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NBC, ESPN plan Sunday stories on Jim Kelly

By Alan Pergament

It is Buffalo Bills wide receiver Andre Reed's Hall of Fame weekend, but understandably the quarterback who threw him most of the passes  he caught in his 16-year National football League also will be getting a lot of television attention.

NBC confirmed today that Josh Elliott, who left ABC's "Good Morning America" in April to join NBC Sports, did an interview with Jim Kelly, who is battling cancer. It will air during halftime of the the Bills preseason game with the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football.

ESPN also has been heavily promoting an extended feature on Kelly, showing emotional excerpts of interviews with the Hall of Fame quarterback, his wife Jill and daughter Erin. Called "Kelly Tough," the feature will air at 9 a.m. Sunday on "Outside the Lines" and be repeated starting with the 10 a.m. edition of SportsCenter.

The "OTL" piece will include interviews with former Bill Steve Tasker and Scott Berchtold, the Bills senior vice president of communications.

Here is ESPN's synopsis of the program:

Jim Kelly's life has been a series of the highest highs and the lowest lows. He enjoyed a Hall-of-Fame career and played in four consecutive Super Bowls, but he and his Buffalo Bills teammates lost all four. And now, Kelly is taking on cancer, diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Surgery chemotherapy, and radiation treatments have caused Kelly to lose weight, hair and part of his jaw which had to be surgically removed. He’s "not afraid to die" and continues to live his life by being what he calls, "Kelly Tough."   

Ch.4 to simulcast Bills-Dolphins game with NFL Network

By Alan Pergament

Channel 4 has grabbed the broadcast rights to the Buffalo Bills Thursday Night Football in Miami against the Dolphins on Nov. 13 that also is being carried on cable's The NFL Network, according to two well-placed sources.

For the last two seasons, independent channel WBBZ had simulcast the Bills game on The NFL Network schedule but it wasn't able to bid this time, according to General Manager Bob Koshinski.

Koshinski said he was told that the league "wanted to stick with as many CBS affiliates" for the games not on the broadcast network's Thursday Night schedule. He added he was told that five CBS affiliates are carrying the eight NFL Network games that aren't on CBS' schedule and the other three CBS affiliates remain possibliities.

This year, CBS and The NFL Network carry the first half of the Thursday Night schedule until Oct.23,  then The NFL Network gets the second half all to itself except for a Dec. 20 game on CBS.

The NFL Network games not on CBS are simulcast on a broadcast station in the home markets of the teams so fans without cable can also watch the games. The same procedure occurs for ESPN's Monday Night Football schedule.

In Channel 4's case, it presumably is paying to carry a game with the Bills' American Conference rival that in past years it would have carried anyway as a CBS affiliate.

"We're very disappointed," said Koshinski of WBBZ losing a chance at a third Bills game. "The Bills were a great success for us, they raised our profile and it it was a lot of fun to carry them."

It is unclear what happens to the Nov. 13 episode of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory," the most popular comedy in television.

CBS has announced that the series -- whose actors are holding out for bigger contracts and delaying production -- will return to Thursday nights on Oct. 23 after its initial portion of the football schedule ends. "Bang" begins the season on Monday nights, its former home.

"Big Bang" is hugely popular in Western New York and its fans may want to shout if Channel 4 doesn't find a good place to run the Nov. 13 episode if it is pre-empted here for the Bills game.

Van to go on Wall at Vikings game; WNY tie to "Resurrection"

By Alan Pergament

Some notes while starting the year-long wait for "Sharknado 3": 

After further review, the game in which retired legendary Buffalo Bills play-by-play man Van Miller is going on the Wall of Fame at Ralph Wilson Stadium has understandably changed.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided the tentative date reported in May, an Oct. 12 game against New England, will be used for the league's Breast Cancer Awareness Initiative. Miller will now be honored on Oct.19 when the Bills host the Minnesota Vikings.

In an email, the Bills' Scott Berchtold said both the Breast Cancer Awareness Initiative and the Wall of Fame weekend "are important to us and we feel that they each should have their own designated weekend."

You can read more about what the 86-year-old Miller is up to and what he thinks of this year's Bills in my column in this Sunday's Buffalo News. Find a photo gallery of Van Miller here.

Speaking of Miller, he is in the the documentary :"Almost a Dynasty: A Fan Story," about the Bills' four Super Bowl losses, that WBBZ is carrying at 8 tonight. Miller is one of the people interviewed in the film produced by Peter Tasca, Stephen Butler, and Phil Gangi. ESPN and Lackawanna's Ron Jaworski, former Bills General Manager Bill Polian and several key members of the media and some fans are in the film, which has been out on DVD since 2012.

