Hot Fun in the
Summertime... on TV, That Is
We start this week with the Block Party Summer
Preview. With the all the networks having to recover from the writers
strike, and the summer is usually
filled with a lot of
reality shows anyway...but this summer has a ton...and remember
all show premiere dates are subject to change.
June 1: Million Dollar Password (CBS) - The venerable classic
returns with Regis Philbin as host. This isn’t your classic password.
Different bonus round, different rules...but will it succeed? I think
so. Regis is usually gold.
June 1: The Next Food Network Star (FOOD) Season 4 premieres the same
night, with Bobby Flay as head judge. This will be monster, but the only
problem I have is that they are still having problems with the
background research of the contestants. If they have another problem,
this could be a jump the shark moment.
June 9: Nashville Star: Season 5 (NBC) The USA Network country cousin of
Idol” moves to NBC (and smartly gets rerun that Friday on Country
Music Television). With Billy Ray Cyrus as host, and John Rich and Jewel
returning...this will be gold as well. I just want to see Anastasia
June 11: Celebrity Circus (NBC) - This has nuclear bomb written all over
it. This was original...when it was on the air 30 years on CBS called
“Circus of the Stars.” And we can hope for a lion accident, can’t we?
America's Got Talent: Season 3 (NBC) - When I saw the NY
auditions, I knew this was going to be HUGE. The crowd was into it...the
acts were great and the judges were SPOT ON. This is going to the big
hit for NBC...one more time.
June 19: Randy Jackson presents “America’s Best Dance Crew” – Season 2 -
(MTV) The surprise hit of the fall returns with everyone back for Season
2...who will be the followup crew to the JabbaWockeez? Find out, and I
know the teens will be watching too!
June 24: Wipeout (ABC) - This is going to be one of the surprise hits of
the summer. People love MXC on Spike, and Ninja Warrior on G4, and this
will translate here. Watch this take off this summer.
June 27: Dance Machine (ABC) - Do we want to see another show about
regular people dancing...didn’t think so. Pass.
July 1: Celebrity Family Feud (NBC) - Watch this be the breakout role
for Al Roker. He will get a show out of this. And watch John O’Hurley
get mad as this show does well during the summer.
July 6: I Love Money (VH1) - This is going to be the cheesetastic show
of the summer. Watch media hos become money hos as stars from past
compete for cash. This could be the guilty pleasure show of the summer.
July 10: Greatest American Dog (CBS) - Ok, we all know America loves
dogs...but will this show translate? I think so. Not a major hit...but
not a dog either.
July 13: Big Brother 10 - (CBS)
- After the Adam Jasinski fiasco, I don’t know if the ratings will help
or be hurt by it. I think that the shark may have finally been jumped.
July 20: High School Musical: Summer Session (ABC) - Want to be in a
music video at the end of the third and final High School Musical movie?
This will be the
teen appointment TV of the summer.
Drew Lachey hosts.
July 21: Wanna Bet? (ABC) - Celebrities place bets on how stunts are
completed for Charity as the German Import comes to the US. Not sure how
this one will
July 27: Jingles - (CBS) - Mark Burnett’s summer entry wants to
turn you into the latest ad exec by having people write ad jingles for
products. It won’t bomb as bad as Pirate Master, but what will?
There you have it. You have your summer viewing planned...now get out
and get some sun!
Big news in the potential actors strike....one
of the two actors unions has struck a new deal. According to USA Today,
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) says it
has agreed to a tentative deal with Hollywood studios on a new
The union said early Wednesday that the deal establishes fees for
content streamed and downloaded over the Internet and preserves actors'
rights of consent on the use of their voices and images in online clips.
The agreement over a handful of prime-time TV shows such as
Curb Your Enthusiasm will last through June 2011 if it is
approved by AFTRA's national board and ratified by members. The deal
greatly reduces the chance of an actors strike, although larger of the
two actors unions, the Screen Actors Guild, is set to resume its stalled
talks with the studios Wednesday morning.
