Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Channel 2's Bailey Is Impressive

In honor of Larry King’s decision to end his CNN show this fall, here are some King-like opinions:

* Channel 2 anchor-reporter Marissa Bailey does impressive work no matter where the station uses her.

She reminds me why I shouldn’t be too critical when young people begin working in this market.

I wasn’t overly impressed when a nervous Bailey began hosting a weekend edition of Channel 2’s morning program “Daybreak.” But in a few months, she was smooth on the air.

Bailey no longer anchors the weekend “Daybreak” but, if anything, that has helped her career. She has shown her versatility and seems so comfortable on the air now that I can see her being snapped up by a bigger market if that’s what she wants.

* It looks like local TV news is going to soon look like YNN when it comes to reporters. Both Channel 4 (Nalina Shapiro) and Channel 7 (Jason Greunauer) have put reporters on the air a month after they graduated from college. One veteran reporter recently told me that the stations are so concerned about saving money on salaries that in a year or so local TV news “will look like a college station.”

* When King announced his fall exit from his nightly CNN show Tuesday night, CNN began running a crawl of comments from celebrities celebrating his 25-year run on the cable news channel. The funniest came from Jimmy Kimmel, who accused the 76-year-old of playing a joke on the audience.

* Speaking of Kimmel, since leaving the Buffalo News I stay up a lot later than I used to and catch his ABC late-night act more often. His show certainly is a lot more fun than Jay Leno's "Tonight Show." One of his more amusing bits lately is World Cup highlights, which usually illustrate how dull soccer can be.

And late last week, he and Tom Cruise did a high-wire act in search of fresh eggs for a recipe that Cruise supposedly was going to make. They went on the roof of the building where Kimmel’s show is taped and took a ride on a zip line across Hollywood Boulevard and back to get some eggs from a guy on the street. Funny – and scary – stuff. But, hey, we learned on “Entourage” last Sunday that Cruise likes to do his own stunts.

* The zip line bit certainly was funnier than anything in Cruise’s latest movie, “Knight and Day.” The poor opening weekend box office for the film is even more alarming when you consider that Cruise and co-star Cameron Diaz seemed to be everywhere promoting it. When I saw them during a bit on ESPN’s “Sportscenter,” I wrongly assumed it was a Disney film since Disney owns ESPN. However, it’s a 20th Century Fox film.

Some sports notes:

* “Oh, my” ESPN play-by-play man Dick Enberg keeps rolling along. His call Tuesday when Venus Williams was upset at Wimbledon was a reminder of how strong his enthusiasm level remains. “My, oh my,” said Enberg after the shocker ended. Of course, “oh, my” is his signature expression.

* Channel 2’s Ed Kilgore must not pay attention much to tennis. He said on Tuesday that he expected Venus would stay around to root on her sister Serena at Wimbledon. Actually, Venus had to stay until today anyway because the sisters were trying to defend their 2009 title in doubles. They were upset today in three sets in another Wimbledon shocker.

* MSG, the Sabres channel, also carries the New York Knicks games here. The Knicks games have been pretty tough to watch for several years. But tonight, Knick fans may stay up for midnight madness when MSG carries a special on the team’s free agency efforts to land LeBron James or some other big name.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Channel 4 Staffers Playing Musical Chairs

Anchors and reporters at Channel 4 soon will be playing musical chairs.

According to sources, anchor-reporter Michele McClintick will be moving shortly to become a reporter on the CBS affiliate's popular morning show “Wake Up.”

McClintick just came off maternity leave so she undoubtedly is used to waking up early these days.

Jericka Duncan, who has been the “Wake Up” reporter, will take McClintick’s old job as anchor of “Weekend Wake Up” in addition to working three nights a week.

And 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. weekend anchor Mylous Hairston moves from being a dayside reporter on the other three days to working nights.

It is unclear if the staffers are happy with the changes at a station that also loses retiring anchor Lisa Flynn on Wednesday and is known for its stability.

* It is looking more and more like the local stations will replace veteran reporters by hiring young no-names who come cheap. But you’d expect the stations will at least allow them to use their names.

Which brings us to the most amusing moment of last weekend: Channel 7 had a newcomer anchor its sports report Saturday. He wasn’t even introduced before he gave the report. On Sunday, the station identified him as Jason Greunauer before he gave another sports report.

Greunauer may have made local TV news history when he began his local career. He’s the first anchor-reporter I remember that started sporting a goatee. (If you know otherwise, email me.)
Greunauer, who previously had done news reports for Channel 7, hasn’t yet made it on the station's website so his resume isn't available.
But according to sources, he doesn't have much of a resume anyway. He's from Lancaster and graduated from Syracuse University last month. In other words, he's getting the kind of on-the-job training that used to happen at YNN, Elmira or Erie, Pa. He's a little raw on the air now but has a promising future.

* I loved the promo for FX’s “Rescue Me” that features the Jay-Z song “Empire State of Mind” with the memorable “New York” lyrics. But I didn’t love the first four episodes sent for review as much. The destructive behavior of alcoholic lead character Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) is getting very, very old.

In fact, practically everything about the dark episodes seems like it has been done to death – including the scenes dealing with death. The show returns at 10 tonight on the basic cable channel that runs shows that break normal language standards.

There is almost as much symbolism about heaven and hell as there was in “Lost” and there’s even a “Lost” reference eventually. Like "Lost," "Rescue Me" also has announced its end date. The final 19 episodes have been filmed, with 10 airing this summer and the final nine in the summer of 2011.
Things improve noticeably in the third episode, when Peter Gallagher ("The O.C.") pops up as an irreverent priest (now there's an unusual phrase) who Tommy turns to eventually for guidance as he is overwhelmed by his own demons and the troubles of his wife and an alcoholic daughter. There also is one humorous scene in that episode about all of the celebrities who are humanitarians that is priceless. In other words, don't give up on Tommy or "Rescue Me" just yet. Rating: 3 stars out of 4

* After “Rescue Me,” FX premieres a new comedy, “Louie,” at 11 p.m. It stars standup comedian Louis C.K., who previously starred in a failed HBO comedy, "Lucky Louie."
This "Louie" fits in nicely with the “Rescue Me” attitude. “Louie” is a hybrid of “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” that unfortunately isn’t nearly as funny as either of them.

The star even has a more pessimistic attitude about humanity that “Curb’s” Larry David. Recently divorced, Louie is always looking for the dark side.

“I know too much to have any optimism,” says Louie.

The opener at 11 p.m. tonight is an amiable introduction to Louie, a 42-year-old father of two who is clueless about dating after 14 years of marriage.

Next week’s episode opens with a funny, but offensive scene in which Louie and his friends get a lesson on the origin of the word “faggot” from the gay member of the poker group. Eventually, there’s a bigger lesson in that scene that may get people besides Louie to think about the power of offensive words.

Unlike Louie, I have a little optimism that this unlovable loser will improve and grow on viewers. 2 and a half stars

* I'm not surprised by the poor opening weekend box office for the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz movie "Knight and Day." As I said in last week's blog, it's not much of a movie. When I saw it, the audience didn't have any reaction at all on opening night after it ended. I suspect it is getting lousy word of mouth despite some surprising decent reviews.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Flynn Explains Why She Is Leaving Channel 4

At the end of the 10 O’Clock News on CW-23 last Thursday, anchor Lisa Flynn (above with her seven-year-old son Thomas and husband Tom) announced something that stilltalkintv revealed weeks ago.

One of the inspirations for this blog is leaving WIVB-TV Channel 4 and its sister station, WNLO-TV.

“I got one email,” said Flynn in an interview Sunday night. “It is a good lesson. People do not hang in for the lottery numbers and the goodbye. Even Tom missed it.”

Flynn’s reason for leaving is simple: “To spend time with my son before his childhood slips away. It is completely my decision.”

“I can’t have at all at once,” added Flynn. “I could have it all but I couldn’t be good at everything and Thomas suffered as a result of the time commitment my career required.”

Flynn’s last newscast will be Wednesday night. She is preparing a two-minute goodbye piece dealing with the stories she has covered in her 20 years on local TV news – 14 years at Channel 4 and six years before that at Channel 7.

“When I tell people I worked at Channel 7, most people have no recollection,” said Flynn.

Starting Thursday, Flynn will be replaced at least temporarily at 5:30 p.m. weekdays on Channel 4 and at 10 p.m. on WNLO by a former Rochester TV anchor, Lia Lando. Lando was impressive when she anchored the weekend morning shows while Michele McClintick was on maternity leave. She is a Syracuse University graduate and has run her own public relations and marketing firm.

Lando is now believed to be the favorite for the job if she wants it. That has to be a blow to morning anchor Melissa Holmes, who sources said lobbied for the job. However, Lando has two young kids and commutes from Rochester and it isn’t clear if she would want a full-time job.

In a memo to the staff last Friday, Channel 4 News Director Joe Schlaerth said the station is conducting a national and internal search for Flynn’s replacement.

Flynn, 46, said she considered working part-time as a reporter but ultimately decided against even doing that.

“This business is still all-consuming,” said Flynn. “And even working two days a week I would still on my days off figuring out stories and trying to set up stories. And I need to focus on Thomas now. I would be miserable also going back to the street as a reporter.”

Of course, many people feel the message of the women’s movement has matured over the years to mean women shouldn't feel obligated to "have it all" by working and raising a family. It should be their choice if money isn't an issue and Flynn has made hers after years of thinking about it.

