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A WNED mystery is solved; U.S. Open ratings sink like short putt

By Alan Pergament

Inquiring minds want to know: What happened locally to "The Escape Artist," the "Masterpiece Mystery!" series starring David Tennant of "Dr. Who" fame as a London lawyer?

It made its debut Sunday on PBS stations across the country.

I can clear up the mystery about the series that co-stars Tony winner Sophie Okonedo ("A Raisin in the Sun") with the help of Ron Santora, the station manager of WNED-TV.

Santora explained Monday afternoon that the second week of the local PBS station's fund drive has delayed the WNED airing of the first part of "Escape" until July 27. The second and final part of the three-hour series airs a week later on Aug.3.

Why such a lengthy delay?

That's so WNED can carry the second season of the  "Endeavour" at the same time as PBS stations across the country. Shaun Evans stars as Rookie Detective Endeavour Morse in the series.

Things to brag and not brag about on local TV

By Alan Pergament

It isn't much to brag about, but at least the ratings for WBBZ's new game show "Bragging Rights!" are consistent and decent by standards of the local shows it carries.

The program hosted by John DiSciullo averaged a .7 rating for its first week on the air, which represents about 4,400 households.

The ratings for the five shows ranged from a .6 to a .8, which illustrates its consistency. In addition, the .7 for the week equals the rating that the entertainment program it replaced at 6:30 p.m. weekdays, "Cash Cab" repeats.

Speaking of bragging rights, Western New York earned them again for the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals. NBC said the 9.2 rating on Channel 2 here for the Los Angeles double overtime clincher over the New York Rangers placed the Buffalo market in third place overall, behind only the big markets of the participating teams.

The rating here hit a high of 14.4  at 11:30 p.m., which is about triple what Jimmy Fallon's late-night show gets here. The rating continued in double figures until 12:30 a.m.

"America's Got Talent" sensation was "Beast at East"

By Alan Pergament

If you think you saw Justin Rhodes perform in Western New York well before he became a singing sensation on "America's Got Talent" Tuesday but the name doesn't ring a bell, you just might be right.

Rhodes isn't his real name.

"Rhodes is the name of the keyboard he played on," explained Maureen Reilly, his choral director at Williamsville East High School.

She added that he went by the name Justin Michael when he played lounge music at Rizzo's and Banchetti's in Williamsville after graduating from high school.

And she said his real name is Justin Bartkowski. A 2007 story in the Buffalo News noted that he was a keyboardist and vocalist on a band called Northern Trends.

"He was a fantastic musician," said Reilly. "He could hear something on the radio and sit down on the piano and start playing it. He played most everything by ear. He is a great kid. Everyone loved him."

And what did she think of Justin's performance of "Wake Me Up" on Tuesday?

"AGT" judges go wild over Buffalo singer; Friona says goodbye Friday

By Alan Pergament

This is what I'm thinking:

Boy did the four judges on "America's Got Talent" go wild Tuesday night over the singing performance of Western New York native Justin Rhodes.

I was watching San Antonio's incredible shooting performance in their game three win over Miami in the NBA Final when Rhodes wowed Heidi Klum, Mel B, Howard Stern and Howie Mandel.

But I was able to catch Rhodes' performance of "Wake Me Up" by Avicili on  You Tube Wednesday. The video -- which had the title "Singer's Avicili Cover Moves His Dad to Tears" -- had about 61,000 hits this morning and you can add to it now.

Before Rhodes sang and Heidi Klum called him "very special" and Mel B declared him "sexy," the 2008 Williamsville East graduate explained he got into some bad things when he moved to New York City to start his singing career and now wants to prove his worth to the father he disappointed. Rhodes, who now lives in Tampa, Fla., didn't disappoint dad in the audience on Tuesday. Rhodes moved to the next round.

Speaking of the NBA Finals, the Spurs' game three win over Miami had a higher rating in Buffalo than the Los Angeles Kings' game three win over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals Monday night. But there should be an asterisk.

The NBA game was on Channel 7, a broadcast channel affiliated with ABC. Game 3 had a 5.9 rating here.

The NHL game was on the NBC Sports Network, a cable network. It had a 4.7 rating here and Buffalo remained the top-rated market in the country outside of the markets of the participating teams.

Attention fans of Channel 2's Mary Friona. And I know there are plenty of you judging by comments on social networks and my emails.

Friona's final day on the station''s morning program "Daybreak" is Friday and she has told her Facebook friends that News Director Jeff Woodard has asked her to put together a goodbye piece.

