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Everything's a game of numbers...

Today is

High - November 30

It's been your typical week. The top two game shows in daytime posted season highs. "Deal" cracked the top 10 with its Monday edition. "Show Me the Money" continued its downward trend.

Oh yeah, and writers walk off the job at Top Model, causing panic and chaos everywhere except where it counts.

Top two game shows in daytime posted season highs.

From TV Week: Among game shows, King World's duo of "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" toasted the November book with themed weeks as both series enjoyed 6 percent increases over the same week a year ago. "Wheel" rose 3 percent to a season-best 9.0 rating and earning its highest rating since March with a "Family Week" theme shot in Dallas. Meanwhile, "Jeopardy!" turned to its proven "Celebrity Jeopardy!" format to pull a 3 percent jump for the week to a season-best 7.2.

It's the first time this season that Wheel has cracked the 9 mark. As for Celebrity Jeopardy!, say what you will about the mental will power of some of the celebs involved, but there is no doubt that stars playing Jeopardy! attract about as much of an audience as Will Ferrell playing Alex Trebek. It's a thing. It's a standby. It happened for a reason, that reason being the show's 5000th match.

Still no word on possible specials, though. I mean, we had one for 3000 and 4000, right?

Meanwhile, the other big hard quiz, "Millionaire," continues to reap the benefits of Meredith Vieira's increased exposure, up 18 percent from last year.

"Deal" cracked the top 10 with its Monday edition.

16.96 million. That was "Deal or No Deal's" audience last Monday. If I'm not mistaken, that's the largest audience the show has had since it became a regular schedule staple in February. In a word... Wow.

On the flipside, there's the show du jour that was sparked by the hit status of "Deal or No Deal".

"Show Me the Money" continues its downward trend.

Proving that something really must've stunk up this show if Fox wouldn't take it, "Show Me the Money" keeps leaking audience, with its third edition placing fourth in the time slot with a 5.7/9, down from the week before (7.78 million viewers, more than any show on ABC that night).

Meanwhile, the other show of interest that time slot... CW's America's Next Top Model with a 5.3/8. According to Mediaweek, it was 6 percent above it's year-ago performance on UPN (5.0/8).

These next few weeks will be especially telling, since these shows are the ones that were created without writer involvement. So far, fan response has been highly negative. We'll see if the build on Wednesdays continues or, if next season, it starts a bit of a drop.

The Weekly Rant or Concentrate, meditate, why be good, go be great, lift the weight, eat some steaks, something else that rhymes with "eight".

We all depend on identity. You have secret identity, you have dual identity, identity theft, identity crises, identification cards that you can't go purchase adult beverages without...

And now the game show world is about to depend on "Identity." And it couldn't have come at a better, if not a more opportune, time, because if I'm being honest, we're in a bit of a funk right now. We're barely washing the taste of "The Rich List" out of our mouths and then we're forcefed "Show Me the Money." It is the nature of the beast we call television, after all, even though it means I have to be the one that cries out at the top of my lungs, "That's the problem with you producers! You're not asking us what we want, you're TELLING us what we want!"

And regrettably, it's this thinking that threatens to shelve the genre for another eight years.

And this is why the next few months will be crucial in deciding whether primetime games remain a force to be reckoned with during the season, or whether they're relegated to the summer... or worse. And leading the charge: "Identity" from NBC.

You're probably going "Look at this guy huffing and puffing about a game show that hasn't even aired yet. What's the big deal anyway?" Why does "Identity" matter that darn much anyway? See the above paragraph.

In all seriousness, though, "Identity" is one of the first shows (the other being "Set for Life", but more on that later) that will signal whether programming geniuses who more often than not get paid almost criminal sums NOT to go with their gut will cry out "end of the trend" or actually invest time and capital to work on new product. That's probably the big indicator as to why "Identity" matters, and why we should depend on it. But if we probe further, there are actually a number of reasons why we should all have a healthy fear of probable failure... and why we should also have a healthy dose of hope for this show.

- The Killer App Effect. Of course, you need the one show that sets the events into motion. Success breeds imitators. After "Millionaire" hit, we got "Greed", "Winning Lines", and "Twenty One". "The Chair" and "Weakest Link" would come later. After "Survivor" hit, reality became the big thing. After "Idol" hit, the buzzword was dream fulfillment (okay, that's two words). And now, we have networks wanting their own "Deal or No Deal"... now, and they're not above doing absolutely anything to get it. But so far, every show with the exception of "1 vs. 100" that tried to take the crown of the Mandel has failed. "Deal or No Deal" is still the hit it always was, but after 42 retreads/kneejerk reactions come and go with no real change, you know, what are you left with? Stagnation has made many a game show fan bitter. 

- It's American made. Fifty, sixty years ago, our games existed on a bubble. Find something that worked on the radio, port it to television. For the last 10, 15 years, thanks in no small part to the globalization of companies like FremantleMedia and Endemol, the game show world has become just that, a world. Games exsit on a world stage now, and it seems that every good idea that we've had in broadcast primetime came about because it worked elsewhere. This may sound like a phallus-measuring contest, but in a world where the last good American-made idea was the CW's "Beauty and the Geek" (which was since ported to the UK), we kinda have something to prove to the world at large. Call it an exchange rate of game show mayhem.

- Newness. It's a fresh take on an old idea. The idea of someone trying to discern who's who and what's what is literally older than many of us. Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, two of the glorious godfathers of our chosen genre, were geniuses in bringing the idea to radio, then television, building an empire around it and from there, giving us such gems as "What's My Line", "To Tell the Truth," "The Name's the Same", and "Make the Connection." Granted, Ben Silverman is not out to become the second coming of Mark Goodson, but no one can argue that taking an old idea and looking at it through new eyes is at all a bad thing.

- Penn Jillette. I called him one of a growing breed of hosts who, for lack of a better term, couldn't give a damn. This means that he detaches himself from the premise and makes the game the stage, and the player the actor. And this is before I watched him here. He managed to detach himself from previous premises such as his own "Impossible Heists" and "Penn & Teller: Bulls#!t!", at least more so than William Shatner and Eamonn Holmes did (not to say that Holmes wasn't a capable host, but still, when what you're given is not much, what do you do). You put the game center stage... and you make the players grace the stage on their own... then you will earn the people's respect.

There you go. Four quick, clean reasons why "Identity" is important. Next week, why conversely "Set for Life" is important.

Chico Alexander has a bit of an identity crisis only every day of his life. E-mail his latest identity at


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