February 22nd, 2010
08:35 AM ET

'Our Little Genius' under FCC probe

Remember "Our Little Genius"?

This was the Fox game show featuring child geniuses answering questions on specialty subjects.  Fox was expected to premiere the show in January, but the network pulled the show a week before its premiere, after series creator Mark Burnett expressed concerns over, in his words, "How some information was relayed to contestants during pre-production."

Now, the New York Times is reporting that the Federal Communications Commission is investigating whether "Our Little Genius" provided potential contestants with answers to some questions before taping.

According to the newspaper, the parent of one potential contestant wrote a letter to the FCC, alleging that a member of the show's production staff provided the child and his parents with potential topics that may come up during the taping, as well as the names of four musical notes that the staff member said the child "needed to know."

Under the Communications Act of 1934, it is illegal to provide contestants "in a purportedly bona fide contest of intellectual knowledge or intellectual skill" any assistance that would result in the contest's outcome being rigged.

The FCC generally does not discuss such investigations, so it is likely we won't hear anything unless a ruling is made or the probe is scrapped.

The report brings to mind the quiz show scandals of the 1950s, where contestants from several popular shows, including "Twenty-One" and "Dotto," were secretly given answers from producers.  That led to Congressional hearings on the legitimacy of such shows, as well as the downfall of the "big money" quiz show genre.

What do you think of these new allegations against "Our Little Genius"?  Could this lead to a greater probe of the game and "reality competition" genres, or will it be much ado about nothing?

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Filed under: television

soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Str8 outta TX

    i've said this type of sh** was rigged from the start.

    February 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. J.S.

    No way a rigged game show on Fox... ....ummm... duh!

    February 23, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Michelle

    There isn't a "reality" show in existence that isn't rigged. They have become so obvious and so boring. When they first started they seemed to be legitimate, but as time went on they got more and more contrived. American Idol purports to find non professional talent, and it seemed at first that they did, but the last few years their "contestants" who made it to the end, have had failed show biz careers and failed CDs. These are failed professionals who are trying for their last chance and Idol gives it to them under the guise of a non pro talent show. It is now simply annoying to watch.

    February 23, 2010 at 5:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. waga

    I'm sure Fox would never do anything immoral.

    February 23, 2010 at 5:01 am | Report abuse |
  5. Grace

    "Our Little Genius" is being investigated? Does that mean O'Reilly, Beck, Hannity, Coulter and Malkin will no longer be on the air? 🙂

    February 23, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  6. QuietStormX / Carroll

    This sound like FOX. I checked out the show and thought it looked fishey. Sure you might have some smart adults adults, I didn't like the show.... i'm glad it's being investigated by the FCC.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Chameleon

    Its news because Fox has no idea what reality is..its all fake.... just like fair and balanced news..its all fake..independant tea party which is funded and controlled by right wing think tanks and corporate america including oil money and ran by ron paul..some independance....hell if they feed people at rallies to fake it as single parnets instead of staff and getting people to cheer someone they dont know why not feed kids information on a show..im amazed it even pulled the show and not just ran it with feed me lines sarah palin, call it 'LITTLE GENIUS, LITTLE SENSE'

    February 22, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mark McKee

    Like FOX & Rupert Murdoch or any of the big media monopolies have to worry about the FCC. Get real folks. It's not the 1950s. That ship sailed long ago....

    February 22, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. datruth

    @El Gordo Reality shows are as real as a US election, dont concern your self so much with another country, worry about how fake your system is and how much money and how many lives they are stealing from your country, pal!

    February 22, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Paul Dumas

    IF the show never aired, were any laws broken?

    February 22, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MrsFizzy

    Did they get that idea from "Magnolia"??? I noticed the commercials & when it never aired assumed they had woken up to what a horrible idea for a show it was...

    February 22, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dawn

    why would any network want to put kids out there like this, and why would parents let their children go on a show that does this....kudos to the parents who blew the whistle on this..i am amazed that more parents didn't say whoa wait a minute i don't want my child associated with this at all.

    February 22, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jon Audette

    A child genius had to be advised of the NAMES OF FOUR MUSICAL NOTES?!? Really? REALLY?!? Having played the piano for 20+ years now, starting when I was five, maybe I'm wrong, but don't most "normal kids" actually learn musical scales and "the basics" in some type of music class (provided, to be thorough, they haven't been canceled and are still taught)? Just thinkin'......

    February 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. publius enigma

    Yes reality shows are about as real as tobacco company claims that smoking isnt really dangerous despite what that label says.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rocko

    Quiz Show was an awesome movie... just saying...

    February 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  16. rich

    It never aired. how does this fall under FCC jurisdiction?

    February 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  17. ken

    I believe there is no such thing as reality on entertainment TV. Nothing happens by accident. Anybody who thinks otherwise is foolish.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Jason

    Sounds to me like they tried to make the show, found out that 6 year olds aren't as smart as they thought, so they had to make it "interesting" by having them actually able to answer some of the questions.

