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The Only Constant is Change
Chico Alexander

An old proverb goes "the only constant is change." And nowhere is this more evident than in the change of the seasons known as "fall". Usually, this is where we get the shock of all the newness before we eventually grow into being used to seeing things like that.

This Monday was our first taste, as the four major syndicated series brushed off the past season and embraced headlong into the fray of the unknown. Even the most steadfast of formats are getting a less-than-extreme makeover. Let's take them each in an isolated case, and see what they bring to the game, starting with...

Wheel of Fortune: If you've been reading our site or any of the many fine sites out there (our good friends at Buzzer come to mind), then you know that there are so many changes that if we were to go over them all in depth, it would kill the bandwidth limit on this column. Therefore, here's a quick rundown. A car can go to a Wheel Watchers Club member whose contestant goes the distance in the Bonus Round. The prize wedge is offered on the first Wheel round instead of the second. Also, the commercial break moved from the end of the Bonus to the end of said first Wheel round. But perhaps the biggest - and perhaps the most shocking - change wasn't even thought of until we actually saw it.

That would be the opening graphics. What Wheel opted to do this time was show a bunch of animated shorts featuring people who are about THIS close from missing America's favorite game show. I've talked to a few people about this, and we all had basically the same response...

"What the hell?" Yeah. Way to take away from the show without having to go through the whole rigmarole of airing a single puzzle. The same thing happened about 1994, and back then (take into account that I was all but 14 at the time), it scared the living bejeezes out of me. I mean, I can see the animation thing working over time, but it just proves my point that Wheel is proof positive that change for change's sake is indeed a dangerous thing.

Travis posted on his blog, "Wheel is loud, flashy and crass." Seems like the only thing that HASN'T changed from year to year. That and the whole Pat & Vanna, highest rated show on syndication thing.

Onto Jeopardy!, the perennial second banana. Nothing's really changed, but a couple of things have been added. A year or so ago, we had four members of the Clue Crew - Sarah Whitcomb, Jimmy McGuire, Cheryl Farrell, and Sofia Lidskog. For whatever reason (I'm not going to speculate, because it won't do a lick of good), Sofia left, leaving a vacancy. This season, after a nationwide casting call, said vacancy was filled by not one, but two bright young sous-emcees, Kelly Miyahara and Jon Cannon. All five were in attendance at the Jeopardy! taping I attended during one of the GSC field trips.

What does this bring to the party? Only a new face. And a new graphics package that rivals last year (being a graphics designer, I thought that the "waves" package last year was rubbish). It's still the same game we've come to know and love for the past... oh, 40 years or so.

The only thing "Family Feud" has changed was its set, as we go from old-school-inspired blocks to new-school inspired lights, rust, and trapezoids. Persnoally, I think it's superfluous, but in a cool way. At least we didn't go back to the mish-mash was that was seasons one through three. Metal and wood... just don't go together. It just looks weird, like some feng shui nightmare.

Perhaps the only show to escape change's ever-present hand is "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", as the only thing that got a face lift is the show's four-year-old opening title, shorter and sleeker.

That's pretty much it. Nothing was gained in the short-term save for one job in the game show world, but quite a heck of a lot was lost (thanks, Harry... no, really!). We'll leave it to time to be the ultimate judge.

Chico Alexander may have done this topic before... Memory's a little shaky. You can reach him at if you think he did.


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