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DISH Subscribers Should Find Rabbit Ears

Billy Burke: “Revolution” Is Costly

Some quick thoughts on a rainy Saturday morning:

If I were a DISH subscriber, I wouldn’t worry about losing Channel 2 at midnight Sunday because of another of those annoying retransmission fee disputes.

I’d just head off in search of a $4 rabbit ears antenna today to hook up to the back of my HDTV to get the NBC affiliate in case a deal isn’t done. As a bonus, you”ll get access to Channel 2′s extra digital channels.

I still have my rabbit ears from the time that Time Warner Cable gave them out in a retransmission dispute with Channel 4 a few years back.

There is an additional bonus for getting a rabbit ears antenna. I still use my rabbit ears on Buffalo Bills game days because the picture on Channel 4’s digital channel is much clearer than Channel 4 comes in on TWC.

It can be a little inconvenient to switch the source of your TV from cable to the digital channels, but it is worth the clearer picture.

Of course, DISH doesn’t want to pay a big retransmission fee to Channel 2’s owner Gannett Broadcasting precisely because subscribers can get the channel without the satellite service. After all, Channel 2 is what they used to refer to as free TV.

I do have sympathy with Gannett over the secondary issue in the DISH-free TV argument concerning DISH’s revolutionary DVR device that automatically skips commercials.

The business model of NBC and all of the broadcast networks is built on using commercials to pay the license fee to produce expensive dramas like this year’s hit “Revolution” with Billy Burke and series like “Parenthood” and “Grimm.” If viewers can skip the commercials, the networks can’t charge as much for ads and won’t be able to spend as much money producing quality shows.

That’s why TWC’s On Demand feature now prevents subscribers from fast forwarding through the commercials on episodes available on the feature.

I watched ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” On Demand Friday night and had to wade through the full hour of Thursday night’s episode complete with commercials and promos for the upcoming ABC series “Nashville” and “Malibu Country.”

Of course, I could have watched “Grey’s” in about 45 minutes if I had DVRed it Thursday because then I could have skipped commercials manually instead of automatically as DISH’s DVR does.

I was amused Friday night when the NBC Nightly News ran a report on former General Electric chief executive Jack Welch’s tweet suggesting that the Obama Administration cooked the books on a positive jobs report revealed Friday. After all, GE owned NBC when Welch ran the company so its report was showing how foolish its former boss was being.

An ABC reporter actually discredited Welch’s suggestion (which was shared by Rush Limbaugh) by going to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, D.C. and talking to the non-partisan people who are in charge of the report. The conclusion about Welch’s tweet of just about every network report and even some objective supporters of Gov. Mitt Romney was akin to this comment I heard on one network: “Talk like that should be confined to crazy town.”

Or on Limbaugh’s show.

Welch and Limbaugh’s suggestions actually might backfire because they gave the impression that the jobs report actually was stronger than it was, which helps President Obama.

Sometimes an interview subject can answer a quesiton without actually answering it. On Friday, Channel 2 reporter Scott Brown asked former Bills punter Brian Moorman if he cared to address reports that suggested one reason why he was cut by the NFL team was because he didn’t get along with special teams coach Bruce DeHaven. Moorman said he didn’t care to address that, which pretty much was a confirmation. Now a Dallas Cowboy, Moorman was back in Buffalo Friday to tell people that he plans to continue his charitable PUNT Foundation, which supports children with cancer and their families.   

pergament@msn.com

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Debate Audience Outdraws the Bills Here; “News” Coverage Slow

And the local TV winner of the Presidential debate Wednesday night is …. Channel 2.

That was to be expected since Channel 2 is the local NBC affiliate and the NBC Nightly News is dominant in this market.

The four broadcast networks that carried the debate between President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney had a combined 27 ratings point, which means 27 percent of area households were tuned in to those four channels. Channel 2 had an 11.2 rating, Channel 4 (CBS) 7.5, Channel 7 (6.9) and Channel 29 (Fox) a 1.4.

Fox News led the other channels carrying the debate with a 5.0 local rating. CNN averaged a 3.5, Channel 17 (PBS) a 2.3 and MSNBC a 2.1. I don’t have a rating for C-Span.

Damian Lewis: Suspend Disbelief

The cable channels and PBS added a combined 12.9 ratings point for a combined broadcast-cable- PBS rating of 39.9 points. That means about 250,000 WNY homes were tuned in. Nationally, 62 million reportedly watched, the most for a debate in 32 years.

