Review: Love Connection

Well, last night was the series premiere of Fox’s Love Connection revival. I got the chance to see it for myself, and here’s what I think of it.

 

What’s The Same and What’s Changed: It’s an hour long, and it’s on Fox. Each half hour focuses on one different person (one male, the other female). The set is yuuuuuge, I think you could fit a hot tub and an adjustable bed in there. Anyway, the male is introduced with a video segment and then brought in to talk with Andy, just like the regular show. Then, each of the dates gets a segment of their own. Then, the audience votes. Now, what’s really changed here is that the person in the purple chair has gone on dates with all three. We meet the first person via video screen, and they talk. They get the chance to rate each other as high as 10 based on attractiveness on first impressions. Lots of dramatic tension. They talk about their dates, and we see some videos they’ve taken of themselves using the phone. Each couple gets $500 (that’s a lot more than the Woolery or Bullard versions) to cover expenses. Lather, rinse, repeat for all three. After the break, we meet the date the contestant has chosen for an overnight date behind a bridge (which must be lowered for dramatic effect). At that point, we find out the audience’s choice. If they match, the contestant gets $10,000. However, if they don’t match, the contestant has a choice. They can keep their choice of date, or go with the audience’s choice and take the money. At the end of the second half-hour, we find out how the overnight date went and where they are now in the relationship.

The Good: Andy Cohen is a good host, and I would say just as capable as Chuck Woolery. Warm, funny, witty, a good guy. He doesn’t borrow anything from Chuck, and even comes up with a few catchphrases of his own. We actually get to find out what happens on the date. From a potential contestant’s perspective, I like the element of the $10,000 prize. It seems like Warner Bros. is giving away free money, and who doesn’t like that? The show stays pretty faithful to the format, for the most part. I also like the adjustment for inflation, although $500 does seem like a bit much for a date. On the original, the show paid for expenses plus $75 ($100 on the Bullard version) for incidentals. To put this in perspective, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $75 in September 1983 has the same buying power as $182.12 in April 2017. $100 in September 1998 has the same buying power as $149.46 in April 2017. Fox is making sure you make bank, which is great from a contestant’s perspective.

The Bad: The set. (photo courtesy of Los Angeles Times)

la-et-st-love-connection-andy-cohen-20170523.jpg

 

Ohhhhh, the set. It’s big, it’s red, it’s blue, it’s purple, but mostly it’s black. It’s cold, cavernous, and still crowded with people, which makes it a living contradiction. This is not  American Idol, people. This is Love Connection! Plus, the contestant gets a tiny little armchair while Andy gets a slightly larger loveseat. As if he needs all that space.

I mean, have you seen the original set? (Image courtesy of the Daily Mail, who got it from Fox, who got it from Warner Bros.)

loveconnectionclassicset

 

 

It was white, seemingly warm, and had plenty of pillows. I could take a nap in contestant’s area (if I could fit my giant body in there).
Next, we have the fact that each episode is self-contained with one couple. Chuck and… ugh, Pat, were able to get through at least two contestants in one show, and meet the third before time ran out. Here, they waste a lot of time with lowering the drawbridge, revealing the scores, etc. etc. A lot of wasted time here. To be fair, we get to find out about three dates and not just one. Still….
Finally, the $10,000 prize is just unnecessary. It’s almost as if Warner Bros. and Fox were just giving this money away because it’s in primetime. Don’t they know that most of the time, the audience’s and contestant’s picks match? Most of the time? I mean, have they ever seen the show before?
My Final Thoughts: A lot of it seems to be unnecessary and dramatically contrived in order to make each couple “last” for half an hour. If you’re a contestant, you will make bank. But from an audience perspective…. eh….. I’d rather have the Chuck Woolery version anyday.

 

Love Connection is on Thursday nights at 9PM on Fox. Check your local listings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Thoughts: Steve Harvey’s Funderdome

Today, I’m offering my thoughts on a new show casting for ABC. Here’s how the network themselves describes it:

“The inimitable Steve Harvey is hosting a new, groundbreaking show on ABC looking for great innovators and entrepreneurs to help fund their American dream. We’re looking for mom and pop businesses, unique and interesting products, or creative ideas that just need a little more money to jumpstart their next phase. You could win anywhere from $10,000 – $100,000, all you have to do is win over the live studio audience and convince them that you deserve to be funded.”

