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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Review: “Rising Star”

Hello. Last night, ABC debuted a new, live singing competition titled Rising Star. I saw it last night, and overall, I’m not that impressed.

For those who didn’t watch it last night, the simple premise is this. Contestants stand in front of a 70-foot wall and sing for 90 seconds. As the contestant performs, the audience watching at home and in the studio can vote with their smartphones using the free app ABC has so generously provided. In order to raise the wall and advance to the next round, contestants must earn the yes votes of 70% of the voters who had checked in for that performance. Sounds difficult? Here’s the kicker. The three judges (Ludacris, Brad Paisley, and Kesha) can vote as well. Yes, they vote, and their votes count for 7% each. That’s 10% of the goal. Here are some performances to show you what I mean.

 

 

First, the good: This is innovative technology, which delivers instant results. No more waiting another night for the results. Viewers decide instantaneously. And if you don’t make it over the 70% mark on the East Coast, don’t worry! You’ve got the West Coast!

 

Josh Groban

Second, there’s Josh Groban, the host. Just look at him. Smart polka-dot handkerchief in his lapel, blue on black….. he looks dressed for the part. And I was surprised to find he’s actually a modest guy. He had to wait for Ludacris to mention his 25 million copies in sales. His hosting style reminds me of Bob Saget, from America’s Funniest Home Videos.  If you had never recognized him before, you’d swear he was some other guy hosting a reality show.

 

The bad: The judges vote. And they carry a heavy weight with them as well. Each yes from a judge adds 7% to a hopeful’s score. They need at least 70% to advance, so if you don’t get at least one of the judge’s yes votes, your chances are not very good. In fact, I’ll show you the results from last night (courtesy of Wikipedia).

 

Order Artist Song Percentage Experts’ choices
East Coast West Coast Brad
Paisley
Kesha Ludacris
1 Josh Peavey (Everything I Do) I Do It for You 87% 83%
2 Lisa Punch How Will I Know 80% 78%
3 Maneepat Molloy Con te partirò 73% 75%
4 Daniel & Olivia Counting Stars 6% 17%
5 Jesse Kinch I Put a Spell on You 92% 92%
6 Beyond 5 Wake Me Up 46% 44%
7 Sarah Darling Merry Go ‘Round 89% 86%
8 Colin Huntley Sing 38% 37%
9 Summer Collins Classic 40% 37%
10 Macy Kate Me and My Broken Heart 93% 91%

 

 

Six out of the ten songs performed that night had yes votes from at least two judges. When we adjust the percentages without the judges’ input…..

 

Order Artist Song Percentage (raw)
East Coast West Coast
1 Josh Peavey (Everything I Do) I Do It for You 66% 62%
2 Lisa Punch How Will I Know 59% 57%
3 Maneepat Molloy Con te partirò 59% 61%
4 Daniel & Olivia Counting Stars 6% 17%
5 Jesse Kinch I Put a Spell on You 71% 71%
6 Beyond 5 Wake Me Up 32% 30%
7 Sarah Darling Merry Go ‘Round 68% 65%
8 Colin Huntley Sing 38% 37%
9 Summer Collins Classic 33% 30%
10 Macy Kate Me and My Broken Heart 72% 70%

 

Only two songs would have made the 70% requirement, and that’s just barely. Now, I understand that 70% is a large number of people, and if I were a contestant, it would be nice to have a little insurance from the judges. Of course, if I were a contestant, I would tell Josh that my mom owns nearly all his CDs and that personally, I can’t stand the constant playing of his “You Raise Me  Up” for every little inspirational story that shows up on TV.

 

The biggest issue with me is the timing. There was a commercial break after every single performance, and even one after Josh “picked” a contestant out of the audience. Josh spent a ridiculous amount of time at the beginning explaining the rules and conversing with the judges (ABC wants you to call them “experts”, but with their votes counting 7% each, they are judges! Let’s call a spade a spade, people!) A lot of this commercial time was used to promote ABC’s summer lineup, including The Quest, a show I am very interested in.

