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“Les Miserables” Has Critical Differences


I tell my students in my media criticism class at Medaille College that the best thing about being a television or movie critic is you are never wrong.

After all, you are just expressing an opinion on something based on some criteria you’ve established over the years. Your opinion may not be with the consensus reviewing the show, but you’re never wrong.

I bring this up after reading many reviews of the current movie “Les Miserables” starring Hugh Jackson, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe.

I read them after seeing the movie in New York City. Twice. My oldest son laughed when I told him my girlfriend wanted to see it on Christmas Day when it opened and the next day with several members of her family.

Hugh Jackman

He thought I deserved a medal or something.
A close friend of mine once told me he walked out of the theater production. Another saw it on the top row of a theater in London and didn’t care for it.My point is there are Les Miz people and there are not Les Miz people.

Clearly, my girlfriend is a Les Miz person. My oldest son and my two friends are not.

The reviews proved my theory that you are never wrong was 100 percent accurate.

The USA Today and several other critics raved about the movie because they loved the music and the exceptional visuals in certain scenes.

But there were several other reviews that were less than kind in which critics wrote that the music was  the problem because it wasn’t memorable.

This kind of shocked me. I’ve seen the musical at least five times in New York, London and at Shea’s Buffalo and must have watched the 25th anniversary special carried periodically by Channel 17 during pledge drives at least that number of times. The songs “I Dreamed a Dream,”  “On My Own,” “One Day More,” “Look Down” and “Drink With Me” aren’t memorable?

When reading the reviews after seeing the film, I came to the conclusion that newspapers should have two critics review the film. One could have been done by a movie critic who hasn’t seen the musical on stage and the other by a theater critic who has seen it on stage.

For one thing, I think it is kind of silly for the movie to be reviewed by a movie critic who has said he hates musical theater or any theater and I’ve read a few of those.

For another, movies and musical theater productions are two different animals and critics of each have different expectations and criteria.

Movie critics often aren’t too kind to any musicals. If memory serves me correctly, many critics didn’t love “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Sound of Music” or “Moulin Rouge” (which I loved).

When it comes to this movie version of “Les Miserable,” I’m reminded of how I used to review TV shows before each new television season.

I would have one line or two saying “you’d like this if” and another line or two saying “you’ll hate this if” to give readers an idea of whether a show was their cup of tea.

In the case of “Les Miz,” you’ll like it if you loved the theater production, own the CD, have watched the 25th anniversary special several times and love the story set during the French Revolution about Inspector Javert’s (Crowe) pursuit of Jean Valjean (Jackman), who has redeemed himself since skipping out on parole.

You’ll hate it if you hate musical theater, have a tin ear and nitpick every detail of an operatic production that asks you to suspend disbelief and accept you are watching people sing almost everything rather than talk.

Based on Victor Hugo’s book, it is a story rich in character, romance and symbolism. As popular as the theater production has been in the United States and internationally, the movie version will be seen by multi-millions more than the theatre production and at much less the cost. A good musical these days on Broadway costs more than $100 a pop for a good seat. You can get into the movie for $10 or less.

Needless to say, my girlfriend and her family loved the movie. I expected they would since they came to the theater dressed as characters in the musical. A few family members thought it was the best movie they had ever seen. The audience in New York broke into spontaneous applause after the film ended on both days that I saw it here. I overheard some people say they saw it on Christmas Day and came back to see it again. Apparently, my girlfriend is not alone.

I liked it a lot, too. I would have given it three and a half stars out of four.

But I understood where some of the criticism came from.

Some critics noted the story was relentlessly depressing. My response is it is called “Les Miserables” and not “Les: Bonheur” (happiness). You should know what you are getting into before you take a seat.

Some critics wrote that it felt like it lasted longer than the French Revolution. That’s a good line. It is a little long, but so was the theatrical production.

Jackman is very expressive and does an exceptional job as Valjean. But if you’ve seen the 25th anniversary special on Channel 17, you probably will realize that his singing range doesn’t compare with the voices of all the men who have played Valjean (including Colm Wilkinson, who has a bit part early and late in the movie) in various productions and that criticism is valid.

Crowe has gotten more than his share of criticism. He doesn’t have a Broadway voice, either, but he was much better than I expected him to be.

Director Tom Hooper’s constant use of close-ups got so distracting at times that I wished the screen had been wider.

But there also were some things in the movie that were preferable to the theater production. The major thing is the story is so much easier to follow on screen than it is in the theater. It took me until the third time that I saw the theater production to fully understand what was going on. I had no such problems with the movie.

My best guess is “Les Miz” will be one of those musical movies like “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Sound of Music” in which criticism will fade away over decades until it will eventually be considered a classic.

But then again, I’m a “Les Miz” person.


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Catching Up With What WNY Watches

With the New Year approaching, it is time to empty my notebook.

I never got around to noting what network programs were the most popular in Western New York during the November sweeps.

Some of the area’s likes and dislikes may surprise you.