And what is this program called? Steve Harvey’s Funderdome.

Really? No, no, no. This is Shark Tank, or a lower-budget clone/knock-off of it, hosted by a man who has way too much airtime already. This is a televised, compacted version of Kickstarter, and they’re calling it Funderdome? 

When I think Funderdome, I think variety. I think of something along the lines of Sabado Gigante. Let me show you what I mean (courtesy of Canal 13 Chile):

Can’t you just see Steve Harvey doing something like that? Oh, the field day he’d have. But nooooo, he wants to do a practical remake of The Smart Alecks. This is essentially what you’ll be getting, without the wit of Allen Ludden or David Letterman:

 

That being said, if you have a business, gadget, or something else that needs funding, and you’d like to play straight man to Steve Harvey, you can send the producer an e-mail.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Summer 2017

Hello, folks. Yes, it’s been a while. Not much has been happening. However, someone has asked if this blog is dead. No, it is not. Blogs do not die. As long as people keep reading them, they live on.

Today, we take a look at the Summer 2017 TV schedules. Most of the game show action centers on Sunday,  Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Sunday:

Come this summer, ABC is the place to be for game shows. Starting at 8PM, we have Celebrity Family Feud, which is actually regular Family Feud with celebrities. I mean, it’s two half-hours of Steve Harvey’s Feud. Steve Harvey is the  scourge of the game show universe, if you ask me. His Feud is about as funny as a dirty movie. You laugh, but you feel guilty afterwards. The one redeeming factor is in the first few minutes, when Burton Richardson introduces the first two teams and Steve.

At 9:00, we have The $100,000 Pyramid. Now, this is actually a very good show, when you have the right celebrities, like Kathy Najimy or Coolio. Unfortunately, ABC tends to push their own stars on the show, people who have probably never seen the show in their lives. Take this (sorry for the bad quality and small size):

The poor contestant, having to deal with that kind of stupidity. This wouldn’t have happened with Betty White or Charlie Siebert, let me tell you. We need celebrities who are smart enough to play the game and take the giving side at the Winners’ Circle.

Moving on to 10 PM, there’s Match Game, hosted by Alec Baldwin. Now, I like this version, for the most part. The show itself is very faithful to the original format. Alec’s a good host, and a lot of the celebrities are witty. Now, if you’re ever a contestant, here’s a hint for you: there’s always going to be one question in there that refers to genitalia. If you get that question, just say the word and you’re a winner! “Penis”, “vagina”, or “clitoris” will always be the right answer to at least one question. One of my friends, Doug Morris, has suggested that this show could be headed for late night, which is probably true, considering it’s on at 10 PM.

Meanwhile, on CBS at 8PM, there’s Big Brother. Technically, it’s a reality show, but there are enough games here to where I consider it a game show. I’ve been following the Canadian version (when I can, on YouTube), and they’re killing the U.S. version, even with the North American rules. Their houses are more unique (they’ve got a spaceship theme this year), and they’re offering more twists (including Backwards Week and an international-style nomination ceremony). I’ll still be watching the U.S. version, and hopefully, they’ll shake things up this year.

Tuesday:

Only big thing to report here is To Tell the Truth at 10PM. Are you wondering why it’s there? Here’s a clue:

That’s why. When you have Betty White asking about sexting, then you know the show has to be moved to 10PM. This sort of crap would’ve never gone down with Messrs. Collyer, Moore, Garagiola, Ward, Elliott, Swann, or Trebek. OK, maybe John O’Hurley, but I think we can forgive him. This is Truth, almost in name only. A little too loose for me, thank you.

Wednesday:

At 8PM on CBS, it’s the Power of Veto episode of Big Brother. Nothing more to say here, except I look forward to the competitions. All this strategy talk is boring. I’ll still be waiting for those comps. Those are fun.

Thursday:

8PM on ABC, it’s Battlebots. Plenty of rock’em, sock’em action, once you fast forward past the backstories and the robots entering the arena. Those 3-minute-or-less moments of mayhem are enough to make any Thursday night enjoyable.

Then, at 9, switch over to the Eye Network for the Live Eviction episode of Big Brother. 

