Thursday, December 10, 2009


All right. I suppose I owe you an explanation. It's been more than two months since I posted on here, and the reason is simple - I burned myself out. I'm simply not capable of blogging every day, and I should have realized that before I started.

So here's what I'm going to do: I will relaunch my web ramblings at a new address. On that address, I will post once a week only. That may not be easy: there will undoubtedly be some weeks where I can't think of anything to write about, and an equal number where something happens that I simply can't wait to examine. Still I am going to try to stick to Thursdays.

The new blog will be at (and yes, I am going to try to keep the focus on game shows only).

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brain Drain?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I would not be a game show fan today if it weren't for the various kids game shows I used to watch. If you say the words "kids game show" to just about anybody, they'll inevitably get a mental image of ten-year-olds falling into gloop, while a host who's not much older than them tries way too hard to seem hip.

These people are wrong. That's not to say there aren't any shows that fit this stereotype - I can think of a few - but most kids game shows are actually quite engaging. Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? is the one game show I want revived more than any other; Legends Of The Hidden Temple featured possibly the coolest bonus round of any game show ever. Even the hated Nick Arcade probably would have been fun with a few tweaks and a different host. Besides, I liked them all when I was eight, and isn't that the true test of any kids show?

So we finally get to Brain Surge, which premiered on Nickelodeon yesterday with host Jeff Sutphen. The show begins with six contestants, who are in the first round shown a series's call them animated memory tests. Most of them involve picking a certain number out of the cartoon that's shown on the video wall (actually more fun than it sounds). All six contestants type in an answer; the first puzzle is worth ten points, the second twenty points, and so on for five puzzles, after which the sixth puzzle is worth 100 points. The two contestants with the lowest scores are then eliminated, and must leave via a slime slide dubbed "The Brain Drain." Whenever Jeff says that phrase, everyone in the studio, from the audience to the contestants, shouts it along with him.

Round two begins with Jeff reading a "funny" story to the four remaining contestants, after which he asks them each, in turn, a question about some detail of what he just read. If you get it wrong, you are sent to the Brain Drain, and when two contestants are left, they move on to round three. Round three is plain old Concentration with sixteen cards; the first contestant to miss a match goes to the Brain Drain, and the winner plays the (actually really cool) bonus round, in which he\she faces a 4x4 grid spread out across the floor. A sequence of squares on the grid lights up, and the contestant must follow this path across the floor; if successful, the grid expands to 5x5, and if the contestant succeeds again, the grid expands one more time to 6x6. If the contestant completes three grids in one minute and thirty seconds, he\she wins the grand prize. it any good? Well, I didn't hate it. Yes, there's nothing here we haven't seen before, but the
various games are put together in a feasible way, and I actually wish I had thought of that bonus round. The set is cool (although I've already forgotten what the music sounds like, which is never
a good sign) and Jeff, while far from Greg Lee or Marc Summers, is also far from Kirk Fogg or Phil Moore. So no, I didn't hate it, and going back to the true test of any kids show, if I didn't hate it, an eight-year-old would probably like it a lot. I can't say I'll be a regular viewer of Brain Surge, but it gets safe passage.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Yes, I'm Still Here

There is quite a bit going on right now, and unfortunately I've been way behind. I'm going to at least try to get back into the routine of blogging, starting with the news that I have found a publication date for Daniel Pinkwater's upcoming novel Adventures Of A Cat Whiskered Girl: June 7, 2010 (which is summer, not spring, but there you go).

I'll be back tomorrow with a review of the new Nickelodeon game show Brain Surge.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eight Days...I Know, I Know

Yes, I am still here. Yesterday marked the season premiere of The Price Is Right and the daytime premiere of Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

The Price Is Right, when you actually break it down, hasn't changed that much. The set has been redone a bit, and while parts of it admittedly look flat out stupid, that doesn't change my opinion of the show - it needs a rest. I flat out adore The Price Is Right, but I can't be the only one who thinks it's just past its prime, and has been since long before Bob Barker retired.

Then comes Fifth Grader. Obviously they aren't going to offer a $1,000,000 jackpot in daytime, but not only has the jackpot gone down, the game structure has changed. There still two questions from each grade from first to fifth, but rather than a money ladder, each correct answer adds to your bank. First grade questions are worth $500, second grade $1,000, third grade $2,500, fourth grade $3,500, and fifth grade $5,000. If you get a question wrong, you lose everything, but you have to play all ten questions no matter what. The cheats remain the same, but the number of fifth graders has gone down - only three (beats me how they divide up the questions). If, after ten questions, you have any money left, you can risk it all on the final question, which, if correct, multiplies your bank by ten.

Good changes? Well...I feel pretty much the same way I did about daytime Deal Or No Deal when I first saw it - everything has changed, and nothing has. As with daytime Deal Or No Deal, the pace feels a lot faster, and the budget feels a lot smaller, even if the set and music are almost identical. All in all, though, I liked primetime Fifth Grader, and I like daytime Fifth Grader. It's certainly the only show to make really good use of the "Do you remember what you learned in school?" motif. Will it last? I've said it before and I'll say it again: I seriously doubt it has a chance. Ah well.

Sorry about the long wait,


Monday, September 14, 2009

Et Tu Alex?

Yes, I'm back - sorry I missed a few days - and yes, Millionaire introduced a new money ladder today...but that's not the big news.

The big news is, an awful gimmick is being introduced on a show I thought was flat out immune to gimmicks. If this has to happen, it means the game show is dying. It's a show I think is overrated, but still...why mess with Jeopardy?

Apparently, the show will be holding a Celebrity Jeopardy $1,000,000 Invitational. Twenty-seven celebrities will be competing for their charities, and the whole thing will be broadcast at the rate of one episode per month. Really.

This is a really, really bad idea. Jeopardy has already had several $1,000,000 tournaments, but come on, a celebrity $1,000,000 tournament? No. Quite a few game shows have tried adding celebrities to save themselves, and it never works. If Jeopardy has to do this, it means they're as desperate Millionaire.

I sincerely hope that in September 2010, we have more than just Wheel Of Fortune, The Price Is Right, and Family Feud.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Not Yet...

We've reached the ninth contestant in the current season on Millionaire (the last one leftover from primetime), meaning that if there is a new money ladder, it will be revealed with the next contestant.

I guess I'll have to watch Monday.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Let The Battle Begin...

Well, I now know the time Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? will be airing in my area - it will be competing against The Price Is Right. Considering that it's on the station that had aired Trivial Pursuit, you'd think they'd just give it that slot, but no.

My money's on Drew Carey beating out Jeff Foxworthy.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First Chance To See

Zoologist Mark Carwardine came up with the original idea behind Last Chance To See in the early 1980s - essentially, invite some famous person who had nothing to do with zoology to travel around the world looking for endangered animals. One way or another, this person ended up being Douglas Adams, and the end result was a radio show broadcast in 1989 and a book published in 1990.

I realize that it's sad that people wouldn't notice a book on endangered animals without the presence of a superstar writer, but the fact remains - if Mark Carwardine had written Last Chance To See alone, I would never had heard of it, let alone read it. Truth be told, I actually found the book pretty boring. The other author I keep mentioning - Daniel Pinkwater - said more in a single commentary on traveling in Africa then Douglas Adams did in an entire book. If there was any justice in this world, Daniel Pinkwater would have gotten the job of reviving Last Chance To See, but as I've said, he is barely known in America, let alone Britain.

The job went to British writer\comedian\actor Stephen Fry, whose credits range from hosting the game show QI to reading the British Harry Potter audiobooks. I don't know if he'll be able to make reading about hunting for endangered animals fun, but the first episode of the Last Chance To See TV show (which premiered on Sunday) was, actually, pretty good. I suppose being able to see Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine travel up the Amazon (the river, not the website) in search of a certain species of manatee made all the difference.

I know, I know. It's just a nature documentary that would be getting no attention whatsoever if it hadn't been declared the sequel to Douglas Adams' work. Still, I liked it. I've already placed my order on Amazon (the website, not the river) for the new book. We'll see if it's any good.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

More Millionaire!

So I've seen the new season of Millionaire now. No sign of a new money ladder yet, but we're only on the fourth contestant. I'll probably just keep watching until we get to contestant ten.

Then, of course, we reach November's "Tournament Of Ten," which Meredith mentioned almost instantly. It will, it seems, involve the ten players who won the most money from September 7 until November 6. Meredith states that it will guarantee a $1,000,000 payoff to the winner - well, according to what I read (and a disclaimer in the credits), it is not guaranteed, just much more likely. Perhaps even worse is a leaderboard prominently displayed at the end of each episode, making it sound like this tournament is the only way you can win $1,000,000.

In short, this show is getting desperate.


Monday, September 7, 2009

At Last!

Well, after much hype, the new season is here. Family Feud, Deal Or No Deal, and Millionaire all had their premieres today.

Deal Or No Deal: It may be taped on the east coast, but it looks exactly the same to me. I could use this as a springboard to discuss my general opinion on this show, but now is not the time for that.

Millionaire - Bumped in my area for the Jerry Lewis telethon; I'll have my review tomorrow.

Family Feud - OK, so here's how it goes now. Each family starts with $15,000 in their bank. In the Bullseye round, one member of each family comes to the podium, and the first one to buzz in with the number one answer adds to their bank. The first question is worth $1,000, the second $2,000, and so on for five questions, meaning if one family got all five, their bank would be $30,000. The main game then has only four rounds - Single, Double, Triple, Sudden Death. The first team to reach 300 points plays Fast Money for the amount in their bank. Any team that wins five games in a row wins a new car (which is prominently displayed on the set). it any good? Well, as I've said, this was a stroke of genius on Fremantle's part, allowing them to advertise a higher jackpot while giving away even less then they already were (and in a world where $100,000 is considered a relatively low game show win, Family Feud is nothing short of a relic). Yet...I don't know, the pace feels a lot faster to me, and this is a show that's supposed to be focused as much on the host joking with the families as the game. Making matters even worse, each family is now introduced via an awful, awful introduction video that looks like it was taped in the studio parking lot. I won't go as far as to say the show is bad or totally ruined - it isn't. It's still a good game show. With this low a payout, the show will probably continue several more years, and that's a good thing.

