Thursday, January 27, 2011

Late To The Party?

Both of these are far from news by now, but here goes. First, Game Show Network is planning a new season of Lingo, its longest running original series...with new host Bill Engvall. Well, Jeff Foxworthy worked...

Second, he's not hosting a game show right now, but I can't possibly not mention it - Regis Philbin is retiring. The man whose performance on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? redefined the role of the game show host will apparently do his final Live With Regis And Kelly show in the summer.

There's not much else to say at the moment. I will also note that I've found another CBBC show that might be even more "out there" than The Slammer, and am waiting for a week with no news to review it. We'll see...


Thursday, January 20, 2011

If You'll Allow Me To Go On A Tangent...

I must have been nine years old when I first tuned in to a new kids game show called Click. One of the last creations of Wheel Of Fortune creator Merv Griffin, it was essentially a kids Jeopardy with a "Rise Of The Internet" theme that must have seemed a lot cooler in 1998. I turned the show on, heard the announcer introduce "the master of the mouse...Ryan...Seacrest!" and immediately said "Wait, the guy from Gladiators 2000?"

Yeah. If only I had known.

American Idol, hosted by the aforementioned Ryan Seacrest (and while I may make fun of Ryan a little, I actually think he's excellent) is back, with the judges now consisting of Jennifer Lopez (wasn't she in movies once?), Steven Tyler (wasn't he in some band once?) and Randy Jackson (wasn't...oh forget it, I don't know what else Randy's done and neither do you). Of course, this means we have to start with weeks of drawn out auditions.

You know how this works by now. Thousands - heck, I wouldn't be surprised if the number approached a million - of people will audition and go through to the next round if two out of three judges say so. At some point, we'll end up with a dozen or so who will perform live, week after week, so that viewers can vote. Gee, this sounds just like my review of Live To Dance. Also like Live To Dance, the "new" American Idol seems to be missing the stereotype of the "nasty judge" - Steven and Jennifer seem mostly like Paula Abdul split in two. Jennifer is the "I have a hard time saying no to anybody" side, and Steven is the "I go bizarrely off-script" side. Combine those two and we get Paula, and of course Randy's still Randy...yeah, I guess we'll have to wait for The X Factor to get our fill of Simon Cowell.

You may have noticed that I'm talking about the judges, not the contestants...well, duh. The judges are the real stars. Was there any real news or speculation about who would win last year's American Idol? Of course not. Was there enormous amounts of news and speculation about who would be a judge on last year's American Idol? Oh yes. If this show ever meant anything, it doesn't now. American Idol means about as much as another talent show: The Slammer.

The Slammer, broadcast mostly on CBBC (the BBC's kids cable channel), is a spoof talent show that, at least in my book, gives new meaning to the often-repeated game show fan phrase "The British Are Better Than Us". The premise, which I should make clear is completely ficticious and staged, is summed up perfectly by the Expository Theme Tune. The first verse:

"You've beeeeeen found guilty of a howling showbiz crime
So welcome to The Slammer, where you're gonna serve your time
With every type of minstrel, entertainer and artiste,
Performing TO THE try and get released!"

What more needs to be said? The Governor (played by Ted Robbins) is in charge of a showbiz prison where a bunch of bizarre acts are locked up for "crimes against entertainment." Each week, four of them will perform in front of an audience of kids, and the winner of the "Freedom Show" gets parole. Despite having a premise you will never find on American kids TV, this is without question a kids show, with all the fart jokes and such that that implies.

Each show begins with a few minutes of storyline involving the acts and a few regular characters, usually trying to escape; said story is occasionally cut back to during the show. After each act performs, a few prison officers wander around the audience asking kids what they thought. At the end of the show, a giant clap-o-meter is wheeled out, the Governor signs off "If you can't sing, dance, or rhyme...DON'T DO THE CRIME!" and the act the kids made the most noise for is shown walking out the prison gate over the credits. Most of the acts seem like they wouldn't last more than a few seconds on The Gong Show, let alone a "serious" talent show, but that's not the point.

This show is not for everyone. I'm sure a lot of people would find it horrific that that is the premise of a televison show, let alone a kids show - but I thought it was great and an eight-year-old me would have too. There you have it. Two equally silly and meaningless talent shows - the difference is, one of them is meant to be.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

All The Game Show News That Isn't

Where to begin?
  • Cash Cab reruns are now finally running on local stations, and they may soon be joined by Game Show Network's Baggage, which is getting a test syndication run in ten markets from January 10 to March 4.
  • Improv-A-Ganza will premiere on Game Show Network on March 28, and ousted The Price Is Right announcer Rich Fields will be reunited with Drew Carey as announcer.
  • BBC Radio 4 will premiere the new game show It's Your Round on February 17, with host Angus Deayton.
  • Wheel Of Fortune is holding a "Vanna For A Day" contest. The cynic in me says that this is part of some master plan by Sony to phase out Pat Sajak and Vanna White, but I'll tell the cynic in me to be quiet.
  • Add another show to the list of long-running shows looking for new announcers - Jim Packard is retiring as announcer of Public Radio International's Whad'ya Know?, which Michael Feldman has hosted since 1985. This happens to be the only game show I've ever been a contestant on...OK, a phone-in contestant, but that's the closest I'll probably ever come. Among the guest announcers will be an eight-year-old girl named Isabella Dippel who won a "Being Jim Packard" contest. Seriously.
That might do it at the moment. I should also let you know that I have finally tracked down an episode of CBBC's The Slammer, and will write about it next week...along with a certain other talent show...


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Yes, I Know It Isn't A Game Show

Describe Live To Dance here.

Paula Abdul. No, seriously; she's this show's only selling point...but if you really need to know more...

Andrew Gunsberg (former host of the now-canceled Australian Idol) hosts a multi-week dance competition that will award $500,000 to the best dance act in America, or at least the best dance act in America that hasn't already appeared on a show like this. The first show, naturally, consisted of hundreds of such acts auditioning in a "specially constructed dance dome" (what?) in front of a studio audience (yes, they actually found a studio audience for the auditions) and, of course, former American Idol judge Paula Abdul, making her big comeback to television. OK, fine, there are other judges too, namely Kimberly Wyatt (former Pussycat Doll) and Travis Payne (no idea), but it's clear which one we're supposed to pay attention to. When Kimberly and Travis walked in, they got minor cheering. When Paula walked in, she got a standing ovation and cries of "PAULA! PAULA!"

The mechanics? Do you honestly not know? These shows are all the same; countless acts will audition and move on to the next round if two out of three judges say so, and at some point we will end up with a dozen or so who will perform live, week after week, so that viewers can vote. To be fair, Live To Dance seems to play this mechanic a lot nicer than that other show Paula was on - all the acts shown in the premiere seem genuinely talented, and the "nasty judge" stereotype that all the other shows like this seem to have is rather conspicuously absent here. Why bother? People are watching for Paula, so let's make the whole show as annoyingly nice as she is!

Frankly, it's pretty clear by now that shows like this exist to make stars out of the judges, not the contestants. When Paula left American Idol, she (at least according to rumor) got offers to make her comeback from Dancing With The Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and the upcoming The X Factor before Live To Dance was announced. Still, whatever these shows are doing, it seems to be working - even I'm reviewing them! I'll be back to game shows next week...but the week after that brings the really big event...