Thursday, December 30, 2010

Two More Questions Answered...

"In other news...anybody know what happened to the syndicated version of Cash Cab? I sure don't" - From my December 16 post

Well...turns out it wasn't dead, and local stations will begin showing reruns of the Discovery Channel show on January 10. Frankly, my personal theory is that we will soon find out some other show (probably Don't Forget The Lyrics, which hardly anyone is watching) has been canceled. I certainly hope I'm wrong.

"Game Show Network has announced that, at some point in 2011, they will premiere a new improvisational comedy game show to be hosted by Drew Carey. The show will be taped in Las Vegas. It doesn't seem to have a name at the moment (Ticketmaster lists simply "Drew Carey"), but considering that the first taping is January 13, they'd better think of one!" - From my December 2 post.

They thought of one - the show has been titled Improv-A-Ganza. There's no word on when it will premiere. Come on Game Show Network, you couldn't pay to just call it Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Finally, speaking of Game Show Network, it appears that their dating show Baggage, hosted by Jerry Springer, will soon be coming to syndication...or MyTV...or somewhere other than Game Show Network, it's not really clear. This, really, just adds to my theory that Don't Forget The Lyrics will be gone soon - Cash Cab will replace it in syndication, Baggage will replace it on MyTV. Again, I hope I'm wrong.

When I heard this piece of news, I had never even watched Baggage because...well I've said it before, dating shows aren't my thing. Since hearing this news, I watched an episode of Baggage, and I'm not writing a full review right now. Perhaps I will eventually, but like I said, dating shows aren't my thing.

On the other hand, American Idol-type talent shows aren't my thing either - and next week, I may well end up reviewing Live To Dance.

Happy new year,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Let's Step Up And See What Flops

OK, that's an exaggeration. There's nothing really wrong with Million Dollar Money Drop, and if it becomes a hit, that's great. It's just that there's nothing really right about it either - it's a post-Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? big money quiz show that looks like every other post-Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? big money quiz show. I cannot be the only one who's getting tired of those.

How does it work? Do you really need to know? A team of two people play the game, and are given at the start $1,000,000 in fifty blocks of $20,000. They are asked a question with four possible answers. Each of those answers is represented by a drop chute. The contestants are given a minute or two to put all their money on at least one answer - it has to be all their money, and they must leave one answer clear. After time runs out, the correct answer is revealed (in the most drawn out way possible, of course) and any money placed on a wrong answer drops off the stage. Seven questions are played like this, ending with a final question with two possible answers - and since you must leave one answer clear, you're risking it all. The contestants also have a single Quick Change, which allows them to move some of the money they've placed.

Like I said, there's nothing wrong with this. Host Kevin Pollack is good enough, and the set and music are exactly what you'd expect them to be. I'm just tired of saying that a show has a generic post-Millionaire set and theme and a host who's good enough. Frankly, this show barely even gets "good enough" - by the time the two-hour premiere ended, I was begging for it to be over. I had gotten the message. This show wasn't going to do anything new, it was about as slow as you can get, and there seemed to me to be little chance of winning anything at all, let alone $1,000,000.

If Million Dollar Money Drop does become a hit, then great. That would likely open the doors for some new game shows, which would certainly be a good thing. I just one of those new game shows is something other than a Millionaire clone. I'm tired of those. As I said last week, I'm looking forward to the return of American Idol - a show I don't even like - a lot more than I was looking forward to Million Dollar Money Drop.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Things First...

...I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue returns for six new episodes on December 27, and no, I will not recap this series as I did the previous two. It just seems to me to be as official as it's ever going to be that Jack Dee is the new host. If something changes, I will of course let you know.

The big news right now: a date has been set for an event that I am at once looking forward to and dreading. IBM's "Watson" computer will make its debut on Jeopardy on February 14, competing against...say it with me now...Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. The event will consist of two matches over three days (how this is possible is beyond me), with $1,000,000 for the winner, $300,000 for second place, and $200,000 for third place. Ken and Brad are giving half the money they win to charity (the money won by Watson goes to charity as well, of course). IBM seems to think this will be the equivalent of Garry Kasparov versus Deep Blue...I think it just sounds creepy. To ask just one question: how on earth will Watson be represented onset?

In other news...anybody know what happened to the syndicated version of Cash Cab? I sure don't. It has been announced, however, that the Discovery Channel (presumably) is planning a spinoff to be taped in Chicago, with Beth Melewski driving the cab...and that is all I am going to say, OK? I really don't want to get the debate about how "real" the show is started again.

Finally, this may sound like sacrilege, but I'm probably going to at least take a look at Live To Dance (which premieres January 4) and the return of American Idol (on January 19). Yes, they're not really game shows, but look at it this way - I'm probably looking forward to writing about them a lot more than I'm looking forward to writing about Million Dollar Money Drop next week. The world does not need another generic Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? clone.

Oh...the things I go through for game shows...


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Only A Really, Really, Tough Show

I'm taking a look this week at a show that frequently comes up in discussions of British game shows - discussions that usually end with the conclusion that "The British Are Better Than Us." I'm not going to try to figure out that issue completely, but as there's no news this week, here's a review of Only Connect.

The first thing you need to know about Only Connect is that it's one of those European quiz shows that are so much about the challenge that the season champion doesn't get any prizes - you know, like Countdown. If you don't like this sort of show, stop right now - you won't like Only Connect. If you are willing to give that sort of show a try, here's a further warning - Only Connect is tough. It's really tough. The premise is simple - two teams of three compete to figure out how groups of things are connected - but the execution is about as hard as a game show could possibly be. This show seriously gives you four books and expects you to figure out that they were all banned by the Catholic Church - and it just gets tougher from there.

Are you willing to go further? In round one, the teams take turns being shown four clues and having to figure out what the connection is within forty seconds. The clues are shown one at a time, and as you see more of them, the number of points you get for a correct guess goes down - five points for getting it in one clue, three points for two clues, two points for three clues, and one point for four clues. After each team has taken three turns, we go to round two, which is the same except that after the first three clues, instead of having a fourth clue to guess the connection, you have to figure out what the fourth clue would be.

It doesn't get any easier from there. Round three is the connecting wall, where each team is shown a grid of sixteen clues, and has to correctly group them into four sets of four within two minutes and thirty seconds. Seriously. You aren't told what the groups are - you're just shown these sixteen things jumbled together and have to group them somehow. You get one point for every group you find correctly, can earn four more points for stating why each group you found is connected, and if you figure everything out, you get two more points for a total of ten. We then come to round four, where the teams are given a category and shown names in that category with the vowels taken out - you get a point if you buzz in with the correct answer. This is easier, and doesn't really fit in with the rest of the show - but by that point I was too confused by what I had seen before to care. Like I said, this show is really, really tough.

That doesn't mean it's bad. I actually think this is a great game, and it makes for one of those shows where you really feel good about yourself when you get something right. Unfortunately, this does not extend to the host, Victoria Coren, who comes across to me as really smug - like she's thinking how easy this is and that we should know it all. In all honesty though, she might be my only complaint, and thankfully this is not a show that depends on its host.

This is not a show for everyone. It has no prizes, a format that takes a few minutes to get used to, and what are probably the toughest questions I've ever seen on a television game show. Still, if you can get into this show's mindset, you'll be glad you did. I won't say this is always true, but in this case, yes, the British are better than us.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Drew, Drops, And Dreams

Here's the current piece of news: Game Show Network has announced that, at some point in 2011, they will premiere a new improvisational comedy game show to be hosted by Drew Carey. The show will be taped in Las Vegas. It doesn't seem to have a name at the moment (Ticketmaster lists simply "Drew Carey"), but considering that the first taping is January 13, they'd better think of one!

Drew...I honestly am not sure what to say about him. I thought he did a great job on Whose Line Is It Anyway?...but he has essentially proven by now that he is incapable of hosting a "traditional" game show. His performance on The Price Is Right...I'll be nice and say that he seems uncomfortable. That's being nice. I think there are plenty of people out there who would happily go on for pages about how Drew has destroyed the show. I guess it's good for him to find a job where he'll be in his element - I just hope that while he's in Las Vegas, he doesn't start hosting The Price Is Right Live as well.

Moving on...this is probably far from news, but Fox is premiering the new game show Million Dollar Money Drop on December 20 with host Kevin Pollack. I suppose I'll check this one out, but frankly it just sounds to me like yet another generic Who Wants Be A Millionaire? clone with a comedian host and tapings that took eight hours for one episode. Here's the question I keep waiting for an answer to...remember back in May when I described an upcoming show called Six Minds, to be hosted by Vernon Kay? Well, yes, it has had tapings, under the new title of Million Dollar Mind Game...but it shows no signs of premiering. I want to see it! Yes, it has "Million Dollar" in the title and yes, it's being hosted by the guy who's currently hosting Skating With The Stars, but this actually sounds to me like it has a chance at being unique. Perhaps it will be the show that proves American game shows don't have to be dumbed down.

Hey...I can dream, can't I?


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

As I'm leaving town for Thanksgiving, there's no post this week.

I'll be back!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

One Versus 1 vs. 100

I might as well get this out there: I never really got into 1 vs. 100. It just seemed to me to be a pretty basic Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? clone (Millionaire with a bunch of other people involved!) and the vaguely worded questions just seemed gimmicky. I realize it's silly to like Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? (Millionaire with easier questions!) and not like 1 vs. 100, but there you go.

What did impress me about 1 vs. 100 (in as much as anything did) was the set - the single player facing these rows and rows of people brought to mind the Imperial Senate from Star Wars. Naturally, that was the first thing Game Show Network dropped for their new five-day-a-week version of the series.

