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Talking Turkey
November 24

Also available as a podcast. Click to listen!

We start this week with an analysis as to why reality show programs are slipping ratings wise.

The Los Angeles Times reported about a Horizon Media analysis of Nielsen Data. They compared the first two months of this season to last year in a year-to-year comparison.

Hardest‑hit is Fox's "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?," which has shed nearly half its share of the 18‑to‑49‑year‑old demographic since last year (from a 2.5 rating to a 1.3). Among all viewers, "5th Grader" is off 35%, to 5.5 million.

Almost as bad is NBC's "Deal," with the Wednesday edition plunging nearly 29%, to a mere 8 million viewers, compared with last year. The Friday airing has performed even worse, falling 38%. ABC's "Dancing" is down 9% — despite Cloris Leachman's unlikely tenure on this fall's edition — and CBS' "Survivor: Gabon" has dropped one‑tenth compared with last fall's "Survivor: China”.

The author Scott Collins claims that overexposure, age of certain shows and the economy are factors in the ratings drop. I will give you a couple more that Mr. Collins didn’t tackle:

1. THE WRITERS STRIKE. The Writer’s Strike which ended long ago, is still being felt today. Ratings are down across the board, not just on the reality schedule. And with a potential actors strike still looming on the horizon, people are not willing to invest time or effort on these shows.

2. BAD SCHEDULING. The reason why 5th Grader lost ½ of the 18-49 share is that Fox moved the show from Thursday where it was doing quite well. Same with “Don’t Forget the Lyrics.” Fox had a Thursday night game show block and blew it.

Now it’s time for a capsule review catch up.

First off, THE MONEY AND THE POWER (MTV) debuted, as 50 Cent determines which one of the members of Team Money or Team Power gets his $100,000 investment in their business idea. There are a lot of things wrong with this show. First off, the show brings nothing new to the table. This is an Apprentice Clone pure and simple.

But what really is offensive about this show is the incredible racial stereotypes that permeate the first episode. First off, the teams had to get off Roosevelt Island in New York City–chained together like slaves. And then a woman named Precious told a Korean Contestant to “go do my nails.” I thought, in this new world of racial harmony that MTV would get away from these type of insults.

But the show did nothing for me. It was just there.

We flip to REDEMPTION SONG (Fuse). Originally titled Shame 2 Fame, this surprisingly good show stars Chris Jericho of the WWE (and a successful rock star on his own). The premise: 11 women, who have had histories of personal trauma from drugs to bad personal decisions get one last shot at a Geffen Recording contract.

The thing that makes this different is the execution. Chris Jericho is a good host. And the vocal coaches and judges are not there to make friends. They are there to judge. And the first challenge was brilliantly executed. First they had to sing their way into the house for first choice of beds, and then they were warned that they would perform ANYWHERE or ANYTIME. And after they were tempted with booze...they had to perform for the first time. Great stuff.

This is a show that should have been average. It is way more than that.

Next we go to Sci-Fi and two shows that are absolutely fantastic.

First is CHA$E. The concept is simple. Ten Runners are dropped off in a location and have to get to another location and win $25,000. Sounds simple right? They have not get caught by the “Hunters”, who are a cross between Matrix Agents and Terminators. In the meanwhile they have to solve puzzles to get power-ups, money flags and deflectors which send the agents in the other direction.

This combines everything that a Sci-Fi viewer would games, alternate reality gaming and science-fiction elements. The Hunter view-cam is a bit cheesy...but I will forgive it as the execution is just killer good.

Secondly we have ESTATE OF PANIC. Steve Valentine hosts this show where 7 contestants face their fears to get a lot of money in a haunted house. What makes this show work, is that Steve Valentine is very very creepy. This is the first time since Fear Factor where people are facing their fears in a way that is very entertaining. The haunts are creepy and it’s good Sci-Fi Fun.

With Season 7 winner and runner up David Cook and David Archuleta dropping their albums, it’s now time to talk Season 8. January 13 is the return date of American Idol. As we speak right now, Hollywood Week is being taped and the top 24 is being determined.

The big news over the summer was the introduction of a 4th permanent judge (which was the way they did it on Pop Idol in the UK). Kara DioGuardi came on during the audition process. And she does have some street cred in the industry. DioGuardi's songs have appeared on more than 100 million records.  Her songs have been recorded by Grammy award‑winning artists including Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Celine Dion, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Santana and Pink. Over the last four years, she has been awarded 10 BMI Pop Awards for having written the most performed songs on radio.  From her catalog of several hundred songs, over 264 have been released on major labels worldwide; and over 165 have appeared on multi‑platinum selling albums.

But the questions remain:

–Will they hold to the promise of getting to get to know the contestants better?

–What does this mean for Paula Abdul?

–Will the ratings slide continue?

–What will the talent pool be like?

We will have to wait and see when January 13th rolls around.

Speaking of Idol, we have the total amount raised by Idol Gives Back 2. According to Yahoo News, "American Idol" has allocated more than $64 million in grants to six U.S. and international charities from contributions to its "Idol Gives Back" fundraising event.

