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Buffalo Chef Enters Hell's Kitchen Tonight

Curses. That’s usually my response when I learn that a reality show like “Hell’s Kitchen” has a contestant with a Buffalo angle.

That means I almost feel obligated to watch. And guess what? Gordon Ramsay will be cursing (though it is bleeped out) at a Buffalo woman, Stacey Slichta, in the season premiere of the Fox reality show. It airs at 8 tonight on WUTV.

On the Fox website, Slichta is described as a 38-year-old “private chef” whose hometown is Buffalo but who “currently resides” in Studio City, Calif.

In the preview supplied by Fox, Slichta starts out confidently and notes that her celebrity clients have included Nathan Lane, Don Rickles, Martin Short and Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.

The celebs are undoubtedly easier to please than Ramsay, who opens the program with some praise that is surprising in more ways than one. Don’t miss the opening, which is the most entertaining part of the expletive-deleted hour.

I can’t reveal too much about the episode without ruining it, but let’s just say that Slichta gets her fair portion of abuse from Ramsay. Of course, he spares no one in the field of 16.

* Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller had some interesting things to say about goalie play as the guest analyst on NBC in Saturday’s opening game of the Stanley Cup finals between the Chicago Black Hawks and Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, analyst Mike Milbury interrupted just about every point that Miller made or was about to make. Somebody at NBC should tell Milbury to allow his studio teammates their say. At the end of one segment, intermission host Pierre McGuire said he’d rather listen to Miller than Milbury. Agreed.

* Channel 4 anchor Lisa Flynn has confirmed on her Facebook page that she soon will be ending her anchor duties at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., as reported on stilltalkintv.com last week. Flynn wrote on a Facebook entry that she plans to go into “semi-retirement” to spend more time with her 7-year-old son Thomas. Sources have said that she would like to work part-time at the top-rated news station in town. Her contract runs out July 1, when her anchor duties probably will end.

* Sad to see that 97-year-old Art Linkletter died last week. But he had a TV great career – “Kids Say the Darndest Things” was one of my favorite shows growing up — and full life. There is another selfish reason that I was sad to see him go. I always used Linkletter’s name in periodic “Dead or Alive” contests with friends. Needless to say, I won a lot because you’d be surprised at how many people didn’t realize he was still alive before his death last week.

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Sports On the Air and The Great Goalie Debate

Maybe Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller can join the Great Goalie Debate during his guest stint tonight as a studio analyst on NBC’s coverage of the first game of the Stanley Cup finals.

You know, whether a National Hockey League team needs an elite goalie to win the Stanley Cup.

The debate has raged on while the Philadelphia Flyers reached the finals with Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton and the Chicago Black Hawks made it with Antti Niemi.

During a conference call Thursday, NBC reporter and studio host Pierre McGuire tried to put all the talk in perspective.

“A big part of what has allowed these goalies to prosper,” said McGuire, “is the fact that both these teams have unbelievable defensemen in front of them.”

In other words, if you don’t have an elite goalie you better have an elite defense.

On the same call, CBC analyst Don Cherry, a huge Leighton fan, said he believed that the goalies will be the key to a series that matches the speedy Black Hawks against the physical Flyers.

“Here they are in the finals and I think it will be which one falters,” said Cherry.

Even before Miller was named guest analyst for tonight’s game one, the finals had extra appeal to Buffalo hockey fans since former Sabres Danny Briere (Flyers) and Brian Campbell (Black Hawks) and South Buffalo native Patrick Kane are all involved. Leighton also was briefly a Sabre property, though he played for the Rochester Americans and never got into a Sabre game.

Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate, got healthy ratings in the 4′s for the conference finals games. In the finals, it should get double-digit ratings that are higher than the ratings for the network’s prime time shows. NBC carries games one and two and five through seven, if necessary. Versus, the NHL’s cable rights-holder that is owned by the same company than owns the Flyers and may soon own NBC, gets games three and four.

“We expect strong ratings,” said Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner. “(Advertising) sales are brisk.”

Of course, the NHL is accustomed to getting strong ratings in Buffalo and this year is no different.

According to Versus, Buffalo is ranked No. 3 among TV markets for the 60 games it carried through the first three rounds with a 1.6 household rating. Pittsburgh is No.1 with a 2.6 and Philadelphia No. 2 with a 1.7.

That’s right, Buffalo is even ahead of hockey mad Chicago, which averaged a 1.4 for all playoff games on Versus. However, a ratings point in Chicago gets many more viewers than a point in small market Buffalo.

Cherry is among those who believe the NHL and NBC should be “jumping for joy” about a match-up that features two teams from large TV markets in the United States.

