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Summer's Almost Over... Fall's About to Begin
September 1

Also available as a podcast. Click to listen!

Sorry I wasn’t around last week as I had some personal business to take care of...but we have a lot of news to catch up on. We start off with the big changes at West 66th Street as “Who Wants to be A Millionaire” has started taping it’s new season. And we have a lot of changes to report.

- The unlimited time limit for answering questions.
- The 50/50 Lifeline
- The Switch the Question Lifeline
- A totally new graphics package (which looks really really good)
- A Category Menu Preview of each question called the “Millionaire Menu”.
- A Time Limit per question (not unlike “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” Play It”) which works like this: Questions one through five – 15 seconds per question, Questions 6-10, 30 seconds per question, and 11-14 you get 45 seconds per question. If you get to the million dollar question, you get 45 seconds PLUS all the unused time from the first 14.
- The Double Dip Lifeline (which allows you to answer twice–but you must commit to answering the question)
- Ask The Expert (not unlike the Three Wise Men Lifeline from Super Millionaire) which comes into effect at the $2,000 Level. In a partnership with Skype, the expert comes into the studio via via video phone and helps the contestant. And the first two experts have been announced as Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Ogi Ogas, the $500,000 Millionaire winner and Grand Slam Finalist.
- The Phone A Friend will have a photo, name and hometown of the friend as well.

Michael Davies of course has a positive opinion about these changes: “All of these add up to only a little change for the show, but they each add a dramatic impact to what viewers will see,” ‘Millionaire’ remains a classy show because of these additions,” he added, “and it really got good again. Already contestants have won more money through this point of our tapings than I can remember having before, and other countries airing the show already want to add these changes into their own versions as well.”

Now, I am going to take a wait and see attitude about these changes. Some of these changes sound pretty cool. The graphics package looks great, and I like the lifelines that they have come back with. But the time limit bank is something that I have to see in action. And of course, in a self-serving way, I would love to be an Expert. This is the biggest makeover of a successful game show in a long time. If the execution holds, Millionaire will be on the air for a long time to come.

Talking about changes in a bad way...let’s go to Deal or No Deal. We need to back track a bit...on the live season finale of “Last Comic Standing”, Howie Mandel “let slip” that someone won the $1 Million Dollar Grand Prize during the latest Million Dollar Mission of the new fall season. And then ironically enough, less than 24 hours later...NBC had a press release promoting that same fact.

And after THAT, there was a PROMO video stating that fact.
A little message to Mr. St. John. Do you have ANY clue how to create drama anymore? This SCREAMS of desperation. Your ratings are pretty good...and you have the new syndicated show coming out on September 8th. And besides...I do not consider whatever win that comes from the Million Dollar Mission a “real win”.
The only win that would be legitimate to me if there was ONE million dollar case and they pick it, and hold onto it all the way. Anything else is an asterisk win. Adding cases to the game affects game play...pure and simple.
Sorry, Scott. Do you really think the ratings are going to stay high once we actually SEE a Million Dollar win? Nope, don’t think so. They are going to go down.

To NBC, Scott St. John and all the members of the Deal or No Deal Staff...this was a classically bad move...and I am hoping and praying this bites you in the rear end.

Next show with news is “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” We have the new class announced and we have a lot of celebrities coming into the classroom for charity including Kathy Ireland, Georgia State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox, Star Jones, Jennie Garth, Gene Simmons, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jack Hanna and Dean Cain. But the more interesting celebs include Ken Jennings, Robert “Hoot” Gibson (an astronaut) and Nobel Prize Laureate George Fitzgerald Smoot III.
Just a question for the casting coordinators...any real people left? I think that the reliance on celebrities (even KJ) is a bad thing. Especially when you are trying to promote this as a 5 day a week strip show in Fall 2009.

Remember the big to do over the Carol Volderman departure from Countdown...well ANYONE...and I mean anyone can be her replacement. According to multiple sources, Channel 4 is approaching top colleges and Mensa for candidates for an “unknown math whiz. There is going to be a screen test and a math test. They are also considering an on-air tribute in December to celebrate her 26 years on the show. She is taping the final shows this fall.
I think this is a very cool move. I want to see who they pick and why the pick them. This is going to be a story the Block Party is going to follow.

