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‘Contender’ returns to the ring this summer

Plus; Simon Cowell's "Vegas Idol" search; and our favorite question ever.
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Reality-show producers should just ask us what shows to produce and what to cancel. If our mailbag is any indication, certain shows that got next to no love from their networks have dedicated cult followings, while other shows that seem to get all the attention (ahem — "The Bachelor" — ahem) are hardly reader favorites.

Our readers, for example, love "The Mole" (see ) and "The Contender," with a steady steam of fans still longing for a return of "Paradise Hotel." We can't help you with two of those shows, but this week we do offer an update on the upcoming return of "The Contender."

Q: What happened to "The Contender"? Was it actually getting picked up by ESPN?    —Teresa

A: Yes. Although the Mark Burnett-produced boxing show didn’t produce “Survivor”-like ratings on NBC in 2005, it drew a solid audience. Thus, when NBC decided not to renew the show, ESPN was rumored to be interested, and officially picked up the second season a couple months later.

The cable sports network started working right away to bring the franchise to its schedule, announcing an October rematch between Peter Manfredo, Jr., and “Contender” winner Sergio Mora. Mora won again, although due to a controversial split decision. ESPN is continuing to promote the show with another “Contender”-themed fight that aired Monday and which featured Manfredo against a non-“Contender” boxer.

Clearly, the network is trying to build an audience for the series among its boxing viewers. And they’ll have a little while longer to do so. While season two was originally scheduled to air in April, the premiere has been pushed back to sometime in July.    —A.D.

Q: We’d like to know the names of the Fab Five on “Queer Eye on the Straight Guy” to name five canaries after.    —Gail

A: Andy says: This may be a first, naming pets after the entire cast of a reality show—and if it isn’t, I’m not sure I want to know about the others. Naming canaries after “Queer Eye” guys would suggest undying devotion and endless passion for the show, so it’s somewhat curious that their names remain a question mark, especially since they appear in the opening credits and again in the first few moments of each show.

But far be it from me to let the birds remain nameless for another minute. The Fab Five are:

Carson Kressley (fashion)Thom Filicia (interior design)Kyan Douglas (grooming)Ted Allen (food)Jai Rodriguez (culture)

Gael says: I just want to add that this may be my favorite question we've ever answered. That is all.

Q: It is rumored that NBC and Simon Cowell are working on a concept for reality TV in which they are searching for the newest Las Vegas act. Can you tell me how do you audition for this show?    —Jodi

A: It's more than a rumor, that show is . Cowell, "American Idol's" oh-so-caustic judge, has said that "I hope to find the new Siegfried and Roy."

Unfortunately, the show doesn't even have a name yet, so we can't tell you anything about auditions. It's supposedly scheduled for the summer, so they'd better announce auditions in fairly short order. Your best bet for now is to bookmark and check it regularly. If we hear an update, we'll report back.    —G.F.C.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is's Television Editor. is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.