Flynn said that since Thomas went to kindergarten she has been confiding to Channel 4 anchor Jacquie Walker about the difficulties of balancing work and family. She said Walker told her she was able to do it because her husband stepped up and could work at home.

“My family dynamic is completely different,” said Flynn.

Her husband, attorney Thomas H. Burton, is a quadriplegic who has helped out as much as he can.

“It makes it much harder for him to pick up the slack,” said Flynn. “Tom really carried the bulk of this the last few years. I dumped bedtime on him. He wouldn’t get home until 7 p.m. because of work, then he had to get himself fed, Thomas showered and in bed and Tom does physical therapy four or five nights a week. And he never complained about it.”

She said that the reaction from her co-workers about her departure was a combination of “shock and sadness.”

“Several people have asked me to reconsider,” said Flynn. “Not one said you are making a mistake. They all have been supportive and understanding.”

She said her father, Wally Flynn, initially wanted her to keep working.

“My father is beside himself upset,” said Flynn, “because he won’t see his daughter on TV anymore.”

“Tom had a heart-to-heart with him and said ‘she’s doing this for your grandson.' So he did come around.”

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sports on the Air: NHL Awards Were a Bad Joke

This is what I’m thinking:

* The NHL Awards from Las Vegas Wednesday were a pathetic, cheap attempt by the league to use musical acts like the Goo Goo Dolls and celebrity presenters to enhance the entertainment value of the telecast.

The celebrity presenters made a bad joke out of the two awards given to the Buffalo Sabres.

Presenter Mark Wahlberg said that Tie Domi was named rookie of the year instead of Tyler Myers and presenter Jamie Kennedy mispronounced the name of the goalie trophy (Vezina) won by Ryan Miller. Kennedy’s “mistake” seemed part of a painful comic bit with co-presenter D. B. Sweeney. If Wahlberg was trying to be funny, it didn't play that way.

There was one amusing filmed piece about two Anaheim Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, who played for gold medal winning Team Canada and silver medal winning Team USA, respectively, in the Vancouver Olympics. The joke was that Bobby Ryan has been paying for USA’s loss all season long, even being nicknamed Silver by Getzlaf.

It was a funny bit. Otherwise, the NHL would have been better off playing it straight and giving the ceremonies a touch of class.

* I haven’t been a big fan of British play-by-play man Ian Darke during the World Cup because of his low enthusiasm level. But he had a strong game when the United States beat Algeria and raised his enthusiasm on Landon Donovan’s goal in the 91st minute so high that one wonders if ESPN officials asked him to amp the energy level. He also noted that even Hollywood wouldn't have written a script like that.

I still would have preferred having Mike Tirico or Chris Fowler doing play-by-play and Alexi Lalas doing game analysis. Lalas is ESPN’s star of the Cup, balancing praise and criticism and not giving in to the hype about what the U.S. win would mean to soccer's future in the States.

On Jim Rome’s radio show Friday heard locally on WGR-AM, Lalas said that even if the U.S. won the World Cup, it wouldn’t mean soccer would be viewed as a major sport in the country. He said that still would take some time.

* The historic Wimbledon fifth set that American John Isner won over France’s Nicolas Mahut, 70-68, cried out for somebody to tell ESPN announcers Hannah Storm, Patrick McEnroe and Brad Gilbert to shut up once in a while and allow some dead air. They never stopped talking about all the history being made amid mountains of statistics.

In his post-match interview, Mahut called it the greatest match ever.

Not really. It was the longest match ever, but the play validated every complaint there is about grass court tennis.

It wasn’t serve-and-volley tennis. It was serve and stay on the baseline tennis. Neither Isner or Mahut went to the net much, which undoubtedly prolonged the match.

I was a little confused when watching the match on ESPN because the time difference between England and the East Coast in the States was only a few hours. Turns out I was watching a replay and didn’t immediately realize it. Viewers should realize if the word “live” isn’t in the corner of the screen, then it isn’t live.

NBC's Wimbledon coverage often can be confusing when it comes to "live" and tape-delayed. The network carries tennis from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. However, there are no matches on Sunday at Wimbledon so that coverage will certainly be taped.

From Monday through Wednesday, NBC carries a combination of live and taped coverage from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The coverage of the ladies semifinals at noon Thursday and the men's semifinals at noon Friday also will combine live and taped matches.

The ladies final at 9 a.m. July 3 and the men's final at 9 a.m. on July 4 during "Breakfast at Wimbledon will be live as usual .

* The best way to watch the NBA draft is to save close to four hours and DVR it to watch later to hear the opinions about the selection of players a viewer is interested in.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas has apparently never seen a player he doesn’t like or doesn’t think will make it in the NBA. He was effusive in his praise of former Syracuse star Wesley Johnson, who will finally get to play with former SU guard Jonny Flynn in Minnesota. Johnson sat out a year in Syracuse and never played with Flynn there.

ESPN host Stuart Scott called Flynn "Nostradamus" because the former Niagara Falls star predicted weeks ago that Johnson would land with the T-Wolves after they qualified for the fourth pick.

Bilas also praised former Traditional star Lazar Hayward after he was selected with the last pick of the first round by the Washington Wizards (he was traded to Minnesota Friday). And host Stuart Scott amusingly noted that Hayward – who played at the Big East’s Marquette – was offered a scholarship at Syracuse “for rowing.”

The New York Knicks’ pick of former Syracuse star Andy Rautins early in the second round was a surprise only to those who hadn’t seen Rautins play in his senior season. Bilas called Rautins a player with NBA shooting skills, but questioned his defense and tendency to commit turnovers. Johnson probably will be a future NBA star, but Rautins was the Orange’s best all-around player and leader last season.

"Entourage" Is Loaded with Celebrity Gold

Mark Wahlberg confused Tyler Myers when he presented the National Hockey League award Wednesday for rookie of the year by announcing the winner as Tie Domi instead of the Buffalo Sabres defenseman.

It was unclear whether the envelope Wahlberg was reading had the name of the retired Toronto Maple Leafs bad boy, the actor-producer misread the envelope or it was some kind of inside baseball joke.

It wouldn’t be surprising if many hockey fans around Western New York and the nation were asking “who the heck is Mark Wahlberg?”

He’s the guy whose celebrity life is loosely the basis of “Entourage,” the popular HBO series about an actor, Vinny Chase (Adrian Grenier, upper right in photo by HBO's Claudette Barius), living the dream in Hollywood with his half-brother Drama (Kevin Dillon) and two buddies from Queens, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and his manager Eric (Kevin Connolly).

The show returns for its seventh season at 10:30 p.m. Sunday on the pay-cable channel with an amusing episode that name drops celebrities at a record level and revolves around Vinny’s quest to "man up" while shooting an action film.

Bad boy director Nick Cassavetes (upper left in photo) is in charge of Vinny’s latest movie and he wants the guy to do his own dangerous stunts.

Danger is not Vinny’s middle name and some of the dark comedy moments dealing with the past damage to actors when stunts have gone wrong makes his initial reluctance to give in perfectly understandable.

Cassavetes almost steals the episode playing a convincing macho director who knows how to appeal to an actor’s psyche. All a director or Vinny's friends have to do is name all the actors -- Robert DeNiro, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise in the just-released “Knight and Day” -- that have done their own stunts to guilt an actor into doing it.

Cassavetes also gets under the skin of super agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who represents both the director and Vinny and now is the self-proclaimed “biggest agent in the world.”

It’s a rich Gold episode, which is always a good thing. It enables the foul-mouthed character played by Piven to steal another episode as an abusive agent who tries to balance his exhaustive political work needs with the needs of his wife.

The rest of the story lines about Vinny’s friends aren’t as involving. Turtle is again looking for love, Drama is looking for a TV acting role and Eric is looking to help out Vinny anyway he can while preparing to wed Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Unfortunately, there is too little of Sloan.

Next week, Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones has a cameo as Ari tries to convince him that the agent should negotiate the rights to the next NFL contact. When you’re looking to expand your audience, the name Jerry Jones doesn’t exactly spell ratings.

William Fichtner, the Cheektowaga actor, also is back as a TV producer who disappoints Drama. He gets the best inside baseball line of the half-hour, giving Drama his views on agents. “They are (expletive) deleted agents, they don’t believe in extra work,” says Fichtner’s character.

“Entourage” still works after all these years because viewers have gotten to know and love the characters, their quirks and their goals much better than Mark Wahlberg knows Tyler Myers.

Rating: 3 stars out of 4

* Mini-review of “Knight and Day”: I caught the film on opening day Wednesday with my teen-age son to escape the heat and see the movie that co-stars Cruise and Cameron Diaz. I can hardly remember anything about it two days later. It isn’t much. My son and I much preferred the action scenes in “The A-Team,” which isn’t getting as much love from critics as “Knight and Day.”

Diaz doesn’t look so hot and Cruise’s comedy routine wears thin about halfway through the movie. The best Cruise lines were given away in the previews. I only recommend the movie on a rainy or very hot day. Otherwise, wait for the video.

Rating: 2 stars

* Remember former Channel 2 consumer reporter Mike Igoe. Since he took a buyout, he’s been teaching communications course at Buffalo State College and has drawn praise from the department head.

Now he’s going to teach in China. He will spend a year as assistant professor at the United International College, where students have English as a second language. He will teach two reporting classes and one on media law.

