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“The Finder” Is Amusing; “Revenge” Has Good Twist

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 08:  Actor Geoff Stults...

Geoff Stults

 

Walter Sherman (Geoff Stults) is a former military hero with brain damage and incredible instincts who collects damaged people, finds prized guitars and military heroes and has an amusing view of those who live with him in Florida.

His spirit in Fox’s “The Finder,” the latest occasionally amusing comedic drama from Hart Hanson (“Bones”), is captured with this early line from Walter about Florida: “It has a bottomless supply of sociopathic criminals to break your heart.”

“The Finder,” which premieres at 9 tonight on WUTV, has a bottomless supply of quirkiness that requires a viewer to wildly suspense disbelief.

After finding John Fogerty’s prized guitar, Sherman is asked by the son of a missing man to  find his father, who  Sherman had earlier saved when he was a military hero.

The premiere spends a good deal of time amusingly revealing Sherman’s history and introducing the gang of misfits he lives and plays with. The case includes deep-voiced Michael Clarke Duncan as the friend who owes Sherman his life, Leo Knox; Maddie Hasson as a pretty juvenile delinquent, Willa Monday, who they are trying to redeem; and Mercedes Masohn as pretty U.S. Marshall Isabel Zambada, who in the “Bones” tradition is alternately aided, irritated and romanced by Sherman.

Sherman warns the missing man’s son that sometimes he finds thing that those looking for don’t want to know about it.I won’t tell you more than you need to know about the plot, which is all over the place. But I suspect many viewers will find “The Finder” acceptable silly entertainment that doesn’t tax the brain. Rating: 2 and a half stars

George Clooney and Emily VanCamp could be the co-anchors of the CBS morning show and practically no one in Western New York would care to watch it or read about it.

Monday’s much-publicized debut of the new Charlie Rose-Gayle-King-Erica Hill version of the show had a 2.9 rating, which actually is decent by CBS standards around here. Tuesday’s edition slipped back to the usual territory of 2.2 on Channel 4. That means about 13,000 households in Western New York were watching on average.

There was quite a shocker at the end of Wednesday’s “Revenge,” the season’s guilty pleasure. I won’t reveal it because I know how many of you watch it a day or so after it initially airs on ABC. I keep forgetting that the Daniel, the rich boyfriend of VanCamp’s character, Emily Thorne, was found dead in the pilot.  I also wish viewers weren’t told that before the series went into flashback.

Buffalo Sabres fans get a reprieve from the TWC-MSG contract mess next Wednesday when the new NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) carries Buffalo’s game with Pat Kane and the Chicago Black Hawks game. A NBC Sports Network spokesman said it can’t be blacked out here.

The ratings for the 10 p.m. news on the day that Melissa Holmes arrived at Channel 2 illustrate what the former Channel 4 anchor-reporter will be up against as the new 10 p.m. anchor for her new station’s newscast on WNYO-TV. Channel 2 had a 2.0 rating Monday night to a 4.9 rating for Channel 4’s news on WNLO. The ratings for both newscasts might have been low because of the national college title football game being carried on ESPN.

pergament@msn.com

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Rebates, Apologies and Explanations

This is what I’m thinking:

2006-10 logo of the Sabres, known disaffection...
Image via Wikipedia

If Time Warner Cable and MSG aren’t going to make a deal to get the channel that carries Buffalo Sabres games back, then cable subscribers should get the money TWC is saving by dropping the channel.

A rebate certainly is preferable to substituting NBA TV on the channel where MSG used to be carried.

It would also help subscribers know exactly what they are paying for the channel that carries the  Sabres, New York Knicks games and college sports.

It is a bone of contention with former employees of the defunct Empire Sports Network that Adelphia never gave subscribers back the fee the cable company was paying to air that regional sports network.

A reader advised Sabre fans with TWC that Versus (which is now the NBC Sports Network) is going to carry all playoff games so they shouldn’t worry if the team makes the playoffs. In the past, Versus didn’t carry all first-round games and the local broadcaster (MSG) was often allowed to blackout its coverage of that round. I’ll have to check to see if anything has changed in NBC’s new deal with the league.

