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 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 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

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.

Friday, July 9, 2010

T.O. Show Says Goodbye to Buffalo

Now that Terrell Owens is a former Buffalo Bill, the question is how long will Western New Yorkers stay interested in season two of VH-1’s “The T.O Show”?

Judging by Sunday’s 10:30 p.m. premiere, I’m guessing about seven minutes.

That’s how long the focus is on Buffalo in an episode titled “Bye Bye Buffalo.”

As Western New York temperatures hit the high 90s this summer, it is pretty funny watching Owens walking and running around WNY wearing a Russian hat that covers both ears as the snow and the winter wind flies around him.

The snowy pictures of WNY in January just before he left town without fanfare strike a contrast with Owens’ arrival in 2009 when fans rocked the Buffalo airport on a summer-like night.

Buffalonians shouldn’t get too hot under the collar about the winter cliché. After all, it is cold and snowy here in January.

As I said in a previous blog, they should be more concerned about Owens’ words. And he doesn’t have anything negative to say about his time here and takes some responsibility for last year’s disappointing season. Those are wise public relations moves.

“I feel like I let the team and the city down,” said Owens.

Owens is even questioning whether he wants to play football again if another National Football League team calls. Let’s just say there won’t be an hour ESPN special called “The Decision” about this free agent’s choice of his next team.

Most of the episode concerns Owen’s disagreements with his publicists and best friends, Monique Jackson and Kita Williams, over his living arrangements and his relationships with women.

Mo (the tougher one) and Kita (the funnier one) both take Owens into their homes in Los Angeles, which leads to the kind of conflict that reality show watchers love. Mo is pregnant with her third child, which adds an extra element of drama and humor.

T.O. plays the good guy and baby sits for Mo and her husband Vic. He even changes a diaper on camera. I’m not going to go for a cheap laugh and say he dropped it. Oh, I guess I did.

Of course, T.O.’s social life is another focus. He reaches out to his beautiful former girlfriend, Kari, and even agrees to try counseling.

I wish I could say all of this was more interesting that it sounds. The first episode is so routine that it makes one wonder if VH-1 should have joined the Bills and cut ties with Owens, too.

But, hey, the first season had strong ratings and a short clip of highlights show some more promising material.

A VH-1 release also notes that the season will see Terrell try modeling, guest on a talk show that deals with sex and is reunited with Donovan McNabb, the quarterback who he criticized when they both played for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tennis star Andy Roddick makes a guest appearance in the seventh episode. Owens attends the Kentucky Derby with Kita, auditions for a movie role and gets a part. In the season finale, he makes a marriage proposal. Kari appears to be a long shot and T.O.’s former fiancé appears to be the favorite.

In other words, there is a lot going on and makes “The Decision” whether to keep watching after the routine premiere somewhat tough.

Rating: 2 stars out of 4

* YES Network announced two months ago that it would carry two New York Yankee games in 3-D. The games with Seattle air this weekend. Of course, I’m guessing more people read this start-up blog than have 3-D sets right now. I only hope the blog grows at the same pace as sales of 3-D sets.

* Nice to see that the newspaper that I love confirmed today that Channel 4 reporter Jericka Duncan is leaving for a job in Philadelphia. Of course, stilltalkintv reported it a few days ago and even spelled her name right. I also got a brief message recently from another Channel 4 reporter thanking me for spelling her name right after it was misspelled in the Buffalo News.

Hey, we all make mistakes. I've been guilty of spelling names wrong, too. But as a journalism professor who got an F when he was a Syracuse University student and spelled a subject's name wrong, it embarrasses me. After all, it isn’t really that hard to check how to spell the names of local TV reporters. You just go on a station’s website to check, especially when it concerns unusual spellings.

* If you want to know first what is happening in local TV, stilltalkintv is usually your place to go. About a month after it was reported here that anchor Lisa Flynn was exiting Channel 4, the newspaper confirmed it. So at least it is getting much quicker about reporting old TV news that first appears in this blog. I feel like I deserve a finder's fee. It would be nice if the News at least credited where the news was first reported. But that's probably asking too much.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Friday Night Lights" Finally Scores in Emmys

Cheers. Big cheers to the voters for the Emmy nominations announced this morning.

I got my wish stated in a recent blog.

Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton of Friday Night Lights” – who play the most supportive married couple on television – were nominated in the best actor and best actress category, respectively.

Long overdue. Maybe it will get some local viewers to watch the low-rated series, which is having a terrific fourth season. It airs on Friday nights on Channel 2 and is available On Demand for free.

The “Lights” nominations were good news for NBC, which is carrying “Lights” after it previously played on DirecTV in an arrangement that saved the series from cancellation.

NBC also took a hit on the chin when Conan O’Brien’s short run as the host of “The Tonight Show” got a nomination and Jay Leno’s version did not. The right call. The news comes on the heels of reports that Leno’s recent ratings are even lower than O’Brien’s.

Notably, David Letterman’s program wasn’t nominated in the category, either. That may be more surprising than Leno’s slight.

The “Lights” nomination and the Leno slight are enough for me to forgive the Emmys for any other “mistakes” I find once I get through the pages and pages of nominations.

From a first glance, most of the usual suspects were nominated with a few freshman exceptions. Fox should be thrilled for all the support for “Glee” in the comedy category. CBS should be happy with the best drama nomination for “The Good Wife,” which was my favorite new drama of the year. Julianna Margulies, the series star, also deservedly was nominated as best dramatic actress.

In a minor surprise, “Damages” of FX didn’t make the cut in the best drama category, apparently losing its place to “True Blood.”

After further review, here are some notable things in the lengthy nomination report:

* Buffalo’s Christine Baranski received two nominations – one for her supporting role on “The Good Wife” and the other for a guest spot on “The Big Bang Theory.”

* Jim and Pam’s wedding on “The Office” in an episode called “Niagara” earned writing nominations for Greg Daniels and Mindy Kaling.

* Batavia native Thom Beer saw his series, “The Deadliest Catch,” earn a nomination in the outstanding non-fiction category that included PBS’ “American Experience” and “American Masters.”

* The Time Warner commercial guy, Mike O’Malley, received a guest nomination for his role of the father of Kurt Hummel. Chris Colfer, who plays the openly gay son, Kurt, also was nominated as were "Glee" cast members Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch.

* Every adult member of the cast of the ABC comedy “Modern Family,” with the exception of Ed O’Neill, was nominated in some category.

* Terry O’Quinn, who played John Locke on “Lost,” was nominated again in a supporting category. So was Michael Emerson, who played Ben. And Matthew Fox got a nomination as Jack Shephard.

* HBO’s new series, “Treme,” FX’s new series “Justified” and two veteran ABC series, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” didn’t get any significant nominations. Nor did Fox's "Fringe."

* The Year of Betty White ended with her appearance on “Saturday Night Live” and in the Snickers commercial, “The Game,” both getting nominated.

* And finally “The End” of “Lost” may be debated for years to come. The voters liked it and gave writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse nominations in a category that included two episodes of “Mad Men” and episodes of “Friday Night Lights” and “The Good Wife.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Terrell Owens Out in the Cold

As Western New York temperatures hit the high 90s this summer, it is pretty amusing watching the first seven minutes of the second season premiere of “The T.O. Show.”

Titled “Bye Bye Buffalo,” the season premiere of the reality show airs at 10:30 p.m Sunday on VH-1.

After his one season with the Buffalo Bills ended in disappointment, wide receiver Terrell Owens is shown walking and running around WNY wearing a Russian hat that covers both ears as the snow and the winter wind flies around him.

The snowy pictures of WNY in January just before he left town without fanfare strike a contrast with Owens’ summer arrival when fans rocked the Buffalo airport on a summer-like night.

Buffalonians shouldn’t get too hot under the collar about the winter cliché. After all, it is cold and snowy here in January.

They should be more concerned about Owens’ words. And he doesn’t have anything negative to say about his time here and takes some responsibility for last year’s disappointing season. Those are wise public relations moves.

“I feel like I let the team and the city down,” said Owens.

One of his publicists, Monique Jackson, isn’t as kind. Jackson is pregnant and is ready to go back to Los Angeles to enjoy an easier life.

“Instead I’m in Buffalo freezing my ass off,” she said.

After seven minutes, Owens, Jackson and publicist Kita Williams head to Los Angeles as the wide receiver waits during the off-season to find out which team he is going to play for this coming season.

