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Wheeling and Dealing
January 29

Also available as a podcast. Click to listen!

This is the Block Party for the week of January 29, 2008..."Wheeling and Dealing". If you are hearing this through the audio section at www.blockpartypodcast.com, I thank you. If you are reading this, you can directly download the podcast through the link at the upper left, or through the webpage. Itunes availability is imminent, so keep on the lookout for that.

The big deal this week was the apparent re-direction of the "Perfect Storm" which has been brewing over the last few months. If you have been living under a rock, the writers are on strike. But the directors and actors contracts were supposed to expire in June 2008, prompting talk of Hollywood going on permanent shutdown.

But as the song goes, "Hold Up...Wait A Minute!" The storm has been re-directed...maybe. The AMPTP and the Directorís Guild have reached a three-year contract extension over the past week, which included royalties on internet broadcasts, the major sticking point for the WGA. This deal was a major factor in the restarting of informal talks between the AMPTP and the WGA. The details are at: http://weblogs.variety.com/wga_strike_blog/2008/01/breaking-dga-de.html.

And the link will be in the show notes.

The WGA is playing a wait and see attitude until they see the full contract. But, the WGA made a major concession as of Wednesday, where they dropped their demand for the unionization of reality show writers. This is big. Another thing thatís big was the quote from former WGA West President John Wells, executive producer of ER. "I've been involved in negotiations for 20 years. This is the best deal I've seen that anyone's been able to negotiate," said Wells. He also wrote a letter praising the DGA for getting the studios to open their books for review by the guild. He said in part, "This has never happened before," Wells wrote. "It will allow the DGA to analyze whether the terms of this new deal are working and if the revenues are being properly reported. This is another extraordinary aspect of this deal and a cause for celebration."

Mark my words, the strike is going to be over sooner than anyone thinks. Reason #1: The DGA deal, when approved, will put pressure on the WGA to start formal negotiations and lead to a deal. Reason #2: There is no way in hell that the Oscars will fall to the same fate as the Peopleís Choice Awards and the Golden Globes. And #3: The ratings for the TV shows since the strike have not dropped to the dire numbers that everyone had predicted. The strike has proven nothing. The AMPTP is going to win on this. And the Writers will have to come home with their tails between their legs. And thatís sad, because I do believe the writers are in the right here. But the cracks in the dam are showing and they are close to bursting.


One of my all time favorite reality shows has made the deal to come back for the summer and that show is "Nashville Star." Once known just as the country cousin of "American Idol", the show has had a very good following and has been one of the highest rated shows on the USA Network. This was due to, in my opinion, the overall better talent factor on "Star" and the playing of instruments and original songwriting. As of last week, the show will be part of itís "All-American Summer" program. NBC will be moving it to their network in a synergistic move (USA is owned by NBC/Universal).

But a few things worry me. They havenít announced a host or judges yet. Is NBC afraid to put Anastacia Brown, Randy Owen, and Blake Shelton on there? I didnít see anything wrong with them, did you? Are they afraid of Cowboy Troy and Jewel? I hope they donít go for more celebrity and less talent.

And what is up with opening it up to duos or groups? I am sorry, but if you do that, it leans more towards "The Next Great American Band" more then the formula that has been working for six seasons. In this case, the formula is a good thing, and I am afraid when I see it next summer, I will be in for a bad surprise.

Speaking of surprises, American Idol ratings are down again, and I couldnít be happier. Yes it is still the ratings powerhouse, but chinks in the armor are showing. In this case, people are tired of the formula. The Daily News pointed it out on Mondayís edition. People donít want to see crazy, they want to see talent.

But here is where I will defend Idol from its critics. There has been some criticism of some contestants having had record or management deals who have made it into the Hollywood round. Kristi Lee Cook has had a deal with LeAnn Rimesís manager...and Carly Hennessy who had a multi-million dollar push from MCA Records.

Emphasis on HAD. When MTV News went to Nigel Lythgoe, the executive producer of Idol, he said this: "The truth of the matter is, there are too many people who come on to audition for us to go into all their backgrounds," Lythgoe said. "We judge it purely on, when they walk through the door, if they have a record company attached to them, then we're not interested. If they have a management contract, they've got to lose it. We take them on the merits of 'Can they sing or not?'

"There are kids who are sufficiently good out there, that maybe should be stars," he continued, "and the fact that they've been a backing singer to someone else in the past ó if they were within the age limit and they meet all the criteria we set ó then who are we to say, 'No, you can't have another go [at it]'? That's ridiculous."

Good for you, Nigel. Does anyone remember the fact that Chris Daughtry was a member of a bar band for many years? So was Taylor Hicks. Last year you had two backup singers in the top 12. Do we now disqualify anyone with experience? I donít think so. This is a non-story. Period.


I am really happy that this last deal was made. Harry Friedman, (or Uncle Harry as I affectionately call him.) has signed a multi-year extension to stay on with Sony Pictures Entertainment and executive produce little shows known as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!

Full disclosure. I have met Mr. Friedman a few times at Game Show Congresses and in public appearances and I have to say he is one of the good guys in this business. He can read the American Public better than anyone. When he makes a tweak to a show, there is a reason behind it. (The animated openings a few years back...well not so much.) Jeopardy and Wheel are what I call game show comfort food. You know what they are, and they go down smooth. He is not a 7 time Emmy Winner and in the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame

for nothing. He is smart and runs a great ship. And it will be smooth sailing on Jeopardy and Wheel for years to come.

That will be all for this time around. This is Jason Block saying, Donít Just Play Fair...play to win.

Jason Block can't wait for Uncle Harry's next visit. E-mail him at jb.regis@verizon.net.