Wheeling and Dealing
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
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.
Block can't wait for Uncle Harry's next visit. E-mail him at