The Tale of the Tape -
Tonight is the biggest showdown in game shows since
Rutter made KenJen his biznotch last May (and thanks to
the wonder that is DVD, we get to see it over and over
again, but I digress). In this corner, from Panama...
"Survivor Panama: Exile Island!" And in the other
corner, from ABC Television Center in Los Angeles...
"Dancing with the Stars!" We both know that these two
powerhouses will be stopping at nothing to attract their
respective audiences, but who'll win out in the end?
Answer: we don't know.
The only thing we can do
right now is go to the tale of the tape...
Survivor: invented for
Swedish television by a former British soldier
DWTS: invented for
British television by a BBC controller
Survivor: takes place in
exotic, Discovery Channel-worthy locales riddled
with esoteric creatures and beautiful vistas
DWTS: takes place on a
dance floor riddled with bad lounge singers and
Survivor: hosted by Alex
Trebek's heir apparent
DWTS: hosted by Peter
Marshall's heir apparent, co-hosted by a cold
automaton of a co-host
2: The Numbers
Survivor: premiered in
summer 2000 to blockbuster ratings, helped CBS to #1
spot on Thursdays five years running, much to the
ire of "Friends" fans
DWTS: premiered in
summer 2005 to blockbuster ratings, helped ABC to #1
Wednesdays, much to the ire of no one
WITH THE STARS
Survivor: last season's
finale, 21.18 million viewers saw Danni Boatwright
win $1 million at the end of May sweeps
DWTS: last season's
finale, 21.84 million viewers saw Kelly Monaco and
Alec Mazo win a shiny disco ball trophy mid-summer
WITH THE STARS
Survivor: always wins
its time slot save for Sundays opposite "Desperate
DWTS: always wins its
WITH THE STARS
Survivor: hour long,
leads into "CSI", about 15 minutes too long
DWTS: 90 minutes long,
leads into "Crumbs", 60 minute result show leads
into crap, is 57 minutes too long
3: These Foolish Things...
include a tax fraud, a vote rig, a burning, and Sue
DWTS: scandals include
two judging faux-pas, a dance-off that no one cared
about, a voting system with its share of flaws, and
Survivor: brought to the
US via compatriot Mark Burnett
DWTS: brought to us by
Survivor: brushes with
fame... Gary Hogeboom
DWTS: brushes with
WITH THE STARS
The winner... well... US.
In a clash between two titans known for solid product,
you can be sure that the viewers will win out every
But who'll cast its
shadow over all of 8pm Thursday? That, we'll find out
tomorrow when the numbers come in.
Yesterday, we reported
that the three top game shows in syndication stayed on
top... But we didn't expect that all of them would reach
new season zenith to contend with. To review: Wheel of
Fortune was up to a 9.3. In previous weeks, the highest
it got was an 8.9. That represents a 9 percent increase
from year to year and a 104 percent retention from week
to week. Jeopardy!'s highest before this week was a 7.2.
This week, a 7.5, 1 percent from year to year, 104
percent retention from week to week. Millionaire was
known for five weeks tying its best at 3.3. This week,
it's up to 3.6. That's 3 percent from the year before
and 110 percent out of last week.
Even "Family Feud", whose
ratings are a Dickens to find in the news, had some good
news, as they too crept to a season high of
2.3, up 10 percent from the year
File this one under
"Uh oh, the kids love it!"
We all remember at the
'net incredibly savaging "Skating with Celebrities" for
the ripoff wannabe it didn't even hide itself to be.
Apart from that, it seems to be drawing numbers for
itself on its Monday night home.
The premiere three weeks
ago scored thusly out of "American Idol": a 7.2/17 in
the Adults 18-49 demographic, a 11.2/16 in households,
and average 18.7 million viewers. Good numbers for
second place, especially given the fact that it was up
against ratings behemoth "Lost".
The following week, some
skidding off the treads, but not enough to discount it.
Up against stiff opposition from CBS, episode 2 scored a
3.7/9 in Adults 18-49, a 7.0/10 in households, and
averaged 10.9 million viewers at 8p, again, all good for
second. And all better than the Arrested
Development/Kitchen Confidential hour that we'll just
file under "Brilliant, but Cancelled" for now.
This past week, the
duality of the Numbers Game set in. Skating scored first
with 10 million viewers, but it was on a night where the
show faced CBS reruns.
Next week, CBS is back
into full swing for sweeps. Will Fox keep up or will
ratings continue downward? While it remains one of Fox's
consistent performers from January, it remains to be
seen whether it should be carried long-term.
But in the meantime, ABC
would be wise to try and cash in on that action... After
all, lawsuits are where the real money is made.
The Weekly Rant, or
Survivor Panama: Exile Island. Of all the seasons that
ever were, this... is the most recent.
I've been getting e-mails about why people don't win on
game shows. Why aren't people getting the bonus puzzles?
Why aren't people getting above the $50,000? Why aren't
people winning a new car?
The fact of the matter is: a game show is competition.
There has to be a winner and a loser. Sometimes the
house favors competition. Sometimes the player. And as
much as I want to post the mathematical odds of a person
crapping out on Magic Number, I am too busy just
enjoying the natural interplay of man vs. man, man vs.
house, or in the case of many primetime competitions,
good vs. evil.
But I will concede one thing, though. There's a saying
in Vegas that applies when you're dealing not with game
shows themselves, but with the people behind them: "We
win, you lose." And it seems like they're adhering to
that phrase. How? The same reason by which contestants
on "American Idol" or "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"
are chosen... Good television comes first.
If you have been an avid reader of this site, you know
that I had passed an audition test for "Millionaire",
yet I was not called back for a spot on the show.
Meanwhile the rest of the players we see have yet to
score the big prize. While I am not stupid enough to
promise that I will deliver one million, I have to
question the fairness of the selection process that we
have come to adopt. My colleague Jason Block has said on
more than one occasion: bring back the phone game.
If only good television and good players could go
together that easily. Actually they could never go
together that easily. If you have the best of the best
going at it without any catalysts to create a spectrum
of ability, you have a very boring show. And no one
likes a boring show. At the same time, if you have a
situation such as next week's "Walk-in and Win" on
Millionaire every day, you're going to attract more
lamers than logisticians. And no one likes that, either.
You are all a very hard to please bunch, you are.
So is there a middle
ground? Perhaps. But what, if anything, will come of it?
All we can do is look at the players who have come and
gone... and then draw your own conclusions from that.
Bottom line: You want to
do something about the skid? Become a contestant
yourself if you think you're so good, or vanish in a
cloud of logic... if you'd rather not.
Chico Alexander is not
in the least bit bitter. In fact, he's a darn nice guy
if you take him out to lunch. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.