Thursday, December 29, 2011

Radio With Pictures

I will make this clear: I adore Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. Well, I adore it on the radio, anyway.

Going into the BBC America broadcast of the first Wait Wait Don't Tell Me TV special, I knew there was absolutely no chance that the TV producers would do this right and produce a TV version of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me that combines the comedy of the radio show with visual elements and games. That would have been amazing, but it was never going to happen. There were really only two things the TV producers could possibly do:
  1. They could simply point a camera at a taping of the radio show.
  2. They could make a disastrous attempt to make Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, which is really only a game show in the loosest sense of the word, into a generic "modern" game show with a $1,000,000 jackpot.
They went with the first option, and the resulting one-hour special was very funny, but there was nothing in it to necessitate showing it on television. It was more of a concert film then a TV special, all the way down to being taped in the show's usual home base (the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago), everyone wearing radio headsets, and the return of the famous "announcer Carl Kasell's voice on your answering machine" prize. Peter Sagal and the panelists were in their usual fine form, but as if to rub in the point that there's nothing new here, a slightly different cut of the same episode was broadcast on public radio stations the next day in Wait Wait Don't Tell Me's usual slot.

There isn't much more to say. Truth be told, I was actually hoping the producers would take the second option, not because "Million Dollar Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" would have been a better show, but because it would have been so much more fun to review!

I suppose I should use this as proof that what makes a good radio show doesn't always make an even better TV show, but I'm still heavily looking forward to the upcoming British TV version of Just A Minute. Go figure.

See you in 2012,

Aaron

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Drop! Drop! Drop!...From NBC's Schedule

Before I get to that, however, Larry Emdur's appearance on The Price Is Right was preempted in my area for live coverage of the funeral of a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. I eventually watched online, and while it was great to see Larry, the fact is that he appeared for about as long as I expected him to (which is to say, not very long). The Double Showcase Win was great to watch, though.

Moving to Who's Still Standing, I will say this: Ben Bailey is excellent. He is also, to put it lightly, the only good thing about the show.

A single contestant (the "hero") is standing on a trap door in the center of the set, surrounded by ten other contestants on their own trap doors (the "strangers".) The hero is playing for $1,000,000; the strangers can win $10,000 by defeating the hero. The hero picks a stranger, and Ben asks questions at each of them in turn until one of them gets an answer wrong. The questions are pretty insultingly easy, and to make matters worse, a few letters of the correct answer are flashed on the screen along with the question.

When one of the contestants (the hero or the chosen stranger) misses a question, he\she leaves with nothing  and is eliminated by falling through that trap door with the audience shouting "Drop! Drop! Drop!". Every time a stranger drops, the hero banks the amount of money that stranger is worth (a few thousand dollars) and is given the option of quitting. If the hero survives the game (either by quitting or defeating all ten strangers and winning $1,000,000), he\she is given the option of dropping anyway because, you know, they darn well can. At the end of the show, any strangers still on their trap doors play a speed round in which Ben goes around the circle asking each stranger a question in turn. A correct answer adds $1,000 to the pot; an incorrect answer opens your trap door. When only one stranger is left, he\she wins the pot and is given the same option of leaving "through the door...OR THROUGH THE FLOOR?" At the end of the show, they drop Ben too because again, they darn well can.

That may sound fun on paper, but it really embodies everything wrong with game shows right now. The show is obviously choreographed and edited heavily, all the way down to holiday bumpers being added in post to match up with the airdate NBC decided on months after the show was taped. Commercial breaks come not only in the middle of rounds, but in the middle of a question being asked. The incredibly annoying theme music plays loudly and consistently throughout the show. I could go on. Even the trap door gimmick has been done plenty of times before - Game Show Network's Russian Roulette would likely be a certified modern classic had it aired on any other channel. This format originated in Israel. Perhaps they did it right. Perhaps if it were exported to some other country, they'd do it right - but couldn't we just revive Russian Roulette instead?

Am I being too harsh? Probably - but it doesn't really matter, as this show can't possibly last beyond the six or seven episodes all primetime game shows get right now. At least Ben has Cash Cab to fall back on.

Next week - Wait Wait Don't Tell Me! If they have to add a $1,000,000 jackpot to it I will throw something.

Happy holidays,

Aaron

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Larry Emdur Is On The Price Is Right Today...

...and I have to wait to write about it, as I'm going out of town!

I will be back next week with my thoughts on Larry's appearance with Drew Carey as well as a review of Who's Still Standing.

Aaron

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wait Wait...There's Some News

There is some stuff going on right now...
  • The new host of Channel 4's Countdown has been named as Nick Hewer, one of Alan Sugar's assistants on the British version of The Apprentice (Alan Sugar is the Donald Trump equivalent). His first episode will air on January 9, 2012.
  • On January 2, 2012, Channel 4 will air a crossover special between Countdown and their comedy panel game show 8 Out Of 10 Cats. 8 Out Of 10 Cats host Jimmy Carr will host a game of Countdown between 8 Out Of 10 Cats team captains Sean Lock and Jon Richardson.
  • Remember the episode of The Price Is Right that was taped with Larry Emdur, former host of The Price Is Right in Australia, co-hosting with Drew Carey? It will apparently air on CBS on December 15.
  • Finally, I can't resist saying this...and if we finally come to television panel, we'll ask you about it on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me! The NPR topical comedy panel game show will air its first TV special on December 23 on BBC America. Great news in my book.
We'll see if it stays that way...

Aaron

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Big Deal

There honestly isn't much to say about the History Channel's new show Real Deal.

A participant ("contestant" somehow seems like the wrong word here) bring their antiques and collectible items to one of the show's four dealers. The dealer makes an offer and tries to buy the participant's item for as little money as possible. The participant has the option of taking the dealer's guaranteed offer or putting the item up for auction at the same auction house in Los Angeles, where it could be sold for more or less money. Repeat three times, with each dealer looking at one participant, and that's it for a half-hour episode. The auctioneer is Bryan Knox, but there's no on-camera host, just generic voiceover narration by Tyler Moore.

It's a nice little diversion that would make a decent daytime show, but there's really nothing too special here, and it just barely qualifies as a game show. The Deal Or No Deal elements I was expecting - such as, well, the phrases "Deal" and "No Deal" - are nowhere to be found.

My final verdict - and I feel terrible saying this: No Deal. I somehow get the feeling the original British show is ten times better, though.

Aaron

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey

I'm exaggerating, of course. There's a lot to like about You Deserve It - but let's face it, the gimmick ruins everything.

Chris Harrison, turning in one of the best primetime game show performances I've seen in a while, plays host to a single contestant who - gimmick alert! - is not playing for him or herself but rather for a friend he\she thinks is in need. The show opens with ten minutes or so of description of this person and why he\she so desperately needs $435,000 (the theoretical maximum prize, which nobody is ever going to come close to). Watching this, I alternatively wanted to cry and throw up, and it only gets worse when we cut to co-host Brooke Burns (the former host of Dog Eat Dog - the Dancing With The Stars co-host is Brooke Burke), who tells us that said person-in-need is in some location doing something (in the premiere she was watching a movie in a theater) and has no idea that someone is on a game show winning money for her.

After all that, who cares about the actual game? Well, me, so here goes. There are five rounds worth increasing amounts of money (to give you an idea, round one is worth $10,000 and round five $250,000). To win that money, you must identify a person, place, or thing. The contestant is given the category ("Who", "What", or "Where") and a first clue for free, but said first clue is so maddeningly vague that the top prize in each round will never be won. Each additional clue costs you an amount of money determined by selecting one of nine numbers - each one has one of nine money amounts for that round behind it, and that amount is deducted from the top prize for that round (meaning you're hoping for a low number). Correctly guessing the person, place, or thing means you bank the amount of money remaining for that round, but you only get one guess, meaning you don't win anything in that round if you are wrong. After all five rounds, the money banked is spectacularly presented to the person-in-need by Brooke Burns. Hey, guess what, your friend is on a game show winning money for you! Here's a check! You Deserve It! Half of it goes to game show winnings taxes, but still, YOU DESERVE IT!

Let's start with the good - I actually kind of like this game. I found myself playing along, and the show actually manages to get the pacing right (granted there are only five rounds in each one-hour episode, but it never feels slow). I just wish we didn't have to have this whole friend-in-need gimmick, with the opening montage and the constant cuts to Brooke Burns. If you were to take out the gimmick and just keep the game and Chris Harrison, the show would be half as long and twice as good. It wouldn't be "worthy" of primetime, but you'd have a nice half-hour daytime show. As it stands, however, daytime game shows are close to death and the gimmick necessary to make this a primetime show makes me gag.

I'm being too critical, of course, and either way I'm not this show's target audience. If You Deserve It becomes a hit, then great - but it's been a while since a new primetime game show has lasted beyond a six-episode "test run", and I get the feeling this won't either. Happy Thanksgiving, Chris. At least you have The Bachelor to fall back on.

