Not Very Taxing
start this week with the overblown "shock elimination" of Michael Johns during
this week of American Idol. This week was a three day affair as Tuesday was
inspiring songs week. Wednesday night was the Idol Gives Back telethon (more on
that later) and Thursday night, Syesha Mercado, Carly Smithson and Michael Johns
were in the bottom three.
So, why was he eliminated? It wasn’t as shocking as you think. I got the bottom
three on the money for a reason. Syesha was uninspiring and emotionless... Carly
picked a song too big for her. And Michael was doing a pale imitation of Steven
Tyler. Combine that with the fact that there were three rock singers in the Top
8. The herd had to be thinned somehow. I picked Carly to leave, but Michael was
a worthy substitute.
Now...we have 7 left...and Mariah Carey coming this week. So we now use the
Block Party semi-HD Crystal Ball and we are looking to see who will make the
American Idol Final 4.
First, David Archuleta - A LOCK. He has been the favorite all along, but his
performance has been lacking in the last few weeks. His main competition, has
been eliminated in Michael Johns. His road is the smoothest.
–Jason Castro – DON’T THINK SO. Although he has the Ashley Perl vote split with
Archuleta (according to an interview with her in the New York Post this week–oh
joy.) his musical style runs in the same vein as Kristy Lee Cook and Brooke
White. And honestly, I don’t think his "lovable stoner" gimmick will bring him
into the top 4.
–David Cook. – A LOCK. One of only two rockers left, and the more innovative of
the two. He had a bad misstep this week, but he really has shown talent
throughout the entire top 12 round. He has won me over...and a lot of fans too.
And I think he is the only person who can defeat Archuleta.
–Kristy Lee Cook – DON’T THINK SO. She has found her voice in Country. But I
believe she has done that a little too late. And I think Brooke White’s talent
and range is just bigger than hers.
–Syesha Mercado - A LOCK - There are a few reasons for this. One, and this is
the honest truth, she is the only black female R&B singer left. Two, she has a
good female pop voice.
–Carly Smithson - DON’T THINK SO. The weaker of the two rockers. She has been
shown to not have good song selection. And she has a look on her face that
scares people. It’s true. Not going to make it.
And Brooke White - A LOCK. She has a great Carly Simon, Tori Amos sort of vibe.
I love her style and I think the country will too.
So that’s where my predictions think the final four will be...Archuleta, David
Cook, Mercado, and Brooke White. We shall see in a few weeks if I am right.
Speaking of Idol Gives Back, I was pleasantly
surprised that the released total of $60 Million raised for charity was $16
million dollars lower than last year’s total. I honestly believed that the total
was going to be higher and I think there were a couple of factors to this
smaller total. First and foremost, people (rightly or wrongly) feel that there
is an economic instability and can’t afford to give as much as they can.
Secondly, I believe that people saw through the transparency of the show...and
realized that the charities aren’t going to help.
But I do give credit to "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest and judges Randy
Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul who donated their paychecks from
Wednesday's "Idol Gives Back" charity special. Seacrest announced this on last
Monday night’s Larry King Live".
When King asked Ryan if he was going to donate his check, he replied, "We all
are -- we're all going to give back what we would make on that night for doing
the regular episode."
Ryan continued, "I think that when you stand up there, you sit there on that
show, and you're asking for other people to give, you should do something that's
relative to what your life is about and it's something that we can do."
I would hope to think that I had something to do with that. Because it looks
kind of stupid when you stand there to ask...and don’t donate...as most of the
celebrities didn’t. I am going to be there next year when Idol will give back
again...and make sure more money from the celebrities goes into the charities
pocket.–even though it is self-serving.
Usually I am all for anything Wheel of Fortune does,
but I am going to give them a little bit of a slap on the wrist.
This past week’s theme was "Going Green" and featured environmentally friendly
hybrid cars, as well as Seventh Generation prizes and environmentally friendly
trips. And Pat and Vanna showed us how Sony and you can be environmentally
conscious by using reusable bags and products.
Here’s the problem I have. I am not going to say if global warming exists,
because the science hasn’t been proven one way or the other. But to have Wheel
of Fortune spend a week of programming promoting a particular political
philosophy based on a theory smacks of political correctness. And Pat Sajak, an
outspoken conservative, looked like he wanted to be anywhere else.
All I am saying is...keep politics out of all entertainment...especially game
I had a very cool experience this week, as I had a
chance to attend two sessions of the New York Auditions for the third season of
America’s Got Talent with fellow columnist and WLTI member Gordon Pepper. It
took place this past week at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan. The
Block Party will not spoil anything for the viewers...but I will comment on a
First, everybody is back for season 3. Jerry Springer as host...and Piers
Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and David Hasselhoff (who was the most popular in the
audience) are the judges.
–Speaking of the judges...The judging of the acts that we saw was SPOT ON. And
the one who most impressed – believe it or not, Piers Morgan. He was unreal in
his accuracy on pretty much every act. And all of them did what they were
supposed to do.
