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Snow Predictions Bring WNY to a Crawl

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Some random thoughts while waiting for those 10-16 inches of snow to arrive:

OMG, WNYers have become bigger sissies than residents of  NYC.

A few weeks ago, I was in New York City laughing at the coverage of an expected snowstorm that put pressure on Mayor Bloomberg (see right) to cancel school the night before.

After all, parents told every news reporter they could find that they needed to know the night before because they work and had to make plans for someone to take care of their children.

Apparently realizing weathercasters are about as accurate as sportswriters picking against the point spread of NFL games, Mayor Bloomberg held his ground and said he was going to wait so see if the snow arrived.

The next morning there was only a dusting and the Mayor looked pretty astute as kids went off to school.

The reason I laughed at the coverage was because I thought nothing like that would happen in Western New York.

After all, we know how to take care of the white stuff here. And we know that Pope Don Paul, Kevin O’Connell and Mike Randall are about as infallible as the Bills brass on Draft Day.

I was wrong.

By Tuesday afternoon, school districts were announcing that today’s classes were off because of forecasts and what was happening across the nation.

Incredibly, the University at Buffalo announced it was closing, too. I say incredibly because friends who have graduated from UB have told me that it shuts down about as often as Buffalo News sportswriter Bucky Gleason praises Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier.

The local TV stations ran annoying closing crawls all night, thereby downsizing the screen as prime time shows ran.

I got so annoyed while watching “The Good Wife” that I tweeted that the stations should realize that the Internet was invented to update interested viewers about what was closed today. Anyone who needed to know they had a day off today could go to the web to find out and the rest of us could watch our network shows in peace.

Besides, after the 10th or 20th time the crawls went from A to Z, it was clear that all of WNY was going to be shut down today.

Check that, all but the private school my son attends and one of the colleges where I teach.

By 9:30 p.m. my son’s school called and said classes were canceled today.

I went to bed not knowing if I had to teach today because Buffalo State College was seemingly the last holdout.

My body’s alarm clock got me up at 6:15 a.m., just in time to hear Channel 2’s John Beard announce “we caught a break.”

The 10-16 inches turned out to be 2-4 inches.

“We’ve been through worse,” said Channel 7 anchor Patrick Taney.

Andy Parker, Channel 2’s morning meteorologist, added “by Western New York standards, this is a passable storm…. This is not over, but it certainly is not the type of storm we expected.”

My immediate thought was “I guess I’m teaching.”

Before I could go to the web to check, I turned to Channel 4 and saw that Buffalo State College was closed.

And Buffalo State closes about as often as Egypt changes its president.

So I am off today to ponder what the follow-up stories are going to be on tonight’s newscasts as the administrators who made the premature closing calls are asked if they over-reacted.

I can predict their defense and even agree with it: It is better to be safe than sorry.

Besides, I can hear the ice hitting my house as I write this and I’m happy that I’m not driving in this mess.

I just have one request of the TV stations today.

Please stop running those darn crawls so I can enjoy the snow day off watching TV.

pergament@msn.com

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Channel 2 Apologizes for News Mistake

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There have been several strange journalistic moments during the extensive coverage of the Hassan beheading trial.

One of the strangest and most embarrassing occurred last Friday when Channel 2 reporter Scott Brown did an interview with a victim of domestic abuse.

Of course, the Hassan trial has led to a focus on the issue.

Before the lengthy interview, anchor Scott Levin noted that the victim didn’t want to be identified.

The station was careful to make sure viewers couldn’t see her face during an interview in which she described why she stayed with her husband for so long and advised others to learn from her experience.

However, Channel 2 wasn’t so careful when it ran the legal paperwork of divorce papers. A viewer could clearly see the names of the plaintiff filing for divorce and her husband. So much for protecting her identity.

Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner owned up to the error.

“It is a terrible error and never should have happened,” said Toellner. “We have called her and apologized.”