To put the debate rating in perspective the highest-rated Bills game of the season so far was the 37.0 rating for the 52-28 loss to New England Sunday.

I picked up the Buffalo News Thursday and was startled to read a front page story with the headline “Romney cuts Obama lead in two states.” I wasn’t startled because Gov. Mitt Romney is closer to the President in Virginia and Florida.

I knew that. I was startled because I found out about the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll carried by NBC at around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and NBC immediately posted it on its website. I know it is tough for newspapers to compete with the timeliness of TV. But if you are going to run something 36 hours or more later, then you probably shouldn’t highlight how late you are by putting it on the front page.

I’m wondering if The News just planned on keeping it there for a few editions and had to keep it there for the final edition for production reasons.

I found it just as surprising that The News only carried a wire story Thursday morning about the debate, along with some comments from prominent Republicans and Democrats in the area. After all, the debate ended at 10:30 p.m.. The paper did a much better job covering the political conventions, which ended later and arguably were much less important than the debates. I would have thought there would have been a local column or two in Thursday’s paper about the debate instead of two this morning. I’m not blaming the writers, but early deadlines or editors who didn’t think it was important to try and be as current as possible.. If you picked up Thursday’s paper, you would have very little sense of how decisive Gov. Romney’s victory was in the debate because the wire story didn’t go there. 

OK, I love Showtime’s “Homeland” and I can usually suspend disbelief. But I found it hard to believe the director of the CIA’s counterterrorism unit would leave his room to be interviewed by a reporter and thereby allow Congressman Brody (Damian Lewis) time to secretly check out secret files in his office. Something even more implausible than that happens in Sunday’s stronger second episode.

The News has quietly pushed back the date it is going to charge for digital content to Oct. 29. There apparently are plenty of website problems to be ironed out before that could happen. Of course, anyone trying to navigate The News website knows that things aren’t running smoothly yet. It still is difficult to find stories.

Am I the only one surprised that the political ads for Chris Collins in his congressional race apparently only feature white people that he has hired giving testimonials? I realize the congressional district he is running in against incumbent Kathy Hochul probably doesn’t have many minorities, but wouldn’t you think he might have hired one or two? The line spoken by one woman that a Collins victory would mean “more jobs for people like me” unintentionally seems to have a double meaning.

pergament@msn.com 

 

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Bills Fans Can Relate to President’s “Listless” Performance

 

It was like watching the Buffalo Bills play the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter Sunday. Or the Bills play the New York Jets in the first quarter of the season-opener.

Republican Mitt Romney’s debate win over President Obama was so decisive Wednesday night that even the normally play-it-safe network commentators were unanimous in declaring victory and wondering why the President was so” listless.”

You knew it was over when NBC veteran Tom Brokaw said that he doesn’t like making judgments before adding that “Gov. Romney gladdened the hearts of a lot of Republican operatives.”

NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw.

Tom Brokaw: Made Reluctant Judgment

Earlier, Brokaw said “this is the candidate Republicans wanted to show up.”

Brokaw was pretty much joined in his assessment by NBC’s Chuck Todd and David Gregory, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and ABC’s Jake Tapper, PBS’ David Brooks and Mark Shields, CNN’s David Gergen and its entire panel and every post-debate analyst I heard.

Gregory said it looked like the President decided to play it safe because he “was decidedly unfeisty, not very crisp and coherent.”

Stephanopoulos, who worked for President Clinton before joining the news business, said “Gov. Romney was more crisp in his presentation” but added “there were no knockout punches.”

Todd said of Romney that “everything he had to accomplish he did… It was a big night for Romney. The President has to go back to the drawing board for the second debate.”

“This was the more authentic Romney,” said Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist who has been very critical of the Republican.

Tapper, who has covered the President for six or seven years, said he has seen him inspired and seen him flat and uninspired over that time. “Unfortunately for Obama, (the uninspired), that’s the Obama I saw tonight. Not a strong performance.”

The only person who had a worst performance was the debate moderator, PBS’ Jim Lehrer, who lost control of the debate at times and acted like a NFL replacement official.

Gergen noted that “by 2-1 margin everyone thought the President would win and he lost.” He speculated the President “was so surprised that Romney was just flat out lying” (in the President’s view) about Romney’s own position on some issues.