Keith Jones, the former Flyer who is a Versus studio analyst, added that they also are two teams that have turned it around after “battling for lottery picks” a few seasons ago.

“Both teams have come so far in a short time,” added Jones.

He thinks the Black Hawks will be competing for the Cup for years, while the Flyers realize this is their best chance for some time.

Jones said that the recent HBO documentary, “Broad Street Bullies,” about the Flyer teams that won the 1974 and 1975 Stanley Cups (beating the Sabres in 1975), puts the latest Flyer run in perspective for fans of all ages in the City of Brotherly Love.

“The timing could not have been better,” said Jones. “Young people see it through the eyes of their parents. That brings out a lot of passion.”

Jones added that Briere has been “more Buffalo Sabres-like” since he was forced back to playing center because of Flyer injuries.

Of course, the Flyers are underdogs this time around. Predictably, the analysts on the conference call said they believed the series would be closer than expected.

“(Philadelphia) is a much better team than people are giving them credit for,” said McGuire.

However, Cherry – who thought San Jose got some tough penalty calls in its series with Chicago — also worries that the officiating could be a factor in the finals.

“If they call penalties like they did on San Jose, it will be tough on Philadelphia,” said Cherry. “If they let them play, it will help Philadelphia.”

In other words, the Flyers would be better off if this series was played with the same rules used in 1975 when they beat the Sabres.

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Ryan Miller Joins NBC Playoff Coverage

As if there weren’t enough Buffalo angles to the Stanley Cup finals, NBC has given local fans another reason to watch Saturday night’s opener between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Black Hawks.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, who wowed NBC audiences as hockey’s most valuable player during the Vancouver Olympics, will be a guest analyst for game one of the series alongside host Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury.

After the first game, studio analyst Jeremy Roenick will take his regular seat alongside McGuire and Milbury.

Miller, of course, has been the go-to-guy for the Buffalo media after games for years so he should fit right in as an analyst of a game that features former Sabres Danny Briere (Flyers) and Brian Campbell (Black Hawks) and South Buffalo native Patrick Kane (Black Hawks).

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Lisa Flynn Leaving Anchor Seat

Channel 4’s Lisa Flynn plans to leave her weekday anchor duties at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. at the top-rated news station at the end of June, sources are telling stilltalkintv.

The same sources said that Flynn is leaving on her own terms to spend more time with her seven-year-old son, Thomas, who is finishing first grade.

However, Flynn would like to continue at the CBS affiliate as a part-time reporter, sources said. It is unclear if Channel 4 management will agree to that but they would be foolish not to allow it.

According to sources, Flynn’s contract is set to expire June 30 but her leaving the anchor seat has nothing to do with that or the state of the TV industry. She told her husband, friends and family months ago that she felt her son needed more of her attention.

The report of her leaving comes on the same that the local news ratings during the May sweeps arrived with Channel 4 winning all new time periods.

Both the 5:30 p.m. and the 10 p.m. newscast anchored by Flynn won the time periods by healthy margins.

The most likely temporary solution is to have anchors Don Postles and Jacquie Walker take over Flynn’s anchor duties in July until a final decision is made about how to fill the seat.
There is no truth to the rumor that Flynn — who was one of the inspirations for this blog — also is going to spend more time as a guest TV critic debating the quality of prime time shows with me on stilltalkintv.
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Morning Glory for Channel 4

Many of my editors at The Buffalo News often weren’t thrilled by my stories about news ratings after sweeps in February, November and May.

Too many numbers, they would say. And they were probably right.

But I’m a numbers guy. And I think readers and viewers want to know who the winners are whether we’re talking the NFL, the NHL or TV news.

So here it goes.

The big news in May is that Channel 4 has won back the morning. Channel 2 officials probably will complain Channel 4 did it by “borrowing” many of its ideas, including having Melissa Holmes do features on web bargains a la Matt Granite on Channel 2.

Additionally, the full story emerges after demographics arrive in several days.

But for now, Channel 4 news is celebrating big time. It won every local news time period.

At 6 a.m., the CBS affiliate reversed Channel 2’s February victory at 6 a.m. Channel 4, with anchors Victoria Hong and Joe Arena, had a 6.3 rating to Channel 2’s 5.7 with anchors John Beard and Jodi Johnston. In February, Channel 2 won, 6.8-5.8.

At noon, Channel 4 doubles Channel 7’s ratings, 8.2-4.1.

At 5 p.m, Channel 4 wins with an 8.2, followed by Channel 2 with a 6.9 and Channel 7 with a 4.5. The good news for local TV news is that viewership for all three newscasts are up from a year ago and that doesn’t happen too often these days.

