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A blizzard of notes on weather coverage

By Alan Pergament

Shoveling out the the notebook as the weather coverage calms down:

I awoke this morning in time to see two separate reports on NBC's "Today" reference the blizzard in Buffalo.

In one of the reports, the reporter noted that "neither rain, nor sleet nor polar vortex can stop this mail carrier in Buffalo."

Then footage ran of the Buffalo mailman saying "I've never delivered mail in a storm like this."

The poor guy gets his 15 seconds of fame and his face wasn't even shown. It was so covered up that viewers couldn't see who was delivering the mail.

I have to agree with Channel 2's chief weather anchor Kevin O'Connell, who told Buffalo News reporter Gene Warner Tuesday that "everyone hit this one right on the button."

He was referring to all the local weather forecasters who deserve credit for predicting the storm and warning WNYers about it to avoid the havoc caused by past blizzards.

One of the major differences between this weather event and the Blizzard of '77 was the amount of local news that the three local stations carried back then. I wasn't covering local TV 36 years ago -- it only seems like I've been around forever -- but I believe the stations only carried noon, 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts back then. Now local news starts at 4:30 a.m. on Channel 2, continues through 9 a.m. on Channel 4 and its sister station, runs from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m, 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. And Channel 2 now has a 24-hour weather station on one of its digital channels, 2.2.

Channel 4 certainly took a good week to expand its 10 p.m. news on sister station WNLO-TV to an hour. Naturally, the newscast heavily focused on the weather.

One of the reasons for the expansion is to sell more ads. But I'm not so sure that strategy instantly worked because the first two days saw a heavy dose of promos.

There were a heavy dose of promos about Channel 4's weather team, Channel 4's "Wake Up!" some court shows, some CW shows, Channel 4's way of telling viewers what is closing because of weather, Call 4 Action, and WNLO-TV's 9 a.m. program "Winging It!"

Speaking of "Winging It!" I think I saw more of host Lauren Hall during those promos than I have seen on the actual lifestyles program with paid segments. Not that that is a bad thing. After all, the Syracuse University graduate and SU basketball fan (she's a Twitter follower) smiles a lot in those promos and with the weather the way it is any smiles are welcome.

I think the strangest part of the expanded 10 p.m. news on WNLO happened Monday when meteorologist Don Paul introduced a taped segment of meteorologist Todd Santos explaining what a blizzard is. I mean Paul couldn't have told us himself? At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Paul and Santos actually did the weather together. It sure looks like Channel 4 is using the 10 p.m. news to heavily promote Santos, who clearly is Paul's eventual and worthy successor.

This year's weather coverage innovation is having local meteorologists and reporters driving around with photographers to show viewers how difficult driving can be. I saw Channel 2's Kevin O'Neill and Channel 4's George Richert doing it. I didn't see anyone on Channel 7 doing it, perhaps because its  reporters may be too young to drive. The strange thing about watching the reporters drive is that they go at a reasonable speed that makes it look like things aren't as bad on the roads as they actually are.

Of course, Channel 4's Paul couldn't resist cracking a joke before one forecast when he noted that some drivers were out there without their lights on. Paul said he had to make one editorial comment: "What, are you nuts?"

Finally, I chose to spend Tuesday at home watching the first three episodes of "Chicago PD," the spinoff of NBC's popular "Chicago Fire." It premieres tonight at 10 on Channel 2. I'm not a regular viewer of "Fire" and can report that is no impediment in watching the series produced by Dick Wolf of "Fire"' and "Law & Order" fame. Jason Beghe, who plays the series lead, Sgt. Hank Voight, has a great voice and a great presence and deserves a leading role. He plays a corrupt, rule-breaking and head-smashing leader of an intelligence unit in a role that reminded me a little of Michael Chiklis' character in "The Shield."

Jon Seda plays Antonio Dawson, whose own ethics are tested when a relative is in jeopardy. The cast also includes former "One Tree Hill" star Sophia Bush as a cop with a history with Voight that is explained by episode 3. I must admit that the casting of Bush made me smile since she hardly looks the part. OK, I laughed outloud. Except for Beghe, all cast members look more like models than policemen and policewomen.

If you can get past that TV network casting strategy and some ridiculously violent plot elements, "PD" is loaded with tense scenes and has some intrigue and heart. So I can think of worse ways to spend a Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday evening. But not too many. Having said that, I thought "Chicago Fire" looked like 1980s TV and it has become a hit. So to borrow a phrase from Don Paul, I'd be nuts to totally dismiss its chance of success.

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Drama | New Shows | Television | TV news
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