It wasn’t only what the President said, but the way he looked and what he didn’t say.

He didn’t look happy or confident and appeared to nod several times in agreement with his challenger. Meanwhile, Gov. Romney looked confident and happy to be in the ring, throwing punches that weren’t often returned.

The president didn’t hit hard enough on Romney’s claim that he wasn’t proposing a $5 trillion tax cut, which post-debate fact checkers said he essentially has proposed. He didn’t note how silly Gov. Romney’s vow to cut the budget of PBS and Big Bird was, since the federal money going to the Corporation of Public Broadcasting is a pittance. NBC’s Gregory and Savannah Guthrie also were among those astounded that the President didn’t bring up Romney’s 47 percent comment that has hurt the Republican candidate in the polls.

Most telling, was that Democratic strategist James Carville pretty much conceded Romney’s debate victory on CNN. The best he and another pro-Obama analyst on CNN could do was question whether the Romney win will look as good when people fact check his comments and note how much his debate positions differed from his position as the candidate.

The Romney win was so decisive that one didn’t even have to go over and listen to the Republican cheerleaders over at Fox News or the Democratic apologists over at MSNBC.

A CNN flash poll of registered voters who had watched the debate scored it for Romney, 67-25 percent. That made you wonder what debate the 25 percent were watching. Of course, the big unanswered question is whether the Romney win will change voters’ minds. Interestingly, 16 members of a CNN panel of undecided voters said they were influenced. Surprisingly, half decided to vote for the President and half for Gov. Romney.

Before the network analysts even got their say, many members of the public had their say on Twitter, where the President was getting hit harder than the Bills Mario Williams is getting hit on Buffalo sports talk shows.

Some of the comments from the people I follow were pretty funny.

Ann Coulter, the conservative pundit, cracked that Michelle Obama wanted to go home with Gov. Romney on her 20th wedding anniversary with the President.

Bill Maher, the liberal pundit, even reluctantly cracked that it looked like the President really did need a teleprompter.

I can’t wait to see what “Saturday Night Live” does with the President’s debate performance.

Of course, like the Bills, the President has a few more contests to become feistier and redeem himself. He probably has less than a 47 percent chance of making voters forget his listless performance Wednesday night.

pergament@msn.com

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Great Debate Predictions; CBS Makes Morning Move

 

With the presidential debate coming up tonight, it is time for some predictions about a contest in which President Obama is widely favored by several points and pundits.

Some wise pundit will say Republican Mitt Romney won just by appearing on the same stage as President Obama. All right, every wise pundit will say that.

Charles Krauthammer will tell Fox News viewers that Republican Mitt Romney won after the first question. 

CNN‘s David Gergen will say both men played to their bases. OK, every pundit will say that.

President Obama

Gov. Romney will say he has a plan to create 12 million jobs.

Borrowing a page from “The Price Is Right,” the president will say he has a plan to create 12 million and one jobs.

President Obama will tell Gov. Romney that he should pay off the national debt of 16 trillion dollars with a little help from his NASCAR owning friends.

Gov. Romney will tell the President he should have Jay-Z, Beyonce and George Clooney pay off the national debt.

If Romney performs badly, Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan will say it is a marathon and not a sprint and he can run a marathon in under two hours.

If Obama performs badly, Vice President Joe Biden will say he knew he should have played Romney in the mock debates instead of John Kerry.

Gov. Romney will say he will close tax loopholes to lower the debt but won’t say which ones.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

Gov. Romney

President Obama will suggest that Gov. Romney close the loopholes he used to lower his tax bill to 14 percent.

Forty-seven percent of viewers will fall asleep during the first hour. The other 53 percent will desperately look for an episode of “Jersey Shore.”

Republican Chris Christie will declare that he was right and that Gov. Romney changed the entire dynamic of the election. .

If the post-debate polls suggest the President won, Fox News pundits will declare the polls are out to lunch. Even the one that Fox News commissioned.

If the post-debate polls suggest Gov. Romney won, MSNBC pundits will say that’s because Chris Christie took all the Democrat voters out to lunch.

The cable networks will have focus groups of undecided voters who will be surprised to learn that Gov. Romney and President Obama are the candidates.

You read it here first. Take Romney and the points.

