Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I've Moved This Blog to a New Site

The stilltalkintv blog has been moved to its own site, called stilltalkintv.com

Please visit the new site as new posts will not be on this page.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cautiously Optimistic About The Big C

Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney) worries about being too boring early in tonight’s 10:30 premiere of the Showtime series dark comedy about a woman dealing with cancer in her own way, “The Big C.”

But have no fear -- this series with the potentially uncomfortable subject matter is never boring. Strained perhaps, but not boring.

That’s largely due to the astonishing, life-affirming performance of Linney, who may be best known around here for the Academy-Award nomination she received for her performance in “The Savages” as the daughter of an elderly man she and her brother brought home to a Buffalo nursing home.

It can be debated whether trying to find comedy from a cancer diagnosis is appropriate – especially by those who have fought the disease or know loved ones who have. I have a very close friend who understandably wouldn’t consider watching the show for that very reason.

But there is no debating that Linney sparkles as Cathy, a tightly-wound schoolteacher whose diagnosis leads her to live life to the fullest and change her behavior with her emotionally-challenged and childish loved ones and strangers.

“The Big C” is another Showtime series starring a big name actress that deals with independent women. But this one is different from Edie Falco’s “Nurse Jackie” and Mary Louise Parker’s “Weeds” in that Linney’s character is much more sympathetic and easier to love.

A Minneapolis school teacher, Cathy is surrounded by an exceptional cast of quirky characters – some would say too quirky -- who are much more interesting than she is on the surface.

Her husband Paul (Oliver Platt, in a role he practically invented) is a child who drives a motor scooter and steadfastly avoids eating onions. Her teenage son Adam (Gabriel Basso) is a spoiled brat and practical joker. Her brother Sean (John Benjamin Hickey) is into liberal causes and eating trash.

The cast also includes a smart-aleck student with a salty tongue, Andrea (Gabourey Sidibe of “Precious” fame); A handsome, caring young doctor played by Reid Scott (“My Boys”); and a contentious neighbor, Marlene (Phyllis Somerville), who has a dog and initially no need for human friendship.

Cathy’s interaction with this group of mostly misfits (except the doctor) leads to the show’s humor. The material isn’t laugh out-loud funny, but symbolically and darkly humorous.

The most troublesome aspect of the first three episodes concerns Cathy’s decision to keep her cancer from her loved ones, who therefore misunderstand and battle her new attitude. However, Cathy’s choice can be viewed as a reflection of her inability to let loose and share things even with those she loves.

Perhaps by the end of the first season’s seven-episode run, Cathy will have come out of her protective shell and realize that sharing can be one of life’s best coping mechanisms.

It also isn’t until the third episode that Cathy expresses any strong anger about having terminal Stage Four melanoma. Until then, she largely deals with the diagnosis in a cheerful, smiling, self-deprecating way that appears to be her primary way of coping.

The series isn’t a tearjerker. Cathy’s actions don’t always make sense and the behavior of her quirky loved ones can become more than a little annoying.

But have no fear of the subject matter. “The Big C” celebrates life with one of America’s greatest actresses.

Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 4


Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Art of Attribution is in Danger

Sunday is usually a day of rest for stilltalkintv but an exception is being made because of the tragic events that led to the shooting deaths of four people after a wedding party in a downtown restaurant.

Here are a few thoughts about the coverage:

* I woke up Sunday morning in time to catch departing Channel 4 “Wake Up” anchor Jericka Duncan (she is going to a Philadelphia station) report that Buffalo police investigators “may have the wrong man in custody.”

A minute or so later, veteran reporter Rich Newberg said “Buffalo police may have arrested the wrong man.”

My immediate thought was whatever happened to attribution?

Channel 4’s reporters appeared to arrive at their conclusions because a relative of a wounded victim said that Keith D. Johnson was the wrong man.

By the end of Channel 4’s story, Newberg reported that Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III was expected to go to City Court today to ask that the murder charges against Johnson be dropped. (They were dropped this morning).

It made this journalist wonder why Channel 4 didn’t say at the top of the story something like this: “District Attorney Frank Sedita said he expects to ask a City Court judge today to dismiss the charges against a Buffalo man arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of four people.”

Attribution like that certainly is much stronger than just having reporters say the wrong man may have been arrested.

After watching Channel 4’s report, I picked up The Buffalo News story. In the second paragraph, the story said “law enforcement officials said they think they got the wrong man.”

Now that’s the proper attribution. It certainly is more powerful hearing law enforcement officials think they have the wrong man than it is hearing a reporter or a relative of a victim think that.

The second paragraph was followed by a comment from Sedita noting he has “serious reservations about whether we have the right guy here.”

The point is that attribution often seems to be a lost art in journalism. And that’s sad.

* Not to pick on Channel 4, but I found it appalling that its Saturday newscast featured some outrageous online comments from viewers about the story that were read by anchor Joe Arena. One viewer comment claimed Buffalo has become “the murder city” and another viewer comment claimed that Buffalo has become “a war zone.”

If a station is going to allow outrageous comments like that to be made on its air, it should at least give statistics that indicate whether there is any evidence to back them up.

* While I am on the subject of attribution, it is time to address a lighter story about the origin of the word “Fandemonium” in regards to the good old days when the Buffalo Bills were very good.

A Buffalo News story today says that former Buffalo Bills play-by-play man Van Miller “coined” the term.

Sorry, that’s not exactly the case.

According to Bills observers, the word “Fandemonium” was initially coined by former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley and quoted by Buffalo News reporter Gene Warner in a story that ran before Miller said it.

However, Miller should be credited for spreading the word on a subsequent radio broadcast and making the phrase part of Bills history.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tasker and Bentley Go Soft on Bills Opening Disaster

Some random thoughts while watching the Buffalo Bills not even reach low expectations in a 42-17 preseason loss to the Washington Redskins Friday night:

* Ex Bills Steve Tasker and Ray Bentley assuredly were a lot softer on the Bills during Channel 7’s telecast than the team’s fans undoubtedly were in their living rooms and area bars.

At game’s end, Bentley noted that there were some “bright spots” for the Bills. He added that 16 injured players on the roster were unavailable and noted the game “was probably not a true test of what the Buffalo Bills will be this season.”

It was hard to immediately see Bentley's “bright spots.” The early field goal drive?

Earlier Tasker noted that the Bills “didn’t stop playing.” So I suppose that could be a “bright spot.”

Hey, they were auditioning for full-time jobs. So why would they stop playing?

Referring to Bills Coach Chan Gailey, Tasker also said “No question this night did not turn out the way he wanted.”

You think?

Tasker and Bentley seemed more like apologists during the game than announcers.

Nobody expects announcers picked by the team to be assassins but a little more honesty would be preferable to their soft criticism. The lead of the game story today in the Buffalo News story written by Allen Wilson was “Ugh” and called Coach Chan Gailey’s debut “a colossal flop.”

Now that's an honest assessment. Just once you wish Tasker or Bentley had stated the obvious, especially when the Bills were down 35-3: The Bills are playing worst than expected and the quarterbacks still don’t have a chance to find any open receivers with backup linemen protecting.

* Some of the graphics during the game made one feel like he was taking an eye test. Last season’s statistics were in such small type that you’d need better than 20-20 eyesight to read them.

* Just got my first text from my older son, who was at the game. By the way, the game wasn’t played in the nation’s capital as you may have read. The Skins now play in Landover, Md., not D.C. Anyway, it is safe to say my son was a little more critical in his text than Tasker and Bentley were during the game.

* Don’t you hate it when announcers immediately side with the officials even when replays make some calls look questionable. Tasker quickly called a Skins reception near the goal line a touchdown before a commercial. After the commercial, Bentley noted the receiver may have been juggling the ball before he crossed the goal line. During the season, it would have been worth a challenge.

* Hey, some actual criticism. Tasker noted that Bills rookie back C.J. Spiller was put in the no-win situation of pass blocking a defensive end and that receiver Lee Evans should have tried harder to break up a pass that was intercepted. Still, it was hard to see what Evans could have done to prevent the interception. Bentley called out rookie linebacker Arthur Moats, who hustles but may have been beaten defensively on a few plays. I say “may” because Tasker wasn’t sure who was supposed to cover a wide open receiver.

* Since the goal of the game is to find players, it would have been nice to hear Tasker or Bentley tell viewers if anyone was playing well for the Bills.

* Here is what I believe to be an announcing first in a preseason game. Tasker talked about Bills fans having “angst” because of the way the team is playing and they are only down 14-3. Never heard "angst" used before in a game. Imagine how much angst there was when the game was 35-3.

* Tasker and Bentley agreed that Gailey kept quarterback Trent Edwards in longer than expected to make him feel more positive rather than sit him after an interception. Bad idea. Things only got worse for Edwards as the game went on.

* Comic relief: With the Bills having a fourth down and about a yard to go, Tasker suggested they go for it with 32 seconds left in the half. Then Bentley pointed out there were several minutes left in the half and Tasker was looking at the play clock. Who could blame Tasker for wanting to make this game end quickly? It would have been a good idea to call it a half then anyway.

* Tasker and Bentley both applauded Gailey’s decision to go for a first down deep in the Bills territory. Neither veteran announcer thought the obvious: The Bills were just trying to draw the Skins offside. It didn’t work.

* Turning philosophical with Bills down 21-3, Tasker said “you think the sky is falling. You forgot there are five more months of football. You’re going to play a lot better than this, you’re going to play a lot different.”

