The Game Show Crystal Ball: Syndie & Cable
The residual effect from the network prime time quiz explosion is a
virtual 'game of the week' being introduced for cable and syndication.
When The History Channel launches a game show, we have obviously moved beyond a passing fad. Accordingly, here's our crystal ball forecast for selected cable/syndie offerings already here or on the horizon.
Paranoia - Peter Tomarken may have said Sunday night "is the last show of our premiere month," but much of what we're picking up from insiders is Sunday is/was the last show, period.
We'll know the fate of the prime time quizzes next week when the fall network lineups are announced. Remember, if you want to express yourself about the future of Twenty-One, send an e-mail to email@example.com. .....Super Greed was again compelling television Friday night and if I were Dick Clark Productions and Fox, I'd leave the game the way it is after May. The contestants are risking that $200K for the $1 million far more than they ever did gambling on $500,000 and the emotional tension has increased. Plus, eliminating that qualifying game has definitely picked up the show's pace....Celebrity Millionaire will go again in May and apparently, even bigger showbiz names are seeking to play. Still, I'm opposed to more than once a year. I truly believe it's an interruption in the continuity of the game and will get old fast. Nonetheless, with those numbers....The Wednesday episode with Rosie O'Donnell's win was the highest-rated episode of a quiz show in 36 years....A slick trick letting the Thursday finale run over nearly 10 minutes to bleed into ER. The ploy apparently worked, as 20/20 Downtown scored its highest rating ever and ER failed to crack a 20 with a first-run episode. Don't be surprised if ABC does that more often...Our page updates will be limited to the essentials Monday through Wednesday as I will be in final exams at Union University. The server will be down from midnight-to-6 a.m. Tuesday for upgrades, so if you click in for Monday information, do it earlier in the evening....Tuesday night's Battle of the Child Geniuses looks to be intriguing but I don't see a series coming out of this. More of an annual special variety is the likely direction.
Some criticism has been pointed at: a) the questions being too easy and b) the virtual set has been described in some circles as "an overproduced nightmare." Maybe the former is true, at times, but I like the idea of a live show asking questions about events in news or sports from the previous few days. Plus, that set is television's future. Five years from now, whatever form game shows take, the Paranoia set will be considered a prototype.
True, we have had the example of a game with an elaborate set (see Winning Lines) dying in less than two months. Yet, what is strange is Fox Family was still blitzing promotion in every break Saturday night. That's atypical of a network which has given up on a show. Prediction: With this series not even approaching cable's top 25, unless a mass online campaign begins, I don't see this one resurrecting. Sadly.
I've Got a Secret - For all 24 people who have seen this one, 23 have to believe it's the worst insult of a remake in history. The 24th probably fell asleep ten minutes into the first show. Host Stephanie Miller, a favorite of young comic groupies, can't go two minutes without a bodily-function joke or an "I-want-to-adjust-
my pantyhose" crack.
This version is enough to make Goodson and Todman elevated to the level of Ernest Hemingway. Anyone who watches Oxygen for more than 15 minutes, anyway, and actually likes it is a candidate for analysis on The Sally Jessy Raphael Show. My only wish is Fred Wostbrock and David Schwartz could ignore this one's existence when they update their game show encyclopedia.
Family Feud - This is evidence of how the ratings barometer has been lowered. A 2 rating even three years ago would have been a quick ticket to cancellation.
The Louie Anderson extortion plot will have no effect on this series' second season. However, I honestly feel Pearson could do better than Louie as the emcee. I sense little growth for this show in year two, as Pearson still has found no magic in its promotion.
Hollywood Showdown - This one barely survived the PAX ax when NBC affiliates screamed about PAX airing Tom Brokaw's news on a one-hour delay in the Showdown time slot. The Game Show Network ratings have been little better.
For the life of me, I cannot figure out why this one has not clicked. It's one of the best traditional-budget shows in a while (a remake of the old Jackpot!) and host Todd Newton has the makings of the breakthrough emcee we haven't seen in a decade.
However, the trend for cable today is to make 65, 75 or---in this case---100 shows and then run them to death until a network decides to make new ones three or four years later.
Prediction - This one will be over after 20 weeks on PAX and will get two or three runs on GSN before being retired. Hopefully, Newton will get a more successful gig. He's good and is the best addition to the fraternity since Sajak.
Supermarket Sweep/Shop 'Til You Drop - Something tells me PAX, or some other new network, will keep making 80 to 100 of these every three years until David Ruprecht shows up at a Wal-Mart rather than a grocery aisle.
Blind Date - Most of you know, by now, I don't care for relationship shows and this one has been renewed, despite averaging a 1.6 for the season. Change of Heart has done the same kind of ratings, all of which is indicative the audience isn't sitting with bated breath for these.
This show is no true game. This fits the pattern of a voyeur program and the rating is as good as it will get. Somehow, I wish this would send a message to GSN about "relationship" efforts.
Hollywood Squares - Renewed through 2004 on the CBS o-and-o stations and the demos are good. However, the overall audience has peaked at about a 4.2 rating. Not even the $1.5 million giveaway in November spiked the numbers.
Whoopi is as overbearing as ever and this Squares is largely a one joke show which will likely wear out with the audience. Yet, when you have a four-year renewal, you don't have to worry too much about critical reviews.
To Tell the Truth - Scared to death here. The last three versions have endured one season each. The pilots sounded as if the producers want to make this a sexed-up version of Truth. Five of the six games piloted featured a sex-related topic. The panel had little of the charm of this game's masters.
Trouble spot: this game has almost no one left from the Goodson-Todman years who will keep the show's principles on track. A suggestion which will not but should be followed: bring on board as a senior creative consultant the man who created this classic game---Bob Stewart. Should anyone have a better idea how to keep this show on track. Prediction: another one-year wonder which will get early interest and skid by February.
Genesis - While technically not a syndicated show, the future of this one depends on PAX living up to the 130-episode contract it gave executive producer Michael Callie.
If PAX will give this one a go, it has a chance----though I think it plays much better as a half-hour than an hour and ought to be a Saturday-Sunday effort, rather than a five-a-week.
The pilot, which aired Easter Sunday, is a decent game----though the final round needs some work----which just happens top be Bible-themed.
That final one-on-one game is too cloaked in mystery with the scoring and viewers need to know, question-by-question, whether the players are right or wrong---which did not happen in the opener. They also need to know the point values as each question is correctly nailed.
Jim McKrell has a touch of class and sincerity as the host and Genesis would attract a decent niche with the kind of late promotional blitz PAX gave the premiere on air (though that did not extend to print media as the scheduling was too late to reach TV Guide or local papers). Biggest problem: with NBC owning 32 per cent of the network now and wielding more and more influence, will the Peacock folks sit still for a Bible game, even if the production values are immaculate? Prediction: Genesis likely gets a fall berth and its future will depend on how well Callie---who controls the bulk of the ad spots---can sell it.
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