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Cable channel revives Newlywed, Dating games

Two more staples from the game show golden age are returning to television: GSN is readying 21st-century versions of the popular 1970s classics The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game.

The cable channel, formerly known as Game Show Network, is casting hosts for pilot episodes, with full series orders looking likely. The new versions will incorporate modern elements, including online dating sites. Michael Davies (Wife Swap, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire), is set to executive produce both shows.

"They're much-loved shows, and we thought the time was right for a revival," said Jamie Roberts, senior vp programming at GSN. "We're pretty confident we'll get there and possibly put them to series for 2009."

Though vintage repeats of Newlywed and Dating have aired on GSN for years (as well as a brief first-run syndication edition of Newlywed in the 1990s), this marks the first time the network has produced new versions.

The move comes on the heels of prime-time broadcast revamps of CBS's Password and The Price Is Right, with NBC's Family Feud coming in the summer. The classic game shows fulfill two increasingly common television programming mandates: They're inexpensive and have pretested brands.

GSN is going to experiment with a few new ideas during the development process to help modernize the shows.

For Dating Game, the network is seeking to partner with an online dating site like eharmony.com to use a compatibility test that helps find worthwhile dates for the show's bachelors and bachelorettes. GSN also wants to have contestants be able to consult with best friends during the show about which date to select. Having occasional gay or lesbian contestants also has not been ruled out.

On Newlywed Game, GSN plans to add a showdown round where the winning young couple plays against an older couple who won a yesteryear Newlywed episode.

The network plans to finalize deals with hosts this week. Most of the current hosting candidates would bring more contemporary twists to the shows.

"We're trying to find unusual candidates to take these shows and reinvent them," Roberts said.

So far, the game show revival on broadcast has produced uneven results. CBS's Price Is Right Primetime held its own on Friday nights in March, but then struggled when moved to Wednesdays in May. The debut of Password won its Sunday-night time period but posted relatively modest numbers.

Producer Chuck Barris launched The Dating Game in 1965 and The Newlywed Game a year later. Both shows have been revived at least once. Newlywed was most recently remade for a syndicated version in 1996 hosted by original emcee Bob Eubanks. The original Newlywed series was considered somewhat risque and was one of the first shows to have offensive language bleeped out.

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