Daytime game shows vanishing from network TV

September 01, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

HOLLYWOOD -- The category is Dying Breeds. The clue: "A once popular form of daytime television that has all but disappeared from the networks."

Don't forget to phrase your answer in the form of a question.

If you said, "What are game shows?" you're correct.

This month, NBC will bid farewell to "Wheel of Fortune" and "Classic Concentration," its last two daytime game shows (the syndicated version of "Wheel of Fortune" will continue airing weeknights on Channel 2 locally; Channel 2 had not been carrying the daytime show). Earlier this summer, ABC cashed in its remaining game show, "The Match Game." That leaves just two survivors for next season: "The Price Is Right" and "Family Feud," both on CBS.

"In the 35 years that I have been on television, I have seen game shows behave just like the stock market," said longtime "Price Is Right" host Bob Barker. "Right now the market is down, way down."

Morning network schedules, once filled with buzzers, bells, whistles and lights, are fast becoming the territory of talk shows, news and information. "It's like a hurricane came and wiped them all away," said Mark Goodson, whose company produces "The Price Is Right" and "Family Feud."

"Part of this is the attitude networks have toward game shows, and part of it is economics," said Bob Lloyd, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Reg Grundy Productions, ++ which produced "Scrabble" and "Sale of the Century."

"The attitude is that game shows skew old, and networks are looking for younger audiences," he said. "The economics is that networks can do reality shows in-house, with their own production staffs, and do them cheaper than they can buy game shows."

The trend toward reality programming does not, however, signal the end of game shows. They are still popular in syndication, and new ones are being developed for cable-TV audiences.

In fact, the few game shows still on the air are among the most successful programs on television. "The Price Is Right," the longest-running game show in TV history after 19 years, is currently the No. 2 program on daytime television, behind "The Young and the Restless." And the two top syndicated shows for the 1990-'91 season were "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!", both from Merv Griffin Productions.

"I can't look at the success of 'Price Is Right,' and the audience it continues to draw, and say the form is dead," said Lucy Johnson, vice president of daytime programming for CBS. "Program forms go in cycles, and they fall in fashion and out of fashion."

In dropping their game shows, ABC and NBC claim they are merely following the trend toward reality programming. ABC dropped "Match Game" to extend the magazine-style "Home" show from 60 to 90 minutes. On NBC, meanwhile, fewer than 75 percent of the network's affiliate stations air "Fortune" and "Concentration," choosing instead syndicated talk shows.

"You have to look at what's working in the syndicated market," said John Miller, NBC's executive vice president of daytime programming. "Those sort of personality-driven shows that deal with reality or talk or information are what seem to be working. And no one wants to create a glut of them, but they do seem to be attracting the salable audience right now. So that's where we're headed."

To that end, NBC has hired "Entertainment Tonight's" John Tesh to host a new morning interview show, "One on One," beginning Sept. 9. (Locally, Channel 2 says it does not plan to carry the program).

"The hope is, over time, to find our own Donahue or Oprah, and have a franchise for some time to come," Mr. Miller said.

One area in which game shows have enjoyed increasing popularity is on cable. MTV enjoyed success with "Remote Control" and is planning two more game shows. The children's channel Nickelodeon pits kids against parents in "Family Double Dare." USA Network runs an afternoon block of game show reruns.

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