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Big Monday on Local, National TV

It will still be a week before the official start of the new network television season, but Monday will be a big night on local and national TV.

It starts very early -- 5.a.m to be exact -- when John Beard debuts as the co-anchor alongside Jodi Johnston on Channel 2's "Daybreak." Beard made a brief appearance on the show today to hype his arrival.

At 7 p.m Monday, ESPN and Channel 7 will carry what is sure to be the highest-rated program of the week -- the Buffalo Bills regular season opener against the New England Patriots.

The game will be near the end when the final big event starts -- the premiere of NBC's "Jay Leno Show" at 10 p.m. on Channel 2. If the game goes long, Leno's local audience undoubtedly will be severely reduced.

Which of the three big events do you plan to watch? OK, that's a dumb question. Of course, the Bills game probably will have about a 40 rating combined on ESPN and Channel 7.

So of the other two big TV events -- Beard's debut and Leno's debut -- which one are you more likely to watch and why? 

-- Alan Pergament 

Adding DeGeneres to "Idol" is a Wise, Fox Move

When television series enter their eighth or ninth seasons like "American Idol," networks and producers usually look for ways to re-energize them to avoid reduced ratings or even cancellation.

"Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf has been changing his casts for years for just that reason. This season, "Grey's Anatomy" is adding some new characters to re-energize the show so it can get as far as eight or nine seasons even if Meredith and Derek aren't as prominent as they've been or if actors Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey leave.

The announcement Thursday that talk show host, comedian and "Idol" worshiper Ellen DeGeneres will be in Paula Abdul's seat for the next season could turn out to be one of the best cast changes in TV history.

DeGeneres' addition in January after the audition episodes gives the show some much-needed buzz. She's nothing but likable. And unlike Abdul, DeGeneres' humor will be intentional.

The downside is DeGeneres' isn't exactly a musical expert. But, hey, she's from New Orleans and she's always professed a love of "Idol" so she must know a thing or two about music.

Besides, how hard will be to join Kara and Randy in telling the singers "you rock, man" or some variation of that. By now, we all know the only musical expert worth listening to is Simon anyway.

What's your take on the hiring of DeGeneres? Will you miss Paula, who is certainly history now?

-- Alan Pergament    

Time Warner, NFL Network Remain at Odds

With one day before the start of The NFL season, Time Warner and the NFL Network again haven't been able to make a deal and the league has come out swinging.

The network said in a statement released today that is doesn't expect a deal with the cable operator to be reached "anytime soon."

In the statement, the NFL Network said it was "extremely disappointed that Time Warner is unwilling to reach an agreement to carry the NFL Network on terms that are fair and reasonable and consistent with other distributors."

The statement added it had deals with hundreds of distributors, including four of the five largest distributors.

Locally, the NFL Network is carried on the satellite services and on Verizon FiOS.

Of course, the NFL Network doesn't carry its first regular season game until Nov. 12. The Bills game in Toronto against the New York Jets on Dec. 3 is on the NFL Network. It also will be carried by one of the Buffalo network affiliates, which means there is no local pressure on Time Warner to make a deal.

Not that any local pressure would matter anyway. Time Warner's negotiations with the NFL Network are at a corporate level far removed from Western New York.

Do you wish your cable company carried the NFL Network?

--Alan Pergament  

WNED Documentary Is On the Money

The clever promotional packet sent to critics along with the DVD of the WNED-TV documentary "Your Life, Your Money" included a dollar bill.

You might have to pay some young adults in your family a little more than that to sit through the nationally-televised hour at 9 p.m. Wednesday, but it will be money will spent.

With Donald Faison as host and appearances by Russell Simmons and singer D. Woods, the fast-paced hour is loaded with statistics and financial advice that should be benefiical to viewers of all ages. It will be especially beneficial to younger viewers who don't have a clue how to save or borrow or how or whether to use credit cards.

While watching with my 16-year-old son, I couldn't help but think of that educational old "Cosby" episode show in which Cliff showed his teenage son Theo how much it cost to live by giving him money and then taking it away bit by bit for necessities.