Michele Fazekas, the Williamsville native best known for co-creating the CW series "Reaper," will be very busy this TV season. She is the co-showrunner for ABC's spring hit "Resurrection" and also is the co-showrunner of the ABC series, "Agent Carter," that is expected to premiere on ABC in midseason. It is based on "Captain America" and was co-created by WNY native Christopher Markus.

I was glad to see that the University at Buffalo's Distinguished Speakers list includes HBO's John Oliver. His Sunday night program, "Last Week Tonight," has become my favorite new HBO program. Oliver got his HBO job after years working on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and taking over as host temporarily last summer when Stewart was making a film. Stewart and Stephen Colbert are previous Distinguished Speakers.

Inquiring minds want to know: Did the University at Buffalo get a rights fee from ESPN 1520 in the deal in which its football and basketball games are going to the sports channel? Hate to tell you, but UB is more likely to be paying than being paid. That’s how it goes for colleges in this area. I'm hearing that Canisius College and Niagara University also will be paying local radio stations to have their basketball games carried next season. They won't be going to 1270 The Fan, which lost UB and still may carry Syracuse football and basketball.

Finally, cheers to Channel 2 Sports Director Adam Benigni and Channel 7 Sports Director Jeff Russo for giving credit to Buffalo News sports columnist Bucky Gleason for reporting that Bryan Trottier will be named an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres. Too often, local stations don’t credit news organizations or reporters who initially break stories.



"Sharknado" sequel might have made local TV history!!!!!

By Alan Pergament

"Sharknado 2: The Second One" may have made local television history.

OK, I may have exaggerated a little.

There's no way to really instantly check if it became the highest-rated Syfy channel movie in Western New York history.

But that conclusion certainly makes more sense than the science in the basic cable movie that aired Wednesday night starring Ian Ziering, Tara Reid and all those D-list cameos.

A local researcher suspects that I am right, but added it might take him until "Sharknado 3" arrives to confirm it. (Once again, I'm exaggerating slightly).  

I certainly did my part adding to the hype with my Sunday review. It also didn't hurt that some scenes were shot in downtown Buffalo (did you see the Liberty Building in the background near the end?) and the Lockport Caves (where local actor Michael Dugan became shark food).

The first airing of the movie had a 4.4 rating locally from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday and the repeat that followed it at 11 p.m. had a 1.8 rating, giving it a combined local rating of 6.2.

To put the local 4.4 rating in perspective, it was more than three times the 1.3 rating that the original "Sharknado" had here when it surprisingly took Twitter by storm a year ago.

This Just In: According to media reports, the national audience for "Sharknado 2" was 3.9 million, which was almost triple the 1.4 million who watched the premiere of the original. The sequel set a national Syfy record. It had a 2.5 household rating, up 144 percent from the 1.0 rating the original had in 2013.

Locally, It also beat every prime time program Wednesday on ABC and Fox. ABC was running repeats of its comedies, including "Modern Family. " Fox was running "So You Think You Can Dance."

It also tied a repeat of "Criminal Minds" on CBS and came very close to tying "Big Brother," which in some ways is more mind-boogling than "Sharknado."  

Halle Berry's "Extant" beat the sharks with a 6.3 rating on Channel 4, which is only slightly higher than the 6.2 rating for the two combined runs of "Sharknado 2."

The 6.2 rating also was higher than the first hour of NBC's "America's Got Talent" (6.1). The second hour of "AGT" jumped the shark with a 8.6, but "Sharknado" ate up a new episode of "Taxi Brooklyn" (3.9) at 10 p.m. 

Of course, "Sharknado 2" was a huge Twitter success again, with numerous local amateur comedians suggesting some of the actors deserved Emmys.

My favorite moment in the intentionally stupid and campy film was when producer Michael Gellman of the daytime show "Live! with Kelly & Michael" became shark food. Runner-up: The moment Fin (Ziering) found the severed left hand of April (Reid) inside a shark, retrieved her engagement ring and asked her to marry him again.

Can't wait for the wedding to be interrupted by flying sharks in "Sharknado 3."      

Andre Reed to be interviewed live on Sunday Night Football

By Alan Pergament

What will Andre say and how will he say it?

That's the question after NBC's announcement this morning that Andre Reed, the retired Buffalo Bills wide receiver who enters the National Football League Hall of Fame on Saturday, will do a live interview on Sunday Night Football when the Bills play the New York Giants in a preseason game.

It sure will be interesting if Reed is asked about his recent expletive remark in a New York magazine about rocker Jon Bon Jovi's interest in buying the Bills and possibly moving them to Toronto.

