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Choice of Colbert to succeed Letterman makes perfect sense

By Alan Pergament

After further review, CBS' announcement this afternoon that Stephen Colbert will replace David Letterman on "The Late Show" makes perfect sense.

It certainly makes more sense than Colbert's fictional conservative talk show host on "The Colbert Report" often makes.

When Letterman announced a week ago that he planned to retire in about a year, my instant pick to replace him was Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" -- if he wanted the job.

I would like to know if Stewart wanted it or was ever offered it, but I doubt we'll find out any time soon.

CBS is going with Colbert, whose Comedy Central talk show "The Colbert Report" is a spinoff of "The Daily Show" and revolves around a fictional conservative talk show host who started on Stewart's show.

There are several reasons why naming Colbert as Letterman's successor makes sense.

* I don't think age is one of them. He turns 50 next month, so he is only slightly younger than Stewart, who turns 52 in November. He will be competing with NBC's 39-year-old Jimmy Fallon or ABC's 46-year-old Jimmy Kimmel.

* Colbert's hiring is less of a risk than if CBS had gone with Neil Patrick Harris, who has considerable variety skills but was unknown as an interviewer.

* Colbert wanted the job so badly that the Bill Carter, an excellent New York Times reporter, said Colbert even had his Comedy Central contracts timed to run out when Letterman's contracts with CBS ended. You got the sense from Carter's reports that Colbert would have ended changed his name to Jimmy just to get the job.

* He is comfortable doing sketches, something that Fallon and Kimmel have gotten praise for and that attract younger viewers when they land on YouTube and social networks. Colbert's Christmas special on Comedy Central a while ago illustrated his sketch skills. 

* And although his fictional conservative talk show actually pokes fun at conservatives, Colbert isn't as in-your-face liberal as Stewart frequently can be. I doubt CBS would want to deal again with more loud claims about how biased it is.

While Stewart directly debates Fox's Bill O'Reilly and other conservatives in different ways than the way he just skewers them on his show, Colbert generally makes fun of them through his character and that might seem less offensive to sensitive conservatives. They key words are "might seem."

It is hard to say how Colbert's move to "The Late Show " will play in Western New York.

Neither "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report" does very well playing opposite the 11 p.m. news and the 11:35 p.m. late night network shows here. I'm told that, on a good night, Stewart's show gets a 1 rating and Colbert's show slightly less than that.

However, Comedy Central plays them three other times the next day, and the shows are also available On Demand, so it's difficult to tell how well they do here overall.

I initially assumed that Colbert planned to continue to play a fake conservative host when he takes over "The Late Show." However, Carter has reported that Colbert plans to be himself.

It is hard to know how that will play. However, the fake conservative host is an acquired taste and it might have taken some time for new viewers to acquire it.

Buffalo viewers got a hint about what the "real" Colbert would be like six years ago when he spoke at the University at Buffalo.

Carter's report lead me to refer to a 2008 interview that I did with Colbert before he came to UB. Here's what I wrote back then:

Of course, the big question is which Stephen Colbert will be here -- the calm one on the telephone or the loud, animated, playful conservative character he plays on basic cable?

"[I'll be] pretty much like I'm talking to you right now," he said. "The weird thing about my character, even on the show, is sometimes I say what I mean. It doesn't matter to me that the audience doesn't know when that is.

"When I do a show live, it is far less of the character... It is an odd mix. People who invite me to speak ... my name is Stephen Colbert and the character's name is Stephen Colbert and sometimes I'm not really sure who they've invited. So I do a little bit of both."

My initial thought is Colbert is clever enough to make it work no matter who he is.

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Shaking my head over Fallon, MNF here

By Alan Pergament

Several months ago, I got a message on social media that someone was SMH over a remark I either made or quoted.

I was shaking my head over what the acronym stood for and asked some equally clueless members of the faculty at a local college about it when a student walked by and said it means "shaking my head."

It is used to underscore how surprising, stupid or silly things are.

I've been SMH over a few things in TV locally lately.

I can't understand what's going on in late night here.