The actual mechanics of the game haven't changed too much. A single player is competing against a group of 100 dubbed "the mob." The mob this time is prerecorded and displayed on a monitor, but does still seem to come in groups - like Bob Saget on NBC, Carrie Ann Inaba reminds everyone at the start of each game that the mob contains five MENSA members and eight professional cheerleaders. A vaguely worded question is asked, and the mob is given a few seconds to lock in their answers. The single player then can answer in his\her own time, and if that answer is correct, any mob members who got the question wrong are eliminated. Every time you eliminate ten mob members, you advance on the money ladder towards $50,000, and are given the option of quitting ("Money...or the mob?") The contestant also has two helps sponsored by Progressive Auto Insurance - Poll The Mob and Trust The Mob. it good? Well, as I said, I wasn't a major fan of 1 vs. 100 when it was on in primetime, so a scaled down version isn't going to change my opinion. They took away the one thing about the show I really liked - the set. Carrie Ann, too, looks to me like she's drank too much coffee, and while they kept the theme music from the primetime version, I always thought said music just sounded generic. If you liked 1 vs. 100 in primetime, by all means, check this out - but that wasn't me.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Charlie O'Donnell 1932 - 2010

One of the game show world's most legendary announcers has died at age 78. If you have no idea who I'm talking about...let's just say you know his voice. If you need another hint: "It's AMERICA'S GAME..."

That's right. Charlie was the announcer on Wheel Of Fortune. He wasn't the only one - at various points Jack Clark and M.G. Kelly have held the position - but I didn't know that until years later. Charlie's been doing this job for as long as I've known what Wheel Of Fortune was. I remember hearing Pat Sajak talk to "Charlie" at a very young age and having no idea who, if anyone, Charlie was.

It turned out he was quite an accomplished personality. If we stay focused on game shows, Charlie announced more than I can possibly name; if we branch out, he began his career on American Bandstand with Dick Clark and has been everything from a DJ to a local news anchor. If you can announce live events ranging from the Beatles to Pope John Paul II, you know you've got talent.
The field of game show announcer is a dying one. The sad fact is, while countless people associate game shows with phrases like "what do we have for him Johnny?" most game shows today don't have an announcer or any need for one. Thankfully, Wheel Of Fortune doesn't seem to be abandoning the idea just yet; on-air tryouts for the job are being given to both Jeopardy announcer Johnny Gilbert (what a surprise) and former The Price Is Right announcer Rich Fields (cue screams of joy from the hardcore The Price Is Right fans). I certainly hope we don't end up with an out of work comedian.

I'll have my review of the Game Show Network version of 1 vs. 100 next week.

Rest in peace Charlie,


Thursday, November 4, 2010

I've Said It Before And I'll Say It Again...

I am not a major fan of The Newlywed Game.

Oh, I realize it's an legendary game show, that Bob Eubanks is iconic, and that the "up the butt" incident probably did happen. The whole dirty laundry thing just isn't for me. As I said in January, it's only a short jump from The Newlywed Game to the horrific Three's A Crowd, the game show that purported to find out who knows a man better - his wife or his secretary?

It was every bit as scary as that makes it sound.

Game Show Network's revival of The Newlywed Game began in 2009 with new host Carnie Wilson. Before you say anything else, you should know that Bob Eubanks is far from the only person to have hosted The Newlywed Game; however, it seems that every time someone else is tried, they eventually have to bring Bob back to save the show...and sure enough, when Carnie left, guess what the rumor that went around was?

No such luck. The new host is Sherri Shepherd. Apart from that, it appears that absolutely nothing has changed from the previous season. Yes, the show is now taped in New York, but the set looks the same to me...and yes, there's a new announcer, but I can't identify him. Sherri...I suppose there are worse choices, but she comes across to me as a bit too loud and obnoxious. It doesn't really matter, however - no host could change my opinion of this show. It's not a bad game. It's not badly produced. It's just not for me. If you like this sort of thing, then watch.

I'll have my obituary of Charlie O'Donnell next week and my review of the Game Show Network version of 1 vs. 100 on November 18.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Well, It Is Better Than Minute To Win It...

"It gets worse, however, when we move from the network to game show fans, who immediately dismissed this show (an American format) as a ripoff of the British series The Cube. Every now and then, a show premieres in some other country that game show fans immediately latch onto, saying that when this show comes to America, it will forever change things. I remember when it was Millionaire (which lived up to the hype)...then The Weakest Link (which burned itself out pretty fast)...then Deal Or No Deal (ditto). I've heard a lot of game show fans say, essentially 'What is this Minute To Win It nonsense? We want the real The Cube!' What difference will it make? From what I've heard, the major difference between Minute To Win It and The Cube is that on The Cube, contestants do the stunts inside the eponymous Plexiglas structure. Is that seriously going to make a difference?" - From my review of Minute To Win It in March

Now that I've seen a couple episodes of The Cube...I guess it's time to try to answer that question.

The bare-bones description of The Cube sounds almost identical to that of Minute To Win It -a contestant starts out with nine lives. If this contestant successfully completes a game, we advance on the money ladder towards 250,000 pounds; if this contestant doesn't succeed, a life is lost. Quitting after successfully completing a game is of course an option, but once you say you want to go for it, you are committed to that game until you win or run out of lives. The contestant also has two lifelines - Simplify (which makes the game a little easier) and Trial Run (which allows you to try out a game once without fear of losing a life).

That's the what makes this show different from Minute To Win It? Well for starters, the games don't seem all that similar to me. From what I've seen of Minute To Win It, it's mostly plain old Beat The Clock-type stunts. There are a few of those on The Cube, but also a lot that don't come close. An average contestant's game might include pushing a button to stop a light in a certain place, stepping over a barrier while wearing a blindfold helmet, and building a certain tower with wooden blocks within twenty seconds. One contestant I saw just had to catch a ball from a pitching machine for something like 10,000 pounds.

Of course, if you said "Just catching a ball for 10,000 pounds? That sounds dumb" you've captured the biggest problem here. The fact is that, while this show is mind-numbingly entertaining, it also contains some of the dumbest games I have ever seen, being played out in the most overdone way imaginable. Host Phillip Schofield talks to the cube. The cube talks to the contestant, addressing him\her by name. The games are demonstrated by "the body" (a woman in a mask who the cube intones is "an expert at all games played within the cube") and frequently shown in slow motion.

The padding is endless. Phillip has to resort to giving the contestant statistics like "on average, it takes 3.2 lives to complete this game, and women are 38% better at it then men" and constantly repeating "next time you walk out of the cube, it will be with X pounds...or nothing." Of course, all this padding has to be there - if they just played these games without it, the show would be fifteen minutes long.

If I'm making this show sound bad, I'm sorry. The fact is that Phillip is excellent and the show is really, really, incredibly fun to watch - way more so than Minute To Win It. While I'd love to see an American version, I'd love even more to see a game show that did something really unique - not follow the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? model.

I usually point to Million Dollar Password as the ultimate proof that Millionaire clones have taken over the genre...well, here's an even bigger example. In March 2009, it was announced that NBC was producing a pilot for an American version of the British topical panel game show Have I Got News For You. The article contained the following sentence: "NBC declined comment on its plans for 'News,' but it seems likely the network will make some changes to the show’s format in order to make it fit with the big 'event' feel seen in most primetime reality shows."

There's your thought for the day.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yes, I Know...

When I wrote my post last week about Family Game Night and Pictureka, there were quite a few things I wanted to bring up - some related to The Hub and some not - that I left out simply for the sake of a clearer post. Well...I'm going to throw them all at you this week. Without further ado...
  • Yes, I know what the really big piece of news is right now - the five-day-a-week version of 1 vs. 100 will premiere November 15 on Game Show Network. The grand prize is $50,000, and the mob will be recorded separately from the rest of the show. The host is...keep an open mind...Dancing With The Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba.
  • Yes, I know that the Massachusetts Lottery has released the names of the winners from the first The Price Is Right Las Vegas trip drawing...I'm not one of them. I've already bought another ticket and entered it into the second drawing.  It looks like this "special show of The Price Is Right Live" is in February 2011, and isn't just for the Massachusetts Lottery but rather all the state lotteries participating. There's no announcement yet on when the second drawing will be.
  • Yes, I know that Hasbro has found a different way to promote one of it's board games - they have announced that The Hub will at some point premiere a live-action kids mystery series inspired by (or at least named after) the board game Clue. I don't know when this will premiere, and frankly, I don't care. The fact is that Hasbro announced a lot of high-profile shows for The Hub (such as new Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoons) that show no signs of premiering.
  • Yes, I know that The Hub began on October 16 to show reruns of Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, the cartoon that originally ran on Fox. That's not the same, OK? The cartoon has been rerun plenty of times, and it was just announced that a complete series DVD set will be released at some point in 2011; meanwhile, the game show has never resurfaced after leaving PBS.
  • Yes, I know that one of the British kids game shows I mentioned last week, The Slammer, isn't really a kids game show or even, strictly speaking, a game show; however, it is a show that I really, really, want to see. It's a talent show built around the idea that the acts (all adults) are inmates competing for parole in front of an audience of kids. Of course, this is completely fictitious and staged; however the mere fact that in Britain, that's an acceptable concept for a kids show says a lot about America.
  • Finally, yes, I know that Hasbro is preparing a special (or at least I think that's what it is) called Extreme Family Game Night Challenge. The idea: families will submit videos of them playing Hasbro games, and the two that Hasbro likes best will be flown to Orlando to compete in a final televised showdown...on Nickelodeon. The winning family will then be flown to Los Angeles to see the 2011 Kids Choice Awards...which are on Nickelodeon. That's all I know. Come on Hasbro, do you really have that little faith in The Hub?
That's enough for now. I'll get to all these things as they come.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Still Hope For The Hub

I'm going to try to be realistic here.