 

And while viewers were checking in, they were “treated” to a 90-second backstory. One contestant lost her mother to leukemia and used music as her “medicine”, another is a youth leader in a town high with substance abuse, and two are immigrants. That may have influenced votes.

 

And finally, viewers can only vote using a smartphone or tablet. I wish there was some way to vote over the computer as well. I’d have voted, but noooooo.  Let the old and the middle class  people vote, ABC! Not everyone’s got a smartphone, but everyone likes music.

 

Would I watch it again? Yeah, if I had my computer in front of me. I was working on Marvel Avengers Alliance all through the show, and I hit “mute” during the breaks. Overall, Rising Star does speed up the process of music competition. It’s just too bad we need all those commercial breaks to make up for it.

 

Rising Star is on Sunday nights at 9/8c and 7m on ABC. Check your local listings.

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Response: 6/22/14

Hello, everyone. It’s been nearly a month, but I haven’t completely deserted this blog. A number of things have come up since then, and I’d like to address those.

* Around the time of my last post, another game show blogger published a profanity-laden post in his blog about someone that disturbed him. That someone was me. I was grossly inaccurate and I apologize. This other person and I hadn’t gotten along very well, and I dished it out. He dished it right back out to me, and I was upset about it. I deserved what I got, and I apologize.

It leads me to think about why I write this blog. Originally, it was an assignment for a college course, and I just expanded it and kept it going because it was free and I enjoyed what I did. I am fully aware my blog gets “literally gets 0.0001% the traffic of” his. I regularly read this other man’s blog, although that may change in the near future. I thought I really would have to measure up to him. But it turns out I don’t.

You readers out there, you know why you want to read this. You know why you come here. I’ll just come out and say that my blog is still up because it’s a hobby and it adds something to my resume/CV. And I enjoy writing. It’s something I’m good at. Cory Anotado has his reasons for why he continues operating his blog, and I have mine. We both love game shows, and that’s probably all that really matters in the end.

Now, on with the game shows.

* Recently, I had the opportunity to watch Sing Your Face Off, a program I had mentioned in an earlier post. ABC rolled with it and made it camp all the way.  The regular judges included Darrell Hammond (from Saturday Night Live) and 80s singer Debbie Gibson. The third spot was filled by, in episodic order:  David Alan Grier,  RuPaul, Carnie Wilson, Richard Simmons, Tom Arnold, and Carmen Electra.

The five contestants were actress Lisa Rinna, Toronto Raptors small forward Landry Fields, comedian Jon Lovitz, former hard rocker Sebastian Bach, and 14-year-old Disney Channel star China Anne McClain. Yes, you read that correctly. A Disney Channel star. Yes, ABC, we get it. You’re owned by Disney.

Now, the premise of the competition is that these celebrities are assigned music icons. They then spend a week learning a song and choreography. The catch is, they have to pass themselves off as that artist.  They also spend that week getting any necessary make up, outfits, accessories, etc. needed for them to look like the artist they are performing as. They then perform the song and are given an individual score by each of the judges ranging on a scale from 1 to 10, for a maximum possible total of 30; except in episode 4, when scores were doubled. (The lowest individual score I ever saw any of the judges give a contestant was a 7, and that was only given three times in the entire first episode, and twice by the guest judge. David Alan Grier was the only honest judge in the series.)

To see who “sung their face off” as whom, let’s take a look at the chart, shall we? (courtesy of Wikipedia)

 

Celebrity Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6
China Anne McClain Rihanna Tina Turner Michael Jackson Alicia Keys James Brown Whitney Houston
Lisa Rinna Dolly Parton Britney Spears Katy Perry Justin Bieber Cyndi Lauper Madonna
Landry Fields Lionel Richie Pitbull Enrique Iglesias Nicki Minaj MC Hammer Little Richard
Jon Lovitz Elton John Luciano Pavarotti Billy Idol Meat Loaf Roy Orbison Redfoo (Special Performance)
Sebastian Bach Adam Levine Lady Gaga Willie Nelson Freddie Mercury Sky Blu (Special Performance)

 

And that’s not all. After all five (or four) had performed that week, the celebrities gave each other three bonus points (obviously not themselves). Let’s see the scores (again from Wikipedia).

