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Ch.2′s Hayes Leaves Goodbye Present for Viewers

This is what I’m thinking:

Channel 2 backup sports anchor-reporter Ben Hayes has left the station for a job in North Carolina outside the business but not before leaving a goodbye present for viewers.

Ben Hayes: Emmy in Future?

His 9-minute Tuesday piece, “One Big Loss, One Grand Win,” about the Grand Island High School baseball team’s comeback victory in a state playoff game to honor a former coach who died, as well as his son on the team, looks like a shoo-in for a New York State Emmy.

It was a poignant story that was beautifully told and photographed and deserved the time it took to tell with interviews with players and the team’s coach.

BTW, Channel 2 plans to replace Hayes and continue to have twice as many on-air sports staffers as rivals Channel 4 and Channel 7. When sports director John Murphy departs next week to host a Bills program on WGR-AM, Channel 4 will only have newcomer Steve Vesey as an on-air sports staffer unless it quickly hires Murphy’s replacement. And with Bills training camp about to start it isn’t a good time to be short-staffed.

Not even the second coming of Judge Simon Cowell probably could save “American Idol” in Buffalo from further decline. The Fox series finished 16th and 17th in Buffalo during the May sweeps, just a few spots ahead of NBC’s “Harry’s Law,” which has been canceled. The departures of judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez from the show have given “Idol” a new round of publicity because of all the speculation about their replacements. But there isn’t anyone out there who can bring viewers back anywhere but in the South, where most of the best singers have come from in the last several seasons.

John DiSciullo, Mr. Channel 7, has left for WBBZ but his voice is still hanging around. You can still hear him on station promos and announcements.

Inquiring minds want to know: How did the premiere of the AMC series, “Breaking Bad,” about a chemistry teacher (played by Bryan Crnaston) gone terribly bad do here? It set national ratings records, but only had a 1.5 rating here “Longmire,” which was carried on A&E at the same time, had more than double the rating at 3.3. “Bad” lost me a few seasons back when the violence level went off the charts but it has become increasingly popular with younger viewers and today was nominated for an Emmy as last season’s best drama.

So much for the idea that Channel 4 might keep anchor Emily Guggenmos on “Wake Up” because morning ratings spiked in July during her two-week run. She was back on nights this week, with Nalina Shapiro in her place in the morning. Apparently, the plan was to give each of them a two-week tryout. (THIS JUST IN: Guggenmos is expected back in the morning anchor seat on Friday.)

While the Buffalo Bills have opted out of the 85 Percent Blackout Rule this season, it doesn’t necessarily mean that games that are close to sellouts won’t be televised. I’ve been told that as in seasons past, Channel 4 or some sponsor could buy the remaining tickets of games that are close to being sold out so they can be televised. Since Channel 4 makes between $100,000-$150,000 a game in advertising revenue, you might think it would find a way to get any games close to a sellout on.

How dumb does local TV news think viewers are? I’ve seen some stories reminding viewers that it is a good idea to drink water when it gets really hot. Really? I suppose when it gets really cold this winter viewers will be reminded that it is a good idea to wear hats and gloves.

Talk about the dumbing down of education. A local amusement park is running ads that tell prospective customers that students with a C average or better can get a discount. A C average!!!!  In other words, they probably have to be reminded to drink plenty of water if they come to the park on a 90 degree day.



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Political Leanings of Local Media May Surprise You


There’s no debating that TV viewers either loved or hated former Channel 2 reporter Stefan Mychajliw.

To his supporters, he was a reporter who was an aggressive seeker of the truth. To his detractors, he is even more obnoxious and irritating than some of his public relations clients.

The former Channel 2 reporter was back on the station earlier this year after leaving the news business to do public relations for such unpopular clients as former Buffalo Schools Superintendent James Williams, former County Executive Chris Collins and the Niagara County SPCA.

Some people reading my blog back then about Mychajliw’s participation in the debate show “2 Sides with (Kristy) Mazurek and Mychajliw” questioned whether he would have a conflict of interest by being involved in such a show. After all, he was an advocate, not an objective reporter.

You had to wonder if those people ever watch CNN, Fox, MSNBC or any of the networks that debate political issues. Columnists on the left and the right are on those shows all the time. In some ways, it is better to know their politics than to pretend journalists don’t favor one party or the other.

That is especially true in a presidential election year, when the issue of reporters and opinion makers and their politics is more noteworthy.

