- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Chowin’ down for cash

ESPN will broadcast the “Alka-Seltzer US Open of Competitive Eating,” which it bills as the most dramatic event in the history of competitive eating, for three nights starting this evening.

The competition will air tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at 8 p.m.

The epic one-on-one elimination tournament will whittle 32 eaters, including Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas of Alexandria, down to a single champion through five rounds of varying foods and duration. The three-episode event follows the trials and tribulations, and emotional highs and lows, of these competitors as they attempt to make it to the top of their chosen sport.

The ESPN series, which is produced by the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE), also will feature the world’s No. 1-ranked eater, Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, and 30 other elite eating champions competing for a total of $40,000 in prize money and the coveted Alka-Seltzer Cup.

Oh well. All we can say is plop plop, fizz fizz.

R.I.P.

The Frog’s frog has croaked.

The WB has fired Michigan J. Frog, the nattily attired singing-dancing ‘toon character that has served as mascot since the network’s inception in 1995, E! Online reports.

“In my opinion, the frog is dead and buried,” network Chairman Garth Ancier told the Television Critics Association Friday in response to a question from a critic who had observed that the grinning green amphibian was MIA from the WB’s newly designed logo, an acid-toned graffiti-splashed graphic. The TCA members, usually a hard-boiled lot, uttered a collective sad sigh.

Reacting to the dismay, WB Entertainment President David Janollari — who’s familiar with dead and buried as one of the executives behind HBO’s undertaker series, “Six Feet Under” — decided to explain the WB’s motivation for offing the tuxedo-clad cartoon.

“[The frog] was a symbol that — especially in the extensive testing that we did — perpetuated the young teen feel of the network, and that is not the image we want to put to our audience,” Mr. Janollari said.

He went on to say that the execution is part of a concerted effort to prove that the network isn’t just for young teens, but also is “a destination for the segment that’s 25 to 34.”

The network will roll out its frog-free logo in coming weeks.

Michigan J. Frog, who was due to turn 50 later this year, apparently didn’t suit any desirable demographic. Created by the late, legendary animator Chuck Jones, the critter made his debut in the 1955 short “One Froggy Evening,” taking his name from the song “The Michigan Rag,” which he sang. The Frog essentially was a one-hit, minor-league wonder, never in the same constellation as Bugs or Daffy, until he was co-opted by the WB, which instantly became nicknamed the Frog.

‘Dancing’ flap

Kelly Monaco knows there are television viewers who aren’t happy she won ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” competition, but she says it doesn’t bother her.

“I’m not going to go home and cry because someone did not like my dancing,” the actress from ABC’s “General Hospital” said during a Tuesday press conference with the Television Critics Association.

Miss Monaco and the producers of the ABC series were peppered with questions, with some reporters saying they received complaints from viewers who were confused by the voting process, which relied on both the audience and judges. Questions also were raised about possible network favoritism for Miss Monaco. The runner-up was John O’Hurley, who played catalog king J. Peterman on NBC’s “Seinfeld.”

Asked about reports that Mr. O’Hurley was upset he didn’t win, Izzie Pick, the show’s supervising producer, said only that the actor was “obviously disappointed.”

The program, the most popular summer series since the first “Survivor” on CBS in 2000, according to Nielsen Media Research, will be returning at midseason, and changes are under consideration, Mr. Pick said.

Compiled by Christian Toto and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports.

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