“It was a unique opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up,” said Igoe.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

No Shock Here: Quake Coverage Isn't Moderate

In one sense, it was earth-shattering news. An earthquake that was centered about 250 miles away in Canada shook portions of Western New York Wednesday afternoon.

In another sense, it wasn’t earth-shattering news. No one was hurt here and the buildings were fine.

The most predictable aspect of the unpredictable event was how local TV news would handle what was essentially a story about how little impact the quake that sent tremors through eight states had here.

Certainly, it was a story worth covering with a package of, say, about two minutes or three minutes tops.

The local stations seemed to think viewers needed two or three times that amount at the top of their early evening newscasts on what usually would be a slow summer news day.

In fairness, the stations restrained themselves from making the quake happenings here seem more catastrophic than they were. Channel 7’s Patrick Taney and Channel 4’s Rich Newberg emphasized it was a mild or moderate quake with no significant damage.

However, the sheer volume of the coverage contradicted the reporters’ moderation.

Of course, it would be really shocking – in the magnitude of a 6.0 quake – if the stations practiced moderation in their coverage.

Naturally and smartly, all three stations headed to the University at Buffalo earthquake specialist, Andre Filiatraut, who shined while having his day in the sun. He was the highlight of the serious coverage because he provided some much-needed insight.

But since no one got hurt, it was easier to laugh at some of the things said and done in the extended coverage.

I got the biggest laugh when hearing Channel 7 anchor Keith Radford note the quake woke people up from their afternoon naps. I guess that line was designed to appeal to the average age of a TV news viewer.

Inevitably, TV went to the dogs and the birds.

A couple of stations did amusing stories about the SPCA condor that was acting up before the quake hit, indicating it knew something was up before mere humans did.

A citizen journalist sent a picture of the family dog on the family couch, which illustrated the dog knew the quake was coming, too, because it never goes on the couch.

The scariest part of the coverage was seeing the impact that technology has in overplaying news like the quake that is bound to get people talking and filming.

Citizen journalists sent pictures, You Tube provided video of an Ottawa guy whose work out was disrupted by the quake and every station seemed determined to tell us that its phones rang off the hook and web traffic was high.


Everyone in this You Tube world we live in believes his or her experiences are important and want everyone else to know that their dishes rattled and the floor shook.

The need to get viewers “involved” leads to things like hearing Channel 4’s Don Postles read aloud comments sent to the station’s website about mundane viewer experiences.

The trend is as lamentable as it is laughable. Who knew we’d ever long for the glory days when TV news only felt it needed to give us silly on-the-street interviews.

A real earth-shattering experience would be if the stations gave the story what it deserved based on its importance rather than milked it to satisfy viewers’ needs to feel important.

For some perspective, take a look at this morning’s Buffalo News. The quake story received only four paragraphs on the left side of the front-page and jumped inside to a lengthy story with the jump head “No reports of serious injury or damage.”

Admittedly, the quake news is a little old by this morning and that may have been part of the judgment involved in how to play the story.

By putting the story on the front page, the paper is telling its readers the quake story was an important, talked-about event. By giving it a one-column headline on the front page and only carrying four paragraphs before jumping to page 2, the paper is telling readers that it wasn’t that big a deal despite what you may have seen on TV Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

ABC's "Rookie" Is Clueless

Here’s the headline on a very funny, mock retirement story written by Jeff Simon about me: “He Watched Crap So We Didn’t Have To.”

My role hasn’t changed as a blog critic.

That’s a perfect introduction to “Rookie Blue,” the new ABC drama that premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday on WKBW-TV. It’s a Canadian production that makes a routine Canadian cop series that CBS has aired, “Flashpoint,” look like an Emmy winner.

“Rookie Blue” is about five attractive rookie cops who don’t have a clue.

Sort of like the show’s production team.

How bad is it?

It is hard to tell when this series filmed in Toronto intentionally tries to be funny and when it unintentionally is funny.

They say good cops can assess a situation in a few minutes or less. It often takes about the long for veteran TV critics to assess a new show.

"Rookie" starts with some narration by the lead rookie, Andy McNally (played by Missy Peregrym), that seems to try and conjure up a cop version of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Quickly, the crappy dialogue keeps in.

“There is absolutely no training that prepares you for life” at the 15th Street Station, the rookies are told.

Then Andy is given an inspiring talk from the veteran policeman she is paired with on her first day on the job: “People can smell new cops like they can smell fresh paint.”

Thus the title of the pilot, “Fresh Paint.”

Critics can smell moldy show ideas like they can smell good popcorn.

There isn’t a moment involving a transgender suspect, an undercover cop, a single mother or a proud father that a rookie TV critic can’t see from Buffalo to Toronto.

Gregory Smith of “Everwood” fame is one of the rookies, Dov Epstein (that name is the only original part of the show), who wants to take his gun home to bond with.

I don’t think that is intended to be funny.

He and a female colleague also are confused about which sex should frisk a transgender suspect and the definition of transgender.

“Can you please explain to us exactly what that means?” Dov asked the suspect.

I think that is supposed to be funny.

However, some people around here may be confused to after the Batavia woman accused of having sex at a park recently claimed that her husband was transgender (according to TV reports).

Now back to “Rookie Blue,” which seems determined to remind us that cops like a good beer, some good music and some good laughs after a tough day at the office.

Our heroine Andy may be the most apologetic cop in TV history. She apologizes to fellow cops AND suspects.

It is ABC that should be apologizing for putting this crap on even in the summer when expectations are lower than usual.

Rating: 1 star out of 4

* I’m really not trying to upset Channel 4 weather god Pope Don Paul anymore. But I have to point out that Channel 7 used Dave Cash as its weather anchor Tuesday. Cash normally does traffic. He did a decent job explaining the weather, too.

Coming after Channel 2 had Josh Boose doing weather last week, it is apparent that Paul shouldn’t be complaining to me about his field not getting enough respect. He should be complaining to stations that are run by people who seem to think that anyone can do weather in the summer when vacations are more plentiful.

* After hearing for the third or fourth time on talk radio about President Obama’s recent comment about looking to “kick some ass” in regards to the Gulf oil spill, it should be noted that the President didn’t come up with that phrase by himself. He was merely repeating a phrase that NBC’s Matt Lauer put in his question to the President during a “Today” show interview. Replays of the phrase often ignore the question, which removes the context of the remark.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Picture Doesn't Always Tell the Story

One of the jokes at the retirement party for nine Buffalo News staffers was about the picture in my column.

It hadn’t changed in 20, 25 or 30 years, which meant I was sort of like the ageless character Richard (Nestor Carbonell) on “Lost.”

There were some advantages of using an old picture. It isn’t a bad thing not to be recognized in public when your job is to criticize people and programs.

Now that I’ve moved on to the blog world, it is time to change the picture (see upper left). Yes, I’ve aged. But who hasn’t?

Well, Wendie Malick, currently starring in the TV Land series, “Hot in Cleveland,” hasn’t. Every time I saw the Williamsville native during one of the press tours in Hollywood, I was amazed at how ageless the 50something actress appeared to be.

One of the benefits of the job was to see actresses and actors upclose and personal to see if the camera makes them look better or worse.

The most beautiful actress I’ve ever seen in person is Halle Berry. The camera can’t do her justice. I first saw her when CBS was promoting the 1993 miniseries that she starred in -- Alex Haley’s “Queen.”

Katherine Heigl, formerly of “Grey’s Anatomy,” is a close runner-up. And judge Carrie Ann Inaba of “Dancing with the Stars” wins the bronze.

More recently, I saw Courteney Cox at a press session for last fall’s new ABC comedy, “Cougar Town.” She looked so amazing that some of the questions were about the difficulty of envisioning her character as being insecure about her looks.

Of course, the point is everybody can be insecure about their looks.

The most interesting looking actress I’ve ever seen in person was Cher. It happened at a party that Buffalo producer Tom Fontana was throwing in Los Angeles a few years ago at the Chateau Marmot, where John Belushi died. I was talking to another guest and saw a woman who looked about 40 and said “you know what, that looks like a younger version of Cher.”

“You idiot,” replied the guest, “that is Cher!”

Well, not exactly the original Cher. I suppose she has had more than her share of “work” done.

It is one of my big regrets that I never went over and talked to her.

I feel sorry for all of the local TV personalities who have to worry about what they look like when they go out in public.

I’ve never seen her in person but I’ve been told by my media colleagues that the camera doesn’t do justice to Channel 7’s Bridget Blythe. However, it isn’t that unusual for news staffers to look better in person than they do on TV. Channel 7’s Joanna Pasceri also falls into that category. So did Carol Jasen when she was a Channel 4 anchor.

The biggest disappointment without question was seeing Cameron Diaz in person. She arrived to promote some well-meaning cable series that she was involved in and looked like she had just gotten off a plane without much makeup on. I always tell a friend of mine who fantasizes about her (along with most American men) that story.

Makeup can hide a lot of imperfections, but too much of it can be a detriment. I ran into a female friend of a friend after seeing the latest “Sex and the City” movie. She noted that all the actresses – Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon – had noticeably aged. I told her that wasn’t the kind of thing that a male critic would dare say.

It is an unfair fact of life in Hollywood that actors don’t have to worry about aging as much as actresses do. Chris Noth didn’t exactly look like as young as he did when he started playing “Big” on the TV version of “Sex and the City.”

