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TelevisionWeek's Blink page is an industry must-read, taking a sardonic look at happenings across the television business. This wry coverage is extended online and updated throughout the week.

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Bill for Milkshake, Fries, Meatwad: $1 Million?

February 5, 2007 12:00 AM

The "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" promotional boxes that prompted a bomb scare in Boston will prove much more expensive for Turner Broadcasting than for fans of the show, who are trying to snap up the suspicious objects on eBay. Fans of Turner's off-color Adult Swim show are cruising the auction site for mementos of the fiasco, and late Friday the bidding for the boxes, which look like the old Lite Brite kids' toys, was running at $250. Turner's bill to compensate the city for emergency response costs? About $1 million, reportedly. Late Friday, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said officials were close to reaching an agreement on restitution and other costs connected to the promotion nightmare, and that an announcement would be made today. The boxes were attached by magnets to public spaces in 10 cities a few weeks ago. One was spotted Wednesday in Boston by someone who thought a device adorned with batteries and lights might be a tad suspicious. In these post-9/11 times, the officials did the safe thing and called in the bomb squad, closed roads and stopped trains, tying up the city. Boston's pols were unleashed. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino ripped the promotion, calling it "outrageous," and demanding that Turner pay emergency-response expenses incurred by the city and other agencies. "It would be hard to dream up a more appalling publicity stunt. Whoever thought this up needs to find another job," said Massachusetts Republican Rep. Ed Markey. City Councilor Michael Flaherty was fuming and demanded that Turner Broadcasting reimburse the city of Boston "for every dime spent today on this serious public safety threat." "It's outrageous, reckless and totally irresponsible," added Mr. Flaherty. "What a waste of resources. Scaring an entire region, tying up the T and major roadways, and forcing first responders to spend 12 hours chasing down trinkets instead of terrorists is marketing run amok." Turner, meanwhile, ate crow, took out newspaper ads and apologized on-air, then got ready to write a big check.

-Jon Lafayette

Designing by Committee

The DIY Network is really going to let users do it themselves. In early February, the network will hand over the controls to its viewers, letting them decide exactly what the log cabin that the show builds for its summer series "Blog Cabin" will look like. DIY will let viewers vote on the fireplace, counters, floor plan and more for the 13-part series that debuts in August. Web site visitors can vote in February and March, said Jim Sexton, senior VP for interactive brands for Scripps. "The audience is participating in all aspects of the show," he said. Once the network's carpenters build the $300,000 cabin to the blogosphere's specs in a Smoky Mountains Tennessee location, DIY will give it away in a sweepstakes that starts in August. The DIY Best Built Home giveaway in 2006 garnered 4 million entries. That's a rough ballpark estimate of the number of entries the network expects for "Blog Cabin." The populist nature of the experiment makes Blink wonder whether DIY will end up with a Frankencabin. "It will be an interesting house," Mr. Sexton said.

-Daisy Whitney

Indigestion Foretold?

Item: Giant Fortune Cookie

Company: NBC Universal

Promoting: "Jet Li's Fearless" on Demand

Comment: At a certain point, even the most innocuous items become frightening once they reach a certain size. This cookie, so massive it seems to almost threaten you into trying to eat it, has easily surpassed that point. Stare at it long enough and it appears to breathe. Your fortune: Those who eat giant cookie have giant regret.

-James Hibberd

Steel Cage Match: Cooper or VanSusteren?

The knock-down, drag-out between CNN and Fox News Channel got personal last week, and Blink had ringside seats well within the splatter zone. A quick perusal of TelevisionWeek's Jan. 29 issue reveals a Fox News advertisement on Page 23 that commenced the hostilities. It depicts a rear-view photograph of a man whose cropped gray hair bears more than a passing resemblance to the silvery locks of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. The ad's headline blares, "Meet the Paris Hilton of Television News" and the copy below politely points out that he gets beat in the ratings "EVERY NIGHT." The ad continues on Page 25 with a glamour shot of Fox anchor Greta Van Susteren, who is administering the beating. The insult to Mr. Cooper generated stories in gossip outlets as vaunted as the Page Six column in New York Post, which, like Fox News Channel, is owned by News Corp. Blink was left to wonder whether CNN would just let the readers decide, or counter by comparing Ms. Van Susteren to BritneyLindsayNicoleEtc. Check out page 9 in this very issue of TelevisionWeek to see for yourself, gentle readers.

-Greg Baumann