Singer Place 1 2 3 4 Overall Score Weeks 1-4 5 6
China Anne McClain 1 34 28 35 71 168 36 2
Lisa Rinna 2 24 32 28 70 154 31 0
Landry Fields 2 28 28 31 58 145 31 0
Jon Lovitz 4 24 38 31 47 140 30
Sebastian Bach 5 30 26 28 56 140

 

Yes, China Anne won the whole thing. Carmen Electra just showed up for a paycheck when it came to the final tie-breaking vote. China got a trophy for her six-week ordeal.  ABC, we get that you’re owned by Disney, but really?

Now what makes this series notable is that ABC ran two “weeks” each Saturday night for three weeks, paired up with Bet on Your Baby at 8. This was recorded in 2013, it even says it in the copyright. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

What made me wonder for a long time was the fact that John Barrowman never revealed what was being played for until the last episode. I surely thought they would be playing for cash for their charities. That disturbed me that they weren’t. But instead, it’s just like Dancing with the Stars. I made that realization during the night of the last two episodes.

As for the performances themselves, personally, I thought none of them were very convincing. I mean, it’s fun and all, but Sebastian Bach as Lady Gaga? Really? I wasn’t convinced. I’ll let some of the performances speak for themselves. For the sake of time, I’ll post four of what I thought best illustrate my point.

 

 

Now, for all the faults I’ve pointed out, I must admit it was quite entertaining. It was a very guilty pleasure. The theme is quite catchy, and some of it was just plain fun. Great Performances at the Met it clearly isn’t, but it’s a fun little timewaster for Saturday night.

40 years ago, ABC’s promotional campaign was “What you see on ABC this fall, you’ll be talking about tomorrow.” And that’s the case this time. People are likely to be discussing this. I was just discussing this today.

* Speaking of ABC, tonight is the premiere of Rising Star, based on an Israeli format HaKokhav HaBa  (“The Next Star”).  It’s your average run-of-the-mill singing competition, but instead of celebrities (in this case Brad Paisley, Kesha, and Ludacris) judging, the audience at home judges.

Here’s what ABC says about it:

“Rising Star completely reinvents the traditional singing competition as—for the first time ever—the audience has the final say in real time. During the performances, viewers vote via an App to determine if the singer will advance in the competition. If the voting reaches a certain threshold, the performer moves on.”

Bad news for people like me: You can only vote using the Rising Star mobile app (which is available for free from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, or from the Windows Store.) No laptop or desktop voting. Well, that’s disappointing, to say the least.

The only thing that rubs the salt in the wound a little is the fact that Josh Groban is hosting. Yes, that Josh Groban. The “You Raise Me Up” Josh Groban. If he breaks out into “You Raise Me Up” just to get a rise out of the audience, so help me I’ll change the channel. But when I think about it, who is more qualified to host a singing competition than a singer? And what qualifies Ludacris (a rapper) to be a celebrity expert in a singing competition? Doesn’t he just rap? (Yes, I am white, and I’m not ashamed of it.)

Anyway, here’s how to operate the app.

 

Have fun, y’all. I’ll be watching.

 

* And finally, speaking of music, we must take note of a recent loss in both the music and entertainment industry.  Casey Kasem, better known as the voice of “Shaggy” and the host of American Top 40, passed away on Father’s Day at the age of 82 after a long struggle with his health and family. He was struggling with his health, his wife was struggling to keep the kids away. I grew up watching Scooby-Doo, and Shaggy was one of my favorites. However, it wasn’t until later that I started listening to his classic AT40s. The man, much like Dick Clark before him, was a legend in the music industry. Aside from that one incident in 1985 regarding a dedication for a dead dog and some unsightly promo bloopers, Casey was a very professional man. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him. I have two things to honor him. First, his run as a bachelor on the original Dating Game:

 

 

And finally, some classic 80s music from American Top 40. Rest in peace, Mr. Kasem. Say hi to Dick for us.

