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A Tale of Two Davies...es - September 8

In 1999, you take a risk with a network where you were formerly working. That year, a summer game show, one you didn't create, but had a BIG hand in bringing to the United States, launches. It's an immediate hit, the likes of which your TV network has never seen before. It takes off and becomes a staple on your network's programming schedule.

Six years later, you try the same thing again with the same network, but this time, you apply a sacred formula - one where the contestants can either win or lose everything - to a project that you were pitching in hopes of setting off more sparks. Only this time, the result isn't as was planned... Your bomb is a giant in-joke, and one that relatively few got.

(Same could be said for last year on a different network, but that's another ball of wax totally).

That's right. You are Michael Davies. Hi, Michael!

Why should you be concerned, though? After all, your cash cow, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", is still raking in the audiences hand over fist. But lest you be the "one trick pony" of the game show world, you had better listen up. And listen well.

What Was Right...

It's a very simple formula, one bestowed upon you by no less than living legend Monty Hall. "On every great game show, there is a moment where the contestant can win or lose everything." Obviously he was an expert saying this, as people have won or lost everything on his various editions of "Let's Make a Deal". Certainly forty-plus years of playing the game show confidence-man can attest to that. And certainly people have won or lost everything on the six seasons of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", with a seventh due to start on Monday.

... and What Went Wrong.

On "My Kind of Town," Davies' summer attempt this year, there was only one big moment... per episode. And in that big moment, there is no real loss. You win, you win and go home. You lose ... you just go home. No drama...

To compound that, it takes all of 50 minutes of necessary filler to get there. And in an age of reality TV, people with shorter attention spans want a little more bang for their buck. Let's analyze.

First show... August 14. If you're watching, you're doing so a) out of morbid curiosity, or b) thinking that Desperate Housewives was on. In either case, you were one of seven million viewers that looked and did any one bodily gesture of curiosity (scratching head, rubbing chin, etc.). The show itself scored a 4.2/6 in the overnights for fourth place, and a 2.9/8 among adults 18-49 for second. A million and a quarter viewers got tired of waiting for Desperate Housewives to start and changed the channel. 

Second show... August 21. The erosion continues in the overnights, although ABC posts a key demo win. As for the show itself, it averaged 3.6/6 at 9p for third place... barely clipping "Family Guy's" heels. A slight dip, but when you're starting at the bottom, even the smallest of cuts is a problem.

Third show... August 28. By now, we get it. We know about the joke. We know about the filler. We know about the punchline. The end result, 3.4/5... Not very funny, as we begin to trail off in an eerie cosine. You know the kind.

That brings us to last week. Same share, lower rating. It's a 2.3/5.

The bottom line is... we got the joke. We just didn't find it entertaining enough. And it sure as heck didn't help that we had to wait all but the final 10 minutes to get to the punchline. I don't know about you, but I want my humor fast and often.

And that's why "Millionaire" works. The drama never ends until it ends, and you only have to wait just so (unless you're staring at the eyes of, oh, Chris Tarrant, in which case you have to wait until the second Ice Age) for resolution.

And after that and "Studio 7", you might want to go back and think about that timing.

In Other Numbers

- If I may channel Mark Twain a bit, reports of the death of "Rock Star: INXS" have been greatly exaggerated. Here are the numbers for the last performance show: second in the overnights (4.2/7), second in viewers (5.98 million), and top of the heap for adults 18-49 (3.1/9). Apparently the closer we get to crowning Michael Hutchence's successor, the more people are interested. A modest success... and you can't say that about "The Cut", really, which wasn't that much of a success to begin with.

- After taking opening numbers by storm, it seems that "So You Think You Can Dance" has leveled off. Last week, the show proper ranked second in the overnights (5.8/9) and first in viewers (7.86 million) and 18-49 (2.9/9). While it's up from last week, it's only slightly so. So Fox may have itself another winner if it realizes that "Dance" is what it is, a summer plug... an entertaining one, but just that.

Remember, all stated numbers are in terms of time slots. New season of the quizzers start Monday. Here's hoping there's a release on those numbers before next Thursday. Until then, remember, the numbers never lie.

Chico Alexander still thinks that Chapel Hill, NC is his kind of town. E-mail him some of that Carolina blue love at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.

 

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