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Million Dollar Password: CBS Pulls Game Show, Will It Be Back? Will Regis Philbin?

Million Dollar PasswordAs Betty White said years ago, the Password game show is like a phoenix, it just keeps returning. The most recent version, Million Dollar Password, has been attracting lots of viewers but has now been pulled by CBS. Will it be back?

Million Dollar Password (MDP) is the latest in a long line of shows based on the word guessing game. The original first aired in 1961 and was hosted by White’s late husband and game show legend, Allen Ludden. MDP is the latest version Password and is hosted by modern-day broadcasting legend, Regis Philbin. To date, celebrities that have helped players win big money have included Rachael Ray, Neil Patrick Harris, Tony Hawk, Rosie O’Donnell, Julie Chen, William Shatner, Phil Keoghan, Steve Schirripa, Serena Williams, and Craig Ferguson. White has appeared on two episodes, making her the only person to ever appear on every version Password and the only person to be invited back to MDP.

The primetime game show premiered on June 1, 2008 to 10.69 million viewers, a solid debut. The numbers dipped for the following five episodes of MDP but that’s to be expected since they were airing in the summer months when viewership is typically lower. CBS ordered an additional season of six episodes for the 2008-09 season.

Should CBS replace Philbin with a younger host?

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Season two kicked off on December 18, 2008 with 8.27 million viewers. That’s not a great number but it’s still respectable, especially for the holiday season. Viewership for subsequent MDP episodes improved.

The most recent episode attracted 10.43 million people but CBS has now announced that they are pulling the game show from the schedule, effective immediately. There are two episodes left to air featuring Jamie Kennedy and Norm MacDonald, and Jeff Garlin and Chelsea Handler as the celebrity players.

If the game show is attracting lots of people, why pull it? Well, though MDP is watched by 10 million, the audience is predominantly an older demographic. In the network business, you ideally want younger viewers and the Philbin game show doesn’t attract many. CBS is the strongest network right now so they can afford to be picky.

The network hasn’t announced that the game show is cancelled and it seems likely that they’ll eventually get around to airing the extra episodes at some point, probably during the Summer months. However, a third season renewal seems unlikely.

In November, Philbin renewed the contract for his “day job,” co-hosting Live with Regis and Kelly. That contract is a very lucrative one for the 77-year old broadcaster but it significantly restricts his ability to work on other shows that are not produced by Disney (which owns ABC). In recent years, Philbin has hosted primetime programs on three networks and the house of mouse understandably wants to keep him for their own projects.

Philbin’s new contract will likely keep him from returning to do new episodes of MDP. Since he’s a big part of the show, that will almost certainly be reason enough for CBS to pass on renewing the game show for a third season.

Still, if the network wants to attract younger viewers, they could potentially replace Philbin with a younger (likely cheaper) host. Would that work? Considering their current dominance, is it a gamble CBS would be willing to take? Or, is the Password game just not that attractive to younger viewers?.

 

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie September 30, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Loved MDP! Didn’t even know it had been on & stumbled across it on accident. Now I see that they were reruns. My granddaughters,16 & 19 loved the showed & we watched it together.

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Kathy June 6, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Bring Password BACK! I am 27 years old and my friends and I would watch it in a bar every Sunday. Then we would play the board game version. Is 27 not young enough for ya?
I LOVED that show so much. The best guests were Betty White, Rosie and Neil Patrick Harris.
Yes, my parents and my grandparents also watched it and they have loads of money to spend..so I dont really understand the argument that “old” people are not who you want for an audience.

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Rich October 2, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Sadly, the age group matter DOES matter. In this day of shrinking profits for broadcasters, they are getting more and more nitpicky. Game shows CAN work, but the networks don’t want to try hard enough…. or leave things well enough alone.

First, about MDP:
1 – While Regis isn’t a bad host, he wasn’t in the same element as he was in WWTBAM.
2 – The format removed much of the charm of Password, and instead made things tightly paced in order to add dramatical effect. I think there should be a new edition of Password: “MEGA PASSWORD”, and bring back the charm from Super Password and Password Plus. If you want to put an end game worth mega money… then go ahead, but at least make the main game have some charm to it. MDP seemed as if it was a hybrid between Password and Pyramid.
3 – Betty White was the only star worth watching. The others … meh. Maybe it was because the game was so fast-paced that we didn’t get to see the stars being themselves.
4 – MDP should have been a half-hour show, not an hour.