See you tomorrow,


I'm Probably The Only Person Who's Looking Forward To Labor Day

It's Labor Day, and I have a few notes:

  • It turns out that Family Feud is being shown in my area today, albeit at a different time. I'll have my review soon, as well as my review of the new season of Deal Or No Deal. Millionaire, however, is still bumped for the Jerry Lewis telethon.

  • Episode ninety-five of the Pinkwater Podcast has now been corrected.

See you soon!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Adams! Pinkwater!

The Pinkwater Podcast, a new episode of which is released each Sunday, is usually one of the best things on the Internet - but today, in episode ninety-five, producer\host Ed Weiss managed to make a pretty big mistake. He started a serialization of Daniel Pinkwater's novel Dead End Dada, but somehow managed to skip the entire first chapter!

The Last Chance To See TV show premiered today - I should have my review of the first episode within a few days.

New season tomorrow,


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Yep - More British Radio

It appears that after Just A Minute finishes its season on September 28, its slot will be taken over by The Unbelievable Truth. By my estimate, if I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue is going to have another run in 2009 at all, it will be on November 16. The Museum Of Curiosity isn't coming back until 2010.

Two more days!


Friday, September 4, 2009

A Few More Days...

A few notes on the upcoming season:

  • I will indeed have to wait until September 8 to see the new season of Family Feud, as my local station (an NBC station) is showing PGA Tour golf.
  • Millionaire apparently is making some changes for the new season, in addition to the November tournament of champions. If you don't remember, the first nine contestants on the new season will be the nine contestants who didn't make the hot seat on primetime night eleven. Well, apparently after all nine of those contestants have played, a new money ladder will be introduced with the tenth contestant. Most of the questions will actually have their values increased; the first question will be worth $500. I would start watching on Labor Day to figure this out, but my local station (an ABC station) will be showing the Jerry Lewis telethon.
  • In short, Tuesday is going to be an even bigger day for me than Labor Day.

    See you soon,


    Thursday, September 3, 2009

    In Brief: The Movie Was Better

    "I have been arrested. For winning a quiz show."

    So begins Q And A, the 2005 novel by Vikas Swarup that, while I suppose successful in its own right, will forever be overshadowed by the 2008 movie ostensibly based on it: Slumdog Millionaire. My paperback copy was even titled Slumdog Millionaire: Originally Published As Q And A.

    I think everyone knows the movie. With the possible - but only possible - exception of John Carpenter, the image of Jamal Malik (played by Dev Patel) sitting on the set of Millionaire is certainly more famous than that of anyone who has actually appeared on Millionaire, and I wouldn't be surprised if it went down in cinematic history. The book, on the other hand, didn't have anyone named Jamal in it. Its central character and narrator had the unlikely name of Ram Mohammad Thomas (I won't repeat the book's explanation for why he's called that, but do beware of potential spoilers in this review). He is a contestant on a fictional game show actually described as a potential competitor to Millionaire: Who Will Win A Billion? The grand prize, in case you didn't guess, is 1,000,000,000 rupees, and the contestant has the assistance of two lifeboats: Friendly Tip (Phone A Friend) and Half And Half (50\50).

    When the novel opens, Ram has already taped his 1,000,000,000 rupee win, but it hasn't aired yet. This is possibly the only thing the book did better than the movie. In the movie, the show was broadcast live, leading to a predictable race through the streets of Mumbai to get to the studio - well, real game shows are taped months in advance of their airdate. Anyway, Ram has taped his appearance, been declared a cheater by the producers, and sent to a jail cell. A lawyer offers to help defend him, and most of the book consists of what he tells her as he explains, question by question, how he knew the answers.

    That doesn't sound that different from the movie, right? Well, it was. The movie was primarily focused on the love story between Jamal and Latika, as well as the relationship between Jamal and his brother Salim. Well...Ram is an only child. The closest character to the movie's Salim is also named Salim, but he is merely a friend of Ram's who (SPOILER!) doesn't go anywhere near becoming a gangster, let alone dying just as Ram wins an enormous game show jackpot. The closest character to Latika is a young prostitute named Nita, with whom Ram instantly falls in love. In the end, he gets the girl after using his game show money to buy her freedom from her pimp...except that Nita isn't even introduced until the last chapter. Since we've only known her for a short time, how are we supposed to care if Ram gets the girl?

    The book is divided into one chapter for each question, but in all honesty, while the movie seamlessly integrated the game show plot with Jamal's past, the different chapters of the book feel more like individual short stories, with the cut to the game show at the end of each chapter existing only as a not particularly good framing device. As if that wasn't enough, Ram's explanations of each question come from different points in his life, and they aren't in order. So in one story - excuse me, chapter - Ram's a fourteen year old working for an ageing Bollywood star; the next, he's a nine year old in a corrupt juvenile home, something that just confused me to no end.

    Of course this is supposed to be a novel and not a set of loosely connected stories, and the epilogue makes that clear by tying things up...a little too neatly. All the bad guys, from the juvenile home owner to the sadistic game show host, have died or been brought to justice one way or another; all the "good" guys (the only ones we care about are Ram and Salim) get to achieve their dreams and live happily ever after. Even the lawyer who Ram has supposedly been telling this whole thing to reveals herself to be someone he knew years ago. So in brief: you don't really care about the characters, the different stories aren't integrated together well, and it all comes to way too happy an ending. Maybe we should be happy the movie didn't stay faithful to the book.

    The BBC Radio show, however, did stay faithful to the book, and I'll be listening to it next.

    I'll have my review as soon as I'm finished.


    Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    Yes, There Are Other Ones Besides Double Dare

    The news just broke that on September 28, Nickelodeon will premiere a new kids game show called Brain Surge.

    Now, I don't watch every new game show, but I probably will check this out, if only because I'll applaud any attempt at a new kids game show. That's what made me a game show fan, and there aren't any left. I credit Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? with being the show that hooked me on game shows for life, but that's probably only because I didn't have cable for several years. The undisputed master of the kids game show is Nickelodeon.

    That being said, however, not all their game shows were winners - Nick Arcade, anyone? - and their most recent attempt, My Family's Got GUTS, didn't click with me. There were just two events before the AggroCrag, and the nice simple scoring system of the original series was replaced by something so complicated they actually had to flash on the screen "Go to for complete scoring information." The biggest gripe, however, went to Ben Lyons, whose monotone rambling would be bad enough on a game show for adults. His attempt at the show's signature signoff (all together now: "No if, ands, or buts...these kids got GUTS...DO...YOU...HAVE ITTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!") can only be compared to one thing: Drew Carey attempting to signoff on The Price Is Right. No, that's not a compliment.

    New season starts Monday,


    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    It's September!

    Things that are confirmed:
    • Bob Barker will indeed be the guest host of WWE Raw on Labor Day.
    • Deal Or No Deal is moving in my area from a high-power independent station (it was UPN) to a low-power MyTV station. If that doesn't mean the show's dying, I don't know what does.

    Things that are not confirmed yet:

    • It's unclear whether my local station for Family Feud (an NBC station) will be showing PGA Tour golf on Labor Day. If they are, I'll have to wait until September 8 to see the new format.
    • I have no idea whatsoever what time Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? will be on in my area. It has apparently been picked up by my local Fox station. As that station showed Trivial Pursuit (and still does until Friday), it may seem safe to assume it will take that slot, but that raises the question of what they'll show for two weeks.

    It all starts Monday!


    Monday, August 31, 2009

    Skirting Around The Issue

    I still remember the day in September 2008 when it was announced that Eoin Colfer would be writing a new Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy book. My initial reaction, naturally, is that they were crazy.

    In some ways, of course, they still are. Yet the more I think about it, the more I realize it actually was inevitable. We're lucky it's happening now and in a manner approved by the various parties involved with the radio show and first five books, rather than the copyright expiring and someone publishing The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy And Zombies. Let's face it, if you're a Douglas Adams fan, you're looking forward to this. If nothing else, it will give you something to talk about.

    I must admit that I have not read Artemis Fowl or anything else by Eoin Colfer, but still, I wonder why he was picked. The decision was apparently made by Douglas Adams' widow Jane Belson; according to some reports, she did it by no other criteria than that her daughter (yes, with Douglas) was a fan. I sort of get the feeling the first person they asked was J.K. Rowling (a woman I seriously doubt is going to write another word for the rest of her life, let alone a sequel to a book by someone else). If you haven't already figured it out, I know exactly who I would have picked, but considering that Daniel Pinkwater is barely known in America, let alone Britain, it's a highly unlikely choice.

    Nonetheless, I sent Daniel Pinkwater a message via a form on his website, asking why on Earth he didn't get picked for this job. His answer is at (the post is dated December 19, 2008). I won't waste space repeating it here, but suffice to say that I should have realized he would have given an answer like that before I asked the question.

    I'll be placing my order on Amazon UK for the new Last Chance To See book on Thursday.


    Sunday, August 30, 2009

    Shouldn't It Be Called The Audreid?

    We have the first glimpse at the release date of Daniel Pinkwater's upcoming novel Adventures Of A Cat Whiskered Girl - it comes out in "Spring 2010." Okay. This new book is narrated by Big Audrey, a character introduced in The Yggyssey, the sequel to The Neddiad. Do you get the post title now?

    If you're inclined to reading books online, this book will actually be serialized starting tomorrow (August 31). I'd rather wait for the physical book than read one chapter a week on my computer screen, but if that's your cup of tea, it's at

    I'll have more about Daniel Pinkwater tomorrow.


    Saturday, August 29, 2009

    Previews And Predictions

    With Labor Day less than two weeks away, let's take another look at the fall lineup of five-day-a-week shows.