Right after those optimistic words had gotten out of Tasker’s mouth, the Redskins ran back a punt for a touchdown and a 28-3 lead.

A little humor was called for. I could almost hear Bills Nation collectively saying “the sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

“This is not the start (the Bills) had hoped for,” assessed Bentley.

You think?

* It’s the fourth quarter and I suspect I did what many Bills fans did. I put the volume on mute and phoned a Buffalo native who lives out of town and whose first question was: “Why are the Bills so lousy?”

Clearly, the “angst” is spreading out of town.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Murphy, Kelso, Tasker, Bentley Ready to Judge 80 Bills Auditions

Steve Tasker
John Murphy, who is entering his seventh year as the radio play-by-play man of the Buffalo Bills, isn’t buying the idea that interest in this year’s edition of the team is down as it prepares for the preseason opener at 7:30 tonight against the Washington Redskins.

“I know it is fashionable to say ‘I don’t care about the Bills,’ but I think people are interested,” said Murphy this morning. “In all my years covering the team, I’ve never had a year when people weren’t interested in the Bills even in a bad year.”

In a way, all the negative talk about the Bills makes tonight’s game carried on 97 Rock and Channel 7 more interesting.
Murphy views the game as one of 20 Bills games he’ll get to do with analyst Mark Kelso this season – four preseason and 16 regular season games.

“I don’t look at as a preseason game but as one of 20 broadcasts to do our best,” said Murphy.
It won’t be easy tonight. Murphy discussed the difficulty of doing the first preseason game with TV announcer Steve Tasker Thursday while they drove together to the Rochester airport for the team flight to D.C.

“It is not like a regular season game,” said Murphy. “There is no pace, no strategy. It is 80 different auditions going on simultaneously. It makes it tough to broadcast. Steve said it also is tough on the established players because they are playing with young players who believe it is the game of their life.”

But back to the negativity about the Bills. Murphy concedes the Bills have big question marks on the offensive line and at quarterback but wants to see if the defense will go as good against the Skins as it has been in training camp.

“As far as wins and losses, I hope they can win seven games,” said Murphy.

That’s almost double the fashionable nationwide prediction of three or four wins.

Of course, the Bills preseason opener with the Redskins on Channel 7 will be the TV event of the early summer and reduce the radio audience. The ABC affiliate has a 30-minute pre-game show at 7 p.m., followed by the 7:30 p.m. telecast announced by former Bills Tasker and Ray Bentley.

It’s a relatively meaningless game for everyone except new Bills Coach Chan Gailey, the three quarterbacks and several rookies trying to make a good first impression.

But the Bills are the biggest TV draw in this market. Regular season games regularly get ratings in the high 20s and 30s. Preseason ratings carried live can get ratings in the low or high teens, which is double or triple what the top entertainment shows on the networks get here in the summer.

Channel 7 also is carrying next Thursday’s game in Toronto with the Indianapolis Colts at 7:30 p.m., the Aug. 28 home game with the Cincinnati Bengals and Terrell Owens on Aug. 28 (live, if it is sold-out) and the Sept. 2 preseason finale at Detroit.

The Redskins game or the Colts game – which is played on Thursday when potential viewership is higher than it is on Friday -- figures to be the highest-rated of the four.

* Inquiring minds want to know: Who is Christie Witt, the new Traffic Tracker on Channel 2’s “Daybreak”?
She is a 2009 graduate of Medaille College who went on to graduate school at my alma mater, Syracuse University.

On a personal note, she was a former student of mine in a media criticism course I teach at Medaille.
Besides doing the morning traffic reports, Witt also is a web producer at the NBC affiliate.
Considering her relative on-air inexperience, Witt has been quite good delivering her quick early traffic reports and is bound to improve as she puts more TV miles on the road.

* Inquiring minds also want to know who is going to replace Lou Piccone as the radio analyst alongside Paul Peck on University at Buffalo football games this season on WECK?

Jim Kubiak, a former St. Francis High School star quarterback who had a solid career at Navy before playing for the former Buffalo Destroyers of the Arena League, is expected to be announced as UB’s choice shortly. It could happen as early as today. Kubiak is bound to be an improvement on Piccone, a likable personality who provided few insights as an analyst and didn’t seem to realize his role wasn’t that of a cheerleader.

*Speaking of Channel 7, I had to laugh when looking at the 10 most popular items on Channel 7’s “Inside WKBW” website feature. Here is the list: 1. Bridget Blythe 2. Job openings 3. Jennifer Stanonis 4. Laura Gray 5. Ginger Geoffery 6. Joanna Pasceri 7. Kyla Igoe 8. Linda Pellegrino 9. Aaron Mentkowski and 10. Kendra Eaglin.

Do I have to tell you why I laughed? There are eight women on the list and one weatherman. Look at the list and make your own judgment on the order of the women. I wonder how being out of the Top 10 made lead anchor Keith Radford, Mike Randall and Patrick Taney feel.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sex and the City Part 3, Batavia Style

This is what I’m thinking on a rainy morning:

Sex and the City, Part 3: The June adultery case involving a Batavia woman ended with a reduced charge and reduced coverage on local television.
The adultery charge gave the story top-of-the-news treatment in June. On Wednesday, local stations dismissed the case against a 41-year-old married Batavia woman, Suzanne M. Corona, in about a minute down a few stories in the newscast after she pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of public lewdness.
Channel 2 and Channel 4 did find time to allow Corona to give a brief post-plea lecture on marriage.
She explained to reporters that she felt the case was “a private matter between husband and wife.” Then she added “everyone has a different type of marriage.”
Yeah, just what viewers need: A marriage lecture from a woman who admits to public lewdness after picnic table activities with an Oakfield man, Justin M. Amend, who earlier pleaded guilty to the same misdemeanor.
Corona had the right to give the lecture. The stations had the right to ignore it and should have done just that. Dr. Phil she is not.
Igoe Ends Streak: When former Channel 2 consumer reporter Mike Igoe (picture above) heads to Zhuhai, China later this month to teach media courses, he’ll end a pretty impressive TV streak.
Igoe said it was the first time he’ll miss being involving in the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon in 30 years during Labor Day weekend. He had been a host at different stations in Wilkes-Barre, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Buffalo’s Channel’s 2 in that time.
Channel 2 and Channel 4 bragging: You got to love the promotional bragging going on between Channel 2 and Channel 4. Before the news starts, Channel 2 notes it has the best newscast in New York State because a broadcasting organization gave it that award. Of course, Channel 4 brags about being the most-watched news in Western New York. Somehow, Channel 7 hasn’t decided to brag about all the praise that The Toronto Critic (TTC) gave co-anchor Joanna Pasceri in a recent stilltalkintv blog.
Channel 2 to End Paid Programming at 11:30 a.m. Good news for viewers of Channel 2’s 11 a.m. weekday newscast. Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner said the station plans to drop paid programming at 11:30 a.m. weekdays. However, he isn’t ready to say what the station plans to put in its place. One thought: Why not rerun the 11 a.m. news at 11:30 a.m. like cable stations do with a variety of programs so viewers get a second chance to see it?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shatner's Show is a Piece of You Know What

I had to laugh at the question headline in Tuesday's Buffalo News about the new CBS comedy, “$#*! My Dad Says,” starring William Shatner: “Is Shatner’s new show cursed by its title?”

I laughed harder at the headline than I did while recently watching the pilot that comes from the same writing-producing team behind the longstanding NBC hit “Will & Grace.”

The answer is it isn't cursed by its title. To put it bluntly, it’s cursed because it is a crappy show that should only benefit from the controversy surrounding the title that has been fueled by the conservative Parents Television Council.

The PTC is doing Shatner and CBS a favor to draw attention to this series about a lifelong, gun-toting, thrice married, verbally abusive 72-year-old father named Ed with two sons from different wives.

This being a sitcom, Ed gets an epiphany in the pilot from a gay man behind the counter of a local department of motor vehicles and decides to become a more supportive dad to his younger son.

Shatner isn’t far off from his “Boston Legal” character, Denny Crane. He totes a shotgun, riles against Andy Rooney and says countless inappropriate things that are supposed to be funny because they are said by Wiliiam Shatner, the female version of Betty White (whose late-in-life comedy career also got a boost from "Legal").

Unfortunately, Shatner is machine-gunning painfully unfunny lines rather than sharing clever dialogue with James Spader.

The mildly suggestive title isn’t the only thing that may upset PTC members. Ed’s daughter-in-law, Kathleen (Nicole Sullivan), shouts out she has a “broken vagina,” Ed talks about urinating three times early in this mess and there are an assorted number of sophomoric jokes dealing with bodily functions.

In short, it is a piece of ----.

Hmm. I forgot. I no longer have to be that politically-correct. One of the frustrations of writing for a daily newspaper concerned the dirty language barrier. The clues about the title given in Tuesday's News article are unintentionally, hysterically-funny.

Under one editor, I often couldn’t insert dialogue in my column that was declared suitable by networks for all audiences at 8 p.m. in prime time. It was like newspapers had to live in the old, pre-cable world for fear of offending someone or some organization.

It would have been better if the paper could have labeled my column “mature” for audiences over the age of 12 who have attended a sporting event once in their lives.

If PG-13 language offends you, then stop reading now because I’m about to give the offensive word in the title of the Twitter feed that inspired the best-selling book (listed by the New York Times as “---- My Dad Says”) that led to the TV series. Here goes the actual title: “S-H-*-T My Dad Says.”

