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Giant Ratings Here for Super Win

The ratings for Sunday’s Super Bowl were certainly super in Western New York.

The New York Giants’ 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots had a preliminary rating of 52.9 on Channel 2, meaning 52.9 percent of area households were watching Eli Manning outduel Tom Brady. Nationally it had a 47.8 preliminary rating. Buffalo was the No.8 highest-rated metered market in the country, behind Nashville and Jacksonville (which tied fior 6th) and ahead of Kansas City. Boston was No.1 with a 56.7., ahead of host Indianapolis (56.4). New York finished at No. 18  with a still impressive 49.7. 

The Buffalo rating is slightly higher than the 52.7 rating that Green Bay’s win over Pittsburgh had here for the 2011 Super Bowl.

The rating for the Giants’ win peaked on Channel 2 at an incredible 59.0 during the final 15 minutes when the game was decided.

The second season premiere of the prime time show, “The Voice,” that followed the post-game show averaged a 17.9 rating on Channel 2.

Speaking of incredible, the Buffalo News ran a story on the front page today about Channel 2 carrying Saturday’s 7 p.m. Buffalo Sabres game with the Tampa Bay Lightning off of MSG. Channel 2 didn’t even make it that big a deal when it reported it Sunday night on the newscast after the Super Bowl.

Channel 2 was a logical choice to carry a Sabres game because it is affiliated with the NHL hockey network, NBC. It also was the only station to send a reporter (Adam Benigni) to cover the Sabres early season games in Europe.

It isn’t front-page news, but NBC also is scheduled to carry a repeat of tonight’s heavily-promoted premiere of  “Smash” on Saturday. It will air here after Channel 2 carries the Sabres game. NBC gave Channel 2 special permission to carry the “Smash” repeat at a time that it wasn’t originally scheduled to be carried. An original episode of the soon-to-be-canceled “The Firm” and a repeat of “Law & Order: SVU” that were scheduled to air in prime time Saturday now will air on Channel 2 in late night after “Saturday Night Live.”

This Just In: The national rating that came in late this afternoon for the Super Bowl was 47.0 and was the best in 26 years. The game was the most-watched show in in U.S. history even though it wasn’t the highest rated show. That seeming contradiction is possible because each rating point equals more households every year because of annual increases in the number of TV households. 

 pergament@msn.com

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Super Bowl Coverage Has Debatable Moments

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31:  NBC game analy...

Cris Collinsworth

 

If the entire game Sunday had been as exciting and as strange as the last five minutes, the sports nation would be debating today if the New York Giants’ 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots was the greatest Super Bowl in history.

Analyst Cris Collinsworth assuredly riled some Buffalo fans when he brought up kicker Scott Norwood’s Super Bowl miss 20 years ago when it appeared the Giants might need a big kick in the final minutes. But let’s face it, many of us were thinking the same thing. And Collinsworth was all over the game strategy of both teams in this offensively-challenged game.

Play-by-play man Al Michaels did his usual solid job and NBC’s cameras had all the angles on the game’s biggest plays.

But there were plenty of moments in the game — starting with the opening kickoff — that cried out for more debate.

You could say the Patriots’ decision to pull a Chan Gailey and defer the kickoff cost them the game. The Giants’ opening drive stalled, but a punt pinned the Pats back near their end zone. Then Pats quarterback Tom Brady was penalized for grounding when throwing a deep pass down the middle of the field from the end zone, which cost a safety that gave the Giants a 2-0 lead. The announcers were a little slow to realize it was going to be a safety.

According to some ESPN analysts, the safety call was debatable because Brady might have been throwing to a receiver who cut off his pattern earlier.

That safety could be viewed as the difference in the game. If it hadn’t been called and everything else had stayed the same, the Giants would have been trailing, 17-13, in the final minutes instead of 17-15 and would have needed a touchdown to win.

In that case, New England Coach Bill Belichick would not have given up Ahmad Bradshaw’s touchdown run in order to give Brady time to win the game. And even if the Giants had scored a touchdown, their lead would have only been 20-17, and Brady would have only needed a field goal to tie and send the game in overtime if enough time remained when he got the ball back.

Belichick’s decision to let the Giants’ score cried out for some debate. Collinsworth predicted it and suggested that the Giant coaches had told Bradshaw not to score. But in an ESPN interview after the game, Giant Coach Tom Coughlin indicated they hadn’t told Bradshaw to stop at the 1-yard line and he added no field goal from any distance under those conditions is a gimme.

There were several other strategic moments in the game that cried out for more debate, including a couple of times when the teams played it conservatively and punted when they might have considered going for it on fourth down. If Brady hadn’t missed on a couple of fourth quarter passes, the Giants might not have seen the ball in the final minutes and they might have been nine points down if they did.