    September 4 - Final episodes of Merv Griffin's Crosswords and Trivial Pursuit: America Plays

    September 7 (Labor Day) - Season premieres of Millionaire, Family Feud (with a revised format), and Deal Or No Deal (now taped in Connecticut)

    September 14 - Season premieres of Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy

    September 21 - Five-day-a-week premiere of Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?; season premiere of The Price Is Right; The Price Is Right reruns replace Guiding Light

    October 5 - Let's Make A Deal returns, replacing The Price Is Right rerun slot

    So, what do I think about all this? What are the chances of these shows surviving? I'll tell you what I think. Right now, we have eight five-day-a-week shows. I'm starting to wonder if by September 2010, that number will be down to four.

    Think about it. Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy certainly aren't going anywhere, and while I seriously believe that The Price Is Right needs a rest, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one. Those three (the gold standards) are fine. Family Feud - let's face it, the revised format with the returning Bullseye round was a stroke of genius on Fremantle's part. It allows them to advertise a $30,000 jackpot without ever having to give it away. That show probably isn't going anywhere either.

    Then comes Millionaire. A few days ago, I would have said Millionaire would be just fine. However, the news has come out that in November, Millionaire will have a Tournament Of Champions that, while not guaranteeing a $1,000,000 payoff to the winner, will make it much more likely. If they have to do that, it means they're as desperate as Deal Or No Deal...a show that seems to be waning itself, as the move to Connecticut proves. Considering that Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? was a hit in primetime for about a month, I somehow can't see it lasting five days a week. As for Let's Make A Deal, I'm an obsessed game show fan, so I know about the history of this show and its many successful runs with Monty Hall, but I have this vision of "the average viewer" watching the show and saying "What's this? The joint offspring of Deal Or No Deal and The Price Is Right, hosted by Wayne Brady?"

    That's what I think. I could be totally wrong. For all I know, Let's Make A Deal could lead to a rush of new network daytime game shows - but if Deal Or No Deal and Let's Make A Deal are canceled around the same time, I get dibs on the headline "Done Deal...Both Of Them."


    Friday, August 28, 2009

    See It Sooner

    A few notes relating to the upcoming return of Douglas Adams' Last Chance To See. The television show, featuring Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry, will premiere on September 6 at 8PM on BBC2 and run for six episodes.

    In addition, the release date of the new book by Mark and Stephen and has been pulled quite a bit earlier - it now comes out September 3, as opposed to October 1.

    I'm not too worried about Last Chance To See, but the new Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy book - by Artemis Fowl creator Eoin Colfer - comes out October 11. We all know they're doing this for the money, and the sad part is, I'm going to buy the book, so it worked!

    Needless to say, I'll have my reviews of these books...eventually. I'm going to save them for a trip I'm taking in October, so...November?


    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    I'm Back!

    I'm back from my trip and am ready to give Sunday's Millionaire results, as well as a hodgepodge of other game show stuff. The results:

    Contestant 1 - Jim Robinson
    Miss $100,000 question, win $25,000

    Contestant 2 - Ken Basin
    Miss $1,000,000 question, win $25,000

    Celebrity - Regis Philbin
    Correct Answer - after many, many hints from Meredith Vieira, who, as it turns out, was there to host, not to play. Meredith also revealed that the nine contestants who didn't reach the hot seat on night eleven would get the first nine slots on the upcoming season of the daytime show.

    As I've said, I've pretty much exhausted what I can say about Millionaire, and unfortunately even a $1,000,000 question can't change that. As a result, here is a hodgepodge of unrelated game show stuff:
    • Trivial Pursuit: America Plays will air its final episode on September 4. I actually thought this was a pretty good show and that Christopher Knight did a good job, but I may have been the only one.
    • Two years after being heavily promoted as the dying legacy of the creator of Wheel Of Fortune, Merv Griffin's Crosswords will air its final episode on the same day. Not a moment too soon, in my opinion.
    • I can't get 100% confirmation on the fall schedules for syndicated shows in my area; different TV listings sites are disagreeing. I may possibly have to wait until September 8 to see the new season of Family Feud, as my local station may be showing PGA Tour golf on Labor Day.
    • This isn't 100% confirmed yet either, but it appears that Bob Barker will be...guest hosting WWE Raw on September 7. Is he really that desperate to stay in the public eye?

    Hopefully all these things will be confirmed soon.

    See you when they are,


    Saturday, August 22, 2009

    I Guess That's Why They Call It I Guess That's Why They Call It The News

    First, the really important news: I Guess That's Why They Call It The News is available as part of the BBC Radio 4 Friday Night Comedy Podcast.

    Moving on...

    I first heard of I Guess That's Why They Call It The News several months ago. The description of the upcoming show read something like "Fred MacAulay hosts as two teams of two play silly games about the week's news." My reaction: "So it's just The News Quiz."

    I was wrong. The News Quiz, while a great show, consists of little more as a format than the host reading a question about a news story and that question starting the panelists off on several minutes of discussion\ranting about that story. I Guess That's Why They Call It The News, on the other hand, consists of what I suppose are best described as "news improv games" - but even that description seems not quite right. Most of the games played on the first show seem like they came straight out of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue and were adapted only slightly to fit the week's news. One round began with Fred reading a piece of news about standardized testing, but this merely led into a silly parody of exams featuring "an actual question from an A-level exam from the year 2000BCE: Ugh. Is the answer A. Ugh, B. Ugh, C. Ugh or D. Ugh." Another one began with the news that Oxford Airport will soon be changing its name to London Oxford Airport, leading to a round of "Misleading Place Names" that was straight out of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. "Mumbai. You can't buy a mother there."

    A few rounds were more intriguing - perhaps the best being a game of "Good News, Bad News" in which the panelists have one minute to explain, for example, why train fares coming down is bad news. Probably the round that sounds strangest when described is one where the panelists had to convince Americans to introduce something similar to Britain's NHS, and do so while eating plates full of biscuits. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as funny as that description makes it sound.

    The panelists on the first show were Laurence Howarth, Sarah Kendell, Gordon Southern and Milton Jones. Milton Jones was the only one I had heard of, but they're all good talents, as was Fred MacAulay once you get past his thick Scottish accent. One thing that certainly hadn't changed: scoring was purely arbitrary and random. The show ended with the two teams tied, 29 - 29. In short, this is barely topical and hardly original, but it's entertaining and serves what's clearly its sole purpose - filling a few weeks until The News Quiz comes back. If we ever hear from this show after September 24, I'll be amazed.

    This will be my last post until I come back from my trip on Thursday, August 27. I will, hopefully, post tomorrow's Millionaire results that day.


    There Goes My Mind

    The "super special guest" for night eleven of Millionaire has come out - it is indeed Meredith Vieira. Why NBC allowed this we'll never know (she's on Today, Millionaire's on ABC.)

    My review of I Guess That's Why They Call It The News will be up tonight.


    Friday, August 21, 2009

    I Guess That's Why They Call It...Not Yet

    My review of I Guess That's Why They Call It The News will be up tomorrow.


    Better Late Than Never

    Well, this is a bit of a long story. I set yesterday's Millionaire to record in the morning, not realizing that the people coming in a few hours to sand the floors would render my house's only DVR inaccessible for days. Fortunately, I eventually discovered that ABC is putting Millionaire online. Here are the results from night ten:

    Contestant 1 - Chris Maslowski
    Quit on $250,000 question, win $100,000

    Contestant 2 - Liz Schuller
    Quit on $100,000 question, win $50,000

    Contestant 3 - Jim Robinson
    Answers $16,000 question, rollover

    Celebrity - Steve Nash
    Correct Answer, meaning Regis had to wear his Phoenix Suns jersey as part of a bet

    A few notes on the show:
    • The expert was Mo Rocca. Sounds horrible, but he ended up getting every question he was asked right, albeit after much rambling each time. After Steve Nash used Ask The Expert, he said something like "It was worth the $25,000 just to hear that," but then he went with Mo's answer and was correct.
    • Sunday is the final show in this primetime event, meaning for what Regis said to Larry King to be correct, someone has to reach the $1,000,000 question. Also, ABC hasn't revealed who the celebrity will be, only that it's a super special guest that no game show fan will want to miss. If it's just Meredith Vieira I'll lose my mind.
    • In short, I'm going to be really upset after watching Sunday's show - and I probably won't watch be able to watch it on Sunday, as I'm leaving that day for a few days out of town. So let's recap - I'm going to miss the show Sunday, I most likely won't have Internet access until I get home, and my DVR is flat-out inaccessible. I'm going to have to go out of my way to see a show that will just disappoint me. Wow.

    My review of I Guess That's Why They Call It The News will be a seperate post.


    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    It Certainly Was Better Than The Rocky Horror Picture Show

    I just got back from watching Rifftrax performing Plan Nine From Outer Space. They were in Nashville, but their performance was beamed live to movie theaters around the country. I seriously doubt the event was actually over when I walked out of the auditorium an hour ago; after Plan Nine From Outer Space ended, the cast took a bow, the live feed cut to an information slide, and everyone watching got up and left. For all I know, they could still be doing encores as I type this.

    It wasn't perfect - musical guest Jonathan Coulton was entertaining but far from necessary, and yes, the live feed did break up a few times (thankfully, never for more than a few seconds) during the short (Flying Stewardess). For all the hype about her being host of the event, Veronica Belmont's job consisted of little more than reading a few prewritten statements introducing everyone; the "special segment by Rich 'Lowtax' Kyanka" turned out to be a pair of fake commercial breaks (one commercial each). Fortunately, everyone seemed to realize what the audience had come for; after being introduced, Jonathan Coulton said something like "talk about further ado." When the main feature finally did start, it was every bit as good as I had hoped. I mean, every bit as bad as I had hoped. You get the point.

