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‘Contender’ returns to the ring

"The Contender" will return. Plus: Reality-show premiere dates; whatever happened to Paige Davis.
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Boxing reality show "The Contender" wasn't much talked about early in its run, except for the shocking news of the . But as the show progressed, it developed a strong core of fans, and when it was announced that NBC wasn't planning a second season, those fans deluged us with e-mail asking for updates. It was rumored early that another network would pick up the show, and now that rumor is fact.

Q: I was very pleased to read your last article on the possibility that “The Contender” would return next fall (either picked up again by NBC or on ESPN). But, I am left hanging... is it going to return or not? There are many die-hard fans of this show waiting desperately to know!    —Jeffrey

A: “Contender” fans can relax and/or rejoice: the series will return to television screens next April. The Mark Burnett-produced boxing reality show has been picked up by ESPN, after being dropped by NBC once its first season ended.

On NBC, the show aired on Sunday nights against “The Simpsons” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and thus had a hard time drawing huge numbers. ESPN seems like a more natural fit for the series, and Burnett agrees. In a statement, he said, “Our vision from the onset was to improve the entertainment experience of televised boxing for the fans. What better platform to achieve that vision than on the network that pioneered sports television programming.”

ESPN has the rights to purchase two additional seasons, so in addition to “The Contender 2”, we may see “The Contender 3” and “The Contender 4”.

By the way, ESPN will air a “rubber match” pitting season one’s third-place contender Alfonso Gomez against runner-up Peter Manfredo. That’s currently scheduled for Sept. 16.    —A.D.

Q: When does the next version of "The Apprentice" start?    —Anonymous

A: We get this question almost daily for every big reality show out there. Here's a short list of some of the major fall reality-show premieres.    —G.F.C.

Sept. 12: "Wife Swap" premiereSept. 13: "Biggest Loser 2" premiereSept. 15: "Survivor: Guatemala" premiereSept. 21: "The Apprentice Martha Stewart" premiereSept. 21: "America's Next Top Model" premiereSept. 22: "The Apprentice 4" (Donald Trump) premiereSept. 25: "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" premiereSept. 27: "The Amazing Race Family Edition" premiere

Q: What happened to Paige Davis on “Trading Spaces”? Has the show dropped some of its designers also?    —Annie

A: While a number of designers have left over the years to go on to other projects, host Paige Davis was actually fired earlier this year, leaving the show more than three years after she helped turn it into one of cable reality television’s biggest hits.

Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. on the "Let's Be Cops," red carpet, Selena Gomez is immortalized in wax and more.

If you’ve watched “Trading Spaces” any time recently, you’ll have noticed that she wasn’t replaced. That’s because the show was in the middle of a ratings nose-dive, and producers tried to recover from that by reinventing the series. Hence the “host-less” format that was introduced.

The production company behind the series, Banyan Productions, told at least one viewer in an e.mail message that the network, TLC, was ultimately responsible for letting Paige go. There were also rumors that an alleged but yet-to-surface sex tape, among other things, were the real culprits.

In any case, Paige posted a message on the show’s Web site after being let go that said, “I will miss my friends very much, but I know they all wish me well and send me off with their love and support; and I am sure that Trading Spaces will still be a fabulous and fun show for all of you to watch. I will certainly be watching and cheering them on.”    —A.D.

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