OK. I just couldn’t break years of newspaper suppression and use all the initials. But you get the picture.

The PTC needed some historical context to ignore this issue.

Twenty years ago, the big language controversy was over an early line in the CBS comedy, “Uncle Buck,” that was based on the John Candy hit movie.

A very young character said “you suck” early in the pilot. During an interview session in Los Angeles with TV critics before the show premiered, you might have thought the republic was doomed because a kid said something that had become known to mean “you stink.”

The series, which starred Kevin Meaney, went on the air and quickly died because it was lousy. Like “S-H-*T My Dad Says.”

I probably should add that my kids know that I’m much more offended by bad behavior than bad language. I don’t advocate cursing around the house and certainly don’t want my adult children doing it in front of adults because it makes one look classless.

But a curse now and then among friends can be tolerated and practically is inevitable in some loose phone conversations involving sporting events.

Recently, I caught myself before I was about to use a mild expletive when talking to my 17-year-old son Max.

Max got upset with me. Not because I almost cursed – but because I tried to catch myself. He said he used to be in the backseat after his older brother Ben finished high school basketball games and he’d hear an occasional expletive as we replayed the games.

In Max’s view, repressing the curse word meant I wasn’t as comfortable or as close to him as I was to Ben.

So I did what any father would do at that point and told him he shouldn’t give “a sh*t” about that.

Of course, I didn’t say that. Max had me over a barrel because of my longstanding belief that mild expletives between friends and relatives occasionally don’t harm anyone.

I couldn’t win my argument with Max. Just like the PTC can’t win in its battle over the title of this crappy CBS comedy.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Generational Postcards from a Wedding Weekend

Leonardo DiCaprio
I’m back from the Jackson Hole, Wyoming wedding, a true vacation in every sense of the word for a TV critic who blogs.

You see I stayed in a room with my two sons, which meant the only TV I watched was ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and its exhaustive coverage of Tiger Woods’ collapse.

Of course, Woods’ professional and personal collapse is a big story now. But all the coverage made me wonder how long the focus will be on how badly Woods is performing after his personal life collapsed instead of on the players performing well.

But I digress.

One of the best things about weddings is being able to keep track of the generational divide between middle-aged and senior parents and their children.

The divide doesn’t include music. A Los Angeles band was flown to Wyoming for the wedding and performed tunes from my generation that are embraced even more by the current generation and succeeding ones.

Amazingly, there wasn’t one tune that I didn’t recognize, making one wonder if succeeding generations will ever play wedding music from its own eras.

The generational divide is wide when it comes to movies. Take “Inception,” the current hit starring Leonardo DiCaprio and featuring some guy (OK, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) from “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

On the last night of the wedding weekend, I was seated at dinner with four amusing relatives in their 20s and 30s who absolutely loved the movie.

Me? Not so much. I loved it visually and thought the music was great. But it was too much work to follow and figure out. I don’t want to be told that you have to see a movie four or five times to really know what’s going on.

Instead of showing 20 minutes of previews before Christopher Nolan’s film started, I think movie ushers should pass out a 20-page guide for viewers to read that explains the concept of dreams so all the “walk and talks” during the film would become easier to follow.

After awhile during the film, I gave up. My best friend – who is of my generation – hated the film.

My view of “Inception” shocked my younger dinner partners, who all declared “Inception” the greatest movie of the year and practically called me an “idiot” even though they had trouble explaining what the ending meant. I assume they would have called me an “idiot” if I wasn’t related to them.

My 30something nephew compared “Inception” to the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Total Recall.” To be honest, I didn’t recall much about it. But I did note that any Arnold movie was loaded with so much action and violence that the plot rarely made much difference to its enjoyment anyway.

“Inception” is totally a thinking theater-goers movie, which puts it in a different category than “Recall.”

Some more amusing movie talk occurred when a 20something male said he went to one of the “Twilight” movies. Voluntarily. And without a date. He said he wanted to see what all the hype was about. Then he said it was the worst movie he’d seen in years. Soon everyone in his generation started making fun of the actors who have become teen idols. To the 20something male, it was a lesson in hype.

The surprising thing about the generational divide over “Inception” is that it is usually older film-goers who are looking for smart films.

The best movies I’ve seen this summer haven’t been the heavily-hyped comedies aimed at kids or middle-age kids – “Grown Ups,” “Dinner for Schmucks” and a few others that were so lame that I can’t even remember the titles.

My summer must-see list includes “City Island,” “The Secret of the Their Eyes,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Kids Are All Right.” Rarely do you see anyone under 30 in the theater watching those films – certainly no one in their teens -- unless their parents dragged them to the theaters.

Of course, the biggest generational divide usually concerns television. When I was a kid, parents drove taste. That all stopped when advertisers relied on demographics and decided younger viewers were more valuable than older viewers because the younger ones hadn’t decided what car, shaving cream or beer they preferred.

The move away from parental control accelerated with the rise of cable television, which started this whole reality TV craze that is driving down taste to a scary level.

Which made the end of my final wedding meal almost as confusing as the end of “Inception.”

I had to leave dinner before dessert to get a few hours sleep before an early morning flight back home.

The 20something at the table who voluntarily saw one of the “Twilight” movies asked for an early ride back to his room, too. He wanted to catch Sunday night’s episode of “Mad Men,” the quality series set in the 1960s advertising industry.

I immediately wondered if he was once again drawn in by all the hype for “Mad Men.” Then I decided to be optimistic and conclude maybe there is some hope for succeeding generations to get some taste after all.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

TV Blogger Takes A Holiday

TV never stops. But stilltalkintv is going to take another rest for a few days.

I’m telling you this because after taking a few days off last week I got a few emailers asking me if I were sick.

Hey, even bloggers deserve a vacation.

Now I’m heading to a wedding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where I’m not even sure they have TV.

Okay, that’s just a joke.

Television is everywhere I go.

Last Sunday morning, I actually was taking in the beauty of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. To my amazement, the homily by Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, included a television reference.

The Archbishop said he didn’t care much for television. But he had just returned from a vacation, saw an old episode of “Bonanza” and was able to weave the deaths of all the actors who starred in that TV classic into his sermon.

If you get some television criticism in church, I’m sure you can get it anywhere.

Even Wyoming. The point is I’m sure something will happen in Wyoming that will lead me to write about television after I return.

So stay tuned.

Actually, I’ve already learned that the weekend is a good time for a blogger to take off. The hits seem to peak on Wednesdays and Thursday and decline on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

A buddy of mine used to run a test pattern on weekends rather than new blogs because so few people read them on weekends.

In any event, enjoy the weekend with the knowledge that I am so healthy that I am going to go whitewater rafting with my three children. Catch up on some old blogs. I’ll see you some time next week with more TV stories to tell.

Who knows? Maybe the person officiating the wedding will talk about that classic western, “Laramie,” set in Wyoming.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Toronto Critic Strikes Again

You asked for it. When a former Toronto critic gave her acerbic view of Channel 4 and Channel 2 news a while ago, one reader of stilltalkintv requested that Channel 7 get the same treatment.

So Tuesday night, The Toronto critic (henceforth referred as TTC) watched the 11 p.m. news co-anchored by Keith Radford and Joanna Pasceri.

TTC was impressed before they said a word. The classic phrase “it is 11 o’clock, do you know where your children are?” turned TTC nostalgic.

“You know what, I love that,” said TTC. “I have heard that since I was 5 or 6 years old.”

TTC wasn’t quite as impressed by half of the anchor team.

“(Radford) is like another orange anchor guy,” said TTC, referring to the other orange anchor guy, Channel 4’s Don Postles.

Told that Radford was Canadian, TTC questioned it: “Really? He’s Canadian? I’ve never heard of this guy. I think he is a fake Canadian.”

I assured the TTC he was a very real Canadian even if he’s been the main anchor here since Irv Weinstein retired.

TTC was much more impressed with Pasceri.

“She looks young, fresh and normal,” said TTC. “She looks like a real person.”

Real person and TV? What a concept.

Then came another nostalgic moment when Channel 7 showed pictures of two politicians who did telephone interviews addressing the passing of the state budget.

“The phone calls,” said TTC. “TV is awesome. It like we have pictures of someone so let’s show their face. Imagine the rest.”

Soon there was some discussion of waterfront and downtown development, which no longer will include Bass Pro,

“In Toronto, Bass Pro is a store,” said TTC. “Here it is the destiny of Buffalo. In Toronto, it is like a thing in a mall that no one goes to. Here is it a big deal.”

It was a big deal. No longer.

After that big city putdown, TTC felt it was time for more praise of Buffalo and noted that a cabbie made a save that day when TTC was about to go the wrong way down a one-way downtown street.

“Nice people, Buffalo,” said TTC.

When Channel 7’s John Borsa covered a story, TTC was impressed.

“He has extremely well-groomed eyebrows,” said TTC.

TTC wasn’t quite as impressed by community leader Kevin Gaughan, who now is leading the controversial effort to abolish the Village of Williamsville.

“He is scary intense,” said TTC.

Especially to opponents of downsizing government.

When Channel 7’s Adam Francis did a report, TTC didn’t think anything about him until being told he is one of the photographers at the station who has been turned into a reporter.

“He is OK," said the TTC.

TTC wasn’t impressed by a news report about the fun things -- that supposedly included dancing -- that were happening at a festival. The video on the report showed people exercising with a hula hoop.

“In Canada, we call it a hula hoop, we don’t call it dancing,” said TTC.