    When I bought my tickets, said the movie was two hours. When I left the auditorium, I had it clocked at an hour and forty-five minutes, but as I said, they could still be going. As I type this, I'm trying to access, but the site appears to have gone down. I wonder why.

    I'll post tonight's Millionaire results tomorrow, probably in the same post as my review of I Guess That's Why They Call It The News.

    See you then,


    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    My Next Post

    Tomorrow night, as I have said, I am going to the Rifftrax live event. I'll post my review as soon as I get home; however, I will have to record Millionaire. I will post tomorrow's Millionaire results on Friday, probably in the same post as my review of I Guess That's Why They Call It The News.

    See you soon!


    Two Very Different Quiz Shows

    As promised, this post includes Millionaire results as well as a totally unrelated piece of game show news. Here are the results from night nine:

    Contestant 1 - Leslie Salyer
    Miss $16,000 question, win $1,000

    Contestant 2 - Richard Mason
    Miss $50,000 question, win $25,000

    Contestant 3 - Donald Leake
    Miss $8,000 question, win $1,000

    Contestant 4 - Chris Maglowski
    Answers $1,000 question, rollover

    Celebrity - Snoop Dogg
    Correct Answer

    Now, a completely unrelated piece of game show news: the upcoming season of BBC Radio 4's Brain Of Britain will most likely not be hosted by Robert Robinson.

    Brain Of Britain is one of the UK's longest running game shows, having been on since 1954. Original host Franklin Engelmann died in 1972 and was replaced by Robert Robinson, who has done the show ever since - more or less. He's in his eighties now, and not being in excellent health, has missed not just a few episodes, but two entire seasons. The first time this happened, in 2004, Russell Davies hosted the season; in 2007, Peter Snow hosted. It now appears that Russell will come back for the 2009 run.

    This isn't 100% confirmed yet; when (and if) it is, I'm guessing the BBC will insist it's a temporary arrangement. Is that really a good thing? The show's production team is based in Manchester, and would like to tape the show there, but frequently move tapings to London for the sole purpose of making it easier on Robert. If it's that hard for him, maybe it's time for new blood. Frankly, I think a new host would provide a much-needed breath of fresh air for a show that I think is a little bit boring.

    Brain Of Britain airs in BBC Radio 4's Monday afternoon quiz show slot, which is currently occupied by Round Britain Quiz. By my estimate (based on the season length for each show), Round Britain Quiz will end its season on October 5 and Brain Of Britain will start on October 12. I suppose we'll find out then who's hosting - and after the season ends (by my estimate, on February 1, 2010), have to wait until October 25, 2010 (again, this is all an estimate) to see if it's a permanent arrangement.

    See you...well, read my next post.


    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Spoiler Alert!

    Here are the results from night eight:

    Contestant 1 - Jennifer Kiesel
    Miss $25,000 question, win $1,000

    Contestant 2 - Nik Bonaddio
    Quit on $250,000 question, win $100,000

    Contestant 3 - Leslie Salyer
    Answers $8,000 question, rollover

    Celebrity - Wynonna Judd
    Correct Answer. She also come out a little early to surprise Leslie Salyer, who is apparently a big fan, and everyone in the audience got a copy of her latest album, Sing: Chapter One

    All right, enough beating around the bush. Why did I title this post Spoiler Alert? Today, whether intentionally or not, it was leaked that in the last three nights of this event, a contestant will reach the $1,000,000 question. We don't know who, when, or what the final result is.

    This isn't necessarily a bad thing. In some ways, it makes the show more exciting. Yet why is it that whenever anything big happens on a game show these days - in other words, whenever somebody wins $1,000,000 - we know it's going to happen weeks if not months in advance?

    The way I see it, there are three ways this can happen. There can be an actual leak, an intentional leak by the show's producers\network, or somewhere in between the two. When Ken Jennings lost to Nancy Zerg in his 75th show, we knew months in advance due to an actual leak from someone in the audience. The producers of course refused to confirm this, but in some ways, they were probably happy it came out. Ken's run was getting a decades-old show a lot of attention; when he did lose, the show got higher ratings than it had in years.

    Second, we have what I'm calling "somewhere in between the two." Essentially, it's when a leak wasn't intended by the producers\network, but came from someone associated with the show. That's actually what happened this time - Regis announced that this was going to happen in an appearance on Larry King Live. When John Carpenter became the first $1,000,000 winner, I knew it was going to happen because Regis had told Kathie Lee so in the morning. It didn't matter to me much at the time as (A) I didn't quite believe him; (B) since a single person had never won $1,000,000 on a game show, the novelty was enough to keep me interested; and (C) nobody could have predicted what John did on the $1,000,000 question.

    Now, I shouldn't complain about those first two. The producers can't stop everything. However, many producers seem to feel it is neccessary to heavily advertise $1,000,000 winners themselves. NBC's short-lived revival of Twenty-One produced two of the biggest winners in game show history in Rahim Oberholtzer ($1,120,000) and David Legler ($1,765,000). Good, right? Well, maybe, but I clearly remember announcers saying at the end of Rahim and David's first appearances something like "Watch our next episode as Rahim wins more than $1,000,000!" Why? Deal Or No Deal - also on NBC, I might add - has done similar announcements, but perhaps an even bigger culprit was Fox, which milked big winners on Greed and Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? on all its shows, well in advance. Even Millionaire heavily promoted Kevin Olmstead's $2,180,000 win. Is that what it takes to get people to watch a game show now?

    I suppose I shouldn't talk. When Wheel Of Fortune had its first $1,000,000 winner, the producers said months in advance that "something amazing" will happen on whatever day. I knew at once what it would be - but I watched, and I don't watch Wheel Of Fortune regularly. Make of that what you will.

    More Millionaire Tomorrow,


    Monday, August 17, 2009

    I'm Starting To Exhaust What I Can Say About Millionaire

    Here are the results from night seven:

    Contestant 1 - Leah Asbury
    Quit on $100,000 question, win $50,000

    Contestant 2 - Lee-Ann Whitlock
    Miss $25,000 question, win $1,000

    Contestant 3 - Jennifer Kiesel
    Answers $8,000 question, rollover

    Celebrity - Patricia Heaton
    Correct Answer - after many, many hints from Regis

    A few observations:
    • The video link with the expert (which, just in case you forgot, is sponsored by Skype) was working again - but considering that the expert was Jodi Picoult, this wasn't much help
    • I had no idea who Patricia Heaton was until ABC showed a commercial for their upcoming sitcom The Middle, in which she stars. Nice job.
    • I may possibly give other news and reviews in the same post as Millionaire results for the last four nights.

    See you tomorrow,


    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Highs And Lows

    Here are the results from night six:

    Contestant 1 - Eddie Lawhorn
    Quit on $100,000 question, win $50,000

    Contestant 2 - Rebecca Kesler
    Quit on $100,000 question, win $50,000

    Contestant 3 - Ellen Gaines
    Miss $1,000 question, win nothing

    Contestant 4 - Leah Asbury
    Answers $2,000 question, rollover

    Celebrity - Rachael Ray
    Correct Answer

    A few notes on the show:
    • The video link (sponsored by Skype) with the night's expert (Connie Chung) wasn't working, forcing the show to reach her by phone (sponsored by AT&T). Considering that this isn't a live show, you think they would have fixed it...let's hope it's working on tomorrow's show.
    • The incredibly perky Leah Asbury was told by Regis that she looked like "a young Peter Potter." Leah, the audience, and everyone else was like "huh?" Regis then corrected himself; he meant Harry Potter. OK.
    • ABC continues to heavily promote Shark Tank. I should explain that the "special preview" of Shark Tank on night one was within a commercial break and probably doesn't count. Night six's "special preview," on the other hand, was within the show and mentioned by Regis. Not only that, but two of the Sharks, Kevin O'Leary and Robert Herjavec, were in the audience. They told Regis something like "Like you, we're trying to make people rich; unlike you, we're putting our own money into it." I should note that both Kevin and Robert also appear on Dragon's Den, the Canadian version of the format originally known in Japan as Money Tigers. I'm sure there's some sort of joke here about sharks, dragons, and tigers, but I can't think of it.

    More Millionaire Tomorrow,


    I Should So Stop Listening To Critics

    Critics loved Ponyo. They love pretty much anything directed by Hayao Miyazaki, really. I myself have only seen one other of his films: Spirited Away, which I thought made no sense. Was that supposed to be the point?

    At least with Ponyo, I could follow what little plot there was. The premise: Ponyo (voiced by Noah Cyrus) is a fish. She washes up onto the shore and is found by a little boy named Sosuke (voiced by Frankie Jonas). Ponyo instantly falls in love with Sosuke (despite the fact that he's supposed to be five years old). Ponyo's father Fujimoto (voiced by Liam Neeson) is some sort of sea god who hates humans for ruining the ocean, and he wants his daughter back. Ponyo loves Sosuke so much that she doesn't want to go back, and she somehow manages to magically transform into a little girl, with whom Sosuke falls in love (again, despite the fact that he's five years old). This transformation has upset the balance of nature (no, really - that's what the movie said), causing huge storms. Will Ponyo and Sosuke be able to live happily ever after? On the off chance you haven't figured out the answer to that question, I won't spoil it.

    That's probably a good premise for a kids movie; indeed, this probably is a good kids movie. It's certainly different than what Americans call kids animated movies these days - yes, I suppose Pixar is an exception, but if any other American animation studio had done that plot, it would have been badly computer animated, filled with pop culture references, and a lot faster paced. As it stands, the movie is beautifully hand drawn and doesn't make much use of the many celebrities promoted as being in the voice cast. Would an American kid used to Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs or whatever accept that? I don't know, and either way, it all seemed pretty sappy to me. Call me cynical, call me a hypocrite - I'm probably both - but Ponyo did little in my mind to rise above "cute."

    Millionaire in a few hours,


    Two For The Price Of One!

    Turns out I'm going to an afternoon showing of Ponyo, and will be home in time to watch Millionaire. Thus, I'll post my review of Ponyo as soon as I get home, and the results from tonight's Millionaire after it's over.