And then there’s George Clooney. At the retirement party, a couple of jokes accused me of having a “man crush” on him. Sure, he’s aged a lot since I had my picture taken with him before the premiere of “ER” an eternity ago. But let’s face it, no one out there -- man or woman --seems to care.

* Here's a trio of news items you are unlikely to get in the local newspaper anymore:
* The start of ABC’s “Summer Season” didn’t exactly get off with a ratings bang locally. “Scoundrels” had a 4.9 rating on Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate, finishing second in its time slot behind NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent “ (7.7) on Channel 2.

And the new vampire series, “The Gates,” didn’t get out of the gate. It had a low 2.8 rating, finishing last in its time slot.

* After just two episodes of this bloody season have aired, HBO has announced that it has renewed “True Blood” for a fourth season. No surprise there.

* Meanwhile, Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights” has told a former critic turned national blogger, David Bianculli, that she believes the fifth season currently being filmed is likely going to be the last for the brilliant show. NBC is currently airing the fourth season, which already has aired on DirecTV.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Youth Movement Visible on Local TV News

Who’s That Girl with the unusual name?

No, not Madonna.


Inquiring minds want to know where Channel 4’s newest reporter, Nalina Shapiro, came from before she recently popped up on newscasts.

Okay, a buddy of mine asked me who the new pretty blonde was on the area’s news leader.

The answer illustrates how much the hiring methods have changed in local television these days.

Shapiro was hired straight out of college. It doesn’t say that on the biography on Channel 4’s website. The bio notes that she graduated from Franklin Pierce University and adds she’s “worked with” news teams on the CBS Evening News in New York, WBZ-TV in Boston and WMUR in New Hampshire. It doesn’t say what year she graduated from college and what “worked with” means.

You can get more information from Google and You Tube. I Googled Shapiro and discovered she graduated college a few weeks ago and “worked with” means she was an intern at the three stations.

But her video resume also is in You Tube and it’s so impressive that her hiring is understandable. She is very smooth as a reporter and obviously very aggressive in seeking a job.

One can imagine that some people in local news are a little jealous of Shapiro, who didn’t have to toil in Elmira or Erie, Pa. before landing on a big Buffalo station as reporters had to do in the past.

However, times clearly have changed in these economically-distressed times. The Youth Movement on TV isn’t only on YNN, Time Warner’s 24-hour news channel. It is also is highly visible on all three broadcast stations. A member of Channel 4’s weather team, Amelia Segal, undoubtedly would get carded in any Chippewa Street bar that wants to keep its license.

Young and cheap obviously is the way it is going to go in local TV. The good news is younger reporters are more likely to be comfortable with being backpack journalists, which means they shoot their own stories as well as report them.

It remains to be seen whether younger reporters have the news instincts that in the past were developed in places like Elmira and Erie, Pa.

* Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan wrote a compelling column Sunday about a much-needed change in the newspaper’s policy regarding how the online comments to stories will be handled starting in August. The paper will then require people making online comments to give their real names and the name of their town as they do for letters to the editors.

In her column, she quoted a reader named Bob Gallivan. “What is intended to be an open forum for individuals’ thoughts and opinions is all too often the outlet for small-minded, omniphobic hatemongers, racists and just plain mean-spirited people,” wrote Gallivan.

Gallivan works at Channel 4 as its researcher. He is not part of the news-gathering process at the station, which also allows offensive comments to stories that are online.

Besides requiring names and addresses to be used, The News might also consider adding occupations and workplaces. None of the comments to my Buffalo News columns over the years disturbed me. But it was clear that some of the more vicious personal attacks came from people who worked at the local stations and were hiding behind anonymity. I’m not suggesting that the occupations and workplaces be carried online – just that they be given so News editors could know whether the writers had an ax to grind.

* Finally, I guess it’s too bad that Nalina Shapiro doesn't do sports. On Sunday night, Channel 4 news anchor Mylous Hairston did a lengthy sports report on a busy night, apparently because sports regulars Paul Peck and John Murphy need a night off occasionally. Hairston did a good job. However, with all the people in broadcast journalism schools hoping to become the next Bob Costas or Al Michaels, you’d think Channel 4 could find one to be the third member of the sports team as quickly as it found Nalina.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sports On The Air: ABC Team Has Great Series

This is what I’m thinking:

* The ABC team covering the NBA Finals of play-by-play man Mike Breen and analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson were as good as any announcing team in any sport.

That was especially true in the Los Angeles Lakers' 83-79 victory over the Boston Celtics Thursday night in Game 7.

Breen is the underrated one, a play-by-play man who also acts as a third analyst because he sees so many things before Van Gundy and Jackson get their turns. He also is exceptional bringing out story lines, like the recovery of Laker star Ron Artest from his past image problems.

Breen didn’t make it too sappy, either, bringing out Artest’s good and bad points Thursday and noting that Artest even thanked his psychiatrist in his post-game interview. Well, it wasn’t exactly an interview, since Artest didn’t allow ABC's Doris Burke to ask a question.

Van Gundy is exceptional in two areas – detailing coaching strategy and finding humor in unexpected areas. Let’s hope he doesn’t get hired to coach again for awhile.

During Thursday’s game, he noted that the Lakers won the game in the fourth quarter at the foul line.

“The Celtics are going to look back and say we didn’t even make them make shots,” Van Gundy noted. “They just put them on the line.”

Jackson has become the master of big statements. After the Lakers’ win, Jackson noted that the introduction of Magic Johnson as “the greatest Laker” had to be amended now that Kobe Bryant has five rings.

“Move over Magic,” said Jackson. “Kobe Bryant has supplanted him as the greatest Laker.” Amen. Let's hope that Jackson doesn't get a coaching job, either.

The tight, offensively-challenged game had an 11.0 rating on Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate. Though well below the 18.2 national overnight rating, the 11.0 is a big number for the NBA here and gave the series a 7.2 average for the seven games.

The National Hockey League’s margin of ratings victory here over the National Basketball Association in the two sports’ championship round wasn’t as big as you might think in this huge hockey market.

The Chicago Black Hawks’ six-game series with the Philadelphia Flyers for the Stanley Cup finals averaged an 8.0 rating on NBC affiliate Channel 2 and Versus. Of course, the two games on cable’s Versus brought the Stanley Cup average way down. Three of the NBC games had double-digit ratings here.

NHL ratings are more likely to be influenced by the home markets than any other sport.

The theory that NHL ratings exploded during these finals ignores a simple fact. With the Chicago and Philadelphia markets involved, ratings were bound to increase dramatically. If smaller market teams make it in 2011, ratings likely would drop just as dramatically.

* You may have read that TBS switched its games last Sunday to carry the second start by Washington Nationals rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg against the Cleveland Indians.

Then you may have been surprised the game wasn’t carried here on Time Warner or satellite because the Indian games are protected here. Only baseball knows why they are protected. It’s a silly blackout rule since most of the area can’t get Indian games on TV.

Of course, that’s also the reason some ESPN games involving the Indians aren’t carried here, either.

* Channel 2’s Ben Hayes continued to impress as a sports anchor while Ed Kilgore vacations and Adam Benigni subs on “Daybreak.” But my suggestion that Channel 4 vie for Hayes’ talents isn’t practical. Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner said Hayes is under contract. He added that Hayes’ also was named the station’s employee of the quarter. Channel 4’s search for a new sports anchor-reporter will have to be elsewhere.

* I turned on WBEN-AM long enough Thursday to hear Rush Limbaugh say he is going to be the next celebrity featured in the Golf Channel series, “The Haney Project.” Charles Barkley and Ray Romano were the previous celebrities that Hank Haney tried to straighten out. It is unknown if Limbaugh’s problem is that he slices to the right. The extreme right.

* Funny mistake of the week: Channel 2 sports anchor Stu Boyar reported that North Carolina was in the World Cup when he meant to say North Korea.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rainy Day Movies Meet Low Expectations

My good friend Pope Don Paul would even concede it has rained a lot recently, driving people to the movies to watch television.

Of course, I’m talking about the recent movies based on the television series, “The A-Team” and “Sex and the City.”

I felt it was my moral obligation to see them both. All right, check that. It was raining, I couldn’t play tennis or golf and I was bored.

So I checked out “The A-Team,” which was based on the surprise 1980s NBC hit that featured movie star George Peppard and somehow made Mr. T a star. It was a big cartoon, as anyone who cares to watch episodes on Channel 2’s digital channel, RTN, can attest.

Sure there wasn't a believable moment in the action film. That was expected. Still it was an ideal movie to see with my 17-year-old son, who is smart enough to realize that we were going to see a loud, explosive cartoon about a Special Forces team that defied serious analysis by movie critics.

We weren’t disappointed by the film, which featured Liam Neeson in the Peppard role and was stolen by Bradley Cooper of “The Hangover” fame as Face.

Cooper is the guy that Sandra Bullock said on a recent award show has been in several hit movies except for the one he made with her (“All About Steve”).

He first came to my attention in a supporting role in an underappreciated former WB series, “Jack & Bobby,” and later headlined a short-lived Fox series, “Kitchen Confidential,” that deserved a better fate.

In any event, Cooper’s boyish charm was appreciated in the rare moments when “The A-Team” paused from some ridiculously entertaining special effects scenes.

