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A Patriotic Note at Channel 2

In the last few weeks, early risers tuned in to Channel 2 may have noticed the station is starting its broadcast day with the playing of the national anthem at 4:59 a.m.

Jim Toellner, the station's general manager, said the idea was inspired by WGR sports talk hosts who noted that sporting events and school events are the only places you hear the anthem these days. Some WGR listeners then noted that TV stations used to sign on and off with the anthem.

Since the station began carrying the anthem, Toellner said it has received dozens of emails applauding the idea. Toellner added the anthem features local points of interest on the video and the station plans to have local musical renditions freshen it throughout the year.

"We think it is a great way to start the day," said Toellner.

-- Alan Pergament

Buffalo "Makeover" Has Extreme Competition

The Powell family episode of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" will have some pretty stiff competition at 8 p.m. Sunday on Channel 7.

The two-hour episode featuring the Lower West Side family will be competing with the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees and the Minnesota Vikings' Brett Favre.

That's because the NFC title game between the Saints and Vikings is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. Sunday on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. And the winner, who goes to the Super Bowl, may not be decided until 10 p.m.

Buffalo is a huge football town, so it will be interesting to see if local pride triumphs over national football. I wouldn't bet against football unless the game is one-sided. In that case, "Makeover" will have a much better ending.

-- Alan Pergament

FiOS Subscribers Get Hockey Win

The FCC has made a ruling that eventually could allow Verizon FiOS subscribers to see Buffalo Sabres games in high definition.

Under the ruling made after a Verizon complaint, cable companies can no longer prevent other providers from getting HD feeds of channels like MSG, which carries Sabres home games and some away games in HD.

A Verizon spokesperson couldn't say when the Sabres games will be available on FiOS on MSG HD and there always is a chance that the ruling will be challenged. The Sabres games currently are only available on FiOS via MSG's non-HD signal.

Before FiOS can get the games in HD, Verizon also would have to strike a deal with Cablevision, which owns MSG, the Verizon spokesperson said. Stay tuned.

-- Alan Pergament

Did NBC Blow It Again?

I know this probably will be a minority view in my demographic, but I can't help but wonder if NBC has blown its late-night plans again by keeping Jay Leno and letting Conan O'Brien walk.

In the short term, Leno is bound to improve the ratings for "The Tonight Show" if only because he won't have to deal with his own 10 p.m. albatross like O'Brien did. 

But Leno's huge failure at 10 p.m. also indicates that he isn't as beloved a figure as NBC apparently believes. And rightly or wrongly, the way the late-night feud has played out has hurt Leno's image and made him look like a guy who is benefitting from his own failure.

NBC executives and Leno are blaming O'Brien 's departure on his poor ratings, but that ignores the fact that NBC supposedly wanted to keep him at 12:05 a.m.

O'Brien may have been an acquired taste, but seven months wasn't long enough to discover if his act would ever have worked with older viewers.

Clearly, O'Brien is more well-liked by younger viewers, who don't feel Leno is edgy enough. The popular theory is that O'Brien will land on Fox, which embraces edgy.

But I had a wild thought. Is it possible that David Letterman would persuade CBS to hire Conan and put him on in place of Craig Ferguson this fall? Then Conan eventually could replace Letterman if he ever retires.

It probably can't happen because of contractual considerations, but wouldn't it be a wonderful way for Letterman to stick it to Leno and NBC?

-- Alan Pergament   

Kiefer, the Dress and the Sabres

The other night "24" star Kiefer Sutherland went on David Letterman's late-night show wearing a dress.

He said it was the price he had to pay to a friend after losing a bet on a NFL playoff game.

Sutherland, who stars as the masculine Jack Bauer on his Fox show, identified the friend as "David Andreychuk."

That had me thinking he was referring to the former Buffalo Sabre though he is usually just called Dave. After all, Sutherland is a Canadian and a huge hockey fan so it is certainly possible that Andreychuk is a friend.

Sure enough, a couple of blogs have identified the former Sabre as Sutherland's "friend." However, there has been no official confirmation.

One did wonder exactly what Sutherland's friend would have had to have done if he lost the bet. Would  Andreychuk been the one in a dress?

We may never find out.

-- Alan Pergament

"Law & Order" Is Key in Post-Leno Schedule

As expected, NBC will replace "The Jay Leno Show" at 10 p.m. weekdays in March with a combination of "Law & Order" series, "Dateline" and two new shows.

The original "Law & Order" will air at 10 p.m. Monday and "SVU" will air at 10 p.m. Wednesday. Both series were very popular in Buffalo in 10 p.m. slots. "Dateline" will air from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays.

"Parenthood,"  an hour-drama inspired by the movie hit, will run at 10 p.m. Tuesday. If the show sounds familiar, it is because a previous series inspired by the movie failed.

