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A Full Plate (or "What a Long, Strange Trip This Has Been!")
February 12

Also available as a podcast. Click to listen!

First of all, I would like to thank all my new and old listeners who have picked up our podcast through the link to the upper left, the Itunes feed, or the webpage at I would also like to thank the people who are reading this column every week.

A few pieces of personal business first...I would like to wish my condolences to the families of the people who have lost their lives in the wicked tornadoes which touched down in the south this past week. Union University in Tennessee was especially hard hit. That happens to be the home of a good friend and fellow columnist, Professor Steve Beverly. The university was very lucky to not lose any lives in the student community, but most of the students lost their housing. Steve was one of the people who I followed before I got into the world of writing. We are now friendly competitors, but in this case, I just hope that your school and your community can rebuild as quickly as possible. Our thoughts are with you.

On a happier note, I would like to congratulate the New York football Giants for defeating the Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl 42 in Glendale, Arizona. Jordin Sparks did a great job on the National Anthem, and that set the tone for a great game. I am lucky enough to work right in the path of the ticker tape parade
and let me tell you....that is a once in a lifetime event! I think a lot of 18-1 chants will be starting up whenever the Patriots play the Jets or the Giants don’t you think?

And finally, although she doesn’t really ask for it, I would like to thank my recording engineer, Ivy Reisner for her help in making me sound better than I do. She
really puts in a lot of effort and energy into this and the webpage, so again, I thank her.

Now that we have that out of the way...onto the news of the week! The question to start off the news portion of the program is... Are the WGA and the AMPTP
close to sealing the deal and being in love with each other again? Or is the relationship doomed to fail?

Well, it depends on who you ask. Over the weekend, reports were coming at us fast and furious saying that “major breakthroughs” were reached between the two warring sides and that an announcement of a tentative deal would occur as soon as February 15. That is the date that came out of the weekend reports.

According to the New York Post, WGA Negotiating committee chief John Bowman told members in an e-mail late Monday afternoon , “Regardless of what you hear or read, there are many significant points that have yet to be worked out.”

Broadcasting and Cable reported that the WGA was being cautious. On Sunday the WGA sent their membership a letter. “The facts: We are still in talks and do not yet have a contract,” wrote WGA West president Patric Verrone and WGA East president Michael Winship in the joint letter. “When and if a tentative agreement is reached, the first thing we will do is alert our membership with an e-mail message. Until then, please disregard rumors about either the existence of an agreement or its terms.” The letter also called for picketing to continue. “Until we have reached an agreement with the AMPTP, it is essential that we continue to show our resolve, solidarity, and strength. Picketing will resume on Monday. Our leverage at the bargaining table is directly affected by your commitment to our cause. Please continue to show your support on the line.”

So, with a media blackout in place, what do I think is happening? I think there is a two fold strategy going on. On the one hand, you still have the WGA trying to
hold it’s position at the same time as negotiations are going on. I believe there is a deal in place, they are just dotting the I's and crossing the t’s. As I said two weeks ago with the Oscars in doubt, TV to DVD sales in jeopardy and the fall upfronts deadline fast approaching a deal has to get done.

I am going to revisit a topic that I covered exactly one year ago. We are in the Valentine’s Day season, and people are overpaying for flowers, cards, chocolates, perfume, lingerie and jewelry which they could get much cheaper on February 15. But I ask...why do most relationship/dating shows not produce long term happy relationships? And why do these shows still stay on the air?

The relationship success for TV based dating shows is rare. You do see a few happy endings to the fairy tale. Rob and Amber from the Amazing Race. Trista and Ryan are still married and just had a baby. But for everyone of these successes, you have Tila Tequila, most of the Bachelors (and the latest English bloke...better actually pick a girl this time), and others flame out.

The reason why you have so many reality dating shows on the air is that for the most part, we as viewers are closet romantics. Everyone wants to see love, or
in some cases lust, happen. Most of the dating shows on TV...going back as far as the Dating Game to Love Connection, to the more recent examples of “Shot of Love”, “Flavor of Love”, “Rock of Love” (sense a theme here, folks?) give the fantasy that you can find true love through a casting agency on TV. It rarely
happens, but it is the perception.

To answer the 1st question....a lot of the people who appear on dating shows suffer from PPS...Pretty People Syndrome. The producers edit the shows as a
competition instead of a organic relationship. Love is never easy, and it really is hard when you force affections down people’s throat in front of a 24-7 TV crew. I believe these shows make men and women look very shallow and treat love as a sport. 