    Stay tuned!


    Saturday, August 15, 2009

    A Separate Post

    The reason I won't be posting tomorrow's Millionaire results until Monday is that I am going tomorrow night to see Ponyo, the new film from Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki. I would like to see it in Japanese, but alas, the only version shown in American theaters is the English dub put together by Disney. I know, that sounds hypocritical coming from someone who watches Power Rangers - until you learn that Disney cast in the lead roles Noah Cyrus (Miley's sister) and Frankie Jonas (the Jonas brother who wasn't old enough to be in the Jonas Brothers.)

    Oh, all right: the English voice cast also includes Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, and Betty White.

    Be back tomorrow for my review,


    And If We Start Giving Away $1,000,000 Panel, We'll Ask You About It On Wait Wait Don't Tell Me...

    In addition to the Rifftrax show, I bought tickets this month to another cultural event - a live taping of National Public Radio's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (a roadshow, not in Chicago) in October. I've liked Wait Wait Don't Tell Me for a while, and I'm not the only one - the show sold out a theater of more than 3,600 seats in days, if not hours. I was smart enough to buy tickets the moment they went on sale.

    I've liked Wait Wait Don't Tell Me for a while, but would it work on television? CBS shot a TV pilot in October 2008; it has yet to be approved. I think it would work if the network didn't ruin it...but let's face it, a TV network would ruin it. Want proof? In March 2009, the news broke that NBC was considering a TV version of the British TV topical panel game show Have I Got News For You. The article contained the following sentence: "NBC declined comment on its plans for 'News,' but it seems likely the network will make some changes to the show’s format in order to make it fit with the big 'event' feel seen in most primetime reality shows."

    Um...these aren't reality shows. As much as I love them, they're barely even game shows. Even more so than Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy, The Price Is Right, and Password (all of which were forced to institute $1,000,000 jackpots in recent years), these are not shows designed to give away $1,000,000. If you've seen (or in Wait Wait Don't Tell Me's case, heard) them, you know what I mean. They have comedian panelists, not contestants; while both shows do have points and declare one of the panelists the winner at the end of each episode, the game is largely designed to set the panelists off on comedic rants about the week's news. Wait Wait Don't Tell Me at least has phone in contestants, but they get asked three questions at the most. The prize for getting two right? Announcer Carl Kasell's voice on your answering machine. Even Whad'ya Know? was better.

    I actually hope we get at least one of these shows, just so we can see how on Earth the network puts this together; and if we get both, which one ends up winning. Let me put it this way - if one gives out $1,000,000, the other will certainly have to.

    One final note - you'll have to wait until Monday for the results from tomorrow's Millionaire. As the reason why has nothing to do with Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, I'll make it a separate post.


    Back To Where I Began

    On July 26 (my very first day of blogging), I stated that The Museum Of Curiosity, The Unbelievable Truth and I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue will all have new seasons later in the year. Turns out I was wrong about one of those - The Museum Of Curiosity won't be back until 2010.

    On the topic of BBC Radio 4, the new topical panel game show I Guess That's Why They Call It The News premieres on August 21 in the Friday evening news comedy slot. This is one of the few BBC Radio 4 comedy slots to be available as a podcast - or at least, the two shows that make up the slot for most of the year (The News Quiz and The Now Show) are available as podcasts. I don't know if this new show will be.

    I'll have some more discussion of news comedy shows tonight.


    Friday, August 14, 2009

    There Are Non-Flying Ones?

    One more new development - in addition to Plan Nine From Outer Space, the Rifftrax event will feature a flight attendant training short called Flying Stewardess.

    Millionaire Sunday, Rifftrax Thursday.


    I Guess I Feel A Little Better

    I just discovered that two of the guests I mentioned in my last post have, in fact, appeared in Rifftrax episodes alongside former MST3K cast members. Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka appeared in Troll 2 (a movie I've never even heard of) and Jonathan Coulton appeared in Tron (a movie I have heard of).

    I still have no idea who Veronica Belmont is.


    Apologies To Charles Erickson, Joel Hodgson, And J. Elvis Weinstein

    In the not too distant future
    Next Thursday A.D.
    I'll be going to see Rifftrax
    At a movie theater near me
    It's not really Mike, Kevin and Bill
    It's essentially a concert film
    It might not be as good as CT I know
    But it will certainly be better
    Than The Rocky Horror Show...

    ...OK, that joke got old before it started. Still, six days from today, Rifftrax will be doing a live show of the movie Plan Nine From Outer Space in Nashville, which will be broadcast to movie theaters nationwide, and I already have my tickets.

    I guessing most people haven't heard of Rifftrax, but many people do know Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), the long-running television show that essentially consisted of a human and two puppet robots sitting in theater seats, watching an awful B-movie, and talking back at it. Sound silly? Well, it was, and it was also one of the funniest TV shows ever.

    MST3K was canceled in 1999; however, in the 2000s, the former cast members reunited to form two competing (all right, maybe competing is too strong a word, but they certainly haven't done anything together) movie riffing groups. Cinematic Titanic (CT) features Joel Hodgson and the early years MST3K cast; Rifftrax features Michael J. Nelson and the later seasons cast. Another major difference between the two is that while CT is content with B-movies (and pays to license them), Rifftrax has released performances of Hollywood A-movies, in the form of MP3s that you sync up with a DVD of the movie. When they did the original Star Wars (er, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), for example, many people got pretty upset with them.

    Both groups have also done live shows, and I saw CT live when their tour passed through my area, performing Blood Of The Vampires (which, if I have this right, is a Filipino movie set in Mexico). They were even better live than on television. Hopefully I'll feel the same way about Rifftrax, but my expectations were lowered somewhat by the following sentence in the event press release: "This event will be hosted by Veronica Belmont, the Host of Tekzilla on Revision3 and Qore on the PlayStation Network, with Musical Guest Jonathan Coulton and a special segment by Rich 'Lowtax' Kyanka of Something Awful." All right. Just a few questions: what on Earth are Revision3 and the PlayStation Network? Why do we need a musical guest? Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka?

    Still, Rifftrax performing Plan Nine From Outer Space (this being a live show, they're certainly not about to pay to license Star Wars) has to be better than an event that's probably still more famous than Rifftrax or CT: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I only went once, and I hated it so much I left while Tim Curry was making his entrance. I had managed to get out of the first-timer hazing ritual, but just watching it was bad enough; when the movie did start, the jokes consisted mostly of swearing in time with the music. Rifftrax will beat that. Guess I'll be setting Millionaire to record on Thursday...what? I can wait.

    More Millionaire Sunday,


    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    The Most Influential Television Shows Of The 2000s, Part Two

    Here are the results from night five:

    Contestant 1 - Angela Watt
    Miss $25,000 question, win $1,000

    Contestant 2 - Jacob Shaha
    Miss $50,000 question, win $25,000

    Contestant 3 - Eddie Lawhorn
    Answers $50,000 question, rollover

    Celebrity - Shawn Johnson
    Correct Answer

    Yesterday I talked about Millionaire's impact on television. The show certainly changed the game show genre forever, but its real impact was that it led to the creation of the American version of a Swedish show. In his essay on this show for the book I Love TV, Tim Holland says a case can be made that this is the most influential television show of the decade; I agree completely. The tribe has spoken. I'm talking about Survivor, and yes, Survivor is Swedish.

    Remember when Survivor started? We didn't think of it as a reality-competition show; at the time, I don't think we knew there was such a thing as a reality-competition show. We thought of this new show hosted by the guy from Rock And Roll Jeopardy as (A) a game show, (B) a show that will go nowhere and (C) believe it or not, I think we thought a television show in which sixteen people are placed on an island and told to remove each other one by one might be an interesting social experiment!

    We were probably wrong on all three of those. Whether it's a game show is something we can probably debate all day; it ceased to be a social experiment as soon as the first season ended and the contestants started trying to extend their fame; and as for the second one, Survivor's nineteenth season premieres on September 17, complete with the guy from Rock And Roll Jeopardy. I don't know if anyone still watches, but the show has already done its damage.

    What would television be like if Survivor had never happened? I think we'd be better off, but then I would say that. Do you want to know what a really interesting social experiment would be? Go back in time to 1998, show a bunch of people the first season of Survivor, and tell them that within a few years, a good half of what's on television would be shows like this.

    More Millionaire Sunday,


    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    The Most Influential Television Shows Of The 2000s, Part One

    Here are the results from night four:

    Contestant 1 - Anthony Sloan
    Miss $100,000 question, win $25,000

    Contestant 2 - Trevor Schultz
    Quit on $250,000 question, win $100,000

    Contestant 3 - Angela Watt
    Answers $4,000 question, rollover

    Celebrity - Lauren Conrad
    Correct Answer

    You know, I've been thinking about Millionaire and its impact on television...I mean, remember when it first started? Due largely to the rigging scandals of the 1950s, there hadn't been a primetime game show in, literally, decades. ABC launched this new adaptation of a British show, and everyone expected it to go nowhere. A primetime game show...that gives away $1,000,000...hosted by Regis Philbin, without Kathie Lee Gifford. Right.

    I was ten years old, and when I first saw Millionaire I was like "What on Earth is this?" I was already a pretty big game show fan, but this show was unlike any other game show I had ever seen. Only one contestant? A rather dimly lit set? Incredibly ominous music?

    If only I knew. Within a few years, every game show would have only one contestant, a rather dimly lit set, and incredibly ominous music. $1,000,000 jackpots would become close to mandatory, as would backups (Don't Forget The Lyrics), cheats (Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?)...excuse me, helps (1 vs. 100)...can we just call them lifelines? The gold standards - Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy, and The Price Is Right - were all forced to have million dollar specials. Indeed, probably the show that best exemplifies how Millionaire changed the genre - and I feel sort of silly saying this - is Million Dollar Password. I mean, think about it. An already hugely successful show is forced to have only one contestant, a rather dimly lit set, incredibly ominous music, a $1,000,000 jackpot, and Regis Philbin to be relevant to a modern audience? What?

