Opinion: GSN Orders Non-Game Show “Family Trade” to Series… Why?
American Dream Derby. DJ Games. Vegas Weddings Unveiled. Hidden Agenda. If some of these titles don’t seem familiar to you, that’s okay. They’re not familiar to 99% of America, either. These are all titles of reality-based programs that the former (and once in a while, still) Game Show Network has produced that have no or a very miniscule connection to actual games and game shows. All of these shows performed poorly in the ratings during their respective times on the schedule and have been swept under the rug because, apparently, their core audience base did not care to watch “reality” as opposed to “game” shows. Historically, reality does not perform well on GSN. Even a big name competition show like Dancing With the Stars wasn’t kept on the schedule for more than six months after it performed poorly once acquired for the schedule. So, after being familiar with all of this data previously, GSN announced yesterday that they have ordered a new non-game show to their 2013 schedule based around the dealings at a Vermont auto dealership called Family Trade.
The premise is simple. Apparently, the G-Stone Motors dealership in Vermont will trade almost anything for credit towards a car. The show will document those trades. And, of course, since we can’t have a Pawn Stars-like show without drama, there will be waaaaacky hijinks between the family members who run the store on what constitutes a good trade, Yep. That’s about it. According to Amy Introcaso-Davis, GSN’s Executive Vice President of Programming., GSN is classifying this under the Real-Life Games category, which are “shows that take place in real settings and feature real-life risk and reward.” That’s internal phrasing for “we need to try to pass these shows off to our core audience somehow.” It’s a non-competition reality show, plain and simple. This is just one of a few of these GSN has on their developmental slate. This is the first one to be ordered to a series – eight half-hour episodes in this case.
I commend GSN for trying to break out of the box with programming something besides strict studio game shows with a $5,000 bonus game. I really do. But what they’ve broken out of the box with in the past hasn’t proven to work. Obviously the network doesn’t need to revert to airing all pre-1986 game show repeats. I’m not saying that at all. But traditional game shows are what have been successful for them in the past and, judging from ratings for acquisitions recently like Minute to Win It and Steve Harvey’s Family Feud, that’s what is working for them right now. You might not be interested in the Bible or cooking, but American Bible Challenge and Beat the Chefs are game shows. GSN has found a way to turn the cooking competition show into a more game show-style format and, because of that, it is more likely to be a success. Even something like Baggage did wonders for the network. But that was an original idea executed very well, not a ripoff of a successful franchise already diluted in the cable market by networks with higher visibility. I just don’t see fans of the show willing to watch the Stone family wheel and deal for a 1999 Ford Taurus and I can’t imagine it being compelling enough for the average channel flipper to stop and find interesting either.
You were heading in the right direction with your recent moves, GSN. Picking up Minute to Win It is doing wonders for you and it will be interesting to see how Bible, Chefs and The Pyramid work out for you in a couple of weeks. But I feel like it can be easily seen what will happen with Family Trade. It’s going to be promoted like crazy, fizzle out midway through the run and won’t be seen again unless you look for it on that dusty tape library shelf next to the show about horse racing. Stick with what you know, GSN. Whenever you don’t, it does not end up in your favor. What do you think? Do you agree with me? Or do you think this is the move GSN needs to break free from its shell? And, most importantly, will you watch?