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Gov. Palin Has Funny Take on SNL

One imagines that "Saturday Night Live" may find a way during Weekend Update to respond to Gov. Sarah Palin's reaction to last week's opening skit featuring Tiny Fey as the Republican vice presidential candidate and Amy Poehler as Sen. Hillary Clinton

The Alaska governor told Sean Hannity of Fox News in an interview that she didn't have the volume on but thought the opening was "spot on."

Normally, you might have expected a newsman to follow up and ask Gov. Palin why the volume wasn't on. But Hannity is a Republican apologist who threw repeated softballs at the candidate and wasn't about to challenge an answer that was bound to draw skepticism.

I'm guessing many viewers -- though probably not Fox viewers -- saw that exchange and thought: "If you believe that answer, then I'll sell you a bridge to nowhere."

What do you think of Gov. Palin's critique of the "SNL" skit?

-- Alan Pergament

 

Cheerful GMA Is Pretty Positive Experience

It didn't go off without a hitch and wasn't entirely Chamber of Commerce material, but overall today's  Whistle-Stop tour visit of ABC's "Good Morning America" to Niagara Falls was a pretty positive experience for the area.

Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts, Chris Cuomo and Sam Champion were incredibly cheerful throughout the show as they enjoyed seeing a rainbow over the Falls, introduced a couple that got married with the Falls as a backdrop and sampled Anchor Bar chicken wings on the train.

After Monday's stock market turmoil, one imagines America needed some cheering up. That said, the  overall tone and the featurish nature of the program seemed a little out of place considering the big economic problems facing the country. 

Those problems were mostly addressed in the first hour in a taped interview with Sen. Hillary Clinton and with a report on the Tale of Two Cities -- the prospering Falls on the Canadian side and the depressing conditions in certain areas on the American side.

But if "GMA" hadn't been on its tour, one imagines the stock market and the economy would have gotten much more attention.

The opening hours also featured some sound glitches, which the anchors attributed to moisture issues that affected their microphones.

The Chamber of Commerce material about the fun things that can be done in the Falls didn't really arrive until the final half-hour around 8:30 a.m., right before a Cleveland couple was married.

The wedding wasn't the feature that was most likely to cause any waterworks from viewers. The emotional story about a 12-year-old train lover who has lobbied to get a local train accessible to the disabled was the show's most poignant moment even before Ty Pennington of ABC's "Extreme Makeover" surprised the boy by saying his crew was ready to get the job done.

What did you think of the program?

-- Alan Pergament   

   

Dennis Williams Expected to Join Channel 2 in Sales

Former Channel 4 sports director Dennis Williams is expected to join Channel 2 in its sales department as early as next week.

According to sources, Williams isn't expected to join the station's sports department, but could appear occasionally on some special programs.

The move isn't expected to immediately impact Williams' work at WGR radio, where he hosts a Monday morning program focusing on Bills games, has a nightly sports show and works in sales. He is expected to stay with the radio station through the football season.

-- Alan Pergament

Scary Analysis During the Bills Games

CBS play-by-play man Gus Johnson and analyst Steve Tasker might have struck fear in the hearts of Buffalo Bills fans with a few of their late observations in the Bills' 20-16 victory over Jacksonville Sunday.

After Bills receiver James Hardy caught the winning touchdown pass from Trent Edwards to give the Bills a 17-16 lead, Tasker speculated that Hardy's toe might have touched the end zone line when the Jags challenged the play.

There was no angle to support that claim, which is why the TD counted. It was just an example of how hard Tasker -- a former Bills who still works for the team -- tries to be impartial when working Bills games.

Johnson provided an even scarier suggestion, briefly speculating that the Bills might not try a 45-yard field goal in the final minute while holding a one-point lead, 17-16. If the Bills tried to get a fourth down and failed or if they had punted, the Jags would have only needed a field goal to win and every Bills fan knows that can be done.

After Rian Lindell made the field goal to give the Bills a 20-16 lead, the Jags needed a touchdown to win.

What did you think of the announcers' speculation Sunday?

-- Alan Pergament

Gibson, Palin and Saturday Night Live

Here's one thing that Democrats and Republicans can probably agree upon. ABC's Charles Gibson and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin certainly provided "Saturday Night Live" with a lot of material for the season premiere in Thursday night's interview.

Gibson, who was granted Palin's first interview since she was selected as John McCain's running mate, might be skewered for his use of words like "existential" and "hubris," his often barely audible questions and what some Republicans might consider his superior attitude.

Palin, meanwhile, is susceptible to jokes about her inability to describe the (President) Bush Doctrine, her mistaken suggestion that many other vice presidential candidates haven't met world leaders, her scripted answers and how many times she called the interviewer "Charley."

Gibson is going to interview Palin again tonight and possibly provide more material. On Thursday night, he exceeded the expectations of journalists who feared that he would throw softball questions to Palin by testing her with key foreign policy questions.

Several network analysts Thursday night and today felt that Palin struggled somewhat with Gibson's test  but doubted that it would bother her supporters.

One doubts that  "Saturday Night Live" (which debuts with a cameo appearance by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama) and the other late-night comedy shows -- which don't worry about appearing impartial -- will be as supportive.

