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Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima........

A question people have been asking me for years: Do you ever write anything you completely regret later?

Answer: Sure. Not all that often, thank heaven, but I almost instantly regretted something I wrote in my TV column last Friday about how good the cast of "NCIS" was (a column, by the way, about which I received a fair-sized share of congratulatory e-mails and nods of agreement — and from some surprising people too.)

The paragraph I wrote that I hated just hours after I wrote it compared the show's Michael Weatherly to an actor who might have been named "Rock" or "Tab" in the '50s rather than the horndog named DiNozzo that he plays. It smacked of all the cheap, smarmy nastiness I've always deplored. I was trying to make a distinction between actor and a role I've never thought he was right for, but I went from A to C in too few words and left out all the crucial "B" stuff that mattered. As a result, I wound up implying things I never wanted to say and not saying what I DID want to say. I was being far too economical.

Weatherly himself wrote me an e-mail calling me on it (so did one of his fans) and they were both absolutely right.

My point is this: Weatherly is an actor of great verbal snap and charm, but he's really cast completely against type as the movie-quoting DiNozzo. The real actor grew up in Fairfield, Conn. and he's perfect for things like Whit Stillman's 1998 film "The Last Days of Disco" where upper-crust WASPS disport themselves in what seem to be asexual imitations of sex. Weatherly had a small part in the film. Stillman used to make some of the smartest independent films around, requiring a very special kind of actorly intelligence and delivery, but I've never been able to square that off with a lot of the swagger we're supposed to believe about the character of DiNozzo in "NCIS."

But whatever credibility gap there might be for some of us doesn't matter on the show because, to put it mildly, realism isn't the show's game. And Weatherly is so good and so charming at what he's asked to do — as well as so smoothly mixed in with his fellow cast members — that it doesn't matter anyway.

And that reinforces my point about the hugely popular show: it's a smartly engineered actor's triumph, not an investigative franchise that's repeatable ad infinitum with different casts. (As they seem to be trying to prove in the Fall with an L.A. spinoff.)

At least, I hope this gets from A to C without racing through B in smug shorthand.

There, I feel a lot better now. Hope it wasn't too boring.

--Jeff Simon

Buffalo Audience Stays with "The T.O. Show"


The rating for the second episode of VH1's "The T.O. Show" Monday was exactly the same as the rating for the premiere in Western New York and close to the same nationally.

The much-improved, comical July 27 episode, which followed Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens and his publicist/friend Kita Williams at a local restaurant, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Maid of the Mist and a Canadian bed and breakfast, had a 3.4 rating locally. That represents 3.4 percent of area households. Nationally the episode had a 1.11 rating, which was in the ballpark of the 1.2 rating for the premiere. That's a good sign for a reality show.

Of course, the combined audience for the episode is much larger than the first viewing because VH1 constantly repeats its reality shows.

I went out of town for a few days after I gave the episode a positive review. Since my return, I've heard some positive word-of-mouth about the episode from friends and family members who don't take it seriously and realize that many aspects of reality shows are staged.

If you've seen the episode, what did you think of it?

-- Alan Pergament

The Philanthropist Recalls Crystal Beach

Did you catch the opening of Wednesday's episode of the NBC series "The Philanthropist" co-created by Buffalo native Tom Fontana?

In the opening scene, billionaire Teddy Rist (James Purefoy) was taking his ex-wife Julia (Krista Allen) on an airplane trip to Kosovo for a mysterious reason.

On the flight, Teddy explained that when he was a child his family used to vacation every summer near the Crystal Beach amusement park and he enjoyed cherry soda, cotton candy and the rides as grainy footage of an amusement park aired. I'm not sure if it was footage of Crystal Beach, but it sure looked like it.

During one visit on his third ride on the rollercoaster, Teddy said his father told him his parents were divorcing. Teddy's response was to refuse to leave the ride and cling to the safety bar.

At the end of the hour, Rist used the Crystal Beach experience to explain to his ex-wife that he was clinging to the past like he clung to the safety bar and was ready to forgive Julia and himself for the death of their young son. Then Rist took his ex-wife to an indoor children's playground in Kosovo that was dedicated in their son's memory.

It was lump-in-your-throat stuff. If you saw the episode, what did you think of it? And did you think the footage was of Crystal Beach?

-- Alan Pergament 

Owens' Show Scores in Buffalo

The premiere of the new VH1's reality series, 'The T.O Show," featuring Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens, was a hit in Western New York.

The premiere averaged a 3.4 rating (representing 3.4 percent of area households), which is impressive for a VH1 program.

To put things in perspective, Owens' show more than doubled the local ratings for NBC's "Dateline" and the Channel 2 news on WNYO and was higher than the 2.6 rating that a "Seinfeld" rerun had on WUTV.

However, a "CSI: Miami" rerun on Channel 4, the premiere of the ABC reality series, "Dating in the Dark" on Channel 7 and Channel 4's 10 O'clock News on sister station WNLO had much higher ratings than "The T.O. Show."

The question now is whether viewers will come back for next Monday's second episode, which is expected to be more focused on Buffalo than the premiere. There was very little of Buffalo in the opener until the final minutes, when the program previewed the remaining six episodes of the series.

The most memorable moments concerning Buffalo on Monday were when Owens told his publicists to get their "fur underwear ready" for cold days in Buffalo and the publicists sang the refrain of "T.O, let's go, to the snow." Or something like that. 