With hockey ratings among the best in the country, the NBC Sports Network would almost assuredly want to carry as many Sabre games as possible. But MSG is still carried on DirecTV and FiOS here and would be expected to adhere the blackout policy.

The best first-round scenario for a Sabres fan with TWC would be to have the team go on a hot streak and make the playoffs and play a Canadian team so that CBC would carry all the games that don’t go to TSN, its version of ESPN.

I had to laugh at the front page attention and all the local TV news coverage given to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over his attempts to broker a deal between MSG and TWC. Maybe he’ll be able to be helpful as former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was during a similar dispute. But Schneiderman doesn’t have any power in the situation. Natrually, he enjoyed the public relations boost from all the coverage. People in Buffalo might even know his name now.

Apologies to Jericka Duncan and Robin Adams, who I left out of my Sunday blog about all the female anchors and reporters who have left Channel 4 in the past two or three years.

Speaking of funny front page stories, wasn’t it shocking to read that ratings for the Sabres have dropped severely now that 40 percent of the TV audience with TWC doesn’t get them? However, it was interesting to think about the damage to advertisers.

I know the Carubba Collision hit of the game is extremely popular during Sabre games, but am I the only one who wonders if the advertisment is appropriate now that concussions have become such a big issue in the NHL?

A voice inside me said “say something nice about TWC” so here it goes. The new streaming features called HBO GO or MAX Go are a bonus to subscribers with those pay channels. To get them on your computer or other electronic devices, go to the TWC page and sign up.

Western New York has never been a big college football town as far as TV is concerned. So the 9.8 local rating for ESPN’s coverage of Alabama’s 21-0 national title victory over LSU was pretty decent when you consider it wasn’t nearly as entertaining as many of the high-scoring bowl games this postseason.

Is Ron Paul still talking on CNN after his second place finish to Mitt Romney in the New Hampshire primary? I couldn’t believe how long he was allowed to lecture. Imagine if he had won.

pergament@msn.com,

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Without Question, NBC’s “Chelsea” Is Lame

Chelsea Handler at LA Direct Magazine's "...

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I have an answer to the question in the new NBC sitcom “Are You There, Chelsea?”

Let’s hope that it won’t be there for long.

It is one thing to read and enjoy the raunchy attitude of comedian Chelsea Handler in her best-selling books and late-night cable talk show.

But when it comes to the same material on TV, a little raunch goes a long way.

Handler is one of the stars of the series that premieres at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday after the less offensive and occasionally funny “Whitney.” But she doesn’t play herself. That’s a smart move. As an NBC promo for the series suggests, she’s  probably a little too old by TV standards to play a sex-crazed bartender with a sailor’s tongue. And she’s wise to dye her hair dark, as if she is trying to avoid being seen.

The real Chelsea plays Sloane, the very pregnant older sister of the fictional Chelsea, who is played by Laura Prepon of “That ‘70s Show.” The most laughable moment out of Handler’s mouth in the two episodes available for review occurs near the end of the second episode when Sloane (the real Chelsea) gives the fictional Chelsea a relationship lesson and tells her that life isn’t all about sex.

This show is. Cover your ears, or in this case, your eyes as the fictional Chelsea narrates the episodes. In the first minute of the pilot tonight, there is a chlamydia joke, soon to be followed by jokes about sexual positions, a wacky new roommate’s virginity and giving a bartender a “handy” (in front of Chelsea’s father no less). I’m no prude, but this show tries much too hard to get laughs out of sophomoric material with one-liners that probably read funnier written on paper than they do when performed. The sexual position joke is the bottom of the barrel and repeated often.

It isn’t like NBC doesn’t have a censor. The word “vodka” isn’t in the show title, as it is in one of Handler’s best-sellers. However, it kept vodka in the script and also allows several politically-incorrect drinking jokes. After all, isn’t drunk driving funny?

Besides the virgin and the father (played by Lenny Clarke), the cast includes a dull bartender, a  best friend, a little male person (that’s politically-correct for what used to be referred to as a midget) and a cat with a name I won’t repeat (but isn’t the obvious slang word you might be thinking). None of the actors (or the cat) makes much of an impression.

