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Playing Catchup
October 6

Also available as a podcast. Click to listen!

We start this week with breaking news from Culver City. As you may or may not know, the 26th Season of Wheel contains a Million Dollar Wedge. If you hit it within the first three rounds, hold onto it throughout the game, win the game, hit the million dollar wedge and solve the bonus puzzle you win the Million. And as of this writing, out of the 18 opportunities so far, it has only been hit once and lost.

But, according to a press release received Wednesday October 1st, we MAY have our first Million Dollar winner on Wheel of Fortune. The release includes the following: "On Tuesday, October 14 and for the first time in 26 years, "Wheel of Fortune" history will be made. I wish I could give you more information about this extraordinary show. Unfortunately, I can only persuade you and your valued readers to watch Tuesday's program. Pat Sajak, Vanna White and the entire "Wheel of Fortune" crew are keeping their lips sealed."

All I am saying to you guys is–I would watch a week from Tuesday. Just saying.

Last week, opera singer Neal E. Boyd was crowned the third season winner of America’s Got Talent, beating Eli Mattson, Nuttin But Stringz, Donald Braswell, and Queen Emily. While Neal’s win might be considered Paul Potts 2.0(the opera singer who won Britain’s Got Talent), his win came on a night that could have been considered the most nepotistic, filler filled finale ever.

First off, Jerry Springer was SCREAMING throughout the finale, begging us to care to stay through the hour. And everything in the finale was taken or borrowed from the Simon Cowell playbook. We had the group sing of the top 10 use the winners song from Season 1 of American Idol (A Moment Like This), and a Leona Lewis performance of her latest single. Try this for nepotism. Leona won X Factor in the UK, which was another Simon Cowell reality show. He produced her album, and she appeared on American Idol 7 where she sang Bleeding Love. And where is Simon Cowell a judge? American Idol. We also had a performance of the AGT rejects, and a performance by Neal Boyd at the end.

I will compliment AGT3 though on the one thing it improved on...which was the judging. We saw Piers Morgan come into his own. While David Hasselhoff and Sharon Osbourne were too afraid at times to criticize, Piers was brutally honest and spot on. Piers Morgan is one of the most important reality celebrities this year, with his Celebrity Apprentice win in the Spring and now this.

But for all its high ratings and success, this year’s finale seemed very anti-climactic and unoriginal. Let’s hope when AGT4 returns next summer, we can see if they can improve that finale.

Remember that SAG Strike that we thought would never happen? They are the lone holdout of all the major entertainment unions negotiating with the AMPTP. Well...according to Entertainment Weekly, the Screen Actors Guild's negotiating committee issued a recommendation that its National Board call for a strike authorization vote from the 120,000 members. The Negotiators said in a statement: "Negotiators...have requested that the AMPTP return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair deal, and the AMPTP...has refused to change their position and continued to refuse to meet to attempt to advance the negotiations."

And of course the AMPTP has a different view: "Not only is the business suffering from recent economic decisions, but if ever there was a time when Americans wanted the diversions of movies and TV, it is now. The DGA, the WGA, and AFTRA reached agreements on comparable terms months ago, during far better economic times, and it is unrealistic for SAG negotiators now to expect even better terms during this grim financial climate. This is the harsh economic reality, and no strike will change that reality."

I agree with the AMPTP, and former WGA Counsel Jonathan Handel who commented in the EW article that a SAG Strike would be very risky. "A strike would almost certainly cause the studios to withdraw the offer on the table, and what SAG would get at the end of a long and bitter dispute is likely to be worse, or little better, than what they could get now. What SAG needs to do is close a deal promptly and live to fight -- or strike -- another day: mend the relationship with AFTRA, build closer alliances with the WGA, train its members to circumvent the studios by writing, directing, and producing their own new media productions, then come back strong in three years."

Let us hope SAG sees the light and does not strike. This would be a pretty crazy move...especially now.

The legal catfight between Lifetime and Bravo for the rights to Project Runway has gotten more vicious. Late Friday, a New York Judge granted a temporary injunction blocking the move from Bravo to Lifetime. They can’t market or promote the move either. NBC Universal said in a statement reported in Variety, "The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that The Weinstein Company violated NBC Universal's right of first refusal to future cycles of 'Project Runway,'. After hearing all of the evidence, the court issued an order prohibiting The Weinstein Company from taking the show or any spinoff to Lifetime."

