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?