I'll review Real Deal (which, it turns out, premieres November 27, not November 25) next week.

Aaron

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dilemma: Beg For Your Life

I have a dilemma: I'm not sure what to make of BBC Radio 4's new comedy panel game show Dilemma.

Sue Perkins plays host to four panelists. The central idea of the show is that these panelists are given...well, ethical dilemmas and asked what they would do. To give one example from the premiere "You are running a marathon for charity. You are extremely tired and feeling sick halfway through. Do you give up, knowing that the money is going to charity?" The panelists try to come up with logical - or at least entertaining - answers, but naturally no matter what they say, Sue finds some way to twist it around and make the situation even worse. At the end of the round, Sue awards a point to the panelist she thinks did the best job "taking the moral high ground." No attempt is made to tell us what criteria she uses to make this decision, but then who listens to a radio comedy panel game show for the scoring?

There are two rounds like that in the premiere. There's also a (frankly much more entertaining) "Beg For Your Life" round in which each panelist has to argue in favor of the existance of a hated celebrity, and the audience votes on which celebrity they would like to save. The show ends with an incomprehensible quickfire round in which Sue seems to have decided ramdomly on a correct answer to each question. After that, the panelist with the most points wins. The end.

Is it funny? Well, yeah, but not funny enough to make it stand out from the countless comedy panel game shows BBC Radio 4 has tried out over the years. There's nothing wrong with it, and as a big fan of British radio comedy panel game shows, I'm not complaining about having more of them. Still, let me put the problem this way. Since I started writing this blog, I've reviewed four new BBC Radio 4 game shows: So Wrong It's Right, It's Your Round, The Third Degree, and Dilemma. Let's imagine that Dilemma had a "Beg For Your Life" round in which each panelist had to defend the existance of one of these four shows.

I'd vote for It's Your Round.

I'll review You Deserve It next week, assuming my DVR gets the whole show - my local ABC station is pushing it to the middle of the night to make room for a football game.

Aaron

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Do It Again Rockapella?

There's no actual game show news this week, but here's something vaguely game show related: a group led by Jennifer Lopez has bought the rights to make a movie based on the long-dormant Carmen Sandiego property, with Jennifer possibly playing Carmen herself.

Good news? Maybe. If\when said movie comes out, I'll certainly go see it. Of course, as the earliest this movie could come out would likely be 2014, I'd look pretty silly sitting in the theater at age twenty-five...but I wouldn't be there for the movie anyway. I'd be there to support the game show, which is likely the one kids game show I remember best from my childhood. This is despite the fact that when I actually watch the show on YouTube or something, it's not nearly as good as I remember. Somehow, I can't shake my nostalgia for this show.

I want this show revived. If the revival is good, then great; if the revival is bad, at least then it's out of my system. Mill Creek Entertainment is releasing a complete series DVD set of Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? (which was the cartoon, not the game show) on February 14, 2012, and that's the reason I'm going to buy it. That's the reason that, if\when this movie is released, I will go see it. It will probably be a terrible Spy Kids clone, but that's likely what I deserve for begging for this show to come back.

I'll review BBC Radio 4's new game show Dilemma (which premieres November 13) next week.

Aaron

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Remember The Review I Am Tired Of Writing?

Well, I'm probably going to have to write it a few more times, because premiere dates have come out for some new primetime game shows.
  • On November 21, ABC will premiere You Deserve It, a show built around the idea that all the money won by each contestant will go to another person that contestant thinks is in need (oh good, a sobfest!) The host is Chris Harrison off The Bachelor.
  • On December 19, NBC will premiere Who's Still Standing?, which is built around the idea that if you lose the game, you fall through a trapdoor in the floor (yeah, never heard that one). The host is Ben Bailey off Cash Cab. 
  • Coming to the History Channel on November 25: Real Deal, a game show that apparently applies Deal Or No Deal-like game mechanics (all the way down to the phrases "Deal" and "No Deal") to an appraisal show in the vein of Antiques Roadshow. Huh.
Moving away from primetime, here's a few news briefs:
  • Veteran British broadcaster Jimmy Savile, who did host at least one game show, has died at age 84. He's apparently a big deal in the UK, though I know next to nothing about him.
  • One of the longest serving game show hosts in the world has finally retired - Mac MacGarry, who spent fifty years as host of It's Academic, a local high school quiz bowl show in Washington DC. Hillary Howard will replace him.
  • BBC Radio 4's Just A Minute will celebrate its 45th anniversary in 2012 in two...interesting...ways. First, several episodes will be taped in India (apparently the show has a huge following there). Second, there will be an attempt (and it's not the first attempt) at a TV version on BBC2. Both will apparently air in early 2012.
  • Finally, what's really good news in my book: the BBC Radio 4 Monday afternoon game show slot has survived the station's November shuffling of its schedule. Beginning November 7, such long-running shows as Brain Of Britain, Counterpoint, Round Britain Quiz, and Quote Unquote will be heard at 3PM GMT (as opposed to 1:30PM GMT). The slot is also now available as a podcast.
Enough for now. If you're wondering about a certain other British game show, the current word is that Jeff Stelling is indeed leaving Countdown, but I don't have the slightest idea who the new host will be.

Aaron

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Review I Am Tired Of Writing

There's nothing wrong with Million Dollar Mind Game. There was nothing wrong with Minute To Win It either...or The Cube...or Million Dollar Money Drop...

Vernon Kay, in a white tuxedo, welcomes a team of six contestants, seated around a table on a set that I guess is supposed to represent a high-end casino. These six contestants are asked very long-winded questions that, at least in theory, combine knowledge and lateral thinking; in practice, they really just sound like questions rejected by Round Britain Quiz. The team is given sixty seconds to discuss the question, during which they shout over each other so much it's amazing they are able to come up with anything; after time runs out, the team captain (a position that rotates around the table after each question) gives an answer. After said answer is given, any member of the team can buzz in and state that they wish to use one of their three methods of help - an additional thirty seconds of thinking time, a replacement question, or overruling the captain with their own answer. A correct answer advances the team on the money ladder towards $1,000,000; once four incorrect answers have been given, the team leaves with nothing. After each step on the money ladder, the team is given the option of quitting, but the decision must be unanimous or the game will continue.

You get the point, right? It's another generic post - Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? game show. There's nothing wrong with it. Vernon Kay does just fine. I'm just sick of typing that.

Am I let down? Maybe a little, sure - but I was expecting to be let down. I'm used to being let down by new game shows. Perhaps I've simply become too critical.

If you're reading this, and you ever get the chance to pitch a game show, remember one thing - the reason Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? worked in the first place was because nobody had seen anything like it before...

...then watch as your show gets rejected in favor of Million Dollar Quiz XXVIII.

Aaron

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Well, I Suppose It's Good...

Let me make this clear: I haven't seen much Fort Boyard. The original French show is generally considered to be one of the most astonishing, involving, atmospheric game shows ever produced anywhere, but I've never watched as I don't speak French and episodes are usually two hours long. I have seen the British version, and frankly it's not as good as The Crystal Maze (which genuinely is one of the most astonishing, involving, atmospheric game shows ever produced anywhere). Still, I was looking forward to Fort Boyard: Ultimate Challenge, if only because a watered-down kids version of Fort Boyard still has to be better than anything else on American kids TV...right?

Geno Segers (who has an astoundingly low voice) and Laura Hamilton (who appears to be more famous for being a "celebrity" on Dancing On Ice then for the British kids TV hosting jobs that qualified her to do such) preside over a tournament in which six teams of four kids compete to be named the best on the Fort. Each half-hour episode features two teams competing against each other. The names of said teams? The Green Jaguars, the Yellow Scorpions, the Blue Sharks, the Silver Dragons, the Red Vipers, and the White Falcons. OK, I'll make the obvious joke - "Which team will go to the Temple today, Olmec? Will it be the Red Jaguars..."

Anyway, the two teams in each episode attempt to earn keys by competing in five challenges. Three of these challenges pit one teams against the other, with the winning team getting a key, while each team also gets one challenge they play by themselves against the clock and get a key if they succeed.  At the end of the show, each team's keys are converted into time grabbing coins in the Fort's Treasure Room (as far as I can tell, each team starts with three minutes in the Treasure Room and is deducted twenty seconds for every key they fail to win). The coins are then converted...somehow...into a numerical result, and the two teams who score the most points over the season will compete in the grand final.

Let me start with the good: these challenges are pretty amazing and it is quite a surprise that they are being shown on American kids TV. I mean, yes, I've seen shows that do much worse things to their contestants, but how often do you get to see people stick their hands in jars of bugs or swing across the platforms of a Napoleonic fortress on Disney XD?

