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(C-Note: I was going to have part two of "Pass/Fail", but after these last three weeks, I had to write on this. Part 2 airs next week)

It's Always Something With You, Isn't It? - June 15

Quick, what do a teacher and her class, a soldier in Iraq, a bike-aficionado talk-show host, a TV personality with a show about to premiere on the same network, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, and an uber-singer have in common?

Answer: they were all on "Deal or No Deal" over this past season, and they were neither dealer nor model nor Howie nor banker.

Their status as "loved one" is questionable at best and spurious at worst.

As NBC continues to nurture its golden goose, which was, for the first time ever last week, the most-watched show on primetime television, I find a disturbing trend. Maybe it's me watching the show through sweeps, but it seems that there's always something aside from the game. Whether it's a "surprise" guest, or just something to pad the show out to an advertiser-friendly breadth of time, it's not normal practice anymore to just have someone come out, choose a case, open six, open five, open four, open three, open two, open one, open another one, open another one, etc. and field bank offers throughout.

Gordon said it best last week in the State: the game consists of opening 26 cases. Not hard. Not timely. Not even that stress-inducing anymore. You can finish a game in 15 minutes, 30 tops. While that may fly in syndication when and if they pull it off in 2007, it's not going to work as well if they do that sort of thing during May sweeps, when everyone and their mother is looking to draw viewers and collect ad revenue.

Consider the following: network execs are not the brightest bulbs in the box. This is the same occupation that decided to cancel "Everwood" in favor of - get this - a rerun of "America's Next Top Model". I know "Everwood" has been lagging just a tad last season, but still... A RERUN?!

Now consider that the kids seem to dig it.

The May 22 show, which saw some help from Pittsburgh Steeler Ben Roethlisberger (C-Note: Get well soon!), placed second in the overnights for Monday at 8p with an 8.5/13.9, but placed first in viewers with almost 14 million. The winner that time slot: Oprah's Legends Ball. You may be darned good and people may like you, but quoting "Boondocks" creator Aaron McGruder, "We should all have a healthy fear of Oprah. Oprah has the power to lay waste to entire industries with a mere utterance. That's a power that you have to respect. And ultimately I respect it."

The May 29 show, Memorial Day, saw no big star power (it was out of sweeps, and the only thing that happens was that Lisa called a contestant "The Nutty Professor" in that cute Aussie accent of hers) and scored an 8.9/15 for the evening, ruling over all. It was also the first week when "Deal" was the number one show on all of TV. Never mind that it was arguably the most popular show from the regular season still in new episodes at the time (and if memory serves, there were only two: this and "The Apprentice").

The May 31 show, scheduled at the 11th hour at the atypical 9p hour, scored 7.1/11 for second in the overnights, and 10.21 million viewers for first. "Criminal Minds," which I really started to get into, scored first in that slot.

Then comes the $5 million season finale, which had one player on for the entire duration of the 90 minutes... and the rest of the time devoted to Celine Dion, current record holder Thorpe Schoenle, and whatever stock footage of whatever NBC could find. End result: the most-watched show with 11.7/19 and 18.03 million sets of eyes.

And for my tastes, the easiest to fast-forward through on my DVR. But I digress.

This is a bit frightening here, because, knowing what we know about programming heads, there is a likelihood that controllers will connect the two and make the conclusion, however faulty that it might be, that the general public wants more of... this! And more of "this" means less of the game, and less of what got the show to where it is in the first place.

Scary thought, I know. But NBC has a whole summer to think about where they plan on taking the franchise. Let's just hope it's in the right direction. We need not have a reprise of the mistakes made by "Millionaire" and "Weakest Link."

Summertime Scorecard

Fox, meanwhile, has made a surprisingly smart move in scheduling the season premiere of "So You Think You Can Dance" while the public was still processing the results of the previous night's "American Idol" finale. Consider that the shows, created by "Idol" creator Simon Fuller and "Idol" EP Nigel Lythgoe, are sisters. And sisters look out for each other, which explains the heavy pub in between Idol breaks.

End result: the ninth-most-watched show on TV, with 7.8/13.

In the time slot premiere the following Wednesday, 6.8/10, third ahead of "Criminal Minds" and "Deal or No Deal".

And because Fox has the sick habit of "too much of a good thing", we get another Thursday show, and another equal result: 7.1/11, good for second. Safe to say that this will only get bigger as the show goes to its climax at the end of the summer.

Same can't be said for "Game Show Marathon", which started with a strong sampling for the Wednesday, May 31 Price is Right installment, with 6.0/10 (second) and 8.37 million viewers (first). Next up, its regular Thursday time-slot-premiere with "Let's Make a Deal", which posted similarly, 5.8/10 for second overall, and 8.44 million viewers. See, everyone loves LMaD when done properly... Billy Bush.

