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,


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.


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,


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.


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? 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...