    Frankly, I'm getting a bit sick of it all, and do sometimes wonder what the game show genre would be like if Millionaire had never happened...but that's not even close to what would have happened if we had never got the show I'll discuss tomorrow...


    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    The Real Reason Nobody Will Win

    Here are the results from night three:

    Contestant 1 - John Zimcosky
    Miss $50,000 question, win $25,000

    Contestant 2 - Brian Slope
    Quit on $100,000 question, win $50,000

    Contestant 3 - Anthony Sloan
    Answers $16,000 question, rollover

    Celebrity - Sherri Shepard
    Correct Answer

    Something I've known for a long time is becoming more and more clear - Ask The Audience is the only useful lifeline. All right, maybe Double Dip, but Ask The Expert usually ends up connecting you to an idiot celebrity and Phone A Friend...well, given how stupid most of these contestants are, can you imagine their friends? If the show just gave up on the other three lifelines and let you Ask The Audience four times, contestants might have a chance at reaching a six-digit number. As it stands, however, contestants usually use Ask The Audience on the $4,000 question - and then what happens on the $8,000 question? There are thirty seconds on the clock. Regis takes five of them reading the choices. The contestant then spends ten seconds joking with Regis, ten more thinking silently, uses one of the other (worthless) lifelines, and finally loses with three seconds left. Is that seriously what we want?

    Back tomorrow,


    Six Chances To See

    I just found the answer to one of my questions - the Last Chance To See TV show will have six episodes.

    I'll be back in a few hours for Millionaire.


    See Last Chance To See

    This just in - the Last Chance To See TV show will premiere on Sunday, September 6 on BBC2. No word on what time, or how many episodes are in the season.

    Last Chance To See was Douglas Adams' only non-fiction book, and his favorite of his own work. In the late 1980s, Adams traveled the world with zoologist Mark Carwardine looking for endangered animals; the results were a radio show broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1989 and a book published in 1990. After Adams' death in 2001, the BBC and his widow Jane Belson selected British writer\comedian Stephen Fry (who, as I said on July 26, recently guest hosted I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue) to revive the series, including a television show as well as a new book to be published in October.

    Normally, I would be totally against this idea. You saw on July 28 and July 29 what I thought of Eoin Colfer and Kim Fuller writing The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, respectively. However, it's hard to mess up Last Chance To See, especially since Mark Carwardine is returning in the same capacity as before. Truth be told, I actually found Last Chance To See pretty boring, but I'm a Douglas Adams fan so I have to watch.

    Millionaire tonight,


    Monday, August 10, 2009

    Robby Roseman Is Now A Professional Poker Player

    Robby, for the record, was the first Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? contestant to miss the $100 question, and he was in the audience for night two. Here are the results:

    Contestant 1 - Gary Cousins
    Quit on $8,000 question; win $4,000

    Contestant 2 - Michelle Ribeiro
    Quit on $25,000 question; win $16,000

    Contestant 3 - John Zimcosky
    Answers $25,000 question; rollover

    Celebrity - Vanessa Williams
    Correct answer - after many, many hints from Regis

    It's becoming more and more clear that the clock is a terrible idea, something only made worse by the fact that the celebrity doesn't have one. Vanessa, who's not even keeping the money, can (and does) spend ten minutes on one question. Michelle, who is keeping the money, runs out of time in the middle of saying her answer to the $100 question; she is allowed to continue. I think it's pretty clear that the real motivation was reducing what they have to give away.

    One thing I didn't mention yesterday (August 9) - the show also featured a "special preview" of the new show Shark Tank. Originally a Japanese format, Shark Tank, from what I've heard, falls somewhere in between reality show, reality-competition show, and game show. The "sharks" are five wealthy business experts; the contestants (participants?) are entrepreneurs. They enter the shark tank, pitch their business idea, and the sharks either invest their own money or don't. That's it. I didn't bother to watch. Somehow, seeing five rich people with huge egos make fun of people's business ideas, however bad, doesn't appeal to me.

    More tomorrow,


    Sunday, August 9, 2009

    The Main Event

    It's night by night coverage of the return to primetime of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

    I like Millionaire. I liked it when it was the biggest TV show in years; and I still like it, even though it's a pale shadow of its former self. Regis Philbin left when the show moved to daytime in 2002; he was replaced by Meredith Vieira, who is just as good if not better. What isn't just as good if not better is that the producers began tinkering with the rules. 50\50 is no longer a lifeline; it was dropped in favor of Double Dip (which enables contestants to pick two answers) and Ask The Expert (who is usually an idiot celebrity accessed via a Skype link). Worst of all, however, is that the 2008 season also introduced another "innovation": the clock. Contestants have fifteen seconds to answer the first five questions, thirty seconds for the next five, forty-five seconds for questions 11-14, and on the $1,000,000 question, they are allowed forty-five seconds plus any time left over.

    What's wrong with that? Wouldn't it speed up the gameplay? Millionaire isn't supposed to be fast. The whole point of a money ladder show is watching the single contestant sit there for minutes on one question, using their lifelines\cheats\helps\whatever and pondering in desperation as they approach the grand prize. What's more, with less than a minute to decide, it's highly unlikely that anyone will win more than $100,000 - which I'm guessing is the real reason the producers introduced this.

    Nonetheless, Millionaire returned to primetime today, complete with Regis, for an eleven episode event to celebrate the show's tenth anniversary. Each episode will feature regular contestants as well as a celebrity guest. Here are the results from show one:

    Contestant 1 - Brad Abbey
    Miss $2,000 question, win $1,000

    Contestant 2 - Rob Placek
    Miss $50,000 question, win $25,000

    Contestant 3 - Gary Cousins
    Answers $2,000 question, rollover

    Celebrity - Katy Perry
    The celebrity, just to let you know, doesn't play a full game - he\she plays one question, with all four lifelines and no clock, for $50,000 for his\her charity. Katy got it right. Wonderful.

    This is still one of the best game shows on television, but...I don't know, what happened to the nice simple original rules? I'll bet most people can still recite them. It's a lot harder to explain time limits and the fact that you can't Ask The Expert until you answer the $1,000 question then to say...well...all together now: "You're just fifteen questions away from winning $1,000,000..."

    See you tomorrow for more Millionaire,


    Saturday, August 8, 2009

    It All Rides On One Song

    Afghan Star, judged as a television show, is abysmal. The mechanics of it are no different than American Idol, America's Got Talent, or any of a thousand shows in between; the set looks only slightly better than a school assembly, with the audience seated on little more than folding chairs. Yet that's not the point, because this is Afghanistan, and a show that many countries consider junk (albeit enormously popular junk) can be a very radical and dangerous idea. The documentary Afghan Star takes a look at a country where it is.

    The similarities are just as startling as the differences. Thousands of people auditioned in front of judges who declared most of them awful; host Daoud Sediqi seems to be following exactly the same script copy as Ryan Seacrest. When the dramatic music started and Daoud called two of the contestants to step forward, I said out loud in the movie theater "This cannot be what I think it is." Yet what does one say when the contestants leave the studio after the taping of such a show and start getting death threats?

    The movie follows four of the top ten. Perhaps surprisingly, two are women. While the men can (and do) run around Kabul campaigning with posters and blaring trucks, Setara Hussainzada causes something of a national scandal when she - horror of horrors - dances while singing her elimination number. She is forced to go into hiding.

    More than one Islamic council declares the show Afghanistan's downfall; the Taliban threatens to break the cell phone network to stop people from voting. Yet this does not dampen the enthusiasm of the nation, many of whom are watching on barely working TVs with improvised antennas. The show's producers (and contestants) seem fully aware that they are an important part of the future of Afghanistan, yet they can only go so far. The country's various provinces and ethnic groups seem more than a little isolated from each other; Setara is told not only that a woman shouldn't dance on TV, but a woman from Herat certainly shouldn't.

    Can a television show change the world? I can't answer that question in a blog post; I recommend you go see this movie and decide for yourself. A world where more people vote for singers than for politicians may seem ridiculous, but this is the word we live in; and to paraphrase Ryan Seacrest, THIS...

    is Afghan Star.


    Friday, August 7, 2009

    The Most Embarrassing Moment Of My Life

    Transcribed from Whad'ya Know? Broadcast February 14, 2009 on public radio stations around the country, distributed by Public Radio International.

    Michael Feldman (host): Jim Packard?

    Jim Packard (announcer): Yes Michael?

    Michael: How does someone, uh, join Linda?

    Jim: Grab the telephone away from anybody around you, dial 1-800-942-5669 and then answer this qualifying question...

    Michael: You know it doesn't even matter, the lines are filled up with people who have already called in.

    Jim: They must know the answer to the question.

    Michael: I guess so. Good point Jim...let's ask Aaron here, from Boston...Aaron, what's the question?

    Me: You want to know what the question is?

    Michael: What is the question Aaron?

    Me: You want me to ask any question I want?

    Michael: No, I want to know what the question is for the quiz that you want to qualify for.

    Me: Um...can I play the quiz?

    Michael: That's not the question. All right, I'll give you a question there Aaron, cause you're not gonna come up with it. Researchers at Fermilab, in Batavia, down here in Illinois, are up to their ears in a, uh, in a, uh, nuclear particle that they didn't expect to find. What subatomic particle is it, that they have just too many of, at Fermilab?

    Me: Is it protons?

    Michael: I'm sorry?

    Me: Protons?

    Michael: No, not protons. I'm sorry Aaron.

    Me: Well thank you.

    Michael: Thank you.

    That was it. That's the only time I've ever been on a game show, and after that, they hung up on me. The correct answer, which the next caller got after many, many hints from Michael: muons. Yeah. If you want to hear this, the official site of Whad'ya Know? is I'm on about twelve minutes into the fourth half-hour (Part D) of the February 14, 2009 show.