The Hub is a kids channel, so it's not going to show the game show Scrabble. More than that, The Hub is an American kids channel, so it's not going to show all the British kids game shows I want to see (such as Knightmare or The Slammer). Even more than that, The Hub is an American kids channel owned by Hasbro, so it's not going to show all the kids game shows I remember from my childhood (most notably Carmen Sandiego).What The Hub will do is adapt Hasbro's board games into stereotypical noisy kids game shows...and guess what? They did a pretty good job of it.

In Family Game Night (which had a preview episode on TLC on October 9 before premiering on The Hub on October 10), Todd Newton plays host to two families (parents and two kids). As with Hole In The Wall, we don't learn these families' real last names; they are known throughout the show by the name of one of their kids (the preview episode was Johnny's Family versus Diego's Family). Each family is also introduced via the sort of introduction video you only find on a kids game show - you know, the kind that goes "Hi, I'm Timmy and this is my mom Mary. She's a great cook..."

These two families are there to compete in five games in each episode, inspired, of course, by various Hasbro board games. The family that wins each game gets to pick one of the terribly named Monopoly Crazy Cash Cards, each of which has a money amount attached to it (and before you scoff at the prize budget, you should know that these money amounts are quite high; one card is worth a five-digit number). At the beginning of the show, each family is given one card for free to start. At the end of the show, the cards are put in a reader and we see the money amounts attached to them, and the family with the most money gets the grand prize trip.

So what are the games? Well, perhaps surprisingly, they're pretty creative and cool. Guesstures involves playing charades while in a harness high above the studio; Boggle sees the families jumping from square to square on a floor size letter board. That's not to say all the games are winners - Cranium amounts to little more than a bog standard quiz, and it won't be long before Connect Four (in which the families must toss color-coded balls into a giant version of the namesake game's board) gets old - but the ones that work outweigh the ones that don't (and looking at other game shows with rotating rounds - such as The Price Is Right - do you like every game in rotation?)

The set's quite large and impressive, Todd Newton can host just about anything, and the prize budget is amazing for a brand new kids cable channel; not only do both families keep their money, but the winner of each game gets an extra bonus prize. In short, Hasbro clearly put a lot more effort into this show than you'd expect from the description "Families play mini-games based on various board games." That's still not a great premise for a game show, but if you must go with it, this is about as good as it could be done.

So we come to Pictureka, which premiered October 11. The show opens with an animated opening sequence and a pretty bad lyrical theme song -something like "Pictureka...Find It Fast...Find It First..." Cory Almeida (a comedian, as far as I can tell) plays host to two families (one parent and two kids). Yet again, we don't learn these families' real last names; they are known on this show simply by team colors (the premiere was the green team versus the yellow team). Each family is introduced via an incomprehensible animation that is apparently supposed to represent their interests. They are there to play what essentially amounts to a hidden picture game - Cory starts at the start of the show that the object is to collect fish to feed the show's penguin mascot, but this theming doesn't seem to extend beyond referring to each family's score, for the entire show, as being in "fish points." At the beginning of the show, in one of the dumbest opening rounds you can possibly imagine, the families are given fifteen seconds to just run around grabbing fish point coupons from the hands of audience members.

Fortunately, the show improves from there. One round features the families searching block pyramids for different pictures; another has each family tied together as they run around the set looking for pictures. At the end of the show, the family with the most fish points plays a bonus round in which they are shown, for ten seconds, a grid of nine pictures; they then have one minute thirty seconds to find those pictures and place them in the appropriate squares. If they get the correct picture in the bonus square on the grid, they win the grand prize trip.

It's not bad. It's not great, but the set is impressive and while Cory does fall a little into the kids game show "try to be hip" trap, at least he isn't Teck Holmes. I have seen game shows -and, indeed, kids game shows - that are much worse than this.

I'm not delusional. These aren't the greatest game shows ever or even the greatest kids game shows ever, and I know they exist mostly to promote Hasbro board games. Still, I thought these shows were fun, and an eight-year-old me would have loved them. As I said, I'm going to try to be realistic. The Hub isn't going to do any of the shows I hoped it would do, but I hope the shows it does succeed.


Thursday, October 7, 2010


Let me start by saying this: I never saw the Fox version of Hole In The Wall, so I can't compare it to the version that premiered last night on Cartoon Network. By all accounts, the primetime version was awful, but I'm going to try to judge the kids version on its own merits, OK?

Here's my judgement: it's a disaster.

Teck Holmes, who screams most of what he says, plays host to two families (each composed of a parent and two of that parent's children). We don't learn these families' real last names; they are known throughout the show by team names. To use the premiere as an example, it's not the Jones family versus the Smith family; it's "The Good, The Bad, And The Stepdad" versus "Mama Trucker And The Mudflaps". These two families walk onstage in bizarre silver jumpsuits and color-coded helmets. They also trash talk each other a lot, which sounds dumb - but believe me, that's about the only thing you can do to pad out this game. The premise of this globally exported format: the host screams out "Let's see the HOLE IN THE WALL!". The audience counts down three seconds. A wall comes at you. There is a hole in it. If you get through the hole, you get points; if you don't, you fall into a pool.

In round one, all three members of each family try to get through the wall; they get ten points for each family member who succeeds. In round two, one member of each family puts on a blindfold helmet and must be directed on how to get through the wall by their teammates (cue the parents standing motionless while their kids are screaming instructions); they get ten points if they succeed. In round three only two members of each family face the wall; they again get ten points for each member who doesn't fall into the pool. In round four, two members of each family are spun around by the opposing family, so they are supposedly dizzy when the wall comes at them; they get twenty points for each family member who gets through. The family with the most points then gets a Hole In The Wall trophy (and nothing else) and plays the final Impossiwall (no, really) for a place on the Wall Of Fame (and nothing else) if all three family members get through.

If that format sounds flat out is, and that's not even the worst part. I could go on for a while here: no prizes, bland music, endless replays of each fall, an audience that appears to have been told to be as loud as possible...get the idea? Going back to my review of Downfall in June, this is what that show would have been if they hadn't come up with an entertaining game and a decent host to back up their gimmick. I suppose it fits in better on Cartoon Network that it would have in primetime, and an eight-year-old me probably would have thought it was fun...but I think the fact that, while this is a Japanese format, it's a five-minute segment on a variety show in Japan says a lot.

I'll have reviews of The Hub's new kids game shows (Family Game Night and Pictureka) next week.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

I'm Going Out Of Town!

...which means I don't have time to write a full post.

A few bits and pieces of news:
  • As I said in July, the short-lived primetime show Hole In The Wall is being revived as a kids game show on Cartoon Network. It premieres October 6. The host is Teck Holmes (a former housemate on The Real World, apparently).
  • Hasbro's "The Hub" channel starts October 10; the new kids game show Family Game Night will premiere that day. A preview episode will air October 9 on TLC. The host is Todd Newton.
  • The Hub's other kids game show, Pictureka, premieres October 11. The host is Cory Almeida.
  • I've tracked down the names of the two people from that The Price Is Right audition I went to in June that CBS is going to fly to Los Angeles...needless to say, I didn't make it. Congratulations to Barbara J. Bodner and Christina Marie Patenaude I guess.
That might do it at the moment.

I'll be back next week.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

It Took Me Four Hours To Watch Them All...

Well, that's the new season premieres. Monday brought new seasons of Let's Make A Deal, The Price Is Right, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? and Don't Forget The Lyrics.

Let's Make A Deal: No changes whatsoever from the previous year. That's a good thing.

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?: The rumors were true: the game has been scaled down yet again. There are now just eight questions on the board: two first grade (worth $500 each), two second grade (worth $1,000 each), two third grade (worth $3,500 each), and two fourth grade (worth $7,500 each.) If you have any money in your bank after that, you can risk it on a fifth grade question that, if answered correctly, multiplies your bank by ten. The cheats are just Peek and Copy (no more Save), and with three fifth graders, I still have no idea how they divide up the questions.

This isn't a bad show, but it's clearly on its last legs. With that format and no rollover, there is (A) a lot of padding and (B) little chance for the contestant to win anything, let alone the $250,000. Let's face it, this is probably the last season for Jeff Foxworthy and the kids. Oh, and one more note - the show double runs (two back-to-back episodes) in my area, but the second episode was a rerun from last year.

Don't Forget The Lyrics: It's the five-day-a-week premiere, and the board consists of -get this- four categories. The money ladder: $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, $10,000. If you get through the money ladder without missing, you can risk it all on the "Encore Song" for $50,000. If I have my information right, your first miss takes out the Encore Song, making the maximum prize $10,000; if you miss a second time, the game is over. The contestant also has - get this - one backup (Three Lines). The live band has been replaced by the "Myspace Karaoke." In short, this is about as scaled down as you can possibly get, and there is an endless amount of padding. Still, I was fairly impressed by Mark McGrath's performance, and let's face it, there are worse things on in the daytime. This won't last long, but it will be fun while it does.

The Price Is Right: I've been dreading this one. Rich Fields is no longer the announcer, and a couple new ones are being tried out on air; the episodes I saw had J.D. Roberto. I no longer care. More than any other, this show needs a rest. I'm won't discuss this much out of fear of enticing wrath, but suffice to say the show was past its prime long before Bob Barker retired, Drew Carey has failed to reinvigorate it, and now it's just time to stop.
I really just blew my chance of getting picked by that casting call I went to in June, didn't I?


Thursday, September 16, 2010

At Last!

The new season is here! Monday brought the season premieres of Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and Family Feud. Let's take a look at this show by show:

Wheel Of Fortune: The season premiere was taped in Las Vegas...the smallest prize on the bonus round wheel is now $30,000...yeah, I don't really care. This show isn't changing much any time soon.

