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As Advertised, "Mad Men" Will Be On Demand

Here's some great news for those fans of AMC's "Mad Men" who sometimes don't remember to DVR episodes when they can't watch them live at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. Sunday night.

Time Warner Cable announced today that starting Saturday the most recent five episodes of the third season of the Emmy-award winning series set in a Madison Avenue advertising firm will be carried on its Primetime on Demand service on Channel 1005.

It added that additional episodes of this season will be added next week and that new episodes of "Mad Men" will go On Demand five days after they originally air.

If viewers don't feel they can start watching the series because they missed the first two seasons, Time Warner said it plans to "gradually add" episodes from the first two seasons sometime in December.

The deal with AMC's owner comes at a great time for fans of "Mad Men." Last Sunday's episode was one of the best of the series.

Here's a spoiler alert if you want to stop reading now.

Okay, here it goes. In last Sunday's episode, advertising executive Don Draper (Jon Hamm) was confronted by his wife Betty (January Jones) about his secret past.

Without giving out too many details that would ruin things for potential new fans, let's just say that the normally cool and extremely confident Don was in a rather uncomfortable position.

Hamm and Jones gave riveting performances that may just be rewarded when the next round of Emmys come around.

On other On Demand note, Time Warner plans to carry "Saturday Night Live" on its Primetime on Demand Channel starting Tuesday with the three most recent programs.

That's especially good news for subscribers who don't want to fill 90 minutes of DVR space each week with "SNL." TWC said the most recent "SNL" programs will go On Demand three days after they originally air.

If you watched last Sunday's riveting "Mad Men," what did you think of it?

-- Alan Pergament

McCarver Still Has Game; Buck Has Right Perspective

Believe it or not, I stayed up to watch the post-game Fox show after the New York qualified for the World Series Sunday night against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Well, I lied. I actually DVRed the post-game show, which lasted until around 12:30 a.m.

Get used to staying up late over the next two weeks. Despite the early 7:57 p.m. start times, these games may still last until midnight because of all the meetings at the pitcher's mound and other delays.

Near the end of the post-game Sunday, analyst Tim McCarver noted that the last time the Yanks and the Phillies met in the World Series he was 8 and about to turn 9. It was in 1950.

McCarver just turned 68 and will call his 20th World Series tonight alongside Joe Buck on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. He still manages to point out things about hitting, pitching and fielding that the casual baseball viewer might not realize and he seems to have toned down his tendency to say cutesy things.

I've never been a big fan of Buck, who will be calling his 12th World Series. That ties him with my personal favorite, Vin Scully, and Curt Gowdy for most by a play-by-play announcer.

Granted, Buck (who is the son of legend Jack Buck) knows the game as well as anyone and is an excellent conversationalist. But he rarely says anything memorable after a series ends or paints a picture as well as the best play-by-play men.

He reminds me of a good .300 hitter who may hit 20 home runs and have 90 RBIs but never does anything truly special.

To his credit, Buck downplayed his record-tying Series call in a conference call with reporters on Monday. He said he feels lucky to be in the same category as Scully and Gowdy.

"Those two guys are the standard by which all others are measured," he said. "I'm certainly not in that category just because I've had some longevity. I've just been the lucky guy and longevity doesn't equal greatness and in my mind greatness is the other two guys and certainly continues with Vin Scully to this day. I'm not even in that same sentence." 

Well said.

What do you think of McCarver and Buck?

-- Alan Pergament

Friday Night Lights Still a Winner

One of my favorite TV shows over the past several seasons has been "Friday Night Lights," which NBC passed along to DirecTV last season before playing the episodes itself.

It means that those subscribers who get DirecTV in order to receive the NFL Sunday Ticket get an added football bonus.

The financial arrangement between NBC and DirecTV saved the series, which returns for its fourth season at 9 tonight on the satellite service before NBC carries the episodes in the spring or summer of 2010.

The solid premiere picks up where "Lights" left off last year with Dillon High Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) having lost his job in a power play with the rich father of the quarterback in the small Texas town.

Coach Taylor has moved over to run the program at East Dillon, which doesn't have the facilities or the players that he had at what is now called West Dillon. His supportive wife, Tami (Connie Britton), was in charge of the redistricting that determined which students went to which school, which doesn't exactly make her the most popular figure in town.

Taylor Kitsch (Tim Riggins), Jesse Plemons (Landry Clark), Zach Gifford (Matt Saracen) and Aimee Teegarden (Julie, the coach's daughter) are back. Minka Kelly (Lyla Garrity) isn't in tonight's episode but will back at the some point.

Some new players and characters have been added to help the show run for at least two more seasons of 13 episodes.

