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Poor Little Rich List - November 9

It's pretty safe to say that we're smack dab in the middle of the next great game show wave. Let's see... The killer app... Check. The show that's not as good as the killer app, but still worth watching nonetheless... Check. The first high profile failure... Check.

In the rush for networks to catch their own Deal or No Deal in a bottle, the first casualty was notched for the ever-quick-to-capitalize-on-a-trend Fox, having seen "The Rich List" come and go on the same night.

In case you missed it (no pun intended), the first, last, and only episode of the quizzer placed fourth in its time slot by the slimmest of margins, with a 3.1/5.

You really can't blame the Fox people for trying. After all, here you have the promise of a borderline illegal sum of money for doing something as simple as naming things off of a list. But as I love to bring up -- and I'm sure Sun Tzu will agree with me were it not for the whole being dead thing -- half of the battle is won or loss before the first bullet is ever fired.

In that respect, you can honestly say that it didn't have a hope in hell.

1) It was up against two monster shows on other networks, "Criminal Minds" on CBS and "Lost" on ABC.
2) Its lead-in, "Bones", hasn't really passed muster so far this season.
3) Historically, nothing good has EVER happened to Fox before January.

So we have three shortcomings that for all intents and purposes, really should've been thought through before the show ever made it to the airwaves. With those, three resolutions.

1) Move it to a slot in which a fledgling show is up against weaker competition. "Greed" found its way on Fridays before it was untimely yanked due to the extreme failure of "It's Your Chance of a Lifetime." Another possibility: Tuesday at 9, when "House", already an established hit for the network (and I'm not just saying this because I happen to like it), is just wrapping up and the only competition you really have to worry about is the pesky third half-hour of "Dancing with the Stars". But more than likely a Friday slot would've provided at least a chance at survival. After all, look at (insert reality rip-off here).

2) Find a better lead-in... something Fox has yet to figure out unless you count cult favorite "Prison Break." You find the show that people are watching, and then you pub the hell out of it on that show. It won't guarantee success, but at least it will get the name out and attract eyeballs. And also make sure it's not on a slot of death. The old saying, "You're as good as the company you keep" applies.

3) I'm sure Gordon, probably the biggest "American Idol" fan on this site, can attest to this one. Fox's greatest television triumphs, quality be damned ("Unan1mous" much?), have come at the latter part of the season, thanks in no small part to three judges, one spiky-haired host, and a boatload of singers waiting to grab that brass ring. It makes sense if you think about it; any show that premiered out of "Idol" was met with some success, even if it was limited. "Unan1mous" and "Free Ride" lasted a full season. "The Loop" will return midseason. "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" was at least talked about before it eventually spawned "My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss."

So there you go. Three things Fox could have done to at least prolong the life of "The Rich List". Sure it wouldn't have improved the game that much, but hey, this is the same network that thought that telling 20 gold diggers that a construction worker with a past involving shiny underpants was worth millions was good television.

I'm not saying it wasn't... I'm just saying Fox has a way of prolonging torture.

The Meredith Effect FURTHER revisited.

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" posted its highest rating this season with a 3.8. Of the game shows currently in syndication, it is posting the highest year-to-year rating to date.

We've already seen how Meredith Vieira on "Today" had a hand in this, but now industry wags are suggesting that the recent uptick in primetime game shows also have a great deal to do with this. They cite the fact that, Family Feud aside, all of the games in syndication are posting similar gains from year to year.

Understandable, given that "Deal or No Deal," currently the eighth-most-popular show on television, garners 16 million viewers on any given Monday night. Its sister show, "1 vs. 100", has had a respectable showing on Fridays, with the final episode of this run ranking a competitive second with 9.88 million (the first place show, "The Ghost Whisperer", had 11.35 million).

Good news.

The even better news is that, with "Joker's Wild", "Combination Lock", and syndicated "Deal" in the wings, the upswing shows no sign of slowing down...

Of course, this may all change if "Show Me the Money" fails to deliver on the goods. One high-profile failure can be easily salved. Two, on the other hand, have been shown to be damning.

A Moment of Zen for Bob Barker

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the last gas of Bob Barker on "The Price is Right". Fifty years on television, 35 of which were on the longest-continuously-running game show in television history. An audience that, while not the largest on TV (your typical audience is five million strong, which can be attributed to a) lack of Nielsen boxes on college campuses and b) lack of people in the home), spans at least three generations.

What more can be said that hasn't been said already? We all know that he was a class act. We all know that he is the epitome of what a game show host should be. But then again, like the impresario that Willy Wonka was in the original "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," we also knew that he couldn't go on forever and that he was not about to try, no matter what his will power said in the past.

Thankfully, we also know that "The Price is Right" will continue without him. But while everyone and their mother has a short list of who Bob should choose as his rightful successor, one thing can at least be agreed upon. If done properly, said rightful successor can inherit the throne instead of take it on headlong. In this, I propose the following...

