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Stormy tenure over: News director Regent Ducas out at CBS11

Regent Ducas gave CBS11's newscasts a black eye in the view of many staffers. He was ousted Friday evening. Photo: Ed Bark

CBS11 news director Regent Ducas' "run 'n' gun" approach is out of ammunition after five contentious months.

Ducas was dropped early Friday evening, with CBS11 president and general manager Steve Mauldin making the announcement to the newsroom. The catch-all cover story: he has left to "pursue other interests."

The station's new news director is Scott Diener, who according to sources, was loudly applauded by staffers. He has been the assistant news director since June 2006.

Mauldin, who hired Ducas, reportedly told the staff that he wants to reboot the newsroom, protect the CBS brand and create an environment where "people are happy to come to work and love their jobs." According to sources, Mauldin also said he wants to return to "complete coverage you can count on."

Ducas, who arrived from Kansas City's CBS' affiliate in late March, emphasized a quick-hit, "urgent" crime-ridden approach to the news epitomized by a "First Five Minutes" segment that Mauldin ordered stopped earlier this week.

Later Friday, in a brief phone conversation, Mauldin said he didn't want to comment further beyond an official statement released at 6:30 p.m. by CBS11.

"Regent infused a lot of energy and tempo into our newscasts," Mauldin said in the release. "I wish him well in his new pursuits."

Ratings for CBS11's 10 p.m. newscast did not improve under Ducas' tenure. But the station's reputation for quality news took a nosedive while a number of staffers privately expressed their disgust. One of the station's star reporters, Sarah Dodd, recently left the station, saying she'd had enough.

Diener, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, came to CBS11 from KTVK-TV in Phoenix, where he was news director for two years. That station is owned by Dallas-based Belo Corp., which also runs local ABC affiliate WFAA-TV (Channel 8).

Diener "has proven himself to be a solid newsman, a strong leader and a great member of our team," Mauldin said in the CBS11 release. "I'm proud to promote him to this position."

Why you should hate Tim Rogers (or D Magazine if you prefer)

Tim Rogers at the office (he'll hate that the pic's so small) and a now notorious D Magazine cover story that's generated lotsa TV pub.
Actually the above baby blue headline isn't really true. Some people say that self-aggrandizing D Magazine executive editor Tim Rogers is a weasel. But in fact he's usually no worse than a wisecracking gecko.

Oh, but we kid Tim in the interests of possibly spiking traffic on unclebarky.com. That's hardly a novel ploy, but Tim and D reeled in a big catch with an "irony"-spiked September cover story headlined, "Why You Should Hate Southlake." CBS11 and Belo8 jumped on board Wednesday with news stories on the resultant controversy. Then Tim hit the big time with a Thursday night appearance on Ch. 52's The Gordon Keith Show.

Of course he blogged live about the latter on D's FrontBurner. Few Tim activities go unchronicled if he has anything to say about it. And of course, he almost always does.

D's Southlake article, by Paul Kix, actually was very football-y and relatively benign. The community's Southlake Carroll Dragons juggernaut has dominated the state high school ranks for several years running. Kix mostly wrote about that while also observing that "they're good at everything in Southlake. If you've never been, there's something a little Pleasantville about it. The streets are cleaner than your streets, the downtown more vibrant . . ." -- and so on.

So what's to hate? Well, Tim and D were being "ironic" in the interests of commerce.

"We're trying to get people to read the article," he told CBS11's Jay Gormley. Now there's a self-incriminating sound bite you can take to the bank.

Later, on Gordon Keith, Tim noted that most of the magazine's readers are women who weren't about to throw down coin for a story about football. But maybe they'd be curious about "Why You Should Hate Southlake." Even if in fact you really shouldn't. Oh, the irony.

It's much the same problem that Friday Night Lights faces on NBC. Most women simply weren't watching during the show's first season. Yuck, football. So as entertainment president Ben Silverman told unclebarky.com, the "new attack plan" for the acclaimed series' second season calls for "no more people in helmets" during promotional spots.

But back to Tim, because this is really all about him. He definitely has a knack for looking bad on TV, as he did during Belo8 investigator Byron Harris' rather ridiculous February "sweeps" expose of D's annual "Best Doctors" issue.

