running a second "50 greatest" list. The votes - numbering in the thousands, I'm sure - are all in but they haven't announced the winners yet. Apparently they're building the suspense, because the world is waiting with bated breath.

Okay, enough sarcasm. The results will roll out sooner or later, I guess. Meanwhile, we get these sorts of comments on the thread: "I could see someone tossing a vote to Gambit, but Catch 21? Really? For me it's not even best of breed among the GSN shows (and closer to the bottom of the barrel but for the end game.)"

Truth be told, Catch 21 isn't a big favorite of mine, either. But is it really all that much worse than Jackpot or Split Second...or Gambit, for that matter? And the hand-waving dismissal of "the GSN shows" is aggravating. I would seriously consider the network's Lingo (Woolery) and The Chase for top ten status. And my top 50 list would also include GSN's Russian Roulette, Inquizition, Chain Reaction (Catherwood) and Baggage.

If they'd consider it a game show, High Stakes Poker would get on there, too. But that's asking way too much of Game Show Forum. In fact, The Chase and Lingo in the top ten is asking way too much.

UPDATE: Happened to see a rerun of Catherwood Chain Reaction on GSN last night. What a terrific show! This episode was particularly good because it was close through the first three rounds. And the winning team almost nailed the bonus round speed chain, though they fell sadly short on the last word.

If Chain Reaction gets onto the new Game Show Forum list at all, it will only happen because of the older, duller versions from the 1980s. But no matter. Hey, GSN, make some more eps of the show with Mike Catherwood. Your version really is one of the top 50 game shows of all time.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Last chance?

Millionaire has put out a press release for the new season.

Which is a little remarkable, because lots of people (I plead guilty!) were afraid there wouldn't be a new season. The downgraded timeslots in many markets, particularly New York City, crushed the ratings. Yes, the numbers were still pretty much on par with Celebrity Name Game, and that show never seemed in too much trouble. But the Nielsen downdraft did carry the stench of (TV) death with it.

Somehow, though, the show is back for another go-round. This time the money tree grows in Las Vegas, land of last hopes and long shots. The new eps on September 12 can't arrive too soon, because the telltale household rating is barely holding in the low ones. Sure, we're now in the 2000-channel universe - not to mention over-the-top delivery and the Internet in general - and ratings in the low ones ain't nearly as bad as they used to be. But they ain't great, either.

There don't seem to be any changes in gameplay, and the show will run through the usual specials. The bachelors and bachelorettes from host Chris Harrison's other life will return. There's a kids week and a Vegas celeb week (with Wayne Newton!) and a vets week and a hometown heroes week.

Let's just hope this won't be the last set of weeks for the venerable format.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Birthday boy

Monty Hall turned 95 this week and Buzzr sent out a press release touting some "new" (to the diginet) eps of Let's Make a Deal and Beat the Clock. Legend has it that Monty wasn't particularly thrilled with the version of BtC that he hosted, but we'll let that slide.

In a way that few game show hosts can emulate, Monty is Let's Make a Deal. He owned and produced the show and was generally the boss of everything. He even got a math problem named after him from the show, inspired by switching those infamous doors in the big deal.

Monty has received a lifetime achievement Emmy and countless other awards, as the Buzzr press release notes. It's been quite a ride for the Canadian kid who started out on a Winnipeg radio station in the 1940s. After hosting various forgettable efforts, Monty struck bartering gold with Let's Make a Deal in 1963. The show has seemingly run forever in one version of another, and it's still cranking away on CBS.

Everybody wants to make a good deal and is afraid of making a bad deal. That simple truth has kept LMAD in business for more than a half-century. Here's wishing many more happy birthdays for Monty.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

September follies

We're sitting around right now, waiting for new game show eps next month. There are two big debut dates on the docket.

Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Family Feud all kick off on September 12. Buy a Vowel tells me that WoF will start with teachers week. They know everything about the show, so I believe them. Meanwhile, Millionaire debuts its new Vegas eps in what could be a make or break season. The elderly quizzer has taken up residence in the Nielsen basement. I've heard some rumblings about better timeslots in a few markets this year, so maybe Chris and Harrison and friends might survive. Or maybe not.

The CBS daytime epics, The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal, begin their new skeins on September 19, along with Celebrity Name Game. TPiR became an institution decades ago, kind of like the Smithsonian. LMAD may be on the way to the same status. Craig Ferguson's lively Pyramid knockoff has somewhat surprisingly endured through the daytime syndie wars, where casualties are frequent and bloody. It helps that he's a very talented host.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


The NFL season starts soon (I think) and this story from a sports site is pretty typical. Except for the game show reference.