I believe, and know from first hand experience that the “faux” love you see on TV....isn’t. Love is what people experience every day when cameras aren’t on the air. Relationships are hard work, and when you try and find it on just won’t happen.

Someone who got no love this past week is the 1st Survivor winner, Richard Hatch. In a 52 page decision, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that his
2006 conviction of failing to pay income taxes on his $1,000,000 prize should stand.

Hatch claimed that there was a deal in place between him and CBS Producers not to pay taxes because he caught show employees sneaking food to other
contestants. If he shut up about it, CBS would pay his taxes...and of course CBS has denied this.

In it’s decision, the Court ruled that Hatch had ample opportunity to talk about the deal, but didn’t. Quoting from the decision, “The failure of Hatch to present any evidence of such conversations when invited by the court strongly suggested that no actual promises were made, and no such ‘deal’ actually existed. It was not the court’s right, much less duty, to put words in Hatch’s mouth.”

He is scheduled to be released in October 2009.

Here’s the deal. You didn’t pay your taxes and you got caught. If you had the evidence of the so-called would have shown it by now...and the show
would have been off the air. Mr. Hatch, take responsibility for your actions and serve your time...quietly.

I have a ton of American Idol news to cover for all of you. As you know by now, the Hollywood phase of the competition is upon us. We have 164 contestants who have gotten the golden ticket. What does it mean for us?

- There will be four cuts to get to the magic 24. A first cut will happen when they sing in front of the judges. A 2nd will happen after a group round, a 3rd will winnow the field further after they sing one more time in front of the judges and then we will reach the Top 24.

- People who have had experience as singers will have a major advantage over total rookies. They will probably be able to handle the pressure which cranks up big time. But if the rookies out.

- Watch for people who stand out from the crowd. Talent only goes far in this round and if you don’t make yourself noticeable in a good way, you will be gone.

- The big change for this year is the use of musical instruments. Will they help or hurt the contenders? It’s easy to just sing...but to play and sing well takes talent.

- Maturity and work ethic will come into play. There will be some people who have never been to a big city before hand, and being let loose in LA may have an
effect on their goal. But if they can party and be it.

- There will be for the people who say things like “I don’t do groups.” or they argue with the judges. They will be gone quickly.

- Finally, you will see 2 to three people in the top 24 that will make you scratch your head. That is because the producers are going to try and be need to see rock, pop, country, R&B and other musical styles in there. You might be seeing the next Kevin Covais and Sanjaya in there...we can only hope not, but they will be there.

That is what to look for in the Hollywood Round. I will be back with the top 24 and when the voting starts, I will be back with weekly predictions and updates.

If you were not able to be part of the 100,000+ who auditioned for Idol 7, and don’t think you can make it to any of the regional auditions...Disney has got a deal for you. Starting in Fall 2008, “American Idol” goes Disney. And this is very cool.

At Disney Hollywood Studios theme park (which was Disney-MGM), guests will be able to perform in front of a live studio audience with a prize of a “front-of-the-line” pass to a regional audition. It will work something like this:

People will audition in front of a Disney casting producer. If they pass that, they will appear in an Idol stage show with “judges’ (3 random audience members). The top audience vote-getters will compete in the grand finale of the day and the winner gets the fast pass. Jordin Sparks used the fast pass by winning Arizona Idol, and she won the whole thing last year. If the winner doesn’t fit into the Idol requirements, they can transfer the pass to a friend or family member. They can not sell the prize.

I LOVE this idea. Disney is known for great park shows, and the fact they cross-branded with Idol is a HUGE marketing move. I will bet you, that you might just
see the next Idol from these shows. Who knows? But even so, this is fun and a great use of the marketing brand.

To practice for the upcoming Disney show, you might want to try Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol Encore. Ok, this might not be the best way to practice, but I like the fact the game has customizable song packs which you can download through PS3 and XBOX Live online components.

The game looks like fun with Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul lending their voice talents, and they can create their own characters through clothing, hair, etc. No long line required.

Finally, Simon Cowell has not pulled any punches in an interview with Extra. He skewers Idol 5 runner up, Katharine McPhee by saying "Didn't care much about
Katharine McPhee, I don't think she was a credible recording artist. Katharine will end up on Broadway!" (Didn’t you predict her to be the winner?)