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The advertisement from a Native American group against the name and mascot of the Washington team in  the National Football League was so effective that it just might be a game-changer. The ad, which ran during Tuesday's NBA game, also is on You Tube. It was low-key, moving and effective in demonstrating that many Native Americans view the name and mascot as racist even if Washington Owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell don't seem to understand it. Notably, the name wasn't mentioned in the ad (or in this blog). It ended with a shot of a football alongside a Washington helmet, which featured the name and mascot.

Finally, my Time Warner email has been out of order for a few days and I thought I was alone. But a regular reader informed me that it is a problem throughout the area and advised me to call TWC and ask for a rebate. Sure enough, I did that Wednesday night and had about $4 cut from my bill. If you are experiencing roadrunner problems, I suggest you complain as well.



A family-friendly media lesson about the editing of foul language

 By Alan Pergament

Some of my readers apparently gave me a grade of F for a blog I wrote last week about Channel 7 mistakenly airing an expletive on the 11 p.m. news.

I thought I was being clever by writing that the bad word started with the sixth letter of the alphabet rather than spell out the letter.

Besides, I was trying to make readers work a little hard to find out which really bad word was used.

Reader response on the blog made it appear that I have a bunch of comedians for readers. It was pretty harsh. And pretty funny.

Before I explain my reasoning further, let me quote some of the comedians who responded. Their comments have been edited slightly because I don't want them to do what I didn't do and reveal the letter the word starts with.

Ch.2's Wooten to replace Friona on 11 a.m. newscast

By Alan Pergament

Channel 2 anchor-reporter Michael Wooten will be Mary Friona's replacement on the station's 11 a.m. weekday newscast after she leaves the NBC affiliate on Friday.

Wooten, who has been anchoring the station's weekend versions of "Daybreak," made the announcement today on Facebook. He added he also is becoming the managing editor of the news department.

He also was "unofficially" the station's acting public relations man for the day since he also announced on Facebook that Heather Ly will be taking his place as the anchor on the weekend editions of "Daybreak" alongside Maria Genero on weather.

Friona announced a few weeks ago that she is leaving the station this Friday after 16 years to focus on her family.


Tasker to be part of three-man booth at CBS

By Alan Pergament

Former Buffalo Bill star Steve Tasker is going to be part of a three-man booth for CBS as part of the network's realignment of announcers for the 2014 National Football League season.

Tasker and fellow analyst Steve Beuerlein will be teaming with play-by-play man Andrew Catalon next season. Catalon worked the Bills game with Jacksonville last season and did a Bills-Cincinnati game a few seasons ago.

CBS listed the trio sixth on its depth chart of announcers.

Bills fans won't have play-by-play man Marv Albert or analyst Dan Dierdorf to kick around anymore.

Dierdorf announced he was retiring last season. Albert, who got his share of Twitter criticism when he called Bills games last season, announced a few weeks ago that he was dropping NFL games from his schedule to concentrate on pro and college basketball.

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms remain CBS' No.1 team. With Dierdorf retired, Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts become CBS' No.2 team. CBS said they will also do some top games when Nantz and Simms are unavailable.

CBS other teams include Greg Gumbel and newcomer Trent Green, Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon, and Spiro Dedes and Solomon Wilcots.

CBS also announced that Brian Anderson and Tom McCarthy will do play-by-play on some games and Chris Simms -- Phil's son -- and Adam Archuleta will be analysts on some games.

If the Bills don't start the season well, WNYers can expect to see the newcomers on occasion.

Surprise, surprise for fan of Broadway and NBA

By Alan Pergament

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a big fan of Broadway and basketball and not necessarily in that order.

One of my favorite Broadway tunes is "She Likes Basketball" from the musical "Promises, Promises." I've even memorized the lyrics, though you wouldn't want me to hear me sing the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song.

I have seen two of Sunday's Tony-nominated musicals -- "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" and "Beautiful" -- so I had some rooting interest.

I expect Miami Heat star LeBron James to end his National Basketball Association career as the greatest player of all time, which is why I was very interested in Game 2 of the Heat's current rematch in the NBA Finals with the San Antonio Spurs.

This is all my way of telling you that I was a little conflicted Sunday night when the NBA Finals on ABC went head-to-head with the Tony Awards hosted by Hugh Jackman on CBS.

NY Times piece on Buffalo hockey ratings causes reflection

By Alan Pergament

The New York Times story I said was coming about hockey ratings in Buffalo by award-winning, TV Sports columnist Richard Sandomir is currently online.

I read the piece online late Sunday night, two days after I wrote in Friday's blog that it was coming. Sandomir did a lot of work for the short story, interviewing four people including yours truly.

I've written often about how strong the ratings for hockey are here, the latest blog being Sunday's report on Buffalo having the highest rating in the country for Los Angeles' 5-4 double overtime win over the New York Rangers Saturday night outside of the markets of the participating teams.