Next week saw Beat the Clock, which had to pad out a 20 minute round (I'm guessing, two stunts with two players, then a super bonus stunt) to fill an hour, saw its audience wane, with a 4.7/8 for third, and 6.67 million viewers. Press Your Luck, and I'll say this again... that was the best episode of PYL in a long while... scored a 5.0/8 for second, and 6.83 million viewers, making it good for 30th. Pretty good showing for something that has pretty much polarized fans, but still, there's a phrase here... "It's not that bad... It's just not that good either."

But look on the bright side, here. The show does considerably better on Thursday nights... and tonight's a Thursday night... And Card Sharks is tonight. So there's really no reason to not watch, is there?

Then there's NBC's "Last Comic Standing", back from the dead in a big way. The two-hour premiere scored a 6.5/10. Since then, it's leveled off to a 6.0/9, third in the slot, but second with viewers, nine million of them.

See "Deal or No Deal" arguments made ad nauseum. Don't fall into the too-much-of-a-good thing mentality. Nurture the hit and follow it through to the end. Hard to do, I know, but your patience will be well-rewarded.

And lest we forget Fox's sojourn into Hell, which has gotten viewers hungry for more. "Hell's Kitchen"'s season premiere scored a respectable 5.4/9 with 6.68 million viewers, good for second. Last year, an almost identical 3.0/8 and 6.80 million. And that show became one of the best of that summer. Not too hard, because almost every other show bit.

The less said about the online-bound "Fire Me Please", the better.

Syndie Scorecard.

Wheel of Fortune was off 5% on the week to a 7.1, while Jeopardy! fell 3% to a 5.8 according to B&C Magazine. Two points:

- This was the final week of Wheel before reruns.

- Last year this time, people were asking "David Madden... the next Ken Jennings?"

Millionaire reruns meanwhile scored a 3.2 with 3.47 million viewers, while Feud held steady at 2.0.

The Weekly Rant, or I imagined Paige Davis saying "Higher! Higher!" in an excited stupor... and then I got excited.

I don't do this often, but I'm going to turn this WR over to my good friend and our resident expert on all things TPIR. Travis Schario (aka Good Travis), it's all yours.

---

After watching the first episode of the US "Game Show Marathon," I decided to surf thru the message boards and blogs to see what other people thought, and I couldn't have been more appalled.  So, I'm going to use this time and this column to allay concerns about the show, one issue at a time.

Issue #1: Ricki Lake
Granted, Ricki is no Bob Barker.  But, honestly, who is?  I was hearing complaints of her being "too excited."  That, sir, makes no sense.  If you had grown up watching these games all of your life, then you finally get a shot to M.C. the show that is so near and dear to your heart, you WOULDN'T be excited??  Personally, I would be giddy!  Also, I heard mention of Ricki mentioning Rich "too many times" during the course of the show.  Question:  how many is too many?  Bob either mentions or talks directly to Rich at least 6 times during the course of the show.  Ricki may have gone 10 or 11 times.  That's fine!  There's nothing wrong with that!  It shows a personal connection between host and announcer...much like Gene and Johnny or Richard and Gene.

Issue #2: Rich Fields
OK, we all know (if our ears were trained properly) that Rich did a lot of post-production announcing.  With the kind of noise level that 400 people give off, combined with a bowl of a studio, it makes sense that some prize plugs had to be redone.  I don't fault Rich for that.  I believe he did a masterful job, just like every morning on TPiR.

Issue #3: The Celebrities
For a choice of celebrities, I'd say the producers made a mostly good effort...4.5/6.

Issue #3A: Lance Bass
Lance wore a "COLLEGE" shirt on the show, as did several people he was seated next to in studio.  Ladies and gentlemen, that was not "making fun" of "Price."  That was a TRIBUTE to how "Price" truly goes.  What day have you watched the show and NOT seen a group of college students in the audience (mainly the UC-Santa Barbara campus)?

Issue #3B: Leslie Nielsen
Personally, I'm a huge Leslie Nielsen fan, and it was good to see him doing this.  I wasn't too thrilled about seeing him called last, but I look forward to seeing him in other episodes of the Marathon.  On the boards, I heard people say that he looked "out of it" when bidding on the bubble chair.  That was probably the 2nd or 3rd hour of a 4-hour taping session.  Wouldn't you be out of it, too?