That's the good, now here's the bad: all the incredible atmosphere that Fort Boyard supposedly has is pretty conspicuously absent here. Certainly the Fort provides a backdrop ten times better then the same challenges would have in a studio, but most versions of this show have live tigers guarding the Treasure Room that must be moved out of the way by a wisecracking animal tamer! Laura Hamilton might as well not be there, and while Geno Segers sounds like James Earl Jones, he acts more or less like a stereotypical over-the-top kids game show host, all the way down to shouting "Let's go to the TREASURE ROOM!" in pretty much the same way JD Roth would shout "You're going to the FUN HOUSE!" Remember the classic Fort Boyard theme music? Well, forget it, because generic "adventure game show" music is all you're getting here.

I'm nitpicking, of course. This is far from a bad show and my eight-year-old self would have found it epic and amazing. Still, go on YouTube and watch the opening of Fort Boyard in France, with the classic theme music and the contestants approaching the Fort on boats as viewers get ominous glimpses of the perils within. That tiny bit of footage likely does a better job making you hold your breath than Fort Boyard: Ultimate Challenge ever will.

Next week: Million Dollar Mind Game! Why do I get the feeling it will be an even bigger letdown.

Aaron

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My DVR Didn't Record The Whole Show

Said show is On The Spot, however, so there isn't really much to review.

Eric Schwartz, who I'm honestly guessing is a lot better than this format, wanders around public places asking people basic trivia questions. We hear his voiceover asking "Who is on the $20 bill?" and then cut to a bunch of different people giving different answers. The same people keep reappearing throughout the show too. Once the correct answer is revealed, we get the "edutainment" element - Andrew Jackson is on the $20 bill, he was the seventh President Of The United States, he was nicknamed Old Hickory, etc. There appears to be little more to it than this. Assuming Eric doesn't hand over cash at the end of the show, there is no attempt at prizes or scoring of any kind.

It's dumb, of course, but let's not delude ourselves. This is a kids show, in once-a-week syndication, designed for local stations to run when they have absolutely nothing else to show. Nobody, anywhere, will ever watch this - certainly not more than once.

I could use this as an opportunity to launch into a long discussion of the fact that kids TV outside dedicated kids cable channels is more or less a thing of the past. Instead, I will limit myself to one pro and one con.

Pro: As I've mentioned a few times, MGM Domestic Television actually syndicated reruns of Gladiators 2000 in 2008. Can you imagine how confused any kid who saw that must have been?

Con: On the other hand, one of my major guilty pleasures is Power Rangers and similar kids action shows. One of the best shows of this ilk ever produced, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, premiered in 2008...on CW Saturday mornings. Naturally, it quietly disappeared a year later. I still fully it would have caught on had it been on a channel kids actually watch.

I'll review Fort Boyard: Ultimate Challenge - which thankfully is on a dedicated kids cable channel - next week.

Aaron

Thursday, October 6, 2011

This Had Better Be Good

Well, turns out the Fall rush isn't quite over, as we finally have premiere dates for two shows I've been waiting for for a long time. I really, really hope they live up to my expectations.

Fort Boyard
"Finally...this may be just a rumor, but it appears that iconic (in Europe) stunt show Fort Boyard (which is famously taped on an actual 1800s fort on the coast of France) may be coming to America as a kids game show. Well, who knows, maybe this will prove that American kids can handle bizarre European game shows, and we'll finally get an American version of The Slammer...yeah, not going to happen. I would love to know what American kids channel thinks this is a good idea." - From my post on May 13, 2011.

Disney XD, as it turns out - Fort Boyard: Ultimate Challenge (yes, that's the title) premieres on October 17. The hosts are Laura Hamilton and Geno Segers. I can only hope that it is good and clicks with American kids. At least it is on in primetime and thus has a chance at succeeding, unlike...

Million Dollar Mind Game
"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." - From my post on May 20, 2010.

Yeah, that's right - May 20, 2010, and that was months after the show was announced. It's hard to find a more delayed game show than this, but it is finally going to premiere on ABC on October 23...in the afternoon. They didn't take a risk; they burned it off against Sunday afternoon football. I'll be watching. I'll likely be the only one.

I'll review On The Spot next week.

Aaron

Thursday, September 29, 2011

No Post This Week

I'm going out of town. Back next week!

Aaron

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Some September

Well, that's about it for the season premieres. Let's take a look show by show.

Jeopardy: Alex Trebek stated at the start of the show that there were two big events for him this summer. One was the Lifetime Achievement Award he received at the Daytime Emmy Awards in Las Vegas in June; the other, of course, was injuring himself while hosting the National Geographic World Championship in San Francisco in July. The injury kept him at his podium during the contestant interviews, but I'm guessing that's temporary.

Let's Make A Deal: I can't say I'm a major fan of the new set, but given that that's the only change, I'll leave the show alone. That contestant who played Car Pong was a flat-out idiot.

Wheel Of Fortune: They're starting the season with Family Team Week, apparently. Jim Thornton is the new announcer and did just fine. Pat Sajak received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards also, but didn't even mention it.

The Price Is Right: It's Season 40! George Gray is the new announcer and sounds great. Seeing that contestant win four cars playing Race Game made my jaw drop.

Finally, we come to the big one...

The X Factor: Honestly, there isn't much to say. It's just American Idol, only with an even higher opinion of itself. I don't know how they managed to get an audience for the auditions that appears to be the size of the audience at the American Idol finale. Simon Cowell just looks like Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul just looks like Paula Abdul, LA Reid appears to have been cast to fit the Randy Jackson mould, and neither Cheryl Cole or Nicole Scherzinger stood out in the least. I would judge Steve Jones, but his appearance was so brief I can't figure out how to do that!

I feel terrible writing such a minimal review of such a hugely anticipated show, but's it's just another American Idol clone. It will last through the season, but there's frankly a part of me that hopes it flops, if only to deflate Simon's ego a little.

Then again, didn't Red Or Black already do that?

Aaron

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Family Feud: Nothing's Changed

No, really - nothing's changed. The show may now be taped at the Atlanta Civic Center, but it looks exactly the same to me.

Two other small pieces of news:
  • So, is Jeff Stelling leaving Countdown at the end of 2011? It looked like he was...then he said he wasn't...and now it appears that he is again. I'll keep you posted.
  • The syndicated kids game show On The Spot premieres on September 25. Well, it premieres on September 25 in my area, anyway...as this is a once-a-week syndicated show, the best answer is probably "check your local listings." The host is Eric Schwartz.
That's about it. I have to say, it feels really weird being in the middle of September season premieres and still having nothing to write about.

Next week - Let's Make A Deal, The Price Is Right, Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy, and The X Factor!

Aaron

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The New Season Is Here!

At last, Labor Day has come and gone. September 5 brought the season premiere of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? - and it doesn't appear that anything has changed from the previous year. That doesn't mean I have nothing to write about, however - September 3 brought the sneak preview episodes of The Game Of Life and Scrabble Showdown on The Hub.

The Game Of Life
"As much as I like Family Game Night and Pictureka, the concept of a kids game show based on The Game Of Life makes me think 'floor sized game board' and 'questions based on life decisions.' That's...well, that's Peer Pressure (sorry if you've been trying to forget that show)." - From my post on June 16, 2011.

Well, it's not like Peer Pressure. An almost unrecognizable Frank Nicotero plays host to two families (one parent and two kids). In round one, each family gets a vaguely defined time period (maybe about a minute?) to get into this goofy-looking Game Of Life car and drive down CGI streets, bouncing in their seats as if they were on a roller coaster. As they "drive", they are asked really basic two-choice trivia questions represented by forks in the road, and lock in their answers by turning the steering wheel left or right. A correct answer is worth life points (hey, it's no weirder than Pictureka's fish points); an incorrect answer causes the car to stall for a few seconds of valuable time. The life points are doubled (or at least increased) in round two, while round three thankfully drops the graphics for a pretty straightforward family versus family stunt. The family with the most life points is then given five free spaces on that famous Game Of Life wheel and can earn three more by correctly guessing each family member's answer to a question asked of them before the show. The wheel is finally spun, and if it lands on one of the spaces the winning family has locked in, the family wins the grand prize.

Now, would my eight-year-old self have liked this? Sure...but seeing it for the first time now, it comes across as very, very "little-kid." I'm sorry, but those computer-generated highways just look dumb. As for Frank, I predicted on June 16 that he would look out of place, and he does. He proved on Street Smarts that he knows how to host a game show, but here his shouted commentary as those CGI sequences roll sounds rather faux enthusiastic. So no, it's not like Peer Pressure...but it's not much better.

