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Hot Fun in the Summertime... on TV, That Is
June 24

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This is another catch-up edition, as I was in LA again last week...on business. As soon as I can let you in on it...I will let you know. I promise you guys. Anyway, this first item hits home for me. The College Bowl Company has suspended operations. As per their press release on their webpage at "After 31 years of collaboration with the Association of College Unions International (ACUI), the College Bowl Company is suspending the College Bowl campus program, effective immediately. College Bowl will no longer produce question packets for campus, regional, and national competitions.

While the program experienced periods of growth throughout its history, costs to maintain the program have increased. Although changes were made to offset the increasing expenses and avoid raising the price for campus participation, the program can no longer sustain itself.

"Its history and longevity are a testimony to the positive influence College Bowl has had on students and the campus community. College Bowl is proud of having established and popularized academic competition," College Bowl Company president Richard Reid said. "In its current form College Bowl is no longer effective, but the future holds bright promise."

ACUI executive director Marsha Herman-Betzen said, "While I am sad to see this important program come to an end, I certainly understand the realities and economics of producing a program like College Bowl. And while this will leave an initial programmatic gap for our regions, I believe this change provides an opportunity to try new ideas."

The Honda Campus All-Star Challenge celebrates its 20th anniversary March 26-30, 2009 in Orlando, Fla. and continues to be an invaluable part of the Historically Black College and University community. ACUI will continue to play a major role in that program as an educational partner."

This is HUGE news. As you know, College Bowl was one of the first shows to spotlight educational quizzes in the 1950's and spurned many spinoffs, including It’s Academic and University Challenge on the BBC. And College Bowl has been the place where literally hundreds and hundreds of game show contestants and fans were born.

So, take a moment to mourn the loss of College Bowl. Let us hope that College Bowl can come back as soon as possible.

Here’s an update on the Poker Situation at GSN. Courtesy of the Hollywood Reporter: How often does a network cancel its highest-rated show?

Fearful poker fans are betting cable channel GSN (formerly Game Show Network) is running out of time to renew two of its most popular series, "High Stakes Poker" and "World Poker Tour." Typically by this time of year, the shows would be in production on their next seasons. But since the exit of president and CEO Rich Cronin last year and installation of former Universal Television group head David Goldhill, more than a dozen GSN staffers have left the channel and some speculate that the poker shows may be next to get the axe.

The renewal delay has caused poker publications and blogs in recent weeks to declare "High Stakes" dead and "WPT" in jeopardy since both are near the end of their pickup windows. In March, GSN reportedly canceled game show "Lingo," its fourth highest-rated show in the coveted adults 18 to 49 demo.

According to GSN, such reports are premature. Various options are still being weighed, a spokesman said, and no decision has yet been made. The network was supposed to make a call on "WPT" by Saturday, but the network and WPT are expected to release a joint statement Monday to assure shareholders of WPT Enterprises that that the parties are still in talks.

Theories vary about the network's lack of enthusiasm toward the shows. The poker series are too expensive, goes one. Goldhill wants to steer GSN away from his predecessor's interest in the poker genre and toward traditional game shows, goes another.

"High Stakes" commentator Gabe Kaplan, currently playing cards in Las Vegas as the World Series of Poker gets underway, said the fate of the poker shows is the talk of the tables.

"Everybody is surprised and nobody knows why this is happening, really," Kaplan said. "('High Stakes') is all everybody talks about here, because it's the show that all the players watch."

As on Kaplan's show, the stakes are indeed high. Among adults 18 to 49, the one-hour "High Stakes" is GSN's top-rated show (averaging 117,000 viewers in the demo). The recent fourth-season was its best yet, jumping 20% in the demo. The two-hour "WPT" is averaging sixth in its current debut season on the network (111,000).Among total viewers, the shows are less successful on GSN, a network that tends to skew older: "WPT" ranks seventh (averaging 349,000 viewers) and "High Stakes" is 28th.(306,000).

"WPT" and "High Stakes" are among the few survivors of the early 21st century poker phenomenon that inspired numerous basic cable and broadcast programs, as well as several feature films. The tournament-based "WPT" helped spearhead the poker boom when it launched on the Travel Channel in 2003. Last year, the show jumped networks to GSN after Travel decided to distance itself from off-brand poker programming.

"High Stakes" was a relative latecomer to the genre, but introduced televised cash games where poker pros risk up to hundreds of thousands per hand of their own money instead of playing in a traditional tournament. GSN owns the rights to "High Stakes," so it's unclear if producer Poker Prods. would be able to shop the show to other networks. The company also produces NBC's "Poker After Dark," which plans to try out a couple "High Stakes"-style cash games in mid-July.

"These networks took a chance for poker and put it in the mainstream," said Poker Prods. CEO Mori Eskandani. "If they decide with the new CEO and their new direction that poker is not really working, that it has no cross promotional value, then I respect that."

