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(Debmar) Mercury Rising
February 12

Last week in InSites, I talked about NATPE, and how one company wouldn't stop talking about Merv Griffin's Crosswords (to a fault almost), and how another remained tight lipped about Deal Or No Deal. Now it's time to take on the second of the new fall syndication offerings, and the people who are poised to give it to you.

I will admit, when I first heard of the story about Debmar Mercury taking over the distribution rights of "Family Feud" earlier in 2006, the first thought that came to my mind was "Who?" Research showed that the company is actually the TV arm of Lionsgate Films, whose last TV game show venture, "Iron Chef USA" (not to be confused with the vastly superior "Iron Chef America"), was met with disdain and contempt... at the same time. All I knew was that they put "South Park" in syndication. I mean, what do I know?

Turns out that they knew exactly what they were doing when they were given the distribution rights to Family Feud beginning with this season (the previous distributor Tribune was divesting all of its TV assets and getting out of the business at last check). In the same season, FremantleMedia began producing the show alongside 20th Television, partly to make package deals with "Temptation" a little less difficult.

The result? The show is marketed more than it has ever been, and the audience was larger than it was last year, holding steady at a 2.0, which, given this day and age, is almost a surefire for renewal.

In fact, it's the company's hopes that they can package this with "Trivial Pursuit: America Plays", which is currently in its planning stages after having been given the greenlight by Debmar-Mercury and Hasbro, who currently holds the license in the US for the game. And it seems like the company is banking on that license and that name for more success. Mort Marcus, co-chair of Debmar-Mercury, said, "Anything that has a brand attached to it has a better chance of getting noticed."

Which is probably one of the reasons why NBC is just putting the "Deal or No Deal" name out there with little else. Because if someone greenlit the show and found out that they're still working the kinks out of it, they'd probably be a little pissed.

Not to give any premature props to Debmar-Mercury OR to "Trivial Pursuit". After all, all we know about it right now is that it's slated for fall, it's hosted by Mark L. Walberg, and that it'll be the THIRD attempt to bring the board game to the small screen.

So why are we doing this again? Two reasons: expanding market and quickie turnaround. Come fall, there will be no less than eight game shows on in the day time ("Temptation" is still very much a bubble show). And all of them, when you compare them to their primetime cousins, are dirt-cheap to produce. The secret, according to Marcus, is a slow rollout due to low overhead. "[They are] a great way to introduce new shows for stations," Marcus said. "They get to see how a show might perform, and they get to really touch and feel what the show is, instead of asking them to make a huge commitment based on a five-minute tape."

Sounds like a tortoise-beating-hare approach, and historically, tortoises last a good long time. Just look at "Street Smarts". We'll just have to wait to see what happens.

But so far, it's beginning to sound a lot like the story of Roger and Michael King and a little show called "Wheel of Fortune".

Game Show Alphabet

This one's a tricky entry, because the last time I checked, there weren't any game shows beginning with "X" in the US. There was "X-Fire" on what is now Versus, but that was more of an import. There is "X-Factor", but again, I never saw it, so I couldn't gauge it.

And if you look in your handy-dandy encyclopedias (Schwartz, Ryan & Wostbrock), there's no "X".

So, in true "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" fashion, I would like to use a cheat.

That said, this week's entry is.... "Extreme Dodgeball". Best of three matches (in the first two seasons), regens, and grown men and women in costume throwing balls at each other. Any more fun, and it would just be "bombardment!"

Plus, the show made GSNN legends of Tobias "The Sniper" McKinney, creator of the suicide leap, Michael "Handsome" Costanza, Mark "Pretty Boy" Pontius, David Benedetto, Portis "The Chinchilla" Hershey, and Kimberly "Dodgeball Case, Howie" Estrada. Yeah, we're some sick bastards at the 'net.

"Extreme Dodgeball" -

25 Days That Rocked the Game Show World: Day 9

The next day in the calendar of the 25 days that rocked the game show world wasn't just a bunch of good ideas lumped together in one show. It was the beginning of a business empire that would span seven decades.

Mark Goodson created a radio show in 1946, and when it was spun off into a TV series in 1948, a TV dynasty was born.

July 1, 1948 - Winner Take All Premieres on TV

It's probably the most barebones of all one-on-one television game shows throughout history. They have questions, you have answers. It took three to win. You had a buzzer. Your opponent had a bell. Signal if you know it.

The game was simple, but its legacy was far reaching.

- This was the first show created by Goodson-Todman Productions. Since then, there has been at least one Mark Goodson Productions show on the air at one time or another every week for 60 years!

- This show created a landmark concept: the returning champion. Since then, many of the great games of the past have employed this concept, from "Twenty One" to "Jeopardy!".

- This was the first game show hosted for TV by a 32-year-old DJ from Pittsburgh by the name of Bill Cullen, who had previously hosted the radio version.

The show ended as a stand-alone in 1952, but it would not be the last gas of Mark Goodson's illustrious career.

Chico "Bald & Sexy" Alexander gives nicknames to people he speaks very fond of. E-mail him at