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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. 

Continue reading "Celebration mixed with concern over Schlaerth's departure" »

Ch.4 news director Schlaerth is out

By Alan Pergament

Channel 4 News Director Joe Schlaerth is no longer working at the station, multiple sources inside the CBS affiliate have confirmed.

His departure -- all the sources say he was fired this morning -- is no surprise considering how unpopular he has been inside the news department.

Indeed, it was more surprising that he lasted this long running the news department of the LIN station.

A 1984 graduate of the University at Buffalo, Schlaerth had worked at Channel 4 for more than 30 years, the last 10 years as news director. He began his career there as an intern, worked part-time while at UB and was assignment editor and executive producer before becoming news director in 2004. 

About a year ago when Rene LaSpina was named as Channel 4's new general manager, I wrote that "her biggest decision concerns the status of Schlaerth. LIN was told how unpopular he is when it conducted focus groups about the station’s management several months ago. The station’s improved demographics in May may help Schlaerth."

LaSpina appparently decided to give Schlaerth a year to illustrate he should stay on the job and possibly improve his management skills and the station's ratings.

The same demographics that helped him a year ago may have done him in a year later, as Channel 2 dominated in the key categories that advertisers are looking for this past May.

LaSpina could not be immediately reached for comment. I'm told that she told the staff that Schlaerth had been "removed" rather than use the word fired.

In an attempt to contact Schlaerth in the news department, I was told that he no longer works at the station.

According to sources, the new interim news director is Peter Jacobus, who most recently worked as a news director in Colorado Springs.


Reprising a memorable interview with James Garner

By Alan Pergament

When I read all the glowing and deserved tributes to the late James Garner online and in newspapers after his death Saturday, I decided I couldn't add much to the praise of his everyman likability, charm and good looks. He was what my father would refer to as a man's man.

My dad also used to say "there is only one Paul Newman." "There is only one Clark Gable." "There is only one Humphrey Bogart."

It was his highest praise of an actor.

I'm sure if he were alive, my dad would have said, "there was only one James Garner." 

Garner's TV success in "Maverick" and "The Rockford Files" predated my time as a television critic even if some of you think I've been doing this forever.

I watched those series as a regular viewer and admired Garner's ability to make characters who engaged in questionable behavior become appealing anyway.

But I don't remember much about all those episodes. Heck, I don't remember much about this season's episodes of "House of Cards."

Once I became a TV critic, I didn't have time to watch what I liked in the past. I had to focus on the present and future.

What I did remember was being in Los Angeles for a press conference appearance by Garner with television critics 20 years ago. I didn't remember writing the story, but thanks to a search of this newspaper's online library I found the story with my byline and re-read it.

In 1994, he was promoting six, two-hour versions of "The Rockford Files” that he agreed to make after several years of saying no to returning as private detective Jim Rockford. He also was co-starring in that summer's feature film remake of "Maverick."

Here is an edited version of the 1994 column, which I felt after reading it again captures Garner's spirit,  sense of humor, work ethic, wit and view of the moral responsibility of entertainment.

After years of saying no to returning as private detective Jim Rockford, Garner has agreed to make six two-hour versions of "The Rockford Files" for CBS over the next two years.

Why has he finally decided to reprise an Emmy-winning role that is making a new generation of fans on cable''s Arts & Entertainment channel?

"Money!"" deadpanned Garner. "I'm being -- I think I'm being funny. You want to know the real truth? I'm of an age that I don't know if I could do this three or four years down the line. And I want to do it. And if I'm going to do it, I should do it now. And it's a wonderful character to do; it's been very successful in my life, and I'd like to give it one more shot.

"I used to love to get up and go to work every day. My alarm never went off. I was up before it, and I went to work and I was always early. And I stayed there, and I was the last guy leaving the set because I enjoyed it so much. And I want to do that again."

Also returning: Original cast members Stuart Margolin as his ex-con friend, Angel Martin, and Joe Santos as irascible Detective Dennis Becker. But Garner said Noah Berry has suffered a couple of strokes and won't be able to return as Rockford's dad.

More importantl, creator Stephen J. Cannell and writers Juanita Bartlett and David Chase are aboard doing three of the scripts.

Chase (editor’s note: He went on to fame as the creator of "The Sopranos") said the first movie will bring "everyone up to speed to where Rockford is today."

Actually, he hasn't gone far. He is still living on the beach in the trailer.

"This guy can get nowhere fast!" cracked Garner.

One place Garner isn't going is the Universal lot to shoot the films. Garner, who was in a celebrated financial dispute with the studio over profits from the original series, wasn't about to enter the lot.

"I told this to the Universal people when we were negotiating," said Garner. ""To drive onto that lot every day to me would be like sticking a knife in my ribs and reminding me of a very bad circumstance before."

How can he be sure that the problems with Universal won't happen again?

