Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Don't Want To Say This...

...but in many cases, the British are better than us. As much as I love Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, I must concede that the British are better than us at radio game shows. BBC Radio 4 has two new game shows on right now: It's Your Round (premiered February 17) and The Third Degree (premiered February 21)...and well, they're both pretty darn good.

It's Your Round is a comedy panel game show built around premise: Angus Deayton plays host to four panelists, who have each invented a round that will be played as part of the show, coming up with everything from the questions to the scoring system (and if the premiere is anything to go by, said scoring systems are heavily skewed in favor of the round's inventor). After all four rounds have been played, a final round is played featuring questions drawn from the panelists lives; you have to sit out if the question is about you, and the other three panelists can buzz in. While Angus makes a big deal at the beginning about how having the panelists make up the game is saving the BBC a fortune in format fees, the announcer clearly states during the credits that the show was created by Benjamin Partridge.

The panelists on the premiere were Rufus Hound, Miles Jupp, Sara Pascoe and Adam Hills, and their rounds ranged from brilliant (Sara had them creating travelogues for their hometowns in a game called Come To Romford) to stupid (Adam had the self-explanatory Newspaper Headline Or Cryptic Crossword Clue). The quickfire round really breaks up the flow too, but Angus does a great job, and the show does have one thing going for it - it made me laugh. This is a funny show, and that's more than I can say about So Wrong It's Right or Late Night Liars.

So we come to The Third Degree, hosted by Steve Punt and built around a "generation versus generation" motif: each episode is taped at a different college and pits three of that college's students against three of its professors. The premiere, for example, was taped at the University Of Southampton and pitted an English student, a biology student, and a math student against an English professor, a biology professor and a math professor.

The show manages to pull that concept off. The rounds are a good mix: we get rounds in which each student plays against the professor of their subject, we get rounds in which the professors are asked pop culture questions and the students academic questions, we get general knowledge. Steve, too, turns in a good performance, being allowed to add just enough silliness to keep this from becoming an ultra-staid affair in the vein of, say, Brain Of Britain or Round Britain Quiz. As with It's Your Round, I can't think of much to complain about here. Do I like jumping on the "The British Are Better Than Us" bandwagon? No...but in this case, yes they are.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spoiler Alert...

....Oh, who am I kidding. Everyone knows it by now: Watson won. Frankly, it seemed like Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter weren't even trying.

The event was taped in New York - I can only assume IBM didn't want to ship a room-sized supercomputer to Los Angeles. So how did they play two games over three days? The first game was split over the first two episodes, and the rest of the time was filled by IBM commercials - excuse me, little films on how Watson works, and how it was created, and all the test games it played. In other words...filler. Lots and lots of filler. Yes, we live in a world where the average big money primetime quiz show asks maybe five questions an hour, but Jeopardy's supposed to be the antithesis of that!

Now, to be fair to Sony and IBM, this event got the highest ratings Jeopardy has gotten in a long time. It also got the most hype Jeopardy has gotten in a long time. The sheer amount of coverage of this event approached that of the Super Bowl. Frankly, I don't think there's anything I can say about Watson that hasn't been said. Maybe Sony should just give it a spinoff series (hey, it wouldn't be the first Jeopardy spinoff).

Moving on...yes, there are other things going on right now, but really, could the Discovery Channel have possibly picked a worse time to debut Cash Cab Chicago? I thought Beth Melewski did an excellent job, so if you like Cash Cab, by all means, check this out.

Finally, Game Show Network has pushed the premiere of Improv-A-Ganza back two weeks - the show now premieres April 11.

I'll have my reviews of the new BBC Radio 4 game shows It's Your Round and The Third Degree next week.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Assuming You Count It As A Game Show...

...then the first game show to be broadcast in 3D is...drumroll please...Game Show Network's High Stakes Poker, which will be added to the lineup of DIRECTV's N3D channel on February 26. Yes, a Game Show Network show beat out Wheel Of Fortune.

Moving on...

The hype for the Jeopardy Watson Challenge (which begins Monday) is enormous - PBS's Nova did a special on the computer. My thought would have been to hold the special after the tournament airs so we can analyze the result, but of course that would mean less promotion for Jeopardy. Frankly, this whole thing just sounds creepy to me...but at the same time, I am going to watch...

BBC Radio 4 will premiere the new game show The Third Degree on February 21, with host Steve Punt. The premise: college students are pitted against their professors.

Finally, if you're wondering how I did on the Jeopardy test...I think I got some of them, but they don't tell you.

Worth a try...


Thursday, February 3, 2011

There's News!

...which means I can't write about that CBBC show. Oh well, maybe some other time...

Three pieces of news right now...
  • The Chicago-taped version of Cash Cab, with host Beth Melewski, will premiere February 14 (yes, the same day as the start of the Watson Challenge on Jeopardy).
  • The winner of the "Vanna For A Day" contest will be announced on Wheel Of Fortune on February 24. When the episode featuring the winner will air is anybody's guess.
  • Nickelodeon's Brain Surge is coming back for a third season - only now it will feature family teams. Beats me how that will work.
That might be it for now. I should also let you know that I've signed up to take the Jeopardy audition test online on February 8. I'll let you know how it goes. My prediction - I'll pass the test, but be rejected as soon the casting people actually see me.

Worth a try...