Patrick Dempsey: Still McDreamy Ratings Here

As usual, CBS – which is Channel 4’s network and usually appeals to more traditional viewers (translation: older ones) – dominated the Top 25. It had 18 of the Top 25 programs watched by Western New Yorkers live and up to seven days after the programs aired.

More than 20 network programs averaged double-digit ratings, which doesn’t happen in too many places nationally.

Fox, which generally appeals to younger viewers that are harder to find here, didn’t have one of the Top 25. Its top-rated series was “Bones,” which was the 45th-highest rated show here.

Here is the Top 10 in WNY for November:  1. “The Big Bang Theory” 2. “NCIS” 3. “Two and a Half Men” 4. “Person of Interest” 5. “Revolution” 6. “Criminal Minds” 7. “Grey’s Anatomy” and “NCIS: Los Angeles” (tied) 9. “Vegas” 10. “Modern Family.”

The list is interesting. The third-place finish of “Two and a Half Men,” which many people think should have been canceled after Charlie Sheen went off the deep end, explains why it is continuing with Ashton Kutcher.

It was a little surprising to see CBS’ “Person of Interest” do so well and to see ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” with Patrick Dempsey age so well locally. The success of ABC’s “Modern Family,” which increases local viewership annually, is encouraging since it is a terrific show that hasn’t lost a step.

One surprise considering how much this area loves football is that NBC’s Sunday Night Football” finishes outside the Top 10 at No. 13. That’s probably because local viewers have had enough of football by 8:20 p.m. when the games start and don’t want to stay up close to midnight to see them end. In addition, Sunday night programming on cable is a bigger draw that usual.

Here are some notable things to cull from the November results:

Three new series – NBC’s “Revolution” and CBS’ “Vegas” and “Elementary”–  hit the Top 20 in a season full of mostly forgettable series.

The CBS comedy “Mike & Molly” remains just inside the top 25. One of its co-stars, Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy, seems to be in just about every movie comedy being previewed in theaters, which should help the show down the road.

Plenty of people still watch “Survivor.” Beats me why it remains in the Top 20.

ABC’sDancing with the Stars” is losing some of its local popularity, but remains a Top 15 show here. It just edged out NBC’s surging “The Voice” for 11th place in November.

In the big Sunday night head-to-head matchup, CBS’ “The Good Wife” with Julianna Margulies just edged out ABC’s overly-complicated guilty pleasure “Revenge” with Emily VanCamp. Of course, football overruns often mean “The Good Wife” runs at a different time than “Revenge.”

NBC’s “Parenthood,” which has become one of my favorite network series, doesn’t get much of a live audience here. But when you add in viewing up to seven days after it airs, it almost gets as many viewers as “The Good Wife” and “Revenge” and it gets more than ABC’s “Castle.”

In the head-to-head Wednesday night battle of new shows, NBC’s “Chicago Fire” finishes in the Top 30 and is more popular than ABC’s “Nashville,” which has slipped creatively since its exceptional pilot.

The most unfathomable result is the success of ABC’s dreadful alien comedy “Neighbors,” which gets the same rating as “Nashville.” All I can think of is a lot of aliens must have Nielsen meters. (This just in: Two readers quickly emailed me that they love the “Neighbors.”)

ABC’s “Happy Endings” and NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” tied with ratings about 60 percent lower than “Neighbors” and barely finish in the Top 60 despite some critical support.

If local viewers had voted on whether Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor” would get a third season, it would have been a goner. It finished No. 72 here with ratings in the 3s – which is less than a third of what NBC’s “The Voice” gets here. Fox has renewed it because of its demographics.

The CW has what amounts to a local prime time hit in “Arrow,” which almost gets as many viewers as Cowell’s show and finishes No. 80. And that’s an accomplishment for the mini network that airs locally on WNLO.

Not many local viewers care that Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” is finishing its run. It gets less viewers than “Arrow” here and finished in 86th place out of 99 shows being measured.

Among the biggest local losers is The CW’s “Gossip Girl” at No. 98. It reportedly also is in its final season, though few here really care anymore about the spoiled brats in it.

The 99th and last rated show is “America’s Top Model” on the CW, but I’m not sure what edition of the series was being measured. By any measure, it isn’t doing so hot here.


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Bills Lease Coverage Makes Me Want to Shout


On the day before Christmas, I think I’ve become the Pollyanna of the local media.

Quite frankly, some of the negative media reaction to the new Buffalo Bills lease since it was announced Friday makes me want to shout “enough already.”

The negativity started Friday when my former Buffalo News colleague Jim Heaney ended his Channel 2 report on the more than $200 million in subsidies the county and state are giving the Bills by offering his opinion ”that’s a lot of money for a business that makes a lot of money and a team that loses a lot of games.”

The Buffalo News’ extensive coverage of the lease also has seemed to highlight the negatives more than the positives.

The thorough front page story Saturday by sportswriter Tim Graham with the sub-head “Troubling exit clause gives team an ‘out’ after seven years” was very balanced after initially focusing on the out-clause, the major negative aspect of the deal that will cost state and county taxpayers the more than $200 million in subsidies over 10 years.

