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"Entourage" Is Loaded with Celebrity Gold

Mark Wahlberg confused Tyler Myers when he presented the National Hockey League award Wednesday for rookie of the year by announcing the winner as Tie Domi instead of the Buffalo Sabres defenseman.

It was unclear whether the envelope Wahlberg was reading had the name of the retired Toronto Maple Leafs bad boy, the actor-producer misread the envelope or it was some kind of inside baseball joke.

It wouldn’t be surprising if many hockey fans around Western New York and the nation were asking “who the heck is Mark Wahlberg?”

He’s the guy whose celebrity life is loosely the basis of “Entourage,” the popular HBO series about an actor, Vinny Chase (Adrian Grenier, upper right in photo by HBO’s Claudette Barius), living the dream in Hollywood with his half-brother Drama (Kevin Dillon) and two buddies from Queens, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and his manager Eric (Kevin Connolly).

The show returns for its seventh season at 10:30 p.m. Sunday on the pay-cable channel with an amusing episode that name drops celebrities at a record level and revolves around Vinny’s quest to “man up” while shooting an action film.

Bad boy director Nick Cassavetes (upper left in photo) is in charge of Vinny’s latest movie and he wants the guy to do his own dangerous stunts.

Danger is not Vinny’s middle name and some of the dark comedy moments dealing with the past damage to actors when stunts have gone wrong makes his initial reluctance to give in perfectly understandable.

Cassavetes almost steals the episode playing a convincing macho director who knows how to appeal to an actor’s psyche. All a director or Vinny’s friends have to do is name all the actors — Robert DeNiro, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise in the just-released “Knight and Day” — that have done their own stunts to guilt an actor into doing it.

Cassavetes also gets under the skin of super agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who represents both the director and Vinny and now is the self-proclaimed “biggest agent in the world.”

It’s a rich Gold episode, which is always a good thing. It enables the foul-mouthed character played by Piven to steal another episode as an abusive agent who tries to balance his exhaustive political work needs with the needs of his wife.

The rest of the story lines about Vinny’s friends aren’t as involving. Turtle is again looking for love, Drama is looking for a TV acting role and Eric is looking to help out Vinny anyway he can while preparing to wed Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Unfortunately, there is too little of Sloan.

Next week, Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones has a cameo as Ari tries to convince him that the agent should negotiate the rights to the next NFL contact. When you’re looking to expand your audience, the name Jerry Jones doesn’t exactly spell ratings.

William Fichtner, the Cheektowaga actor, also is back as a TV producer who disappoints Drama. He gets the best inside baseball line of the half-hour, giving Drama his views on agents. “They are (expletive) deleted agents, they don’t believe in extra work,” says Fichtner’s character.

“Entourage” still works after all these years because viewers have gotten to know and love the characters, their quirks and their goals much better than Mark Wahlberg knows Tyler Myers.

Rating: 3 stars out of 4

* Mini-review of “Knight and Day”: I caught the film on opening day Wednesday with my teen-age son to escape the heat and see the movie that co-stars Cruise and Cameron Diaz. I can hardly remember anything about it two days later. It isn’t much. My son and I much preferred the action scenes in “The A-Team,” which isn’t getting as much love from critics as “Knight and Day.”

Diaz doesn’t look so hot and Cruise’s comedy routine wears thin about halfway through the movie. The best Cruise lines were given away in the previews. I only recommend the movie on a rainy or very hot day. Otherwise, wait for the video.

Rating: 2 stars

* Remember former Channel 2 consumer reporter Mike Igoe. Since he took a buyout, he’s been teaching communications course at Buffalo State College and has drawn praise from the department head.

Now he’s going to teach in China. He will spend a year as assistant professor at the United International College, where students have English as a second language. He will teach two reporting classes and one on media law.

“It was a unique opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up,” said Igoe.


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No Shock Here: Quake Coverage Isn't Moderate

In one sense, it was earth-shattering news. An earthquake that was centered about 250 miles away in Canada shook portions of Western New York Wednesday afternoon.

In another sense, it wasn’t earth-shattering news. No one was hurt here and the buildings were fine.

The most predictable aspect of the unpredictable event was how local TV news would handle what was essentially a story about how little impact the quake that sent tremors through eight states had here.

Certainly, it was a story worth covering with a package of, say, about two minutes or three minutes tops.

The local stations seemed to think viewers needed two or three times that amount at the top of their early evening newscasts on what usually would be a slow summer news day.