Jeopardy: Apparently on Tuesday, contestant Roger Craig won $77,000 on his second day, topping the one-day record of $75,000 set by - of course - Ken Jennings. Also, at some point this season there will be a special pitting an IBM Jeopardy playing computer called Watson against some former contestants (please, please, don't be Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter). That's about it. Come on, were you honestly expecting some major changes to Jeopardy?

Family Feud: The show is now taped at Universal Studios in Orlando, complete with shots of roller coasters during the opening. Last season's Bullseye round has been taken out; the round sequence is now Single, Single, Double, Triple, Sudden Death, and the first family to reach 300 points plays Fast Money for $20,000. The horrific family introduction videos have also thankfully been taken out; however before Fast Money, the winning family is wished good luck by some random person staying at a Comfort Inn somewhere in the country. Steve Harvey is better here than he was guest hosting Millionaire, but does seem to be trying to make this show into a comedy club; still, this is a hard game to ruin completely. Oh, and the new announcer, who even gets to name check himself in the opening: Joey Fatone!

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?: Take a deep breath; the new rules of Millionaire make little sense written down. The game is now played in two rounds. Round one has ten questions and ten money amounts ranging from $100 to $25,000. Both the questions and money amounts are shuffled randomly, meaning the first question could be the hardest on the board and still be worth $100. The money amount attached to each question is not revealed until after the question is answered; if the contestant gets it right, that amount is added to their bank. The lifelines have been redone almost completely; we still have Ask The Audience, but the other two lifelines are both Jump The Question, which allows you to move on to the next question - but you don't get the money amount attached to the question you jumped. You can walk away on any question in round one, but if you do so, you only get half of what's in your bank. If, by some miracle, you get through ten questions of this, round two contains four questions in classic Millionaire style: $100,000, $250,000, $500,000, $1,000,000. If you miss a question in round two, you go home with your bank from round one. The clock has been dropped completely; however so has the iconic hot seat, replaced by a podium.

This is by no stretch of the imagination bad. It's actually an improvement over what we had last year, with the clock and the worthless Ask The Expert lifeline...yet how much can you change Millionaire before it just isn't Millionaire anymore? This has little in common with the show as originally played; however, if it were launched under a different title, I probably wouldn't even be watching, so I suppose I should be happy. Look at it this way: it beats the awful multiplayer "Millionaire Hot Seat" format currently used in Australia.

Next week: The Price Is Right, Let's Make A Deal, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?, and Don't Forget The Lyrics!

As for Cash Cab...frankly, I'm starting to think the deal didn't go through.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Labor Day Has Come And Gone...

Nothing was going to premiere that day, but still, Labor Day has come and gone. As I have one more week to fill before the new shows start, I'm going to talk about something that really hits home now that my state is participating: that The Price Is Right Live stage show in Las Vegas has become a glorified lottery game show.

First, a little background. There has for years been a live stage show of The Price Is Right at a casino in Las Vegas - I think it was launched as a result of the success of The Price Is Right 30th Anniversary Special in 2002, which was taped in Las Vegas (and by "success", I mean I think it caused a riot). I haven't been to it, but as far as I can tell it's a heavily scaled down version of the television show, with the same pricing games every time (if I have my information right: Plinko, Clock Game, Hole In One, Race Game, Cliff Hangers, It's In The Bag). Despite this, the stage show manages to be so popular that - well, look at it this way: the current revival of Let's Make A Deal with Wayne Brady was originally taped in Las Vegas, and some predicted it would drive The Price Is Right Live out of business. A few months later, Let's Make A Deal moved taping to Los Angeles. My guess: the opposite happened.

There have been The Price Is Right scratch tickets from various state lotteries for years as well, but now the two have converged: I just bought a $5 The Price Is Right scratch ticket, failed to win the $200,000 (or anything else), and entered the ticket into a drawing that will pick thirty people who will be flown to Las Vegas to take part in a special The Price Is Right Live show for the Massachusetts Lottery.

Has it come to that? Massachusetts is not the first state to have this contest. I thought this show was so successful it drove Let's Make A Deal out of town! Why do they have to have ties to the lottery? For that matter, why does the lottery have to join up with The Price Is Right? What happened to the local lottery game show? Remember when just about every area had one? Are any of them still going?

Maybe I shouldn't be complaining. After all, The Price Is Right is an excellent game, and the Las Vegas stage show has had some great hosts (the most commonly used one is Todd Newton) - whereas local lottery game shows usually tended to be boring games of chance with terrible local hosts. I guess all there is to do now is see if I make it to Las Vegas.

Next week: season premieres of Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy, Family Feud, and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Come to think of it, why hasn't Sony done stage shows for any of their game shows in Las Vegas?


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Is The Syndication Season Starting A Week Late This Year?

Well, it's September, and here's the list of start dates I have right now:

September 13: Wheel Of Fortune
Family Feud
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

September 20: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?
Don't Forget The Lyrics
The Price Is Right
Let's Make A Deal

In answer to another question, CBS will use three different shows to fill the four week gap between the final episode of As The World Turns on September 17 and the premiere of The Talk on October 18:

First two weeks: New episodes of The Price Is Right
Third Week: New episodes of Let's Make A Deal
Fourth week: Reruns of The Young And The Restless

No, seriously, that's what they're doing. In answer to a third question, the final episode of Deal Or No Deal, as far as I can tell, is September 10. This, of course, leaves the question of when (or even if) the syndicated version of Cash Cab is starting.

I'm going to do something I haven't done in a while this year - watch the season premiere of all the five-day-a-week shows (even Wheel Of Fortune, which is showing no signs of changing). I will of course, report on each week's premieres here.

Four days until Labor Day,


Thursday, August 26, 2010

OK, I Can't Wait Any Longer

I don't have all the start dates; however I do think it's time to post what I do have (six out of nine shows). Here we go:

September 13: Wheel Of Fortune
Family Feud (now taped in Florida with host Steve Harvey)
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (almost completely reformatted; I don't want to get into it at the moment, however)

September 20: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? (with some format changes rumored)
Don't Forget The Lyrics (Five-day-a-week premiere with host Mark McGrath)

That's all I have, and it leaves The Price Is Right, Let's Make A Deal, and Cash Cab. I can only hope I can track those down soon, as well as the questions of when the final episode of Deal Or No Deal is and what CBS will show between the end of As The World Turns and the premiere of The Talk.

Only a week and four days until Labor Day - not that it looks like anything is premiering that day.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Calm Before The Storm

The good news: I should have at least more of, and hopefully all of, the start dates next week.

The bad news: I don't have anything to write about this week.

A few bits and pieces of news:
  • It's completely official: As The World Turns will be replaced by a The View-type talk show with the horrific title of The Talk. It premieres October 18. As the last episode of As The World Turns is September 17, this does raise the question of what CBS will show for four weeks...but I seriously doubt it will be anything exciting.
  • The new host of The Newlywed Game has been named as Sherri Shepherd (is The View that popular?) The new season debuts November 1 on Game Show Network.
  • Game Show Network has announced they will be reviving the short-lived primetime show 1 vs. 100. That's all they've announced. Frankly, the last thing I want is a heavily scaled down 1 vs. 100, but that's what we're getting.
  • BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a one-hour version of the memorial performance to longtime ISIHAC host Humphrey Lyttelton on August 30.

That might be it at the moment. I really hope I can find the rest of the start dates.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

At Least We're Not Getting A Year-Long Host Search...

You've probably all figured out by now that I'm pretty heavily obsessed with British radio game shows. Well, a fairly big piece of news about them has broken: Robert Robinson is retiring as host of Brain Of Britain, which he has hosted since original host Franklin Engelmann died in 1972.

This is at once inevitable and hard to believe. It's inevitable because Robert is 83 years old and in such bad health that - this is the kicker - he rarely actually appeared on the show in the past few years. He was still listed as the official host, but had handed over several full seasons to substitutes. Naturally, this is also what makes it hard to believe. I'm fairly certain that the same announcement was made at the start of the 2007 season, with Peter Snow being named the new host - but guess what? Robert returned for the 2008 season! I sort of get the feeling that Robert won't be hosting the 2010 season, but if he wanted to come back in 2011, the BBC would let him.

Who will be hosting the 2010 season? Thankfully, we're not going to have to wait over a year while a host search takes place - the BBC has already announced that the new host will be Robert's most frequent substitute, Russell Davies (no, not the the producer who developed the revival of Doctor Who - that's Russell T. Davies). Again, I'm not really sure I believe any of it.

So is this a good thing? Frankly, I've always found Brain Of Britain dull as dishwater with anyone hosting, and even if Robert actually doesn't return to the regular Brain Of Britain series, I'm guessing he'll come back for the Brain Of Brains and Top Brain specials held every few years. I won't really believe Robert is gone from this show until the day he dies.

Brain Of Britain is one of four shows that rotate in BBC Radio 4's Monday afternoon game show slot. Round Britain Quiz is currently filling that slot - by my estimate (based on the season length for each show) Brain Of Britain will return on October 25.

If you're wondering what I think you're wondering - I've found most of the start dates, but I want to wait to post about them until I have all nine shows.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Let The Countdown (Ahem) Begin

Well, I'd been waiting for it for weeks...the Australian version of Countdown, titled Letters And Numbers, premiered Monday, August 2.

I've talked a lot on here about Countdown and how I think it's an amazing show that should - but never will - make its way to America. I keep saying that, yet I've never said anything about how Countdown is played beyond "it's a word game vaguely akin to Scrabble." Well, now that I'm reviewing a version of Countdown, I suppose it's finally time to explain the game.