In short, there are much worst ways to spend a rainy day than seeing "The A-Team."

I’m not embarrassed to say I feel asleep during “Sex.” The movie, that is. Other than an opening musical number featuring Liza Minnelli and a later musical number that I can’t recall (to be honest, I can’t recall much of anything a week after seeing it with a friend who was dragged to it by his wife).

I think I feel asleep some time when the Fab Four women – Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda – were killing time in Abu Dhabi.

However, I must report that I was awoken by laughter from the audience of mostly women who obviously got the entertainment they were expecting.

The one line I did enjoy was hearing Charlotte lament that she would miss her buxom nanny more than her husband if her hubby left her for the sexy lady.

But save a few good lines and some clever PG-13 and R-rated word play, “Sex” was a disappointment and seemed longer than some marriages.

I drew the line at going to see “MacGruber,” the film based on a recurring “Saturday Night Live” sketch. I couldn't be paid enough to watch that film. Notably, it hit the cheap theaters in record time.

While I’m on the movie beat, let me suggest anyone looking for a very good movie should check out a couple of foreign films – “The Secret of Their Eyes” or “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” They are the best movies I’ve seen since semi-retiring. But they come with a warning. They have sub-titles.

* Channel 4 anchor-reporter Lisa Flynn has told her Facebook friends that she is retiring in two weeks, as first reported here a few weeks ago. Flynn couldn’t be reached for comment. It will be interesting to see if the station uses anchors Jacquie Walker and Don Postles to fill the 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts or promotes someone from within.

The most likely in-house candidate is Melissa Holmes, who now anchors in the morning. It is hard to see the station hiring someone to replace Flynn in these economically-challenging times. I mean it has been looking for a sports anchor-reporter for several months.

* Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner said Channel 4’s demographic victory in the May news sweeps doesn’t tell the whole story. He said that his station closed the gap in several newscasts from a year ago when comparisons are usually drawn.

* You've got to love what local TV news considers news. At the top of Channel 7’s midnight news Thursday after the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title, the station lead with a story about a police checkpoint south of the city looking for drunk drivers. At the end of the report, viewers were told no arrests had been made. In other words, the news was that was no news.

ABC's Summer Season Gets Out of the "Gates"

It’s hard to tell if there have been more promos for ABC’s “Summer Season” recently than there have been ads for Cellino & Barnes and Billy Fuccillo.

But the promo-ad contest is closer than the NBA finals series between Boston and Los Angeles that ends tonight with Game 7.

In the word of Fuccillo, ABC’s promo campaign has been “huge.”

It has caught the attention of my best friend, who asked me “if any of those summer shows are any good.”

The short answer: They’re certainly a slight improvement over watching Sunday reruns of prime time soap operas like “Desperate Housewives” and “Brothers & Sisters.”

“Scoundrels” and “The Gates,” which premiere at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Sunday, respectively on Channel 7, clearly are designed to counter the summer run of network viewers to cable series.

It’s a noble effort by ABC, but both series cry out for more cable-like treatment.

Based on a New Zealand series, “Scoundrels” features Virginia Madsen and David James Elliott (“JAG”) as the attractive, happily-married, husband-wife team of criminals. They have four children -- a blonde bimbo, her smart sister and a lawyer son who has an evil criminal twin. Carlos Bernard (“24”) also is aboard as a cop following the criminal adventures of the family in Palm Springs, Calif. The family has two rules -- its members don't invade people's homes and they don't use violence. But we all know rules are made to be broken.

The premise pilot – by now you know that means it establishes the premise – brings to mind some similarities to the failed FX series of a few seasons ago, “The Riches.” However, the pace is very slow – maybe that’s more acceptable in New Zealand -- and there’s a scandalously low level of humor.

Now on to “The Gates,” which is about a husband-and-wife team of vampires living in a low-crime, gated suburban community. I know what many readers might be thinking. Oh, no, not another vampire series. Already there are HBO’s “True Blood” (which also plays on Sunday) and the CW’s “Vampire Diaries” and reruns of “Moonlight.” And I'm sure I'm forgetting something else.

But at least “The Gates” has British actress Rhona Mitra (see below), the former “Boston Legal” and “Nip/Tuck” star, as the vampire who can’t control herself even though her husband runs a bio-tech company that supplies enough blood to feed all the vampires on TV.

Everything is fine inside “The Gates,” until a former Chicago cop arrives with his family to start a new life. He actually thinks it is his job to investigate suspicious behavior.

It all plays like “True Blood”-light, without an ounce of the HBO series’ bizarrely entertaining features. That said, there are worse things than spending a Sunday night with Mitra.

Ratings, based on a summer curve: “Scoundrels”: 2 stars out of 4; “The Gates”: 2 and a half stars

* Channel 4 News has been running promos congratulating itself for winning the May sweeps. Now it has more reasons to celebrate.

According to the station’s research department, News 4 was No. 1 in all newscasts in the key demographics of adults age 18-49, 25-54 and women 25-54. The station also noted that rival Channel 2 had big demographic declines from February in four time slots.

Of course, that was predictable since Channel 2’s February numbers were inflated by NBC’s coverage of the Vancouver Olympics.

On the award front, Channel 4 won two prestigious Edward R. Murrow Awards for excellence in electronic journalism for its coverage of Flight 3407. Channel 2 also won a Murrow Award for a moving sports feature by reporter Aaron Saykin about the bond between a Cheektowaga man and his son and St. Louis Cardinals star Albert Pujols.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Malick, Co-Stars Are Best Things about "Cleveland"

Actress Wendie Malick has always been a great representative of Western New York and one of my favorite people in show business. It wasn’t that long ago that she even performed in a play at the Studio Arena to raise money in the hope that it would help save the local theater.

That made her light remark Tuesday on "Entertainment Tonight" promoting the new TV Land series, “Hot in Cleveland,” all the more stunning.

Asked by “ET’s” Kevin Frazier what she thought of Cleveland, Malick replied: “Cleveland sometimes gets a rather bad rap. But I’m from Buffalo so Cleveland seems like a real cool city to me.”

Then she laughed.

Ouch. WNYers tend to over-react to jokes like almost as badly as Channel 4 meteorologist Don Paul over-reacts to perceived slights at his profession.

But I’m going to give Malick a pass on that one comment because of her previous support of Buffalo and her body of work -- which includes HBO’s “Dream On” and NBC’s “Just Shoot Me.”

She’s always been one of the busiest actresses in Hollywood. There’s rarely a TV season in which Malick isn’t starring in some new show.

This summer, she joins TV vets Jane Leeves (“Frasier”), Valerie Bertinelli (“One Day at a Time”) and Betty White ("The Golden Girls") in the amusing “Hot in Cleveland.” The actresses deliver their lines about aging and insecurity with relish.

Malick is the vain soap actress, who would buy bulk at a discount store to meet her fans; Bertinelli is the insecure, recently divorced novelist; and Leeves is the dryly cynical Brit who works on eyebrows for a living. White comes with the house they rent as a caretaker and is always around the corner to shout “whore,” “prostitute” or some other variation that is supposed to be funny when spoken by an 88-year-old.

The comedy is written by Suzanne Martin, whose credits include “Frasier,” “Ellen” and “Hot Properties,” the later about four women (one of whom was Sofia Vergera of “Modern Family”) who worked at a real estate office in Manhattan.

Tonight’s 10 p.m. premiere of the 10-episode series is a so-called “premise” pilot, which means the premise of how three best friends from Los Angeles landed in Cleveland on their way to Paris is established. White doesn’t arrive for about 20 minutes and has a few scenes. She has more to do earlier in next week’s episode, “Who’s Your Mama,” in which Leeves’ character dates a man who is young enough to be her son. The joke is that he just may be her son.

The actresses’ comic timing help the obvious jokes about Susan Lucci, death, the difference between men in Cleveland and Los Angeles and the fear of flying and aging. The jokes about Cleveland could just as easily be about Buffalo.

“Friends don’t let friends move to Cleveland,” Leeves says at one point.

One’s enjoyment of “Hot in Cleveland” will probably depend on expectations. It won’t be the coolest thing to watch this summer. However, there are much worse ways to spend 30 minutes on a Wednesday night than watching some middle-aged comic pros have some fun when the network choices are reruns of violent dramas and the DOA series on ABC, “Happy Town.”

Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 4

* Channel 2’s Adam Benigni was back subbing today as a co-anchor on “Daybreak” while John Beard vacations with buddies Ed Kilgore and Kevin O’Connell. Regularly a sports anchor, Benigni has dabbled in news several times before without missing a step. He’s widely believed to be the heir apparent if Kilgore ever retires as sports director. Kilgore has one more year left on his contract. If Kilgore gets another contract, Benigni should consider moving to news. He also is scheduled to co-host “Daybreak” on Thursday and Friday.

* Finally, a shout out to Don Paul for starting Tuesday’s “Facebook” debate with me. We “discussed” Tuesday’s blog about how easy it is to be a weatherman. Paul helped this blog hit a record high number of hits. More importantly, the debate helped many new people find the site, which so far has been only been found by people through Facebook or word of mouth.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Channel 2's Weather Bench Really Sings

You don’t need Channel 4’s Pope Don Paul, Channel 2’s Kevin O’Connell or Channel 7’s Aaron Mentkowski to do the weather in Western New York.

Anybody can do it.

That’s long been the theory around here anyway.

