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One Shining Moment
March 31

Also available as a podcast. Click to listen!

We start this week with the death of Big Brother UK star Jade Goody. She died at the age of 27 this past Sunday of Cervical Cancer. Normally this would be a blip on the game show radar, but the coverage of it by the British Press peaked my interest.

She was just 21 years old when she appeared on Big Brother in 2002, but was made famous by her outrageous behavior. She became a national celebrity releasing a book, a perfume, and by appearances on other shows. If you want to look at the definition of a media manufactured celebrity, she is it. She was vilified for her bad behavior, laughed at for her common status and her lack of intelligence and her alleged racism against an Indian actress on Celebrity Big Brother.

But the British Press turned on a dime when she got a call while she appeared on the Indian version of Big Brother called Bigg Boss. The call was that she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. And then her image was changed from common villainess to common national hero. Her every move for the next 7 months was chronicled on camera (and paid for by) the British Media so that her two young children would have financial comfort.

I have been following this for months...and the press coverage of her was sickening. It is on the level of the death of Princess Diana in 1997. I do not begrudge her one bit for doing what she did. My grandmother had a saying "Take the Money and Run" and she did. The appetite for her story was, and still is, insatiable. I understand the "common woman makes good" angle of the story. However, how smart are young girls if the only reason they get cervical cancer screenings is the example of Jade Goody’s death? That is about as smart as saying you should leave your abusive boyfriend after Rihanna left Chris Brown. It’s silly, and the argument is specious.

Jade Goody’s life, death and aftermath is and will be the ultimate reality show. It is sad to me, that this sad event is getting the press coverage it is. And unfortunately, it will get worse before it gets better. Goody is not the problem. We are.

You hear that tap dance? That is Steve Wozniak, back tracking from his bombs last week claiming that Dancing With the Stars is rigged. Newsday reports that he wrote the following on Facebook: "We know how easy it is to espouse a lot of ideas and build conspiracy conspiracy theory can be proven wrong, so there are always plenty of die-hard followers. Yesterday I wrote my suspicions of the secret Dancing With The Stars audience vote tabulations. I wrote that the producers were liars, simply because I truly believed in that possibility, not because I had a shred of evidence. "I hurt a lot of honest people. Today, a storm kicked up over my allegations. I started my apologies but it has to go further than that."

He goes on: "The top people of this show, ones responsible for counting audience votes and keeping them honest told me all the specific details of where their numbers came from. More than that, they explained how they can catch onto various forms of manipulation of the system by exactly the methods I had thought out in my head that would work. I was offered an opportunity to see the equipment they use also. You can tell when things are extremely on the level. You can also see why the exact totals cannot be released. That would make it harder to detect fraud. One main way that they detect fraud is when the phone-in votes and text votes and internet votes don't follow each other, percentage-wise. There are other things they look for as well that IT experts would detect as signals of something wrong."

Well, I think Steve got the talk from the higher ups from ABC, don’t you? Seriously, it does take a big man to admit he may have been wrong. And with Denise Richards being eliminated...he is still there, no?

The next step in the Unionization of Reality Show workers took place this past week as former employees have filed a class-action lawsuit against "American Idol" producer FremantleMedia North America, according to Reuters.

The suit alleges that the company systematically overworked employees without paying the required overtime, falsified time cards and denied staffers meals and rest periods. "There's no Hollywood glamour for the below-the-line people who work on 'American Idol' and other reality shows who are grossly underpaid, worked 24/7 and receive no rest or meal breaks and no health coverage -- contrary to California labor laws," said the plaintiffs' attorney Jonathan Biddle.

"For each reality television series subject to this suit, defendants hired plaintiffs based on a flat weekly or daily pay rate," the suit reads. "Plaintiffs were required to falsify their time cards ... worked in excess of 40 hours per week during virtually every week of their employment, but they never received any premium overtime play ... plaintiffs were routinely denied appropriate meal and rest periods as required."

Reuters reports that this similar to the suit that was settled with the WGA for $4M in January. My guess is this will be settled as well–and we will see unionization.

Speaking of Idol, we had Motown week this past week and Smokey Robinson was the mentor. We had a star-making turn with Adam Lambert doing an amazing version of "Tracks of My Tears." And tonight, the plans are to have Stevie Wonder, Joss Stone, and Smokey performing. But, as of press time, we do not have an elimination. My guess is that Megan Joy, Scott and Michael will be in the bottom three. My guess...Megan. And no judges save at all.

Finally, the Block Party congratulates Dan Pawson on his $250,000 Tournament of Champions win. But the most telling image of the show, was Larissa Kelly. She missed the 2nd Final Jeopardy question which was...."Born in 1683, the second British king of this name was the last one not born in the British isles?" Who is George II. Dan got it right...and she said Philip. She won $100,000 for finishing 2nd, but her emotions on air were so genuine. She was legitimately kicking herself for missing the question. Her arms were folded and her face was scrunched. The tournament was amazing stuff, but that one moment was honest, great television.

Time for the Block Party Quick Hits:

–"Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" clears 80% of the US with 95 syndication markets for Fall 2009. This is very cool as we will have (as of this writing) 6 syndicated game shows in the market come September.

–Bob Barker tapes an appearance on Price is Right on March 25 to promote "Priceless Memories", which is being released early next month. He gave away books to the audience and appeared in a showcase. Other upcoming guest appearances include Jim Nantz in a NCAA Final Four showcase...and Reba McIntyre for a country themed show.

–Cartoon Network announced plans for the 2009-2010 include "Head Rush" a "Cash-Cab" like game show as kids answer questions as they ride thrill rides.

–The WheelMobile makes a stop in Branson, Missouri on May 9 and 10...and will be in Boston in June.

–Phil Keoghan talks to People about his 40 Day tour to benefit the National MS Society, biking 100 miles a day.

–Alex Boylan, the 2nd winner of the Amazing Race tries to go "Around the World for Free" in his new reality show. The concept: he tries to travel around the world with no money and his backpack, depending on the kindness of strangers. This sounds like the internet craze "One Red Paperclip" where a Canadian man traded one red paperclip and went higher and higher till he got a house.

–"Survivor: Live" is heading to theme parks.

–"The Whole 19 Yards" shoots a pilot for CBS.

– Gordon Ramsay gets some good news as "Kitchen Nightmares" and "Hell’s Kitchen" get renewed. In fact, Hell’s Kitchen has shot two seasons back to back.

–GSN is rumored to be bringing back "The Rich List" as "The Money List" starring Fred Roggin on June 13th.

–Andrew Firestone, formerly of the Bachelor, is now the father of a baby boy.

Give Jason Block 19 yards, he wants a mile.
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