Jerry Sullivan’s Saturday column also initially highlighted the negative out-clause, before he concluded “it was a very good day for Buffalo and Bills fans around the world.”

On Sunday, News columnist Donn Esmonde weighed in on the out-clause that allows the Bills to move after seven years without paying a $400 million penalty.

I highly respect Esmonde. He is a friend of mine. But nobody ever agrees with any columnist all the time and I disagreed with part of my friend’s column. The headline read “Citizens pay a high price for Bills deal” and the column declared the Bills the winners in the negotiations with the state and the county.

None of the the News writers was around here when the Buffalo Braves left town so they didn’t experience the blow to the community’s psyche back then. And that was for a team in the National Basketball Association, a league that wasn’t nearly as important then as it is now.

I respect all of the opinions and reporting of my former colleagues and friends. I agree with some of Esmonde’s conclusions, which were supplemented by the views of a Smith College economic professor who is among those who believe that sports teams don’t have an economic impact on communities like Western New York.

However, I doubt Professor Andrew Zimbalist understands how much this community loves the Bills even when it hates their performance on Sunday afternoons after they lose 24-10 to Miami.

I’ll grant everyone who is bashing the deal that keeping professional sports teams can cost taxpayers too much money and aren’t as beneficial economically as we’d like. But you also can’t underestimate how  priceless sports teams can be to the area’s psyche and some businesses.

Just ask many hockey fans and local businesses how much they miss the Buffalo Sabres playing this season.  I imagine local restaurants, bars and charities would disagree with some of the professor’s views about economic benefit.

The Zimbalist comment that confused me most concerned his view that the Bills would be here for at least four more years without the lease because it would take that long to find a new city to play.

“Basically, you bought three years of additional time for $95 million in (taxpayer-funded stadium upgrades),” Esmonde quoted Zimbalist as saying.

Let’s accept that it would take four years for the Bills to get their affairs in order and move. Zimbalist’s argument apparently assumes the Bills would have made up their minds to leave after three years, which if announced or discovered, would be season-ticket sale suicide for four years.

However, if the owner of the Bills at that time didn’t make up his mind until after the seventh year of the lease, the new lease could be viewed positively as an 11-year deal (7 plus 4).

For argument’s sake and in the holiday spirit, let’s look at this deal with the glass half full rather than half empty.

That’s how the Buffalo News looked at it in an editorial titled “Staying put” that was much more positive than the views of its reporters and columnists covering the story.

The editorial called it a “solid and fair deal’ and added “losing the Buffalo Bills would be a devastating blow to Western New York, and that is simply unacceptable.”

Unless you’re a college economist. Buffalo State College economics professor Bruce Fisher told me weeks ago for a story on a different subject that all these professional lease deals are too costly for the community.

But I digress.

Let’s look at the deal positively.

Let’s imagine some good things that could happen seven years from now when the out clause can be exercised:

Los Angeles already has two new NFL teams and is no longer viewed as a possible destination for the Bills.

The Bills new owner shares with 31 others team the $2 billion-$3 billion or more in L.A. expansion fees and the team is more financially stable despite the hefty billions a new owner paid for the team.

The Bills find a new franchise quarterback and make the playoffs for the fifth straight season, leading to a surge in the sale of season tickets and the more important stadium boxes at higher prices.

The area’s economy improves along with the team’s fortunes. OK, maybe I’m being too much a Pollyanna on that one.

No other big city comes forward with major subsidies to steal the Bills because its taxpayers are against joining the NFL at such a steep price.

If you look at the deal positively, the bottom line is the area has seven more years for its fans to sing “Shout!” after touchdowns and prove that it belongs in the major leagues and can afford the high sticker price that comes with it.

Happy Holidays to all my readers!!!!


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WGR Is Sticking with Rome After Move to CBS

It is time for a special pre-holiday edition of Sports on the Air:

Jim Rome clones should be assured that the sports talk host will continue giving his takes and hearing their takes on WGR 550 even after he changes networks.

On Friday afternoon, Rome reminded listeners what was announced months ago — his radio show is leaving the Premiere Radio Network on Jan. 2 after 16 years and moving to CBS Sports Radio.

Jim Rome

He told listeners that they could go to a website to see if the station that was carrying The Jungle was going to make the move with him. A quick look at the website showed that Rome was staying on WGR.

Greg Ried, the vice president and general manager of all the Entertcom stations in town including WGR, confirmed Rome will remain on the sports station from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays.

“He’s staying on WGR,” said Ried. “We’ve had him for years and he’s an entertaining talk show host.”

According to Ried, WGR’s morning program featuring Howard Simon and Jeremy White and the afternoon program with Mike Schoop and Chris (The Bulldog) Parker get better ratings than Rome’s national show.

The move to CBS radio follows Rome’s previous move of his daily TV talk show from ESPN to the CBS Sports Network on cable. He also recently premiered a talk show on Showtime, the pay-cable network that has the same owner as CBS — Viacom. Showtime announced Friday that Rome’s show will air monthly in its second season.

