Love Spirals Downward
Stop me if you've heard this one. GSN
gets a breakout hit game show, then the network, perhaps drunk on its own power,
decides to experiment with something that they think the public will enjoy that
may... or may not... actually cater to their target audience. That turns out to
be a major bust, and they go back to what got them to the power position in the
first place, putting out what turns to be another hit game show.
A man much wiser than I once said that
insanity is defined as doing the same thing twice and expecting a
different result. Another man wiser still once said that if
something happens twice, then it will happen three times.
So it begs the question... What the hell was GSN
doing airing "Carnie Wilson: Unstapled"? I mean, at least "Naturally Stoned"
gave us a behind-the-scenes look at "Lingo" in its prime. But if you take away
the family... the business... Diamond Dallas Page... the musical group... and
everything not having to do with "The Newlywed Game", you have... nothing that
your run of the mill viewer of GSN would watch. Not even a cheeky look at a
typical taping day.
Not to say that Carnie didn't have it coming to
her. After all, look at the way the last golden child of GSN was treated. Chuck
Woolery was tapped to host "Lingo" in 2002. Some two or three years later, he
was given a six-episode series about Chuck, his family, his life, and "Lingo".
That, while entertaining... didn't end well. Not for network. Not for Chuck. Not
And now from the looks of things, it's about to
happen all over again.
Granted, we don't have a number of how many
people viewed "Unstapled" and companion show "Hidden Agenda", but everyone I
asked, from fellow webmasters to fellow fans, has been quick to give this hour a
critical drubbing. And it's not just the whole "GSN = The Network for GamesHOWS"
crowd either. More or less, the 8p Thursday hour on GSN's schedule is indicative
of everything wrong with the current network administration thinking, saying in
no uncertain terms that "We don't care about our audience" and "we're not going
to ask you what you want. We're going to tell you what you want and you're going
to watch it. Because we own you."
The trouble is, we've been down this road before.
Remember the so-called great reformatting, where Game Show Network transformed
into GSN: The Network For Games and foisted upon us such fare as "Fake-a-Date",
"Kenny vs. Spenny", and "Vegas Weddings Unveiled"? They didn't fail because they
were bad. In fact, "Kenny vs. Spenny" is still a big hit in Canada, and it went
on to catch the favor of the South Park guys, sending it over to Comedy Central
for a new run. And "Anything to Win" was a masterclass in documentary
The lineup failed because the new entries were
hideously out of place. I mean, who's going to watch the making of a Las Vegas
wedding stripped in the middle of reruns of "Match Game"? Clearly GSN was going
for style points to court another demographic instead of growing the loyal band
of closet game show freaks they already have. After all, style is nothing more
than substance misplaced. "Kenny vs. Spenny" is proof of that, as the audience
is there to watch it. And that's what this boils down to, is audience.
Aside from making sure that expenditures don't
exceed revenue, GSN has a two-fold mission from where I'm sitting... Preserve
the classics from the early days of television to the greats of the new
millennium, and foster a new generation of original game show and competition
television programming. At least "Hidden Agenda" had a player-vs.-house element.
"Carnie Wilson: Unstapled" has ZERO games, ZERO game factor, ZERO game insight,
and thus, ZERO business being on the network.
It's not my place to tell GSN brass how to run
their network. If they want to piss millions of bucks down the toilet on this
series, it's not my business. But again, we've been here before. More wise men
have said that those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to
repeat them. More men wiser still have said that those who fail to learn from
the mistakes of history correctly... are simply doomed.
Not saying that Carnie Wilson isn't a talented
lady. Far from it. But there's a time and a place for her, and it's 6p ET.
And I don't know why, but I have this strange
suspicion that I'll be writing this column AGAIN in three years.
Game Show Alphabet Redux
This week, it's "H". This week, "H" is for "Hitman".
Before the movie based on the video game based on the action movie cliche...
there was just the idea of a video game brought to life. Genius Jay Wolpert
combined this premise with futuristic graphics and another format: the instant
bingeing-and-purging of information. Could you remember a story that you were
only told 30 minutes ago? Ten large says you can't.
Aside from the memorable finale ("If you would
like to be a contestant on 'Hitman', FORGET IT!"), it was also a show of firsts:
first show hosted by a then-unknown Peter Tomarken, first show where Tomarken
was paired with announcer Rod Roddy, first show with Fred Wostbrock, game show
historian and uberfan, on staff. And first game show, at least if memory serves
me right, with Randy West, currently "The Newlywed Game" announcer, as a
contestant. And Randy, if you're reading and I'm wrong (there's a reasonable
chance of both), PLEASE e-mail me.
25 Days That Rocked the Game Show World: Day 21
Before The Amazing Race and all of the race shows
it would go to inspire, there was one adventure series that billed itself as
"the first reality game show". And it was on MTV of all places.
July 19, 1995: MTV hits the "Road".
"Road Rules" was pitched as "The Real World" in
an RV. But over time, with clues, tasks, and the "handsome reward" at the end,
it would be acknowledged as television's first reality adventure game show,
blending eye-popping stunts, human drama, and scenic backgrounds into one
The show itself would go on for 14 seasons before
being put in the garage for good, but some of what made the show interesting
lives on in its spinoff, "The Real World/Road Rules Challenge".
Chico Alexander just got a clue at the end of
this task. It only says, "email@example.com."