Collinsworth thought one of those Brady passes to sure-handed receiver Wes Welker should have been caught. The analyst said Welker made that catch “100 out of 100 times.” That was highly debatable because he did have to turn to find the ball, but Welker probably should have caught it.

While NBC analyst Rodney Harrison – a former Brady teammate – was accepting praise for saying that he thought Giants quarterback Eli Manning was more reliable than Brady in the fourth quarter, that comment only proved accurate because of Welker’s drop and an amazing sideline catch by Giant receiver Mario Manningham during the Giants’ winning fourth-quarter drive. You could debate whether the game result was more about the receivers than the quarterbacks. After all, it appeared that Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski of Amherst – one of Brady’s favorite receivers – wasn’t himself because of his ankle injury even if he denied it after the game.

Of course, there were plenty of off-the-field moments to debate today.

It all starts with Madonna, whose over-the-top halftime performance got mixed reviews on Twitter. There is no debating that the staging was fantastic. A couple of times it appeared that Madonna might fall, but you had to admire her energy level at age 53. As amazing as the theatrics were, after awhile I closed my eyes and said a prayer that Madonna wouldn’t hurt herself.

Then there was the debate over the commercials. I was impressed by Channel 2’s optimistic civic-pride promo to the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Better Days” even if the Buffalo Sabres used that song as its anthem a few seasons ago. Similarly, the optimistic national ad for Chrysler narrated by a raspy-voiced Clint Eastwood was effective.

The Jerry Seinfeld and Matthew Broderick humorous short films might have made more of an impact if I hadn’t seen the car ads repeatedly for days before the game. I did enjoy the nostalgic Budweiser ads cheering the end of prohibition and a couple of ads featuring dogs (including the Doritos and VW ads). But overall, I thought many of the over-the-top ads were dogs considering the expense.

If I were working at NBC Sports, I’d be debating a few things about its coverage. The cameras were too quick to cut away from the post-game, emotional embrace of coaches Coughlin and Belichick, two disciples of Bill Parcells. After all, Belichick isn’t exactly known for showing his emotions or any human traits for that manner.

NBC also owns a cable sports network now, called the NBC Sports Network. It seemed to be in an awful hurry after the game to cut off the post-game report to get to the season premiere of “The Voice.” OK, I’ll accept that. But why not move its post-game coverage over to cable? After all, ABC moves its post-game coverage of NBA Finals games to ESPN since both networks are owned by Disney.

In case you missed it, Channel 2 announced Sunday in its newscast after the game that it will carry MSG’s coverage of the Buffalo Sabres game with Tampa Bay Lightning at 7 p.m. Saturday. The announcement came after another update about the cable dispute between MSG and Time Warner Cable that is keeping the games off of local cable.

pergament@msn.com

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Some Quick Hits on Super Bowl Sunday

English: Dean Winters in Manhattan in October ...

Dean Winters: Mayhem

 

I have a choice between watching hours of Super Bowl pregame stories today or writing a quick blog.

Having vowed on Twitter to try and avoid all the pregame hype until kickoff, the decision was easy. Here are some quick hits on Super Bowl Sunday:

One of my Twitter followers reached out Saturday and messaged me “Good call on Fitz cracked ribs” after Bills wide receiver David Nelson told NBC Sports that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played the second half of the season with cracked ribs.

My Twitter follower had a better memory than I did. So I checked what I had written in stilltalkintv about the Fitzpatrick injury. Here’s what I wrote on Dec. 15: “A buddy of mine and I agree on some wild speculation concerning Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. We both think the Bills will tell everyone after the season that he’s been playing hurt for awhile. Remember, you read it here first.”

I’m not sure that last line is entirely accurate, but I hadn’t read it anywhere else. A reader told me Monday that Tim Graham of the Buffalo News responded to a question in a Dec. 12 chat that Fitz looked hurt to him. But Graham apparently didn’t write anything about it. When the Buffalo News followed several days later with an interview with Fitzpatrick in which he claimed he wasn’t hurt, I replied in my blog: “I still think he is hurt.”

My point was that you can’t always take what players say during the season as gospel. I wouldn’t take what Nelson said as gospel, either. Buffalo News sportswriter Jerry Sullivan wrote in a blog Sunday that Fitzpatrick wouldn’t comment on Nelson’s remarks. If he had confirmed it, he also would have to explain why he declined to do so during the season. The News carried Nelson’s remarks in a story Sunday that didn’t reference Fitzpatrick’s early denials to the newspaper.