After all, it’s the easiest job in the world because nobody expects you to be right more than half the time anyway.

If it is sunny when you predict rain or vice versa, weathercasters can just hide behind the line “well, that’s Buffalo, wait 20 seconds and things are bound to change.”

Channel 2 took the theory further Monday when reporter-anchor Josh Boose did the weather on the station. Before that, I thought his only weather experience was standing near the Skyway on the first snowfall of the winter and telling viewers it was a mess out there. The Skyway snow story is a rite of passage for local newscasters.

The NBC affiliate’s weather roster includes O’Connell, Andy Parker, Autumn Lewandowski, Maria Genero and Mary Beth Wrobel. And yet here was Boose doing the weather. And doing a very presentable and clear job.

Of course, it wasn’t too hard to say it is going to be nice today. The sun is out as I write this so Boose’s batting average is higher than Paul’s this month.

Just when I began thinking that Boose was proving how easy the job is, along comes anchor Maryalice Demler to tell 11 p.m. viewers before another Boose performance that the guy actually has weather experience.

Who knew?

“He did weather in Michigan before he came to our station,” said Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner. He added that Boose has done weather several times before on weekends.

“He’s always made himself available when we needed him to do weather,” said Toellner.

The weather experience isn’t in Boose’s Channel 2 bio on his blog, though there are some other interesting things in it. He is a graduate of the Ohio Center for Broadcasting and he studied classical voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Makes you wonder if Boose and Wrobel (who also studied voice, plays classical piano and flute and sings) could do a duet together while doing the weather some day.

* You can even get some news while taking a day off to golf. At a University at Buffalo function Monday, I learned it is very unlikely that former Bill Lou Piccone will be back next season as the analyst for UB football. Smart move that. Piccone proved last season that being an analyst isn’t as easy as being a weatherman.

* Channel 2 recently ran a feature on sports director Ed Kilgore’s plan to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with a team of climbers to raise money for “Kids Escaping Drugs.” Apparently, he’s done a lot of training, including some time in high altitude Denver. I don’t know if that’s the reason why Adam Benigni and Ben Hayes have anchored the sports segments so frequently lately. But if so, let’s hope Ed keeps training hard.

Actually, Kilgore is on vacation this week. So are O’Connell and “Daybreak” co-anchor John Beard. That’s a lot of key staffers off at the same time, but they are all on vacation together. The three friends have done that for years, even when Beard was living in Los Angeles.

* South Buffalo’s Patrick Kane brought the Stanley Cup to “The Tonight Show” Monday night with three Chicago Black Hawk teammates and didn’t do one taxi cab joke. Smart move. In a Channel 2 interview Monday, Scotty Bowman, who is a consultant to the Hawks, defended Kane’s jokes last week at the Chicago victory parade. Sorry, Scotty, it wasn’t smart for the kid to make light of a serious matter that damaged his image.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Classic Moments from Tony Winner, Phil Jackson

Nobody asked me but:

* Believe it or not, I had to make a tough call Sunday night when the Tony Awards aired opposite Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.

It was made tougher because the revival of the musical “Promises, Promises” was up for a few awards. That’s the musical that includes the classic “She Likes Basketball.”

Okay, it is only a classic at my house. I memorized the lyrics when it premiered: “She likes basketball, she likes basketball, we have something to talk about – basketball. Who would ever have thought my favorite girl would like my favorite sport.”

I think the late Jerry Orbach – best known for “Law & Order” – made those lyrics sing.

In any event, the Celts won the game and my vote, primarily because of the DVR. You can record an awards show and keep suspense a lot better than you can record a basketball game and keep suspense.

The Celts’ Paul Pierce and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant put on quite a show and Lakers Coach Phil Jackson had the line of the postseason.

Late in the game as the Celts appeared ready to blow a big lead, Jackson told his troops during a timeout in a “wired-up” segment that the Celtics “know how to lose in the fourth quarter.”

Wow. You don’t usually hear candor like that from a coach who realizes he is wired for sound.

But back to the Tonys, where host Sean Hayes kept things flying as Spider-Man and Little Orphan Annie (who he noted soon are coming back to Broadway).

However, the line of the night was provided by David Hodge after he won as best lead actor in a musical for “La Cage Aux Folles’” opposite Kelsey Grammer: “If you want to see a Democrat kissing a Republican come to the Longacre Theater (where La Cage is playing)." Grammer is the Republican.

Undoubtedly, the Fox series “Glee” got another boost after knockout singing performances from stars Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele.

Presenter Nathan Lane got a laugh after stealing an old joke from the late Bob Hope when he noted at his house the Tonys are referred to as “Passover.” Hope used that line during one of his stints as the host of the Oscars. It’s such an old line that it seemed new again.

By the way, the NBA (7.7) on Channel 7 (ABC) beat the Tonys (6.7) on Channel 4 (CBS) but the margin was obviously pretty close.

* One of the things that I always regretted as the daily TV critic at the Buffalo News is that I couldn’t get enough local viewers to watch the NBC series “Friday Night Lights.” Friday’s episode had only a 3.2 rating on Channel 2. The series is having another strong season following the football, political and romantic adventures in a small Texas town. The recent episodes dealing with the death of the military father of graduated quarterback Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) are Emmy-worthy. If you’ve missed them, they are available on Time Warner’s Prime Time on Demand. Of course, all the episodes first aired on DirecTV.

* There was a great feature on CBS Sunday Morning by Jim Axelrod about former NBA rivals and now best friends (Larry) Bird and Magic (Johnson). Brought tears to my eyes. Of course, HBO had a whole hour recently on them.

* Borrrrrrrring. That’s my description of the British play-by-play guy who worked the 1-1 World Cup soccer tie Saturday afternoon between the United States and England. The only thing worse than the British goalie was the British play-by-play guy. If I were ABC and ESPN, I would have had American Chris Fowler call the game and try to make it sound more exciting. Fowler sounded more excited during the post-game show than the play-by-play guy did during the game. The game had a 5.0 rating on Channel 7, which is quite impressive for soccer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sports on the Air: Newberg Scores with Kane Story

Cheers to Channel 4 reporter Rich Newberg for his story Thursday about South Buffalo hero Patrick Kane.

Newberg did something in the news story about the Stanley Cup hero that many sports reporters seemed to want to avoid: Address Kane’s problem last August with a cabbie over a fare that made national headlines.

The cab incident damaged Kane’s image before the season locally and nationally to the point that some people may have even been rooting against him as his Chicago Black Hawks sought the Stanley Cup.

Then Kane scored the winning goal in the Hawks’ sixth-game Cup clincher over the Philadelphia, gave some shout outs to his hometown on NBC and CBC and almost all seemed forgiven.

But certainly not forgotten.

Newberg’s balanced piece celebrated Kane’s heroics but also noted “there was that bump in the road” – the cabbie problem with his cousin.

Journalistically, it was the right way to go. Kane even addressed his August problem in an image-repairing, post-championship interview Wednesday without directly explaining it.

It was an important part of the story about a gifted 21-year-old athlete who may have matured and certainly was able to overcome making a foolish young mistake.

I say "may have" matured because by Friday Kane seemed to think the cab ride and another image-damaging incident in which he was caught with his shirt off in a limo ride with three fully-clothed women -- are a big joke now.

Apparently, he wasn't kidding when he told NBC's Pierre McGuire there was "not a chance, not a chance," that he would be on his best behavior at the Chicago parade celebrating the Hawks' first Cup win in 49 years.

“I’ll try to keep my shirt on all summer,” Kane told the crowd at the Chicago celebratory parade Friday. “For all you cab drivers, I love you.”

The light parade comments were a bad public relations move for a player who seemed to realize only two nights before the importance of rebuilding his image.

If there was a flaw in Newberg’s piece, it also was an attempt at humor at the end. The head of the cab company offered Kane a free cab ride anywhere he wants to go when he brings back the Stanley Cup to his hometown for a day.

“I promise you, I won’t lock him inside,” added the cab company owner.

Apparently everyone is a comedian now. But the summer incident in which Kane eventually plead guilty to disorderly conduct really shouldn’t have been a joking matter for anyone.

Besides, I think Kane can afford to give the Cup a limo ride now and can pass up the free cab ride offer.

Of course, some sports reporters and talk show hosts did mention Kane’s August cab adventure after the Cup-clinching goal. Notably, WGR radio’s Mike Schopp addressed it fairly in putting Kane’s year in perspective. Schopp said he celebrated Kane’s and Buffalo’s success and hoped the incident had helped the hockey star mature. It was a good take by the sports host.

With Kane and former Buffalo Sabre Brian Campbell winning the Cup with the Hawks and former Sabre Danny Briere having a terrific series for the Flyers, you might have thought that local ratings for the six-game series would have been through the roof on Channel 2.

However, the six-game series only rated about 10 percent higher here than last year’s Stanley Cup final series won by the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Detroit Red Wings. The six games this year averaged an 8.0 rating on the local NBC affiliate, while last year’s seven-game series averaged a 7.2.

Of course, the Pens game 7 win had the highest rating – a 14.0 – and brought up last year’s average. The Hawks’ Cup-clinching win in game six had a 13.5 rating in Buffalo after you take out the pre-game and post-game shows.

