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Four Score: What Happens in Vegas II
January 28

If it's late January, then that means three things...

- American Idol. This isn't a column about that.
- My birthday; 30 really is the new 20.
- We're getting an early glimpse of the TV season to come, thanks to the fine folks at NATPE.

For the uninitiated, NATPE is the annual convention of the National Association of Television Program Executives, where producers and distributors meet with station and network bigwigs to sell their wares for the next season. It's considered, along with MIPCOM and the TCA tour, to be, by and large, a hotbed of activity and a great indicator of what's to come for TV in the near future. For writers like Alex, Carrie, Gordon and myself, it's the grand slam of game show news.

So here it is, the dead of winter, and we're just getting a little taste of what fall has to offer. To sum up, school will still be open on "5th Grader", there'll be a new face on the "Feud", "Deal or No Deal's" future is sketchy at best, and there may be a surprise or two...

1) Early renewals have been announced for Twentieth Television's "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" after a stellar first season. Much of it can be credited to a three-tiered plan of attack: traditional first-run syndication, off-broadcast cable on CMT, and primetime network on My Network TV. This increased visibility, and henceforth, increased audiences. While the count seems to have leveled off at a 1.5 to 1.7 range, its three-tiered approach has paid dividends in viability. If someone doesn't want it on syndication or if My Network TV wasn't available, there's always CMT, which is riding a high partly fueled by its game show programming. And this is just my personal opinion, but the 30-minute 11-question format seems better suited for this game. Everything seemed to fit into place, and with all hope, the show will continue to ride a wave of success well into 2011 and beyond.

2) There was early talk last week about "a companion" to "5th Grader", but no one was really sure as to what it was... until Monday, when it was announced that Twentieth Television was going to bring back Fox musical quiz "Don't Forget the Lyrics!" as a five-a-week strip with former Sugar Ray frontman and "Extra" host Mark McGrath as host. Much like "5th Grader" this year, "Lyrics!" will air on three outlets: syndication, My Network TV, and cable. This time, "Lyrics!" will air on CMT's sister station, VH1. Which makes perfect sense, after all it's a music quiz with a musical host, and it caters to that audience. And Mark McGrath, has hosting experience, so it's not like they're going to get some celeb to front it. With "5th Grader" and "Lyrics!", 20th TV is building a solid game block to last. And I have no doubt that it will.

And hey, "Singing Bee" struck gold twice, so... why not.

So where does that leave "Deal or No Deal", whose spot "Lyrics!" will take in the fall on My Network TV?

3) No one at production or distribution is going to come and say this outright... but say goodbye to "Deal or No Deal". Honestly, it was an idea whose time had some five years ago. Now it's an idea that's run its course. And you know what they say, everything in Hollywood has a use-by date. And we're here.

Consider this: Howie Mandel's moved on to America's Got Talent. The show's sets have been struck for a while at Sonalysts in Connecticut. Now this. I fully expect someone to come up with a laundry list of great length of all the reasons why "Deal" should remain on the air, to include specific moments with specific players going into way too much detail. But I guarantee you that such lists would forget one key figure. Last year this time, "Deal" hit a high of 2.5, assuring its return this year. This year... a 1.3. By my math, that's a drop of 48 percent. Not since "To Tell the Truth" in 2001, "Weakest Link" in 2002, or "Pyramid" in 2003 has there been a sophomore slump this huge. And not one of these three shows came back for a third season.

Now as a point of comparison, "Family Feud" is going into season 12 with numbers comparable to "Deal or No Deal", but it's been a consistent performer with a marginal budget. Ultimately, their bottom line is bigger than "Deal's", and say what you will about these numbers here on out, but mid-1s year after year is a point of consistency. When you halve your audience in year two... That's a death sentence. So, if I may quote the late great Michael Jackson... This is it. This is the final curtain call.

Which brings us to...

4) A new face on the Feud. John O'Hurley is that rare breed of performer... One who is suited to a format. One who did the original justice and was genuine in doing so. One that the people watching and the people playing could agree to like. And four years down the line, one who is leaving on his own accord, at the top of his game.

John O'Hurley has released a statement saying that he is walking away from "Family Feud" to concentrate on other interests, including the touring production of "Spamalot" and his ongoing golf business.

Replacing O'Hurley for season 12 is actor/comedian/writer/radio personality Steve Harvey, best known for being one of "The Original Kings of Comedy", which is actually a favorite around the Alexander house to pop into the player. I also have a copy of "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man," and catch reruns of his WB series whenever TBS airs it. Yeah, I'm a bit of a fan. And I'm looking forward to seeing what dimension he's going to take the Feud in.

We wish both John and Steve all the best in making that next step.

Game Show Alphabet Redux

We've reached "I". And a quiet revival in 1997 which turned out to be one of the last game shows on Family Channel before it went all Fox on us. It's "It Takes Two", where contestants' best guesses were averaged and the best ones won prizes. Celebs played back in 1969. Civvies played in 1997.

More information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Takes_Two_(game_show)

25 Days That Rocked the Game Show World: Day 22

A lot of attention was given to Betty White recently, what with her Lifetime Achievement SAG award and her laugh-riot performance in the Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds vehicle, "The Proposal". But to us, she'll always be the First Lady of Game Shows. And it wasn't because she happened to be wedded to one of the greats in Allen Ludden. That's just PART of it.

June 6, 1983: Betty... Meet Emmy.

It all started that January with a little show on NBC called "Just Men!" It only lasted all of 13 weeks, but it was enough for the would-be "Golden Girl" to snatch gold and become the first woman to win an Outstanding Game Show Host Emmy. Considering that she was up against perennial favorites Dick Clark (for "The $25,000 Pyramid") and Richard Dawson (for "Family Feud"), that's quite a feat.

Then came some show with Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty. I forget the name.

Chico Alexander wants you to be on the lookout for Vegas III. It's coming to you soon. Right now, though, e-mail him at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.