Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

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.  

UB deal means Syracuse is being dropped from ESPN 1520

By Alan Pergament

The move of University at Buffalo football and basketball radio broadcasts from Sports Radio 1270 The Fan to ESPN 1520 won't make every local college sports fan happy.

That's because it means that Syracuse University games in those sports no longer will be carried by the 50,000 watt station where UB is headed in a move that will increase the exposure of its athletic program.

Greg Ried, the general manager of ESPN 1520 and all local Entercom stations, confirmed Thursday night that Syracuse is being dropped.

"ESPN 1520 will be exclusive to UB sports as far as full season coverage," wrote Ried in an email.

Asked if that meant Syracuse games wouldn't be carried on any Entercom station -- it also owns WGR and WBEN -- Ried wrote: "As of right now we will not."

That would seem to leave an opening for 1270 The Fan to carry the Orange if Syracuse is willing to go on a station affiliated with CBS Sports Radio that only operates with 1,000 watts at night and 5,000 in the daytime.

I reached out to a 1270 representative Thursday night to see if the station would be interested in carrying Syracuse and will report when I hear back.

While Entercom's decision to carry the local college team is commendable and understandable, you could have a lively debate here whether there is more local interest in UB basketball or Syracuse basketball.

There are a lot of Syracuse graduates in the area (full disclosure: I am one of several members of the local media who is a SU graduate if you didn't know that already), its basketball program is annually one of the best in the country and it now plays in the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference.

Syracuse's two appearances in the NCAA tournament at the First Niagara Center last March -- it lost the second game to Dayton -- attracted so many SU fans that they were like home games for Jim Boeheim's squad.

However, just about every Syracuse basketball game is carried either on national or local television, which might reduce interest in its radio broadcasts.

Still, Syracuse's games should be attractive enough to interest 1270 The Fan enough to consider trying to make a deal to carry them to offset its UB loss.

If not, it wouldn't be shocking to see Entercom try to carry some Syracuse games on one of its stations in the area when they don't conflict with UB games.    


Praising, criticizing Channel 2 for promotion and advertising

By Alan Pergament

I've come to praise Channel 2 for its promotion and criticize it a little for promoting something involving an advertiser during its newscast.

First, the positive.

The praise goes to the promos, which the station usually does very well.

I'm not counting the one currently running in which it has viewers mouth promotional cliches that sound like they've been brainwashed into thinking Channel 2 is "on their side," "holds people in power accountable" and gives a "voice to the voiceless."

That promo is pretty lame.

But you may recall that I wrote a while back about members of the station's promotional department -- Dan Meyers, Jim Caskie and Justin Wahowski -- getting nominated for the prestigious national Promax Awards.

It turns out they won one gold, two silvers and one bronze medal late last month in Las Vegas.

The gold winner was for its promo, "Winter's Coming."

One of the silvers was for the comical "We're Ready for the Olympics" campaign, which I thought was its best promo. It's the one that had several staffers involved in Olympic events, including anchor Maryalice Demler on skates.

Continue reading "Praising, criticizing Channel 2 for promotion and advertising " »

Did Trump's ego take a bruising from "Celebrity" treatment?

By Alan Pergament

This what I'm thinking:

Remember when filming "Celebrity Apprentice" seemed to be an impediment for Donald Trump's dalliance with running for governor of New York State on the Republican ticket.

Apparently, it wouldn't have been that big a problem.

During the ongoing, semiannual television critics meetings in Los Angeles, Paul Telegdy, president of NBC's reality and late night programming, reportedly said the season has been produced but hasn't been scheduled to air. 

"In terms of actually scheduling the current season, it's partly we have a wealth of new material," Telegdy reportedly said. "We haven't figured out the perfect place for the 'Celebrity Apprentice' to go."

Boy, I can't imagine how much that statement bruised Trump's ego, which is the size of a football field. His show isn't important enough to make the schedule yet?

At least Trump's ego is being stroked by all the continuing reports about how interested he is in buying the Buffalo Bills. His net worth, according to Forbes, is $3.9 billion. 

My friend from Toronto, Bill Brioux, had the most entertaining take on Telegdy's statement about Trump's show: "It might turn up in a year's time, or when Trump stops mouthing off about running for president, or never," wrote Brioux. Knowing Bill, he was probably being sarcastic about it never airing.

I can't see it never airing because that would be a lot of money for NBC to eat.