The second season consists of 10 episodes, including a one-hour season finale. A VH-1 release said Mo gives birth to her third child and Owens wraps filming on his first movie role in the finale.

The premiere episode will be reviewed in a future blog.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Channel 4's Duncan Leaving for No.4 Market

It looks like Channel 4 is going to have to play another round of musical chairs shortly.

According to sources, reporter-anchor Jericka Duncan is leaving the CBS affiliate to take a job at KYW-TV in Philadelphia, a CBS owned-and-operated station in the No.4 market in the country. Her last day at Channel 4 is scheduled to be in mid-August.

In recent station moves, Duncan was named to replace Michele McClintick as the anchor of Weekend Wake Up after McClintick moved to nights. At most, Duncan’s move to the weekends will last about a month before she leaves for the City of Brotherly Love.

Duncan has been impressive in reporting, anchor and even sports roles since joining Channel 4 three years ago from WETM in Elmira.

* Mylous Hairston, the Channel 4 anchor who is president of the local chapter of the union that represents anchors and reporters at the station, said last week it’s a surprise that local stations are hiring 20something reporters straight out of college.

He notes that Buffalo used to be a market that required on-air personnel to work three-to-five years in a small market (like Duncan did) in Elmira or Erie, Pa.

“Buffalo has become a starting market as opposed to a mid-market,” said Hairston. “It’s a sign of the times. The company is looking to hire the least experienced.”

It wouldn’t be so bad if veteran reporters and anchors could mentor the new hires. But that’s become increasingly difficult to do since the veterans have so much more to do now that they don’t have the time to mentor.

The young reporters at Channel 4 get a respectable salary when hired. The minimum reporting salary at the station is $34,000, said Hairston.

* This morning, Steve Carell told Meredith Vieira on “Today” that he wants his departure from NBC’s “The Office” next May to be “a little subdued” and “not an enormous send-off.”

Not likely. NBC undoubtedly will milk it for everything it can. Carell’s departure from one of the network's few popular series after one more season puts more pressure on one of its new fall shows to become a hit.

Can the show survive the loss of paper company boss Michael Scott, the lead character played by Carell?

That’s a tough question. A big name star would help, but what big star would want to deal with the comparisons to Carell? The reaction to Carell's replacment surely won’t be subdued.

Leno Comeback Isn't a Hit on Channel 2

Leftovers after a long holiday weekend:

* Several national blogs and a few newspapers have noted that Jay Leno’s ratings for “The Tonight Show” are now lower than Conan O’Brien’s were.

Which got me wondering: How is Leno doing in Western New York?

Sure enough, O’Brien’s ratings last June when he premiered were higher than Leno’s this June on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate. The margin was .1 of one percent with O’Brien averaging a 4.2 and Leno a 4.1.

O’Brien’s figures should come with an asterisk since his premiere week in June of 2009 saw a spike in the ratings that inflated the average slightly.

But still it is clear that the ratings for Leno’s comeback so far haven’t been worth the upheaval it caused. And it makes one wonder – again – if NBC should have stuck with O’Brien. That’s always been my view.

By the way, Letterman beat Leno here with a 4.4 rating average on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate.

* Lia Lando has had an impressive three days as anchor of the news on Channel 4 at 5:30 p.m. and on CW-23 at 10 p.m. She is a soft-spoken anchor who articulates the copy she reads very well.

However, it is unclear if she wants Lisa Flynn’s old job permanently. Lando, a mother of two who lives in Rochester, may just be here until the July sweeps are over or until the summer ends. The July sweeps are the least important of the four sweeps periods during the year.

If Channel 4 starts running an intro into the newscasts featuring Lando, then viewers will know she may be here longer. Right now, it starts those newscasts with a cold opening without the traditional introduction of the anchors.

* The Emmy Award nominations arrive Thursday with cable TV again expected to take the bulk of the nominations. The one network show that deserves several nominations is NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” which annually is ignored in the big categories. I’ve seen the entire current season (which previously played on DirecTV) and it gets better every week. It airs weekly on Friday nights on Channel 2.

Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, who play the most loving married couple on TV, deserve nominations along with Zach Gilford. Chandler plays a high school football coach, Britton plays a high school principal and Gilford plays the former quarterback who has moved to Chicago to pursue an art career.

