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New Year, Old Stuff
January 15

Also available as a podcast. Click to listen!First of all, I want to wish all my readers a happy 2008. And with the New Year, the Block Party is taking it to the next level. This is the inaugural audio podcast of the Block Party, so if you are hearing my voice for the first time, I apologize. Kidding, folks. For those are still reading along with me, thank you very much. This podcast will be put up on Itunes, as well as Feedburner, so any RSS feeds can catch my latest columns. There is now a dedicated website at where you directly download the audio version.

So, let's get to it shall we. 2008 brings us another month of strike related news. As we have seen, the nightly talk shows are back...sort of. Awards shows have been recently as this week, we have seen the cancellation of the traditional Golden Globes format, eschewing the normal celebrity love fest for a news conference. The People's Choice Awards bombed in the ratings.

So why is it that the strike seems to have no end in sight? Because, you dear readers, are being fooled. No one has really felt the pain yet. Let's remember the time line....October 31 was when the WGA (Writers Guild of America) struck the AMPTP (American Motion Picture and Television Producers). November was sweeps month. December is holiday time, and we are now in January. The networks knew this was coming and in a very smart play, have stockpiled episodes of dramatic shows, and have been debuting new shows such as "Celebrity Apprentice", "American Gladiators", "How Much is Enough", and others.

Entertainment Weekly previewed shows that will debut as far in advance as April. And NBC is playing up the "all-new episode" tag to the hilt. But the translation is "All-New Episodes....that we held back on to pad our schedule so that you won't notice everything is missing."

Game show fans aren't feeling it either-yet. Over the Christmas holiday, a telling clue may have been shown--albeit accidentally. The Wheel of Fortune web page usually lists the schedule of shows through the end of the season. The week before New Year's-they were only listing 5 weeks ahead. Last week, the web site corrected that, and is listing the correct schedule through June 2008. Was this a clue, or just an error due to holiday cheer?

But have we gotten to a point, where the WGA is useless? Has the landscape changed to the point where writers have become obsolete? I am not sure, but let me tell you this...if a one billion loss to the writers won't stop them, then I don't think anything will until the perfect storm happens...and that is the potential June 2008 directors and actors strike. If that happens and Hollywood shuts down completely, then reality and game shows will be the forefront of TV, not just a side show.

Speaking of side shows, it's time for the circus of American Idol to rear it's ugly head once again. American Idol 7 debuts on the 15th of January, and it is coming off it's worst season in a bit. And when you have the fact that two former winners, Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard, as well as Season 5 runner up Katherine McPhee being dropped from your record label...that doesn't bode well for this season. And yes, I flushed this bad boy in my prediction of how bad this show is going to suck.

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 40-50 audition candidate 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 24 (which has been decided already or is about to be decided as we speak.

- 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 William Hung. 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.

So that's what you look for in this round. When the Hollywood round pops up, I will come back with a guide for that.

Finally, to steal a line from my pal Chico Alexander, this was the day that shook my game show world. January 4, 2000. I was taking care of my grandmother and was dying to be on a little game show called "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.". They had just announced that the show, which had two successful short event runs (and a Millionaire by the name of John Carpenter), was going three nights a week in prime time. I knew I had the shot to do this, as I qualified on the phone game (remember that?) 8 times to no avail the November before. So January 3, I took the test again and passed. January 4 I got the call to be in the phone playoff. I passed and on January 10 and 11th, 2000 I won $125,000. Doesn't hurt that it was (and still is) the highest rated non-Celebrity Millionaire in the history of ABC, with 33.6 Million Viewers. Eight years have passed, and I have accomplished things I would have never accomplished without that shot in the arm. Press interviews, a radio gig with WPLJ-FM, Game Show Congress, the ability to write and speak in this very column, becoming a part-time wrestling announcer, interviewing Pat and Vanna this past October, and making friends I would have never met without the world of game show introducing me to them. I am truly blessed by all of it and I thank you for this little trip down memory lane.

Until next time, this is Jason Block saying, "Don't just play fair, play to win."

Jason Block is driven up a tree easily. E-mail him at