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NFL Ratings Drop on Super Sunday Here

Buffalo Bills helmet
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Maybe it was the beautiful Super Sunday weather in October.

Maybe it was the fact that the Buffalo Bills look like they are going to have their worst season in 25 years.

Maybe the blackout of the Bills game against Jacksonville had local fans glued to the radio call by John Murphy and Mark Kelso. Or maybe fans found a way to watch the game on the internet.

Maybe it was the fact it was a holiday weekend.

Whatever it was, local ratings for NFL games dropped below season-to-date averages on all three networks.

The New York Giants 34-10 rout of Houston on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate, averaged a 9.1 rating, about 10 percent lower than the season average of 9.8

Tennessee’s exciting 34-27 win over Dallas on WIVB, the local CBS affiliate, averaged a 13.5 rating, about 10 percent lower than the season average of 14.8.

And Philadelphia’s 27-24 prime time win over San Francisco on WGRZ, the local NBC affiliate, had a 10.2 rating. That’s about a third lower than the 15.2 average for the season.

It looks like the disastrous Bills season may be reducing interest in the NFL.

That theory will be tested again next week, when the Bills have a bye and three Sunday afternoon games are carried here.

pergament@msn.com

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Bills Fans Lose Twice on Sunday

Jimmy Smits on the red carpet at the 39th Annu...
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Buffalo Bills armchair fans lose twice on Sunday because the NFL’s team home game with the Jacksonville Jaguars is being blacked out.

 First, it means the Bills-Jags game won’t be carried on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate.

 Secondly, it means only one of two CBS games carried Sunday will be available to local viewers.

 Under NFL TV rules, if the Bills game had sold out in time to be televised, the second game in the CBS doubleheader would also have been carried on Channel 4. WUTV, the local Fox affiliate more commonly referred to as Channel 29, also gets one Sunday game.

 Since the Bills-Jags game isn’t a sell-out only one CBS game and one Fox game will be carried here.

 Fortunately, the same scenario only can potentially happen one more Sunday this season – if the Dec. 12 game against Cleveland isn’t sold out in time to lift the blackout. The other home games aren’t being played when CBS is the doubleheader network. 

 The good news is that the blackout means some interesting games will be available for Channel 4 and Channel 29 viewers.

 Channel 4 will carry the 4:15 p.m. Sunday game between Tennessee and Dallas, which is on the AFC’s network, CBS, because the Titans are the visiting team.

 Channel 29 is carrying the 1 p.m. game between the New York Giants and Houston, which is a NFC game because the Giants are the visiting team. 

 By the way, despite their sorry 0-4 start, the Bills remain a big local TV draw. The one-sided loss to the Jets Sunday had a 32.5 rating on Channel 4. That is easily the highest-rated TV program of the week and will likely double the rating of any non-Bills game this Sunday.

* NBC has put the production of the Jimmy Smits (see above) legal series “Outlaw” on hiatus. It apparently will carry all eight episodes produced and then see if there is a reason to continue. But the verdict for “Outlaw” on Friday nights opposite Tom Selleck and “Blue Bloods” is already in – it is a loser. Selleck’s show out-rates Smits’ show here by 2-1.

 * Brooke Lewis, who has starred in several independent horror films, headlines the 5th Annual Variety Club Halloween Fund Raiser for Womens and Children’s Hospital starting at 6 p.m. Oct.23 in the Central Terminal.

 Attorney Paul Cambria is the organizer of the popular event, which attracted 3,500 people and raised $80,000 last year. Tickets are $20 from Ticketmaster or $25 at the door.

 The event, which is hosted by WEDG-FM’s 103.3’s Shredd and Ragan, features three bands, a $2,000 best costume prize and a $500 scream contest prize.

 pergament@msn.com

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Brason Departs Channel 2

Channel 2 Saturday “Daybreak” anchor Erika Brason has left the station, General Manager Jim Toellner confirmed today.

 “She left for personal reasons,” said Toellner. He declined to answer  whether it was her choice to leave.

 “I never comment on personnel matters,” said Toellner. “She did a great job for us.”

 Josh Boose, who has been the Sunday “Daybreak” anchor, is at least temporarily filling in for Brason on Saturday.

 “I don’t know if that’s necessarily the permanent plan,” said Toellner.

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Channel 4 Highlights Lynch Trade

Marshawn Lynch of the Buffalo Bills
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This is what I’m thinking:

* Channel 4 led its 11 p.m. news Tuesday with an exclusive interview with former Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch (see right) about his trade to Seattle.