* Proud father Irv Weinstein sent along an email that reports his daughter, Beth Krom, is running for a congressional seat in California. But all my California readers probably know that. A two-term mayor of Irvine, Calif., Krom is a Democrat running against a Republican incumbent, John Campbell. Campbell is best known for being co-sponsor of the so-called “Birther Bill” that would require future presidential candidates to submit proof of United States citizenship. In other words, he isn’t one of President Obama’s biggest fans.

Monday, July 5, 2010

HBO's "Lily Dale" Is Deadly at Times

Is Lily Dale the real deal? God only knows.

I’ve never been to Lily Dale. I suspect that after tonight's HBO documentary, “No One Dies in Lily Dale,” many more people will be traveling 60 miles south of Buffalo to try and connect with dead loved ones.

And just as many people will resolve never to get near the place.

“No One” – which premieres at 9 tonight and runs throughout the month -- is an intriguing but slightly dull look at the 131 year-old spiritual community. It is unlikely to change anyone’s mind on whether the place is loaded with mediums that connect with the dead or is just one big fraud.

One thing is clear: If someone is really hurting and has lost a loved one painfully and prematurely, he or she will consider traveling for hours to visit Lily Dale to seek reassuring answers and comfort from one of the area's 40 mediums. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

The film features a Chicago police officer desperate for answers after tragically losing his teen-age son to a senseless act of violence. He finds the answers and seems satisfied that Lily Dale is the real deal.

"He (the medium) said some things that make me believe," said the police officer.
The film offers a good balance by also focusing on some more skeptical visitors who wonder if they are talking to charlatans.

I have no idea. But I will say some of the mediums dress and speak so oddly that they would qualify as extras in paranormal movies.

I suppose we’ve been spoiled by TV dramas and think all mediums should look like Jennifer Love Hewitt (“Ghost Whisperer”) or Patricia Arquette (“Medium”).

Maybe in their next lives it will be true of the Lily Dale mediums.

The stories of how the Lily Dale mediums became mediums are interesting enough and the overhead shots of the area are spectacularly beautiful and more colorful than some of the outfits worn by the mediiums.

My favorite in the film is straight-talking visiting medium Michelle Whitedove (above), who arrives late to give the film some much-needed energy.

She's needed because after awhile the 90-minute film drags. I’ve had walks in the park that were more exciting.

But don’t let me keep you from visiting “No One Dies.” In 15 minutes, a viewer should get the message and know if he or she wants to continue hearing it get beaten to death.

Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 4
* Channel 4 weekend anchor Mylous Hairston added the Sunday sports duties again to his newscast. He did a solid job showing highlights of Wimbledon and other sports in an extended sports segment on a holiday weekend with a minimal amount of local news.
However, having news anchors do the sports makes a viewer question how much Channel 4 values sports when it doesn't feel it needs a specialist to anchor that portion of the newscast. Channel 2 has the largest sports staff in the market and is the only station that always assigns someone in sports to anchor the sports segment. At least I can't remember a time recently that a sports anchor didn't anchor the sports segment.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

LeBron Speculation Is Beyond Silly

This is what I’m thinking:

* Is there anything sillier than all the TV speculation about where Cleveland Cavaliers free agent LeBron James is going to land?

The truth is nobody really knows what James is thinking -- and that may include James.

If you're to believe all the experts wasting TV time and energy predicting the future, James is either going to stay in his hometown of Cleveland or become a Chicago Bull. Or a New York Knick. Or a Los Angeles Clipper. Or a member of the Miami Heat.

I caught the midnight special on MSG Thursday morning to see New York Knicks announcer and Knick legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier act as a recruiter for James, saying the benefits of playing in New York and Madison Square Garden are priceless. We're talking multi-millions in endorsements.

On the other hand, all the speculation on all the ESPNs is worthless until James makes up his mind.

The same goes true for the speculation about the other prized free agents -- Miami's Dwyane Wade, Toronto's Chris Bosh and Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire (who as of late Friday night was supposed to be heading to the Knicks).
Sure, the free agent sweepstakes is news and deserves some time on the SportsCenters of the world. But not this much time.
* The United States’ elimination loss to Ghana in extra time a week ago in the World Cup had an impressive 7.4 rating on Channel 7, the ABC affiliate. That’s as good as many NBA finals games featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics received here.

