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Tim Russert's son working conventions for NBC

A Russert will be working the Republican and Democratic conventions for NBC News. Luke Russert, Tim's son, has been named correspondent-at-large for both conventions, focusing on youth issues.

Luke, who was so impressive in interviews following the shocking death of his father, graduated from Boston College a few months ago with a double major in history and communications and has had a satellite radio program with James Carville since 2006.

In announcing Luke Russert's hiring, NBC News President Steve Capus said: "Never before in an election cycle has so much attention turned to the youth vote, and Luke will bring a unique perspective to covering it."

At Tim Russert's memorial service, MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann told me that he was so impressed by Luke that he recommended he be hired by NBC Sports but was told Tim's son had higher ambitions. Now, Olbermann may be questioning Luke about the youth vote on his MSNBC nightly program.

-- Alan Pergament 

Katie Looks Terrific in HD

You may recall a few weeks ago, I said that CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric looks terrific in high definition.

Almost immediately, I got an e-mail from a tech expert who advised me that the news program she anchored wasn't in HD yet. He added that when it does go to HD, it was unlikely she'd look so hot.

Well, this week CBS joined NBC's Nightly News into the world of HD. And guess what? Couric still looks terrific despite those X-Ray cameras.

I guess this was a case of predicting the news rather than covering it.

If you have an HD set, have you noticed any visual difference in the broadcasts of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric?

-- Alan Pergament

Sawyer Anchors Moving Tribute to Randy Pausch

If you didn't shed a tear or two watching the ABC News special, "The Last Lecture, A Celebration of Life," on the late Randy Pausch, then you better check your pulse to see if you're alive.

This isn't to say that Diane Sawyer, who was the anchor and reporter on this updated special, was trying to coax tears out of viewers. She kept to the upbeat spirit of the 47-year-old Carnegie Mellon University professor, who lived life to the fullest after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and discussed it in a final lecture that became an internet sensation and best-selling book. He died last week.

Watching Pausch bravely deal with the inevitable in several interviews with Sawyer over time with the support of his loving wife and three small children was an incredibly moving and educational experience. My guess is, that like the book, it made many viewers appreciate life and any obstacles  -- health or otherwise -- recently thrown their way.

The special also was a rating success locally, doubling its ABC lead-in and earning a 6.4 rating on Channel 7. That was second in a very competitive time slot that included repeats of CBS' "Without a Trace" (7.0) and NBC's "Law & Order SVU" (6.3), both popular shows that dropped from their stronger lead-ins.   

By the way, the best-selling book, "The Last Lecture," that Pausch wrote with Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow has a local angle. Zaslow, who briefly appeared in Tuesday's special, is married to former Buffalo native Sherry Margolis. A former Channel 7 anchor, Margolis currently is an anchor at the Fox affiliate in Detroit.

-- Alan Pergament     

Bonnie Hunt to join Channel 2 daytime lineup

Bonnie Hunt, a TV and movie star who may be best known as one of David Letterman's favorite guests, is getting her own syndicated talk show this fall.

Jim Toellner, Channel 2's general manager, has confirmed that "The Bonnie Hunt Show" will be carried locally on WGRZ-TV, Channel 2, at 2 p.m. weekdays. She will part of the station's three-hour talk block that also includes shows hosted by Dr. Phil and Ellen DeGeneres.

"Crosswords," which is airing at 2 p.m. weekdays, is expected to move to another station, Toellner said.

-- Alan Pergament

Channel 2 News leader heading to Atlanta

Ellen Crooke, who has been the architect of the revival of Channel 2 News in her six years as news director, is leaving to take the same job at another station owned by Gannett, WXIA-TV in Atlanta.

"Her leadership, creativity and execution have been key to WGRZ's growth over the last several years," said Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner. "We have been on an upward curve in ratings, content and quality ever since she walked in the door. We will miss her greatly."

Crooke said this afternoon that she will remain with the station until September.

"I love Buffalo and its people," she said. "What '2 on Your Side' has accomplished the past several years is some of the greatest journalism I have been proud to be part of."

Toellner said that Jeff Woodard, Channel 2's executive news producer, will be taking over day-to-day operations of the news department. He appears to be the front-runner for the news director's job.

-- Alan Pergament

'Dog' Schedule Changed by CBS

The decision by CBS to move the family-oriented reality show, "Greatest American Dog," hosted by Town of Boston native Jarod Miller, from 8 p.m. Thursday to 8 p.m. Wednesday came about after the third episode of the series took another ratings hit.

