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Between a Rock and a Hard Sell
Gordon Pepper

As you all know, I won't be around next week due to the convention, so consider these two commentaries for this week and next week...

The first thought that I had actually occurred two weeks ago, when a thunderstorm zapped my cable box. I had my lovely cable company reassemble my box and plop me into their 'IO' plan, which is the New Jersey version of 5,800 channels. It's a good thing that I did that - a week later, Cablevision moved GSN to their IO service.

What does that mean? If you want to spend $50 on a regular cable, you're not going to be getting your game shows. The only way that happens is if you upgrade and get the $80 jobby.

I wanted to bring this up because we here at GSNN have been getting letters from the East Coast - ANGRY letters from the East Coast - from people who have been demanding to know why this is.

It could be due to ratings. Quite frankly, GSN doesn't get the ratings that they used to get. As has been mentioned on this forum in the past, the average rating on GSN used to be a 0.6. Now, it's a little over a 0.4. The status of their future may now be looking over the border, thanks to the sins and poor programming moves of their past. It could also be due to muscle - GSN isn't a part of any of the major comglomerates that want the premium space of eyeballs watching their regular cable programming.

Whatever the reason, GSN can't possibly be happy that their station just got shut out from a couple of million potential viewers. What also could also not make them very happy is that based on the e-mail coming in, it may not just be the east coast that will be losing GSN on their primary cable service. If this trend continues, then we're looking at scores of millions of people losing access to GSN, and if that's the case, they trying to get that 0.4 rating may turn from mediocre to miraculous.

Speaking of ratings, Mark Burnett tried another gimmick to get more of those things to salvage his show Rockstar. For whatever reason, the results show is lower rated than the performance show. To try to remedy that, Burnett decided to show the audience who the bottom three is, in an effort to 1. spur the voting and 2. spur the ratings.

Based on what happened on Wednesday night, not only did neither of them work, but it could have cost Brandon dearly. What we witnessed last night was another mini-Chaos Factor. Deanna didn't do too badly, but the television show showed her as one of the people in danger and in the bottom three. What did the audience do? They came in droves to vote her out of the bottom three. Indeed, they did that, but what they also did was bring Suzie into the Bottom Three.

Now you may all be saying, well wait a second, Brandon was listed in the bottom three and he still was there. That's true, but Suzie was one of the best performers of last night. Even INXS admitted that. Everyone knew that Suzie was in no actual danger of leaving the show.

What would have happened should the graphic not be shown? Well the bottom three would probably be Brandon and Jessica with...Deanna. Instead of Brandon having to sing for his life against Jessica, it probably would have been Deanna (who did NOT sing good on Tuesday) singing against Jessica for their lives, with all Brandon having to do is to be halfway decent.

We didn't get what we should have gotten. Instead, it was a sing-off that added a lot more pressure to Brandon. He may have even gotten the easier song that Suzie got and would not have had to get the song that he screwed up the lyrics to.

Now I'm not saying that Brandon would have won the competition. He probably doesn't make the top 5, regardless. However, I always draw the lines at twists that skewer the sanctity and validity of a competition. This would be like having each person putting up who they were voting for in Survivor and then having the audience change their votes in mid-stream. The audience would respond by shutting off their television on Survivor - just like they are doing now.

There's no doubt that Mark Burnett is an excellent producer, but trying to skewer a competition just for the sake of getting ratings never works. It seemed that Burnett didn't listen to the INXS song 'Don't Lose Your Head', because it blatantly looks like he did here. It didn't work for Fame as they tried to bring in 'The Spoiler', and it's not going to work here. If these are the kind of tactics that Burnett is trying to use to save Rock Star, then to quote an INXS song used yesterday, maybe it's time for the show to 'Disappear'.

Don't forget to catch Gordon Pepper on The Buzz,'s podcast, this week. E-mail him at


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