'Million Dollar Listing' returns minus a cast member

Monday, 31 January 2011 12:00 AM Written by 

Million_Dollar_Listing_season_4UPDATED: PASADENA, Calif. -- For many viewers, their Bravo guilty pleasure is one of the "Real Housewives of ..." shows. Have to admit, I never got into those. My secret shame is "Million Dollar Listing" (9 p.m. Thursday), an ode to conspicuous consumption and the challenges of selling a home with tacky interior design.

The series returns this week for its fourth season with one cast member MIA and another in his place. Chad Rogers is out and Josh Altman (in the center at left) is in.

What happened? Read on after the jump. ...

"Million Dollar Listing" has always been as much about the house porn as the three real estate agents who act as these upscale homes' pimps. Josh Flagg (above, left) was always the jerk who forever butted heads with Chad, who came across as a bit of a self-loving boy scout. Madison Hildebrand (above, right) was the sexually confused, nice agent who eventually migrated from bisexual to gay.

"You ask me on Friday, I was makingout with a girl," Madison said when I saw him at NBC Universal's press tour party last month. "But for the most part I'm settled, I'm gay. In this season, I'm gay. Once in a while I feel the energy of a woman and it's all good."

I love how he talks about his sexuality as if it's a plot point, which, of course, it is: "In this season, I'm gay."

chad_0So what happened to Chad (pictured, right), the youthful agent who always touched his Justin Bieber-like hair, was completely lacking in self-awareness and spoke in a stilted manner befitting a child star?

In a recent interview, Chad said he left because he became too busy with his real estate work. Madison also told me it was Chad's decision to leave the show. But Bravo executive Frances Berwick said his departure was a "mutual" decision.

ADDED: "Chad wanted to leave the show to focus on his career," a Bravo spokeswoman said. "We wish him the best."

"We'd done three seasons with the three of them and it was really time to bring in new blood," Bravo executive Frances Berwick said on Bravo's press tour day last month. "We found somebody who's absolutely great in a complete different way from Chad."

That's sort of true but sort of not true.

Josh Altman is an arrogant jerk wheras Chad was more of a well-intended twerp but both of them are high-energy guys who live and breathe real estate and have no conception of how they come across to others. Josh Flagg calls Josh Altman a shark in the show's  premiere this week and another agent compares him to Ari Gold from "Entourage."

"The new guy has a lot of energy and a big ego," Madison said. "He's straight and likes to dabble around with my assistant so it creates a whole bunch of new drama. He's a real player."

As for the lengthy delay between seasons of the show, Berwick points the finger at the real estate market, not any recasting.

"We try to have a certain number of transactions going on," she said. "Even though at this end of the market they're a little more impervious -- if you've got $8 million to spend, you're a little bit above the market -- but still things are moving a lot less quickly. That's one of the challenges of production you can't control."

UPDATE: Late on Jan. 31 I received a cease and desist letter from a lawyer sent on behalf of Chad Rogers. She asserts that to suggest Chad leaving the show was by “mutual decision” with Bravo is a “false allegation.” If you read what I wrote above, I included a quote from a Bravo executive from Jan. 13. She said the decision was “mutual,” – a quote I have on tape. I also linked to an article where Chad said he left on his own because he became too busy with his day job. I quoted a co-star who said Chad left on his own. And I posted a query about the circumstances of his departure for @ChadRogersTV on Twitter on Dec. 16 but I received no response.

Because the statement causing concern was not mine but the network’s, I contacted Bravo and awaited a response. A Bravo spokeswoman said, "Chad wanted to leave the show to focus on his career. We wish him the best." That portion of the post has been updated above.

What’s not clear is how use of Chad’s name in a news story constitutes a “clear infringement of Chad’s valuable state and federal trademark rights” as his lawyer asserts. He went on an entertainment television show, which makes him a public figure (by his own choice) whose name is going to be included in news reports.  Barack Obama cannot trademark his name; neither can Chad Rogers.

The full text of Chad’s lawyer’s letter is below. Make of it what you will:

January 31, 2011

Rob Owen

VIA EMAIL This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Re:       CHAD ROGERS – MILLION DOLLAR LISTING

Dear Rob:

It has come to my attention that you are disseminating inaccurate and inflammatory information regarding my client, Chad Rogers.  Specifically, you reported that Chad’s leaving the television series “Million Dollar Listing” (“Series”) was a mutual decision between Chad and Bravo:

http://communityvoices.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in-journal/27106-million-dollar-listing-returns-minus-a-cast-member

This allegation is false, which you would have determined had your facts been adequately checked.  In fact, two websites (Zap2It and Entertainment Weekly), which had carried the story last month, printed retractions following their initial reports.  Chad’s decision to leave the Series was decidedly not mutual with Bravo – Chad elected, in his sole discretion (vis a vis Bravo), to leave the Series.  Your false allegation has placed Chad in a false light, and infringes on his right of publicity under California law.

As you know, Chad is a successful individual who has spent considerable time and money to advertise and promote his name.  As a result of such efforts, Chad enjoys extremely positive publicity and has built up significant goodwill.  Your use of his name is a clear infringement of Chad’s valuable state and federal trademark rights.  Such unauthorized use constitutes a blatant, serious and intentional violation of Chad’s valuable rights of publicity and privacy, all of which expose you to substantial compensatory and punitive damages. In fact, due to the inaccurate information appearing on your website, other publications published the same inaccurate statements, citing your website as its source.  This additional dissemination increases your exposure significantly.

I hereby demand that you immediately cease and desist from all unauthorized and infringing statements and confirm (in writing) the same. I also demand that you print a retraction of the false allegation immediately.  If I have not received prompt, full and voluntary compliance with the foregoing, please be advised that I shall, without further notice to you, take all available legal action to protect my client to the fullest extent allowed by law and to obtain such additional legal and/or equitable relief that the court may allow in these circumstances (including punitive damages).

This letter does not constitute a complete or exhaustive statement of all of my client’s rights, claims, contentions or legal theories or the facts underlying them.  The foregoing should in no way whatsoever be deemed to limit or waive any of my client’s rights or remedies, both legal and equitable, all of which are hereby expressly reserved.

Sincerely yours,

Wendy Heller
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