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Childhood - March 17

Switching things up this week for obvious reasons.

The weekly rant, or an homily for my childhood.

"Take your fondest memory... hold it close to your heart and don't let go."
-Randy Amasia, 1957-2001

Children of the 80s and game show fans alike lost a hero this week with the passing of Peter Tomarken.

I can't say anything more that a) my colleagues have also said or that b) would sound cliche... But I will try.

First of all... I can remember my first glimpse of the man from Olean doing what he does best. It was winter break of 1985, the first real break since starting kindergarten. After hearing Bob Barker foretell of holiday reruns (to explain his hair switching from brown to gray and back to brown). I was, in that essence, like at least thousands of other kids my age... Waiting in some sadistic fashion for someone to hit a yellow block and Peter to say "Stoooooop at a Whammy."

That familiar voice... the voice that talked of "instant experts", shops in Saint Louie Mo, and being just a little bit paranoid... that voice is silenced now, by the ebb and flow of the Sea of Time.

Thanks to the fine folk at USA, an entire generation knows about this man. Thanks to the fine folk at GSN, a new generation will soon follow.

As for me... Well, I never met the man. My only connection with him was an old beat-up eMachines that I won as a web contestant on the final episode of "Paranoia." That and several years of watching the show that made him the man he is today...

As insensitive as it may sound, consider the numbers... 1983, the year his first show he hosted, Jay Wolpert's "Hit Man", premiered. 6, the number of shows that he hosted, not including failed pilots. 3, the number of years "Press Your Luck" ran on CBS. 8, the number of years "Press Your Luck" ran in off-broadcast reruns on USA. Fans of his erstwhile talent... countless.

Even casual viewers my age know the man, as is proven by my friend, Chris Neumann, an artist whose first glimpse of GSN (and to record, his only glimpse) was an episode of "Inquizition". "I don't even really remember him," he said, "even though I saw the show so much as a kid."

And that's what we kids remember. Our childhood.

Probably something in me thinks that my childhood is now officially over. Goodbye, beautiful world, nothing will ever be the same again.

But all has been said that needs to be said... We forge on, as always, with one foot in the past and one in the here and now.

Here is my foot in the past... He lived a life of love. Reportedly, he didn't like a single show he hosted, but he loved hosting. More than that, I like to think that he loved to make other people happy. In that, he died doing what he loved most... making other people happy. Now he proceeds on to his eternal reward with that knowledge.

Here is my foot in the present... There's one final number... 18... The number of episodes GSN will air on Sunday in his honor. Rewatch. Revisit. Remember.

Some of our readers are of the school of thought that this grief we as a community feel is only temporary, and that we all will see him and Rod Roddy and Gene Wood and Ralph Edwards again. I understand and respect that.

But for now, on behalf of a generation, Peter... Thanks. For the memories... For the joy... For everything. Just.... thanks.

Now... back to business as usual.

The weekly ratings, or Anything to Win... also the subtitle of American Idol 5.

It seems that the Winter Olympics has put a damper in game show viewing... Actually, in syndicated viewing all around. We'll start with the quizzers in daytime first off... The sweep has been over for quite some time now, and here are the results... Cue the lights, please, Bruce.

Wheel of Fortune: Last sweep, an 8.9, down 10 percent from last year, but still a top draw in syndication. For obvious reasons. The week of February 27, it rose to a 9.2, still down seven percent from last year.

Jeopardy!: Last sweep, a 7.2, down 13 percent from last year, when it was beginning its Ken Jennings love-in, the Ultimate Tournament of Champions (I met Jerome Vered and Steve Chernicoff during last year's GSC. Nice blokes, those). Last week, only down 12 percent, as it scored a 7.4 up from the sweep.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Last sweep, down 11 percent to a 3.3. The week in question, down 3 percent to a 3.4, up from the sweep, but still two-tenths off its season best.

I guess the search for that elusive person to run the 15 has killed the mystique a tad. We haven't had a million-dollar winner since Kevin Smith.

Family Feud: Of the year-to-year game show comparisons, Feud was the only show not to add or subtract, staying constant at a 2.2. The week in question.... also a 2.2.

In primetime, there are really three big games... American Idol, Deal or No Deal, and Survivor.

Of those, one used to be really big, one still is really big, and one's well on its way to get really big.

First, used to be. Survivor experienced another first with "Exile Island"... The first season to average less than 20 million viewers. Thanks in part to the Olympics, Dancing with the Stars, and American Idol, "Survivor" only manages 15 million viewers each night. Which is still pretty good if you think about it. Thursdays at 8p is a hard nut to crack, and even with third-and fourth-place finished during the sweep, it still managed to attract a decent-sized audience.

Then, still is. American Idol has become more of an event than ever. This week's shows are among the top of TV, drawing 28.09 million viewers for Wednesday's elimination and 32.77 million for the two-hour performance show. What can be said that hasn't been said before, except... Go, Fox.

We've seen the past and the present. How about some future shock, kiddies. Deal or No Deal, while still not mirroring its hit status from December, is still a pretty solid hit for NBC. The first week's Friday show tied with "The Ghost Whisperer" at a 7.6/13 in households (second), 12.09 million viewers (second) and a first-place 4.0/12 among adults 18-49.

The next Monday at 8, it's all about Howie. The show scored 9.0/13 in the overnights, 14.68 million viewers and a 4.9/13 among adults 18-49, all first. That Friday, a reprise of the last Friday, with a household rating of 6.4/12 (second), 10.38 million viewers (second), 3.4/11 (tied for first).

Finally, Monday. Big numbers on Monday, growing out a 9.9/15 in the overnights, 15.38 million viewers and a 5.2/14 among adults 18-49.

If I may revisit that statement from that site that will remain nameless, "While Deal Or No Deal may be unlikely to deliver the 12.7 million viewers that it averaged during its December broadcasts when it begins airing weekly on Mondays..."

I don't mean to say I told you so, but... in your face, Mr. X. But still, the Wednesday shows worry me. I'm hoping a premature burnout is not imminent.

Let's go to cable. If you read the site, you know that "Flavor of Love" was quite the hit for VH1, topping out at 5,880,000 viewers. You can bet that it's a birthday present that Flav would want, as it may open the door for more of that kind of show on VH1.

I guess we can all forgive the network for the stinkfest that was "But Can They Sing" now.

Also of note, GSN's Anything to Win, episode "Tonya Harding: Her Story" on Sunday delivered the highest ratings for an original telecast in primetime this season, with a 0.7 in households. That translated into an above average 575,000 viewers. If GSN wants an example of why the network should be kept on some systems, this would be a prime example.

And finally, the happy ending. Let's talk endings. "Beauty and the Geek" was a darling for the WB over the summer. It continued to be a darling on Thursdays as well, as we await the third season switchover... Overnights, the finale scored a fifth-place 2.9/4, delivering 3.76 million viewers. The finale of the initial summer run yielded 4.06 million. Not bad considering the competition ("Dancing with the Stars" and "CSI" mainly).

A happy ending indeed.

Chico Alexander welcomes your memories of childhood at


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