"The deal is different," said Garner. "To put it very simply, they give me the money, we give them the film."

Garner, whose effortless charm was on display for the entire interview, credits his writers for the success of the original show, which ran from 1974 to 1980.

"I love the character of Rockford," said Garner. "It's a wonderful, wonderful antihero. . . . The character's always appealed to me because he's not your average, run-of-the-mill hero."

He will change only slightly, according to Chase.

"His attitudes have not changed," said Chase. "The only thing we can say is, Los Angeles is a vastly different city, and he's found it more and more difficult to live in L.A."

Garner agrees that today's antiheroes don't have the same sense of humor as Maverick and Rockford and often tend to be more mean-spirited.

"I have problems with some of the heroes today who must kill all those people,"said Garner. "I don't  know what it is about producers and writers who have to kill 30 people in the first reel.

"I don't think it's particularly good entertainment. I don't think it's that exciting and I think there's a moral responsibility. Particularly if you're going to do something for television, you have a moral responsibility to do things that are not detrimental to society."

By just making "Rockford" again, Garner is doing his bit for society.

"I get it every day," said Garner. "When are you going to do 'Rockford' again? It's very pleasing to know that people want it."

Some views about news concerning "Curb," "Flash" and "Big Bang"

By Alan Pergament

This is what I'm thinking:

One of the most frequently-asked questions I receive is whether there is ever going to be another episode of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Larry David, who stars in and writes the series, was recently asked himself by HBO programmer Michael Lombardo. The last original episode of the series, which deals with all the things that annoy and irritate David, aired in 2011.

According to one published report, Lombardo told the Television Critics Association that he recently asked David "should I emotionally get 'Curb' out of my head?' And he goes, 'No, no, no, no, no.'""

So there's your answer.

Yes, there possibly will be another season.

To be honest, I've been getting almost as annoyed as David being asked the question for the past few years.

I wasn't at the TCA press tour, but I followed some of the newsy developments from Beverly Hills, Calif. by reading reports from my colleagues.

Continue reading "Some views about news concerning "Curb," "Flash" and "Big Bang" " »

Ch.7 adds third member of sports team; Critics honor "Good Wife"

 By Alan Pergament

It may be last in local news, but Channel 7 beat Channel 4 at something.

While Channel 4 keeps looking for a third member of its sports team, Channel 7 has found its replacement for Allen Leight, who now works for the Buffalo Sabres.

Nick Filipowski arrives at the E. W. Scripps station from KTIV in Sioux City, Iowa, where he has been a weekend sports anchor and reporter. He moves from the 147th TV market to the No. 52 market.

Here is what he says about himself in his KTIV bio: "Growing up in a military family, I lived in eight states and in Japan for eight years.  Moving and living in different places, and experiencing new cultures allowed me to gain a better understanding of sports and the stories that drive the business."

"After graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I spent the next few months selling shoes for New Balance,  before landing my first job as the Weekend Sports Anchor at KNOP-TV in North Platte, Nebraska.

"I love the Yankees, Nets and Broncos. Yes, I bleed Husker red."

The Broncos? Channel 7 will have to talk to him about that. 

He doesn't arrive until mid-August, which means the station will have to cover the Buffalo Bills training camp with Sports Director Jeff Russo and backup Shawn Stepner.

Channel 4, which lost sports producer Jay Harris to John Murphy's Buffalo Bills radio show on WGR and only has two on-air sports staffers in Steve Vesey and Lauren Brill, has been looking for a third member of the sports staff for weeks. However, the station is often slow to fill positions.

In another sports note, John Hager, program director of 97 Rock and Sports Radio 1270 The Fan,  wouldn't say if 1270 is interested in carrying Syracuse University football and basketball now that ESPN 1520 has dropped the Orange in favor of a new deal with the University at Buffalo.

But he did't rule it out, either.

"We are looking at several options to replace UB sports, and should have an announcement soon," Hager said in an email.

Finally, "The Good Wife" may have been ignored in the best drama category of the Emmys, but the Television Critics Association honored the CBS series for "outstanding achievement in drama" at its annual awards Saturday in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Here are some other TCA winners:

"Breaking Bad" of AMC as the program of the year.

Matthew McConaughey of HBO's "True Detective" for individual achievement in drama.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus of HBO's "Veep" for individual achievement in comedy.

"COSMOS: A Space Time Odyssey"  on Fox for outstanding achievement in news and informational programming.

"RuPaul's Drag Race" on LOGO for outstanding achievement in reality programming.

"The Fosters'" on ABC Family  for outstanding achievement in youth programming.

"Orange is the New Black" on Netflix for outstanding new program.

"True Detective" for  outstanding achievement in movies, miniseries and specials.

"Veep" and "Louie" (Fx)for outstanding achievement in comedy.

NBC's "Saturday Night Live" earned the Herritage Award and director James Burrows earned the Career Achievement Award.  

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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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