Big wheel at NATPE
Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/22/2000 8:00:00 PM
Before there was Survivor , before there was Millionaire, heck, before there was Oprah , there was Merv: singer, game-show host, talk-show host and executive behind two of the most successful shows-game or otherwise-in syndication history. Merv Griffin, the 75-year-old creator of the one-two syndicated punch of Jeopardy (started in 1964, syndicated in 1984) and Wheel of Fortune (1975, 1983), who hosted his own talk show for almost a quarter century (1962-86), was on the cutting edge of game and talk shows. For his pioneering efforts, NATPE last week presented Griffin with its Creative Achievement Award. Broadcasting & Cable's Susanne Ault talked with him:
How does it feel to get NATPE's top honor?
Isn't that wonderful? ... I was in at the very beginning of syndication, and I've only functioned well in my life under syndication. ... I liked much more the creative control that syndication gave us. [In addition to runs on NBC and CBS, Griffin had his longest talk runs in syndication for Westhinghouse and Metromedia.] I had people on that couldn't be on the network-Muhammad Ali, Jane Fonda-a lot of voices in America that the networks would ban.
Do you you still feel the same way about syndication? Most of the new shows aren't catching many breaks.
Yeah, it's all changed now. In the beginning, we [the show creators] were left to produce, and the [syndicators] went out and sold. You can't get a deal like that now. In some cases, you don't have creative control, and you'll give them ideas and they'll say, 'No, we'll do it our way. 'Syndication used to be alternative programming-the shows that the networks wouldn't do.
What do you think has made Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune the Energizer Bunnies of syndication?
Being able to capture those prime access time periods, we were able to do wonderful things with them. But maybe I did sell too early. [In 1986, Griffin sold Merv Griffin Enterprises, which produced Jeopardy and Wheel , to Coca Cola's Columbia Pictures Television unit-now under the Sony banner-for $250 million].
Do you think Millionaire has the muscle to stay as popular as Wheel and Jeopardy ?
Oh yeah. That's a fabulous show. Regis is sensational. I love what they do with the music and lights. Whoever thought of doing that much technical stuff with a game show? That's just pure genius, and that's why everyone is stunned by it.
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