NBC’sRevolution” had a strong 8.1 rating on Channel 2 for its third episode, which qualifies it for a local hit. The rating was up about 15 percent from episode two. And more viewers undoubtedly will watch it On Demand. Those are unheard of ratings around here for a new NBC drama. NBC announced Tuesday that “Revolution,” Matthew Perry’s “Go On” and “The New Normal” will all have full 22-episode seasons. Perry’s show also is performing extremely well here.

ABC is laughably calling the new alien comedy “The Neighbors” a hit after one highly-rated episode after “Modern Family.” Let’s see how it does tonight after “The Middle” before declaring it a hit.

Not surprisingly, HBO has renewed “Boardwalk Empire” for a fourth season.

Something startling happened in the early morning hours on Buffalo TV that is almost tantamount to the Buffalo Bills ending their playoff drought.

“CBS This Morning” on Channel 4 almost beat ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Channel 7 last week. This is even more startling because nationally “GMA” has overtaken NBC’s “Today” at least temporarily.

Of course, Channel 7 doesn’t give ABC much help with its low-rated morning show as a lead-in. Channel 4′s “Wake Up” is a strong No. 2 here in the early morning, but that has been the story for a while. So CBS’ morning performance still is close to an amazing story.

Last week, “Today” (which gets a strong lead-in from Channel 2’s “Daybreak) was No. 1 with a 6.1 average rating on Channel 2. “GMA,” with co-anchor Robin Roberts on medical leave, averaged a 3.6, which was barely ahead of “CBS This Morning’s” 3.3 rating. And “This Morning” won Friday morning. For the month of September, CBS has the only network morning show here with higher ratings than it had a year ago.

“GMA” remained a strong No. 2 here for the month with a 4.2 average to a 2.8 for CBS’ program. But CBS’ morning program appears to have some local momentum for the first time in decades.

Why? I can only guess. Based on some unscientific surveys, some older viewers here are tired of the pop culture coverage that has dumbed down the NBC and ABC morning shows and have headed to CBS’ more newsy alternative format featuring Charlie Rose.

Of course, last week could be a temporary aberration. “GMA” was second by a comfortable margin on Monday.

pergament@msn.com

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Arena Off Ch. 4′s Noon; Brill Still Struggling

This is what I’m thinking

It sure looks like Channel 4 has made its decision to let “Wake Up” co-anchor Joe Arena go to a new job in Pittsburgh shortly rather than match the offer he received.

Arena was taken off the noon news this week. Nalina Shapiro anchored the noon news on Monday. That is about as close to an announcement from the station that Arena is leaving than we are bound to get for awhile. The station wouldn’t take that newscast away from Arena if it planned on keeping him. The question now is how long Channel 4 will keep Arena around before allowing him to leave.

Joe Arena: Looks Like a Goner

The Buffalo Bills sure gave their fans a lot of false hope Sunday in their 52-28 loss to the New England Patriots. The game averaged a season-high rating of 37, peaking with a 41.7 right around the time the Bills had a 21-7 lead. That means 41.7 percent of WNY homes were tuned in just before Tom Brady led the Pats to their huge comeback win.

OK, I might have been wrong when I suggested a while ago that Channel 4’s struggling weekend sports anchor Lauren Brill had some potential. On Sunday’s 6 p.m. newscast, she even got the score of the Bills game wrong. The rout was bad enough, but Brill tacked on six more Pat points and had the Bills losing 58-28. She would be wise to slow down while delivering highlights of Bills games because she also mangles a lot of words by going too fast.

I’ve seen the first three episodes of “The Good Wife” and can report that they involve interesting cases as the firm struggles for survival. I could do without Kalinda’s (Archie Panjabi) unusual sexual games with her estranged husband. Be warned: That story line – which seems to be an attempt to make the series look more like cable – continues for a few more episodes. By the way, the return of ABC’s “Revenge” hurt the  ratings of “The Good Wife” locally and nationally. “Revenge” had a 9.3 rating here on Channel 7, “The Good Wife” an 8.4. I expect “The Good Wife” to eventually take over and win the time slot.

The highest-rated Sunday non-sports program was “60 Minutes” (11.0) which featured Lesley Stahl’s extended interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger about his affairs before and after marrying Maria Shriver. Stahl was properly combative at times, noting that Shriver had given up her TV career for Schwarzenegger, who is now selling his autobiography. Schwarzenegger’s stunning egomaniacal performance is more worthy of being critiqued by a psychologist than a TV critic. Bill O’Reilly, hawking his own book about John F. Kennedy,  played amateur psychologist this morning on “Today,” telling Savannah Guthrie: “He’s crazy by the way (pause) for doing this.” Presumably, O’Reilly was referring to doing the Stahl interview and writing the book, not having the affairs.

