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“30 Rock” Goodbye, Bills Anniversary and Happy Ad Controversy

This is what I’m thinking:

During her show’s latest victory at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Tiny Fey joked Sunday that it would be nice if TV viewers recorded CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” instead of her show for tonight’s series finale of “30 Rock.”

I can’t see that happening in Buffalo where “Big Bang” gets huge ratings and “30 Rock” gets fewer viewers than it has won awards.

OK, I’m exaggerating. But only slightly.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey

Despite all the Emmys, despite all the Golden Globes, the SAG awards and the Peabody, “30 Rock” has never been embraced locally in significant numbers.  The show within a show has consistently been one of the lowest-rated series on Channel 2. Its saving grace is it gets decent demographics for advertisers.

So I’m not expecting WNYers will much care for the hour-long swan song tonight of Liz Lemon (Fey), Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), Jenna Moroney (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan). It airs at 8 p.m. on Channel 2.

“30 Rock” was an acquired taste and not many WNYers ever acquired it. Those who did, however, loved its skewering of TV and NBC.

When it premiered, it wasn’t even supposed to be the hot TV show on TV about TV. That was supposed to be Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” which only lasted one season.

Today is the 20th anniversary of one of the most celebrated plays in the Buffalo Bills’ Super Bowl history. Twenty years ago today, the Bills lost, 52-17, to the Dallas Cowboys in Pasadena, Calif. The highlight for the Bills occurred when receiver Don Beebe chased down the Cowboys’ Leon Lett as he appeared to be running toward an easy defensive touchdown. I bring this up because on Sunday, CBS’ Phil Simms is conducting “the first ever” Lett-Beebe interview together as part of his “All-Iron Team: Super Bowl Edition” at 1 p.m. According to a CBS release, Lett and Beebe “relive one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl lore.”

The program is going to feature some of Simms’ favorite catches, runs, gambles and blunders. I think you can tell which category the Lett-Beebe play falls under. Simms also is going to list some of the best teams never to win the Lombardi Trophy. It wouldn’t be a shock if the Bills made it by virtue of their first Super Bowl loss to Simms’ Giants made the list.

NBC’s premieres another new drama at 10 tonight, “Do No Harm,” in which former “Rescue Me” star Steven Pasquale stars in what amounts to a modern take on “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Pasquale plays a brilliant doctor by day starting at 8:25 a.m. and turns into a bad guy at 8:25 p.m. who goes to wild parties, abuses woman and his body. He is constantly checking his watch to see how long it will be before his transformation.

Ridiculous? Of course. But I didn’t find myself checking my watch that often in this fast-pace series that co-stars Phylicia Rashad and Alana De La Garza as medical colleagues. Pasquale played an endearingly stupid fireman on “Rescue Me” and he is pretty likable and sympathetic during the daytime in this series, too. “Harm” is getting destroyed by many bloodthirsty critics because it is so ridiculously implausible, but there’s no harm in giving it a try. I think you might be more bothered by all the blood in the medical procedures and the darkness of the plots than the absurdity of the premiere. After all, it is only TV. I liked it a helluva lot more than NBC’s “Deception,” but that isn’t saying much.

Of course, it isn’t always easy to predict how the public is going to react to TV shows or advertising. That became apparent this week on NBC’s “Today” when it aired a proposed Super Bowl ad for Volkswagen which featured a white guy from Minnesota speaking in a thick Jamaican accent in an infectious way advising people to be happy. “Today” interviewed a well-known advertising critic, who called the ad “so racist” and “a mistake in judgment” and suggested that it would be replaced on Super Bowl Sunday by a backup VW ad.  A day later, a representative of the ad agency that created the ad said the agency asked about 150 Jamaicans what they thought of the ad and they loved it. Finally, NBC polled its viewers and asked if they thought it went too far and was insensitive. The poll was one-sided – 93 percent didn’t have a problem with it.

I turned on WGR radio Wednesday morning briefly to hear if it would play a replay of Rick Jeanneret’s delayed and excruciatingly long call of Mikhail Grigorenko’s first goal as a Buffalo Sabres in Tuesday’s loss to Washington. As I wrote Wednesday, it might have been Jeanneret’s worst call in his career. I heard the goal being talked about Wednesday, but not Jeanneret’s call of it. Of course, I wasn’t listening for too long and it might have been replayed at some point. But that might have been embarrassing for Jeanneret, who has a made a reputation for seizing the big moments. When Grigorenko scores again, I would hope the broadcasting Hall of Famer has some nickname or catch line prepared or something comes to him spontaneously.


