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TV's Second Season
January 8

After a week to celebrate (or get over) New Year's, the game show world has sprung to life. Usually around this time, networks are counting their fall losses and making moves to put on product that normally wouldn't stand a whore's chance in heaven on the fall schedule (see: "Singing Bee, The").

Thus was born... midseason. And it was good. So good, in fact, that people have begun to schedule their fortunes around it. For example, Fox's Black January is won or loss on how strong the auditions are for "American Idol", even as the last two seasons failed to match the splendor of seasons 2 and 4. Elsewhere on the schedule, ABC is shaping up another winning Monday-Tuesday one-two punch of "Dancing with the Stars". And it shames me to say, but the women will tune in to "The Bachelor" whether he chooses one person or not. CBS has another game of "Survivor" on tap, and this particular running of "The Amazing Race" has proven to be one of the best since the show first aired in 2001. CW is raring to go with its heavy-handed one-two punch of "America's Next Top Model" and "Beauty and the Geek".

But this year, networks are posed a somewhat more bewildering task than usual, due in no small part to the writer's strike that has so far put Hollywood on the brink of critical mass.

Critical mass of what, you say? Well, take a look at last Sunday on NBC. Without football, all they had to run were two game shows, one which is beginning to suffer from Millionaire-like overexposure, and the other which would've been better off on the summer schedule. "Deal or No Deal", which was on the fall schedule all of twice on Wednesdays and Fridays was on for four hours over three nights... just this week alone. Seems like any time there's a show that needs an added boost, there's "Deal or No Deal", arguably still the biggest game show to hit the airwaves since "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (more on that later... yes, I just spoiled the latest 25DTRTGSW). Look at "American Gladiators." It averaged a modest 6.7/10, making it the network's most watched show that night (apparently the quickest way to kill a show is to put it on against "60 Minutes", as "Deal" ran a 6.2/10. Good for a Sunday, but not for a superfluous showing).

And you really can't blame them. After all, they're making millions by giving away millions on a relatively low-cost affair.

"Deal or No Deal" is already on the verge of running its course only eight months removed from its scheduled syndication bow, but the NBC schedule as it is is full of holes caused by writers for "Heroes", "The Office", and the like logging off from their laptops and picking up picket signs. As Gordon mused in the State last week, NBC is devoting roughly half of its schedule to non-scripted programming, and said gambit could pay off big or end up costing the already strapped-for-cash Peacock. Elsewhere, "Power of 10", which proved to be a success in the summertime, is in danger of teetering thanks to a less-than-stellar showing in its second season premiere (which, we should say, was pummeled by "Deal"). "The Singing Bee", also a summer success, is nearing the end of its burnoff. "Duel" and "Clash of the Choirs" proved to be "the battle that really wasn't", as neither show really gelled with the audience.

So what's a television landscape in the time of cholera to do? Simply put, throw something on the board and see what sticks. CBS is readying an early season rollout for its summer experiment in voyeurism "Big Brother", while quietly preparing a new season of "Amazing Race". NBC is pulling out all the stops with "1 vs. 100", "Biggest Loser Couples", "American Gladiators", and "The Celebrity Apprentice", and for the moment, it seems like the Silverman gambit is working. Fox is planning to couple its already successful franchises ("American Idol", "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?", and "Don't Forget the Lyrics!") with an early rollout for "Hell's Kitchen" and the new series "The Moment of Truth". ABC has "Dance War" to fall back on before the new season of "Dancing with the Stars". My sister Quisla says that if this show succeeds, it'll be due to judges-turned-coaches Bruno Tonioli (he used to sing? Wow...) and Carrie Ann Inaba. After watching the premiere... I'm inclined to agree. Just remember, though. Even "American Juniors" had Ryan Seacrest. There's also "guaranteed success" written over "Oprah's Big Give", if only for the title.

We'll just have to take a wait-and-see on this one, but unless the nets either come back to the table with a deal for writers or begin searching for scabs, expect the 2008 fall season to look... a lot like midseason.

Game Show Alphabet...

Some of the best game shows were born from party games... What's My Line?, Card Sharks, and Win, Lose or Draw, to name a few. So what would happen when a relatively new board game would come to the TV screen only FIVE years after it was created?

Thus we come to "Game Shows starting with S." Sounds like something you'd hear playing "Scattergories."

The game show version had a short run on NBC in 1993 along with "Scrabble" (another game show beginning with S) and was hosted by Dick Clark from January 18 to June 10 of that year. The format could best be described as "Match Game" in reverse... only with four-player teams... and played on video screens ("Scrabble's" Chuck Woolery was often seen as a video panelist).


25 Days That Rocked the Game Show World: Day 4

For many game show producers, creators, and fans, it was "the day when everything changed."

Turn back the clock for a moment. Michael Davies, a producer that helped create "Win Ben Stein's Money" for Buena Vista TV, was in his home country of Britain for a while, watching a show that had only been on the air for a few months. But the particular episode that he did watch, one with a lady by the name of Fiona Wheeler, would be enough for him to try and make a play to get the show on the air in the US. The results would put a network on the map, change the way a quiz show was produced, make Davies and Regis Philbin household names, and... of course... rock the game show world.

August 16, 1999 - America Plays Millionaire

The first string of shows played only one day after taping (Monday's show was taped that Sunday, Tuesday's show was taped that Monday, etc.), and said shows exploded onto primetime. Once the first finale aired, ABC wanted more of the same, while other networks were struggling to find their own Millionaire killers, thus spawning the great game show renaissance in 1999, which gave birth to such series as "Greed", "Winning Lines", and "Twenty One".

Not only did it change the way game shows were run, it also changed the way game shows were produced. In creating sequential lighting, computerized question generating, and menacing set design (trading the popular for that time woodgrain for cold steel and neon), "Millionaire" showed that certain aspects of the experience can be heightened for dramatic effect. And one can lay blame to Regis for creating the "commercial break stall tactic" that is commonly used today.

Technically, you could actually blame the original British host Chris Tennant for that. My bad.

Unfortunately, it also became the first show of its kind to run for four nights at its peak, thus contributing to its downfall on ABC, a move from which the network has only recently resurfaced. But at least the legacy was far reaching. Michael Davies went on to produce more favorites such as "Grand Slam" (which saw several former "Millionaire" masters play), "2-Minute Drill", "Smush", "Chain Reaction", "World Series of Pop Culture", and "Power of 10". "Millionaire" continues as one of the top game shows in syndication, and though the set may have changed, the drama and excitement still remain.

And that's our final answer.

Chico Alexander wishes he could relive his 21st birthday again, so he can be in his college dorm room when Millionaire called. E-mail him at