In fairness, the stations restrained themselves from making the quake happenings here seem more catastrophic than they were. Channel 7’s Patrick Taney and Channel 4’s Rich Newberg emphasized it was a mild or moderate quake with no significant damage.

However, the sheer volume of the coverage contradicted the reporters’ moderation.

Of course, it would be really shocking – in the magnitude of a 6.0 quake – if the stations practiced moderation in their coverage.

Naturally and smartly, all three stations headed to the University at Buffalo earthquake specialist, Andre Filiatraut, who shined while having his day in the sun. He was the highlight of the serious coverage because he provided some much-needed insight.

But since no one got hurt, it was easier to laugh at some of the things said and done in the extended coverage.

I got the biggest laugh when hearing Channel 7 anchor Keith Radford note the quake woke people up from their afternoon naps. I guess that line was designed to appeal to the average age of a TV news viewer.

Inevitably, TV went to the dogs and the birds.

A couple of stations did amusing stories about the SPCA condor that was acting up before the quake hit, indicating it knew something was up before mere humans did.

A citizen journalist sent a picture of the family dog on the family couch, which illustrated the dog knew the quake was coming, too, because it never goes on the couch.

The scariest part of the coverage was seeing the impact that technology has in overplaying news like the quake that is bound to get people talking and filming.

Citizen journalists sent pictures, You Tube provided video of an Ottawa guy whose work out was disrupted by the quake and every station seemed determined to tell us that its phones rang off the hook and web traffic was high.


Everyone in this You Tube world we live in believes his or her experiences are important and want everyone else to know that their dishes rattled and the floor shook.

The need to get viewers “involved” leads to things like hearing Channel 4’s Don Postles read aloud comments sent to the station’s website about mundane viewer experiences.

The trend is as lamentable as it is laughable. Who knew we’d ever long for the glory days when TV news only felt it needed to give us silly on-the-street interviews.

A real earth-shattering experience would be if the stations gave the story what it deserved based on its importance rather than milked it to satisfy viewers’ needs to feel important.

For some perspective, take a look at this morning’s Buffalo News. The quake story received only four paragraphs on the left side of the front-page and jumped inside to a lengthy story with the jump head “No reports of serious injury or damage.”

Admittedly, the quake news is a little old by this morning and that may have been part of the judgment involved in how to play the story.

By putting the story on the front page, the paper is telling its readers the quake story was an important, talked-about event. By giving it a one-column headline on the front page and only carrying four paragraphs before jumping to page 2, the paper is telling readers that it wasn’t that big a deal despite what you may have seen on TV Wednesday.

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ABC's "Rookie" Is Clueless

Here’s the headline on a very funny, mock retirement story written by Jeff Simon about me: “He Watched Crap So We Didn’t Have To.”

My role hasn’t changed as a blog critic.

That’s a perfect introduction to “Rookie Blue,” the new ABC drama that premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday on WKBW-TV. It’s a Canadian production that makes a routine Canadian cop series that CBS has aired, “Flashpoint,” look like an Emmy winner.

“Rookie Blue” is about five attractive rookie cops who don’t have a clue.

Sort of like the show’s production team.

How bad is it?

It is hard to tell when this series filmed in Toronto intentionally tries to be funny and when it unintentionally is funny.

They say good cops can assess a situation in a few minutes or less. It often takes about the long for veteran TV critics to assess a new show.

“Rookie” starts with some narration by the lead rookie, Andy McNally (played by Missy Peregrym), that seems to try and conjure up a cop version of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Quickly, the crappy dialogue keeps in.

“There is absolutely no training that prepares you for life” at the 15th Street Station, the rookies are told.

Then Andy is given an inspiring talk from the veteran policeman she is paired with on her first day on the job: “People can smell new cops like they can smell fresh paint.”

Thus the title of the pilot, “Fresh Paint.”

Critics can smell moldy show ideas like they can smell good popcorn.

There isn’t a moment involving a transgender suspect, an undercover cop, a single mother or a proud father that a rookie TV critic can’t see from Buffalo to Toronto.

Gregory Smith of “Everwood” fame is one of the rookies, Dov Epstein (that name is the only original part of the show), who wants to take his gun home to bond with.

I don’t think that is intended to be funny.

He and a female colleague also are confused about which sex should frisk a transgender suspect and the definition of transgender.

