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Murphy Scores in Bills Booth on Rainy Sunday


John Murphy HAS ARRIVED!!!

There was a Murphy SIGHTING on Sunday.

OK, I exaggerate just a little.

Because Western New Yorkers couldn’t see the Buffalo Bills defeat Jacksonville, 34-18, Sunday afternoon at the Ralph the voice of the Bills got his largest listening audience of the season on WGR radio.

And as UNBELIEVABLE as it sounds, the play-by-play man actually made the Bills blacked-out win against the 2-10 Jaguars seem exciting.

John Murphy: Better With Age

It was the first time this season that I listened to Murphy, analyst Mark Kelso and sideline reporter Joe Buscaglia work a game and hear the play-by-play guy use words like ARRIVED, SIGHTING and UNBELIEVABLE.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one passing the time on a rainy Sunday.

Maybe Murphy was more excited than usual because he knew more people were listening to him, but it seems like he is improving with age. His excitement level is high and doesn’t seem as forced as it did when he first took over for the legendary Van Miller.

He is no threat to Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret in inventing colorful nicknames or expressions, but Murphy also is top shelf when it comes to enthusiasm and he has one of the best voices in WNY broadcasting history.

When defensive end Mario Williams had a sack that forced a fumble that he recovered late in the first half, Murphy shouted: “Super Mario has ARRIVED in Buffalo.”

When perpetually-injured receiver Marcus Easley had a big kickoff return that led to a touchdown, Murphy proclaimed “We have a Marcus Easley SIGHTING.”

When Easley followed with a special teams tackle, Murphy added: There’s Marcus Easley again. Marcus Easley has ARRIVED.”

When safety Jarius Byrd closed the game out with his fifth interception, Murphy didn’t say he arrived. He said Byrd should be sent somewhere. “SEND him to Hawaii. PUT him in the Pro Bowl.”

When Bills Coach Chan Gailey allowed field goal kicker Rian Lindell to try — and make — a 50-yard field goal, Murphy sounded like a little boy when he shouted “HE CAN DO IT! HE CAN DO IT!

Like Jeanneret, Murphy can get so excited occasionally that it gets a little confusing. I had trouble following his call of C.J. Spiller’s touchdown run before realizing C.J. had ARRIVED in the end zone.

Murphy isn’t a homer but he can get a little agitated about officiating. He was so upset over a pass interference call against Bills cornerback Ron Brooks that he asked Kelso what defensive backs are allowed to do. In fairness, Murphy and Kelso also were balanced enough to concede that a roughing the passer call against Jacksonville was iffy on a touchdown drive.

Like any good play-by-play man, Murphy does a good job getting Kelso involved. He also lightens up the technically-minded analyst. Kelso is amazing at knowing where every player is on the field during every play, which would be more exciting if we actually needed to know.

Seriously, Kelso gets just a little too technical at times. At one time, the analyst noted the Bills ran a pass pattern called “a clear and cut.” Whatever that means.

I’m guessing Buscaglia probably knows what that means. His role is primarily to deal with injuries, which kept him pretty busy Sunday as Leodis McKelvin, Eric Wood, Chris Hairston and Stevie Johnson had to go to the sidelines.

Murphy is the fun guy of the trio, at one point noting that a Bills back made a “a little Three Stooges move” before adding a sound effect.

He also tries to have the very serious Kelso join the fun. Before a touchdown pass to tight end Scott Chandler, Murphy asked what the Bills should do. Kelso gave four options, which led to the two men agreeing afterward that they had covered all the angles — including the one that led to the touchdown.

The exchange that was most fun was when Kelso disagreed with a call against a Bills defensive back.

“NO, that is not true,” said Kelso, seeking justice.

“Maybe not correct but I believe it is true,” replied Murphy.

At another key moment, Murphy called a delay of game against the Bills inside Jacksonville’s 10-yard line “terrible.” Kelso countered that it gave them more room to develop pass plays and added “I don’t think that hurt them badly.” On the next play, Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson for a touchdown.

They also addressed some coaching decisions by Gailey, who justifiably has come under fire for some conservative play-calling in the past few weeks.

When the Bills had a fourth down with five yards to go on the Jaguars’ 37-yard line, both men agreed they should go for it. There was no discussion of the times this season that Gailey punted in a similar situation and why this time it was different.

Of course, there was no discussion of Gailey turning down 50-yard field goals, either, before Lindell made his kick. Murphy’s HE CAN DO IT was as close as he would get to criticizing the coach.

He also spared quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick from criticism. The sharpest criticism of Fitzpatrick came after he took a hard hit. “Someday Fitz will learn how to slide,” said Murphy.

If you want non-stop criticism, Twitter is the go-to-place. Members of The Buffalo News sports staff, the WGR sports staff and just about everybody outside the media throw out their two cents during the game and spare no one. The unspoken rule of Twitter is the snarkier the comment, the better.