Toellner said the mistake only aired on the 5:30 p.m. newscast and never made it on the website.

He added the error was made by veterans at the station who knew better and have been disciplined. He just wouldn’t say how.

“We’ve dealt with it internally,” said Toellner.

* I enjoyed the humor in Friday night’s NHL Fantasy Draft for the All-Star game. South Buffalo’s Patrick Kane (see above) — one of the team selectors – was behind the joke of trying to avoid drafting Chicago Black Hawks teammate Jonathan Toews as long as he could. There was plenty of other inside jokes by the All-Stars.

Unfortunately, the draft gimmick and the humor didn’t lead to a big local audience. The Fantasy draft had a 1.3 rating on Versus locally.

The high-scoring All-Star game Sunday only had a 2.2 local rating on Versus and Buffalo is one of the best TV markets for hockey. And it wasn’t like local viewers caught the game on CBC, either. The local CBC affiliate didn’t have enough local viewers for the All-Star game to even register a rating.

The NFL’s high-scoring Pro Bowl had four times the audience of the NHL All-Star game with a 8.8 rating Sunday on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. Of course, the Pro Bowl had a big advantage because it was on a broadcast network that viewers could find. The bigger advantage is that Americans care much more about meaningless football games that meaningless hockey games. 

pergament@msn.com

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Speaking of Roles of a Lifetime, In-Laws and Thank Yous

Julianna Margulies at the 2009 Tribeca Film Fe...
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Some random thoughts while watching the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards Sunday night on TBS and TNT:

* This two-hour show really needs a host to enliven things.

All viewers may not have loved Ricky Gervais’ mean-spirited act on the Golden Globes but at least it was something to talk about and debate.

I won’t argue with “The King’s Speech” winning for best ensemble cast over “The Social Network.”

“King’s” was the best movie I saw last year.

However, the influence of the social network Twitter in the crisis in Egypt makes one think that “The Social Network” is the more important film of 2010 and the Oscar favorite. After all, you could make a case that Facebook led to Twitter.

* As much as I enjoyed the first season of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” I was surprised to see it win the best ensemble cast for a TV show. “Mad Men” still has the best cast on TV. But the writers of the series set inside the advertising industry have to realize that “Mad” is no longer the trendy pick.

* There is no arguing with the win by Christian Bale of “The Fighter” as best supporting actor in a movie. But Geoffrey Rush of “The King’s Speech” is just as deserving and he gave a much better speech after “King’s” won the ensemble acting award. Just to hear a Rush speech, I’m hoping he springs an upset at the Oscars on Feb.27.

* By the way, CBS Sunday Morning did a terrific piece on Rush and his acting career on… well on Sunday morning.

* Julianna Margulies of “The Good Wife” (see above) deservedly won her second straight acting award, which was more heartwarming since she was one of the actors who told little stories at the start of the program. She said that she was told early in her career that she would have to move to Europe to become a star because of her looks.

After she won, Margulies got a laugh when she thanked her in-laws before explaining that they raised her husband into a terrific partner. Ah, how sweet.

* Fans of “ER” might have been surprised to hear Margulies refer to her role as Alicia Florrick of “The Good Wife” as the role of a lifetime. After all, playing Carol Hathaway wasn’t too shabby, either. And and it led to “The Good Wife.”

* If you’re scoring, that’s the second major acting award for Steve Buscemi for his role in “Boardwalk Empire.” And just think, one Buffalo reviewer (it wasn’t me) wrote that he was miscast.

* Buscemi didn’t give much of a speech. In fact, there weren’t many good ones, proving that actors are best when the words are written for them.

But Colin Firth of “The King’s Speech” was nothing like the stuttering character he played. He gave the best speech of the night after being named best actor in a movie. Hopefully, he’ll practice a little more by the time the Oscars roll around in a month.

* The only expletive deleted came out of the mouth of a pregnant Natalie Portman after being named best actress in a movie for “The Black Swan.” When talking about the advice her parents gave her when she started acting at age 11, Portman said she was told “don’t be an (expletive deleted).”