The story continued with a Mylous Hairston report and ran for three minutes.

Nothing says it is a slow news night more than a three-minute report about a Bills trade of a player that has been speculated about for weeks.

There have been times when news about Lynch – who got into his share of trouble in his days with the Bills – was worthy of the lead story. Tuesday night was not one of them.

The big news in Channel 4’s “exclusive” interview is that Lynch appreciated Buffalo and the support of Bills fans. It was a classy exit – especially when you compare it to how another first-round pick, Willis McGahee, left town.

* Howard Kurtz, the University at Buffalo graduate whose work as a media critic for the Washington Post has often found its way into the pages of the Buffalo News, has left the newspaper to work for the website The Daily Beast. Kurtz made the announcement on Twitter.

 He will continue to host one of my favorite Sunday morning shows – CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” “Reliable Sources” takes a weekly look at how the media operates, often  focusing on its handling of the political arena.

 * Nice to see that the Buffalo News has made David Bianculli’s excellent book on the Smothers Brothers, “Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” as its Book Club selection this month.

 Bianculli is a friend of mine. He not only teaches TV history at Rowan University in New Jersey but he is the founder of the website TV Worth Watching. The link to it is on this site. Bianculli also has linked to my site and that of dozens of TV critics who have become bloggers after they either left their papers in cutbacks, retired or because their papers stopped using a local critic to cover TV.

 * My early advice to former New York governor Eliot Spitzer now that he is teamed with newspaper columnist Kathleen Parker on a prime time CNN show: Stop interrupting. In Monday’s opener Spitzer never let anyone – including Parker – complete a thought or a sentence without interrupting. We know he has plenty to say. But he has to let others talk, too.

* Dish TV subscribers and the Buffalo Sabres are concerned that Friday’s opener and subsequent games won’t air on the satellite provider in a dispute with the owner of MSG – MSG Inc. – which is a subsidiary of Cablevision.

This is not just a local issue. Fans of the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils also could lose early season games in those bigger markets. That should put more pressure on the two sides to settle quickly. Disputes like this between channels and cable and satellite providers have happened so often that it seems like crying wolf.

 The Sabres are advising DISH subscribers to seek alternatives, with Time Warner Cable standing the most to benefit. So think about it: Who stands to be hurt more: Dish, a satellite provider that competes with cable? Or MSG Inc., a subsidiary of a cable company that is being told if it doesn’t make a deal many hockey fans will head back to cable?

 Now that’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?

 DISH fans here also are in jeopardy of losing New York Knicks games on MSG, which would have been a bigger concern years ago when the Knicks were actually good.

pergament@msn.com

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ABC On Demand On the Way

Today Show anchor Matt Lauer.
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Have you fallen behind watching “Grey’s Anatomy”? “Desperate Housewives”? “Brothers & Sisters”? “Modern Family”?

 In four weeks, many Time Warner Cable subscribers will have a chance to catch up on their favorite ABC programs starring Patrick Dempsey, Eva Longoria, Calista Flockhart and Julie Bowen when ABC On Demand launches on Nov. 2.

 According to a TWC spokesman, ABC On Demand will be part of its Primetime On Demand HD channel, which also launches on Nov. 2. It will be carried on Channel 705, which is where the standard definition of Primetime On Demand is carried. The standard definition of Primetime On Demand will remain on Channel 1005, where it also has been running.

 TWC agreed to carry ABC On Demand as part of its overall deal with Disney that was struck in its negotiations over the ESPN channels.

 ABC joins CBS, NBC and several other cable channels on Primetime On Demand. The only network among the Big Four that isn’t on the channel is Fox.

 Not all of the network prime time shows are On Demand, but most of the popular ones are available for cable subscribers (who have the level of service)  to watch at their convenience.

 The On Demand feature allows subscribers to have more space to record other programs on their DVRs, which can fill up quickly when recording HD programming.

 “Grey’s Anatomy” is one of the most popular programs for DVR users and undoubtedly will be popular with On Demand viewers.

 The one downside to On Demand is that viewers tend to watch more popular shows, which are viewed when new shows are on live and could reduce their chances of catching on. However, at least On Demand also increases the viewership of new shows.

* “Today” show co-anchor Matt Lauer (see above) hit Republican gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino with some aggressive questioning this morning about his judgment, his personal life and his attempt to makeover his style in his kinder and gentler advertisements after last week’s confrontation with a New York reporter.