By then, TTC realized that Channel 7’s news presentation was as old as the question, “do you know where your children are?”

“It is like a really old-fashioned newscast,” said TTC. “They don’t have a lot of stuff. The anchors are just sitting there as talking heads. They are like Presidential spouses. Nod sagely in a very stiff format.”

But TTC remained impressed with Pasceri. TTC even liked the anchor’s “fake little laugh.”

“I would lift her out of there and take her somewhere else to work,” said TTC. “She doesn’t get a lot of air time.”

Then a commercial for the law firm of Cellino and Barnes popped up.

“We make fun of this whole Cellino and Barnes thing in Toronto,” said TTC. “Classic ambulance chaser ads. Lawyers were only recently able to advertise in Canada. They don’t want to be like Cellino and Barnes.”

Hey, don’t knock it. I was on Long Island on vacation a few days ago. The same Cellino and Barnes ads featuring that pretty woman with the great voice play here.

“But remember to say how much I love Buffalo,” added TTC.

Channel 7 news? Not so much. It soon became evident to TTC that the news department doesn’t have many resources.

“They must like have under 10 people working,” suggested TTC. “They do OK. It’s just a very old-fashioned plain job.”

TTC also had some compassion for Radford and Pasceri, who TTC figured get so little to do that their script for the entire newscast would only be four inches long.

“It is just boring,” assessed TTC. “It is a boring job. I feel bad for them.”

Maybe TTC should feel badly for the viewer instead. After all, TTC loves Buffalo.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lando, Channel 4 Score in July Ratings

Channel 4 and Channel 2 both got some good news during the July sweeps, which is considered the least important of the four ratings periods during the year.

After all, summer viewing is lower and the networks generally don’t provide as much lead-in help in the summer while emphasizing reality programs in prime time.

But here’s the biggest news:

Channel 4 won every newscast time period.

However, Channel 2 narrowed the gap from a year ago at 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. The lead-in from NBC’s popular “America’s Got Talent” undoubtedly helped Channel 2 somewhat at 11 p.m., where it is only .7 of a point behind Channel 4 after being behind by 2.5 points a year ago. It is only .4 of a point behind Channel 4 at 6 a.m.

Interestingly, collective news viewership is up about 10 percent from a year ago.

The departure of Lisa Flynn from Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock News on sister station WNLO-TV had minimal impact as the station had virtually the same audience with temporary anchor Lia Lando as it had a year ago with Flynn.

And Channel 4 saw about a 25 percent increase to a 7.5 rating at 5:30 p.m. with Lando in Flynn’s old anchor seat. Channel 2 also saw a big gain at 5:30 p.m., going up more than 20 percent to a 6.3. The ratings at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. should help Lando if she wants the job permanently.

However, it generally takes a few ratings periods outside of the summer to assess the impact of any anchor change after the initial sampling wears off.

As far as Channel 7, it remains deep in third place in every time period and was either steady, up slightly or down slightly in every newscast.

* The NFL Network, which remains unavailable to local Time Warner Cable subscribers, announced that Fox analyst and Lewiston-Porter graduate Daryl Johnston is on board as an in-studio analyst to its NFL Total Access program. Johnston, who became a Dallas Cowboys star after graduating from Syracuse University, makes his debut at 7 tonight. He also will contribute to other NFL Network shows and specials.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Levin Is Tops in Editorializing

Channel 2 anchor Scott Levin as a spokesman for Tops?

Of course, that’s an absurd idea. A journalist can’t endorse any commercial enterprise.

But Levin sure sounded like he was up for the job Tuesday night after the station ran a very positive story about the success the supermarket has had with gas sales and its plans to expand the number of its stations in the area.

“Smart company, smart move,” said Levin.

Levin often is moved to editorialize at the end of a story. He probably was just saying what many viewers were thinking. But it would be smart of any anchor to avoid praising advertisers. That’s not his or her role.

* Maury Chaykin, a Brooklyn native who studied drama at the University at Buffalo and moved to Toronto to become one of Canada’s best actors, died Tuesday on his 61st birthday. His American TV roles included appearances on “CSI,” “Boston Legal” and “Entourage.” He played a producer on “Entourage,” Harvey Weingrad, that was widely believed to be based on another UB grad, Harvey Weinstein.

* On Tuesday, the stilltalkintv move from a Google blogspot home to wnymedia.net didn’t happen without a few glitches. Several readers told me that they received a 404 error message when they were re-directed to the new site. The blog is back to the old site for now. Hopefully the move to the new site will be resolved later today. Additionally, comments weren’t able to be posted on the new home and comments made to the old home weren’t transferred. That should be resolved soon, too.

Ironically, the glitches came on a day that I gave a mini-review of the revised Buffalo News website. Check that. My 26-year-old son, who lives out of town, gave it two thumbs down.

My son is not alone. I received a few emails that agreed that -- while the site looks better -- it is much more difficult to navigate to find what a reader is looking for as easily as it had been in the past.

* It usually isn’t surprising when the president of any network entertainment division resigns. It’s a tough, time-consuming, pressure-packed job. But Tuesday night’s announcement that ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson has called it quits after six years was a surprise because of the timing. In a few days, he was going to meet with the nation’s television critics in Los Angeles to discuss the new season that is two months away.

McPherson was often described as a volatile personality, so I suppose that makes the move less of a surprise in hindsight. He was always first class in my dealings with him and genuinely interested in what a critic in the relatively smaller market of Buffalo had to say or ask.

While the announcement of his departure noted that ABC fell into third place last season and has aging hits like “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” McPherson also was behind the very successful launch of Wednesday night comedies “The Middle,” “Modern Family” (which is produced by Fox) and “Cougar Town.”

McPherson walked into a good situation six years ago when “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” were developed by his predecessors, who were fired before they got on the air.

So that was a lesson about network politics. A couple of last year’s ABC dramas – “Flashforward” and “V” (which was renewed anyway) -- didn’t click. But “Castle” became a hit in its second season. In other words, McPherson seemed to have enough success last season to earn the right to finish out his contract. However, that’s not how things usually work in the pressurized network TV business.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Talkin' About New News Look and My Old Blog

This is what I’m thinking:

* I love the new look of the Buffalo News website. However, I have a harder time finding what I’m looking for on the site than I did in the old format.

My 26-year-old son, who lives out of town and diligently reads the paper online, put in succinctly in a text sent to me last week: “The new Buffalonews.com format sucks. Everyone I know hates it…It is almost like it is their goal to stop having people read it online so they will buy the paper.”

Of course, the newspaper still makes an overwhelming share of its money from newspaper advertising and sales. Online revenue is minor now, though it is supposedly the future.

Since I left the paper on May 1, I can’t count the number of people who have told me that they now read it online and stopped buying it. I’ll just say it is a very scary number in the demographic that reads the newspaper. If the new format drives more people to buy the paper, then I’m all for it. However, one does wonder if the readers who have moved online can be brought back to the paper. That certainly won’t happen to readers like my son who live out of town.

One of the things that I haven’t been able to find in the new format is the former blog, “Talkin’ TV,” that inspired this blog, stilltalkinTV. It appears “Talkin’ TV” has been abandoned at least for now. I suspect the new format is a work in progress so perhaps things will change.

If online is really the future, one would think the newspaper would be adding new blogs and not cutting popular ones that deal with the most powerful medium in the country. But the Buffalo News seems to think that pop music is the most powerful entertainment medium in the country.

* It is time to mention a relatively new Time Warner annoyance. The fast forward feature in the DVR makes it easier to bypass commercials. However, it makes it harder to get to the exact spot a viewer wants because the technology often has a mind of its own and returns to the spot it wants to return to after the end of the commercials. I like the old way better because I could control where I wanted the DVR to land.

* NBC has officially confirmed what you read here weeks ago – that series lead Steve Carell is leaving “The Office” after this season. The show will go on -- it is one of NBC’s few demographic hits – but Carell’s shoes are big ones to fill.

* The Buffalo News smartly featured the return of AMC’s “Mad Men” in a TV Topics cover story Sunday. However, if a reader hadn’t seen the previous seasons, I suspect he or she wouldn’t know who the characters were because the writer assumed the story was only going to be read by the show's regular viewers. And there aren't that many of them.

*ESPN’s Adam Schefter is scheduled to attend the Buffalo Bills camp on Wednesday, Aug. 4 as part of the sports network’s feature of having Schefter and Chris Mortensen visit 32 training camps in 19 days.

* Fresh from his headline grabbing victory in a federal case in which a couple was convicted of extortion in a plot against him, John Stamos is a very busy actor. He just appeared on Sunday's episode of HBO’s “Entourage” and now comes words that he will guest as a dentist on “Glee” next season. His character may get involved with guidance counselor Emma (Jayma Mays), according to a Fox release.

* Martin Bashir is leaving ABC’s “Nightline” for NBC’s “Dateline.” I can’t see it having much of an impact on other show.

* If Terrell Owens signs with the Cincinnati Bengals, I suppose we should give VH-1 some credit. T.O.’s reality show follows another reality show by Cincinnati receiver Chad Ochocinco on the cable network every Sunday. Ochocinco’s dating show makes Owens’ show look like an Emmy winner.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Lando a Full-Time Candidate to Replace Flynn

With only a few days until the end of the July sweeps period, the big question over at news leader Channel 4 and sister station CW23 is whether 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. anchor Lia Lando will stay aboard.

Lando was thought to be a temporary fill-in for Lisa Flynn after Flynn left the station to concentrate on raising her 7-year-old son Thomas.