But Sandomir's email questions about it made me reflect more than I have in years about why hockey means so much to the area. He asked if the cold weather here, the proximity to Canada and youth hockey were factors.

I probably gave Sandomir a lot more than he wanted or needed considering all the work he had done on the story. He only quoted one line of mine in the three emails that I sent him in response to his questions. But he did me a favor by causing me to reflect about hockey's popularity here. So here is an edited version of the emails that I sent him.


I'm a native of Long Island but I've been here for 44 years so I know this has always been a huge hockey market.

Buffalo's proximity to Canada certainly helps. You just go over the Peace Bridge and you are in Ft. Erie, Canada. We''re also about 90 minutes to two hours from Toronto (if the Peace Bridge isn't clogged).

We also get Canadian television stations here, which means many people have been watching pro hockey even before the Buffalo Sabres started playing in the National Hockey League in 1970.

Actually, viewership here is even higher than NBC reports because many people here watch CBC's  Hockey Night in Canada and it isn't given a Nielsen rating here. The CBC coverage isn't in high definition on cable (it is on over-the-air TV), but many Western New Yorkers prefer CBC's announcers to NBC's.

This also is a huge area for youth hockey of all ages and for both genders. Many people say Buffalo is a Midwestern city (like Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis) located in the East.

Of course, you know about South Buffalo''s Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. But there are several other NHL players from the area, including Pat Kaleta of the Sabres, Lee Stempniak of the Penguins, Brooks Orpik of the Penguins, Tim Kennedy of the Coyotes. (Better check if they are still with all those teams).

I'm not sure about the weather being much of a factor. As I said, I grew up on Long Island and I know it is cold there, too, in the winter. It is cold in a lot of Midwestern cities that don't get great ratings. The ratings are great here now -- No. 2 for game 1 behind only New York -- and it is going to be in the 70s all week.

You should also know that Buffalo obviously hasn't had the NBA since the late 1970s and college basketball isn't strong here, either. Essentially, our pro sports interest is in the NHL and the NFL. The Bills games also get huge ratings even without a playoff team for I believe 14 years (you better check).

The sports station in town, WGR, has a year-round morning hockey show focused on the Sabres and the NHL and a year-round evening pro football show focused on the Bills and the NFL.

And though I love the area and it has a great cultural life for a city its size, Buffalo obviously doesn't have as many entertainment options as New York, Los Angeles and other big markets.

One more thing. The NBC affiliate here is a strong one and that helps. I hope this helps.

I should add one other thing. Hockey fans here follow ex-Sabres playing around the league. I'm not sure how many of the Rangers or Kings played here. I don't think many.

I know Dominic Moore had a cup of coffee here.

Kane obviously was a big draw for the Chicago-L.A. series and Ryan Miller for the St. Louis-Chicago series.


Stanley Cup final, Belmont big winners on Ch.2

By Alan Pergament

Once again, Western New York proved Saturday to be a very strong market for the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Triple Crown horse races.

The Los Angeles Kings' 5-4 victory over the New York Rangers in double overtime in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals averaged an 8.1 rating on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate.

That placed the Buffalo market in third place, only behind the markets of the two participating teams. The nation's No.1 market New York (10.5) was first in the overnights and the nation's No.2 market Los Angeles (8.9) was second in the overnights. Of course, many thousands of more viewers watched in the big cities than in Buffalo because a rating point equals many more households in those markets than it does here.

I'm a little surprised the percentage of WNYers watching didn't beat the percentage in L.A.

Boston (6.9) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (6.4) round out the top five. The game averaged a 4.6 overnight rating  nationally in the 56 metered markets, which NBC said is its best Game 2 ever. It finished with a 3.7 national household rating in all markets.

The Belmont Stakes upset by Tonalist over California Chrome in the final leg of the Triple Crown had a 15.9 rating in Buffalo, placing eighth nationally.

That's an amazing rating when you consider NBC spends more than two hours talking about a race that lasts a little over two minutes. 

Louisville (21.1) was the top-rated market. Nationally, NBC's overnight rating in the Top 56 markets  measured by meters was a 12.9. The final household rating was 12.0. The network said it measured viewership from 6:23 p.m. before the race began to 7:15 p.m. when the final interview was over.

As impressive as the local rating for the Belmont is, it was lower than the 16.8 rating here for the Kentucky Derby despite Saturday's hype for Chrome seeking to become the first Triple Crown winner in decades. WNY was the No.4 market in the country for the first leg of the Triple Crown. The second leg, the Preakness, had a 10.5 rating here for fifth place nationally.


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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 |