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The Original Game Show Page: Chris's Column's Journal

Below are the 12 most recent journal entries.


  2005.04.23  22.24

Hey. it's back. Same and Unimproved!

www.chris-lambert.com or http://members.lycos.co.uk/gameshowpage/GSP.html


  2005.03.23  07.53

The website is officially closed for business as of now. Sadly, the page has gotten to a point where I don't gain enough satisfaction out of it to remain paying $8.95/month (plus an additional $35/year for the domain name) to keep it up and running on the paid host I was using. I do plan on relaunching a smaller version of the site in the future on a free server. If you'd like to keep gsp_column on your Friends List, I'll announce where to find the new site here as soon as it exists.



  2004.03.18  18.23

I'm no fan of any of these dating TV shows, but I tried to watch Fake-a-Date with an open mind and judge it against the other shows in the format. My final prognosis: this is bad, even for a bad genre.

The two major problems that jumped out at me is it thinks it's more important than it is, and at the same time, it's trying to stay somewhat family-friendly. My latter point arises from the dating activities that the contestants took part in - a hot tub soak? Body painting? It sure sounds like the kind of scenarios that the trashy dating games out there imagine. Only thing was, everybody was playing them squeaky clean! What 18-34-year-old "hip" viewer is gonna care about a guy telling the girl he'd cook eggs for her and tell her jokes, when on ElimiDate they can see stripping , groping and slurping? Playing this kind of show as a TV-PG endeavor is a waste of time. Nobody CARES about the date; they want sleaze.

My other beef was the ridiculously overwrought editing at the end of the show. Soft-focus fade-ins and -outs of candles? Inserting pauses and reaction shots into the middle of the contestants' lines to add dramatic effect? This kind of thing works on a show like Bachelor because it has a batch of returning contestants, getting eiminated one by one on the way to a huge payoff - a supposed long-term relationship. On Fake-a-Date, all this built-up artificial drama leads to... two people going on one vacation together. And as soon as the credits roll, you're never seeing them again. The self-importancxe comes off as desperate and pathetic.

And did you notice I am just now getting to the host, Evan Marriott? Nobody expected the next Bill Cullen, but Joe Millionaire had trouble reading his lines off the teleprompter. Not just reading them, but enunciating them as well. It was painful to listen to, and the whole show was painful to watch. Fake-a-Date get s a well-deserved GRADE: F from this reviewer.

I guess I'll review Kenny vs. Spenny, even though it is in no way a game show. As far as GSN is concerned, that shouldn't matter!


  2004.03.16  07.19
Quick review: GSN's new look and World Series of Blackjack

The new graphics package looks pretty cool. I caution them to get some promos created for the library programming quickly, though -- I only watched the Blackjack show and I'm already sick of seeing the woman go into labor in the Kenny vs. Spenny promo. (As an aside: I can only hope those weren't the funniest bits in the series.) The on-screen bug wasn't as annoying and intrusive as I feared; I like how they were able to stick the crawl for the interactive games up there in the corner rather than shrinking the whole screen. The "watch for" graphic during Match Game PM, however, was very large and disrupting. It's on par with what some other cable (and local) channels do, but still, I don't like it.

The Blackjack show wasn't nearly as bad as I feared; in fact; after a slow start, it got fairly interesting - just about the time that the bets started growing. Tournament blackjack is an odd monster; on one hand, anybody can get back into the game on a single hand. On the downside, ANYONE can get back into the game on a single hand... which basically means that only the last few hands are really pivotal to the game. The show did a good job of skipping to the meaty hands of the thirty, but even the ones that were shown had an air of meaninglessness until the hand numbers passed, say, 20.

Host Matt Vasgersian (we'll always remember Sports Geniuses) and sidekick/expert Max Rubin did an excellent job with the play-by-play, and Melana Scantlin didn't offend in the small doses she was used.

Overall, not too bad; blackjack isn't quite the spectator sport that No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em is, but there was a bit of interesting strategy to make up for the lack of psychology and bluffing that makes televised poker so addictive. But World Series of Balckjack is a decent show, and I'll keep watching.