–And the acts...let’s just say we saw 10 acts that could be in the top 20...and
two that could win the whole thing. But there was some great acts, some good
acts, and some horrifically bad acts.
New York overall represented big time. Watch for season 3 starting June 17th on
Last time, we spoke of the NBC and ABC Summer
Schedule...this week it’s Fox.
And this is courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter. The network has ordered seven
hours of "The Moment of Truth," hosted by Mark L. Walberg, to run starting May
27. Fox also plans original episodes of "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" "So
You Think You Can Dance" and the conclusion of "Hell's Kitchen."
Sources say the network also will move "Kitchen Nightmares" into a late-summer
slot. "Nightmares" is expected to drop in once Gordon Ramsay's other reality
show, "Hell's Kitchen," concludes.
The only things missing from Fox's summer schedule are new shows. The summer
lineup includes all familiar titles and is expected to stay that way.
"We're not doing new shows because we don't have to," said Preston Beckman, VP
scheduling at Fox, which has won the past two summers in the ratings. "We're in
a place where we don't need to blow up the schedule with a bunch of new shows,
throwing stuff against the wall."
One notable omission is the longtime reality project "When Women Rule the
World," where a group of strong-minded women dominate male contestants. The show
previously was pushed from a midseason launch to a June 2 premiere.
Instead, June 2 will launch repeats of "Bones" and "House" on Mondays. "Truth"
leads into "Kitchen" on Tuesdays starting May 27. "So You Think You Can Dance"
will air for two hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays beginning May 22, with "5th
Grader" taking over the 8 p.m. Thursday hour starting June 12.
Let’s go from the shows, to the back rooms...we have
a lot of behind the scenes stuff to report. And let’s revisit one of my favorite
subjects...the UK Phone Participation scandals.
According to the Press Association, Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has announced
proposals to toughen regulations for participation TV shows following a slew of
premium-rate phone-in scandals.
Television and radio programs that rely heavily on premium-rate telephone
services, typically quiz shows and psychic and adult chat lines, are the focus
of the clampdown.
Ofcom said the proposed new Broadcasting Code rules would ensure that programs
inviting viewers and listeners to participate were not "vehicles for promoting
commercial, revenue-generating services".
The rules would also protect viewers and ensure advertising was kept separate
from editorial content, as required under European legislation.
Among the new rules, programs must not give premium-rate services "undue
prominence" and should consist primarily of content rather than promotion of the
They also restrict broadcasters to charging viewers through premium-rate call
charges and not by other means such as credit or direct debit cards.
The rules follow a European Court of Justice ruling in October that a television
quiz show could be classified as teleshopping.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: "The new rules mean these channels face
a much tougher regulatory regime which they must comply with.
"Ofcom will ensure that programs only use premium-rate telephone lines where
there is sufficient editorial justification. This will further distinguish
between television advertising and editorial content for the benefit of
I hope these rules go into effect and continue to rebuild the public trust that
was lost last year. And in a related story, ITV is to give nearly £8m (about $16
million) to charity after only a small number of viewers claimed refunds in the
quiz show phone-in scandal. The windfall is believed to be one of the biggest
charitable donations in British corporate history
Executive chairman Michael Grade promised to donate to charity any unclaimed
money from the £7.8m ITV made from a series of rigged premium-rate phone-in
shows for two years.
The broadcaster rigged the results of phone-in quiz shows mainly by ignoring
viewers' votes or by closing lines before all calls were counted. Money was
taken from everyone who called, regardless of whether they got through.
The TV company offered refunds to all viewers affected. That process closed at
the end of February, but only £10,000 was claimed.
Let’s go from the UK around the world to take care
of some global news.
-- Reality giant FremantleMedia has signed a landmark format-sharing partnership
deal with TV Man Union, one of Japan's largest independent producers, in what it
claims is the first such alliance between companies representing the Western and
"This alliance will help build opportunities for us to make our shows really
work for Japanese audiences, because in TV Man Union we will be working with
such an outstanding and hugely creative producer," said Tony Cohen,
"The deal also means we can take more Japanese content across our global content
network," he added.
-- Debmar-Mercury International has secured deals with European broadcasters for
its Trivial Pursuit format, including one with Antena 3.
In Spain, Antena 3 has licensed 65 one-hour episodes of the game show, to be
titled Trivial Pursuit: Spain Plays. The series will go into production in
summer and is set to air in September. Over in Scandinavia, DMI has secured a
cross-territory option deal with Metronome for the show for Norway, Sweden,
Denmark and Finland.
Coming back to the United States - we have a big
legal battle brewing between Lifetime and NBC/Universal. "Project Runway," is
planning to change homes – Bravo with rival cable network Lifetime, it was
"Project Runway," hosted and executive produced by German supermodel Heidi Klum,
intends to move from Bravo to Lifetime but it may be no smooth sailing. Lifetime
announced Monday that The Weinstein Company has signed a five-year deal with
Bravo to take over the newly Peabody honored show as of November.