Everyone also thinks they are as funny as The Three Stooges. I’m no Pollyanna but if you read the Twitter comments Sunday of the media members I follow you might have thought the Bills had lost 34-18. I eventually left the Twitter universe rather than a take a pill for depression.

Gailey and Fitzpatrick can’t win on Twitter even when they do win. If you’re to believe Twitter comments, Fitzpatrick may be the worst starting quarterback in the league.

It is enough to make you want to shout “NO, that’s not true.”  

I’m not a huge fan of Fitzpatrick but the weekly bashing he gets every week on Twitter reminds me of my days as a New York Giants fan growing up on Long Island and reading legends like Y.A. Tittle and Charley Connerly get bashed in the newspapers. (I was very, very young then).

I learned at about age 6 that no one in a NFL city loves their starting quarterback because they all throw lousy passes and make poor decisions at times. That remains true today with the possible exception now of fans in New England, Denver, Green Bay, New Orleans and Atlanta and in some cities where some younger quarterbacks are in their honeymoon period with fans.

I’m sure Joey Flacco is getting flack in Baltimore this week as is Mark Sanchez in New York, Jake Locker in Tennessee, Phillip Rivers in San Diego, Christian Ponder in Minnesota, Chad Henne in Jacksonville, even Drew Brees in New Orleans (he threw five picks Thursday) and the list goes on and on.

With the Bills home games being blacked out down the stretch, you’ll have a chance to see more of the league’s QBs every Sunday.

I’m guessing the more games you watch involving other teams, the more you’re likely to realize there aren’t too many SIGHTINGS of relatively new franchise quarterbacks.

You may even conclude as I have that Fitzpatrick is no worse than an average NFL starting quarterback these days working with a mediocre group of receivers.


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Ch.4 Names New “Wake Up!” Anchor

Channel 4 has named Joe Arena’s replacement on “Wake Up!”

A few days ago, I mentioned the station had interviewed an anchor from Texas for the job.

Now word comes that Channel 4 News Director Joe Schlaerth has told the station’s staff that the anchor, Jordan Williams, will join the CBS affiliate in January as a morning anchor and an investigative reporter.

It is hard to see how a morning anchor can have enough time to be an investigative reporter but that’s TV news these days.

In an email to the staff, Schlaerth wrote that Williams has worked in Oklahoma City and Texas and he was part of a morning team that has won three Emmys in three years at a smaller Texas station competing against stations in Dallas.

For the last four years, Williams has been at KRGV, the ABC affiliate in Rio Grande Valley, Texas. He has been a co-anchor in the morning for the past two years. He came to the station after working in Oklahoma, City, Midland, Texas and San Antonio, Texas.

Jordan Williams: New Ch.4 Anchor

According to the KRGV website, Williams has won 10 first-place awards from the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters. Wrote Schlaerth: “He is described as a newsroom leader with a drive to win.”

It won’t be easy to win here since “Wake Up” is now well behind Channel 2’s “Daybreak” in the morning news wars.

Williams will be replacing Ed Drantch, who co-anchored “Wake Up” during the November sweeps after Arena left for Pittsburgh. Drantch, who was teamed with Nalina Shapiro, will remain a reporter. There is no word on whether Shapiro will be Williams’ co-anchor or if the station is looking to replace her as well. It would be a good idea.

On Friday, I noted that while Channel 2 “Daybreak” co-anchor Jodi Johnston got a three-day send-off, Channel 7 anchor Keith Radford quietly celebrated his 25th anniversary at the station. On Friday, the station celebrated Radford’s milestone at the end of the 6 p.m. newscast by delivering a cake on set. I think Radford wanted a pie.

Asked by co-anchor Joanna Pasceri if he had anything to say to viewers, Radford said: “Thank you and I apologize if I have offended anyone. And I’m sure I have from time to time. I’ll try not to in the future.”

No apologies necessary Keith.

As I wrote Friday, you can pick up a copy of the December issue of Buffalo Spree to read my profile on Radford.

Channel 2′s owner, Gannett, and DirecTV reached a national agreement that means that the local subscribers to the satellite carrier will continue to get NBC programming and the station’s local newscasts without a rabbit ears antenna or an outside antenna.  In other words, it was just another case of crying wolf.


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Talkin “Men,” “Homeland” and Radford

This is what I’m thinking:

Angus T. Jones – the Half in “Two and a Half Men” — may have overstated it slightly this week by setting off a media storm by calling the CBS series “filth.”

I’d say sophomoric and crude is more like it. The 19-year-old Jones, who apparently has found religion, should realize his peers flock to movie theaters to see comedies that are far worse in content.

“Two and a Half” has been one of the more popular comedies locally and nationally for years, which I suppose says a lot about America’s tolerance for double entendres and belies the idea that the country has conservative values.