Scrabble Showdown
"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." - From my post on July 8, 2010

I got my wish, and thankfully Scrabble Showdown turned out to be a pretty nifty little show. Justin Willman plays host to two families (one parent and one kid). These two families play three of what appears to be a rotating group of vaguely Scrabble-esque word games. They're not really much like Scrabble, and at least one of them appears to have been recycled from Family Game Night, but they're certainly a lot better then those Game Of Life car rides. The family that wins each game gets two bonus letter tiles. Watching the sneak preview, I had no idea what that meant for most of the show, but it became clear in the final round.

The final round begins with each family randomly selecting their bonus letter tiles from a board of sixteen; they are awarded the point value of those tiles as a head start. We then finally get to see a Scrabble board, and Justin reads out clues to the words that are scrambled on it. The first family to buzz in with the correct word gets that word's usual Scrabble point value, and the first family to reach one hundred points wins the grand prize trip.

What I described above is not a perfectly-designed scoring system, but the word games are a lot of fun and Justin, while not great, is at least not faux enthusiastic. I like this. I certainly hope an eight-year-old me would have.

I certainly hope The Hub eventually gives us a game show that isn't based on a Hasbro board game. Still, as I said in my review of Family Game Night and Pictureka "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." Honestly, that verdict is still about right.

Family Feud next week,

Aaron

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's September!

...and the new shows don't start for two more days! Oh well, time for a no news review!

Now, I'm a hard core game show fan (big surprise, right?) and that means it isn't easy to find a game show I don't know. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one time where someone mentioned to me a game show on national television in America that I had simply never heard of, and after that, I had to check the show out. So, to pass one more week before the new season, here's a review of a show on the Speed Channel titled (ironically enough) Pass Time. The premise: contestants predict how fast race cars will circle a track. I'm sure it's fun if you're into cars...

The show doesn't seem to have a home studio; rather, it travels around the country taping at different race tracks. In each episode, at whatever race track they're at this time, host Brett Wagner welcomes two contestants and resident expert Kenneth Herring. When Brett introduced Kenneth as the "resident expert", my assumption was that he would verify the contestants' answers. I was wrong. When this show says "resident expert", they mean contestant in every episode.

The game? In each pass, a driver comes out in a race car and provides a minimal description of said car. Each of the three players (two contestants and Kenneth) is allowed to ask the driver one additional question, after which the players lock in their times (down to hundreths of a second). The driver circles the track, and the player who came closest to the actual time gets however much money the pass was worth.

Round one has three passes worth $100 each; round two has three passes worth $200 each, round three has two passes worth $300 each, and at the end of the show, the final pass is worth $500. After that, the player with the most money is the winner and gets all the money won by all three players.

So where to start? The game seems dumb to me. There's zero effort into set or music. Brett has absolutely no presence - he's not bad, but he's just kind of going through the motions. The payoff system makes sense only until you do the math and realize that no matter what the final score is, the amount recieved by the winner will always be $2,000. Why not just keep score in points?

The biggest gripe, though, is the presence of Kenneth as a player in every episode, who as far as I can tell ususally wins. I suppose a comparison could be made to Win Ben Stein's Money, except for one thing - on Win Ben Stein's Money, even if none of the contestants beat Ben Stein, one of the contestants was guarenteed to beat the other two and win some money. On Pass Time, if Kenneth wins, Kenneth wins. So there you have it. I'm sure this is fun if you're into cars, but judged as a game show, Pass Time fails.

New season next week,

Aaron

Thursday, August 25, 2011

OK, Now I Can Tell You

It's up on the site now, and that means I can tell you what I've actually known for weeks: I won the Game Show Garbage Create An Induction Contest with an induction for Fun House Fitness (yes, a line of exercise videos based on the kids game show Fun House). My induction can be read at the official Game Show Garbage site (http://gsgarbage.clw83.com/).

Moving on to some news, it's just one week and four days until Labor Day, and it's come out that The Game Of Life and Scrabble Showdown will both have preview episodes on The Hub on September 3 before officially premiering on September 17. With that in mind, here's the list of start dates I have right now:

September 3: The Game Of Life
Scrabble Showdown

September 5 (Labor Day): Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
September 12: Family Feud (now taped at the Atlanta Civic Center)

September 19: Wheel Of Fortune (with new announcer Jim Thornton)
Jeopardy
The Price Is Right (with new announcer George Gray)
Let's Make A Deal

September 21: The X Factor (yes, I'm reviewing it, and hopefully it will be the last talent show I review for a while)

That might be it for now. I'll be counting down the days.

Aaron

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Robert Robinson 1927 - 2011

"I won't really believe Robert is gone from this show until the day he dies." - From a post I wrote on August 12, 2010 about the supposed retirement of Brain Of Britain host Robert Robinson.

Unfortunately, that day has come. Veteran British broadcaster and game show host Robert Robinson has died at age 83.

While I'll always remember Robert for Brain Of Britain (he was the official host of that show from 1972 to 2010), this was far from his only credit. If we stick with game shows, he hosted Ask The Family (a quiz show featuring family teams) from 1967 to 1984 and had a lengthy stint as host of the British version of Call My Bluff (one of many game shows to be built around the "guess the correct definition of the word" mechanic). Moving away from game shows, he hosted everything from newscasts to comedy shows. Most infamously, he hosted the comedy show BBC3 (which aired on BBC1 - there was no channel called BBC3 at the time). On a 1965 episode of BBC3, Kenneth Tynan became the first person to say "fu**" on British television.

As I reported in the aforementioned August 12, 2010 post, Robert will be replaced on BBC Radio 4's Brain Of Britain by Russell Davies (again, not the producer who developed the revival of Doctor Who - that's Russell T. Davies). BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a special on Robert's life and work on August 20.

Before I go, congratulations to Brian Henegar for winning second place in the Game Show Garbage Create An Induction Contest. His induction for Superstar USA can be read at the official Game Show Garbage site (http://gsgarbage.clw83.com/). The grand prize winner comes out August 19. I never would have thought of Superstar USA as a game show, but then again I keep reporting on talent shows here too.

RIP Robert,

Aaron

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Start Dates...I Hope

Well, here's the good news - I'm putting up what I believe to be the start dates for five-day-a-week game shows in September 2011. The bad news - these are just what I believe to be the start dates, and may not be definitively accurate. Still, here goes. Yes, I'll be watching the season premieres.

September 5 (Labor Day): Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

September 12: Family Feud (now taped at the Atlanta Civic Center)

September 19: Wheel Of Fortune (with new announcer Jim Thornton)
Jeopardy
The Price Is Right (with new announcer George Gray)
Let's Make A Deal

That's what I have, and I really hope it turns out to be right. In other September premieres, The X Factor premieres on Fox September 21. Yes, I know it's not a game show, but I'm going to review it. I unfortunately can't find more information about any of the upcoming kids game shows I mentioned in my Fall 2011 preview (well, except Family Brain Surge - it started in July!)

Finally, congratulations to Andrew Mora and Matthew Wojis for tying for third place in the Game Show Garbage Create An Induction Contest. You can read their winning entries at the official Game Show Garbage site (http://gsgarbage.clw83.com/). Andrew wrote about a really bad team on Legends Of The Hidden Temple, while Matthew took aim at a disastrous game played on Game Show Network's supposedly disastrous enough Game Show Awards event in 2009. The second place winner comes out August 12.

I'll hopefully have better information next week.

Aaron

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Garbage Gladiators

As there's no news this week, I thought I would revisit the "Create An Induction" contest I entered on Game Show Garbage (the third place winner will be posted on the site on August 5). When I told you I entered this contest, what I didn't tell you is that I actually wrote two entries before deciding which one to submit. So, to tide us over during the summer lull, here is the Game Show Garbage entry I didn't submit. The induction: one of the worst kids game shows ever made...

We’ve gotten thousands of letters asking “When are you going to let kids play the Gladiator games?” The answer is…probably never.

I think it’s highly unlikely that you are reading this and have never heard of American Gladiators, but just in case, it was an athletic competition game show that ran in syndication from 1989 to 1996 and remains pretty iconic to this day. In each episode, four incredibly fit contenders (nothing as mundane as a “contestant” here) challenged a regular group of even more incredibly fit Gladiators (with names like “Tower” and “Blaze”) in awesome athletic events.


Now, it should come as no surprise that kids would watch this and want to participate. Certainly Nickelodeon knew this, as in 1992 they launched GUTS, a show more or less conceived of as a kids version of American Gladiators in all but name. This being television, the producers of American Gladiators weren’t going to take this lying down. So 1994 saw the launch in syndication of a bona fide kids version of American Gladiators. They called it Gladiators 2000, a title I can only assume came from a conversation like this:

First Producer: We need a title for a kids version of American Gladiators.
Second Producer: Um, I know. It’s 1994, right? Which means in 2000, all the kids who are on this show will be able to be on American Gladiators. Let’s call it Gladiators 2000!
First Producer: Great! It’s only six years from now, but kids will find it so futuristic!

