As an early-to-bed-early-to-rise kind of guy, I'm not likely to be found channel- surfing at 2 a.m.
But if I turned on the TV at that hour, I'd tune it to ABC's "World News Now." For that viewing tip I have to thank Kevin Barkes of Library. Last week he sent me a tape of this late-night TV news program.
Barkes has been a devoted fan of "World News Now" since its premiere seven years ago, and it's easy to see why. The national newscast not only delivers interesting long-form reports, it also has a sly sense of humor.
Sometime anchor Anderson Cooper reported on an unusual shortage in a recent broadcast.
"Across the U.S. rationing measures have been imposed due to a shortage of those over-the-shoulder boxes used on TV news," Cooper said straight-faced. "The shoulder boxes are typically used as a graphic reminder of whatever story is being read by the news anchor at the time. Network and local news shows typically use as many as a dozen per half-hour. The shortage is being blamed on 24-hour news channels, possibly MSNBC...
"Thankfully, camera turns remain plentiful," Cooper said as he made an exaggerated turn from one camera to another. Anchor Juju Chang could be heard laughing in the background.
Is that great or what?
Chang is the show's permanent anchor, and last week she had a new sidekick. A viewer sent e-mail complimenting co-anchor Dean Staley on his ears. Chang said she thought he looked like a Ferengi, a large-eared alien from "Star Trek." Later in the broadcast a picture of a Ferengi popped on screen with Staley's face super-imposed.
Barkes, a computer systems consultant in database publishing, sent a videotape of himself offering commentary to "World News Now" for the show's viewer feedback segment. Not only did they play the tape, but they invited him on the show when producers learned he was in New York on business. Chang even asked him to read the weather off a TelePrompTer.
"They spent tens of dollars on the set," Barkes told the anchors.
"You're overestimating our budget," Chang replied.
"World News Now," which airs on WTAE from 2:05 to 5 a.m., isn't just about fun and games. There are in-depth reports from sources such as Discovery News and ESPN and reports from local stations across the country.
If nothing else, "World News Now" is the only national newscast with its own polka, which closes the broadcast every night: "Politics and foreign wars, all the weather, all the scores, that's the 'World News' polka.... They make us work the graveyard shift, that's why we go for broke. So why not tune in ABC and join our little joke?"
Tuning in may be asking too much for those who aren't night owls, but that's why the VCR was invented.
KIDS TV ALERT: For parents with children who are into "Pokémon" -- and given the following of Pikachu and company, there are many of you out there -- the show moves to a new channel and time slots beginning Monday.
Previously seen in syndication at 6:30 a.m. weekdays on WPGH (Channel 53), "Pokémon" will become a Kids' WB! exclusive, airing on WCWB (Channel 22) weekdays at 7 a.m., 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. Just be sure to change the channel before "The Jerry Springer Show" comes on at 5.
TELETHON: The annual "Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon" begins Sunday at 11:35 p.m. and airs until Monday at 6:30 p.m. on WPXI. Don Gawryla, Channel 11 special projects producer, said local breaks will run for about 15 minutes Monday morning and 20 minutes Monday afternoon leading up to a 30-minute finale at 6 p.m.
Local portions of the telethon, broadcast live from Monroeville Mall, will kick things off at 11:35 p.m. Sunday. Bill Cardille hosts with new weekend co-anchor Keith Jones and consumer reporter Becky Thompson, who recently returned from maternity leave.
Monday morning Dennis Bowman, Amy Marcinkiewicz and Rick Earle will be on duty. Cardille returns Monday afternoon with David Johnson, Peggy Finnegan and Darieth Chisolm. Bob Bruce will report live from the Shop 'N Save in East Rochester.
Gawryla said several local features on area residents battling neuromuscular diseases will air during the broadcast, but there will be no local entertainment.
"We let Jerry Lewis handle the blockbuster entertainment," Gawryla said. "Our goal is to raise as much money as we can to help children and adults with muscular dystrophy."
SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE: WPGH's 10 p.m. news had a worthwhile story last week on baskets of hanging flowers in Market Square obscuring "No Parking" signs.
Nothing fancy about the report, but it conveyed helpful information on what to do if you get a ticket for unwittingly parking in a no-parking zone. The story also reported on steps being taken to remedy the situation. It was the type of story a reporter could get by simple observation, a tried and true approach.
SMART PREDICTIONS: TV critics love to point to the movie "Network" as the most prescient depiction of the media at the end of the century, but the TV show "Max Headroom" did a pretty good job, too.
Bravo is airing a marathon of 12 episodes from the 1987 ABC series from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and at 5 and 11 a.m. and 2:20 p.m. Sunday.
Set "20 minutes into the future," the show depicts a world where TV ratings are measured minute-by-minute, which is almost the case today (I usually see measurements for 15-minute periods).
In a recently-aired episode, Max (Matt Frewer) was appalled at the violence on a children's show called "Missile Mike," in which the lead character used a machine gun to shoot at everything and anything. Thankfully, the reality of kids' TV in 1999 isn't quite that bad.
Rob Owen can be reached at (412) 263-2582 or email@example.com. For more TV news, go to www.post-gazette.com/tv.