CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The Television Critics Association began its winter press tour this week in which the various broadcast and cable networks talk about their upcoming plans to the nation's top critics and entertainment reporters.
Here's a breakdown of the highlights of GSN's presentation (via press release):
Call Us 'GSN' From Now On ... Game Show Network Shortens Its Name to GSN
Network Re-branding and New Primetime Programming Premieres Week of March 15 at 10 PM
GSN Acquires Popular Series THE MOLE and SPY TV
With an expansion strategy that builds on its game show base to add reality, casino and video game programming, Game Show Network is formalizing the already common use of GSN, and revitalizing its on-air, look, sound and feel with an exciting new graphics package.
While continuing with a mix of game shows featuring 84 hours per week of interactive play-along, GSN will debut five new game series in a variety of genres every weeknight at 10:00 PM ET/PT beginning Monday, March 15. Among its original new series are GSN'S WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK, the network's first original casino game series; its first relationship game, FAKE-A-DATE, hosted by "Joe Millionaire's" Evan Marriott; and reality comedy series KENNY VS. SPENNY, which features two friends competing against one another in absurd games of physical endurance and mental toughness. GSN will also debut an original two-hour documentary entitled VIDEO GAME INVASION: THE HISTORY OF A GLOBAL OBSESSION on Sunday, March 21. In addition, GSN has also acquired the popular reality series THE MOLE, and SPY TV, the hidden-camera comedy series.
Translating the fun and entertainment of the game play experience to its television viewers in more than 53 million homes nationwide, GSN is also continuing to expand upon its commitment to developing complementary interactive offerings for its primetime programming. GSN will unveil real time sync-to-broadcast interactive play-along components for each of the new series when they premiere this March. In the case of GSN'S WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK, for example, players will be able to register online at gsn.com and play for free in two ways: 1) a special stand-alone version of the game 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 2) real-time competition against other viewers.
Elaborating on its expanded programming commitment and rebranding effort, GSN's President and CEO Rich Cronin said, "As the leading network for interactive game shows, it is natural for us to expand to a variety of game-related programming. Since we were already using the name 'GSN' on-air and at gsn.com, and our viewers and the industry also frequently used it, we decided to make GSN our official name, adding the tagline 'The Network for Games.' Our vision is to become the global leader in interactive television games, and with Sony Pictures Entertainment and Liberty Media Corporation as our parents, we are perfectly positioned to fulfill this."
GSN's new on-air look, includes a bold yet stylized GSN logo supported by a striking color palette, graphic animation and sound package that conveys the network's dominance in all things game. The new on-air look is a sophisticated yet playful interpretation of today's game environment. Angular and fast paced, the new GSN logo lives in a multifaceted game box that flips, spins and unfolds to reveal program teases, tune-in info and sponsorship billboards, among other elements.
Said GSN Senior Vice President of Marketing Dena Kaplan: "We are excited to launch this distinctive network brand package that will appeal to the player in all of us. We will complement our new on-air and on-line packaging with a multi-platform national consumer brand and tune-in advertising and promotional campaign."
While original and acquired studio-based game shows will still comprise the majority of GSN's schedule, the network will unveil three new original series, one original documentary and two new acquisitions in March -- all game-related programs.
GSN will kick off its first "new look" series on Monday, March 15th at 10 p.m., with the debut of GSN'S WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK, the network's first original casino game series, which has players vying for $250,000 in prize money. This weekly series will feature the world's top blackjack players and tournament players competing against each other for world blackjack champion. GSN selected Blackjack as its premiere because it is the most popular card game played in casinos around the world.
