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'Big Shot' To Take Star Search to the Web

Madison Road Entertainment and Maverick Television, the company founded by Madonna, along with the William Morris Agency, will launch an online answer to American Idol that will give aspiring performers the chance to get in front of Hollywood dealmakers.

Big Shot will allow anyone to upload video to compete in one of seven daily talent categories, such as acting, singing and filmmaking. Daily online polls will determine which performers in each category will be whisked off to Hollywood for an audition.

“With that viral component of needing to attract votes, it is designed to be both localized and simulcast across social-networking sites,” says Jak Severson, managing partner of Madison Road, also behind AOL's forthcoming Million Dollar Bill.

The project, which will feature a five-minute daily Web show, is set to launch after Labor Day and run at least 13 weeks. (Madonna's involvement, if any, will be determined in coming weeks.)

MRE and Maverick will also reach out to local television stations for barter deals to drive contestants and viewers to the contest and stations' Websites. They are already in talks with multiple syndicators.

Brands from categories including wireless, beverage and a major magazine are expected to be attached and may be involved in projects with the winners, such as a commercial featuring a winning actor.

Says Maverick President Michael Rosenberg, “This is a much more accessible and tangible delivery of the promise of what Star Search was or even American Idol.”

Tune In, Bleep Out

As children of the 1960s are fond of pointing out, the generation of peace and love changed the world. But if the American Experience documentary Summer of Love is any indication, some things haven't changed all that much.

The documentary, currently running on PBS, chronicles the Hippie movement in San Francisco during the summer of 1967. In addition to its message of gentleness and community, the movement also advocated being less “uptight” about sex—and language.

At one point in the program, actor, writer and prominent San Francisco counterculture figure Peter Coyote gives a demonstration: “I don't think that the search for some kind of moral stance is ever bullshit. I don't think that the search for justice and some kind of economic equity is ever bullshit. I don't think that trying to leave a smaller footprint on the planet is bullshit. I don't think exploring alternative spiritual and medical practices is ever bullshit.”

Funny thing: Coyote's profanities were bleeped.

The comments that followed only compounded the irony. “I thought we could change the world,” says Haight-Ashbury denizen Mary Ellen Kasper. “I think in some ways we succeeded.”

So, were the producers trying to suggest that maybe we haven't come so far? “Chalk it up to serendipity,” says the show's spokeswoman. “We simply need to comply with the PBS policy of keeping the safe harbor safe.”

Finer Living

Having a midlife crisis? Well, if you happen to be at this week's National Cable and Telecommunications Association confab in Las Vegas, stop by WealthTV's booth.

The San Diego-based channel for people with gobs of disposable income (and those who simply wish they had said gobs) is exhibiting a red Ferrari 360 Spider convertible.

And what fantasy of fine living would be complete without a hand-rolled cigar? Be sure to grab one of the 1,500 that WealthTV will be handing out.

The 24-hour high-definition channel is at the Cable Show looking to add to its 100 distribution partners, which include Verizon and other telcos, as well as some cable operators, like Charter Communications.

The booth will also have four HD screens to showcase WealthTV's original programs like Private Islands, Envy and When Money Is No Object.

President/co-founder Charles Herring says the channel aims to reach two types of viewer: “those who have the ability and means to enjoy” such luxurious lifestyles, as well as “those who want to live vicariously through their TV.”

Enjoy that cigar!

With Ben Grossman, John Eggerton and Anne Becker