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The Game Show Convention Center
March 22, 2000

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Fox, Peter, The "Feud" and Tape Traders

       Remember me? Pardon my departure from this space the last two weeks. Conference and NAIA national tournament time are my busiest periods of the year and if you have followed my odyssey of the last week, you can picture me very mellow of voice. However, I have desperately tried to stay on top of the news.
       So we're going to find The Smartest Person in America? This is one indicator to me we are a way from declaring the quest for a true quiz show renaissance over. However, you have to know people on both sides of the fence are wondering how Fox's new effort is going to affect Michael Davies.
       Since last November, Davies has slowly been readying Mastermind for ABC as a companion piece to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. However, it appears Smartest Person is at least a first cousin to the Mastermind format and with Fox rushing its effort, the intent surely is to give the public the impression "we were first."
       That may or may not work. Fox was the first out of the block to challenge Millionaire last fall with Greed, which was also a rush job----hitting the air 17 days after the deal was cut. Greed may have had its moments but is anything but a blockbuster hit and has become quite predictable, except for its recent '70s special.
       A big key is to, first, have a top-quality game and, second, do a superior job of marketing, which the Millionaire people set the barometer so high for before the show even hit the air. Notice how we haven't seen one solitary T-shirt, coffee mug or home merchandising effort for any of the other network prime time games. Had I been NBC, I'd have had the baseball caps and tote bags ready for Twenty-One in January. If Fox is so contemporary, it would have had dozens of sweatshirts ready for Christmas with that GREED logo plastered across the front. But nooooooo, nothing. ABC already has Enhanced TV launched for Millionaire.
       The efforts, so far, with the possible exception of Twenty-One, have been designed to crowd the marketplace and cool off Millionaire. The ploy has not worked.
       The object for ABC's foes now should be to provide the most compelling possible games which rely on more than pop surveys. As we said last week, if you can't be first, you have to be better.
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       Peter Tomarken will be a welcome site back on the game show scene. Tomarken, who has apparently agreed to host Fox Family's new $1 million show Paranoia, has been scarce on home screens, save his humorous e-Trade commercial, the last four years.
       After scoring with Hitman and the still-favorite Press Your Luck, Tomarken---as did many of his peers---found the jobs scarce as the game show pendulum screeched in the '90s.
       Tomarken was the original prime time anchor for Game Show Network for its 1994 launch but ankled after two years. He has spent most of the last three years in the real estate business in California.
       Tomarken is a known name---but, again, the success of Paranoia will hinge on whether the game is a good one. Plain and simple.
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       The Regis Philbin-Alex Trebek exchange over WWTBAM was interesting. Nothing like a Fred Allen-Jack Benny feud to liven things.
       To be candid, Trebek may have been making some of his slurs at Millionaire tongue-in-cheek when he was at the University of Georgia. However, at this stage of the game, if Alex is serious, he's not going to win that war.
       If Trebek really feels as he expressed about the quality of the ABC hit's questions, he ought to consider this: since Millionaire hit the network, the ratings have jumped for both Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune and he ought to be thankful for the residual effect.
       In a number of markets, Jeopardy remains the lead-in to WWTBAM Tuesday nights and nothing like having television's number one show as your lead-out to bring a few more folks to the party. Alex ought to be more worried about keeping his own classic sharp, rather than tossing barbs at another show.
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       I try not to take up space with matters of this ilk but I feel compelled to do so in this instance.
       When I expanded this website to a news service, I maintained a page or two about videotapes and tape trading. The object primarily was to give new users advice on what to expect in trying to find episodes with relatives, old friends, etc. Some are hard to find, some are not. Don't go calling Game Show Network for dubs. That will get you nowhere.
       I have had scattered success in matching people with loved ones on old game show episodes from my own archive. I do not have my tapes labeled with individual contestants' names, which makes searching for people who were on To Tell the Truth or I've Got a Secret rather difficult, unless the episode was recently in GSN's mix.
       Most of the time I have my best success with people with whom I deal privately and quietly and who are in no hurry.
       However, in the last week, I have had not one but two people who have decided to take e-mail shots at me, one suggesting I "hold out false hope" for people. Another was demanding to come to my home and search my archive personally.
       I have tried to be very specific with users on the site. This is not my primary job. I am a college professor first. I am also a broadcaster. Those two things make my living until this website is full of enough advertising to become profitable for me. I also have family responsibilities. I am also one person operating this site. I have no staff, no personal webmaster. I make very clear that I will not be prompt in responding to tape requests because at this time of year, my time is consumed with basketball and teaching demands.
       The Game Show Convention Center is designed to be a feel-good place for people to be as informed as possible about this genre of entertainment. Anything further I am asked to do, such as videotape searches, has to be on my own time---and in the spring of the year---that will take a long time. Please be patient.

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