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“The Americans” Is Another Cable Winner

The premise of the new intensely involving FX series “The Americans” (10 tonight, basic cable) might have looked even more unique if it hadn’t been for the success of “Homeland.”

The Showtime series already has answered the question of whether Americans can embrace a series about a domestic terrorist.

Many Americans love it even if they don’t love the terrorist played by Damian Lewis.

So I’m not as worried as some critics in Hollywood were a few weeks ago about whether it will be easy to root for the Russian spies living the American suburban dream while trying to get U.S. government secrets during the Reagain Administration in the 1980s

Of course, WNYers are now rooting for a Russian – the Buffalo Sabres’ Mikhail Grigorenko, who scored his first goal Tuesday night though it took legendary play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret a while to realize it and even longer to finish his call. It may have been the worst goal call of the Hall of Famer’s career and was so bad that WGR probably should avoid replaying it too often.

But I digress. Back to “The Americans.”


Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys

During a press conference in Pasadena, Calif., the question of a rooting interest came up. Like most American TV viewers, I’m just rooting for a series that gets me involved and keeps me interested.

And “The Americans” – which was created by a former member of the CIA, Joe Weisberg — succeeds on both levels.

In the California interview, Weisberg conceded that setting the series during the Cold War more than 30 years ago makes the premise an easier sell today.

“I think, if you tried to tell a story like this, you know, about al Qaeda now, it would be completely impossible,” sais Weisberg. “Nobody would be prepared to hear it. And I think it would have been the same way about the Soviets or the KGB even ten years after the Cold War. I mean, they had and still have a lot of nuclear weapons pointed towards us and felt during the Cold War like they maybe were ready to kill all of us. So nobody wanted to try to relate to the enemy, but I think enough time has passed now that people are willing to look into their hearts and see them as people we can understand.”

Keri Russell (“Felicity”) and Matthew Rhys (who played the gay brother on “Brothers & Sisters”), play Russian KGB agents, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, living in suburban Virginia with their two children.

On the outside, they look like the perfect American couple. The products of an arranged marriage, the Jennings keep their domestic battles out of view of their children, 13-year-old Paige (Holly Taylor) and 10-year-old Henry (Keidrich Sellati).

The Jennings have different points of views about their mission. Elizabeth is more committed to the cause, while Philip considers what life would be like as real Americans. He enjoys American life – trips to the mall included — more than his wife who believes “there is a weakness in these American) people.  I can feel it.” He also seems to love his wife more than she loves him. She won’t even pour him a cup of coffee in the morning.

Meanwhile, a new All-American family has moved into the neighborhood, and wouldn’t you know it the husband, Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) is a decorated FBI agent who is so suspicious of anybody and everybody that it annoys his wife.

Graham Yost, one of the show’s executive producers, indicated in California that the different values of the 1980s superpowers will be explored throughout the series.

“It’s easy to talk about rooting for the Soviets or rooting for the Americans in terms of that big sense of two countries who are out to destroy each other at the time, but there really were, as you point out, these two very competing value systems, and there’s no question that repressive socialism failed in the Soviet Union,” said Yost. “It failed in the Cold War, and it’s also failed around the world. But unbridled consumption hasn’t necessarily led to great satisfaction on the part of hordes and hordes of people. And part of what we’ve been struggling with is how do we express that dramatically through these characters?”

Tonight’s extended 66-minute premiere does a terrific job in setting up the suspense of how the Jennings attempt to get away with their international missions and deal with their own domestic dramas. Through flashbacks, viewers also see how they were paired by the KGB and how they are wired differently.

As in “Homeland,” the tension of whether they are going to get caught is very well-done even though it actually would be a good thing for Americans if they were caught.

Also as in “Homeland,” there are some very implausible moments and scenes in “The Americans.” Russell must weigh all of 90 pounds, but somehow Elizabeth can hold her own battling very strong men and she has quite a violent streak. There also is a scene involving a neighbor’s need to borrow jumper cables that is way out there.

Next week’s second episode, “The Clock,” also leaves one wondering why someone blackmailed into aiding the Jennings in a wire-tap mission wouldn’t blow them in afterwards.

But “Homeland” viewers don’t seem to be bothered when things don’t make all that much sense so I’m sure “The Americans” can survive, too.