He said Taylor Hicks didn't deserve to take the top spot. "There's always a place for someone like that on the show - until they win."

He said that Clay Aiken ended right where he should be...on Broadway. "[He is] very at home," Simon huffed.

He even clears up the rumors that the show has planted ringers to make sure they have another chart topper.

"Oh, give me a break!" he said. "Regardless of whether or not you got a recording contract, they've all failed, which is why they turn up on 'American Idol.'" Me-owch!

Ok, enough Idol for one podcast. Let’s talk about the man, the legend, Bob Barker. Barker has been a champion of animal rights activism for years. And he
has put his money where his mouth is by donating millions of dollars to college campuses all around the country to establish animal rights curricula in law schools.

This week, he dropped a cool million to his alma-mater, Drury University to establish an undergraduate animal-ethics program. "It's incredible that I ever was able to go back to Springfield and give them a million dollars, because when I was there, I didn't have 15 cents," Barker told The Associated Press, adding that he graduated from the Missouri school in 1947. "What I'm hoping is that this will become a model for other undergraduate schools."

Bob is one of the few people in Hollywood who actually says something and means it. This is why Barker’s clout and power is so huge. He doesn’t say one thing and do another. Great job, Mr. B. Keep up the good work. And keep your pets spayed and neutered.

We had a few debuts this week, as “Survivor: Micronesia” a/k/a Fans v. Favorites debuted. And it was great to see Johnny Fairplay get his comeuppance.
My favorite line from the show was after Yau-Man tackled him into a boat and grabbed an immunity idol. “He tackled me into a boat!” Uh, Johnny...this is a
million bucks here!

It was great to see the fans see who they were playing against...and the favorites lose immunity. This was Survivor at it’s best. The fans were hungry and I
think Joel is going to give James a run for his money as strongest man...he is a giant. Watch for him to be around late in the game.

Survivor was great. But the other debut had me a bit disappointed. “Randy Jackson presents America’s Best Dance Crew” debuted Thursday night on MTV. I gave the show a try, and although I liked the talent portion of this program, two things bothered me.

Mario Lopez, who I normally like as a host, looked to me like he was trying to force himself to be street. Secondly and more importantly, although I understand
MTV is appealing to the 12-24 demographic, the camera work here was so frenetic I was getting dizzy. When you are looking to see dancing, you need to a) hold the camera in one position for more than 3 seconds and b) have it at angles where you can see the dancing. I was so distracted that it took away from what I think could be a great show.

If they cut down on the frenetic camera work, this show would be in my guilty pleasure file. Right now,it’s just so-so.

Big Brother 9 debuts this week, and we have the Pretty People Syndrome in overdrive person is over 40...and the rest are between 21-29...and all single. The new twists is that people will be paired up as “soul mates” and live, sleep, compete and be eliminated as pairs.

Again, normally this show would not be for me, but I understand the need for programming...any new programming...but they are being very dangerous with
the scheduling. They are putting it on against Idol on Wednesday night....but I think it will do well in the Tuesday 9:00PM and Sunday 8:00PM hours. Will there be drama...will there be chaos...the question is...will people care? I am not so sure this summer show will work here....

Finally, the long strange trip that I referred to earlier is the fact that I turn 40 on Valentine’s Day. I have seen a lot in this world, but what amuses me the most is when I watch shows from the 1970's and 1980's on GSN and YouTube and see what prizes they used to give away as totally cool and amazing.

I mean, who would think Pong at $149.99 in 1975 would be the king of the crop, when we have the XBOX360 and PS3, right? Back then, big old console TV’s were the thing...and now it’s the flat screen TV's. When you saw big huge Cadillacs and Lincolns...and now it’s Vipers and Corvettes. Think back to the consolationprizes...Rice A Roni...Turtle Wax....ceramic Dalmatians...and companies that are no longer here.

It’s amazing to know that I have been a witness to all  of it, right? We are all witnesses to history. The game show as a form has been around before I and all
of you were born, and hopefully will be around long after we are all gone. But to see what I have seen, and to see all the classic shows, producers, emcees and know that this industry wants new fans of old shows...and fans of the new shows yet to come. I see this as a message of hope...that as I enter my fifth decade of life...that the industry will continue to support us and the shows we love.

That's all for this week. This is Jason Block saying, don't just play to win.

If you run into Jason Block, be sure to wish him a happy happy. E-mail him at