My impression is that potential viewers would be wise to ignore “Are You There, Chelsea?” and read a book. Even one of Handler’s books.

Rating: 1 and a half stars out of 4

pergament@msn.com

 

 

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Channel 4 News Needs To Recruit More Women

WIVB-TV

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Channel 4 News needs A Few Good Women.

The hiring of veteran Traverse City, Mich. anchor Diana Fairbanks for the 5:30 p.m. on Channel 4 and the 10 p.m. newscast on WNLO-TV (CW 23) in a few weeks is a start but more quality women are needed.

It should be noted that Fairbanks will compete at 10 p.m. weekdays with former Channel 4 anchor-reporter Melissa Holmes, who will anchor Channel 2’s 10 p.m. news on WNYO-TV.

It won’t be a fair fight for Holmes since the audience for Channel 4’s 10 o’clock news routinely triples that of Channel 2’s 10 p.m. newscast on a weaker station.

One of the unintentionally funniest lines of last week came from Channel 4 General Manager Chris Musial, who was quoted in the Buffalo News as saying “his station is undergoing a ‘real nice makeover.’”

He probably was referring to the new high definition set that stilltalkintv reported weeks ago is being readied before the start of the February sweeps. The station already has had quite an ugly makeover of female staffers in the past two or three years.

Holmes is the latest female to depart. Her move highlights the need for more women at WIVB-TV, which has lost several veteran female reporters and anchors in the past several years.

In fact, more women have left the station for a variety of reasons – cutbacks, better opportunities, motherhood, not feeling wanted among them — in that time than remain at the station even after  Fairbanks comes aboard in less than two weeks.

It wasn’t so long ago that Channel 4 had the strongest group of female reporters in a business that attracted women because of its excitement, enjoyment,  educational and ego satisfaction factors.

The list of Channel 4 departures includes reporters Lorey Schultz, Michele McClintick, Ellen Maxwell, Jericka Duncan and Tricia Cruz, and anchors Lisa Flynn, Lisa Scott, Robin Adams (in sports) and now Holmes. You could add Lia Lando, who briefly anchored the 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. news before declining a Channel 4 contract offer and taking a more favorable deal in Rochester.

The only women remaining on the on-air staff are veteran anchors Jacquie Walker and Victoria Hong and three younger women: Anchor-reporter Nalina Shapiro, who was hired out of college; Rachel Kingston, who was hired out of WBEN radio; and meteorologist Amelia Segal.

The station has about three times as many men on its on-air news staff, counting the sports department.

The quality of the women who have left Channel 4 is much superior than the quality of the newcomers who have taken their place as station management has followed a company edict to reduce payroll.

Fairbanks better be good because Channel 4’s female bench is very weak these days. There is no female currently on the staff that could be viewed as Walker’s eventual replacement if she ever left the business. Shapiro was more impressive when she began right out of college and hasn’t really grown in the anchor seat. When she anchors on weekends, Channel 4 looks like a college TV station.

In view of that, you might have expected Channel 4 would have made Holmes feel more wanted and tried harder to keep her before it was too late.

Holmes is joining a station that has a much stronger female bench. Channel 2 has the equivalent of 10 women on its news staff when you count part-timers. The female anchor bench is stronger because Maryalice Demler and Jodi Johnston are essentially both lead anchors.

Channel 7’s on-air news staff is the smallest in town with more than twice as many men as women. The five women on the staff include three anchors – Joanna Pasceri, Ginger Geoffery and Kendra Eaglin. Its only full-time female reporters are Kyla Igoe and Jaclyn Asztalos.

pergament@msn.com

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NBC’s “The Firm” Is On Shaky Ground

English: Josh Lucas at the 2009 Tribeca Film F...

Josh Lucas via Wikipedia

 

By the law of averages, you might think that NBC would get a new legal drama right.

Think again when it comes to “The Firm,” a laughable update of the John Grisham best seller and subsequent movie that premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on Channel 2.

I wanted to love it. But despite an excellent cast, “The Firm” is the dumbest legal show since, well, the Jimmy Smits’ NBC disaster, “Outlaw.”