Issue #3C: Tim Meadows
I love the Ladies' Man!  Granted, he didn't get a lot of "playing" time, being stuck in the Row, but he'll be around for more games later.  I predict big things for Tim and the Chris Farley Foundation.

Issue #3D: Paige Davis
Ah, our Plinko player.  I thought she played the game well, and her antics at the top of the board were funny...not guffaw-on-the-floor funny, but chuckle-because-no-one-has-ever-thought-of-doing-the-staircase-gag-behind-the-board funny.  I thought it was awesome that they gave a Dell DJ Diddy MP3 player to everyone in the audience when Paige won her chip for that.  Dude, I want a Dell (DJ Diddy MP3 Player)!  I was sorry to see her spin double nickels (literally) and get knocked out of the Showdown.

Issue #3E: Kathy Najimy
Here's where my half-point comes in.  Kathy played The Row well, but when it came to Hole In One, I thought she could have taken it a little more seriously.  Also, her slumping over the Showcase podium was a tad dramatic...as was the $81,000 bid.

Issue #3F: Brande Roderick
Where do I start?  First off, I feel she was the token hottie of the sextet.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing, though.  I think she could have been a little smarter about game play, however.  Saying that, I've seen daytime contestants play Race Game worse than her, so I can't fault her for that.  Also, being "confused" on whether she had to take the boat to Australia...that showed her true self.

Issue #4: The Edits
Any first episode of a new show is going to have a lot of edits.  Just look at the first week of "Deal or No Deal."  Edit City, right?  Right.  That's to be expected.

Issue #4A: The Hole In One Debacle
I know that it's supposed to be "...or Two."  I know Kathy got the second putt.  I know they edited it out.  But, she MISSED the 2nd putt.  Had she made the 2nd putt and it had been edited out, I would have been livid.  However, if you "Price" students out there remember...Hole in One used to be ONLY ONE PUTT!  So, editing out the 2nd putt, although a crass mistake in editing and directing, is somewhat justified.

Issue #5: The Games
I fully expected Plinko to come out.  However, for the other two, I would have picked less-complex games.  I'm going to stop the fanboys now before you say, "Well, those games are in the road show."  I know that.  However, the road show doesn't take place on the same lot as all the original game props!  Had I been in charge of the games, I would have picked Let 'Em Roll, Plinko, and Danger Price.  "But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong."

Issue #5A: Race Game
"$6495?  They'd never do that in an MDS."  This isn't a Million Dollar Spectacular.  Stow it.

Issue #5B: Plinko
"$99?  Not likely in daytime."  This isn't daytime.  Stow it.

Issue #5C: Hole in One
(see Issue #4A for this one)  Stow it.

Issue #6: The Showcase Showdown "Fiasco"
Unlike many of my constituents out there, I was not confused by the outcome of the Showdown.  If you consult the rulebook of the Endless Games 2nd Edition Price is Right home game, you'll notice that the rules for 3-player Showdown are almost IDENTICAL to those they played last night!  I saw that on the show and thought, "That's how I wrote it in the home game!"  Now, let me elaborate a little further.  Kathy had 55 and stayed.  Paige got a dime total, which couldn't beat Kathy and knocked her out of contention.  At that point, for Brande, it was the "one-spin-to-try-to-get-a-dollar" situation.  The top two scorers advanced to the Showcase, and with Brande tying 55, she didn't have to spin again.

Issue #7: The Showcases
A 1966 Mustang Convertible?  Frickin' Random, but I LOVED it!!  Overall, the Showcases were good.  The "Time Machine" theme was fitting, seeing as how "Marathon" is its own time machine.

Issue #8: The Post-Mortem
As I stated earlier, I was appalled at the reactions I was seeing for this.  People, you have to understand that this *WAS NOT* "The Price is Right."  This was an HOMAGE to what Barker and his crew do on a daily basis in Studio 33.  Do not discredit the entire Marathon because you didn't think that $6495 should have been played in Race Game.

In conclusion, here are my personal thoughts.  They're doing Marathon for a reason...to get game shows back into the mainstream.  Also, we the fanboys are not the target market for this.  What we can do is help the ratings by watching EVERY EPISODE and messaging Fremantle, thanking them for putting the 5 shows in the middle BACK ON THE AIR!  If you like these shows, contact Fremantle and let them know!  Also, for those of you that don't know, I have built my college major around game shows.  I have also founded and presided over a student organization here on campus celebrating game shows.  If these shows get back on the air, that would open up an entire career field for me, and others like me.

Travis Schario is currently awaiting his internship at "The Price is Right".  He can be reached at ts357903@ohio.edu. Chico Alexander is currently awaiting no such internship. He can be reached at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.

 

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