On Tuesday, March 16th, at 10 p.m., television's smartest reality show, THE MOLE, makes its way to GSN. The first two seasons of the exciting "whodunit" hit game series THE MOLE, as well as CELEBRITY MOLE HAWAII, will air weekly in the Tuesday 10 p.m. time slot. GSN will begin on March 16 with CELEBRITY MOLE HAWAII, which featured Kathy Griffin, Corbin Bernsen, Stephen Baldwin, Michael Boatman, Kim Coles, Frederique Van Der Wal, Erik von Detten and host Ahmad Rashad. The first two "civilian" seasons of THE MOLE were hosted by CNN newsman Anderson Cooper and the series is produced by Stone Stanley Entertainment
On Wednesday, March 17th at 10 p.m., GSN introduces its new lover meets faker competition, FAKE-A-DATE, hosted by "Joe Millionaire's" Evan Marriott. The unique relationship game features one lucky contestant paired up with two singles of the opposite sex. At the end of the dual date, the contestant must choose between the dates, one of which is truly looking for love, while the other is hoping to fake their way to winning a luxury trip with their real-life significant other.
On Thursday, March 18th at 10 p.m., GSN introduces viewers to KENNY VS. SPENNY, featuring two friends who devise and compete in absurd but hysterical games of physical endurance and mental prowess in an effort to prove which one is ultimately champion. Among the unique competitions, for example, is a test of stamina, wherein the determined Spenny sets his mind to staying awake longer than the lazy Kenny, who rises to the challenge by downing massive amounts of caffeine and other stimulants. By the end of the competition, the sleep-deprived combatants provide viewers with lots of laughs and tips for how not to lose this competition at home.
Another exclusive acquisition for GSN debuts on Friday, March 19th at 10 p.m. SPY TV takes hidden-camera comedy to the next level by putting people in extreme situations and recording their unpredictable reactions. SPY TV pranks prove that people's spontaneous reactions in extreme situations are wilder, wackier and funnier than anything that could ever be scripted.
On Sunday, March 21 at 9:00 PM ET/PT, GSN debuts its original two-hour documentary VIDEO GAME INVASION: THE HISTORY OF A GLOBAL OBSESSION. This documentary will cover the birth and explosive growth of video games and will be hosted by skateboard and video game icon Tony Hawk.
As previously announced, GSN is also partnering with National Lampoon to produce the first-ever Greek-flavored summer games spoof, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S GREEK GAMES, which will debut in May 2004. The series features fraternities and sororities competing in a variety of outrageous sports, including the Pita Bread Discus Toss and Greek Olive Oil Wrestling. The competition culminates in July with a two-hour special featuring the top fraternities and sororities battling it out for the gold. GSN and National Lampoon joined forces previously on NATIONAL LAMPOON'S FUNNY MONEY.
March is All About Change When GSN Showcases New Programming Weeknights at 10:00 PM Beginning Monday, March 15
* Each New Show Anchors Its Own Night - It's Now GSN at 10! *
Evan Marriott. Tony Hawk. Matt Vasgersian. Kenny Hotz. Spencer Rice. Ahmad Rashad. Ali Landry. These are new faces that will be seen on the all-new GSN beginning the week of March 15. In a revitalization of the network, GSN will transform with a brand-new on-air package and logo, as well as programming featuring 10:00 PM as the tent pole time slot. The new fare includes:
MONDAYS from 10-11 PM ET/PT (Premieres March 15) -- GSN'S WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK
This six-episode one-hour series is the first ever devoted to the world's most popular casino card game. The winner will pocket over $100,00. Series is hosted by veteran play by play man Matt Vasgersian. The Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino is the host site of the network's first original casino series.
TUESDAYS from 10-11 PM ET/PT (Premieres March 16) -- THE MOLE
The series which has been dubbed television's smartest reality show, THE MOLE, has been acquired by GSN. The exclusive distribution rights include the first two seasons (hosted by Anderson Cooper) and its special celebrity Hawaii edition from May 2003 (hosted by Ahmad Rashad). CELEBRITY MOLE HAWAII will premiere March 16.
WEDNESDAYS from 10-10:30 PM ET/PT (Premieres March 17) -- FAKE-A-DATE
Evan Marriott, the star of one of television's highest-rated entertainment programs ever, "Joe Millionaire," has signed up for his first TV series hosting duty on the new relationship game series, FAKE-A-DATE. The show features one lucky contestant paired up with two singles of the opposite sex. At the end of the dual date, the contestant must choose between the dates. The catch? One of the singles is truly looking for love, while the other one is a pretender out to win a luxury trip with their real significant other.
