We start this time around with a roundup of shows which either
debuted or returned over the last few weeks. First up is “The Next
Food Network Star”, which returns for Season 6. Bobby Flay returns
as host and the selection committee of Bob Tuschman and Susie
Fogelson are back as well. There are two major changes for this
season. The first one is location. The 12 competing chefs are living
in a house in the Hollywood Hills while competing in Los Angeles
based challenges. The 2nd involves Giada De Laurentiis.
She is on board as “mentor” for the chefs. This is the biggest flaw
of the show so far. She should be giving out constructive criticism
instead of just looking good on camera.
The padded season premiere had the chefs create
a chicken and potato dish that reflected who they were from a
culinary perspective. They also had to write and act in their show
promo and create a six course meal for Wolfgang Puck and the
selection committee. The 2nd and 3rd episodes
had “Ace of Cakes” star Duff Goldman and 2nd season
winner Guy Fieri assist the selection committee by participating in
challenges. There was a lot more to like this season. The producers
have toned back on the drama and focused on the cooking. And the
judging has been spot on. The three chefs eliminated as of this
writing, Alexis Hernandez, Doreen Fang and Dzintra Dzenis, deserved
to go home. You never tell a contestant to shut up as Dzintra did by
telling fellow chef Aria to “shhh” while co-presenting at a post
Grammy party featuring Colbie Caillat.
formula still works and I hope the judging continues to be
consistent. If it does, we are going to get a solid addition to
the Food Network lineup. My grade for the show so far: B-.
The other major premiere on the Food Network
was not as successful. “Cupcake Wars” is basically “Chopped” with a
mixing bowl and icing. Four teams of bakers compete for a prize of
$10,000 and the chance for their winning cupcakes to be showcased at
a major event such as a George Lopez golf tournament or SeaWorld’s
Justin Willman is an awful host who brings zero
hosting chops to the table. The judges Candace Nelson (owner of
Sprinkles Cupcakes) and Florian Bellanger (chef and co-owner of
online macaroon company MadMac) are competent, but they don’t stand
Xerox fumes are very strong here. Fans of shows like “Ace of
Cakes” and “Food Network Challenge” will like this show, but this
brings nothing new to the table. My grade is C-.
Next up is one of the biggest disappointments
of the summer. “Late Night Liars” recently premiered on GSN. This
Muppet Alternative/GSN collaboration is hosted by comedian Larry
Miller. The concept: pick out which one of four “celebrity puppets”
is either lying or telling the truth. The puppets are clones or very
close representatives of celebrities we know. Shelley Oceans is a
dead ringer for Joan Rivers. William A. Mummy is a raconteur/playboy
using a Paul Lynde-like voice. Cashmere Ramada is a pink dog puppet
who acts a lot like Paris Hilton and/or Lindsay Lohan. Finally there
is Sir Sebastian Simian, a British Record Executive who looks like
Elton John but sounds like Simon Cowell. The announcer is simply
known as The Weasel.
What they tried to do is recapture the 1970s
vibe of shows like “Liar’s Club” and “Match Game”. Unfortunately for
the viewers, the execution left a lot to be desired. The reasons why
shows like this worked is that the humor was organic. The humor here
is so in your face that it may turn viewers away from the show, not
towards it. Larry Miller seems so bored. He does not look like he
wants to be there.
The game play is an afterthought here. The
whole show just doesn’t make sense.
really wanted to like this show. But unfunny humor and a lack of
competent game play makes this a big D for me.
Speaking of unfunny, let’s talk about “Last
Comic Standing” on NBC. Craig Robinson of “The Office” and “Hot Tub
Time Machine” hosts this dreck. Comics across the country compete in
front of judges
Greg Giraldo, Natasha
Leggero, and Andy
Kindler for the chance to win a development contract with
the NBC network,
and a television special first to air on the cable-TV
Central and later on the cable network Bravo.
There are two things I don’t like about LCS.
The first is Craig Robinson. He is brutally awful as host. He is
unfunny. The second is the selection of comics. When watching the
show you see people like Guy Torry and Rachel Feinstein. They have
been on the circuit for years and are not comics who need a break.
The smell of nepotism and giving comedian friends a break is still
there in a big way.
didn’t like the comedy, the hosts, the judges or the concept. This
one is another D for me.
Next up is “Top Shot”, a shooting competition
on the History Channel. Colby Donaldson of Survivor hosts this show
where 16 shooters compete for $100,000 and the title of Top Shot.
There are some things to like about this show.
The drama here is minimal as the shooters are here to play. And I
liked the integration of the historical significance of the guns
used in each shooting challenge.
The production left a little to be desired as
there was a huge reliance on the super slo-mo exploding targets.
