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Stay Indoors - August 31

Though we have to say goodbye... for the summer..

Yeah, it was a summer that saw the rise of a quiet favorite, and the fall of one of our favorites here at the 'net. And then there was the show you either really liked or really hated, "Game Show Marathon." But how did your favorite summer game shows really fare? Let's take a look at the rankings.

The Best of the Best

So You Think You Can Dance: Whoever decided that they should air the Idol-come-dancing contest series directly after the "American Idol" finale was a genius. Driven by the most watched contest since a guy from Alabama and a guy from North Carolina went at it three years ago, "So You Think You Can Dance" started off respectably with a 7.8/13 in the overnights from 8-10p, building in each half-hour from a 6.6/11 to an 8.7/14. The ending dropped off a bit with a 6.8/11, however, it too built from the first half hour (5.5/10) to the last (8.2/13). Also take into account that it won each slot it aired in when it came to the young demographic that Fox was looking for. Also consider that the finale was up against the final round of "America's Got Talent", the big new hit of the summer. More on that later.

Fox renewed this show early, and for good reason.

Hell's Kitchen: Fox also renewed this show early, and also for good reason. We started with a 3.2/9 in the demo from 8-10p, good for first, while the second-placing for overall ratings and viewers were on par with season 1 numbers (6.68 million viewers versus 6.80 million last year). The final episode scored a 6.8/10 in the overnights, with 9.42 million viewers watching.

Through this show, we learned more about food, more about running a restaurant, and more about how to act in a restaurant that doesn't really exist.

America's Got Talent: If there had to be one new show that broke out this year, this would be that show. With a second cycle of shows on its way in midseason, NBC has its work cut out for them to build a midseason success story out of a summer success, even though "Millionaire", another show helmed by Regis Philbin, did the same thing seven years ago. But so far as this summer is concerned, a start with a first-place 8.8/14 in the overnights with 12.14 million viewers and a finish with a first-place 7.8/12 in the overnights with 11.75 million viewers (on a Thursday against Big Brother) is a definite plus for a network that needs a plus right now.

Although thanks to the voting process and the American public, you could really say that this contest ended almost as anticlimactic as any contest could be.

Project Runway: What is quickly becoming Bravo's signature series is beginning to outshine even itself. More than 3.4 million total viewers tuned-in to this season's highest rated episode, the one where Mitch is blackballed for bringing in a pattern book, a no-no according to the game's rules. It was the #1 show on cable that day, even higher than its record-setting season 2 finale. The season 3 premiere saw an audience of 2.4 million, by comparison.

The Best of the Worst

The One: Episode one... bad, a 2.3/4. Episode two... worse, a 2.1/4. Episode three... There was no episode three. That says it all. And the sad part is... That wasn't ABC's only dark spot.

Master of Champions: The show ended with little fanfare, and with one episode left to be shown. Sure, we started modestly enough with a 4.6/8 in the overnights and 6.20 million viewers, but in the coveted demographic, the show never scored above a 2.0. And that ABC had to spin out a story as to why they not only held back an episode but as to why they decided not to order up any more shows is also telling.

Fear Factor: The summer swan song for NBC's once-top-rated stunt show ended this week with a 3.6/6 in the overnights, 5.12 million viewers, both fourth-place. Even the third-place showing of a 1.8/5 among adults 18-49 wasn't enough to get NBC to change their minds about the show. And this is a show that returned with a 4.3/7 for third, 7.01 million viewers for second, and a 2.7/9 in the 18-49ers for first! Sorry, Joe. NBC's ready to see you off... and so are we.

The Best of the Rest

Game Show Marathon: I'm going to expect e-mails saying that this should've been in the best of the best header. I'm going to expect e-mails saying that this should've been in the best of the worst header. The fact remains that this was neither a big hit nor a colossal bomb, and anyone who was expecting it to be is either overtly pessimistic/optimistic to a fault. The fact remains that it started modestly enough (6.1/10 in the overnights for second, 8.37 million viewers for first, and a 2.3/8 among adults 18-49 for second), had a really modest high in the "Match Game" episode (5.5/10 in the overnights for first, 7.47 million viewers for first, and a 2.1/7 in the demo for second), and ended just as modestly (6.83 million viewers for first with a 1.7/6 in the demo for second). And while the jury may be out for a second season, you can't argue that this had a somewhat modest run at it.

Rock Star: Supernova: I'm going to argue that this shouldn't have been renewed in the first place, but what started off slowly, 3.6/6 in the overnights, 5.34 million viewers, and a 2.2/7 among adults 18-49 for third has grown a bit into the 4.7/7 for third, 7.04 million for third, and 3.2/9 in the demo for first (I credit Storm Large's rather large... assets).

Treasure Hunters: The start for the show that was building from a high of pre-summer da Vinci Code hype got a modest start with a 4.2/7 in the overnights, 6.91 million for third. The finale last week... 2.4/6 in the 18-49 and an audience of 6.0 million viewers overall. Again, not much of a drop, but not much of a build-in either.