Jay Mohr, the actor who was a frequent substitute guest host on Rome’s radio show, is replacing him on Fox Sports Radio (FSR), which is owned by Premiere. FSR doesn’t have a Buffalo radio affiliate anymore. It does have affiliates in Rochester and Jamestown.

Kenmore’s Don Criqui, the Dick Clark of play-by-play men, works the Bills-Miami game Sunday alongside analyst Randy Cross. One assumes the game conversation will include talk of the Bills’ new 7-10 year lease.

Bills executive Russ Brandon sure seemed prepared during Friday’s lease press conference for the question from Channel 2’s Scott Brown about any secession plans for the team after the passing of Owner Ralph Wilson. Brown prefaced his question with the phrase “with all due respect” but still got KO’ed by Brandon’s response. It was a legitimate question, but Brown might have gotten a better answer if he asked it in a one-on-one interview with Brandon. But maybe not.

ESPN went nuts again Thursday with Tim Tebow coverage after sources told the sports network that the New York Jets were ready to drop the quarterback after the season. Just about every one of its analysts basically said Tebow isn’t a NFL quarterback. The extended coverage was more laughable than Tebow’s throwing ability. If he stinks as badly as ESPN analysts were saying, then why did they spend so much time on him? It’s hard to think of another third-string quarterback in the league who would get that kind of coverage.

Bills center Eric Wood gets points for honestly in ripping the Bills series in Toronto. Sportswriters have ripped it as well. Sure, it is a money grab. But WNYers and Bills players should accept the fact that compromises have to be made for a market as small as Buffalo to compete financially in the NFL. If the Bills played better over the years, the crowds in Toronto probably would be bigger and better, too.

There was a T.O sighting on ESPN Friday. Terrell Owens got plenty of air time speaking about his career and reconnecting with ESPN analyst and former San Francisco teammate Jerry Rice. It apparently had something to do with Madden 13, which is apparently the only place where the former Bill is playing this season. He still wants to play in the NFL, but acknowledged that his past problems (and not to mention his age) are being held against him.

You expect to hear opinions in newspaper columns, but not in TV news stories. At the end of Jim Heaney’s informative Investigative Post piece on Channel 2 about the Bills new lease, my former Buffalo News colleague noted the total subsidies from the state and county will exceed $200 million. “That’s a lot of money for a business that makes a lot of money and a team that loses a lot of games,” concluded Heaney.

All true. But I doubt that minor cheap shot would have made it into the newspaper copy of a news story. After all, what does losing have to do with it? It’s a lot of money even if the Bills of today were the Bills of the early 90s when they reached four straight Super Bowls.

I repeat: There’s a price to pay to be part of the best professional sports league in the world. If you think of it that way, $200 million is getting off pretty cheaply.


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Spreading Some Holiday Cheer

It is time for some holiday cheers because even I have a soft spot at this time of year:

Happy anniversary to Channel 2’s Ed Kilgore somewhat prematurely. The sports anchor, who now only anchors during the 6 p.m. newscast, will be celebrating his 40thanniversary at the station during the first week of January.

Autumn Lewandowski

These should be happy days for meteorologist Autumn Lewandowski, who joined Channel 7 after being let go by Channel 2. I’m told she will become a full-timer at WKBW-TV in January. She has been a part-timer at Channel 2 and Channel 7, primarily working weekends.

Former Channel 4 meteorologist Lindsay Schwarzwaelder tells me that she is happy now that she goes by the name of Lindsay Riley in her new job at a Dallas station. In a Facebook message, she explained the name change this way: “Schwarzwaelder was too long for air so they asked if I could change it. I really had no problems with it and figured it would happen some point in my career. Riley is my mother’s maiden name… So I have a connection to the name, which I am happy about.”

I’m happy to see that Melissa Holmes got her dream job as the co-anchor of Channel 2’s “Daybreak.” With the wakeup call of about 3 a.m., she probably won’t have much time for dreaming anymore.

I’m happy to see The Buffalo News finally got around Thursday to reporting that Texas anchor Jordan Williams is coming to Channel 4 to co-anchor “Wake Up!” Stilltalkintv reported Williams’ hiring three weeks ago. It was odd that Williams’ hiring three weeks ago was the lead in the News story and Holmes’ promotion on Wednesday was carried below it. After all, Holmes is a local product. Her husband, Jay Skurski, also is a Buffalo News sportswriter who covers the Buffalo Bills.

I was happy to see country star Tate Stevens win “The X Factor” Thursday night because he was one of the few singers on the show I saw this season. Here’s what I wrote on Sept. 20 after Stevens first wowed the judges: “At halftime of the ESPNU coverage of the University at Buffalo’s 23-7 loss to Kent State Wednesday night, I switched over to ‘The X Factor’ on Fox and think I caught this season’s Susan Boyle moment.

“That’s when 30something country singer Tate Stevens appeared and dazzled all the judges, including Britney Spears and L.A. Reid. I wish I had heard Simon Cowell’s review, but he wasn’t judging the first hour.

“The first words that Stevens sang established him as one of the contestants to beat. When the judges said ‘you are a country star,’ I couldn’t agree more. He also was very funny.