 

That’s what I’ll be watching, and I hope you will, too.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Jeff Coopwood

Hello, everyone. With Monopoly Millionaires’ Club premiering this weekend over most of the country (and reruns starting on GSN this Tuesday), I thought it would be nice to interview one of the original lottery game show hosts. Before there was Illinois Instant Riches, there was $100,000 Fortune Hunt. It was seen all over Illinois and throughout most of the country on Superstation WGN from 1989-1994. The original host was Jeff Coopwood. Let’s meet him, shall we?

 

Beginnings:
Greg Palmer: Hi, Jeff. Based on what I’ve read on Wikipedia, broadcasting seems to be in your DNA. Would you like to explain that to our audience?

Jeff Coopwood: Never believe what you read on Wikipedia! 🙂 But it’s true that my parents had both been radio broadcasters. For almost five decades, my father, Jesse Coopwood, was a well respected and popular radio fixture in Gary, Indiana. He was also an important local figure during the civil rights movement and was instrumental in promoting the early
careers of Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson; and most notably, the Jackson 5, before they were discovered by Motown. My mom, Louise Riley, had been a popular and successful radio personality at stations from Chicago, Il, to Texas, and finally, Miami, Fla. While there, because of her, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time around people like Muhammad Ali, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Ike & Tina Turner, Diahann Carroll and so many others who came to town and interacted with her. But, while it’s fair to say that I am a second generation broadcaster, despite all that, it certainly was not something that was ever planned.

GP: How did you personally get involved? Was this a family business?

JC: My parents divorced when I was rather young and I lived with my mother. Although both parents had been broadcasters, my mother had at various times, also been a successful model, actress, charm school owner, and newspaper & magazine
owner and publisher. So there really was no particular “family business.” Also, from a very early age, I knew I wanted to be an actor. So, in college, I studied theatre. Because she understood it was not an easy career choice, my mother suggested that I should also have “something to fall back on.” So I also studied broadcasting, journalism, English,
speech and music. While in college, I worked on the college radio station and interned at several local radio stations and network affiliate television stations. So the broadcasting that I eventually did was really more of an offshoot from those experiences.

$100,000 Fortune Hunt:
GP: The one show that briefly put you on the radar of national game show fame was $100,000 Fortune Hunt for WGN (and their Superstation). How did you get involved with this show?

JC: It began as an audition. I had just returned from doing live theatre in Michigan and my agent called with information about an audition for a game show host. She asked if I was interested and I said yes. So I went through the audition process. They saw a few hundred people and, ultimately, I got the job.

GP: I was surprised to discover this, but the Hunt was not the first game show for the Illinois Lottery. Had you seen Super Shot?

JC: Actually, I’d never heard of the show until your mention of it. I know at the time, we believed we were the first television game show for the Illinois Lottery. But now I have seen clips on YouTube. (Those clips will be uploaded to our Facebook page. – GP)

GP: What was it like working on the show and with Linda Kollmeyer?

JC: I really enjoyed the rehearsal process before we went on-air. As the host, it was a lot to learn. I had to know the show’s rules and format and had to learn how to run the show and keep it interesting and entertaining. This presented a particular challenge, because, unlike most TV game shows, as the Lottery; we couldn’t pre-screen contestants and our game had to be a simple game of chance. We also shot live-to-tape, to air the next day. So we knew that the shows, as we shot them, would pretty much be aired as is. Besides the broadcasting component, for legal reasons, we also had to get it right the first time. That meant that I had to get it right the first time. While that added another layer of pressure, it also made it fun.

What was interesting about the two on-air talent, was that, coincidentally, at the time, we both had the same Chicago agent, Emilia Lorence. That became pivotal in many ways, both seen and unseen. The most glaring was that the original executive producer had envisioned a very “Vanna White” role for the co-host: visible, but largely unspeaking and
unmic’d during game play. But because we shared an agent, I thought it might be fun to mic her as well. We could then banter throughout the show. The executive producer, Les Roberts, the game show veteran who had been hired by the Lottery to create the show, thought it was a good idea. So that’s just what we did. I really enjoyed working with him.
He was a wonderful, gracious, and very sharp man, with no ego. He listened and was open to all good ideas, not just his own. But I honestly don’t think I would ever have suggested it, had the on-air talent not shared the same agent.

GP: On your YouTube page, you have a number of high-quality original broadcasts of the show, with commercials to boot. How and why did these end up on the Web?

JC: Several months ago, a former contestant contacted my Facebook fan page. I don’t personally have a Facebook account, but I have 2 Facebook pages under my name. One is, apparently, auto-generated from a Wikipedia article about me. The second was created by a few fans of my work on Star Trek.

