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Another Good Bad Day for 24 on Fox

I've overheard a few people at basketball games and parties declare that they became tired of all the craziness in the Fox thrill ride "24" last season and have stopped watching the series.

They're making a mistake.

I'm not saying that this year's horrific day in the life of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) hasn't had its usual share of preposterous moments. It certainly has had some ridiculous twists that have led to as much laughter as tension. I mean can't any President hire people he or she can trust won't become involved in a conspiracy against the United States?

But if you can suspend disbelief and go along for the ride, it's been a helluva year that has had an underlying message that scarily suggests there's a place for torture.

I must admit I was a bit concerned that the series would have a midseason problem after this year's lead terrorist, Dubaku (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), was captured on Monday. It looked like President Taylor (Cherry Jones) was going to be able to easily proceed with her attempt to save people in a small African country from the evil General Juma (Tony Todd), who is trying to overthrow his government and already committed genocide in a previous coup attempt. 

But this Monday's two-hour episode is loaded with tense, suspenseful elements, thanks to the surprising arrival in the United States of General Juma and his army of evil-doers.

I hesitate giving you too many details beyond what was revealed in the preview after Monday's episode. To be honest, I think those previews reveal too much.

In any event, General Juma plots an assault on the White House that seems to be something out of a James Bond movie. Oh, and Jon Voight, who played an arms dealer and all-around bad guy in the November prequel set in Africa, also briefly returns.

It's all preposterously entertaining and ends with a can't-miss scene that will test Jack's resourcefulness -- as well as a viewer's ability to suspend disbelief.

Don't miss it.

What have you thought of this season's "24"? What do you think about the message about torture? And how do you think the season will end? 

-- Alan Pergament

  

Minor League TV Connection


The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports that a television executive is planning a 13-episode reality TV series, "Minor League," that will feature the hometown 2009 Red Wings and air on PBS stations across the country a year from now.

Presumably, the baseball series would be attractive to WNED-TV, Buffalo's local PBS station, because there should be a good deal of Buffalo in it.

The newspaper reported that camera crews documenting the off-the-field activities of the Wings "will be restricted to one-hour bus trips to Buffalo and Rochester."

It sounds like a good idea to me, similar to the HBO series on NFL training camps, "Hard Knocks."

What do you think of the idea? Would you watch the series?

-- Alan Pergament

Dr. Carter Comes Home for Treatment on ER


I must admit I've stopping making regular visits to NBC's long-running medical series, "ER," which remains popular here

But I DVRed last Thursday's episode, which featured the return of Dr. John Carter (Noah Wyle), and watched it Monday afternoon.

A few clues were thrown out to explain why the melancholy Carter returned to Chicago before the final understated and shocking scene.

Until the final scene, it was suggested that Carter was there to celebrate the opening of a new facility funded by his wealthy family. He didn't know how long he would be in Chicago but wanted to pull a few shifts in the emergency room.

At the end of the episode, the camera panned past several patients who appeared to be getting dialysis treatment while they were watching television. Eventually, the camera landed on Carter, who was getting treatment. too. He wasn't watching television. He seemed too sad to do anything.

My first thought was please don't go there. Don't have another of the show's popular characters become seriously ill or die like Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) did.

My second thought was I guess I'm going to become an "ER" regular again to find out if Carter is going to live. 

The previews that followed indicated that former cast members Eriq LaSalle, Sherry Stringfield and Julianna Margulies were be making guest appearances in the final weeks of the final season. George Clooney has been a little busy with his involvement in real-life humanitarian projects but it wouldn't be a total shock if he found time to appear again, too.

What did you think of last week's "ER"? And do you expect to watch the show as it winds down its incredible run?

-- Alan Pergament    

  

  

Was that the Oscars or the Grammy Awards?

With more than an hour left in Sunday night's Oscar telecast, presenter Will Smith cracked "I believe (host) Hugh Jackman is napping."

If so, he wasn't alone.

Jackman is a likable actor and didn't embarrass himself. But the slow-moving show had so many musical numbers that it seemed more like the Tony or Grammy Awards than the Academy Awards.

For most of the night, the understated program seemed lifeless unless music was playing. But I did like the idea of having acting legends introduce the nominated actors rather than just show clips that usually fail to do them justice.

For the second straight year, there was a glitch in the telecast carried by Channel 7. This time, the picture was either lost or fragmented twice in the first hour while I was watching on cable.

Did  it happen to you? What did you think of Jackman? And what did you think was the highlight of the show?

-- Alan Pergament

Read the full story.

Grey's Anatomy Goes Back to High School


ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" often has high school elements, particularly when it comes to the staff romances on the popular series.

But it outdid itself Thursday night when Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) and Dr. Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) had a fist fight.

It happened after Sloan finalty got the courage to tell Shepherd that he had reneged on a promise and was dating Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), the younger sister of Derek's girlfriend, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo).

Already distraught from the guilt of losing a patient after surgery, Dr. Shepard punched Dr. Sloan twice and a  NHL-like battle was on.

The two surgeons were jeopardizing their careers since they make their living with their hands so it was serious business.

