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Just Like Us - September 7

All-stars that reenter the house that made them famous. Hopefuls for a rock band that may or may not exist. Actors who want to be superheroes. Singing celebrities. Dancing celebrities. Lingo-ing celebrities. Celebrity game show contestants. Hell, even late-night interactive game hosts. They all have one thing in common: this summer, they all wanted you to believe that they were just like us regular people.

And to some extent, they were dead on right. I mean, if you were to tell me that Shandi Finnessey was a geek in high school, I'd look at you as if you had decided to play another spin in round 1 with two Whammies showing.

I could easily call this the summer of the anti-hero, except that we're approaching fall with the same aspect.

Not to say that anti-heroes aren't good in their own right. In fact, I consider myself as one. After all, I'm not an expert. I'm not a producer. I'm just a big honking fan who does this on the side while working in a hospital lab. But I digress.

Back to the story at hand. If we were to look at the previous round of The Numbers Game, you could say that as much as we were repulsed by formats that just didn't work, we were attracted to formats that did. And instead of saying "Gosh, not another Idol retread" in your best Napoleon Dynamite voice, you just ignored it, hoping that it'll go away. And damned be, it did.

And it wasn't just Idol either. It seemed that shows that had some modicum of hero worship were all in a decline for some reason. And from that we had the rise of the anti-hero. Fat Momma from "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?"... Anti-hero. Kathy Najimy on "Game Show Marathon"... big fan turned anti-hero. Benji Schwimmer of "So You Think You Can Dance"... big anti-hero. Any one of the final acts panned inexplicably by Piers Morgan on "America's Got Talent"... bigger anti-heroes. Danny Bonaduce on "Starface"... split. To TV critics, he's the anti-host America was waiting for since George Gray did his best Anne Robinson four years ago. To game show fans, it's between that and JD Roberto-level pariah.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down? Okay, moving on.

Seems like rather than stowing away these nobodies for another summer, America has come to embrace them en masse, more so than those we've seen and heard from in the past.

And to think. It all started when Michael Falk played upset in the Jeopardy! TOC.

How Does It All Translate Into Numbers?

Good question, Mr. Header.

Well, let's look at the three shows that are still on the air right now. "Big Brother"'s latest eviction notice was served to an audience of 9 million, a growth over the 7.4 million that started the season. Turns out that a lot of people were ready to see Dr. Will out the door. Myself included. But I couldn't, as I was watching "House" that time (the show placed first in relation to Big Brother's second). This is actually a buildup from the almost 8 million we saw last year this time.

We'll see if Mike, Erika, and Janey can hold on as each one tries to make their first half-mill on CBS' dime.

Meanwhile, this time last year saw 5.62 million people watch "Rock Star". This year... 7.63 million. Part of it can be credited to its compatibility to Big Brother, but on the other hand, seeing Tommy Lee completely joke around his position as judge as compared to the tame panel of INXS may have been the shot that this show needed.

Will CBS see this as a justification for a third season? Time can only tell, but already signs are pointing to yes.

And then there's Fear Factor, the show that has been taken off life support, yet refuses to die. Last night's numbers were 4.64 million... as the downward slide continues... Joe Rogan, we hardly knew ye, but alas, it's time for another hero to come along.

That hero... Wayne Brady?

Last week's debut of Celebrity Duets started with a 6.1/10 with 7.42 million viewers. It ended with a 6.7/10 with 8.62 million. Decent enough sampling for a fall show starting on the tail end of summer, but can it last? We'll find out tomorrow when the numbers for tonight's show come in.

In syndication land.

We're a matter of days away from the new season in syndication. And what do we have to show for it in the tail-end of the summer? Numbers up across the board with Jeopardy! up to a 5.4 (up 2 percent from last year), Family Feud up 5 percent to a 2.2, Millionaire steady at 2.9, and the industry leader Wheel of Fortune with a more-or-less steady 6.9.

As for the new season... bring it.

The Weekly Rant, or MyNetworkTV. Let the experiment in mediocrity begin!

Mark Burnett ought to be commended for wresting the title of "the greatest hype man in game shows" today away from our own Gordon Pepper.

As you are no doubt aware, Mark Burnett's main cash cow "Survivor" will push the boundaries of competitive television by having each of the four tribes separated along racial lines. Perhaps as a result, we may be looking at the least product-placed edition since season 1, because so many sponsors are pulling out.

Say what you will about it. Call it ingenious. Call it a publicity stunt. Call it tasteless. But Mark Burnett, in generating buzz around his hit, has succeeded in what he set out to do, and that is to get everyone talking shop about a dressed-up game show in a way we haven't seen since America was asking about some dude from Salt Lake City, and figuring out when he would eventually lose.

This may just be the most watched, most hotly-contested "Survivor" season yet. Or it may come back to bite Mark Burnett in the butt. No one knows for sure, but remember, no degree of success in this medium has come without its share of controversy.

After all, the two have always made for strange bedfellows.

Chico Alexander is still the baldest hype man in game shows today. E-mail him with your thoughts at


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