The former contestant contacted my Facebook fan page, because she had been searching for a copy of her appearance on the game show and hadn’t been able to find it anywhere. She had contacted the Lottery, but was told they didn’t keep archived copies of the shows. She said the television station, WGN, apparently didn’t either. So she wrote to my
Facebook fan page as a last ditch effort to ask if I had copies. Like the show, her appearance was 25 years ago. But her kids had never seen it. She said she would very much like to be able to show it to them.

It took several months before her inquiry reached me; and a few more before I was able to address it. But I was able to find her episode and all the other episodes I had hosted, as well. So I posted it on YouTube, because I thought that would be the easiest way for her to have it and share it with her family & friends. I guess I was right. To my surprise, it had several hundred views in a very short amount of time. So I thought, perhaps I should post all the episodes, for all the other contestants and/or their families and friends. Some 25 years later, they or their families and/or friends may want to revisit their televised appearances. For many, the show was a special moment. In some cases, it was a transformative moment. I felt honored to have been a part of it then, and am just as honored to enable them and/or their families and friends to relive it now. Also, after 25 years, the reality is that some contestants have passed on. For their families and friends, it might be a nice memory to have.

GP: You left after the first season of the show and were replaced by a WLS-TV reporter, Mike Jackson. Why did you leave?

JC: Well Greg, you’re about to get an “exclusive.” Even after 25 years, this story has never been told. Frankly, because no one has ever asked. The honest answer, is that I left because the Lottery tried to re-write the terms of the on-air talents’ contracts. We had options for several years beyond the first year built into our original contracts. Those
negotiations were long and rather difficult. My agents and I wanted contracts that would only extend for a year or two. We wanted flexibility and not be locked into long term commitments, since we were dealing with several unknowns. But the Lottery insisted that we commit to longer terms and wanted to lock us into salaries and terms that were part
of a multi-year deal. Both sides went back and forth. In fact, the on-air talent, actually worked the first month of shows without signed contracts while negotiations continued. So we were, obviously, pretty relieved to finally agree to terms and get the deal signed. Then, when the first renewal period came up, after the first year, something happened. Instead of honoring the terms in our contracts for the annual renewals, which, again, the Lottery had wanted and won in negotiation; we were asked to tear up our annual guarantees and only renew in 6 month increments with no guarantees. The show was doing better than any of us had expected and I was fulfilling all the terms of my agreement. So I saw no benefit in renegotiating against myself. So I said no. My co-host said yes. Which was awkward, as we had the same agents. She remained and renegotiated. I did not. I performed the terms of my contract, and after the year, it expired. I did not want to work with people who wouldn’t honor the contracts they signed. For me, it was the right move then. It remains the right move now.

But it led to the only disappointing part of my tenure and departure. When I left the show, I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, to begin the television and film career I had always planned when the show was done. Once I left, I literally left. But, I assume the Lottery feared potential embarrassment if I went public with the story that I left because they tried to get me to void my contract. Because what they did next was unbelievable. The Lottery fabricated a story that I was fired. According to that lie, I was fired for wearing, away from work, the suits that I wore on the show! But they had nothing to fear, because again, I had already left for LA. So, unfortunately, I wasn’t there to expose their lie.

Looking back on it now, the whole thing was incredible. Literally, as in not credible. Especially since, when I left, we were #1 in our timeslot in Chicago. Ironically, in our timeslot was Wheel of Fortune with Pat (another Chicagoan) and Vanna; and Siskel & Ebert – also two Chicagoans.

But our little WGN cable lottery show was beating both nationally syndicated shows. In Chicago. Plus, the Lottery was making record millions with the show. So who would mess with that kind of success? Political egos. To some, the chance to be a celebrity must be pretty intoxicating. The Lottery director, who was originally, only supposed to appear infrequently on the show, decided to became a regular fixture, expanding her role exponentially. She bought a new wardrobe. She even got a facelift! Just for her few minutes of weekly “air time.” I recall the original executive producer once warned me, before he left, that we had the potential for a really good show – as long as politicians didn’t get in the way.