“Can you please explain to us exactly what that means?” Dov asked the suspect.

I think that is supposed to be funny.

However, some people around here may be confused to after the Batavia woman accused of having sex at a park recently claimed that her husband was transgender (according to TV reports).

Now back to “Rookie Blue,” which seems determined to remind us that cops like a good beer, some good music and some good laughs after a tough day at the office.

Our heroine Andy may be the most apologetic cop in TV history. She apologizes to fellow cops AND suspects.

It is ABC that should be apologizing for putting this crap on even in the summer when expectations are lower than usual.

Rating: 1 star out of 4

* I’m really not trying to upset Channel 4 weather god Pope Don Paul anymore. But I have to point out that Channel 7 used Dave Cash as its weather anchor Tuesday. Cash normally does traffic. He did a decent job explaining the weather, too.

Coming after Channel 2 had Josh Boose doing weather last week, it is apparent that Paul shouldn’t be complaining to me about his field not getting enough respect. He should be complaining to stations that are run by people who seem to think that anyone can do weather in the summer when vacations are more plentiful.

* After hearing for the third or fourth time on talk radio about President Obama’s recent comment about looking to “kick some ass” in regards to the Gulf oil spill, it should be noted that the President didn’t come up with that phrase by himself. He was merely repeating a phrase that NBC’s Matt Lauer put in his question to the President during a “Today” show interview. Replays of the phrase often ignore the question, which removes the context of the remark.


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A Picture Doesn't Always Tell the Story

One of the jokes at the retirement party for nine Buffalo News staffers was about the picture in my column.

It hadn’t changed in 20, 25 or 30 years, which meant I was sort of like the ageless character Richard (Nestor Carbonell) on “Lost.”

There were some advantages of using an old picture. It isn’t a bad thing not to be recognized in public when your job is to criticize people and programs.

Now that I’ve moved on to the blog world, it is time to change the picture (see upper left). Yes, I’ve aged. But who hasn’t?

Well, Wendie Malick, currently starring in the TV Land series, “Hot in Cleveland,” hasn’t. Every time I saw the Williamsville native during one of the press tours in Hollywood, I was amazed at how ageless the 50something actress appeared to be.

One of the benefits of the job was to see actresses and actors upclose and personal to see if the camera makes them look better or worse.

The most beautiful actress I’ve ever seen in person is Halle Berry. The camera can’t do her justice. I first saw her when CBS was promoting the 1993 miniseries that she starred in — Alex Haley’s “Queen.”

Katherine Heigl, formerly of “Grey’s Anatomy,” is a close runner-up. And judge Carrie Ann Inaba of “Dancing with the Stars” wins the bronze.

More recently, I saw Courteney Cox at a press session for last fall’s new ABC comedy, “Cougar Town.” She looked so amazing that some of the questions were about the difficulty of envisioning her character as being insecure about her looks.

Of course, the point is everybody can be insecure about their looks.

The most interesting looking actress I’ve ever seen in person was Cher. It happened at a party that Buffalo producer Tom Fontana was throwing in Los Angeles a few years ago at the Chateau Marmot, where John Belushi died. I was talking to another guest and saw a woman who looked about 40 and said “you know what, that looks like a younger version of Cher.”

“You idiot,” replied the guest, “that is Cher!”

Well, not exactly the original Cher. I suppose she has had more than her share of “work” done.

It is one of my big regrets that I never went over and talked to her.

I feel sorry for all of the local TV personalities who have to worry about what they look like when they go out in public.

I’ve never seen her in person but I’ve been told by my media colleagues that the camera doesn’t do justice to Channel 7’s Bridget Blythe. However, it isn’t that unusual for news staffers to look better in person than they do on TV. Channel 7’s Joanna Pasceri also falls into that category. So did Carol Jasen when she was a Channel 4 anchor.

The biggest disappointment without question was seeing Cameron Diaz in person. She arrived to promote some well-meaning cable series that she was involved in and looked like she had just gotten off a plane without much makeup on. I always tell a friend of mine who fantasizes about her (along with most American men) that story.

Makeup can hide a lot of imperfections, but too much of it can be a detriment. I ran into a female friend of a friend after seeing the latest “Sex and the City” movie. She noted that all the actresses – Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon – had noticeably aged. I told her that wasn’t the kind of thing that a male critic would dare say.