Paladino, who prides himself on not being a typical politician, behaved typically by ignoring the questions being asked and going into attack mode against his Democratic opponent, Andrew Cuomo.

Lauer was so intent on asking his questions that he ignored Paladino when the nominee accused Cuomo of taking a bribe.

 The anchor pressed Paladino on how well his combative style would fit in Albany, where getting along with other politicians and becoming a “bridge builder” becomes a necessity in order to get things done.

 “For some reason,” said Lauer, “I look at you and I’m not sure you are a bridge builder. Tell me I’m wrong.”

 When Lauer asked Paladino where his base would be in if he won, the nominee said it would be “with the people.”

 Of course, “the people” don’t get a vote in Albany once the elections are over or the annual budget crises wouldn’t happen.

 Some people might have questioned Lauer’s raising the old story about the offensive emails that Paladino sent to friends before he became a candidate. But many voters weren’t paying attention in April when that story broke, which makes an old story new again.

 The ultimate judge of whether Lauer was too tough in the interview or Paladino avoided giving answers to his questions will be the people.

 From my living room, Lauer’s tough questions were appropriate even if his respectful but sharp tone suggested he isn’t a Paladino fan.

* Quote of Monday night on the premiere of CNN’s prime show featuring conservative columnist Kathleen Parker and liberal Democrat Eliot Spitzer came courtesy of “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin.

 There to promote his latest movie, “The Social Network,” Sorkin knew he was alienating some potential ticket buyers when he gave his take on Sarah Palin.

 “Sarah Palin is an idiot,” said Sorkin after being asked for his opinion. “Come on. This is a remarkably, stunningly, jaw-droppingly incompetent and mean woman.”

 Later Sorkin had this to say about the two parties: “The Democrats may have moved into the center, but Republicans have moved into a mental institution.”

 There is no truth to the rumor (I just started) that Sorkin was auditioning for a job with MSNBC.

pergament@msn.com

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New Shows Mostly Land with a Thud

William Shatner photographed by Jerry Avenaim
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One of the more amusing aspects of the new TV season is watching the networks do cartwheels in trying to create the impression some new shows are hits.

In some cases, they’ve pulled quotes from obscure magazines and web sites. In other cases, they’ve just called low-rated shows “hits.”

So much for truth in advertising or promotion.

If Western New York is any indication, practically all the new shows have arrived with a collective thud and even some long-running hits are experiencing significant viewership declines.

The few shows that have done well for two weeks even get an asterisk – they are likely to attract an older audience that isn’t that attractive to advertisers.

Fox already has canceled my favorite new show, “Lone Star,” after two airings. Its second episode lost three-quarters of the lead-in from “House” here and at one point in the hour hit a low of a 1.1 rating.

“Lone Star” had the misfortune of going head-to-head with NBC’s “The Event,” the series starring Jason Ritter that  has had two strong showings here and averaged the same 7.6 rating that “House” did last week. However, it arrives with an asterisk. Several people who liked the initial premise have told me they will stop watching now that it has been revealed the show is about aliens in America. Before it can be declared a hit, let’s check to see how well it does tonight and next week.

 NBC’s other new dramas, “Chase” (6.0) and “Undercovers” (5.8), are doing OK here as is the new comedy “Outsourced” (4.4). The new “Law & Order: Los Angeles” didn’t open as strong as might be expected here, averaging the same 8.4 rating that the lighter CBS legal show “The Defenders” received at 10 p.m. Wednesday. Still, the 8.4 rating is decent when you consider NBC’s “The Apprentice” got a 3.0 rating at 10 p.m. Thursday last week. Donald Trump should be aware that ratings like that get shows “fired” but he can (and will) blame the lead-in. 

 Fox is calling the comedy “Raising Hope” a hit. It lost more than half its lead-in from “Glee” here in its second episode. Not a hopeful sign.

 ABC is heavily promoting the family superhero series “No Ordinary” with Michael Chiklis by trumpeting all of its positive reviews. But it barely got off the ground here with a 6.1 rating opposite “Glee” (8.9).

 ABC also was using promos for the cop series “Detroit 1-8-7” starring Michael Imperioli that likened it to “NYPD Blue.” Buffalo viewers turned it off in week two. The show averaged a 5.5 rating opposite the suspenseful return of CBS’ “The Good Wife” (12.2). A closer look at ratings every 15 minutes is even less encouraging. “Detroit” opened with a 7.5 rating and slipped to a 4.4 in the final 15 minutes. Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock News on WNLO-TV had a higher rating.