I enjoyed the Buffalo News story Saturday about the appearance at Lafayette High of Buffalo TV writer Tom Fontana and one of the stars of his former HBO prison series “Oz,” Dean Winters. The two friends and novelist Thomas Kelly spoke to students there on Friday.

The story identified Winters as the actor playing one of the boyfriends of Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) on NBC’s low-rated,  Emmy-winning “30 Rock.” But that isn’t the role that Winters probably is most famous for. He also stars as “Mayhem” in the popular insurance commercials that run nightly about all the potential calamities that requite the attention of insurance carriers.

By the way, Fontana came here from Toronto, where his next TV series, “Copper” for BBCAmerica, is being shot.

I had to laugh this morning when I got a tweet from NBC analyst Tony Dungy about his appearance on “Today” with one of his favorite people, “Ann Currie.” If Curry was that big a favorite, you might think Dungy  would know how to spell her name. And he could have saved one character in his tweet.

Speaking of Curry, I woke up this morning in time to hear her tell Dungy that many women will watch the Super Bowl to see New England quarterback Tom Brady in his tight uniform or something like that. If Dungy or any man had said that, he would have been called the biggest sexist on TV. It may be hard for Curry to believe, but a lot of women watch football because they like the sport.  I hope she wasn’t being serious even though it sounded like she was being serious.

I know watching Curry meant I didn’t keep my pregame vow. But it turns out if you turn on the TV today, it is impossible to miss Super Bowl hype. I’m not turning it on again until 6:29 p.m.

pergament@msn.com

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Sabres, “Big Bang” Score in Ratings; “Idol” Slides

English: Brian Williams at the Vanity Fair cel...

Brian Williams: Big Ratings Here

This is what I’m thinking:

The local TV appeal of the Buffalo Sabres  was on display Wednesday when they lost to the New York Rangers, 1-0, in a shootout.

The game carried on Time Warner Cable via the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) had a 9.2 rating for its entirety. That’s about three times what the games have been averaging since they have been off local cable because of the TWC-MSG dispute. Imagine what the rating would have been if the Sabres had scored a goal. The final 15 minutes of Wednesday’s game involving the much-criticized shootout that determined the winner had an 11.2 rating.

As speculated here Thursday, the fact the Sabres’ overtime ran past 10:15 diminished the audience for the 10 o’clock news debut of Channel 4’s Diana Fairbanks on WNLO-TV Wednesday. Her opening 10 p.m. newscast had a 3.8 rating, which is about 35 percent lower than Channel 4 typically gets on WNLO. Channel 2’s new 10 at 10 on WNYO-TV with Melissa Holmes took a big hit, too.  It averaged a 1.6, getting only a 1.1 for the first 15 minutes opposite the Sabres game.

Buffalo News critic Jeff Simon and I rarely agreed on much of anything when I was the regular TV critic. (His never-ending glorification of former Channel 4 anchor Carol Jasen and repetitive criticism of Jacquie Walker are only two examples). But he ran a column a day after my Thursday blog that also praised Fairbanks and criticized Channel 2’s silly 10 o’clock gimmick of counting the Top 10 stories backwards on the WNYO-TV newscast.

So if we agree you wonder if Channel 2 is going to reconsider the stupid experimental idea. On the first night of the sweeps Thursday, Channel 2 received more reason to drop the countdown than reading two acerbic critics. The Thursday newscast started at 10 with a 2.2 rating and slipped to a .9 (that’s a point 9) in the second 15 minutes. That meant half of its viewers didn’t care to stay around to find out the No. 1 story of the night chosen by Facebook friends. If that trend continues, kiss the backwards countdown goodbye. Channel 4’s second newscast with Fairbanks Thursday averaged a 4.6 rating.

Simon and I don’t agree when it comes to voting on watching the most painful decline in local TV news. On Friday, Simon said it was watching Channel 4’s decline. I’d vote for watching Channel 7’s decline years before Channel 4’s decline.  

Speaking of declines, the local decline of Fox’s “American Idol” this season continues. Thursday night’s installment had an 8.4 rating on WUTV, which is about half the rating that CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” (16.7) had on Channel 4. “Idol” didn’t even beat “Rob” (10.8), the comedy that follows “Big Bang.” “Idol” was the fifth highest show of the night here. Simon Cowell’s fall run of “X Factor” has hurt “Idol,” along with all the other copycat karaoke shows — including NBC’s post-Super Bowl show “The Voice.” This week, “The Voice” is sure to have a higher rating here than “Idol.”

