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Everything's a game of numbers...

Today is

The Meredith Effect - October 19

Numbers Game time. And for the second time in so many columns, I'm asking for viewer help. More as you read on, but right now, let's play. And with all the major stuff that you're hearing all over the place, we start with something that may have slipped under your radar.

What a difference "Today" makes indeed.

Turns out the best thing that would ever happen to the daytime edition of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" would be for Meredith Vieira to not allow herself to be pigeon-holed as an Emmy-award-winning journalist-game-show-host-working-mother. And now the increased Meredith exposure is resulting in a blip being registered on the "Millionaire" show that we honestly haven't seen in a while...

This week, the show scored a 3.1, up from the usual upper 2s it was scoring over the summer, AND it's up 11 percent from last year.

Now think about this, all the other shows in the genre were either down or flat, this is TV Week saying. I'm guessing Family Feud was flat, because let's keep it real here. The Feud was flat for the last three years. But this isn't about guessing, it's about numbers, and at the moment, they're favoring "Millionaire", and the fact that there is so much buzz being generated about Meredith's status on the show this week with high ratings and guests hosting... Those are all facets that can't really be ignored.

I mean, I haven't heard this sort of thing since Jim Peck was filling in for Jack Barry on the Joker's Wild... and this was the early 80s, when I was all but 3 years old. So you can think about the role of consistency in the gamespace of the 21st Century.

Then again, there was the whole thing about Pat and Alex switching places one sunny April Fool's Day. So you think about that as well.

I'm asking you to think a lot this week, aren't I? Well, here's why. I'd like to propose a challenge to YOU, the loyal friends and true. Simple question. Who would you want to see occupy Meredith's seat on Millionaire while she's away? E-mail your responses to me,, and I'll put them in a future column.

For now, though, congrats Meredith on yet another chapter in your great success story.

Now onto darker, more sinister things... if you happen to be NBC.

1 vs. 700.

Now for the numbers you hear less about in this column, but are still very much important. Those would be the "presidential flash cards." Citing the story from the Toronto Sun this week...

"NBC's announcement (that) it will cut 700 jobs to remain profitable is jarring enough. But there's also its TV chief Jeff Zucker's news that NBC will cut all scripted series from 8 to 9 p.m. in an additional effort to save money. NBC sources say it's part of an effort to save $750 million (U.S.) and reinvest the money in digital media.

"Zucker told the Wall Street Journal that advertising interest isn't high enough to justify the expense of scripted series. For example NBC's game show Deal Or No Deal costs $1.1 million to air, compared with $2.6 million for an episode of Friday Night Lights."

And then newbies Jericho and Ugly Betty come in and completely decimate his argument, but that's another argument for another column.

In the eyes of NBC, it makes a little bit of sense. Two of NBC's big his this season have been "Deal or No Deal" and "1 vs. 100." Then there are the critical raves "Friday Night Lights" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" that may end this season two more case files in the cabinet of "Brilliant but Cancelled." If you think about the $1.1 million it costs to create one episode of "Deal or No Deal" (eight hour tape days notwithstanding), even less to create "1 vs. 100", and the $2.6 million to make one episode of "Friday Night Lights". Deal or No Deal can drum up an audience of 15 million on Mondays, while "Friday Night Lights" can only muster about forty percent of that, with 6.67 million viewers this week alone.

It all goes back to that old credo: need money fast? Put on a game show. NBC is taking heed, transforming the 8p family hour into something that could accurately be called "GSN on NBC". Not official, so don't hold me to that. After all, we have two big hits for the network, one time-slot building "Biggest Loser" (7.39 million this week), and one rumored project in the offing, it could very well turn into summer time all the time.

NBC wants to see this is returning to the golden age of variety shows and the occasional primetime quizzer. On the other hand, scripted producers and TV observers from the LA Times to the San Francisco Gate are saying that this is NBC basically throwing in the towel.

We'll see if this turns out to be a winning strategy. One thing is for sure. That whole "media blowing things out of proportion" spin machine is on at NBC, as evidenced by NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly's rebuttal from Variety...

"You can't be exclusive with reality at 8. You have to be in the scripted business. It's not an absolute."

So fans of "My Name is Earl" and "The Office" (myself included) need not worry. Right now.

The Weekly Rant, or Kenny Gameshow loses... AGAIN.

Let's do a little math here. On his latest show, "Bachelor" Lorenzo Borghese drummed up 9.85 million. The "Black-chelor" Flavor Flav drummed up 7.5 million. Yet "Flavor of Love" is the more entertaining of the two shows. And arguably, the most talked about, if only for a) the drama, and b) the man behind the drama... and no, I'm not talking about Big Rick.

Another thing to think about.

After all, "The Bachelor" franchise has purported from the very beginning that the titular character, whoever he or she may be, was looking for true love. Even so, of the 12 or so seasons that have aired thus far, only one resulted in a lasting meaningful relationship.

So far as I know, "Flavor of Love" didn't really make THAT concrete of a promise. So far as I know, Flav just wanted someone he could relate to and that he could hit on the side. He didn't find it once, so he's going about it again. It'll be a matter of time before we hear ANYTHING on a "Strange Love 2" featuring Flav and Deelishis, but hey, why not give them the benefit of the doubt.

I mean, any relationship that can survive the onslaught of New York can pretty much survive anything, right? RIGHT?!

So who do you want to see host "Millionaire"? E-mail Chico with your picks at


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