Lifetime wasn’t happy. "We are disappointed with the court's decision to grant the preliminary injunction against The Weinstein Company,"" It's unfortunate that the people hurt most by this ongoing dispute are the loyal fans of 'Project Runway.' In the meantime, Lifetime will pursue all measures to uphold its valid and binding agreement reached with The Weinstein Company for season six of 'Project Runway.' "

My guess: There will be a settlement between the parties before something happens. Project Runway’s ratings have dipped and you don’t want this franchise’s name tarnished any further.

Back to the UK Phone Scandal for a moment. And the British Government is basically screwing over the viewing public. According to an October 1 article in the UK Guardian, the Serious Fraud Office has determined that cases against ITV and the BBC will not happen because "they did not meet the criterion for acceptance."

Two members of Parliament were outraged. Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, said: "It's completely unacceptable that the people responsible for deliberately ripping off consumers face no punishment from the authorities," he said. "This would not happen in any other walk of life." And Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for culture, media and sport, said: "It's an absolute scandal that no one is prepared to take responsibility for investigating this matter. We already know that broadcasters and phone companies charged viewers millions of pounds under questionable pretences, but we're no closer to finding out whether any criminal activity took place."

I agree with both members of Parliament. We all know that OFCOM, the independent broadcasters watchdog fined ITV almost $12M US in May, but if this isn’t fraud I don’t know what is. I hope the Serious Fraud Office will reconsider this decision.

So I have been away a few weeks and a ton of shows either debuted, or returned for new seasons. Let’s go over these shows shall we?

- DEAL OR NO DEAL (Syn). This was the biggest and most anticipated show of the new Fall Season. The show may not be getting the gangbuster ratings everyone thought they would, but the show itself is absolutely fantastic. The syndicated version is everything the nighttime show isn’ paced, fun as hell, and no frills. You have 22 contestants who stay for the full week run of 5 days gunning for a top prize of $500,000. The contestant is determined by the deal wheel, and the other 21 stay as case openers. This is as close to the UK version as you can get and I love it. We are starting to have theme weeks already like "Baby on Board" week, but I will cut them some slack as it doesn’t truly affect game play. Seek this show out. It is the best new show of the fall far. I just hope NBC in New York does something to move it out of the Oprah/Judge Judy double whammy. Then maybe it will get better ratings over all.

- TRIVIAL PURSUIT: AMERICA PLAYS (Syn). Mark Walberg was associated with this project, and I bet secretly he is glad he didn’t sign on. The show itself is an example of great promise, bad execution. The concept: 2 Studio contestants play against America’s Team and the one who amasses the bigger bank wins. The America’s team concept is good...but the questions are way too easy for a show like this. And to win the show you just have to answer 6 questions. Christopher Knight as a host just doesn’t work. He seems bored. I don’t have any hopes for this show beyond this season. It’s not awful, but there was so much promise to this.

- INSIDE THE BOX (Syn) was the show that replaced Crosswords. Basically it’s 20 Questions meets TV shows. It’s ok as a concept but gets boring very quickly. The host...Sam Kalileh is alright...but I would switch the channel if I were you.

- MTV’S TOP POP GROUP (MTV) takes the formula of the nuclear hot "America’s Best Dance Crew" and takes it to the Pop Singing Group. To me, the show is just there because the talent is just awful, save for a few groups. But the big improvement is Mario Lopez, who has realized that being a host is more important than being urban. He has improved SO much.

- OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS (ABC). Not unlike Amne$ia and My Kind of Town, JD Roth brings a game show to your house. Yes, it has the same problems as being the inside joke sort of show...but I don’t care if no one is watching this. I like it. The show is better than the other two. JD Roth is a better host than Johnny Vaughan and Dennis Miller put together. And they make a lot of emotional moments in the show. But I liked the production value and the gameplay elements are different enough to me to warrant a second viewing.