The  cast includes Josh Lucas (“Glory Road,” “J. Edgar”) in the Tom Cruise movie role as defense lawyer Mitch McDeere; Molly Parker (“Deadwood”) as his wife Abby; Callum Keith Rennie as Mitch’s brother, Ray, a private eye with a manslaughter conviction on his resume; and Juliette Lewis (“Cape Fear”) as office help, Tammy Hemphill.

Nothing in the script of the two-hour premiere is on firm ground. The plot is more laughable at times than suspenseful, the resolutions of the legal issues are often preposterous and the conspiracy revealed at the end can’t save it.

Mitch is a liberal lawyer and risk taker in Washington, D.C. who fled his native Memphis after bringing down a big law firm there a decade ago. He joined the Witness Protection Program to make his wife and young daughter safe from the mob. He has left the WPP and is warned by federal authorities that the mob is still looking for him. But Mitch isn’t worried. I mean why would he be worried about the mob?

That may be the least preposterous element of the series. Mitch is always looking to stop and think about what is the best way to do the right thing even if it means risking his legal career and somehow managing to convince an assistant district attorney to join him in this professional suicide mission. His pursuit by a big, ethically-challenged D.C. firm also is a little ridiculous since they are aware of Mitch’s history as a crusader.

To make Mitch more sympathetic, the script gives him a supportive wife who will follow him anywhere and a cute daughter who fears that she will have to go anywhere.

The McDeeres have big money concerns, which may force Mitch to give up his dreams of going it alone legally and be associated with the big law firm. He initially views that as a fate worse than being chased by the mob.

There is a lot going on here, with most of the two-hour pilot being guilty of being wildly ridiculous and nowhere as entertaining as intentionally preposterous legal shows written by David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal,” “Harry’s Law,” “The Practice,” “L.A. Law.”)

That said, “The Firm” does have some exciting chase scenes and some heartfelt moments if you are able to ignore how silly it is. I couldn’t.

Rating: 1 and a half stars  

Speaking of dumb, there’s no other way to describe Channel 4’s negotiation position with anchor-reporter Melissa Holmes before she bolted for Channel 2. Holmes confirmed that Channel 4 didn’t discuss a new deal with her until a few days after she told the station she was leaving for Channel 2.

Holmes was able to learn that Channel 2 might be interested in her a few months before her contract expired so she called the station to find out how interested. Channel 2 offered her a deal in late December, which Channel 4 responded to.

“Channel 4 asked me what it would take for me to stay,” said Holmes. “Channel 4 wanted to keep me but I am eager to start at Channel 2. I went to Channel 2 for greater opportunities and to stay in my hometown and hopefully make an impact and to work for an incredible news team.”

She will miss her colleagues at Channel 4. But you got the sense that Holmes wasn’t happy at the way she was treated at Channel 4 and felt more wanted at Channel 2 than she was at Channel 4.

Channel 4 has been known to delay contract renewal offers until close to or even after contracts expires. With non-compete clauses no longer valid in new broadcasting contracts in New York State, the policy puts Channel 4 at risk of losing talented and valuable staffers like Holmes.

While we’re on dumb subjects, inquiring minds want to know how NBC’s four-night pre-Christmas run of the stupid game show “Who’s Still Standing?” did in Western New York. It averaged a 5.3 on Channel 2 for the four nights, which is decent by NBC standards.

The media website TV Spy reported Thursday that Channel 4 has hired a veteran Traverse City, Mich. anchor to anchor the 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.

Diana Fairbanks, who has been at two Traverse stations for 11 years, is filling the role that Lisa Flynn used to have before she left Channel 4 more than a year and a half ago. Since then, Lia Lando briefly anchored the two newscasts before declining a Channel 4 contract offer and deciding to take an anchor job in Rochester. After Lando left, Don Postles and Jacquie Walker added the extra newscasts to their duties.

pergament@msn.com

 

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Here’s a Switch: Some Answers on Local Media News

It’s time to catch up on the news that quickly hit after being out of town for a week.

Melissa Holmes

The big local media news includes the Buffalo Bills switching radio stations, 103.3 talkers Ted Shredd and Tom Ragan switching time slots, anchor-reporter Melissa Holmes switching TV stations and MSG asking Buffalo Sabres fans to switch providers.

