ALL IN THE GAME
Welcome to our new revamped version of The Game Show Convention Center, which we hope will bring you more comprehensive coverage of game show news and more interesting features on game show personalities, nostalgia and websites.
In the weeks to come, we will approach the year 2000 with a combination of nostalgia columns focusing on the classic hits and misses of television game shows. Since 1996, we have attempted to serve as a preservation society, of sorts, of one of television's most-beloved genres of entertaiment---and a lobbying agency to keep game shows as a measure of television which the entire family can enjoy, not as a plunge into the waters shared by South Park and the World Wrestling Federation.
After a shade of optimism of a game show comeback in 1999-2000, based on the moderate success of Hollywood Squares (averaging a 4.4 rating for the season just past), some hopes have been dashed. Revivals of Love Connection and Match Game have failed. While Columbia Tri-Star waited until mid-August to announce the fate of Dating/Newlywed last year and the Sony website still features both shows, ratings do not boost their chances for a fourth season. A planned new version of Let's Make a Deal with Gordon Elliott could not garner outlets in New York or Los Angeles and has been scuttled. Fresh versions of The $100,000 Pyramid and What's My Line? are apparently stillborn. ABC's attempt to copy an international success with The Big Moment was not more than a small whimper in the ratings.
However, don't pronounce the benediction just yet. Pearson Television is trying Family Feud again after a four-year hiatus. Queen for a Day, with all of its excesses, is getting a crack for the first time in 29 years. Change of Heart, abominable as it is with its emphasis on hurt and pain in relationships, gained a surprising renewal as the stronger of the pairing of itself with Love Connection. Pearson is also sitting on ready for a new American version of Sale of the Century and has in development updates of Password, The Better Sex (who knows why?) and Play Your Hunch, the old Merv Griffin Goodson-Todman favorite. Add to that, Regis Philbin being tapped by ABC for a five-week August tryout with a prime time outing offering network television's first million-dollar jackpot. So don't play Taps in the next few days.
Candidly, I would love to offer such optimism for Game Show Network. True, after worries in its first three years of being launched primarily for dish owners, GSN is gaining ground on cable systems which are being rewired and rebuilt for digital delivery. Financially, the network is finally turning a profit. In fact, Pearson Television has initiated a clone of it on the international market and insiders insist Pearson would love to eventually make an offer for GSN. Yet, GSN's current guru, Jake Tauber appears to have no respect for the genre and is apparently intent on turning the network into a parody of itself and a branch of Comedy Central in prime time. Perhaps Tauber ought to explore what series won the Emmy for Outstanding Game Show this summer. Win Ben Stein's Money (ironically on Comedy Central) may be a bit irreverent at times. Yet, Stein's show contains enough classic elements and maintains enough respect for what has always attracted an audience to game shows to transcend the generations. Our good friend and game show devotee Al Martella is right in saying Tauber "isn't going after our age bracket in prime time." Yet, Tauber insults the intelligence of even a younger audience with his insolent and arrogant offerings of Throut and Neck and Extreme Gong. In recent months, the Convention Center has received an abundance of e-mail from viewers in their twenties who heartily agree with my assessment of Burt Luddin's Love Buffet as arguably the worst show in the history of television. At least Tauber still throws a bone to the classics on Sunday nights, though GSN could do a far superior job of marketing that product.
While the networks have virtually abandoned the game show, save one, from daytime, we can console ourselves in the notion that every genre of daytime network television is in a ratings decline. NBC's cancellation of Another World and continued worry at CBS over the ratings of As the World Turns and Guiding Light reflects as much the changing makeup of the daytime audience with the vast increases in working women. Bob Barker continues to sit atop the perch he has owned for 27 years. For four years, predictions have annually surfaced of CBS planning to kill The Price Is Right because of its aging audience. Yet, the demographics consistently grow younger during summer months with college and high school students at home. Plus, CBS---which has Barker under contract through 2001, when he will be 78---has tested the waters of potential replacements and focus group research has indicated the network would be better suited to turn the late-morning hour back over to its affiliates, rather than to seek a younger-skewing new hour. Added to that, the new CEO of CBS Mel Karmazin---a take-no-prisoners but never-count-out executive---is openly about the business of selling Madison Avenue on the advantages of the network's older audience, in general, because of the huge shift in the population to the over-40 demographic. As long as Barker's health holds up, bet on Price continuing as network daytime's last game show mainstay into the early portion of the new millenium.
With that said, we hope our new format will be better-organized and easier to follow. You will not always agree with our assessments, but we hope you who love this chapter of our lives which brings out the passion in all of us will do some clear thinking on your own. We may even hang Jake Tauber in effigy if he inflicts much more of Burt Luddin on us. Don't worry, Jake, we love ya! We just wish you'd listen to us more.
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