Countdown\Letters And Numbers (I'm probably going to just keep calling it Countdown) is composed of three types of rounds - Letters rounds, Numbers rounds, and the Conundrum. The sequence of these rounds frequently differs from country to country; to give one example, the new Australian version is played in nine rounds - Letters, Letters, Numbers, Letters, Letters, Numbers, Letters, Numbers, Conundrum. In the Letters rounds, the player whose turn it is picks how many consonants and vowels will be included in the nine letters drawn; both players then have thirty seconds to find a word, and whoever gets the longer word gets a point for each letter. In the numbers rounds, the player whose turn it is picks how many big numbers (25, 50, 75, and 100) and small numbers (1 through 10) will be included in the six numbers drawn. A three-digit target number is then randomly determined, and the contestants have thirty seconds to add, subtract, multiply, and divide the six numbers drawn to reach the target number. Points are awarded based on how close you are to the target; in Britain and Australia, it's ten points for getting the target exactly, seven points for being within five, and five points for being within ten. The final round is Britain and Australia is the Conundrum, in which a nine-letter anagram is displayed and the first contestant to buzz in with the correct word gets ten points.

That's it. No prizes, no real flash, just a straightforward test of your anagram and arithmetic skills. I personally think it's great - but I also realize it just wouldn't fly in America, or probably even in Britain if it weren't a twenty-eight year institution. I suppose we'll have to see if it works in Australia. I certainly hope it does.

If I must get into the specifics of the Australian version: host Richard Morecroft annoys me a bit, but that could just be because he's explaining all the rules I already know. The set is a carbon copy of the British version - meaning it's tacky, but I won't complain. I will complain about the music, which sounds rather tinny and comes nowhere near the Countdown theme, which is nearly as iconic in Britain as the Jeopardy theme is in America.

I like this show. I like it a lot - but that doesn't change the fact that it's a cheaply produced daytime word game. Remember when American game shows started in daytime and got bigger-budget primetime versions once they were a proven success? Now, of course, it's the other way around, meaning that unless someone can devise a way for Countdown to fit the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? model, it's not coming to America.

I suppose I'll have to live with that.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nope - Still No Start Dates

Here's the final ISIHAC recap of the season:

Opening: “We present I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, the antidote to panel games. At the piano is Colin Sell, and your chairman is Jack Dee.”

Recorded at: Corn Exchange, Cambridge

Panelists: On Jack’s left, Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden. On Jack’s right, Tim Brooke-Taylor and David Mitchell.

Scorer: “And always ready to keep a keen eye on the team’s points as they grow, please welcome the delightful Samantha.”

Game One: Uxbridge English Dictionary
Way, way, too many pirate jokes.

Game Two: Sound Charades
Lionel Blair, laser display board, and… Hamish and Dougal’s French equivalent, Marcel and Gaston (really!)

Game Three: Mornington Crescent
“The Mornington Crescent Handicap Hurdles”…basically, lots of sound effects are mixed in. Mrs. Trellis thinks she’s writing to the Prime Minister.

Game Four: The panelists must complete the titles of celebrity autobiographies.

Game Five: Just A Minim
We actually hear Colin shouting at Barry when asked where they are in the song. We also get the proper whistle at the end…when, naturally, Jack is the one talking.

Game Six: Beer Lover’s Film Club
“Bring Me The Creamy Head Of Alfredo Garcia” is included, of course.

Closing: “Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and David Mitchell were being given silly things to do by Jack Dee, with Colin Sell setting some of them to music. The program consultant is Iain Pattinson, and the producer is Jon Naismith.”

Now, while we still don't have the start dates, I think now is a good time to, yet again, go through this fall's lineup and see what is happening to each show. I'll start by saying that we actually do have the start dates for two out of seven syndicated shows: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and Family Feud start their new seasons on September 13. Let's see...

Wheel Of Fortune\Jeopardy\Let's Make A Deal: No major changes.

Family Feud: Steve Harvey is the new host, the show is now taped in Orlando, and the Bullseye round has apparently been dropped, with the Fast Money jackpot at a flat $20,000.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?: The format is being tinkered with yet again. There will apparently be a new lifeline (not that we know what it is) and a few other changes. Let's hope for the best.

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?: The rumor going around is that the board is going from ten questions to eight, with each question being worth a bit more money. We'll see if this turns out to be the case.

Don't Forget The Lyrics: The format has reportedly been changed heavily, with the show that offered $1,000,000 in primetime now having a jackpot of $50,000. The new host is Mark McGrath.

Cash Cab: Well, remember, these are reruns of episodes that have already aired on the Discovery Channel.

The Price Is Right: Rich Fields is no longer the announcer, and the plan is to try out a few comedians on the air.

I really, really hope we get the start dates soon, and that the BBC finally makes the inevitable announcement that Jack is the new host of ISIHAC. I don't want to recap that show forever.

I'll try to find an episode of Letters And Numbers (the Australian version of Countdown) next week.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bring On The Wrath Of The Hardcore Game Show Fans

I have some news I want to look at, but first here's my recap of the ISIHAC episode broadcast July 19:

Opening: “We present I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, the antidote to panel games. At the piano is Colin Sell and your chairman is Jack Dee.”

Recorded at: Corn Exchange, Cambridge

Panelists: On Jack’s left, Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden. On Jack’s right, Tim Brooke-Taylor and David Mitchell.

Scorer: “Please welcome the lady who loves to score wherever we go, the delightful Samantha.”

Game One: Round One
Jack says that the first round is called “round one,” but it’s actually the movie prequels game again.

Game Two: One Song To The Tune Of Another
The lengthy explanations are back!

Game Three: Spot The Connections
Jack reads a list of seemingly random things, and the panelists must find the connection between them.

Game Four: The “continuity announcers introducing TV shows with catchy names” game again.

Game Five: The panelists play guests at a party boasting about their accomplishments, and each try to outdo each other. They must change what they’re boasting about every time Jack bangs his gong.

Game Six: Hospital Songbook

Closing: “Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and David Mitchell and being given silly things to do by Jack Dee, with Colin Sell setting some of them to music. The program consultant was Iain Pattinson, and the producer is Jon Naismith.”

Now, a few bits and pieces of news:
  • Rich Fields has been let go of as announcer on The Price Is Right, and the plan is to replace him with a comedian who will serve as a sidekick to host Drew Carey. We don't know who it will be yet. I'm going to stop there before I entice the wrath of the hardcore The Price Is Right fans.
  • Carnie Wilson is leaving The Newlywed Game. We don't know who's replacing her, but the rumor going around is that Bob Eubanks will be coming back. Needless to to say, if it's anyone but Bob Eubanks - it doesn't matter who - it will entice the wrath of the hardcore game show fans.
  • Hole In The Wall, a game show so frequently reported as awful that I never watched it when it was on Fox, is being revived as a kids game show on Cartoon Network. The very mention of that show entices the wrath of the hardcore game show fans.
  • Finally, the really big news appears to have arrived: this isn't 100% confirmed yet, but according to more and more reports, As The World Turns is being replaced by...a talk show in the vein of The View. I'm disappointed, but I can't say I'm surprised, and I'll be even less surprised when this entices the wrath of the hardcore game show fans.

If you're wondering, we still don't know the start dates for five-day-a-week shows this year.

Hopefully we will next week.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

World's Wackiest Game Shows: Alas, ISIHAC Isn't One Of Them

Here is my recap of the ISIHAC episode broadcast July 12:

Opening: “We present I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, the antidote to panel games. At the piano is Colin Sell, and your chairman is Jack Dee.”

Recorded at: Sands Center, Carlisle

Panelists: On Jack’s left, Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden. On Jack’s right, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Sandi Toksvig.

Scorer: “And always ready for a quick score, please welcome the delightful Samantha.”

Game One: Uxbridge English Dictionary
We get the classic lengthy explanation.

Game Two: Pick Up Song
Jack: “You should sing along teams, and continue when Samantha turns the volume down. If, when the music returns, you’re within a midge’s minim of the original, I’ll be awarding points, and points mean what they drink in Somerset. What do points mean?”
Audience: “PRIZES!”

Game Three: One pair of panelists has cooked an elaborate multi-course meal at their house, and the other pair must criticize it as much as possible. That’s what Jack explains, anyway – it quickly turns into all four panelists trying to create the worst dinner party possible. Jack claims the whole thing is a tribute to a TV cooking competition. The round ends with a gong.

Game Four: Jack gives lyrics from love songs for the panelists to “complete”.

Game Five: Swanee Kazoo
Jack: “Listeners will be fascinated to hear that Colin has been in the studio dubbing Elton John. Obviously he had to practice on an old leather football first.”

Game Six: Farmer’s Film Club
Including, of course, Bring Me The Herd Of Alfredo Garcia.

Closing: “Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Sandi Toksvig were being given silly things to do by Jack Dee, with Colin Sell setting some of them to music. The program consultant was Iain Pattinson, and the producer was Jon Naismith.”

Now, moving from ISIHAC to another type of incomprehensible game show, World's Wackiest Game Shows premiered Tuesday...and what had apparently been conceived of as a show where Todd Newton would appear as a contestant on a game show in a different country in each episode somehow ended up being reduced to Todd standing in front of a superimposed background, showing clips of weird game shows from around the world. I had only heard of a few of them, but still, I got the idea pretty quickly - lots of bizarre stunt shows.

It was actually a lot better than that makes it sound. Todd's commentary was well put together and funny (at many points he was saying exactly what I was thinking), many of the clips were subtitled in English (an absolutely simple yet brilliant move), and yes, there were a few shows mixed in that didn't consist of contestants eating ants. The one that jumps out at me: a Brazilian game show in which ten models bang their fists on a table, and a contestant must figure out which of the twenty hands is holding a coin. That's it. This is apparently an internationally exported format - and Todd was as bewildered as I was.