“But he probably won’t be enough for me to watch again for a while. Wake me up when it is near the end of the “X Factor” season.”

I woke up Thursday at the very end.

I’m happy for all of the fans of NBC’s “The Voice” this season who enjoyed the singing competition. I’ve probably watched a half hour all season, including the final 10 minutes Tuesday night in which the winner was declared. Maybe I’m being unfair, but when I looked at the final three candidates before the winner was announced I figured that Cassadee Pope had to win just by her appearance. The beautiful singer is the show’s first female winner.

I’m happy to read in a Facebook message that former Channel 4 marketing man Dan Meyers is taking his release a week before Christmas after 25 years at the station so well. Meyers wrote me nothing but positive things about Channel 4 and General Manager Chris Musial. He even totally understood the timing of his release. It was a classy way to go. However, somehow the cynic in me wonders if he signed a confidentially statement that explains all the positives.

I’m glad to see The Buffalo News is heavily promoting “The Bucky and Sully Show” inside its pages. Another edition of the online program is on the newspaper’s website this morning. However, as I wrote last week, the entertaining show in which sports columnists Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan try to be the bigger wise guy (the much-meaner Gleason won in the program I watched because Sullivan actually has a soft heart) needs to get more awareness and promos outside the paper. For example, The New York Times promotes its staff members with a program carried on Time Warner Cable downstate. By the way, my article on Sullivan appears in the January edition of Buffalo Spree magazine. I think you will find out some surprising things about the hard-hitting columnist. For example, he cries a lot.



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Why TV News Can Be Upsetting to Viewers


With apologies to Channel 4 for borrowing a slogan, nobody does apologies like Channel 2.

On its 5 p.m. newscast Monday, anchor Maryalice Demler delivered what amounted to an apology for sending a reporter to a local school for a story on the security plans of Western New York schools on the first day of classes since the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

Demler explained that a parent named Jennifer complained on Facebook because a Channel 2 reporter went to a local school to interview parents for the story in the aftermath of the national tragedy that ended the lives of 20 young children and seven adults.

“It is hard enough (my son) was scared all weekend,” wrote Jennifer on Facebook. “But now, to see a reporter first thing to start his school day? Poor judgment.”

Maryalice Demler

Demler said the comment attracted support with more than 2,000 Facebook likes and 200 mostly negative comments, which led to an internal discussion inside the Channel 2 newsroom. She added the station decided not to run any interviews with parents at the school who agreed to be interviewed.

“At 2 On Your Side,” said Demler in her most sincere sounding voice, “we listen to our viewers… It is part of our commitment to give you a voice in what we do as we cover our community. And thank you for the feedback.”

I’m sure this bit of transparency about how it operates made some members of Channel 2’s news team feel good about themselves. However, I can see the relevancy of interviewing parents about how they feel about school security since I have friends who have told me their young children were concerned about going to school Monday.

This is one of the times that a disconnect between the media and viewers over appropriate coverage is totally understandable. Both sides are right. However, I wouldn’t have felt the need to tell viewers that it “listens” to them and can be influenced by them.

If you’re going to have the public vote on how to handle the news, you are going down a dangerous road. A vocal minority will always disagree with how the news media covers events, tragic or otherwise.

By its nature, the news is intrusive and focuses on the negative more than the positive. The way the news is covered always upsets some viewers. You just hope that news departments know where the line is that shouldn’t be crossed.

As I have written before, I thought it was crossed Friday when reporters interviewed young survivors in Newtown immediately after the tragedy. As Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said Monday, interviewing young schoolchildren is a “very, very tender issue” and needs to be done “with trained professionals around.”

However, there is a school of thought that the media’s coverage of the events in Newtown has overwhelmingly been a positive despite all the mistakes made in initial reports.

The positives include allowing parents like Robbie Parker to give a tribute to his beautiful daughter Emilie, who was one of the young children who was killed. I don’t think I’ve seen anything more powerful and emotional this week than Parker’s heartfelt remarks.

When “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams said on Wednesday night’s newscast that the network reduced its presence in Newtown because “so many people wanted to be left alone” I thought of Parker and his daughter. As understandable as it was that people in Newtown were tired of NBC’s presence, its coverage of the very sad funerals at least gave more children the sweet goodbye that Emilie Parker received.   

The positives of the extensive coverage also include starting a dialogue about gun control laws that could actually lead to some much-needed changes led by President Obama, who noticeably avoided the issue as much as possible during his first term.

The primary negative is that news often can scare people when it covers almost everything. A constant diet of local and national news could scare you from driving to urban areas, eating certain foods, and now even sending children to schools.

I appreciate Jennifer’s concerns. Besides writing on Facebook about them, let’s hope she had a dialogue with her scared son about the media after the school day ended. Hopefully, she told her child the media isn’t trying to scare us in this case, but instead is trying to educate us and reassure us that you will be safe at school. It is a good thing.

I don’t see what Channel 2 gained by not running the interviews it had done. That didn’t help Jennifer or the 2,000 people who liked her comment. I’m even guessing that some of those unseen interviews would have been reassuring to some degree.