NBC is giving Jerry Seinfeld's comedy-reality series, "The Marriage Ref," the 10 p.m. Thursday slot where some of the network's critically-acclaimed dramas have been carried in the past.

NBC also announced that "Trauma" will return at 9 p.m. Monday, effective March 8. "Friday Night Lights" will return at 8 p.m. April 30 with episodes that have previously been carried by DirecTV. Until then, NBC plans to carry a reality series at 8 p.m. Friday -- "Who do You Think You Are?" -- from former "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow. A new game show, "Minute to Win It," will premiere at 8 p.m. Sunday March 14 before "The Celebrity Apprentice."

-- Alan Pergament

"Idol" Opens Strong Here

You might have read that the opening night of the ninth season of "American Idol" Tuesday did very well nationally, only losing 2 percent of the audience from the 2009 debut.

Locally, the ratings this season without judge Paula Abdul might even have improved this season.

Tuesday's opener had a 19.4 rating on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. That figure should improve by at least a few points when the time-shifting viewership over the next six days from DVRs and other devices is added. A year ago, the opener had a 21.8 rating from live and time-shifted viewership.

Wednesday's second episode only dipped slightly here to a 18.7 on WUTV. A year ago, the second episode had a 19.8 rating from live and time-shifted viewership. When additional viewership is added to Wednesday's live rating, it is likely the second episode this season will be higher than it was last season

-- Alan Pergament


Conan Makes The Right Call

Who can blame Conan O'Brien for taking a principled stand and telling NBC today that he won't do "The Tonight Show" at 12:05 a.m. after Jay Leno's new half-hour show at 11:35 p.m.?

As I wrote in today's column, NBC's plan to put Leno at 11:35 p.m., O'Brien at 12:05 and Jimmy Fallon at 1:05 a.m. would damage all three parties.

The New York Times reported that O'Brien said no to the plan because "I sincerely believe that delaying the 'Tonight Show' into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting."

He added that he felt it also would be unfair to Fallon to start at 1:05 a.m. and criticized NBC for its lack of support for his own program, which has had only six months on the air and is suffering from poor lead-ins from newscasts on NBC affiliates damaged by Leno's 10 p.m. flop.

As I also said today, O'Brien would have taken a bigger hit for Leno's failure than Leno if he agreed to the plan.

It is unclear just what O'Brien plans to do since he stopped short of telling the Times that he was leaving NBC. It sounds like he is either pressuring NBC to reconsider moving Leno to 11:35 p.m. or positioning himself to bolt to Fox if he gets a large contract buyout from NBC.

One thing is clear: O'Brien is steaming about NBC's bigger support of Leno at the expense of "The Tonight Show."

I could almost hear David Letterman -- who lost his own power play to Leno -- cheering O'Brien in the background.

-- Alan Pergament  

Simon Says This is His Last Season on "Idol"

Brother knows best. At least that's the case with "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell, who told the nation's television critics in Pasadena, Calif. today that this will be his last season on the popular Fox reality show.

His older brother Tony had said as much a few weeks ago.

Cowell told critics today he will concentrate on another reality show that he created, "The X Factor," and added that he didn't want to leave "Idol" when its ratings were fading.

The departure of Cowell will just about assure that the ratings of "Idol" will fade after this season.

Fox can talk all it wants about potential replacements, but replacing Cowell would seemingly be an impossible task. Anyone who would try to duplicate his brutal honesty would look like a pale imitation of the original.

Cowell's willingness to leave a job that reportedly pays him $36 million a year also suggests that he realizes the show is destined to fade soon.

I suspect the show will go on for at least one more season after Cowell leaves, but after that it could be in trouble unless Fox refuses to admit that all TV shows except "The Simpsons" and "Law & Order" inevitably fade away.

-- Alan Pergament   

Buffalo and "The Marriage Ref" Promo

If you watched any NFL playoff game or "Saturday Night Live" over the weekend, you probably saw a promo for the new Jerry Seinfeld reality series on NBC, "The Marriage Ref," that had a Buffalo angle.

A man identified as being from Buffalo is featured in the promo, which notes that in 2003 a husband  started a fire outside that accidentally burned his house down.

According to the script, he started a fire outside to avoid having a date night with his wife. The promo also included a shot of a so-called "wife" in bed.

The promos suggests that "a marriage ref" possibly could have prevented the incident.

Did it happen? Or it it just another marriage joke?

A spokesman for the Buffalo Police Department is looking into it for me. But perhaps you remember the story.

NBC is heavily promoting the series, which will feature a panel comically discussing strategies to deal with real-life marital situations.

Seinfeld has called the series a "comedy about situations in reality."

It has a special post-Olympics preview on Feb. 28 before joining NBC's lineup on March 14.

-- 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.

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