Take a Buffalo News opinion page in January, which dealt with President Obama’s State of the Union address. On the top of the page, a column written by Charles Krauthammer ran with the headline “State of the Union was a flop.” Below it, Susan Estrich’s column was headlined… “or it was Clintonesque.”

Don Postles: Once Approached by GOP

Wouldn’t it be better if Krauthammer was identified as the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist who is considered a conservative and is a frequent critic of President Obama, and if Estrich was identified as a Democrat?

When Mychajliw returned to Channel 2, at least viewers knew what they get. “Two Sides” openly featured one former newsperson (Mazurek) who works for the Democratic party and another (Mychajliw) who has worked for Republicans and eventually left the program to run for Erie County Comptroller as a Republican. As long as viewers know that going in, there is nothing wrong with that in that format.

However, Mychajliw’s work in public relations required him to avoid talking about certain things involving his clients or he wouldn’t have gotten any more clients. His resignation from the Niagara County SPCA for ethical reasons after a harsh report came out about conditions there might have scared away potential clients who expect the people they hire to at the very least keep quiet after a breakup. He declined to give any opinions about the SPCA story when it was discussed on the program.   

It probably would be hard for either Mazurek or Mychajliw to ever return to doing objective news reporters again, though not impossible.

Nationally, ABC’s Diane Sawyer once worked for President Nixon, a Republican. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos worked for President Clinton, a Democrat. The late Tim Russert of NBC News worked for Gov. Mario Cuomo and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, both Democrats.  Their objectivity is (or in Russert’s case was) rarely questioned. Locally, Channel 2’s Scott Brown left the station years ago to work for Democrats Dennis Gorski and Eliot Spitzer and eventually returned to the station.

Interestingly, the majority of Buffalo reporters and anchors that have left the business to work in politics belie the widespread perception that the media consists of wide-eyed liberals.

As mentioned before Mychajliw was once the mouthpiece for former County Executive Chris Collins, a Republican. Lynne Dixon, another former Channel 2 reporter, is now a Republican member of the Erie County Legislature. When Lorey Schultz left Channel 4 to work for Mayor Brown she confirmed that the Democratic Brown administration liked the fact that she is a Republican. Channel 4 anchor Don Postles, an independent, was once approached to run for office as a Republican. Channel 2 anchor Scott Levin was once approached to run by Republicans as well.

The talk show hosts on WBEN-AM, Sandy Beach and Tom Bauerle, constantly spew the Republican party line along with the national talkers on that right wing station. Kevin Hardwick, a former WBEN weekend talk show host, is a member of the Erie County Legislature. He is a Republican.

The story in the Buffalo News about the pending departure of News editor Margaret Sullivan, who is becoming the public editor of the New York Times, led to several online readers unfairly endorsing the view that the newspaper is full of liberal reporters and columnists. Those comments fail to take into account that the paper’s editorial stance doesn’t reflect the views of many reporters who are far more conservative than readers might realize.  

So the next time you hear Newt Gingrich or some other Republican trot out the defense that the liberal media is out to get them, remember what the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill once said about all politics being local.

Locally, it doesn’t appear that TV viewers have to worry about the liberal media as much as they do a conservative Republican agenda. And I wouldn’t even worry about that.


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Bills Should Have Stood Up to Defend Themselves

Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills passing ...

Ryan Fitzpatrick: Should He Make More Than Ralph?


The Buffalo Bills surprised me Friday when they announced via the Buffalo News that they weren’t going to buy into the NFL’s new 85 Percent Blackout Rule.

It wasn’ the decision that surprised me. It was a very bad deal for small market teams designed to appease Congress and the FCC.

The NFL is a Secret Society so we don’t know what the vote among owners was in May, several weeks before it was announced. My guess is that the Bills, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and San Diego — which have all opted out — voted against it because it would have cost them either season ticket sales or other ticket revenue.

The timing of the Bills announcement is what surprised me. I would have thought the decision would have come down late Friday afternoon or early Friday evening to avoid giving fodder to all the talk show hosts that day. Saturday also is one of  the lowest circulation days of the News.

I should note that I’ve been a Bills season ticketholder since Jim Kelly arrived and I feared the team would leave back then because of lack of ticket sales.

 I should add that I usually sell the December games via the NFL Ticket Exchange because my adult children have left the area, my youngest son isn’t a big Bills fan, my girlfriend lives out of town, and, most importantly, I don’t want to freeze to death.