Bills unaware of rumored MNF home game with Packers

By Alan Pergament

The local TV stations gave good play to the Fox Sports report out of Wisconsin Tuesday in which a source was cited as saying the Green Bay Packers' visit to The Ralph to play the Buffalo Bills this season will be carried on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

I suppose the stations had to deal with it because in these days of social media, speculation and rumor often is presented as fact.

A Bills executive told me this morning that the team hasn't been given any information on the 2014 regular season schedule. Therefore, the team isn't aware if the Bills will get a MNF game against the Packers or anyone else. National Football League teams usually get the schedule hours before it is usually announced in mid-to-late April.

The MNF game might happen. But from years dealing with the NFL schedule, I know scheduling changes occur right up until the last minute. That's one reason I certainly wouldn't be comfortable being the source of the speculation on the schedule a week or two before the announcement.

Additionally, this year’s schedule could be even more complicated for the league to finish now that CBS is going to carry Thursday Night Football games and is expected to get a strong schedule. 

An ESPN source told me this afternoon that the cable sports network doesn't get the schedule until close to when everyone else receives it and it is announced. He added that the NFL's network partners -- CBS, Fox, NBC , ESPN and The NFL Network -- ask for certain games but it doesn't mean they will get them. In addition, there may be drafts of schedules but things can change.

"Anyone who thinks that they know, doesn't know," said the ESPN source of the Bills-Packers game being on MNF.

If the Wisconsin report turns out to be accurate, it could be a blow to WUTV, the local Fox affiliate.

WUTV only gets to carry two Bills home games a year when National Conference teams like the Pack visit here and the game is a sell-out. The station certainly wouldn't want to lose a game with the Packers. ESPN's sells the broadcast rights to MNF games in local markets so WUTV could keep the game with a winning bid.

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"American Idol" finalist has roots here; "Voice" tour to hit the Falls

By Alan Pergament

When the Elite Eight finalists on Fox’s "American Idol" start singing songs from the '80s at 8 tonight, there will be several relatives in Western New York rooting for 17-year-old Jena Irene Asciutto.

 Yes, there always seems to be a Buffalo angle.

 One of those relatives, Laurie Galbo of Wheatfield, alerted me to Jena Irene's (that's what she is called on "Idol") roots.

Here's an edited portion of the email Jena's relative sent me: "Jena is 17 and from the Detroit area. Her roots are in Buffalo! Her grandfather, Andrew, was born and raised in Buffalo and moved to Michigan after military service. He met his wife, Irene, there and settled down. His brother also moved to Detroit. But the Asciutto family came from Isnello, Sicily and settled in Buffalo. The rest of the Asciutto clan is still in Buffalo!

Ch.4's embarrassing "exclusive"; Busey ad is a winner

By Alan Pergament

Over the years, local TV news viewers have learned that stations toss around the word "exclusive" far more easily than Donald Trump congratulates himself.

But Channel 4 made an "exclusive" claim Monday night that deserved a "Saturday Night Live" parody.

On an early newscast, the station proclaimed that it had an "exclusive" interview with Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly about his battle with cancer.

The claim was a head-scratcher since Kelly and his family have been available to all the local stations and any regular viewer of local news had to be aware of the coverage elsewhere.

Channel 2 anchor Scott Levin went to New York City over the weekend to interview Kelly from his hospital room. Channel 7 anchor Keith Radford was there over the weekend to interview Kelly.

Marv's "retirement" speech deserves an asterisk

By Alan Pergament

This is what I'm thinking:

The announcement by David Letterman last week that he plans to retire in a year or so reminded me that former former Buffalo Bills Coach Marv Levy's famous line "if you're thinking of retiring you are already retired" deserves an asterisk or a qualifier.

The words "unless you can milk it" should be added.

Letterman joins a long line of recent iconic entertainment figures who announced they are retiring a year or more before they actually do.

The list includes Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, Jay Leno and New York Yankee Derek Jeter (who really is in the entertainment business).

"Sharknado" company shooting film in Buffalo, Lockport

By Alan Pergament

Alligators in Buffalo?