    Not like this is a big loss. Even if the concept worked without "fixing", the show itself seemed like a dumb idea.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  19. JT

    As the show didn't air, how is this any concern of the FCC? Nothing of it was communicated.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Milton

    Nobody really wants reality. They want a dramatization of reality. If we wanted reality we wouldn't watch television and would spend our days getting oil changes and laundry.

    Given the bias toward "contestants" on reality shows with narcissism, histrionic, or otherwise similar synonym for "penchant for acting", none of these shows–including gameshows represents anything real. I've noticed that some "contestants" seem to show up on different shows with some regularity.

    The real value of reality television, like sports, is the utter inconsequence of the outcomes. We have busy lives and can't afford to invest much emotion or mental energy on a television program. Reality shows provide us an easy way out. We can use the bathroom, take a mid-show nap, and not miss anything. That's what America wants. It is the same culture that has produced news magazines that contain articles precisely the length of your average bathroom visit.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  21. chris

    The people that think this is simply an anti-fox news story need to get their head out of their butt.

    There was an interview with Dommnick from the first season of Road Rulesmany years ago. He explained that members of the show would be encouraged to fight with each other, and many times, would be told that "if things didn't get interesting, cast changes would be made."

    Even crew members of shows like Survivor and Big Brother have come forth with the notion that much of what on during the tapings were 'scripted' by the network.

    Want more proof that these shows are scams, watch American Idol. During the end credits, there is a disclaimer that read "Text voting may not impact final selections, and judges can choose finalist in lieu of text vote totals"

    February 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  22. publius enigma

    Actually Maddawg the creator Mark Burnett was one that complained that there was rigging. Read before comment.

    February 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Thom

    Why is the FCC involved if this was never actually broadcast?

    But also, yeah, first world problems...

    February 22, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Too True For You

    Big surprise: Fox found to be dishonest on their shows. Anyone who watches any of their conservative pedagogues has seen how much Fox cares for being honest or fair.

    So much for "Fair and Balanced", huh?

    February 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  25. karlo

    What do you expect from the fax channel?

    February 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  26. IMHO

    You can say what you want about whatever network or its content but the name of the game is "butts-on-the-couch-in-front-of-the-tube." As long as our slack-jawed citizenry keeps turning them on to the extent the ratings continue to generate advertising revenue, we're stuck with them. You don't want reality shows? Vote with your remote. There's still a lot of worthwhile programming out there. It just takes a little more effort to find it.

    February 22, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Mark

    Sorry Bill, you aren't allowed to use FOX and Genius in the same sentence.

    February 22, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Twinko

    Hey, who took my twinkies??

    February 22, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Warren

    Just re-enforces the concept that people will lie and deceive if there is a chance they can get away with it. As well, since the advent of supposed reality show, oft times reflecting the lowest common denominator of human kind, people seem to have forgotten to make their own reality interesting and eventful and insteads opt for living their lives through those who are common enough to be absurd. Banality does not take courage. Finally, with 'reality' shows, no one has to create new ideas or enter new vistas of thought.

    February 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Bill

    Is it anti-Fox or anti-genius?

    February 22, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Greg

    What is with all the people who ask why this is news? There are hundreds of articles on this site, they can't all be about life and death. Lighten up and quit reading articles that aren't up to your standards, because after all... no one cares about your opinion.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  32. Hawk

    This is news because it echoes the 1950's rigged tv game shows and because it is such a stupid violation of the law, if true. To say that this is news because it is "anti-fox" is rather narcisstic to say the least. It isn't always about you, your politics, or your favorite tv channel.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  33. Matt

    Is, if you're expecting real news, it would probably be best to not look under the "Entertainment" section.

    It doesn't surprise me that this is going on. I bet it's taken place on countless other shows, just no one actually reported it.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  34. Head Diva In Charge

    How did you expect the show to do well? I mean, if the "Little Genius" didn't know how to spell his name then the show would be pretty stupid wouldn't it?

    February 22, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  35. Chris

    My understanding of the show is that the children were not really the contestants. Was more like Hollywood squares where the adult contestants were being asked to determine if the "little genius" would answer correctly or not. This still puts the show in a poor light of exploiting the children.

    February 22, 2010 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  36. Is

    Uhm. Real news would be great.

    February 22, 2010 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  37. Mike

    Yawnnnn......and this is news because??? Oh, I get it, because it is anti-Fox....

    February 22, 2010 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  38. maddawg

    sounds like the creator of 'little genius' is just a big imbecile!

    lol...of course, anyone that creates what is displayed on tv today as 'reality shows' has very little imagination and even less intelligence other than pretending something is real.....

    wow....real tough act there.....

    February 22, 2010 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  39. El Gordo

    These "reality" shows are about as real as a pro-government rally in Iran.

    February 22, 2010 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |

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