I’m sure I am not alone. If the 85 Percent Rule were in place here, my season ticket days would be over.

Buffalo News columnist Donn Esmonde is a friend of mine and made some good points in a Sunday column against the Bills decision but we couldn’t disagree more about this issue. The Bills decision not to accept the new policy isn’t about the $500,000 they could lose if the blacked out games were televised, it is about the millions they would lose in season ticket sales if ticket buyers like me would abandon them if the new blackout rule had been accepted.

And if enough abandon them, the team could have justification to abandon Buffalo. As far as the estimated profit of $20 million that Owner Ralph Wilson may have made in 2009,  that sounds like a lot. But isn’t he entitled to make a profit on his enormous annual investment? Shouldn’t the owner make a lot more than the $16 million or $17 million that free agent Mario Williams may make in a year or the $9 million that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick makes in a year?  

The Bills should have done a better job explaining their position. Instead, they took a page out of the Buffalo Sabres playbook. The Sabres ended the season without a season-ending press conference, thereby preventing the media from ganging up on the team executives for failing to make the playoffs.

The Bills gave their decision to The News and then got out of town without holding a press conference.

From a public relations standpoint, I understand the press conference decision. The team might have thought they had little to gain and much to lose by taking questions about why they decided to reject a rule that would have allowed home games to be televised if 85 percent of the 60,000 non-premium tickets were sold. After all, such press conferences often deteriorate into piling on by media members out to show they can ask the tough questions.

But if I were the Bills I would have had a press conference to shut up Congressman Brian Higgins and WBEN talk show host Sandy Beach, who have been thrown for a loss by facts in the situation.

Let’s hope Higgins takes his job much more seriously and does his homework when the political issues are much more important than this one. Almost every time he opened his mouth on an issue, his facts were wrong or silly. At one point, he thought the 85 percent rule applied to all seats in Ralph Wilson Stadium instead of the non-premium seats.

He also claimed the Bills could gain more in stadium advertising by carrying the games than they would lose in ticket revenue, an unproven claim that belies the facts that advertising revenue is minimal for small market teams and high ratings here don’t add much to the NFL’s ratings average.

He also suggested the Bills fan base could increase with more games on TV, a laughable claim considering 12 or more regular season games and a few preseason games are carried each season and radio, TV and the Buffalo News give the team mountains of free advertising in their coverage of the team. By now, you are either a Bills fan or you will never be one.

Beach did his usual inflammatory act on the Bills decision Friday. The one good thing about it was that he wasn’t focused on slamming President Obama for one afternoon by spouting his ridiculous political claims to an audience that supports them even though the administration’s policies mostly benefit them over the wealthy.

But that’s another story. On Friday, Beach also claimed the Bills stand to lose more money on advertising than they would in ticket sales if they games were televised. It’s a claim that ignores Buffalo’s market size.

He wasn’t the only WBEN talk show host spouting ridiculous claims. Ron Dobson, filling in for Tom Bauerle in the morning, was pretty fair in his presentation of the plusses and minuses for the Bills. But he told one caller questioning wondering if the Bills could get revenue from away games if an opponent accepted the 85 Percent Rule that it was a good question.

It was a stupid question. The Bills would get their share of a larger revenue pool if they play a home team  like Tampa Bay that has accepted  the rule, and more than 85 percent of tickets are sold.

The one politician who was the voice of reason was Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who is in lease renewal negotiations with the Bills, has seen their revenue figures and knows what a competitive disadvantage they are in a league dominated by big market teams.

Poloncarz noted that ticket revenue for Bills games in Toronto is practically three times what it is at the Ralph — $7 million to $2.5 million – because ticket prices are so low here. While many people cite the stadium size at the Ralph as a reason for televising games that aren’t sold out, the truth is the stadium needs to be large here for competitive reasons to increase game day revenue.

Of course, Poloncarz also is being fair because he is going to have to sell to taxpayers the idea of giving the team millions for stadium renovations to keep the team. That may be unpopular with taxpayers who don’t realize that’s the price the area the team has to pay for being in the major leagues.

One other guy who seemed to understand that the 85 Percent Rule was a bad deal for the Bills is Matt Sabuda, the president of the Buffalo Fan Alliance, which has driven the charge for blackout changes. Sabuda, who has emailed me a few times to praise my take on the issue, took the reasonable view in the Buffalo News that the rule isn’t “tailored for small markets like Buffalo.”