Another update on the activism of Bob Barker. According to the Daily Breeze: Animal rights advocates unveiled a billboard campaign in support of a state bill that would require most cats and dogs to be spayed or neutered.

The California Healthy Pets Act, authored by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D- Van Nuys, California, would require cats and dogs ages 6 months or older to be fixed. Pet owners who fail to have their animals spayed or neutered could be fined $500.

Animals that are used to compete, work with law enforcement agencies or herd livestock would be exempt from the proposed state law.

"To euthanize those 500,000 pets costs taxpayers in the state of California $250 million, at a time when here the state is virtually on its knees as far as the economy is concerned," said retired game show host Bob Barker, a longtime animal rights activist.

Earlier this year, the city of Los Angeles enacted an ordinance that requires most dogs and cats to be fixed by the time they are 4 months old.

As you know or may not know, I am a cat lover. But this is DUMB. And GSN is in the thick of it. GSN, after the disaster of Cat-Minster, is going to team with Meow Mix to try to give one lucky cat owner $1,000,000. This is from the Business Wire press release:-Whose cat wants to be a millionaire? The Meow Mix® cat food brand today announces that one lucky feline, along with his or her pet parent, will have the opportunity for a million-dollar payday on "The Meow Mix® Game Show"—the world’s first game show to test how well people can think like their cat. The thirty-minute program, in which cats and their humans will compete as a team, will air on Game Show Network (GSN) on November 15, 2008.

"Meow Mix has always understood what makes cats happy, and our goal with ‘The Meow Mix Game Show’ is to pass this knowledge along to Meow Mix’s pet parents," said Brian Ely, Director Marketing, Del Monte Foods. "We did this last year when we opened The Meow Mix Acatemy—the world’s first school to teach people how to think like a cat—and now we’re giving pet parents and their cats the chance to show off how well they understand each other, and in the process win a lot of money for themselves and for charity. Both the Acatemy and ‘The Meow Mix Game Show’ are key ways that Del Monte Pet Foods is enhancing the emotional connection between pet and pet parents with innovative products and marketing."

"The Meow Mix® Game Show" will put a cat-centric twist on classic game shows like "The Newlywed Game" and "Jeopardy". Parents will be quizzed on general feline knowledge—covering categories such as nutrition, behavior, anatomy and the role of cats in pop culture—as well as interactive challenges where cats and pet parents must work together to be successful.

"GSN is excited about integrating our customers’ advertising message and brand attributes into programming," said John Zaccario, GSN Senior Vice President of Advertising Sales. "’The Meow Mix Game Show’ partnership leverages GSN’s television and digital platforms to achieve maximum impact with our audience. We are thrilled to be working with Del Monte and their Meow Mix brand. They demonstrate a talent to think creatively and embrace new ways to engage audiences."

Upon completion of the regulation rounds, the team with the most points will have the opportunity to take part in a television first—the chance for a cat parent and his or her cat to win one million dollars—as well as $100,000 for a feline-related charity in their community. Even if the team doesn’t hit the million-dollar jackpot, the winning team will still take home $25,000—plus $2,500 will be donated to their local feline charity. The second-place team will win $15,000 (in addition to a $1,500 donation to their local feline charity) and the third-place team will receive $10,000 (as well as a $1,000 donation to their local feline charity). In addition, all finalists will win a year’s supply of new Meow Mix® Wholesome Goodness™ cat food.

Cat-testants will be selected through auditions held in eights cities, beginning in Chicago on June 14, 2008 and concluding in Los Angeles on August 3, 2008. One team from each city will be flown to Los Angeles to compete on the show, which will tape in late August. Meow Mix® brand will partner with a local shelter in each market and donate one pound of Meow Mix® Wholesome Goodness™ cat food for every team that auditions. will also feature video highlights from the auditions online where viewers can log on to vote on their favorite clip. The winning clip will go on to be featured on GSN Live™.

An American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative will be present at the auditions, as well as the game show taping, to monitor the well-being of all of the cats participating in the show. In addition, Steve Dale, a member of the American Humane Association Board, as well as host of a popular pet radio show and author of a nationally syndicated column on pets, is serving as a consultant to the show.

"The Meow Mix Game Show" was created by Grand Central Marketing, the company that previously developed "The Meow Mix House™," a 2006 reality show starring 10 shelter cats, and the Meow Mix Café®, a restaurant for cats and their humans. The Executive Producer is David Doyle, the former vice president of program development and production for Animal Planet, where he was instrumental in the development of such shows as "The Puppy Bowl" and "The World’s Ugliest Dog Competition". As lead agency for Meow Mix®, TracyLocke developed the "Think Like a Cat" concept to serve as the first extended platform for the Meow Mix® brand and serves as the strategic integrator for all facets of the program.

Pet parents can visit for more information and to learn how they, and their cats, can audition for the show.

