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TV Notes: 1/4/03

Saturday, January 04, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Conan visits 'Richter'

Tomorrow's episode of "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" (9:30 p.m., Fox) features a guest appearance by Richter's old buddy, Conan O'Brien, with whom he appeared for years on NBC's "Late Night."

O'Brien plays Freddie Pickering, the scion of the company Richter works for on the sitcom. Pickering takes a larger role in the company's business after the death of his mother.

"At least she died doing what she enjoyed most, committing suicide," Pickering says. He tries to turn Andy and his friends against one another by offering them $1,000 for turning in anyone who stole office supplies. The friends band together to keep their secrets.

"Nobody needs to mention that time I borrowed the company car for 36 months," says Jessica (Paget Brewster).

WPXI initiative

Channel 11 will begin a year-long series titled "David Johnson Reports: One Year on Centre Avenue." Two reports will air each month in the station's 5 p.m. newscast. A half-hour special based on the reports will air in July with a one-hour special slated for December.

Johnson will walk Centre Avenue, starting at Freedom Corner and heading into the Hill District 0.9 miles to Reed Street.

News director Pat Maday said he lives near the area and was fascinated by watching the street change "a little bit every so often over the past couple of years.

"We often find ourselves only traveling this stretch of road while we're on our way to the police station," Maday said. "In this endeavor, we won't shy away from the crime. But we'll balance it with the rest of the issues: housing, revitalization, economics, education, social injustices, racism and more. The street will be the backdrop, and the people who live and work on it will be the subjects, as we examine one neighborhood in the context of our entire community."

Maday said it's critical for news organizations to maintain a connection to the community.

Among local stations, Channel 11 draws the most African-American viewers. In 2002, WPXI lost two African-American reporters (Reg Chapman's contract was not renewed; Natasha Brown left for a larger market), but Maday said the decision to do the series was not political.

"This isn't about ratings," Maday said. "This is about doing what good news organizations should do."

Reports are expected to begin airing later this month, most likely the week of Jan. 20.

Channel surfing

ABC's late-night talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live" will air on WTAE at 12:05 a.m. weeknights beginning Jan. 27 ... Channel 4's Don Schwenneker joins the ranks of Pittsburgh weather forecasters to receive the seal of approval from the American Meteorological Society ... Jon Burton, who has been filling in as WTAE's weekend sports anchor since Jake Ploeger became a weekend news anchor, has officially been named weekend sports anchor.

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