Hopefully (boy I am using that word a lot), she’ll clean up her act by Oscar time.

* Glad to see ABC’s “Modern Family” win as best acting ensemble in a comedy. But it would have even been better to see Ty Burrell (who plays silly dad Phil) win as best actor in a comedy over Alec Baldwin of “30 Rock.” Even Baldwin seems to be tired of winning.

* Speaking of “thank yous,” I loved the Steve Hartman piece on CBS Sunday morning about the lost art of writing them on stationery. Hartman got an assist from CBS News reporter Byron Pitts, who thanks practically everyone he meets.

The story made me feel that I don’t thank people enough. So I thank all of you who have read this blog for the last nine months. Just don’t expect to get a thank you on stationery.

 pergament@msn.com

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“American Idol” Hits Local Sour Note

Simon Cowell at the National Television Awards...
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How much do local viewers miss Simon Cowell (see right) on “American Idol”?

If Thursday night’s ratings is a judge, the answer is a whole lot.

In its second week with new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, the TV sensation only averaged a 10.9 rating on WUTV-Channel 29, the local Fox affiliate.

According to one researcher, that could be the lowest “Idol” rating here or at least in the top three of the lowest-rated.

But a 10.9 rating is still a very healthy rating for any prime time program if you just didn’t compare it to the glory days of “Idol.”

The good news is that the latest audition episode of “Idol” grew its audience over the hour. It started with a 9.9 rating and finished with a 12.6 rating.

pergament@msn.com 

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Channel 7 Makes Strange Trial Call

Meredith Vieira in NYC, 2009.
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This is what I’m thinking:

* Eyewitness News made a startling choice as its lead at 11 p.m. Thursday.

It didn’t go with the Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan trial.

That ordinarily might have been worthy of applause by those (including me) who believe extensive coverage of the bizarre trial has exceeded its news value and importance.

But Thursday was the day the murder defendant in the beheading case took the stand and claimed his late wife was actually the abuser and he was the victim. 

One can’t wait until the prosecution gets to cross-examine him. Well, actually it appears we’re going to have to wait since Hassan seems to be conducting a filibuster rather than a defense.

Still, Thursday wasn’t exactly the night to move the trial down to second place in the list of stories covered.

Besides, it wasn’t like the choice for the lead was high-minded news. It was the sad story of the 24-year-old Buffalo native who was the apparent victim of a serial killer downstate.  According to the Buffalo News, authorities have said she might have been a stripper and an escort.

Channel 2 didn’t cover the press conference her parents gave Thursday until after the first news break. Naturally, it spent several minutes at the top of the newscast on the Hassan trial.

* The TV stations seemed to think it was a big deal that about 40 citizens lined up Thursday to hear Hassan testify. Considering all the coverage the trial has gotten for days, 40 people who are that interested in the trial didn’t sound like that much to me.

* Many Buffalo viewers had to enjoy the start of NBC’s “Today” this morning, which included a report on all the snow this winter in Eastern cities. The report listed the five snowiest cities in reverse order – Worcester, Mass., Boston, Hartford, Rochester and Syracuse. Assuredly, many national viewers had to wonder, “what about Buffalo?”

* Marcia Mule, a 1985 graduate of Buffalo State College who has gone on to a highly successful career in reality TV that includes Kathy Griffin’s Life on the D List and Celebrity Poker Showdown, has a new job. She is the head of programming at Engel Entertainment in New York City. Engel has had several shows on the History Channel, A&E, TLC and Discovery.

* No matter how hard one tries, it is hard to avoid writing about Fox News analyst Sarah Palin. Her latest embarrassing media moment came when she critiqued President Obama’s State of the Union address about Winning the Future and said the acronym WTF was “spot on” for several elements of his speech, 

On this morning’s “Today” show, co-host Meredith Vieira (see above) noted that Palin’s initials stood for What the ….. Well, you know what word the F stands for. Vieira couldn’t say it (and I won’t write it).

