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A Very Special Numbers Game Freaking Fall Post-View - September 28

This is the Numbers Game, and I'm the Numbers Guy, and the fall season is officially off and running. And while you're taking part in your office's fall death pool (already we have two shows "on notice"... basically "watch us or else"), I'm busy swimming in the pool of daytime and primetime ratings knowledge to determine what shows are on the rise, and what shows are on the decline.

And truth be told, it's beginning to drive me crazy... as if I was sane to begin with.

I'll try to put this in some sort of workable order, starting with...

Monday.

"Deal or No Deal" returned, and America welcomed it en masse, as the second season premiere became the 10th most watched show on TV last week with 15.76 million viewers, easily winning its time slot, much to the surprise of perennial winners CBS. And add to that it was the second most-watched show that night (only behind "CSI Miami).

Pretty interesting, yes? Well, we've only begun to scratch the surface here.

Tuesday.

We enter into a bit of a danger zone here, with "Deal" going against "Dancing with the Stars", a show with a history of bumping off every show that faced it (with the exception of "American Idol"). And Tuesday was no exception, as "Dancing" was the fourth most-watched show this week with 18.17 million viewers. "Deal or No Deal", proving that there is room for more than one hit show in a given time slot, scored 10.69 million viewers, pretty potent for a fourth-place show, you might say. But still, fourth place is still three worse than you want to be at going into a Tuesday showdown with "Dancing". This is the same show that beat out "Survivor" last season.

Probably the best move was to have Monday's last game straddle out. You could've gotten a few more hits that way, but then again, you can't control the way people play the game.

Wednesday.

If you saw on WLTI last week, this was the day in irony. Skinny people ("Top Model") vs. not-so-skinny people ("The Biggest Loser"). Cycle 5 of "Top Model"... 4.77 million on UPN. Cycle 7 on the new CW? A record 5.32 million viewers. A good start for the flagship of the CW.

"The Biggest Loser", on the other hand, had tons to worry about. While viewers await the series premieres of "Twenty Good Years" and "30 Rock", we get two hours of... well, same old same old. And viewers, catching wise, dropped off to 7.17 million for third place. From last year's combination of "E-Ring" and "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart", the combined drop is 11 percent.

And remember that Martha's show was pretty bad.

They were all put to shame, however, by the 15.03 million viewers registered for "Dancing with the Stars: The Results". The ouster of Shanna Moakler was sweet 16 for the week.

Thursday.

Okay, friends. Prepare for extreme data overload.

Survivor: Cook Islands - 17.43 million viewers, first against a Grey's Anatomy clip show at 8p. PRetty healthy show in a competitive slot (especially given the fact that a) younger-skewing "My Name is Earl" & "The Office" were in the mix and b) "Ugly Betty" has yet to bow with all its buzz accompanying).

Deal or No Deal - 10.11 million, good for a healthy also-ran status at third at 9p, but still down from Tuesday. Sure "Deal" is a proven hit, but let's be real here. Does it need to be in the competitive mix of CSI and Grey's Anatomy, two bigger hits? I mean, I thought that NBC believed in the show. At least that's what I thought they told us by giving the show a second season after a stellar first. Stop confusing me, NBC!

Celebrity Duets - 3.29 million at 9p, a distant fourth. The viewers have spoken. You suck. Get out.

Friday.

What do you know. NBC does believe in the show. I think. On a Friday with nothing else on, "Deal or No Deal" scored 11.71 million for first. And now the Deal is entering Fridays on a temporary basis, probably as a litmus test for the upcoming "1 vs. 100", for which it serves as a lead-in. It could've worked well on its own on Fridays as opposed to the Thursday Thunderdome. Don't get me wrong. The first Thursday showing opposite Grey's Anatomy and CSI was respectable given the circumstances. But Friday was a proven performer. Why change what worked for a gamble?

As for Celebrity Duets... 3.67 million viewers can't save this sinking ship. Nice try, Wayne.

Saturday.

Nothing happened.

Sunday.

I believe the ever traveling "Amazing Race" has finally found its rightful home. People didn't have too much hope when CBS announced that the tenth race will be run on Sundays at 8p. Well, the premiere of the show scored a 7.2/11 in the overnights and an approximate 10.11 million viewers from 8:30-10p, a little better than the family edition premiere (7.2/10).