There had been some speculation that Lando was just going to anchor during the July sweeps, which are the least important of the four month-long ratings periods in the year. After all, Lando lives in Rochester and has two young children so it wouldn’t be that easy to do the job permanently.

But when asked about Lando’s status Friday, Channel 4 News Director Joe Schlaerth said “she’s absolutely a candidate” for the full-time position and has told him she is willing to take the job.

As far as the Rochester complication, Schlaerth noted that reporter Tricia Cruz also lives there.

He added “there is no solid date” for filling the job, but expected the decision to be made before the new fall TV season.

Schlaerth said the position was just posted and advertised and Lando is “certainly not the only candidate.” “We’re getting interest from around the country,” he said.

Asked if Lando was the favorite, Schlaerth said “I wouldn’t want to categorize anyone as the favorite.”

One name that continues to be the subject of speculation is Emily Smith, a former WBEN radio reporter who now is an anchor of “Up to the Minute” on CBS. However, one of the big unknowns is whether Smith would be willing to leave a network job to return to anchor in her hometown.

Of course, we all know how long it can take Channel 4 to fill a position. The station has been looking to replace former sports reporter and anchor Robin Adams for several months.

This past weekend, news anchor Mylous Hairston also anchored the sports report. But with the Buffalo Bills training camp about to open, the University at Buffalo football team only a few weeks away from practicing and the Sabres camp not too far behind, the need for a third sports person is obvious. After all, Channel 4 sports director John Murphy is the voice of the Bills and anchor-reporter Paul Peck is the voice of the UB Bulls.

“The plan is to hire a third sports person,” said Schlaerth. Again.

* Did you catch Sunday night's episode of VH-1's "The T.O. Show" in which Terrell Owens walked the runway of a fashion show in New York City with a hideous wig on his head? Who says he isn't a good sport. The wig proved that bald is beautiful.
This past week, Owens also showed off his basketball skills in Spike TV's "Pros vs. Joes." One of his basketball teammates was quarterback Donovan McNabb, a Syracuse football legend who also played some hoops for the Orange. McNabb and Owens didn't exactly see eye to eye as Super Bowl teammates with the Philadelphia Eagles. But obviously they have repaired their relationship to some point or they wouldn't have been on the same reality show.
Owens still has skills as a wide receiver. So it's clear that his reputation as a potential troublemaker has slowed his return back to a NFL team even though he was a model citizen with the Bills last season and had a decent year considering the Bills' deficiencies at QB.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

It is a Slow Time for TV Sports

It is such a slow time for televised sports that I thought about taking a Saturday off.

Then I decided it was a perfect time for this blog to give seven illustrations of how slow it is in the TV sports business.

With apologies to the late Johnny Carson, it is so slowwww that:

* Channel 4’s John Murphy actually carried an item Thursday about the Buffalo Bills putting tight end Joe Klopfenstein on injured reserve. He explained that Joe (you think I’m going to type his last name again?) caught one pass last year in a game in the snow.

It is safe to say that most Bills fans didn’t realize Joe was on the team and certainly had no idea how to spell his last name.

* In its ever expanding quest to avoid talking about sports and fill time, WGR started a local Food Draft. On Friday morning, Jeremy White declared that pizza was No.1. I’d almost rather White and Howard Simon talked more about TV shows like "Lost" than food. Or talked about Joe K.

* Just about every day that I turn on one of the ESPN channels, the ESPYs is playing.

* I actually look forward to “The T.O. Show” on VH-1 each Sunday night.

* The amount of time it is taking Channel 4 to hire a third member of the sports staff doesn’t seem that foolish this month. (Channel 4's Mylous Hairston, via Facebook, reported this morning that he will anchor news and sports at 6, 10 and 11 today).

* At a bagel store Friday morning, I heard an enthusiastic cycling fan describe a recent stage of an event carried by Versus and make it sound better than a sudden death NFL playoff game. Then he turned to me and asked: “Did you see it?” I hadn’t. His description had to better than seeing it anyway.

* The 10 p.m. highlight show of the Empire State Games carried by Time Warner Cable seems like must-TV.


Friday, July 23, 2010

NBC's Luke Russert Spars with House Heavyweight

Tim Russert’s son Luke did the late host of “Meet the Press” proud on Thursday, refusing to back down in a tough, contentious interview with 80-year-old Congressman Charles B. Rangel.

Rangel didn’t appear to realize who he was wrangling with when Luke asked him whether he feared losing his job over ethics violations that the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is facing.

“What are you talking about?” asked Rangel. “Are you just trying to make copy?”

The congressman then tried to intimidate Russert by noting his youth.

“You are young,” said Rangel. “I guess you do need to make a name for yourself.”

Of course, Russert’s name is pretty recognizable already because of his family tree.

Rangel continued by saying “basically, it’s a dumb question” and asking Russert who was his employer.

When Russert replied he worked for NBC and MSNBC, Rangel said “it doesn’t sound like NBC… asking these dumb questions.”

Actually, Russert was asking legitimate questions. Reportedly, Rangel apologized today and accepted any questions asked. And even if the questions were as dumb as Rangel thought they were, any journalist would know that some of the dumbest questions can led to the best answers and the biggest news.

NBC supported Russert’s line of questioning by playing the entire scene on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

By the way, Rangel knew Luke’s father very well, having been a frequent guest on “Meet the Press.” Three years ago, Tim Russert interviewed the congressman on the program after Rangel wrote a book containing his memoirs.



Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Mad Men" As Good as Advertised

“Who is Don Draper?”

If you have to ask, then you haven’t been following the Emmy-winning basic cable series “Mad Men” for the last three seasons.

And even if you do ask – as a journalist does in the opening scene of the fourth season premiere of the AMC series at 10 p.m. Sunday – don’t expect even the character played by the criminally handsome Jon Hamm to have an answer.

Unquestionably, “Mad Men” is a series admired by critics and award voters more than it has been by viewers.

And just beginning to watch this acclaimed series set in the Madison Avenue advertising industry in the 1960s will be a little like seeing the end of a commercial without knowing what product is being sold.

“Mad Men” writer-creator Matthew Weiner is repackaging the series in its fourth season, giving creative director Don Draper a bigger role in a new advertising company with the people he admired in his old one.

It is such a start-up project that the new firm -- Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce – doesn’t even have a table in its conference room and falsely claims to have a second floor of offices to impress its clients.

It isn’t always easy to be instantly impressed by “Mad Men,” which doesn’t have the same quick pace as most television programs and relies more heavily on atmospherics and character development than almost any TV show alive.

“Mad Men” unfolds like a novel one can’t put down every season, which makes it better when it is packaged on a DVD and viewers can watch the entire season in a night or two.

No question, Sunday’s opening episode is a page-turner, which is full of small moments that speak volumes about new business partnerships, dissolving marriages, advertising manipulation and how to play journalists.

Besides Hamm, the mesmerizing cast includes John Slattery as Draper’s politically-incorrect business partner; January Jones as Don’s drop-dead gorgeous and wronged wife, Betty; Vincent Kartheiser as an aiming-to-please account executive, Pete; Elisabeth Moss as Peggy, a copywriter who Don took under his wing and who is learning how to survive in a man’s world; Christina Hendricks as Joan, the sexy officer manager; and Jared Harris as Lane, the British advertising executive who ran the previous firm and joined the new one when his parent company kicked the feet out from under him.

Every character is richly drawn. However, it is Hamm’s portrayal of a brilliant, self-destructive and self-loathing man who has ruined his marriage and Slattery’s brilliantly-timed sarcastic humor that make the opener fly by as quickly as a 60-second commercial.

Rating: 4 stars out of 4


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dry-witted Criticism From North of the Border

One of my favorite moments as a TV critic came when I visited a friend who used to be the TV critic for the Boston Globe.

One night, I sat down with him to watch the local news and instinctively criticized it. The criticism included some catty comments about the veteran co-anchors, who at the time were husband and wife.

This shocked me. “Boy, he got the better of the deal,” I said.

Then I criticized just about everything about the newscast as my friend took mental notes.

He ended up writing a column about my criticism that didn’t please a female producer or director in Boston. The female called up a lawyer in Buffalo she knew and immediately asked: “Who is the a-hole TV critic in Buffalo?”

The lawyer’s deadpan response was: “That a-hole is my brother-in-law.”

Which brings me to a recent visit to Buffalo by a friend from Toronto who used to be a TV critic and grew up thinking all of Buffalo was on fire when Channel 7’s Irv Weinstein anchored the news.

The name of the critic is being withheld to save the a-hole comments. We watched the first 10 minutes of the news on Channel 2 and Channel 4 Tuesday.

Channel 2’s newscast included a Google earth shot of where one story happened.

“I loved the Google earth,” dryly noted my Toronto friend. “It is like they are saying, ‘yes, we have computers.’”

When anchor Maryalice Demler appeared, the Toronto critic was amused by her appearance.

“Anchors don’t look real people,” noted the critic. “They look like wives looked 15 years ago. She is wearing an orange shirt and has streaks in her hair. It isn’t her fault. That’s what they make you look like in TV news. They all look like robots.”

The critic was also amused by the people interviewed on the Channel 2 newscast, including a long-haired lawyer.

“This guy is his lawyer,” said the critic. “Holy crap! Seriously?”

The Congressman Brian Higgins appeared.

“That guy needs better hair,” noted the critic. “Does everyone in Buffalo need a haircut?”

