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Two Games in the Works

The game-show ranks are getting at least two new players. King World and Sony Pictures Television are teaming up to develop a remake of The Joker’s Wild and a new game show, Combination Lock, to launch in syndication in the fall of 2007, according to sources with knowledge of the projects.

The half-hour shows will be offered to stations as a one-hour block. King World and Sony will co-produce, and King World will handle distribution and Sony the ad sales. Both shows will be developed and executive-produced by Harry Friedman, who leads Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!.

Joker’s Wild ran on CBS from 1972 to 1975. Hosted by Jack Barry, the program combined a quiz show with gambling elements. Players would pull a crank to turn a giant three-window slot machine, which would display categories of questions to be answered for different dollar values. The show began its first syndication run in 1977 and aired until 1986, with a second run from 1990 to 1991.

The 2007 version will introduce a different format, which is still being formalized and will be tested with run-throughs in the coming weeks.

Combination Lock is the working title of a program that likely will pit couples against each other as they attempt to match up questions with answers from a pool of possibilities.

The game shows will likely not be the only rookies in the fall of 2007. NBC Universal is expected to launch a syndicated version of NBC’s primetime hit Deal or No Deal. Sources close to the show say that NBC wants Howie Mandel to host the syndicated version as well as the primetime show. But those sources say that producer Endemol USA believes that would overexpose Mandel and wants to find another host.

Syndicated game shows are going through a slow period. All four currently on the air have seen year-over-year declines this season: Wheel of Fortune 7% to an 8.1 household average, Jeopardy! 13% to a 6.5, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire 9% to a 3.1 and Family Feud 5% to a 2.0. Feud will undergo a host change this fall when John O’Hurley takes over for Richard Karn.

Meredith Vieira and Buena Vista have said that, as of now, she will continue to host Millionaire despite joining NBC’s Today show as co-host.