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Getting Hit Over the Head with the Skillet of DUH!
February 4

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We start this week with the biggest news in a while in the SAG Strike. The SAG made a major power play so that, in my opinion, the SAG Strike will never happen.

According to multiple sources including the Hollywood Reporter, Screen Actors Guild national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen was summarily removed from his posts by board members critical of his handling of the guild's TV/theatrical contract negotiations. Monday afternoon, Allen sent a farewell e-mail to staff members that indicated that he had acceded to the general counsel's notification of his dismissal.

Allen was replaced with former SAG general counsel David White as interim national executive director; naming guild senior adviser John McGuire as chief negotiator for all contracts, including the TV/theatrical contract in negotiation; and replacing the TV/theatrical negotiating committee with a task force, which will represent the board of directors.

The swiftness of the move suggests just how impatient moderate forces had become with Allen and SAG President Alan Rosenberg's stalling tactics at an emergency board meeting two weeks ago. While the written assent provision of the constitution is often used for passage of mundane logistical issues, this is the first time a majority on the board has used it for such an important action.

The moderate forces represented by the Unite for Strength party indicated that they took the action reluctantly and as a last resort. The move has the support of all but one of the national board members from SAG's New York and regional branch divisions and all in the Hollywood division except those affiliated with the Membership First group.

"These much-needed changes will allow SAG to chart a new course," said the Unite for Strength message delivered to SAG members via e-mail. "We will work to secure a TV/Theatrical Contract that can be sent to members with a positive recommendation and to effectively resolve all our outstanding contracts."

Some in the moderate wing hope to have a face-to-face meeting with the AMPTP by the end of next week, scheduling permitting, but the decision is now up to McGuire. Their goal appears to be to hammer the current deal into a shape that will be ratified by the membership and the board. SAG members have been working under the parameters of the previous contract since it expired June 30.

"We will also work to rebuild vital relationships in the entertainment and labor communities," the Unite for Strength letter said, "and to re-establish Screen Actors Guild as a respected and powerful institution, protecting and defending performers nationwide."

What do you know? This move accomplished two things: a) removing a very stubborn obstacle to getting a deal for its members which have not worked since a contract since June 30, 2008 and b) making sure that AFTRA does not have a 100% monopoly on power and prestige in the industry. And it's going to work. The deal WILL get done. With the economic climate in flux, and the obstacle’s over. Allen tried a long ball Hail Mary option...and it was intercepted in the end zone. Game over.

Here’s an update on Kathy Cox, the $1M winner on "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader" who filed Bankruptcy. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the investment firm employed to create a fund for distributing the money to three public schools for blind and deaf students returned the check to Fox Broadcasting Co. in December, according to Cox and her attorney.

It is not clear when, or if, the schools will receive the $1 million Cox won last August as a contestant on "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" Karen White, an attorney for the Coxes, said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, lawyers representing the creditors of Kathy Cox and her husband, John, are considering making a claim on the money in the bankruptcy case.

Another option, White said, is for Fox to simply keep the $1 million. A Fox spokesman said the company was not prepared to comment.

Sad story all around. Let us hope it can get straightened out so that Ms. Cox can at least try to keep her promise.

We come to the yearly "ringer" story that comes out of the early audition rounds of American Idol. Last year it was Kristy Lee Cook and Carly Smithson...this year it’s Joanna Pacitti. The 24 year old singer, who has made it to the Hollywood Round, is not the true unknown that people want to believe American Idol is looking for.

According to MSNBC, She was in Annie at the age of 11, moved to Hollywood as a teen, signing to A&M records. She eventually released the 2006 album, "This Crazy Life," on Geffen.

She has appeared on the soundtrack for "Legally Blonde," where she sang "Watch Me Shine," and she sang "Out From Under" from the "Bratz" movie. It was re-recorded by Britney Spears on her new CD, "Circus." She was also featured on MTV’s True Life.

Some people on the official American Idol Forums are not happy that she has made it this far. "The point is that because she is a ‘semi-pro’… she already has a built in fan base and voting block. That skews the competition in her favor, especially in the early rounds," poster Marcdamon wrote. "They need to change the rules to only allow for untapped talent. Joanna has already been on 2 major labels, has had a cover done by Britney and 3 songs on 3 different movie soundtracks," Davesnay wrote. "She is taking valuable space away from somebody who hasn’t already had 5-6 chances."

Okay,’s the deal. Idol’s rules state: You have to have been dropped from a label and not have a current record deal. There have been many Idol contestants (including last year’s winner David Cook), who have released independent albums on their own. And you know how this works out...if Joanna Pacitti doesn’t get past Hollywood Week then this is a moot point yet again., If she does...she shouldn’t get past YOU the voters. You are the ultimate control in all of this. If you don’t like the judges decision, then vote Joanna Pacitti out. That’s it. That is the beauty of Idol.

Now, readers of this column know that I have been heaping a ton of well-deserved criticism. But this week, I am going to praise The Price Is Right. The reason is that after the perfect bid debacle this past December, the prize department of the show has been working overtime to make sure that doesn’t happen. Or at least to make it interesting. We have seen a trip to Chile to swim in the World’s Largest Swimming Pool, a VIP Trip to Vegas, and a VIP Trip to the Daytona 500 in the showcases. We have also seen people represent prizes such as Gold’s Gym and a chef’s package.

We have seen high fashion brand names all over the place including Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Burberry, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Tag Heuer and others. The car lineup has changed as well, with a Volkswagen GTI, a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and a Toyota Prius thrown into the mix.

This is a start. A very good one. The prizes have been unique and interesting. I am surprised it took that perfect bid, but at least it did, no?

Random Newsbits time:

– Congratulations to Wheel of Fortune which taped episode #5,000 on January 15th.

– Nickelodeon is FINALLY getting back into the Kids Game Show Arena with a show called Brain Surge.

- "America’s Next Top Model" returns for it’s 12th Cycle on February 25th on the CW.

– "Deal or No Deal"’s syndicated version reached the magic 2.0 rating, pretty much guaranteeing a 2nd season renewal.

– Ace Young gets to host American Idol Extra on Fox Reality.

– Countdown’s ratings in the UK have risen since Jeff Stelling and Rachel Riley took over.

– The Amazing Race cast is released including the first ever deaf contestant Mark Riley. He is competing with his mom. "I thought it would be easy because my mother and I have always communicated really well," the longtime "Amazing Race" fan, who doesn't speak or read lips, said through an interpreter. "In the airports, my mom had to do all of the work because she had to do all of the talking. It was kind of hard for me to depend on her to do all of that."

– GSN launches the 2009 Worldwide Web Games(W3Games).

– Bob Barker pledges $1.5M to move Billy, the only elephant remaining at the Los Angeles Zoo, to the facility run by the Performing Animal Welfare Society.

– Donny Osmond may or not be on the next cast of Dancing With the Stars. Cindy McCain is definitely not.

– Rupert Boneham of Survivor appears at a local school education event.

– "13: Fear is Real" moves to Friday on the CW.

– "The Girls of Hedsor Hall", the Donald Trump produced show finally premieres on MTV on February 9. It was originally called "Ladette to Lady".

– Paris Hilton has ditched Brittany Flickinger and is looking for yet another BFF. Casting has begun for Season 2 on MTV.

– Chuck Woolery debuts his nationally syndicated radio show March 30th.

Jason Block has more spatulas to go around. E-mail him at