I don’t think is going to be the cat’s meow...I think this is going to be a cat-astrophe.

his news is pretty cool to a gamer and a member of XBOX Live...According to Kotaku, a new social gaming channel is coming to Xbox LIVE, one that looks to be another attempt from Microsoft to target the casual gaming crowd with "programmatic, highly concurrent social interactive games." That's the long way of saying "game shows" as Xbox LIVE versions of Jeopardy! and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? appear to be coming to the "SBG Channel."

Leaked information that pointed to an Avatars system coming to Xbox 360 and games like Lips and Forza Motorsport 3 also dishes details on the SBG Channel. The channel is said to also feature "concepts" in the "Trivia, Reality, Puzzles and Sports" genres with live events and plans to feature real-world and virtual prizes.

Interesting Pilot news now: Fox Television Studios (FTVS) is prepping to shop to the networks a new family game show called Family Trust, and it recently shot a pilot in Santiago, Chile.

The format features families of five advanced a $1 million trust that they can keep or lose by working together to choose subject categories from which they must answer questions. Wrong answers mean money gets subtracted from their account. But they get a chance to double what they have left at the end of the show. The pilot was hosted by noted comedian and writer Greg Fitzsimmons, who has written for shows such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Lucky Louie.

"It's almost like an interview show where there is a game going on," Fitzsimmons said. "The interaction within the family is really the story. The money and the game are almost secondary to getting to know the family and watching me needle them about themselves and each other."

The show was produced in conjunction with Chilean-based EFE3 (Efetres), which is co-owned by actor Cristian de la Fuente, who appears on USA Network's new drama In Plain Sight and was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.It was co-created by Tom Brunelle and Matt Gaven, who also executive-produced under Gaven's development deal with the studio.

FTVS was originally going to shoot the pilot in Argentina but moved it to Chile for economic reasons. The studio continues to pursue other co-productions in South America to be sold internationally as well as in the United States.

I have to mention this next one...and again it has to deal with The Next Food Network Star 4. In the second episode, Nipa Bratt pitched what I would call...a toddler temper tantrum. During the evaluation, she said, "I can’t do this" and walked out. Now, if I were on the selection committee, I would have thrown her out on her behind...because she was doing something that was totally unprofessional. It’s an old saying, "If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." I wouldn't have cared, if everyone else served botulism laden fugu fish...she would have been gone.

But the committee kept her on and Kevin Roberts was eliminated. Now, I am going to call a bit of shenanigans here. I think she was kept on for "dramatic purposes" (insert your own interpretation of that here), as verse to cooking skills. And that is another reason why I think this show MAY be on it’s way to jumping the shark.

I start this next bit with a little bit of an apology. Last time, I gave you a preview of what is going to be on our TV starting a few weeks ago. Sorry to say, I missed a with the help of USA Today here are some shows that I missed during that recap:

Debuting on June 2, we had THE MOLE (on ABC). The concept is simple. Survive challenges and expose the person who is the saboteur (a/k/a THE MOLE). A favorite of some fans, this bombed ratings wise and looks like that THE MOLE may be exposed sooner rather than later.

Also on June 2, we had the debut of LEGALLY BLONDE, THE MUSICAL: THE SEARCH FOR ELLE WOODS (on MTV). Take whatever you saw on "Grease: You’re The One That I Want" and trash it. This show is going to be a hit, and I am pleasantly surprised. This show (produced and hosted by Haylie Duff) takes 10 candidates and puts them through their paces to see who will take over for Laura Bell Bundy. The reason this show works is the same reason why shows like "The Next Food Network Star" work. The judges are related to the show and not just celebrities off the street. They want a marketable star. This is going to be fun.

–On June 8th - DESIGN STAR (HGTV) debuted. Another show from the Scripps family. Season 3 brings 8 interior designers battling for their own designing show.

–June 24 - I SURVIVED A JAPANESE GAME SHOW (ABC) - Take 10 Americans, and show what happens when they appear on a Japanese Game Show. This could be fun.

–June 25 - THE BABY BORROWERS (NBC) I believe this is a British Concept come to America. Have teen couples have adult homes, jobs and "become parents" for three weeks. Could be a good form of birth control.

–July 17 - THE GONG SHOW (Comedy Central) - The classic comes back with Dave Attell as host. This one depends on execution. This one could be fun to watch.

I went over "Legally Blonde" in the earlier segment, but we had two other debuts on June 1st. "Million Dollar Password", the new version of the classic show is back on CBS and either you loved or hated it. It was the #3 show overall of the week, but as a was good, but not great.

In the first elimination round the celebrities and contestants – in this case Rachael Ray and Neil Patrick Harris - played a round robin round where you had to get 5 clues in 30 seconds. Who ever got more points got to play in the Million Dollar Round. And the celebrity in the bonus round is determined by who you got more points with. Not surprisingly, it was Neil Patrick Harris both times.

The Million Dollar Round is a money tree. Get the number of passwords in 90 seconds and win the cash. Let’s see the money tree shall we:







In the bonus round, you only have 3 shots at each word. And if you get to the $250,000 round. You can get to view the first 5 words before you choose to stop, or go forward, which you can after each round. And if you miss you have a safety net of $25,000...if you get there.

