The Media Notepad: Fun’s over for ABC’s “Match Game”, “Card Sharks”

Also: Blackhawks latest Chicago team to drag down national telecasts as the team names Chris Vosters as their new play-by-play guy; CBS Media Ventures cancels two syndicated shows 

The fun is over for four game shows as ABC late last Friday canceled them, part of its “Summer Fun and Games” initiative.

Among the four dumped was Match Game hosted by Alec Baldwin, a revival of the classic game show hosted by Gene Rayburn. The show returned to ABC after a 25-year hiatus in 2016 after an unsuccessful daytime run in 1990-91. This version of the show – which also aired outside of the summer at times, wasn’t in production in the last two years due to the pandemic as the last first-run episode aired in July 2021.

ABC denied the cancellation was linked to Alec Baldwin’s legal woes stemming from the accidental shooting of a cinematographer on a movie set last fall, but to poor ratings the show achieved in the last two years.

The new Match Game wasn’t well-received by many fans given the show was far cruder than the ’70s version, bleeped dialogue and all, but managed to last 69 hour-long episodes and lasted longer than the two recent revivals, the aforementioned 1990 revival and a syndicated one in 1998.

Also canceled were two other revivals: Card Sharks and Celebrity Dating Game. Hosted by Joel McHale, Sharks returned to television after a 20-year hiatus, after a syndicated revival quickly came and went in 2000 as this version – a daytime staple on both NBC and CBS and also spurned a 1986-87 syndicated version, lasted two seasons. As for Celebrity Dating Game, the program lasted all of one season as the critically-panned show flopped with viewers. It was hosted by Zooey DeSchannel and Michael Bolton (yes, that Michael Bolton.)

Also canceled was The Hustler, hosted by Craig Ferguson. ABC intends to retain its existing primetime game shows Celebrity Family Feud, Press Your Luck, To Tell The Truth, and $100,000 Pyramid with Holey Moley set to return in May.

Exit, Stage 29: Once known for its stability, the first-run syndication business continues to unravel with the cancellations of CBS Media Ventures DailyMailTV and The Doctors, marking the fourth and fifth syndicated strip to be canceled this season, and the seventh to end production – the highest number since at least the early 2000s as the industry continues to shift away from linear TV to streaming. 

What’s notable is both shows are produced by Stage 29 Productions, headed by Jay McGraw, who is the son of Dr. Phil McGraw, whose long-running talk show tapes on Stage 29 on the Paramount lot (it was also the longtime home of Arsenio Hall’s first syndicated late-night talk show.) In recent years however, both shows were produced from New York.

The Doctors premiered in 2008 and featured a panel of five doctors, including The Bachelor’s Dr. Travis Stork. But in recent years, the panel has been reduced to one, with Dr. Andrew Ordon returning to replace the fired Dr. Ian Smith, whose practice is based in Chicago (Smith is currently involved in a lawsuit with CBS and Stage 29 over racism charges.) The show spent its entire run bouncing between Weigel’s WCIU and its sister station, WMEU-TV (known as The U Too and since 2019, The U.) 

DailyMailTV premiered in 2017 as a late entry sold after the NATPE convention, and was initially hosted by another Bachelor alum, Jesse Palmer before he left and was replaced by Thomas Roberts. The show was based on the right-wing UK tabloid, though the show didn’t contain elements of what you usually find in conservative news outlets. The shows currently airs at 3 p.m. weekdays over Nexstar’s WGN-TV, who may add even more news to fill the void left by this show and Maury, whose host announced his retirement a few weeks ago.

And for the final time, let this blog make it clear: The Doctors is not related to the 1963-82 daytime serial of the same name on NBC as Jay McGraw’s Doctors fell five seasons short in matching the soaper’s run.

ABC’s return to airing NHL games has been rough from a ratings perspective – and you can blame the Chicago Blackhawks. As reported by Sports Media Watch, the game between the team and the Vegas Golden Knights on March 26 drew a 0.4 rating and just 651,000 for the 2 p.m. local time game, noon in Las Vegas. Another game two weeks earlier against Philadelphia drew a similar 0.4 rating and just 664,000 viewers – each registering among the lowest ratings ever for the NHL on broadcast national television.

Once one of the biggest ratings draws in the league during their Stanley Cup run, the Blackhawks have struggled in the standings the last few years as aside from the 2020 Edmonton bubble, hasn’t made the playoffs in five seasons and won’t do so this year. Another factor may be the sexual harassment scandals tarnishing the organization. It’s puzzling why ESPN/ABC made the decision to put the team on two Saturday afternoon telecasts as the Vegas game was on opposite CBS’ March Madness coverage. Even more puzzling given broadcast network NBC has shunned the Blackhawks in the last few years of its NHL contract as their fortunes dwindled. 

Even though the Bulls are doing better than their United Center tenants, their national televised apparencies haven’t also been been big ratings draws – especially when they are getting blown out in each one. In 2017, the Bulls provided ABC with its lowest-rated NBA prime-time numbers in history and three of the nine lowest-rated games in the history of the sport up to that point. It’s a problem other Chicago sports teams also have, with a White Sox-Cubs primetime game on ABC last summer drawing weak numbers, though it was on opposite the Olympic closing ceremonies. Outside of the Bears (who still draw despite their poor play because…it’s the NFL), Chicago teams unfortunately, don’t have the strong national appeal they once had despite being the third-ranked market in the country. 

In other Blackhawks news, NBC Sports Chicago and the team named 30 year-old Chris Vosters as their new play-by-play guy, succeeding longtime voice Pat Foley and paired with commentator Eddie Olczyk, who’ll continue in the role once a new contract is officially finalized.

“It’s a tremendous honor to succeed Pat,” said Vosters. “This is not any other job. It’s more than just the next stepping stone in my career. This is a really big deal for me and my family, and I’m really excited to be a part of the organization and really continue to plant roots in Chicago. I think it’s the best sports town in America. I’m just really flattered and excited and really eager to pour my heart and soul into this job and be the best person that I can be.”

Vosters is a native of the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield, Wis. He went to the University of Wisconsin and earned a degree in communications, and started at the school’s radio station, 91.7 FM WSUM in Madison. His experience included calling hockey games at the 2018 and 2022 Winter Olympics and the Women’s Frozen Four in 2019. He also called minor league baseball for the Dodgers’ Triple A affiliate, the Great Lakes Loons.

Vosters was among those who did on-air auditions as Foley announced last summer he was retiring after more than 30 years in the booth for the Blackhawks. The news was announced during Sunday night’s game at the United Center against the Arizona Coyotes.

Voters isn’t waiting until next season to take over – he’ll do so on April 16 when the Blackhawks play at the Nashville Predators in an unusual 11:30 a.m. start, finishing up the final eight games of the regular season. Foley’s final game is April 14, a home game against the San Jose Sharks, but he’ll reunite with former longtime partner Dale Tallon one more time on April 10 for a broadcast as the Blackhawks take on the Dallas Stars.


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