With all this news come some questions that I will try and give some opinionated answers.

Let’s start with Shredd and Ragan, who have traded places with Rich (The Bull) Gaenzler and are back to mornings after spending five years in the afternoon on 103.3 The Edge.

Station management says they are moving to mornings because that’s the most prestigious radio time slot and it drives listenership throughout the day. In other words, it is all about making money.

Which begs the questions, why didn’t Shredd and Ragan move back to morning years ago?

It is management’s position that the five years in the afternoon drove awareness to a new audience that might join the morning audience they used to have.

I used to listen to them in the morning but barely heard them in the afternoon because of my sleep and work habits. So I am glad they are back in the morning even if I’m not completely buying the reason for taking five years to make the switch.

Rich Gaenzler had his own morning show?

I hadn’t realized that, either. Never heard it. I only heard him before and after Bills games.

Does the Shredd and Ragan move have anything to do with the loss of the Bills?

Management says no, that the timing is coincidental. But the station was wise to take focus away of what it is losing (the Bills) to what it still has.

Why did the Shredd and Ragan move get so much newspaper coverage since they aren’t going anywhere?

Beats me. Since they are just talking switching time slots, it probably deserved a short story of several paragraphs and not a story full of self-serving station quotes. But it is tough to understand The Buffalo News philosophy on local media these days. As of Wednesday, it still hadn’t mentioned that Marissa Bailey was leaving Channel 2, which at least deserved some press. And it didn’t run a story today about Melissa Holmes leaving Channel 4 for Channel 2, as reported here Wednesday.

Now let’s move on to Holmes move from Channel 4 to Channel 2.

Why did Channel 4 let that happen?

It doesn’t seem to value anyone at the station these days except for its main anchors. Holmes should have been a significant part of the station’s future. Its bench has been severely depleted in the last few years. My guess is that she wasn’t happy and not just because Channel 4 didn’t start talking to her about a new deal until just before her contract expired. She looked elsewhere and Channel 2 is happy to have her.

I was told more than a year ago that Holmes wasn’t happy when she wasn’t offered the 5:30 p.m. weekday anchor job when Lisa Flynn left. She was smart to leave and Channel 2 is smart to hire her.

Who will take Holmes’ place on the 7 a.m. hour of “Wake Up” that airs on CW 23?

The best guess is Joe Arena will just add the extra hour to his 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. shift. After all, Arena appears to have exited “Wingin’ It,” Channel 23’s program with paid segments.

Now let’s move on to WGR getting the rights to Bills games. It is a perfectly logical move to join an all-sports station that is part of a radio group, Entercom, that has several local stations with different demographics. But there are still questions.

Does that mean WGR talkers have to make nice to the Bills?

Have to? Of course not. But many of them probably will be softer on the Bills than they have been. After all, it’s only natural to be gentler on people you get to know through hosting talk shows like the ones planned with Bills coaches and executives to get the team point of view across. Mike Schopp and Chris (The Bulldog) Parker vowed Wednesday on their show the deal wouldn’t impact them, then went off and did a very soft interview with Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. I can’t see the deal influencing Jerry Sullivan, the opinionated Buffalo News sports columnist who is one of the Bills’ chief critics. If being softer on the Bills is the price WGR has to pay, it is too high.

Why did the owner of 97 Rock and 103.3 walk away?

It is really tough to make money on the Bills in a radio deal. The Sunday games serve as loss leader in the hope it will drive listenership during the week. With most of the games on TV, the Bills having another losing season and listeners able to get the Bills feed on Sirius satellite radio,  the economics didn’t work as well as they even have in the past.

Did WGR pay a rights fee or did the Bills buy the time on the station to control the advertising inventory? Can Entercom make money on the deal?

The Bills release didn’t address the rights fee question. But a rights fee has always been awarded in the past and the former rights-holder walked away after giving a final rights fee offer. We just never find out what the rights fee is. But in a small market like Buffalo, the Bills probably can’t pay more than a player or two with it. It most likely  woouldn’t be easy for Entercom to make money on a rights fee deal.

What does having the Bills on WGR do to the Buffalo Sabres?