- HOLE IN THE WALL (Fox) The less said about this massive piece of garbage the better. Lousy hosts, lousy gameplay and bad execution makes this a candidate for worst show of the year. The through the hole before the wall pushes you in the pool. You know this show is bad when you have fat people in shiny suits trying to get through holes you know they couldn’t. But it is Fox. So you wouldn’t be expecting much.

Now to the returning favorites:

- JEOPARDY! (SYN): Celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year...this is Game Show comfort food. Although they haven’t really emphasized the 25th Anniversary yet...they will. The show itself...hasn’t changed a bit. And that my friends is a very good thing.

- WHEEL OF FORTUNE (SYN): As reported earlier, the big addition to the show in Season 26 was addition of the Million Dollar Wedge. It hasn’t affected gameplay as of yet, meaning the number 1 show stays number 1. The show is still fantastic. We shall see on October 14th if we have a Million Dollar Winner or not.

- MILLIONAIRE (Syn): The show returned for Season 7 with a new clock, 2 new lifelines, a Millionaire Menu and new graphics... but has the show changed? For me...not so much. The show is still 15 questions and getting to the top. So far the clock has been a non-factor...and I like the Ask the Expert Lifeline. The show is the third best in syndication for a reason. It’s a darn good show with a darn good host.

- THE PRICE IS RIGHT (CBS). Season 37 was one of the most anticipated after the departure of Roger Dobkowitz, and the rumors of MASSIVE changes. As of now, the reports of the death of Price are greatly exaggerated. Drew is looser and more comfortable in his role as host, and the new game "Gas Money" is very fun for a Deal or No Deal clone. The Three Strikes rule change (3 X’s in the bag instead of one and the first number given) I have to see to judge. But don’t count Price out yet...not by a long shot.

- FAMILY FEUD (SYN) John O'Hurley continues his reign on the Feud as the set takes the cue from Celebrity Family Feud over the summer. But the gameplay is the same and I love O’Hurley and the Feud so...what can be wrong.

- SURVIVOR (CBS): The 17th edition of the CBS Franchise is subtitled Earth’s Last Eden. It’s also the first in HD. But Survivor is back in a big way. The Exile Island challenge of Clue v. Comfort is a nice twist...and Fang better get back in a big way or we could see another tribal blowout with Kota doing the blowing out. But Jeff Probst shows how he won the Emmy for Best Reality Show Host. And even with people getting their panties in a wad when CBS accidentally flashed Marcus’s male member (don’t ask...but I looked at the pictures...oops)...I love what they are doing along with...

- THE AMAZING RACE (CBS): The 13th edition is exactly what the formula is...11 teams...with a race around the world for $1M dollars. The show shows why the show is the best on TV Emmy wise 6 years running. Although why Phil Keoghan wasn’t nominated as host was beyond me.

Random Newsbits to end this with:

–Condolences to the family of Paul Newman who passed away at the age of 83.

–We have the Top Chef: New York contestants introduced.

–Blush: The Search for the Next Great Make-Up Artist, debuts on Lifetime on November 11.

–World Poker Tour Enterprises stock falls to .60 a share and faces delisting on NASDAQ. And GSN is moving it’s poker night to counter World Poker Tour’s debut on FSN. Not smart guys, not smart.

– is using their website to promote interactivity on shows like "Dancing With the Stars" and "Opportunity Knocks."

–Diddy is teaming with Mark Burnett for MTV in 2009 for a show called "StarMaker".

– opens and you can buy a ton of cool games there.

–Christopher Biggins is rumored to be the new host of Countdown...but he may not be able to do it.

–Ed McMahon is sued...again...this time by the Griffin Group. Yes, founded by the late Merv Griffin.

–And in the most frivolous lawsuit in a while, ANT(a/k/a Anthony Kalloniatis) is suing Ant and Dec(Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly) for $30M US for the use of the name. He claims there is confusion regarding his name and theirs and their names will tarnish his reputation. Sure. Right.

–Mel B. is getting naked for Playboy. And Scary Spice won’t be that scary naked.

–Tony Danza is the new host of the Contender. Great move.

–In a surprise to no one, From G’s to Gents gets a season 2.

–ITV is reviving the Krypton Factor.

That’s all for this time...this is Jason Block reminding you...don’t just play to win!

Jason Block is suing the manufacturers of Lego and the Argonauts for using his name. E-mail him at