If it felt the need to talk to its audience about its coverage, Channel 2 should have had Demler explain why it thought interviewing parents was worth doing rather than tell why it didn’t run something.

The poor judgment was in not allowing viewers to see what Channel 2 had done. Because this might have been one of the times it was scarier to imagine what was in those interviews than actually seeing them.



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As Expected, “Daybreak” Is Permanent Home for Holmes

It is official. As expected here, Melissa Holmes will replace Jodi Johnston as the co-host of Channel 2’s ratings-dominant “Daybreak” in the morning alongside John Beard.

Holmes, who had been the favorite for the job after Johnston left in November to work at First Niagara, was given the morning slot after the station held some focus groups looking at her and  other candidates outside the station.

General Manager Jim Toellner said Holmes did a “fantastic job” while auditioning for the job after Johnston left.

“We did a search, but it’s it is nice when the choice becomes an obvious one and it is someone who is working here already,” said Toellner.

Holmes posted the station announcement on her Facebook page this morning and added this: “It’s a dream come true.”

Melissa Holmes: Johnston’s Replacement

When Holmes officially takes over on Jan. 3,  the local morning wars will have a decidedly different look. Channel 4’s new morning co-anchor Jordan Williams is scheduled to make his debut on “Wake Up!’ in January as well. Channel 4 hasn’t named his co-anchor, with Nalina Shapiro remaining one possibility to stay on the second-rated morning newscast in town.

During the November sweeps, “Daybreak” took a commanding lead over “Wake Up,” which has lost co-anchors Victoria Hong (Delaware North) and Joe Arena (Pittsburgh) to other jobs in the last six months. 

Holmes came to Channel 2 from Channel 4 a year ago, replacing Marissa Bailey on the 10 p.m. newscast on WNYO after Bailey left for Chicago. An Amherst native, Holmes was at Channel 4 for six years. If Holmes had stayed there, she might have been Williams’ co-anchor. Her last role at WIVB-TV was anchoring the 7 a.m. edition of “Wake Up!” on WNLO-TV so she is no stranger to the strange early morning hours.

Unlike Johnston, she will not work a split shift permanently. However, Toellner said Holmes will work the split shift of working in the morning and co-anchoring at 5 p.m. until the station hires a new 5 p.m. co-anchor. The new co-anchor most likely will not anchor the 10 p.m. news on WNYO-TV that Holmes has been anchoring since arriving at Channel 4, said Toellner. He added that the new hire will likely be a nightside reporter and co-anchors Maryalice Demler and Scott Levin “most likely” will split solo anchor duties on the 10 p.m. newscast.

As a Syracuse University graduate, I’m proud of basketball Coach Jim Boeheim is more ways than just one. Boeheim used the forum he received from ESPN after recording his 900th victory to advocate laws against allowing easy access to assault weapons. Boeheim said Tuesday afternoon on ESPN that the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. has deeply disturbed him and his family and something has to be done to prevent further tragedies. Noting that he has been a hunter all his life, Boeheim said he sees no reason for hunters or any private citizen to have assault weapons. Amen to that.

I see the Bills activated receiver Chris Hogan from the practice squad now that Donald Jones is out for the season. For those of you who don’t get HBO, Hogan was nicknamed “7-11” by Miami Dolphin Reggie Bush during “Hard Knocks” because he was “always open” in training camp. However, Hogan was cut by the Fins and picked up by the Bills. If he plays Sunday, Hogan’s first game will be against the team that cut him.

Channel 7 ran a story about the kidnapping of NBC reporter Richard Engel and his camera crew Tuesday night that identified cameraman John Kooistra as formerly working at another TV station in Buffalo. What would have been the harm of saying that he worked at Channel 2 years ago?

It’s less than a week before Christmas and Dan Meyers is out as the director of marketing and promotions at Channel 4. TV is a very, very cruel world. He was at the station for 25 years, the last 12 years in his current job. On his Facebook page, Meyers wrote Tuesday: “Tomorrow I begin Part 2 of my life. And it is going to be even better than Part 1. (Part 1 was pretty amazing, too).”



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Bills Fans Losing Interest in TV Games

Katie Couric: May Get Help from Queen Latifah


If Buffalo Bills Owner Ralph Wilson is going to fire Coach Chan Gailey after the season, it probably will be because so many fans have been turned off by his play-calling and game-day decisions that they have lost interest in the team they love, which could affect season ticket sales.

One indication that it may be happening is local television ratings for Bills game.

The Bills’ 50-17 loss to Seattle Sunday in Toronto was the lowest-rated of the season and the lowest-rated regular season game in recent memory.

The game averaged a 22.2 rating on Fox affiliate WUTV, which will still make it the highest-rated television program of the week in Western New York. But Bills games typically get ratings in the low to mid 30s. In other words, the rating for the Seattle game indicates about one-third of Bills armchair fans have been turned off.

Admittedly, the blowout nature of the game played into the low rating. But the game didn’t even approach the normal range at the start. The game had a 25.4 rating in the beginning and rose to a 25.5 before it gradually slipped as viewers left each quarter hour. By game’s end, it had a 16.8 rating, which is in the range of some preseason games.