Channel 2 reporter Dave McKinley also did a fair piece Friday on the Bills decision – until the end of it that is.

At the end, McKinley said “if the Bills put a contender on the field, we’d probably not even” (be having the conversation.)

That ignores Bills history. Remember when the Bills beat the Houston Oilers, 41-38, in overtime in the miracle comeback playoff game in 1993?

Played during the Bills’ heyday on a 45 degree day n January, the game wasn’t a sellout and was blacked out locally. Of course, the stadium had more seats then and attendance was 75,141. But considering it was a playoff game and the Bills went on to another Super Bowl that year, you might have thought the team could have sold 100,000 tickets.

More than likely December and January games will continue to be tough sells here because of the winter weather and the fact that there aren’t enough season tickeholders to give the team a head start in getting sellouts.

Will that change this year if the Bills are as good as many expect them to be? I’m doubtful. The signing of Mario Williams, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Stevie Johnson to rich contracts doesn’t seem to have moved the season ticket needle all that much.

Bills fans should realize they better put up their money to show that this is a great football town that appreciates being in an exclusive NFL club or shut up on talk shows in which hosts take unfair but popular stands.


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Ch.4′s Guggenmos Makes Early Morning Impression

In just two weeks, Channel 4’s Emily Guggenmos is making a case to remain the co-anchor of the station’s early morning program “Wake Up!”

Channel 4 has won every day over Channel 2’s “Daybreak” at 6 a.m. except for July 4th (which doesn’t count in the sweeps) and July 11th in the first two weeks of the sweeps since the newcomer has moved into Victoria Hong’s seat.

Halfway through the July ratings period – which is the least important of the four during the year – “Wake Up” with Joe Arena and Guggenmos is ahead of “Daybreak,” which is co-anchored by John Beard and Jodi Johnston and has recently been No. 1 in the time slot.

Emily Guggenmos: Ratings Up for "Wake Up"

Channel 4 has averaged a 4.9 rating at 6 a.m., up from a 4.4 a year ago. Channel 2 is averaged a 4.6 rating, down from a leading 5.0 a year ago. Channel 7 remains deep in third place with a 2.0 rating, down from a 2.3 a year ago.

Of course, viewing patterns in the summer differ from those in the winter. Channel 4’s lead could just mean viewers are sampling the program again after an anchor change. However, ratings often go down after anchor changes.

Channel 4 is taking an early ratings hit at noon, where Hong used to split anchor duties with Arena. The station is still No. 1 with a 6.4 rating to Channel 7’s 4.6. A year ago, Channel 4’s lead was 8.1-4.4 but its noon viewership has been slipping for a while.

The rest of the figures for the first two weeks are mostly in line with recent results – with Channel 2 winning at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., Channel 4 ahead at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and Channel 7 deep in third place.

At 5 p.m., Channel 7 hit an average of 2.7, down from an already low average of 3.4 a year ago. In other words, its rivals get a bigger audience at 6 a.m. than Channel 7 gets at 5 p.m.

At 10 p.m., Channel 4 and Channel 2 are practically right where they were a year ago before Diana Fairbanks took over as the anchor of Channel 4’s newscast on WNLO and Melissa Holmes went over to anchor Channel 2’s 10 p.m. newscast on WNYO.

Channel 2′s digital channel, which also is carried on Channel 114 on Time Warner Cable, is carrying Antenna TV’s 21-hour salute to the late Ernest Borgnine, who starred in the classic TV series “McHale’s Navy.”

The suggestions by Congressman Brian Higgins that the Buffalo Bills would benefit by accepting the new 85 percent blackout rule because more people could see the team’s stadium advertising and there would be more opportunity to grow the fan base by televising the games seemed like quite a stretch even before the Bills announced they weren’t going to accept the new policy.

As a small market team, the Bills probably don’t get that much money in stadium advertising to lose anyway. And with all the road games being televised, several home games sold out annually in time to be televised and all the free publicity the team gets on TV and in print, carrying a few more games a season is unlikely to grow the fan base much if at all.

It was a tough call for the Bills, who told the Buffalo News today that they weren’t going to accept the new policy. It would have been an upset if they opted to accept the rule. They would have been wise to have explained away Higgins’ suggestions.