Big Brother: A drop of a million (7.69 million in the premiere compared to 8.47 million last year) from last summer proves that not everyone's keen on seeing the likes of Mr. Will Kirby again. The latest Thursday eviction sees similar numbers with a time-slot leading 5.2/9 in the overnights, 7.82 million viewers.

And to think, there's another two weeks before we see a finale!

Who Wants to Be a Superhero?: Every summer, there comes one show that just surprises. That show this summer: "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?". The show started with a week's delay. Usually a change in a lineup is not a good sign for a new show. But with a 1.32 HH rating (10 percent higher from the previous week and 48 percent vs. its July 27th series premiere) and 1.815 million total viewers, it's understandable why SciFi would want to crow loudly about this new hit. I, for one, will be watching tonight's finale with keen interest... Unfortunately, I'm torn between the virtue of Fat Momma and the mad skills of Feedback.

Last Comic Standing: We started with a 6.5/10 for Mr. Anthony Clark's first venture into Jay Mohr's territory. We ended with a 5.3/9 in the overnights, 7.64 million viewers and a 2.8/9 in the demo. It's enough to lead, but still, it's not exactly something to write home about. Hopefully NBC will learn the mistakes of its first three go-rounds when the series returns next summer.

The Weekly Rant, or random musings as I use all 10 of my PlayMania entries on the word scramble...

It seems that we've come full circle in the world of game shows, with the key word this week being "interactive." We all remember the old "Dialing for Dollars" back in TV's golden age. Then came Wink Martindale's "Trivial Pursuit" play breaks some 30 years later. Fastforward to 2006, and we find ourselves a nation with an unresolved case of "Playmania"... or "Midnight Money Madness."

The premise is simple. Sort of radio-built-for-TV, a host (or two) will shoot off games ranging from the insanely easy (which could take less than 30 seconds) to the intentionally ambiguous (which have run well into half an hour). Repeat for two hours of late night show. As of right now, two shows, GSN's "Playmania" and TBS's "Midnight Money Madness", air, but both feature one British host who is incredibly versed in the aspect of live quiz TV, albeit annoying almost to a fault, and one American host sent in to even out her British-ness (not a dig on our British friends, it's just that Mel Peachy, who actually once said "pounds" instead of "dollars", and Jerilee Bonner suffer from the same "okay-how-do-you-translate-British-into-American" bug that got Anne Robinson back in the day when she was sent over the pond for "Weakest Link").

We're not saying that that's the mold just yet, but should a third show debut nationally with said combination, we're going to go with declaring "trend".

That's not a big problem, though. Although if you want to make a name for yourself on these shores, you're going to have to go deeper than simply replacing "telly" for "TV" and "pounds" for "dollars". We're just that dumb when it comes to TV presentation. But I digress.

In all fairness, these shows, as respectable as they are, suffer from the usual live-TV culprits, in that some things that are easily edited out for broadcast come to light in the face of live television and unless you are spot-on in the fields of hosting, improvisation, and the ad-lib, you can't sufficiently negotiate your way out of them.

However, even the best of the best in the genre all fail in the face of... technical difficulties. We all remember being scared out of our wit's end when stations occasionally broke down in the broadcasting department, causing the channel to air the familiar tone-and-bars (or maybe you got the station logo with the familiar phrase "We are currently experiencing technical difficulties; please stand by"). Sure, they occur with less frequency in the face of improving technology, but these gremlins still pop up from time to time. Live game shows are no different. One notorious example occurred on the 2000 premiere of then-Fox Family's contribution to the growing big money boon, "Paranoia", when the show's host, the late great Peter Tomarken, thought he was on a different network when he went to break with "Stay tuned to Paranoia here on Game Show Net... err, stay tuned."

Of course, it should be noted that he was one of the first live game hosts on GSN, which in its 12-year-history also had its share of gremlins, from the occasional crash of the Macs that ran the games to the blackout that put two episodes of "Millionaire" on instead of "Playmania".

But it stands to wit that with the advent of live gaming, you have to be, no pun intended, on your game at all times. The tech has to be ready to display the right games at the right times. The hosts (or should we start calling them "play jockeys" or something) have to only reach for that joke when it's absolutely necessary and let, as with all game show hosts, the games and the players be the stars. You have to make sure everyone - be you playing by phone, by SMS-enabled cell phones, or by online - is able to play without so much of an obstruction. As GSNN brother Joe Mello brought up, web traffic also drives up revenue. People tend to forget that when they forget to mention the website.

These shows, produced on shoestring budgets and solely dependent on viewer traffic as a source of revenue, are really starting to grow in the game show world, with GSN alone making thousands by giving away thousands. But if that cash flow is going to continue to flow in the positive direction, producers are going to have to start coming with the quality seen on their bigger game brothers.

Chico Alexander will freely admit that, of the four interactive live hosts on TV, Danny Seckel is the best. E-mail him with your thoughts at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.

 

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