- - Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cowell returns to judge ‘Britain’s Got Talent’

Simon Cowell is making a return to British TV screens, announcing that he is returning as a full-time judge on the upcoming ITV1 show “Britain’s Got Talent” in the spring, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The return is unlikely to clash with Mr. Cowell’s judicial responsibilities on Fox’s “X Factor,” but should prove a boost for ITV, where the show struggled last year without him.

He will be joined on the judging panel by Alesha Dixon, who has jumped ship to ITV from the BBC’s version of “Dancing with the Stars,” and “Little Britain” star David Walliams.

David Hasselhoff and Michael McIntyre, who stepped up to the judging panel a year ago, won’t be returning, but Amanda Holden will remain.

Announcing the move Monday - and the fact that he will be plowing $410,000 of his own money to double the winner’s prize packet to $820,000, Mr. Cowell said he had been homesick for the U.K. and wanted to go back to host the show’s sixth series.

“I miss Britain and I miss the British public and I miss judging them. I want to find the next generation of talent in 2012,” he said.

“By coming back in 2012, it’s the year of the Olympics, it’s a big year for Britain, we are going to be in the world’s spotlight and I want this show to be back in the world spotlight.”

Mr. Cowell said he felt he had to “put my money where my mouth is,” when it came to making the show’s prize attractive to viewers, “so I’m personally putting up 250,000 pounds, so that’s 500,000 pounds cash to the winner, so that’s a big incentive.”

Last year’s cash prize for the winner was $164,000, plus the opportunity to perform at the Royal Variety show, which this year’s winner will also take up.

Mr. Cowell also said he wants to grab more diverse contestants from all sorts of disciplines, not just music.

“I came back because most importantly I want to change the perception of the show. I love originality, I love great singers, I love great comedians. I love things I’ve never seen before. Everyone thinks I hate magicians, well I hate bad magicians, but I’d love to find a great magician,” he said. “I’d like to find the next N’Sync or the next Backstreet Boys, the next Justin Bieber. I’ve always dreamt about finding a dog who can play guitar. And we’ve failed. So I want talented dogs. I really want one that can dance or can play an instrument.

Live auditions for the show will begin Jan 22.

‘American Idol’ finalist marries on New Year’s Eve

“American Idol” finalist James Durbin married longtime girlfriend Heidi Lowe in a New Year’s Eve ceremony at the edge of a California redwood forest.

According to the Associated Press, the couple said in a statement that the wedding in a Santa Cruz Mountains chapel was a perfect way to kick off 2012.

The Contra Costa Times reported the 85 guests included their 2-year-old son, Hunter, who was the ring bearer.

Other guests included fellow “American Idol” alums Haley Reinhart, Stefano Langone and Casey Abrams.

The “Idol” season 10 finalist turns 23 on Friday. His debut album, “Memories of a Beautiful Disaster,” was released in November.

Mr. Durbin is from nearby Santa Cruz.

Super Bowl ads sold out at $3.5M for 30 seconds

If you want to purchase ad space for next month’s Super Bowl XLVI, your time is up: Every spot is sold, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to media buyers at Comcast-owned NBC Universal, companies are shelling out $3.5 million for a single 30-second commercial, an increase from last year’s $3 million price when Fox carried the Green Bay Packers-Pittsburgh Steelers game, the Hollywood Reporter says. In the past 11 years, ad prices have spiked 59 percent, demonstrating the impact of the Super Bowl - the top trophy of sports event programming - on the advertising industry.

“We have shattered any recent revenue stories in regards to the Super Bowl,” Seth Winter, senior vice president of sales and marketing at NBC’s sports group, told USA Today.

Each 30-second spot was filled by Thanksgiving, Mr. Winter said, noting a new trend in more commercials lasting 60 seconds or more, versus just 30 seconds.

Here’s some early details on who bought what: Volkswagen, purveyor of 2011’s hit Darth Vader ad, purchased a 60-second spot in the third quarter to sell its Beetle car; Dannon will make an appearance as the first-ever yogurt company to advertise in the Super Bowl; NFL celebrities Troy Aikman and Deion Sanders will make cameos in Bridgestone ads; GoDaddy.com will feature the pop-music group Pussycat Dolls in one of its two spots. (Last year, the company revealed Joan Rivers as its star spokeswoman.)

On Saturday, a dozen teams begin their quest for Super Bowl XLVI, slated for broadcast Feb. 5 on NBC.

Deal to sell ‘M*A*S*H’ hot dog diner falls through

The sale of an Ohio hot dog diner made famous on TV’s “M*A*S*H” has fallen through, with the potential buyer saying he will not complete the $5.5 million deal because of bank-required changes.

The news surfaced Tuesday as two Tony Packo’s Inc. officials pleaded not guilty to stealing from the company.

According to the Associated Press, the owner of the private restaurant group that planned to buy the chain said his decision came after the bank holding the loan to the chain required changes. Media outlets reported those changes included an increase in the loan interest rate.

Packo’s executive vice president Tony Packo III and another company official pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three counts each of aggravated theft.

Authorities said the charges stem from an 18-month investigation into the alleged theft of about $170,000 from the restaurant chain.

Tony Packo’s was referenced in episodes of the 1970s and ‘80s TV series “M*A*S*H.” Cross-dressing character Cpl. Max Klinger craved the hot dogs.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.

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