 The ABC dramas “The Whole Truth” (2.9 here) and “My Generation” (3.0) have had the kind of low ratings that usually lead to a quick hook.

 The one positive for ABC affiliate Channel 7 comes on Wednesday night, where the sophomore comedies “The Middle” (7.6) and “Modern Family” (8.4) are experiencing healthy gains from a year ago and even have helped a truly awful comedy, “Better Than You” (7.2), grab an audience for two weeks.

 As usual, new CBS shows are doing the best here. The network’s shows generally are more likely to appeal to the older viewers in WNY.

 Last year’s “The Good Wife” fell into that category. This year, the Tom Selleck cop drama “Blue Bloods” and the 1970s remake “Hawaii 5-0” opened with double-digit ratings. “Hawaii” has beaten ABC’s “Castle” for two weeks, but it is too early to tell if that is just a brief trend.

 CBS’ claim that the William Shatner (see above) series “Sh-t My Father Says” (10.7) is a hit is funnier than anything in the show. It lost one-third of its lead-in here from “The Big Bang Theory” (15.6), which gets six times the audience as the NBC comedy, “Community,” that is opposite it.

 Similarly, the awful CBS Monday comedy “Mike & Molly” (11.3) gets a decent rating here because of its lead-in from “Two and Half Men” (13.1).

 The CW here – which is carried on WNLO – has reason to cheer on Thursday night here.  “Vampire Diaries” (3.8) and “Nikita” (3.8) have higher ratings here than NBC’s “Community” and “30 Rock.” Now that’s something worth promoting.

 The thing that should scare the networks more than anything on “Vampire Diaries” is the ratings decline for such formerly popular ABC show as “Grey’s Anatomy” (only a 9.1) and “Private Practice” (4.4). However, those ratings deserve an asterisk because they are heavily DVRed for later viewing.

 pergament@msn.com

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Bills Interest Picked up in New England

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 05: Wide Receiver Lee E...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

 

 This is what I’m thinking:

* Reports of disinterest among Buffalo Bills fans have been greatly exaggerated.

 The first game with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback last Sunday at New England had about a 32.5 rating on Channel 4, a healthy figure that was about a 20 percent increase from the Green Bay loss and in the ballpark of the opening game loss to Miami.

 Of course, the fact the 38-30 loss to the Pats had plenty of offense and exciting moments didn’t hurt..

 Because the Bills are playing a New York team Sunday – the Jets – CBS is sending one of its top announcing teams in play-by-play man Greg Gumbel and analyst Dan Dierdorf to Orchard Park.

 In CBS’ weekly notes about NFL games, Dierdorf made some comments that had to be encouraging to Bills fans. Of course, he is promoting the game between a team with Super Bowl aspirations and a winless team.

 “Buffalo is dangerous,” said Dierdorf. “They’ve got an exciting young, talented player in C.J. Spiller. Not only do they have the explosiveness that the rookie brings, but they’ve got two running backs as well who have had 1,000 yard seasons in the past in Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. They’ve got talent at the wide receiver position. There’s more excitement surrounding a 0-3 team that you would expect considering that they made a switch to an unheralded quarterback.”

 Earth to Dierdorf. Talent at wide receiver? Beyond Lee Evans(see above)? Excitement?

 Dierdorf added that Ralph Wilson Stadium “remains one of the most difficult places in the NFL to get a win. You always hear coaches say when they leave Buffalo, ‘I don’t care how, I just want to get out of here with a W.’ Regardless of the home team’s record, they’re hard to beat at home. We’ve seen good football teams over the years struggle at Buffalo.”

 Not lately, Dan. Bills fans shouldn’t get too giddy listening to Dierdorf.

 He said of the Jets “the sky is the limit for these guys. If (quarterback) Mark Sanchez continues to grow and progress like we’ve seen him, especially last week, the sky really is the limit for this team.”

 But back to Dierdorf and the Bills.

 “The Bills played the Patriots really tough,” said Dierdorf. “This isn’t a Buffalo team that is going to go winless. They’re going to beat teams along the way, and I’m sure (Jets Coach)Rex Ryan is telling his team,  it isn’t going to be us.”

 The Bills aren’t going to go winless. Now that’s exciting, isn’t it?