You know as well as I do, that SAG will settle. With ratings down across
the board, and the economic effects still being felt worldwide...there
is no way the AMPTP and SAG will not do what they need to do to get the
And while the actors deal, reality shows are
feeling the pinch. According to the Hollywood Reporter, long considered
the cheapest of programming genres, reality programs increasingly are
under the gun to cut costs. Producers are being urged to shoot shows
faster than ever and use indoor settings to help reduce expenses. "Every
year there's more and more budgetary pressure," said Mark Cronin,
producer of such VH1 hits as "Rock of Love" and "I Love New York."
"Every network is having its budgetary problems, and that's being pushed
back toward all content. So there's a constant pressure to produce more
Networks have been reducing the budgets of comedies and dramas to offset
television ratings erosion. Producers on such veteran series as ABC's
"Boston Legal" and NBC's "Law & Order" responded by shedding cast
members, while others, including the daytime soap "Guiding Light," have
overhauled production methods. But reality shows have a reputation as
dirt-cheap alternatives to scripted shows. At least they used to. CBS'
globe-trotting "Survivor" might once have been considered an inexpensive
solution to fill a time slot, but by today's reality standards, it's
Most new reality shows are shot in the vein of NBC's "My Dad Is Better
Than Your Dad" or Fox's "The Moment of Truth" -- studio-based shows
hosted by lesser-known talent and touting relatively modest prizes.
“There's been a rise in studio-based shows this past year, which are
often less expensive to produce," said Jane Lipsitz, executive producer
of Bravo's "Top
Tighter costs also mean productions taking less time to shoot and edit a
show. "Networks want smaller budgets and more studio shows," said Howard
Owens, executive producer of NBC's "American Gladiators" and FX's "30
Days." "They don't want you to shoot for nine days an episode
that you'll have to edit for eight
weeks." The rapid pace can affect a show's quality, though it's unclear
whether audiences care. "Moment of Truth" became the highest-rated new
show of the season and is essentially two people sitting in chairs
onstage. In an era of grainy amateur videos on
that receive millions of hits, just having a show shot by
professionals seems to elevate the product above the qualitative
"Audiences seem to be very forgiving of what we used to think of as
unspeakably low production values," Cronin said. There's only one way an
expensive reality series can get in the door: have a concept that's
already a hit overseas. Producers say that sometimes the best way to get
a U.S. network to buy an idea is to first sell it in Belgium. "Truth,"
for instance, wasn't bought by Fox until it became a hit in Colombia.
"Buyers, they're all looking for the edge or the guarantee," said Arthur
Smith, executive producer of Fox's "Hell's Kitchen." "And the guarantee
comes down to, yes, it worked in another country, yes there's a
celebrity attached. There are a few buyers who will take a chance on a
new concept. But it's hard to sell."
Not much happened when CBC in Canada announced
it’s fall schedule...but
Jeopardy is coming to the network this fall.
"In a way, it's coming home, completing the
circle," Alex Trebek said, after the announcement. "I started at the CBC
(as a newscaster) in 1961 and now, almost 50 years later, I'll be coming
back and most likely ending my broadcasting career on the same network.
There's something kind of neat about that."
Asked if he had plans to step down from his role as host, he said,
"Well, I'm not going to last another 25 years. We're starting our 25th
season, so that wouldn't be a bad one to go out on. We're still getting
a lot of compliments, too." Very few people come up to me and say, 'Hey,
you know, Jeopardy! sucks.' More often, it's, 'Hey, my grandmother's
your biggest fan! She's 85, but she thinks you're hot!'"
Although there are plans for a special prime-time series of Jeopardy!,
in which Canadian contestants would compete against one another and the
content featured would be mostly local as well, Trebek says the show
itself will remain exactly the same. "Wheel of Fortune" will also play
on CBC come this fall. Could this be the last season of Trebek as
host...I think he may be thinking about it. We at the Block Party will
follow the news.
Remember all the problems GSN are having with
the World Poker tour...well according to
GSN has extended to June 7 the deadline to renew the show
according to papers filed with the SEC. And High Stakes Poker at this
time has not been renewed either.
Continuing from the blog... “The problem is that the "World Poker Tour"
and "High Stakes Poker" have not brought in the younger demographic that
been hoping for, which has ended up making both shows expendable. Couple
that with a new CEO at the helm of GSN who is decidedly lukewarm on
poker (at best), and you have a bleak outlook for poker on the network.”
