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Tuned In: Illusionist's baffling act focus of WPXI special

Saturday, October 21, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor


Be amazed Monday as "Daddio" disappears!

Be relieved as "Tucker" gets tuckered out and pulled off the schedule!

Be mystified that NBC hasn't canceled these turkeys already!

Normally I'm not a fan of local stations interrupting network programming, but when the pre-empted shows are as lousy as "Daddio" and "Tucker," I'm willing to make an exception.

In their place Monday at 8 p.m. Channel 11 will broadcast the locally produced special "Craig Karges: Experience the Extraordinary." It doesn't really merit a full hour of prime-time television, but at least it's family friendly programming (which is more than I can say for "Tucker").

Channel 11 program director Mark Barash came up with the idea for a special starring Karges after seeing him perform his illusions on "NightTalk with John McIntire." A Karges performance was taped in April, but Barash wanted to air it near Halloween.

"I've seen him do this stuff five or six times now, and I don't know how it's done," Barash said. "I have no clue. It was among some of the most baffling things I've ever seen."

Karges' act is extraordinary, and the hour benefits from above-average production values for a local special. But the program is fouled by hyperbolic narration. In one breath Karges is called an "extraordanist extraordinaire."

The narrator also tries too hard to give Karges a local connection, saying he "grew up in the back yard of Pittsburgh, just 60 miles away in Wheeling, W.Va."

Karges knows what people are thinking and proves it by standing back to back with a woman. He asks her to draw anything, and without seeing what she's doing, he draws the same thing.

The mind reading tricks evolve into an ability to use his mind to move objects -- knocking a book off a table, moving a table around the stage like the plastic message indicator on a Ouija Board (only the table leaps off the floor).

But an hour may be a little too much time for Karges to fill, given the similarity of many of his tricks. By the end of the hour, viewers already know Karges can guess what people are thinking, so the show's finale, although drawn-out and complicated, is not that surprising.

Barash said ratings for the show will determine whether a sequel will be produced. The program will also air on Cox-owned stations in Johnstown (WJAC) and Steubenville (WTOV), and Barash hopes to sell the program to a cable network or in national syndication.

As for the pre-empted programs, Channel 11 is doing right by "Daddio" and "Tucker" fans (come on, there have to be a few) and broadcasting them Oct. 28 between 7 and 8 p.m.

But Channel 11 won't do the same for viewers who will miss NBC's "Deadline." WPXI will not air that show in an alternate time period. Why not put it on in place of the "Tonight Show" repeat at 3 a.m. so interested viewers can at least set their VCRs to tape it?

"Deadline" will be pre-empted Monday at 9 p.m. so Channel 11 and PCNC can broadcast a live Senate town hall debate between Democratic Rep. Ron Klink and Republican Sen. Rick Santorum from the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. WPXI anchor David Johnson will moderate.

"BUFFY" REMINDER: If you set your VCR for the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" rebroadcast last night on WCWB and were horrified this morning to discover you taped "Ricki Lake," never fear. Late Thursday the station changed the rebroadcast to 5 p.m. tomorrow.

A power failure knocked Channel 22 off the air for 50 minutes during Tuesday's "Buffy," so The WB allowed WCWB to rebroadcast the entire episode this weekend.

ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL: After Republican consultant Bill Green walked off "NightTalk with John McIntire" last Friday because he said he couldn't get a word in edgewise with Democratic city controller Tom Flaherty, Green returned to the PCNC talk show Wednesday.

It was Green's birthday, and at the end of the hour, Flaherty entered the studio singing "Happy Birthday."

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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