However, there is one possible problem down the road. The writers would be wise to avoid making the FBI agent look too stupid as the Jennings work their spy magic.

We Americans can close our eyes to many things, but many of us don’t want to think about the possibility that those people who are out to save us can be easily out-smarted by those out to destroy us.

Rating: 3 and a half stars out of 4


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Bills Fans Don’t Make Pro Bowl a Big Deal; Sabres Still a Hit

This is what I’m thinking:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apparently is still considering ending the Pro Bowl, which has become a bigger joke than most all-star games. And that is saying something.

If he does ends the game, Western New Yorkers might not be as upset as fans in other sections of the country.

The NFC’s 62-35 victory over the AFC Sunday averaged a 6.7 rating on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate. That was a point below the 7.7 household rating in the overnights of all metered markets.

Of course, Buffalo Bills fans have seen enough bad football this season without watching the Pro Bowl. Only three Bills played in the game, which didn’t make it must-see TV around here. And household ratings aren’t as important as demographic ratings. NBC won the key demos handily nationally, which is a bonus for Channel 2.

So as a business decision, bringing the game back probably is a no-brainer for Goodell and other league officials. Besides, the commish reportedly already is unpopular enough with players without canceling the game. That’s probably one reason why he was quoted today saying on a social network that he “noticed the improved quality of the game” from last year.

Doug Marrone

Doug Marrone

But it has become a joke. I didn’t watch a minute Sunday – but read reports that one player played for both teams and defensive end J.J. Watt played wide receiver for a play.

So it is clear the players didn’t fully take seriously Goodell’s threat that the game won’t be played again if play didn’t get better.

My vote would be to end the darn thing. But money talks and I can’t see league officials sacking it when the demographics are so high and its broadcast partner makes money on it.

To put the Pro Bowl rating in perspective here, the Buffalo Sabres-3-2 loss to Washington played hours earlier on Sunday afternoon had an 11.3 rating here on cable’s MSG. That rating was about half the rating the Sabres opening victory over Philadelphia registered a week earlier on Channel 2. But an 11.3 rating for a cable game is very impressive here or anywhere.

I watched the second episode of Kevin Bacon’s series “The Following” Monday about a serial killer and got three legitimate chills. I can’t recall the last time I saw a network series that scared me that much. It may be so violent that it belongs on pay-cable, but “The Following” is scary good.

CBS was so happy to see Tiger Woods win a golf tournament that it carried the final round at Torrey Pines  on its network Monday afternoon. As usual, Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate, stayed with its regular programming and moved Woods’ victory march over to WNLO-TV, its CW affiliate.

I sent this out on Twitter Sunday night during the SAG awards, but it is just me or does Alec Baldwin’s new hair style make him look more like Buffalo Bills Coach Doug Marrone?

I’ll try this one more time. Would someone tell Buffalo Sabres analyst Rob Ray to quit referring to the team as “us” and “our team” in MSG broadcasts. Please try and act like a professional broadcaster even if we know you are rooting for the Sabres.

Marrone Lookalike?

Marrone Lookalike?

Inquiring minds want to know: Why wasn’t Niagara University’s 66-65 victory over Canisius College in men’s basketball Sunday carried on Time Warner Cable? It was carried on ESPN3, which isn’t on Time Warner Cable, but is available to its subscribers on computers, iPads and mobile devices. TWC was prevented from carrying it locally. With all the live hoop carried around here, it is too bad that sold-out game wasn’t available to more WNY viewers. Niagara won after a last-second shot by Canisius’ Billy Baron was disallowed because he got it off too late. Canisius’ game Thursday with Loyola is being carried live on TWC.

I’m rooting for Jennifer Lawrence of “Silver Linings Playbook” to win an Oscar in a few weeks because she delivers very good speeches. She won me over so much as a guest on David Letterman’s show a weeks ago  that I even forgave her for her guest hosting role on one of the weaker “Saturday Night Live” programs in recent months.


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An Extra Reason to Catch TNT’s Pleasantly Surprising “Dallas”


I read recently that TNT’s revival of “Dallas” last season attracted an average of six million people weekly.

I wasn’t one of them.

Because of the recent death of Larry Hagman –  who made J.R. Ewing one of the most memorable characters in TV history when the original series ran on CBS  from 1979-1993 – I decided to watch the first two episodes of the second season airing tonight without watching the first season.

After all, we’re not talking “Downton Abbey” here.

