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Everything's a game of numbers...

Today is

Fall Back - May 18

Well, the upfronts are coming fast and furious, and many of our favorite primetime competitions are safe and sound. "Survivor", "The Amazing Race", "Dancing with the Stars", and "Deal or No Deal" will return this fall, while "American Idol" and "The Apprentice" will be back midseason. The hybrid CW is getting another round of "Top Model".

Oh yeah, and as final proof of the devil's work on earth, "The Bachelor" will be back as well.

But perhaps the big news on the game front is the surprise arrival of ABC's "Set for the Rest of Your Life", one of the three pickups from Endemol.

But the timing and the placement concern me.

ABC's "Set" for Failure

What's the worst thing you can do for a mid-season game show? Slot it opposite American Idol.

Here's the situation. In the wake of the success of "Deal or No Deal" (and it's quite a success, mind you... More on that later), everyone, much like the situation seven years ago, is looking for its own "Deal" breaker... or its own "Deal" period. Endemol and "Deal" creator Dick de Rijk were happy to oblige, selling three properties to NBC, Fox, and ABC. So far, only the ABC entry, in which pairs compete for a regular stipend, hence the title, has earned a spot on the schedule.

That spot: Tuesday at 8p upon the conclusion of "Dancing with the Stars".

Let's look at the calendar. Assuming a September launch for "Dancing with the Stars", that show would complete its run at the end of November sweeps, which would clear the way for "Set" to premiere in December, to run presumably to the end of the season.

One out of two things could happen.

1) Another "Deal" scenario, in which the show launches in the December doldrums and catches fire as NBC did.

2) It could fizzle, catch buzz with no one, and then once Fox enters the fray with "American Idol", meet a certain and swift death. As "NCIS" proved, the best you can hope for against that is a competitive second.

We'll see what fortune ABC will wrest from this gambit... but if you were going to bring a knife to a gun fight, you could've brought back "Millionaire" instead of an unproven ringer. But that would be a smart move to make, and networks aren't want for smart moves.

I guess this is why we only WRITE about these things.

But back to the show that started this whole mess to begin with...

Another week, another big "Deal".

Earlier, I said that "Deal or No Deal" was quite a success. I was being modest. The show had faced numerous obstacles... House, Idol, the President, the Ghost Whisperer... yet still managed to come out smelling of roses. And it's a good thing, because we all love the drama that unfolds on the stages.

Here's what happened Monday:

The two hours that Deal or No Deal was scheduled for were dominated by the game and the President on the East Coast, and the game itself on the west coast. NBC placed first for the first hour with a 8.8/14. That number rose in the second hour with a 10.9/15, one of the highest scores in the show's six-month history. It wasn't enough to beat "Grey's Anatomy," but if you won all the time, the Numbers Game wouldn't be interesting.

But still, there's a rule that has to be followed with this sort of thing, as written by Nintendo wunderkind Shigeru Miyamoto: "Promise what you can deliver, then deliver more than what you promised." I'm sure the Donald wouldn't have minded terribly if his show started at 10:25 instead of 10. After all, other nets aired their lineups in their entirety. What's wrong, NBC? You know you're going to screw it anyway, you might as well screw it on the side of caution. Give all of us all of the show, not half of us three-quarters of it.

As long as you get the job done, I suppose.

And while we're on that...

What happened to once a week? Apparently NBC hasn't learned a damned thing from "Millionaire" or "Weakest Link." So not only did they renege on a promise not to overdo the Deal, they went behind the best counsel of Endemol and have put their prized goose in jeopardy.

But all is not lost, as the show will run once a week for the rest of its season, up until the June 3 season finale. Then it's a summer without. Bitter, I know. But remember the old saying, "absence makes the heart grow fonder."

Going down to syndie land...

"Wheel of Fortune" for the second week of sweeps is down 3 percent from year to year with a 7.8, but still it's the top show in syndication. Jeopardy!, unfortunately, dropped to a 6.4, with 7 million viewers watching the prelude to a tournament. "Millionaire" holds steady, albeit off by 3 percent at a 3.1 with 3.43 million watching. Family Feud is clinging to its 2.0 rating as it drops 5 percent from last year.

John O'Hurley can't come soon enough.

The Weekly Rant, or shameless plug, my a cappella alma mater just released its first CD!

"Family Feud". Cute. Addictive. Hard to follow.

We all see the signs: ill-timed tourneys and specials for sweeps, schedule jumping, and episodes that will only show in double run markets.

So what does this have to do with the upcoming Feud on "Game Show Marathon". Well, if they want to ratchet up the enjoyment factor, everything.

And I'm not talking set revamps either. I happen to LIKE the Feud 2005 set just fine. After all, if you can't change, you can't grow. And if you can't grow, you can't evolve. And if you can't evolve, the game show as we know it is dead.

What I propose is what FremantleMedia is actually hinting at, based on conversations I've had with Dan Berger and Alex Davis, who just happened to be close to production of "Game Show Marathon": having the shows serve as pilots for a companion series to the Feud.

Let's break it down, shall we?

- The Price is Right and Family Feud are moot points. They are already running and from what I understand, doing quite well for themselves.

- Press Your Luck: its last revival was as "Whammy!" in 2002. While it had its own merits (as the late great Peter Tomarken would demonstrate in an episode of its second season), let's face it. It wasn't exactly the show with the fierce cult following that we remember from our youths. Of course, taking away the first question round will do that. Throw in the Press Your Luck modicum with the Whammy attitude and you may have something. Yes, cry foul at the CGI Whammy if you must, but come on... It's 200-freaking-6, people.

- Beat the Clock: last seen on Pax in 2003, it wasn't bad, and Gary was pretty good at host, but when you try to build a game around a simple game (see Match Game 90), it tends to lose a bit of its charm.

- Card Sharks: 2001 was a bit of a disappointment. Actually... it was a big honking disappointment. We may need a few more years for that one.

- Let's Make a Deal: the least said about the 2004 version, the better. Not that the game wasn't bad aesthetically, but Billy Bush was a poor miscast.

- Match Game: this would probably be the prime candidate for revival. After all, celebrities are big nowadays, thanks in no part to celebreality shows like "Dancing with the Stars", "Skating with Celebrities", and even "I've Got a Secret". And besides, the last time we saw a blue card was in 1999. Take away the endless jokes relating to Bill Clinton and a part of the male anatomy, and maybe add some of the best comedy writers in the business (I nominate Joel Hodgson), and you could have this one ready by spring of 2007 at the earliest.

Sure you can't exactly bring back the classics as classics (how many sad little individuals cried foul when Feud abandoned the home-grown needlecraft sets for more modern tones?), but in this day and age, to paraphrase Bill MacDonald, "even bad game shows are better than no game shows."

Just reminds you of how good the good ones are.

Chico Alexander wishes he could be part of "DDR with Famous People". E-mail him at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.

 

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