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NBC’s Changes Are Laughable

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It was hard not to laugh Monday when NBC announced its midseason schedule included a Thursday night of comedy that would continue at 10 p.m. with Tina Fey’s Emmy-winning “30 Rock” and the freshman series “Outsourced.”

 After all, one of the jokes in the PBS special honoring Fey with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor concerned how low the ratings for “30 Rock” have been.

 And the joke was made by Lorne Michaels, the “Saturday Night Live” producer who also is one of the producers of “30 Rock.”

 NBC has tried the 10 p.m. comedy strategy before on some nights and it has never worked. And the chances that it will work with the low-rated “30 Rock” are as slim as the chances that Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien will have Thanksgiving dinner together.

 If nothing else, NBC’s moves will give Fey some material for her show, which oftens skewers network executives.

I suspect that one of the reasons that “30 Rock” was given a renewal through the 2011-12 season was because NBC executives realize that Fey’s show deserves an extra year for being sacrificed at 10 p.m. Thursday, where Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” has been tanking this season.

 The move does have some benefits for “30 Rock” in that it eliminates one competitor. Fox doesn’t program at 10 p.m. As of now, it only will face ABC’s “Private Practice,” which isn’t exactly a ratings hit, and CBS’ “The Mentalist.” In our market,  “30 Rock” is likely to finish fourth behind Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock News on WNLO-TV.

 NBC’s midseason scheduling changes are one big concession that its fall schedule of new shows was close to a disaster despite the pedigree of some of the shows’ producers.

 J. J. Abrams’ “Undercovers” already has been canceled. Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Chase” hasn’t officially been canceled but NBC has announced two shows in its 10 p.m. Monday time slot so you don’t have to be a mentalist to see what that means.

 “The Event,” which had such strong numbers at the start that NBC immediately proclaimed it a hit, has been sinking since and will go on hiatus for two months. It will need as much or more promotion for its return as it did at the start to get audiences back now that they know it is a series about aliens.

 “Law & Order: Los Angeles” had a strong ratings start but has faded, which is why it is being moved to 10 p.m. Tuesday in February. It isn’t getting much of a favor there, since it will compete with CBS’ “The Good Wife.”

 “Outsourced” isn’t a ratings hit, but NBC hasn’t demanded big audiences from its comedies – witness the continuation of “Community” and “Parks and Recreation.”

 The one recent NBC series that seems to be getting some traction is “Parenthood,” which began last spring. Its reward? It will move to 10 p.m. Monday in March. That’s the time slot where ABC’s “Castle” and “Hawaii 5-0” on CBS have been battling for audiences.

 The biggest admission that NBC is facing the reality that practically everything this fall failed is the announcement of all the reality shows that it plans to return after the New Year.

 That includes Jerry Seinfeld’s “The Marriage Ref,” which recently taped some segments involving Buffalo couples. It will air at 8 p.m. Sunday after the NFL season is over, followed by Trump’s reality series.


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Palin’s Show Isn’t That Big a Hit Here

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on June 2, 2007.
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Sarah Palin may not be as big or as popular in Western New York as the cable network TLC believes.

Buffalo was one of eight markets that got an advance theater screening of the new TLC reality series, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

But when the premiere of the reality show starring the former Republican vice presidential candidate and her family made it to cable at 9 p.m. Sunday it “only” received a 2.6 local rating. The repeat on Monday had a 1.5 rating. A rating point equals about 6,300 households here.

While I wrote “only” a 2.6, those are very good numbers here for TLC. However,  the local rating was about 30 percent lower than the 3.5 household rating the premiere received nationally.

The 2.6 rating also is about one-third lower than the premiere of Conan O’Brien’s talk show on TBS had six nights earlier. Naturally, Palin’s rating also is a fraction of what the prime time network shows received here Sunday night. That was expected.

Palin’s show attracted almost 5 million viewers nationally, setting a TLC record for a series debut. According to national reports, Palin’s series was more popular with older viewers than the 18 through 49 viewers that advertisers crave.

