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New Year, New News
January 13

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The first story of 2009 that I will cover is the surprising news that CBS as of late Wednesday afternoon has pulled Million Dollar Password from the Sunday night schedule, leaving two episodes to be broadcast.

"Password" posted a fourth place 1.9 rating among adults 18 49 on Sunday, even though it won its 8:00/7:00c time period among total viewers (10.41 million). They are replacing it with an episode of "The Mentalist" following the AFC Championship game, repeats against the Super Bowl, the Grammys on February 8, and then Amazing Race takes the slot.

CBS, what are you thinking? This is a dumb, boneheaded move. You have a nuclear bomb in the burnoff special known as "Game Show in My Head" stinking up Saturday nights...why not put it there for two episodes?

This is a continuation of a trend that purports to believe that once you turn 50...the TV goes off. CBS has no one to blame but themselves on this one.

And the beat goes on in the SAG Strike News Update: Variety reports that in a message sent to SAG's 120,000 members, national exec director Doug Allen reiterated his oft stated position that approval of the authorization won't guarantee a strike on primetime and features. That declaration's been widely disputed inside and outside SAG with the contention that SAG's leadership won't compromise at the bargaining table should the authorization receive the required 75% affirmation from those voting.

"If the SAG National Board is authorized to call a strike, we all hope a strike will not be necessary," Allen said. "But, if the National Board decides to call one, it will not 'shut down' the industry. Why not? Because the national board's decision would have no effect on work done under the Guild's other contracts."

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers blasted back at Allen.

"The SAG statement suggesting that a SAG strike would not have a devastating impact on our industry, in the midst of the greatest economic turmoil since the Great Depression, simply defies reality," the AMPTP said. "The 100 day writers strike which resulted in the writers receiving the same terms that the DGA achieved without a strike cost our economy $2.5 billion. A SAG strike would cost the working families who depend on our industry even more at a time when everyone is already under extreme pressure by the unprecedented national economic crisis."

Doug, a little message for you. THIS WILL NOT WORK. Don't do this.

Interesting story out of Italy this week. According to Variety, a feisty consumer advocacy group is claiming the Italian version of the hugely popular game show Deal or No Deal ("Affari tuoi" hosted by Max Giusti and on the air since 2003) is rigged and is taking legal action in an attempt to have it pulled off the air.

According to prominent Italian consumer organization Codacons, the local version of "Deal," which regularly reaps ratings on public broadcaster RAI's flagship RAI 1 station, is marred by irregularities both in the way game is played and in the contestants' selection process.

Codacons president Carlo Rienzi is citing "contestants with numbers written on their hands and winners who are related to people who work for the show." The org's website also mentions other "curious occurrences" in the Italian version of the game, such as "too many contestants breaking out in tears," and "the strange odds that too often see the biggest prizes unveiled in the game's final stages," it said. Those prizes are worth, respectively, €250,000 ($343,000) and €500,000 ($686,000) in Italy.

Endemol and RAI are countering that both the actual "Deal or No Deal" game process and the contestant selection criteria are "fully legitimate" and "transparent," and are preparing to file a counter suit.

I have seen the Italian version a few times while I was in Spain two years ago and nothing looked out of the ordinary to me. And people cry all the time, folks. I don't know if that is acting or rigging. The Block Party is going to follow this one.

Next is the American Idol preview extravaganza–Season 8 edition. American Idol 8 debuts on the 13th of January, and it is coming off i's best season in a long while. I was way wrong about Season 7, and when you had the Archuleta vs. Cook battle it was something to watch. And with the removal of "Idol Gives Back", the addition of a fourth judge of Kara DioGuardi, and you get must watch TV.

But for those who do watch, and who haven't watched before this is the Block Party's Guide to American Idol. This is phase 1 of the three parts of the American Idol cycle. This is the audition cycle, where for the next few weeks, we get to see between 40 to 50 audition candidates per show. Here are some things to look out for:

- Look for people with talent who move on to the Hollywood round being spotlighted. These could be the people in your top 36 (which has been decided already or is about to be decided as we speak.) Names have been leaked, but again we don't spoil here.

