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April Showers Bring May Sweeps
April 29

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Lots of Idol news to start the week off. First of all, we have conflicting reports as to the severity of an injury suffered by Season 6 American Idol Champion Jordin Sparks. The New York Post was reporting as of Tuesday that she has suffered a potential career threatening acute vocal-cord hemorrhaging. And a couple of doctors weighed in on the effect this injury might have. From the same article on Tuesday--Dr. Gwen Korovin, a voice specialist to the stars who also teaches at NYU School of Medicine, said Sparks should not speak or cough until her doctors give her the green light - or else she may risk permanent damage. "Even a heavy sneeze could have an adverse effect," Korovin said. Dr. Jeffrey Libin - a Mount Sinai Medical Center specialist in vocal-cord injuries - said it could be licked with strict rest.

"It's non-negotiable: You have to cancel [concerts], I don't care if you're singing the national anthem at Madison Square Garden," Libin said. "If you have vocal-cord hemorrhaging and it's caught early, the great majority will resolve completely."

Libin said vocal-cord bleeding can be caused by any of several causes, including vocal strain, a persistent cough, vomiting or even food poisoning.

"Sparks has been going nonstop over the past two years, and now she's going through the normal course of learning how to manage and care for her voice," said a spokesman for her record label, 19 Recordings/Jive Records. "Her energy is good, and she is resting, though she was disappointed at missing the first two weeks of her tour with Alicia Keys. "Sparks already canceled an appearance last week on Live With Regis and Kelly Show as well as Monday's Earth Day concert on the National Mall in Washington D.C. She is expected to join Alicia Keys in May.

Whatever the injury, we at the Block Party wish her well. Let us hope that this promising young voice has not been silenced too early.

In a fun "Where Are They Now" Idol piece of news, The Post reported that William Hung, the man who made the audition phase of Idol a must watch each season has quietly enrolled at California State University Northridge to complete his Bachelors degree in a double major, math and education. He now wants to be a teacher.

"I think teaching is more exciting," he told his new college's student newspaper, the Daily Sundial. "I get to learn and teach something new everyday."

"I've been performing everywhere around the world, and I've gotten a record contract with a New York record company," he told the paper.

"I appreciate the fan support, because that is what makes all this possible," he said. "I don't realize that I have a lot of fans until I travel around the world.

"It's very surprising. I could go to the most remote place like Iowa and people still know who I am." So what is Hung's philosophical take on life? "Whatever you believe in, and if you keep trying, you can eventually succeed." Good advice, if you ask me.

And finally, this week we had Andrew Lloyd Webber week on Idol as the Bottom Two were in a shock to everyone...Carly Smithson and Syesha Mercado (again)...and Carly Smithson went home in an episode where, in my opinion, Jason Castro and Brooke White should have gone home. America....what were you

Now, this coming week is Neil Diamond is going to be very interesting to see what happens and who it helps and hurts. I think Jason Castro's time may hopefully and finally be up!

Time to expose my legal briefs. WPT Enterprises, Inc., operators of the World Poker Tour, announced the settlement of a lawsuit brought against it by several big-name poker players. The action, which focused on  the player release form used by the World Poker Tour, was originally filed by seven players who announced the suit at a press conference at the Rio in Las Vegas during the 2006 WSOP. The resolution of the suit involves a modification of the WPT's player release, with no money damages involved.

Five of the seven players -- Chris Ferguson, Andrew Bloch, Annie Duke, Phil Gordon, and Howard Lederer - were listed as being party to the final settlement of
the suit; two others, Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem, were originally parties to the action but dropped their involvement before the settlement. The lawsuit also saw a 2007 motion for summary judgment by the players, which was denied.

In their original lawsuit, the players claimed that the terms of the WPTE player release would force them to violate other endorsement agreements and rights to
images that the players and their sponsors had otherwise contracted for, and as a result, the players were forced to forego participating in WPT events. The action was framed in antitrust terms, alleging that WPTE and its partner casinos unlawfully conspired to eliminate competition and violated the intellectual
property rights of these players. WPTE strictly denied that its standard player release was in any way "in violation of antitrust or other laws." The modified
player release, while not detailed by WPTE, likely addresses related concerns.