 Of course, older viewers may also have more money for travel, which could make them more likely visitors to Alaska, a state whose spectacular scenery was the best part of Palin’s show.

 While many are already proclaiming the series a hit, experts will look at the drop-off for this Sunday’s episode two from the premiere, which wasn’t exactly exciting and was critically-panned in many quarters.

 As usual, Palin (see above) can laugh at her critics all the way to the bank. She reportedly is making $250,000 per episode.


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“Daze” Isn’t Very Funny On TBS

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I must admit all those promos for “Glory Daze” that ran during “Conan” and the baseball playoffs on TBS had me hoping for the best.

Unfortunately, this hour comedy about a fraternity set in 1986 doesn’t live up to the TBS motto.

 It isn’t very funny. Or original. Or smart.

 In other words, the 10 p.m. Tuesday lead-in to “Conan” isn’t going to make you forget “Animal House.”

 Creators Walt Becker (“Wild Hogs”) and Michael LeSieu (“You, Me and Dupree”) appear to have studied the Judd Apatow School of Humor in that the dialogue is loaded with disgusting sexual and bodily-function jokes.

 But they didn’t take the Apatow course that makes viewers care about the stereotypical college characters:

 * There is the smart pre-med guy who has spent a lifetime pleasing his parents.

 * The buttoned-down Republican guy who has to go to college to learn how to have fun.

 * The Asian guy who is expected to study and join the supposedly fun-challenged, secret Asian fraternity. If TBS’ release is any indication, he isn’t an important or even a continuing character.

 * The good-looking baseball star who dreams of Philadelphia Phillies baseball star Mike Schmidt when he should be focusing on the pretty girl he is kissing.

 * And the awkward Jewish guy who tries to hide his virginity by talking about sex all the time and will do just about anything to be branded cool.

 An additional star is the musical score, which makes one nostalgic for all the things that parents who were in college in the 1980s tell their children to avoid.

I advise those parents to keep their college-bound kids away from “Glory Daze,” which deals with so much pot and drinking that it plays like a course in Hypocrisy.

The cast is full of relative unknowns, except for the adults played by Brad Garrett (a conservative parent) and Tim Meadows (a liberal professor).

Kelly Blatz (see above) plays Joel, the pleasing son from a Catholic high school who gets extremely awkward sitting next to a pretty girl in class and eventually veers from his dad’s advice to keep his “eyes on the prize.”

Blatz is the closest one comes to a series lead. Matt Bush plays the masturbating virgin, Hartley Sawyer plays the baseball player and Drew Seeley plays the Republican who is in love with Ronald Reagan almost as much as the girlfriend who dropped Yale to be with him on this fictional Indiana campus.

 Of course, the first week of college can be a little rough for freshman and parents alike. I’m guessing – or at least hoping – that there will be much better days for “Glory Daze” as the series continues.

 But the pilot won’t get me to pledge to take another look for awhile.

 Rating: 2 stars out of 4


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Fey Special to Air After Christmas on WNED

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 09: Comedian Tina Fey ar...
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Inquiring minds wanted to know: Where was Tiny Fey Sunday night?

Fey was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American humor in a 90-minute taped celebration from Washington, D.C. that aired nationally on PBS.

 Locally, WNED-TV aired a Nature program, “Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom” at 8 p.m. Sunday and Masterpiece Mystery! feature, “Sherlock: A Study in Pink” at 9 p.m. Sunday.

 You don’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes to know that WNED’s decision upset some fans of the former “Saturday Night Live” star and creator-star of NBC’s “30 Rock.”

 But have no fear. The local PBS station plans to air the special at 9 p.m. Dec. 27 and repeat it at 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 29.

 It is worth waiting for. I was out of town Sunday and saw the last hour  from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. It included jokes at Fey’s expense, as well as some praise by such luminaries as “30 Rock” co-stars Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan and “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels and head writer Seth Meyers.

 Some of the material from those honoring Fey was very funny.