Buffalo was the third-rated market for the finals, behind only Chicago and Philadelphia. Buffalo is one of the rare markets in the country that gets higher ratings for the NHL finals than the NBA finals.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ win in game 3 of their series with the Boston Celtics Tuesday had a 6.2 rating on Channel 7. The Celts’ win in game 4 Thursday night had a 6.4 rating.

* I’ve always been a fan of ABC and ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy on NBA games. But during the finals, analyst Mark Jackson also has been impressive with his ability to make a viewer laugh. During one game, he noted a player had a “Beyonce” move because “he went to the left, to the left” like the lyrics to her popular dance song.

In Thursday’s game, Jackson praised the play of Glen “Big Baby Davis” of the Celtics, noting that he did something babies do after he scored a big basket. Drool. Sure enough, ABC showed a replay of Davis with drool running down the side of his mouth after the basket.

* A shout out to Channel 2 reporter-anchor Ben Hayes, who did a fine job last weekend on the anchor desk. Hayes has a good voice and a good feel for sports and has great potential as a sports anchor at the one station in town with a deep sports bench. If Channel 4 is seriously looking for a third on-air person in sports, it could look no farther than to Hayes if he is available.

True Confessions and True Blood

Let’s call this column “True Confessions” and “True Blood.”

We’ll start with the confessions.

Since I left the Buffalo News on May 1, many people have asked me why someone so young would leave. OK, forget the young part. They asked me why I decided to leave.

There were a few reasons, but one of the primary ones -- besides the enhanced pension -- was being told that I would only cover local TV and local sports and would no longer be covering national television.

Management's feeling was that the internet offers so many ways to get reviews of national shows that my reviews were no longer needed and the paper could use wire reviews.

Obviously, I don’t agree with that philosophy. It was always my feeling that local readers establish a relationship with a local reviewer that can’t be obtained from a national reviewer.

In my view, a newspaper should heavily promote its own reviewers, who provide something distinct from wire service reviews that run in papers days after they are available on the internet. In other words, a local review of a national series still is a local column.

One of my favorite examples of the bond that local readers get with local critics occurred years ago when I took a few days off and the paper ran a review from Tom Shales of the Washington Post.

The next day I got a few unflattering calls about Shales and asked why I couldn’t have written that day. I laughed and told them that Shales is so well-respected that he owns a Pulitzer Prize.

The Buffalo News isn’t the first paper to take the view that it doesn’t need a daily TV critic to review national shows. The reduction in critics in these economically-difficult times is a national trend that also has hit movie and music critics. It might not be too long before there are only 10 newspapers using critics to review national shows.

The networks have seen this disturbing trend and have granted the same access to releases and DVDs to critics-turned-bloggers like myself that they had when they worked for newspapers.

This brings me to a mini-review of “True Blood,” the HBO series about vampires and humans living together in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps. It was reviewed by Robert Philpot of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Thursday’s Buffalo News, a few days after his review first appeared on the internet. It premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday.

Now I know Philpot through my semi-annual trips to Hollywood when I used to cover national TV for The News. But I doubt any Western New Yorkers know who he is or have a clue to whether they should trust the review that ran in The News. A good friend of mine asked me if I agreed with the review in the paper.

To be honest, I didn’t read it Thursday because HBO sent me the first three episodes of the third season and I wanted to look at them without being influenced by any critic. I only had time to watch the first two insanely crazy episodes.

The News’ headline on Philpot’s column said the new episodes “lack bite.” To me, it was more like they lacked focus and didn’t seem to have any discernible deeper meanings underneath all the violence and blood-letting.

But the episodes move too fast to ever get dull. There are Nazi werewolves roaming the Louisiana territory were the series is set, a new plot line about the roots of one shifting character, an unplanned pregnancy and some flashbacks to the days when some of the vampires wore military uniforms.

Of course, there is a lot of biting, too much cursing, a few naked sex scenes that seem obligatory when it comes to pay-cable shows and some philosophy from chef Lafayette (Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis).

“Life ain’t about not having problems, it is about being able to deal with the ones you’ve got,” says Lafayette at one point.

One of the problems in the early episodes is there aren’t enough scenes between the romantic pairing of telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and 173-year-old vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). After all, their romance was at the heart of the first two seasons of this weird concoction.

However, their separation shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read the novels by Charlaine Harris on which the series is based. According to a good friend of mine who has read all of the books, the third book separated Sookie from Bill.

There also isn’t enough telepathy from Sookie and barely enough humor from Sookie’s brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten), who usually comes through with an idiotic moment or two and has seemed to have lost his magic touch with the ladies.

Sookie and Bill have been separated by a kidnapping, which has forced Sookie to spend more time in these two episodes with Bill’s Nordic nemesis Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard). Anyone who has read the books knows where that story is going.

Of course, HBO series often play like good novels, which throw out multiple storylines and take awhile to get on track. In other words, true believers in “True Blood” undoubtedly will enjoy the craziness and won’t be running scared for awhile even if things are initially a bit messy in more ways than one. Rating: 3 stars out of 4

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ch. 2 Ratings High for Cup Final But Not a Record

The Western New York area watched South Buffalo Patrick Kane become the hero of game six of the Stanley Cup Finals in high numbers Wednesday night but it wasn’t a local record.

The Chicago Black Hawks’ 4-3 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Cup on Kane’s goal averaged a 13.2 rating on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate.

That was more than double the 5.8 national overnight rating of major markets, which NBC reports was the best overnight rating for any Stanley Cup final in 36 years.

The 13.2 rating here was higher than the 11.1 that Channel 2 had for game six of the Stanley Cup finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2009 but below the 14.0 rating that the local NBC affiliate received a year ago when the Penguins won the Cup in game seven.

Of course, game 7’s typically have the highest-ratings of any games in a series and presumably the Hawks-Flyers would have higher ratings if the Flyers had forced a game 7 Wednesday night.

Kane, of course, wasn’t the only local attraction. Former Buffalo Sabre defenseman Brian Campbell also took a stroll along the ice with the Cup as a member of the Black Hawks. And former Sabre Danny Briere was one of the stars of the losing Flyers.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kane Delivers in Post-Game Interviews, Too

Would Channel 2 mention Patrick Kane’s taxi cab problem last summer in its lead story Wednesday night celebrating the Stanley Cup finals hero?

Kane’s own enthusiastic words in a post-game interview after he led the Chicago Black Hawks to a 4-3 overtime victory that won the Stanley Cup in a six-game series with the Philadelphia Flyers answered that question best.

“Not a chance, not a chance,” Kane said after NBC’s Pierre McGuire told him “be on your best behavior at the parade.”

“That’s youthful enthusiasm,” added McGuire as Kane skated away.

Many people back home in Buffalo may have wondered if McGuire’s “behavior” line was referring to Kane’s headline-grabbing taxi cab problems last August which resulted in a disorderly conduct guilty plea.

To his credit, Kane vaguely referenced the problem in a second live post-game interview that Channel 2 ran around midnight. Asked to assess his year, Kane said it didn’t start so well in August and noted that a year that started “so bad” ended “so good.”

Afterwards, Channel 2 sports anchor Adam Benigni said it “was interesting” to hear Kane pit his year in perspective. But viewers would have had to remember the cabbie incident because neither Kane nor Benigni actually mentioned it directly.

The cabbie incident damaged Kane’s reputation here, but all was probably forgiven for many local fans because of how he started the McGuire interview and how boyishly enthusiastic he was throughout the brief conversation.

Kane immediately gave a “shout out to my hometown of Buffalo” and talked about four Buffalo buddies and five family members who came to the game.

“Holy crap,” added Kane. “This is something you dream of as a kid, you score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup final.”

A public relations specialist couldn’t have helped him handle the interview any better. Okay, maybe he could have cut the “crap” line.

Earlier, NBC’s cameras caught Kane spending a good deal of time talking with former Buffalo Sabre Danny Briere --- a member of the losing Flyers -- during the traditional series-ending handshake. Buffalo fans undoubtedly had to wonder what they were talking about.

Kane was so talkative after the Cup victory that clearly there’s “not a chance, not a chance” he will ever become part of that constantly-running NHL promo in which numerous Stanley Cup winning players are so overcome with emotion during interviews that they are speechless.

Sex and The City 2, Batavia Style


Channel 4 and Channel 7 both deserve it for overplaying “Sex and the City, Part 2, Batavia Style.”

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, both stations lead with the story about the alleged picnic table sex at a Batavia park that resulted in a rare adultery charge against 41-year-old Suzanne M. Corona of Batavia. She and Justin M. Amend, 29, of Oakfield, also were charged with public lewdness, a misdemeanor.

Mind you this was the day that former Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello was in two federal courts dealing with charges filed by the U.S. attorney’s office.

And the park sex story didn’t really advance much from Monday except for court appearances by the accused. The Buffalo News didn’t carry anything about the story in my edition today.

Sure, the park sex story is bound to be continually talked about, which undoubtedly was behind the stations’ decision to lead with it.

Corona also gave the stations’ something they badly needed – an ill-advised, on-the-street interview that provided video. In the interview with her husband by her side, Corona publicly disputed some earlier statements made by Batavia city police but admitted some “inappropriate” behavior.

According to Channel 7, Corona was given two weeks to find an attorney. If she had an attorney Tuesday, he or she presumably would have told her that TV time is less important than avoiding jail time. There is a good chance an attorney would have advised her to keep quiet unless she is in court.