Now the problem with game shows in general
1 – It seems like every game show is looking for a young audience. Yes, the 18-34 demographic is the highest payoff for any series, but game shows are for everyone.
2 – So with that said.. stop with the attempt at young hosts. It’s not working. When Game Shows were king, everyone loved the hosts who were middle-aged or older. With the exception of John O’Hurley and Jeff Foxworthy, just about every show has had a youthful host.
3 – Stop with the over-dramatizing of game shows. Heavy music during the questions, long pauses before results are given — all that slow down game shows too much. It’s what hurt Deal or No Deal. All the stunts… it was too much. Play. talk. Have fun. But don’t slow down game play because producers want to milk every ounce out of the drama. “We’ll find out ……………. AFTER THE BREAK!!” – okay to do once in awhile, but don’t overdo it.
4 – Stop overscheduling game shows, either. It hurt Deal or No Deal’s run on NBC. It was what killed The Weakest Link. It’s what destroyed Who Wants to be a Millionaire on ABC. If something’s working, don’t change it. Keep the show running the way it is, and expand only if you have a special reason to [special editions, celebs, etc].
5 – Return to the roots of game shows. Game shows entertain, but game shows also are something you can play along with. There’s a reason why Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune still remain on TV after 25 years. People can play along. Same with The Price is Right.

And finally, I don’t think Pyramid failed. It just didn’t get quite as much attention as Dick Clark’s edition. There were too many changes from the beloved $100,000 Pyramid. From the set to the music to the 6 instead of 7 (which I can understand, but if you do 6 instead of 7, give contestants 25 seconds, not 20), the different host just added to the problems. I’m not going to say that Donny Osmond was a great host – some of his reactions on the show (The “OH! OH! OH! OH!!!” on a failed winner circle, for example) were dismal.

The reasons above are why I wished CBS went with $1,000,000 Pyramid instead of Let’s Make a Deal. I wanted to see if a returned-to-format would succeed. Maybe CBS will put LMAD to a 30 minute format after awhile. And one last note about LMAD — at least Monty Hall will be a creative consultant.

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Tammy September 21, 2009 at 7:25 am

I’m absolutely disappointed that MDP has been cancelled. What’s up with that????
What difference does it make what age group is watching? That’s hog wash!!! Bring the show back and that’s a bloody order.

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Tom September 3, 2009 at 1:13 am

Problem #1. The are absolutely NO good game show hosts anymore, with an exception of Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek. Today’s current crop of so-called hosts leave much to be desired. The talents of legendary broadcasters like Allen Ludden, Bill Cullen, etc., will NEVER be seen again.

Problem #2. Virtually every game show that’s been revived within the last 15 or so years has bombed. Witness the failures: Pyramid with Donny Osmond, the revival of Card Sharks in 2003, Let’s Make A Deal hosted by the unlovely Billy Bush, Match Game (1998), To Tell The Truth, (the last version hosted by that obnoxious cretin John O’Hurley), GSN’s revival of I’ve Got A Secret in 2004 or 05, (a dud of a host and a panel of irritating dim-bulbs that never changed), etc…………………

Problem #3. The game play of Million Dollar Password should’ve remained much more like the older versions of Password. Instead the entire game is played in a “lightning round” fashion. Having contestants and celebrity guests stand throughout the game is bothersome, too. And the celebrity guests (except for the legendary Betty White) are unpleasant. Controversial sour-puss Rosie O’Donnell! YEEECH!

Problem #4. Television nowadays is the worst ever. It’s fake reality junk galore, raunchy sit-coms, and dark dramas. Some one gets the “bright” idea at a network and attempts to revive a much loved classic game show from the past and what happens? It’s brought into production in a much unlovely manner; it fails!

Problem #5. CBS cancels the 72 year old radio and television soap Guiding Light. And guess what they have to replace Guiding Light with in that time slot? Another revival of Let’s Make A Deal. And the host is Wayne Brady! I mean, what are they thinking??!!! Cancel a long running popular soap and replace it with an immediate failure! DUMB MOVE CBS!

And lastly, problem #6. CBS’s longest running game show The Price Is Right. Price’s ratings have taken a constant fall since BoB Barker left the show in 2007. Now the ratings were initially high at first when Drew Carey took over but it was out of viewers’ curiosity of the show’s new host. Since then the viewership amongst the core age group of TPIR has fallen steadily. Like I said, there are NO good hosts anymore. Since the major and cable networks are incapable of doing anything right anymore, why must they attempt to bastardize something that was once very successful and admired? If they can’t do it right then leave it alone!

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