The popularity of “Two and a Half” freed comedies that followed it in the past decade to further move the line of what is acceptable in prime time. Now just about anything goes.

I’ve never been a fan of “Two and a Half,” but I’ve never been offended because CBS carried it after 9 p.m. Eastern time until this season, when it moved it to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. I also did some local research at one point and learned the program doesn’t have much of a viewership among children.

However, I do find it unfortunate that reruns of the show air at 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays on FX, Fox’s cable entertainment channel. The afternoon episodes air when young kids are home from school and can watch it. Of course, basic cable isn’t regulated by the FCC so FX can carry it whenever it wants to.

Claire Danes: The Crying Game

Searching for an alternative to all the Christmas music playing on radio? I accidentally found that 1230 AM “The Breeze’’ isn’t celebrating Christmas early. “The Breeze” — which also is carried on 102.9 FM – surely is a better alternative than listening to WBEN’s talk shows. I’ve also spent more time listening to 92.9 FM, which isn’t part of the Christmas rush.

I get ideas from strange places. On Thursday, I had my annual checkup with my doctor and we proceeded to talk about TV after my blood pressure was taken. My doc and I both are fans of Showtime’s “Homeland.” But we agreed that we haven’t been able to watch it the same way after “Saturday Night Live” did a dead-on parody a few weeks ago. The parody illustrated all the different ways that Claire Danes cries or gets emotional while playing Carrie, the heroine who knew Brody (Damian Lewis) was a terrorist before everyone else in the CIA. Every time Carrie cries now, it is hard to suppress laughter.

What’s wrong with this picture? While Jodi Johnston got three days to say goodbye on Channel 2’s “Daybreak,” Channel 7 anchor Keith Radford quietly celebrated his 25th anniversary on the station during the November sweeps. If you want to learn more about Radford and his career, pick up a copy of the current edition of Buffalo Spree. My monthly feature is about him and has the headline: “After twenty-five years, WKBW’s Radford remains the king of calm.”

Finally, my blood pressure is really good. Thought you may like to know. However, it does go up a little bit when I read the spin of local TV executives and it isn’t put in perspective by other media outlets.


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Ch.2, DirecTV Problem Easily Solved

Ed Drantch: Back to Reporting Soon

Here we go again.

I awoke this morning in time to see a crawl running during NBC’s “Today” show warning Channel 2 viewers they could lose Sunday Night Football and other network programming if they have DirecTV and a deal isn’t reached to keep the station on by midnight Friday.

So I Googled Gannett – which owns Channel 2 – and DirecTV – and discovered that the dispute is a national issue between the media giant and the satellite provider.

Of course, Western New Yorkers have been down this road before and should be prepared for it.

I still have the rabbit ears antenna that Time Warner Cable gave me years ago when it had a dispute with Channel 4. That antenna has become handy a few times when other carriers had disputes with other station owners that threatened to take the local channels off the air.  

Channel 2 viewers are more likely to use rabbit ear antennas, too, since it is the one station that carries programming on an extra digital channel. Channel 2 is on digital channel 2-1. Antenna TV, which carries old programs, is on digital channel 2-2.

All you have to do with an HD set is plug in the rabbit ears, change your source on your remote and you’ll get Channel 2 and Antenna TV crystal clear.

In fact, I still use my rabbit ears on Bills football Sundays because Channel 4 comes in much clearer via rabbit ears than it does on cable, which splits its signal with many other homes.

This may not work in certain remote areas with homes that were initially most likely to get satellite TV. But most people should be able to get Channel 2 even if the two sides don’t immediately come to terms.

I had to laugh Wednesday when I received a release from Channel 4 with the headline “NEWS 4 Completes a Strong November Sweeps!”

According to the station spin, News 4 “was the No. 1 rated news organization from noon until late night.”

In other words, Channel 4 decided to eliminate the early morning newscasts that are dominated by Channel 2 to proclaim some sort of victory. It wins, 49.4-44.4, by doing so. It margin of “victory” comes from its wins at noon when Channel 2 doesn’t compete, at 10 p.m. when its newscast is on a stronger channel than Channel 2’s and at 11 p.m. when Channel 4’s victory margin has significantly decreased.

I half-expected Channel 2 to respond by sending a release noting that it is No. 1 from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and eliminate the later evening newscasts when Channel 4 wins big. Channel 2’s margin of victory from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. is 57.0-50.9.

Spin aside, Channel 2 is now the news leader when all newscasts are counted and it has the momentum practically everywhere.

Channel 4’s spin also notes that it had year-to-year household ratings growth in three times periods and ratings increases over May for several newscasts.

All true. But that was inevitable considering how much news there was during the November sweeps, which featured a presidential race and several key local political races and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. In addition, people generally are more interested in news in November than they are in May, when the weather is expected to improve.