It makes them a second class citizen on the station. Interest in the Bills dwarfs interest in the Sabres in this town. If Bills games were off of TWC for any length of time and people couldn’t get Channel 4 with an antenna, there would be a stampede to DirecTV.

Which brings us to our final issue, the Sabres coverage on MSG being off of TWC.

Whose fault is it?

Both sides have blame and both are making misleading claims.

What can WNYers do to protest?

Not much, since TWC and MSG have much more at stake in New York City. You can call TWC to complain and threaten to move to satellite or FiOS if it serves your community. But it won’t really matter much. This is a battle between two cable companies, one of which (Cablevision) owns MSG and the New York Knicks and New York Rangers. TWC won’t make a separate deal for WNY. It’s really all about New York, New York.

Can you watch the Buffalo Sabres games via internet streaming legally?

MSG won’t allow the Sabres to stream the games on their website. They are being streamed by some sites, which the Sabres say is illegal. But they add they aren’t doing anything about it.

When will this end?

Who knows? If it goes more than the month of January, we may be looking at the playoffs. That’s if the Knicks, Rangers and Sabres make it.

How are the broadcast TV stations dealing with the story?

By playing up the controversy big time, leading its newscasts Tuesday with the story. Channel 2 even plans to run Sabres highlights early in the newscasts on game nights. The funny thing Tuesday night was the stations’ suggesting the Sabres’ 4-3 win over Edmonton Tuesday was so exciting that it shouldn’t have been missed. I had great seats at the game and wondered which game the anchors were talking about. As the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington cracked in his lead Wednesday morning, TWC and MSG did the area a“ favor most of Tuesday night” by not telecasting  “an often-dreary display of hockey.”

pergament@msn.com

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Melissa Holmes Switching Buffalo Stations

Melissa Holmes

It is Melissa for Marissa at Channel 2.

Anchor Melissa Holmes is leaving Channel 4 to become the 10 p.m. weekday anchor and a reporter at Channel 2, industry sources confirmed today.

Holmes (see left) will be replacing Marissa Bailey, who stilltalkintv reported last month is leaving Channel 2 sometime this month to look for work in Chicago.

An Amherst native, Holmes has been with Channel 4 for more than six years as a reporter and anchor. She currently anchors “Wake Up” at 7 in the morning and used to do a “Saving 4 You” segment that is similar to a Channel 2 feature on ways to save.

Her Channel 4 contract expired at the end of 2011. Non-compete clauses, which had been typically included in TV contracts, are now illegal in new contracts in New York State, according to sources. That enables Holmes to move to Channel 2 without having to sit out a period of time.

Channel 2 is expected to make the announcement sometime today. Holmes could not be reached for comment.

Holmes will be anchoring a Channel 2 newscast on WNYO that has been unable to make a dent in the strength of Channel 4′s dominant 10 O’Clock News on WNLO.

The move is another personnel loss for Channel 4, which lost its local news dominance from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to Channel 2 in the November sweeps but remains a strong No. 1 at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.

pergament@msn.com

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Shows to Look Forward To In The New Year

English: Singer Katherine McPhee and pianist L...

Katharine McPhee of NBC's "Smash"

 

I’m back. I’ve always found Jan.2 to be the toughest work day of the year.

That’s partly because during my days as the Buffalo News TV critic, I found mid-to-late December the best time of the year and didn’t want to go back to real work..

With nothing really on TV except for holiday specials, I usually took the last two weeks of the year off. When I got bored, I watched or re-watched the pilots of the upcoming midseason shows at night when prime time reruns were mostly the order of the night.

I didn’t re-watch every series. I ignored the midseason pilots that were available to watch in August before the TV season officially started and made an indelible impression on me of being a complete waste of time.

This midseason is especially intriguing because the fall was so disappointing. Even my favorite new show, Fox’s ”New Girl” with Zooey Deschanel, seems to have lost its legs by repeating itself. I was never a fan of CBS’ “Two Broke Girls” and now find it unwatchable.

Which brings me to tonight’s ABC comedy premiere, “Work It,” which is trying to channel “Bosom Buddies.” I don’t remember much about the series about an unemployed man who dressed up like a woman for a job interview because it gave him a better chance of success during a “man-cession.”