* Speaking of exciting, Time Warner Cable has announced that its newest high definitions channels include its SportsNet channel on 713. That means many games of the channel will look as good as the games on all the other sports channels already in HD. Today’s  Big East Network game between UConn and Vanderbilt looks terrific on the HD channel. TWC also has added its 24-hour news channel, YNN, in HD on Channel 709.

pergament@msn.com

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Paladino Blowup Only Must-See on NBC

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 10:  Executive Producer...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

 

This is what I’m thinking:

* Well, I said it was going to be interesting to see how NBC Nightly News was going to treat the Carl (“I’ll Take You Out Buddy”) Paladino blowup with a New York reporter on Thursday after doing a balanced piece on his quest to become governor Wednesday.

 And the network didn’t disappoint, highlighting the Paladino battle with the New York Post’s Fred Dicker in a piece by NBC reporter Kelly O’Donnell about the so-called “Mean Season” in politics during the mid-term elections.

 After showing a few seconds of the Paladino-Dicker confrontation that included the “Sopranos” dialogue, O’Donnell’s piece showed clips of several other memorable angry moments by candidates during this political season.

 Anchor Brian Williams introduced the O’Donnell piece by nothing that Paladino’s opponents “are saying he behaved like a thug in a piece of videotape that rocketed across the Internet.”

 In the end, O’Donnell said that Paladino didn’t follow the usual practice of apologizing or backing down and instead defended himself by saying he was passionate.

 By the way, ABC and CBS weren’t passionate about the Paladino-Dicker blowup. They didn’t cover it on their evening newscasts Thursday.

 * Speaking of being passionate, I just got an email from Buffalo native Joe Pinzone, who now is an associate producer on Jerry Seinfeld’s (see above) NBC reality series, “The Marriage Ref.”

 Pinzone reports the show is looking to recruit some Buffalo married couples over the next few weeks. The plan is to hold casting events in Buffalo over the Columbus Day weekend. On Monday, Oct. 11, the show will be looking for couples in the Galleria Mall, said Pinzone. If interested, they should email Pinzone at Joe@themarriageref.tv

 The flier for the show –which deals with longstanding arguments on marital issues – notes that “no problem is too small or too strange!”

 Born and raised in Amherst, Pinzone graduated in the broadcasting program from Buffalo State College in 2002 and has worked on MTV shows and several court shows.

 He wrote that he still has family in Buffalo and tries to visit twice annually.

 “This is my first season for ‘The Marriage Ref’ and I’m really excited about trying to get married couples from my hometown,” wrote Pinzone.

 * And now for this commercial message: I woke up this morning in time to see Channel 7 morning show anchors Bridget Blythe and Mike Randall promoting a local supermarket and its tailgate party options.

 I don’t fault the anchors – who are just doing what they have to do to keep their jobs. But it is pretty embarrassing to see the extent stations in these tough economic times are dishing out news time to advertisers.

 * If the ratings in Western New York are any indication, the truth is out on the ABC legal series, “The Whole Truth.” It has been soundly rejected. The second 10 p.m.  Wednesday episode averaged a 2.9 rating on Channel 7, which is lower than the lame rating it got for its premiere a week earlier. Makes you wonder if the third episode will even air.

 “Truth” is in three-way rookie legal battle with the light “The Defenders” on CBS and the very ordinary “Law& Order: Los Angeles,” which tied Wednesday with 8.4 ratings locally. While “The Defenders” held its audience throughout the hour, the new “Law& Order” lost about 20 percent of its audience by hour’s end, which is never a good sign.

 Also in jeopardy if local rates are any indication is ABC’s “My Generation.” The clichéd series about 20somethings only had a 3.0 rating on Channel 7 Thursday night. As bad as that it is, it is the same rating that NBC’s “The Apprentice” averaged at 10 p.m. on Channel 2.

 pergament@msn.com

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Ch.4′s Arena Working Hard for His Money

P1210680
Image by azipaybarah via Flickr

 

 This is what I’m thinking:

 * Talk about burning the candle at both ends.

For the past three days, Channel 4’s Joe Arena has been anchoring at 5 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

 The 5:30 p.m. shift formerly was anchored by Lia Londa, who left for a job in Rochester three months after she filled in for Lisa Flynn after Flynn’s retirement.

 Arena’s work schedule isn’t unprecedented even in this market. Channel 2’s Jodi Johnston anchors at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

 But Arena’s situation should come with an asterisk. He is about to go on vacation to get married.

 I’d say working the 5 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. shifts isn’t an ideal way to start off a marriage after a honeymoon.

 * Speaking of Lando, her decision to take the Rochester job over Channel 4 wasn’t surprising because she lives there with her husband and children

 What was surprising is that a Rochester TV station pays anchors more than a Buffalo station.