Week two scored a healthy third place showing with a 7.2/11 in the overnights registering into 10.85 million viewers. Uptick is always good. Perhaps rumors of the death of the long-running, brilliant-but-not-really-that-well-received reality franchise have been premature. Well see what happens in the upcoming weeks.

There you go. The beginning of the fall season.

Daytime.

It was year 24 for Wheel and year 23 for Jeopardy!, and what do we have to show for it? Let's see...

Wheel of Fortune - 7.3, 8.164 million viewers, down from the 8.1 logged last year this time, but up from the 6.8 two weeks ago

Jeopardy! - 5.6, 6.24 million viewers, down from the 6.2 logged last year this time, but up from the 5.5 logged two weeks ago.

Millionaire - 3.0, 3.37 million viewers, up from the 2.8 last year. I'm going to pin this on increased coverage of Meredith Vieira and where her career is headed. And in a moment of correction, two weeks ago, Millionaire scored a 2.9, not a 6.8 as previously reported. My apologies.

Unfortunately, numbers for the Feud were not available at the time of this writing.

The Weekly Rant, or I try to take my work seriously; taking myself seriously, on the other hand... completely out of the question.

Last Monday was big, no doubt. A Double Showcase win to kick off season 35 of "The Price is Right". A then-record deal on "Deal or No Deal". And not to mention the TV debut of Travis as an intern and off-ramp of the FremantleMedia corporate highway. Up the ziggurat, lickety-split, Mr. Schario.

But the most important minute and a half in all of television came at around 10:07pm ET, when a fictional EP hijacked a fictional television show, and gave all of America some real world knowledge about this fickle beast called television.

The fictional EP was Wes Mendell, played in a guest role by Judd Hirsch. The show was "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip", the show-within-a-show on the show of the same name.

For those who haven't seen it (I suggest you do, it's really relatable if you're big on television in general, not to mention being well-written and intelligent), let me paint the scene. One of Mendell's sketches, one that "killed during dress rehearsal", was cut at the last second. In its place, a watered-down recurring sketch that absolutely NO ONE likes. On the cusp of a breakdown, Mendell clears the cold open stage and tells the viewers to change the channel, simply because, and I quote, "there's always been a struggle between art and commerce... and art is getting its ass kicked, and it's making us mean; it's making us bitchy; it's making us cheap punks, and that's not who we are." If you look it up on YouTube (try "Studio 60"), you may find more than a few hits.

Among his chief complaints, Mendell rants that "people are eating worms for money", people are "lining up to see who can act like Donald Trump," and that America responds favorably to shows like "Who Wants to Screw My Sister?" And all to appease to a network head whose sole responsibility is to make certain that the numbers at the end of the spreadsheet are in black ink instead of red ink at the expense of anything that even remotely reeks of artistic license.

In many ways, you can relate that rant, as well as its contents, to that age-old virtue, "nothing on TV working? Yank it after 13 weeks and put on a game show." And why not, really. They're cheap, they're easy, and if you do it right, you can put one together in the matter of 90 seconds, the time it took Bert Van Munster and Elise Doganieri to create "The Amazing Race" for CBS. Save for the allusion to "The Amazing Race", I just compared the game show genre today to a prostitute. Not even a good prostitute. The 40-year-old ho at the end of the street with the hairlip and about three different venereal diseases who sees the younger "product" and adjusts her wardrobe and makeup accordingly.

But not every knee-jerk response to the craze is of "Amazing Race" caliber. Anyone remember "The $40 Million Hoax?" How about "Boy Meets Boy"? "Performing As..."? "He's a Lady"? Seems like nowadays for every "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", you're going to see about ten thinly-veiled carbon copies like "It's Your Chance of a Lifetime". Next thing you know, the very thing that proliferates the game show genre becomes the very thing that will put it into hibernation until the next master copy comes along.

Yes, it's making people who look at quality over quantity into mean, bitchy, cheap punks. And that isn't who we are. We are people who can smell a copy a mile away and will act accordingly.

Or will it take another summer full of watered down one-host, one-pretty-face, one-brain, one-British-guy "American Idol" knockoffs for us to learn that lesson?

Chico Alexander will personally dispatch the west coast GSNN crowd to make sure that "Take the Money or Don't Take the Money" never sees the light of day. E-mail him at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.

 

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