You know I like The Mole already (even so, I don't need to see the Hawaii celebrity edition again just yet), so the next review will be for Fake-a-Date, which premieres Wednesday night.


  2004.02.21  14.59

Mere days away from Super Millionaire's debut (and countless failed attempts at the phone game later), I have a good feeling that this is going to be a successful week for Reege and for ABC,

People keep saying overkill is what did the show in, but the facts don't support that. When the show as on four nights/week, they often all came in in the top 10.

What killed Millionaire was the following (2001-2002) season, when they moved it from Sun-Tue-Thu-Fri to Mon-Thurs. The Monday ep was shuffled off to after football (with a floating start time) in most time zones, and was all-celebrity, all-the-time (and by this point, every celebrity who it would have been even kinda-sorta fun to see on Millionaire had already done it, leaving no-talents and people who
had already done Celebrity Weakest Link - of course, those two categories are not mutually exclusive).

Meanwhile, the Thursday eps with civillian players were hit with the triple-whammy of (a) going up against Will & Grace AND CSI:, (b) having no earlier-in-the-week civillian eps to help build the drama, and (c) facing an audience who, having seen tons of celebrity editions, now had their attention wander when blatant cheating WASN'T going on.

One week per sweeps month for this new version is just what the doctor ordered to resuscitate what can still be a nice ratings machine for ABC. We don't need a continuing prime-time series; that's what Meredith's version is for.

Of course, it'd be great if Reege did the daytime show, but he was offered the job twice and passed. Meredith, meanwhile, is doing a fine job.


  2004.01.11  13.36

And there we have it: the GSN logo change. The biggest non-story to have people up in arms in years now. But then again, the game show fandom has always been a touchy bunch. Surprisingly, given they're so into a form of television that has been around since the early days, many of them understand very little about what makes a TV network run.

It was great to have an all-game show network for the last nine years of our lives - in fact, it was a dream of your webmaster, who created schedules all day in grade school and often missed important answers to upcoming tests while doing so. But, the bottom line is, it has proven to not be the overwhelming success that it may be in one addicted viewer's mind. As the mostly-rerun channel that we adored in its early days, the channel lost tons of money. As the intended even split of original games and highest-profile reruns that GSN has been of late, things have been better. Still, though, you can measure GSN's primetime ratings in numbers below a 0.5. Tying VH1 cannot be considered a sucess when both channels get less than one-fifth the viewers UPN does.

So, the format change that really isn't: GSn (or is it Gsn? We can't tell yet) will merely freshen its logo package (much needed; that current logo has been around since 1997 and needed to go), and the introduction of a reality-based original series or acquisition in the 10 PM hour every night of the week. As a recent news article stated, 10 PM is becoming "prime time" for cable networks; many channels are scheduling their biggest hits for the 10-midnight block for the benefit of channel-surfers who leave the broadcast nets at that time (think FX's The Shield and Nip/Tuck; Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy; Comedy Central's South Park).

So, 10 PM weeknight will see reruns of The Mole, Spy TV and Canada's Kenny vs. Spenny, along with originals Fake-a-Date and The World Series of Blackjack. You know how I feel about The Mole, and the blackjack show could be interesting if done right (Matt Vasgersian is a great choice to host; Average Joe's Melana as a co-host could be a detriment, as fans of that show tend to have a negative opinion of her now, and others would disdain anyone from a reality dating show. This could also spell trouble for the Evan mariott-hosted Fake-a-Date if it didn't sound like such a bad idea on its own merits).

Spy TV can in no way be considered a game show, but let's be honest; neither can Love Connection. This pickup serves to cash in on the success of MTV's just-ended Punk'd, with perhaps a dash of trading on first-season host Michael Ian Black's surprising loving-the-80s-influenced popularity with younger viewers. This show will stick out like a sore thumb on a gaming channel, but it should be noted that a similar show exists on Britain's GSN answer, Challenge? TV. The difference there is that their hidden-camera trick show, Beadle's About, is helmed by notable quizmaster Jeremy Beadle. But I digress.

