Shake-up at Squares continues

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When it comes to changes on syndicated game show Hollywood
Squares
, the departure of Whoopi Goldberg as center square is just the tip
of the iceberg. The show will have a whole new look and feel next season -- and,
hopefully, better ratings.

Just days after Whoopi's departure was confirmed, King World Productions gave
the show's two other executive producers -- John Moffit and Pat Lee -- their
walking papers.

Another expected departure is Emmy Award-winning comedy writer Bruce Vilanch,
whose ties are closer to Moffit, Lee and Goldberg than to King World.

And Caroline Rhea, who appears regularly on the show, will likely leave or cut
back her appearances next season given her commitment to her own new syndicated
talk show.

It's also possible that King World will need to find a new host. Tom Bergeron, the
current host, is said to be one of the finalists to replace Bryant Gumbel on
CBS' The Early Show.

Moffitt and Lee have been the show runners for Squares since its
launch four seasons ago. The pair have had a longtime association with
Goldberg, but sources said King World chairman Roger King never warmed to
them. In a prepared statement, however, King said the pair are "great producers . but we
feel we need to make some changes for next season."

One reason, of course, is that the show is very costly to produce (Whoopi's
salary alone was said to approach $10 million annually), and it hasn't delivered the
ratings that King World and its partner station group, CBS, had expected of
it.

In February, the show averaged a 3.8 rating and 7 share in the top 100
markets, according to a Katz Media Group analysis of the Nielsen Media Research Station Index
ratings for the sweep period. That's well below the two top performers in the
genre, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, not to mention a bunch of
other shows it competes with on a daily basis (including Entertainment
Tonight
, Friends and Seinfeld).

Who will get the center square next season remains to be determined. Before
Whoopi got the nod, King World reportedly had lengthy talks with Jason
Alexander. Billy Crystal was also approached. "You'll be seeing lots of changes
on the show next year," one source close to the show said.

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