In all honesty, the only real complaint I have is that the show is just that - a bunch of clips of unusual game shows. I think there should be some other element added here. Even if we ignore the aforementioned original concept, I know how to use Final Cut Pro - if you had given me all those clips and enough time, I could have put together more or less the same show. Still, Todd could host just about anything, it's clear that the producers genuinely like game shows, and the show was funny, which is more than I can say about something like Late Night Liars.

For the record, I seriously doubt that most foreign television is actually like this. In fact, I distinctly remember being in Japan and seeing something like "World's Weirdest Television" in the English-language TV listings, being broadcast that night on a station in Tokyo. That's right - the Japanese think our television is weird.

Speaking of Todd Newton: it was recently announced that he will be hosting Family Game Night on The Hub. That still sounds like a bad idea for a game show to me, but like I said, Todd can host just about anything.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Well, That's One Big Question Answered...

First things first - here's my recap of the ISIHAC episode broadcast July 5:

Opening: “We present I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, the antidote to panel games. At the piano is Colin Sell and your chairman is Jack Dee.”

Recorded at: Sands Center, Carlisle

Panelists: On Jack’s left, Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden. On Jack’s right, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Sandi Toksvig.

Scorer: “And please welcome the lovely lady who will be sitting on my left hand for the evening, the delightful Samantha.”

Game One: A repeat of the Movie Prequels game from episode one. “Hello Mr. Chips,” “Schindler’s Search For Pen And Paper,” “I Wish Those Lambs Would Shut Up”… you get it. I’m assuming the giant kitten joke in Jack’s introduction to the game is a reference to something...anybody know what?

Game Two: One Song To The Tune Of Another
No, still no lengthy explanation. Tim sings the words of the theme to Bob The Builder to the tune of the Habanera from Carmen…and yes, that’s the bit of the opera you’re thinking of.

Game Three: One pair of panelists tells a well-known story while the other pair plays random sound effects (at equally random intervals) that the first pair must incorporate.

Game Four: A game that seems to be played nearly every show – the panelists must play continuity announcers introducing TV and radio shows picked solely on the basis of a catchy title.
Game Five: One pair of panelists has an unusual medical condition (shown to the audience via the laser display board) that they must convey to the other pair (who are playing doctors) by asking questions about it.

Game Six: Hardware And DIY Songbook

Closing: “Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Sandi Toksvig were being given silly things to do by Jack Dee, with Colin Sell setting some of them to music. The program consultant was Iain Pattinson, and the producer was Jon Naismith.”

OK, now for the big news. After weeks of fruitless searching, I finally found the answer by tracking down the show's Facebook page. The Australian version of Countdown, titled Letters And Numbers, will premiere on August 2. The host will be Australian newscaster Richard Morecroft, the Numbers judge will be Lily Serna and the Letters judge will be David Astle.

Countdown, as I've said, is a format that originated in France. The French title is Des Chiffres Et Des Lettres, which translates to Letters And Numbers...I'm going to stick with calling it Countdown. It's a word game, a lot like Scrabble...but unlike Scrabble, it's never going to be known in America. It really pains me to say that, but I know it's true. It would never work in America...unless you put the Scrabble name on it.

It is now that I start begging: come on, The Hub! I hate to say this to you, but Pictureka just sounds like a revival of Finders Keepers and Family Game Night...can you honestly think of a lamer idea for a game show than "Families play mini-games based on various Hasbro games"? Just do Scrabble. I don't care how you do it. It can be like Countdown, it can be like the board game Scrabble, it can be like the game show Scrabble (which was an excellent game show despite having little to do with the board game)...heck, you can make up a messy kids game show and call it Scrabble for all I care. I really, really want some sort of recognition of this sort of word game on American television. You're a new, unknown cable channel. You can't afford big prizes. Why not make a virtue of that? Countdown never has prizes!

OK, no more more to say either, really. I'll try to track down an episode of Letters And Numbers so I can give my review. Next week: more ISIHAC and a review of World's Wackiest Game Shows.

Like I said, the former should be part of the latter.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

World's Wackiest Game Shows: ISIHAC Should So Be One Of Them

I have some news I want to discuss today, but first here's my recap of the ISIHAC episode broadcast June 28:

Opening: “We present I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, the antidote to panel games. At the piano is Colin Sell, and your chairman is Jack Dee.”

Recorded at: The Centaur, Cheltenham

Panelists: On Jack’s left, Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden. On Jack’s right, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Jeremy Hardy.

Scorer: “And here to keep a trained eye on the team’s points, please welcome the delightful Samantha.”

Game One: Uxbridge English Dictionary
The lengthy explanations are back… “agog” apparently means “half finished Jewish temple"…after Tim announces that “laceration” means “young woman’s speech”, he has to explain the joke to get a laugh out of the audience, after which Jack interjects “No Tim, the audience are right.”

Game Two: Pick Up Song
Jack: “Each should sing along with his record until, at my signal, Samantha turns the volume down. If, on the music’s return teams, you’re within a gnat’s crochet of the original, I’ll be awarding points, and points mean prizes. What does a Scouser do with a crobar?”
Audience: “PRIZES!”
Let’s face it, I can’t top that.

Game Three: Sound Charades
Lionel Blair, laser display board, and Hamish and Dougal…who could ask for more?

Game Four: A Version Of Cheddar Gorge
One pair of panelists has a problem; the other pair are experts on said problem who must alternate words of everything they say. The round ends with a gong.

Game Five: Any Questions
It may be named after a British radio political talk show, but it actually consists of Jack reading out “questions from loyal listeners” for the teams to “answer.”

Game Six: Swanee Kazoo
Jack: “Listeners will be interested to hear that back in the late 70s, when Sting first started touring his band, the police asked Colin to be in their lineup. He was picked out by mistake, locked up, and missed the concert.”

Closing: “Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Jeremy Hardy were being given silly things to do by Jack Dee, with Colin Sell setting some of them to music. The program consultant was Iain Pattinson, and the producer was Jon Naismith.”

Moving on...

It must have been a year or so ago that the Travel Channel aired a single episode of a show called Are You Game? The premise: veteran American game show host Todd Newton travels around the world appearing as a contestant on game shows in different countries.

Now, that's a great premise, one that could potentially introduce American audiences to some great game shows from around the world...but I didn't watch the first episode, because the country was Japan. That's too easy. If it had been anywhere else in the world, I probably would have watched...but everybody's made fun of Japanese game shows. I searched for a while for the second episode...but as far as I could tell, the show had been canceled after one.

I was right and wrong. It turns out what had aired as Are You Game? was the pilot, and the final retooled version of the show will premiere on July 13 under the title World's Wackiest Game Shows, again with Todd Newton as host.

I hate to say it, but that does not sound promising.

Think about it. What came to mind when I heard the title and premise of Are You Game? was Todd traveling to some far off country to appear on a game show, and those game shows being a mix of silly and serious ones. What came to mind when I heard the title World's Wackiest Game Shows was Todd sitting in a studio showing clips of people falling into mud on a silly game show in whatever country and expecting to us to laugh at how weird foreign television is. There are plenty of shows like that. We don't need a new one.

Still, I will watch this time, and cling to hope that they will get this right. I'll have my review on July 15.

As for next week, I'll have more ISIHAC.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Three In One!

This could be a while, as I am going to give you three game show-related things this week. First, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue returned on June 21 with the first of six new episodes hosted by Jack Dee. Here is my recap of the June 21 show:

Opening: “We present I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, the antidote to panel games. At the piano is Colin Sell, and your chairman is Jack Dee.”

Recorded At: The Centaur, Cheltenham

Panelists: On Jack’s left, Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden. On Jack’s right, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Jeremy Hardy.

Scorer: “And hopeful for a good score this evening, please welcome the delightful Samantha.”

Game One: Movie Prequels That Have Disappeared From Cinema History
“Apocalypse Soon” “Sapling Gump”, “The Land That Time Put In A Safe Place”…you get the idea. Oh, and we get “Bring Me Someone Who Knows Alfredo Garcia”.

Game Two: One Song To The Tune Of Another
Jack: “Listeners will be interested to learn that Colin recently spent the last week producing Eminem…and what a tedious game of Scrabble it was”… “Barry Cryer, listening to you sing reminds me of music hall…and why we don’t have it anymore”…Tim sings the words of Rehab to the tune of When I’m Sixty-Four…Jeremy sings the words of the Scooby-Doo theme (the most famous one, anyway) to the tune of Bridge Over Troubled Water…I really miss the lengthy explanations.

Game Three: Sausages
The panelists can ask Jack any question they’d like, and he must always answer “Sausages.” Jack says the goal is to not laugh for as long as possible, but everyone cracks up pretty quickly. It’s a game I remember playing at summer camp, even if Jack claims it’s a tribute to the TV show That’s Life.

Game Four: One pair of panelists are promoting a movie\book\radio show\TV show that they don’t know the name of, and must figure out what it is via the other pair’s questions about it. Naturally, the titles are shown to the audience via the laser display board.

Game Five: The panelists are continuity announcers introducing shows picked solely on the basis of a catchy title.

Game Six: Tim and Jeremy must alternate words of a letter from Boudica to Julius Caesar; Barry and Graeme must alternate words of the reply.

Game Seven: Hairdressers Songbook

Closing: “Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Jeremy Hardy were being given silly things to do by Jack Dee, with Colin Sell setting some of them to music. The program consultant was Iain Pattinson, and the producer was Jon Naismith.”

That's episode one...I must say, I wasn't really feeling it this time...moving on...

It's either the next Russian Roulette or the lamest idea for a game show ever: a game show set on top of a skyscraper, with a contestant playing for money that, if not won, is dropped over the edge. That's the premise of Downfall, which premiered June 22 with host Chris Jericho. Let's try to piece this together...