THURSDAYS from 10-10:30 PM ET/PT (Premieres March 18) -- KENNY VS. SPENNY
A fresh hybrid that blends reality, game and comedy genres into an exciting and fun-filled half-hour hour of TV, KENNY VS. SPENNY stars show creators Kenny Hotz and Spencer "Spenny" Rice. KENNY VS. SPENNY focuses on the sibling-like rivalry between these two longtime friends who are a contemporary real-life odd couple. Spenny is a neurotic "stress case" who believes in winning by playing fair, hard work and preparation. Kenny, on the other hand, is charismatic and a self-proclaimed 'devious genius' who likes to bend the rules in order to win a challenge. These fundamental differences fuel the competition and provide some very twisted comedy.
FRIDAYS from 10-10:30 PM ET/PT (Premieres March 19) -- SPY TV
GSN is proud to announce that it has acquired both seasons of the popular network hidden-camera comedy series SPY TV. Adding his edgy with to the first season of the show is host Michael Ian Black; in Season 2, the lovely Ali Landry added her humor and charm to the series.
SUNDAY, MARCH 21 from 9 to 11 PM ET/PT -- VIDEO GAME INVASION: THE HISTORY OF A GLOBAL OBSESSION
This documentary will cover the creation and high-speed evolution of video games, and will be hosted by skateboard and video game icon Tony Hawk. Taking viewers through the maze of games comprising the evolution of the genre, VIDEO GAME INVASION focuses on the impact of the human element, and the behind the scenes competition between the impassioned geniuses who created video games. Bold and irreverent, VIDEO GAME INVASION delves into the fascinating world of tech-heads as they pushed the technological envelope to create such breakthrough early games as Pong and Space Invaders, and subsequently emerged with the huge international corporations that now dominate the multi-billion dollar video game industry. Paying homage to those unique individuals for pushing the game envelope and making the industry bigger than theatrical motion pictures, GSN's second-ever documentary takes us on an adventure through the video game phenomenon.
Evan Marriott Signs On as Host of Game Show Network's First Weekly Relationship Series 'FAKE-A-DATE'
Two Singles Simultaneously Compete for the Affection of the Contestant in Hopes of Winning a Luxury Vacation for Two - But One of Them Has a Secret
Evan Marriott, the star of one of television's highest-rated entertainment programs ever, "Joe Millionaire," has signed up for his first TV series hosting duty on GSN's debut relationship game, FAKE-A-DATE. FAKE-A-DATE, premiering on Wednesday, March 17th at 10 PM ET/PT, features one lucky contestant paired up with two singles of the opposite sex. At the end of the dual date, the contestant must choose between the dates. The catch? One of the singles is truly looking for love, while the other one is a pretender out to win a luxury trip with their real significant other.
The honest single will have pre-chosen the contestant as someone who could be their soul mate, while the other "single" has no interest in romance with the contestant. However, the sparks fly as the pretender tries to generate some heat with the contestant in order to be chosen at the date's end. If the contestant makes the wrong choice, the pretender wins the luxury vacation to use with their significant other; but if the contestant chooses wisely, he/she will the join the honest single on a grand prize vacation.
As host of FAKE-A-DATE, Marriott will offer advice and act as a confidante to the participants and interview the contestant regarding the big decision -- to pick the sincere single or go home empty-handed.
"Evan Marriott is the perfect person to host FAKE-A-DATE. On 'Joe Millionaire' he had to keep a major secret and now he can guide our viewers as they try to decide which of our contestants is hiding the truth," said Rich Cronin, President and CEO of GSN in making the announcement.
"I am thrilled to be hosting FAKE-A-DATE which takes a completely fresh approach to dating shows. I can certainly empathize with what the contestants are feeling, especially when it comes time for the ultimate choice," reflected Marriott on his new hosting role. "It will be fun to participate on a TV show where I get to watch other people struggle to keep a secret."