I have this reaction to the announcement that Seth MacFarlane of “Family Guy” fame is going to host the Oscars on Feb. 24: Didn’t the people running the Oscars learn their lesson about trying to get the youth vote after the disaster in which Anne Hathaway and James Franco co-hosted? MacFarlane is a funny guy and a strong performer, as recently seen when he hosted “Saturday Night Live” a few weeks ago. But portions of his animated shows on Fox are awfully crude and taseteless. In other words, he couldn’t be further in style than Bob Hope, Johnny Carson or Billy Crystal. That’s why I can’t wait to see if he can pull off being respectful and tasteless at the same time.

Inquiring minds want to know: Are the local ratings for Katie Couric’s new talk show improving on Channel 7? Not consistently that’s for sure. Friday’s program had a 1.3 rating, which wasn’t good news for Eyewitness News at 5, which needs a stronger lead-in.

pergament@msn.com

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Johnston’s Departure Changes Morning Battleground

 

The news Friday that co-anchor Jodi Johnston will be leaving Channel 2’s top-rated “Daybreak” after the November sweeps throws into question what impact it will have on the local morning news wars.

Morning show anchors try to give the appearance of family and audiences are the slowest to look around for a new family to watch. It often takes an anchor change for people to start sampling.

Normally, that would mean Channel 4 or even Channel 7 would have a chance to capitalize on the pending departure of Johnston for a big public relations job at First Niagara.

Jodi Johnston: Looking for a New Normal

But things aren’t exactly normal at Channel 4 in the mornings, either. Victoria Hong left “Wake Up” after the July sweeps and co-anchor Joe Arena is expected to find out shortly if Channel 4 will allow him to leave for a job in Pittsburgh as expected.

That leaves Channel 7 with the stability award in the morning with Patrick Taney and Ginger Geoffery. However, the station’s morning show is so far back in third place that it is doubtful that its competitors’ changes will have much of an impact.

While Johnston has her detractors who read this blog, the No. 1 ratings for “Daybreak” illustrate how popular she is with most WNYers. 

That’s why Johnston’s departure is good news for Channel 4, which a few years ago lost its morning lead and now isn’t the only local station dealing with anchor changes.

Of course, Channel 2 has made much better decisions on hiring talent in recent months and years so there’s no reason to believe it won’t make a smart morning move to replace Johnston.

One of my more astute blog readers suggested that 10 p.m. anchor Melissa Holmes as a possible replacement for Johnston. Holmes worked in the mornings at Channel 4 before she bolted for Channel 2.  It is unclear if she would want the “Daybreak” job and its demanding hours or if she’d be willing to work the split shift that Johnston worked at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

But she would certainly be a strong candidate to compete against anyone from outside in Channel 2’s talent search. She also would have a similar young-old  dynamic as Johnston has with “Daybreak” co-anchor John Beard as long as he wants to stay around.

Heaven knows the hours can be killers.

I caught up with Johnston Saturday morning before she left her Amherst home (The News still thinks she lives in Hamburg) to play a tennis match in Delaware Park and asked her why she thinks so many people are leaving TV news.

“I think the industry is changing a lot,” said Johnston. “We’re working very hard and we have to be on (the air) when everyone is at home watching. No matter who you are we have unusual hours. It requires a sacrifice. Over a long time it is hard on families. That is why we go to quote the other side.”

The long list of anchors, reporters and producers “going to the other side” (public relations) in the last several years and looking for a normal life include Hong, former Channel 7 reporter Helen Tederous, former Channel 7 anchor Jean Hill, former Channel 2 and Empire Sports anchor Mike DeGeorge and former Channel 4 reporter Lorey Schultz.

Johnston, who is married and has an 8-year-old son Max, said she began thinking about leaving TV after her son began swimming competitively and playing baseball in the spring.

“I was missing out on a lot,” said Johnston.

Channel 2 tried to keep her but she said management was “wonderful” and understood her quest for a normal life. To those wondering why she just didn’t stay and only co-anchor the 5 p.m. news, Johnston said that wouldn’t have worked for the station or for her.