We will still have a GSn, or a Gsn, that will show tons of game shows every day, and that's great. No doubt that favorites like Match Game, Family Feud, Lingo and Millionaire are going to be there for some time to come, and there's still a deep library of Sony-owned properties. But no channel can program for one niche fanbase all day and all night; you've got to bring in casual viewers with something different, then use that opportunity to hit 'em with the promos for your other stuff. That's why Foul Play was aired in practically every possible evening time-slot, and why GSN Video Games existed for its short life (The new channel plans more, and hopefully better-quality, video game programming in the future). Just because those didn't work, doesn't mean that GSN should give up all attempts to bring in new viewers with differnt types of programming. They just have to keep trying until they get it right. If Kenny vs. Spenny and SpyTV don't do the trick, they'll be gone and something else will come aboard.

If there had never been a 24/7 Game Show network, then game show fans would be thrilled with the prospect of the new GSn. Enjoy the games we will still see in the earlier dayparts, and who knows? Someday the channel may have the clout to grab TPiR's rerun rights or - yes, he's gonna suggest it - Multiplex and create an all-game show GSN2. But until then, tune in for all the game shows that we still have on the channel we've enjoyed for nine years.

Still to come: the 2003 OGSP! Awards... as soon as I can find some recipients.


  2003.10.04  21.07

Quick thoughts, since I've let this suffer for a month:

* A big thumbs-up to GSN for the finished product of Who Wants to be Governor of California?: The Debating Game. I had my doubts whether a combination quiz show/political debate could be pulled off without sinking into an unwatchable abyss, but Kennedy was the perfect choice to keep things interesting. Her skills as quizmaster and debate moderator were both in full display, usually simultaneously - and my biggest concern was actually with the former, given her struggle as he guest-host of Wintuition</em> on April Fools' Day. I now have the utmost confidence that she'll be able to pull off another game for the network as soon as they find the right pilot for her. GSN shouldn't make this an annual event; fortunately, such a fiasco as the California recall circus only comes around once in a lifetime. But then again, considering how all politics have devolved into a lame joke, maybe not. You may all shudder simultaneously now.

* I can't believe PAX is actually going to do new episodes of Shop 'til You Drop. From what I'm reading on the PAX website, there will probably be some major rules changes to go along with new host J.D. Roberto (who does have minimal game show experience with Animal Planet's You Lie Like a Dog, but who is best known for the very, VERY unPAXy Are You Hot?).The howls of protest are heard from those of you who wanted more episodes of Supermarket Sweep, but in the end it appears that Stone-Stanley productions could afford to take the lower licensing fee PAX was offering this year, but Al Howard Productions could not. Again , we can only hope that another network sees the value of David Ruprecht's long-running series and steps in, allowing us to once again hear the sound of the beep.

* Much congratulations to the Emmy-winning folks at MY favorite TV show,The Amazing Race, for the award and the renewal. Sometimes, it pays to be the critical darling, with the greenlight for Race #5 coming a week after the statuettes were handed out. CBS has something going in summers right now, with Race and Big Brother, which also kept us compelled - if not exactly enthralled with the final twosome. (At least Alison only got $50K.) In the news: be on the lookout for a Big brother-themed episode of the CBS sitcom Yes, Dear (c'mon, like you watch Fear Factor anyway!) featuring former houseguests Dr. Will, Hardy (from 2), Amy, Marcellas, Lisa, Roddy (from 3), and Michelle and several others TBA from number four. Sounds fun, but I do wish CBS would quit pretending that the first season existed. The twelve of us that were watching really liked those folks. :)

* My friend Mike Klauss has decided to close down his tv-gameshows.com site after a seven-year run due to a lack of time and a drop in the oerall fun of covering this genre. Without making this sound like a eulogy, I'd like to thank Mike for running such a fine site - and indirectly pushing me to improve my site in response. Continued best wishes back in colege; who knows? Maybe I'll be joining you in that regard...