The continuing ratings decline of Channel 7 news is hurting ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the evening news with Diane Sawyer. “GMA” now is closer to CBS’ latest edition of the morning news here than NBC’s “Today,” which gets more viewers on Channel 2 than the other affiiliates get combined for their network morning shows. And Sawyer’s telecast is third in this market now. “The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” is an even bigger No.1 here now that local affiliate Channel 2 does so well in the early evening news wars. Williams’ newscasts get higher ratings here than anything NBC carries in prime time here except NFL games. The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley is No.2 here.

Channel 2 probably wishes NBC would quickly cancel “The Firm” on Thursday nights. Last Thursday’s episode had a 2.8 rating here, a lead-in that killed Channel 2’s 11 p.m. newscast.

pergament@msn.com

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“Smash” Deserves To Be a Smash Hit

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 26:  Actresses Megan Hi...

Hilty, McPhee, Huston and Messing

 

After all the promos that NBC has been running about the musical drama “Smash,” no one can be blamed if they feel like they’ve seen it already.

I have seen it. The first four episodes, that is.

And the series deserves to be a smash.

Sure, “Smash” — which premieres at 10 p.m. Monday on Channel 2 – dances to the tune of several Broadway clichés. The clichés include the Midwest girl trying to make it to the Broadway; the director who uses the casting couch; the parents worried that their daughter’s dreams are unattainable; and the difficult writer who is in conflict with the difficult director.

But this series from several Broadway producers and Steven Spielberg triumphs despite the clichés because of some excellent performances, an incredible cast and a mesmerizing star turn from a former “American Idol” finalist, Katharine McPhee.

Don’t be worried. We’re not in “Glee” land. “Smash” has a realistic setting – the fictional development of a musical on the life of Marilyn Monroe.

As anyone who has seen the promos knows by now, it stars include Debra Messing, McPhee, Anjelica Huston and Broadway star Megan Hilty

Messing plays a Broadway writer, Julia Houston, with a gay songwriting partner, Tom Levitt (Christian Borle). Julia and her husband, Frank (Brian D’Arcy James), are planning to adopt a second child, which means her life is a little busy. Maybe too busy to write “Marilyn.”

However, a producer about to be divorced, Eileen Rand (Huston), from her philandering producer husband, is hot to get “Marilyn” off the ground for financial reasons.

The two women up for the lead role are a beautiful, naïve neophyte, Karen Cartwright (McPhee) and a veteran chorus girl Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty of “Wicked”). Karen is like a young and innocent Marilyn, while Ivy Lynn looks more like her.

The cast also includes a handsome director, Derek Wills (Jack Davenport); Karen’s protective and almost perfect boyfriend, Dev Sundaram (Raza Jaffrey); and Tom’s noisy assistant, Ellis (Jaime Cepero).

I admit I was predisposed to love this series. When I was growing up, my father always played show tunes on Sunday and it’s a habit I continue to this day (to the occasional annoyance of my children).

But the first four episodes are so full of energy, great music and soaring performances that they exceeded my expectations. And who knew that McPhee could actually act as well as sing so beautifully? She is a revelation.

Nick Jonas, the teen musical star who starred in “Les Miserables,” makes a guest appearance in one of the early episodes and Uma Thurman and Bernadette Peters are among the guests stars in the first season.

This isn’t to say that any of the twists are hard for anyone to see if they understand how Broadway works and musicals are developed.

But as any musical lover knows, even the best musicals can be clichéd and predicable. As long as they have great songs and great performances and someone or something to root for, musicals can stay on Broadway for years. Let’s hope “Smash” has the same fate on TV.

Rating: 4 stars out of 4

I repeat my Thursday tweet about the throwaway line that New England quarterback Tom Brady had in criticizing Buffalo area hotels. “I don’t know what was more idiotic. Brady’s off-the-cuff remark or The News putting it on the front page. I vote for The News. It had time to think.”

After thinking about it further, I stand by my tweet. The News is becoming TV News, overreacting to a silly story and taking a dig about Buffalo much more seriously than Brady intended it to be.

Channel 4 treated Brady’s comment Wednesday as if it were an act of war, interviewing many local citizens and a New York Ranger to defend the area’s honor. The extensive coverage became downright laughable.

You expected more from the local newspaper on Thursday, a day after TV was done with it. Brady’s comment deserved a few paragraphs in a Super Bowl notes column and nothing more. However, I’ve been at Super Bowls when the silliest comments get treated like front page news. So I understand why The News was giving some readers what they wanted – a reason to be angry in the comments section. I just respect many readers and believe they understand how small the city looks when the local paper is so sensitive that it makes a mountain out of a molehill. 