 But the highlight was Fey’s speech at the end, which jokingly included a thank you to her family for giving her so much rich comedy material.

 She also gave credit to Michaels and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin for helping her become the 12th person honored with the Twain Prize.

 Fey also cracked that former Republican presidential candidate John McCain had a picture of himself with Fey in his office for four years before he choose Palin. She therefore jokingly accepted blame for the choice and presumably all the Palin overload since then.

 Amusingly, the Fey special aired opposite the premiere of the latest bit of Palin overload – her new reality series on TLC, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”


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Bills Still Top-Rated TV Show

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 Some leftovers after the Veterans Day holiday:

* It is a popular theory that the Buffalo Bills haven’t been a big TV draw in this  0-8 season.

 It’s true the ratings haven’t hit the usual territory in the 30s lately . But their 22-19 loss to the Chicago Bears in Toronto still had a healthy 28.8 rating on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. That easily makes it the most viewed local TV program of the week. Nothing else comes close.

WUTV won’t be as fortunate this Sunday when the home game with another NFC opponent, the Detroit Lions, didn’t sell out in time to be televised locally. That has to cost WUTV some big advertising bucks.

 Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker will work the Nov. 21 Bills game with host Cincinnati and Terrell Owens, who you may have noticed is the second leader receiver in the AFC. Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots have been assigned the Nov. 28 game with visiting Pittsburgh, which will air locally because so many Steeler fans have bought tickets. Channel 4 has both games.

 * I’m hearing that former CBS overnight anchor Emily Smith is considering  a prime anchor job in Albany.

 The Grand Island native was thought to be the leading candidate to replace Lisa Flynn as the anchor of Channel 4’s 5:30 p.m. news and the 10 O’Clock News on WNLO-TV after Lia Lando left WIVB-TV for a higher-paying job in Rochester, where she lives.

 However, the LIN Broadcasting station appears content to save some money by having veterans Jacquie Walker and Don Postles work extra shifts at 5:30 p.m and 10 p.m.

 Smith also had interviewed for a job at Channel 2 – presumably Erika Brason’s former Saturday morning slot. But she apparently needed more than that and was deciding this week whether to give up her dream of working in her hometown.

 * AMC has given the zombie series “The Walking Dead” an order for a second season after only two episodes have aired. Not as fortunate was “Rubicon,” the complicated series that tanked in the ratings before “Mad Men.” AMC decided against giving it a second season.

  * Tonight’s the season finale for HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” His guests include filmmaker Michael Moore and past and future presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

 * Time Warner Cable’s latest innovation is Look Back, which enables digital customers to go back three days to watch shows they didn’t DVR. It is available on 48 channels – 24 HD and 24 in standard definition. Of course, many subscribers wish they could go back three days in their lives. However, be warned. If you watch Bills games three days later, you can’t change the results.

 * I suppose Buffalo Sabre fans should accept the fact that MSG is sending the intermission feeds featuring New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers broadcasting talent as the price one pays to get those MSG games in HD. But it still seems pretty cheesey.


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Palin’s Reality Show Is Visually Spectacular

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on June 2, 2007.
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Americans can debate for another two years whether Sarah Palin is qualified to be the nation’s President or if someone who may run for the office should parade her family before reality show cameras.

But it is as clear as the Alaska sky that she is made for television.

Her new eight-part TLC series, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” which premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on the Discovery Network channel, is a breath-taking look at one of the subjects that Palin knows well.

Of course, I’m talking about her native state.

She spouts statistics about how many square miles there are in Alaska, where it ranks in floating plane crashes and what percentage of the nation’s grizzly population is in the state.

She is the likable, folksy tourist guide on spectacularly photographed family adventures by land, sea and air.

See Sarah, husband Todd and 9-year-old Piper on a small boat salmon fishing and getting dangerously close to the Mama Grizzlies protecting their young bears.

 See Sarah and Todd on a float plane as dangerous weather approaches.

 See Sarah and Todd attempt to scale new heights by climbing a mountain despite their fear of heights.