New England coach Bill Belichick mentioned $64,000 Question during a press conference. The sports site helpfully tells its readers that the show was "the 50s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire." The writer ignores that little rumpus about the show and other 1950s game shows. Or maybe he just doesn't know about it.

$64,000 Question wasn't as blatantly rigged as, say, Twenty One. But the pushy sponsor Revlon still tried to manipulate results in ways that would make modern-day S&P people apoplectic. Wikipedia (usual caveats) offers a good summary of the shenanigans.

Despite its iffy reputation $64,000 Question gets at least a little respect. The show appeared on GSN's top 50 special, TV Guide's top 60 list, and Game Show Forum's 50 greatest list. I don't want to sound like a prig, guys, but the show really doesn't deserve a place on such honor rolls. These odorous 1950s efforts should go on a separate list. Let's call them Rigged But Important.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ratings: that corrupt and boring sports show whacks the syndies

Thank heavens the Olympics are finally over. But before the endless sports show stumbled to a halt, it inflicted a lot of Nielsen damage on syndie game shows. They all got creamed. TV News Check has the discouraging household ratings for the week of August 8-14...

Family Feud 5.9 - down five ticks, even with its zillions of daily runs
Wheel of Fortune 5.2 - down a couple ticks
Jeopardy 4.9 - down three ticks to a season low
Celebrity Name Game 1.1 - down a couple ticks
Millionaire 1.1 - down a tick

Next month the reruns will end at last, and the numbers might start perking up.

GSN continued to have less than stellar ratings by recent years' standards in the week of August 15-21. 359K/262K/362K viewers prime time/total day/extended prime time. GSN ranked 42nd, 34th and 42nd in the windows. Winsanity is clearing hurting the prime time average.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Scenes from a life

So I watched an ep of Match Game '78 on GSN this morning.

The star wheel was just a week old and Gene Rayburn was still explaining its intricacies. Richard Dawson looked extremely displeased whenever the star wheel appeared or was referred to. (He would much later denounce the gadget as a "slight" to himself. He liked getting picked all the time for the big money match.)

But this entry isn't about the star wheel (mostly). Instead, an actress named Didi Carr was sitting in the bottom-left bimbo seat. I had never heard of her. So I went on a Google hunt after the show. And I got some interesting bits of a life.

In 1978 Didi Carr was making a living on a short-lived sitcom called Sugar Time about an an aspiring all-girl pop group. The show departed after one season and took the fictional group with it. On the Match Game ep I watched, Didi was wearing a t-shirt with Gloria Steinem's famous blast: "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." I thought, this might be a low-key protest against the entire concept of the bimbo seat. Maybe I was right, Didi didn't say.

The post-show Google hunt turned up this 2001 bio of the now Didi Carr Reuben (she had left show business and married a rabbi named Steven Reuben). The bio revealed that the rebbetzin - which I learned was a rabbi's wife - was "an atheist, hard-core." Hm, that seemed to fit with the t-shirt on Match Game. I moved on to this 2014 YouTube video of the rabbi's wife, talking about a friend of hers named Susan Whitmore.

Finally, I found this post from the couple's son Gable in 2015 about a fire at Steven and Didi Reuben's house. Luckily nobody was hurt. Life goes on, and Google and YouTube are sometimes there to document it.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mr. Barry goes to late night TV

One of the more interesting threads in the game show Interwebs lives on Game Show Paradise. It's called "Game Show Hosts in Other Media" and it talks about game show figures (not always hosts) and their appearances outside the genre.

A July 10 entry noted Jack Barry's February 21, 1971 turn on Dick Cavett's talk show. By an odd coincidence I mentioned Dick Cavett in an entry a few days ago. A commenter wrote that diginet Decades - yeah, I've barely heard of it, too - runs Cavett's old chatfest. The Barry episode turned up on the subchannel last month.

Louis Armstrong headlined the ep, as the screenshot shows. Satchmo looked frail and, sadly, he would die just a few months after the taping. Oddly enough, I remember Barry's appearance on the episode, though I've never seen it again in the past 35 years. As I recall, he was rather defensive about the rigging scandals - no surprise - and talked about how an unnamed politician tried to make hay on the rumpus. (Manhattan prosecutor Joseph Stone, maybe? He hauled everybody in front of a grand jury.)

I couldn't find Jack Barry's interview on the Internet. If we get lucky, somebody might upload it to YouTube.