 * NBC News reporter Kate Snow did a generally positive story on the NBC Nightly News Wednesday on Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino (see above) calling him “the stereotype of a renegade outsider with Tea Party support.”

 Snow’s story was balanced, meaning it didn’t dwell on the negative. She  let the Buffalo developer refute charges he is a racist because of emails he sent to friends. Snow also suggested his pocketbook could “put him within striking distance” of Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

 “This year,” concluded anchor Brian Williams, “throw out everything you know about politics.”

 Earlier Williams promoted the story by saying Paladino came “out of nowhere” and asked “can he pull of the political upset of the season?”

 The NBC story surely won’t hurt Paladino’s chances.

It will be interesting to see if Nightly News follows up tonight with a report on Wednesday’s confrontation between Paladino and Fred Dicker of the New York Post.

All three Buffalo TV news operations opened their newscasts this morning with Wednesday night’s heated, finger-pointing exchange.

 The exchange escalated when Dicker asked Paladino for proof about his claim that Cuomo was unfaithful during his former marriage.

 Neither the candidate nor the reporter looked good in the exchange, but only Paladino is running for office. Dicker moved beyond being an aggressive reporter into being combative.

 The most damaging comment from Paladino seemed to be a line that would cause many viewers to wonder if the candidate is a fan of HBO’s old “The Sopranos” or new “Boardwalk Empire.”

 “I’ll take you out buddy,” Paladino told Dicker.

 A Channel 2 reporter said this morning it was unclear what Paladino meant, but it was clear he wasn’t talking about taking Dicker to the movies or dinner.

 While most candidates might be embarrassed about making that threatening comment in public, it wouldn’t be shocking if Paladino made the line one of his slogans in campaign commercials.

pergament@msn.com

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“L&O: Los Angeles”: Solid But No Wow

Skeet Ulrich
Image by Mirka23 via Flickr

 

Location, location, location.

It’s the key in real estate and it can be key in TV series.

For 20 seasons, “Law & Order” and its sister shows, “SVU” and “Criminal Intent,”   were set in New York City, where they took full advantage of the eight million stories available in the naked city and about a million New Yawk actors.

To freshen up the franchise version of the show, Dick Wolf would just change some cast members over the years.

Now that “Law & Order” has been canceled, he has changed the location. The new version is called “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” where it can take advantage of Hollywood stories, legendary Southern California cases and actors who would rather live on the West Coast.

 The result in tonight’s 10 premiere on Channel 2 is decent without being special, primarily because the ripped-from-the-headlines case involving a teen star modeled after Lindsay Lohan,  Britney Spears or some other real-life, self-destructive teen has been done to death.

It also doesn’t help that some of the big acting names in the series – including Terrence Howard, Peter Coyote and Rachel Ticotin – don’t appear until next week’s slightly more interesting episode about the murder of a woman who was involved in a Manson-like cult 30 years earlier.

The Los Angeles backdrop also is a co-star in the series, with visits to Hollywood-type clubs and Southern California beaches in the first two weeks.

And there is one notable departure from the New York City versions of “L&O.” The home life of one of the lead detectives (played by Skeet Ulrich, above of “Jericho”) is explored next week when his wife (played by Teri Polo) also joins the cast as a former policewoman.

Of course, viewers know the “Law & Order” drill by now. The detectives played by Ulrich and the imposing Corey Stoll trade some dry lines while they investigate a murder and then hand the case off to the prosecutors.

Noting that an actor leaves eight Rolexes out in the open rather than in a nearby safe, Ulrich cracks, “genius.”

“Actor,” replies Stoll.

Molina is the district attorney who apparently has seen it all and is a little bored by it all.

“Wow me,” he tells a suspect who wants to trade information for a reduced sentence.

After the guy volunteers some info, Molina dryly notes “Interested, not wowed.”

The opening case has a similar cynical attitude about the California lifestyle, stage moms and how quickly a waiter making minimum wage can be making $3 million a picture.

 Next week’s episode is slightly stronger because of Howard’s performance. He plays a prosecutor with a tender side that shouldn’t be confused with weak as he prosecutes a murderer whose unusual circumstances make her somewhat of a compassionate figure.

 The cases are interesting and the series is bound to appeal to fans of the old “L & O.” Just don’t expect to be wowed.

 Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 4

 On a sad note, Fox’s “Lone Star” was canceled after only two episodes. It was my favorite new show but few Western New Yorkers will weep. It didn’t even average a 2 rating for its second episode Monday. Don’t be surprised if filmed episodes land on FX, Fox’s cable channel.

pergament@msn.com  

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