”The best place for me was the morning,” said Johnston.

She gets a fancy title at First Niagara, which began talking to her a few months ago.

Though I wrote Friday she would be the face of the bank, I didn’t mean that literally.

She said doing commercials “is not part of the plan right now for me. My job is to tell the story of First Niagara to the community” through press releases and public relations content delivered to the community.

I give it about six months before she starts doing bank commercials and even longer before we find out if her departure will help Channel 2’s competitors.

pergament@msn.com

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Jodi Johnston Leaving Ch.2 To Become Face of First Niagara

Channel 2 “Daybreak” and 5 p.m. anchor Jodi Johnson is leaving the station after the November sweeps to take a job in private banking.

Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner made the announcement to his staff this morning.

Jodi Johnston: Leaving for Bankers Hours

Johnson has been at the station for a dozen years, working a split shift.

She is the latest news reporter or anchor who will be leaving the field to take a job in media relations. She is headed to First Niagara, where she is expected to be the face and spokesperson for the bank. (According to a First Niagara release, Johnston’s official title is director of corporate media relations and first vice president, responsible for managing external communications strategy and execution). Victoria Hong left her job as morning co-anchor at Channel 4 this summer for a similar job in media relations at Delaware North.

Johnston most likely had tired of a work schedule that required her to get up at 3 in the morning for years and left for a job that should give her more of a normal family life.

In a telephone conversation late Friday, Johnston acknowledged the hours were part of her decision but added her First Niagara job “was a great opportunity at a great company.”  

Toellner said the station has a few months to find Johnston’s replacement because she will be working at the station through November. 

“We’ll take our time and we will find the right person,” said Toellner.  

pergament@msn.com

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“Homeland” Still Qualifies As Compelling Viewing

 

Showtime’s “Homeland” has a tough act to follow this Sunday.

After winning Emmys on Sunday for best drama, best writing, best dramatic actor (Damian Lewis) and best actress (Claire Danes), the big question is can the second season about a domestic terrorist masquerading as a war hero be as strong and involving as the first?

The answer after the first two episodes is a qualified no. It would be too much to ask of “Homeland” or any other award-winning series.

That is especially true with a series with the fresh premise of “Homeland,” which slowly revealed the unique characteristics of the series leads.

Claire Danes

We know who they are and why they are compelled to do what they do now. The mysteries this season are whether the characters can continue to pull their acts off and whether viewers will buy into a scary Middle East crisis in the series that so far hasn’t happened in the real world.

Sunday’s episode is the weaker of the first two made available for review as it resets the premise. Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Lewis), who escaped detection last season, is now looking more and more like a Manchurian Candidate.

He is a U.S. Congressman and prospective Vice Presidential candidate with access to information that can help the evil terrorist he befriended during his time as a war prisoner. His home life with his beautiful wife (Morena Baccarin) temporarily seems a bit more stable but that can’t last long. Carrie Mathison (Danes), the bipolar CIA agent who was unable to prove that Brody was a domestic terrorist, is out of a mental hospital and working in the safe field of teaching that can keep her sane.

Just when they appear to be out of their respective missions, they are both pulled back in. Ironically, Brody is much more trusted than Carrie is. After the set-up episode this Sunday, they are put in tense situations in the second episode on Oct. 7 that suggests “Homeland” just might be able to reclaim its edge-of-the-seat reputation after all.

For those viewers who are new to the award-winning series, “Showtime” is offering a marathon of season one on Saturday that highlights the terrific acting and wonderful storytelling.

Here’s a warning to first-timers. Based on an Israeli series and created by the team that gave us “24,” “Homeland” requires a healthy dose of suspenseful of disbelief at times.

That seemed to be a less of a requirement last season than it does in the first two episodes this year, when some of the circumstances that give Brody access to important information seem ridiculously implausible.

Brody’s relationship with his teenage daughter also threatens to invite comparison to the heavily ridiculed one involving Jack Bauer and his daughter in “24.”

However, those are minor concerns.  Even if it doesn’t appear to be as fresh as season one, “Homeland” is still solid, compelling TV entertainment.

Rating: 3 and a half stars out of 4

pergament@msn.com

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“Resort,” “Elementary” Worth a Look

Andre Braugher: Commands Your Attention in “Resort”

 

As I wrote earlier this week, the pilot of ABC’s new drama “The Last Resort” premiering at 8 tonight on Channel 7 is terrific.