Larry Hagman

Larry Hagman
















My first goal was to answer the key question of whether Hagman looked good when he filmed these episodes before his death. He does not. He looks gaunt and sickly, but he stills delivers his devilish lines with relish. “Vengeance is a dish best served cold,” according to the gospel of J.R.

My second goal was to answer the question of how quickly a viewer can pick up the plot line if you missed the first season. The answer is about 20 minutes or so. So I figure I saved myself about 11 hours or so of my life last season.

My final goal was to assess whether fans of the original series would like the new version. That’s a tougher call.  I was one of those fans who used to spend Friday nights glued to the tube watching J.R. battle his brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy), his own wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) and his nemesis Cliff Barnes (Ken Kerchival.) That’s right, there used to be a time that people stayed home and watched TV on Friday nights. Lots of people.

It was a guilty pleasure that became a national obsession, especially after one of the all-time TV cliffhangers – “Who Shot J.R.?”

If memory serves me, the answer turned out to be Bing Crosby’s daughter Mary Crosby, who played Kristin Shepherd, J.R.’s mistress and sister-in-law. (I just googled it and confirmed it. You’ll have to trust me).

It was obviously going to be a tough act to follow for the new “Dallas” on TNT since TV has changed radically since it ended 20 years ago.

But I was pleasantly surprised by these two fast-paced episodes – which manage to focus on handsome and pretty young cast members related to the old geezers of the original and still managed to give the old geezers some juicy material.

Of course, you should go in knowing the new version is a big cartoon mining old territory in a new way.

J.R. is mentoring his son John Ross – played by the handsome Josh Henderson. He has his daddy’s devious scruples. He also is a bit crass in the language department. Even his relatives shouldn’t trust a thing he says or does.

Bobby is mentoring his son Christopher – played by the handsome Jesse Metcalfe, best known as the young gardener who romanced Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) on “Desperate Housewives.” fame. Christopher has his daddy’s decent scruples. He also likes racing cars. He is a good guy concerned about the environment and he is a little bit too trusting.

Bobby and his son own a higher percentage of Ewing Energies than J.R. and John Ross, but John Ross is out to change that anyway he can — with Daddy’s help of course.

The big company issue is whether Ewing Energies should devote more time and money on a new oil product. Christopher is for it, which means John Ross is against it.

Meanwhile, Sue Ellen is running for governor of Texas and has the support of J.R., who has become much kinder and gentler in his old age regarding his ex. The big issues are whether Sue Ellen will win the election, go back to the bottle if she loses or allow J.R. back in her heart and bed. Ooooooh. I don’t want to think about that. Or watch that.

It is much more fun thinking about all the pretty young women who spice up the cast. Rebecca Sutter (played by Julie Gonzalo) used to be married to Christopher, who believes he was scammed to get a share of the oil company and wants an annulment. Viewers learned last season that Rebecca is Cliff Barnes’ daughter, but Christopher doesn’t know that yet. He is prone to big statements, warning his future ex: “You better come to me with everything you’ve got. I’m going to take you down.” Chris also has another warning: “You want a war. You’ve got one.”

I haven’t laughed so hard at dialogue since – well, since I saw Jason Stathham’s latest unintentionally funny movie “Parker” over the weekend.

It didn’t take Christopher too long to get over the dissolution of his marriage. He now plans to marry Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster), who is smart. However, she used to be involved with John Ross so she’s not that smart.

Bobby’s new wife, Anne Ewing, is played by Brenda Strong, perhaps best known as the narrator of “Desperate Housewives.” She used to be married to Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi of ”The X-Files”) and he’s a bad guy.

I hope I have all that right.

In any event, Hagman has just a few scenes in the first episode, “Battle Lines,” at 9 tonight and several more in the second episode, “Venomous Creatures,” which picks up steam at 10 tonight. According to published reports, Hagman will be in about five episodes and J.R.’s departure from the show will be explained in an episode that airs in March.

Fans of “Dallas” are undoubtedly hoping that J.R. gets an appropriate goodbye. However it is handled, it won’t be as shocking as the death of a key character on “Downton” Sunday. (Didn’t I tell you Friday to have a box of Kleenex handy for Sunday’s “Downton”? Yeah, I did).

The new fast-moving “Dallas” occasionally has the cartoon value of a telenovela and is so stupid at times that it probably wouldn’t keep my attention under ordinary circumstances. But I guess I will be like millions of Americans this season and keep tuning in just to see how they kill off J.R. and honor Hagman. I’m one of the nation’s TV critics who Hagman invited into his home during the television press tours over the years. He was a good guy. The actor who played the devil so well deserves a Texas-sized goodbye.

