During the recent television critics press tour in Pasadena, Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori confirmed what many critics suspected about the heads of network programming.
He said that all the network presidents played a new game show, "Are You Smarter Than a 5th-Grader?" being pitched by Mark Burnett of "Survivor" fame.
Liguori said the show uses four average "precocious kids" as the lifeline of an adult contestant, who will answer questions from textbooks of fifth-graders and below that the adults may have long since forgotten.
"When Mark Burnett wound up pitching this show to each network president, in fact, only one network president left the six questions with money," said Liguori. He self-deprecatingly added it was an indictment of network presidents, before adding "it also shows the fun of the show."
It doesn't take a genius to figure out which network president left with money: Liguori. After all, did you think he'd tell that story if it was one of his competitors? Asked who got the money, Liguori sheepishly raised his hand and added "and the show."
To illustrate the sorry state of big-event February sweeps programs, "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" is one of the month's more notable TV events. It premieres at 9:30 p.m. Feb. 27.
Networks no longer focus on expensive big-event miniseries during sweeps. They believe the smart money is on regular series programming and prefer populating them with big-name stars. Occasionally, they put a special in a weak time slot. But as of this moment, ABC amazingly even is planning to carry the low-rated "Knights of Prosperity" through the February sweeps. You don't have to be as smart as a fifth-grader to realize that "Knights" still may be pulled.
Of course, February's top event is Sunday's Super Bowl, which should get a national rating in the 40s and easily be the most-watched show of the month and year.
Without further ado, here is a list of one critic's Top 10 February events.
1. The Super Bowl, 6 p.m. Sunday, WIVB: Afterward, announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms make cameos on "Criminal Minds."
2. The "Lost" Survivor Guide Special: (9 p.m. Wednesday, WKBW-TV): In an attempt to get more viewers to the series before its 10 p.m. Wednesday return of original episodes, ABC tries to attract new viewers with a recap of the complicated series.
3. Grissom (William Petersen) returns from his sabbatical on "CSI" (9 p.m., Feb. 8, WIVB-TV): You didn't really expect him to miss a sweeps period, did you?
4. The Police Reunite on The Grammy Awards (8 p.m. Feb.11, WIVB-TV): Sting makes good on a pledge he made to television critics in Pasadena that something would be worked out. Hopefully, he won't bring his lute.
5. Two hours of "24" ( 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, WUTV): Hopefully, we'll be finished with Jack Bauer's family soon.
6. "Jericho" returns with an original episode (8 p.m. Feb. 21, WIVB-TV): The episode focuses on the lives of the characters before things went nuclear.
7. "The OC" wraps up after four years (9 p.m. Feb. 22, WUTV): It turns out that Marissa (Mischa Barton) was the lucky one because she didn't have to see the show die after her character did.
8. "The Oprah Winfrey Oscar Special" (10 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, WKBW-TV): You've got to love the format. Julia Roberts interviews George Clooney, Nicole Kidman interviews Russell Crowe and Jamie Foxx interviews Sidney Poitier. Better yet, Barbara Walters doesn't interview anyone.
9. "The Academy Awards Show" (8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, WKBW-TV): Ellen DeGeneres, whose dry wit means she won't be confused with Little Miss Sunshine, hosts.
10. "To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports" (10 p.m. Feb. 27, WKBW-TV): The recovery of the ABC anchor-reporter who was wounded in Iraq is sure to be a heartwarming story.