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Buffalo connections to major TV events

By Alan Pergament

Names with a Buffalo connection to national TV news. After all, there is always a Buffalo connection.

Marvin Hamlisch:  The renowned composer, who was the principal pops conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra from 2003-2007, will be celebrated by the PBS series "American Masters" on Dec. 27 with "Marvin Hamlisch: The Way He Was."

That's a play on words about one of his hits, "The Way We Were," memorably sung by Barbra Streisand.

Babs will be one of the subjects interviewed in the salute to Hamlisch, who died almost a year ago.

I'm sure Buffalonians are wondering if his work here will get any significant mention.

PBS says the documentary will include "exclusive access to Hamlisch's personal archival treasure trove and complete cooperation from his family, and that it will be "a deeply personal, insider portrait of one of the greatest artists of our time."

Besides Streisand, the documentary will feature interviews with Hamlisch's wife, Terre Blair Hamlisch, Steven Soderbergh, Quincy Jones, Christopher Walken, Sir Tim Rice, Joe Torre Allen, John Lithgrow, Lucie Arnaz, Ann-Margaret, Sir Howard Stringer, Kelli O’Hara, Brian D'Arcy James, Idina Menzel, Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager.

Nanette Burstein: The 1988 Nichols School graduate who has made her reputation directing such documentaries as "On the Ropes," "“The Kid Stays in the Picture" and "American Teen," is directing an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, "Tonya and Nancy." It premieres at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5.

An ESPN release describes the film this way:  "American hopes for a gold medal in women's figure skating at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway rested on two very different but equally fascinating personalities: Nancy Kerrigan, the elegant brunette from Massachusetts, and Tonya Harding, the fiery blonde from Oregon. On January 6, 1994, after a practice session at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Kerrigan was stunningly clubbed on the right knee by an unknown assailant and left wailing, "Why, why, why?" As the bizarre "why" mystery unraveled, it was revealed that Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, had plotted the attack with his misfit friends to literally eliminate
Kerrigan from the competition. Now two decades later,Tonya and Nancy takes a fresh look through revealing new interviews with the Harding and Kerrigan camps at a unique worldwide spectacle."

The upcoming 30 for 30 series also has another film, "Free Spirits" with a Buffalo connection. The film
premieres at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 8. ESPN described it this way: "When the NBA merged with the American Basketball Association in 1976, four ABA franchises joined the more established league – the Nets, Nuggets, Pacers and Spurs.  But one of the odd teams out found a different way to secure its future. Free Spirits tells the colorful story of the Spirits of St. Louis – an entertaining and at times controversial team featuring stars like Marvin "Bad News" Barnes and James “Fly” Williams with an upstart sportscaster named Bob Costas calling the play-by-play. The Spirits managed to pull off a stunning playoff upset of the defending champions in their first season, and then, on their way to franchise extinction, co-owners Daniel and Ozzie Silna managed to negotiate a contract that has allowed the team to continue to exist in the most unusual fashion.”

Buffalo Braves fans may remember that Barnes played 48 games for the Braves in the 1977-78 season, which was their last in the NBA.

Margaret Sullivan: The former editor of the Buffalo News wasn't mentioned by name but her current role as public editor of The New York Times was referenced twice last week when ESPN held a conference call after it announced that Nate Silver of the blog FiveThirtyEight was leaving the Times to join the sports network and ABC News, both owned by Disney. The statistician is developing a website that will analytically deal with politics, sports, the Oscars and anything else that would make sense.

From the tone of the questions, you might have thought that Sullivan bashed Silver. Most of her blog about his departure from The Times was flattering. However, she wrote that she didn’t think he "ever really fit into the Times culture" and "was in a word, disruptive." She added that "a number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work."  

I guess those unnamed journalists didn’t like the fact that his blog -- which is named after the number of electoral votes there are -- accurately predicted that President Obama would win re-election when
others had Mitt Romney ahead.

Here are the two conference call questions referencing Sullivan’s writings on Silver’s departure, according to the transcript provided by ESPN: 1) "The New York Times public editor mentioned today, described you as a disruptive force at the Times and how she had gotten some criticism from colleagues including some high profile political journalists. I wonder did you ever feel that you were too constrained within the Times culture to do what you wanted to do or that you were not supported in any way at the times?" 2) "The public editor at the New York Times wrote today that she had heard from other staff members of the Times that Nate didn't seem to fit in. Is that true?"

Silver easily dismissed the questions. Here are his answers combined.

“No, look, I had plenty of support I felt from Jill (Abramson, the executive editor of The Times) and from other key people at the Times. We don't really want to dwell too much on my relationships there. I would say I love the people at ESPN, but this culture stuff at the Times was not a big factor in the decision…. Look, I'm interested in running a website and building out a business here and having my opinion to weigh in on different topics. I'm not interested in who I'm getting a beer with. I have plenty of people in my social circles for that. So these cultural issues I think are getting a little more play than is appropriate.”

He was more focused on the future of his newly-developed site, which premieres after he hires some people to help him do some things differently, like possibly predict the winners of the Oscars.

"You know, what I've done now for politics at FiveThirtyEight is an approach we think is applicable
to lots of areas," Silver told reporters on the call (I wasn't one of them). "Obviously I have a background in sports, and that would be a big focus here, but it's not just going to be a politics site or a sports site. There's lots of potential in business and economics and weather and health and education and technology and culture."

"The Oscars are a very political process," added Silver. "I hope people won't take everything that we
do deathly seriously. One word we tossed around here at ESPN is just the F word, which is fun, that we can have some fun with things. We can have different tonality on the blog, we can be cheeky and have different ‑‑ it doesn't all have to be so serious all the time, and I hope people don't take the Oscars as a life‑or‑death thing. But yeah, it's another opportunity I'll look at.

"So you have obviously sports is going to be an important focus of the site. On the news side we''re  probably more going to be concerned about elections in particular, but there's some other types of news. Weather is one I mentioned. On the life side it can be fun, kind of cultural stuff, what's the best place to live, also education‑related things… "

He expects to be on the air eventually. "I do think obviously in the longer term there are so many
resources here in terms of television, in terms of film, also a little bit in different products that we'll have a lot of choices to make, but this is a web‑centered product, and we haven't discussed very many specifics at all about which programs I'll be on. I'm sure that will evolve over time, but I assume people assume, oh, it's ESPN so it's TV. I'l be on the network some I'm sure, but we really want to get the website rolled out first.”





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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 |