FAKE-A-DATE's contestant will spend an entire day on simultaneous dates with the singles. The dates will be adventurous, provocative and romantic. The dates will take a twist midstream as, unknown to the daters, the significant other of the attached single will randomly appear during the day. Perhaps as a valet, model, waitress, hostess -- the contestant and the dates will be surprised. The significant other also will make a second appearance at the end of the episode to plant a kiss on the cheek of the dishonest date to reveal their identity after the contestant has made a decision.
Since rocketing to fame as "Joe Millionaire," Marriott has been busy working on the silver screen as well as additional television series. He most recently completed work on the independent film "End of All Things," as well as "Raising Helen," a film directed by Garry Marshall and starring Kate Hudson. He also finished filming a lead role in the independent film "Miss Cast Away." Marriott appeared on the TV original movie "See Jane Date," Mariah Carey's music video 'Bringin' on the Heartbreak,' and guest-starred on the season premiere of "Charmed."
FAKE-A-DATE is a Montana Productions series, executive produced by Paul Buccieri, Jenny Daly and Tim Puntillo.
GSN Launches Win-Lose Reality Comedy Series KENNY VS. SPENNY
Longtime Friends Compete For Supremacy In Such Outrageous Challenges As Who Can Stay Awake the Longest? Who Makes The Most Convincing Woman? And Who Is the Most Sane?
GSN, the Network for Games, is delivering on its promise to bring American television audiences innovative game-related entertainment with the March 2004 debut of its newest series, KENNY VS. SPENNY, produced by Blueprint Entertainment and Breakthrough Films. A fresh hybrid that blends reality, game and comedy genres into an exciting and fun-filled half hour of television, KENNY VS. SPENNY stars show creators Kenny Hotz and Spencer "Spenny" Rice. GSN will premiere the new series on Thursday, March 18 at 10 PM ET/PT. The announcement was made today by Rich Cronin, President and Chief Executive Officer, GSN, as part of the network's Television Critics Association presentation.
"KENNY VS. SPENNY is without a doubt the funniest competition show we've ever seen," said GSN's Cronin. "The series blends the spontaneity of reality programming with the hysterical antics of two guys who are literally willing to go to any length to prove their superiority. It's unique, it's outrageous and it is funny in a way that can't be written or rehearsed. We're very excited to bring this hilarious program to American television audiences."
John Morayniss, Co-President of Blueprint Entertainment, added, "Kenny and Spenny live to eat, sleep and compete. Luckily, their outrageous rivalries make for great television."
KENNY VS. SPENNY focuses on the sibling-like rivalry between these two longtime friends who first garnered attention for their feature film "Pitch," a favorite at the Toronto International Film Festival. A contemporary real-life odd couple, Spenny is a neurotic "stress case" who believes in winning by playing fair, hard work and preparation. Kenny, on the other hand, is charismatic and a self-proclaimed 'devious genius' who likes to bend the rules in order to win a challenge. These fundamental differences fuel the competition and provide some very twisted comedy.
Each weekly episode brings a new outrageous competition to life. The challenges are no laughing matter to Kenny or Spenny, however, as the result is glory and gloating for the winner and specially selected humiliation for the loser. The competitions are very eclectic and range from endurance contests -- Who can stay awake the longest? to the more sublime -- Who can sit on a cow the longest? The humiliation for the loser comes in the form of a task chosen by the winner such as streaking, eating cat food or dressing up as a toddler on the street.
Created by Kenny Hotz and Spencer Rice, KENNY VS. SPENNY is produced by John Morayniss, Noreen Halpern, Ira Levy, Peter Williamson and Abby Finer.