Regarding the suits, the Lottery gave a local clothier a weekly, on-air, announcer-mentioned, credit at the end of every show, in exchange for 8 suits – which I was wore for the whole run. In fact, my weight fluctuated over the run of the show. (Hello, Drew Carey!) But I still only had those same 8 suits, which over time didn’t fit as well. So, between the on-air credit and just seeing me wearing those suits, the notion that the Lottery fired me over those suits, was plainly transparent to anyone paying attention. But I was gone and they needed an explanation. They also needed cover.

A final, interesting footnote: Mike Jackson, the former news reporter, who replaced [me] as host, got the job without going through the same audition process I did. He was married to Sally Ward Jackson, who at the time, was the director of the state’s Department of Employment Security. It seems the show’s ratings were never as high as during my tenure, and perhaps that should be some vindication. But, as I’ve said, I really had moved on.

GP: Were you aware of the national exposure you were getting due to WGN being a superstation? If so, how did you use it to your advantage?

JC: The show aired nationally on cable, but I don’t recall experiencing any “national exposure” by any professional metric. It increased my visibility in Chicago, which was interesting. But I really never found it to translate beyond that. But it did provide me with on-air experience that I was able to parlay into work on the local PBS station in Los Angeles. For five years, I was an on-air host during their pledge drives. But that tenure was due, more to my work with them, than my work in Chicago.

GP: In your opinion, do game shows really have an impact on lottery sales? Why or why not?

JC: Probably. But only if they are entertaining game shows. If they’re only 30 minute infomercials to sell lottery tickets, then, likely no. For example, I never actually told people to buy Lottery tickets. I was a TV game show host, not a Lottery retailer. My job was to make the TV show as entertaining as I could for the television audience. Whether
that audience bought lottery tickets or not. I never tried to sell lottery tickets on air. I just explained the rules and wished luck to those who played. But I never said “Buy a lottery ticket!” My co-host did, but I didn’t. If the show was fun, and people won, the audience would want to be on the show. So they would buy tickets. You really never had to ask. From the very beginning, our show’s original executive producer/creator told me this. It made perfect sense to me and I believe he was right. So I proudly adopted his approach, even after he left the show. I think it was another reason for our high ratings when I was there. Our audience wasn’t just the game players. My focus was on entertainment. Not sales. Just play the game, make it fun, respect the people who are contestants, and your audience and sales will take care of themselves. It certainly worked for us.

Other Work:

GP: You have done other things as well. Most Trekkies know you as the voice of the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact. How did you get involved with that?

JC: Again, it was just another audition. My agent called while I was vacationing in Las Vegas. As it was a voiceover role, I was able to audition by phone, from my vacation. When I got home, I was asked to audition again; this time, in person and for the director. I went Paramount Studios soundstage to meet the director of Star Trek: First Contact, Jonathan Frakes, who is also known to Trekkers as “Commander Riker.” We discussed my phone audition and some adjustments he wanted me to make with the character. An audio engineer recorded the audition. I did one take and was hired on the spot. As it also happened, that same audition take was the actual take used in the film.

 

 

GP: What’s your favorite role and why? What’s your least favorite role and why?
JC: I have to answer these two questions the same way. I don’t really have a single favorite or least favorite. Some roles are more interesting and enjoyable or more challenging, because of the script, director, cast and crew. Those factors all help to inform your view of the work. As an actor, when you create a role, you have to invest it with parts of yourself. So, thinking in terms of least/most favorite almost becomes like picking among your children. So I prefer thinking of the experiences more than the roles themselves. But my standard silly answer is that I like every role as long as the check clears.

 

 

GP:You also hosted another game show called Know Your Heritage. Is there anything you’d like to say about that?

JC: The format was very different from the lottery game show. “Know Your Heritage” was actually a “College Bowl” type quiz show. It featured as contestants, African-American students from Chicago high schools. Also, unlike the lottery show, doing well had nothing to do with random luck. The kids answered questions on African-American history of Chicago. We shot four episodes, which aired during the four weeks of Black History Month, in 1990. The work the kids did in preparation for those shows was extraordinary and inspiring. The questions were not easy and the kids had to work very hard with their coaches and/or teachers in order to do well. You couldn’t help but be impressed. The prizes were trophies, all-expense paid trips to Disney World and college scholarships.

Conclusions:

GP: What are you currently doing now that you’d like to tell us about?

