In the latest skirmish of Game Show Wars 2000, NBC has decided to switch rather than fight.
The Peacock announced Monday that the second seg of its new version of “Twenty One”” will no longer air as previously scheduled on Wednesday, Jan. 12. Instead, the Maury Povich-hosted quizzer will bow Sunday, then air again on Jan. 16, 19 and 26, at 8 p.m. all four nights. “Dateline NBC” will fill the Jan. 12 vacated by “Twenty One.”
The decision is a direct reaction to ABC’s announcement last week that it will counter the launch of “Twenty One,” CBS’ “Winning Lines” and Fox’s “Greed” with an eight-night “Millionaire” marathon that kicks off Sunday (Daily Variety, Dec. 28).
“To take the second episode of ‘Twenty One’ and run it against the most successful gameshow of the past couple years would be crazy,” said NBC Entertainment prexy Garth Ancier, adding that the Peacock believes it “has a solid show in ‘Twenty One'” and doesn’t want to hurt its long-term prospects.
The back-and-forth maneuvering over gameshows highlights the intensity of the quizzer trend. Written off as dead until “Millionaire” sparked renewed interest in the genre, gameshows threaten to overtake newsmags as the most prevalent nonfiction primetime format.
Indeed, no less than 14 hours of quiz programming will air on the four nets over the next two weeks, starting with the return of “Greed” Wednesday. The sudden abundance of buzzerfests has network TV insiders privately expressing concern over the long-term impact of “Millionaire” mania.
“I would hate to see (network television) turned into a medium driven by alternative programming,” said one top network exec, arguing the major webs do best with comedies and dramas rather than newsmags and gameshows.
Another exec admits the frenzy “is a little crazy,” and calls ABC’s decision to sked yet another “Millionaire” marathon “ridiculous.”
“How special is the show going to be if you bring it back for 15 nights in February if you’ve already aired it for nine nights in January” the exec said.
Another veteran creative exec believes gameshow madness could fade as quickly as “Millionaire” became a hit.
“These kinds of shows are fads,” the insider said. “They break out fast and burn out early.”