Palin’s acronym would have been clever if it had been written by a sophomoric satirist or a “Saturday Night Live” writer. But it’s hard to believe anyone supposedly interested in becoming president would use it, especially if they are conservative. Can’t wait until “SNL” gets a hold of that one.

* Speaking of WTF moments, there were harsh Twitter remarks made by NFL players and commentators last Sunday questioning the toughness of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler after he left the NFC title game with Green Bay in the second half with a knee injury.

Cutler’s coaches and teammates defended him. That’s enough for me.

Over the years, injuries to several Buffalo athletes have been questioned. The most famous incident involved Buffalo Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek, who didn’t have the support of his teammates.

I also remember fans and some teammates questioning the length of time it took Bills receiver Andre Reed to recover from a severe hamstring injury in the mid-1990s. And Reed was one of the toughest Bills in history and now is a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame.

So I wouldn’t take much stock in the early speculation that Cutler will never live the tweets down. By mid-week, Cutler was being defended and becoming a sympathetic figure.  

* WNY native Jeff Glor gave a shout out to Mighty Taco this week on CBS’ “The Early Show” after the morning program ran a story about the controversy surrounding how much meat there is in Taco Bell tacos. “Never heard of it,” said co-anchor Erica Hill of Mighty Taco. “Can you say road trip?”

pergament@msn.com        

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MTV’s “Skins” Is Shockingly Boring

Skins (TV series)
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I was shocked after watching the third episode of MTV’s controversial new teen series “Skins.”

The shock was over how shocking the episode wasn’t.

After all, the third episode is the one that is supposed to be so shocking that MTV is going to have to censor it before it premieres Monday.

I’m no fan of the series, which revolves around several high school teens that have a casual attitude about drinking, sex and drugs.

It is certainly understandable why the series – based on a popular British series — has gotten under the skin of the conservative Parents Television Council.

But the PTC should have kept quiet because “Skins” is as boring as its characters are bored by life.

All the noise the group has made resulted in a New York Times article that speculated that the show might be breaking laws about the depiction of teens in sexual situations and slightly exaggerated the show’s racy content.

That usually leads to a spike in the ratings but Monday’s second episode reportedly got half the audience of the highly-rated premiere. More importantly, “Skins” has lost several advertisers, who really become the primary censors of racy content.

Controversy usually breeds interest so I imagine the teens who watched the first episode were just too bored to come back.

A few weeks ago, the students in one of my college classes watched the premiere episode of “Skins.”

The reaction to the adventures of Tony (James Newman), Stanley (Daniel Flaherty), Michelle (Rachel Thevenard), Chris (Jesse Carere) and Cadie (Britne Oldford) was interesting.

Half of the class thought the series shot in Toronto (and featuring mostly unknown Canadian teen actors) was a realistic portrayal of teen life. The other half thought it was totally unrealistic.

In other words, “Skins” will be viewed in the prism of who is watching it. It isn’t supposed to illustrate what every teen is doing these days, but how a portion of that demographic behaves.

The primary question is whether the portrayal of drinking, drug use and sex talk (you don’t see any sex in the first three episodes) will influence the behavior of pre-teens, teens and young adults who watch it.

“Skins” isn’t the first show to deal with the influence question. The CW’s popular “Gossip Girl” has had similar story lines that led to similar PTC concerns. The difference is that “Gossip” dealt with rich teens with active social lives, while “Skins” deals more depressingly with the middle or lower classes.

The influence issue led to a discussion between me and my 17-year-old son, who is a high school senior. When he saw the jacket to the “Skins” DVD on a table at home, he told me that he had seen the premiere.

He doubted it would influence his age group, but conceded that it might not be best for younger viewers to see it. Pretty astute for a 17-year-old, huh?