So, is it a hit? For me...a mild yes. I liked the money tree round, but the front round leaves a little something to be desired. A lot of people have said the front round is too fast, which is Ironic to me since we all have been bitching and moaning about how games are too slow. So overall, this was ok. And it was great to see Betty White again on Password.

The 2nd debut was a bit of comfort food for me. As I mentioned earlier, Bobby Flay and the gang are back for season 4 of "The Next Food Network Star." And almost 2M people cant be wrong, as the first episode was the highest debut episode...EVER. The show concept is simple...10 people of various backgrounds and skills compete for a spot on the Food Network.

The formula still works. When you see someone put uncooked pork as part of the beauty plate, you know you are in for a fun time. (Hello, Trichinosis!) This is still one of the best shows on TV, period. Glad to see you back guys.

Remember I told you about a bullied child who sang "Pie Jesu" on Britain’s Got Talent. Well Andrew Johnston didn’t win, but the eventual winner has a bit of a problem...detention. According to This is London, 14 year old George Sampson, the winner of the reality show Britain's Got Talent was facing an 80-minute detention after being repeatedly late for school - because of a string of appearances on breakfast TV and radio programs. 'I can't celebrate my win because I have detention,' he said. 'I've been been late for school by about ten minutes every day.

'They clocked up how many minutes I've missed. The school has sent a letter home saying I have to do 81 minutes in detention. I never get into trouble, but they won't let me off this.'

However, there was some consolation for George, 14, after he arrived at Birchwood High in Warrington, escorted by a driver and a school security man. He was given a standing ovation at morning assembly. Headmistress Anne Bright presented George with an umbrella bearing the school crest but then barked at him: 'Tuck your shirt in.'

Sampson, who won Saturday's show with his Singing in the Rain breakdancing act, took a mock GCSE music exam yesterday but admitted he was 'quite scared' about the result because he had spent most of his time working on his performance rather than studying.

The dancer, who is sitting 11 GCSEs, will take part in the Britain's Got Talent national tour featuring the ten finalists from the ITV show. He will perfect his act with Simon Cowell ahead of his performance in front of Prince Charles at the Royal Variety Performance later this year.

Sampson has vowed to use his new found success to pay off his devoted single mother's mortgage, buy a Volkswagen camper van and a summer house for the garden. The show could also provide him with the opportunity to patch up the relationship with his estranged father Brian.

Mr Sampson, who is a window fitter, admitted he has only seen his youngest child once in the past five years but is now hopeful of a reunion.

More than 14 million viewers tuned in to watch Sampson win Britain's Got Talent in a shock result. His break-dancing update of Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain routine won him most votes.

He beat favorites 12-year-old opera singer Faryl Smith, choirboy Andrew Johnston and glamorous classical group Escala.

We go from potential winners. More like potential media hoes. According to Newsday...A whole industry is quietly growing up to recruit "reality show" contestants, connect the talent with the shows and help the craftiest players figure out how to demolish their opponents.

"Every week, thousands of people audition for these shows," says Robert Galinsky, whose New York Reality TV School has guided contestants' machinations on "Top Chef," "Joe Millionaire" and "The Search for Next Pussycat Doll," among others. "It's difficult to even make the cut," he said. "But there are techniques you can learn that will vastly improve the odds you'll be cast for a show, then help you win and look great once you get there."

Galinsky is a veteran producer, performer and acting coach whose recent clients have included rapper (and fresh fire victim) 50 Cent. His Manhattan Monologue Slam has gotten downtown buzz and is on the way to the Islip Pavilion. But over the past year or so, his acting clients began asking for "reality show" advice.

There's now a five-week workshop and an intense one-day "reality TV" boot camp. Students make a submission tape, learn targeted acting techniques, consult with casting director Robert Russell and hear from the genre's new stars.

"I had to learn to be myself in a situation designed to intimidate," said Galinsky client (and now guest instructor) Jorge Bendersky of Animal Planet's "Groomer Has It." "That's important, learning to keep your cool, no matter what." But the rewards can be substantial. "I went in with a big mouth," Bendersky said. "I came out with a bigger voice." Added Coach Galinsky: "For the contestants who do well, these shows really are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." Oooook.

One person who didn’t need a reality coach, but maybe a tax accountant is Richard Hatch. According to the AP. "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch has appealed his tax evasion conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, his attorney said. Hatch was convicted two years ago of failing to pay taxes on the $1 million prize he won on the debut season of the hit CBS reality series. The Newport man was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

Hatch's lawyer, Michael Minns, has said his client confronted producers about cheating during taping of the show, and a producer promised his taxes would be paid if he kept quiet and went on to win the competition. CBS has said Hatch's claims have no merit.

In a brief filed with the Supreme Court on May 23, Minns argued the judge improperly prevented Hatch from testifying about the conversation. Minns also argued the judge unfairly limited his cross-examination of the tax accountant who prepared Hatch's tax returns and who was a key witness for the government.