-- Alan Pergament      

   

The Pressure Is On for Palin Interview

The pressure is on tonight when Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is interviewed by ABC News anchor Charles Gibson during the 6:30 p.m. newscast. And it's not just on the Alaska governor.

It's also on Gibson, who some political and media experts believe was chosen to do the interview by the staff of presidential candidate John McCain because he will be less likely to ask tough questions of Palin.

You may remember that Gibson and George Stephanopoulos were criticized in April for asking Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton questions about past gaffes rather than issues in a televised debate.

Tonight and Friday -- when the interview continues -- Gibson will be judged by fellow journalists about  how fair he is and whether he tries to get Gov. Palin to talk about some sensitive issues for the first time she became Sen. McCain's running mate.

He has some extra pressure, too, from a rival network. The premiere of this season's "Saturday Night Live" is Saturday and it is bound to spend considerable time on Gov. Palin and the presidential contest. Some "SNL" fans even are hoping that Tina Fey will show up and do a Gov. Palin impression. Gibson's performance will be fair game for comedy, too.

After tonight's interview, tell me what your impressions of Gibson's performance.

-- Alan Pergament         

The Doctors Improve Health of 7 News

How important is a news lead-in? The 4 p.m. Monday premiere of "The Doctors" on Channel 7 generated a rating that helped 7 News get an unusually high and extremely competitive rating at 5 p.m.

In the last 15 minutes ending at 5 p.m., ''The Doctors" had a 5.2 rating, which was higher than the rating for "Oprah" (4.7) on Channel 4 and "Ellen" (2.7) on Channel 2.

Channel 2 started the 5 p.m. news with a 7.2 rating, with 7 News getting a 7.0 and Channel 4 a 6.3. In the next 15 minutes, Channel 4 gained a point to 7.3, while 7 News fell .6 to 6.4 and Channel 2 slipped 1.6 to 5.6.

Monday's success highlighted Channel 7's folly of carrying the low-rated "PM Buffalo" fat 4 p.m. for years and driving news viewers away. Of course, it is only one day. But if  "The Doctors" continue to draw viewers, they certainly will help the failing health of 7 News.

-- Alan Pergament

Olbermann Move the Right One

If NBC News president Steve Capus had taken my advice in late July, he wouldn't have had to make the embarrassing move of replacing MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Chris Mathews as anchors of political coverage and giving David Gregory the job.

You may recall that Chris Wallace of Fox News questioned having Olbermann anchoring the coverage, essentially telling critics in July that Olbermann's constant bashing of President Bush and all things Republican on his popular program disqualified him as an objective anchor and journalist.

At the time, Capus said viewers understood the difference in Olbermann's roles and added it wasn't an issue back then.

The Wallace-Capus debate was No. 9 on my list of 10 issues raised at the television critics tour. In a column that ran July 23, I said Wallace had a point and added "Olbermann shouldn't be anchoring political coverage."

Capus finally agreed. Gregory, who is the model of objectivity, will anchor MSNBC's coverage of the presidential and vice presidential debates and on election night.

-- Alan Pergament

   

Hole in the Wall Scores Here

It isn't exactly up there with "you're fired" from Donald Trump, but former Channel 7 weathercaster Mark Thompson delivered a memorable line several times in Sunday's sneak preview of the silly Fox game show, "Hole in the Wall."

Before the contestants launch their bodies inside the cutouts made in a wall or fall into a pool of water, Thompson enthusiastically proclaims: "It is time to face the hole."

Local viewers seem initially taken by the broadly-comical reality show, which not surprisingly is based on a Japanese hit. It averaged a 6.9 rating Sunday, finishing second in the time slot behind only the NFL game on NBC. And it had the same rating at the end as it did in the beginning, indicating viewers couldn't turn away from the silliness co-hosted by Thompson and actress Brooke Burns.

The show has another preview Tuesday before settling into its regular 8 p.m. Thursday time slot. More on it and Fox's schedule in Tuesday's Buffalo News.

-- Alan Pergament

90210 Hits Big National Number for CW

The premiere of "90210" -- the spinoff of the 1990 Fox series, "Beverly Hills 90210" -- set national ratings records for the CW network.

According to the network, it was the highest-rated season premiere among scripted series in key demographic categories in the network's brief history and was No. 1 in the key age 18 through 49 demographic.

Locally, it averaged about a 3.3 rating on WNLO-TV. That's a good number for the local CW affiliate but the return of "One Tree Hill" (3.9) scored higher on Monday.

One wonders if "90210" might have even done better if the CW had allowed skeptical critics to preview it before it ran.

More surprising than the strong national ratings, after a racy start the two-hour premiere settled down and was sweet, funny (thanks to Jessica Walter as grandma) and had a strong musical soundtrack.

It featured a star-making performance by Shenae Grimes, the Canadian actress who plays Annie Wilson, the 15-year-old teen who moved from Kansas to Beverly Hills with her adopted brother and responsible parents. More on the premiere and its depiction of parents in a future addition of The Buffalo News.

If you missed it, the CW repeats it at 8 tonight.   

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