First things first: My initial mental image of a contestant and a host standing on top of a building alone with a suitcase full of money turned out to be about as wrong as you can get. This show actually constructed a full-scale game show set, complete with an audience, on top of some unknown skyscraper in Los Angeles. It's quite a sight, and I'm sure in ten years people will be asking me "What was that game show with the big conveyor belt on top of a building?" The question, of course, is whether the show has a good game to back that striking image up.

It comes close. To win $1,000,000, the contestant must pass seven levels of play, worth increasingly more money (in other words, it's a money ladder show). On each level, the contestant picks one of nine categories on the board for his\her game. Each category contains ten questions, and as you move up the money ladder, the number of questions you can miss goes down. For $5,000, you have to get four questions out of ten right; however for $10,000 it's five questions out of ten, and so on until for $1,000,000, you have to get ten out of ten. Each round contains not only the money, but also an array of fabulous prizes, replicas of which are placed on the conveyor belt in the center of the set. Of course, the set's on top of an LA skyscraper...if you haven't figured it out, the way you pass each level is by answering the required number of questions before everything you're trying to win hits the street. The contestant is also given two panics (not to be confused with lifelines, cheats, backups or helps) which are activated by hitting a button and which essentially allow you to try the round over with a different category.

If that description sounds totally unoriginal and gimmicky...well, yeah, but I thought it was fun. The image of a new car slamming into the Los Angeles sidewalk is not one I will soon forget. Chris Jericho is not the next Bob Barker or anything, but he impressed me with his performance here. I found myself shouting answers at the TV and holding my breath as each prize approached the edge...and really, what more could you ask for from a game show? If it takes a gimmick to get your attention, then so be it.

Finally, I promised you something special...on Saturday, June 19, I went to an open casting call for The Price Is Right. Yes, I can hear you saying "An open casting call for The Price Is Right? I thought they took contestants out of the audience." That's what they did for decades, and for the most part that's what they still do...but they are now also taking a few preselected contestants, a move that has no doubt been called sacrilege by some. Here's how it works: in every city they visit, two people will be selected and flown to Los Angeles. Those two people will get reserved seats at the show, and one of them will be guaranteed to be picked.

So I filled out my application form and went down to the audition, which was being held in..get this...a tent in the parking lot of BJ's Wholesale Club in Revere, Massachusetts. The line was supposed to form at 10AM for an 11AM start. I think I arrived around 10:20. There were a few hundred people there. That may sound like a lot. It isn't. When I went to an open casting call for Deal Or No Deal in June 2009, there were thousands of people in line for blocks.

However the auditions did indeed not start until 11, meaning I must have waited in line forty minutes for the auditions to start, then another half hour after that. While I waited, staff members explained the rules...namely, that you will have thirty seconds to answer the question "Why do you want to be on The Price Is Right?" Seriously. They base it entirely on thirty seconds. They also gave us hot dogs and tried to get us to become BJ's members. Finally I reached the front of the line, stood on a X facing a camera, was handed a microphone, and got my thirty second audition. I think I froze up halfway through, and I won't find out for months either way...well, it was worth a try.

If you're wondering what I think you're wondering...yes, many of the people in line were wearing T-shirts relating to the show or the audition. Myself included - I wore the shirt and show name tag I wore when I went to a taping of The Price Is Right in Los Angeles in 2007.

That's another post, OK?

More ISIHAC next week,


Thursday, June 17, 2010

I'm Not Lying: This Isn't Funny

Let me give a little background.

There have only been a few times when I've watched a new game show and seen something so inappropriate and disgusting that I could barely bring myself to finish watching the premiere. Off the top of my head, I can only think of two: Game Show Network's 2006 revival of I've Got A Secret (which may have had an excellent host in Bill Dwyer, but the panel were about as disgusting as you can get) and Comedy Central's 2008 revival of The Gong Show (hosted by Dave I really need to say any more?) Those were the only two times I can think of when I came in expecting a good clean game show and got something you'd have to be drunk to enjoy.

Now the opposite has happened.

Late Night Liars is on at 11PM. The set is supposed to look like it has a bar in the back. The show opens with a sketch in which puppets are drinking backstage. In short, this is trying to do for game shows what Avenue Q did for Broadway musicals. It fails.

The show is hosted by Larry Miller, who presides over a panel of celebrity puppets. Let me clarify that statement a bit. These aren't actual celebrity puppets - as I've said, the producers reportedly couldn't afford to license the classic Muppet characters. These aren't puppets representing real-life celebrities - that would get the show sued. These are puppets representing celebrity stereotypes - specifically, a Joan Rivers parody (Shelly Oceans), a closet homosexual (William A. Mummy), a record executive (Sir Sebastian Simian), and one I can't even figure out (Cashmere Ramada). All four are treated throughout the show as if they were actual celebrities - Larry greets them by shouting "Hello stars!" ala Hollywood Squares, and they make frequent jokes about their show business exploits.

After greeting the "panel" Larry introduces two contestants, who are there to play a game that, as I predicted, is essentially the Bluff The Listener game from Wait Wait Don't Tell Me blown up to a whole format. In round one, Larry gives a Wait Wait Don't Tell Me - style bizarre category, after which each puppet gives a fact in that category - two are true, two are false. The contestants lock in which puppet they think is lying by means of buttons in their podium. A correct guess is worth...well, it's worth money, but the amount of money is apparently randomly determined and revealed at the start of the round by the announcer (a puppet called the Weasel). In round two, three of the puppets are telling the truth, and finding the liar gets you a different (but equally random) money amount. In round three, Larry gives a category and each contestant in turn picks a puppet. That puppet states a fact, and if the contestant correctly determines if that fact is true or not, he\she gets an amount of money determined by stopping a randomizer with a button on his\her podium. The contestant with the most money after this plays a bonus round in which two of the puppets are assigned categories (not silly ones this time) and alternate giving facts in their category; the contestant must state whether each fact is true or false, and eight right in forty-three seconds wins $10,000.

That's the format, and let's face it, it's awful. With one category in each round, there just plain isn't much game here, and the randomly determined money amounts don't help; to borrow a phrase from, the scoring is not silly enough to be entertaining or accurate enough to be fair. The bonus round, while an improvement over the main game, has a problem in that the puppets' main "strategy" for tricking the contestant is to state a fact that makes you think of the other puppet's category. In the premiere, one puppet's category was Kristie Alley (the actress); the other puppet's category was Jupiter (the planet). The clock starts. The first puppet, whose category is Kristie Alley, says "Can be seen by the naked eye, even when it's light out." The contestant shouts "True!" - correct for $500. Um...

Of course, that's missing the point - the game isn't supposed to be the attraction here. What's supposed to be fun about this show is hearing puppets say incredibly inappropriate things. I came into the show expecting a lot of puppet sex jokes and censor bleeps. Perhaps if I had got what I expected, I would have enjoyed it - after all, when I went to Avenue Q expecting the same thing, I got it and laughed my head off. None of the puppets on Late Night Liars, however, say anything particularly shocking or funny. I can't think of a single good joke from this show's premiere - indeed, I can't even remember most of the jokes from this show's premiere. Admittedly, this would have been even less funny had the panel been composed of human celebrities or comedians, but that's also the problem - the fact that these are puppets is supposed to be funny in and of itself. The puppets even appear in sketches bookending commercial breaks, and what's supposed to be funny is that they're puppets. Larry, while not great, is more engaging then they are and easily the best thing about the show. Could this format be done right?

I suppose we'll find out when (and if) Trust Me I'm A Game Show Host premieres.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Peter Wheeler 1935 - 2010

The veteran British broadcaster and game show host has died at age 75, and as with Ray Alan, I just don't know enough about the guy to write an obituary. I do have a few bits and pieces of news:
  • I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue will return for Series 53 on June 21, with Jack Dee hosting. I'll recap this series as I did the previous one, but I sincerely hope that by Series 54, the BBC will bow to the inevitable and announce that Jack is the permanent host. I don't want to keep recapping ISIHAC forever!
  • The host of Downfall (premiering June 22) has been named as former professional wrestler Chris Jericho.
  • The Hub has announced another game show for its October 10 launch; an adaptation of the board game Pictureka to be hosted by Cory Almeida.
  • Late Night Liars premieres tonight at 11PM (Eastern Time) on Game Show Network. As I'm just not up that late, I'll have my review next week.

That might be it at the moment. As I said, I will have my review of Late Night Liars next week; if all goes according to plan, I will have a three-in-one post on June 24 containing an ISIHAC recap, a review of Downfall, and something special!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Art Linkletter 1912 - 2010

"I was Oprah before there was Oprah" - Art Linkletter

That, of course, is debatable - but there's no debating that Art Linkletter was a television legend, and he has died at age 97. This will be my first attempt at an obituary, so please bear with me...

Art was born Gordon Arthur Kelly in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. His name was changed to Arthur Gordon Linkletter when he was adopted after his birth parents abandoned him. His career in broadcasting involved everything from quiz shows to talent shows to guest hosting The Tonight Show. One of his most popular shows in its time was a stunt show called People Are Funny, which he may not have been the first host of (that was Art Baker) but he quickly became the one people associated with the show. Art hosted that show on radio and television for seventeen years (1943 to 1960) - but it still wasn't the show that made him a legend. That was House Party, which he hosted on radio and television from 1945 to 1969. It was there that he developed the schtick that will forever be associated with him - "Kids Say The Darndest Things."

Oh, come must of at least heard that phrase!

Seriously, if you've never heard of any of this - well, I can't say I'm surprised. Art was one of those old-time television personalities who may have had a career going back to early radio, but who nobody today could possibly know who he is. If I were not a hardcore game show fan, I probably would never have heard of Art myself. The version of House Party that I grew up watching was the one hosted by Bill Cosby from 1998 to 2000, on which Art appeared occasionally as a guest showing clips from his old show. There was probably little more to the show than Bill asking kids questions and getting "cute" answers, and I wasn't much older than some of the kids myself - but I was a regular viewer for a while, and nearly saw the show live (emphasis on nearly - I heard on the radio that the show was going to do some tapings in Boston, but never figured out how to get tickets).