I told him that I’m not so sure that everyone in his age group was secure or smart enough to know it was only TV and that they “should not try this at home.”

But back to the third episode.

The offensive part of the program reportedly is a scene of 7-10 seconds in which a 17-year-old boy’s naked behind was visible as he walked a street after being shut out of his own home by an intruder.

The scene illustrated how lost the character, Chris, is in an episode in which his mother left him $1,000 in cash and disappeared.

MTV can easily edit the scene down or out without losing the symbolism. But that scene isn’t what a viewer should take from this episode, which hardly glorifies the lives of these lost teens. In fact, it makes their lives look very sad and very empty.

The show’s virginal character, Stanley, is involved in a charade with a pretty girl, Cadie. They both falsely say they are having sex with each other to help Stanley’s image with his peers.

The naked boy, Chris, has been abandoned by both his parents.

One could reasonably argue that “Skins” makes drug use, drinking and sex look like empty substitutes for a happy home life.

The overriding message from the controversial third episode is that some teens long for love and a normal life and seek the love of their parents.

Controversial? Hardly.

Unfortunately, it also isn’t very interesting.

In other words, the PTC should have just ignored “Skins” rather than give viewers a reason to watch the controversial third episode.

pergament@msn.com      

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“Freak Show” Drives Interest in Live Blogging

 

Several days ago, I wrote that I understood all the interest in the beheading trial of Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan but still wondered if the local TV stations and the Buffalo News really thought that viewers and readers needed live blogging of every detail.

I also questioned whether their manpower could be put to better use.

The reaction to that statement was mixed.

A Facebook friend who deals with the media wrote that he thought the extensive Hassan coverage was a big turnoff.

But then a fellow college journalism professor wrote that she loved the live blogging. She called the trial a Freak Show and compared it to a reality series by the Kardashian sisters.

Then a guy who works at a local TV station admitted that he checks in with the Hassan blog daily because of the “weirdness” of the case.

I’m not changing my tune, but I guess I should amend my statement. Readers and viewers don’t need live blogging, but some reasonable and intelligent people seem to be enjoying it.

And in these economic times, TV stations and newspapers will do anything they can to attract eyeballs even if it doesn’t meet the standard of what used to pass for very important news.

The case does meet several standards of what is newsworthy, including proximity, prominence, conflict, human interest and novelty. But it really isn’t that important to most viewers and readers and just appeals to base instincts.  

Confession time. Decades ago, I used to cover the County and Supreme Courts as a reporter. I even covered a few cases that would have been candidates for live blogging if Al Gore had invented the Internet back then. (OK, I know Al didn’t invent it, so please don’t write.) 

I’m thankful I didn’t have to do any live blogging and was able to give the trials my full concentration.

Since then, technology (and scandal) seems to have as much to do with choosing what should be covered as importance.

Why is practically everyone blogging the Hassan trial?

Because they can.

At times, the newspaper covers events because they provide good video for their websites and not because they are important.

In the short run, the media is trying anything it can to get people to the future of their businesses – their websites.

In the long run, it probably isn’t a healthy development for the media or the public being served.

One wonders if the live blogging leads to reporters personalizing the stories they later do for their stations. On Tuesday, Channel 4’s Lorey Schultz told viewers what part of the proceedings perhaps disturbed her the most, which isn’t usually the role of a reporter.  

While I’m not a fan of live blogging, some of the blog postings in the newspaper were interesting.

The News reported that Judge Thomas P. Francyzk, told jurors that the courtroom proceedings would differ greatly from TV courtroom shows.

“That’s show biz, that’s drama, but not evidence,” he said.

Some TV drama series – perhaps one of the “Law & Orders” – will likely eventually give the case a fictional take. However, it may be tough to make a realistic episode of the bizarre case and provide any suspense about the verdict.

The Hassan case hasn’t exactly been providing many teachable moments beyond focusing on domestic violence.