 Have no fear, there isn’t anything political in the opener of this lightweight series produced by Mark Burnett of “Survivor” fame.

 Palin is nothing but a survivor and undoubtedly will be able to laugh off the inevitable jokes from “Saturday Night Live” and late-night comics, as well as the criticism from Republican strategist Karl Rove that a presidential candidate shouldn’t be doing a reality show.

 After all, she notes that she’s used to having “every word scrutinized and in some cases mocked” and “can handle it.”

 The overriding sentiment one gets from watching the opening hour is: Why the heck would Palin want to leave her beloved Alaska to take a pay cut and try to climb the mountain to run for President?

 After all, she gets to do her work as a Fox analyst in an office adjacent to the Palin home as hubby Todd plays cameraman.

 Palin doesn’t say anything to get herself in trouble, though some viewers might be surprised by the gentle, sexist overtones to how she views Todd’s manly role in the household.

 “He’s very proud,” Sarah says after Todd catches a fish. ” He was bringing home the bacon. That’s the way it should be.”

 The winner in this hour is Alaska, which is sure to get a big tourist boost from the former governor’s adventures.

 Palin also exhibits some self-deprecating humor early, correcting one of her 2008 campaign statements about being able to see Russia from her house.

And there is a comic moment when a male friend of teenage daughter Willow climbs a barrier to attempt to see Willow upstairs in her bedroom. Palin, whose older daughter and current “Dancing with the Stars” star Bristol had an out-of-wedlock child, quickly and comically intervenes.

Palin also has some fun at the expense of author Joe McGinniss, who rented the house next to hers while researching an unauthorized biography about her that is expected to come out next year.

McGinniss – who last week threatened to sue for invasion of privacy because he was videotaped reading on his deck — essentially is portrayed as the creepy unseen character next door. Viewers don’t see his face in the pilot made available for review.

 Palin never mentions McGinniss by name when she tells Piper upon a return from an adventure that they had fun while he had to stay home. To maintain privacy, she notes a 14-foot fence was erected.

 “At the end of the day, he’s going to be bored to death watching our activities,” she adds.

 That might also serve as a warning to viewers. However, the film crew keeps the Palins moving.

 The final Palin adventure is the rock climb, which is a huge challenge to Palin because of her fear of heights. She remarks that she doesn’t want to quit “in front of other people,” which may surprise those who remember she quit before finishing her term as Alaska’s governor.

 “You always wanted to be a rock climber, ” she is advised.

 “Was it a rock climber or a rock star?” she replies before succeeding.

 In two years, Palin has become a rock star, a book star and now a reality star.

Only in America.


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Conan Has Big Drop After Opening Win

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This is what I’m thinking:

* “Conan” was a late-night winner in Western New York Monday night as well as the nation.

In his first night on basic cable’s TBS, O’Brien’s new basic cable talk show had a 3.9 local rating at 11 p.m., which was about 30 percent higher than “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” (2.8) on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate. “Late Show with David Letterman” had a 5.2 rating on Channel 4. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” which will be O’Brien’s cable competition, averaged about a .4, meaning O’Brien’s premiere audience was about 10 times as large as Stewart’s.

Conan also won nationally over the big boys.

This shouldn’t be a surprise and TBS shouldn’t expect this to continue. After all — as even O’Brien said on his second show Tuesday night – TBS has been promoting his show to death. And opening nights routinely get inflated ratings because of all the viewers looking to see what all the fuss is about.

On Tuesday’s night two, “Conan” lost two-thirds of its opening night audience and averaged a 1.3 locally. That was about half of Leno’s still low 2.5 and less than a third of Letterman’s 4.3. The good news is “Conan” still beat Stewart (.6) here on night two.

A better measure of how well “Conan” is doing will come in a week or so after the tire kickers have stopped sampling it.

 If he’s averaging a rating in the 1.5- 2.0 range here, O’Brien’s show should be considered a local hit. After all, Leno’s show on a network affiliate has only averaged a 3.8 rating on Channel 2 season to date.