The Charities are: The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Malaria No More; Children's Health Fund; U.S. programs of Save the Children; Children's Defense Fund; and Make It Right, a campaign headed up by Brad Pitt to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina.

"The fact that 'American Idol' has the ability to inspire millions, create hope and change lives is simply remarkable," said "Idol" creator and executive producer Simon Fuller in a statement. "We are extremely thankful to our viewers, sponsors and outstanding talent who continue to motivate each and every one of us to contribute to those who need it the most."

Personally, I can’t stand this show. But they are putting their money where their mouth is. And I can’t fault them for that.

And on the sad American Idol news tip, a 30 year old woman who auditioned for American Idol in 2005 was found dead in front of Paula Abdul’s home, in an apparent suicide.

Paula Goodspeed had made many attempts to contact Abdul through threatening letters and packages. And two months ago, according to E! News, she tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pills. She knew of her obsession, but was not at the house either time. She was taping segments for Hollywood week for Season 8 of AI.

This was just a sad situation.

Whoops! TV Week reports that Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and the host of the Apprentice Clone, “The Benefactor” was charged with Insider Trading.

According to the complaint, filed in a U.S. District Court in Texas, Cuban was charged with selling 600,000 shares of Internet search engine company stock based on information he had that the public did not concerning a stock offering and Cuban avoided losing $750,000 by selling the stock in advance of the public announcement of the offering. The SEC wants billionaire Cuban to return the $750,000‑with interest‑‑as well as pay a civil penalty, though it was not specified.

Both Cuban and his attorney responded via statements on Cuban’s Blog. "This matter, which has been pending before the Commission for nearly two years, has no merit and is a product of gross abuse of prosecutorial discretion. Mr. Cuban intends to contest the allegations and to demonstrate that the Commission’s claims are infected by the misconduct of the staff of its Enforcement Division," said attorney Ralph C. Ferrara, an attorney with Dewey & LeBoeuf in Washington, according to the blog.

Said Cuban: “I am disappointed that the Commission chose to bring this case based upon its Enforcement staff’s win‑at‑any‑cost ambitions. The staff’s process was result‑oriented, facts be damned. The government’s claims are false and they will be proven to be so.”

This one isn’t going away anytime soon.

And another legal case that isn’t going away anytime soon is the Lifetime/Bravo Project Runway court battle.

Yahoo News reports Lifetime cable TV network has counter‑sued NBC Universal, Bravo and The Weinstein Company over the rights to the TV program "Project Runway" in the latest legal action that has left the hit show in limbo.

The suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan late on Tuesday, seeks exclusive rights over the fashion design contest starring model Heidi Klum that had been scheduled to jump to the Lifetime Network from its cable TV rival Bravo.

As reported earlier, Bravo is trying to fill the hole with “Fashion House.”

One lawyer spoke anonymously to Yahoo News:  “From what I know about courts, it could be well into the early spring before anything is decided. “Barring an out‑of‑court settlement — and insiders say there are no such negotiations taking place — “Project Runway” seems unlikely to be back on the air for months at best.

Random Newsbits:

–Mark Burnett teams up with No Good TV. He also is teaming with the Sacramento Kings to tape “Rebuilding The Kingdom”.

–Fear Factor Pinoy premieres in the Philippines.

–Deal or No Deal hits the iPhone as well as the Price is Right.

–The People’s Choice Award categories have been announced for Game Show and Reality Show: Favorite reality show: "American Idol" "Dancing With the Stars" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Favorite game show: "Jeopardy!"  "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" "Deal or No Deal."

–Wheel of Fortune started giving away $5,000 a day with an extra SPIN ID on November 17th.

–MGM and Fremantle are producing YouTube content.

–Joshua Leming’s album which was rumored to be blocked by 19 Entertainment, will be released   by Warner Music Group in January.

–Chris Moyles of BBC Radio 1 hosts “Quiz Night”, a celebrity game show.

–Jeff Stelling is rumored to be the new host of Countdown. And Carol Volderman taped her last appearance on the show November 14th.

–Jeopardy will debut it’s new full HD Set at the Consumer Electronic Show tapings in January.

–“The Newlywed Game” is now casting for the New York City shoot.

–Deanna Pappas of the Bachelor helps plan dream weddings on “Get Married!”, whose second season premieres January 5.

–Million Dollar Password comes back for Season 2 on December 21st.

–Ace Gordon of Survivor: Gabon was charged with disorderly intoxication, obstruction of an officer and resisting arrest without violence this past Sunday in Naples Florida.

–Michael Flatley is doing “Superstar Dancers of the World” for NBC next year.

–Noel Edmonds of Deal or No Deal UK fights against the TV Licensing fee.

–In an incredible bit of corporate synergy - Miley Cyrus (a/k/a Hannah Montana) and the star of the new Disney movie “Bolt”, will perform on ABC/Disney’s “Dancing with The Stars” finale.

–Don’t Forget the Lyrics comes to Singapore.

–Beauty and the Geek may be going to MTV.

Jason's true beauty can be found in his collection of suits. He can be reached at .