The July 10 opener made the show, in which dogs and their owners compete, look like a potential hit. But it has experienced ratings decline in subsequent episodes, especially among the audience age 18 through 49 that network advertisers covet.

That audience may be more in tune one of the installments of "Big Brother," the more outrageous reality show that switched time slots with "Dog." Sad but true.

Will you move with "Dog" from Thursday to Wednesday?

-- Alan Pergament

Russert's Widow Appears on 'Today'

Maureen Orth, the widow of Tim Russert, appeared on NBC's "Today" this morning to promote her latest article in Vanity Fair magazine on Carla Bruni, the beautiful First Lady of France.

At the end of the interview, "Today" co-host Matt Lauer asked the special contributor to Vanity Fair how she and her son, Luke Russert, were doing.

"We're doing great," said Orth, noting that the love and the concern they have received, along with their faith, have helped.

Then, she added some levity by noting the popularity of the People magazine article in which the Russert family was on the cover after Tim's death.

"[It] knocked off the summer's hottest bachelors and broke the Britney Spears' record for most hits on," Orth said. "This would make Tim so happy and laugh so hard."

For those interested in how talented Orth is in her own right, the Vanity Fair article appears in its September edition.

-- Alan Pergament

The Over/Under List

Contributions to my Over/Under list in today's TV Topics are more than welcome.

Feel free to add -- or subtract -- your own nominations for all that is overrated and underrated on those things that come into our homes every day.

--Jeff Simon

Swingtown Swap Hurts Its Chances

If you're looking for "Swingtown" tonight, you'll be sorely disappointed. CBS has swapped the time slot of the 1970s series about swingers and changing attitudes about the roles of the sexes with the time slot of "Flashpoint," the Canadian-produced police drama series.

"Flashpoint," which could have easily played in the 1970s, has had surprisingly strong ratings at 10 p.m. Friday and now will air at 10 p.m.Thursday. "Swingtown," which has improved markedly since the first two episodes, moves from the Thursday time slot to 10 p.m. Friday.

The move to a lower viewing night would appear to jeopardize the chances that "Swingtown" will return for a second season. CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler told critics last week that she likes the creative content of the show but conceded she has been disappointed by its ratings.

What do you think of "Swingtown"? "Flashpoint"?

-- Alan Pergament

New hosts for "At the Movies"

   On Sunday, film critic Richard Roeper announced he wouldn't be returning to the syndicated series "At the Movies." On Monday, Roger Ebert made the same announcement. They have already been replaced.

     Disney-ABC Domestic Television announced Tuesday that Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz will be taking over the show that was started in 1975 by Ebert and his late co-host Gene Siskel as "Sneak Previews." When the show returns in September, however, it will be without the program's famous "thumbs up-thumbs down" ratings -- that's been trademarked by Ebert and Siskel's widow.

     Mankiewicz, the affable host on Turner Classic Movies, has a notable Hollywood pedigree. His grandfather was Oscar-winning writer Herman Mankiewicz ("Citizen Kane"); great-uncle Joseph Mankiewicz was a writer and director who won Oscars for such films as "All About Eve," "A Letter to Three Wives" and "Cleopatra." Cousin Tom Mankiewicz also wrote several James Bond movies.

     Lyons, a film critic for "E! News," is the 26-year-old son of film critic Jeffrey Lyons.

    "The studio has decided to take the program named 'Siskel & Ebert' and then 'Ebert & Roeper' in a new direction," Ebert said in a statement yesterday on the Web site of his longtime employer, the Chicago Sun-Times. " I will no longer be associated with it."

     Ebert has been battling cancer in recent years, undergoing a series of operations in which doctors removed a cancerous growth from his salivary gland and part of his right jaw. He has been unable to appear on the show since doctors performed surgery in July 2006 that left him unable to speak. But the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Sun-Times critic continues to write reviews and has published a number of books. Ebert is discussing possibilities to "continue the show's tradition," according to his statement. Roeper said he plans to co-host a movie review show elsewhere and "will be free to share the details on that program in the near future."

--Staff and wire reports

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About Talkin' TV

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament has continued to blog about television topics since retiring in 2010 as The News' television writer after 28 years on the beat. From local on-air personalities to ratings to the latest on network and cable programming, he keeps you informed.

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