Next time something like this happens, let’s borrow a page from Bills receiver Stevie Johnson and ask “why so serious?”    

pergament@msn.com

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Fairbanks’ Debut Smooth Despite Tech Glitches

 

Channel 4’s new anchor Diana Fairbanks (see right) had a much smoother debut at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesday than all the bells and whistles associated with the station’s new high definition set.

At 5 p.m. when Fairbanks was introduced by anchors Don Postles and Jacquie Walker, the camera took a few seconds to find Fairbanks as she spoke her first on-air words.

At 10 p.m., the station’s graphics identified reporter Rachel Kingston as Fairbanks a couple of times.

One supposes those glitches, as well as some early audio problems, are bound to happen on opening day as Channel 4’s off-camera staff gets more familiar with its impressive looking new surroundings and technology.

In a way, it might have been fortunate that some viewers may have joined the 10 p.m. news late because the Buffalo Sabres’ 1-0 shootout loss to the New York Rangers carried on cable’s NBC Sports Network didn’t end until around 10:17 p.m.

The important thing is Fairbanks is very professional, a solid anchor with a strong voice and no-nonsense manner that perfectly suits Channel 4’s format (and she only had one minor pronunciation misstep). She smiles often but didn’t initially seem to be the warmest TV personality. However, everything I’ve heard and read about her days as an anchor in Traverse City, Mich. suggests that viewers will warm up to her as the days and weeks go by.

The station’s other anchors did try to help personalize Fairbanks, noting that she is a marathon runner and skier and has a husband and child who haven’t made it to Buffalo yet.

Amusingly, Channel 4 now has all of its anchors standing up. It would make more sense at Channel 2, which after all has a slogan that shouts it is standing up for you.

Channel 4 certainly has a lot riding on Fairbanks. The station hasn’t indicated it, but she would be the obvious choice to replace Jacquie Walker if Walker rides off into the TV sunset some time in the next decade or so. I’m not trying to rush Walker, just saying that the station’s female anchor bench needed some reinforcements to prepare for the future.

Fairbanks’ performance also is important because her 10 p.m. newscast on sister station WNLO-TV is competing head-to-head with a Channel 2 newscast on WNYO-TV anchored by Melissa Holmes, who Channel 4 could have kept by giving her the 5:30 and 10 anchor jobs. (Holmes also is eventually expected to anchor Channel 2’s 5:30 p.m. news).

In a sense, the 10 p.m. news battle is a nightly referendum on whether Channel 4 made the right choice to give Fairbanks the job over Holmes.    

That said, the Fairbanks-Holmes battle at 10 isn’t a fair fight. Fairbanks is taking over a 10 p.m. newscast whose ratings double or triple that of the one just taken over by Holmes. Channel 2 has never been able to average much more than a 2 rating on WNYO, a station it doesn’t own. It probably would be happy if the 10 p.m. battle just became a little closer.

Holmes also is weighed down by a gimmicky newscast that counts down the Top 10 stories backwards and has its Facebook friends decide what story is No. 1 and should run around 10:17 p.m.

To borrow an old political phrase, voting for Fairbanks or Holmes is a choice, not an echo. As I said before, Fairbanks comes off as a no-nonsense anchor with an assertive style that wouldn’t look out of place on a national newscast,

A decent anchor with a pleasant manner, Holmes is a native Western New Yorker, younger and more prone to smile and to exhibit (or act out) her emotions while reading stories. In Channel 2’s format, she also interacts more with reporters.

The battle is a marathon, not a sprint.

In the short run, I would expect Holmes’ popularity in her hometown to help Channel 2 become somewhat more competitive at 10, especially if it comes to its senses and drops counting down backwards from No. 10 to No. 1 every night. It might also consider having a veto power over the Facebook vote. On Wednesday, the choice of the top story was video of a horrific crash in which no one was injured. (Oh, well, at least Facebook voters didn’t vote the Facebook IPO No.1.).

In the long run, I would expect Fairbanks to settle in quite nicely and keep the 10 p.m. news on WNLO in first place by a significant margin. After all, she is a marathon runner.

pergament@msn.com

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More “Luck,” a Funny News Quote and Seinfeld

This is what I’m thinking:

English: Jerry Seinfeld at the Vanity Fair par...

Jerry Seinfeld Sells Cars

Not surprisingly, HBO announced late Tuesday that it had renewed David Milch’s HBO horse-racing series “Luck” for a second season.

The pay-cable network cited the series’ audience of 3.3 million for the first episode and the generally positive critical response the series has received.

In other words, ignore the wire service review the Buffalo News ran last Friday that called “Luck” a midseason disappointment.

HBO gave “Luck” 10 episodes for its second season, which is one more than its first season and three less than what used to be a typical order of 13 episodes.

