History of Fremantle Part 4: The Fremantle Years (2008 - Present Day)
Originally posted: August 3rd, 2015

By James Fabiano


MILLION DOLLAR PASSWORD – Fremantle’s attempt to fit the Goodson-Todman classic into 2000s Big Money Primetime style (right down to hiring Regis Philbin as host and having a money ladder bonus round) came off as perhaps what one would do in the 70s when creating a Password ripoff.  Oddly enough, this actually ended up resembling the older show’s “legit” relative more.  Instead of celebrity/contestant teams volleying the passwords until one got it correct, teams took turns guessing multiple words against a clock.  The team with the most points after a number of rounds got to go to the bonus round with the top payoff being the titular $1,000,000.  Sound familiar?   Describe these “things that are like things in another Bob Stewart-created show,” ready, go! 

Besides taking away what made Password unique as a game, the show was a product (albeit a fading one) of its time with a darker set, a centered arena-like atmosphere, and more dramatics.  Producers promised elements from original PW, Password Plus, and Super Password before the show started, but it was really hard to see where those were done honor.  You could say the elimination/front round was an homage to Password’s Lightning Round, but no, it came off more like Pyramid.  And I guess the three clues and you’re out rule in the bonus game’s passwords was supposed to be like SPW’s Ca$hword round.

Basically, this revival might have been better if it WASN’T a revival…AND had better players.  Both celebrities (William Shatner comes to mind) and contestants alike had a slippery grasp on the game, as many would just stick with words that had a clear opposite, and pass just about everything else.  But as a plus – no pun intended – Betty White was invited to the show twice as a celebrity player, continuing her streak of appearing on every incarnation of Password.  She even did the Jimmy Fallon mini-game version, which was a better revival than this.  0.50 bad, 0.50 good. 

LET’S MAKE A DEAL – As mentioned in the GS Marathon entry, Fremantle now had the rights to the iconic show, and in 2009 it beat out the likes of a Pyramid revival to fill in the daytime vacancy left Guiding Light’s spot.  As the show is often paired with The Price is Right, it kind of made sense that its spiritual predecessor should be the show to join it in CBS daytime.  Wayne Brady was tapped to host, occupying both shows with Whose Line Is It Anyway? alumni.  And like Monty Hall had Jay Stewart and Carol Merrill back in the day, Brady would be part of a Deal team of his own, with announcer Jonathan Mangum and model Tiffany Coyne.  Besides choosing either the box or the curtain, more rudimentary guessing games, games of chance, and skits emphasizing the improv talents of Brady, et al, are the order of the day on this version of LMAD, as that certain other show has a claim on pricing games, I guess.  So does it work?  HELL YES.  This version of Deal is different, but still highly entertaining as always (yeah…we’ll pretend the Fox and NBC prime time versions never happened…).  Plus it’s just good to have something resembling a daytime lineup of game shows on the networks again.    1 good point.

FAMILY FEUD (STEVE HARVEY ERA) – Remember how I said Feud would eventually become a success?  This is the era that pushed it back into the annals of syndication powerhouses.   Yet even at its pinnacle, it remains a divisive version of the show, perhaps moreso now.   It’s successful, but is it perfect?  Not quite.  Well first let me say what I do like.  The show is still the show.  No reinventing the wheel, besides carrying over the “five wins for a car” from O’Hurley’s last season (while at the same time abandoning Bullseye).  Steve does what he does well, if nothing else he’s more interactive with the contestants.  Past hosts of this era just barely tapped into joking about the answers contestants give.  Steve turns this up to the elevens.  They go for the anything-can-happen atmosphere from the classic Feuds and other classic shows.  However, do they try TOO hard?  Well, before I go any further with that, I will say that there are some things gone from the Harvey Era that I miss…a live announcer (they’ve used the same Joey Fatone announcements, edited every which way, since the beginning of the run) and introducing the families before the game.  It’s true that Steve makes small talk whenever he can, but it’s not the same.  Now for the elephant in the room…the content of the questions.   It’s true that the racier survey content and Steve’s reactions therein are part of why this version has caught on so well.  But on the other hand, it does bring to mind Match Game ‘98’s reliance on similar, and how quickly repetitive that got.  The same thing is happening with many viewers now with Feud.  Also it can come off as simply being catalysts for yet another over-manufactured Steve Moment ™.  But the ratings are still strong, so what do we know?  And speaking of which, Elephant #2: the fact that GSN has played this version to death, and not only that, but aside from first-runs, the show is also rerun or has been rerun on at least 2 other cable channels.  Nothing the show does itself, though, so you can put this on the shoulders of TV execs striking while the iron’s hot.  So basically, the show is and isn’t what it was, if that makes sense.  And for that I can give it a 0.75 good, 0.25 bad. 

THE ONLINE SHOWS – To precede the network, Fremantle has also run a Buzzr YouTube channel, where internet “celebrities” play different classic shows, including Family Feud, Password, and Body Language.  I have not seen the latter, but what I saw on Feud and PW doesn’t make me want to rush to seek it out.  Again, Game Show Garbage has gone into detail why YouTube Feud was bad, and YouTube Password is similarly a weak version of the show, with over-caffeinated host and contestants all the same.  Again, Fallon’s version?  1000x better.  I won’t give them any good points, but I will not give them a full one bad point because at least it’s not meant to be taken seriously.  0.75 bad, N/A good.

So…Fremantle showed a lot of improvement over its ancestor companies, having a total of 6 good points, and 3.75 bad.  But how does that weigh on the overall reputation of its lineage?  Fact is, it actually evens it out, at a grand total of…

8.75 good points, 8 bad points. 

So while the legacy of All-American, Pearson, and Fremantle has had its glaring low points, it would appear that they were just as hit-and-miss as most companies are.  Now, time will tell about the good they’ll do as they look to set out to do the history they inherited the ultimate honor by giving it its own television outlet.  Enjoy Buzzr, everyone! 

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