"He's extremely optimistic about his appeal," Minns said. "He still believes the system should work." The U.S. Supreme Court takes up only a small number of the appeals it receives.

Minns also said Hatch was writing a book about "his experiences with the legal system and his disappointment not just with the problems that he suffered but with the problems other people have suffered that he has met."

Hatch also was convicted of evading taxes on his earnings as co-host of a Boston radio show and from rental properties. He was acquitted of seven fraud charges related to a charity he planned to open for troubled youth.

Let’s look into the crystal ball for the next few segments...first we go and get an inside look at the Deal or No Deal syndication taping...courtesy of

DEAL OR NO DEAL finally started taping its daytime, syndicated version last week. To adjust the show from prime time and into daytime, some changes have been made to make it a bit lighter and quicker. The first being, MODELS! Viewers will not hear a 26 unified "Hi Howie", but, only two ladies, Patricia Kara (#9), and Tameka Jacobs (#21) uphold the traditional host greeting.

Howie still hosts the show in full suit. In place of the gorgeous models are some real, non-camera shy folks picked as potential contestants. Only 22 cases and contestants are in play. A gold ball is dropped into a glass-enclosed "Deal Wheel" by Tameka while Patricia spins the wheel. Whatever number the ball falls on, correlates to the number of case/contestant is called down to play the game. Each person called down, does not have the benefit of having friends and family in attendance for moral support.

The case count is 5-5-4-2-2-1-1 with the two remaining cases left, one of which is the one the contestant either was given at the beginning of the show, or decided to trade out for another one. If a contestant choses to switch his or her case, their old case is given to the contestant he or she is switching with.

Also, all 22 contestants are kept for a 5-game run. That means, with the exception of contestants that are called down to play, they have a guaranteed five chances to get called. However, for the ones that are called, they are replaced with "alternates" (we spoke to one such alternate after the show) who play for the remaining of the five games. So, if "Joe Blow" gets called down for game number 4, then his alternate will play out the remaining of the five, which would be only one, game number 5. Contestants’ who don’t make it down to the stage, are kept in the show’s database to be considered for future shows (daytime and prime time alike).

I like this a LOT. I really do. This looks a lot of fun.

We have more news about the Dating Game/Newlywed Game revivals. According to the Hollywood Reporter) - GSN is readying 21st century versions of the popular 1970s classics "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game."

The cable channel, formerly known as Game Show Network, is casting hosts for pilot episodes, with full series orders looking likely. The new versions will incorporate modern elements, including online dating sites. Michael Davies ("Wife Swap," "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"), is set to executive produce both shows.

"They're much-loved shows, and we thought the time was right for a revival," said Jamie Roberts, senior vp programming at GSN. "We're pretty confident we'll get there and possibly put them to series for 2009." Though vintage repeats of "Newlywed" and "Dating" have aired on GSN for years (as well as a brief first-run syndication edition of "Newlywed" in the 1990s), this marks the first time the network has produced new versions.

The move comes on the heels of primetime broadcast revamps of CBS' "Password" and "The Price Is Right " on CBS, with NBC's "Family Feud" coming in the summer. The classic game shows fulfill two increasingly common television programming mandates: They're inexpensive and have pretested brands. GSN is going to experiment with a few new ideas during the development process to help modernize the shows.

For "Dating Game," the network is seeking to partner with an online dating site like to use a compatibility test that helps find worthwhile dates for the show's bachelors and bachelorettes. GSN also wants to have contestants be able to consult with best friends during the show about which date to select. Having occasional gay or lesbian contestants also has not been ruled out. On "Newlywed Game," GSN plans to add a showdown round where the winning young couple plays against an older couple who won a yesteryear "Newlywed" episode.

The network plans to finalize deals with hosts this week. Most of the current hosting candidates would bring more contemporary twists to the shows. "We're trying to find unusual candidates to take these shows and reinvent them," Roberts said.

So far, the game show revival on broadcast has produced uneven results. CBS' "Price Is Right Primetime" held its own on Friday nights in March, but then struggled when moved to Wednesdays in May. The debut of "Password" won its Sunday night time period but posted relatively modest numbers.

Producer Chuck Barris launched "The Dating Game" in 1965 and "The Newlywed Game" a year later. Both shows have been revived at least once. "Newlywed" was most recently remade for a syndicated version in 1996 hosted by original emcee Bob Eubanks. The original "Newlywed" series was considered somewhat risque and was one of the first shows to have offensive language bleeped out.

I am looking forward to see what Davies has in store for both shows.

And we have fall syndicated premiere dates to talk about. And this is from our friends from TV Week:

The countdown to the new syndication season is officially on. Following a relatively successful syndication season in 2007 that saw more series returning to than departing from the airwaves, distributors have locked down launch dates for the new crop of shows joining station schedules this fall—a wide mix of genres that has left industry experts scratching their heads as to who will wind up a winner.

