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May 27, 2000

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The Busiest News Weeks of the Year

       One finds difficult to believe any news week involving game shows will be any busier than the last two. Accordingly, rather than focusing on one issue, here are a few random musings from your friendly neighborhood game show columnist:

       ---The decision to use Greed as Fox's first backup series is a smart one. While the game dipped in the ratings amidst its most interesting shows yet, during the Super Greed May, it continues to build substantially from its lead-ins. I'll be curious to see how Greed performs week after next with It's Your Chance of a Lifetime as a lead-in.

       ---Speaking of Chance of a Lifetime, I had real doubts about that show because as of Tuesday, it had no host. The emcee, now, is no problem. Gordon Elliott was brilliant doing To Tell the Truth during his brief stint in 1990 and that revival never recovered when he was forced out in a legal dispute with a previous syndicator. Now, the game will have to be good.

       ---Our Twenty-One Reunion piece will provide some interesting insights from past champions as to the show's demise. They're all united in the truth of NBC totally mishandling the show. Frankly, I don't hold out much hope the show will end up with new episodes on PAX. Unless NBC were to deficit-finance the show, the prize money would have to be seriously scaled back. However, if it does happen, I can't think of a better young emcee to handle it than Todd Newton, the best thing to happen to the host ranks in 15 years.

       ---Our thanks to Matt Marcotte for two fine first-person accounts of the WWTBAM tournament. The tournament was interesting, though the format Michael Davies used doesn't build the same suspense as a true elimination event. I would have enjoyed seeing Doug Van Gundy and Stephanie Girardi have another chance, as well as our pal Kevin Simcox from North Carolina. For those so interested, half-millionaire David Fite opted not to return for another shot.

       ---Matt's revelation of the WWTBAM elite, the Jeopardy champs and the Ben Stein conquerors as the initial contestant pool for Mastermind has really inflated our e-mails from some of those folks. However, if Davies really wants to do it right, he'll include the following, as well: Dave Legler, Curtis Warren, Rahim Oberholtzer, Phyllis Harris, Melissa Skirboll, David Juliano and Lauren Griswold.

       ---One post-Emmy parting shot: this idea of having to have 14 shows eligible to create a new category is ludicrous. Let me run down for you a list of the games which could qualify as nighttime because they air at 7:00 or later in the Eastern and Pacific time zones in most of the U.S. (remember, cable shows count, as well): the four network prime time quizzes from this season, Wheel, Jeopardy, Hollywood Squares, Blind Date, Change of Heart, You Lie Like a Dog, Win Ben Stein's Money, Hollywood Showdown, All New 3's a Crowd, the now-canceled Inquizition and, if you want to call it a game, as such, Whose Line Is It Anyway?. That's 14. I may have even missed a few first-runs. My point: Michael Davies was right. It was absolutely ludicrous to shift WWTBAM to the daytime competition. What you have to remember: the prime time academy holds its nose at the genre and a lot of the creative community is really angry at losing the number of time slots they have to Millionaire.

       ---Regis not winning an Emmy as Outstanding Game Show Host puts him in elite company. Try the great Bill Cullen, Tom Kennedy (who was nominated in the late '60s for You Don't Say!), Jack Narz, Hal March (though The $64,000 Question did win), Monty Hall, Art Linkletter and Bud Collyer, to name just a few fellows.

       ---While I am on my soapbox, since when did the new catchphrase become "scripted entertainment" for the networks? That sounds like the latest successor to "appointment TV." Only ABC has not jumped on that bandwagon. You've heard Les Moonves, Scott Sassa and even Sandy Grushow of Fox talk of their networks commitments to "scripted entertainment." Know what that is? Pure and unadulterated jealousy of WWTBAM and the fact some sitcom or drama producer would lose a slot if a game makes the sked. I'd like to ask Sassa what Dateline NBC does to the entertainment community's access to his lineup. Moonves doesn't seem to have a problem with three newsmagazines a week. Grushow would still be feeding us more and more "reality" shows, mark my word, if Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire had not blown up in Fox's collective faces. A hit is a hit and so what if it comes from David E. Kelley or Michael Davies, or requires a dramatic script or question writers? Tell me if it isn't just as challenging, if not moreso, to retain audience interest in having to mount a multiweekly quiz as it is to write stories about the sex lives of six early thirtysomethings on Thursday nights?

       ---I'm looking forward to What's My Line? on the CBS summer sked, at long last, but don't expect a deep commitment from Moonves. He really doesn't want this show and won't be giving it a good time slot. In fact, if Les Moonves were Janet Reno, he'd conduct a midnight raid and rip all game shows off network schedules.

       ----Considering how long they took to pay Cathy Rahm (and at least three other winners from Winning Lines), what would you wager are the chances of Stone Stanley getting another prime time network gig in the near future?

       ---Meshach Taylor will be a terrific panelist on To Tell the Truth. Paula Poundstone might be if she can withstand the temptation to overpower the show with one-liners. If exec producer Michael Weinberg wanted some ink, he would bring back Kitty Carlisle back for one week, or even one show, merely for the record-not-to-be-broken situation. Kitty would be the first in television history ever to appear on the same show in six different decades, if that were done. No one will ever do it again. However, I don't know where people are getting tips of Orson Bean or Tom Poston coming back to the panel. This show is going after a younger audience and neither Orson or Tom are under consideration. Same for Soupy Sales on What's My Line?

       ---Speaking of TTTT, host John O'Hurley is interviewed in this week's issue of Broadcasting and Cable. Online version available at: John O'Hurley Interview.

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