However, it has taught viewers and readers the legal difference between being a killer and a murderer. Hassan has admitted he killed his wife, Aasiya Zubair Hassan. He has pleaded not guilty of murder.

Judge Franczyk also told the jurors to avoid media coverage and added “I promise you that everything you need to decide the case in terms of fact and law” will be presented in the courtroom.

In this media age, it probably would be hard to avoid everything.

I was slightly surprised to see Channel 2 carry an interview last week with a therapist who dealt with the Hassans and said Mo Hassan was the only person that she treated that frightened her.

However, jurors were told to avoid the media and presumably they didn’t see that interview.

Since their hands and actions are visible in court, we certainly can be assured that the jurors were much more likely to have seen the Kardashian sisters than any live blogging of this Freak Show. 

pergament@msn.com

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Demanding a “Modern” Answer Is Tough

Modern Family
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The way the Time Warner feature On Demand works isn’t very funny.

At least it isn’t very funny to local fans of some of the top-rated comedies in America and Western New York.

One blog reader noted that he missed an episode of ABC’s “Modern Family” because a speech by  President Obama changed the start time.

He figured he’d catch it On Demand. Then he discovered that the offerings of ABC On Demand, which TWC recently added, don’t include “Modern Family,” ABC’s highest-rated comedy.

ABC On Demand does offer almost all of its dramas locally, including “Grey’s Anatomy, “Private Practice,” “Desperate Housewives, “Castle,” “No Ordinary Family,” “Detroit 1-8-7” and newcomer “Off The Map.”

But the only comedy recently offered by ABC On Demand is Courteney Cox’s lower-rated “Cougar Town.”

The reader wanted me to investigate why there is room for “Cougar Town” and no room for “Modern Family.” So I called the local TWC spokesman.

He relayed that the cable company doesn’t decide what goes On Demand, the supplier (in this case ABC) decides.

ABC apparently has decided as of last week that we need more of “Cougar Town” than we need of “Modern Family” or “The Middle,” another ABC comedy that gets decent ratings and isn’t On Demand.

So then I decided to take a look last week at the CBS and NBC On Demand offerings .

Like ABC, CBS offers several dramas. They include all of the popular “CSIs” and the two versions of “NCIS,” “The Good Wife,” newcomers “Blue Bloods” and “The Defenders” and even old “Medium.”

The only comedies it offers are the highly-rated “Two and a Half Men” and “Rules of Engagement.”

Surprisingly, it didn’t offer two popular comedies – “The Big Bang Theory,” which beat “American Idol” in local ratings last week,” and “How I Met Your Mother”

Sensing a discrimination pattern, here I checked out NBC’s On Demand offerings and saw it carries four comedies – “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “Outsourced” and Community.”

Amusingly, NBC also offers two series that aren’t on the air now — “The Event” and the canceled “Undercovers.”

Of course, NBC’s ratings are so low that you can understand why it would put as many dramas and comedies as it could On Demand to try and grow the audience.

The question remains why doesn’t ABC put “Modern Family” On Demand and why doesn’t CBS carry “Big Bang” and “How I Met Your Mother” On Demand?

I have my theories.

They all come down to money.

But first it should be noted that viewers can look elsewhere to watch shows that they missed for free. They should check out the network websites – abc.com and cbs.com. They also should check out Hulu.com.

Of course, that primary benefits the more technological savvy viewers who may also be able to figure out more easily how to move the shows from the websites to their TVs.

And it has the added benefit of attracting more viewers to the network websites.

One of my wilder theories of why popular comedies aren’t On Demand concerns syndication. I’m  wondering if the companies that produce those shows either have made syndication rerun deals that prohibit them from being On Demand or think they can get better syndication deals in the future if they don’t put them On Demand. Remember, I called it a wild theory.

Or perhaps ABC and CBS believe they will get better rerun ratings if they don’t carry the popular comedies On Demand.

One might ask then why is “Two and a Half Men” carried locally On Demand.

I can only speculate that the Charlie Sheen has been in syndication longer than “Mother” and it may have made a different deal.