Monday, Sept. 8, is the key date for syndicators next season, with the vast majority of rookie shows, ranging from NBC’s "Deal or No Deal" to Sony’s "Judge Karen," debuting that week and a slew of veteran players returning on that date as well. With marketing budgets down across the board at distribution companies and viewers’ attention spans continually getting shorter, studios will use the summer to unleash their promotional campaigns.

The consolidation of the syndicated TV marketplace has brought to an end to the days when syndicators could justify $15 million to $20 million launch campaigns that blanketed the media landscape. Viewer erosion has lowered the bar of syndicated program success from a 4.0 household rating a decade ago to a 1.0 rating today. Along with the falling ratings, marketing budgets shrank. Some launch campaigns for first-run series in recent years have cost as little as $1 million, according to syndication executives who asked not to be named.

Perhaps the highest-profile show to hit the syndication airwaves—and the one that carries the burden of the highest expectations—is NBC Universal’s syndicated version of prime-time hit "Deal or No Deal," which debuts Sept. 8.

"We’ve assembled an incredibly strong station lineup and created a dynamic promotional campaign to help launch ‘Deal’ in syndication," said Barry Wallach, president of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution. "With the show’s proven brand and Howie Mandel at the helm, our efforts this fall will focus on creating awareness that ‘Deal’ will now be on local stations five days a week."

Another big-brand game show entering the scene is "Trivial Pursuit: America Plays" from distributor Debmar-Mercury, set to debut Sept. 22 in more than 90% of the country. It’s backed by a huge promotional campaign with game maker Hasbro. "In partnering with Hasbro, we have every intention of taking this worldwide brand and making this the best possible show for television," said Ira Bernstein, Debmar-Mercury co-president. "Other new game shows we’ve seen in recent years have cut budgets, and that is clearly reflected when you watch the show. However, we have a contractual commitment with Hasbro that not only requires both of us to promote the show, but to put the dollars into the look and feel of the series that will add to the richness of the program."

Veteran shows "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" return with new episodes Sept. 8. Also due back that day is Disney-ABC Domestic Television’s "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

As for talk shows, CBS Television Distribution’s "Dr. Phil" spinoff "The Doctors" will debut Sept. 8, as will Warner Bros.’ "The Bonnie Hunt Show" and Meredith’s "Better."

Among veterans, series such as "Dr. Phil," "Ellen" and "Jerry Springer" and "Maury" will return with new episodes that week. The following week will see new seasons of sophomore "Steve Wilkos" and "Martha Stewart," also from NBC.

"As we did with ‘TMZ,’ we will use the summer to create and build upon awareness for the debut of ‘The Bonnie Hunt Show,’" said Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. "To compete in today’s first-run marketplace, a show must have a comprehensive marketing strategy, which is implemented months before the premiere and evolves throughout the year."

Within the court genre, three new shows are poised to hit the lineups this fall. Sony Pictures Television is premiering its new court show "Judge Karen" Sept. 8, the same day Program Partners court show "Family Court" debuts. Meanwhile, Warner’s "Judge Jeanine Pirro" premiere is locked in for Sept. 22.

Almost every veteran series in the category is coming back simultaneously, with "Judge Judy," "Judge Joe Brown," "Divorce Court," "Judge Alex," "Cristina’s Court" and "Judge David Young" all set to return Sept. 8.

In the off-net and off-cable genre, only one new sitcom strip will enter the fray: Debmar-Mercury’s "Tyler Perry’s House of Payne" begins its syndication run Sept. 22. A number of off-cable strips will be taking the stage, with "Punk’d" debuting Sept. 29 from Trifecta and Litton’s "Cribs," "Pimp My Ride" and "Storm Stories" all on the schedule for the week of Sept. 29.

On the weekly side, NBC’s new off-net shows "Monk" and "House" will enter the scene the weekend of Sept. 27, as will Twentieth’s runs of "Boston Legal." Disney’s "Desperate Housewives" debuts the weekend of Sept. 20.

Debmar-Mercury’s off-cable runs of "American Chopper" are slated to premiere the week of Sept. 22. Trifecta also will bring in its new acquisition "American Idol Rewind" to schedules the week of Sept. 22.

Disney is still pinning down a date for "Wizard’s First Rule," its attempt to revive the first-run fantasy genre; it’s likely to bow in late fall.

Is Idol in trouble? No...not ours...the one from our friends to the North. According to the Toronto Star...This year on Canadian Idol, the pressure is really on. Not just on the contestants – on the entire franchise.

The CTV talent showcase, which returns for a sixth season, is not the ratings juggernaut it once was. Despite all the screams in the John F. Bassett Theatre, ratings were down last season, just as they dipped this spring on American Idol. Viewership was especially down in big cities like Vancouver and Toronto, where some Idol episodes failed to crack the local Top 10 lists. More alarming to CTV and its advertisers has to be the exodus of younger viewers. When American Idol premiered, for example, the median viewer age was 33. Last season, it was 45.