Owens' show has drawn some national attention as all things T.O. do, with ESPN carrying extensive highlights of the open this morning that left anchor Hannah Storm speechless.

Do you have anything to say about the premiere of "The T.O. Show"?

-- Alan Pergament 


Who's Afraid of Sacha and Phil?

A few random thoughts that couldn't make it into Friday's TV column about Sacha Baron Cohen's outrageous "Bruno" and the end of mainstream homophobia it may well announce in Phil Donahue's America (which is what we're living in, in the 21st century.)

1. Think about America 10 years from now: after hilarious movies like "Bruno" and all those sitcoms and afternoon talkathons, how many states do you think, by then, will have ratified same sex marriage? My guess: at least half — unless, that is, there's a federal statute first.

2. The now-dead late-night radio talkmeister who made such a Gothic scare show out of my column about critic David Ehrenstein's 1996 examination of gay sitcom writers in Los Angeles Magazine was, it should be noted, somewhat different in life than he was on the air. In life he was, in fact, a rather sweet, sophisticated and courtly fellow a good deal less stricken with alarm than the one on the radio. I used to run into him occasionally at movies and enjoyed talking to him immensely.

3. While the ideological Draculas of midnight radio talk might try to scare audiences with visions of rampant American depravity, afternoon TV, post-Phil Donahue, would cheerfully undo every bit of it. And Donahue — who was the inspiration for Zeitgeist Queen Oprah Winfrey — not only got his TV start in Dayton, Ohio but is a proud product of conservative Catholic education: Cleveland parochial schools and then Notre Dame.

So what do you think? How funny IS homophobia anyway? Or, conversely, how scary (or unfunny) is "Bruno?" And how worried are you about what sitcoms and afternoon TV are bringing to America?

— Jeff Simon

Emmy Nominations Up for Debate

What, James Spader didn't get nominated as best actor for the final season of "Boston Legal"? HBO's "True Blood" couldn't beat the vampire show jinx? What happened to Jeremy Piven's automatic nomination for HBO's "Entourage"? And did "Grey's Anatomy"  give up (Denny's) ghost too late to get Emmy love?

Those are some of the things that will be debated after today's announcement of the Emmy Award nominations.

For now, it looks like the Sept. 20 telecast on CBS might be a rerun of last year's Emmys with 2008 comedy and drama winners, "30 Rock" and "Mad Men," leading the way in nominations.

There were a few minor surprises -- the absence of Spader and Piven from the list, Simon Baker's best acting nomination for "The Mentalist" and Jemaine Clement's best comedic acting nomination for HBO's "Flight of the Conchords" -- chief among.

But overall, the nominations were pretty predictable. Take a look at the list of nominees on the Buffalo News website and then speak out about what made you happy, what made you disappointed and what made you go beyond disappointment into anger.

-- Alan Pergament

  

Paul, O'Connell Have Severe Disagreement

Channel 4 meteorologist Don Paul and his Channel 2 counterpart, Kevin O'Connell, are having a Facebook Feud.
The two weather guys have been debating the meaning of "severe" when it comes to predicting storms.
Of course, they've had similar disagreements over the years. Facebook just gives them another avenue to debate who is more accurate.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Paul admitted he usually just uses Facebook to give weather reports and tell some jokes and added he regretted the exchanges with his rival.
"Unfortunately, I let him goad me into something," said Paul. "It was silly to even get on there with that nonsense."
Now Paul just plans to keep the silliness where it belongs -- on his Channel 4 weather reports.
"I'm just going back to doing weather and being stupid again," said Paul. He was alluding to his tendency to tell jokes on the air.

If you're "a friend" of the weather guys and have followed the Facebook Feud, what do you think? Is it a "severe" breach of Facebook etiquette or is it perfectly suited for the social network?

-- Alan Pergament 



Channel 4's Wrobel Looks for a Silver Lining


Former Channel 4 meteorologist Mary Beth Wrobel didn't return my phone calls to discuss her dismissal Tuesday by the top-rated news station in town. I wasn't surprised. Perhaps she couldn't talk because management at TV stations often require ousted personnel to keep quiet until their severance package is paid.

But Wrobel did send along an email that may be the closest thing she gets to saying goodbye to her fans.

Wrote Wrobel: "From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the viewers and the wonderful group of people I've worked with for nearly nine years. It was always my dream to get back to my hometown, and I'm grateful for the opportunity.

"I'm a big believer in Buffalo and its future... it's a place filled with culture, tradition, diversity and spirit, where family values remain strong, not to mention we have the best fans anywhere in the good ole USA! I'm going to deeply miss weather forecasting and my active participation in all the charities and community events on behalf of the station. It was a privilege and an honor. After every storm is a silver lining, and I look forward to that."

Channel 4 management has been notably silent on the dismissals of Wrobel and reporter Rob Macko. General Manager Chris Musial and News Director Joe Schlaerth haven't responded to phone calls or emails.

The dismissals are believed to have been made for economic reasons as broadcasters face increasing financial pressures during the recession.

According to sources, Wrobel and Macko were in the unfortunate position of having expired contracts.

What do you think about the dismissals of Wrobel and Macko? 

-- Alan Pergament


   

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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.

@StillTalkinTV | apergament@buffnews.com

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