The low overall ratings here didn’t show that Buffalonians didn’t care about the World Cup. It showed that they didn’t care when the U.S. wasn’t playing. Additionally, Canada’s coverage here gave viewers a second option to ESPN and ABC.

* NBC’s Ted Robinson is a terrific play-by-play man at Wimbledon but I much prefer the enthusiasm of Dick Enberg, who has worked the Big W for ESPN.

* Is It Live or Memorex? Sometimes, you couldn’t tell when Wimbledon matches were on ESPN or NBC because they rarely showed a graphic telling viewers they were watching “prerecorded matches.” NBC gave a pretty good hint Friday afternoon in the men's semifinals when it broke for a commercial when Tomas Berdych and Novak Djokovic were at 6-6 in a set and ready to start a tiebreaker. If the match had been live, there wouldn't have been a break for a commercial.

With all the upsets at Wimbleon, NBC has to be thrilled that ratings draws Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal made it to the ladies final today and the men’s final Sunday, respectively. However, Serena dispatched Vera Zvonareva in straight sets so quickly this morning that NBC has hours to fill before it signs off at 2 p.m.

* NBC’s has run constant promos during Wimbledon featuring Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth that reminded viewers that Sunday Night is football night on the network. Duh. They ran so often they almost seemed more like a warning than a promo. Can’t the network just let us enjoy the summer before reminding us football is around the corner?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Scary News of What Might Have Been

Mylous Hairston and Lorey Schultz reporting for their own station, Channel 4, and for Channel 7?

John Borsa and Patrick Taney reporting for their own station, Channel 7, and Channel 4?

It could have happened if the owner of Channel 4, LIN TV, was serious about a proposal it made months ago during negotiations with AFTRA, which represents Channel 4's anchors and reporters.

That’s the word from Hairston, speaking as president of the local chapter of AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists).

Hairston doesn’t know how serious LIN TV was about having Channel 4 share news personnel with Channel 7 or if the company was just trotting out a scary worst-case scenario. But today he confirmed a longstanding rumor that such a proposal was made in negotiations.

“How serious the company was I can’t say,” said Hairston. “It was something that was brought up at the bargaining table. Whether the company had any talks with Channel 7 I don’t know.”

The proposal in a market the size of Buffalo is a horrifying to broadcast veterans and it should be just as scary to viewers. Long-term, the proposal suggests that it might have eventually resulted in the elimination of Channel 7's news department.
"It certainly was a possibility when you consider how (Channel 7) has streamlined the news department," said Hairston.

“You would be losing a voice,” added Hairston. “It would be just a horrible idea in terms of hurting the quality and diversity of news coverage.”

He noted that something similar happened in Syracuse and is being considered in other markets in these tough economic times.

LIN and the local AFTRA never made a deal. The union contract expired almost two years ago. Several months ago, Hairston said the company implemented what it called “its last, best and final offer.”

That’s when substitute anchors lost an extra performance fee for anchoring and night differentials were eliminated, Hairston said. In addition, the company dropped the sportscaster and weathercaster classifications in the contract so anyone can do those jobs. That's why viewers have recently seen Hairston and Jericka Duncan do sportscasts on some weekend nights they were anchoring.

The subject of AFTRA’s inability to get a deal became news again because LIN is in negotiations with NABET, (National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians) the union that covers behind-the-scenes personnel such as photographers, producers, directors and technicians.

Hairston said that one of the big stumbling blocks in AFTRA’s negotiation with LIN was the company’s proposal that all on-air staffers learn how to shoot and edit stories. He explained that shooting and editing are under NABET jurisdiction.

“We couldn’t negotiate something we don’t have jurisdiction over,” claimed Hairston.

The company apparently hasn’t given up on the issue. This week, AFTRA members were asked to volunteer to learn how to shoot and edit. Hairston said the timing -- with NABET negotiations scheduled in mid-July – was suspicious.

Hairston took the issue to Facebook this week, undoubtedly confusing anyone who doesn’t work at Channel 4 or who isn’t in the TV news business. So I asked for an explanation.

