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Trading Egos and Pointing Fingers - October 27

You ever have one of those weeks that lasted about a fortnight? That's what it was around here. Ask anyone. Jason can tell you that it was eventful for him. Wolvie and Julie had to resend stuff. We still don't know where Eric is. Gordon had a birthday which is cause for concern in any context. And on top of that, we've got a billion hurricanes forming in the ocean, and we're running out of names. All this in a world where a Spanish-language daily is the next cult-classic and a pop star is hosting a reasonably decent game show.

But enough ranting. Let's get to some numbers before it starts raining Code Red. I suppose we should start with the big question... Who exactly is to blame for "The Apprentice"'s downslide?

The Blame Game

If you remember recent articles, you know that Donald Trump is firing all of his guns squarely at Martha's version of the show being the reason his own show's relative failure. Granted, the Thursday show is still second to CSI, but that's not the point. The point is that this particular round of accusations, if you look at the numbers, are completely unfounded. Last week's show, which featured and unbridled plugging of upcoming feature (say it with me now...) "Zathura", scored second in the overnights (8.5/12), viewers (10.39 million), and in the adults 18-49 (4.7/12). On the plus side, it did build off of "Will & Grace". On the minus side, the show, which was on its second season and building off of its increasing buzz from the Bill Rancic season, posted 11.9/17 in the overnights, 14.59 million viewers and a 7.2/17 among adults 18-49. Last season this time (back in March, mind you), we saw a 10.9/16 in the overnight, 13.78 million viewers, and 6.0/15 in the demo. The week before, all also-rans, 8.6/12 overnights; 10.23 million viewers, and 4.5/11 in the demo. So this week saw a little bit of a boost in viewership, but Donald will probably have to end up spinning this as "the biggest ratings drop in the world. It's really great."

For the record, "Apprentice: Martha Stewart" fared thusly in the past two weeks:

10/19: 5.5/8 overnight, 6.82 million viewers, and 2.7/6 adults 18-49... all fourth place.
10/26: 6.2/9 overnight, 7.56 million viewers, and 3.0/8 adults 18-49... all fourth place.

So, at least in the interim... move is a good thing. But not good enough to warrant a second try at this failed experiment.

The Poker Game

The other big question this week... Is poker growing or dying on TV? If you were to read one source, you'd think that it was growing. If you were to read another, you would think that it was dying. It depends on who you ask.

From a recent TV Week article: "After two years of booming ratings and more press coverage than any other programming trend this side of reality TV, the televised poker audience is, in many cases, dropping." The same report cites dropoffs of Travel Channel's "World Poker Tour" of 17 percent in total viewers during its 2005 season, ESPN's "World Series of Poker" of 14 percent, CNBC's "Heads Up Poker" tournament of 18 percent. "And among the three iterations of GSN's own "Poker Royale" series, most are similarly down."

On the upside, "Celebrity Poker Showdown" is up 12 percent, though its audience is considerably smaller.

A rebuttal from the creator of WPT, Steven Lipscomb: "People have been prognosticating the death of poker since we launched the sensation in '03. What you do see is the maturation of a market. Most of the wannabe shows are dying out and the 'World Poker Tour' on the Travel Channel and the 'World Series of Poker' on ESPN are settling into ratings numbers that rival regular-season NBA or PGA events. The media wants to create the phenomenon, hype it, then kill it." While that may be true, it's also worth noting that repeats of both events have shown growth.

So two years after the premiere of "World Poker Tour", still arguably the most watched in the genre, it's still too early to tell. The numbers say two different things in this case. And it is true that the cream is now just beginning to rise to the top, as it always does in this critical juncture (remember "Millionaire" and the millions of clones it spawned?). But one thing remains clear. The fact that we're even concerned for the future of this subset is proof that it's still big business.

The Race Game

My sister swore off "The Amazing Race" during its family edition season. Then she was gifted with a trip to Panama, our motherland. She watched... and laughed when she realized that, according to Phil, it was illegal to wear underpants on top of underpants on top of pants.

She might've been the exception of the rule, though.

Last week saw a 6.7/9 in the overnights. The week prior, 7.4/11. The week prior still, 7.4/10. Last season this time (i.e: the Romber season), 9.5/14. So in the battle of families in America against couples in the world... Couples in the world wins. Luckily we'll see some of that next year.

Okay, we've spent enough time in the nighttime. Let's go to your syndie moment of zen.

The "A" Game

Wheel of Fortune (8.1 rating, -10 percent from the year-ago week) is still America's game, scoring better than most primetime games. Perennial second-banana Jeopardy! (6.2, -28) is also on typical par, even though the news this time last year was, of course, Ken Jennings. That's really the only explanation to give for a 28 percent drop. Last week, Wheel spun an 8.0, while Jeopardy! was on level with 6.3.

Elsewhere, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire posted a 2.8, down 10 percent from last year. Cause for concern? Maybe. But then again, it's on the air until 2009, so... 

And your final number... 25. Last week, Fremantle unceremoniously celebrated the silver anniversary of one of its properties, "Blockbusters." The show premiered on NBC in 1980 and has since gone on to spawn a long-running children's version in the UK. If you look at reruns on GSN, you can see that it's really an engaging quiz at its heart and is long overdue for a comeback...

Okay, so I was the only one celebrating... But hey, it's my party, and I'll celebrate if I want to. Until next time, remember, the numbers don't lie.

Chico Alexander will take an E, please, Bill. As in e-mail, at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.


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