To put interest in more perspective, Dallas’ overtime victory over Pittsburgh that played opposite the Bills game for much of the time averaged an 11.3 rating. Its rating rose after the Bills game ended, hitting as high as a 19.1 in overtime. In other words, more people were watching the exciting Pittsburgh-Dallas at the end than the embarrassing Bills loss at the end. Not a good sign.

To put the Bills rating in further perspective, San Francisco’s win over New England on NBC’s Sunday Night Football averaged a 14.0 rating until midnight.

The low rating can’t be attributed to Fox play-by-play man Dick Stockton and analyst John Lynch. They had strong games. Lynch repeatedly said that plays being made or not made by the Bills can’t happen in the NFL and pointed out how defensive players were out of position on the read-option run by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.

Channel 4 News has been copying Channel 2 innovations for years so I suppose it is no surprise that its high energy promos now resemble those of Channel 2 News.

In case you wondered as I did, Channel 7 did ask ABC if it could move the soap opera “General Hospital” from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. to give Katie Couric’s new talk show a better lead-in than it is getting from Ricki Lake’s talk show. ABC said no. Channel 7 is planning to drop Lake’s show in favor of Queen Latifah’s new talk show in the fall.

HBO is planning a documentary on President Clinton that is being made with the full cooperation of the now extraordinarily popular 42nd president. The interesting thing is it is being produced and directed by Martin Scorsese. HBO said it “will explore (Clinton’s) perspectives on history, politics, culture and the world.”

In case you missed, the incredible catch by Bills receiver Stevie Johnson Sunday of an overthrown pass by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was judged No. 2 Monday on ESPN’s plays of the day in any sport during SportsCenter. As one of my readers noted, it became No. 1 today in a different category on SportsCenter – NFL plays of the week. I can’t instantly think of one other memorable catch this season by a Bills receiver. You can blame Fitzpatrick for inaccuracy at times, but it isn’t like his receivers have given him much help this season. And I’m not only talking about T.J Graham, who dropped four passes Sunday that could have helped Fitzpatrick’s statistics look a lot better if they had been caught.

Channel 2 anchor-reporter Melissa Holmes and “Inside Edition” reporter Les Trent have both mentioned this morning on social networks that former Channel 2 photojournalist John Kooistra was a member of reporter Richard Engel’s NBC News team that was kidnapped in Syria and released five days later. He must have some story to tell.

According to a NBC News report on its website, Kooistra said he had “made good with my maker” and had been “prepared to die many times.”



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White House Comedy Gets Lukewarm Endorsement

Imagine if the late John Belushi were a member of the First Family.

Then you have “1600 Penn,” the new cartoonish NBC comedy that is getting a special preview at 9:30 tonight on Channel 2 following the final performance show of “The Voice.”

I’m sure I’m not the only TV critic who would characterize the silly and occasionally funny midseason comedy as “The White House Meets Animal House.”

Heavyset Josh Gad of “The Book of Mormon” has the Belushi-role as Skip, the likable adult son of the president who says and does inappropriate things but has his heart in the right place. Skip accidentally sets fires and inflames sensitive topics with his verbal knack for saying just the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Claire Danes

Created by Jason Winer of “Modern Family,” Gad and former White House speech writer Jon Lovett., “1600” has the attitude of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch and often is about as funny as the ones that air an hour into the show.

The pilot that airs tonight seems to revolve around the real-life travails of many of the famous siblings and children of presidents and presidential candidates.

NBC’s promos reveal the issue behind the first three episodes made available for review – the presidential daughter is unmarried and pregnant. You don’t have to think too hard or see Russia from your house to imagine where that plot line came from. The jokes in the promo come from later episodes, which is an indication of how funny the pilot is tonight.

Bill Pullman plays President Dale Gilchrist, who has to deal with Latin American politics and Middle East terrorists as well as issues with his children. Jenna Elfman, who looks fantastic,  plays his second wife who is trying to bond with four stepchildren.

The First Daughter is played by Canadian actress Martha MacIsaac of the movie “Superbad.” Her character is the polar opposite of Skip. Until now, she’s been perfect. The Prez also has a teenage daughter discovering her sexuality and a middle school son.

I suppose we need some laughter these days after all the things the current President and the nation are dealing with. Because of that, “1600 Penn” gets a lukewarm endorsement.

Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Now on to Showtime’s “Homeland,” which ended its second season Sunday night. I’m not going to give out much information about the finale on the theory many people haven’t watched it yet.

I can say a few things. First, I was dead wrong in my predictions about what was going to happen. Second, I liked my predictions better than what happened to Carrie (Claire Danes) and Brody (Damian Lewis). Thirdly, the episode confirmed my view that the series should have ended after this season.

However, this isn’t to say that I didn’t find the second half of the hour-long episode compelling viewing after the Big Event occurred that ended the first-half tedium over whether the two leads were in love.