“Our position is why should anyone volunteer to do something that is the exclusive jurisdiction of another union?” said Hairston. He said that AFTRA acknowledged the “changing tide of the industry” and tried to find a way to compromise with the company without hurting the quality of the news. In addition to shooting and editing its own stories, reporters are also being asked to produce work on the web.

“There’s only so much you can do before quality goes South,” said Hairston. “It would be reflected on the air and viewers would notice.”

Viewers already should notice that stations are putting reporters on the air only a few weeks after they graduate from college partly because, you guessed it, they have learned how to shoot and edit their own stories.

* On another note, Hairston confirmed his new schedule has him reporting two nights and one day a week. He had been working three days in addition to anchoring on weekends.

“Would I prefer dayside?” he asked. “Absolutely. It is what it is.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Flynn's First Goodbye Is Most Moving

Taking a look at the headlines:

The Goodbye Girl: Of Channel 4 anchor Lisa Flynn’s twin goodbyes on her 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts Wednesday, I was more moved by the first one.

Perhaps because Flynn started crying at the end of the 5:30 p.m. newscast on Channel 4 as she talked about calling an end to her 24-year news career to raise her seven-year-old son, I almost started crying, too. OK, I admit it. I'm a hardened newsman but even I shed a few tears.

At the end of the 10 p.m. newscast on Lisa’s goodbye on WNLO-TV, her cute son Thomas held a cake (which amusingly almost dropped) as the on-air and behind-the-scenes staff surrounded Flynn.

It was a nice touch. It also made it seem more like a celebration than a reason to cry. Good luck to a great lady and solid journalist.

* Up to the Minute Speculation: If former Rochester TV anchor Lia Lando doesn’t want Flynn’s job, here’s another intriguing possibility. Emily Smith, a former WBEN-AM reporter who currently is an anchor on CBS’ overnight program “Up to the Minute,” certainly should be considered if she were interested in coming back home. Smith was back on WBEN in February talking with an anchor about how differently New York City residents deal with the snow than they do in Buffalo.

Lando, a mother of two, seems like the early favorite for the job if she wants it. Tonight is her first night on the newscasts.

Hairy Information: You know a blog is growing when readers respond to some queries and point out on-air mistakes.

After a blog in which I wondered whether Channel 7 reporter Jason Greunauer made history by starting his career sporting a goatee, Mark Twain responded: “I think I remembered Stefan Mychajliw sporting a goatee on the air at some point at Channel 7 or at Channel 2. And remember the weather guy that pre-dated Don Paul at 4? Something McNally. He had a full-blown beard.” Mike Randall (OK, it wasn’t exactly Twain) was referring to Lou McNally.

Another reader, Buffalo State College communications professor Nanette Tramont noted that Channel 2 anchor Maryalice Demler misspoke Wednesday and “referred to Elizabeth Edwards’ new cancer regime instead of regimen.”

I’m counting on sharp viewers (and readers) to point out amusing and not-so-amusing on-air errors if they attach their names to the emails. I can’t see everything.

Sex and the City, Part 3: Back when the Batavia woman , Suzanne M. Corona, was charged with adultery and held an impromptu press conference after a court appearance, I wrote that any lawyer would have told her to keep quiet. After that, she turned up on 97 Rock talking about the case.

Sure enough, she was back in court Wednesday with a lawyer who did all the talking for her when they met the media. Smart move. Finally.

Clever Opening: Channel 4 has come up with a new idea that wasn’t “borrowed” from Channel 2. It opens newscasts now with 4 stories you don’t want to miss on 4.

Extended Runway: I see Lifetime is extending “Project Runway” by 30 minutes to 90 minutes. In other words, it will seem longer than the latest “Sex and the City” movie and that didn’t seem possible.

Buffalo’s Sportsman of the Month: Jeff Glor, the Western New York native who is a rising star at CBS News, did a piece Wednesday night on LeBron James, the NBA’s most sought-after free agent. A little while ago before the World Cup, Glor did a piece on American soccer star Landon Donovan.

Supreme Joke: Elena Kagan faced some very serious questions at the confirmation hearings for her Supreme Court seat. But she had one line that would have made Jerry Seinfeld, Alan King and Billy Crystal proud. Asked where she was on Christmas Day, Kagan replied: “Like all Jews, probably at a Chinese restaurant.”

That’s all folks!