I do recall I couldn’t get those 22 minutes of my life back. It was so unfunny and forced that I suspected it would never air. Wrong. It airs tonight. My advice: Ignore It.

If you’ve watched any NBC series in the past few weeks, you’ve undoubtedly seen a promo for the new NBC series “Smash,” which premieres the Monday after the Super Bowl.

I watched it three times over the holidays. Needless to say, I love the pilot of the series about the making of a Broadway musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. It stars Debra Messing of “Will & Grace” as part of the creative time involved in the musical. But former “American Idol” star Katharine McPhee is a revelation as one of the waitress-actresses vying for the lead role. I knew she could sing, but I hadn’t realized she could act. And she looks — as Simon Cowell might say — fantastic.

It is easy to criticize “Smash” since it features just about every Broadway cliché there is. But I still can’t wait to see it a fourth time. Watch it when it arrives.

Then there is “Alcatraz,” the Fox series from J.J. Abrams about missing criminals and guards who were in the maximum security facility in California years ago and suddenly have come alive along with their stories. I watched it in August and loved the series, which has a cast that includes Sam Neill of “Jurassic Park” fame and Jorge Garcia of “Lost.” The first hour was intriguing, mysterious and tense. Fox just sent along the second hour and I can’t wait to use some of the time I used to spend watching Buffalo Sabres game to watch it. It premieres Jan. 16.

I also used late December to watch the final two episodes of “Homeland,” the Showtime series starring Damian Lewis, Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin about an American terrorist who has come back from the Middle East masquerading as a war hero.

I won’t give up too much of the plot because so many people came to the series late and haven’t caught up to the final. I will saw this series from the producers of “24” gave the writers the same problem they had with that Kiefer Sutherland series: They couldn’t make the ending as powerful or as believable as the previous episodes after painting themselves into a corner and needing to save the stars for another season.

The finale was disappointing and unfulfilling on multiple levels. I did like the symbolism of the final tortuous scene and still can’t wait to see season two.

Finally, I spent nine hours watching the entire first season of “Luck,” HBO’s horse racing series from Buffalo’s David Milch of “Hill Street Blues,” “NYPD Blues” and “Deadwood” fame. HBO gave it a sneak preview last month and repeats that episode on Jan. 29 before it airs the second episode on Feb.5.

I didn’t love the pilot of the series that stars Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina, Jason Gedrick, Nick Nolte and several other recognizable faces and is directed by Michael Mann. I found it a little difficult to hear and understand some of the dialogue. But I understand that Milch was treating the subject like a novel, which typically starts slowly by establishing the setting.

By the third episode, I could practically smell the track and the horses and gradually fell in love with the degenerate characters that are the heart of Milch’s view of the world he knows so well.

By the end, I was as hooked on “Luck” as a bettor is on a beautiful colt ridden by an incredible jockey. Enjoy it.

More on “Smash,” “Alcatraz’”and “Luck” as their premieres near. Consider this an early shout out to them all.

pergament@msn.com

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Sabre Fans Should Root for Knicks

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24:  Carmelo Anthony #7 o...

Carmelo Anthony (7)

Many local Time Warner Cable subscribers may not care whether New York Knicks games are carried here on MSG, but Carmelo Anthony’s team may be the key to how long the verbal battle between TWC and the sports network that carries Buffalo Sabres games continues as a Jan. 1 contract deadline nears.

Tuesday’s New York Times featured almost a half-page ad with a picture of Anthony, the former Syracuse star, with the headline: “Hallelujah NYC It’s Game Time.”

Down below, the ad warned that TWC subscribers (in NYC) could lose MSG and MSG Plus on Jan. 1.

A TWC spokesman in Buffalo confirmed last week that the cable operator doesn’t make deals with only one area. In other words, MSG won’t make a deal in Buffalo to carry the Sabres separate from a deal in New York City to carry the Knicks and New York Rangers.

The spokesman confirmed that stance today (Friday) after a confusing story carried online by the Buffalo News may have left the erroneous impression that separate deals could be worked out in Buffalo and New York City.