I explained that Higgins is a very hard-working congressman.

After the coverage of a stabbing, a sex arrest and a few other less than big news stories, it was off to Channel 4 and anchors Don Postles and Jacquie Walker.

“These guys are like Greek gods,” noted the critic. “These guys are so much better. It is like we were watching a college station and graduated to a grown up station. Even the video looks better. Suddenly it is like watching real TV."

The critic then noted something else about the people being interviewed in stories.

“There are a lot of fat people in Buffalo,” the critic noted.

Hey, pizza and chicken wings tend to do that.

Then there was amusing video of Jacquie Walker in her stocking feet in an open convertible waving to the crowd at Canal Fest.
"She looks like Malibu Barbie," said the critic. "It is so Buffalo. I am a celebrity. I'm in the car but I don't want to get the seats dirty."

“In local news, people should look like family,” added the critic in approval. “It’s not like I’m standing up reading the news and looking so cool like they do on Channel 2… TV viewers don’t want anyone in local news to be cool.”

The critic also was impressed more by Channel 4’s presentation of a crime story than Channel 2’s. Then Channel 4’s Postles was standing up reading some news.

“But it’s in a more real way,” the critic noted. “Do you think Don Postles wants to be cool? No. Does the audience want him to be cool? No.”

Then the critic noted Postles’ complexion: “Do you not want your local newscaster to look orange and wise?”

With the quick critique over, the critic had one thing to add to hold off any a-hole remarks from blog readers: “Please tell people I really do love Buffalo.”


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back to School for Channel 4 Anchor-Reporters

Channel 4’s Jacquie Walker, Don Paul and Mylous Hairston apparently are going back to school.

The owner of the CBS affiliate started mandatory training for AFTRA Buffalo members at WIVB-TV and WNLO-TV last week that will teach them how to shoot and edit stories.

The training became mandatory after a previous company request for “volunteers” fell on deaf ears.

AFTRA represents the on-air reporting and anchor staff at the station. It is a national trend for on-air personnel to report and shoot stories, which reduces the need for photographers. It has been AFTRA’s position that reporting and shooting stories is under the jurisdiction of NABET, which represents photographers and other behind-the-scenes personnel.

Mylous Hairston, president of AFTRA Buffalo, said the union “finds it interesting the company first asked for volunteers (which AFTRA first proposed during bargainng sessions last year) but was rejected by the company.

“The company then assigned training times for each AFTRA Buffalo member at WIVB/WNLO. For its part, the company has maintained even during contract talks everyone would/will be trained. The company is still in negotiations with NABET, which has jurisdiction over shooting and editing.”

Of course, the upside of having anchors and reporters shooting and editing their own stories is reducing personnel costs.

The downside is that the staffers may be so overwhelmed with the technical aspects of the job that there will be less time to write and report the stories as well as they have been written and reported in the past.

In other words, the product may suffer.

* Recommended viewing : “Covert Affairs,” the new USA Network series about a pretty young CIA agent, Annie Walker (Piper Perabo), that has its second airing at 10 tonight on the basic cable channel. Last week’s premiere episode has played countless times over the last week.

The broadcast network worthy cast includes Christopher Gorham as Auggie Anderson, a dry-witted colleague blinded in a previous mission who is Annie’s tour guide to the agency; Anne Dudek as the sister who wants to find Annie a new man; Kari Matchett as Joan Campbell, who is Anne’s boss and who is married to the director of the Clandestine Service Department of the CIA.

Best of all, Joan’s hubby and the Clandestine boss, Arthur Campbell, is played by scenery-chewing Peter Gallagher, who is pretty busy this summer. He also plays an irreverent priest on FX’s “Rescue Me.”

Though Perabo is so tiny that she hardly seems CIA material in the action series, “Covert Affairs” had enough action, suspense, humor and heart in the premiere to give it the potential to be one of the more pleasant hours of summer TV. Tonight’s second episode should uncover whether that potential will be tapped.

A couple of things to note: The pilot was directed by Tim Matheson, the actor who may be best known for playing “Otter” on Animal House. And Sendhil Ramamurthy, the former star of “Heroes,” joined the cast as a regular character after the pilot was filmed.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Holy Crap! A Legal Decision for Modern Times

In the immortal words of Frank Barone (the late Peter Boyle) on “Everybody Loves Raymond: “Holy Crap.”

A federal court judge panel last week struck down a FCC ruling on “fleeting expletives” that cost the broadcast networks big bucks after Bono, Cher or someone else said a dirty word or Janet Jackson showed too much skin on a live televised event.

The decision didn’t get anywhere near the attention that the “fleeting expletives” did.

It was the right call, even if it has upset conservative watchdog groups and it may go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It really was ridiculous for the broadcast networks (celebrities can and do say anything on live cable network awards shows) to be blamed for not seeing dirty words coming from unscripted programming.

Besides we no longer live in a “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best” world, with cable and the internet moving the line of what is acceptable in language and behavior. The controversy that resulted after a bad word here and there aired on live TV actually led to millions more people watching it later on You Tube or on some other website. In other words, the bad words got more exposure and more power.

In my years heading out to Los Angeles to cover the fall seasons about to begin, some of the controversies illustrate how much the language and content line has moved.

Twenty years ago, CBS transformed the theatrical comedy “Uncle Buck” into a series and controversy ensued when a very young character said “you suck” in the pilot. The line was harmless. It meant “you stink” then and now and you needed a dirty mind to think otherwise.

In 1993, the PG-13 language used on the pilot of a 10 p.m. series “NYPD Blue” that was designed to compete with looser cable standards led to several ABC affiliates declining to carry it. Quickly, it became a critical and audience hit and the republic still stood.

Audiences realize that times change and the networks have to change with them. Networks also are aware that the renewal of their licenses are made by the government, which means they aren’t about to go too far and jeopardize their existence.

However, they can’t fully control what happens on live television and shouldn’t be punished when some celebrity goes too far and a minor portion of the audience is offended.

To be honest, it was hard to even realize that Janet Jackson's breast became visible on the infamous 2004 Super Bowl halftime show unless one watched it over on a VCR at the time.

* Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly has made a very smooth transition to television in recent years. His Sunday piece on the bond between British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and black caddy Zak Rasego at the end of ESPN's coverage was one of his best.

* Had to laugh about how Fareed Zakaria closed his Sunday morning CNN program. He noted that President Obama gave multi-billionaire (and Buffalo News owner) Warren Buffett a White House tie. CNN then showed footage of Buffett wearing the same tie at functions he’s attended over six years. In closing, Zakaria said that that consumer spending is the key to improving the economy and that the new tie paid for the government should be viewed as a second stimulus. In other words, Buffett should start wearing the tie.

* I’ve cheered Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan before when she wrote about the paper’s decision to end the practice of allowing online readers to say really offensive and insulting things anonymously without using their real names. Of course, I have a vested interest in the decision. I want to find out who “Bobbycat” is since that is the online moniker of one of my harshest online critics over the years.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ratings Remain Strong Here for T.O. Show

This is what I’m thinking:

* Terrell Owens is gone but not forgotten in Buffalo.

The second season premiere, “Bye Bye, Buffalo,” of VH-1’s “The T.O. Show” had a 2.1 rating here last Sunday. That’s about a third lower than the series premiere last season but a 2.1 still beat the average ratings for ABC’s new Sunday scripted series.

However, you do have to wonder if Western New Yorkers will continue to watch Owens’ show now that he has left Buffalo.

ESPN's cameras spotted Owens in the crowd during Wednesday evening’s telecast of the ESPYs, which was surprisingly very entertaining for a change.

Much of the credit has to go to host Seth Meyers of “Saturday Night Live,” who managed to be funny without being too raunchy.

He did near the line a few times, including when he defined the ESPYs as when sports and entertainment come together.

“It is like a Kardashian sister’s bedroom,” cracked Meyers.

Then the cameras found Reggie Bush in the audience and he was laughing. Of course, he dated one of the Kardashians -- Kim. According to recent reports, she has moved on to another NFL player.

Almost all the funny bits worked, except when Tracy Morgan was involved.

But the emotional highlight was the tribute to Ed Thomas, the legendary Iowa high school football coach who was tragically killed by a mentally ill former player.

* Happy talk moment of the week: On a Thursday sportscast, Channel 4's John Murphy noted that one golfer at the British Open (it was Tom Watson) said of the St. Andrews course: "The old lady had no clothes on today." To which Murphy added that it sounded like ideal conditions for Tiger Woods. Good line that also illustrated how much the line has moved on local TV. His co-anchors either didn't seem to get it, enjoy it or know how to react to it.

* If you can’t get to the Empire State Games, Time Warner Cable will bring them to its viewers. It is carrying Wednesday’s opening ceremonies at 7 p.m. and a nightly highlights show at 10 p.m. from Thursday through Sunday.

* Not surprisingly, America’s Pastime got beat Tuesday by “America’s Got Talent” locally. The NBC reality show, which featured a Buffalo singer, averaged a 10.4 rating on Tuesday on Channel 2. The National League’s win in the All-Star game had a 6.5 rating on Channel 29, which actually was higher than the 6.2 the game had a year ago here. Nationally, the All-Star game had a 7.5 fast national rating, making it the lowest-rated in history.

For me, the All-Star game highlight was hearing the taped introduction of New York Yankee great Derek Jeter by the late Yankee public address announcer Bob Sheppard.

