I Really Don't Like Game Shows

Is it me — or is this fall television schedule looking like the resurrection of the goofy game show?  It’s even clearer the impact that COVID-19 has had on the production of quality programmed television, and the result is more and more game shows.

But I really don’t like game shows!

If you recall back about 20 years, the television landscape experienced a similar shift with the widespread expansion of reality TV.  “Survivor” sparked it on mainstream network television, but “The Real World” on MTV also helped.  

The networks became excited about lower cost, “high quality” programming and dove deep into the waters of reality and semi-scripted programming.  The result has been years of “Bachelor”s, “Bachelorette”s and “Love Island”s.  There was a brief respite when streaming kicked into high gear and well-written shows became the hot topic again, but COVID may have temporarily halted intelligent programming.  



The result is a veritable cornucopia of game shows like “Holey Moley,” “Celebrity Family Feud” and “The Weakest Link.” These are the shows that typically were summer fodder, but with limited crews, limited scale and reduced ad budgets, the networks are going all-in on them.

I get it.  Game shows are easy.  There’s only a few people present.  You can test everyone on set and keep them there until the show is over, then send them home.  You can rotate in new people to existing sets, and the costs for production are minimal once you have the initial idea and set established.  

Families are stuck at home and game shows are safe for everyone, with very little controversy associated with them.

That being said, game shows, other than “Jeopardy,” don’t keep me engaged.  They are what I used to watch with my grandma, who loved them. Unfortunately, I miss my grandma and I don’t like game shows without her.

I worry that relying too much on game shows might hurt TV in the long run.  I know a lot of people who are coming to the end of Netflix and Disney+.  They have binge-watched everything they can, and they need new programming to keep them interested.  Streaming seems more poised to refresh their programs than major networks will, and that could be a nail in the coffin for cable tv.  

On either side of that coin, it comes down to who can respond and create engaging, intelligent shows that keep viewers coming back.  COVID is here to stay, at least through the middle of next year.  The folks in Hollywood are aware of that, and they will have to come up with a plan for more high-quality programming if they want the audience to stay with them.  I think they are going to have to find a way to get back on track.  If not, we just might have to look behind door number three.

2 comments about "I Really Don't Like Game Shows".
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  1. Suzanne Sell from Independent, September 30, 2020 at 4:19 p.m.

    I've found myself avoiding most on-air fare because these shows are either dreary revamps of long-ago no game shows or pointless competitions. You can blame some of this on COViD, but in fact it started more than 10 years ago. We need more diverse programming!

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 30, 2020 at 4:58 p.m.

    I'm with you, Suzanne. Over the past ten years or so, I have reduced my consumption of broadcast TV to the point where I now belong in the lightest viewing decile And this is true, but to a lesser extent, for cable, where I'm now in the lowest tertile.

    The problem is that it's not up to Hollywood to decide what kinds of fare---primetime fare---the broadcast nets and the larger cable channels will need. This is largely a business -driven decision, based on lower cost fare, many reruns and what can be expected in ad revenues. What Hollywood wants is for the TV networks to fund edgy dramas at "$10 million per episode---and lots of them, plus some high ticket sitcoms---and leave the creative decisions up to the producers. But that would cause the networks to drink huge amounts of  early on red ink---even if the shows later made a very profitable syndication run---or many runs. Why? Because the odds of surviving a first season debut for a new drama and/or sitcom are barely 25-30%. And Hollywood has proven that it simply isn't good enough at it to greatly improve upon that performance. So "we" may not like game shows and, for that matter, most reality shows, but we aren't who the networks are catering to. The time buyers and sellers may use 18-49 or its sister "demo", 25-54 as GRP tonnage guarantee metrics but the primary viewers by a wide margin are adults aged 50+---especially those who never saw a college campus. That was always true for game shows---an occasional exception such as "Jeopardy",initially,  nothwithstanding---and reality fare, ,which started with a more balanced audience profile has now turned in the same older skewed direction---a few shows excepted. So we will either have to learn to love game and reality shows---or go elsewhere---which is what I have done.

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