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April 2, 2000

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I Wish They Weren't All April Fools

       Please forgive me. I just couldn't contain myself.
       Since my high school years, when I had five classes switch teachers after a lunch period, I have been a notorious April Fooler. After 404 e-mails from you people concerning our little prank, I will likely never again be able to pull this trick.
       For the record, the following were false stories: Tom Kennedy and Split Second, Herb Stempel on Greed, my hosting the pilot for What's My Line? (more on that later), Rudy Rebar auditioning for Mastermind, Jack Narz and Jerry Mathers going to the Mark Twain Festival, Maria Retkofsky gaining a two-year Harley-Davidson ad contract, Dayna Klein's engagement and Sheri Hicks playing opposite Steve Austin on Nash Bridges. Everything else is credible.
       Never let it be said I wanted all of those things to be false. Nothing would be more invigorating than seeing Tom Kennedy saying "look at the board" and "turn the key and good luck" one more time. Personally, I would love for a quiz show to have the guts to put Stempel back on the air. The media ink would be enormous.
       A few folks asked where I did that What's My Line? shot. Before we started doing I've Heard That Song! in 1966, I trained my students in game show production by doing non-broadcast attempts at less complex panel shows and we did eight episodes of Line. Bill Williamson, the contestant, is really a medical administrator, but does raise cows on a local farm. So Les Moonves, if you're interested, I have plenty of tape of me doing your show which still doesn't have a summer date.
       One of the wildest results of April Fool happened both before and after the fact to Sheri Hicks, the former Greed captain. Mind you, Sheri did not see the page until 8 a.m. Pacific time Saturday. Mind you as well, I have no powers of clairvoyance. Nor am I having Sheri followed. Yet, Friday night, unbeknownst to me, Sheri and her boyfriend were eating in a sushi restaurant in Venice, Cal. "You'll never guess who was sitting at a table across from us," Sheri e-mailed me. "Steve Austin. If I'd known, I'd have told him to click on the page." Maybe Rod Serling did have a few points.
       Further, America's Biker Chick Maria Retkofsky really wishes she had that endorsement contract and if Harley-Davidson was smart, they would snap her up. Dayna Klein isn't engaged but she did have a few acknowledgements of premature congratulations.
       The technique, interestingly, is one which has been used for years by lampoon magazines to celebrate April Fool's Day---mixing legitimate stories with others which have at least a tinge of legitimacy to them.
       The one I genuinely feel bad about is the Split Second story. Out of more than 400 e-mails, at least 350 expressed hope the show actually would come back. I'm going to let Monty Hall know that because, based on a recent conversation with America's Top Trader, he would also love to get that show back on the air.
       So all of you have been exposed to my mischievious side, something my family has known about for years.
       However, the chances of a repeat are slim. You people are too sharp and I have a sudden feeling you'll be ready for next April.
*********************************
       I've been told virtually the only way Twenty-One will receive a renewal (and even then, slim) is if either the show churns up an increase in ratings the next five weeks (hard to do Monday against the NCAA basketball championship) or a massive viewer campaign saves it.
       Even a well-known former contestant has expressed concerns to the network and has received no response. That's indicative of a wave-the-flag policy at the network level.
       I'm not one to spearhead or encourage campaigns but I don't think this is a show which ought to be let go without a furious vocal outburst from people who want to see it survive.
       No network e-mail address is available on the website. However, NBC's Snap.com subsidiary has established a message board on the quiz show's site.
       My suggestion: over the next week, flood that chatsite with messages at www.nbc.com/21/talk.html.        You will have to register to participate in the messages; however, if you believe in saving this show, the short registration time will be worthwhile.
       Let's do it in the next week because every day, NBC is gradually announcing more and more renewals for fall and Twenty-One is not on the list and likely will not be without a big grass roots groundswell.

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