Now once we get past the hokey title, we come to the hosts. American Gladiators was of course hosted by former NFL football player Mike Adamle with whatever sportscaster they have this season as co-host (Larry Csonka is the most famous example). I wouldn’t exactly want to see Mike hosting a quiz show, but for the purposes of American Gladiators, he was great. The hosts of Gladiators 2000…

...oh, you have got to be kidding me.

Yes, the one on the right is Ryan Seacrest, in one of his earliest jobs in television. I’m going to go out on a limb here and state that I actually think Ryan is a pretty darn good host on American Idol and everything else he’s done, and yes, that includes Gladiators 2000. Unfortunately, this does not extend to co-host Maria Sansone, who was thirteen at the time and pretty much embodies the reason kids game shows are not hosted by kids. At different points in the show, the two engage in what’s supposed to be witty banter…

Maria: "I feel tall and powerful."
Ryan: "Eh, don't get a big head."
The future host of the most popular primetime show on television, everyone.

The spiel given by our hosts after their entrance differs slightly from episode to episode, but generally amounts to “We’ve gotten thousands of letters asking ‘When are you going to let kids play the Gladiator games?’ The answer is…right now. Welcome to Gladiators 2000.” After that’s out of the way, we come to the introduction of the contenders and Gladiators. The red team and the blue team each consist of one kid of each gender, coached by two of the Gladiators from the parent show (again, one of each gender). After each team dramatically enters, we come to the real problem with this show. I quote Maria Sansone: “Gladiators 2000 isn’t just a challenge for the body. It’s also a challenge for the mind."

…wait, WHAT?
Oh yes, I forgot to mention. This isn’t just a kids version of American Gladiators. This is a kids edutainment version of American Gladiators, designed to educate kids on health and fitness. In between events, the kids are lectured on things like stress relief…and guess who is giving said lectures?

The Gladiators, that’s who! Yeah, that’s Sky teaching our contenders how to best brush their teeth. Never mind that on the parent show, these guys were invincible professional wrestler-types who gloated constantly about how much tougher they were than the contenders – they have hearts of gold! Well, either that or really good paychecks.

To be fair, not every educational bit is provided by the Gladiators. Ryan and Maria do a few, and there are a few other recurring characters, most notably the above cartoon character, Ben, who is apparently supposed to represent everything kids shouldn’t be doing. His back story, in as much as he has one, is that his parents have sent him to Gladiator camp against his will. When he shows up, it’s usually to complain about how sick he is of getting educated…making him sound like the average viewer of this show.


OK, time to get to the actual game play. Each half-hour episode has two events followed by the show-ending Eliminator. The events…they can’t be that different from the events on American Gladiators, right? If this show is going to educate you, it’s going to balance it out with some really good events, right? Come on, they’re not going to turn the classic American Gladiators event Pyramid into an event based on the USDA food pyramid…
You bet they are! Nothing educates kids about healthy eating like grabbing giant fake fish off a pyramid marked “proteins.” Admittedly, a few events did survive mostly intact, but in every episode there is at least one educational event, and lest we forget, each episode has two events prior to Eliminator.
After each event is played and the points scored by each team are totaled, we come to a bonus question. Ryan reads out the category (and by category I mean something like “Choosing The Perfect Sneaker”) and the team that won the last event gets to choose question A or question B. The questions are all based on the lectures between events, but they’re frequently…kind of open-ended. In one episode, the category was “Dealing With Stress,” which, incredibly, led to the question… “What are some ways to deal with stress?” The team replied “relax” – the judges accepted that as a correct answer for twenty-five points. Huh?


Finally it’s time for the highlight of any show with Gladiators in the title – Eliminator. You know how this works – it’s a giant obstacle course, it’s the same every time, it’s worth so many points that the events before are rendered almost moot, and it is awesome. Wait, that’s Eliminator on American Gladiators. Here’s how Eliminator plays out on Gladiators 2000.

Eliminator is always introduced via the same film of Ryan and Maria running it, accompanied by the same voiceover describing the course. Even at age six I eventually got sick of this part, as I had figured out how Eliminator worked. Ryan and Maria didn’t sound particularly enthused while describing it either. Their description began “The Eliminator starts with a climb up the ladder…” with “up” emphasized as if the kids watching didn’t know which direction that was. It only gets better, though – we are trying to educate here. Which means…
 …question boards! The questions are drawn from the lectures again, and each choice is represented by a different route through the course. Picking the right answer not only means a faster route, but an instant twenty-five points added to your score. After both teams have finished Eliminator, the team that finished in the faster time gets a final fifty points.

 After that, the team with the most points was declared the winner, and won a prize package that appears to be the same every time: a new bicycle, a handheld color TV, a boom box

and some Microsoft products for their school. Can you get cheaper – or more 1994 – then this? The losing team won a Walkman and a new camera. 
That’s the show. I adored this when I was six.

If you’re asking “If you adored this show when you were six, why are you trashing it so much now?” let me get to the punch line. When I was a kid, I adored Gladiators 2000 even though I had never seen American Gladiators. I eventually did figure out that Gladiators 2000 was the kids version of a show called American Gladiators. I just didn’t bother to watch and didn’t see the parent show until years later in TNN reruns. I can only assume that if I had watched American Gladiators as a kid, it would have put Gladiators 2000 in a whole new light.


That’s Gladiators 2000, at least in the 1994 season, which is the one I clearly remember watching as a kid. I only vaguely remember the 1995 season, which is a shame as watching the 1995 season now, it actually improved the game play tremendously, varying the events a bit more and cutting down slightly on the educational element. At the same time, of course, the 1995 season had even smaller prize packages, just one Gladiator coaching each team, and Maria was replaced by…

Valarie Miller. I’ll forever remember her as Original Cindy on Dark Angel…oh who am I kidding, I’m a game show nut and she was the co-host of Peer Pressure. Valarie was just as loud and annoying as Maria was stiff and shy, but at least she was the same age as Ryan and had much better chemistry with him. Ultimately, though, American Gladiators was canceled in 1996 and brought Gladiators 2000 down with it.


The postscript to this whole story is that to tie in with the revival of American Gladiators in 2008, MGM Domestic Television actually syndicated reruns of Gladiators 2000 for local stations to use on Saturday mornings. The one kid who was actually still watching his local station on Saturday mornings in 2008 must have been pretty confused, especially since Nickelodeon revived GUTS at the same time (say what you will about My Family’s Got GUTS, it beats Gladiators 2000). As for Ryan Seacrest, he did do a few other kids game shows (remember Click?) but left Gladiators 2000 safe in the knowledge that he would never host an ill-conceived kids version of a show for adults again…



Back to normal next week,
 
Aaron

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Lied Again

"Finally, we come to what may just be me jumping to conclusions, but BBC Radio 4 has announced that they will be doing some reorganizing of their schedule beginning November 7, and the Monday afternoon game show slot (which contains such long-running shows as Brain Of Britain, Round Britain Quiz, Counterpoint, and Quote Unquote) may be lost in the shuffle. Quote Unquote is currently filling the slot; its season will end on August 8. I'll have a little more information about this on August 4, as I'll be able to find the name of the next show in rotation on July 29." - From my July 14 post.

Well, the BBC released its weekly program information a day early, meaning I can tell you today that Round Britain Quiz will start a new season on August 15 in the Monday afternoon game show slot on BBC Radio 4. Seasons of Round Britain Quiz last twelve episodes, meaning the last episode in the 2011 season will be on October 31 - and there might not be a Monday afternoon game show slot a week later.

Also in British game shows, Countdown host Jeff Stelling has announced that he is renegotiating his contract with Channel 4 and will likely stay on the show into 2012, despite the announcement that he is leaving.

Moving back to America, an episode of The Price Is Right has been taped featuring Larry Emdur (host of several versions of The Price Is Right in Australia) cohosting with Drew Carey. We don't even know when this will air, and already people are shouting "Yes! Yes! He might be under consideration to replace Drew!" I suppose anything's possible...

Finally, this is just barely game show related, but Mill Creek Entertainment has announced that they will be releasing a complete series DVD set of Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? on February 14, 2012. The set will be four discs containing all four seasons and forty episodes. Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? was the cartoon on Fox, not the game show on PBS...but if we all buy it, we'll be one step closer to having the game show back...

Look, I grew up watching Carmen Sandiego, OK?

Aaron

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Worthless Garbage Brain Drain

I have three things to look at today. First, Nickelodeon premiered Family Brain Surge on Monday, with Jeff Sutphen still around as host. Honestly, not too much has changed. Each episode features five families (one parent and one kid on stage, plus two additional family members in the audience).  In a pleasant surprise, the families are referred to by their actual last names (I was fully expecting disastrous team names in the vein of Hole In The Wall). The game is pretty much what we're used to, but somehow feels a bit sped up; round one only has four puzzles (worth ten, twenty-five, fifty, and one hundred points), after which the family with the lowest score goes to the Brain Drain. The biggest change is that in round two, each family has one opportunity to shout "Brain Fart!" and enlist the help of their Brain Trust (the other two family members in the audience). Everything else is the same, meaning you do have to wonder why Nickelodeon felt the need to shake up the show like this, but look at it this way - it beats My Family's Got GUTS.

