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With writers on strike, networks ready a dose of reality with plenty of games
SOON it will be "American Idol" season, that sweet time of year when the world stops to crown a new singing sensation. The naysayers predicted that last year would be the year Americans stopped idolizing, and they were so, so wrong.
With the entertainment industry's writers on strike, and current scripted series expected to run out of episodes by mid-January, "American Idol" which averaged 30 million viewers a show last season, could actually become as big as, say, the Super Bowl.
Well, OK, maybe not that big. But Fox's juggernaut is sure to pick up a few more curious eyes if there's nothing else to watch.
But wait -- the networks, trying to prepare themselves for a world without writers, have been busy ordering up more alternative fare than ever. Along with such staples as "Survivor" and "America's Next Top Model," viewers will have a chance to pick who is the best dad, observe women taking over the universe and watch as a farmer finds the love of his life. Additionally, Howie Mandel will have plenty of company with new game shows hosted by the likes of Regis Philbin and Tucker Carlson.
No premiere dates have been scheduled, but here's the alternative programming you can expect around the dial sometime after January. (And if this is not enough, both Fox and CW say they have more coming down the development pike).
Returning: "American Idol," "Don't Forget the Lyrics" and "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?"
New shows: "Moment of Truth" -- A Colombian import, it puts contestants to the test using a polygraph and 21 increasingly personal questions to judge whether or not they are telling the truth for a chance to win $500,000.
"When Women Rule the World" -- This unscripted series will reveal how women and men react in a world where women are in charge and men are subservient. The participants will be brought to a remote, primitive location where the women will have the opportunity to "rule" as they build a newly formed society -- one with no glass ceiling and no need to dress to impress.
Returning: "The Singing Bee," "1 vs. 100," "The Biggest Loser," "Deal or No Deal" and "Celebrity Apprentice."
New: "American Gladiators" -- This show will follow four men and four women gladiators as they take on contestants. The contenders are weekend warriors who take pride in their fitness and want to test their physical ability. Hosted by Hulk Hogan.
"Amne$ia" is a comedy game show in which contestants are challenged to answer questions from their own lives for money and prizes. Memories will be tested and blasts from the past will be revealed as contestants wrack their brains to answer some of the most challenging questions -- often with hilarious results. Dennis Miller is the host.
"My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad" is a competition series that will finally prove the familiar schoolyard boast -- "My dad is better than your dad!" Dads will be at the forefront of the action competing with their families in a series of unique stunt-driven challenges.
"Clash of the Choirs" takes celebrity artists back to their hometowns to assemble an amateur singing group made up of everyday people. Once the best have been selected and the choirs assembled, they will compete live.
"Baby Borrowers" is a new alternative series that asks five young couples -- ages 16 to 19 -- to set up a home and begin fast-tracking on parenthood by becoming caring parents first to a baby, then a toddler, pre-teen and grandparents -- all over the course of one month.
"Most Outrageous Moments" -- A clips show of hilarious TV moments caught on tape.
Returning: "America's Next Top Model," "Beauty & the Geek" and "Pussycat Dolls 2: Girlicious."
New: "Farmer Wants a Wife" -- A British import, this series will help one farm boy find the city girl of his dreams.
"Crowned: The Mother of all Pageants" -- A reality competition that features mother-daughter teams working together to win a beauty pageant.
Returning: "Survivor" and "Big Brother"
New: "Million Dollar Password" -- This game show modernizes "Password" and will feature two teams of one celebrity and one contestant competing to guess a password revealed only to the studio audience and viewers at home. Philbin is the host.
"Power of 10" is a high-stakes game that challenges contestants to guess the behaviors, opinions and lifestyle choices of the American public for the chance to win $10 million.
"Do You Trust ME?" -- Hosted by Carlson, this game show asks strangers to wager how much they trust each other.
Returning: "The Bachelor," "Dancing With the Stars," "Supernanny," "Wife Swap," "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
New: "Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann" -- Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba of "Dancing With the Stars" are choreographers who will coach their own dance teams through a new routine each week. Viewers will choose a favorite between Inaba's and Tonioli's teams, with the losing coach having to eliminate a troupe member.
"Duel" is a game show that sees contestants battle head to head for a bid to win a "big money jackpot." It could premiere in December.
"Wanna Bet?" -- Celebrities bet on stunt-performing contestants.
"The Big Give" -- From Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions, the show centers on the competition, drama and emotion as millions of dollars are given away to make a difference in people's lives.
"Just for Laughs" -- This hidden-camera comedy series cuts across cultural boundaries, entertaining audiences of all ages and demographics by mixing practical jokes, hidden cameras and unsuspecting victims.
"Here Come the Newlyweds" -- Freshly married couples compete for a cash prize, focusing more on the humorous aspects of (newly) married life and not so much on exploiting human drama and misery.