It is an unfair fact of life in Hollywood that actors don’t have to worry about aging as much as actresses do. Chris Noth didn’t exactly look like as young as he did when he started playing “Big” on the TV version of “Sex and the City.”

And then there’s George Clooney. At the retirement party, a couple of jokes accused me of having a “man crush” on him. Sure, he’s aged a lot since I had my picture taken with him before the premiere of “ER” an eternity ago. But let’s face it, no one out there — man or woman –seems to care.

* Here’s a trio of news items you are unlikely to get in the local newspaper anymore:

* The start of ABC’s “Summer Season” didn’t exactly get off with a ratings bang locally. “Scoundrels” had a 4.9 rating on Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate, finishing second in its time slot behind NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent “ (7.7) on Channel 2.

And the new vampire series, “The Gates,” didn’t get out of the gate. It had a low 2.8 rating, finishing last in its time slot.

* After just two episodes of this bloody season have aired, HBO has announced that it has renewed “True Blood” for a fourth season. No surprise there.

* Meanwhile, Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights” has told a former critic turned national blogger, David Bianculli, that she believes the fifth season currently being filmed is likely going to be the last for the brilliant show. NBC is currently airing the fourth season, which already has aired on DirecTV.


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Youth Movement Visible on Local TV News

Who’s That Girl with the unusual name?

No, not Madonna.


Inquiring minds want to know where Channel 4’s newest reporter, Nalina Shapiro, came from before she recently popped up on newscasts.

Okay, a buddy of mine asked me who the new pretty blonde was on the area’s news leader.

The answer illustrates how much the hiring methods have changed in local television these days.

Shapiro was hired straight out of college. It doesn’t say that on the biography on Channel 4’s website. The bio notes that she graduated from Franklin Pierce University and adds she’s “worked with” news teams on the CBS Evening News in New York, WBZ-TV in Boston and WMUR in New Hampshire. It doesn’t say what year she graduated from college and what “worked with” means.

You can get more information from Google and You Tube. I Googled Shapiro and discovered she graduated college a few weeks ago and “worked with” means she was an intern at the three stations.

But her video resume also is in You Tube and it’s so impressive that her hiring is understandable. She is very smooth as a reporter and obviously very aggressive in seeking a job.

One can imagine that some people in local news are a little jealous of Shapiro, who didn’t have to toil in Elmira or Erie, Pa. before landing on a big Buffalo station as reporters had to do in the past.

However, times clearly have changed in these economically-distressed times. The Youth Movement on TV isn’t only on YNN, Time Warner’s 24-hour news channel. It is also is highly visible on all three broadcast stations. A member of Channel 4’s weather team, Amelia Segal, undoubtedly would get carded in any Chippewa Street bar that wants to keep its license.

Young and cheap obviously is the way it is going to go in local TV. The good news is younger reporters are more likely to be comfortable with being backpack journalists, which means they shoot their own stories as well as report them.

It remains to be seen whether younger reporters have the news instincts that in the past were developed in places like Elmira and Erie, Pa.

* Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan wrote a compelling column Sunday about a much-needed change in the newspaper’s policy regarding how the online comments to stories will be handled starting in August. The paper will then require people making online comments to give their real names and the name of their town as they do for letters to the editors.

In her column, she quoted a reader named Bob Gallivan. “What is intended to be an open forum for individuals’ thoughts and opinions is all too often the outlet for small-minded, omniphobic hatemongers, racists and just plain mean-spirited people,” wrote Gallivan.

Gallivan works at Channel 4 as its researcher. He is not part of the news-gathering process at the station, which also allows offensive comments to stories that are online.

Besides requiring names and addresses to be used, The News might also consider adding occupations and workplaces. None of the comments to my Buffalo News columns over the years disturbed me. But it was clear that some of the more vicious personal attacks came from people who worked at the local stations and were hiding behind anonymity. I’m not suggesting that the occupations and workplaces be carried online – just that they be given so News editors could know whether the writers had an ax to grind.

* Finally, I guess it’s too bad that Nalina Shapiro doesn’t do sports. On Sunday night, Channel 4 news anchor Mylous Hairston did a lengthy sports report on a busy night, apparently because sports regulars Paul Peck and John Murphy need a night off occasionally. Hairston did a good job. However, with all the people in broadcast journalism schools hoping to become the next Bob Costas or Al Michaels, you’d think Channel 4 could find one to be the third member of the sports team as quickly as it found Nalina.