I could be way off-base, since the networks now seem to embrace the idea that any On Demand or website viewer it gets is one they wouldn’t have gotten.

There may be a much simpler and a more noble answer.

But experience teaches me that when it comes to silly TV decisions, money is usually behind it.

pergament@msn.com        

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“Californication,” Rocketship 7 and Other News

Crooped version of American actor David Duchov...
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This is what I’m thinking:

* It was a little surprising to get a Showtime release announcing that the David Duchovny male fantasy series “Californication” will return for a fifth season.

As I’ve said before, the series about self-destructive novelist Hank Moody (Duchovny,see right) is one of my guilty pleasures.

During my winter break from college teaching, I watched all 12 episodes of season four and felt the April finale would have a perfect resolution for the series.

That’s why I was surprised to see that it will return. But it is a happy surprise as long as guest stars equivalent to Callie Thorne and Carla Gugino will be along for the ride.

* The kinder and gentler ”American Idol”  featuring new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez took a ratings hit from CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” Thursday locally. “Bang” — which moved to 8 p.m. Thursday this fall — had a 16.8 rating on Channel 4, the local CBS affililiate. The first 30 minutes of “Idol” had a 12.4 rating. The full hour averaged a 13.3 rating on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. It is expected to be down 20 percent or more locally from a year ago when the second night of “Idol” averaged a 20.8 rating after the time-shifted audience up to seven days later was added to the live rating. 

* Inquiring minds have asked me who is the new guy who replaced me as the Buffalo News television critic after seven months?

This has confused me since the newspaper hasn’t replaced me with a local hire.

Then I realized the people who are asking believe that Washington Post writer Hank Steuver is working for the News.

The confusion is easy to understand.

The News has run several of his reviews with a photograph. It isn’t until the end it runs an italic line that says “The Washington Post.” Notably, the fact that he works for the Post is clearer on the News website.

Steuver’s reviews often run on the front page of the newspaper’s living section. (When my reviews ran there, they ran without my picture). Steuver is an excellent writer, but he often writes about national cable programs that would appeal to five or six newspaper readers (OK, I exaggerate and that ’s a bit of a cheap shot)  so some readers might not get to the end.

The News is essentially doing the kind of shameful thing that I used to criticize the local TV stations for doing when they ran CNN or other syndicated stories and made it look like their own.

If I were The News, I would carry a picture of its own talented staffer, Anne Neville, when she writes an occasional local or national feature on television.

The News should be promoting its own writers rather than try to pass off a guy whose reviews are available online as one of its own.

* As regular readers of this blog realize, some of my best friends are Canadians so I’m not about to get in on the fight between my friend Donn Esmonde of The News and a Canadian writer about the tipping habits and behavior of hockey fans here during the World Junior championships. I was surprised to hear another Buffalo News columnist, Jerry Sullivan, take a gentle shot at his colleague during a WGR radio appearance.

* Speaking of my Canadian friends, Toronto TV critic Bill Brioux tells me that one of the highlights of the recent TV critic tour in Hollywood was the appearance of former Rocketship 7 star Dave Thomas with his TV star son David Boreanaz (“Bones”) at a party.  It brought Bill back to his days as a child watching Thomas — who later had a long career in Philadelphia — on the Channel 7 program. Wish I had been there. Actually, I wish someone from The News was there. Or Hank Steuver had been there.

* Buffalo armchair football fans helped the NFL get record ratings last weekend. All four playoff games had significantly higher ratings here last weekend than they did for the corresponding weekend in 2010. The New York Jets upset of New England had a 31.5 rating on Channel 4, which is higher than several Bills games scored in the 2010 regular season.

* I understand the interest in the beheading trial of Mo Hassan. But do the local TV stations and the News really think readers and viewers need live blogging and twitter updates of practically every detail?