GSN's WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK to Be Taped on Location at Mohegan Sun; Series Premieres March 15 at 10 PM
Matt Vasgersian Named Host, Melana Scantlin is Co-Host & Max Rubin as Expert Commentator
R.C. Entertainment Inc. Signs on As Production Company
Media Outlets & Public Welcome to Attend Taping January 24-25
GSN, the Network for Games, has selected Mohegan Sun, one of the largest entertainment, gaming and sports destinations in the United States, as the host site for GSN's WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK. Situated on 240 acres along the Thames River in southeastern Connecticut, Mohegan Sun is a full-service casino and spa sporting over 6,400 slot machines, nearly 300 table games and a state-of-the-art race book facility, among other luxurious offerings. Matt Vasgersian, San Diego Padres lead television broadcaster and former host of "Sports Geniuses" will serve as the host; Melana Scantlin from "Average Joe" will be the show's co-hostess and Max Rubin, casino veteran, gambling consultant and professional blackjack player, will be the expert commentator for the series produced by R.C. Entertainment, Inc.
In making the announcement today at the annual Winter Television Critics Association presentation, GSN President and CEO Rich Cronin said: "We are thrilled to present the World Series of the most popular casino card game, Blackjack, with the best gaming establishment on the East Coast, Mohegan Sun. We look forward to exciting competition between the best Blackjack players in the world, and to naming a champion."
"We're excited that GSN chose Mohegan Sun to host this unique, made-for-television event," said Paul Munick, Vice President of Sports and Entertainment, Mohegan Sun. "We continue to pursue opportunities that broaden our product offering while affording us national exposure."
WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK will feature the world's top Blackjack players and tournament competitors and will award $250,000 in total prizes. The players will compete for the grand prize purse of $100,000 and the bragging rights to the title of the World Blackjack Champion. The series will air on Monday nights at 10 PM ET/PT beginning Monday, March 15. The show will tape January 24 and 25 in Mohegan Sun's Wolf Den.
WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK will consist of a series of seven episodes. Players will start with $10,000 in tournament chips and the one who has the most money at the end of each of the first five respective shows will advance to the final seventh episode which pits the winners against each other. However, it is the sixth episode that is adding an extra twist to the series. The sixth episode will feature the second-place finishers from the previous first five shows thus adding an extra incentive for the players to finish in the top two positions. The winner of the sixth show will advance to the final seventh show which will feature six players at the table instead of five. All shows will feature the style of play of "tournament" Blackjack -- meaning players compete against each other as well as the house.
WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK will include interviews with players as well as blackjack experts regarding strategy. The series will also feature blackjack tips from the show's commentator. With this production approach, WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK gives viewers a great education in Blackjack strategies while providing an exciting competition.
In charge of creating this realistic feel is the production company R.C. Entertainment, Inc. which was formed by executive producers Paul Abeyta and Peter Kaikko in 1981. Since that time, they have produced a wide variety of television programs, including a series of 21 one-hour specials on Las Vegas.
Matt Vasgersian (pronounced va-SKER-gin) is a rising TV sports personality who is entering his third year as the San Diego Padres lead television broadcaster. Prior to his work with the Padres, the California native was the television voice of the Milwaukee Brewers from 1997 to 2001. In addition to his baseball work, Vasgersian has been a commentator on the "Toughman World Championship Series," the "XFL," and "Sports Geniuses," among others. This summer he will also be a part of NBC's broadcast coverage of the Olympic Games in Athens. A member of SAG since age seven, he has appeared in "The Streets of San Francisco," and the movie "The Candidate." A self-proclaimed rock critic, he performed lead vocals with a local band in Milwaukee. His own Blackjack strategy is to be aggressive and not stand on soft seventeen's.
Serving as co-host on the series is Melana Scantlin, who most recently starred in last fall's popular reality series "Average Joe." A native of Gladstone, Missouri, Scantlin currently serves as the Kansas City Chiefs' live entertainment announcer and divides her time between Los Angeles and Kansas City when she is not working a Chiefs game. She is currently pursuing a career in sports entertainment and WORLD SERIES OF BLACKJACK marks her first TV hosting role. Besides her work on "Average Joe," Scantlin appeared on "Meet My Folks," "Days of Our Lives," "True Blue" and "Saturday Night Live." She also represented her home state in the 2002 Miss USA Pageant.