Channel 7 and Channel 4 also provided some irrelevant details about the case. Both said that Corona told police upon her arrest that her husband was a transgender and they hadn’t been intimate for some time. I’m no lawyer but that didn’t exactly sound like a good legal defense for allegedly having sex in a public park.

Of course, the story is news. It is where and how it was played that seemed so out of line. If the stations had promoted the story on the top of the news and played it 10 minutes later where it belonged, surely viewers would have waited for it.

In a way, that would have played to the stations’ advantage by keeping viewers waiting for 10 minutes and forcing them to watch more important stories.

* Now on to something much more wholesome: Tuesday’s season finale of “Glee,” the Fox series about a diverse glee club that became one of the season’s most-talked about new shows.

Any episode that features songs from Journey gets two thumbs up from me. The music in the episode that featured the regional finals competition was inspiring and top-notch.

The story? Not so much. It was sickeningly sweet as practically every season-long plot ended happily with reunited parents and romantic partners. Even nasty, dirty tricks cheerleader Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) turned into a softie who saved the day – and next year -- for the Glee Club supposedly so she can get into director Will Schuester’s (Matthew Morrison) beautiful hair for another season.

Call me a softie, too, because I loved it even while recognizing it may have been a little too feel-good for regular viewers of the series.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sex and the City, Batavia Style

How did local news handle “Sex and the City, Batavia style?”

Of course, I’m talking about the case in which city police said a 41-year-old married Batavia woman was found by a police officer having sex on a park picnic table with a 29-year-old Oakfield man.

Suzanne M. Corona and Justin M. Amend were charged with a misdemeanor – public lewdness. She also was charged with adultery, a charge that occurs less often than New York State passes a budget on time.

The “Sex and the City” story certainly was much sexier than the budget crisis, giving the local TV stations a dilemma: Do we lead with a sex story or a money story? Do we lead with a sensational story or a more important story?

In the case of news leader Channel 4, sex won at 6 p.m. Monday. Reporter Luke Moretti’s story topped the newscast. At 11 p.m, Channel 7 was the only station that went for sex over money, leading with the sex story.

That lead to one of the more amusing recent transitions, with anchor Joanna Pasceri saying something like “now on to the state budget.”

She might as well has said “now on to more important but less sensational news.”

Channel 2 practically buried the sex story by local TV standards, making it the third story at 11 p.m. after the state budget crisis and the latest news involving Carl Paladino’s underdog attempt to become governor.

As far as importance, the sex story was vastly overplayed by local TV news. Take a look this morning at where it landed in The Buffalo News. It is down in the bottom of page B1 of the City & Region section and jumped to page B2.

That’s about right. Believe me, people will find it. And they also will find that it explains how rare the charge of adultery is in New York State. According to reporter Denise Jewell Gee, state records show it is the first time the charge has been leveled in four years and only the 12th time in 38 years.

Of course, the sex story easily will be the most talked about story at the water cooler this morning. Heck, it wouldn’t be surprising if it made Letterman or Leno’s monologue tonight.

* On CBS’ Sunday Morning, Chief White House correspondent Chip Reid speculated that President Obama’s slow response to the massive oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico could put a second term in jeopardy. Of course, Reid isn’t the only reporter doing that.

However, I’m guessing that Reid’s remark may be one reason that the President chose “Today” show co-host Matt Lauer on NBC this morning to play defense during an interview. To his credit, Lauer asked some tough questions and didn’t easily accept the President’s weak explanation of why he hasn’t spoken to Tony Hayward, the head of BP, directly. The President certainly spoke to him indirectly through Lauer, saying he would have fired Hayward for some remarks he has made during the crisis.

Lauer was much softer in the second half of the interview when he quizzed the President on the forced resignation of 89-year-old White House correspondent Helen Thomas over her remarks on Israel. Finally, Lauer threw a soft ball and asked the President about Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s decision not to award a perfect game to a Detroit Tigers pitcher, Armando Galarraga, who lost that achievement by a bad umpire call. For the record, the President said he thought Thomas made the right call to resign and Selig made the right call, too.

*I didn’t always tell Buffalo News readers when local residents appear on game shows because it happens so often and there are space considerations. But, hey, they and their family members are potential hits on my blog now. So here it goes. Michael Frank, a 44-year-old warehouseman and substitute teacher from North Tonawanda, appears on “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” on Thursday, June 17. He is a 1984 graduate of North Tonawanda High School. His wife Kelly sat in the audience during the show, which is shot in New York City. The show is carried locally at 1 p.m. weekdays on WNLO-TV.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hockey Beats Hoop Here; No One Tops Bullock

Nobody asked me but:

* Not surprisingly in this hockey town, championship round hockey trumped championship round basketball in a head-to-head matchup Sunday night by almost a 2-1 margin.

The Chicago Black Hawks’ 7-4 victory in Game 5 over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals had a 10.6 rating on Channel 2, the NBC affiliate.

The Boston Celtics’ 103-94 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals had a 5.7 rating on Channel 7, the ABC affiliate. CBS’ afternoon golf coverage of the Memorial Tournament won by Justin Rose even beat basketball with a 6.2 rating on Channel 4, the CBS affiliate.

Nationally, the results were reversed. The Celtics' win had a 10.9 overnight rating on ABC and the Black Hawks' victory had a 4.0 rating on NBC. The Buffalo TV market is a rare one in which hockey outdraws hoop.

The good news for both the NHL and the NBA and Channel 2 and Channel 7 is that none of the remaining games will go head-to-head.

*Is it just me, or is NBC’s sound too high at times during the Stanley Cup finals ?

The crowd noise can be so loud that you can’t hear the announcers at times. I know, this is isn't always a bad thing. And those Pierre McGuire on-ice interviews are ridiculously hard to hear. On Sunday night, he interviewed a Black Hawk after the game while the public address announcer was shouting about who was selected as the game’s three stars.

I’d rather see the three stars skate on the ice than hear -- or not hear – a McGuire interview with a player.

* Talk about perfect timing. I took a brief pause from watching the NBA and NHL games Sunday just in time to see Sandra Bullock take over the MTV Movie Awards like the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo took over the game with the Lakers.

Looking radiant in a black sparkly thing – sorry I wouldn’t know Vera Wang from the Bills’ Ed Wang – Bullock seemed to be proving the theory that laughter is the best medicine as she accepted something called The Generation Award.

She had several sparkly jokes about the rumors that have sprung up since she and her hubby Jesse James split. Then she kissed Scarlett Johansson, the wife of Ryan Reynolds, her co-star in “The Proposal.”

It was an impressive performance on what really was a Bullock Awards show doubleheader. On Saturday, she was given the “Troops Choice Award” for Entertainer of the Year at Spike TV’s “Guys Choice” event. That won’t air until June 20.

On “Today” this morning, co-host Matt Lauer wondered aloud what the deal was with the Bullock-Johansson kiss.

“Is that required at these award shows now?” Lauer asked co-host Ann Curry.

“You really should make yourself a presenter,” replied Curry.

Not really. The last thing that Lauer needs is more Page 1 material for one of the supermarket rags that seem to stalk his every move.

* Speaking of The MTV Awards, my 17-year-old son advised me that the language got a little rough later in the program (while I was watching basketball) and the censors did about as good a job containing it as the Lakers did containing Rondo. In other words, dialogue from “Jersey Boys” sprung out. (The silliest controversy over the recent performances of “Jersey Boys” at Shea's was that there weren’t any warnings about the language. I mean the musical is called “Jersey Boys”!).

The language at the MTV Awards was hardly a shock, either. It wouldn’t be the MTV Awards without expletives and same-sex kisses.

* On Tuesday, Fox airs the season finale of “Glee.” If you missed all the fuss about this show -- about a high school glee club -- that is full of teachable moments, be advised the first season DVD arrives Sept. 14. And Fox – Channel 29 here -- is airing reruns this summer.

* My Toronto critic friend Bill Brioux advises via his exceptional blog – “TV Feeds My Family” -- that Conan O’Brien’s new 11 p.m. TBS show this fall will air two hours later on CTV (which is on Time Warner Cable) at 1 a.m. That means Conan will air opposite Leno, Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel here at different times.

* Regular readers – OK, both of you – may recall that one of the inspirations for this blog was discovering that my TWC box would re-set to Channel 1 and YNN in the morning every time I turned it on. Bulletin: There’s a way to stop that and set the channel you want to wake up to yourself. Just go to settings and follow directions.

* Smart, cheap move by the CW to bring back reruns of the 2007 CBS vampire series “Moonlight” starring Alex O’Loughlin on Thursdays after reruns of this year’s “The Vampire Dairies.” But don’t think "Moonlight" has any chance of coming back from the dead. O’Loughlin, who co-starred with Jennifer Lopez in this spring’s “The Backup Plan,” already is set to star in a new fall CBS version of “Hawaii Five-O.” “Moonlight” is on the CW because that network and CBS are owned by the same company, Viacom. The show was produced by Warner Brothers Television, the W in CW. "Moonlight" isn’t in syndication because there weren’t enough episodes made to make syndication profitable.

* Hard to believe the old NBC series “The A-Team” is coming back as a big summer movie. If you want to see the Mr. T series that inspired it, tune in to Channel 2’s digitial channel tonight at 8 at 2.3.

*Set your calendars. HBOs’ “Entourage” comes back June 27 with new Sunday night episodes. The NBA finals even will be over by then.