Rating: 2 and half stars out of 4


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Couric Scores Local Viewers with Manti; NHL Cable Ratings Soar

Some quick hits on a Saturday morning:

Katie Couric got one of her biggest audiences in Buffalo Thursday afternoon for her big-get interview with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.

But Couric’s show (3.4) on Channel 7 still finished in third place in the 4 p.m. time slot to “Ellen” (6.1) on Channel 2 and Dr. Oz (3.6) on Channel 4. As I predicted, Couric’s show is operating under a handicap here because it is on Channel 7.

Katie Couric: Still 3rd Here

Katie Couric: Still 3rd Here


The good news is the rating for “Katie” on Channel 7 was higher than the 2.6 rating the interview scored nationally. It was the highest-rated “Katie” program nationally since the show’s September debut.

Couric did a very good job interviewing Te’o. She didn’t allow him to wiggle free of his lies, but still enabled him to come off as a sympathetic figure with the help of his parents.

If there was one Couric fumble, it was asking the star linebacker if he was gay based on rumors that it was one of the reasons for the concoction of the imaginary girlfriend. I hadn’t heard the rumors, nor do I think most of the TV audience had. Raising the question just served to spread the rumor. To quote “Seinfeld,” “not that there would have been anything wrong with that”  if it were true. But it most likely would have hurt his NFL draft stock since some athletes aren’t as accepting as many people outside sports.

Te’o responded to the gay question by saying “far from it. FAR from it.” That led to some laughter from audience members.

In the old days of TV, the question wouldn’t have been asked just based on rumors. But we’re far from those days. Far from it.

It looks like Buffalo isn’t the only hockey market that has forgiven NHL players and owners for the lockout. The NBC Sports Network reports the New York Rangers overtime win over Boston Wednesday night was the most-watched NHL game in its history and the most-watched on cable in 11 years. Through four games, the NBC Sports Network’s viewership was up 51 percent from a year ago. We’re still not talking big numbers. The Rangers-Bruins game didn’t even hit a million viewers.

Cheers to CBS’ Shannon Sharpe for calling out New England Coach Bill Belichick for refusing to be interviewed by reporter Steve Tasker after the AFC title loss to Baltimore. In sharply-worded comments that ended the post-game show Sunday without a word from his teammates on the set, Sharpe called Belichick’s behavior “unacceptable.” On the same day, San Francisco Coach Jim Harbaugh declined a Fox interview. And his team beat Atlanta. The 49ers said it was because Harbaugh didn’t want to take credit away from the players, but his refusal was still unacceptable. The fact that he will be coaching against his brother, Baltimore Coach John Harbaugh, in the Super Bowl means a lot of the pre-game focus will be taken away from the players anyway.

If you’re looking to watch Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson and all the college QBs the Bills will be considering drafting to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick at the position, be aware the 4 p.m. Senior Bowl is carried on the NFL Network today.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fitzpatrick start the season as the Bills quarterback despite all the reports to the contrary. Or if he is cut to save millions, I expect him to be signed by the New York Jets, replace Mark Sanchez as the starter and face the Bills twice next season.


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“Downton” Has Game-Changing Episode Sunday


Lady Mary, her husband Matthew, Mr. Bates, the Earl of Grantham, Carson  and the others in the cast of thousands (I’m only slightly exaggerating) of “Downton Abbey” were expected to have a tough go of it last Sunday in football-mad Buffalo because the AFC title game and a post-game show was being played opposite the start of it at 9 p.m.

But even Baltimore’s 28-13 AFC title win over the New England Patriots Sunday didn’t interfere much with the local success of the PBS soap opera on WNED-TV.

Last Sunday’s “Abbey” episode – which ran as the Ravens-Pats game ended and CBS carried a post-game report — still had a very healthy 5.8 rating and beat ABC’s “Revenge” (5.4) on Channel 7.

To be perfectly honest, it was by far the dullest episode of the season. But things really pick up this Sunday.

The fourth episode of the season is must-see TV for “Downton” fans and packs an emotional toll that is bound to lead to water cooler talk Monday among those viewers who don’t read spoilers.

Lord Grantham and Carson: Tough Times Ahead for Men

Lord Grantham and Carson: Tough Times Ahead for Men

I won’t spoil anything but will say you should have plenty of Kleenex handy as the episode has a profound impact on several relationships on the show.