I’m hearing that Channel 4 plans to move soon to shore up its weakest news block in the early morning and hire at least one and possibly two new anchors for “Wake Up!” My spies tell me that a male anchor from Texas was recently brought in as a serious candidate to replace Joe Arena. The station went with Nalina Shapiro and Ed Drantch as morning co-anchors in November. Drantch is expected to go back to reporting, where he is much better suited.

Suggestion to Channel 7: If ABC will allow it, I’d move “General Hospital” back to 3 p.m. to give Katie Couric’s new talk show a strong lead-in and a chance to succeed in this market. Ricki Lake’s talk show is killing Katie. “GH” does very well here at 2 p.m. It gets four times the audience of Lake’s show.


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Couric’s Show a Loser Here and Other Sweeps Takeaways

Katie Couric: Ch.7 Gives Her No Help


Katie Couric isn’t getting much love from Western New York.

However, the low local rating for her syndicated national talk show was predictable. In fact, stilltalkintv predicted “Katie” wouldn’t be a hit here based on one simple fact: It is on Channel 7, which is the weakest network affiliate in the market.

That’s a little sad because for decades Channel 7 was one of the best ABC affiliates in in the nation.

The importance of the strength of the network affiliates that talk shows and new shows are on couldn’t be more apparent than in the WNY market.  

How bad are the local ratings for “Katie”? I promise I won’t bore you with too many numbers, but some are necessary. “Katie” averages a 1.6 rating here at 4 p.m. weekdays, which means that 1.6 percent of area households are watching. The show gets less than a third of the audience that time slot winner “Ellen” gets on Channel 2 and less than half of what “Dr. Oz” gets on Channel 4. “Katie” also averages more than a rating point lower than Anderson Cooper’s 3 p.m. syndicated talk show on Channel 4, and Cooper’s show already has been canceled because of poor national numbers.

One major problem for “Katie” is the lead-in she gets from Ricki Lake’s new show, which Channel 7 carries right before her show. Lake’s show doesn’t even average a 1 rating. “Katie” actually doubles her lead-in.

If misery loves company, Couric should talk with Diane Sawyer, the anchor of ABC’s national newscast at 6:30 p.m. weekdays. Nationally, it is in second place and has reduced the lead of first-place NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams to a half of a point. Locally, Williams’ newscast dominates over second-place CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley on Channel 4. Williams’ newscast doubles the local rating for Sawyer’s third-place newscast, which has the misfortune of following the third place 6 p.m. newscast of Channel 7.

While ABC’s “Good Morning America” has overtaken NBC’s “Today” nationally, it remains no contest locally. “Today” remains a strong No. 1 on Channel 2 with the help of the lead-in it gets from Channel 2’s “Daybreak.” “Today“ almost doubles the rating for second-place “GMA” here, with CBS’ morning show on Channel 4 within a half point of “GMA.”

Meanwhile, the two syndicated game shows that moved away from Channel 7 after lengthy runs there to Channel 4 – “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” — are flourishing in their new home. Both game shows average double-digit ratings that networks would die for in prime time.  “Wheel” and “Jeopardy” have more viewers combined than the light entertainment news programs featuring the latest Kardashian and Lohan news that Channel 2 and Channel 7 carry in the same hour.

The weakness of Channel 7 is less apparent when it concerns prime time entertainment television. CBS programming, which is carried on affiliate Channel 4, still is no.1 locally among the Big Three  with an 8.4 average. NBC programming, which has been third for years, is now No.2 on Channel 2 with a 6.3 average thanks largely to Sunday Night Football, “The Voice” and the new hit “Revolution.” ABC programming, which is carried by Channel 7, is a close third with a 6.1 average. I don’t yet have figures for Fox, which is carried on Channel 29. But it doesn’t do well generally until “American Idol” returns in January. The CW, which is carried on WNLO-TV, isn’t much of a factor here.

Of course, the local stations are much more concerned with how their network programs fare at 10:45 p.m. to 11 p.m. as a news lead-in. Channel 4 (CBS) remains first with a 7.7, with Channel 2 (NBC) second with a 6.0 and Channel 7 (ABC) third with a 5.1.

That is also the order of the finish for the 11 p.m. news, illustrating the importance of the news lead-in even when the clicker is in the hand of viewers ready to change the channel.

One more thing of note: The long goodbye that Channel 2 gave Jodi Johnston on “Daybreak” didn’t have much of a ratings impact. The Monday program, which had a minimal amount of Johnston celebration, had an 8.4 rating. Tuesday’s program had a 6.2. Wednesday’s program, which celebrated Johnston the most, had a 6.6 rating on the morning before Thanksgiving. The three-day average of 7.1 was slightly below the program’s average for the November sweeps.