The return of Riggins, Landry and Saracen is explained in the well-played opener, which by necessity is plot heavy and therefore doesn't initially hit the emotion highs that "Lights" fans have come to expect.

However, "Lights" plays out like a good novel. The opener sets up battles between heroes and villains and the inevitable conflict between Coach Taylor's strong values and his replacement's win-at-all-costs philosophy. Rating: 3 stars out of 4

Are you a fan of "FNL? If so, are you excited about the new season?

-- Alan Pergament

Morning Changes at Channel 7 Shouldn't Scare Rivals


After all those promos promising "something new" in the morning, today's first newscast of the re-titled "Good Morning WNY" didn't seem all that much different except for the return of ol' reliable and personable Mike Randall.

Viewers might not have even noticed the different title -- it had been "Eyewitness News This Morning." They also might not have noticed the new theme until the end when Randall said it was composed by his 24-year-old son Nick.

Randall, who was the co-anchor with Ann Edwards in 1989 when Channel 7 launched the morning program (which was actually called "Good Morning WNY" then, too), is perfectly suited for the format. He has a father-daughter vibe with co-anchor Bridget Blythe, who told Randall "I'm already scared" before the chief meteorologist did a feature on area ghost hunters.

It will take time to see whether Randall (who switched roles with Aaron Mentkowski) and Blythe have the requisite morning chemistry, but nothing they did today probably scared rivals Channel 2 and Channel 4. Both have morning ratings that are more than double what Channel 7 gets there.

What did you think of today's debut? Did you notice the new music? Will you come back to GMWNY Tuesday?

For more on today's debut and the Randall for Mentkowski switch, read Tuesday's Buffalo News.

-- Alan Pergament   

Izzie Disappears from "Grey's Anatomy"

The firing of Dr. Izzie Stevens on Thursday night's episode of "Grey's Anatomy" would have been a bigger shock if it hadn't leaked out last month that the actress who plays her, Katherine Heigl, is taking a five-episode hiatus.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Heigl needed the leave of absence to film a romantic comedy, "Life as We Know It," that is being directed by Greg Berlanti. Berlanti is best-known as a prolific TV writer-producer of such series as "Everwood" and "Brothers and Sisters."

Of course, Izzy deserved to be fired during a period of budget cuts after a hospital merger that led to many new younger doctors (and cast members) coming on board. After all, she almost killed a patient Thursday.

After Izzie was fired, she left hubby Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) a note saying she was leaving him, too. She was given good reason to believe that Alex had given information that hurt her case even though he was really trying to help her.

In any event, "Grey's" can't leave that story line unfinished so Izzy and Heigl will have to be back, say by January or the February sweeps at the latest.

What did you think of Izzie's firing? And how do you think she'll come back?  And did any of the new cast members wow you?

-- Alan Pergament   

"Earl" Gets an Early Dismissal from WUTV

After only six weeks, WUTV is dropping reruns of NBC's "My Name is Earl" from the lineup on Monday.

Reruns of "Seinfeld" will air at 6 p.m. weekdays in place of "Earl."

Nick Magnini, Channel 29's general manager, said the move was made because of "disappointing ratings."

In other programming moves Monday, "Friends" reruns replace "Seinfeld" at midnight, "South Park" reruns replace "Friends" at 12:30 a.m. and an informercial replaces "South Park" at 1 a.m.

All is not lost for "Earl." Reruns still run on WUTV's sister station, WNYO, at midnight and 12:30 a.m.

-- Alan Pergament

"The Office" Wedding Rocks

It took almost the entire hour for Niagara Falls to make a significant appearance during Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) and Jim Halpert's (John Krasinski) wedding on "The Office" Thursday night, but it was well worth the wait.

After being tormented by all their co-workers from the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, the couple escaped from the planned church wedding and first got hitched on the "Maid of the Mist."

Then it appeared that they did it all over again at the church, with their goofy co-workers re-creating the famous You Tube video dancing scene to Chris Brown's "Forever" that has had about 26 million page views.

Afterwards, Jim told the documentary crew that he bought the boat ticket after he saw the You Tube video -- called JK Wedding Entrance or Jill and Kevin's Big Day -- and knew he needed a backup plan.

The series is an acquired taste and undoubtedly some new viewers may have been turned off by the slow pace of the 15 minutes.

But things gradually and significantly improved, with the best line coming from Jim after the rehearsal dinner toast in which he accidentally revealed to Pam's conservative grandmother that the bride is pregnant.

"Is there something about being manager that makes you say stupid things?" Jim asked Michael Scott (Steve Carell). Regular viewers knew that Jim was recently named co-manager of the Scranton, Pa. branch with Michael.