I’ve seen every episode of the third season except the finale and can report that the men in the series, now set in the 1920s after World War I, have trouble adjusting to a changing world in which women get more opinionated and don’t accept the notion that men – especially rich men — should control everything.

The patriarch of the series, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), is particularly in for a very difficult time as all the ladies around him become more outspoken, more assertive and more willing to adjust to the times.  And the butler Carson (Jim Carter) isn’t going to have it much easier.

Now it can be told: Vic Baker, the Hall of Fame news producer at Channel 4, has landed as the senior news producer at cable’s Central Florida News Channel 13 that is based in Orlando and serves nine counties in Florida. Baker said the staff includes 100 people in the newsroom. “It has the most beautiful facility I have ever seen and is mission driven,” said Baker. He likens it to a much better version of YNN. The Bright House Network cable news channel is owned by Newhouse.

The Buffalo-area newlyweds, Max and Katie Bichler, participating in the next edition of the CBS reality series “The Amazing Race” understandably are getting a lot of local press. I carried their picture twice on Wednesday, once to note that Katie is the niece of Buffalo Sabres spokesman Mike Gilbert.

Channel 4 carried a clip of the couple at Niagara Falls at the end of its 10 p.m. Wednesday newscast on WNLO-TV. That was the day CBS announced the cast of 11 different teams. Then anchor Don Postles said the season premieres on Feb. 22.

Wrong. It is a Sunday night series and it premieres Feb. 17. I’m not saying Postles is responsible for the error since he often reads copy written by someone else. But you would think Channel 4 would get the date right concerning one of its own network’s series.


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Ch.4′s Segal Could Be Next to Leave


Is Channel 4 meteorologist Amelia Segal the next to leave the morning program of the CBS affiliate?

According to sources, Segal was all set to leave late in December for a job in a much bigger market — Washington, D.C. — but wasn’t allowed out of her contract by News Director Joe Schlaerth.

Channel 4 insiders suggest that Segal’s contract expires in March, when she might leave anyway after three years at the station. That might depend on whether she gets another offer from a bigger market or if the one she had last month is still available.

Amelia Segal

Amelia Segal

Segal, who has been off this week, was unavailable for comment.

Schlaerth is increasingly unpopular inside the newsroom for decisions like this but you can understand somewhat why he didn’t want to lose Segal, who apparently didn’t have an out in her contract if she got a major market offer. And why would she? She is pretty young to get such a great offer.

Why would Schlaerth refuse to let her go and advance her career? She is the meteorologist on “Wake Up!,” which lost co-anchors Victoria Hong and Joe Arena to other jobs in the last six months and is now co-anchored by Diana Fairbanks and newcomer Jordan Williams.

The loss of Segal would have further emphasized the instability inside Channel 4 and “Wake Up!,” which is now well behind Channel 2’s “Daybreak” in the morning news race.

Inquiring minds want to know – what happened to the Sabres HD telecasts on Channel 700? A Time Warner spokesperson told me that the Sabres no longer need their own HD channel because all their games are available in HD on MSG HD, NBC HD and NBC Sports Network HD.

So Notre Dame linebacker Manti T’eo picked Katie Couric to interview him on a show that airs at 4 p.m. today on Channel 7 to explain the hoax involving his imaginary dead girlfriend. I imagine the interview will draw some Buffalo Bills fans (in some mock drafts, the Bills select T’eo with the eighth pick) to Couric’s daytime show, which has been as big a loser for Channel 7 as Notre Dame was in the bowl game with Alabama for the national title. The best T’eo joke I’ve heard lately is that he was an “imaginary linebacker” in the Notre Dame loss because he played so poorly.

Inquiring minds want to know: How did two new series, “The Following” on Fox and “The Carrie Diaries,” on the CW fare locally Monday. “The Following” had a healthy 6.2 rating on WUTV, but the rating for the gruesome, violent and scary pilot dropped significantly at the end of the hour. And that is never a good sign. “Carrie,” the prequel to “Sex and the City,” had a 1.2 rating on WNLO-TV, the local CW affiliate that doesn’t do very well here in prime time.

Meanwhile, two network comedies bit the dust Wednesday when Fox announced it was dropping low-rated “Ben and Kate” and ABC announced it was putting “Don’t Trust the B—- in “Apartment 23″ on the shelf. The networks are expected to burn off the remaining episodes of both shows some time later, perhaps in the summer.