However, this series — with a title that has a double meaning — probably has as much chance of succeeding as the NFL has in convincing people the right call was made on the final play of the Seattle-Green Bay game Monday night.

That’s because the series co-created by Shawn Ryan (“The Shield” and “The Unit”) starring Andre Braugher as the commander of a nuclear submarine is as confusing as the NFL rule book.

Some of Oliver Stone’s conspiracy theories make more sense than the pilot, which is loaded with confusing situations featuring multiple characters involved in a conspiracy that appears to have been launched by some people at the top levels of the American government.

Despite the confusion – or because of it – the pilot is an intensely involving, mind-blowing hour that ends up delivering different views about what is patriotic.

Braugher, whose career-defining role was in Tom Fontana’s “Homicide: Life on the Street,” gets to chew the scenery as Marcus Chaplin, the strong principled leader of a sub. He doesn’t anticipate being involved in any war games, but as quickly as you can sing “LaBamba,” his world and that of his crew is turned upside down.

Braugher’s right-hand man is played by the handsome Scott Speedman, the Canadian actor best known for his role in “Felicity.”

Old pros Robert Patrick and Bruce Davison and Autumn Reeser also are aboard the pilot, which has multiple settings – on the sub, on a remote NATO island that looks like Paradise and in Washington, D.C.

It also has multiple story lines involving conspiracies, romances and sexism. “Resort” is the type of show that requires secrecy about the plot. Just be warned that not everything is explained and that it could take 30 minutes after it is over to try and figure out what is happening or has happened.

My advice: Go along for the beautiful looking ride, even though I don’t expect it to last too long. Rating: 3 stars

The second much-talked about series premiering at 10 tonight on Channel 4 is CBS’ “Elementary,” a new take on Sherlock Holmes.

I wanted to love it because it co-stars Jonny Lee Miller, who is best known for playing an eccentric lawyer in ABC’s “Eli Stone” (and before that being married to Angelina Jolie). He plays a modern-day Sherlock and is even allowed to use his English accent to display Sherlock’s charm and humor while battling addiction issues. His co-star as a dryly humorous Watson and champion of lost causes (she’s a Mets fan) is Lucy Liu. Aidan Quinn plays the New York police captain, who has worked with Holmes for a decade or so.

Jonny Lee Miller: The Latest Sherlock

Viewers expecting early fireworks in this premise pilot about the crime-solving detective and his shadow might be disappointed. There is a trip to an opera, an intentional car accident, and some decent comic lines. It is all agreeable enough and the format is made for a weekly series, but the Mets have more chemistry than this pair. Rating: 3 stars

If Buffalo is any indication, NBC has a couple of hits in the making. Matthew Perry’s “Go On” had an impressive 8.6 rating Tuesday on Channel 2. That’s a very healthy rating for the local NBC affiliate. “Revolution” had a 7.0 rating in its second episode Monday. That is about a 30 percent drop from the premiere but it beat first-run episodes of CBS’ “Hawaii 5-0” (6.6) on Channel 4 and ABC’s “Castle” (6.0) on Channel 7.

ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” seems to have lost some of its local appeal, with the first All-Star edition getting an 11.3 Monday and the first results show a 8.9. NBC’s “The Voice” had an 11.0 on Monday and a 9.2 on Tuesday.

The big winner in the first two days of the week was “NCIS,” which opened its new season at 8 p.m. Tuesday with a 17.6 rating that likely will be the highest-rated entertainment series of the week. Dennis Quaid’s new series “Vegas” kept most of the lead-in from “NCIS: Los Angeles” (11.6) and corralled a decent but unspectacular 11.0 rating at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The Fox comedies premiering Tuesday, “Ben & Kate” (3.3) and “The Mindy Project” (3.9) had weak openings locally on Channel 29.

Of course, it takes more than a few weeks to determine hits, but NBC is doing much better here so far than it has in season’s past.

Line of the morning courtesy of “Good Morning America’s” Josh Elliott after the ABC morning program led with the settling of the NFL lockout of officials: “It’s good to know they’ll never ever be another bad call in the NFL.”

My favorite piece about the officiating crisis was in the humorous online series of Hitler parodies of current events that ends with the evil madman longing for referee Ed Hochuli.

