Mark Burnett’s trouble-plagued game show "Our Little Genius" may never get broadcast, but an FCC complaint filed by the parent of one of the contestants is seeing the light of day.
Its disclosure may mean more public relations headaches for the Burnett over a mounting controversy that’s already been drawing parallels with the quiz-show scandals of the 1950s.
Production on the Fox show, which featured whiz kids aged 6 to 12 answering trivia questions for money, halted in January — a week before it was set to debut.
The eight episodes that were filmed were shelved after Burnett said he found "an issue with how some information was relayed to contestants during the pre-production."
(Read the full complaint here)
The FCC complaint, obtained after the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request, shed some light into what these "issues" may have been.
The father’s name and that of the young contestant have been redacted from the complaint.
Regulators are looking into the complaint’s allegations by the father of one of the kiddie prodigy contestants charging that a producer coached his child on how to answer questions relating to music history and theory. He also talked with the family about what topics would be "easiest" for the contestant to answer.
Most damaging of all, however, is the charge that the producers may have fed answers to at least four questions.
That would seem to be a violation of the FCC statute that states that game shows are barred from engaging in "…any artifice or scheme for the purpose of prearranging or predetermining in whole or in part the outcome of a purportedly bona fide contest of intellectual knowledge, intellectual skill, or chance."
The FCC will not officially confirm that the show is under investigation.
However, as TheWrap has previously reported, the show’s producers may have shielded themselves from punishment by ensuring that the program never aired.
"If there’s no show, there’s really no evidence of any wrongdoing," Sharon Gold, an entertainment lawyer with TroyGould P.C, told TheWrap after news broke that Burnett had yanked the program.
In the complaint, the father notes that after a meeting with an attorney from Mark Burnett Productions and the families of other contestants, in which he questioned the way that the show was being conducted, he was informed that filming had been postponed and their participation in the program was canceled.
"Given what I’ve observed, other families most likely received similar details about some of the questions that their children would be asked," the father writes. "It is reasonable to ask why would Mark Burnett Production want to reveal questions and answers and apparently help contestants win more prize money?
"One possible answer is that they have a strategy for controlling and allocating prize money. It is quite possible that they wanted almost everyone to answer three or four questions correctly and then fail shortly thereafter."