Michael added to the hilarity with his clumsy speech about premarital sex directed at Pam's grandmother, who already was upset because she accidentally ran into Sacha Baron Cohen's "Bruno" on her hotel TV and couldn't turn it off.

All in all, I thought the Falls looked spectacular, the hour flew by quickly, the episode used many of the characters effectively and was funny and romantic enough to get an Emmy nomination next year.

What did you think? And if you were a first-time viewer, will you go back to "The Office" again? And do you think Jim and Pam's version of "Forever" will have as many views as Jill and Kevin's?

-- Alan Pergament

Letterman's Bizarre Admission

Near the end of his nine-minute discussion on his CBS late-night show Thursday about the $2 million extortion attempt he claims to have recently received, host David Letterman called the whole thing "a very bizarre experience."

You could say the same thing about his "bizarre" performance before an adoring studio audience that didn't seem to realize the seriousness of the situation.

The audience laughed and cheered as Letterman used his usual assortment of funny facial and hand gestures while describing what he called a "blackmail" attempt by a man who threatened to reveal in a book and a movie that the host had sex with women who worked for him.

At times, the laughter and cheers seemed as inappropriate as Letterman's occasional creepy attempts to joke about a very serious situation. In one case, the audience laughter even led to a joke. You almost wondered if members of the audience hated themselves later for laughing but couldn't help it.

Letterman noted that he had to go before a New York City grand jury.

"I had to tell them all of the creepy things I've done," said Letterman.

When the audience laughed, Letterman added: "Why is that funny?"

Of course, it was funny because of the way Letterman told the story.

Letterman's performance made it great TV. He had some great defensive and self-deprecating lines.

"If you know anything about me, I'm motivated by nothing but guilt," he said. "I'm just a towering mass of Lutheran Midwestern guilt."

A little while later, Letterman confirmed that he sex with women who worked for him and acknowledged that had the potential to be "embarrassing"

"Especially for the women," he joked as the audience clapped.

He turned momentarily serious at the end, saying he had to protect "these people, my family, myself and hope to protect my job."

Letterman gets credit for acknowledging he had sex with staff members but that was bound to come out shortly anyway. The appropriateness of the humorous way Letterman dealt with the situation will be left open for debate. Letterman was just being Letterman. But he was talking about something that could be in the news for days and may have the serious potential for sexual harassment suits. That's why it isn't really a laughing matter.

But I doubt Letterman's job is in any jeopardy unless some more damning things become known. In the bizarre world of TV, his embarrassment probably will help the show get improved ratings in the short term.

On Thursday night, Letterman's "Late Show" out-drew NBC's "Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" here by a 3-1 ratings margin, 6.3-2.1.

If you saw Letterman give his story Thursday, what did you think of it?

-- Alan Pergament  

"Private Practice" Redeems Itself

Violet (Amy Brenneman) lives. So does her baby. And the deranged woman who extracted the baby from a helpless Violet in her home in the season finale last May was captured.

Miraculous?

Of course. But "Private Practice" is a television show that asks its viewers to suspend disbelief.

Thanks to a flashback plot line that revolved around Tim Daly's emotionally-wounded character, Dr. Pete Wilder, I thought the season opener was sensitive, creative and emotionally moving.

It almost made me forgive the writers for the horrific season-finale last May, which led fans of the show to head to my blog to vent their feelings.

So now that viewers have learned that the funeral at the start of Thursday's program was a flashback to the death of Pete's wife, it is time to vent again.

What did you think of Thursday's premiere? And have you forgiven the writers for last May's finale?

-- Alan Pergament

    

Promising Signs for ABC's New Comedies

The network promo departments usually are very premature in calling new shows like ABC's "Modern Family" and "Cougar Town" hits.

The key to any new show’s long-term success often can be determined if the second episode is anywhere near as strong as a well-made pilot that attracts a decent-sized audience.

The second episodes of  “Modern Family” and “Cougar Town” with Courteney Cox Wednesday were not quite as funny as the pilots, but at least they were in the neighborhood. Cox’s show also smartly toned down the racy content of the pilot.

The shows finished third in their time slot here, but they were in the ballpark of second place NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU,” which is a good sign. And ABC’s shows are more likely to attract an audience preferred by advertisers than "SVU."

Don't call them hits yet, but the signs are promising here.

What do you think of the two comedies?

And what did you think of the new ABC family comedies that premiered Wednesday night -- "Hank" (which I called ordinary) with Kelsey Grammer and "The Middle" with Patricia Heaton (which I was down the middle on).

They got off to a strong ratings start here, winning the early 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. time slot. But let's see how they do the second week before they are called hits.

-- 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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