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Sports On The Air: ABC Team Has Great Series

This is what I’m thinking:

* The ABC team covering the NBA Finals of play-by-play man Mike Breen and analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson were as good as any announcing team in any sport.

That was especially true in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 83-79 victory over the Boston Celtics Thursday night in Game 7.

Breen is the underrated one, a play-by-play man who also acts as a third analyst because he sees so many things before Van Gundy and Jackson get their turns. He also is exceptional bringing out story lines, like the recovery of Laker star Ron Artest from his past image problems.

Breen didn’t make it too sappy, either, bringing out Artest’s good and bad points Thursday and noting that Artest even thanked his psychiatrist in his post-game interview. Well, it wasn’t exactly an interview, since Artest didn’t allow ABC’s Doris Burke to ask a question.

Van Gundy is exceptional in two areas – detailing coaching strategy and finding humor in unexpected areas. Let’s hope he doesn’t get hired to coach again for awhile.

During Thursday’s game, he noted that the Lakers won the game in the fourth quarter at the foul line.

“The Celtics are going to look back and say we didn’t even make them make shots,” Van Gundy noted. “They just put them on the line.”

Jackson has become the master of big statements. After the Lakers’ win, Jackson noted that the introduction of Magic Johnson as “the greatest Laker” had to be amended now that Kobe Bryant has five rings.

“Move over Magic,” said Jackson. “Kobe Bryant has supplanted him as the greatest Laker.” Amen. Let’s hope that Jackson doesn’t get a coaching job, either.

The tight, offensively-challenged game had an 11.0 rating on Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate. Though well below the 18.2 national overnight rating, the 11.0 is a big number for the NBA here and gave the series a 7.2 average for the seven games.

The National Hockey League’s margin of ratings victory here over the National Basketball Association in the two sports’ championship round wasn’t as big as you might think in this huge hockey market.

The Chicago Black Hawks’ six-game series with the Philadelphia Flyers for the Stanley Cup finals averaged an 8.0 rating on NBC affiliate Channel 2 and Versus. Of course, the two games on cable’s Versus brought the Stanley Cup average way down. Three of the NBC games had double-digit ratings here.

NHL ratings are more likely to be influenced by the home markets than any other sport.

The theory that NHL ratings exploded during these finals ignores a simple fact. With the Chicago and Philadelphia markets involved, ratings were bound to increase dramatically. If smaller market teams make it in 2011, ratings likely would drop just as dramatically.

* You may have read that TBS switched its games last Sunday to carry the second start by Washington Nationals rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg against the Cleveland Indians.

Then you may have been surprised the game wasn’t carried here on Time Warner or satellite because the Indian games are protected here. Only baseball knows why they are protected. It’s a silly blackout rule since most of the area can’t get Indian games on TV.

Of course, that’s also the reason some ESPN games involving the Indians aren’t carried here, either.

* Channel 2’s Ben Hayes continued to impress as a sports anchor while Ed Kilgore vacations and Adam Benigni subs on “Daybreak.” But my suggestion that Channel 4 vie for Hayes’ talents isn’t practical. Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner said Hayes is under contract. He added that Hayes’ also was named the station’s employee of the quarter. Channel 4’s search for a new sports anchor-reporter will have to be elsewhere.

* I turned on WBEN-AM long enough Thursday to hear Rush Limbaugh say he is going to be the next celebrity featured in the Golf Channel series, “The Haney Project.” Charles Barkley and Ray Romano were the previous celebrities that Hank Haney tried to straighten out. It is unknown if Limbaugh’s problem is that he slices to the right. The extreme right.

* Funny mistake of the week: Channel 2 sports anchor Stu Boyar reported that North Carolina was in the World Cup when he meant to say North Korea.

pergament@ msn.com

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Rainy Day Movies Meet Low Expectations

My good friend Pope Don Paul would even concede it has rained a lot recently, driving people to the movies to watch television.

Of course, I’m talking about the recent movies based on the television series, “The A-Team” and “Sex and the City.”

I felt it was my moral obligation to see them both. All right, check that. It was raining, I couldn’t play tennis or golf and I was bored.

So I checked out “The A-Team,” which was based on the surprise 1980s NBC hit that featured movie star George Peppard and somehow made Mr. T a star. It was a big cartoon, as anyone who cares to watch episodes on Channel 2’s digital channel, RTN, can attest.