As I’ve written before, the initial suggestion in early stories that the policy would help small market teams like the Bills was misguided. The rule really hurts small market teams, who don’t have the benefit of selling games out via season tickets as many large market teams do. In my view, the Bills made the right safer call. It may anger some fans and columnists in the short term, but in the long run it could prevent declining ticket sales that would threaten the ability of the franchise to stay here for seasons to come.   


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Ch.2′s Sad Treatment of Sad Story

It was easy to think of County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s recent critique of the media Wednesday while watching Channel 2’s 11 p.m. newscast.

Near the top of the newscast, co-anchors Maryalice Demler and Scott Levin introduced a story, “Erin’s Legacy,” in which the parents of a young girl recently killed in a car accident on Maple Road talked about her life, the support they have received from the community and their plans to honor her.

It is a very sad story. And Channel 2’s initial handling of it was a sad commentary that highlighted all of Poloncarz’s recent criticism of the mistakes on TV news.

First, Levin said the accident occurred “a little more than a month ago.” Then he changed it to about a year ago.

After one of the anchors noted that the parents of 13-year-old Erin Suszynski were speaking for the first time, the station put up a frozen image of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. (I am tempted to say the words “frozen” and “image” are redundant in the case of Romney, but I don’t want to be accused of being a liberal again.)

Levin then noted the station was having “obvious difficulties” and then said “we’re told we have it. We have it? We don’t have it.”

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that it was pretty hard to suppress laughter at Channel 2’s mishandling of the very serious story.

Several minutes later, the station carried the heartwarming story by reporter Sarah Hopkins, who noted that the accident occurred a month ago. In other words, Levin was originally right before he corrected himself and mistakenly said it happened a year ago.

Scott Levin: Timing Problems

Romney also eventually appeared in a clip in which he was booed by a NAACP audience for advocating the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, which he calls Obamacare.

Levin added that despite being booed by the audience some analysts felt “Romney’s appearance in and of itself makes a difference.”

Huh? What did that mean? Please explain.

It was a night that Channel 2 deserved to be booed as well.

In nine days, WBBZ’s “Buffalo Night in America” will air on the independent station from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Jim Brinson, the former Empire Sports Network anchor, and former Channel 4 anchor Mylous Hairston will co-host the July 21st celebration, which is expected to include streaming video from 15 cities in the country with strong Buffalo contingents. Legendary radio personalities Danny Neaverth and Joey Reynolds also will be involved in the broadcast.

Down the road, the station plans a couple of sports shows. At 7 p.m. Mondays during the Buffalo Bills season WBBZ will carry a 30-minute live studio program tied to the National Football League team’s game the night before. At 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, station executive and former Channel 7 sports anchor Bob Koshinski will host a 30-minute sports talk show that will include a weekly guest.

 Speaking of sports, the National League’s 8-0 win over the American League in the All-Star game had a weak 4.5 rating on Channel 29, the local Fox affiliate, down from a 4.6 a year ago. That means 4.5 percent of area households were tuned in. To put that in perspective, New York Yankee games on WBBZ average about a 3 rating.

The Pacific Coast League’s 3-0 win over the International League in the Triple A All-Star game Wednesday at Coca-Cola Field had a .4 rating (that’s four-tenths of a ratings point) on cable’s MLB Network. In other words, more WNYers were at the sold-out ball park than watched on TV at home.


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T.O. in Perry’s Pilot; “Revolution” Makes Baseball History


T.O., TV star?

I started watching the pilots for the new fall broadcast TV shows this week, plopped in the DVD for the new Matthew Perry series “Go On” (his third series attempt since “Friends”) and who pops up late in the episode but Terrell Owens.

The former Buffalo Bills wide receiver appeared in a cameo as a guest on the fictional sports radio talk show hosted by Perry’s character, Ryan King.

Matthew Perry at the 62nd Primetime Emmy Award...

Matthew Perry: Stars in NBC's "Go On"

All goes well until the end when Perry’s character goes postal after he sees Owens texting while driving his SUV after he leaves the studio.

He starts throwing things at Owens’ car and then tosses an insult at Owens that appears to be directed at the former superstar being cut in late May by an Indoor Football League team even though the pilot might have been filmed before then.

I won’t quote the line, other than to say King suggests that Owens may end up playing in something called the International Bunny League. The scene shows that at least Owens has a sense of humor about his recent problems.

The mildly amusing “Go On” isn’t the only NBC show with a sports component. In the pilot of the predictably stereotypical “Guys with Kids,” former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shows up as the date of the ex-wife of one of the guys.

