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Unemployed, but Not Uninspired
April 22

Also available as a podcast. Click to listen!

This week we start with a British Internet find. It's not the latest fight from stupid self-absorbed teenagers. This is a true joy to watch. As you know, Britain's Got Talent has spawned off from America's Got Talent. The judges across the pond are Piers Morgan, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell. The reason why Simon Cowell judges there and not here, is because of an exclusivity contract with American Idol and 19 Entertainment.

Anyway, the show that discovered Paul Potts has just started his second season and this clip is a find. Thirteen-year-old Andrew Johnston is a child from a town where he is bullied for the only fact that he is in a choir. Well, this week, he moved the judges and an audience to tears with his performance of Pie Jesu. And let me tell you something, he moved me as well. Watch it here at this link which will also be in the show notes. And the link is from ITV:

The final major network released it's summer schedule this week, and it's CBS. And here's what going to happen for us in the game show/reality competition genre, courtesy of The backbone of CBS' summer schedule will be the three weekly airings of "Big Brother." The 10th installment of the shut-in franchise will begin on Sunday, July 13 at 8 p.m., moving quickly into regular installments at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. As usual, Julie Chen will host. And there was much rejoicing...yay.

No fewer than three other unscripted competition shows will premiere during the summer months, starting with the network's Regis Philbin-hosted revamp of "Million Dollar Password." The classic game show will return with stars including Betty White, Rachael Ray, Neil Patrick Harris and Monique Coleman and will air on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. premiering on June 1.

Thursday, July 10 will see the 8 p.m. premiere of "Greatest American Dog," which pits pets and their owners against each other to find the nation's best trained dogs.

Then on Sunday, July 27 at 9 p.m., Mark Burnett will ask ordinary people to come up with catchy advertising slogans on "Jingles."

Speaking of CBS, we have a huge piece of technological news to report. According to Variety, the granddaddy of the current generation of competition-based reality shows will make the jump to high-definition starting with its 17th edition, which shoots this summer for a fall debut....and that's Survivor.

"Survivor" will be the first CBS reality show to be produced in HD, and one of just a handful of reality shows to opt for the more expensive technology.

Announcement of the "Survivor" shift was made Sunday by Sony and CBS at the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas. "Survivor" will use Sony's XDCAM production system to make the transition to HD.

"Survivor" exec producer Mark Burnett said the jump to HD would usher in "a new era" for his show, "creating an immediacy that draws viewers right into the frame. This is something we'd been looking to do for some time."

CBS reality guru Ghen Maynard said HD would open up new storytelling tools for the show's producers.

" 'Survivor's' locations and natural elements have always served as another character in the show and an important part of the competition," Maynard said.
"With HD, viewers will feel as if they are on location instead of in their living room."

CBS and Sony didn't reveal the cost of the move to HD, or whether Sony would subsidize the expense. However, the large number of cameras used by reality shows such as "Survivor" -- not to mention specialized cams, including some that film underwater -- has long been cited as a barrier to moving reality shows to HD.

Just four other network game shows -- "American Idol," "Dancing with the Stars", "Don't Forget the Lyrics!", and "American Gladiators" -- are shot and presented in HD.

As a personal note, also remember that Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune have been broadcasting in HD since September 2006. And the Price is Right Million Dollar Spectaculars just started to be shown in HD as of last month.

This is a great move and I can't wait to see the natural landscape in HD. Just be glad you didn't get to see Richard Hatch in HD.

Another piece of news from the NAB convention was Bob Barker's Hall of Fame Award. He received the award Monday afternoon, according to the New York Times, and he concluded his speech with a game of Plinko, a pricing game that is among the most popular on the show.

Mr. Barker, whose name is name is synonymous with the phrase "come on down," retired from "The Price Is Right" on CBS last fall after 35 years.

In a video about Mr. Barker's 50-year career in television, Adam Sandler, the narrator, said, "If you think reality TV is anything new, check this out." The
film then reviewed Mr. Barker's appearances in sitcoms and dramas, his hosting of the 1950s game show "Truth or Consequences," and his movie star turn with Mr. Sandler in "Happy Gilmore."

Mr. Barker was met with a standing ovation by hundreds of conference-goers. "Thank you for the applause," Mr. Barker said. "I think the thing I miss most about 'The Price Is Right' is the applause. No, I beg your pardon, the thing I miss most about 'The Price Is Right' is the money!"

Two memorable parts of "The Price Is Right" set were re-created on the ballroom stage: the big wheel and the Plinko board. Two contestants, drawn from the audience, went home with a flat-screen television and an Xbox 360...that's cool.

