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A Moment for Merv - August 17

We've lost another of the old guard recently. Out of nowhere, it seems, Merv Griffin succumbed to prostate cancer at the age of 82. From big band singing, to game show host, to game show creator, to business magnate, Merv had his fingers in all kinds of pots, and through astute management and savvy moves built an empire. There is much to learn from Merv.

The story of how Jeopardy! got its name is worth a mention here, as a case of Merv knowing when to  go along to get along. Created with the uninspiring name What's the Question? Griffin pitched the idea to executives, and when told that the game lacked jeopardy or danger, he now had a title. Years later, the show is still a ratings winner, with millions of viewers per week. The same is true of Wheel of Fortune. While Hangman on television had already been done before, the addition of a colorful wheel and (at the insistence of network executives) showcases of prizes for winners to shop; set it apart and made the show a daytime and nighttime staple to this day. (Though a change in 1987 jettisoned the prizes on the nighttime show, they did remain on the daytime version for another two years)

Stemming from his career in game shows in the early days, as well as his own talk show, Merv knew what would make a game show fun to play and fun to watch, His last creation, a crossword game show bearing his name, will premiere this fall. If it is anything like Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune, then we're all that much luckier that a great producer, creator and host left us one last piece of a long-reaching legacy.

In an era when game shows seem to be more and more carbon copies of each other, involving a single player competing to beat the game, where that game is an uninteresting shell, producers, creators and executives could do their audiences a world of good to see how one of the good guys did things.

The clue is The response is "What is Travis Eberle's e-mail address?"


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