1) I propose that Bob Barker have a say in the selection process, which, according to reports from him and his people, has been going on for the better part of the last two or three years. What better person to oversee the transition process than the person who was there from the beginning. Besides, we all saw what happened when Bob wasn't involved in the direction that the future of TPIR took, and frankly, we didn't buy it. No offense to Doug Davidson. We all know he loves game shows and game playing, but to have one look of TPIR side by side with another is like watching a game show with a case of schizophrenia.

2) I propose that people don't concentrate on looking for "a name". I can't begin to tell you how many times "Family Feud" was mired in its current run by hosts who have nothing more than a name to bring to the party. Louie Anderson was energetic to start with, but by the end of the first season, you could tell for days he gave the appearance of a man who was thinking "Here I am doing this crap again." Instead of looking for a name, look for a person with a genuine love of the game, a person who is a student of the genre, and a person who doesn't mind learning the rules backwards and forwards of 80-plus pricing games because chances are he or she knows them by heart.

3) Have it be a proper passing of the torch. It's the least we can do for someone who has been there before. Fifty years ago on New Year's Eve, Bob was on the receiving end when television pioneer Ralph Edwards introduced an unknown DJ to the world. We owe the student of Ralph Edwards that much, and in the end, it will help further his legacy that much more... if you could even further a legacy as illustrious as Bob's anyway. It doesn't have to be anything long and drawn-out, but let the public know that Bob saw what his predecessor can do and that he, as the man of the hour, approves.

Any more suggestions? We'd love to hear them.

The Weekly Rant, or how long do you think before we see Gary Dourdan, Anna Belknap, and Jonathan Togo on Celebrity Jeopardy!?

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I asked you to give us a few ideas about who you thought would be able to host "Millionaire".

First up, from Alex Davis over at Buzzer...

"Read your numbers game and thought I'd submit.  Honestly, I could see Kennedy doing it if they'd let her.  She's proven she's good at quiz shows.  She WAS the reason to watch Friend or Foe, and she handled a serious, tough quiz show (albeit boring) like WinTuition nicely.  She also showed us she's good with toying with emotions (the Trust Box) and she is extremely excited.  She got teary when the guy won $50K on WinTuition.  I'd actually like to see Rosie O'Donnell try.  However, she has The View.  She has a spinoff of Nip/Tuck coming.  I doubt she could fit Millionaire in her schedule also."

Kennedy would make an interesting choice. It's not a secret that she loves the unscripted television. Anyone who has ever seen her on "Reality Remix" on Fox Reality can attest to that. Can that translate to such a venerable format as Millionaire? Well, she still has a while to prove herself. She was actually quite adept at "Friend or Foe", but the physiognomy of the game called for that character. It was her one-off stint on "WinTuition" that proved that she could roll with the big dogs.

Chance? Given the schedule she has? 1-8. But it would be nice.

Next, Tim Hsieh directed me to his posting on Game Show Forum. And in case you missed it...

"Tom Bergeron says that he will be a guest host He tells the "Good Day LA" folks this near the end of this video clip broadcast 10/26."

That's actually a pretty good fit. A) it's closer to his home base of ops in Boston (He notoriously commuted from home to work during his stint on "Hollywood Squares"), B) the ABC hierarchy makes him a prime target, especially given that he's on one of the most popular shows on TV right now, "Dancing with the Stars", and C) he has a freaking Emmy. Tom Bergeron has gone from a short-lived morning show on Fox to emerge as one of the premiere emcees of my generation.

Chance? 1-1. Obviously.

And finally, from Regisfan...

"Well, I think that there's only one true heir to the Millionaire throne, and that would be Regis Philbin. He always will be the true "king" of Millionaire, and there's no one I'd rather see host the show for a week. I would savor each and every episode. However, the chances the powers-that-be will actually ask Regis to host? Pretty low. So let's say I absolutely had to pick someone else. I always thought Barbara Walters would make a good Millionaire host... But, Regis is my number one choice."

Truth be told, I'd buy Regis before I'd buy Babs. Nothing against Barbara Walters, but Regis knows the deal. In fact, were it not for him, Meredith probably wouldn't have even been considered for the Hot Seat... and look how good THAT turned out.

But again, he's got a lot as well, with the morning show and the upcoming season of "America's Got Talent". Still, though, if he could make it work, I bet you he would.

Chance? 1-3.

Your next assignment: how to make the transition to post-Bob Barker life that much easier to bear. You know the deal. Send in your thoughts, and the best of the best will be published in a future column.

Chico Alexander wishes he lived and worked as a relative unknown TV host in New York City if only for the shot at the Hot Seat. E-mail him at telling him how nuts you think he is.


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