Mr. Barker said he should end with a profound thought. So he offered this one, familiar to any of his fans: "Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered."

Well deserved, Mr. B. Well deserved.

This next story touched me. As you may or may not know, David Cook, a finalist in American Idol has a brother who is battling brain cancer. So, B102.7FM in Terre Haute, Indiana , an adult contemporary radio station and LifeLine donated their time and services to make sure his brother Adam and his wife saw him perform this past week on American Idol.

"This literally came to be in the course of a day or so. In that short amount of time, we have seen so many people step up to support someone they don't even know carry out his last wishes. Individuals and businesses alike have donated and continue to call and e-mail, asking how they can help. It's truly touching - it makes me proud of the city I call home," says B102.7 Program Director and Morning Co-Host Adam Michaels.

This was really great. The town came together to bring some pleasure to a man battling a crippling disease. I am so glad this happened. It goes to show you with all the negativity in the world, you read a great story like this.

Speaking of American Idol, we had Mariah Carey week and David Cook stole the show with his version of "Always Be My Baby." And now we are down to six as Kristy Lee Cook was sent home. Syesha Mercado and Brooke White were in the bottom three with her.

Now that we are down to six....each artist is going to have to sing two songs! And with this week's Mentor being Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, we could have a surprise or two come this week's elimination.

We had the first female winner of "The Biggest Loser" this year, as Ali Vincent took home the big prize. And you can be a loser too...of pounds that is. There have been a lot of items associated with the show and now we have the Biggest Loser Meal Plan!

According to the press release The Biggest Loser Meal Plan, which was created in conjunction with Bistro MD, has been carefully developed by doctors and experts who specialize in treating patients with weight disorders. Plan participants receive five days of gourmet-quality meals (three per day), which arrive at their doorstep, ready to reheat. The meals include everything from omelets or honey oat waffles for breakfast, to blackened tilapia or black bean soup for lunch, to whole wheat pasta or stuffed chicken breast for dinner. All of the food is prepared according to kosher standards and with only the finest ingredients. The meals are then flash-frozen and vacuum-sealed to preserve nutrients and maximize freshness and flavor. The plan is available for $99.95 per week for five days of meals, which can be tailored to personal dining preferences or other dietary restrictions, as needed.

I think this is...well...interesting. I mean, if you are on the plan for a year...that's $5,200 for meals NBC and the Biggest Loser are profiting big time off of people. Let's just hope this isn't a total marketing scam which is what this appears to be unfortunately.

Last week, we had the story of Lifetime snatching up "Project Runway" and this week, Lifetime had their upfronts and the subject came up...sort of. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Harvey Weinstein said on Monday afternoon that moving "Project Runway" from NBC Universal to Lifetime Networks will help the Peabody Award-winning reality series reach its potential.

He declined to discuss when the Weinstein Co. would respond in court to the lawsuit filed against it by NBC Universal over the move.

"That's the one thing I can't talk about," Weinstein told The Hollywood Reporter after a presentation by Lifetime Networks at a midtown Manhattan restaurant Monday afternoon.

But Weinstein disclosed that Lifetime would televise two new Weinstein Co. reality series: "Project Pygmalion," in development for 2009, which will remake the winner and give her entry into high society, and a series looking at "Project Runway" from the models' eyes ("Models of the Runway") that will air in November along with the reality series' sixth-season premiere.

Lifetime made a big splash with "Runway" at its presentation, which in some ways overshadowed the rest of its development slate because of the announcement and lawsuit. Weinstein and Tim Gunn attended the event.

Gunn, Heidi Klum and Michael Kors are on board to continue with the new seasons, though the fate of Nina Garcia remains uncertain after a change at Elle, where she worked, and which is a major sponsor. Weinstein said that he was still trying to work that out.

"Nina wants to stay with us and we want her to be," Weinstein said.

Random news bits to end the week with:

- Top Design has a new host in India Hicks.

- Chronicle Books is releasing Top Chef: The Cookbook

- The Indian Class of "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader" has been released

- As expected, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Radio & Television Artists are negotiating separate contracts. In a letter Monday to  SAG, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said it would not revisit its decision to sever the guilds' longtime unified negotiations.

- Deal or No Deal is taping in the Philippines.

- And CTV is allowing online auditions for Canadian Idol.

That's all for this time, this is Jason Block reminding you...don't just play to win.

Jason Block could knock out a killer aria if given the opportunity. E-mail him at