At 6 p.m., Channel 4 wins with an 8.4, followed by Channel 2 with a 7.2 and Channel 7 with a 5.7. The good news for Channel 2 is the race is closer here than it was in May of 2009 when Channel 2 was closer to third-place Channel 7 than to Channel 4.

At 11 p.m., Channel 4 wins with a 9.1, followed by Channel 2 with a 7.8 and Channel 7 with a 5.7. Once again, Channel 2 can be encouraged that the race is much closer this May than it was in May of 2009.

While combined local news audiences from all three news stations went up at 6 a.m, 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., the decline in viewership at 11 p.m. was significant, down about 15 percent from a year ago.

Confession time: I might have watched an hour or two of the “American Idol” season before Wednesday night so I’m not qualified to say who should have won. On the other hand, maybe the best way to decide who should win is to only watch the finale.

My attention wandered over to ESPN during Orlando’s NBA playoff win over Boston in game five but I did get to hear finalists Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox for the first time singing a duet. My conclusion: She was robbed. Lee’s voice doesn’t hold a candle to Crystal’s. I’d rather listen to paint dry than hear the former paint store salesman sing again.

A few more “Idol” thoughts in between baskets: It was nice to see Paula Abdul say goodbye to Simon Cowell, but her rambling salute to him seemed longer than the final two minutes of a NBA playoff game.

What happened to the idea of having the winner sing a new song? DeWyze’s first song is U2’s “Beautiful Day,” which means he’ll be compared to Bono. Not a good idea.

Finally, the ratings for the final two nights of “Idol” suggest a significant slip from a year ago on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. Remember, I’m a numbers guy and this can be a little confusing because the way audiences are measured has changed in the past year.

Tuesday’s performance finale had a 13.1 rating on WUTV and Wednesday’s results show had a 16.6 rating. Those ratings include any DVR viewing on the night the shows were on.

A year ago, the performance final had a 16.3 rating on WUTV with no DVR rating that night and the results finale had a 16.0 with no DVR viewing that night. After DVR and later viewing was added over seven nights, “Idol’s” performance final had a 19.6 rating and the result shows had a 19.0 rating.

Clearly, there is going to have to be a large DVR audience over the next seven days to achieve the higher 2009 ratings. And I would suspect the later DVR viewing of Wednesday’s show will primarily be over the last 10 minutes when DeWyze was declared the winner.

Before the 2010 TV season, you may recall I named CBS’ “The Good Wife” as the season’s best new drama. It lived up to that billing and more during a season that effectively used all members of its strong cast and ended with a very good finale Tuesday.

In the final scene, lead character Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) got a cell phone call from her boss and potential love interest Will Gardner (Josh Charles) just before she was supposed to play the good wife and join her disgraced husband Peter (Chris North) after he announced a new election campaign.

Will she or won’t she remain the good wife?

It is hard to see any way she doesn’t join her husband, at least temporarily, next fall. But it was a good final scene anyway.

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Pardon Me, But "24" Ends with a Thud

Jack Bauer lives another day because of an unofficial presidential pardon that will enable him to make a “24” movie.

The series finale Monday of the Fox series was as silly as much of the episodes earlier this season that made it clear that it was time for Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) and Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) to stop saving the world.

After redeeming itself late in the season with some riveting episodes, Monday’s two-hour finale of “24″ ended with a thud as President Taylor’s (Cherry Jones) unholy alliance with ethically-challenged former President Logan (Gregory Itzin) to broker a peace treaty unrivaled over a data card.

The card – which contained details of a cover-up involving the murder of a Middle Eastern leader ordered by a Russian president – never got in the wrong hands long enough to do any harm to President Taylor.

But after listening to a Bauer video, President Taylor finally realized the error of her ways, took the fall and, for her final act before resigning from office, committed one more crime: She gave Jack – who went rogue and committed countless murders and unspeakable tortures during the season – a head start to get out of the country.

As silly as the resolution was, the final moment between Jack and Chloe – who were separated by miles but brought together by technology — was as sweet as some of the “Lost” reunions Sunday night.

“I never thought it would be you cover my back all these years,” Jack told Chloe.

“Good luck Jack,” replied Chloe, tears streaming from her eyes just before the final image of Jack looking up at a satellite camera that relayed his image to Chloe.

“Shut it down,” said Chloe, talking about the satellite and the series.

If this tortuous season proved anything, it was time to shut “24” down.