* Finally, Time Warner cable subscribers have more reason to sweat now that ESPN is running advertisements that suggest its channels may be pulled by the cable giant in September. We've heard that song before. The ESPN channels are among the most expensive in cable. However, they also are among the most popular. If TWC drops ESPN during the football season, there will be a national revolt. The decision will be made at a corporate level and not in Buffalo. Look for an 11th-hour settlement similar to the one that TWC made with Fox before the college bowl season ended in January.


Friday, July 16, 2010

ABC's Sunday Shows Flop Here

This is what I’m thinking

* The Buffalo market hasn’t been very interested in the broadcast networks’ attempt to woe audiences with original scripted summer programming.

This June through Wednesday, the broadcast affiliates here have averaged 19.2 rating points a night. A year ago, the figure was 20.2. That’s a decline of about 5 percent.

The drop comes despite ABC’s attempt to get viewers to steer away from cable with such original programming as “Scoundrels” and “The Gates” on Sunday and “Rookie Blue” on Thursday.

Nationally, the scripted dramas aren’t doing well, either.

The two Sunday night ABC programs have been soundly rejected here, losing a sizable chunk of audience every week. “The Gates” -- another vampire series -- started with a 2.8 rating on local affiliate WKBW-TV, slipped to a 1.9 and then fell to a 1.2. In other words, it has lost more than half its audience in three weeks.

Similarly, “Scoundrels” opened with a 4.9 rating, slipped to a 2.6 and then dropped to a 1.9. It also has lost more than half its audience.

“Rookie Blue,” the routine Canadian cop series starring Missy Peregrym that already has been renewed, has done well here and kept its audience. It opened with a 5.9, rose to a 6.2 and then slipped to a 5.5. Those are solid numbers at 9 p.m. Thursday, especially for the summer.

* The two scripted series that Fox is running have had pretty consistent but low ratings on local affiliate WUTV. The Bradley Whitford series "Good Guys" started with a 3.6 rating and is averaging a 2.9 over five episodes. "Lie to Me," the Tim Roth series that is in its sophomore season, is averaging a 4.3 rating. The good news is its last episode hit a high of 5.3.
NBC's unusual "Persons Unknown" started with a strong 6.9 rating on affiliate WGRZ-TV but has slipped weekly to a recent low of 3.2 and has been shipped off by the network to Saturdays.
* Remember former Channel 7 reporter-anchor Erika von Tiehl? Of course you do even if she wasn’t here long before getting an anchor job in Miami. Now the attractive anchor has landed a job as a morning anchor at the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia. That’s the same station in the country's No. 4 market that just hired Channel 4 anchor-reporter Jericka Duncan.

* Melina Kanakaredes, who plays Det. Stella Bonasera, is reportedly leaving the cast of “CSI: NY,” thereby eliminating any interest I have in the show.

* Line of the week came via “Today” show host Meredith Vieira: After the program ran excerpts of the video interview that newly-engaged Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston gave to US magazine, Vieira said in a surprised tone: “Well, they look happy.” Her tone suggested she didn’t believe it would last.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Igoe Ready to Teach Journalism in China

Former Channel 2 consumer reporter Mike Igoe has been preparing for two big events this summer.

Last Saturday, Igoe’s daughter, Channel 7 reporter Kyla Igoe, was married to Shaun Handley on one of the most beautiful days of the summer. Handley works for the Buffalo Bills in the information and technology department.

“Everything was outstanding,” said Igoe. “The weather, the church, the facility and the people.”

Now Igoe can focus his attention on the second big event – preparing to teach three courses in Zhuhai, China across the bay from Hong Kong.

“This is basically the transition for me,” the 57-year-old Igoe said over coffee recently.

Since taking a Channel 2 buyout in January, 2009 after almost 20 years at WGRZ-TV, Igoe has taught several courses over the last three semesters in the communications department at Buffalo State College.

“I never thought much about teaching,” he explained. “I sort of fell into it. For three semesters, I did a full load. I enjoyed it. I didn’t know how I would like or if I could handle it. It worked really fine."

He was unable to get a full-time teaching job at local colleges so he looked out of the state. Then the United International College in China called. His students have English as a second language so there shouldn’t be much of a language barrier.

“The reason they hired me and other Americans is they are really trying to get an international perspective,” said Igoe. “If nothing else, I’ll give them a better understanding of English and the American culture. But some of the things I consider pretty basic to journalism will probably be a revelation to them. I’ll teach the stuff we take for granted – how American journalists think and how they react and why they do what they do.”

It is one-year appointment, with Igoe teaching from mid-September to the end of June.

He is teaching two reporting classes and one media law class (he is a lawyer).

Igoe won’t get rich, but the experience will be priceless.

“It (his salary) is competitive with what academics in this country make,” said Igoe.

His wife, Debbie, plans to visit and his son Trevor may study there.

“It will be a unique experience,” said Igoe.

* Fox announced this morning that Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) will have a new member of his medical team. Amber Tamblyn, best-known on TV as the lead in "Joan of Arcadia," will play a "brilliant and aggressive medical student" who apparently won't always agree with the behavior of her boss.

* If you missed it during the ESPYs Wednesday night, here is a You Tube link to the hysterically-funny parody by the dryly humorous Steve Carell and Paul Rudd of LeBron James' special, "The Decision." It was one of the highlights of the show. Carell told of his decision to switch restaurants, while Rudd played the interviewer. Enjoy.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Channel 2 Names Bailey 10 p.m. Anchor

Channel 2 anchor-reporter Marissa Bailey has been named the station’s permanent 10 p.m. anchor on the newscast that airs on WNYO-TV.

According to an email sent to the staff of the NBC affiliate by News Director Jeff Woodard, Bailey occasionally will be in the field instead of the studio at 10 p.m. and also will report on the 11 p.m. newscast..

Bailey has been filling in at 10 p.m. for a few months for Maryalice Demler or Scott Levin, who also are the station's anchor team at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Now the job is hers permanently. The move comes only four months after Bailey was moved from being the anchor of "Sunday Daybreak" to working as a night side reporter and fill-in anchor. It is believed that change occurred after she earlier declined to sign a contract and that she got the 10 p.m. anchor slot now after signing a new deal.

Bailey has been with the station for almost four years and was named the "Sunday Daybreak" anchor in January of 2008.

As noted in a previous blog, she has improved markedly and seemed to be a candidate for a job in a bigger market.

The move comes as Channel 4 looks for a new 10 p.m. news anchor to replace the retired Lisa Flynn for the newscast that airs on WNLO-TV. Former Rochester anchor Lia Lando is at least temporarily filling the role on Channel 4’s 10 p.m. newscast, which dominates the head-to-head-competition with Channel 2’s newscast.

* Here’s a mild surprise since reporters have been hired straight out of college lately. Channel 2’s newest reporter, Patrick Moussignac, has more than a dozen years in news and has spent the last three plus at News 12 in Norwalk, Conn.

* You can tell how far Fox has come by its fall plans. It has scheduled the premieres of all of its news show on the regular network premiere week of Sept. 20 rather than jump start several shows with early starts. “House” is back Sept. 20, “Glee” is back Sept. 21. and “Bones” and “Fringe” are back on Sept. 23.


New Milch Series Set for HBO

Award-winning Buffalo native David Milch (“Deadwood”) is coming back to HBO with a new series, “Luck,” that stars Dustin Hoffman (above) and takes place in the horse racing industry that Milch knows so well.

Milch, who was a frequent visitor to Saratoga with his family when he was growing up and has owned thoroughbred horses that have won two Breeders’ Cup races, is hoping his luck changes after his last HBO series, “John in Cincinnati” only ran one season.

Milch wrote the pilot of “Luck,” which was directed by Michael Mann. Decades ago, Mann had success with another member of the Buffalo connection in Hollywood. Mann directed “Miami Vice” -- the series created by WNYer Anthony Yerkovich.

In a release, HBO said "Luck" will “take a provocative look at horse racing -- the owners, gamblers, jockeys and diverse gaming industry players.”

Michael Lombardo, the president of HBO programming, added: “Michael Mann delivered a pilot from David Milch’s brilliant script that took our breath away. We are truly excited that these two artists and our extraordinary cast headed by Dustin Hoffman will bring ‘Luck’ to life.”

The cast is heavily-male dominated. Besides Hoffman, the cast includes recognizable faces and names like Dennis Farina, Kevin Dunn, Richard Kind, Jason Gedrick and Nick Nolte. Jill Hennessy (“Crossing Jordan,” “Law & Order”) will guest star.

The series will begin filming this fall at Santa Anita Park in Arcadian, Calif. and other locations in and around Los Angeles.
Besides his HBO series, Milch is known as a writer-executive producer on the classic NBC police series, “Hill Street Blues” and the classic ABC police series, “NYPD Blue.”


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Curb" to Join WUTV Late-Night Lineup

This is what I’m thinking:

* It was difficult for WUTV General Manager Nick Magnini to curb his enthusiasm about the station’s late-night lineup this fall.

At 11:30 p.m., the Fox affiliate will air toned-down reruns of the first season of Larry David’s HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

“Curb” kicks “That ‘70s Show” from that time slot.

At midnight, reruns of the first season of HBO’s “Entourage” will replace “Friends” repeats. It will be amusing just to hear what Hollywood agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) sounds like without the expletives.

“I’m very optimistic,” said Magnini of carrying the HBO shows. “Seventy percent of the Buffalo audience has not seen the shows.”

That’s because only about a quarter of Western New Yorkers subscribe to the pay-cable service HBO. Of course, people have seen both series on DVD and they also air nationally on cable.