This season’s ninth and final episode — which airs in late March — has a strong payoff with the running of the Western Derby, but also leaves open a number of story lines that cried out for more material and an eventual run to the Kentucky Derby.

The first installment of Channel 2’s “10 at 10” Monday on WNYO with new anchor Melissa Holmes received a slightly higher rating than the newscast has typically gotten, but it was less than half the audience that Channel 4’s “10 O’Clock News” on WNLO-TVC received. And with new anchor Diana Fairbanks and a new HD set premiering tonight, Channel 4 stands to widen its lead.

Speaking of Fairbanks, news insiders had to chuckle at a quote about the size of the news audience attributed to Channel 4 General Manager Chris Musial in a flattering Buffalo News story about the new anchor. He said that stations are always looking for a main anchor who “can handle themselves in front of a group of a thousand at a dinner downtown or 300,000 people watching an evening newscast.”

On a very good night, Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock New gets about 45,000 households watching. It would be quite a feat these days to get 300,000 people watching any local newscast.

Here’s a more succinct way to explain why I think Channel 2’s plan to air the No. 1 story of the night picked by Facebook friends at around 10:17 instead of at the top of the newscast is such a silly idea. Imagine if the Buffalo Bills won the Super Bowl (I know it’s a stretch) or the Buffalo Sabres won the Stanley Cup (I know it’s also a stretch). How silly would it be for Channel 2 to wait until 10:17 to run that story?

On Tuesday night, the story that Channel 2 ran at 10:17 p.m. about Buffalo’s unusual mild winter weather was the lead of its 11 p.m. newscast.

Am I the only one who is having trouble getting WUTV in HD? The problem happened during Monday’s episode of Fox’s “Alcatraz” and during Tuesday’s Michael Jackson episode of “Glee.” It wasn’t only a cable problem since it also occurred when I switched to the station’s digital channel.

Speaking of “Glee,” Grant Gustin, who played the villainous Sebastian and sang a duet of “Smooth Criminal” opposite Santana Tuesday, performed at Artpark in Lewiston two summers ago in “All Shook Up.” He played the mayor’s son. Sally Struthers played the mayor.

You can head to You Tube now to see what is bound to be one of the most-talked about Super Bowl ads featuring Jerry Seinfeld, the Soup Nazi and Jay Leno. It is an adventurous, humorous car commercial. The Ferris Bueller ad featuring Matthew Broderick also is getting a lot of pre-game internet play.

pergament@msn.com

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Ch.2′s Debuts “Bizarro World” of News at 10

English: David Letterman hosting President Bar...

His Top 10 List Makes More Sense

 

 

Channel 2 anchor Melissa Holmes led off the No. 3 item on the list of the top 10 stories on the 10 p.m. newscast Monday on WNYO-TV by saying “it sounds crazy” that members of Congress can use insider information to purchase stocks.

It sounds no more crazy than having the supposed top story of the newscast run at 10:17 p.m., which is what Channel 2 did on Monday’s “10 at 10” newscast premiere.

That is the equivalent of a newspaper carrying the top story of the day on page A-10 rather than the front page.

I have admired many of the innovations of Channel 2 News in recent years, especially the copying of ESPN and providing a rundown of stories coming up on the right side of the screen.

But the idea of trying to add suspense to the news by pulling a page out of David Letterman’s “Late Show” book and going backward in numbering stories (10,9,8,7, 6, etc) before delivering the No. 1 item in the Top 10 just doesn’t make the same sense for a newscast as it does for a comedy show.

Holmes did an admirable job anchoring her first 10 p.m. newscast since coming over from Channel 4 dispute dealing with a format that seems to be borrowed from the bizarro world of “Seinfeld.”

By delaying the top story of the day after first 15 minutes of the newscast is measured by Nielsen, Channel 2 is asking a lot of the audience that votes on the top story via a social network. Unless, of course, its goal is to get viewers to start watching at 10:17.

The same voters of the top story could have switched over to Channel 4′s newscast on WNLO-TV before 10:17 to see the story selected – the firing of John Faso as the executive director of the SPCA of Niagara – carried several minutes earlier even though WIVB-TV only considered it the fifth most important story of the day.

In a sense, Channel 2 didn’t even consider the Faso story No.1 since it started its 10 p.m. news with the “breaking news” story that a second sexual complaint had been made against a local priest (who has been removed from his parish) a year before the first complaint and hadn’t been acted on.

(BREAKING NEWS THOUGHT: If a really big story occurs that requires team coverage and is voted No. 1, would Channel 2 really want to wait until 10:17 to run it?)

