For at least the third time this year during an original episode of prime-time programming, Pittsburgh's WB affiliate went dark Wednesday night. This time it was during the last 20 minutes of the "Felicity" mid-season finale.
Regional manager Dick Singer said the outage resulted from a combination of factors. High winds knocked a microwave link out of alignment Monday night, but station technicians didn't realize it until Wednesday's ice storm, when the problem manifested itself.
"We have climbers on the tower right now," Singer said yesterday. "There was enough wind to somehow move that microwave dish just enough to screw up the signal. Because the link was knocked awry, we started to have rain fade problems [on Wednesday night]."
Singer said these problems had nothing to do with WCWB's lack of a back-up generator, a reason for past outages. He said a generator will be installed next month. Singer apologized to viewers and said he understands their frustration with the station's propensity to go off the air.
"I can't control Mother Nature," Singer said. "When something like that happens, I can't stop the wind. I wish I could, but I can't."
As viewers learned when WCWB went off the air during original episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," only when most of the program is pre-empted can WCWB get permission to rebroadcast it. So it looks like "Felicity" fans are out of luck.
Clearly The WB isn't happy about WCWB's failures in prime time. With coverage of the Gore concession speech airing on ABC, CBS and NBC, Wednesday night represented a prime opportunity for The WB to reap a ratings bonanza by offering an alternative. (Nationally, ratings for this week's "Felicity" were indeed above average.)
Because The WB is trying to avoid rerunning episodes of "Felicity" (they don't do well in the ratings), it's unlikely this week's episode will be rebroadcast before new episodes come on in April.
As a public service, here's a recap of the episode's final moments based on a description given by a WB publicist:
Elena's boyfriend, Tracy, decided to go abroad for a semester.
Felicity's mom came to understand why her daughter loves Ben.
A conversation between Felicity and Noel made it clear he still loves her.
Felicity and friends threw a Christmas party at their apartment. Molly's ex-boyfriend, junkie James, showed up with a gun. Slow motion scenes of the show's primary cast members dancing were shown, followed by the sight of James pointing the gun into the crowd. It was unclear who he was pointing at. The screen faded to black as multiple gunshots were heard beneath the throbbing music.
You can read a more detailed "Felicity" recap at http://www.mightybigtv.com/index.html?/home.asp&0.