Where did those younger viewers go? Always TV's most fickle audience, they've moved on, not just to other TV shows, but to YouTube, Guitar Hero and Grand Theft Auto. At one point last summer, frustrated executive producer John Brunton made the unusual plea for Torontonians to get behind their local singers. Brunton knows, as he explained this week, that Canadian Idol is not that different from Hockey Night in Canada.

"The ratings for the Stanley Cup playoffs aren't as high as they would be if there was a Toronto sports team in it," he says. The show is driven by viewer involvement. Idol needs Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal to rally behind a local singer in order to goose the ratings.

Then again, viewers in those cities may be distracted this summer by the flurry of reality programming flooding across the border, shows like Celebrity Circus, America's Got Talent, Celebrity Family Feud and I Survived a Japanese Game Show. Beyond that, CBC's coverage of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing will test Idol's staying power in August. With so much first run competition, this is not an idle – or perhaps an Idol – summer.

Canadian Idol, which routinely drew more than 2 million viewers per outing in previous years, was down to 1.3 to 1.6 million through July and August last season. CTV is responding by tinkering with the show, adding Juno-winner Jully Black to the mix as a mentor, critic and voice coach. The four judges – Sass Jordan, Farley Flex, Jake Gold and Zack Werner – will all be back, as will host Ben Mulroney, "fresh from his non-speaking supporting role in front of the House of Commons Ethics Committee," as Larry LeBlanc tweaked in his music industry newsletter earlier this year.

Fox is also talking about making changes next season, cutting the results show back to half an hour, allowing contestants to play more instruments, maybe even reducing Paula Abdul's medication.

There is a suddenly a whiff of vulnerability about Idol, although Mediaweek's "programming insider" Marc Berman cautions about getting too carried away with all the Idol obits. He points out that the recent Fox finale drew a whopping 31.66 million viewers. "There's still immense interest," said Berman, "and there's no reason to believe the Canadian version will fade to black anytime soon."

Still, hit shows tend to go down faster than they go up. Remember Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? That No. 1 show had a spectacular fall after ABC played it to death, flaming out in less than three seasons. Celebrity versions, increased jackpots – once that skid started there was no way even Regis could put on the brakes. After a two-episode tryout, CTV abandoned plans to spin off a weekly Canadian version.

With the broadcaster, which spent $1.7 billion to acquire the CHUM station group in 2006, investing millions on a makeover of another American hit – So You Think You Can Dance Canada – can it still afford an Idol that has hit its peak? CTV vice president of programming Ed Robinson admits it did not escape notice last season that the Canadian Idol audience numbers fell. The series is not cheap to produce, travelling to 10 cities again this season in search of new talent, with costly music rights clearances always an issue.

Still, Robinson believes the show can rebound and extend beyond this season. He's proud of the show and the homegrown innovations picked up by American Idol, such as letting competitors play guitars and other instruments. "They're borrowing from us," says Robinson.

Brunton, whose Insight Productions signs a year-by-year deal to produce the series, is confident that there are at least two more seasons in the show. He already has his eye on one young performer – who came all the way from London, England, to audition – he feels will be embraced by Torontonians.

Veteran music industry observer LeBlanc, however, wonders whether Canada can sustain an annual nation-wide music talent search. "I watched last season and cringed," says LeBlanc, who was not impressed with some of the finalists. He questions whether the Canadian talent pool is deep enough. "Is there not a rising young entertainer in Canada that has truly not tried out for this show by this point?" he asks. "They almost would be better off taking the show off the air for two or three years and then coming back with a new crop of artists."

Brunton says he used to worry about that, but now feels there has been a shift in the type of people coming out for auditions (some for the first time via online submissions). Last summer's winner, Hamilton, Ont.-native Brian Melo, 26, gave the show more of an alt-rock edge, he feels, inspiring all the garage bands and singer/songwriters he and the judges have seen this season. Brunton says it's the best talent lineup "since Season Two." They better be, says LeBlanc, who notes that there is a great deal of cynicism about the career sustainability of Canadian Idol winners, especially in the media. "Who are the five losers who have already won?" is the typical media take, LeBlanc suggests.

Expecting Canadian Idol winners to become pop stars is unrealistic, says LeBlanc, who cites the high cost and long odds of launching a pop music career. Besides, we're a nation of rockers and folkies, not pop stars, he says, echoing Brunton's take that the show's future lies in a different musical direction. "Will I be watching? Yes," says LeBlanc. "To be honest, I enjoy it. You see some of the crazy people at the beginning, tune out in the middle weeks, and come back at the very end." And if a Toronto kid is still standing in September as the sixth Canadian Idol winner, you can bet there will be a seventh.

We knew that Gabon would be an interesting location for the next Survivor. But Jeff Probst told the Associated Press that the upcoming season of "Survivor" has already hit a few snags.

"Survivor: Gabon Earth's Last Eden" has been plagued with several preproduction problems, Probst said. The dilemmas for the 17th season of the CBS reality show, which begins filming in Africa later this month, range from encroaching animals to slow shipments.

