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July 17, 2000

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No More Need for Greed

       Two weeks from now, we'll see Chuck Woolery putting all those TV trivia experts through the grinder on TV Land and forget all about feeling the "need for Greed."
       Don't bet on that with this show's loyalists. My colleague Marc Berman of "Mediaweek" and I have compared a lot of notes on why Fox botched this show in much the same way Twenty-One was massacred by NBC.
       What is still bizarre is how Fox continues to refuse to refer to Greed's departure as a cancellation. "Postponed indefinitely" is the word still being tossed about to contestants who had qualified for those six episodes which were not taped when the network abruptly guillotined the series. Tell me this isn't the axe when you pull the plug in the middle of a sweep period, even if it is July. What else can you expect when Fox's ultra-exciting replacement this week is a repeat of its JonBenet Ramsey examination?
       Greed was not for everybody. However, I will tell you, based on our e-mail, its fans are intensely loyal. One woman even wrote, blaming me for canceling the show. Amazing the power I have assumed, isn't it? Another suggested I should have interviewed fans, rather than the five former players and Brad Francini, who is probably doing more to help fans of this show have one last voice with his savegreed.com site.
       Let's accept this fact: this show is not going to be back on Fox. However, Dick Clark and Bob Boden have the right to shop it around after Aug. 1. That's an official date. You can bet if they have pretty well been assured by Fox they are unwelcome guests, a number of "unofficial" conversations have already begun.
       It's way too late for Greed to be syndicated for fall and we have yet to see a game show become a major success as a January entry into the marketplace. Candidly, this show would not be a bad replacement show for UPN, which is so targeted toward males, led by its WWF Smackdown sleaze night.
       Recent six-figure winner Jill Schilstra made an interesting observation about the series being largely a turnoff to females she knew because of the Terminator aspect and cutthroat format. Tom Calloway, one of the first winners on the show last November, also pointed out the depiction of "teams," rather than "groups" of individuals technically all out for themselves, probably enhanced its negative reaction with viewers.
       In part, some of the problems are rooted in the fact this show was sold, a host was hired and a set built in 17 days last fall. A general perception even from some of the early players is the rules were being developed as the show evolved. Nonetheless, Greed performed admirably for Fox and not until late May and early June, when the game was delayed for six straight weeks in New York until past midnight, did the show fail to improve on its lead-in---often by more than 20 per cent.
       The disaster which turned out to be It's Your Chance of a Lifetime may have been a catalyst to hasten Greed's demise. However, the underlying reason rests with the new programming regime which Fox ushered in even after the fall lineup was announced and Greed touted as an early replacement show.
       That entire turn of events reminds me of what Tom Kennedy told me about the cancellation of You Don't Say in 1969. "Betty and I had just bought a new home and had just moved in for about four weeks," Tom said. "Our ratings were not what they once were but we were still NBC's number one daytime show and were number three overall in daytime when I got a call. I was told, 'You have a four-week cancellation notice.' I thought it was a gag. It was no gag. NBC had hired a new executive for daytime programming and I was told, 'He's going to remake the network.'" He sure did. It was years before NBC was ever competitive in daytime again and the show that replaced us (Bright Promise) never came close to our ratings. But when executives decide they want to put their own personal stamp on a network schedule, it doesn't matter what your ratings are. They clean out what belonged to somebody else."
       Greed will more than likely be back somewhere at some point, though probably not on a network, unless UPN were to take a grab when it expands to a full seven-night-a-week schedule. Make no mistake, Dick Clark is one of the best salesmen in the broadcasting business. With Pearson TV being given international distribution rights, my bet is Pearson and Dick Clark Productions will attempt to resuscitate the show (with a reduced jackpot) for daily syndication in the fall of 2001. If Pearson succeeds in getting To Tell the Truth over as the lead-out for the surging Family Feud, the syndicator would be in a prime position to sell a third show the next fall (or a replacement show if Truth does not make the grade). Considering the nature of the two, Greed, frankly, is a far more compatible show with Feud. Don't be surprised if local station executives will be asked if they "feel the need" for their fall 2001 schedules.

       POST-GAME NOTES: The loss of Meredith MacRae was a shock. While she had not been a regular performer in television since she worked as a correspondent for A Current Affair in the early '90s, she was a game show staple in the '60s and '70s. To an extent, she became a "young Betty White," as frequently as she appeared. A memorable moment came on a '70s What's My Line? when her mother Sheila MacRae was the mystery guest. Meredith was always the pleasant sort who wore well on the tube. She'll be much missed....The phone friend for Matt Marcotte, the $250,000 winner on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and our analyst for the Champions tournament, won the $1 million annuity Sunday night on goldpocket.com....Don't hold your breath on Big Brother getting a midseason pickup if you like it. In addition to mediocre ratings, the show is already becoming a major headache for CBS because of the personal revelations of the players....We haven't let one anniversary pass. Soon, we'll look back on 40 years ago this month when Jack Narz had us traveling through Video Village....Gretchen Cordy may have been voted off Survivor but this young woman may well gain the biggest endorsement deal of any of the castaways. She's too athletic and independent not to rake it in. One organization which ought to use Gretchen as a spokesperson is Outward Bound. I'll guarantee she would bring a lot of signups for those excursions....My thanks again to everyone who participated in The Greed Reunion. I've particularly enjoyed the friendships made with Dan Avila and Phyllis Harris from that show. Dan and David Juliano, Phyllis' team partner, were both invited to participate in the reunion but both were away. Forrest Dolan, who won $40,000 on the show with one of the worst captains in the show's history, was scheduled to participate but experienced a family tragedy, to which we send our condolences.

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