But the most bizarre sports reference occurs in the pilot of the confusing futuristic NBC drama “Revolution” from J.J. Abrams. In the distance, some characters are in Chicago, pass Wrigley Field and see a banner that notes the Cubs are the 2012 World Series champions.

The writers better get to rewrite quickly. The Cubbies are presently in fifth place in the Central Division of the National League with a record of 33-52 and haven’t a prayer of qualifying for the postseason.

At the very least, they can change the banner to read the 2013 World Series champions.

I’ll give my assessments of the winners and losers of the upcoming TV season down the road after I finish watching them all or at least most of them.



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“Wheel,” “Jeopardy!” Moving to Channel 4

Alex Trebek, Pat Sajak and Vanna White will be on the move for the first time ever in Western New York.

“Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” mainstays on Channel 7 in the 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. syndicated hour Monday through Friday, are headed to Channel 4 this September, according to industry insiders.

The move — which was decided about a year or so ago — appears to be another cost-cutting measure by the owners of WKBW-TV, which also have dropped the popular game shows in Syracuse.

060208-N-3153C-088 Culver City, Calif. - Telev...

Pat Sajak: Ch.7 Run Ends

“WKBW wouldn’t pay the money,” said one local industry insider.

In its place, Channel 7 plans to air “Extra” and “Access Hollywood,” two less expensive entertainment news programs. “Access Hollywood” currently airs on Channel 4 after “Inside Edition.” “Extra” has been running in the early morning hours on Channel 2.

Channel 4 is expected to air “Jeopardy” and “Wheel” in the same 7 p.m. hour that they have been running on Channel 7 for almost 30 years.

“Wheel,” which was created by Merv Griffin, went into syndication in 1983, a year before it was paired with “Jeopardy!” when it went into syndication.

It is unclear what Channel 4 plans to do with “Inside Edition,” though it could move to its sister station WNLO-TV.

“Jeopardy” and “Wheel” are no longer the local ratings powerhouses they once were, partly due to the overall decline of Channel 7’s news audience that used to provide a strong lead-in to ABC News. They win the key age 18 through 49 and age 25 through 54 demographics decisively but also attract a large older audience that is less attractive to advertisers.

They won the 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. hour decisively during the February and May sweeps, averaging around an 8 rating for the hour in both ratings periods.

The shows are distributed by CBS, which got them from King World, which once upon a time also owned Channel 4. Even when King World owned Channel 4, “Jeopardy” and “Wheel” remained on rival Channel 7.

The game shows won’t get much of a local lead-in from the CBS Evening News here. But they have a loyal audience and can be expected to drive viewers to CBS’ prime time programming, which already dominates in Western New York.

Martha Meegan isn’t exactly a household name in the same way that John Murphy, Victoria Hong, Paul Peck and all the other Channel 4 personalities who have left or plan to leave the station in the past few years. However, she is one of the more respected behind-the-scenes workers at the station and will be missed after she leaves her post as assignment editor later this week to work in Mayor Brown’s administration. According to insiders, she has been hired to manage Citi-Stat, a computerized management tracking initiative designed to improve services to city residents and make them more accountable. Meegan has been at Channel 4 for 21 years.

ESPN analyst John McEnroe apparently wasn’t one of the millions watching Nik Wallenda’s walk over Niagara Falls on ABC almost a month ago. After it began raining during Roger Federer’s Wimbledon title victory over Andy Murray, McEnroe noted “I feel like I am at Niagara Falls (waiting) to tightrope across it (like) whoever that guy was.”

“The Wallendas,” replied Chris Fowler, who did play-by-play of the match.

Actually, it was just one Wallenda. ESPN, of course, has the same owner as ABC – Disney – so I can’t imagine its executives were too happy about its personalities forgetting Nik’s name so quickly.


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“Perception” Fights Copycat Image, Is Decent Summer Fare


The new TNT series “Perception” that premieres at 10 tonight on basic cable has to fight off the perception that it is just a combination of ”Monk,” “Castle,” “Columbo,” “House,” “Numbers,” “The Mentalist,” “Lies,” and even last year’s NBC noble failure “Awake.”

Those shows all have winning formulas and “Perception” is smart enough to follow them and add a little humor as well.

Eric McCormack

Eric McCormack: Plays Eccentric Crime Solver

But the reality is we are not talking about revolutionary TV as much as we are talking about decent summer entertainment.

