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Scuttled 'Our Little Genius' may resurface on Fox

The children's game show was set to debut Wednesday before episodes were ditched.

January 12, 2010|By Meg James

Despite scuttling their game show featuring children less than a week before its announced air date, Fox executives said Monday that "Our Little Genius" could eventually join the network's lineup.

Last week, Fox and the show's producer took the highly unusual step of scrapping eight episodes over concerns that the young contestants might have received improper coaching.

Fox had been running on-air promos for the series and had planned to launch it Wednesday night after "American Idol." The program showcases children between ages 6 and 12 answering increasingly difficult questions in a bid to win thousands of dollars for their families.

On Monday, Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly told television writers at the press tour in Pasadena that Fox immediately shelved the series last week after it learned from the show's executive producer, Mark Burnett, that there had been problems with how the children had been briefed. The children might have received too much information about the subject matter that would be covered during the questioning.

During the 1950s, quiz show scandals engulfed the television industry and prompted congressional hearings and federal rules designed to prevent the rigging of TV game show competitions. Fox executives said that none of the children competing in "Our Little Genius" were provided answers to questions.

"The sanctity of these competitions is extremely important," Reilly said Monday. "This was something that happened at the producing level, [there was] a miscommunication in which two producers who were responsible for handling the kids [provided] information that was potentially overlapping that could seem to have compromised" the integrity of competition.

Burnett told Fox that he would absorb the costs of the ditched episodes and that he wanted to restart production and provide the series to Fox. In a statement last week, Burnett said he felt uncomfortable delivering the episodes, adding that "my series must always be beyond reproach."

Burnett did not return a call for comment Monday.

Some have questioned whether the intensity of the competition might put too much pressure on young contestants.

Fox's president of alternative entertainment, Mike Darnell, defended the concept, saying many of the children already compete in math and other academic competitions.

"This is certainly less pressure than the National Spelling Bee on ABC," Darnell said. "It is a great show. We would love to see it come back."

meg.james@latimes.com

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