 * Even if you don’t love his politics, it is easy to admire former President George Bush’s sense of humor.

 When “Today” host Matt Lauer (see above) asked him about the merits of extending the so-called Bush Tax Cuts to the wealthy, the former President responded that they’d have a better chance of being extended “if they were called the Lauer Tax Cuts.”

 NBC put that remark in a promo that ran almost immediately.

 The former President used his sense of humor effectively to deflect some of Lauer’s toughest questions, which may have reminded viewers why he was so popular once upon a time.

 * Today is the day that Time Warner Cable expands its ABC On Demand lineup on Channel 1005. Recent episodes of “Castle,” “Cougar Town,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “No Ordinary Family” and “Private Practice” are on that channel. Episodes of “Detroit 1-8-7”and “No Ordinary Family” are on the On Demand HD channel, 705.

 * NBC has reportedly canceled “Undercovers,” the J.J. Abrams series about two sexy and beautiful-looking spies. Channel 2 has to hope that “Chase” won’t be far behind on the cancellation list. It had a 3.8 rating Monday leading into the Channel 2’s 11 p.m. news, which beat “Conan” by less than a point with a 4.5 and finished well behind Channel 7 with a 6.2 for second place to leader Channel 4 (9.1).

 I’d hate to give John Borsa’s sleazy prostitution series “Crimes of Passion” any credit for Channel 7’s Monday rating. I’d much prefer give it to the lead-in from “Castle” (9.5), which continues to beat “Hawaii 5-0” (8.8) in this market.

 * Fox’s “Glee” had a strong episode Tuesday night about the evils of high school bullying and offered some advice about how to handle it. The preview for next week also revealed  that film star Gwyneth Paltrow is going to show off her musical chops. She plays a country singer in the movie, “Country Strong,” which opens Jan. 7.


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Don’t Lose Sleep Over “Conan” Yet

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Other than a clever opening “Godfather” parody tied to NBC murdering his “Tonight Show” dream job, Conan O’Brien’s late-night  TBS  show, “Conan,” was an offer easy to refuse in Monday’s 11 p.m. premiere.

 Ten months removed from his ouster from “The Tonight Show” by NBC in favor of Jay Leno, O’Brien’s best moments on his new basic cable show were taped filmed pieces.

 That was often the case on his version of “Tonight” as well.

 Throughout the rest of Monday’s hour, O’Brien high energy awkwardness and self-deprecating humor were evident. As usual, O’Brien tried to mine his awkwardness for laughs with goofy mannerisms that turn off as many viewers as they entertain.

 That awkwardness extended to his his interviews with first guests Seth Rogen and Lea Michele (“Glee’), who aren’t exactly the A list stars that one might expect to see in a premiere.

 Rogen was there to prematurely talk about a “Green Hornet” movie that premieres in January, Michele to talk about an old controversy about the GQ magazine cover. 

 Rogen used the basic cable venue more effectively than O’Brien, throwing out a few words that are routine in his sophomoric movies but were censored by TBS.

 Michele played O’Brien’s cheerleader, gleefully saying how happy she was for him to return to TV.

 The host also got to play guitar for a song with Jack White, an old friend. And Ricky Gervais popped up early with a video in which he poked fun at O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” failure and suggested the host could go on to the Food Network, “Good Morning Daytime” and satellite radio if this effort failed.

 Some satisfying comic irreverence arrived early when O’Brien introduced an old lady identified as the curator of a Washington Nutcracker Museum as the winner of his “First Guest” contest as a “Queen for a Day”-type tune was played and sung.

 Sure, it was silly. But Conan and silliness and synonymous and the bit was funny. More of that is needed in subsequent shows.

 Viewers learned long ago that late-night shows are marathons and not sprints so it would be unfair to judge O’Brien’s premiere in his new basic (the set was especially basic despite a moving moon) show too harshly, especially since all the jokes about his NBC failure should have expired by midnight Monday.

