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The Password is... Unfortunate
December 18, 2008  | By David Bianculli

The Password is... Unfortunate

Tonight at 8 ET, after a run of summer specials, CBS launches Million Dollar Password as a weekly series. Because of the way the show is revamped, and what it means for TV in the future, the password is... "Unfortunate."


Regis Philbin, once again, is the host -- nothing wrong there. This is, after all, the guy who revived the prime-time game show with ABC's Who Wants to be a Millionaire. (That show would still be on the air at night had ABC not greedily programmed it 172 times a week.)

And the celebrity contestants, teamed up with regular players, are well-chosen, too: William Shatner is one of tonight's synonym-swappers, and future installments feature Craig Ferguson, Norm Macdonald and others.

Still, two things bother me about this latest incarnation of the classic game show.

One is that, for no discernible reason other than to irritate fans of the original series, Million Dollar Password has changed the rules. Instead of teams alternating to give clues -- Team A getting the first shot, Team B the second, and so on -- each team now gets to fire off its clues and guesses all in a row. That removes a lot of the clue-giving strategy, as well as any potential penalty for not guessing right the first time.

The other thing that bothers me is the timing. Right after NBC announces Jay Leno will be taking over the 10 p.m. ET weeknight slot next year with a game show, along comes a game show to claim one night of the 8 p.m. hour for CBS.

With other shows, like NBC's Deal or No Deal and CBS's The Price Is Right specials, already airing at that hour, it doesn't take too much imagination to imagine a broadcast prime-time lineup full of talk shows at 10, game shows at 8, and mostly reality shows at 9.

Is there any reason why such durable syndicated hits as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! couldn't succeed as an 8 p.m. strip show for some network? And if some network makes that leap, the number of hours available for scripted TV shows will be reduced even more drastically.

Ergo: The Password is... Unfortunate.




Gregg B said:

I think we may have entered a new era for network television. It will now look more like daytime television. As costs go up for the networks we will only see the cheapest shows to make - talk shows, game shows, soap operas and reality shows. The bottom line will be the bottom line. We will all have to turn to cable for scripted material. The only problem with that is that the shows on cable (because of costs) only tend to be at most 13 episode seasons. It is also hard when you have to wait a year for 10 episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." It's going to be harder and harder to find TV worth watching on network television. (GOING to be? Sadly, I fear, the future is now.-- David B.)

Comment posted on December 18, 2008 10:56 AM

kenneth kahn said:

I thought I was the only one that objected to the change of rules. This show should really be called "The $1,000,000 Pyramid"

Comment posted on December 18, 2008 12:15 PM
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