Thursday, September 29, 2011

No Post This Week

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


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?


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, 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!


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,


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,