Colby Donaldson does not distinguish himself well as he is relied
too much on being like Jeff Probst as host. He should have brought
his own personality and style to the table instead of trying to be a
That being said this is a fun show that I will catch again. My
grade is B-.
Another Xerox Clone is Bravo’s “Work of Art”,
produced by Sarah Jessica Parker. A group of artists come to New
York to compete for $100,000 and an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.
The big problem here is that EVERY element from
Project Runway has been transferred to this show. From the hip New
York apartment, to the really cool workspace, to the overseeing
expert judge Simon De Pury, to the camera angles during the
challenges, there is nothing here that is original.
you like art and Project Runway, you will like this. Otherwise, I
am passing out from the Xerox fumes here. My grade is C.
Finally we get to “Downfall”. This Scott St.
John production is hosted by WWE Wrestler/Fozzy frontman Chris
Jericho. The concept: various levels of prizes are placed on a
conveyor belt depending on what level of the money tree you have.
This is the money tree:
Round 1 - $5,000
(4/10 questions right)
Round 2 - $10,000(5/10 questions
Round 3 - $25,000(6/10 questions
right - MILESTONE LEVEL)
Round 4 - $50,000(7/10 questions
Round 5 - $100,000(8/10 questions
Round 6 - $250,000(9/10 questions
Round 7 - $1,000,000(10/10 questions
If you pass on a
question, the belt moves faster. You can hit the “panic button”
twice which stops the belt before the money drops. When you hit the
panic button you can either place a “panic partner” or a prized
possession on the belt. The “panic partner” can help you during
his/her round by assisting with the questions but the contestant has
to give the answer.
There are a ton
of non-original moments of game play here. You can see elements of
Millionaire, the bonus round of Million Dollar Password, Russian
Roulette, and Trashed. The rooftop set is one of the most unique
things ever seen on TV. But there were way too many times during the
show when the camera shot cut away from the quiz part of the game,
to emphasize the prizes dropping off the 100 foot precipice from
different angles in super-slo-mo.
The best part of
the show is Chris Jericho. I admit to being a little biased having
been a fan of Chris Jericho for over 20 years in and out of the
wrestling ring. He really feels comfortable up there and was able to
improv with the contestants. When he truly retires from the WWE, he
has a future in hosting. He was the best thing in Fuse’s Redemption
Song, and he is a star in the making.
The show itself is paced too slow,
but Jericho is pretty awesome. My overall grade – C+.
Last year, I
told you about Watson an IBM Natural Language processing
Supercomputer that was being prepped to play Jeopardy. Rumors are
swirling that it is ready to go against live televised competition
this fall. According to trends website PSFK for the past 3
years IBM has been perfecting this supercomputer which has the
ability to converse naturally with people in everyday language,
unlike typical question-answering systems that can only work with
simply phrased questions.
IBM scientists have stored millions of pieces of data in Watson in
order for it to answer questions about almost anything, and more
significantly, recognize oddly phrased questions to answer them with
accurate responses. To test its capabilities, the scientists held
mock contests pitting Watson against some of the former contestants
in a game where Watson’s artificial intelligence was pushed to the
limit due to the nature of the game where clues are puzzling, full
of trivia and often use wordplay. Watson won some of the games which
impressed the producers of Jeopardy enough to allow it to
participate in a televised episode of the show which could happen
It would be really cool to play against it in a
practice game, but I am guessing Harry Friedman has people like Ken
Jennings and Brad Rutter in mind to play against Watson on TV. The
TV ratings will be huge for this one game showdown.
I am a huge fan of Betty White but when she is wrong, she is wrong.
Promoting Hot in Cleveland, she went on The View. She was asked why
the game show 'Million Dollar Password' didn't make it. White
replied that it was the perfect game show but the younger generation
couldn't seem to keep up with the game. According to her the
producers wanted the younger people on the show but unfortunately
they have become overly dependent on computers and are not able to
think on their feet.
Betty White is so wrong on this. The reason why
the show didn’t succeed was that the re-formatted version strayed
too far away from the classic show it was based on. Michael Davies
and Fremantle tinkered with the format and made it too flashy.
She should know better. I had the honor and
pleasure of meeting Ms. White at a Game Show Congress. If she had
the time she would have seen a then 11 yr old Madeline Suchard play
different games and beat most of the adults there. This was a pre
cursor to her winning over $20,000 on Jeopardy.
It is not about the age of the player, it is
about the game. Nickelodeon has tapped into that market with “BrainSurge”.
The HUB is using Family Game Night to train the next generation of
game players. When Betty White trashes the youth of today, she is
also trashing the next generation of potential game show superstars.
