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How GSN Can Get Back on Track with Original Games

Unsolicited advice for the Game Show Network

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GSN has been struggling with original programming

Courtesy GSN

March 2010

We all know that GSN has been having some problems with original programming lately. From Big Saturday Night to the Game Show Awards to Unstapled, the new stuff just isn't picking up new viewers. Nor is it satisfying to current viewers.

Ratings are solid for the older shows and newer acquisitions overall. Picking up Deal or No Deal was a great move for the network, and even the endless reruns of Family Feud are faring pretty well, so no one is putting GSN on deathwatch any time soon.

GSN Games Aren't What They Used to Be

The real problem is that, where we used to have fun original games, we're now getting dreck. GSN has had some solid, entertaining game shows in the past which did well not only in first-run episodes, but also in repeats. That's simply not happening any longer. So what's a network to do? It's tricky to keep a legion of dedicated fans happy while at the same time branching out and trying to reach other demographics.

There are two main camps that GSN is trying to please: the current fans who love old game shows and could spend hours discussing a single episode of What's My Line?, and the new breed of game show and reality TV fans who are looking for something innovative and fresh. Is it possible to hold on to both audiences? I think it is.

My Advice for GSN

Of course I have a few ideas of my own for the network...

  • Get to work as soon as humanly possible on a new, in-studio, quizzer. Or a word game, or some kind of card game. It doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't need a lot of gimmicks, and it certainly doesn't need any hidden cameras. Just dish up a good old-fashioned game show with a decent host and good contestants. Then you'll have a foundation to pair with your new offerings.

  • By all means, keep experimenting with reality-TV based shows. But make them real games, not hidden camera segments augmented by the opportunity to win a bit of pocket money.

  • If you really must venture into docu-reality, then let's see how a game show is made from concept to premiere. Or let's catch up with popular game show hosts and announcers with a "where are they now" type thing. Or hey, how about trying that idea from last summer, auditioning game show hosts and then having them compete to earn a spot hosting a new original GSN game?

  • Consider doing a series that revives old GSN games, much like the Game Show Marathon did. You don't even need celebrity contestants – just cast for it as usual, and give us some great new episodes of stuff like Lingo, Russian Roulette, and even Cram.

  • Remember that 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time series from a few years back? Do it again. Or do the worst shows, or the best hosts, or the greatest contestants. Give us something to talk about, agree or disagree with, and most of all, continue watching.

  • In the same vein, how about doing Grand Slam again?

  • For the love of all that is buzzer-worthy, take a little more time to make sure you're delivering a quality product. I cannot stress this enough. The Game Show Awards, Big Saturday Night, heck, even Instant Recall all had promise on paper. It was the delivery that really messed them all up.

Going Beyond Acquisitions

Sure, a lot of people are still screaming for more acquisitions, and there are a few that would make sense. Bringing back some oldies wouldn't hurt, or maybe picking up newer shows like the prime time version of Don't Forget the Lyrics. But it's really the original programming that needs work. Viewers need compelling content, and if you're treading into reality television, we need to become invested in the game, the contestants, or, preferably, both.

Oh, and one last thing: no more game shows with animal contestants, please.

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