Joining Vasgersian and Scantlin as the expert commentator will be Max Rubin, a 30-year casino veteran, gambling consultant and professional blackjack player. Rubin is widely regarded as gambling's most entertaining broadcast and print analyst from both the player and casino's perspectives and has been featured on dozens of television programs for his unique takes on both gambling and casinos. He is the author of "Comp City-A Guide to Free Gambling Vacations" and is a one of nine members inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame as well as the perennial host and game master of the Blackjack Ball, a top-secret Blackjack event.
In keeping with GSN's leadership in interactive programming with 84 hours a week, Blackjack will have an online presence on gsn.com. GSN.com registrants will be able to play Blackjack for free 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a special stand-alone game and also, be able to compete head-to-head with the series players in real time playing the series sync-to-broadcast interactive program. In addition to playing Blackjack online, the site will offer tips and advice from experts on how to improve playing the game.
Game Show Network Premieres Two Hour Documentary 'VIDEO GAME INVASION: THE HISTORY OF A GLOBAL OBSESSION'
Documentary Hosted By Pro Skateboarder and Video Game Star Tony Hawk And Premieres Sunday March 21 at 9P.M. ET/PT
GSN, the network for games (formerly Game Show Network) will premiere its second documentary, VIDEO GAME INVASION: THE HISTORY OF A GLOBAL OBSESSION. This documentary will cover the creation and evolution of video games, and will be narrated by skateboard and video game icon Tony Hawk. VIDEO GAME INVASION will debut Sunday, March 21 from 9 to 11 PM ET/PT. The announcement was made today by Rich Cronin, President and CEO, GSN, as part of the network's Television Critics Association presentation.
In making the announcement, Cronin said: "Video games have had such an enormous impact on popular culture and on the leisure time of young people that we felt it was important to document the birth and growth of this amazing entertainment phenomenon. The video game industry now generates 20 billion dollars in annual revenues, and the profile of the average gamer is changing. Some 41% of computer gamers are women and more than half of all players are over 18, demonstrating the continued expansion in popularity."
"We knew that to do justice to the amazing thrill ride that is the video-game industry, we had to capture all the drama, the intrigue, the scope, even the humor that's been part of the industry from the beginning," says David Comtois, executive producer. Adds David Carr, executive producer, "And as producers of numerous personality-driven documentaries, we knew that the best way to accomplish that was through the human element. All these folks were off-the-wall, wildly colorful pioneers in a business with no boundaries. We couldn't have asked for better subjects!"
Hosted by Tony Hawk, world champion skateboarder and co-creator of such hit video games as "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" and "Tony Hawk's Underground," VIDEO GAME INVASION explores the creation of video games in an entertaining and comprehensive fashion. Taking viewers through the maze of games that comprised the evolution of video gaming, VIDEO GAME INVASION focuses on the impact of the human element, and the behind the scenes competition between these impassioned geniuses who create video games. Bold and irreverent, VIDEO GAME INVASION delves into the fascinating world of tech-heads as they pushed the technological envelope to create such breakthrough early games as Pong and Space Invaders, and subsequently emerged with the huge international corporations that now dominate the multi-billion dollar video game industry. Paying homage to those unique individuals for pushing the game envelope and making the industry what it is today, VIDEO GAME INVASION takes us on an adventure through the phenomenon of video games and explains why they have become a global obsession. VIDEO GAME INVASION will be sponsored by Planters.
VIDEO GAME INVASION is executive produced by David Carr and David Comtois of Beantown Productions, and includes interviews of Nolan Bushnell, former CEO of Atari, Al Alcorn, former Vice President of Atari and designer of "Pong," Seamus Blackley, CAA agent who leads their video game division and former CTO and lead designer for Microsoft Xbox, John Romero, CEO of Monkeystone Games and co-creator of "Doom" and "Quake," and many other industry pioneers.