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Not a Zonk
October 13

Also available as a podcast. Click to listen!

We start this week with the biggest debut of a game show in 15 years. That would be "Let's Make A Deal" which debuted on CBS on October 5th. This is the first non-syndicated daytime game show to be debut since NBC's Caesar's Challenge left the air in January of 1994. "Deal" replaced Guiding Light after it was cancelled last month.

So, does "Deal" live up to its history and reputation? For the most part, it does. Wayne Brady of "Don't Forget the Lyrics" fame, is the new host. He was hired by Monty Hall, who is on board as a consultant. After viewing a few episodes, you can tell he has the right type of chemistry between himself and the contestants. Like Hall, he is taking the right approach in that the contestants are the stars, not him. Jonathan Mangum takes over the announcer/Jay Stewart role. Mangum and Brady's work together in Brady's Vegas show "Making It Up" and that relationship translates well to this venue. Alison Fiori is the spokesmodel du jour.

The gameplay is pretty much what you have seen in past Deal shows and it works. In a new twist we have only seen once, audience members have voted on a green or red box for a potential prize for the entire audience. This was a nice twist, and I hope to see it on more shows.

But not everything is perfect in Deal land. There are two elements that bother me. Magnum seems to treat losing prizes with a different emphasis than winning ones. It gives off a bad impression. His vocal tone shows a lackadaisical attitude for those prizes. During all the other versions, even the losing prize's copy was read with a happy tone. You want to give the audience something to drool over. That has to change.

And we have to talk about the Big Deal. The Big Deal is now played by one trader, not two. Traders are given the opportunity to trade what they won for a shot at a big prize which has ranged from a $21,000 Orient Cruise, to a $33,000 plus African Safari. I understand there are probably budgetary constraints involved, but I donít like it. If you reduced the Big Deal to around $10,000-$15,000, then maybe you can get two traders in there. It was an element of the show that people loved to see and hopefully that can return.

Overall, I am pleased with what the production team has done with Let's Make A Deal. They have a host who knows what he is doing and has very good chemistry with everyone on air. They have games that work with some nice twists, and elements they can work on to make the show even better. This Deal makes the 2003 Billy Bush disaster a distant memory. Overall Grade: B


Two other shows debuted last week. First up is BRAINSURGE, the first game show from Nickelodeon in almost a decade. Jeff Sutphen hosts this show which takes 6 kids and puts them through various memory and visual challenges for prizes...and SLIME.

In round 1, 6 kids compete in visual puzzles and challenges. The 4 highest scorers move on and the lowest 2 go down the "Brain Drain" which is a long slide out of an ear.

In Round 2, Jeff reads from "Jeff's Big Book of Super Fantastic Chronicles of Truth That Are Absolutely True" and the 4 remaining kids have to remember facts from the story. If they get their question right, the chair they sit on doesn't make noise. If they don't, the chair becomes a whoopee cushion and they get blasted through a wall.

The final 2 match visuals from the story until one misses and the other makes the match. The winner has 90 seconds to match light patterns in 4x4, 5x5, and 6x6 grids for various bonus prizes leading to a trip.

Everything about this show works. The show is loud, noisy and incredibly visual. Jeff is goofy and crazy without being too annoying. The kids get to be goofy and silly. There is your element of gross humor including farts, belching and poop jokes but they are kept to a minimum.

But the best part of the show is the gameplay. It is not original, but is addicting as heck. It's also (shhhh) educational. It teaches memory and reading comprehension. But don't tell your kids that. They will be having way too much fun.

This is not only a great return for Nickelodeon, this is one of the best new shows of 2009. This is an A for me.


Next we have PAY IT OFF(BET). Kim Coles from Living Single and In Living Color hosts this show where people with over $10,000 in debt answer questions in a series of games to pay off their debt and potentially get "Back In the Black" by winning $25,000. The contestant brings a "Bailout Buddy" to the audience to help them with a question.

The show itself brings nothing new to the table as the games are not new. But I do like that the show isn't all or nothing. The contestants keep the money they earned no matter what level they bomb out on.

The biggest surprise is Kim Coles. She is very competent as host. She brings a sense of empathy rarely seen in game shows. You can see she wants the contestants to get back on the road to financial solvency.

You can do a heck of a lot worse here. You have a competent host, relevant concept and successful execution. BET has a winner here. My grade: B


Next we have news on the "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" front. According to multiple sources, Millionaire is removing the "Phone A Friend" lifeline. The three lifelines are now "Ask The Audience", Double Dip, and "Ask The Expert" which is now permanent.

As someone who has been a fan of the show from the beginning, this is another boneheaded move from the Millionaire production team. Over the last two years, you have had moves such as the clock, the Tournament of Ten, and now this. You are taking an element away from the show that makes the show what it was. Some people joke it's called Phone-a-Google, but you are stripping it's identity away.

And in a recent phone conference to promote the Tournament of Ten, Meredith confirmed the lifeline's demise in January. And the official reason was that too many people WERE using Google to get the answer.

I smell shark meat here. This is just a bad move all around, and I don't like it.


Block Party Quick Hits Time:

--PokerStars launches "Million Dollar Challenge" on Fox on October 11th.

--Tom Delay withdraws from Dancing with the Stars due to Stress Fractures in both of his feet. Debi Mazar leaves due to audience votes.

--"Launch My Line" where 10 people compete to launch their own clothing line debuts on Bravo on December 2. And Bravo's Padma Lakshmi is pregnant.

--"Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader: 2010 Edition" goes to Verizon Wireless. "Millionaire" is now an app for the Palm.

--In UK News, ITV signs a deal with Mattel to develop formats for them. BBC Picks up "The Bubble" and renews "Pointless" for Season 2. And "Sell Me The Answer" goes to Sky.

-- In an interview with the Toronto Star, Monty Hall says he will appear on episode 100 of the new LMAD. He was supposed to appear on the premiere but took ill.

--In Price is Right Charity news, Bob Barker makes a $3M donation to the Intrepid Foundation. Drew Carey pledges $1M to the Livestrong Foundation if one million people follow @DrewfromTV on Twitter.

--The Next Iron Chef posts record ratings and was the highest series premiere in the network's history.

--Idol Gives Back will return in 2010.

--The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge in Ivins, Utah is officially open for business.

--The Sun partners with Fremantle for a live pay-to-play internet game show which launched this week.

--As reported last week, Fox has confirmed the pickup of ITV's the Cube.

--The Samoan Earthquake rocked the set of Survivor.

Jason Block is a big deal; every time he has a brainsurge, someone has to pay him off. E-mail him at jiblock@yahoo.com.