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Pass/Fail: Part 1 - May 25

Well, friends... It's that time again. Another TV season has come and gone, and it's time to assess what has come of it in the world of game shows.

So far, the season has seen two high-profile casualties... "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" and "Fear Factor." But more on that later... Now let's take on the big guys...

SURVIVOR (CBS): When Guatemala started, it sampled 17.78 million, the first time a Survivor started with less than 20 million (Vanuatu started with 20.06 million). The finale scored with 21.18 million. Panama started stronger than Guatemala with 18.9 million. By contrast, it ended a tad weaker with 17.07 viewers. Enough to place it in the top 10, but just... In contrast, Palau ended with 20.31 viewers.

Final grading: It isn't the hit it was five years ago, but big ratings warrant the show's continuation on CBS's schedule, and it's also why they fought tooth-and-nail to get Probst to return for another strand. Good move on CBS's part. PASS.

THE APPRENTICE: MARTHA STEWART (NBC): We started in second place with 7.65 million people watching, mostly out of queer curiosity. Net viewership dropped to 7.47 million for the finale. It's series low was a 5.80 million showing

Final grading: stick to "good things". FAIL.

THE AMAZING RACE (CBS): Family Edition... wasn't a good idea. Started with only 10.71 million viewers, then peaked at 11.37 million for the finale after a season of holding stiff at 11 million levels whilst not contributing to growth in the Tuesday at 10p hour. The mea culpa season to follow, after showing a decline in the hour, started weaker, with a 9.37 million sampling that didn't really get back up there, even with a finale.  Not really a good sign for a show that has had a history of struggling to maintain a viewership.

Final grading this term: Blame network for this one. They screwed with a good thing. Here's hoping that Sunday proves to be a fitting home for a show that is in desperate need of one. FAIL, with review pending for one more season at least.

JEOPARDY! (Syndication): The show began, for all intents and purposes, in a depression of sorts. We were just getting a new superchamp in the offing, when all of a sudden, we're stuck with the news that a 6.2, while still good for second place among syndies, was a quarter lower than last year, when America was asking the question, "When will Ken Jennings lose?"

Eventually, he did. Some will argue that the show hasn't been the same since.

This last week, Jeopardy! was unchanged at a 6.4, down 10 percent from last year. So the bleed is salved, and the show had a net positive trend.

Final grading: stay the course. You may not be the life of the party that your brother is, but you're still AT the party. PASS.

And speaking of which...

WHEEL OF FORTUNE (Syndication): Top of the heap in syndication is still top of the heap. When we started, we saw an 8.1 rating, down 10 percent from the year ago, but still at the top of its game. This week, with a few weeks left in the season, it's a 7.9, down only 2 percent from last year.

Final grading: This, Jeopardy!, and the two KingWorld offerings can only mean that 2007 is going to be a hell of a year. PASS.

DEAL OR NO DEAL (NBC): What started as a delight to critics who have had one too many bad days has become a delight to a network that's in need of a hit like an addict is in need of a hit. With each broadcast, it continues to prove skeptics wrong, only having been beaten twice in the ratings, not enough to do any lasting damage. When we started in December, the peak was the Wednesday showing: 14.17 million viewers.

Let's go back to that statement that was made way back in February from a site we frequent that has a writer which is in dire need of a decent accredited old-time journalism class taught by a student of Walter Cronkite...

"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, the show is still likely to provide the best lead-in that The Apprentice has had since Friends left the airwaves in May 2004."

I believe my colleague and good friend Alex Davis put it best... "Deal or No Deal is still on TV."

I'll just concur by giving this acronym: SRIFOS.

Final grading: The move from Friday to Thursday will tell the tale, especially given that it'll be up against CSI and Grey's Anatomy, but for now... PASS.

AMERICAN IDOL (Fox): Highest rated season to date. What more need be said.

Final grading: .... c'mon, what do you think I'm going to say here? PASS

Next week, some more of these season enders. But right now...

The Weekly Rant, or I betcha if I had breasts and a British accent, I'd be pretty darned popular, too.

Here's to the winners...

To Taylor Hicks, who showed that a solid performance can be a budding pop diva with a starlet's face.

To Michael Falk, who showed that, even with the most anticlimactic Jeopardy! tournament showing, the Yogi was right: "It ain't over 'til it's over."

To Aras Baskausas, who proved that while we've still only seen one honest person win the game, still people will choose the lesser of two evils if forced to. And certainly nothing will beat coat-tail riding on the side of Danielle for that...

To BJ and Tyler, who showed that by using your brain and acting as a team, you can overcome anything, including a casual trip around the world. And it also helps that you're versed in several foreign languages.

To online Lingo champs, who prove that they can run with the best of the big dogs on TV. Unless, of course, you have a personality that rivals potting soil. Then the TV players will not only mop the floor with you, they'll laugh and sing about it.

To Thorpe Schoenle, who knew when to say Deal.

To Cheryl Jackson, who didn't know when to say Deal... but at least had a good time at it.

To Rebecca Jarvis, who proved that you don't have to win to feel like a winner.

And finally, to you, the best game show fans in the world... Keep on playing.

With that, Chico Alexander is heading on vacation. E-mail him at He'll answer from the road this weekend.


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