Speaking of the Bills continuing story, the report from the Toronto Sun's John Kryk that former Buffalo Sabres Owner Tom Golisano is going to bid for the Bills alone and "is in it to win it" sure is getting a lot of mileage in the Buffalo media.

You wish the local media might note that the billionaire's reported net worth by Forbes is $2.1 billion, which means he'd probably have to pay half of it to become the successful bidder.

Sabres Owner Terry Pegula, who bought the Sabres from Golisano, is mentioned in Kryk's story. According to Forbes, his network worth is $3.3 billion. You don't have to do much math to see that Pegula would most likely win any "in it to win it battle" if it was only between the two men.

Inquiring minds want to know: Who is Josh Kozlowski, who showed up again doing the weather for Channel 2 last weekend.

He's a freelancer that Channel 2 is using on weekends while Jennifer Stanonis is on maternity leave.

According to Channel 2 News Director Jeff Woodard, Kozlowski also does free-lance work for a Rochester station and worked for five years for Time Warner Cable in Syracuse.

Channel 4 also is using a weather free-lancer, Keith Eichner, on weekends as it looks for Bryan Shaw's replacement.

Finally, ABC/ESPN only credited the Buffalo market with an 8.6 rating for Germany's 1-0 victory over Argentina in the World Cup final. I gave it a 10.4 rating. We scored the game differently. I took out the low-rated portion of the pregame show that ABC counted and just used the game time and intermission. I don't know why ABC includes the pregame, but I suspect it has something to do with advertising since the pregame and halftime is the only time ads are run. The national rating -- including the pregame portion -- was a 9.1.   


Local World Cup rating out of this world for soccer

By Alan Pergament

Germany's 1-0 victory over Argentina in extra time Sunday to win the World Cup had local ratings that were out of this world for soccer.

ABC's coverage during game time from 3 p.m. to around 5:45 p.m. had a 10.4 rating on local affililate Channel 7, which was more than double the 4.6 local rating for Spain's victory over Netherlands four years ago during game time.

The rain showers Sunday afternoon may have helped the local rating, as did the fact the game went into extra time.

However, the rating clearly confirms the impressive surge in interest in the United States and Western New York for the soccer competition played every four years. The question now is whether the interest will continue beyond the World Cup. 

The final hour of Sunday's game from 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. averaged a 12.5 rating locally, peaking at 13.7 in the final 15 minutes when the winning goal was scored by Germany's Mario Gotze.

While Univision also has had impressive national ratings for its coverage of the World Cup, its coverage didn't register a rating here. The channel is only on Time Warner Cable's Buffalo system, the satellite dishes and FiOs.

The national rating for the World Cup isn't available at this writing. It may include the pregame show, which will lower the rating.

Update: ESPN reports the game averaged a 9.7 overnight rating in the 56 metered markets, including Buffalo. That includes the pregame show, which is why ESPN says that Buffalo averaged an 8.6 rating rather than a 10.4 rating. The rating is reduced when the low-rated pregame show is added. Still, ESPN said Buffalo was one of 12 markets that recorded its highest men's World Cup rating ever.   

To put the local rating in further perspective, let's compare the World Cup final to the decisive games in major sports.

The World Cup rating was:

Higher than the 9.2 rating on Channel 2 for the Los Angeles Kings title clincher over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals.

Higher than the 8.6 rating on Channel 7 for San Antonio's title clincher over the Miami Heat in the NBA finals.

Higher than the 9.6 rating on WUTV for the Boston Red Sox's World Series clincher over the St. Louis Cardinals.

However, it was lower than the 12.2 rating on Channel 4 for the University at Connecticut's NCAA men's basketball final victory over Kentucky.

It was nowhere near the 51.0 rating on WUTV for Seattle's Super Bowl romp over Denver. But expecting the world version of football to compete with interest in the American version on television was way too much to ask. 

Reasons for James' return to Cleveland may resonate in Buffalo

By Alan Pergament

The Budweiser commercial called "Hero's Welcome" about a serviceman coming home earned an Emmy nomination Thursday morning.

This afternoon, the poignant music and lyrics in the song played in the ad -- "Coming Home" -- were played on national talk shows hosted by Jim Rome on WGR and Colin Cowherd on WWKB after NBA supertar LeBron James announced he was coming home to the Cleveland Cavaliers after winning two titles in four years with the Miami Heat.