Sure there wasn’t a believable moment in the action film. That was expected. Still it was an ideal movie to see with my 17-year-old son, who is smart enough to realize that we were going to see a loud, explosive cartoon about a Special Forces team that defied serious analysis by movie critics.

We weren’t disappointed by the film, which featured Liam Neeson in the Peppard role and was stolen by Bradley Cooper of “The Hangover” fame as Face.

Cooper is the guy that Sandra Bullock said on a recent award show has been in several hit movies except for the one he made with her (“All About Steve”).

He first came to my attention in a supporting role in an underappreciated former WB series, “Jack & Bobby,” and later headlined a short-lived Fox series, “Kitchen Confidential,” that deserved a better fate.

In any event, Cooper’s boyish charm was appreciated in the rare moments when “The A-Team” paused from some ridiculously entertaining special effects scenes.

In short, there are much worst ways to spend a rainy day than seeing “The A-Team.”

I’m not embarrassed to say I feel asleep during “Sex.” The movie, that is. Other than an opening musical number featuring Liza Minnelli and a later musical number that I can’t recall (to be honest, I can’t recall much of anything a week after seeing it with a friend who was dragged to it by his wife).

I think I feel asleep some time when the Fab Four women – Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda – were killing time in Abu Dhabi.

However, I must report that I was awoken by laughter from the audience of mostly women who obviously got the entertainment they were expecting.

The one line I did enjoy was hearing Charlotte lament that she would miss her buxom nanny more than her husband if her hubby left her for the sexy lady.

But save a few good lines and some clever PG-13 and R-rated word play, “Sex” was a disappointment and seemed longer than some marriages.

I drew the line at going to see “MacGruber,” the film based on a recurring “Saturday Night Live” sketch. I couldn’t be paid enough to watch that film. Notably, it hit the cheap theaters in record time.

While I’m on the movie beat, let me suggest anyone looking for a very good movie should check out a couple of foreign films – “The Secret of Their Eyes” or “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” They are the best movies I’ve seen since semi-retiring. But they come with a warning. They have sub-titles.

* Channel 4 anchor-reporter Lisa Flynn has told her Facebook friends that she is retiring in two weeks, as first reported here a few weeks ago. Flynn couldn’t be reached for comment. It will be interesting to see if the station uses anchors Jacquie Walker and Don Postles to fill the 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts or promotes someone from within.

The most likely in-house candidate is Melissa Holmes, who now anchors in the morning. It is hard to see the station hiring someone to replace Flynn in these economically-challenging times. I mean it has been looking for a sports anchor-reporter for several months.

* Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner said Channel 4’s demographic victory in the May news sweeps doesn’t tell the whole story. He said that his station closed the gap in several newscasts from a year ago when comparisons are usually drawn.

* You’ve got to love what local TV news considers news. At the top of Channel 7’s midnight news Thursday after the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title, the station lead with a story about a police checkpoint south of the city looking for drunk drivers. At the end of the report, viewers were told no arrests had been made. In other words, the news was that was no news.


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ABC's Summer Season Gets Out of the "Gates"

It’s hard to tell if there have been more promos for ABC’s “Summer Season” recently than there have been ads for Cellino & Barnes and Billy Fuccillo.

But the promo-ad contest is closer than the NBA finals series between Boston and Los Angeles that ends tonight with Game 7.

In the word of Fuccillo, ABC’s promo campaign has been “huge.”

It has caught the attention of my best friend, who asked me “if any of those summer shows are any good.”

The short answer: They’re certainly a slight improvement over watching Sunday reruns of prime time soap operas like “Desperate Housewives” and “Brothers & Sisters.”

“Scoundrels” and “The Gates,” which premiere at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Sunday, respectively on Channel 7, clearly are designed to counter the summer run of network viewers to cable series.

It’s a noble effort by ABC, but both series cry out for more cable-like treatment.

Based on a New Zealand series, “Scoundrels” features Virginia Madsen and David James Elliott (“JAG”) as the attractive, happily-married, husband-wife team of criminals. They have four children — a blonde bimbo, her smart sister and a lawyer son who has an evil criminal twin. Carlos Bernard (“24”) also is aboard as a cop following the criminal adventures of the family in Palm Springs, Calif. The family has two rules — its members don’t invade people’s homes and they don’t use violence. But we all know rules are made to be broken.

