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Tuned In: TV turkeys / the saucy, the dry, the overdone

Thursday, November 22, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Americans will likely feel particularly thankful for the well-being of family and friends this Thanksgiving through the prism of life since Sept. 11.

But in the interest of getting back to normal, it's time for Tuned In to slice up some TV turkeys as we always do on this day. Enjoy the feast!

Best bad tease

Last week, Channel 11 tried to lure viewers to its 11 p.m. newscast with this question in a prime-time promo: "Why was a woman living with four monkeys and a baboon?"

I didn't bother to stick around for the answer, but my guess is the monkeys were teaching her how to write TV news promotional spots.

Best bad tease -- the sequel

A photo of Mister Potato Head accompanied this WPXI tease that aired in January: "A giant potato loses his arm, tonight at 11."

Actually, Channel 11 seems to have a fondness for stories on stolen lifelike inanimate objects. Monday night the station did a story on a stolen cement cow named Bessie, complete with mooing sound effects and black-and-white photos of the crime scene.

Anchor Gina Redmond, voicing the report, managed to keep a straight face. She said the woman whose lawn ornament was stolen "isn't one to cry over spilled milk. If Bessie isn't returned, moobe, she said, the two will meet again."

This "Daily Show"-style story ended with the woman explaining she expects to be reincarnated as a cow. "I just want to be a big cow, grazing in a field."

So much for "no features, no fluff."

Hilarious diss

Who knew WTAE's Jon Greiner was so mischievous?

In a live report last week from Light Up Night Downtown, Greiner said viewers at home had just missed seeing part of the festivities. Greiner apologized and invoked the KDKA time machine scandal, saying, "If I had one of the time machines one of the other stations used for football, I could show it to you."

Cause and effect?

A reader e-mailed to comment on a Channel 11 report about the decline of businesses in West Mifflin attributed to the opening of the Waterfront in Homestead.

"They showed clips of [abandoned] Hechinger's and Sun TV. These stores went out of business -- a COUPLE OF YEARS AGO and had nothing to do with the new mall," the viewer correctly pointed out.

M-I-C, see you soon?

A recent issue of Entertainment Weekly included speculation that if the FCC lifts a regulatory cap on the number of TV stations a company can own, Disney might buy Hearst-Argyle's television station holdings, which includes Pittsburgh's WTAE.

I can see it now: "Mickey Mouse is taking action for you."

Worst use of props

In an October report on anthrax scares, WTAE-TV reporter Chris Glorioso held out a handful of baby powder and blew it at the camera.

Ah, callers

A woman telephoned in July to vent her frustration about Channel 11's weather bulletins interrupting "Days of Our Lives." She complained she'd been hung up on twice when she called the station to express her displeasure.

I explained soaps get interrupted frequently and it's not something I'm likely to write about. Then she hung up on me. Pot. Kettle. Black.

And you think I'm critical

Here's the transcript from a voice mail message I received this summer: "Mr. Owens [sic], I'm an elderly lady in Penn Hills. I am not senile and I'm far beyond being incapacitated, but the thing that upset me this afternoon: Why is Jennifer Antkowiak wearing a turtleneck in July? This is ridiculous. Doesn't she have a coordinator to take care of her wardrobe? I was really shocked to see this woman in a turtleneck on a July day."

They don't know Jack

In a slogan unveiled this summer, TNT claimed "We Know Drama." But truthfully, they know only how to cancel dramas.

TNT canceled "Crusade" before it premiered in 1999. The network canceled the 2000 Wall Street drama "Bull" before all the episodes aired. This year TNT canceled the drama "Breaking News" after filming 13 episodes with no plan to show any of them. That's at least $13 million worth of product that may never see the light of day.

Baby blues

After a report on a woman who gave birth at a West Mifflin McDonald's, WPGH anchor Sheila Hyland added, "That's what you call a baby to go."

To make matters worse, anchor Jay Harris chimed in with: "I guess that's a real Happy Meal."

Where's the canned laughter when you need it?

Misspeaking 101

In April, "Today" anchor Matt Lauer introduced a live report from a reporter at the "penthouse." Later Lauer corrected himself, accentuating the pronunciation of "Pentagon."

Not the prime time advantage

"If you watch 'CSI,' you'll know how important the work of the FBI is," said Bruce Pompeani on KDKA morning news in February. But if the KDKA writers watched "CSI" they'd know the lead characters work for the Las Vegas police department, not the FBI.

Similarly, after months of hype for "Survivor: The Australian Outback," Ken Rice read a story in late April on KDKA's 5 p.m. news that showed KDKA writers aren't paying attention to that show either. Rice called booted cast member Elisabeth Filarski the "last remaining member of the Ogakor tribe." Filarski was in the Kucha tribe.

Yeah, it's a nerdy nitpick, but accuracy, even as it relates to disposable pop culture, matters.

Please name names

This week a Channel 4 promotional spot for its contest during the 5 p.m. news proclaimed, "We've gone totally turkey."

But who, exactly, at the station has gone "totally turkey"? Scott Baker? Kelly Frey? Wendy Bell? Inquiring minds want to know....

Good news?

On an 11 p.m. newscast in January, KDKA's "Good News" segment featured a photo exhibit of people in hospice. While I appreciate the station's effort to shine a light on the arts community, I'm not sure photos of people with cancer really fit under the "Good News" banner.

Copycat celebration

Not content to merely rip off the Friday free-for-all on PCNC's "NightTalk with John McIntire," WQED's "On Q" celebrated its first anniversary in January with an on-air, in-studio party, just like all the ones McIntire has held for years.

Imitation is rampant in commercial television, but you'd think a public station could come up with something more original.

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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