JC: Thanks for asking. I continue to work in theatre, television, film, radio & TV commercials, voice work, etc. I’ve also returned to academia and am working with two local universities in Los Angeles and another college back East. In addition to all that, I am currently developing a couple writing projects, have commissioned a separate writing project and am negotiating the film rights for two published novels. I am also doing some studio recording and have begun research for another advanced degree. So, while things are busy, I am grateful to continue to be working.

GP: Finally, what advice do you have for people who want to enter your field of work?

JC: If I were to offer advice, it would likely just be to share a few life lessons I’ve learned over the years. For example, never be afraid to do the work required to make yourself successful. Always be prepared when opportunities arise, because life only rewards those who are ready to go when asked. Realize that opportunity will knock – but it won’t stick around forever, waiting on you – and it sure won’t beg! So study, train, watch, listen and learn. Accept that you never learn anything when you are speaking. Believe in yourself. But be honest with yourself as well. Be your own best constructive critic. Reject mediocrity, especially within yourself. Ignore the negativity of negative people. They are everywhere. Because failure, like misery, loves company. Because no one really knows what you can do. But you.

In terms of entering my field, I would simply say: learn your craft. Study the business. Learn its history. There’s a reason it’s called “show business.” Reach out to someone who does what you’d like to do and study their road to success. If possible, even solicit their advice. Be voracious in your appetite for learning, your commitment to preparation and your passion for the work. Network, if possible. Learn as much as you can wherever you are, before considering moving to a more competitive environment.

The internet is a phenomenal resource. I’m always surprised when people don’t take full use of it to get answers to their questions; and help in pointing them in the right direction. When/if you’re finally ready to make “The Big Move,” be prepared to compete for unpaid internships, just to make contact with the people you’d eventually like to work with/for. Be prepared to continue your training. Bring your thick skin, because rejection is a constant. And realize virtually nothing will happen on your pre-ordained timetable. So, be flexible and don’t give yourself arbitrary deadlines and artificial timelines. It’s an incredibly competitive environment. But so is anything that’s worth having. If you study, train, work hard, believe in yourself and never give up, good things can come your way.

GP: Thank you so much.

JC: Thank you. It was a pleasure. I hope your readers find at least some of it interesting. Thanks again for asking me to do it. All the best.

 

 

While I have included a few episodes of Fortune Hunt, you can see so much more on his YouTube page, which I have embedded the link to in the interview. Many thanks go to Jeff.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Jim McKrell

Hello, everybody. Merry Christmas to you all. I’ve been doing other things, yes, but I haven’t completely forgotten about this place. I attempted to get an interview with Jim McKrell, host of Celebrity Sweepstakes. I got hold of him via Facebook and we became friends. I sent him a lot of questions that were a bit redundant but I want to be thorough. I asked him a few days ago how he was coming along, and he sent me this response (edited by me for clarity, capitalization, and punctuation where necessary):

To: Greg
From: Jim MacKrell

I have been giving a lot of thought to your questions. Some prompt me to explore them even further. Just like anyone’s life the record of progress made in a chosen profession is fought with ups and downs, sorrow and joy, success and failure. If there is anything I would add to any questionnaire it would be, “ Just keep putting one foot in front of the other”.
I owe my entire career to the famed composer Henry Mancini. My career path was totally involved with radio. I happen to be active in the birth of “Top 40” radio and worked for some of the most famous Top Forty stations across the country. From KXOL in Ft Worth, Texas, where I worked with so many young people who went on to fame on the national stage, (George Carlin, Jack Burns, Bob Schaffer, Roy Eaton, Bill Ennis, just to name a few) to WMEX in Boston with stops at WNOE, New Orleans, WFUN Miami, KBOX Dallas along the way. WMEX changed my life in so many ways. I was the afternoon drive jock in 1963 when President Kennedy was killed. Nothing to that point in time affected me as much. I just couldn’t stand to play silly records…

Being the number one afternoon DJ in Boston led me to meet the head of promotion for RCA Records John Rosica. My wife, Cathy and I were beginning to be homesick for Texas and John offered me a job in promotion and Artist Relations back in Texas. It was at this period of my life I met Henry Mancini. I shared with him my deepest desire to be an actor and he advised me to look to New York and LA for that kind of career. Not only did he give me advice, three weeks later I got a job offer from him to work in his Hollywood office. That started a lasting friendship that shaped my outlook on performing and the business of show.

Henry made it possible for me to get the best of theatrical training at such places as the Film Industry Workshop at Columbia Pictures, all while working for him with plenty of time off.

