Trouble Brewing For 'American Idol', NFL & CBS Discuss New Deal, 'Queer Eye For The Straight Girl'

Is there discord behind the scenes of FOX’s “American Idol?” Certainly the network and the show’s production company deny that things are anything other than hunky dory, but a syndicated news program says otherwise.

According to “Extra,” three unnamed “Idol” executive producers stormed off last week after disagreements with FOX over whether or not to tinker with the show’s successful and reliable format. Reportedly, the executive producers were in favor of making small alterations, while FOX executives have long maintained that no major makeover is likely for the fourth season of “Idol.”

A Los Angeles gathering of the remaining candidates for season four was also postponed, which “Extra” attributes to the production tumult. Of course, the show’s production company, FremantleMedia North America, and FOX protest that all is well.

“Extra” speculates that the “Idol” problems may pave the way for an American version of “Idol” judge Simon Cowell’s latest British success “The X-Factor.” While that show, which also features Sharon Osbourne as a judge, has been a big hit across The Pond, the odds of ratings-starved FOX not getting a fourth season of “Idol” on the air in January are less than nil.

With TV rights to National Football League games set to expire at the end of next season, at least one network has begun negotiating a new deal with the league.

CBS boss and Viacom co-president Les Moonves says the network is interested in keeping the NFL on its air after the current contract expires at the end of the 2005 season. CBS has started preliminary talks with the league on a new deal, Moonves tells The Hollywood Reporter.

“Our relationship is great with them, and really that’s all we can say right now,” he says. “We’ve had very productive talks, and we still feel good about the NFL.”

The NFL’s current eight-year TV contract cost CBS, FOX, ABC and ESPN more than $17 billion. There has been speculation that some networks will balk if the league asks for a big increase in rights fees in the next deal. Rupert Murdoch, chairman of FOX parent News Corp., has said an increase would be acceptable, provided it’s a reasonable one.

NFL representatives are hoping to have a deal nailed down by early next year. However, Disney, which owns ABC and ESPN, is reportedly not in a hurry to negotiate. The hefty rights fees have turned the NFL into a money-loser for some of the networks, despite consistently solid ratings and advertiser support.

Better late than never, Bravo is moving forward on “Queer Eye for the Straight Girl.” The extremely late capitalization on what was a cultural phenomenon a year ago won’t premiere until January 2005, by which time perhaps the “Queer Eye” franchise will have gone from over-parodied to retro-cool.

The Fab Five who help shape Bravo’s current identity are gone, replaced by the Gal Pals, a quartet of lifestyle healers in place to help uncertain women as they undergo transformations in anticipation of major life-affirming events. The Gal Pals are Robbie Laughlin, Danny Teeson, Damon Pease and Honey Labrador (the first female to provide a “Queer Eye”), whose specialties are symbolically described as The Look, The Life, The Locale, and The Lady.

“We are thrilled to expand the ‘Queer Eye’ franchise on Bravo,” says Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick. “The ‘Queer Eye’ phenomenon has left an indelible mark on popular culture today, and with the launch of a new series dedicated to ‘make-better’ straight women, we anticipate the phenomenon to continue.”

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