To be exceptional TV, “Perception” would need to have mysteries that aren’t solved out of left field by a man who is so clever, smart and instinctive that he sees syndromes, codes and other strange things instantly that nobody in the audience could discover in their lifetime.  

“Perception” stars handsome Eric McCormack (“Will & Grace”) as Daniel Pierce, an eccentric neuroscience professor who is a paranoid schizophrenic, loves classical music and uses his hallucinatory relationships with his female best friend (Kelly Rowan of “The O.C.”), a guy who shows up in various disguises to solve crimes and Joan of Arc (in the fourth episode).

Over the first four episodes made available for review, viewers gradually learn that the professor is anti-big business, anti-media, pro-health care and doesn’t believe in organized religion. The subject matter in the episodes and the professor’s opening lectures to his college class make “Perception” seem more than just a crime-solving series.

But in reality, it isn’t.

Dr. Pierce is recruited by Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook), a FBI agent and former student who apparently is one of several who has had a crush on “Dr. Strange” over the years.

After all, even though he is disheveled, unshaven, absent minded, wears glasses and is off his meds, Dr. Pierce still looks like Eric McCormack.

The supporting cast includes LeVar Burton (“Roots,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation’), who shows up a few times in the first four episodes as the dean of the college in Chicago; Arjay  Smith (“The Day After Tomorrow”) as a young teaching assistant called upon to tell the good doctor when he is seeing things and forcing him to stick to his routine; and Dan Lauria (“The Wonder Years”) as a bartender who is Kate’s dad.

The level of mystery is uneven in the first four episodes, with the second episode involving a cold case that stars Sheryl Lee of “Twin Peaks” fame much stronger than tonight’s premiere that introduces the premise and characters.   

The secondary cast doesn’t have to do much heavy lifting, with the series’ success riding primarily on McCormack’s charming way of playing an eccentric.

Your perception of whether this is a show you want to follow this summer ultimately will ride on whether you love McCormack in this role more than you love being able to play along and solve a good mystery on your own.

Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 4




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Some More Perspective on 85 Percent Rule

Emotionally, I’m all for the Buffalo Bills to accept the new optional 85 Percent Blackout Rule so all their regular season home games may be televised.

But taking emotion out of it, I feel it is my duty to give all the discussion on talk radio and in newspapers in favor of it a little more balance, logic and perspective.

You may have read recently in The Buffalo News that the NFL team filed suit against its former radio rights holder. Cumulus, to get at least $1 million in incentive rights fees it feels it is owed under its contract.

We’re talking about $1 million, a pittance compared to what the New York Giants, the New York Jets, the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions and other big market teams get in similar radio deals.

The Bills also have one of the lowest ticket prices in the league, which means their gate revenue is much lower than the revenue of big market teams that fill much smaller stadiums.

They get a comparative small amount of money for TV rights to preseason games.

The money they get for high value premium seats (as well as non-premium seats) doesn’t approach the revenue big market teams get.

The point is that while they share billions in national TV revenue with the NFL’s other 31 teams, the Bills are at a huge competitive disadvantage financially in just about every other way.

And the 85 Percent Rule — which appeases Congress and the FCC and puts small market teams on the spot — could be just another burden for them.

If I were the Bills, I wouldn’t announce what I plan to do until it becomes an issue during the season when it wouldn’t potentially hurt season ticket sales as much. Even then, I’d do it on a game-by-game basis if that is possible.
While I understand why politicians, editorial boards, radio talk show hosts and columnists are all for the Bills to give in and accept the rule, the team has legitimate business concerns and should do a much better job explaining them.

Yes, the Bills should feel fortunate that fans still support the team despite missing the playoffs for 12 straight seasons.

Noureen DeWulf at the 79th Annual Academy Awar...

Noureen DeWulf: "Anger" Co-star

But the Western New York community should feel fortunate that despite all the competitive disadvantages that Owner Ralph Wilson is operating under that there is a NFL team here instead of some larger community that most likely would be more lucrative.

And spare me the talk that the Bills home games should be on TV and available to all WNYers who pay taxes to upgrade the stadium. A lot of businesses get taxpayer breaks. The Bills only get them because politicians believe they need to give them to keep the team.

One of the prices the community may have to pay to keep the Bills here long term is to sell-out the stadium as often as possible. And the 85 Percent Rule may force the team to raise ticket prices to a level that will hurt the team in that mission.

