Monday, August 31, 2015

So Long Summer!: 2015 Summer Game Show Highlights

As the 2015 summer television season is slowly coming to a close within the next few weeks, today’s article will take a retrospective look at the highs, the lows and everything else in between of the game shows that have aired within the past three months. Some of game show highlights include moments from Celebrity Family Feud, BattleBots, 500 Questions, Geeks Who Drink and Race To Escape

The Good
The indisputable winner among the new game shows to premiere this summer is undoubtedly ABC’s Celebrity Family Feud. Hosted by Steve Harvey, the spinoff series pit celebrity families against each other for a chance to win up $25,000 for their selected charities. This season, we have seen an array of stars compete on the revived series from comedy legends Vicki Lawrence and Ed Asner to NFL superstars Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown to actor/actresses Anthony Anderson and Niecy Nash. As we have seen on the syndicated series, risqué answers given by the celebrities and their teammates combined with Harvey’s comical reactions were the ingredients which helped make Celebrity Family Feud the highest-rated primetime Sunday network show for most of its run during its first season on ABC. The only night where it faltered was July 5 during the third episode where Feud ranked third, with 7.11 million total viewers (season low) behind the Women’s FIFA World Cup Finals and post-game show coverage. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), there is a very good chance that ABC will pick this up for a second season (third overall) on the network.

Because GSN is shifting its key demographic paradigm to attract younger audiences through its new original programming, BUZZR was sought as the savior of classic game shows to fans thanks to FremantleMedia’s creation of the new multicast digital channel. The highly anticipated launch of the network, broadcasted over a limited number of local FOX owned and operated stations, officially kicked off at 8:00pm EDT on June 1 with the 1963 pilot of Let’s Make A Deal. Since then, game show fans have been enjoying countless hours of classic shows from Fremantle's library including Tattletales, Child’s Play, I’ve Got A Secret, What’s My Line, To Tell The Truth, Blockbusters and Password. If that weren't enough, for the week of September 7, the network will be unveiling some of unaired pilots (sold and unsold) that have never seen the light of day on television until next week. Although the network isn't available to every city yet, BUZZR's availability is steadily growing with more cable service providers like Cablevision and more local stations adding the channel to its lineup. Now the subchannel can be seen in 23 television markets after initially launching on 12 stations.

The third big winner of the summer was GSN’s popular reality series Skin Wars. The body-painting competition show once again debuted to excellent ratings on the network with 540,000 viewers tuning in to the June 10 second season premiere and a series-high 776,000 viewers on its second episode. Rebecca Romijn, RuPaul, Craig Tracy and Robin Slonina returned as the show’s host and three main judges. After eight episodes of grueling competition, Lana Chromium (San Diego, CA) emerged victorious out of the 11 other body painters competing. Once the season concluded, a spinoff special called Skin Wars: Fresh Paint aired a week after the finale on August 26. Hosted by RuPaul, the special had six skilled contestants compete in three challenges with help from professional mentors, including last season’s Skin Wars champ Natalie Fletcher, for a $10,000 prize. We’ll find out who will be Lana’s successor next season as GSN has unsurprisingly renewed Skin Wars. 

The Bad
Heading to two of the more lackluster shows of the summer, we’re going to take a brief look at the second episode of The CNN Quiz Show and FOX’s Bullseye. The CNN Quiz Show returned for a second time in honor of CNN’s retrospective docu-series The Seventies. The three pairs of CNN anchors and correspondents competing this time around were Richard Quest & Brooke Baldwin (Stand Up for Kids), Don Lemon & John Berman (The Tom Joyner Foundation) and Bill Weir & Alisyn Carmerota (UNICEF Nepal Earthquake Relief). Although Lemon and Berman were the big $20,000 winners in this episode, the show failed to capture a victory among cable news channels in its 9:00pm time slot by placing fourth (with 509,000 total viewers) behind FOX NEWS’ The Kelly File (1.85M), MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show (833K) and Shark Tank on CNBC (584K). 

The second minor disappointment of the summer was FOX’s new stunt game show Bullseye. Not only did the series, hosted and co-hosted by Kellan Lutz and comedian Godfrey, rank among the five lowest-rated network shows on Wednesday evenings while pulling a season average of 2.91 million total viewers, Bullseye’s format seemed more like a less interesting version Fear Factor without the fear aspect. This brings me to the biggest letdown of the summer as far as game shows are concerned: 500 Questions.

The Ugly
The most anticlimactic new game show of the summer, and probably this year, is ABC’s 500 Questions. Billed as a week-long event, 500 Questions challenged highly intellectually qualified contestants to answer 500 of the "toughest" questions ever without answering three questions in a row incorrectly. What seemed like the next big hit since Millionaire and a brilliant idea to pit geniuses against each other in a high-stakes trivia contest quickly turned into slow-paced, tedious, uninteresting game show with a low cash payout rate and meager season ratings (4.79M). To put it in perspective, throughout the seven episodes (including the two-hour second and seventh episodes), only $225,000 was won by three contestants combined and only 371 questions were asked throughout the season, thus failing to ensure that the game could be winnable even if the very first contestant answered every question correctly. I’m not going to further delve into the specifics of why this game show fell flat after weeks of hype and hoopla. The only reason this series might return to ABC is because of its cheap prize budget, relative to a U.S. primetime game show. 