    At least I didn't miss much - Linda eventually won a "grand prize package" consisting of a copy of Michael's book, a bottle of wine, a half-dozen 2009 calendars, and a copy of the Whad'ya Know? home game from Out Of The Box Publishing.

    One more thing: despite Michael's statement that Fermilab is located "down here in Illinois," Whad'ya Know? is taped in Madison, Wisconsin.


    Thursday, August 6, 2009

    No More Morphin Time? Part Two

    ...Kamen Rider Dragon Knight!

    Remember Masked Rider? Maybe it's better that you don't. The third live-action production of Saban Entertainment (after Power Rangers and VR Troopers,) it ran from 1995 - 1997. The Power Rangers even met the Masked Rider (in a three-part episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers - I'll put up the YouTube link if you don't believe me.) Of course I liked it then, but watching it now, it is really bad. I like the old Saban shows and I think it's bad.

    Why am I bringing up an awful show that was canceled twelve years ago? It was the Americanized version of Kamen Rider Black RX, the 1988 entry in Japan's long running Kamen Rider series - and while it was the first time Kamen Rider was Americanized, it wasn't the last. Adapted from 2002's Kamen Rider Ryuki and produced by Adness Entertainment, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight premiered on December 13, 2008 on CW Saturday mornings - and while Masked Rider was a flat-out disaster, this is terrific entertainment.

    A brief (I hope!) review of Kamen Rider Dragon Knight's mythology: the Kamen Riders are the defenders of a parallel universe called Ventara. According to Len in A Rider's Challenge (episode four), there are twelve of them...or there were, until the evil alien Xaviax defeated all but one, turning Ventara into a wasteland in the process. Now he is coming for Earth. The sole remaining original Rider - Len\Kamen Rider Wing Knight - manages to cross dimensions, but he can't fight Xaviax alone, and the eleven remaining Advent Decks (transformation items - the Riders summon weapons and attacks via cards) will only work for the dimensional doubles of the original Riders. The series protagonist - Kit\Kamen Rider Dragon Knight - is one of those people, and he is brave enough to fight alongside Len. Some of the others are not...

    This show is a lot of fun, but not perfect by any means. First, as you might have noticed, I said the other Riders were defeated, not killed. This being a kids show, the writers were forced to make constant reference to defeated Riders being "vented" and trapped between dimensions forever, but not killed. Second, and perhaps even worse, the various "bad" Riders are so undifferentiated that I have a hard time even telling them apart. I know who Kit and Len are, since they're the good guys, but someone else will start transforming and I'll be like "Wait, which one is this?" Given that the ending is obvious - the remaining Riders put aside their differences and team up against Xaviax - shouldn't there be a little more character development?

    Still, this beats Power Rangers by far - and probably won't outlast it by far. Kamen Rider Ryuki had fifty episodes; these have been adapted into forty. While new episodes are aired far enough apart that the show may outlast Power Rangers, I seriously doubt ratings are high enough to justify another season - and then what will we be left with? Ninja Turtles?

    Yes, they're still on too.


    Wednesday, August 5, 2009

    I Finally Watched It

    It's supposed to be one of the best game shows on television.

    The Emmys certainly think so - if I have my information right, it's been nominated for best game show at the Daytime ceremony every year since it began (in 2005). I've heard many, many people talk about this show - and I had never watched it, until today. That's right, I'm talking about...Cash Cab! I don't know what show you thought I meant.

    Cash Cab is an interesting idea, to say the least - a game show filmed in a New York taxicab, with contestants who don't know they're on a game show until they get in the cab and are told such. Once that happens, host\driver Ben Bailey asks four questions worth $50, four worth $100, and if there's time for any questions after that before arriving at the contestant\passenger's destination, those questions are worth $200. Every wrong answer gets a strike, and three strikes means the contestant not only goes home with nothing, but must get out of the cab immediately, where ever it might be at the moment. To help the contestant, there are two shout-outs - mobile shout-out (Phone A Friend) and street shout-out (a bit more interesting - the contestant can pull over and enlist the help of whoever is nearby.) If the contestant makes it to his\her destination, he\she is offered the chance to go double or nothing on one final question, without the use of shout-outs.

    Sounds like fun, right? Well...I don't know, it just seems like a one-joke show to me, more suited for a ten-minute segment on another show than a show of its own. There's no game mechanic here that hasn't been done before, and the novelty of it all taking place in a moving taxicab quickly wears off. Ben, while certainly deserving credit for hosting a game show while driving a taxicab, isn't particularly enthralling either, and the music is pretty bland. As I said, it might have worked as a segment in another show, but there are three games in a half hour episode and the Discovery Channel (yes, this show is on the Discovery Channel) frequently shows four episodes in a row. For the record, I gave up after two. thought I was about to rate the set of Cash Cab? You must be out of your mind.


    Tuesday, August 4, 2009

    Well, That Answers My Question

    Apparently, during the two weeks between Guiding Light ending and Let's Make A Deal starting, CBS will show reruns of The Price Is Right.

    My mother is so going to be upset.


    Monday, August 3, 2009

    Revisiting September

    It's time to revisit that September post I made on July 28. Here, again, are the start dates for five-day-a-week game shows in 2009.

    September 7: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
    Family Feud (apparently bringing back the Bullseye round)
    Deal Or No Deal (now taped on the east coast)

    September 14: Wheel Of Fortune

    September 21: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? (long-awaited five-day-a-week version)
    The Price Is Right

    October 5: Let's Make A Deal

    At long last, it's official. CBS's replacement for legendary soap opera Guiding Light, which ends on September 18 after seventy-two years, is an hour-long, five-day-a-week revival of Let's Make A Deal.

    In my book, this is good news. I've always liked Let's Make A Deal, and I could care less about soap operas, even if my mother is talking about the cancellation of Guiding Light as if it were the flat-out end of an era (to be fair, I feel pretty much the same way about the uncertain future of Power Rangers.) A new network daytime game show is something that's been needed for a long time. Then comes the kicker. The new host of Let's Make A Deal is...Wayne Brady.

    Why Wayne Brady? I didn't think his performance on Don't Forget The Lyrics was all that great. Of course, I know why CBS picked him: because (A) he's a friend of Drew Carey and (B) all new game shows are hosted by washed-up comedians these days. They all offer a $1,000,000 jackpot that what we're getting? $1,000,000 Let's Make A Deal, hosted by Wayne Brady?

    I guess we'll just have to watch on October 5 and see how Fremantle puts this together. Here's the real question: what on Earth will CBS show for two weeks between Guiding Light ending and Let's Make A Deal starting? You don't show reruns of soap operas.

    Finally...what about No More Morphin Time? Part Two? How is the legacy of Power Rangers going to live on? I'll say this: if on Sunday, August 9, I still have not put up No More Morphin Time? Part Two, I will explain what it is and why I can't post it. Until then, you'll have to will I...


    Sunday, August 2, 2009

    No More Morphin Time? Part One

    Call me crazy, but a show that was a major part of my childhood, and that I still have a soft spot for, is in serious danger of cancellation. If you haven't already figured it out from the post title, that show is...drumroll please...Power Rangers.

    I grew up watching Power Rangers. I remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever...and I remember when everyone, not just preschool boys, thought it was the coolest thing ever. Now, however, when I tell anyone that Power Rangers is in serious danger of cancellation after seventeen seasons, they say "I thought Power Rangers was canceled years ago."

    Nope. Now produced by Disney, season seventeen, Power Rangers RPM, runs on ABC on Saturday mornings. We've been getting conflicting reports on whether the show will continue, and I just had to know how it ended, so I've been watching.

    Power Rangers RPM is hugely entertaining, but presents its own set of problems. It's set in a post-apocalyptic city dome, after a sentient computer virus called Venjix destroyed most of the planet. Unless this is the future, I seriously doubt it's the same world as seasons one - Jungle Fury. There are references to Venjix first being unleashed three years ago. Correct me I'm wrong, but I don't think there was anything about that in Mystic Force.

    Nonetheless, a new team of Rangers has been formed to fight Venjix, and although the setting has changed, the Ranger team dynamic really hasn't changed at all. We have the fearless leader (Scott\Red Ranger). We have the girl (Summer\Yellow Ranger). We have the bad boy (Dillon\Black Ranger). We have the comic relief (Ziggy\Green Ranger.) We have the one with no personality whatsoever (Flynn\Blue Ranger.) We have the mysterious pair of Rangers added later (Gem\Gold Ranger and Gemma\Silver, really!) To tell you the truth, their boss, Dr. K, is a more interesting character than all of them.

    We're eighteen episodes into a season of thirty-two, and rumors for next year range from an animated series (which I actually think could be really cool if done right) to season one episodes being passed off as new (which would just be wrong on so many levels.) I'm simply not capable of making a prediction about the future of Power Rangers, but I will say this: even if the show does leave television after RPM, its legacy may very well live on in the form of...


    Saturday, August 1, 2009

    Osgood Sigerson Lives!

    I just listened to the first episode of The Adventures Of Sexton Blake. Apparently, Sexton Blake is a preexisting character whose first adventure was published in 1893. That may be so, but this radio show doesn't feel like any preexisting character - it just feels like a plain old Sherlock Holmes parody, with Blake (played by Simon Jones, who played Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy radio show and TV show) as Holmes and his assistant Tinker (played by Wayne Forester) as Watson.

    It's funny, no doubt, but it's not original at all. Indeed, every joke in this show was done better by my favorite living author, Daniel Pinkwater, who created the character Osgood Sigerson for his Snarkout Boys books. you get the post title!


    Friday, July 31, 2009

    To Boldly Go To A Movie I've Seen Before

    I am about to make a confession: I have seen every Star Trek movie.