As the WPTE release on the settlement noted, "WPTE continues to deny any liability or wrongdoing, but wants to settle its differences with the players so that the tour can focus on its continued growth rather than litigation." WPTE founder and CEO Steve Lipscomb said, "We are glad to put this dispute behind us, and
we look forward to working with all players to grow the sport of poker."

Chris Ferguson, one of the five remaining players in the action, said, "We are happy to have come to an agreement that is fair to all players, and to have put in place a new release that clears up ambiguities in how players' images may be used. We are especially happy that this new release will apply to all poker
players who wish to participate in WPT tournaments and events. WPTE has created some of the best poker events in the world, and we are excited to participate in them once again.

And the second case on the docket is this one. You guys remember I told you about the Georgia couple suing Deal or No Deal for "illegal gambling" in the "Lucky Case" game? Well, the verdict is in, and as I predicted, the case was thrown out by the Georgia Supreme Court. According to the AP, Georgia's highest court on Monday threw out a lawsuit contending that NBC's "Deal or No Deal" violated state anti-gambling laws when it invited viewers to take part in a game via text message.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Michael and Michele Hardin, who wanted NBC to repay them and other state residents for the cost of sending 99-cent text messages in hopes of winning a prize on the hit show's "Lucky Case Game."

The game challenged at-home viewers to guess which of six on-screen gold briefcases was the lucky case. The couple's lawyer, Jerry Buchanan, called the game an illegal gambling operation and said state law allowed residents to retrieve money because "gambling contracts are void." NBC attorneys, however, said the game was a promotional tool and not a lottery.

In its ruling Monday, the court said the text messages cannot be classified as a bet or a wager, and the state law "offers no avenue of recovery to plaintiffs."

NBC halted the at-home segment of the game - which typically offered a $10,000 top prize - since the lawsuit, which was also the target of at least one court challenge in California. It is described on the show's Web site as "taking a short break."

To state a claim under the Georgia gambling civil recovery statute, wrote Justice Hugh Thompson, the plaintiffs needed to allege there was a "gambling contract" supported by "gambling consideration." There was no gambling consideration here, he wrote. A gambling contract is one which the parties agree they will gain or lose depending upon the occurrence of an event in which they otherwise have no interest, Thompson explained. Here, said Thompson, quoting an order by Senior U.S. District Judge William O' Kelley, the 99 cent consideration of the contract between the parties "never hangs in the balance." He also cited decisions from other jurisdictions to the effect that there's not a wagering contract where the offer or of the prize has no chance of winning the prize.

Thompson wrote in a footnote that the court wasn't deciding whether the Lucky Case Game constituted an illegal lottery under Georgia's criminal code. But even if it were, he said, it wouldn't be a gambling contract under the civil recovery statute.

He cited prior Georgia appellate decisions to the effect that lotteries are excluded from the civil recovery statute. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Lucky Case Game case had argued that a change in the language of the civil recovery statute from "gaming consideration" to "gambling consideration" undermined prior case law's authority, but Thompson said the change was too "minor" to matter.

Buchanan expressed disappointment. "But we have full respect for the court," he said. "We will abide by that decision and move on." He suspected the ruling places the federal lawsuit "dead in the water."

Speaking of Deal, we have some NBC Sweeps news to report. According to the Futon Critic, NBC heads into sweeps with all new "Around the World" episodes and a special "winner takes all" Star Wars-themed episode of its hit game show "Deal or No Deal," and the summer season premiere of the successful "American Gladiators."

A special two-hour "winner takes all" Star Wars-themed episode of "Deal or No Deal" will shift NBC's sweep month into hyperdrive on Monday, April 28 with guest supporters Carrie Fisher, Chewbacca, R2D2 and Darth Vader as the villainous banker. Then the series takes an international twist as Howie Mandel hosts three, two-hour "Around the World" episodes broadcast on May 5, 7 and 14 where U.S. contestants travel abroad to play the game according to the international country's rules. Estonia is the first stop on Monday, May 5  (8-10 p.m. ET). The contestants hit the Philippines Wednesday, May 7 (8-10 p.m. ET) and then it's on to South Africa on Wednesday, May 14 (8-10 p.m. ET) where two contestants play the South African version of "Deal or No Deal" and hopefully walk away with the top prize of $1 million.