I'm pretty sure Reed's remark endeared him even more with Bills fans, who after all have heard the expletive enough at the Ralph during games.

NBC also said that Michael Strahan, the former Giant who has turned into a daytime TV star with Kelly Ripa, also will be among the Hall of Famers interviewed live.

Let's just hope the interviews don't interfere too much with the game action. 

Interestingly, NBC's release is promoting the game by stating "that two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants will face 2014 fourth-overall pick WR Sammy Watkins of the Bills."

In other words, Watkins already is being viewed as a star before he plays his first down in the league. And just think, a few months ago many NFL analysts were suggesting that the Bills gave up way too much to move up in the draft to get him.  




Thoughts on Lauer, Roker, Bon Jovi and dealing with sharks

By Alan Pergament

This is what I'm thinking:

Inquiring minds want to know: Why would Matt Lauer and Al Roker of NBC’'s "Today" appear on "Sharknado 2: The Second One" on the Syfy channel at 9 tonight?

 It could be partly because the film is produced by NBC Universal, which makes it good cross-promotion.

They also have a lot of fun acting in a deadly serious manner.

Truth be told, they laugh a lot more on "Today" every day for silly reasons than they do on "Sharknado."

As expected, this morning on "Today," Matt and Al had a little fun at their own expense while showing some behind-the-scenes material concerning their "Sharknado" roles.

Lauer said the director told him, "thanks for doing this. I think this adds a lot of credibility to the movie."

He added that it would be the only time "Sharknado" and "credibility" would be used in the same sentence.  

The tougher question to answer is why Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan also have cameos in the movie since their show isn't produced by NBC Universal.

Of course, Kelly and Michael don’t appear on a news program so their reputations aren’t on the line in the same way as Lauer’s with journalism purists.

But let's face it, morning TV hosts jumped the shark journalistically years ago.

Speaking of sharks in the water: The reported bid Tuesday that a Toronto group led by rocker Jon Bon Jovi made to buy the Buffalo Bills certainly validates Jason LaConfora of CBS Sports. He is the reporter that last November – before the Bills played Atlanta in Toronto -- first revealed that Bon Jovi was interested in buying the team.

Some skepticism greeted the report.

I had some fun with it back then when I wrote: 

I have no idea if Jason LaCanfora''s report on CBS about Jon Bon Jovi's interest in buying the Buffalo Bills is credible or means anything. I understand why in the age of social media, it became a mainstream media story here. But I would have been more convinced about its credibility if LaCanfora had talked about it on his insider segment on CBS''pregame show Sunday. He didn't say a word about it in his segment on the big network. The tip seemed to be one of the online prayers that insiders throw out just in case they prove to be accurate five years down the road. I certainly smiled when LaCanfora cited as evidence of Bon Jovi's interest in the Bills that the singer added a Buffalo concert date to his tour. If that is evidence, then I'm thinking Rihanna and Michael Buble might be interested in buying the Bills, too.

I suppose La Confora deserves some praise now, even if I still wonder why he didn't mention the Bon Jovi story on the big network.

But Bon Jovi's Los Angeles-based publicist, Ken Sunshine, has some explaining to do.

Back then, Sunshine responded to LaCanfora's report by saying, "it's preposterous to say he's had any discussions with the Bills and Erie County. The Bills are not for sale, and he has too much respect for Mr. (Ralph) Wilson to engage in any discussions of buying the team."

Of course, Bon Jovi's public relations team had to say that because it was unseemly to talk about buying the team while Mr. Wilson was still alive. He died four months later on March 25.

Some people might reflect on Sunshine's carefully-worded statement when hearing the singer now claims he isn't interested in moving the team from Buffalo. He has to say that or else the Bills would be a lame-duck team until it became easier to break the lease after the seventh year of its current 10-year lease. 

Channel 2 Sports Director Adam Benigni certainly isn't buying the singer's recent claim that he would keep the team here. Benigni gave a strongly-worded opinion Tuesday night that that the Bon Jovi group does want to move the team to Toronto. You rarely hear opinions that strong here from any sports anchor.

I would like to see more reporting on the impact the move of a NFL team would have on the Canadian Football League, the Toronto Argonauts and Canadian politics. That old issue -- and whether it is applicable -- has seemed to have gotten lost in all the Bon Jovi talk. It should be addressed again.

One more thing: I don't think it is a good idea for Bon Jovi to have a concert here right now. If he thinks he'd get as much love as James Taylor received Tuesday night or Justin Timberlake a few weeks earlier, he's living on a prayer.



Ch.2's experiment with Sunday psychic show pays off instantly

By Alan Pergament

I didn't see this one coming.