Until next time,
Chris Lambert


  2003.08.10  22.21

Please accept my sincere apologies if you were expecting to see recaps of NBC's Race For the Altar in the right-hand column of my site. I'm afraid I just can't bring myself to watch it again after sitting through the excruciating first episode (and fast-forwarding through the second one). It certainly falls within the boundaries that I've set for whether I recap a show: it's not based upon forming a romantic relationship between contestants who have never met, and there is a tangible prize involved for the winners (the wedding). But, unfortunately, it is just not a good show, and I can't bring myself to give it the free promotion that my recaps would give. Even if that would just come out to three viewers. The games themselves are either stolen from Fear Factor or are the same old "let's make the couples argue" quizzes that have been done to death, and they are still better than the squabbling that makes up the bulk of each hour. And host Lisa Dergan - how does the scorekeeper from Smush have a hosting gig? - is adding absolutely nothing to the proceedings. She'd be lost without the cue cards. Amazingly, she is no Brooke Burns!

I am, however, recapping ABC's The Family because, although it is equally as ridiculous and unnecessary as Altar, it is fun to watch - if for nothng else, than for host george Hamilton's cornball sincerity in playing his role as the dashing, overly seriouss cheeseball role to the hilt. I couldn't care less who ends up with the million, but I'm tuned in every week for the shenanigans (and George's deep concern thereof). Only the fact that it airs opposite NBC's The West Wing is keeping it from getting more viewers than the painful altar Race that is anything but amazing.

In other news, I hope that you will take some time to heed David Ruprecht's request for support. PAX is looking to end production of new episodes of Supermarket Sweep, assuming they can coast on reruns. Sweep's not high art, but it's always great fun. Unless, of course, you realize during the player interviews that you've already seen it. Send a polite e-mail to PAX and let them know you want to see some new episodes. If that doesn't work, let's hope another network sees fit to pick the show up. Yes, GSN, I'm looking your way...

Finally, those of you not sure what to make of Banzai had better make up your minds quickly, as the August 17 episode will be the last. It's not a game show, even though it sure likes to think of itself as one. It IS an escapist half-hour of stupidity that's been good for some yuks - but even from somebody who's been trumpeting the show since seeing an episode from the UK's Channel 4 some years back, even I can admit that maybe it's time to close up shop.

Until next time,
Chris Lambert


  2003.07.05  19.27

I look upon the addition of Game Sauce and Gamer.TV to the GSN (remember when they called it Game Show Network?) lineup with about as much anticipation as any of you do. However, it's really not something that should've surprised us: when Liberty media took a 50% ownership in the channel a few years back, they were talking then about turning it into an interactive gaming channel (although back then, that was supposed to be in the form of playing solitaire on the TV screen), and the phrase "game show" doesn't appear in the channel's mission statement attached to its press releases (games and interactive game playing", it says).

Sadly, GSN has never received ratings to crow about. We thought they were going to burst out of their skin with pride when the premiere of Whammy! scored a 0.8 rating, but only the highly-promoted Press Your Luck documentary has reached that not-so-lofty level since then. Although folks like you and I think a network playing game shows all day, every day is great - and isn't it? - it's simply not proven to be economically viable. heck, the whole network could be getting a 0.8 and that's still not all that hot.

It may be premature to play "Taps" for the format just yet - there's every reason to think these video game programs will do just as horribly in the ratings as, say, WinTuition reruns - but it's money that matters in the biz, and "all play, all day" in its 1994-2003 form isn't creating the money that Liberty media needs. It's been a great nine years; hopefully they will continue.

Quick thoughts on Funny Money: the show's grown on me, once I stopped expecting Jimmy Pardo to be a classic game show host and for the format itself to be anything but secondary. As a stand-up comedy showcase, it's proven to be a fun way to spend thirty minutes. My beef is with the Sunday night Celebrity editions: the extra celebrities playing the game are superfluous and add nothing to the atmosphere. You want to have Martin mull and Fred Willard make guest appearances? Great: make them do standup. Having them in the contestants' lecterns, attempt to out-funny the funny folks, ain't cutting it. Similarly, I'm not enjoying Celebrity Cram as much as the original, either: when you're digging up Kato Kaelin (nobody wants to see this guy ever again!) and Bachelor rejects, it's time to just let the game stand on its own two legs.