- Look for people who THINK they can sing, but can't and try to argue their way into the next round. Fun to watch and count the bleeps.

- The third and final group are the attention seekers, and unfortunately...this is why this part of Idol succeeds as much as it does. I can't stand it, because it drives me up a tree to see and hear horrifically bad singers (usually in costume) who are sought out by the producers so that they can be embarrassed on national TV (and they usually aren't), or be made into national superstars like No Sex Allowed Guy, or Creepy Stalker Guy, or "We Are All Brothers" Guy.. I know people get schadenfreude over this, but my ears bleed. It's all part of the "everyone is now famous" mantra...but I just think it's awful. With the death of the Paula Abdul stalker, and the alleged swing towards talent...let's hope this group is spotlighted less this year.

Imagine you are a red blooded American male, and you are heading to your local gentleman's club to look at You pick one out and you go to the back room for a private dance...and then you are picked to be on a quiz show!

If you think I am making this one's 100% true. This is the concept behind "Show Us Your Wits," Playboy TV's new game show. When unsuspecting guys at a gentlemen's club slip into the back room for a lap dance, they are surprised by the show's beautiful host, Playboy Playmate Daphnee Duplaix, who announces that they have been chosen as contestants on Playboy TV's newest game show.

But with "Show Us Your Wits," the surprises don't stop there. The contestants soon find themselves struggling to answer embarrassingly simple trivia questions when faced with the distracting activities of some of the world's sexiest dancers. In the bonus round, contestants get the chance to double their winnings, but only if they're able to ignore the double distraction of two girls at once.

"Viewers may be familiar with the surprise game show contestant concept from the Discovery Channel's 'Cash Cab,'" said Todd Schwartz, vice president, programming, Playboy TV. "But on 'Show Us Your Wits,' the contestants are given a very different ride."

The show debuts January 10th. Playboy has had some interesting game show concepts over the last year. This may not be original, but if you combine boobs, a game show and execute it well...this could be fun.

Random Newsbits:

– Condolences go out to the family of Jack Quigley, who created "Words and Music" who passed away at the age of 79.

– ABC has ordered 6 episodes of "Superstars" for celebrities to run in Summer 2009.

– BBC America is running Season 2 of "Last Restaurant Standing" starting January 27th.

– "Make Me A Supermodel" gets its Season 2 showing on Bravo.

– 19 Entertainment touts the success of "Superstars of Dance".

– Sanjaya Malakar is releasing a book and CD called "Dancing to the Music in My Head" on January 20th.

– Michele Aguilar lost 110 pounds and won $250,000 on the "Biggest Loser". She also just gained a fiancee, Micah Whitehead. On the other side, Shanon Thomas is charged with domestic violence after allegedly yelling at a basement tenant to turn down the television, then broke Christmas tree lights and threw flour in his face. She claims the tenant threw a pan at her and told her to get a pizza. And finally, General Mills becomes a Biggest Loser sponsor.

– Bob Crowley, the most recent winner of Survivor, gets a day of his own in South Portland, Maine.

– Drew Carey and Christopher Knight are both attending the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. Carey will be doing CNET Live, while Knight will be shilling a environmentally friendly standardization of plugs.

– American Idol needs your help in snuffing out a sweepstakes scam.

– Residential Home Health uses Chuck Woolery to host a game show in a hiring event.

– Twentieth Century Fox President of TV Bob Cook talks syndie "5th grader"

– Top Chef New York continues to make huge ratings growth.

- Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy of Dancing with the Stars are engaged.

– In a move that shocked...well, no one....MTV cancels "The Money and The Power" with 50 Cent after 6 episodes.

– American Idol contestant Gina Glocksen gets married with Jordin Sparks as one of the bridesmaids.

Jason Block would fall into group #4... Good singers who don't necessarily make for good television. E-mail him at