 He’s got his fans and is in no danger of moving to the Food Network. Let’s just say that “Conan” got off to a pleasant start but was unlikely to have made NBC’s bosses lose any sleep about making a mistake.

 * Speaking of losing sleep, it should be noted that the Western New York has two nightly options to see O’Brien. Besides TBS, “Conan” airs at 1 a.m. on Toronto’s CFTO-TV, which also carries “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”


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Ch.7 Goes the Sleazy Series Route

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This is what I’m thinking:

* You may have thought that the days of sleazy sweeps series were a thing of the past and it was safe to turn on the 11 p.m. local news in November.

Then along comes “Crimes of Passion,” the hidden-camera Channel 7 series reported by John Borsa about the rise of prostitution in Western New York because the recession and the poor economy is making it difficult to get legitimate jobs.

I hated everything about “Passion,” including the title. After all, the world’s oldest profession isn’t about passion, it’s about sex. Perhaps the word “passion” is supposed to stand for the pros’ goal of feeding their families.

It’s a crime that Channel 7 trotted out Part 1 of the series Sunday night, when it was the only news game in town at 11 p.m. and could have impressed viewers with something more original and enlightening.

After all, Channel 2 was carrying football and Channel 4’s prime time schedule was delayed by a football overrun that delayed the 11 p.m. news.

Borsa’s report had nothing new in it. He reported most of the camouflaged pros said this was their first time selling sex for cash (haven’t we heard that one before) and they were doing it to feed their families.

It is a sad story and undoubtedly the economy has some impact on prostitution. But it isn’t anything new or anything that stations haven’t reported on in countless sweeps periods over the years.

Shame on Channel 7 for going there again.

* Speaking of passion, I thought that the Fox series “House” had jumped the shark with this year’s story line in which the contentious Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) became romantically-involved with his boss, Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). The season’s first two episodes were so tedious that I briefly ended my relationship with “House.”

 But tonight’s episode at 8 p.m. on Channel 29, “Office Politics,” brought me back because it (as any Bills fans seeing a promo Sunday on Channel 29 knows) deals with the introduction of a new brilliant character, Martha M. Masters (played by Amber Tamblyn  of “Joan of Arcadia,” see above). She’s a medical student who  joins House’s team despite her lack of experience.

 Tamblyn wasn’t brought in for her sex appeal – she isn’t in the Babe territory of Olivia Wilde (“Thirteen”).  Her character is introduced to bring some tension between House and Cuddy, as well as some anxiety to her new team members.

The writers succeed tonight with using Masters to  jeopardize the House-Cuddy relationship, which any regular viewer of this series undoubtedly realizes always will have to deal with House’s self-destructive tendencies.

The title involves the medical case in the episode in which Jack Coleman (“Heroes”) plays a sleazy campaign adviser to a candidate who will add to the cynicism about politics that was evident in last week’s very real Election Day outcry. Rating: 3 stars out of 4

 * Speaking of football, Green Bay’s blowout of Dallas on NBC’s Sunday Night Football led announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth to speculate on a successor to Cowboys Coach Wade Phillips. After going through a list of the usual suspects – Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher and John Fox – Collinsworth piped in with: “I’ll give you another name – Perry Fewell (defensive co-ordinator) of the New York Giants.”

Fewell, of course, was the Bills’ interim coach last year and hoped to get the job this year before Chan Gailey was hired. One thing is for sure: The Bills’ record under Fewell wouldn’t have been any worse than it is under Gailey at season’s midpoint.

* Tonight’s the night than Conan O’Brien’s new talk show premieres on cable’s TBS. Jeff Simon of The Buffalo News and I often disagreed about television matters when I was the daily TV critic of the newspaper. We both agree that NBC bungled its handling of “The Tonight Show” but we differ about why.

 Jeff believes that NBC was wrong to give O’Brien the job as host of “The Tonight Show” when Jay Leno was so popular. I think that NBC was wrong to boot O’Brien after a brief tryout and give Leno the job back. In the long run, O’Brien’s version of “The Tonight Show” would have been more successful than Leno’s. Having said that, Leno’s ratings on Channel 2 this season are higher than O’Brien’s were last year, 3.8-2.8. But Leno still loses here to David Letterman on Channel 4.