"Our shipping has been really delayed," Probst said. "One aspect of 'Survivor' that is different from a lot of shows is that we have to ship throughout the season, and we're about 30 days behind now, which is a major problem. We're going to be fine on the show, but the crew housing is not there. We're going to be in tents."

Other than the habitation hindrance, Probst also said a crane had fallen over and a cargo hold containing about $100,000 worth of food had gone missing. The lumber used for building props and set pieces for challenges and Tribal Council, however, had safely arrived. Probst said the "Survivor" crew was also having an issue with something that was already present: wildlife.

"We have a danger problem with animals that we're trying to figure out how to handle," the "Survivor" host said. "There's so much truly wild life out there, we're not sure what to do. We don't want the animals around for a safety reasons, but we'd love to have a hippo sneak in every so often. I just got a call from our executive producer that we've got hippo tracks at base camp."

"Survivor: Gabon," which will feature 18 castaways living in the wilderness in the West African country, will be filmed in high-definition and is slated to premiere in the fall. It's the first time the competitive reality series has returned to Africa since its Kenya-set third season. Probst said he doesn't think the snafus will halt production.

"These things for us usually have a way of turning into good things," he said.

So, let’s get to the random newsbits shall we?

–Condolences go out to the family of Mitch Mullany of "All American Girl" who died at 39, from a stroke related to diabetes.

--Sony Pictures has completed its purchase of 2waytraffic

–Vin De Bona gets the American License to the Japanese hit "Masquerade"

–The Singing Office debuts June 29th.

–The 2009 edition of Millionaire heads to your Mobile Phone.

–Britain’s Top Gear Host Richard Hammond is producing and hosting a 26 episode science based game show for kids on BBC1 and CBBC.

–Broyhill becomes a corporate sponsor for "Your Place or Mine"

–Caroline Rhea of The Biggest Loser talks impending motherhood

–Bret Michaels talks up his new CD

–David Archuleta has concert issues in his hometown,

–Ed McMahon may lose his home due to lack of payments,

–"Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" is holding auditions for it’s new class,

–Chris Tarrant shoots a pilot for a British Version of Match Game

–Wayne Brady talks up his busy schedule.

–Condolences go out to the family of Tim Russert, who passed away last Friday.

–Celebrity Family Feud releases the Families and moves up the show to June 24.

-- "Nashville Star" will expand from its current 90-minute format and will instead air two-hour episodes from 9-11 p.m. for the next two weeks.

– The Prize in High School Musical: Summer Session has been increased. In addition to being in the video for the final credits of the movie, the winner will also receive an exclusive talent hold agreement with ABC and a recording contract for two singles with Walt Disney Records, one of which will be a version of the song from the music video. Yay.

–The dresses for the season premiere of Deal or No Deal will be auctioned off for Charity.

–"Idol Gives Back" will be awarded the first "Reality Innovator Award" on July 31, by NATPE.

–Jillian Michaels of the Biggest Loser will release Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2009 for the Wii Fit.

–John Davidson plays in Chicago in a local production in New Jersey.

–"Hole In The Wall" heads to the UK.

-- Corie Henson has been named vice president of Alternative Series and Specials, ABC Entertainment.

--The American Federation of Musicians has filed a federal lawsuit against the producers of "American Idol," claiming musicians were underpaid because the show’s live music was re-recorded for reruns.

–Bravo’s Final Season of Project Runway debuts July 16.

–In a surprise, Cash Cab wins the Emmy for Best Game Show. Shocking no one, Alex Trebek wins the Best Game Show Host Emmy.

–Trivial Pursuit: America Plays is casting for questions all across the country...

–1 v. 100 is dropped in Australia., so has Temptation. But the 1 v. 100 format is on cells in the UK.

–Nicole Richie wants you to be a reality star...

–Top Chef is spinning off a junior edition...and that’s a great idea. Kids in the kitchen rule.

–Brody Jenner wants you to be his BFF in an MTV 6 episode show.

–Endemol sells a bunch of formats all over Eastern Europe...and sells Wipeout to Australia.

–Channel 4 is shooting a pilot of a new version of the UK Classic the Crystal Maze.

–Matt Grant has moved out of Shayne Lamas’s anyone shocked that another Bachelor romance has gone down in flames?

–Vonzell Solomon of American Idol was detained for carrying an unloaded handgun in an airport.

–VH1 wants to find the latest Hollywood Scream Queen in a new reality show.

–Hell’s Kitchen: The Video Game is on the release schedule.

–Monta Mino of Japan sets a world record of being on 22 hours and 15 minutes of live tv appearances in one week!

–Sharon Osbourne quits the X Factor...

– and Nashville Star gets it’s own XM Radio Show on XM Channel 16....

Lots of Stuff...and we are out of time. For the Block Party, this is Jason Block saying, Don’t Just play to win.

Jason Block needs a week to rest on his laurels after "going to work". E-mail him at