A close friend and I debated whether the death of Dick Clark deserved to be the top story on Wednesday evening’s network newscasts.
He wasn’t so sure it deserved to be as we watched the Clark story lead the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” over the latest in the Secret Service Scandal.
I thought it was the right call because of Clark’s influence on television, music, culture and race relations, and I think I eventually persuaded my buddy.
I didn’t even have to play the nostalgia card. Most of the people who watch network newscasts are in the older demographic and the death of someone every newscaster referred to as “America’s oldest teenager” undoubtedly caused many viewers who grew up watching “American Bandstand” to think about their own mortality.
As a teacher at two colleges, I also couldn’t help but think that it was unfortunate that most, if not all, of my students sadly will only remember the Dick Clark who had difficulty speaking while co-hosting the New Year’s Eve specials two years after his stroke in 2004 and every year since then.
As a Syracuse University graduate, I also thought about Clark’s attachment to the same alma mater.
As a TV critic, I couldn’t help but think of the underappreciated NBC series, “American Dreams,” that was inspired by Clark and “American Bandstand.” Loved that show.
I didn’t tell my friend that I was DVRing Diane Sawyer’s ABC newscast on the hunch it would have the best and most thorough Clark coverage. Sure enough, when I got home, I saw Sawyer’s newscast bookended the Clark story – leading with it for several minutes and closing the newscast with several nostalgic moments that reminded viewers of Clark’s legend and legacy.
Naturally, the local stations put their own spin on the Clark story.
Channel 2 weatherman Kevin O’Connell gave an unusual salute. He reminisced before his forecast about doing a short-lived game show, “Go,” in Los Angeles that was associated with the same production company as a Clark game show. O’Connell said he ended his game show once with a salute similar to one that Clark routinely gave after shows. He heard about it from Clark’s people, adding that the host “wasn’t pleased.”
Later in the evening, file footage of Clark included the signature salute of which O’Connell spoke.
“He made the job of being on TV look a lot easier than it is,” saluted O’Connell.
On the 11 p.m. news, Channel 7’s John Borsa did an extended piece on Clark that included two items that attempted to localize the story and seemed a bit of a stretch. Channel 7 carried a brief interview with former Channel 7 sports director Rick Azar via telephone about substituting for Clark once on “American Bandstand.” Azar was called on because he did a local show called “Buffalo Bandstand.” The Azar sound bite didn’t add much to the story.
Then Borsa added that Channel 7 anchor Keith Radford interviewed Clark about a decade ago. The file footage illustrated it was a satellite interview in which the participants were hundreds or even thousands of miles apart.
But, hey, Clark’s death is a big story that probably will be played out over days and you can see why the local stations would try to attach themselves to it in some way. Even if the local spin doesn’t deserve much of a salute.
ABC already is referring to its new Thursday night series “Scandal” as a hit after just two episodes. Not so fast in Buffalo. The premiere episode averaged about a 6 rating and lost 25 percent of the audience that started watching it. The second episode averaged a 5.3 rating and dropped about 20 percent of the audience that started watching it. Those are decent numbers for a 10 p.m. series, but not spectacular. As a rule, 10 p.m. series here get the heaviest DVR viewing because people want to go to bed.
The USA Today printed a list Tuesday of several prominent actors, entertainers, writers, producers, directors, musicians and athletes who owe back taxes to the federal government, which has filed liens against them. I don’t know what this means about his finances and the story didn’t say, but Buffalo writer-producer David Milch of “Hill Street Blues,” “NYPD Blue,” “Deadwood” and “Luck” fame made the list. The newspaper said he owes the IRS $1,786,772, which is about $81,000 more than skiing champ Lindsey Vonn owed. Vonn reportedly paid it off, as do other celebrities once they become aware of the debt and reach payment deals with the IRS. In the best-case scenario, so would Milch, who is considered a very generous man in Hollywood.
Speaking of nostalgia, the “60 Minutes” special on the late Mike Wallace had a 9.4 rating on Channel 4 Sunday. I would have thought it would have been much higher. But then again, that show attracts older viewers and many younger viewers don’t understand or don’t care about Wallace’s legacy.
Spoiler Alert: I’m a fan of ABC’s “Revenge,” but Wednesday’s return episode had a ridiculous ending when 95-pound Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) pounded a big bad thug in a one-on-one fight. I’m all for suspension of disbelief, but that went a little too far.