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Jeanneret Out for Thursday’s Game

Buffalo Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret did not make the team charter plane to Carolina today and will miss his third straight game Thursday when the National Hockey League team meets the Hurricanes.

“He’s feeling a lot better and hopes to be back in the booth as early as possible for Friday’s game (also with the Hurricanes),” said Sabres spokesman Mike Gilbert.

Kevin Sylvester, who works for the team, will take over Jeanneret’s duties for the second straight game Thursday as the Hall of Fame voice of the Sabres recovers from an undisclosed illness.

In another note from the Small World Department, the Buffalo newlyweds, Max and Katie Bichler, who will appear in the next edition of the CBS reality series “The Amazing Race,” have a connection to Gilbert.

Max and Katie Bichler: Related to Sabres Spokesman

Max and Katie Bichler: Related to Sabres Spokesman

“She is my niece,” said Gilbert, who attended their wedding in October. Gilbert added the Bichlers met four years ago at his annual charity golf tournament, the Gilbert Golf Outing, to raise money for St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute.

The next edition of the Emmy-winning “The Amazing Race” premieres on Sunday, Feb. 17.


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Ch.4 Gives Postles a Cruel and Cold Assignment


By now, long-time readers of this blog should realize that local TV news is increasingly becoming a cruel, cruel world.

I couldn’t help but think of that while watching veteran Channel 4 news anchor Don Postles outside at the Erie Basin bundled up in a heavy coat and wearing a ridiculous green snow hat at the top of the 6 p.m. news Tuesday.

To tell the truth, I thought it was hilarious in a cruel, cruel way.

Don Postles: Nice hat

Don Postles: Nice hat

The man has been on TV in Buffalo for something like 38 years (he has anchored at all three news stations) and recently celebrated his 20th anniversary on Channel 4 and the news producer or management still felt it had to send him out in the cold because we needed an anchor to show viewers how cold it is outside?

Really? That was some way of saying happy anniversary.

Of course,  sending Postles out in the cold wasn’t an unique news choice. This morning on NBC’s “Today,” co-anchors Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer and news reader Natalie Morales were outside in 10 degree weather in New York City.

“Why are we out here?” asked a shivering Guthrie.

“Our executive producer decided (it was) the only way we could communicate the truth of the misery of the morning,” answered Lauer before “Today” reporter Kevin Tibbles did a report on the cold grippping two-thirds of the nation.

“Nice to see you guys sharing the pain,” cracked Tibbles.

One of Postles’ jobs Tuesday was to introduce reporter George Richert at the Erie Basin to tell us that no matter how cold it was Tuesday it still might not be cold enough quickly enough to freeze the ice in time for an outdoor hockey tournament more than two weeks from today.

If Channel 4 felt the need to make two guys freeze to death Tuesday, it should have sent Pope Don Paul outside because at least he does the weather. I’m sure he could find a ridiculous hat to wear outside, too.

Amusingly, weatherman Al Roker was inside this morning at the start of “Today” before venturing out in the cold.

Many reporters who have left local news in recent years have told me the one thing they really won’t miss is going outside in the frigid temperatures — often near the Skyway — to tell viewers it is cold outside. They often have said doing those stories is a rite of passage for young reporters.

Of course, Postles isn’t a young reporter. He is a decade past eligibility for his AARP card and earned a a senior discount at Tim Horton’s several years ago. So watching him outside in his green hat made  me wonder if the assignment was Channel 4 management’s way of telling him it was time to retire.

I’m kidding, of course. He most likely was sent out there to freeze because some producer like the guy running “Today” or some consultant thinks putting anchors in the middle of the action will draw more viewers.

But when I kidded with one veteran media watcher about my retirement theory, he quickly responded: “If they are telling (him to retire), they picked a good way.”


The Buffalo Sabres’ 2-1 win over Toronto  Monday had about an 8 rating on MSG, which is about one-third the rating for the Sabres opening win over Philadelphia on NBC affiliate Channel 2 Sunday afternoon. The Sabres game had a rating as high or higher than everything in prime time, including CBS’ popular Monday night programs.

 This just in: Newlyweds Max and Katie Bichler of Buffalo are among the 11 teams competing in the next edition of CBS’ Emmy-winning reality series “The Amazing Race.” The first episode airs Feb. 17. Truth be told, I hate it when there is a Buffalo connection to a reality series because it means I might have to watch it for 10 minutes or so. At least they make for a nice looking couple, which is probably one reason they were selected.

