Less than a week before it was set to premiere after American Idol, Fox has shelved new competition series Our Little Genius over concerns about the show's content.
Child welfare experts have raised concerns over the show's premise of putting children through the wringer to win a cash prize. But news reports also have raised the possibility that contestants may have been given information about questions to be posed, pointing to the spectre of a Quiz Show-esque scandal.
In a statement released Thursday, Jan. 7, Mark Burnett, the show's executive producer said: "I recently discovered that there was an issue with how some information was relayed to contestants during the pre-production of Our Little Genius. As a result, I am not comfortable delivering the episodes without re-shooting them. I believe my series must always be beyond reproach, so I have requested that Fox not air these episodes."
The show has children 6-12 vying for cash prizes in excess of $500,000 if they successfully exhibit encyclopedic knowledge of a certain subject. Questions increase in difficulty over ten levels. Their parents appear with them in front of the show's studio audience and ultimately decide whether their child quits and keeps the money accrued or advances to the next question and a bigger payday. If the child delivers an incorrect answer, they lose accrued cash down to $10,000.
In a simultaneously released statement, Fox expressed support for Burnett, the prolific producer behind successful reality franchises including Survivor and The Apprentice.
"Mark Burnett is one of the pre-eminent producers of unscripted programming on television," the company said in a statement. "Even though we were incredibly pleased with the quality of Our Little Genius, we respect and appreciate his due diligence and the decision to pull these episodes. We agree there can be no question about the integrity of our shows. While these episodes will not air, the families who participated in the show will receive their winnings, and we are grateful for their participation."
In place of scheduled episodes of Our Little Genius, Fox will air a special extended episode of American Idol, Wednesday, Jan. 13 from 8-9:30 p.m. followed by an encore of the 450th episode of The Simpsons. On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Fox will air an encore of the pilot episode of the new drama Human Target at 9 p.m. following the regularly scheduled installment of American Idol at 8 p.m.