The Theos of today need simple financial lessons and the documentary provides it with the help of financial experts who teach young adults the important difference between needing something and wanting something.

"Your Life, Your Money" isn't so much a show that young adults probably want to watch. But they certainly need to watch.

Do you plan to watch it with your kids?

-- Alan Pergament

  

Hairston Returning to Channel 4

This time, it is for real. Channel 4 anchor-reporter Mylous Hairston will be returning to work on Sept. 14, which is about a month after he originally said he would be back after suffering a heart attack on June 30.

Hairston said his doctors thought the August return date was premature and that he needed more time to avoid stress.

"They said I need to realize I had a heart attack," said Hairston. "I had to slow down for once."

Hairston also will be returning to the negotiating table as the president of the Buffalo chapter of the union that represents the station's on-air talent, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). It has been in  contract talks for almost a year with representatives of Channel 4's owner, LIN TV.

Ironically enough, one of the major sticking points is health care. Hairston said LIN wants AFTRA members to have one health insurance provider, United Health Care, that doesn't have a major presence in Western New York.

He added that Kaleida Health and the Buffalo Medical Group do not accept United, which would require many Channel 4 staffers to pay costly out-of-network co-pays or change doctors.

If United had been Hairston's carrier during his medical crisis, he said would have had to file bankruptcy because he wouldn't have been able to afford the medical bills.

Health care isn't the only issue. Hairston said LIN also wants its anchors and reporters to shoot their own video on stories -- essentially becoming backpack journalists.

-- Alan Pergament

Gibson Will Be Missed

It isn't exactly earth-shattering news that Charles Gibson announced today that he will be leaving as anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight" in January and that Diane Sawyer will replace him.

Gibson, 66, said he considered retirement before and Sawyer, 63, certainly deserves the job.

I'll miss Gibson, who comfortably fit the traditional role of wise-old anchor even if he didn't get the evening job until three years ago. He is from the old school of journalism and didn't pretend to be anything but who he was when anchoring or reporting.

Much is being made of the fact that Sawyer's promotion to nightly news anchor means that two of the three network evening anchors--  CBS' Katie Couric is the other -- are now female.

But haven't we gotten past thinking about gender by now? That said, it will be interesting to see if Sawyer -- who some people feel is more deserving of the anchor role --  will draw viewers away from Couric's third-place newscast.

Or will be the real winner long-term be the lone male anchor who already is in first place -- Brian Williams of NBC's Nightly News?

I find myself watching Couric as much as Williams and Gibson and don't usually see much difference in the newscasts on a nightly basis.

Which of the three anchors will you be watching in January and why?

-- Alan Pergament           

Getting Caught Up at "The Office"

NBC's "The Office" has gotten a lot of attention here lately since Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) and Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) were married last week in Niagara Falls.

A lot of readers who haven't seen the show didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

They can catch up starting Sept. 21 when WNLO-TV begins carrying episodes of the series at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. weeknights when it goes into syndication. 

Naturally, the episodes will start with the first season.

-- Alan Pergament

DirecTV Gives Versus the Boot

Buffalo Sabres fans who get Versus through DirecTV shouldn't panic yet, but at midnight Monday the satellite service dropped the channel that has the rights to NHL games.

Since the Sabres have seven games on Versus this year, local DirecTV subscribers can't be happy about the possibility of missing those games.

But the two sides have a few more weeks to argue over money before the NHL regular season begins. I imagine the closer we get to the start of the season, the more intense the negotiations will become.

Neither side can stand to lose this one. The NHL needs DirecTV and its 14 million subscribers, many of whom are big sports fans. And DirecTV needs Versus because many of its subscribers are attracted to the service because of all the sports it carries.

To those who still dream about the NHL going back to ESPN, forget about it. It just isn't going to happen unless the league gives the games away without a rights fee years from now.

Would you drop DirecTV for cable or FiOS if it doesn't put Versus back on its lineup? --

Alan Pergament    

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