Max and Katie Bichler

Max and Katie Bichler

Inquiring minds want to know: How did Channel 4′s “Wake Up!” do in the ratings on the second day of co-anchor Jordan Williams’ tenure there. The ratings improved substantially, but Channel 2’s “Daybreak” still held a decisive victory – 7.5-4.7.  As I’ve written before, the morning race is a marathon and not a sprint.

Memo to Sabres analyst Rob Ray, who has taken Harry Neale’s analyst spot on the team’s telecasts: Please stop referring to the Sabres as “us.” I know you played for the NHL team, but you’re a broadcaster now and should try to sound somewhat objective.

Speaking of the Sabres, I didn’t hear Kevin Sylvester call the Sabres win over Toronto Monday, but three hockey fans I know and respect told me he did a much better job on play-by-play than he did last season when he subbed for Rick Jeanneret.

Finally, AMC announced early this morning that “Mad Men” will return at 9 p.m. Sunday, April 7 with a two-hour season premiere. The last season(season five) will be available on AMC On Demand starting on Feb.11.


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Hamilton Scores on Sabres Play-by-Play

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

This is what I’m thinking after the long holiday weekend:

I was somewhat surprised when the Buffalo Sabres chose WGR’s Paul Hamilton to do play-by-play of the season opener against Philadelphia Sunday rather than Kevin Sylvester when Hall of Famer Rick Jeanneret became ill.

After all, Sylvester works for the team and has a daily WGR show focused on the Sabres that is part of the team’s deal with the station.

But I guess it didn’t matter all that much since Sylvester worked the MSG and WGR simulcast of Monday’s game in Toronto when Jeanneret still wasn’t ready to go because of an undisclosed illness.

While most of WNY was watching the Sabres’ 5-2 win over Philadelphia on Channel 2, I was able to hear Hamilton’s radio call of Sunday’s game as I drove my youngest son back to college for the spring semester.

Though he doesn’t have the greatest voice, Hamilton was still very impressive. His enthusiasm level, his anticipation of goals and possible goals, and his ability to provide instant analysis alongside analyst Rob Ray were all top notch. And he did a good job drawing comments out of Ray, who is in his first year replacing Harry Neale as the Sabres’  top analyst.

One of Hamilton’s strongest moments occurred when he instantly noted something that became part of the narrative of post-game comments  and Monday’s newspaper stories about the game – Drew Stafford’s uncharacteristic decision to stand up and fight Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell after Hartnell’s questionable hit on Tyler Ennis.

Hamilton was all over it. He also anticipated one of Thomas Vanek’s goals and generally was on top of the play throughout.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been that pleasantly surprised since Hamilton has had plenty of play-by-play practice calling Niagara University games. In any event, three cheers for Hamilton. The Sabres say Jeanneret hopes to be ready for Thursday’s game in Carolina. I didn’t hear Sylvester’s call of the Toronto game but I’ve heard him do play-by-play in the past. Off of Sunday’s performance, Hamilton gets my vote to call more games any time Jeanneret can’t go.

Not terribly surprisingly, the local ratings for the NFL playoffs games Sunday topped the local rating for the Sabres’ win over Philly.

The Sabres-Flyers game had an impressive 22.0 rating on Channel 2, which NBC reported made it the highest-rated regular season game on the Buffalo affiliate in seven years, excluding Winter Classics. (I wrote on Saturday that a rating of 20 for the game would be impressive by regular season standards and it topped that by 10 percent). The game had a 1.4 national overnight rating, which was 27 percent higher than a corresponding game a year ago. As low as that rating is, the Philly-Sabres game tied a Feb. 19, 2012 game as the best overnight rating for a Sunday regular season network broadcast in 13 years, also excluding Winter Classics. ABC was carrying the NHL in 2000.

San Francisco’s come-from-behind win over Atlanta on Channel 29 for the NFC title had a 28.3 rating on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. Baltimore’s more decisive win over New England for the AFC title had a 29.6 rating on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate.

There were a couple of reasons for CBS’ higher rating even though the Baltimore-New England game wasn’t that competitive down the stretch. For one thing, games played in the evening generally get higher ratings than games in the afternoon. Secondly, many Buffalo fans certainly enjoyed seeing the Pats and quarterback Tom Brady stumble. In the final 75 minutes, the Ravens-Pats game had ratings in the 32.7-33.9 range even though the Pats trailed by more than two touchdowns.


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