But I must admit I couldn't stop laughing at seeing "Grey's" turn into an old episode of "Dynasty."

What was your reaction to the "Grey's" edition of Thursday Night Fights?

-- Alan Pergament

Extreme Makeover Reviewing Petition for Wielinski Family


I've already received two emails from friends asking to sign a petition being sent to the producers of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" to consider building a home for the Wielinski family after their house on Long Street in Clarence was destroyed in the crash of Continental Flight 3407.

It certainly could be an emotional episode. Karen Wielinski and daughter Jill miraculously survived the crash that took the life of Doug Wielinski -- Karen's husband and Jill's father.

So far, the family hasn't done any TV interviews but had a spokesperson report Thursday that they were not interested in rebuilding on the site of their former home.

When I emailed ABC to inquire about the possible interest of the show building a home for the Wielinskis, executive producer Anthony Dominici released the following statement: "We, like the rest of America, are deeply saddened by the tragic plane crash in Buffalo, N.Y. and our hearts go out to all the families who have been affected. We have received the petition and are reviewing it, but we do not comment on casting. We truly appreciate the effort involved and are always thrilled to see a community coming together to help each other." 

-- Alan Pergament

Crash Survivor Has Quite a Story to Tell

As of today, the only broadcast interview that Karen Wielinski has given since she and her daughter Jill miraculously survived the crash of Flight 3407 into their Clarence home was to a radio reporter with family ties.

WBEN's Barbara Burns did an emotional interview with Karen, whose husband Doug Wielinski was also in the house and died in the crash.

"My sister's husband is Doug's brother," explained Burns. The hard-working reporter said that she didn't call Karen. Doug's widow called Burns "to tell people that she and Jill were doing okay," said Burns.

Karen also described to Burns in detail how she was able to escape the house after the plane had destroyed it.

Portions of the interview aired on network news programs last Friday. CBS News is among the national networks that has tried to get in contact with Karen Wielinski. She certainly has an incredible story of survival to tell if and when she decides to go on national television to do it.

I thought Burns asked  her questions with great sensitivity and did a terrific job. What did you think of Burns' interview and Karen Wielinski's story?

-- Alan Pergament 

Channel 4's Crash Coverage is Tops


Channel 4 had the best interviews and the best pictures Thursday night in covering the crash of Flight 3407 in which 49 people died.

The interview that reporter Lisa Flynn did with Chris Kausner, whose sister, Ellyce, was on the plane, was especially poignant.

However, Channel 4 also had some of the worst speculation -- erroneously reporting that no one in the house where the plane crashed was injured and that there were unofficial reports that the plane had mechanical problems.

Channel 7's Keith Radford, who is an aviation expert, used his expertise well during the night. Channel 2's coverage, which relied heavily on eyewitness accounts, was the most disappointing Thursday.

However, Channel 2 tried to recover this morning by staying on to cover the story far longer than its competitors.

What did you think of the TV coverage of the tragedy? Do you agree with Channel 2's decision to stay on longer than its competitors or do you want it to go back to regular programming until there is significant news to report?

-- Alan Pergament

Stars Leaving ABC Shows

I'm not a fan of stars announcing their departures from hit series. I'd rather be surprised when their characters die or move away.

But since the news is out, I can't ignore the coming departures of Nicollette Sheridan from ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and Katherine Heigl and T.R. Knight from ABC's "Grey's Anatomy."

ABC has confirmed that Sheridan will be leaving "Housewives" but wouldn't say when. Her character, Edie Britt, was almost killed off last season. Edie has out-lived her dramatic usefulness and the remaining question now is whether her mentally unstable husband will eventually do her in.

The departures of Heigl and Knight were apparently announced by fellow cast member James Pickens Jr. in a magazine interview. They haven't been confirmed but they make sense.

Heigl, who was vocal last season about her displeasure with the story line for her sensitive character, Izzy Stevens, was given more to do this season. Unfortunately, much of it had to do with Izzy's continuing relationship with a dead guy, Denny, and it was painful to watch. Don't cry for Heigl, who has a successful movie career.

Knight's lovable character, George O'Malley, hasn't had much to do this season, which suggests the writers didn't know what to do with him.

What do you think of the departures? And how do you want the characters to leave the show?

-- Alan Pergament

"American Idol" Falling Here


All right, I've been wrong before. But it sure looks like Western New York is tiring of "American Idol" this season.

For the second time in recent weeks, the CBS program "NCIS" defeated "Idol" in head-to-head competition on Tuesday.

And this time it wasn't even close. "NCIS" averaged an 18.4 rating on Channel 4, "Idol" a still healthy 14.9 on Channel 29. In the final 15 minutes, "NCIS" averaged a 20.8, "Idol" a 16.7.

Of course, "NCIS" probably has older viewers and many viewers are drawn to the final 15 minutes because of the drawing power of the program that follows it, "The Mentalist" (which had a 19.7 rating). But a win is a win.

I haven't seen enough of "Idol" this year to say whether the talent level has anything to do with its losses. More likely, "Idol" is still paying for being so ordinary last season.

Why do you think "Idol" has fallen here?

 -- Alan Pergament

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