The high-octane hit "American Gladiators" returns bigger and "badder" than before with an all-new gladiator arena, new challenges and new gladiators. It all starts with its two-hour summer season premiere on Monday, May 12 on NBC (8-10 p.m. ET) followed by its regular day and time on Mondays (8-9:30 p.m. ET)
beginning May 19.

This next story makes me laugh in a good way. VH1 is readying "I Love Money," a spinoff of "Flavor of Love" that dispenses with the fiction that anyone involved with the show is looking for romance.

The show features past contestants from "Flavor of Love," "Rock of Love" and "I Love New York" squaring off against one another in a series of reality show competitions. While "Flavor" and its past offspring were constructed to help celebrities such as Bret Michaels and Flavor Flav find "love," the new show will focus on the pursuit of cash prizes.

A VH1 spokesman confirmed the series was quietly shot a few weeks ago. It's currently slated to premiere July 13, with a casting special airing July 6. Former host of "30 Minutes to Fame" Craig J. Jackson will host.

Speaking of shows with the pretense of romance, I unfortunately had the displeasure of watching the season premiere of "A Shot of Love II" with Tila Tequila on MTV. In the first episode, we had 15 men and lesbians vying for the affection of Tila by a) dancing in a cage to turn her on - with the requisite stripping by both the men and the women, b) unbridled drunkenness, c) a "talent" show which was an excuse for more nakedness and sexual innuendo, d) girl on girl kissing and e) violence between two guys. And that was all in just episode 1.

Now, I understand MTV is a very liberal network when it comes to all of this sort of stuff...but this was just too much. I needed a shower after watching this. It was the first season cranked up to 11. And that is just horrible. I get the same effect after drinking cheap Tequila...nausea, a headache and vowing never to do it again....until the next time I do it.

Now, last week, I took Wheel of Fortune to task for promoting environmental awareness and I said that all politics should be kept out of entertainment.

This week we had President Bush appearing on Deal or No Deal in a taped message to help Capt. Joseph Kobes, a U.S. Army transportation officer who served three tours of duty in Iraq. Kobes won a Purple Heart and Bronze Star and volunteered for his second and third deployments. "Deal" host Howie Mandel dubbed him "the ultimate American." He joked with Howie about the budget. He also appeared on "American Idol" this week to congratulate America for donating $65 Million dollars to charity.

Was this promoting a political agenda? No. So I have no problem with the President appearing on these shows. He wasn't asking for votes or anything like that.

This next story is very cool news. This year an Emmy will given out in a new award category, outstanding host for a reality or reality competition program, officials said Tuesday.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Board of Governors has voted to create the new Emmy award category. The award will be presented at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards, broadcast live Sept. 21 on ABC. "Reality television has become such an integral part of television and our culture, so it only made sense for us to create this new highly competitive category," Television Academy chairman and CEO John Shaffner said in a prepared statement.

According to the rules and regulation of the Television Academy, "Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program" (category 66) is for the proactive "master of ceremony" host and does not include reactive participants or judges. Eligibility is open to the host(s) of programs entered in the following categories: Reality Program (category 77) and Reality-Competition Program.

Before I get into the Random Newsbits, a quick correction to make. I had stated that the April Fool's Showcase on The Price is Right was the first one in over 25 years. Fellow WLTI member Chico Alexander emailed me to point out that the last April Fool's Showcase was in 1999. I stand corrected, and thank you.

Random Newsbits time:

- Celebrity Circus debuts June 11, on NBC.

- The Philippines gets it's own version of "The Singing Bee."

- Stephanie Schlund of Georgia becomes the newest TPIR model.

- David Hasselhoff of America's Got Talent is recovering from facial surgery to remove something above his eye.

- Michael Symon replaces Robert Irvine as the host of "Dinner: Impossible"

- Red Lobster gets a sponsorship tie-in for an episode  of "The Next Food Network Star 4"

- Bruce Forsyth gets a BAFTA "Academy Fellowship Award."

- Merv Griffin gets inducted in to the TV Hall of Fame

- Mario Lopez will return to Dancing with the Stars for its 100th episode

- And congratulations to Kristy Lee Cook on her recent engagement. Mazel Tov!

That's all for this time...remember...don't just play to win.

Jason Block changes his legal briefs regularly. E-mail him at