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The Greatest Story Ever Sold - March 30

While updating this here site that you're reading (and in case I haven't said it enough, THANK YOU for doing so, it's a lot of work, and it's all for you), I ran across this blurb in B&C's daily update...

The controversy surrounding Fox's American Idol featuring singers who aren’t amateurs does not seem to be having much of an effect on its ratings. As always, Idol crushed everything in its path on Tuesday night, according to Nielsen Fast Affiliate numbers (live plus same day). The show scored a 12.9 rating/32 share in the key 18-49 demo from 8-9.

Which got me thinking... Did I miss the part where it became a controversy? After all, we all know that while the point of American Idol is to create a new pop star (or country, or R&B, or what have you), the hook is not to make good music, but to make good television. After all, why else would you read stuff on VoteForTheWorst.com?

I'm by no means muffling the argument. After all, we all know the recently departed Lisa Tucker was a former Star Search champion. Chris Daughtry and Bucky Covington are both in bands here in North Carolina. Kellie Pickler, despite her forced inanity, was a beauty pageant contestant. Paris Bennett's talent runs deep in her blood (after all, Ann Nesby of Sounds of Blackness is her grandmother). Katharine McPhee's mother is a voice coach.

But to suggest a controversy? How? We're all about numbers in this column, but let's go into words for a second... Webster's defines "controversy" as "a discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing view". Now I've been looking into this sort of singer on Idol this year, and so has my partner in crime, and it seems that the X-factor is the phrase "expression of opposing view."

The only "opposing view" we've found is the above statement. Kinda squirrelly, isn't it? I mean, sure there's a shadow on a show that lost its innocence on more than one occasion, but to suggest that there keeping the professionalism of its contestants under wraps is a little bit misleading.

I'm reminded of what Jason said before, "If it bleeds, it leads." But I digress.

Are they creating good music? Good enough to warrant its continued credibility (whatever is left of it, after all, how credible is an amateur singing career when someone presses the fast-forward button, taking two or three years of hard work and condensing it into an eight-month period, but that's another rant for another day). Are they creating good television? Absolutely. In fact, I'm of the mindset that at Tuesday at 8p, there are two shows on: "American Idol" and everything else.

Is there a conflict between the two? No doubt. I mean, that's par for the course on reality TV. The players create the game... the show creates the story. That's all there is to it. And it seems like a good blend of both will keep the masses entertained.

Wise man once said, if you build it, they will come. If you build it well, they will stay, going into our second prime time game success story....

A Big Deal Indeed.

... "Deal or No Deal", which is slowly but surely making believers out of skeptics that thought that this show wouldn't do well against regular competition (just ask Gordon; his recent SOP in character development details how crafting the story of someone's life around the game and the possible results are creating game show heroes not seen since the early days of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"). And the audience loves it. This week, you the viewers (all 16.8 million of you) made the Monday episode of "Deal or No Deal" the sixth-most-watched show this week. The show is only bested by both "American Idol"s, "CSI Miami", "Desperate Housewives" and "60 Minutes". The Wednesday show ranked #12 with 14.95 million viewers.

If NBC doesn't renew this for a second season of shows, then ... I don't know. People would kill for numbers like these. And to not capitalize would just be foolhardy.

But then again, this is the same network that thought that Americanizing "Coupling" was a good idea.

Also of note... It turns out that the show, which is getting off-network play on CNBC, is doing better than new original projects for the network, including Michael Eisner's new show. Consider this, released by Reuters today...

"Conversations with Michael Eisner" brought in just 95,000 viewers, according to data released Wednesday by Nielsen Media Research. "Conversations" plunged from its lead-in, a repeat of  "Deal or No Deal," which drew 518,000 viewers. The premiere was down 23% in viewers compared with CNBC's average in the time slot in the first quarter of this year.

Well, Michael Eisner has something else in common with Donald Trump. Both can't use the success of their lead in to hold an audience for jack.

To quote another good friend of mine, Laura Shew... "Daaaaaaaaamn, son!"

Also faring well in their debut week...

- Bravo's "Top Chef", which yielded 720,000 viewers.

- Fox's "Unan1mous", which proves that you could put grass growing on after Idol and still get a hit out of it, was the ninth most-watched show of the week with a sampling of 16.04 million. But here's the crutch... It only retained 58 percent of "American Idol"s overflow audience (the show aired until 9:32p). The second week dropped slightly to 14.43 million.

- Syndie games are, for the most part, on the upswing. Last week, "Wheel of Fortune" (with a 9.3) and the soon-to-be-Karn-less "Family Feud" (2.1) were up from the last year with a 9.3 and a 2.1 respectively (up 0.3 and level respectively). "Millionaire" was level from last year and last week with 3.4. "Jeoaprdy"! is down to a 6.9. That's a 9 percent drop from last year and 0.3 from last week. Again, consider that last year, we were in UTOC play for that.

The Weekly Rant, or Richard Karn is excused with the thanks of the Chairman.

Well, the GSN/Time Warner conflict has finally hit home. After reading about Houston, Binghamton, and the Piedmont Triad, the Raleigh-Durham market saw GSN move to Digital Sports. I caved and forked over the $3 to stay in the game. Call it a real-life version of "High Stakes Poker", but I figure that I spend more on less.

The truth of the matter is... GSN should've seen it coming.

After seeing a record ratings drop since changing from a big green ball to a big black square, the object of cheer and derision from game show fans has become the target of a reorganization, as Time Warner no longer sees the network as a viable entity for a broad-scale audience.

And, as we love to say around here. The fact remains that GSN is a company, not a magic lamp. At the end of the day, the network serves to tap into an audience to collect a revenue. They saw that Fox Reality could tap into the same audience, and changed accordingly to mixed results. "Anything to Win" and "High Stakes Poker" continue to be performers, "The Amazing Race" has not yet seen a grand return on the $6 million investment paid forward, and the jury will be out for a while once "Lingo" and "I've Got a Secret" premiere, but you had to kiss a lot of frogs first. Anyone for "Fake-a-Date"? "American Dream Derby?"

In returning to classic form game shows and building up on its card slate, GSN is readily admitting that the switchover was a bad idea in some aspect. But it seems that the idea is now a moot point in some areas, and the revelation may have come too little, too late.

And now, karma has come to collect.

But then again, whether or not the same could be said for Outdoor Channel is yet unknown, so perhaps I should just thank my lucky stars that I still have the channel.

Chico Alexander sees one less meal at Salsarita's in the foreseeable future. E-mail him coupons at chico@gameshownewsnet.com

 

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