The SAG and the AMPTP negotiations may have reached the breaking point. And this has become an East Coast/West Coast war. The New York side thinks that the West Coast side isn’t negotiating fairly and wants a federal mediator. And the negotiations have dragged on for more than 7 weeks now.
According to Reuters: Certain members of the New York regional board also publicly challenged the assertions of SAG president Alan Rosenberg and chief negotiator Doug Allen that the union is holding informal talks with studio representatives in a bid to close a deal. And they accused SAG negotiators, in a resolution passed unanimously last week by the 23-member New York board, of "failing to bargain realistically ... and remove unattainable items from the table."
"There's no discernible plan here," New York division board member Paul Christie told Reuters. "You can't have a plan that just says, 'We're holding secret meetings.' And our question is just what the hell does that mean?
The Block Party thinks this is going to go on for a long time. When an entertainment leader calls this “a union divided” and we don’t have a deal this is bad. I believe we ARE experiencing an East Coast/West Coast Power Play...and this won’t be solved easily.

GSN debuted a major new interactive programming element this week as GSN Radio debuted on the internet at Hosted by Bob Goen and his wife Marianne Curan, along with “Brucer The Producer” a/k/a former American Top 40 and WPLJ Morning Show Producer Bruce Goldberg, they spend 4 hours playing various radio games to give away cash to listeners.
Full disclosure. I have already been on the show twice and won twice. But what they are doing here is really really good. While other attempts at radio game shows (like Game Show Radio in New York and Shokus Internet Radio’s Anyone Can Play) have not been successful, this might be the best attempt at interactivity on GSN’s part since Playmania.
The variety of games are huge, the questions are not ridiculously easy, and the chemistry between the husband and wife team doesn’t feel forced at all. They seem to be having a good time. And Goen does a great job as host. The only minor quibble is that they are doing it at the exact same time as another GSN Project – GSN Live. It is a very good companion piece to it, but I don’t know if that will have a major effect on it.

But to all you game show fans out there with a computer connection...this is GREAT interactive game show radio fun. It’s on from 1PM - 5PM EST. Check this one’s a good time.

A couple of quick personal notes before the Random Newsbits. I got a chance to see $32,000 Millionaire Winner Frank Tangredi’s play “Galatea” at the New York Fringe Festival. He is an actor and accomplished playwright and this was the play’s New York debut after a successful run in Los Angeles. It was phenomenal.

And my Catch-21 debut is this coming Friday August 29th at 7:30PM. See you on GSN!

Random Newsbits:

–Condolences go out to the family of David Zinkin who was a moderator of the Game Show Forum. He passed away this past week.

–The Wipeout Format goes global as Endemol sells it to 17 countries including Britain, Spain and the Netherlands.
–The Newest Bachelor is a reject from Season 4 of the Bachelorette...Jason Mesnick who was spurned by Deanna Pappas. See you in January!
–Hole In The Wall will premiere on September 9 right after the premiere of “Fringe.”
–The World Poker Tour Stock might be delisted from NASDAQ after continued losses and poor performances.
–The WGA Truth Tour concluded in New York after the American Idol auditions at the Meadowlands.
–American Idol Rewind gets added to the TV Guide Channel.
–Paris Hilton is looking for a BFF in the UK.
–The LA Times is reporting that Donald Trump’s potential deal to help out Ed McMahon isn’t done yet as a 2nd buyer has entered the picture. As an aside, I think that Trump doing this is a good idea.

-- Dancing with the Stars' Derek Hough and Mark Ballas were robbed over the weekend prior to a charity concert, while Julianne Hough releases a country album.

–Christian Siriano of Project Runway is designing a maternity line for release in 2009.
–The cast of Amazing Race 13 is announced, as well as the new Top Model cast.
 –Omar Chaparro is the new host of “Que Dice La Gente.”
–Jennifer Bresnan has been named Senior Vice President of Alternative Programming for CBS Entertainment(a/k/a reality shows) to replace Ghen Maynard, who’s departure was announced last week.

–SABC2 is going to debut a pop culture show called “Where Were You?”
–Fox Reality has Solitary 3.0 in pre-production.
–Food Network is shooting a pilot called “Eat The Clock” – a cross between the Amazing Race and Hurl.

–Chris Jericho of WWE and “Best Week Ever” hosts “Shame to Fame” on Fuse.
–Cash Cab is going to Canada.
–The X Factor premiere drew 11 Million Viewers–a record!

–New Zealand gets a version of Millionaire.
–Wheel announces it’s plans for Season 26 including plans for Hawaii and Orlando (Sea World) stops, as well as Canada Week!

–Chuck Woolery is going to host ‘The Meow Mix Game Show” on Nov. 15. Chuck, what were you thinking?

–Endemol and EA will be bringing “DonD” to UK Cells.

Jason Block has got guts. E-mail him at