…And The Inbetweeners
FOX, SyFy and The Science Channel added three great game shows to their networks: BOOM!, Geeks Who Drink and Race To Escape. Unfortunately, as great and fun as these game shows are, as I have previously stated in my reviews of the FOX series and latter two, the ratings and time slot placements say otherwise. Starting with BOOM!, the explosive game show, hosted by Tom Papa, has underwhelmed audiences ever since its debut on June 25. The premiere only averaged 2.51 million total viewers and has consistently lost to ABC’s The Astronaut Wives Club, which will not be renewed, and various programs on NBC and CBS including reruns of The Big Bang Theory and new episodes of Food Fighters. Although the game show has gained popularity on an international scale with seven other countries adapting the Israeli-based format since 2014 along with a well-responsive interactive app to enable viewers to play along with the broadcast, it has failed to make a solid impression in the United States. It also doesn’t help that BOOM! is currently averaging 2.08 million total viewers in the nine new episodes that have aired thus far.

Moving on to cable, SyFy’s Geeks Who Drink is also struggling in the ratings race as the Zachary Levi-hosted series has been raking in subpar primetime ratings since the show’s premiere on July 16. The season viewership average so far for the first six episodes of Geeks Who Drink is around 381,000 viewers. The highest ranking the series has achieved among the top 100 original Thursday cable telecasts among Adults 18-49 and total viewership ratings were 46th (7/30; 0.16 rating) and 59th, (7/23; 452,000) respectively. Of course, it doesn’t help when your show is shoved in the late night 11:00pm slot with local live newscasts airing simultaneously. Given their below average ratings, these two shows might not return for a second season.

Out of the three shows I had listed in the first paragraph of this section, Discovery’s Science Channel’s Race To Escape probably has the best chance of returning for a second season thanks to its steady average ratings and the series has seen more frequent week-to-week viewership increases than declines. As with Geeks Who Drink, Race To Escape’s average ratings can be attributed to its poor time slot placement (Saturdays at 10:00pm). Although the show has yet to emerge from the bottom 50 of the top 100 Saturday cable original shows among Adults 18-49 (highest ranking: 68th), Race To Escape’s decent total viewership ratings, respective to their primetime network average, the show could see a second year of new episodes on Science Channel. 

New Life
Besides the return of Celebrity Family Feud, this summer also saw a lot of game show reboots including BattleBots on the Alphabet network, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader on FOX and Chain Reaction on GSN. BattleBots returned bigger and better than ever on June 21, the same night as Celebrity Family Feud with more destructive bots, more action-packed matches and more contestants competing in the tournament for BattleBots supremacy and a cool $100,000 grand prize. This year's winner was Bite Force after the team comprised of Paul Ventimiglia, Teena Liu, Jeremiah Jinno, Cory McBride, Travis Covington and Anthony Ventimiglia defeated BattleBots veteran Tombstone by judge's decision.

After canceling the hit game show after a three-season run on the network in 2009, FOX revived Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader for a fourth season (sixth overall). The only changes made to the show this season are the set design, new students to help the contestants win the million-dollar prize, a cash bonus attached to one question in each game that awards $10,000 to a selected school if answered correctly and a new sixth-grade question waiting for the contestant at the end of their academic trivia journey to truly prove they are smarter than a fifth grader. While the first season averaged over 11 million viewers, the 2015 revival season is only averaging 2.61 million viewers in 10 episodes so far.

Following in the footsteps of FOX, GSN has decided to bring back one of its own original series: Chain Reaction. The third season of Chain Reaction is currently hosted by Mike Catherwood and premiered July 16. Like 5th Grader, the revived series pretty much left a majority of the gameplay unchanged with the exception of the end game element. The new Chain Reaction is a slight improvement of its predecessor because of the show’s livelier host, brightly-lit set, faster show pace, smarter contestants and nail-biting Superchain bonus round. The “official” doubleheader Chain Reaction premiere debuted to respectable averages of 550,000 viewers at 9:00pm and 517,000 viewers at 9:30pm. Since then, the show has been holding steadily between 400,000 to 500,000 viewers for a majority of the season on Thursday nights. Let’s hope this momentum will be enough for a second season renewal with Catherwood at the helm.

International Summer Fillers
This article concludes by taking a look at ITV's two short-order, 10-episode summer filler shows: Freeze Out and Rebound. Freeze Out premiered August 3 with host Mark Durden-Smith and Rebound premiered August 17 with host Sean Fletcher. These two new programs have something in common with the game shows that had aired around the same time in 2014 on the same network; like The 21st Question and Gift Wrapped, while the first show left much to be desired, the second was worth watching by comparison. Freeze Out’s main flaw in its ice hockey/curling sporting format was its slow pace and lifeless and drab competitive atmosphere. Rebound, on the other hand, was much more enjoyable to watch with a good host like Sean Fletcher at the helm and its engaging, challenging and intense gameplay, especially during the Head To Head and Beat The Bar rounds. Although I didn’t write an extensive review on either show, if there was one summer filler that had the best chance of being recommissioned for a second series, it would be Rebound. Rebound's format, which shows some resemblance to Pong and The Chase, will have you coming back for more (no pun intended). Although, I highly doubt we will see either show in 2016 on ITV. If you have yet to watch Freeze Out or Rebound, check out a full episode of both shows in the videos below.

Sources: GameShowNetworkNews, Rabbit Ears, ShowBuzzDaily, TV By The Numbers, TV Media Insights, TV Series Finale, Wikipedia   

No comments:

Post a Comment