But then again, the closest thing I am to being psychic is predicting that Channel 4's Don Paul would react to my Monday blog about last weekend's weather forecasts.

In any event, there I was watching Channel 2 at 11:35 p.m. Sunday when a new program, "2 the Unknown with Karyn Reece," appeared.

I wasn't alone. (Actually I was alone in my room. At least I think I was.)

The program, which wasn't heavily promoted, had a higher rating Sunday here than any network program on Channel 2 or Channel 7 in prime time and even defeated a repeat of "Criminal Minds" on Channel 4.

That was almost as shocking as it would have been to learn that my grandfather was trying to speak to me from the grave.

As she explained repeatedly throughout the program, Reece is a psychic medium. She used to have a program on WBBZ, which attracted a sold-out studio audience that paid to watch.

Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner explained Monday that he decided to give Reece's program a four-week tryout. Its second episode is scheduled to run this Sunday, but the time is unknown since NBC's coverage of the Buffalo Bills-New York Giants preseason game may run late.

"'Sports Extra' is on hiatus and so is 'Spiel the Wine,'" explained Toellner. "We're always looking out for local programming options."

Continue reading "Ch.2's experiment with Sunday psychic show pays off instantly " »

Weekend reflections on weather reports, movies, golf and soccer

By Alan Pergament

It is time to complain about the weather.

It was too nice over the weekend.

That was certainly true compared to the weather forecasts on local news, which I am really complaining about.

I suppose it was my own fault, but I trusted them.

I'm not complaining about anyone in particular, because I am sure if I did Channel 4's Pope Don Paul would complain that I misread his analysis. (On Facebook Friday afternoon, Paul predicted it "looks like we'll be dry more than wet this weekend, but still tricky.")

I channel surf a lot in my job and late last week I heard most weather experts say that although Friday was gorgeous, there was going to be a decent amount of rain over the weekend.

So I planned accordingly.

Because that's what the local meteorologists do -- help us plan our weekends. 

Rather than go to Canalside to soak in the sun and the music, I went to a movie late Saturday afternoon, "A Most Wanted Man" with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was happy to check out the renovated North Park Theater, which was finally showing a movie I cared to see.

It was great. The North Park, that is. The movie not so much. Hoffman was terrific as usual, but it is easier to figure out what Jon Bon Jovi really thinks about whether the Buffalo Bills should be moved than it was to understand the dark plot of the film based on a John le Carre story.

I think the film was OK even if it was over-rated nationally. But then again, I think every movie this summer has been over-rated. That is except "Boyhood," which I saw in New York City more than a week ago and plan to see again when it arrives here. It is the best movie of the summer. It is almost three hours long and you hardly notice it.

But back to Saturday afternoon.

I fully expected to emerge from the darkness of " A Most Wanted Man" to see the predicted rain.

However, it was sunny outside. Very sunny.

The rain never came Saturday, but surely would arrive Sunday afternoon as predicted.

Or not.

Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.

So I went off to the driving range Sunday in the countryside with the top of a convertible down, not caring if the rains came. I haven't hit a golf ball on the range in more than two years, but was inspired by a recent "Real Sports" report on HBO that said the sport is in serious trouble because it is too expensive, takes too long to play and is too frustrating.

If it is easier to get on a course now, then maybe I should get back in the game.

The golf piece wasn't even the most compelling in that "Real Sports" episode, which I saw late Saturday night.

The most compelling piece was about the migrant workers in Qatar, who are building the facilities for the World Cup in 2022 in oppressive conditions that have led to hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths. 

And the workers can't get out of their jobs, either, and go home to their native countries.

It is a very, very sad, inhumane story that makes you wonder how the United States can possibly compete in the soccer tournament in Qatar unless FIFA steps in immediately and forces the mega-rich country to change its ways. Affter all, playing soccer in Qatar eight years from now would seem to be condoning what is being done there. 

You would think that some pressure from the United States, which had a large percentage of fans at the World Cup matches recently completed in Brazil, would also help change things.     

But back to golf.

I was terrible. But that was as predictable as the weather people getting it wrong sometimes. The rains stayed away until late at night, when it didn't really matter.

It looks like rain this morning, which means I might head back to the movies. I just wish "Boyhood" was playing here so I could see it again. 


Ch. 4's interim news director has a lot on his plate

By Alan Pergament

This is what I'm thinking about a busy news week:

Channel 4's interim news director, Peter Jacobus, sure has several staff hiring issues on his plate however long he stays here.

That's because the former Channel 4 news director, Joe Schlaerth, had a reputation for being very slow to fill open positions. That was true throughout his 10-year tenure as news director. However, it is possible he wasn't allowed to hire anyone in recent months because he was about to be let go.

