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Overseas Invasion - October 11

If you look at the history of game shows back to roughly 1999, you'll notice something odd. The shows that were bona fide ratings winners have been from foreign countries. Millionaire and Weakest Link? Britain. Deal or No Deal? Holland, originally. Ditto Lingo and That's the Question. Even Survivor is from a Swedish concept. The shows that did come from the United States ran far too short (History IQ, Greed, and so on).

We're years removed from the time when daytime schedules were covered wall to wall by game shows, to be sure, but it gives me a chill to think that shows on our networks are coming from Europe. The advertisements for the upcoming One versus 100 gleefully point to the show's worldwide success, in much the same way that Deal or No Deal did in December of 2005. It's as if the networks are saying "The show was a huge hit in Sweden and Italy, so it has to do well here."

It's not a matter of patriotism, since I think that England and Australia have some of the greatest concepts throughout the world. I don't think abject laziness is the problem either, though you could certainly pin Starface and Chain Reaction on laziness. The reason that Americans are getting the worldwide leavings is the need for instant gratification by network executives.

Back in the 1970s, game shows were given a while to find their niche. Match Game started out asking fairly mundane questions such as "Name a rich man." That's all fine and good, but it's not the same as one with Dumb Dora or Weird Willie. If the show were given 13 weeks to 'find itself,' we would be deprived of one of the greatest game shows in the history of American game shows. But the industry was different back then. Match Game grew, and the audience grew with it.

These days, if a show doesn't find a niche and fast, it's gone within weeks. I hope One versus 100 does well, because I think having any game show on the air is a good thing. I hope that television executives will for once take a long-term view of the industry, and look at game shows as something other than a quick fix.

Travis Eberle is All-American, though his favorite game show is Australia's Temptation. Take a trip through the gift shop by sending him an e-mail at traviseberle@gmail.com.

 

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