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Ch.2 Is November News Leader


Channel 4 has been referring to itself as “Western New York’s news leader” for years, but that generic claim is debatable after the arrival of the November news ratings.

Channel 2 News now has the right to call itself it that if you’re adding up all the ratings points for the nine half-hours of local news when the news departments compete against each other on weekdays.

WNY is a market that is notoriously slow to change news leaders and once a station becomes No. 1 it generally has remained there for years, if not decades. Channel 7 was a dominant news leader for decades before Channel 4 overtook it and held the title for years.

Now it appears that Channel 2 — which was helped a year ago when Oprah Winfrey retired the popular talk show that gave Channel 4 a strong lead-in for its early evening newscasts for years – could be ready to assume the title for a lengthy stay if it doesn’t mess things up.

Channel 2 and Channel 4 compete directly on weekdays for four half hours from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., for three half hours from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and for a half hour each at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.  

I’ll try not to give you too many numbers, but remember I was a math major in college for a year and like arithmetic almost as much as Bill Clinton. According to my math, Channel 2 has a collective 62.0 rating points for the four and a half hours of news that it competes directly with Channel 4, and Channel 4 has a collective 56.8 rating points.

Jacquie Walker: Still No. 1 at 6 and 11

If you add the station’s ratings for its midday newscasts, Channel 2’s margin of victory is tighter. Channel 4 averages an 8.0 rating at noon to give it 64.8 rating points. Channel 2 averages a 3.8 at 11 a.m. to give it 65.8 rating points or a point higher.

The momentum is clearly with Channel 2. It had impressive ratings increases — during a very busy news month — from November, 2011 everywhere but for its 10 p.m. newscast on WNYO-TV. On the other hand, Channel 4 saw decreases everywhere but at noon, 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Channel 2’s 4:30 a.m. newscast isn’t factored in because Channel 4 doesn’t compete with it. Similarly, Channel 4’s 7 a.m. “Wake Up” on WNLO isn’t being counted. Channel 4’s 10 p.m. newscasts on Saturday and Sunday on WNLO weren’t factored in and nor was any weekend newscast because college and pro football make a mess of the news schedule.

Channel 2’s overall victory was fueled by its big wins for “Daybreak” over “Channel 4’s Wake Up” at 6 a.m. and at 5 p.m.

In co-anchor Jodi Johnston’s last sweeps period alongside John Beard, “Daybreak” saw audience gains of 30 percent from a year ago to a 7.4 rating, while Channel’s 4’s morning show in the first ratings period without Victoria Hong and Joe Arena slipped more than 10 percent to a 4.7.

In Johnston’s last sweeps period at 5 p.m. with co-anchor Scott Levin, Channel 2 saw about a 20 percent bump to a 10.7, while Channel 4 slipped slightly to a second place 8.1.

The good news for Channel 4 is that the newscasts co-anchored by Don Postles and Jacquie Walker still win at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. despite all of the station’s self-destructive changes in its news personnel over the last few years.  Channel 4′s 10 p.m. newscast on WNLO also is still a big winner. Its 6 p.m. win was narrow. Channel 4 averaged an 11.0 rating to a 10.6 for Channel 2, which won from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. by healthy margins.

At 11 p.m., Channel 4 won, 9.1-7.1. It is helped by the strong lead-in it receives from CBS’ prime time entertainment programming. Channel 2 narrowed the gap from three points a year ago, possibly because of the improvement in NBC’s prime time programming.

Channel 4’s 10 p.m. win over Channel 2 was as decisive as usual – 4.8 to a 1.7 for Channel 2’s “10 at 10.”

If you’re wondering where Channel 7 is, it is deep in third in all newscasts. However, it is up from a year ago at noon, 5 p.m. and at 11 p.m. The 11 p.m. gain of 1.1 points is the most impressive and should give co-anchors Keith Radford and Joanna Pasceri something to smile about.


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Psssstt! Some Thanksgiving Leftovers

Some leftovers after the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend:

I’m wondering how many things were thrown at TV sets across Western New York when CBS analyst Rich Gannon praised Buffalo Bills Coach Chan Gailey’s play-calling during the Bills’ 20-13 loss to Indianapolis Sunday afternoon.

Gannon was often as infuriating as Gailey’s play-calling because of what he said and what he didn’t say.

Maybe John Murphy, the voice of the Bills, should watch a replay of this game and reconsider his praise of Gannon earlier this season as one of the best analysts on TV.

While Twitter was all over Gailey’s play-calling before the first half when he chose to throw two passes rather than run out the clock, Gannon was silent. The coach’s decision cost the Bills three points as the Colts drove down for a field goal with the 30 seconds or so remaining in the half.

Gannon also had little to say about Gailey’s decision to punt on the Colts’ 34-yard line rather than try a 51-yard field goal or go for it as many fans suggested on Twitter.