I would have liked to ask Channel 4 General Manager Rene LaSpina about that, but she still hasn't  answered my telephone call from Wednesday after Schlaerth was removed.

In any event, here are some of the immediate things that probably are on Jacobus' plate:

Replace former anchor Diana Fairbanks, whose 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts have been filled by Don Postles and Jacquie Walker since Fairbanks worked her last newscast more than a month ago.

Replace meteorologist Brian Shaw, who got a job in Louisville quickly after being led out the door after being fired in early June.

Replace sports producer Jay Harris, who left in March to produce John Murphy's radio show on WGR. That means Steve Vesey and Lauren Brill are Channel 4's only sports staffers at a busy time with the Buffalo Bills in training camp. 

Hire a third sports reporter, which has been on Channel 4's agenda for months. It is unclear if the new sports reporter actually will fill Harris' position.

Replace several important people who worked behind the scenes and have left.

Jacobus has a fan in former Channel 2 General Manager Steve Cohen, who currently is the news director at KUSI-TV in San Diego.

After Wednesday's blog listed some of Jacobus' credentials that I was able to gather from a google search (Channel 4 didn't put out a release), Cohen sent me an email.

"Your description of Pete Jacobus does him some disservice. He is one of the longest standing, most respected news directors in the profession. He is a superior newsman, who has covered most of the major stories of the last four decades. He ran KGO-TV (in San Francisco) in its heyday, and virtually mentored, hired, and led a generation of news executives from New York to Los Angeles.

"We have been colleagues from the time he ran KGO and I was at WXYZ in Detroit. Buffalo will find his leadership and community-based news gathering a refreshing change for viewers of WIVB."

Cohen concluded his email by saying something nice about my coverage of his "crazy profession."

Crazy indeed. In Buffalo, we have a TV channel that covers news that refuses to be interviewed when it makes news.  

I also received an email from WBBZ-TV's John DiSciullo, director of promotion and production, that noted my column last Sunday about all the digital channels available free over-the-air failed to mention the extra channels WBBZ carries. I was aware of it, but primarily dealt with the new sub-channels being offered.

"At WBBZ-TV we offer the following," wrote DiSciullo:

WBBZ    67.2:   THIS TV – the 24/7 movie channel offered by MGM. THIS TV was on our main channel before MeTV launched.

WBBZ    67.3       MeTV-  available 24/7 without our local program insertion.

WBBZ    67.4        DAYSTAR – Religious programming 24/7

Program Note: If you missed the June compilation episode of Visit Buffalo Niagara's web-based series "Buffalo For Real TV" with Nelson Starr as host, be advised it is being repeated  on two Sinclair Broadcast stations this weekend. It airs at 4:30 p.m. Saturday on WNYO and at 4 p.m. Sunday on WUTV. It also was written by Starr. John Paget is the director.

Edward J. Healy, vice president of marketing for Visit Buffalo, Niagara, reports there is a possibility that it will produce another half-hour special to air this fall.

Finally, inquiring minds want to know what happened to Williamsville East graduate Justin Rhodes during Judgment Week on "America's Got Talent"? The singer didn't make it to the round of 48.

Celebration mixed with concern over Schlaerth's departure

By Alan Pergament

The removal of Joe Schlaerth as news director of Channel 4 Wednesday might have caused some Western New Yorkers to ask, Joe Who?

But his departure from the station could have a significant impact on the presentation of local news.

That is why inside the CBS affiliate, the end of Schlaerth's Channel 4 career was greeted with a mixture of celebration and concern.

The celebration occurred because Schlaerth was not a popular boss. That became clear when the LIN station conducted focus groups about station management in 2013 and Schlaerth was given very low grades. I'm told some staffers celebrated by bringing in pizza and brownies.

The concern was over the uncertainty his removal brings to a station whose newscasts are dull and stodgy, primary reasons it is losing the demographic battle for viewers ages 18-49 and 25-54 to Channel 2.

Schlaerth was a Channel 4 lifer. He worked at the station for more than 30 years, beginning as an intern and rising through the ranks to assignment editor, executive news producer and eventually news director 10 years ago.

The culture of the station was in his blood and he was viewed as unlikely to make major changes because of it. He was named news director by another Channel 4 lifer, Chris Musial, after Musial was promoted to general manager. Musial was replaced a year ago by Rene LaSpina, who arrived with a reputation of being a tough, bottom-line oriented boss and in a year has pretty much validated that opinion. LaSpina, who declined to return telephone calls, gave Schlaerth a year to fix his management skills and the station's ratings and then let him go. 

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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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