When I got my first series, The Game Game, I left Henry with his promise that I could always come back. What a sense of security.

My agent, Cunningham and Assoc., sent me on an audition for the announcer job on this new Chuck Barris production. After a series of run thru’s I got the job of host. We did the pilot at the old Hollywood Palace and when the show was picked up we moved to CBS TV City since they were the syndicators. [Note from Me: I learned from Jim that CBS Enterprises (now CBS Television Distribution) originally distributed The Game Game.] The show only lasted one season due to contract difficulty between the network and Barris. We had good ratings and were successful but many times it’s the business and not the fault of the show that gets it canceled.
The one good thing is that exposure solidified my place as a game show host. From there offers came in and my career was off to a good start.

During the height of the game show popularity there were usually about 15 to 30 game show pilots made each season. You know that there are three major seasons for networks and one for syndicated shows, so if you don’t have a pilot you can get lost for a year. When you agree to do a pilot, there are a lot of ramifications involved between talent and agents and again between agents and producers. Since you know that, when you sign on for a pilot, you have a good chance of it never airing. So, you must somehow try to earn a living doing something else. In my case, it was acting and commercials.

That aspect of my career was extremely profitable and made me even more attractive to the producer market.

I was in New York and got a chance to audition for a NYC based game show produced by Al Howard. While that pilot didn’t sell, the network executive at NBC, Lin Bolen, liked my work and immediately the next quarter, put me in a show for one of the best producers I’ve worked for, Ron Greenburg. I learned so much from Ron, on how to be what he called an “On stage producer”. Such great advice allowed me to more completely understand the role of game show host and that fact built my reputation and led to my being placed by Lin on Celebrity Sweepstakes. I love each and every moment of CS, especially the friendships I made with the celebrity guests.

Dick Martin and Dan Rowen became long time friends as did Joey Bishop, Tina Sinatra, [and] of course our dear friend Carol Wayne. During the run of the show, the original producer, Ralph Andrews, ran afoul of NBC management and the show was sold to Burt Sugarman, and he remained owner for the run of the daytime and nighttime versions. I had a great relationship with Burt and, as you know, he married Carol Wayne. Her tragic death while on vacation was a shock to us all. With the nighttime version of the show, my agency changed and I was signed by Ray Sackheim. Ray shepherded my career from then on, expanding it into more TV series and movies. Ray was the second most important person in my career after Lin Bolen.

As the business changed I changed with it. Always keeping my self available for opportunities in the game show field, but not having to depend on it for my livelihood. You ask many times how or why I because involved with this show or that. There is a saying in Hollywood that you do what comes next. That is really the crux of my career. I did what is next and fortunately what’s next lead to a marvelous life time for my family and me. The answer to many of your questions about the length of shows isn’t really answerable unless you totally understand the business side of TV and movies. In other words…there is much more to the success or failure of show than is obvious. Your assumption about the demise of Celebrity Sweepstakes had nothing to do with Price is Right and everything to do with the in house politics at NBC. We were canceled with a higher rating than the entire NBC lineup has now. While Lin Bolin remains my dear friend and mentor, she had her detractors in house at NBC management and interior politics cost NBC the best programming executive they’ve ever had.

The good thing about my career is that it isn’t over. I just finished the lead role in Bo Brinkman’s feature production “ The Last Man Club” . We should start another movie early next year when he is through with editing and scoring this movie.

Lin Bolen is still active and planning a movie for next year of which she already has me cast. Life is good. Between movie assignments, I continue to write my successful novels. I have two available on Amazon, Falen Semper Fi, and Down from the Mountain.

I hope this answers your questions…I’ve enjoyed this little trip down memory lane..

Sincerely

JIM MacKrell”

 

Well, Jim, it answered some of them. As I told him, I should be grateful for whatever I get. This is an independent blog. I’m not like BuzzerBlogI don’t have sponsors. I don’t have access to everything. (Although Sony Pictures Entertainment being hacked recently could bring new life into the blog.)

I’m still working on an interview with David Sparks of On a Roll fame, and we’ll see how that one goes. But first, I did learn some interesting trivia about him. Did you  know Jim was in a Burger King commercial with Bert Convy’s wife?