Then there were Gannon’s opinion of Colt fumbles. He thought the ball was out on one occasion before deciding it wasn’t. Well, he covered both angles.

I stopped counting Gannon’s infuriating moments after the Bills fell behind, 13-6, and the analyst praised Gailey’s play-calling.

Marv Albert, Gannon’s play-by-play partner, has been slipping in recent seasons and Sunday’s game was no different. He had his share of misidentifications, suggesting he needs a different spotter. He also seemed to see penalties and other things well after viewers could see them and didn’t say what yard-line the ball was on at key times.

Known for his sense of humor, Albert did provide viewers with one unintentional laugh. He said the Bills’ Mario Williams was just credited a third sack with just over two minutes left in the game. The Bills and WGR radio had reported via Twitter that Williams had three sacks about 20-30 minutes earlier than CBS did.

I don’t think there is anything more boring than watching a TV report on Black Friday or reading about it the next day in the Buffalo News.

Psssstt! Speaking of The News, it is running promos at the bottom of sections that note that “over 57,000 people have already registered for BuffaloNews.com digital access.”

I’m not sure if that is 57,000 people who didn’t subscribe to the printed paper before The News began charging for digital access or if the 57,000 consists primarily of previous subscribers. If it is new readers, it is very impressive and a big bonus to the bottom line. If it includes old subscribers, not so much. After all, you would hope that every subscriber to the printed paper would want digital access since it doesn’t cost them anything.

Anderson Cooper

I am somewhat amused that the great majority of the Pssstt! promos feature relatively young women, as do most of the ads in the newspaper’s ad campaign. When I was at The News, the paper had a policy of putting a woman’s photo on the front page because women were the toughest demographic to get to read the paper.  It would be nice if the ad campaign had more balance and featured more older male readers who read the paper (especially sports) in greater numbers than the pretty young women in the ad campaign.

Pssstt! Channel 2’s new 4:30 a.m. news gets around the same rating as its “10 at 10 “newscast on WNYO during the November sweeps. The 1.7 rating isn’t much. Channel 2 has to be more pleased with the 4:30 a.m. rating than the 10 p.m. rating.

My primary memory of the late Larry Hagman — who died Friday — concerns how cordial he was with TV critics. How cordial you ask? The man who made J.R. Ewing such an indelible character actually opened his Southern California house on the Pacific Ocean to TV critics for a party during his “Dallas” days. He also was consistently one of the best interviews during the press tour, primarily because he had such a sharp wit and never took himself too seriously.  

Though Anderson Cooper’s syndicated talk show has been canceled, it didn’t do that poorly on WIVB-TV. It actually experienced a local ratings bump in its second season. However, it probably was because Ricki Lake’s new syndicated talk show carried by Channel 7 is tanking opposite Cooper’s show here.

It was unfortunate that more of the University at Buffalo’s football games early in the season were carried on television that the games in it its late season, three-game winning streak led by Williamsville South graduate Joe Licata at quarterback. Licata pretty much saved Coach Jeff Quinn’s job, which made me wonder even more why no one seemed to question how long it took for Quinn to make Licata his starting quarterback. I’m wondering why no sportswriter or sportscaster wondered if UB would have won a few more games if Licata had started earlier.

Psssstt. Finally, there was some controversy over the holidays in the Pergament household over my frequent references to “my companion” in this blog. One of my sons — a big “Seinfeld” fan – told me over dinner at Chef’s that he thought using “my companion” suggested that I am gay (his friends agreed with him.) As Jerry would add, “not that there is anything wrong with that.” But my son thought it was dishonest and made me appear to be something I am not. I laughed and said I didn’t care what anyone thought. But the same night my best friend piled on by saying over the phone “you should stop referring to your companion. You sound gay.” So for now on, she will be referred to as my girlfriend.


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A Lazy Blog on a Lazy Day

I was going to be lazy today and not blog, but then I read the television column in The Buffalo News this morning and realized that apparently there is no shame in being lazy on the day after Thanksgiving.

On the front page of the Home & Style section, the tease for Jeff Simon’s column read “Jodi Johnston will be missed; Lindsay as Liz is laughable.”

So naturally, I expected the hard-working critic – who is among the most prolific writers at The News – had watched Lindsay Lohan play Elizabeth Taylor in Sunday’s Lifetime movie, “Liz & Dick.”

But he actually wrote that he hadn’t seen it. He had just heard the consensus among those who watched was that it was awful. 

Jodi Johnston: Her Daily Photo Here

It probably is dreadful. One of my favorite critics, the USA Today’s Robert Bianco, wrote this morning that it is awful.. But Simon often doesn’t vote with “the consensus.”

However, he did agree with the consensus when he reviewed the movie “The Master” and gave it four stars. I have yet to see it or find anyone who has who didn’t hate it and wasn’t tempted to leave the theater in the middle of the movie.