    I've seen them all, but not recently. When I was in elementary school, I went through a massive Star Trek obsession and rented the first eight movies. I liked them, but at the time I would have liked anything with the name Star Trek on it. Star Trek: Insurrection came out while I was at the height of this obsession, so naturally I saw it in theaters. I wanted to see Star Trek: Nemesis in theaters as well, but missed my chance and ended up renting it also. As I said, I liked all these movies, but I was flat out obsessed. Looking back, most of them were pretty bad, something perhaps epitomized by the horrific moment in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier where Kirk, Spock and McCoy are on a camping trip, sitting in a canyon and singing Kumbaya...yeah.

    Nonetheless, I like the franchise enough to go see this new movie on the day it came out...and then go see it again today, at one of only two theaters in my area that is still showing it: the IMAX theater at my local aquarium. The fact that an aquarium needs an IMAX theater is bad enough.

    What do I think? I saw it again for a reason. This is the best Star Trek in years.

    When I first heard that it was happening, I was horrified. The idea of a movie featuring new actors portraying Kirk and Spock at Starfleet Academy is one that Paramount has mooted several times, and I was always dead set against it - yet I ended up loving it. That's not to say it was perfect. The plot, when you actually break it down, makes no sense, and the violence was endless (the famous Enterprise crew basically wouldn't have been such if everyone else hadn't died.) Yet it doesn't really matter, because for the first time in ages, Star Trek was actually exciting, and I wasn't the only one who thought so - my local newspaper gave the movie a four-star review. I believe Paramount is working on another movie with this cast, and I for one can't wait.

    On the other hand, I never saw an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. I tried once - and turned it off instantly when the opening sequence started and I realized the theme was a pop song. I don't care what happens, that's just wrong.


    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    Finishing What I Started

    I just bought a copy of the Slumdog Millionaire script book (at a completely different bookstore, if you must know.) I hope, at some point, to have a lengthy blog post comparing and contrasting the three versions:

    • Novel by Vikas Swarup
    • Radio show written by Ayeesha Menon and directed and produced by John Dryden
    • Movie written by Simon Beaufoy and directed by Danny Boyle

    Hopefully eventually...


    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    Too. Much. Information.

    The bookstore gave me a full refund. Yay!


    And Another Thing...

    Just following up on some of my posts from yesterday...

    • I ended up going on Audible and buying the unabridged Q And A audiobook, as well as the radio show (which was the first dramatized version of the book, even if I can't figure out exactly when it aired - my guess would be 2007). Here's hoping that bookstore lets me return the CDs.
    • The big news in the world of Douglas Adams, of course, is that Eoin Colfer (creator of Artemis Fowl) has written the official sixth Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy book, and it comes out October 12. This is probably not a good thing already, and it would get even worse if the book is adapted into a sixth season of the radio show. I have a hard time imagining John Marsh saying "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy was created by Douglas Adams, written by Eoin Colfer, adapted by Kim Fuller, directed and produced by Dawn Ellis, and was an Above The Title production for BBC Radio 4."

    You can tell I listen to too much British radio, can't you?


    Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    Sexton Blake Has Been Found

    I just listened to The Hunt For Sexton Blake, and really, there's not much to say about it - it's a straightforward documentary about a fictional character (Sexton Blake being a British detective whose first adventure was published in 1893), designed to lead up to a new radio show starring the character that premieres on Friday. So why is it important? It is one of the first shows from Perfectly Normal Productions, a new radio production company founded by Dirk Maggs.

    Dirk Maggs, if you don't know, was the writer, director, and producer of seasons 3-5 of the radio show The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. After season five wrapped, he moved on to radio versions of the first two books in Douglas Adams' other series, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Then, after season two of Dirk Gently, he left to start Perfectly Normal Productions. Soon after, it was announced that season three of Dirk Gently would be directed and produced by Dawn Ellis and written by Kim Fuller - who, along with Jamie Curtis, wrote the script for the movie Spice World.

    You read that right. The writer of Spice World is going to adapt Douglas Adams, and all so Dirk Maggs can direct Sexton Blake. I hope fans of 1800s detective stories are happy.


    Just A Little Longer...

    I'm still waiting for The Hunt For Sexton Blake to become available online. Like I said, I'll explain why it's important after I've heard it.

    In other news, I spent $27.95 today at a bookstore on a CD audiobook of Q And A by Vikas Swarup (the book adapted into the movie Slumdog Millionaire), only to realize too late that it's heavily abridged (under seven hours, whereas the unabridged audiobook is more than ten hours.) I don't know, maybe I'll just go ahead and put it on my iPod anyway...I paid for it...



    OK, it's still July, but the September 2009 start dates for syndicated game shows have been revealed. Take a deep breath:

    September 7: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
    Family Feud (apparently bringing back the Bullseye round)
    Deal Or No Deal (now taped on the East Coast)

    September 14: Wheel Of Fortune

    September 21: Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? (long awaited five-day-a-week version)

    The real question, of course, is not syndication but CBS. The long-running (it started in 1937!) soap opera Guiding Light is set to air its last episode on September 18, and it's likely that on September 21, we'll have some new game shows in its place...but we don't know for sure yet. Shows being considering include Let's Make A Deal, Pyramid, and The Dating Game. We'll have to wait and see.

    That's enough for now. Coming up tonight on BBC Radio 2 - The Hunt For Sexton Blake! You'll see why that's important later.


    Monday, July 27, 2009

    Speaking Of BBC Radio 4...

    Today marked the beginning of a new season of Just A Minute, another legendary BBC Radio panel game. Unlike I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, Just A Minute is easy to describe. Panelists are given a topic and must talk about it for sixty seconds without "hesitation, repetition, or deviation." This is much, much harder than it might sound.

    For the record, the panelists on today's show were Sue Perkins, Pam Ayres, Tony Hawks (that's Hawks, not Hawk) and Tim Rice (yes, the lyricist). The host, of course, was Nicholas Parsons. Nicholas is 85 years old and has been doing this show since 1967. He's done many other game shows as well, but his only other real hit is the British version of Sale Of The Century, which he hosted from 1972 to 1983 - and really, can you imagine an odder combination? I can't find an episode of Sale Of The Century with Nicholas hosting. I would LOVE to see him doing a quiz game.

    Of course, the most famous panelist from this show, Clement Freud (Sigmund's grandson), died on April 15 at age 84. Thankfully, the show payed proper tribute to him with a clip at the end. I have heard that he taped a few episodes before his death that haven't aired yet...assuming this is true, come on, air them!

    Just thought I'd promote another great show that is unknown in America,


    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    The Antidote To Blog Posts

    On June 15, 2009, a year after the death of its legendary host, one of the funniest radio shows of all time started a new era - the unforgettable, and unforgettably titled, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue (ISIHAC).

    If you're reading this in America, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. This is a bad thing, not only because ISIHAC is a great show, but because ISIHAC is close to impossible to describe. It's an improvisational comedy game show, but that's like saying baseball is a team sport - it doesn't even scratch the surface. I can't explore the show in detail in one blog post, but suffice to say it features such games as One Song To The Tune Of Another and Sound Charades, and that the host's introduction to these games is as funny as the game itself.

    From the first episode in 1972, the show was hosted by jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton, who may have been an unlikely choice but turned out to be fantastic in the role. Unfortunately, Humphrey died on April 25, 2008 at age 86, just as tapings were about to resume. The inevitable year of reruns and tributes followed, but the people behind the show did want to continue, and eventually it was decided that the show would enter an interim period of guest hosts. So at 6:30PM GMT on June 15 on BBC Radio 4, the show returned at last. For the next six weeks, Stephen Fry, Jack Dee and Rob Brydon each hosted two episodes.

    What had changed? Everything...and nothing. Certainly the game hadn't changed a bit, and longtime panelists Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor were all present and accounted for. In fact, it could be argued that not enough had changed. It's hard to judge the performances of Stephen, Jack and Rob because they weren't allowed to inject their own styles into the show - virtually everything they said sounded like what Humphrey would have said. I don't know how much of this show actually is written in advance, but this sure sounded like it was.

    Nonetheless, I agree with most that Jack did the best job. Stephen is a funny guy, but seemed to be laughing too hard at his own jokes; as for Rob, his performance is best summed up by the moment where he burst out laughing in the middle of explaining Sound Charades, then continued "I'm sorry, I know what's coming." Jack at least had some idea what he was doing.

    Jack did the best job, but that doesn't mean I believe he should get the job. Stephen, Jack and Rob had all appeared as panelists on the show countless times - which is exactly why they shouldn't get the job. I don't want a past panelist hosting the show; I want "new blood." Remember, one of the reasons Humphrey was originally chosen was that he wasn't a comedian and could provide a contrast to the panelists. Hire someone we didn't expect, and whoever that person is, allow him or her to say something Humphrey wouldn't have said. That doesn't mean I think everything should change - the game certainly shouldn't, and I don't want to lose all of the catchphrases and running jokes. Still, a new host should mean a breath of fresh air, not recycled script copy.

    Am I wrong? I guess we'll have to wait and see. The latest season ended with an announcer promising that the show will be back later in the year, and producer Jon Naismith has said that he wants to use the next season as a chance to try some more unusual ideas for hosts. Still, Jack is hosting the 2009 ISIHAC touring stage show, so I probably shouldn't get my hopes too high up. Wait and see. Like I said, the show is supposed to be back later in the year...but on the other hand, so are The Unbelievable Truth and The Museum Of Curiosity...


    I Have A Blog!

    Well, I resisted it for years, but at long last, I have set up a web presence. Probably nobody who doesn't already know me will read it, but anyway...

    My name is Aaron. I'm going to use this blog to talk about...well, about whatever's on my mind. As you no doubt guessed, my major interest is game shows, and I'll be spending plenty of posts on that topic, but this won't be exclusively a game show blog. There are enough of those already, and I have my fair share of other interests.

    I hope people read this, but whatever, I like to write. Look at it this way - it's either start a blog or bug my parents about the latest game show news. I think Mom and Dad have better things to do.

    Thanks for reading,