This uncertainty has been weighing on the
World Poker Tour, as you can clearly see in the price of their
publicly traded stock. Currently you can buy a share of the World Poker
Tour (WPTE) for $1.17 - this means that the entire company is valued at
just $23.98 million dollars. The all-time low for the stock is $1.01.
If the Game Show Network decides not to renew the seventh season of the
World Poker Tour, then this would be a serious bodyblow for the WPT.
They are already earning significantly less in their new deal with the
GSN (compared to their previous deal with the Travel Channel), and
having to shop around for a new deal after being cut loose by two
networks would severely diminish any leverage that they had in
negotiations with other networks. You can only assume that they would
end up with an even worse deal if the Game Show Network cuts them loose.
Which network would they end up on? What would be the terms of the deal?
These are questions that are keeping Steve Lipscomb (CEO of the World
Poker Tour) up at night.
Bottom line...the World Poker Tour is in deep trouble.
An interesting game show story out of London
this week...a game show is being used for good. According to
a television game show aimed at promoting good relations between
members of different religious communities and encouraging people to
enhance their knowledge about other faiths will be launched here. The
series titled Faith Off will involve people from Hindu, Muslim, Sikh,
Christian and Buddhist faiths contesting against each other and will be
aired on Islam Channel.
According to producers, the series will attempt to promote good
relations and mutual respect between Britain’s religious communities.
Two teams of four will go head to head in each episode, answering
quick-fire and general knowledge questions in the eight-part series
hosted by the Muslim comedian Jeff Mirza,.
There will be a multiple choice current affairs segment in addition to a
home or away round, when contestants can answer questions on their own
faith or the opposing team’s for points. Players will also have to
identify religious figures, such as the Dalai Lama and the Pope, from
“We’re living in a multicultural society,” producer Abrar Hussain said.
“You learn about religions at school and then you forget, so it’s about
transferring the basic blocks of knowledge ... It’s also about learning
the similarities between religions, instead of focusing on the
differences,” he added. Um, guys? Anyone notice something missing?
Where are the Jews in all of this? Is anyone surprised that a London based Islamic TV Channel forgot that there are Jews? Neither am I.
I couldn’t leave the podcast this week without
mention the death of Sophie Altman. Who is she you may ask? She created
the show “It’s Academic”...which is entering it’s 48th season this
According to the AP obituary... there are local versions in several
other cities; at one point more than 20 cities had their own versions.
The show — reminiscent of the "GE College Bowl" that ran on network TV
in the 1960s — tests brainy high school students on an array of
"She had the idea that it would be really nice if academic achievement
had the same accolades as the heroes on the football field," Nancy
Altman said. "If
you got a right answer it was like you got a touchdown." Among the
competitors the show attracted were future Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton
and Charles Schumer; astronaut Timothy Creamer; Pulitzer Prize-winning
writer Michael Chabon; and
George Stephanopoulos, according to Altman's family and the show's Web
Topics used in "It's Academic" questions
changed over the years, particularly in literature, as high school
reading assignments evolved. "When we started the show, I went around
and got all the books used in high school English courses," Altman told
The New York Times
in 1981. "Now English is quite difficult for us.
They don't know the classics anymore. They don't know 'Ivanhoe,' Dickens
or too much Shakespeare."
Altman continued to craft questions until she was hospitalized a few
weeks ago. "We worry over every question like a dog," she told
The Washington Post in
1979. Said her daughter: "She loved being around teenagers. She just
loved the energy and the enthusiasm and that's just who she was."
Versions of "It's Academic" are running under various names in
Baltimore, Charlottesville, Va., Cleveland, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and San
This show used to be appointment television
for me when I was in college in Washington DC. It helped me when I was
playing in my college bowl team and it was the one of the best of it’s
genre. Ms. Altman will be missed.
Some random newsbits for you:
– Nigel Lythgoe says no to Paula Abdul “Dancing with the Stars”
– Cameron Mathison adds the Daytime Emmy Host Gig to his resume
– and a farewell to Dick Martin who passed away at 83 this week. And as
of the recording tonight, Harvey Korman who died at 81.
That's all for now...for the Block Party, this is Jason Block, reminding
you...don’t just play fair...play to win.
Jason Block doesn't tan
well. E-mail him at