But I digress. If you’re scoring at home, Channel 4 carried the priest story third without the unnecessary “breaking news” tag. Its top story of the night was the latest chapter in the bizarre story involving the medical condition of several LeRoy High students, followed by a story about a Niagara Falls teacher pleading guilty to attempted rape. Channel 2 called the LeRoy story No. 7, which in Channel 2′s world meant it ran fourth. It didn’t carry the attempted rape story.

In the bizzaro world of Channel 2’s countdown, the first “non-breaking news” story it ran at 10 p.m. – labeled No. 10 — included video of a man accused of running down a sign at a North Tonawanda pizza place. That was the kind of story that used to run near the end of a newscast, say around 10:17 when Channel 2 ran its top story. Channel 4 missed the pizza story, even though it carried several more stories than Channel 2. (Of course, many of Channel 4’s extra stories deal with crime, which Channel 2 often tries to avoid.)

After the No. 10 story, Channel 2′s No.9 through No. 7 stories were the kind of local interest stories that normally would have run second through fourth anyway, making the countdown seem somewhat confusing since they were just numbered in a way that suggested they were less important than a later story (labeled No.4) about an automobile with an airbag problem.   

Call me crazy, but if I were running Channel 2, I’d immediately call an audible, stop this silly suspense and carry the No. 1 story first tonight and number the Top 10 in order of importance No. 2 through No. 10 until the No. 10 story ran last.

I don’t blame Channel 2 for trying to do something different at 10 p.m., since Channel 4 News dominates the head-the-head competition. But borrowing a page from “Seinfeld” isn’t the answer.

Speaking of delaying things and adding suspense, Channel 4 put out a release Friday noting that its new 10 p.m. anchor, Diana Fairbanks, would make her debut on Monday. But Don Postles and not Fairbanks anchored the newscast, which wasn’t in high definition as expected. The station now plans to have Fairbanks and the HD set make their debut on Wednesday, a day before the start of the February sweeps.

pergament@msn.com

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Milch’s “Luck” is a Beautifully-Told Horse Tale

 

Editors’s note: This review was originally intended to run Sunday but a website problem prevented it from being posted. Sunday’s episode was a repeat so it wasn’t a big problem. This review deals with the entire series. 

 

 

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25:  (L-R) Writer/cr...

Milch, Hoffman and Mann

I didn’t go to high school with David Milch so I don’t know what he was like a half-century ago as a teenager when he fell in love with horses during annual summer family trips to Saratoga.

But I was in his car with the Buffalo native one California summer afternoon after he had spent the previous day at the Santa Anita track and saw him grab piles of money that appeared to be his winnings out of his glove compartment before meeting the behind-the-scenes staff of one of his HBO shows, “John in Cincinnati.”

He then distributed the money to the staffers as rewards for their work. Afterwards, one of the staffers told me that Milch throws his money around like that on a weekly basis.

In other words, he is one of the 1 percenters who know how hard life can be for the 99 percenters and he shares the wealth.

He’s always shown an appreciation for the less fortunate in his TV shows and it is no different in his latest winning HBO series, “Luck.” The sneak preview episode that ran a month ago was repeated Sunday on the pay-channel, with eight more episodes airing this season starting on Super Bowl Sunday.

While granting that Sunday’s opener was a little slow out of the starting gate and had some jumbled dialogue, I was stunned by the negative review of the entire season by a California TV critic, Chuck Barney, that the Buffalo News ran Friday. Of all the reviews out there, The News had to pick Barney’s slam job?

I know Barney from my days going to television critics press tours in Hollywood, like, respect and admire him and would never criticize a critic for giving his opinion..

But I couldn’t disagree more about his review of “Luck.” And from the HBO promos running, it appears I’m not alone in appreciating what Milch and director Michael Mann have done in educating viewers about the beautiful  and unseamly sides of horse racing and creating compelling characters.

I watched all nine episodes right before Christmas week in two nights because – like a good novel (and Milch is really as much a novelist as a TV writer) – I couldn’t put it down. After finishing, I could practically smell the horses and all the goats and human rats around them.

Barney claimed “Luck” “might be the midseason’s biggest letdown” and ended his criticism by suggesting there was little or no story. Huh?

Let me Pick Six story lines one can follow in a series that has powerful performances by Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina, Jason Gedrick, Kevin Dunn, Nick Nolte, Richard Kind and John Ortiz.

There is the complicated revenge story involving Chester “Ace” Bernstein (Hoffman), who just got out of federal prison after taking the fall for other powerful forces to protect his grandson. Ace is trying to pull off some kind of elaborate sting, which is harder to do because his potential victims are suspicious of his motives.

There is the buddy story between Ace and his driver and bodyguard, Gus Demitriou(Farina), which has a “Boston Legal” vibe at the end of each episode.