However, NBC and Bravo are opposed to the change. NBC, which owns Bravo, filed
suit Monday in New York Supreme Court against "Project Runway" producer the
Weinstein Co., asserting the company violated NBC and Bravo’s right of first
refusal, reports Variety.
An NBC Universal insider told Variety: "They’ve been sold stolen goods."
In a statement, NBC Universal said it rightfully owned future seasons of
"Project Runway" and claimed the Weinstein Co. closed a deal with Lifetime
before Bravo had the chance to match the offer. "NBC Universal regrettably had
no alternative but to bring legal action to enforce its rights to this program,"
it said in a statement. The lawsuit calls the five-year contract between
Lifetime and the Weinstein Co. an "invalid agreement." Lifetime is not named as
The Weinstein Co. maintains that NBC Universal is trying to "win in court what
[it] lost in the marketplace." "We believe that this lawsuit is without merit,"
David Boies, an attorney lawyer for the Weinstein Co., said in a statement, as
quoted by Variety.
Lifetime said November would bring "Project Runway’s" sixth season to the
network. The show’s fourth season ended last month and a fifth season will
apparently unroll on Bravo over the summer.
Heidi Klum, which has been hosting the fashion-oriented reality television
series since its inception in 2004. She will continue as host on the Lifetime
version, while Tim Gunn will continue as mentor to the designers. "Project
Runway" was announced among this year’s recipients of the Peabody award for
excellence in radio and television broadcasting Wednesday, thus becoming the
first reality television show to ever win the prestigious prize.
This is going to be a fun legal battle to watch. Just about as fun as watching
the last model fight over the last bottle of imported water.
Another battle which is being fought is between the
WGA and certain shows. According to Variety, the WGA held a news conference to
showcase workers from several high-profile skeins who are filing claims against
producers for unpaid overtime and penalties.
The guild scheduled the event for 11a outside the Van Nuys office of the
California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Workers from "American
Idol," "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?," "So You Think You Can Dance,"
"Gene Simmons' Family Jewels," "Amazing Race" "On the Lot" and "American
Inventor" also were scheduled to appear.
The WGA said the claims and penalties could total more than $500,000.
In the past, producers of reality shows have denied that they're violating state
laws. "Idol" is produced by FremantleMedia; "Dance" is produced by 19
Entertainment and Dick Clark Prods.; "Family Jewels" is produced by the Grief
Co. for A&E; "Smarter" is, of course, from Mark Burnett; "On the Lot" is from
Burnett and DreamWorks; and "Race" is from ABC Studios/Bruckheimer/Bertram van
The guild's been attempting to organize the reality sector for the past three
years but hasn't yet succeeded. Its leaders demanded jurisdiction over reality
as part of the WGA's contentious negotiations with the majors, then dropped that
demand three months into the strike in a move that helped pave the way for the
eventual deal that ended the work stoppage.
In November, a study commissioned by the WGA alleged reality producers routinely
violated California wage and hour laws by denying overtime and meal breaks, and
by failing to maintain accurate records. The Goodwin Simon Victoria Research
survey of more than 300 reality TV writers found that reality production
companies and payroll companies routinely and improperly classified writers as
exempt from state and federal overtime pay requirements, allegedly depriving
them of at least $30 million a year.
The study also found 91% of reality TV writers received no overtime pay; 88%
worked more than 40 hours per week; writers worked 16 hours of unpaid overtime
per week; 86% were not offered health insurance; 73% worked through their meal
break at least once a week; and 59% said their timecards never accurately
reflected hours they worked.
In 2005, the WGA West filed suits seeking class-action status against several
reality TV production companies and broadcast networks for wage and hour
violations. It's also helped writers file nearly two dozen labor complaints with
the state against various reality TV producers.
Let’s see if they can actually get things done this time...and maybe succeed at
Lots of Random Newsbits this week:
–CBS, in a move that surprised no one, canceled "Secrets Talents of the Stars"
after one episode and a dismal 4.6 Million Viewers. And with Duel getting 3.8
Million Viewers and finishing dead last on Friday...don’t be surprised if that
fate happens to Mike Greenberg as well.
–ESPN has chose not to renew the boxing reality show "The Contender", but it’s
producers are shopping it to another network. "The Contender" should find a
place...it’s a pretty good show.
–Jewel is joining John Rich as a judge/mentor on Nashville Star.
--Great American Country is launching a reality show to find "the next Great
American Country Star."
–The owner of the house used in "Rock of Love 2" is suing the production company
for $380,000 in damages.
–Julianne Hough of Dancing with the Stars is singing the National Anthem at the
–Mark Burnett Productions and AEG Live have signed a deal to produce live
–Al Roker, in a pretty open secret, has been tapped to host "Celebrity Family
–And Finally, Melanie Brown and Joey Fatone are hosting "The Singing Office" on
That was a lot for this week, so for the "Block Party", this is Jason Block
reminding you, don’t just play fair...play to win.
Jason Block ... a lock. E-mail