 Both Leno and Letterman stand to take some ratings hit from O’Brien’s TBS show, which has a 30-minute head start and is operating under looser cable rules. But O’Brien will be competing with local news at 11 p.m. and the fake news brought to you by Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” at 11 p.m. and “The Colbert Report” at 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central. O’Brien is going to have to live up to the TBS slogan and be “very funny” to get me to switch from Stewart on a daily basis — when I’m not watching the prostitution series on local TV news.


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Fox Promotes Fitzpatrick, Toronto

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 29:  Terrell Owens...
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Here is a Sunday Night Football special that includes an eight-pack of thoughts about the radio and coverage of the most recent Buffalo Bill loss to put them behind the 8-ball at 0-8.

1. Fox’s announcing team of Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan certainly took the optimistic view during the Bills 22-19 loss to Chicago from Toronto.

That’s not unexpected. Announcers often promote the NFL games they cover.

 But a viewer might have thought that Ryan would have addressed more fully one of the issues that is most likely to burn up the local talk shows tonight and all week: Bills Coach Chan Gailey’s use — or misuse — of two timeouts in the final three minutes.

 One of the timeouts was called to send in a key play, the other to challenge an incomplete pass ruling that Ryan instantly said was correct after looking at a replay.

 If the Bills had those two timeouts in the final two minutes, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (above with former teammate Terrell Owens) wouldn’t have had to gamble with a pass down the middle that ended with an interception.

 2. Rosen should immediately get a job with the Toronto Chamber of Commerce. Before the kickoff, he noted what “a great atmosphere” there was in the Rogers Centre. That certainly didn’t come through to armchair fans or in stories about how turned off Torontonians have been about the deal that brings the Bills annually to their city.

 3. Ryan should become Fitzpatrick’s agent. On a couple of occasions, he said that the quarterback looked like the long-term answer for the Bills. That isn’t the popular view of local sports hosts or columnists.

 But it is hard to disagree with the Fox analyst’s assessment of Fitzpatrick, even if the Harvard grad seems to find ways to lose at the end of games. All the talk show discussion about all the top-flight college quarterbacks out there – the Andrew Lucks and Ryan Malletts of the world – seems to ignore the fact that their receivers are usually open by 10 yards while Fitzpatrick has to get a pass into a crack.

 4. It has become almost a weekly occurrence. I’m talking about the inability of Bills games to be carried in HD on Time Warner Cable at the start, only to be available in HD in 10 or 15 minutes or so. It happened again today. I have a new game plan. For now, I’m going to watch the games on WUTV’s digital channel with the rabbit ears that TWC gave me when it was battling Channel 4 and the CBS affiliate wasn’t on cable. The picture on the digital channel is clearer. However, an Amherst reader advised me that the digital channel also was missing HD at game’s start, which indicates it wasn’t a TWC problem.

 5. That was an amusing halftime exchange when Fox analyst Howie Long suggested that teammate Jimmy Johnson would prefer the Bills go winless. But not having seen the pre-game show, it seemed like an inside joke. I wish Long or Johnson explained it.

 6. I’m guessing many Bills were thinking that Fitzpatrick was due for one big mistake before his big interception in the fourth quarter turned the game around. But the plays that really hurt were Rian Lindell’s blocked extra point, which appeared to be kicked low and Bryan Scott’s inability to come up with a gift interception on a screen pass.

 7. Brent Axe is a good addition as the post-game host of 97 Rock’s Bills coverage. He is reasonable and keeps things moving. That’s all I ask of a post-game host.

 8. Early in WGR’s post-game coverage, Mike Schopp proclaimed the game “boring” even though it was close. If he is that easily bored on a fall Sunday afternoon, maybe the station should find someone else to do the post-game show of what is the biggest TV event of every week during the season. It is boring to listen to a sports talk radio host talking about a game that he thinks is boring.


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