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Now Hold On One Minute!
April 8

One of the good things that has come out of this site is that it is doesn't function on a bubble of one person's opinion, that we are truly a network of news, information, and ideas. From that network came a message that Gordon left me on my cell phone as NBC was announcing that they had picked up its two midseason game show entries, "The Marriage Ref" and "Minute to Win It".

"When is a flop anywhere else a hit? When it's on NBC! The Marriage Ref and Minute to Win It both get renewals, despite the fact that neither of them are going to get 8 million viewers. Marriage Ref averages a 7.2, Minute to Win It averages around 6. So if you're a Sunday show that's getting annihilated by everything else, CONGRATULATIONS! You're getting renewed! Woo-hoo! Now the question is, is it on Sundays or Wednesdays? Something to think about."

Something to think about indeed. After all, the ratings for both shows have not been breaking out by any means, and yet NBC decides to nurture them in hopes that they would sometime down the line, not because they are good on their own (one is essentially a high-stakes low-maintenance "Beat the Clock", and the other... well, it's just annoying), but because they don't have anything else.

Yes, NBC is averaging the lowest ratings since the heady days of "Pink Lady & Jeff", and yes, NBC probably shot itself in the foot with the failed Jay Leno experiment, but let's take a look at this from another viewpoint. Here's what the numbers looked like for Minute to Win It.

Episode 1 (Sunday 7p): 4.67m
Episode 2 (Sunday 8p): 7.47m
Episode 3 (Sunday 8p): 5.11m
Episode 4 (Sunday 8p): 5.73m
Episode 5 (Sunday 8p): 5.55m
Episode 6 (Wednesday 8p): 6.56m

Well, one thing is for sure, to answer one of Gordon's questions... If NBC has any brains in its peacock-sized head, it'll put the new episodes of "Minute to Win It" on Wednesdays, which, though weaker in the long run, will allow it to grow as a series. Even so... if this were any other network at any other time, the IV drip would've been turned on a long time ago.

But this is NBC in 2010, which looks strangely like NBC in 1980. Those were, shall we say, "interesting" times, where anything that registered a blip would be given the vote of confidence, if for no other reason that NBC simply doesn't have anything else to offer up in its place.

Well, last Wednesday was the blip, and NBC responded in kind with the vote of confidence. But if you listen to the NBC spinmasters, you will hear that it's more than just about the ratings.

One of the things that the show is hitting is viewer feedback with its website at NBC.com/minutetowinit, where you can get info on the games and submit viral videos testing them out in hopes that you will get the call to be a contestant. Can't make it out to LA? Got a camera, a deck of cards, an empty bottle of Izze, a few ping pong balls, and a quarter? Then you too can try to be a millionaire! Or make a really REALLY bad porno flick, but that's another story.

The truth of it is even simpler than just web traffic and sponsorships. It's a rule that game shows are, by and large, dirt cheap to produce. Studio-based series, even more so. And while past shows on NBC had to equip panic buttons, high-tech phones, control consoles, illuminated pedestals, and seats for 100, the prop department need only get a few items from the local Costco. So it's not just the traffic and the income that is warranting the renewal. It's also that NBC has made a show that's so cheap to produce, it's almost Nielsen proof. And the fact that it is outscoring previous time-slot occupant "Mercy" is almost, pardon the pun, a mercy-kill.

The same can be said for "Marriage Ref", which, with a high of 7.71 million, is also nothing about which to write home. The elation from the heads at NBC comes when you consider that it is replacing the god-awful "Jay Leno Show". Seriously, they could put on "Law & Order: Hall Monitor Unit" and if it got an audience bigger than the failed experiment, they'd be jumping out of their skins. It's not as cheap as "Minute" to produce. After all, you have to get a camera crew out to the homes, then book celebrity guests that aren't just there for what Joel McHale calls "contractual obligations to the network", and then pay Jerry Seinfeld for the whole shoot and match.

So to answer my partner-in-crime's question, a flop becomes a hit when cheap and mediocre is a better plan than reenacting "Supertrain".

Game Show Alphabet Redux

Let's talk about "Q". What do you get when you have one of television's oldest formats, a few of the game show's greatest minds, three kids, three adults, and Jonathan Prince?

A one-season wonder, apparently.

This week, it's "The Quiz Kids Challenge," a straight quiz played in three rounds with three kids that played throughout the week versus a new team of adults every day.

While both teams got to keep the money, only one team would get to call themselves the winner. I thought that was a bit of a cop-out in my later years, but at 10 years old, it didn't really matter much to me. I just wanted to see the kids win. A lot.

More information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiz_Kids_Challenge

Chico Alexander would like to remind you that Izze is the semi-official drink of GSNN. E-mail him locations in North Carolina where he can get some at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.