I've read about the housecleaning that Lin Bolen did to NBC before. Could this also be a factor in NBC stations that carried little or none of NBC's morning lineup from the late 70's on? I know that this is about the same that WMC 5 in Memphis began dropping most of NBC's game shows and replaced them with syndicated talk shows. This went on well into the 90's until NBC went to talk shows in the mornings and eventually gave the rest of daytime other than 2 hours of soaps back to local stations.
I suppose it had some effect, however not nearly as much as NBC canceling three games to make way for David Letterman's morning show in 1980. The rise of Donahue
and other syndie talk shows in the late '70s also played a role ... especially in the Central time zone, where there was no local gap between Today
and the daytime block. Some stations (WAPI-13/Birmingham and WSFA-12/Montgomery) pushed Today
back an hour - in effect, taking the EST feed - and scheduled Phil at 8:00. Most, however, preempted the 9:00 hour outright (which 13 would eventually do in the wake of Letterman).
Some, such as WPSD-6/Paducah, Ky., put Donahue
at 9:00, followed by Romper Room
at 10, blacking out 90 minutes of the schedule ... in 1978, no less! When I left Tupelo, Miss. in 1978 ... WMC-5/Memphis, which until recently, cleared the entire daytime, picked up Donahue at 9:00, but was otherwise faithful (5's nuking of NBC daytime was still a few years off). Local NBC WTWV-9 (later WTVA) would soon preempt 9:00, as well.
And the level of celebrity conversational imagination displayed on Jay Leno's guest seat wouldn't have been considered up to snuff for a 1974 week of "Celebrity Sweepstakes," the game that had Carol Wayne as a frequent panelist, let alone a game that requires imagination and wit like "Password" or "Match Game"...
I'm afraid you've hit the nail on the head. Look at the fiasco To Tell the Truth
became -- it didn't become a classic by one panelist dominating and trying to one-up others. And Password
? Too slow for Gen-X/Y/Z/AA/BB.... Match Game? Yeah, "lightning in a bottle" as imhomerjay said. Gene Rayburn was the key ingredient on MG, too; his ego managed to keep six other egos in check .... all while the celebs' BAC inched upward as the week's taping progressed.
I'd love for NBC to perform a shock-and-awe by scheduling an hour of game show(s) at 11:00, to start the day after Barker's last aired ep. One more time, with feeling: Super Concentration
Big jackpots, lots of prizes behind the squares (read: plenty of plug opportunities). Young-ish host.
Sadly, though, I'm afraid the perfect Betty White-like "game show celebrity" has gone the way of the 8-track.
Ancil Payne, president of King Broadcasting in the '70s and '80s, was
interviewed for a book about NBC, "The Sweeps," and he called Bolen
"the big screwup" for her radical churning of the NBC daytime schedule.
But he also thought the scheduling of Letterman at 9 AM (Pacific) was
absurd; "people want the excitement of games" at that time, he said
(this was in 1983). And, face it, Letterman is someone you have to
sit down and watch. Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, and
Ernie Kovacs all found this out in the '50s; except for Carson, none of
them did well in daytime.
I remember when Letterman's morning show debuted, Fred Silverman
was quoted as saying that he saw Letterman as an '80s Arthur Godfrey.
Shows you that Silverman was losing his touch. Godfrey's show was
a radio show with a camera on it (it was simulcast); Letterman's was
a television show (still is), pure and simple.
BTW, at the time of Payne's interview, King owned KING/5 Seattle,
KGW/8 Portland, OR, and (I think) KTVB/7 Boise (also CBS affiliate
KREM/2 Spokane, but we won't concern ourselves with that one).
All are now owned by Belo.