Moving to It's Worth What...hoo boy...
A spectacularly grating Cedric The Entertainer welcomes a team of two contestants to a set that vaguely resembles a warehouse, but also has all the usual chasing lights and such. They are there to play a series of seven pricing games...all right, they don't call them that, but it's pretty clear that the games on The Price Is Right are the inspiration here, all the way down to each game having a punny name. Thankfully, there isn't a straight money ladder; rather, each game won adds money to the team's bank. The first two games are worth $5,000 each, the next two $10,000 each, the two after that $20,000 each, and the seventh game is worth $30,000. If, after seven games, the team has any money in their bank, they can risk it all on one final game which, if won, multiplies their bank by ten. If you do the math, you'll find that the maximum prize is of course $1,000,000.

The games admittedly aren't that bad, all revolving around pricing bizarre collectible items (Miss USA's crown! A centuries-old tapestry! Various animals!). Indeed, beyond being a big money primetime game show that looks, sounds, and is just like every other big money primetime game show, there's nothing wrong with It's Worth What...expect the host.

I'll make this clear: Cedric The Entertainer is among the worst game show hosts I have ever seen - certainly the worst of the current crop of washed-up comedians hosting game shows. He's the most obnoxious, grating game show host this side of Phil Moore. With every costume change, every bit of likely scripted patter, every half-hearted repetition of the show's title ("It's Worth WHAAAT?") he just got worse. Halfway through the show I was begging for it to be over - and it was to be rid of Cedric, not the game. I'm sorry if I'm being too harsh, but if this show had a better host, it would at least be mediocre. As it stands...worthless.

Finally, I thought I should let you know that I have entered the "Create An Induction" contest on Game Show Garbage (a very funny website commemorating the worst moments in game shows). The judges for said contest are Game Show Garbage creator Robert Seidelman and writers Jim Williams and Carl Chenier. The top three submissions will win prizes and be posted on the site in August. If I win, I'll let you know; if I don't win, I'll post what I wrote here so it won't go to waste.

Back next week,

Aaron

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Lied

The day after I wrote my post last week, NBC pushed back the premiere of It's Worth What back a week. The show, hosted by Cedric The Entertainer, will premiere on July 19.

Moving to some Nickelodeon news, I had always assumed Family Brain Surge was a Fall 2011 premiere - I was wrong. The show will premiere on July 18, and yes, Jeff Sutphen is still the host. It's also come out that TeenNick (yes, there is such a channel) will launch a late night block of old Nickelodeon shows on July 26 (well, the night of July 25). Double Dare, GUTS and Legends Of The Hidden Temple are specifially mentioned. The name of said block? The 90s Are All That. I grew up watching All That and I still think that's a terrible name.

Finally, we come to what may just be me jumping to conclusions, but BBC Radio 4 has announced that they will be doing some reorganizing of their schedule beginning November 7, and the Monday afternoon game show slot (which contains such long-running shows as Brain Of Britain, Round Britain Quiz, Counterpoint, and Quote Unquote) may be lost in the shuffle. Quote Unquote is currently filling the slot; its season will end on August 8. I'll have a little more information about this on August 4, as I'll be able to find the name of the next show in rotation on July 29.

That should do it for now. Next week - Family Brain Surge and It's Worth What!

Aaron

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Phil Shepardson 1935 - 2011

If you're saying "Phil who?" you're probably not the only one. Even most hardcore game show fans are probably saying that. Still, he has died at age 76, and I feel like I ought to report on it.

From the show's premiere in 1961 to his departure in 1991, Phil was the host of As Schools Match Wits, a local high school quiz bowl show in Springfield, Massachusetts. Contrary to what some reports of his death are saying, he was not the show's creator - that was Leonard J. Collamore, who was also the question writer until his departure in 1983. From 1983 to 1991, however, Phil was indeed the host and question writer.

I don't claim to have grown up watching As Schools Match Wits - I'm from Boston, not Springfield. Still, there is something endearing about the whole local high school quiz bowl show thing. As Schools Match Wits continues to this day (the current host is Beth Ward), and has a competition each year against Boston's High School Quiz Show, a show I still feel terrible about what I said about it on this blog. Since I wrote that post, the show has found a new host in Billy Costa, who is a massive improvement over Dhaya Lakshminarayanan.

Moving to a very different sort of kids game show, some more information has come out about the upcoming kids version of Fort Boyard. The show will be on CITV in Britain and Disney XD in America, and the hosts will be Laura Hamilton and Geno Segers.

Next week - It's Worth What!

Aaron

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Lull

Well, there isn't much going on now, is there?

Two pieces of news:
  • Remember the new kids version of Fort Boyard being produced for both America and Britain? Laura Hamilton has been named as the host (or at least one of the hosts - this show usually has a couple cast members). It will indeed be on CITV in Britain, but we're no closer to knowing what the American channel is.
  • Remember the old Fox primetime show The Moment Of Truth? It is apparently being worked on as a five-day-a-week syndicated show. If this does end up going through, I have no idea when it will start - I'm assuming some point in 2012.
That might be it. I'm assuming the new season start dates will come out in August.

Two months and five days until Labor Day,

Aaron

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Turns Out It's Not For The Faint Of Heart

I'm going to go right ahead and say this: I had the wrong mental image.

When I heard the premise of 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show, I thought they would be in a studio with an audience, and that the eponymous "ways to leave a game show" would be getting shot out of a cannon at the most.

I was very, very wrong.

Here's how the show plays out: Jeff Sutphen, just barely recognizable as the host of Brain Surge, welcomes eight contestants in some remote outdoor area, split into two groups of four. At the end of the show, one of these contestants will be the day's winner and be awarded $50,000 and - just as importantly - the right to simply walk off screen. The other seven will be...what's the word...SPECTACULARLY ELIMINATED, and not just by getting shot out of a cannon like I was expecting. They're going to get strapped to the wing of a moving biplane ("A Wing And A Prayer") or shot into the air by what appears to be an exploding chair ("You Fuse, You Lose") or shoved off the edge of a speeding truck. I can't remember the name of that last one, but man, this show must have an interesting production process.

In the first round, the first group of four contestants are asked a question with a numerical answer and write down their answers to determine the order in which they will answer the round's question, which has three correct answers and one incorrect answer. After each contestant has answered, Jeff "dramatically" reveals which answers are correct, and the contestant who got it wrong is SPECTACULARLY ELIMINATED via whatever method they're using this round. Inevitably, the other group is standing a few feet away from the "action" laughing hysterically - but not for long, as the process then repeats with that group and a different method of elimination. After two contestants have been eliminated from each group (via four different "ways to leave a game show"), the final four contestants are placed at the top of a ten-story tower for one final round, in which the question has three incorrect answers and one correct answer. The three incorrect contestants fall, and the winner gets the $50,000.

Let's make this clear: this is a quiz show with almost no quiz - but why argue now? Frankly, the amount of gameplay here is on par with the amount of gameplay in most primetime game shows right now, all the way down to the dramatic pauses and commercial breaks exactly where you'd expect them to be. The difference is that a show like Million Dollar Money Drop or whatever expects you to watch for the questions, and when each question takes ten minutes, you feel let down. Nobody's going to watch 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show for the gameplay - even I, who grossly underestimated the methods of elimination, wasn't expecting a lot of questions. As for Jeff, he is thankfully able to inject enough humor and personality that he comes across as more than a standard-issue primetime game show host. 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show may be a one-gimmick show with pacing on par with every other primetime game show we've seen recently, but unlike its losing contestants, the show itself gets safe passage.

Aaron

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fall 2011 Preview...Of A Sort

I'll start with some news:
  • The new game show It's Worth What - as far as I can tell, it's about pricing antiques - will premiere July 12 on NBC. The host: Cedric The Entertainer.
  • Jim Thornton has been named the new permanent announcer on Wheel Of Fortune, replacing the late Charlie O'Donnell.
Now, it's June, and usually around this time I start constantly looking at the new five-day-a-week shows in September (well, even more constantly than I do the rest of the year). I'm not doing that now, however, as nothing is happening this Fall. It might not even be worth it to watch the season premieres. However, while there isn't much new in the way of five-day-a-week game shows, it appears that September 2011 will have a ton in the way of kids game shows. So here's the Fall preview: a look at the new kids game shows that are coming. I don't have any premiere dates or even all the host and network information, but I'll do my best.