Can’t they find better use for their manpower?  Then again, I also think all the live blogging of NFL, NHL games and “American Idol” is a waste of energy and makes it harder for reporters to really think about what is going on and prepare stronger stories for the newspaper and local newscasts.

It is one thing if the bloggers were additional manpower. But they are being asked to blog at the same time as they prepare to do their regular stories and that can’t help their concentration.

pergament@msn.com   

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Simon Missed and Other Early “Idol” Thoughts

Aerosmith - Steven_Tyler
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I woke up this morning in time to see the results of a poll on new “American Idol” judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler (see right) that aired at the end of Channel 2’s “Daybreak.”

The results made you wonder if the show’s Water Cooler effect would depart this season with acerbic Simon Cowell.

According to Channel 2’s unscientific poll, 42 percent felt the show was better with the new judges but 50 percent agreed with the statement “no Simon, no show.”

Better without Simon?

Did those voters actually see Wednesday’s two-hour premiere?

I watched the first hour trying to imagine what “Idol” would have been if it had started with Tyler, Lopez and holdover judge Randy Jackson.

I couldn’t imagine it would have become the TV phenomenon it became in the last decade.

The new configuration apparently means that Jackson will have more power and impact as he guides the new judges.

Lopez looks beautiful in all her hair styles and outfits, but when it comes to criticism she made Paula Abdul sound like Mike Schopp or Sean Hannity.

Tyler, the long-haired lead singer of Aerosmith who David Letterman cracked Wednesday night looked like J-Lo’s mother, does seem to have some critical potential and an ability to turn a phrase. He could – in the vernacular of the show – eventually make his role “all his own.”

But as many critics have noted, the judges might not sound better than they do in the audition episodes in which their comments are taped and edited. The hard part comes later when they assess performances live.

Of course, a 50 percent negative judge rating could spell disaster for the show’s ratings.

But it is too early to overreact. Besides, even if those 50 percent leave, “Idol” would get a respectable rating by TV network standards.

The show has leaked ratings nationally and locally. But there is nothing else on WUTV besides NFL games that gets close to the 16.2 rating it averaged a year ago, down from a 17.7 in 2009.

Wednesday’s opener had a 14.9 local rating on Channel 29, which means it probably will be about 15 or 20 percent lower than the 20.9 rating the opener had in 2010 when time-shifted viewership up to seven days later was counted.

The unknowns in the equation are the talent level, which has slipped significantly in recent years, and the heartwarming stories that accompany the contestants.

One thing that was very clear from Wednesday’s opener in New Jersey was that “Idol” is going to be warmer and fuzzier this year without Simon. And if it is warm and fuzzy in hard-bitten Jersey, it will be even warmer in the South, where many of its top candidates often come from.

* NBC’s new three-hour block of comedies Thursday night should take a hit opposite the second night of “Idol.”

It doesn’t help that the new comedy premiering at 8:30 p.m. on Channel 2, “Perfect Couples,” doesn’t live up to its name.

“Couples,” which had an early launch in December that few people or even critics were aware of, is the first of what will be a series of new romantic comedies premiering on television this spring.

Its three couples can be summarized in a few words: Dave (Kyle Bornheimer of CBS’ one-year wonder “Worst Week) and Julia (Christine Woods) are the normal couple. They would prefer to spend time with each other rather than share their anniversary with friends. Vance (David Walton) and Amy (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) like to have fights so they can have makeup sex. Rex (Hayes MacArthur) and Leigh (Olivia Munn) are the couple guided by self-help books that tell them how to behave.

Tonight’s unfunny pilot revolves around a game night. An additional episode sent for review revolves around Dave’s unhealthy eating habits and Amy’s spending habits. It led to some forced fun at Rex’s new man cave.

The man cave is a perfect metaphor for the series, since practically everything about “Perfect” is forced – the situations and the humor.

It is so lame that I bet even J-Lo would have no trouble voting it off TV.

Rating: 1 and a half stars out of 4   

pergament@msn.com

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