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.