T Dog’s Grab Bag: “Monopoly Millionaires'” heads to WGN

Billy Gardell to host "Monopoly Millionaires' Club". (philly.com)
Billy Gardell and”Monopoly Millionaires’ Club” heads to Tribune stations, including WGN. (philly.com)

Sinclair realigns newscasts downstate; talent shows to hit syndication; No one is “asking America”

 Remember back in  October when yours truly asked if new weekly hour-long game show Monopoly Millionaires’ Club would air in Chicago because Illinois was not participating in the related lottery game? Well, here’s your answer: WGN-TV picked up the new Monopoly game  hosted by Mike & Molly’s Billy Gardell and premiered Saturday at 11 p.m. WPIX/New York and KTLA/Los Angeles have also picked up the show, for airing in prime-time,  in addition to a Tuesday night airing on GSN.

Scientific Games has cleared the series in 96 percent of the country, mostly in prime access and primetime on weekends. Midwest clearances include WXIN/Indianapolis, WUCW/Minneapolis, WXMI/Grand Rapids, WKBD/Detroit, WICD-WICS/Champaign-Springfield-Decatur, and WITI/Milwaukee. Stations mentioned are owned either by CBS, Sinclair, and Tribune, which owns WGN.

Locally, WGN plans to run the series Sunday nights at 6, beginning April 5 (the series was bumped due to a Blackhawks game, hence the early Saturday night premiere.)

Based on the board game, viewers get a chance to get on the show from playing a lottery game, which was recently revamped (but still not available in Illinois, though neighboring Indiana is participating.)

This is not the first attempt at a TV version of a Monopoly game – ABC aired a short-lived version in the summer of 1990. It grew out of a failed syndicated pilot from King World,  who had Peter Tomarken as host.

Meanwhile, say so long to Let’s Ask America – Scripps and MGM pulled the plug on the low-rated game show recently after one season in full syndication and three years overall. Scripps developed this inane program as a replacement for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! in 2012 on its stations, which Scripps deemed too expensive. Originally hosted by Kevin Pereira, comedian Bill Bellamy took over in the third season when it went into national syndication, but low ratings and rotten time slots (2 a.m. on WCIU Ch. 26.2) did it in.

He may not be the next Oprah, but he’ll give it a shot: local comic Steve Gadlin has had his StarMakers talent show airing at 3 a.m. Saturdays on WCIU Ch. 26.2, and is now going national. Beginning next month, StarMakers will begin airing in select markets, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even Pago Pago in American Samoa, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Don’t expect mega-production values: StarMakers has a decidedly public-access TV feel to it, with a black curtain as a backdrop and anyone who’s anyone can get on the show and perform. Let’s hope Steve Gadlin’s has a better shot in syndication than Let’s Ask America did.

Speaking of talent competition, a series with a bigger budget (by syndication standards) is coming to syndication this fall. WCIU has picked up American Television’s The Big Big Show to air beginning in September, which 75 percent of the country currently cleared including WLNY/New York, KDOC/Los Angeles, KDAF/Dallas (where it will film), and KIAH/Houston, the latter two owned by Tribune.

The judges are Andrew Dice Clay, Tara Reid, and Tom Green (no I’m not making this up.) Details were sketchy, but don’t expect a American Idol/America’s Got Talent type of format or someone walking away with a million dollars or a talent deal. The plan is for the judges “raining piles of cash on the best variety acts around the globe.” To get them off the stage quicker, perhaps?

Downstate: Sinclair Broadcasting has pulled the plug on newscasts produced by ABC affiliate WICD in Champaign and is having sister station WICS in Springfield – located more than 80 miles away – produce them. According to B & C, WICD’s elimination of news will result in layoffs.

While WICD’s news ending production, the Springfield station is producing a new 9 p.m. newscast for Champaign viewers over Fox affiliate WCCU beginning April 7. WCCU is basically a simulcast of Fox affiliate WRSP-TV in Springfield.

An hour south of Chicago, the Champaign-Springfield-Decatur market (ranked 85th) is unusual given how geographically wide it its. Springfield, the state’s capital, is 90 miles west of Champaign. Home to the University of Illinois, the Champaign campus is filled with many Chicagoans. The Champaign-Springfield-Decatur market is also home to the largest Chicago Bears fanbase outside of the Windy City.

Champaign-based CBS affiliate WCIA dominates the ratings, as it has for decades.

Reminder: Beginning today, CBS Television Distribution’s Hot Bench shifts to WBBM-TV at 2 p.m., replacing the now-canceled Queen Latifah Show, which is disappearing from the station. Hot Bench is syndication’s top-rated freshman show this season, with the series recently earning a 1.6 live-plus-same day rating.

Hot Bench had been airing on WCIU.