At 6 p.m. this fall, WUTV will replace “Seinfeld” reruns with returns of “How I Met Your Mother.” “Seinfeld” will still air at 10 p.m.

Magnini said the big news at WNYO – which has the same owner as WUTV – is that all city versions of “Real Housewives” will air weekdays at noon. That just might take a ratings bite out of the female demographic watching local news at noon.

* Things Go Weirder with Coke: Channel 2 ran a story at 11 p.m. Monday about three unique ways to use Coca Cola, including getting grease and blood stains out of laundry. At the end of the piece, weatherman Kevin O’Connell noted that it also was a good idea to put ice in a glass and have a Coke. When it comes to news, this was hardly the real thing. It played more like a product placement advertisement than a news story.
* After “Friday Night Lights” co-stars Kyle Chandler (who was born in Buffalo) and Connie Britton earned Emmy nominations, NBC picked an unfortunate time to rest the series this Friday. Some regular readers of this blog were concerned that “Lights” might have been permanently turned off. But it is scheduled to return on July 23.

* You can’t say that LeBron James left Cleveland for a much bigger market. Miami is only one spot ahead of Cleveland at No. 17 in the country.

* CBS is running some misleading promos about the recent nominations for “The Late Show with David Letterman.” The show was skipped over for a nomination in the category that Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were nominated. Letterman’s show only earned two nominations for directing, hardly worthy of promoting.

Amusingly on Monday night's show , Letterman talked about getting "the cold shoulder" from the Emmys after the promo celebrating the minor nominations ran on Channel 4. Letterman added it was the first time in 26 years that his CBS or NBC show wasn't nominated.

* You know that amusing advertisement “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” about the conceited guy in the shower, on a boat and on a horse trying to sell Old Spice Body Wash? It was nominated for an Emmy and will compete with Betty White’s Snickers ad, among others. You can’t miss the Old Spice ad. It is even carried in movie theaters. And it actually is funnier than some of the movies that follow it.

* The episode of “The Office” in which Jim and Pam got married in Niagara Falls not only won an Emmy nomination for writing. It also earned one for sound mixing, which couldn’t have been easy all the time near the Falls.

* Bet you didn’t know department: Kristen Wiig, the “Saturday Night Live” star who was nominated in the best supporting actress category, was born in Canandaigua and graduated from Brighton High in a Rochester suburb.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Channel 4's Duncan Loved It Here

Channel 4 wanted to keep reporter-anchor Jericka Duncan so badly that the station’s news director even thought of playing matchmaker.

“I joked with (news director Joe Schlaerth) that if I had gotten married maybe I’d stay in Buffalo,” laughed Duncan in a telephone interview.

“He tried,” she added with a laugh. “He had a couple of (dating) suggestions. But it was not like he had a list of people.”

Love didn’t happen here so she is off to the City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia – in mid-August. She confirmed she will be a general assignment reporter at KYW-TV, the CBS affiliate in the No.4 market in the country.

She leaves after her three-year deal with Channel 4 was completed.

“I am young (26) and single and this is the time for me explore other opportunities,” said Duncan.
She has been impressive in her stay here. Until she leaves, Duncan said she will continue to anchor “Weekend Wake Up” and work as a night reporter the other three days of her work week.

“I had a great experience at Channel 4,” she added. She noted that she was able to report, anchor and even do some sports anchoring. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I am fortunate and blessed to have landed a job here.”

She is excited about the Philadelphia opportunity and said both Schlaerth and General Manager Chris Musial wished her the best.

Duncan is the daughter of a TV sports anchor and sports director who has worked in many markets so she knew she had chosen a field that required several moves. Still, she said it won’t be easy leaving since she has established strong friendships in the community and with her church in Buffalo.

“It is a community you don’t forget,” said Duncan. “I’m leaving but I will definitely be back to visit.”

* I’m no fan of Channel 7 General Manager Bill Ransom and he’s certainly no fan of mine. But there was a reason I chose not to run a recent website survey that placed him No. 1 in the list of the 10 worst people in TV news days before it landed in a blog in the Buffalo News.

I am only mentioning it now because The News blog needs some perspective. One should always consider the source before running an unfair list or at least explain and fully understand the background of who is behind the list.

Scott Jones, who is in charge of the Top 10 list, is a former executive news producer at Channel 7 who at one time was in the running to be the station’s news director. He also was the co-founder of the website RealAmherst.com.

According to sources who worked at Channel 7 at the time, Jones and Ransom had a falling out about a decade ago before Jones left the station.

The same sources said Jones also didn’t get along with the eventual news director, Staci Feger. Feger, who now is a news director in Alaska, was No. 10 on Jones’ Top 10 list.

Asked if the list should be considered fair and credible, one former Channel 7 staffer laughed and said: “No way is it fair.”

Full disclosure here: I also was a frequent target of Jones.

The News should either take down the discredited survey or at the very least insert some perspective about Jones.

* One of my spies tells me that Channel 2 reporter Aaron Saykin will soon work a part-time schedule to attend the University at Buffalo Law School. Considering the state of TV news, it is a very smart move.

* Finally, Spain's 1-0 victory over Netherlands Sunday for the World Cup had a 4.3 local rating on Channel 7. That was lower than the 5.0 rating that the United States' elimination loss to Ghana had here.
Of course, several of ABC's announcers candidly said the title game was a dog. "Lipstick on a pig," said ABC's Alexi Lalas. "This was a pig of a game."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

ESPN Keeps Suspense Going in LeBron Call

Some thoughts a day or so after LBJ supposedly made his big decision:

* What did they know and when did they know it?

That’s my question to ESPN reporters and analysts after LeBron James announced he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat.

I was playing a tennis league match Thursday night when LBJ told the world on ESPN that he was joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to become a member of the Miami Heat. So I recorded “The Decision” for later viewing.

I didn’t feel like I would be missing anything live because all afternoon long ESPN’s Chris Broussard had speculated that James was joining the Heat unless he changed his mind at the last minute.

Of course, I laughed on Tuesday when first word of LBJ’s 9 p.m. Thursday press conference leaked. The idea that the media would get 48 hours to learn “The Decision” and it wouldn’t leak before then was pretty funny in this Twitter and Facebook world.

The announcement that there would be announcement was an invitation or even an inducement to discover the truth.

It was inevitable by the time ESPN's show began Thursday that the world would know where James was headed before he confirmed he was joining the Heat in an interview with reporter Jim Gray.

I just wonder when Broussard and everybody else at ESPN speculating that he was going to Miami really knew and just tried to keep the suspense going.

Perhaps because much of the suspense had been eliminated before LeBron confirmed what he was going to do, local ratings on ESPN weren’t as high as one might have expected.

The hour started with a 5.0 rating here and peaked at 6.4 at 9:15 p.m. when LeBron gave his decision. At that point, ESPN’s ratings were higher than anything that aired locally on a network affiliate. However, the rating slipped to a 4.5 at 9:30 p.m. and a 3.4 at 9:45 p.m. to average about a 5 rating for the hour. That was lower than a “CSI” (6.0) repeat on Channel 4 and a new episode of the Canadian series “Rookie Blue” (5.8) on Channel 7.

The Buffalo rating wasn't close to the national rating, but that's not a surprise. The national number was inflated by the big numbers in the big markets -- New York (No.1) Chicago (No.3) Miami (17) and Cleveland (18) -- that had teams that were in the LeBron sweepstakes.
* Was it just me or did LeBron sort of blame his mother for helping him decide to leave his hometown team? LeBron said his mom advised him to do what made him happy, which made it easier to join the Heat. He should have kept his mom out of it.

It would be hard for some players to still be happy with the knowledge that they would immediately become villains in their hometown. In the short run, James is defining happiness with the opportunity to win titles. In the long run, happiness might have been defined as choosing loyalty over a better opportunity to win titles. We’ll see.

However, the ugly statement that Cleveland Owner Dan Gilbert made about LeBron’s departure almost immediately made the star a sympathetic character in some quarters. No one deserved that kind of talk.

* LeBron noted that that he could have made more money by staying in Cleveland. But let’s be honest. The money he makes playing the game is a bonus added to the millions more that he makes from endorsements.

On the other hand, the decision to leave Cleveland could actually cost him endorsement money if he remains a villain for awhile or if D-Wade becomes a bigger Madison Advertising commodity.

I’m not an accountant. But since there is no state income tax in Florida, I suspect that LeBron actually could make as much money after taxes playing in Miami next year if he becomes a Florida resident as he could have if he stayed in Cleveland.

* NBA Commissioner David Stern is always mindful of the importance of public relations.

That makes one wonder why he didn’t exert his influence with one of the league’s TV partners, ESPN, and tell them to just say no to the one-hour special.

And he might have tried to convince LeBron it was a bad idea.

He certainly should have tried to stop Gilbert from making his statement.

Who knows? Maybe he did try to do all three things.

One thing is clear: The hype-fest tarnished the image of one of the league’s biggest stars, one of its TV partners and one of its owners.

* Now on to the World Cup, which ends Sunday when Netherlands and Spain play for the title on ABC affiliate Channel 7 at 1:30 p.m.

I’ve watched enough soccer over the last few weeks to realize that instant replay might not be the total answer to all the lousy officiating calls. I can’t count the number of times that the game announcers have complained that a bad call was made, only to hear intermission and post-game analysts look at the same footage and defend the call. Clearly, instant replay could slow down the game at an alarming pace.