The ringwise Belo8 gumshoe had little difficulty, though, in making Tim look like an Enron executive. Harris cannily led his lamb to the slaughter and then edited his piece accordingly. Classic shot: Tim sipping nervously in closeup from his D coffee mug.

The thing about Tim, though, is that he dearly loves to savor his Timness under just about any circumstances. So this latest round of TV appearances only adds to his already bulging portfolio of advertisements for himself. He even happily brandished his bald spot on Keith's show. Every last inch of Tim will be self-celebrated in due time.

Oh, but it's all in good fun. In reality, no one should hate Tim Rogers. Every big city needs a few dedicated followers of their own lives and times, and Tim's a home run hitter in that league. All we're really doing is singing his praises -- D-style. Ain't irony a gas? M-m-m-mwah.

Clocking out: "First Five Minutes" no longer in play on CBS11's 10 p.m. newscasts

Several informed sources at CBS11 confirm that the station has dropped the "First Five Minutes" segment from its 10 p.m. newscasts.

The order came from president and general manager Steve Mauldin, who also reportedly wants a more balanced approach with less emphasis on crime and tragedy. Mauldin met with news director Regent Ducas on Monday to express his displeasure with both the content and the ratings of the 10 p.m. newscast.

Ducas, hired by Mauldin, arrived from Kansas City's CBS station in late March with a mandate to improve CBS11's late night news ratings. He quickly deployed the same "First Five Minutes" tack that he had used at his previous station.

"Instead of taking a more issue-oriented approach to news, we're going to take a more topical approach," Ducas said in an April interview with unclebarky.com. "It's all about the here and now of news. That's one of the changes you'll feel, sense and hear on the air. A bit more urgency. Not so much the way it's been."

But Ducas' self-described "run and gun" approach hasn't triggered any ratings revivals. It has, however, caused significant unrest in the CBS11 newsroom.

Tuesday's 10 p.m. CBS11 newscast, shorn of the "First Five Minutes" gambit, improved slightly on its 9:45 to 10 p.m. lead-in from an NCIS repeat to finish second in the total homes Nielsens behind Belo8. That might be only coincidental. But it's certainly a rare occurrence at CBS11, where generous network lead-ins usually are squandered rather than built on.

Mauldin's decision to undo some of Ducas' changes could have further repercussions as the station prepares for both a new season and a conversion to HD on Sept. 24th. It's going to be an interesting work environment for at least the short-term future.

Cuban gets a leg up with prime choice partner

Mark Cuban, pictured with right hand man Todd Wagner, soon will have a much cuter business partner in lush, leggy Kym Johnson (shown with reigning Dancing with the Stars runnerup Joey Fatone).

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, now officially in the Dancing with the Stars field, will be getting one of the show's dream partners in Kym Johnson.

ABC says so in a press release sent to TV critics shortly after 8 a.m. (central) Wednesday, although the network apparently hadn't yet told Cuban.

"I get to meet my partner in a few hours," Cuban said in an email sent at 9:48 a.m. Wednesday. "I hope it's Kym. I don't know yet."

He's going to be a happy man. Johnson helped guide Joey Fatone to a second place finish in the most recent Dancing. Even more impressive, she made Jerry Springer took good and took him all the way to the third edition's midway point despite his weekly pleas to vote him off.

Cuban, who turned 49 on July 31, says that ABC approached him to participate in the hit show's fifth edition, which premieres on Sept. 24th. His competition will include Wayne Newton, Marie Osmond, Jane Seymour, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Melanie "Scary Spice" Brown, Cheetah girl Sabrina Bryan and two-time Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves.

"This is one of those chance-in-a-lifetime opportunities," Cuban said. "I love to dance. The show is amazing. As my wife (Tiffany) has always said, it's the one show our whole family can get excited about. The people have been first-class. I love to compete. At my age -- since I can't go down to the gym and play basketball for a while because of my hip -- this is going to be a great way to get the competitive juices going. I can't wait!"

Cuban, who had hip replacement surgery on June 29th, says he "plans on working as many hours as my hip will let me. I've already asked them to switch studios so that we can practice longer than the three-hour limit in the current studio."

Dancing's four previous champs are soap star Kelly Monaco, singer Drew Lachey, former Dallas Cowboys great Emmitt Smith and Olympic skating gold medalist Apolo Anton Ohno. The latter joined co-host Tom Bergeron and judge Carrie Ann Inaba in announcing the latest field on Wednesday's Good Morning America. Bergeron proclaimed Cuban "our first billionaire."

A previous contestant list leaked Monday by Web tattler TMZ.com got eight of the 12 names right but made some notable mistakes. TMZ initially missed out entirely on Osmond and erred in putting Tori Spelling, Lou Ferrigno and model Giselle Bundchen in play. Besides Cuban and Osmond (who's teamed with Jonathan Roberts), here are the other 10 competitors and their pro partners:

Melanie Brown (with Maksim Chmerkovskiy)

Sabrina Bryan (newcomer Mark Ballas)

Helio Castroneves (Julianne Hough)

Jennie Garth (newcomer Derek Hough, Julianne's brother)

Josie Maran (Alex Mazo)

Cameron Mathison (Edyta Sliwinska)

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (Karina Smirnoff)

Wayne Newton (Cheryl Burke)

Albert Reed (Anna Trebunskaya)

Jane Seymour (Tony Dovolani)

Cuban's participation in Dancing tied to doctor's orders

Ideal partners: Kym Johnson, Cheryl Burke or Julianne Hough

Mark Cuban remains in some pain after June 29th hip replacement surgery, but is ready to rhumba on Dancing with the Stars pending medical clearance.

"I have to get the final OK from my doc (Tuesday)," the Dallas Mavericks owner says in an email. "It's still sore, but he was OK with me doing my rehab dancing rather than sweating it out with a physical therapist."

ABC officially will announce the final field for Dancing's fifth edition on Wednesday's Good Morning America. But Cuban's name was leaked Monday via several online sources, with TMZ.com reporting that his competitors also will include the likes of Tori Spelling, Wayne Newton, Jane Seymour, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Jennie Garth, Giselle Bundchen, Lou Ferrigno and Nia Peeples.

Should Cuban be hot to fox trot, he'd be in good hands with any of the above three pro partners. Savvy Cheryl Burke guided Emmitt Smith to a mirror ball trophy win in Dancing's third edition. Ultra-cute Kym Johnson took Joey Fatone to the final two earlier this year. And coltish Julianne Hough in her rookie season helped Apolo Anton Ohno win the gold.

It's also about built-in fan bases, though. So how will Cuban's national profile compare with Newton's, Spelling's or Seymour's?

One more thing: He's going to have to tame those wild eyes and keep that head-thrown-back laugh under some kind of restraining order. Body language counts both on the dance floor and in front of the judges.

In this arena, clothes will make the man, too. Cuban's not used to wearing much more than t-shirts and jeans but will need sequins and high-shine silk to sell himself to Dancing's at-home audience and in-studio arbiters.

Cripes, I can't believe I'm actually analyzing this thing.

And Cuban thinks NBA refs are incompetent? Wait'll Bruno Tonioli judges his paso doble

Stepping right up? Mark Cuban and Tori Spelling reportedly will hoof and puff on ABC's latest edition of Dancing with the Stars.

Snitchy/sleuthing TMZ.com claims to know the latest Dancing with the Stars field, with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reportedly among the slip-sliders on this fall's fifth edition of the hit ABC show.

Fresh off hip replacement surgery, Cuban reportedly will compete with the likes of Tori Spelling (daughter of late Dallasite Aaron Spelling), Wayne Newton, Jane Seymour, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Lou Ferrigno, Jennie Garth, Nia Peeples and Giselle Bundchen.

Dallas already has one Dancing champ in former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith. Cubes hasn't yet returned an inquiring email. ABC plans to make its official announcements on Wednesday's Good Morning America.
Ed Bark

An ode to David Finfrock's cough

King David of Finfrock,
You're nobody's hack.
And yet you keep coughing,
You sure have the knack.

Steve of Blow finally noticed,
Although six months late.
He did spell your name right.
All publicity's great.

We checked late nights last week
To see what was up.
Saw serf Steve MacLaughlin,
Your faithful young pup.

He said you were blogging
While resting your throat.
Has all that you wrote.

Your allergies flare up,
Cause infections sometimes.
You're seeing a sawbones
Who treats LeAnn Rimes.

Last winter this happened.
Came on in a hurry.
Fans feared for your life.
You said not to worry.

Your station meanwhile
Went for ratings glory
Turned all of this into
A great big sweeps story.