Thank you for reading, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to deliver.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Australian Family Feud

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. More often than not, Americans are interested in seeing how their favorite game shows are doing abroad. Formats that are popular in this country are often exported to other countries, but you already knew that. One of those countries is Australia, the land “down under” and home to a good friend of mine, Cameron Shields. Where one name reigns supreme in game shows, and that name is Grundy. One of that company’s formats I’d like to mention is Family Feud. A revival of the show launched recently on the Ten Network, and here is the first episode. I would show it to you, but FremantleMedia Australia has put a copyright claim on it.

 

Before I give my opinion on this new version, I think you should know about the previous ones.

 

Family Feud premiered on the Nine Network in 1977, less than one year after the American version. Tony Barber, the man who would later go on to be “Mr. $ale of the Century”, hosted for the first three years. The gameplay was nearly identical to ours, with the exception of the prizes for Fast Money. In America, it was $5,000 ($10,000 in syndication) in cash for reaching 200 points (or $5 a point for anything under 200 points). In Australia, it was  a prize package worth over AU$8,000 for reaching 200 and jack squat for going under 200.

 

In 1980, Tony left the show in the capable hands of  Hey Hey It’s Saturday’s Daryl Somers. And here’s an episode of his so you know how well he did.

 

 

Nice safe choice, I’d say. He lasted until 1984, when Sandy Scott ( a Canadian professional wrestler who won the IWA World Tag Team Championship in Australia three times with his brother between 1966 and 1968) replaced him. The show was soon cancelled. Yes, Australia had their own Rolf Benirschke five years before America had theirs. And it wasn’t even the same show.

 

Fast forward to 1988, in a move that parallels that of the American version. Just as Ray Combs replaced Richard Dawson when the American Feud moved to CBS, Rob Brough replaced Sandy when the Aussie version moved to the Seven Network. The prize was upped as well by adding a cash jackpot that started at AU$2,000 and went up by AU$1,000 a night until won. Here’s an example of a 1993 Fast Money and a 1994 episode.

 

 

 

Rob lasted for seven years, when he was replaced by John Deeks, who was one of the most recognizable voices in Australia. I would compare him to Jack Clark, in fact.

 

 

Now I don’t know where the AU$5,000 gold and the trip to London referenced here fit in. If anyone does know, I’ll be happy to edit it in.

 

It went off the air for an entire decade until Nine brought it back with Bert Newton at the helm. Now, for those of you who aren’t Australian, Bert Newton could best be described as the equivalent of Bob Barker or Peter Marshall. The man was everywhere, hosting morning talk shows, playing second banana to American Don Lane and Graham Kennedy, and in general gracing TV screens and phonographs with his wife, Patti. And he’s still working. He even made an appearance on their version of Big Brother last year.

 

 

 

I digress. What really set this 2006 version of Feud apart, aside from Bert himself and the “Mad Mondays” (where celebrities or people dressed in costumes played), was the prize money. Depending on how many #1 answers the first player scored in Fast Money, a family could play for as much as AU$100,000. Just watch a few episodes and you’ll see.

 

 

Out of the three versions of the Aussie Feud, I like this one the best. Not just for the big cash prize, but also because Bert Newton is so gosh-darn entertaining. He’s an entertainer, first and foremost. You know when you’re watching him, you’re guaranteed to have a good time. It’s a shame the show didn’t last as long as it did.

 

That brings me to 2014 and this current version. I saw the premiere and I could not wait for it to end. Grant Denyer, who previous to this point had raced cars and walked away from Million Dollar Minute, is trying to be charming and witty. I’ve discussed this with my friend from Oz, Cameron Shields, who has told me that Ten is trying to copy the formula used by the Steve Harvey version here. Here are some clips.

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, the spirit of Steve Harvey’s Feud has indeed gone down to the Southern Hemisphere and put itself at 6 PM against the news. I should take the advice of LMFAO and stop because hating is bad. However, I would not watch this show. I’m still holding out for a $ale revival.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tribute to Don Pardo

Hello. Welcome back. I just wanted to return because there has been an unfortunate death for the entire game show community. Don Pardo, the legendary voice of Saturday Night Live, and indeed NBC, passed away last night in his sleep at the age of 96. Don announced many game shows, mostly for NBC, in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

And that’s just some of his work. However, people my age may best know him as the announcer of Saturday Night Live, which is on every week. One of my favorite appearances of him is this music video by “Weird Al” Yankovic.

 

 

Goodbye, Don. You will be missed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment