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Measuring him for a coughin'

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NBC5 temp taker David Finfrock at work and at ease with wife, Shari

It's the start of another ratings "sweeps" month, which means a new onslaught of wild, wacky stuff from some D-FW stations.

NBC5 already has committed the first flagrant foul with a promotional campaign that trades on weather dean David Finfrock's recent on-air miseries.

"The answer to the question, what's wrong with David Finfrock," an announcer teases before the veteran forecaster is shown coughing heavily during one of his weather segments. "You've worried, you've called and emailed. Now you'll finally know. Thursday on NBC5 news at 10."

Finfrock is shown hacking two other times and also is seen with his doctor, who's pointing at an X-ray. In response to an email query Wednesday, he politely begged off answering any questions.

"I asked my news director (Susan Tully), and she suggested that I not do the interview," Finfrock said. "She doesn't want to give away the point of the story before it airs. I can promise you, though, that it's nothing serious or life-threatening!"

A colleague of Finfrock's, who commented on condition of anonymity, said the weatherman "has been to a doctor a bunch of times and has something wrong."

There's also clearly something very wrong with NBC5's news ethics. Finfrock has been the soul of discretion since joining the station in 1975 as an acolyte of the late, legendary Harold Taft. He's not an attention-seeker, so it's unfortunate to see him signing off on something like this. But his station likely will be locked in a tight fight for 10 p.m. ratings supremacy after beating Belo8 by just two-tenths of a rating point (4,760 homes) in the November "sweeps."

NBC5 has won the 10 p.m. wars for 15 consecutive sweeps months (Feb., May, Nov.), dating to Feb. 2002. It clearly doesn't want to relinquish the title belt, but using Finfrock in a pseudo dead-man-walking campaign marks a new low in sweeps gamesmanship. Obviously, though, the hook's already imbedded. And unclebarky.com reader Lynne Swihart nailed the essentials in an email sent after she saw the promo early Wednesday morning.

"If David is legitimately ill, this is in such poor taste that I can't even comment in an appropriate manner," Swihart wrote. Even so, she said, "I'll watch (Thursday) night. I like Mr. Finfrock. He's just about the last one at that station that I can stand. And I hope it's a dumb stunt and that he is not ill."

What NBC5 has done in Finfrock's name, though, is enough to make us all sick.

College try: Nielsen will measure dorm viewing

Parents already know full well how much they spend on their kids' college educations. Now they can get a feel for how much time the recipients spend watching TV.

Effective immediately, Nielsen Media Research's "Extended Home Viewing" initiative will include home away from home viewing at higher education hovels known as dorms. Sorority and fraternity houses and off-campus student apartment buildings also have been wired. Nielsen says its People Meters now will be part of the decor in scientifically selected universities, trade schools and even culinary institutes.

A three-year "pilot program" measuring college student viewing had been sponsored by several Nielsen clients, including MTV, The WB, Fox, CBS and ESPN. Data compiled from the November "sweeps" shows a "significant impact" on the performance of some programs, Nielsen says.

Testing off the charts is ABC's Grey's Anatomy, which jumped its audience by 53 percent among 18-to-24-year-old women. According to Nielsen, Grey's had an 8.6 rating (1,188,000 viewers) in the traditional TV universe. But the college student measurements added an extra 636,000 viewers, increasing Grey's total haul to 1,824,000 viewers.

Syndicated episodes of Friends and ABC's Desperate Housewives also scored well with 18-to-24-year-old women. Males in that age group had more basic instincts. Nielsen says Comedy Central's animated series Drawn Together recorded the biggest percentage jump, up from 272,000 to 435,000 viewers.

Guys also boosted the fortunes of NBC's Sunday night football games, Fox's Family Guy and The Simpsons and TNT's Big Picture movies.

Pike's Peak


Austin's Patrice Pike and band hit the stage for two rock-solid hours at the Granada Theater Saturday night. Photos: Ed Bark

Former Rock Star: Supernova finalist Patrice Pike came to play Saturday night. Then again she could have played a bit harder.

"You only live once. I should have shaken my booty a little more," she said past the midnight hour at the Granada Theater in Dallas.

Pike, longtime fixture on the Austin music scene, made it to the last seven on CBS' Rock Star, a made-for-TV competition to select a lead singer for aging heavy metalists/sexists Tommy Lee, Gilby Clarke and Jason Newsted. Pike proved to be the least flashy of a three-woman Texas contingent that also included Zayra Alvarez of Dallas and runnerup Dilana Robichaux of Houston.

"Someone who has an incredible amount of charisma and is over the top on a daily basis is going to get a lot of response from the television audience," Pike said during the heat of battle last July. "But in the end the band has to decide who can make their voice last and play 200-plus shows a year."

She made no references to Rock Star Saturday during a well-attended, two-hour show that flexed plenty of stage presence on her part. Pike's new, very listenable CD, Unraveling, was released shortly after her TV tour ended.

"My whole career has been sort of a generous but slow and continuous climb up," she said during that mid-summer interview. "And that's how I approach life."


She'll next be taking a swing to the West, where a tour opens on Tuesday (Jan. 30) in San Diego.

"None of us'll be eaten by a Great White Shark, and we'll be back in two months," she said. "All right, peace."

Actually, Pike and the band won't be gone from Austin for long. They have a Feb . 17 stop at Antone's in next month's tour mix. Meanwhile, go here to hear some tracks from Unraveling.

Dale's ding-dong gong of Big Bill

The link to Belo8's website as usual didn't work. So by popular demand, here's a much easier way to watch Dale Hansen's Monday night "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" commentary on ex-Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. You can still find my commentary on it by scrolling down a bit on the Dallas-Fort Worth TV page. As always, your comments are encouraged.
Ed Bark

Prison Break: Will they stay or will they go? Maybe both


Run, don't walk: Prison Break's Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell.

Prison Break still hopes to call Dallas home next season, producer Garry Brown said Monday.

Brown also said he doesn't want to "contradict" Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori, who told unclebarky.com on Saturday in Pasadena that Prison Break is "very unlikely to be in Dallas" after production on Season 2 ends in mid-March. "But we might shoot some stuff in Dallas," he said after a formal interview session with TV critics.

"Anything can happen in the film and television business, but right now we don't have any immediate plans to go to a different area for most of Season 3," Brown said in a telephone interview Monday evening from Prison Break's Dallas production offices. "It's possible that we could venture outside the state briefly, and also travel to the southern portion of Texas to get a different look for the show."

Brown said he hoped to "maybe ease the minds of the people in Dallas by clarifying what our tentative plans are for next season."

Prison Break, which returned to Fox Monday night with the 14th of this season's 22 episode, is a likely returnee to Fox next fall. The Season 2 finale is set for April 2nd.

"At this point we haven't made a definitive decision, but they have a very exciting third season planned," Liguori said.

Both Liguori and Brown emphasized that Dallas and the North Texas area have been great venues for the show.

"We're more than happy with everything they've provided," Brown said. "It's worked as we were all hoping it would work."

At a Fox party in Pasadena Saturday night, Prison Break co-star Dominic Purcell (escapee Lincoln Burrows) said there are "whispers of it maybe being in Florida or Louisiana next season. That's what I've heard. It depends on where the writers want to take the show."

Dallas has been "very hospitable," he said, but "it's been an experience in patience for me. I'm a surfer and it's hard for me not being near the water."

Wentworth Miller, who plays Lincoln's brother, Michael Scofield, said he has "heard rumors that we'll be staying (in Dallas) and rumors that we're going."

"I think the secret to the show's success is we are using these real locations. We're not at some sound stage in Burbank."

Miller said he's game for a Season 3, even if it means his character might be behind bars again. Scofield's numerous criminal offenses since springing his brother make it likely he's "looking at some real jail time somewhere down the line -- Fox River or someplace worse," Miller said.

"I think the fans aren't quite ready to say goodbye to the characters and I think we're not quite ready to say goodbye to the fans. So I imagine there will be a Season 3. That's what I"m feeling in my heart of hearts."

Exclusive: Prison Break getting out of town after Season 2 ends

(Copyright unclebarky.com)

PASADENA, Calif. -- Fox's Prison Break plans to leave Dallas behind after production on the show's second season wraps in mid-March.

The network probably will greenlight a third season, but most of it would be filmed elsewhere, Fox entertainment Peter Liguori told unclebarky.com Saturday.

"I have a good idea of where they will be going. It's very unlikely to be in Dallas, but we might shoot some stuff in Dallas," he said.

The show's principal publicist, Todd Adair, said Prison Break will have its second season finale on April 2nd.

"Where the story will end, you'll see that they don't have to be Dallas-based," he said. Prison Break returns to Fox on Monday night at 7 p.m. with the 14th of this season's 22 episodes.

"At this point we haven't made a definitive decision (on renewing Prison Break), but they have a very exciting third season planned," Liguori said.

The Fox programming chief said the show's actors, producers and crew "loved working in Dallas. Just as a viewer of the show, I loved it because it opened it up. It was vibrant and in an odd way you almost felt like it was the Great American Rebel travel guide. It was almost like a road movie. They had a great experience. When you're in February it's a helluva lot nicer to be in Dallas than in Chicago (where the first season was filmed).

That hasn't been true of late, due to an ongoing cold snap in North Texas. But Prison Break has helped to heat up the area economy since production began in the heart of last summer's searing heat.

Dallas Film Commission head Janis Burklund couldn't immediately be reached for comment Saturday on Prison Break's all but certain decision to pull up stakes and head elsewhere. After this season's finale, the escapist drama will give way on Mondays to the new road race series Drive, featuring former Firefly star Nathan Fillion.

Second verse, same as the first

Wednesday's second two-hour audition edition of Fox's American Idol cruised to another overwhelming win in the "fast national" Nielsens.

Its 36.9 million viewers fell barely short of the 37.4 million for Tuesday's sixth season launch. But it performed significantly better than last January's Wednesday premiere, which drew a then record-setting 31.6 million viewers.

Rival networks simply ducked, including CBS. The network's entertainment president, Nina Tassler, echoed her counterpart at NBC by referring to "the Death Star known as American Idol."

CBS' older-skewing Tuesday and Wednesday dramas, principally NCIS and Criminal Minds, still fare reasonably well against Idol. "We have our reflector shields up," Tassler told TV critics Thursday.

Kelly Kahl, the network's scheduling chief, said the shows are "not Idol-proof, but maybe kind of Idol-resistant. We hang in there pretty well. the other guys get vaporized."

Wednesday's vaporees included two new ABC comedies, The Knights of Prosperity and In Case of Emergency, which already had been struggling in the ratings.

Meanwhile, here's video of Idol judge Paula Abdul's recent, less-than-stable interview with Fox's Seattle station. During the course of it, she says that any publicity is good publicity. If so, this is one helluva litmus test:

Higher & Higher: American Idol again outdoes itself

Tuesday's two-hour, sixth season premiere of Fox's American Idol again soared to new heights, even if many of the night's auditioners didn't.

Idol drew 37.4 million viewers nationally, beating the previous record of 35.5 million for last January's opener. The show also drew more advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds than any Fox program other than the Feb. 17, 2003 finale of Joe Millionaire.

Competing programs on NBC, ABC and CBS drew a combined 30.4 million viewers from 7 to 9 p.m. central time. Idol also drew 78 percent more 18-to-49-year-olds than those three networks.

After Idol subsided, NBC won the 9 to 10 p.m. time slot with a mere mortal 14.1 million viewers for Law & Order: SVU. Yes, that's an astonishing 23.2 million fewer viewers than Idol had.

"I think it's fading. I think it's over," NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly joked Wednesday when asked about Idol's latest all-powerful showing.

Yet another increase in viewership is "distressing," he acknowledged. "Nothing burns that bright forever. There'll be a day when it will just be incredibly uncool to watch that show. Kids will come home and say, 'Oh dad, you're out of it. There's no way we're watching that with you'."

"When that will happen, I don't know."

World view

ABC came up big at Monday night's Golden Globes ceremony, winning for best comedy and drama series with Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy. And Fox's American Idol, which returns for a sixth season Tuesday night (Jan. 16), got yet another PR boost from former contestant Jennifer Hudson's win. She was voted best supporting actress in a feature film for her performance as Effie White in Dreamgirls. For a complete list of winners, go here.
Ed Bark