The premise pilot – by now you know that means it establishes the premise – brings to mind some similarities to the failed FX series of a few seasons ago, “The Riches.” However, the pace is very slow – maybe that’s more acceptable in New Zealand — and there’s a scandalously low level of humor.

Now on to “The Gates,” which is about a husband-and-wife team of vampires living in a low-crime, gated suburban community. I know what many readers might be thinking. Oh, no, not another vampire series. Already there are HBO’s “True Blood” (which also plays on Sunday) and the CW’s “Vampire Diaries” and reruns of “Moonlight.” And I’m sure I’m forgetting something else.

But at least “The Gates” has British actress Rhona Mitra (see below), the former “Boston Legal” and “Nip/Tuck” star, as the vampire who can’t control herself even though her husband runs a bio-tech company that supplies enough blood to feed all the vampires on TV.

Everything is fine inside “The Gates,” until a former Chicago cop arrives with his family to start a new life. He actually thinks it is his job to investigate suspicious behavior.

It all plays like “True Blood”-light, without an ounce of the HBO series’ bizarrely entertaining features. That said, there are worse things than spending a Sunday night with Mitra.

Ratings, based on a summer curve: “Scoundrels”: 2 stars out of 4; “The Gates”: 2 and a half stars

* Channel 4 News has been running promos congratulating itself for winning the May sweeps. Now it has more reasons to celebrate.

According to the station’s research department, News 4 was No. 1 in all newscasts in the key demographics of adults age 18-49, 25-54 and women 25-54. The station also noted that rival Channel 2 had big demographic declines from February in four time slots.

Of course, that was predictable since Channel 2’s February numbers were inflated by NBC’s coverage of the Vancouver Olympics.

On the award front, Channel 4 won two prestigious Edward R. Murrow Awards for excellence in electronic journalism for its coverage of Flight 3407. Channel 2 also won a Murrow Award for a moving sports feature by reporter Aaron Saykin about the bond between a Cheektowaga man and his son and St. Louis Cardinals star Albert Pujols.


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Malick, Co-Stars Are Best Things about "Cleveland"

Actress Wendie Malick has always been a great representative of Western New York and one of my favorite people in show business. It wasn’t that long ago that she even performed in a play at the Studio Arena to raise money in the hope that it would help save the local theater.

That made her light remark Tuesday on “Entertainment Tonight” promoting the new TV Land series, “Hot in Cleveland,” all the more stunning.

Asked by “ET’s” Kevin Frazier what she thought of Cleveland, Malick replied: “Cleveland sometimes gets a rather bad rap. But I’m from Buffalo so Cleveland seems like a real cool city to me.”

Then she laughed.

Ouch. WNYers tend to over-react to jokes like almost as badly as Channel 4 meteorologist Don Paul over-reacts to perceived slights at his profession.

But I’m going to give Malick a pass on that one comment because of her previous support of Buffalo and her body of work — which includes HBO’s “Dream On” and NBC’s “Just Shoot Me.”

She’s always been one of the busiest actresses in Hollywood. There’s rarely a TV season in which Malick isn’t starring in some new show.

This summer, she joins TV vets Jane Leeves (“Frasier”), Valerie Bertinelli (“One Day at a Time”) and Betty White (“The Golden Girls”) in the amusing “Hot in Cleveland.” The actresses deliver their lines about aging and insecurity with relish.

Malick is the vain soap actress, who would buy bulk at a discount store to meet her fans; Bertinelli is the insecure, recently divorced novelist; and Leeves is the dryly cynical Brit who works on eyebrows for a living. White comes with the house they rent as a caretaker and is always around the corner to shout “whore,” “prostitute” or some other variation that is supposed to be funny when spoken by an 88-year-old.

The comedy is written by Suzanne Martin, whose credits include “Frasier,” “Ellen” and “Hot Properties,” the later about four women (one of whom was Sofia Vergera of “Modern Family”) who worked at a real estate office in Manhattan.

Tonight’s 10 p.m. premiere of the 10-episode series is a so-called “premise” pilot, which means the premise of how three best friends from Los Angeles landed in Cleveland on their way to Paris is established. White doesn’t arrive for about 20 minutes and has a few scenes. She has more to do earlier in next week’s episode, “Who’s Your Mama,” in which Leeves’ character dates a man who is young enough to be her son. The joke is that he just may be her son.

The actresses’ comic timing help the obvious jokes about Susan Lucci, death, the difference between men in Cleveland and Los Angeles and the fear of flying and aging. The jokes about Cleveland could just as easily be about Buffalo.