There is the story involving the comeback of a veteran horse trainer and owner, Walter Smith (Nolte), who appears to have a potential Kentucky Derby winner but has to fight the racing establishment to keep him.

There is the story of a group of gambling degenerates led by the handsome handicapper Jerry (Gedrick) and the sickly Marcus (Dunn). The group starts out as annoying and ends up being easy to root for.

There is the story of a Peruvian trainer Turo Escalante (Ortiz, who almost steals the series) who has to deal with Ace and a prize horse, the degenerates and their horse, and a complicated relationship with the track veterinarian  Jo (Jill Hennessy).

And if you want a seventh story, there is the one involving ambitious and tortured jockeys who compete for rides with the help of an agent (Kind) and discover the good guys and girls don’t always win. One of the older jockeys trying to hang in the game is played by a real racing Hall of Famer, Gary Stevens.

After getting off to Sunday’s slow start, “Luck” picks up steam by the first quarter pole (the third episode), gets a little dark and violent by the third quarter pole and has a strong satisfying finish that sets up the potential of an even stronger second season.

I covered a few races in my sportswriting days but really don’t have much of a clue about the sport. However, a good friend of mine is an expert and she told me that several of the incidents in Milch’s story lines seem to come from either horse racing history or gossip.

While some elements of Sunday’s episode might have confused some people unfamiliar with the sport and its lingo, it becomes less and less of a problem as the series goes on.

Should you watch a series in which the horses are much more likable and easier to root for than most characters in it?

Do you love Milch’s dialogue in “NYPD Blue” and “Deadwood,” Mann’s cinematic skills and are you the type of viewer who doesn’t need instant gratification that network television often provides?

As “Luck” suggests, it isn’t always a good idea to answer a question with a question. In this case, the answers to those questions probably will determine whether a little “Luck” will go a long way.

It isn’t always an easy straightforward ride, but if I had money in my glove compartment, I’d bet it on “Luck” to eventually win over many Milch, Mann and Hoffman fans and ultimately  be considered a classic horse racing series.

Rating: 3 and a half stars out of 4

pergament@msn.com

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Mychajliw Replacing O’Loughlin on Ch.2

Weeknight news open.

Image via Wikipedia

Bill O’Loughlin is out, Stefan Mychajliw is in on Channel 2’s daily  noon debate show, which will have the more alliterative name of “2 Sides with (Kristy) Mazurek and Mychajliw.”

According to sources, the NBC affiliate is expected to announce the switch Friday and it will take place on Monday. The same sources say that O’Loughlin prefers to work alone as he had when he worked in radio, when the TV show started in late night and when it continued at noon this fall before Mazurek came aboard to try and spark debate and spike ratings.

The station also is expected to announce Friday that its 10 p.m. news program on WNYO-TV anchored by former Channel 4 anchor reporter Melissa Holmes will have a new format and be renamed “Ten at 10” when it premieres on Monday.

First things first. Mychajliw is returning to Channel 2, where he was an aggressive reporter  before making a switch to public relations and continuing to get plenty of TV time as the spokesman for former Buffalo Schools Superintendent James Williams.

The station was impressed by Mychajliw’s recent guest appearance on the noon show with Mazurek. He clearly is a much stronger television personality than O’Loughlin, who basically was a radio performer doing TV.

While journalists are expected to avoid partisan politics, Mychajliw’s political leanings became an open book after he left Channel 2. He recently worked on Republican Chris Collins’ losing re-election campaign for county executive.

The Syracuse University graduate is co-founder of Profit Media Group, a public relations firm that specializes in crisis communications, media training for businesses and marketing services.

Mychajliw will now have a daily debate with Mazurek, a former news anchor and investigative reporter whose politics also are on an open book. She is a member of the Erie County Democratic Committee and Democratic campaign coordinator.

Now on to the new 10 p.m. newscast that debuts Monday, three days before the start of the February sweeps.

The format switch will make Channel 2’s 10 o’clock news potentially  look much different than Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock News on WNLO-TV, which has two to three times the audience  as Channel 2’s newscast at that hour.

Holmes will anchor a newscast that will deliver the 10 biggest stories that effect Western New Yorkers and then allow viewers to decide which  stories are the most important and interact socially about them.

Of course, getting 10 big stories a day won’t be easy in a market as small as Buffalo. I guess we’ll have to see how the social networks will be involved  to totally understand the new concept.

Channel 4 also will have a new look on its 10 p.m. newscast on WNLO-TV next week. The station announced today that new anchor hire Diana Fairbanks will make her debut at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Monday. The station also is expected to unveil a new high definition set.

pergament@msn.com

 

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