When the real officials go on the field for tonight’s NFL Network game between Cleveland and Baltimore it might be the first time in NFL history that the referees will be cheered.

Finally, sorry for the delay in today’s blog. The server was down and took a while to fix.

pergament@msn.com

filed under: Uncategorized

Ch.4′s Owner Asking Unhappy Staffers for Feedback

Jacob Artist: “Glee” star

 Channel 4 news viewers aren’t the only ones upset at the dismantling of the former No.1 news department.

So are Channel 4 workers.

Morale is so low at the station that WIVB-TV’s corporate owner, LIN TV, sent a private firm to the Elmwood Avenue studio last week to conduct focus groups about the unhappiness.

According to multiple sources, LIN sent the firm here as a follow-up after the Buffalo station received some of the lower scores among about 30 LIN stations in a summer survey asking employees to candidly evaluate operations at the station.

The same sources said that employees who attended the two days of focus groups were told to be candid and not to worry that whatever they said would be held against them.

“It sounds like they are seriously trying to find out what’s wrong,” said a Channel 4 insider.

The main target of employees’ wrath was News Director Joe Schlaerth, who multiple sources said was hammered for his management style. I’m told that words like “verbally abusive” and “bully” were thrown around in the private sessions and afterwards when staffers got together to openly discuss what they said.

“We all said the same things and we didn’t even talk to each other (before hand),” said one insider.

“(The conversation about Schlaerth) was very frank and brutal,” said another insider. “Things have to change.”

Schlaerth has presided over the exodus of several veteran on-air and behind-the-scenes staffers in the last few years including Mylous Hairston, Lorey Schultz, Melissa Holmes, Paul Peck, John Murphy, Michele McClintick and Victoria Hong. And morning co-anchor Joe Arena also is expected to leave shortly for a job in Pittsburgh.

They’ve left for a variety of reasons, personal and professional, and the television industry is changing and becoming less attractive to work in so it can’t all be blamed on Schlaerth’s management style. Of course, bosses often aren’t typically loved and Schlaerth does have supporters. But insiders said that Schlaerth is being criticized for a variety of things, including taking credit for the Emmy Awards won by staffers.

Sources said that Chris Musial, the station’s general manager, also got his share of criticism during the focus groups, which also included some petty details such as the elimination of the station’s annual Christmas party.

It is hard to know whether the input will lead to anything, but the feelings that many Channel 4 news staffers have about their boss is no longer a secret.

 That Williamsville South graduate, Jacob Artist, looks more and like a star after he was showcased in the the second episode of “Glee” last week.

The only people probably not happy to see The NFL Network finally make it to Time Warner Cable are in the business offices of WBBZ-TV and WGR-AM. More people may watch the Bills-Miami Thursday game on the network on cable than on WBBZ now. And the NFLN’s early Sunday morning pregame shows probably will take some viewers away from WGR’s early morning pregame shows.

The NFL Network coverage of the blown call in Monday night’s game won by Seattle over Green Bay was highly critical of the officials, which indicates that the league allows its reporters and anchors freedom to speak their minds. The controversy was one of the top two or three stories on Tuesday night’s network news, which should embarrass the league if it is capable of being embarrassed.

Worth noting: The Buffalo News recent hiring of Sarasota Herald Tribune executive editor Mike Connelly as the editor who will replace Margaret Sullivan got me thinking about the last time the paper’s news department was run by someone who hadn’t previously worked at The News. I’m not a News historian and I don’t know the exact answer, but I do know it is easily the first time in more than 40 years since both Murray B. Light and Margaret Sullivan were named editor after having worked at the paper in other capacities. It will be interesting to see if Connelly’s fresh eyes will lead to any significant changes in coverage at the newspaper or if he will just manage the status quo.

Wondering what all the fuss is about regarding “Homeland,” which won the Emmy Sunday for best drama? Showtime plans to run a marathon of the entire first season starring Emmy winners Damian Lewis and Claire Danes on Saturday, a day before the second season premiere.

I wasn’t shocked Tuesday when the Bills sent good guy punter Brian Moorman packing. After another lousy kick in Sunday’s game, I tweeted “what’s wrong with Moorman this year?” or something to that effect. He also had a lousy game against the Jets, which I blogged about in my column about what a loud mouth I was on the plane ride home from New York City.

pergament@msn.com

filed under: Uncategorized
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