“Friends don’t let friends move to Cleveland,” Leeves says at one point.

One’s enjoyment of “Hot in Cleveland” will probably depend on expectations. It won’t be the coolest thing to watch this summer. However, there are much worse ways to spend 30 minutes on a Wednesday night than watching some middle-aged comic pros have some fun when the network choices are reruns of violent dramas and the DOA series on ABC, “Happy Town.”

Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 4

* Channel 2’s Adam Benigni was back subbing today as a co-anchor on “Daybreak” while John Beard vacations with buddies Ed Kilgore and Kevin O’Connell. Regularly a sports anchor, Benigni has dabbled in news several times before without missing a step. He’s widely believed to be the heir apparent if Kilgore ever retires as sports director. Kilgore has one more year left on his contract. If Kilgore gets another contract, Benigni should consider moving to news. He also is scheduled to co-host “Daybreak” on Thursday and Friday.

* Finally, a shout out to Don Paul for starting Tuesday’s “Facebook” debate with me. We “discussed” Tuesday’s blog about how easy it is to be a weatherman. Paul helped this blog hit a record high number of hits. More importantly, the debate helped many new people find the site, which so far has been only been found by people through Facebook or word of mouth.


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Channel 2's Weather Bench Really Sings

You don’t need Channel 4’s Pope Don Paul, Channel 2’s Kevin O’Connell or Channel 7’s Aaron Mentkowski to do the weather in Western New York.

Anybody can do it.

That’s long been the theory around here anyway.

After all, it’s the easiest job in the world because nobody expects you to be right more than half the time anyway.

If it is sunny when you predict rain or vice versa, weathercasters can just hide behind the line “well, that’s Buffalo, wait 20 seconds and things are bound to change.”

Channel 2 took the theory further Monday when reporter-anchor Josh Boose did the weather on the station. Before that, I thought his only weather experience was standing near the Skyway on the first snowfall of the winter and telling viewers it was a mess out there. The Skyway snow story is a rite of passage for local newscasters.

The NBC affiliate’s weather roster includes O’Connell, Andy Parker, Autumn Lewandowski, Maria Genero and Mary Beth Wrobel. And yet here was Boose doing the weather. And doing a very presentable and clear job.

Of course, it wasn’t too hard to say it is going to be nice today. The sun is out as I write this so Boose’s batting average is higher than Paul’s this month.

Just when I began thinking that Boose was proving how easy the job is, along comes anchor Maryalice Demler to tell 11 p.m. viewers before another Boose performance that the guy actually has weather experience.

Who knew?

“He did weather in Michigan before he came to our station,” said Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner. He added that Boose has done weather several times before on weekends.

“He’s always made himself available when we needed him to do weather,” said Toellner.

The weather experience isn’t in Boose’s Channel 2 bio on his blog, though there are some other interesting things in it. He is a graduate of the Ohio Center for Broadcasting and he studied classical voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Makes you wonder if Boose and Wrobel (who also studied voice, plays classical piano and flute and sings) could do a duet together while doing the weather some day.

* You can even get some news while taking a day off to golf. At a University at Buffalo function Monday, I learned it is very unlikely that former Bill Lou Piccone will be back next season as the analyst for UB football. Smart move that. Piccone proved last season that being an analyst isn’t as easy as being a weatherman.

* Channel 2 recently ran a feature on sports director Ed Kilgore’s plan to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with a team of climbers to raise money for “Kids Escaping Drugs.” Apparently, he’s done a lot of training, including some time in high altitude Denver. I don’t know if that’s the reason why Adam Benigni and Ben Hayes have anchored the sports segments so frequently lately. But if so, let’s hope Ed keeps training hard.

Actually, Kilgore is on vacation this week. So are O’Connell and “Daybreak” co-anchor John Beard. That’s a lot of key staffers off at the same time, but they are all on vacation together. The three friends have done that for years, even when Beard was living in Los Angeles.

* South Buffalo’s Patrick Kane brought the Stanley Cup to “The Tonight Show” Monday night with three Chicago Black Hawk teammates and didn’t do one taxi cab joke. Smart move. In a Channel 2 interview Monday, Scotty Bowman, who is a consultant to the Hawks, defended Kane’s jokes last week at the Chicago victory parade. Sorry, Scotty, it wasn’t smart for the kid to make light of a serious matter that damaged his image.

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