Since New York is the largest TV market in the country and has significantly more TWC subscribers than Buffalo, it shouldn’t be hard to realize what area has the most leverage in this battle.

The point is protesting Sabre fans can hold their breath, since the New York market is much more important to MSG and not just because it is a much bigger market.

Cablevision, which owns MSG, also owns the Knicks and the Rangers. For that reason, you might expect it would want to reach a compromise with TWC to keep the Knicks games on.

Anthony was the hero of the Knicks’ 106-104 opening game victory over the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day. If he continues to play well and the Knicks continue to win, the pressure to keep the games on TWC presumably would increase on both sides.

So Sabre fans would be wise to root for Anthony and the Knicks to help end this standoff.

pergament@msn.com

 

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Eager to Explain Confusing Media Stories

Sofia Vergara

Sofia Vergara

Sometimes I read local stories about the media and think of Sofia Vergara of ABC’s “Modern Family.”

Who doesn’t think of Sofia, the Colombian actress who plays Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on the Emmy award winning comedy?

Gloria’s English is so difficult to understand at times that she needs an interpreter.

One also was needed to understand a Buffalo News story last week with the headline: “WNED eager to take over WBFO.”

Recently, I did a story for Buffalo Spree magazine about the two stations and I didn’t even understand a story built around the Western New York Public Broadcasting Association’s $4 million purchase of WBFO-FM and two Southern tier stations from the state. The WNYPA consists of WNED-TV, WNED-FM and WNED-AM and is commonly referred to as WNED.

The headline — which isn’t written by the reporter — was part of the confusion. One of the big issues surrounding the purchase is what is going to happen to WNED-AM, which carries several of the same programs as WBFO. The headline suggested to some that WNED was going to take over WBFO.

That made no sense since WBFO is the stronger station and goes into more areas of WNY than WNED-AM. WNED-AM does have a reach in some areas where WBFO is weak.

I was so confused that I called Don Boswell, the president and chief executive officer of the WNYPBA, to determine what, if anything was new since public forums were held almost three months ago to get public input on what to do with the two stations after the WBFO deal is approved.

So here is what I gathered from listening to Boswell.

Once the FCC approves the sale and some technological things needed to be done are accomplished. WBFO will carry the best programming from both stations.

WNED-AM will simulcast the WBFO programming until it is determined whether it would be best to put on some other programming or whether WNED-AM should be sold.

To expand WBFO’s potential audience, Boswell is looking for ways to get it into the lucrative Canadian market, which is a big part of the success of WNED-TV.

Boswell is trying to be realistic in the face of the $6 million the local public broadcaster is in debt because of the purchase of WBFO and some problems with the interior of the building on Lower Terrace.

In addition, the WNYPBA may have to pay more money for NPR programming. At the same time, it may lose revenue if the stations don’t get the same pledge support from listeners as they have in the past.

Hope that clears almost everything up.

 

I also feel an obligation to interpret a Channel 2 report Wednesday. I was a math major in my freshman year in college. I bring this up because I was confused by the math being done by Channel 2’s Aaron Saykin in Wednesday’s story about what the tax cut extension being argued about in Congress will mean to the average American. The report noted that President Obama is getting his message across by asking what an extra $40 a week would mean to taxpayers.

First, Channel 2 carried a chart that showed the tax cut would mean $750 to someone making $35,000 a year, $1,000 for someone making $50,000, $1,500 for someone making $75,000 and more than $2,000 for someone making more than $100,000.

Then WNYers were asked what they would do with an extra $40 a week. According to my math, the only people who should have been asked that question are those making more than $100,000 a year because $40 a week equals $2,080 a year.

WNYers won’t be able to hear them (unless they get a pirated telecast of the blacked-out game), but CBS is sending first-team broadcasters Jim Nantz and Phil Simms Saturday for the Bills game with the Denver Broncos at the Ralph. If you’ve watched ESPN in the last month or so or listened to any sports talk show, you know why Nantz and Simms are coming to a game involving a team in a seven-game losing streak. They are here to see Denver quarterback Tim Tebow,  a devout Christian, on Christmas Eve.

Finally, happy holidays everyone.

pergament@msn.com

 

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