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Hot Fun in the Summertime... on TV, That Is
June 3

Also available as a podcast. Click to listen!

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 “American 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 Brown....don’t you?

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?

June 17: 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 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 reality shows
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 get out and get some sun!

Big news in the potential actors 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 three-year contract.

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 deal done

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 for less."

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 highly ambitious.

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 Chef."

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 YouTube that receive millions of hits, just having a show shot by professionals seems to elevate the product above the qualitative waterline.

"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 GSN had
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 blurred footage.

“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 coming fall.

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 subjects.

"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 ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, according to Altman's family and the show's Web site.

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 Diego. 

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 to win.

Jason Block doesn't tan well. E-mail him at