The Big Event saved the talky finale. But many elements of the episode were preposterous and almost as laughable as some elements of “1600 Penn.” After giving people time to watch the episode, I will explain further. In addition, I have very little interest in The Big Idea behind what is happening to Carrie and Brody. In other words, it won’t be easy to make me care as much about the third season as the first two seasons.

Readers looking for a critique of the coverage of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. should look up my Saturday blog. I didn’t think it could wait until today. Since I wrote it, a few more inaccuracies in the early coverage have emerged. CBS’ Scott Pelley made several corrections in Sunday’s episode of “60 Minutes.” Not every error was the fault of journalists, but collectively the media’s performance was embarrassing. But as I suggested Saturday, the errors don’t seem that important in the scheme of things.     

Finally, remember Channel 4 meteorologist Lindsay Schwarzwaelder? According to published reports, she has changed her name to Lindsay Riley and been named the weekend morning meteorologist at the NBC affiliate in Dallas, Texas. She left Channel 4 two years ago to work in Lexington, Ky. According to a release from the Dallas station, Riley also will do features on environmental and weather-related stories.


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Cheers to WGR’s Simon and The Bucky and Sully Show

With the Bills not playing until 4:05 p.m. and time on my hands, I’ve decided to write a special Sunday edition of Sports on the Air.

Cheers to WGR-AM morning co-host Howard Simon, who Friday earned one of Channel 2’s Red Coats for asking Bills General Manager Buddy Nix the tough questions about Coach Chan Gailey and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Simon was persistent but respectful in asking Nix about Gailey’s job status during the GMs weekly appearance on the station that now carries Bills games.

It was the kind of performance that illustrated that WGR hasn’t become the Bills’ PR arm, except at night during the more positive John Murphy Show.

Of course, Simon didn’t knock the GM off of his support of the coach or the quarterback. Nix defended Gailey by accurately noting if the team had made one play in three games the Bills would be 8-5 instead of 5-8. That’s true. But they didn’t make the play.

Seth Davis: Blasts College Presidents

Simon also got Nix to concede the Bills would move up in the 2013 NFL draft to get a quarterback of the future. Unfortunately, the QBs coming out of college are so weak that Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib is now considered one of the better ones. I’ve seen most of Nassib’s games. He is smart, but prone to make more mistakes than Fitzpatrick.  

Cheers also to “The Bucky and Sully” show that is carried on the Buffalo News website. I tuned in Saturday to a replay of the program in which Buffalo News sports columnists Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan debate issues and do interviews with local sports personalities. Basically, they compete to see who is the bigger wise guy. The closest thing to a local version of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, “B & S” is very entertaining.

Gleason and Sullivan are friends who give it to each other pretty good for columns or opinions that have been off the mark. Gleason hit the hardest in the show I watched, criticizing Sullivan for being too soft on Gailey and Fitzpatrick. Sullivan did say on the show that he felt sorry for Gailey, but not sorry enough that he didn’t hesitate to call for him to be fired.

Meanwhile, Gleason – whose primarily job is covering hockey — might have startled fans by saying “I’m really starting to hate the NHL (during the lockout)… That’s probably counterproductive for what I do.”

“They hate you, too,” replied Sullivan.

I imagine “The Bucky and Sully Show” gets about as many viewers online as watch a local women’s college basketball game because of lack of awareness. The Buffalo News should consider buying time on a local TV station or Time Warner Cable to carry it a few times to drive awareness.

Listening to play-by-play man Mark Larson and analyst Danny Liedka during Syracuse’s 85-61 victory over Canisius Saturday night I had this thought: Can’t one of the best communications schools in America get a stronger team announcing their games on TWC? They may know SU basketball inside and out, but Larson and Liedka also may be the dullest pair of TV announcers doing college basketball games anywhere.

Studio analysts Doug Gottlieb and Seth Davis had a lively discussion Saturday afternoon on CBS about the football realignment insanity that has led to the destruction of the Big East and its incredible basketball history. Davis blasted the college presidents who have been behind the football money grab. Having covered the second Big East tournament final between SU and Villanova in 1981, I find the end of the Big East rivalries and SU’s move to the ACC extremely sad. By the way, Syracuse won the 1981 Big East tournament on its home court and didn’t get a NCAA tournament bid. Now the conference gets multiple bids annually.

What do Fox announcer Dick Stockton and Buddy Nix have in common? They are both in their eighth decade of life. Stockton, a SU grad who recently turned 70, is doing today’s Bills-Seattle game with analyst John Lynch and sideline reporter Jennifer Hale. His energy level on the NFL and NBA remains extremely high. Larson could learn something listening to Stockton.

As ESPN’s Mike Tirico indicated while seeing the emotional moment between Houston Coach Kevin McHale and Boston’s Kevin Garnett Friday night after the Rockets beat the Celtics, it was even more moving because of the day’s tragic events that day in Newtown, Conn. in which so many young children were murdered. Garnett, who was drafted by former Minnesota GM McHale out of high school, went over to the Rockets coach and exchanged a long hug that moved McHale to tears. The Rockets coach lost his 23-year-old daughter Sasha last month after a battle with lupus.


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