If the Bills agree to the rule and season ticket sales plummet to the point that the owner may feel he has to move to compete in order to sign the future Mario Williams’ of the world, then all those shouting for its acceptance will have no one but themselves to blame.

WBBZ-TV, the local independent station, has quietly dropped a few low performing shows in favor of paid programming. “Daniel Boone” reruns have been replaced from Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. in favor of paid programming. “Hogan’s Heroes” reruns have been replaced on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

Speaking of WBBZ, “Off-Beat Cinema,” the late-night hosted movie program that features good and campy sci-fi classics (among other things) and was carried by Channel 7 for 18 years, moves to the classic station at midnight on Aug. 4.

The FX press guide for Charlie Sheen’s new painful comedy “Anger Management” notes this interesting tidbit about Noureen Dewulf, the actress playing the woman in Charlie’s therapy group who shot her boyfriend after he cheated on her: “She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, US Olympic and NHL hockey goalie, Ryan Miller.” I hope the fact that there is no mention that Miller plays for the Buffalo Sabres doesn’t send any fans into therapy.


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Mr. Channel 7 Takes High Road to WBBZ


John DiSciullo, locally nicknamed Mr. Channel 7 and Mr. TV, leaving WKBW-TV?

And going to independent station Channel 67, WBBZ!

 I would say that I was shocked by Monday’s announcement, except that I was tipped a few weeks ago by a reliable source that DiSciullo was fed up at Channel 7 and planning to leave the station after a tenure of 30 years minus a few months in Philadelphia.

John DiSciullo: Off-Beat Move

I called him back then. He said there was no truth to the rumor. My girlfriend reminded me after the news Monday that DiSciullo was leaving was announced that I had turned to her after hanging up a few weeks earlier and said “he’s lying.”
The move from Channel 7, where DiSciullo wore multiple hats including news director, to WBBZ shows just how fed up he was with his bosses.

After all, DiSciullo was there when Irv, Rick and Tom and Eyewitness News dominated Western New York and were easy to promote.

As news director, he was expected to increase ratings when the TV news business was changing drastically. The evidence of how drastic the change was first visible at Channel 7. The station is so cheap that it doesn’t even get Nielsen ratings, and DiSciullo had to deal with the smallest news staff in town, hire reporters who were right out of college and turn photographers into reporters.

Of course, being the consummate professional, DiSciullo denied he was lying a few weeks ago and denied any unhappiness at Channel 7 while understanding the perception that might be given by his departure.

“This is an opportunity unmatched for someone who likes to create and build television,” said DiSciullo in a telephone interview Tuesday of his move to WBBZ.

He added that he also was looking to spend more time with his young daughter before her teen years.

“As much as I love being Mr. TV, I also love being Mr. Dad,” said DiSciullo. “My life was out of balance.”

He also praised his boss, Channel 7 General Manager Bill Ransom, and thanked him “for his personal and professional mentorship.”

But insiders say that DiSciullo was so fed up at WKBW-TV that he likely had to take a pay cut to go to WBBZ, the station primarily known for carrying classic old TV shows but also has grandiose plans for a variety of locally-produced shows that DiScuillo will promote as executive director of production and promotion.

DiSciullo wouldn’t comment on whether he took a pay cut.

“The opportunity that we have at WBBZ I think will pay off for WBBZ and also for Off-Beat Cinema,” said DiSciullo of the late-night program he created 18 years ago with advertising executive James Gillan and hopes to syndicate after it moves to WBBZ.

In keeping with his upbeat attitude, Mr. TV and Mr. Channel 7 (a nickname some believe he gave himself) gave a very positive and upbeat quote in a press release about his days at the once-dominant station.

He said he didn’t give himself the nicknames or remember who did.

”Somebody did,” said DiSciullo. “Or course, Milton Berle was the real Mr. TV. I was just a cheap impersonator.”

He said moving from Channel 7 was “very emotional” and that his telephone “blew up” when WBBZ Owner Phil Arno and Vice President and General Manager Bob Koshinski announced his hiring.

“I was honored and touched by it,” said DiSciullo, saying the callers included Phil Beuth, Channel 7′s general manager in its glory days, and “colleagues across the market.”

“I came to Channel 7 when I was 20-years-old,” said DiSciullo. “You come of age with people you work with through work experiences and life experiences.

“I’ve done everything I can do at Channel 7 working in news, promotion, programming and sales. I think I was blessed to do it all.”


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