Documentary TV: GSN Looks at Cheaters

Jun 6, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The popular book “Bringing Down the House” chronicled a group of MIT students who won millions at blackjack by devising an elaborate card-counting system. Their story will form the basis for an episode of GSN’s new documentary series “Anything to Win,” as will the tales of Rosie Ruiz, who was stripped of her 1980 Boston Marathon title on suspicion of cheating, and a group of people who allegedly fixed the Pennsylvania Lottery by weighting ping-pong balls.

What the subjects of these episodes have in common, GSN executives said, was a desire to win at all costs. The series based on their stories will recount people’s relentless, unwavering quest for victory, whether their actions were legal, illegal or just plain wrong.

The documentary series, which debuts in August, effectively pulls back the curtain on the wizard and shows audiences in detail how the various hoodwinking attempts took place, said Ian Valentine, senior VP of programming at GSN. In some cases, the show will address what has been done to prevent such occurrences from happening again.

Since its rebrand last year GSN has been ramping up its original production slate, and documentaries fit into that because there are so many compelling gaming stories to tell, Mr. Valentine said.

While “Anything to Win” is far afield from traditional documentaries, it may fit well on a network about games. GSN has aired documentary specials only twice before-“Video Game Invasion” in 2004 and “Big Bucks: The ‘Press Your Luck’ Scandal” in 2003.

Of those two, only “Big Bucks” was a hit, tripling the network’s prime-time household rating at the time with a 1.5, Mr. Valentine said.

Still, the success of “Big Bucks” might bode well for the potential of “Anything to Win,” which has similar content. The earlier program detailed how in 1984 ice cream truck driver Michael Larson memorized the electronic sequences of “Press Your Luck” to become the game show’s single-biggest one-day winner ever.

Mr. Valentine said GSN thinks that show worked because it was a story about a person rather than a phenomenon, such as video games. He said the same criterion applies to “Anything to Win,” which is produced by Erik Nelson and Dave Harding, two of the producers behind “Big Bucks.”

‘Anything to Win’

Network: GSN

Production company: Creative Differences

Time slot: Sunday, 10.p.m. (ET and PT); premieres Aug. 14

Logline: Stories on people’s efforts to win no matter what