  2003.05.03  10.11

A very belated thought on the April Fools' Day host switcheroo over at GSN... I owe a lot of credit to one host who stood head and shoulders above the rest. Todd Newton's job as host of Russian Roulette was exemplary: he was clearly the only GSN host that was capable of walking in on another series and running it properly. All the others clearly had problems adapting their individual styles to a different format (with Marc Summers on Cram being a distant second), but Todd took the extra step of adapting himself to fit Roulette's darker, more foreboding mood, and it made the difference.

I had high hopes for Kennedy taking over WinTuition, but she didn't quite gel with the straight quiz format (necessatating numerous edits, including a very noticable one right before a climactic moment of the game). Ms. Montgomery may be a great Friend or Foe? host simply because of that show's unusual nature.... or it may have just been a one-time problem for K. I hope we get the chance to find out again sometime in the no-so-distant future how well she can handle a different show.

We have another bumper crop of cable games premiereing in the next few months, with GSN, Oxygen and Food Network all preparing new summer offerings (good to see Marc moving on quickly following the apparent demise of WinTuition). Hopefully they will fill the void felt by the loss of PAX's Dirty Rotten Cheater. It's a shame that it never found an audience, but the title probably kept the average PAX viewer away, and my incessant word-of-mouth promotion probably never fell on the ears on anybody who had a Nielsen box. I still maintain that it would be a great move for GSN to pick this show up and make new episodes for their weekend schedule. Can we convince Bob Boden to agree? :)

Until next time, because I have to go manage my All American Girl rotisserie league...
Chris Lambert


  2003.04.05  17.41

...to what will hopefully be a great new start for "Chris's Column."

As I'm sure you've noticed, it's been a long, long time since I produced anything here. Sadly, the game show world has not produced quite as much news as it used to, and the reality show world is just a mess (with a wide majority of the new network offerings either being far out of my definition of a "reality game", or dismally boring - plus, it just no longer seems as important to analyze every movement of the Survivor 6 clan). Ergo, it's been hard to pull together 6 -7 paragraphs at a time to put a new column on the page.

So, hopefully with this blog, I'll be able to post up more timely opinions on the game world without the need to stretch it out to 12 column inches. We all win: I have more fresh content for the site, and you don't have to read nearly as much rambling. :)

So, onto those long-overdue thoughts:

* Sad to say, I believe we've seen the last of The Mole as played by non-celebrities. The ratings for the first Celebrity edition were very encouraging for ABC, and you know what that means. Mole may prove to be an enduring property for the struggling Alphabet network (I'd bet the farm on a 3rd edition being commissioned for next January), but the numbers clearly point towards giving the everyday Joe the heave-ho. For the record, I enjoyed Celebrity Mole quite a bit, but it pales mightily to the civillian versions. And host Ahmad Rashad is completely "just OK" as host, but he's got a lot of work to try to make anybody forget about Anderson Cooper.

* TNN has pulled the plug on Taboo. Remember that show? Talk about an idea doomed to failure from the get-go. Chris Wylde's involvement in game shows should've never been as "emcee": the hyper-annoying guy act he plays to perfection would've worn quite well as a panelist or reality-show player, but as host he totally distracted from the game -- and that's a big mistake when the game is as well-known of a property as this one. In addition, the preview episode, which pushed the limits of good taste much farther than other episode, only served to turn off tons of potential viewers who were looking for exactly the opposite.

* And finally, I'd just like to say that I really wish that CBS would speak up about the future of The Amazing Race 4. Now is definitely not the time to air the show, with the reality-show glut and the growing backlash and poor ratings thereof... but this franchise is among the best of anything the networks have offered in years. I'd feel better just knowing that it will air SOMETIME in the future (my choice: back to Wednesdays at 9 this summer, following Big Brother 4... with a move to 8 PM should any further editions be shown during the fall/winter months.

That's it for now. I'd like to point out that the site recieved a record 32,000+ hits in February, including over 3000 hits in one day - almost tripling the previous record! I don't know what was going on, but I thank all of you visitors, first-time and long-time, for keeping this site going for the last eight-plus years. Hopefully I'll have much more for you to read in the coming months.

Until next time...

Chris Lambert


  2003.03.31  07.59
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