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Moving Day - April 6

The Amazing Race. There isn't a game show fan that has at least heard good things about it. The adventure. The challenge. The critical acclaim. The constant search for an audience.

So it stands to reason that the ninth running of the race wouldn't have all four of these aspects in spades. Especially given the events of the eighth season, which featured ill adventure, ill challenge, ill critical acclaim, and, perhaps as a result, an ill audience... either in numbers or in just general disdain.

This was punctuated in the brain move by CBS to move it to 10p on Tuesday night in order to give a new series a shot. Sure, the new series got the job done, but no one stuck around for the Amazing Race.

Out of the Gate

Consider the time-slot premiere of the Race, which was on March 7, one week after its season premiere. Whilst last season saw the show consistently place second in the 9p time slot opposite "House", this season's move to 10p showed some eradication of any hit status that the show might've had in the past, instead placing third at 10p with a 6.5/10 in the overnights and 9.37 million viewers. On the bright side, the target demo put the show at first with a 3.8/10.

The numbers hardly changed as the weeks went by, although that 3.8/10 for the 18-49 crowd was, since the first ep at 10p, only good for second place.

What's a network with a critically-acclaimed-but-audience-challenged game show to do? Admit fault (which networks are so rarely to do nowadays) and pick up stakes to find a more worthy home.

A Surefire Opening

Enter this week, when returning sitcoms "Out of Practice" and "Courting Alex" were deemed to be underperforming, resulting in a drop from the schedule. All of a sudden, a timeslot once inhabited by "Survivor" in its infancy became an out in a last-ditch effort to save the franchise (sure, it got a renewal for next fall, but what about afterwards?). And so the decision was made to move "The Amazing Race" to that timeslot.

But it had one thing to contend with that "Survivor" didn't... Formidable competition in the likes of growing young phenom "Deal or No Deal". More on that later, though.

The result... 5.3/8, third opposite "Deal" and Fox's "Bones". Believe it or not, while this looks to be a harbinger of disaster for the series, it's actually a good thing. The last habitant of this slot scored 23 percent less. All CBS has to do now is bide their time, make sure that everyone knows about the show, and pull out all the stops in order to get people to watch it.

But one would readily admit that this move shouldn't have had to happen in the first place. After all, just what was wrong with Tuesday at 9p to begin with? You're going to let a little thing like "American Idol" stop you from churning out quality programming?

That's a b(^_^)h move, CBS. Here's hoping you learn from that mistake.

Back to "Deal".

Monday's two-hour filler-riffic "Deal or No Deal" may have been a bit much for the young show to absorb, but you cannot question that it followed the winning strategy of students of the game: get in, ride the wave, get out.

And that it did. Final result:

Deal or No Deal: first, 11.2/16 in the overnights
The other big profile event, the NCAA Championship between Florida and UCLA (which, by the way, I had to win): 8.4/12 in the overnights in the hour against "Deal". Good only for third (second that hour? "24".)

Wednesday's show, which aired opposite a freshly-moved "Amazing Race", scored a 9.4/15 based on the national average. Last week, it was a 10.7/16. Usually I wouldn't press the panic button (heh, punny) when dealing with a bit of a dropout, but I would seriously think about having a bit more patience when dealing with this show, especially given that it runs the risk of being overexposed, as "Millionaire" was five years ago. We wouldn't want a primetime game show crash just months before its impending birth, would we?

A Brief History Lesson

And I say "impending birth" because of success breeding copycats. Reports from the New York Post are suggesting that other networks are now looking for their own "Deal or No Deal". We all remember how this worked with "Millionaire", did we? A brief history lesson...

- CBS: the network tapped "Millionaire" producer Celador to adapt "Winning Lines" for US audiences; it was done after six weeks.
- Fox: "Greed" went from knee-jerk response to solid game after a while, but needless gimmickry and the arrival (and cancellation) of "It's Your Chance of a Lifetime" doomed it.
- NBC: many on the boards (among them, original "Twenty One" champ Herb Stempel) claimed that it was trying to kill off the revival of "Twenty One." Of the early millennium games, this one, despite complaints that this show was a) giving away tons of money hand over fist and b) spoiling it when they did, performed the best, peaking as high as #19 in viewership. Fastforward to April of 2001 and "The Weakest Link," which, despite early successes, was mired with special editions and added episodes.

Moral of the story: we all heard the saying before... "Want to make a hit show, but don't have the money? Front a game show!" But, at the risk of sounding blasphemous, networks needn't be so frivolous about it. This will work if and only if they nurture the game, bide its time, not put too much of its stock on it, and wait for a return on its investment like the rest of us.

This is the true lesson of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?". This is a lesson that NOT ONE DAMN NETWORK has learned, save for Fox, who, despite its best wishes, will only put on one "American Idol" a year. They realize the truth in the age-old lexicon of keeping the audience wanting more. And the result? A number-one finish. Every week since January.

Coincidence? You tell me.

The Weekly Rant, or PlayMania... a.k.a GSN has eight late-night hours a week to spend on eye candy and programming on the cheap.

If you're an avid reader of the site (and thank you once again if you are), then you may have heard me refer to Jeff Probst as "the once and future Jeopardy! host". There's an interesting reason behind that. The "once" part is obvious. He used to host "Rock & Roll Jeopardy!" on VH1, and on occasion, he presents clues from "Survivor" locales.

And the "future" part... well, it just all comes down to a matter of opinion. I mean, we all know that the hosts we know and love will not be around forever, and a great majority of them will choose not to try. I don't doubt that Alex would be a part of this majority. And I sincerely think that Jeopardy!, thanks to its constant showing in the syndicated ratings, would last for a good long time. I would also think that Alex would have the sense to groom a successor of his own. Couple that with Jeff's experience on both sides of the game (as host and player) and his experience with trivia quizzes in general (as evidenced by the usual "get to know your surrounds" trivia challenges), and he's an obvious fit.

But several things would refute my argument. Among them, the long-term contract that Jeff has to host and produce "Survivor" for CBS. Also among them is the appearance that Alex doesn't look anywhere near the point where it's time to hang up his rapier wit and reading glasses on a shelf somewhere.

But still, it doesn't hurt anyone to prognosticate at what might be. And besides, with Meredith leaving ABC for NBC, the future of her stay on "Millionaire" might be called into question, although I think Buena Vista and NBC are working the kinks out of said deal. Per a report from B&C...

"Vieira also said she has not yet spoken with Buena Vista about whether or not she will continue in her role as host of Millionaire for the remaining two years on her contract. Vieira currently tapes the entire year of shows between September and December, shooting four shows a day three or four days a week. The show currently tapes at 2 p.m., and Vieira said that one possibility would be simply to move up the taping schedule to begin at noon."

Hey, if Hugh Downs can host "Concentration" while doing "The Today Show", then why the hell not?

As an aside to the small contingent of people who will look at the whole Katie-Meredith shuffle with derision and volume, protesting Katie's move to CBS and promising not to watch "Today" afterwards as if to say "We're here! We sneer! And damned if you don't agree with me..." Overdedicated fangirls mostly...

A friend of mine, Yuri Broze, came up with this little gem: "Put on your big girl panties and get over it." It's a bloody news show, and there are far more important things going on in the world. Grow up, will ya?

Chico Alexander would like to wish his mom a happy birthday. E-mail him at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.

 

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