On The Spot
Network: Syndication (once a week)
Host: Unknown
Premise: People are stopped on the street and asked trivia questions. An "educational" element is provided via explanations of the answers.
Comments: Look, I get the message. The producers are trying to promote this as being like Cash Cab - baloney. All (well, nearly all) of the few remaining kids shows that aren't on dedicated kids cable channels are educational, and this is a half hearted attempt to create a new "edutainment" show. As I'll applaud any effort to bring kids game shows off cable, I'll give it a try, but frankly I'm not even sure it will be on in my area (remember the syndicated Gladiators 2000 reruns in 2008? I never saw them).

Family Brain Surge
Network: Nickelodeon
Host: Presumably Jeff Sutphen, but considering that his new primetime game show is about to premiere on ABC, he may have left Brain Surge for all I know.
Premise: Brain Surge with family teams.
Comments: It may have worked for Double Dare, but I frankly don't understand why nearly all new kids game shows feature family teams. Wouldn't that be the last thing kids want? I would trust Nickelodeon not to screw this up, but look what happened when they tried it with GUTS...

Scrabble Showdown
Network: The Hub
Host: Justin Willman
Premise: Family teams play a game based on the classic board game Scrabble (but presumably not on the game show Scrabble with Chuck Woolery)
Comments: I begged for a long time for The Hub to do a Scrabble game show, and I am looking forward to it, but I also realize it could just as easily be "find foam letters in a bucket of slime" as anything to do with the board game. I'll keep my hopes up.

The Game Of Life
Network: The Hub
Host: Frank Nicotero
Premise: Family teams play a game based on the classic board game.
Comments: As much as I like Family Game Night and Pictureka, the concept of a kids game show based on The Game Of Life makes me think "floor sized game board" and "questions based on life decisions." That's...well, that's Peer Pressure (sorry if you've been trying to forget that show). Again, I'll keep my hopes up, but I can only imagine Frank from Street Smarts looking out of place here.

Fort Boyard
Network: We don't know for sure...
Host: Unknown
Premise: Well, Fort Boyard is an iconic European game show where contestants are subjected to massive stunts against the backdrop of an actual Napoleonic fortress off the coast of France. It's generally considered awesome, but the upcoming kids version is rumored to feature competing teams representing Britain and America (as opposed to the classic single-team format).
Comments: So, what network is it on? Well, we don't know for sure, but here's the rumor. In Britain, it will be on CITV. Fair enough - that's ITV's kids cable channel and one of the biggest names in British kids TV. In America...Disney. CITV and Disney. Seriously? I can only assume it would be the less-watched Disney XD, because if there is one thing that would not fit on Disney Channel, it is Fort Boyard.

That's all I've got. Next week...the show Jeff Sutphen may have left Brain Surge for...101 Ways To Leave A Game Show! I do love that name.

Only two months, two weeks, and six days until Labor Day,

Aaron

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Far From Chuck Woolery's Version...

...but why argue? A-R-G-U-E.

Lingo has returned to Game Show Network with new host Bill Engvall, and if you read my post on April 7...yes, that report was correct. The game is played is three rounds. In round one, getting a word or a Lingo is worth $100, in round two it's $200, and in round three $500. Before each word is played, Bill reads a clue in a manner vaguely akin to the game show Scrabble, except the clues are a lot less appropriate. The team with the most money after three rounds plays a bonus round in which five words in ninety seconds is worth, incredibly, $100,000!

Now, let me make this clear: this is nowhere near the level of the Chuck Woolery-hosted version. Bill is trying too hard to be funny. The studio audience is too loud. The clues are terrible sexual double entendres, a fact not helped when you remember they're being read by Bill Engvall.When, as a clue to the word "spice", Bill shouts "Nice rack!", you can only imagine the reaction of the contestants.

The Lingo balls appear to be the size of bowling balls (OK, that's nitpicking, but it looks weird), the music is generic "light game show" music, and perhaps the biggest problem: read the rules to that bonus round again. Five words in ninety seconds for $100,000. Gee Game Show Network, ever heard of making the prize fit the task?

So why am I not declaring this show awful? It isn't. The actual game is still as good as it ever was, and while Bill is trying too hard to be funny, his enthusiasm is...kind of infectious. Oh, and moving to the big problem everyone seems to be having with this show - the contestants here are certainly louder than on the Chuck Woolery-hosted version (heck, the whole show is), but I don't think they're any worse at playing the game. Of course, this makes the fact that five words in ninety seconds is worth $100,000 even dumber (seriously, I have no idea how Game Show Network can afford that).

Is this Chuck Woolery's version? No. Can I find lots of things wrong with it? Of course - but I can find lots of things wrong with just about any game show under the sun. The actual fact is, I'll take a good show where I can get it.

My final verdict? Solid. S-O-L-I-D.

Aaron

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Not A Hit In My Book

Want to hear something really scary?

I've talked on here many times about The Slammer, the CBBC talent show set in a mock prison. I have to say "mock" because anytime I describe this show, to anyone, they think it's real and start talking about how disgusting the British penal system must be for such a show to be produced. In contrast, whenever I describe the movie Afghan Star, a very real documentary looking at the most popular TV talent show in Afghanistan, the same people say "This is a mockumentary, right?"

I'm sorry, but what does that say? What kind of world must we live in when the idea of British prisoners being released via a talent show is more plausible than Afghanistan having a talent show at all? Are reality TV talent shows that horrific? Well...yes, just watch Platinum Hit.

The first thing you should know: Platinum Hit is a songwriting competition, not a singing competition. The second thing you should know: Platinum Hit doesn't follow the American Idol model of live broadcasts from a studio and viewers voting; rather, the show follows the Project Runway (for example) model of contestants completing challenges in different locations and the judges having the sole say in who wins.

Got that? So in the first episode, twelve aspiring songwriters with incredibly high opinions of themselves meet up somewhere in Los Angeles with host Jewel, who gives them each thirty minutes to write the chorus of a song about the city of Los Angeles.

After a brief segment of everyone working on this, Jewel brings everyone back together and introduces them to the judges: head judge Kara DioGuardi, regular judge Trevor Jerideau, and guest judge Jermaine Dupri. These judges declare four of the resulting compositions better than the other eight, and each of those four "challenge winners" gets to pick two other contestants to work with on turning that chorus into a whole song within eight hours (edited down, of course, to maybe twenty minutes).

At the end of the show, the songs are performed, and the judges declare one of them worse than the other three, meaning the three contestants who worked on that song are in danger of elimination. After some discussion with the contestants and each other, the judges pick someone to go home. That's episode one. If you must know, the winner after weeks of this will apparently receive $100,000 and some sort of contract.

So what? Well...like I said, these contestants have really, really, high opinions of themselves. One appears to think he is the reincarnation of Elvis Presley; another states that now that Michael Jackson is dead, he is the current King Of Pop and no one else can come close. Indeed, probably the only thing that can top the egos of these contestants is...well the harshness of these judges, though I suppose they have to be (and no, no one is really talented either). Making this even more "entertaining": the contestants appear to not be able to stand each other. Frankly, I'm guessing they were chosen as much for their ability to create good drama as for their ability to create good songs...and either way, the producers failed.

I realize that I am being just as harsh on the show as these judges are on the contestants, but what am I supposed to do? There are game shows I adore that are built around idiotic premises, but at least they're silly and fun to watch. Even a show like American Idol, which I know I should hate, manages to be hypnotically entertaining. A show like Platinum Hit, on the other hand, makes me wonder what reality TV is really doing to us.

I really should just stick with game shows...but when The X Factor comes along...

Aaron

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let's Go Back To November 2, 2012...

Figures - I wrote that post on May 5 about the thirtieth anniversary of Countdown, and yesterday it came out that the show's current host, Jeff Stelling, will be leaving at the end of 2011.

I guess I should have seen this coming - since legendary original host Richard Whiteley died in 2005, the show has essentially collapsed under a succession of short-lived hosts. I suppose a comparison could be made to the current version of Family Feud - except that show is doing better at holding on to a host! Channel 4, if you just can't keep the cast steady, maybe it's just time to cancel the show. I feel terrible saying that - I am, after all, the one who three weeks ago was talking about much I was looking forward to the possibility of an Ashes Series between Countdown and Letters And Numbers in 2013 - but it has to be said. Of course, Channel 4 isn't going to actually cancel the show, and I frankly have no idea who will replace Jeff. Still, I'll keep you posted.

Coming back to America - NBC has announced that its upcoming game show Who's Still Standing? will be hosted by Ben Bailey off Cash Cab. The gimmick of this show - it's a big money quiz game where if you lose, the floor opens up underneath you and you fall off the stage. Yeah, never heard that one before.

Finally - I'm going off-topic again and I know it, but Cheryl Cole has been dropped as a judge on the upcoming The X Factor, with Nicole Scherzinger to replace her. I have to say, this show will have to work pretty hard to produce as much suspense about its winner as it did about its judging panel!

