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Tuned In: NBC's 'Ed' promising, but buried on Sundays

Thursday, August 03, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

It's never too early to start stumping for a quality show.

Last season "Freaks and Geeks" was the NBC series most in need of critical and network support. It got the former, but never the latter. Let's hope the same fate does not befall NBC's new comedy-drama "Ed."

Banish all thoughts of the god-awful chimp movie of the same name that starred dimwitted "Friend" Matt LeBlanc. This "Ed" has nary a simian in sight. Instead, it features Tom Cavanagh as a nice guy who gets fired from his high-pressure job as a New York lawyer and discovers, on the same day, that his wife has been cheating on him.

So he returns to his Midwestern town of Stuckeyville, where he falls for a former high school classmate and buys a bowling alley. Think of it as a male "Providence" without all the cutesy-wootsy animals.

The show is sweet and stocked with quirky characters that bring to mind the glory days of "Northern Exposure." I've seen only the pilot episode, so it's entirely possible "Ed" could fall apart in episode No. 2, but I'm betting it won't. The show comes from former "Late Show with David Letterman" executive producer Rob Burnett, a guy who knows what's funny.

So we have a great pilot and fine pedigree; what's there to worry about? NBC scheduled "Ed" for Sunday at 8 p.m. this fall, a deadly time slot. That's why I'm writing about it so early -- to get the word out.

While in Pasadena, Calif., last month, I made another discovery about the series: Burnett created the show with former "Late Show" writer Jon Beckerman, a native of Squirrel Hill. Beckerman, 31, graduated from Shady Side Academy in 1987. His parents, Alan and Natalie Beckerman, still live in Squirrel Hill, and his grandmother lives in Oakland.

ANDY'S LONG GOODBYE: If you're like me and set your VCR to tape Andy Richter's farewell on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" in May and found Jay Leno on your tape due to an NBA game overrun, tonight you'll get another chance. NBC will repeat Richter's final episode at 12:35 a.m.

BOWMAN'S FAREWELL: WPXI broadcast meteorologist Dennis Bowman expects to say his goodbyes to viewers and colleagues after his 11 p.m. forecast tomorrow. Bowman, who has been the epitome of class since getting word he'll be replaced, said station management gave him the OK to take 15 to 20 seconds to say goodbye.

"They kind of hate to have you say 'hello' or 'goodbye' on television because it's like a big flag going up, 'Hey, we're changing,' and people don't like change," Bowman said. "But to their credit, they will give me a brief moment to say goodbye and thanks to my colleagues and viewers."

Bowman thinks his future looks bright. He said he received three job offers in the past week and has gotten interest from stations in markets as large as New York (No. 1) and as small as Topeka, Kan. (No. 138).

"Don't write off Topeka," he said. "It's an hour from Kansas City, where my mom and dad live. Bigger is not always better. A lot of people don't understand that. I'm just taking a look at things. I'm not pushing any panic buttons right now, especially since three companies said, 'We want you.' It's a nice confirmation I'm not a complete has-been who's over the hill."

Bowman's not necessarily interested in being a chief meteorologist. One station is looking for someone to offer forecasts at noon and 5 p.m. -- work hours that appeal to him.

"It's an exciting time," Bowman said. "I'm not crazy about what's happened to me, but I try to look at it as an opportunity and try to get excited about what's to come."

He will fly out for an interview this weekend. No matter where he ends up working, Bowman intends to be back in Pittsburgh for a goodbye party planned by David Johnson, Peggy Finnegan and other WPXI staffers in late August.

He praised his replacement, meteorologist Steve Teeling.

"Steve is a really great guy and a genuinely nice person," Bowman said. "He and I have been working in the same office together since the 19th of July, and we get along so well. ... We're cut from the same cloth, and that made it so much easier than it might be."

"NIGHT TALK" ANNIVERSARY: PCNC's "Night Talk with John McIntire" celebrates its fourth anniversary with an on-air party at 9 p.m. Monday. In honor of the occasion, and borrowing from Entertainment Weekly, here are McIntire's answers to five stupid questions:

Who's your all-time favorite guest?

The king of comedy, Cyril Wecht. The combination of brilliance and total insanity is irresistible.

Three days a week you do the "It's My Commentary" segment, but will you cry if you want to, cry if you want to?

You would cry, too, if you were trapped in cable hell.

If you could write a slogan for PCNC, what would it be?

Just like HBO, it's not TV, it's PCNC -- but sometimes it's pretty damn close.

Those Friday Free-For-Alls can get quite boisterous some weeks. Have you ever wanted to throttle any of the participants?

If it weren't politically incorrect, I think I'd give that Ruth Ann Baker a good spanking.

Any fear that you might get rip-roaring drunk on Monday's party show?

I'm not worried about it at all. I'm definitely going to get hammered.

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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