No matter how beloved she is, she is wrong and made a mistake on
Millionaire trial has begun in California. Speaking of Millionaire,
Chris Tarrant told the UK Sun of some serious format changes in the
UK version that will begin shooting this summer. Tarrant
confirmed that contestants will soon be forced to play against the
clock when attempting to secure lower cash values in the show's
early stages. The shake-up is a significant change as participants
have always been granted as much time as they like to answer
questions. In a further twist, Phone-A-Friend helpers will start
appearing on screen rather than simply being heard over the phone.
And Sri Lanka has its own version coming soon.
--Channel 4 is planning another season of the
Million Pound Drop. And Fox is considering a US version of the show.
--Broadcasting and Cable is reporting that Say
It Now, a live talk show with Valerie Bertinelli is one of the
contenders to fill the slot now taken up by As the World Turns.
--Have a Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato or Greyson
Chance in your house? They can now audition for American Idol as the
minimum age has been lowered to 15 for next season. And more
audition cities and dates have been announced. They are:
--Nashville: July 17
--Milwaukee: July 21
--New Orleans: July 26
--East Rutherford: August 3
--Austin: August 11
--San Francisco: August 19
--In a move that shocked no one, Jake and
Vienna from the Bachelor’s relationship is done.
--Ellen DeGeneres will be writing a new book in
--Rumors are flying that Season 8 of Project
Runway returns August 29th with a spinoff called On The
Road With Austin & Santino.
--Kellie Pickler is engaged.
--The Price is Right is auditioning in
Cleveland. And the Wheelmobile heads to Fargo. The Wheel is also
taping 6 weeks of shows in Vegas starting next month for its new
--Let’s Make a Deal starts taping for Season 2
on July 9th in Los Angeles.
--The Daytime Emmys are this Sunday from Las
--Yet another contestant claims that the
Biggest Loser is “dangerous” to people. Kai Hibbard, a finalist on
the third season of 'The Biggest Loser,' reveals how dangerous she
feels the show really is to its contestants. "I have people that
come up to me and talk to me and ask me why they can't lose 12
pounds in a week when I did. When I didn't. It didn't happen. It's
TV," she told the CBS 'Early Show.' "I need to take blame and
responsibility for the fact that I helped perpetuate a myth that's
When asked to clarify about her "a week is not a week on TV"
comments, she said, "I'm saying that it would be, most times, longer
than a week and I believe once, in my season, it was less than a
week." (Contestants weigh-in on the show every week to determine who
may get voted off.) Hibbard also claims that the techniques they
were taught to lose weight weren't always healthy. "The weight loss
for that show is for ratings. People have to remember that 'The
Biggest Loser' isn't a weight-loss camp that happens to be filmed
for TV. It's a TV show that's made to look like a weight-loss camp.
So there was pressure from production and everybody involved in the
show to make sure you had as big of numbers as possible every week.
--Details are leaking about the syndicated
version of Don’t Forget the Lyrics. According to Hollywoodjunket.com,
contestants will play for the following money amounts: $1000,
$2,500, $5,000, $10,000, and a special category called “Encore” that
allows them to play for $50,000. Crooners are equipped with only one
“backup” for their help which is multiple choice lyrics. If a
contestant misses the first level lyric, they are not out of the
game, but they lose their “Encore” option.
If a player goes all the way to the “Encore” level, they risk
falling back down to $1000 which is what they walk away with should
they miss this final and complex lyric. If a contestant misses any
one of the levels, they get the chance to double the last money
level they achieved. For instance, if a player goes for the $10,000
lyric, but misses it, they automatically get a chance to double the
$5000 that they already earned instead of playing for the “Encore”
level which they lose.
The songs are played to the contestant via “MySpace Karaoke”, axing
Rickey Minor and his band who performed on the larger prime time
production. The theme song has also been replaced.
--“The World’s Wackiest Game Shows” debuts July
13th on the Travel Channel with host Todd Newton.
--NBC Orders 21 more episodes of “Minute to Win
--The contestants for “Bachelor Pad” are
--PETA is trying to sign up 1000 new members to
their organization by July 31, and the former game show host will
match all donations over $16. And if you are already a member, Bob
will match your donations until July 4.
--Simon Fuller is out of the running for CKX
--Family Game Night and Season 2 of Baggage are
--Ken Jennings defends the game show genre in a
great editorial in the New York Daily News. It is located at
--John O’Hurley guest voices on Spongebob
--DL Hughley hosts a game show pilot called
“Who’s Bluffing Who?”
--In E3 news, new versions of “Hollywood
Squares” and “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” are in the pipeline.
Jason Block's season is over, but he'll be back in the summer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.