I agree with the headline that came from the portion of the Simon column dealing with Johnston’s departure from Channel 2’s “Daybreak” for a job with First Niagara. She will be missed. I think I’ve written that 100 times or so in the past week.

Simon said he was baffled that Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner couldn’t find a way to keep Johnston. After all, Toellner is an astute guy. (So am I on occasion. I know running her picture every day may attract readers.)

I agree on Toellner. But I was baffled why any critic of four or five decades who understands where local TV news is headed would be baffled if they read and accepted Johnston’s explanation of why she is leaving TV.

Johnston has repeatedly said she is leaving to have normal hours and spend more time with her son Max, who is in the third grade. She also had enough of waking up at 3 a.m., which meant she didn’t get to send Max off to school.

Even if Toellner had offered Maryalice Demler’s 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. news anchors shifts to Johnston, it wouldn’t have satisfied Johnston’s need to spend more time with Max. Those hours may be the absolute worst for any mother who wants to spend more time with her young child, and the anchors who do it have sacrificed a great deal in their family life.

As frequently documented here, the local news business in Buffalo also has had a pronounced shift away from big anchor salaries.

Johnson is going to what will be mostly a 9 to 5 job at a prestigious bank. There is no need to be baffled why Toellner couldn’t find a way to keep her.

Speaking of movie critics, local reviewer Michael Calleri said he is scheduled to appear tomorrow on “CBS Saturday Morning” at the top of the 8 o’clock hour to discuss censorship. Calleri drew attention when he wrote a column posted on Roger Ebert’s website that dealt with his experiences after a new owner of the Niagara Falls Reporter – a weekly — told him he needed to approve what movies he could review.

Unfortunately, Calleri’s appearance won’t be seen here and it has nothing to do with censorship. Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate, doesn’t carry “Saturday Morning.”

Calleri – who reviewed movies at Channel 4 for more than six years — is hoping the station will use highlights on its newscasts.

Media Laugh of the weekend: The News ran a cutline Thursday that said Grinnell sophomore Jack Taylor put up 20 shots per second when he scored 138 points in a college basketball game. That would have been a truly unbelievable achievement. The story correctly said he put up a shot every 20 seconds, which was pretty incredible, too.

Finally, it is raining and I’m feeling lazy so I think I might go to a movie this afternoon. My companion wants to see ”Life of Pi” but I’m a little worried. Like “The Master,” Simon gave it four stars. This time, I’m hopeful he’s right and we’re not tempted to walk out of the theater.


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Kilgore’s Tribute Tops Sweet Johnston Farewell


I got up at 5 this morning to watch a momentous local television event – the final day of Channel 2 co-anchor Jodi Johnston on the station’s popular “Daybreak.”

OK, I lied.

I didn’t get up at 5 a.m. I got up at a reasonable hour and watched the two-hour love fest from my DVR list.

It really wasn’t that momentous an occasion since Johnston has only been on local television for a little more than 12 years and has decided to move on to a big bank job in media relations.

I’ve been covering local TV for about 30 years and I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it for an anchor who has been on a relatively short period of time in Buffalo compared to TV legends.

Most people leaving TV get about 60 seconds to say goodbye if they are lucky.

They don’t usually get a mayor to declare it their day. But there was Mayor Byron Brown on the set declaring today “Jodi Johnston Day.”

But, hey, “Daybreak” certainly has time to fill on a daily basis and all the goodbyes on the last morning of the November sweeps from current and past co-workers were nothing if not sweet and timely a day before Thanksgiving.

After listening to all the testimonials from co-workers emphasizing Johnston’s warmth, compassion and ability to connect with viewers, a viewer couldn’t help but think one of two things. 1) Boy, she is a great person or 2) I hate her because she is perfect and has it all – looks, personality, a great family life and a great job. 

Seriously, I mean “hate” in the best possible way. I mean every day may seem like Jodi Johnston Day to jealous audience members. If you didn’t like Johnston before all the goodbyes sprinkled in between news and weather, you probably did after them.

My favorite goodbye was the brief one from sportscaster Ed Kilgore, who started out by saying TV doesn’t do Johnston justice. “I’m not talking about looks,” said Kilgore, realizing that’s what the audience might have thought. He meant TV doesn’t “give the true sense of the type of person she is. She is a fantastic lady.” I would have preferred “fantastic woman” but you got Kilgore’s point.

Runner-up for favorite was Dave McKinley, who praised Johnston by saying he told his wife that she would probably like Johnston the best among all his co-workers.

The bronze medal goes to Pete Gallivan, who was Johnston’s co-anchor until John Beard took the co-anchor spot three years ago. Gallivan discussed how Johnston connected with the audience and gave some specifics. He told the story of a guy named Gary who was stuck on the Thruway for 12 hours during the October storm and communicated with Johnston throughout until he got home.