 

 

 

Until next we meet, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

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Response: 5/27/14

Hello again. Yes, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these. I’m aware of that. I just hadn’t had anything important to say, until now.

Now, where should I begin?

* BuzzerBlog has just opened up under new management, that of Cory “Pacdude” Anotado. Normally, this would not be a bad thing, except for one article. He has compiled a list of the “Top 5 Game Shows To Watch While Stoned”. I quote the disclaimer:

Note: Hey, if it’s not legal where you live, don’t smoke weed. Also, if you’re a kid under 21, don’t smoke weed. Your brain’s still soft and malleable. Wait until you’re older and your best years are behind you. You’ll need the weed to cope.”

While this may be considered quite topical considering what is happening in Colorado and in many other places in the country, I think it’s quite inappropriate, and I’m not alone.

 

Personally, I have had plenty of experience with amphetamines, but only the ones prescribed to me. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I vote Republican. I believe in the right to life (except when the mother is in medical danger) and the sanctity of marriage. It maybe all right for Cory to support the legalization and use of weed, that’s his business. But there may be kids who are reading this, like I once was at an early age.

*Speaking of topical and social media, Pat Sajak’s been doing quite a bit of tweeting lately. Among other things, he says this (in chronological order):

 

Now, what you have to remember is that this man once hosted a late-night talk show on CBS when he left Daytime Wheel in 1989. In March 1990, two weeks before his show was cancelled, he asked Rush Limbaugh to guest host.  Rush used the hour to get a response about the veto of a bill in Idaho which would have restricted abortion. According to Limbaugh himself, dissident audience members were planted by producers as a publicity stunt. The you-know-what hit the you-know-where. 

Pat has also hosted a weekend talk show on Fox News that lasted a few months in 2003.  I think it’s pretty clear that Mr. Sajak is a conservative. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I say that because I too, am a conservative.

Is Pat entitled to his opinions? Absolutely. Is he entitled to share them? Under the Constitution, he is. Should he “poke a stick in a hornets’ nest just to hear the buzzing”? Perhaps not. Some people, like me, can get away with it at times. Most of the time, though, this gets me a verbal thrashing from one of my parents. Now, I could probably spout my political opinions and use the word “racist” freely in a tweet and nobody would notice it. The worst that could possibly happen is that I lose followers, or I tell my parents about it and they force me to pull the tweet down. (My parents don’t follow me on Twitter.) The thing is, I’m not getting paid to ask people for three (sometimes four) consonants  and a vowel every night. 

Some may be saying, “But Greg, he’s not using Wheel as an outlet for his beliefs like Barker did on Price.” They would have a point. Of course he wouldn’t be using the puzzleboard to spout conservative propaganda. Harry Friedman (who OKs all the puzzles) would never let him get away with it. That’s why Pat uses his private Twitter account.

I believe all celebrities are in a delicate position when using social media. They may be just like you and me, but they’re different. They’re well known. They have to deal with the backlash. And this could cost him if he’s not too careful. Perhaps hosting the #1 game show in syndication for over 30 years has made him cocky. Perhaps he should step down gracefully and devote himself more fully to conservative causes, like Bob Barker has done with his animal rights causes. Maybe host another talk show, I don’t know.

As for a hosting replacement, here’s a suggestion:

 

 

* Speaking of hosts, Cedric The Entertainer has decided to step down as host of Millionaire. His replacement is Terry Crews, better known for his Old Spice commercials. Here’s what I mean:

 

My question is: why? This man has no hosting experience. Unlike Drew Carey, who actually hosted Whose Line and Pepsi’s Play for a Billion (if you can call those game shows), Terry’s only “game show” exposure was a 1999-2000 American Gladiators clone named Battle Dome. (This was all I could find of the show, I’m sorry to say.)

 

 

I don’t know what all went into the auditioning and selection process for Cedric’s replacement, but I just hope Terry doesn’t become the next Rolf Benirschke. 

 

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