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Getting Into the Christmas Spirit
December 22

Also available as a podcast. Click to listen!

We start this week with an update from on the potential SAG Strike and it is not good.: Leaders from the Screen Actors Guild informed its members they would receive strike authorization ballots mailed to them on January 2. Only members who have paid their membership in full by this time can vote and if passed by at least 75% of those members voting, SAG's national board of directors would be granted the authority to call a strike. Votes will be counted on January 23.
A contract negotiations impasse between SAG and companies represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has existed since July when SAG leaders rejected AMPTP's June 30 offer. SAG is waiting to send out its strike authorization ballots post-holidays to avoid having actors boycott or walk-out on the Golden Globe Awards taking place on January 11.

The AMPTP responded to the SAG strike ballot news with this statement: "It's now official: SAG members are going to be asked to bail out a failed negotiating strategy by going on strike during one of the worst economic crises in history. We hope that working actors will study our contract offer carefully and come to the conclusion that no strike can solve the problems that have been created by SAG's own failed negotiation strategy.”
AMPTP has it right. I said it last week and I will say it again, a strike is STUPID. Authorizing a strike vote is STUPID. Let’s hope the rank and file come to their senses.

We have a lot of interesting American Idol news...and it’s from a blog. purports to have gotten an Fox internal memo on the details of Season 8. Here is the full memo:
AMERICAN IDOL: When will the schedule and any new details about this season be released?
January through March details will hopefully be released before the Holidays. All episodes will be Tuesday-Wednesday. No Thursday’s planned; same overall number of hours as last year. There will be 3 weeks of auditions and 2 weeks of Hollywood rounds. There will be 36 contestants coming here to Hollywood as opposed to 24 last year. There will be a wild card week and there will continue to be 12 contestants in the Finals. There will be a couple of more 2 hour shows than in the past. Promotional thrust will have fewer bad singers and more ‘aspirational’ singers. There will be no Idol Gives Back.
Now, the big news coming out of this memo (if it is true)...the canceling of Idol Gives Back. Idol Gives Back raised over $120M dollars over two years, but this year’s total was less than last...and that was when the economy is good. To me, this is awesome, because I never liked being preached at and being bonked on the head for two hours to be told to donate money.

I also like the fact that there are 3 weeks of auditions instead of 4. The Hollywood Round is going to be 2 weeks and 36 instead of 24. Let’s hope they get the memo and by that time, we will know and want to root for the Top 36.

The password is: Regis! Season 2 of “Million Dollar Password” debuts on December 18th on CBS and the celebrities have been released. They are:
• Emmy Award winner William Shatner from "Boston Legal" and actress/comedian Aisha Tyler from CBS's "CSI" and "Ghost Whisperer";

• Julie Chen from CBS's "The Early Show" and Phil Keoghan from CBS's "The Amazing Race"

• Legendary comedic actress (and veteran player of the original "Password") Betty White and radio/television host Adam Carolla

• Craig Ferguson from CBS's "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and Olympic gold medalist/professional tennis great Serena Williams

• Jamie Kennedy from CBS's "Ghost Whisperer" and comedian Norm MacDonald

• A rerun from the Season 1 premiere with Neil Patrick Harris from CBS's "How I Met Your Mother" and television personality Rachael Ray

• Jeff Garlin from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and Chelsea Handler from "Chelsea Lately"
There have been rumors of some rule changes and a $250,000 Milestone marker. We will have to see what happens.

ABC is showing a big set of balls on Super Bowl Sunday. Wipeout balls that is.

The hit of the summer is getting the Super Bowl Counter programming treatment. According to the Hollywood Reporter: ABC will air a brief football-themed "Wipeout" special against NBC's official halftime show headlined by Bruce Springsteen. Then, during NBC's post-Bowl presentation of "The Office," ABC will air an hourlong "Wipeout" in which cheerleaders compete against male "couch potato" sports fans.

In keeping with the Super Bowl theme...”Wipeout Superball Sunday" pulls out all the stops to cater to NFL fans: Hall of Famer Michael Irvin will lend sideline commentary, the Navy's Blue Angels will perform a flyover, the USC marching band will storm the course, contestants will run a gantlet with quarterbacks pelting them with footballs, NFL luminaries will stop by the commentary booth, and the show's signature Big Balls obstacle has been converted into jumbo-sized footballs.
This is the first time in 5 years we have counter-programming against the Super Bowl. We will see (depending on the teams and the game), how well this works. Personally, this is a great move by ABC. NBC is a wounded duck outside of football. This is the right choice at the right time.

Random Newsbits time:

- Condolences go out to the families of Beverly Garland and Nina Foch who passed away this week.
- "Slumdog Millionaire" was nominated for 4 Golden Globes. Best Picture, Drama; Best Director for Danny Boyle; Best Screenplay for Simon Beaufoy; and Best Original Score for A.R. Rahman. :
- The UK Host of Duel, Nick Hancock, is out of the driving game for six months after being caught speeding in Scotland. He was clocked at 100Mph. That was after three previous speeding convictions and nine points on his license.
- Des O’Connor of Countdown gets a CBE - Commander of the British Empire from the Queen.
- A Montana Grandma starts an online petition to have Jesse Csincsak, who was the latest winner on the the next Bachelor since the relationship with Deanna Pappas didn’t work out. And Jason Mesnick talks about being the new Bachelor and a single dad.
- An open call for the 2nd Season of “I Survived a Japanese Game Show” recently occurred at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, CA.
- Poker After Dark gets the go-ahead for Season 5 on NBC.
- Paula Abdul is planning to sell the house where an obsessed fan committed suicide. And in much happier news, she is selling her jewels on HSN.
- Drew Carey and some of the Price is Right Models unveil the fashion line for the Seattle Sounders of the MLS. Carey is an investor and minority owner.

- American Idol alumni and judge Randy Jackson grab a combined 8 Grammy Nominations. The alumni include Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Jordin Sparks, and Carrie Underwood.

- America’s Next Top Model gets an exclusive fashion line at Walmart.

- Jeff Probst auctions off Survivor props (and other stuff) for his Serpentine Project Charity.
- The $1,000,000 Game Show debuts in Las Vegas to a not so stellar review from the Las-Vegas Review Journal.
- Who Wants to Be A Millionaire debuts in Afghanistan.

- adds to it’s corporate synergy by adding Hasbro games to the mix.

- High Stakes Poker’s Season 5 Lineup is introduced. They include: Phil Hellmuth and Doyle Brunson, 2008 WSOP main-event winner Peter Eastgate and runner-up Ivan Demidov make their debuts. Also appearing are: Patrik Antonius, Michael Baxter, David Benyamine, Nick Cassavetes, Tom Dwan, Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari, Barry Greenstein, Phil Ivey, Phil Laak, Howard Lederer, Giorgio Medici, Dario Minieri, Daniel Negreanu, Ilari Sahamies, Bob Safai, and Sam Simon.

- Wheel’s Sea World tapings may be delayed due to weather.
- MTV Casts for a pop culture game show in Los Angeles on Of course they are looking for 18-22 year olds, meaning an old guy like me can’t get in.

- According to Country On Demand: Sony/Nashville has confirmed that Kristy Lee Cook has parted ways with Arista/Nashville. Cook joined the label for a second time following her run on the seventh season of "American Idol." Cook released one single on the label, "15 Minutes of Shame." The song peaked at #28 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. Her debut album Why Wait debuted at #8 and has sold less that 100,000 copies according to Soundscan.

Jason Block hasn't forgotten about his Hebrew brothers and sisters... Wish him a Happy Chanukah at