“I still am in touch with Gary and I know you are watching,” said Johnston.

Johnston’s son Max read a sweet letter. Her husband, Tom Quatroche, came on the anchor set and wasn’t identified for a while before telling everyone how much the family will miss the Channel 2 family.

As always, Johnston was a class act throughout the love fest. She exhausted just about all the ways she could tell those showering her with praises and gifts “you don’t know how much this means to me.”

Just about every Channel 2 personality got a shot at saying goodbye and tried to find different ways to say the same thing about how wonderful Johnston has been and how much she has meant to the station. Anchor-reporter Melissa Holmes plastered on a Johnston-like smile and gave a sweet speech that I thought should have ended with the comedic line “and I want your anchor job.”

At least I would have laughed.

Replacing Johnston is no laughing matter. “Jodi Johnston Day” proved what I wrote Monday – she is one act that will be pretty tough to follow.





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Ch.2′s Long Report on Bills Future Is Old Story


You know it is a slow news day when a local TV station spends seven or eight minutes on the timeless story of whether the Buffalo Bills are going to stay in Western New York beyond Owner Ralph Wilson’s lifetime.

Channel 2’s Scott Brown spent that amount of time at 6 p.m. Monday in a feel-good, speculative report that rehashed interviews with NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell from four years ago and Wilson five years ago and included new material from so-called local and national experts reading the tea leaves.

Brown’s report concluded that the Bills were going nowhere as long as the area continues to meet strict NFL guidelines against relocation and fans continue to support the team, a few hundred million is spent to repair The Ralph and the team remains profitable.

Scott Brown

After the report ended, Channel 2 anchor Maryalice Demler said during happy talk that she can sleep better now.

I wish I was as sold on Brown’s conclusions. But his report was overly optimistic and needed some balance as much as much as the Bills desperately need a stronger pass rush.

A realist or cynic was needed to point out some holes in Brown’s Pollyanna argument in the story. Or perhaps Brown could have asked the two experts he interviewed  –national stadium relocation expert Mark Ganis and Canisius College sports management expert Shawn O’Rourke  – some questions that realists might want answered.

Brown’s optimism included suggestions that three local billionaires – Terry Pegula, Jeremy Jacobs and Tom Golisano – could be local buyers. I hope Brown is right but they didn’t become billionaires by making bad investments. The Bills possible price tag of $800 million or so makes it a questionable investment even if you accept the $29 million profit that Brown reported the Bills made last year.

Here are some of the things that I would have liked to hear explained away.

Like President Clinton likes to say, it is simple arithmetic. Wilson paid $25,000 when he bought the Bills and presumably has no debt on the team. If the new owner financed, say $500 million of the purchase price, one wonders if the interest costs certainly would take a big bite out of the team’s profit. If so, how hard would it be to show a loss and achieve one of the NFL’s requirements to move the team? 

Then there is the issue of fan support. Yes, the Bills have gotten solid fan support during this endless playoff drought and have sold out all of their home games so far this season. But there are thousands of tickets left for this year’s remaining home games. The Bills also have one of the lowest ticket prices in the league. What’s preventing a new owner with a heavy debt load to come in and raise prices substantially in a few years? If the owner does, it also might become more difficult to sell as many seats. If so, could another of the NFL’s requirements to move the team be easily achieved?

Then there is the issue of whether other owners would approve a move. Brown reported 75 percent of the 32 owners – 24 if you do the math – have to approve. My question is how many times do you think the owners have voted no on a move and made it stick? My guess is probably almost as often the Bills have a prime time game and no fan gets arrested.

Brown’s final positive vibe came from Commissioner Goodell’s roots. His father Charles was a U.S. senator and Roger was born in Jamestown so the theory goes he would do everything possible to keep the Bills in Western New York.

I’d like to believe that. But Goodell works for the owners and can only do so much if a persuasive case is made to move the Bills.

Hey it’s a couple of days before Thanksgiving so I am all for positive vibes. We should all be thankful that the Bills have been around so long in one of the smallest markets in the league and hopeful that this optimistic report rings true in a few years.

But other than helping Demler sleep, the report really didn’t amount to much.

While I am on Channel 2, the newscast also included a story by Pete Gallivan about a woman who supposedly saw two sanitation workers urinate in a garbage truck. Oh, well, I did say it was a slow news day.

A Scott Norwood reference was made Monday by Tony Kornhesier on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.” Talking about the difficulties of Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby, Kornhesier said you can’t have a struggling kicker in the playoffs and mentioned three kickers. Norwood was unfairly referenced as one of them. He wasn’t struggling before he went wide right on that 47-yard Super Bowl kick. By the way, the Norwood miss also was in Brown’s Channel 2 report.


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