Monday also was the night that NBC decided to shut down “Law & Order” after 20 seasons with an episode about a disgruntled teacher who plotted a terrorist school attack as revenge for how he was treated before he was fired. The episode managed to be sympathetic to teachers at the same time it attacked their union.

District Attorney Jack McCoy (Sam Waterson) got to display some Bauer-like anger at the union lawyer who seemed more concerned about protecting teachers’ rights than saving hundreds of students’ lives.

In the moving final scene, viewers learned that Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkenson’s character) is engaged and got good medical news.

If the episode didn’t play like a series finale, it is because NBC didn’t cancel it until a week ago, thereby preventing it from breaking the record of “Gunsmoke” as TV’s longest-running drama (They tied at 20 seasons).

Based on economics, the decision wasn’t a big surprise since there are already so many “Law & Order” episodes in syndication that new ones don’t do much financial good and viewers have aged with the series.

But one prominent producer recently told me that some members of the creative community were still surprised by the cancellation. There had been a theory that not even NBC executives were so stupid that they wouldn’t give the series a send-off with eight more episodes next season to break the “Gunsmoke” record. The episodes also could have been promoted to death and led to a big event finale.

Right now, NBC appears to have been that stupid. But maybe the executives will wise up and eventually at least give producer Dick Wolf a deal to make a two-hour movie to end the series.

Channel 2 today announced the hiring of Christie Witt as the traffic reporter for “Daybreak.” She also will be a web producer. Witt is a graduate of Medaille College and is about to complete her master’s degree at Syracuse University. A former Channel 2 intern, Witt will start her new duties in August. I’m sure she will do well but I won’t be reviewing her on-air work. That’s because it would be hard to be totally objective. She was a student (and a very good one) in a course I taught at Medaille.
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Pergament No Longer Lost

This is Alan Pergament, formerly the TV critic at the Buffalo News.

After three weeks of so-called “retirement,” I’m back. My new blog is called “stilltalkintv,” which is the sequel to my Buffalo News blog, Talkin’ TV.

I was inspired to blog by two things.

The first was my annoyance about how my Time Warner Cable system now works. After shutting off the cable, TWC Channel 1 with YNN pops on my screen the next time I turn it on.

This is something that usually happens when you stay in a hotel. If I wanted to watch Channel 1 or YNN, I’d leave my cable box on those channels. I prefer to turn on the TV and watch the channel that I last watched before I shut it off.

You can see I am easily annoyed.

The second inspiration was the season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy.” A Facebook friend – Channel 4’s Lisa Flynn – thought it was the best season finale ever. So did many of her other “friends.”

I hated it. I thought it was a bloody mess, an excessively violent car wreck of an episode. In other words, it was intense and almost impossible to turn off despite how unbelievable and predictable it turned out to be.

If you missed it, a crazy guy out for revenge went around Seattle Grace Hospital shooting the surgeons involved in his dead wife’s case. Meanwhile, a Seattle SWAT team stood nearby doing next to nothing while the guy roamed the hospital and shot several staffers. Eventually, the former hospital chief walked in and soon was face-to-face with the shooter.

Seriously? The doctor can find the shooter, but the SWAT team hardly tried?

Predictably, the key characters of the show lived despite severe blood loss and the annoying new characters this season died.

I can’t say I was surprised that show creator Shonda Rhimes went the violent route. She did the same thing last year with “Private Practice” in a disgusting season finale.

I can suspend disbelief as well as anyone and understand why so many “Grey’s” fans were riveted. But it really was as disgusting as it was intense.

Now for something completely different: The series finale of “Lost” was almost everything one hoped it would be – emotional, romantic and spiritual. And when someone (Jack) was knifed, he eventually died.

Sure, not everything was answered or made sense. That isn’t the “Lost” way. I don’t want to give too much away, because it is obvious that many “Lost” fans are going to watch it on time delay. The 2 and a half hour finale only had an 11.0 rating on Channel 7. That means 11 percent of area households were watching the finale on the local ABC affiliate. I suspect the rating after DVR viewing will climb significantly.

The finale also stands to be more enjoyable on a DVR since it will be easier to skip all those darn commercials that extended the show by 30 minutes. Amusingly, several of the commercials were “Lost” parodies.

At 11:30 p.m., Eyewitness News predictably did a fan story that was out-of-date by the time it aired. The fans were interviewed before the end. Time may not matter on in the “Lost” world, but it still matters in the news world. If a station is going to do a story on “Lost” fans, it should at least do the interviews after the show ends and get timely reaction.

I did hear a local sports talk host say that now that “Lost” is over he will never watch reruns. Actually, it would be interesting to see “Lost” reruns just to determine whether they make sense now that the ending is known.

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