Still, the fact that Art Linkletter came up with this idea, hosted it for twenty-four years on radio and television, and twenty-nine years after that it was still held in high enough regard that Bill Cosby, who had a hit sitcom at the time, agreed to host a revival? That's saying something - and as if that wasn't enough, Art was the father of Jack Linkletter, who was a game show host in his own right.

Jack Linkletter died of cancer in 2007. Now, his father has joined him.

May they rest in peace.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ray Alan 1930 - 2010

No, not the basketball player - that's Ray Allen. Ray Alan is a British game show host who just died at age 79.

I don't know enough about the man to write an obituary, which is just as well as I'm leaving for a few days out of town and don't have time to write a full post. Still, I thought I should at least mention it.

I'll be back next week.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Covering All The Bases

You know, maybe I'm not really telling the truth when I keep saying that there's no news. The fact is that there are actually several new shows coming that I just haven't gotten around to yet. In this week's post, I'll make an attempt to cover five upcoming shows, two of which we actually have firm premiere dates for. The three that don't have firm premiere dates, of course, could end up not happening, but still, let's take a look.

  • Downfall (premieres June 22) - A contestant is standing on top of a skyscraper. If this contestant wins the game, he\she is awarded $1,000,000 in cash. If this contestant loses the game, all that cash is dropped off the top of the building. That's...all we know at the moment. Who's the host? Beats me. What's the game? I have no idea. I sincerely hope that the producers actually came up with a really interesting game to back this gimmick up. If they did, we have the next Russian Roulette (which actually came up with a really good game to back up its heavily promoted gimmick of losing contestants falling off the stage); if they didn't, well, you get it. I also sincerely hope that they don't actually drop $1,000,000 in cash off a skyscraper in Los Angeles or anywhere else.

  • Late Night Liars (premieres June 10) and Trust Me I'm A Game Show Host - I put these two together because they sound to me like more or less the same show. In Late Night Liars, host Larry Miller watches a group of "puppet celebrities" (with names like Shelly Oceans and William A. Mummy) tell conflicting stories; the contestants have to figure out which one is true. In Trust Me I'm A Game Show Host, hosts Bill Engvall and Mo Rocca tell conflicting stories; the contestants have to figure out which one is true. Really, they both sound to me like they're just the Bluff The Listener game from Wait Wait Don't Tell Me blown up to a whole show, and neither sounds like it's going to work because...well, look at it this way. If Late Night Liars were Kermit The Frog versus Miss Piggy, it would have a chance...but the producers reportedly couldn't afford to license the classic Muppet characters. If Trust Me I'm A Game Show Host were Bob Barker versus Monty Hall, it would have a chance...but Bill Engvall and Mo Rocca are not exactly people you think of as game show hosts. I suppose we'll have to wait and see which of these shows ends up winning (if one of them does).

  • Family Game Night - I've talked a few times on here about The Hub, the kids channel that Hasbro is going to launch on October 10. Have you been wondering which of Hasbro's board games would be adapted into game shows for the channel? Turns out the answer is...all of them! Hasbro has announced that The Hub's first game show will be Family Game Night, in which families compete in mini-games based on various Hasbro games. That's all we know at the moment, and no, it does not sound promising to me.
  • Six Minds - Now this has the potential to be amazing, and to genuinely change American game shows. It's an adaptation of the long-running Russian game show What? Where? When?, a show that - in Russia - has no prizes and contestants who take it so seriously that they form the equivalent of chess clubs to play it...much like, dare I say it, Countdown in Britain. Of course, the American producers are promoting huge prizes, as well as Vernon Kay (a man best known for hosting British talent shows) as the host. Still, if this works, it could lead to some genuinely intelligent and tough American game shows; if it doesn't, at least we can't say the Americans didn't take a risk.

That's pretty much it at the moment. We'll see how all these shows turn out. If you're wondering about the really big questions, no, we still don't know what (if anything) is replacing As The World Turns, nor when the Australian version of Countdown is premiering.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

So Wrong It's Right...Not Quite

Surprise! There's a new game show on BBC Radio 4!

All right, maybe that's not really that big a surprise. While it's certainly true that many of the game shows on that station have been around for decades, they don't shy away from new ones. To give you an idea of the range, the oldest game show currently in the station's rotation, Round Britain Quiz, had it's earliest version in 1941 and is possibly the longest running game show in the world; in contrast, the newest, The Museum Of Curiosity, premiered in 2008. Indeed, what's probably most surprising about May 11's premiere of So Wrong It's Right is that this show was announced as being developed years ago with no sign of premiering. I thought it was never going to happen. I was wrong.

The premise of So Wrong It's Right...I actually think it's genius. Host Charlie Brooker asks three panelists to come up with the worst things that could possibly fit in whatever category. Whoever comes up with most horrific thing gets a point, and whoever has the most points at the end of the show wins. Genius!

Unfortunately, the show wasn't. The first problem was, in a half hour show, they only got through four rounds - there was that much banter. I know it sounds weird to say that a comedy panel game show has too much banter, but this one does. When we finally get to the categories, they're not all that funny or original. "Worst Vacation You've Ever Had" was one; while "Worst Possible Reality Show" might sound funny on paper, the panelists were speaking the truth when they repeatedly complained that they can't come up with anything funnier than the real thing. I also have to note that during a supposed quickfire round, the panelists had to keep shouting "I've got one!" I know it's silly to complain about the budget of a radio show, but would it really haved killed them to install buzzers?

The panelists on the first episode were David Mitchell, Rufus Hound and Victoria Coren. Those are all good talents, but they didn't come across as very funny here, certainly when they kept saying to each other "That idea wasn't that bad!" Charlie actually was a lot funnier then they were, with the biggest laugh of the premiere being when he described his worst ever vacation - being stuck on a car ferry to Spain that was repeatedly showing the movie Mortal Kombat. That was funny - and the rest weren't.

In short, this may have been a great idea for a comedy panel game show, but the show wasn't funny. I somehow get the feeling that if Charlie asked the panelists to come up with the worst possible comedy panel game show ideas, So Wrong It's Right would get the point.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

What Hath Millionaire Wrought?

I'm going to talk more now about something I mentioned briefly on April 15 - the concept of the Million Dollar Revival.

"Million Dollar Revival" is a term I made up, but when I describe it you'll get the idea - it's when an already successful show is forced to introduce a $1,000,000 jackpot to be "relevant" in the post - Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? era. That this has happened is no surprise; what is a surprise is that, while virtually every new show introduced after Millionaire has a $1,000,000 jackpot, there have only been five million dollar revivals. I'm going to take a look at each of them now, in chronological order:
  • Twenty-One - "Never heard of it" you say. You aren't alone. The original version of Twenty-One (which ran from 1956 - 1958) actually had an excellent game and game show veteran Jack Barry as host, but is remembered now mostly for being rigged (when it's remembered now at all!) Why NBC thought it was a good idea to bring this show back I don't know, but in 2000 they did it as one of the earliest responses to Millionaire, with host Maury Povich (well, if Regis Philbin worked...). I was eleven years old, and while I recognized even then that Maury was not the greatest host, I also frequently picked Twenty-One over Millionaire. Admittedly, that may have simply been because Twenty-One offered more money, but I still think this show had a good game, if not an astonishing one - the Second Chance element didn't work, and the bonus round really, really broke up the flow. The 1950s version didn't have either of those, and actually was an amazing format...but it was rigged. Perhaps there is someone out there who can do Twenty-One right, but that person hasn't been found yet.
  • Jeopardy - It was probably inevitable that "AMERICA'S FAVORITE QUIZ SHOW!" would eventually go down the big-money route, and in 2002 they did in the form of the Million Dollar Masters Tournament. Why Jeopardy had a whole two-week tournament when most other million dollar game shows enable contestants to win $1,000,000 in one game we'll never know. As for Ken Jennings...can't we just dismiss that as something the producers weren't anticipating?
  • The Price Is Right - Again, probably inevitable. A primetime version of The Price Is Right became very successful in 2002, so in 2003 we got the first Million Dollar Spectacular. The Bob Barker - hosted version simply increased the bonus for spinning $1 twice on the Big Wheel from $10,000 to $1,000,000, making the Showcase flat out redundant (and making this even worse, the bonus for spinning $1 once was still $1,000). Drew Carey actually probably did this better - you got $1,000,000 for coming within $1,000 of the price of your showcase or for meeting a certain criteria in the night's designated Million Dollar Game. However, as this resulted in three $1,000,000 wins in the first four episodes, it's unlikely we'll see it again. I did, admittedly, think the contestant who won Clock Game in under ten seconds deserved a lot more than the $1,000 she would have got under normal circumstances.
  • Password - This one was not inevitable, and indeed if any one show exemplifies how Millionaire changed things, that show would be Million Dollar Password. The show that once had a grand prize of $250 now had a generic post-Millionaire set and theme, a money ladder, and Regis Philbin himself as host. The show was far from terrible, but it didn't feel like Password and didn't last long either way.
  • Wheel Of Fortune - Inevitable? Maybe, but it is surprising that the show began in 2008 to offer a $1,000,000 jackpot five days a week.

Why am I going through all this? This week marks the final episodes of Jeopardy's third Million Dollar Tournment - the Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational. Yes, you read that right...celebrity. They're playing for charity, and the whole thing has been broadcast starting in September at the rate of one episode a month. Seriously.

In all honestly, there's not much more to say at the moment. Let's just hope there's some news next week, or failing that, that I can think of something to write about.