Of course, a NBA star coming home isn't on the same level as the return of a serviceman.

But undoubtedly, James eventually will be getting a hero's welcome when he returns to Ohio after a trip Sunday to the World Cup final in Brazil.

For sports fans anyway, James' announcement was one of those "where were you moments?"

I was in my car listening to Rome and Cowherd at different times. They immediately cheered the letter that James wrote for Sports Illustrated that beautifully explained why he was going back to his home state and what he hoped to accomplish beyond just basketball.

Rome described James' return to Cleveland "as one of the greatest sports stories I've ever seen."

Cowherd spoke in similar terms about the letter, in which James talked about Ohio and its residents in the same way that Buffalonians would would hope a celebrity would talk about their hometown.

I imagine some WNYers hearing the letter aloud by the radio hosts might have almost felt as emotional as Ohio natives because James was not just writing about that area but all areas like it.

Rome made the point that the low key way that James handled this decision was as good as the egotistical way "The Decision" he made on ESPN four years ago was bad.

James certainly kept his plans to himself, which had national media James' experts guessing and second guessing what he planned to do right up to the last minute. And often guessing wrong.

On Thursday afternoon, I heard Miami-based radio host Dan LeBatard essentially say he was buying the Heat's apparent confidence in keeping James.

On Friday morning, I heard ESPN's Brian Windhorst, who has been on the James' beat for years, speculate that James might sign a one-year deal to stay with the Heat.

Windhorst was one of several ESPN experts speculating on what James might do slightly before James' announcement was made.

Tim Kurkjian, who covers baseball for ESPN analyst, made the most sense Thursday when he was asked on "Pardon the Interruption" what he thought James would do.

Of course, he had no idea. But he said he was rooting for James to return to Cleveland because it made for "the best story" and he always roots for the story.

That was pretty much my feeling Monday when I concluded a blog by writing LBJ's return to Clevleand would be "a great story."

It was made even greater by how beautifully James expressed why he was "coming home."  



Berry's series a local hit; Hanks' "Sixties" series gets Emmy nod

By Alan Pergament

This is what I'm thinking;

Buffalo fell much more in love with Halle Berry's new series "Extant" than the nation did.

But that's expected because Channel 4 is one of the strongest performing affiliates in the country for CBS programming.

The Wednesday premiere had a 9.1 rating here, easily defeating a repeat of NBC's reality powerhouse "America's Got Talent" (7.9) in the hour that they went head-to-head.

Nationally, "Extant" had a 6.7 household rating, which analysts described as solid, but unspectacular compared to last season's debut of "Under the Dome."

CBS also repeated "Extant" Thursday night.

It will be interesting to see Sunday afternoon if the Buffalo market approaches the national rating of the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. The game is being carried on ABC.

Argentina's penalty kick victory Wednesday after a scoreless 90 minutes had about a 3.7 rating on ESPN here, well below the 4.3 rating it had nationally when it became the highest-rated and most viewed World Cup game on the ESPN networks that didn't involve the United States men's team. 

Germany's 7-1 destruction of Brazil Tuesday had a 3.0 rating here, well below the 4.2 rating it had nationally.

The local numbers are decent, just not in the range that you might expect in a market that was one of the strongest in the country for NBC's coverage of the Premier League.

As the Buffalo Bills training camp nears, the key local question is whether Channel 7 or Channel 4 will be the first to hire a new sportscaster.

Channel 7's owner, E.W. Scripps, also has posted job openings for a news producer, two associate producers and someone on the assignment desk. Clearly, Scripps realizes it needs help behind the scenes before it hires new reporters and anchors.

Channel 4's newest reporter, Joe Melillo, made his on-air debut this week. According to the station website, Melillo was born in Stony Brook, Long Island and most recently has been a reporter at WENY in Elmira. He is a graduate of Trinity College in Connecticut.  

I enjoyed Thursday night's episode of CNN's series on "The Sixties" that dealt with the British Invasion on the music scene that got a big boost from the arrival of The Beatles. The series produced by Tom Hanks' company had the rare distinction of being nominated for an Emmy Thursday while the series is still playing. The episode on "The Assassination of President Kennedy" was nominated in the outstanding documentary or nonfiction special category. The American Experience program on "JFK" was nominated in the same category.

And National Geographic's "Killing Kennedy'"was nominated in the outstanding movie category.        

« Older Entries

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 |