Being fought at Lafayette Square by citizens with guns, chain saws, axes, pitchforks and shovels?

It is all happening this morning as the production company behind last summer's Syfy channel hit "Sharknado" shoots some scenes for an upcoming movie with the working title of "Alligator Apocalypse."

Tim Clark, film commissioner for the Buffalo Niagara Film Office, said the area on Clinton Street near Washington Street in Buffalo is standing in for New York City, where the film is set.

Jim Kelly and family may be at Knicks game tonight

By Alan Pergament

Jeff Glor, the CBS correspondent from Kenmore who reported on Jim Kelly's battle with cancer this week for "CBS This Morning," just gave an update on the Buffalo Bills Hall of Famer.

Glor went on Twitter to tweet: "Jim Kelly is getting out of the hospital for the weekend and is hoping to attend tonight's Knicks game with family."

The New York Knicks, who are in a battle for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, host the Washington Wizards tonight in Madison Square Garden.

The game is being televised by MSG Plus (the Sabres are on MSG) and the game director most likely would show Kelly and his family if his pain is under control and they make it to the Garden.

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Letterman retirement talk is a local ratings winner

By Alan Pergament

Western New Yorkers wanted to hear that David Letterman was retiring in his own words Thursday night.

Local ratings for "Late Show with David Letterman" on the night he surprised his New York City audience by announcing he was going to retire were higher here than the combined ratings for his two young rivals -- NBC's Jimmy Fallon and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel.

Because Letteman's show is taped in late afternoon for airing at 11:35 p.m., the big news was reported on the evening newscasts and served as an alert for late-night viewers. 

Kenmore's Jeff Glor -- who has had a busy week covering Buffalo Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly's battle with cancer and the General Motors crisis -- reported on Letterman's announcement for "The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley."

One of the benefits of Letterman announcing he is going to retire about a year before he actually does is that many viewers will probably want to watch his Derek Jeter-like goodbye tour.

And with the two Jimmys getting so much attention for the way they are reinventing late night with sketches that go viral, Letterman needs every advantage he can get.

But back to Thursday, the fourth straight day that Letterman has won here in the competition with the younger Jimmys.

Letterman had a 6.8 rating on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate. "The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon" had a a 2.7 rating on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate. It barely beat Kimmel's late-night ABC show, which had a 2.6 rating.

It is hard to know what is going on here regarding Fallon, whose late-night show has been a national ratings hit and continues to create viral hits. This week, Fallon dressed up as Russian president Vladimir Putin in a sketch with Sarah Palin that has been a big internet hit.

This morning, I speculated that Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" deserves Letterman's job.

Bill Carter of The New York Times, who has documented the late-night wars for years with books and even a movie based on one of his books, has thrown Stephen Colbert and Neil Patrick Harris into the mix.

Harris, one of the stars of "How I Met Your Mother" who also has impressed as the host of awards shows, is an intriguing candidate. He would be terrific in sketches but it's hard to know what kind of interviewer he might be.

But that's getting ahead of things anyway because WNYers still have a year to watch Letterman's goodbye tour.

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Sabres TV ratings continue slide as nightmare season nears end

By Alan Pergament

How low can the Buffalo Sabres go?

We're not talking about in the National Hockey League standings. They can't get any lower than 30th  place out of 30 teams.

We're referring to the team's television ratings.

After the NHL lockout ended in January of 2013, 13 of the Sabres' first 23 TV games last season had ratings of 10 or higher. The Sabres reportedly averaged about an 8 rating in the shortened season for games carried on the Madison Square Garden Network.

Because of this season’s pitiful start under former Coach Ron Rolston, TV ratings dropped early in the season to average about a 6 rating. There was a brief surge when Ted Nolan was named interim coach. His first game against Toronto had a 10.3 rating, the second game the next night a 7.9 rating.

But as the nightmare season thankfully nears its end, the Sabres are getting ratings that would appear to be at or near the historically low end since the advent of people meters in the Buffalo market in 2000. I say "appear" because statistics from all the years are unavailable.

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