Next week - Platinum Hit! Yeah, it's not a game show, but I keep reporting on The X Factor so why not.

Aaron

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Here's The Current Piece Of News...

...remember that Pyramid pilot hosted by Andy Richter that came so close to replacing As The World Turns on CBS? TBS does - they're apparently considering picking it up. Frankly, I doubt this will ever actually reach television (remember the same channel's Match Game pilot with Andrew Daly?) but I'll hope for the best - Pyramid is always a good show to have around. Before you ask, I have no idea what the dollar amount in the title will be. Perhaps we'll finally get The $1,000,000 Pyramid (which has been mooted\joked about pretty much since the moment Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? started).

Moving on to some summer premieres - ABC has pushed back the premiere of 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show from June 16 to June 21. Frankly, this sounds to me like it should be a kids game show, a fact not helped by the casting of Jeff Sutphen off Brain Surge as host. Of course, if you were capable of going back in time, you could easily scare me out of my wits by telling me what would become of Jeff Probst off Rock And Roll Jeopardy...or Chris Harrison off Mall Masters...or Ryan Seacrest off Click...or Tom Bergeron off Hollywood Squares...so who knows, maybe this is Jeff Sutphen's big break. The other summer premieres are kids game shows: The Hub has announced that The Game Of Life and Scrabble Showdown will have preview episodes in August.

Finally, in the "Truth is stranger than fiction" category: Game Show Network is considering a bible trivia game show, and their first choice to host it was Mike Huckabee (he turned them down). I'm not even going to comment.

If you're wondering what I was talking about when I mentioned those four hosts...are you from another planet? Still, I'll put you out of your misery: Jeff Probst is the host of Survivor, Chris Harrison is the host of The Bachelor, Ryan Seacrest is the host of American Idol, and Tom Bergeron is the host of Dancing With The Stars.

At least he's still working with has-been celebrities.

Aaron

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Know, I Know

Yes, due to Blogger's outage yesterday, this post is a day late. I'm sorry. I do have some news, though.

Let's start with Family Feud, which, after taping last season at Universal Studios in Orlando, just announced that they are moving taping. No surprise - they're going back to Los Angeles, right? Wrong. They're moving taping to Atlanta, Georgia, with Steve Harvey apparently staying. I don't claim to understand this.

Second - forgive me again for going a little off topic, but we finally have the full list of hosts and judges for The X Factor. The judges are really no surprise - Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, LA Reid, and Paula Abdul. The hosts are British TV personality Steve Jones and former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger. Honestly, the only real question I have is, given that that every British TV personality wanted this job, how did we end up with Steve Jones (whose biggest credit is the British version of 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show) rather than, say, Vernon Kay, Dermot O'Leary (the host of the British version of The X Factor) or Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly (an iconic British hosting duo whose credits include Pop Idol and Britain's Got Talent)?

Third, speaking of former American Idol judges, Kara DioGuardi's new show Platinum Hit premieres on May 30 on Bravo, with Jewel hosting. I might check the first episode out. Again, forgive me for going off-topic.

Finally...this may be just a rumor, but it appears that iconic (in Europe) stunt show Fort Boyard (which is famously taped on an actual 1800s fort on the coast of France) may be coming to America as a kids game show. Well, who knows, maybe this will prove that American kids can handle bizarre European game shows, and we'll finally an American version of The Slammer...yeah, not going to happen. I would love to know what American kids channel thinks this is a good idea.

That's enough for now. Assuming no more Blogger problems, I'll be back May 19.

Aaron

Thursday, May 5, 2011

On November 2, 2012...

...a daytime television institution will celebrate a major anniversary. Yes, I know the show started before that, but I'm talking about the version everyone knows. While some will argue that this show hasn't been the same since the departure of its legendary host, it still is a show that shows no sign of going anywhere, and that has a cult following that takes the game almost too seriously. I am of course talking about none other than...

...Countdown! Come on, why would CBS have debuted The Price Is Right in November?

Yes, 2012 is the thirtieth anniversary of Countdown on Channel 4 (it had a few episodes on ITV earlier in the year, but that's still 1982). What will be done to commemorate this momentous occasion? I don't know, and frankly I wouldn't be surprised if it was nothing - but what would I do?

Let's start with the obvious - beginning in 1984 and most recently in 2009, Countdown has held a Champion Of Champions contest every few seasons, bringing back the best contestants from the past year or two. The thirtieth anniversary, of course, would be the perfect time for Champion Of Champions XIV; however, while I'm sure some would suggest devoting an entire season to finding the best Countdown player ever, that seems to me to be overkill.

That's not to say I don't want more than a plain old Champion Of Champions - I do. I want some good specials. In fact, what I really want for the thirtieth anniversary is simple - I want to get the old hosts involved. Yes, legendary original host Richard Whiteley is dead, but there have been two others between him and Jeff Stelling. Maybe we could have a game between Des Lynam and Des O'Connor? Of course, in my wildest dreams, Carol Vorderman would get involved too, but given how badly she was reputedly treated during her departure from the show in 2008, that's highly unlikely. Carol, if you don't know, was the show's longtime hostess\Numbers judge, and was associated with the show in much the same way that Vanna White is associated with Wheel Of Fortune in America - that is to say, she, not the actual host, is who people think of when they think of the show.

Finally, there's one more Countdown related thing I'd love to see happen. If you don't know, Australia launched its own version of this show, titled Letters And Numbers, in 2010. I think that, to tie in with the next Ashes Series (a famous cricket tournament between England and Australia) in 2013, there should be a competition between the two shows. The reason I'm putting it two years from now is not just to tie in with the Ashes Series, but also since Letters And Numbers just started, I want to give it some time to find some good players.

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

Aaron

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

OK, that was a bad joke, but The News Quiz Extra premiered on April 22 on the newly rebranded BBC Radio 4 Extra. If you read my review of The Now Show Extra...yeah, it's extended in pretty much the same way, but just in case you didn't...

First things first - both The News Quiz and The News Quiz Extra air on Fridays, but if you come in expecting an extended version of that night's News Quiz, you're out of luck. The News Quiz Extra is an extended version of the previous week's News Quiz, and is not available as a podcast (the unextended News Quiz is). Second - the extended material is completely seperate from the show that aired on BBC Radio 4. We get the half hour main show (complete with credits), then Sandi Toksvig comes back on and introduces fifteen minutes of extra material. If you listened to The Now Show Extra, you know pretty much what you're getting - clips from past shows, material from the taping that didn't make the final unextended show, backstage interviews (and like The Now Show Extra, The News Quiz Extra even has its own separate credits). The end. Nothing earth-shattering, but as a big fan of The News Quiz, I'm not complaining about getting more of it.

I am complaining about one thing, however - in case you're from another planet, tomorrow (April 29) is the royal wedding, and if there's one thing I'm looking forward to about that, it's hearing what The News Quiz and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me have to say about it. Unfortunately, both The News Quiz and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me tape on Thursdays - meaning when they tape this weekend's show, the royal wedding won't have happened yet!

Guess I'll have to wait...

Aaron

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Labor Day Is Going To Be Huge...

...Labor Day 2012, that is.

I say this in response to the changing landscape of daytime television - a turnover perfectly summed up by the fact that ABC has just announced the cancellation of two legendary soap operas, All My Children (which will end in September after forty-one years) and One Life To Live (which will end in January 2012 after forty-four years). This leaves just four soap operas - General Hospital (on ABC), Days Of Our Lives (on NBC), The Young And The Restless (on CBS), and The Bold And The Beautiful (also on CBS).

Now, with those two shows gone, surely we'll get a new daytime game show in their place, right? Wrong. While the fates of game shows and soap operas may be intertwined, so are the fates of soap operas and trashy talk shows. These two shows will be replaced by two The View clones with two of the most appalling titles you could possibly imagine - The Chew (replacing All My Children) and The Revolution (replacing One Life To Live). Yes, this is from the network that already has The View.

Now, I don't give either of these shows very long to live, which is why I'm predicting a lot of new five-day-a-week game shows for September 2012. Even if The Chew and The Revolution do survive, we'll probably lose another soap opera and some of the many talk shows being launched as a response to the end of The Oprah Winfrey Show (in September, after twenty-five years). So I think Labor Day 2012 is going to be huge - but that's Labor Day 2012, and we're not even at Labor Day 2011. What will we get on Labor Day 2011? The end of Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? and Don't Forget The Lyrics, and probably a few new kids game shows. Oh joy.

While we're on the topic of daytime game shows - former The Weakest Link host George Gray has been named the new permanent announcer on The Price Is Right. As Drew Carey's contract runs out in 2012, it's easy to speculate that George is being groomed to replace him, but who knows.

Only four months, two weeks, and one day until Labor Day,

Aaron