It worked like a charm.
The Nielsens were dandy.
Home cures were abundant
Try witchcraft, suck candy.

But rival forecasters
Are plotting new ills.
Queen Kate of Kahanek
Is getting the chills.

Prince Peter of Delkus
Has plans to keep sneezing.
Lord Daniel of Henry
Will mix in some wheezing.

Even Knight Bob of Goosmann
Wants in on this action.
He'll do all his forecasts
While firmly in traction.

Ah, but NBC5
Won't be topped at this game.
They're ready to rumble
And nothing's too lame.

Newy Scruggs gets the hiccups
Jane McGarry chews snuff.
Mike Snyder gets gassy,
That should be enough.

But seriously folks,
King David's our focus
A cure must be found
And no hocus pocus.

Our skies are still clouded
Without you in sight.
So be strong of voice
Get well by tonight.

OK, that's enough now.
You're duly saluted.
But we'll all cough far easier
When yours has been muted.

Bonnie Behrend's back in play (she looks a bit different now)

Former WFAA-TV reporter Bonnie Behrend was asked if she could send a current picture of herself. This is the "sassy" one she sent.

Thursday's piece on Bill O'Reilly/Tracy Rowlett/Marty Haag is getting quite a bit of reaction. If you haven't read it yet, it's best to go here first.

One of Haag's former reporters and defenders, Bonnie Behrend, responded by sending a decidedly colorful email and picture that she freely gave permission to post.

Behrend, who worked at Dallas' WFAA-TV (Channel 8) from 1986-88, became famous -- or infamous -- for an "Inexpensive Vacations" report from Cancun. Walking along the beach, she wore a white, one-piece bathing suit that had tongues wagging/hanging for weeks. A video snippet is posted on her Web site.

Now living in Aspen, Colo., Behrend is unstinting in her admiration for the late Haag, who died in January 2004 and won a George Foster Peabody Award for career achievement. She's also unabashedly descriptive in her comments. Here's Behrend's unsolicited take, to which there likely will be some dissenters:

"I just sent a note to O'Reilly telling him to leave Marty Haag alone.

"Marty spotted, recruited and launched the careers of many leggy, beautiful, smart, blonde women who also had brains. I know it's a little hard for some to see past the visuals, but that's OK. I, for one, have always liked being underestimated.

"Besides, last time I checked, it is a visual business, isn't it? And it usually helps to keep me employed, and my dance card full (except when I'm blacklisted for a righteous lawsuit against a major, disintegrating broadcast network and the lying punks, perverts, liars and cheats who were signing my contracts and sitting next to me on the set).

"While looks may bring people to the table and the TV show I'm working on, I also have a Master's Degree in journalism and am a Kiplinger Fellow, having earned the higher degree from The Ohio State University in the Kiplinger Public Affairs Reporting program. I spent the first six years in television as a producer and writer, making on-camera people look and sound good.

"Marty saw me at a RTNDA conference, hired me because, as he later admitted before he died, I was the 'hottest thing he'd ever seen.' He later also found out I could write, among other things. I had no reporting experience and learned the hard way in that tough (WFAA) newsroom as Contact 8 Consumer Reporter, where I took names of fraudulent business operators and no prisoners, and it worked. We won a few awards.

"He also put me in a bathing suit and that worked, too. We won a few ratings points. He apologized to me right before he died for putting me in a bathing suit, saying he believed it made my 'serious' journalism efforts more difficult. I, of course, forgave him then and in the '80s when he did it, I thought it was brilliant.

Marty Haag was ahead of his time in programming smart, strong, good lookin' blondes in TV news. All O'Reilly has to do is ask his boss. Roger Ailes obviously understands."

Bonnie Behrend

This just in: Anchorwoman is out

In happier times: KYTX president/GM Phil Hurley and Lauren Jones.
Photo: Ed Bark

Fox has sacked Anchorwoman after Wednesday's back-to-back premiere episodes ran fifth nationally among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

Effective immediately, its replacement will be reruns of the Brad Garrett sitcom 'Til Death.

Anchorwoman actually won its time slot in D-FW in the 18-to-49 demo while running third in total homes. Three more episodes had been scheduled, but they'll now have to wait for a DVD set if there is one.

Set at KYTX-TV in Tyler, Texas, the reality series starred model and former wrestling vixen Lauren Jones, who was brought in to anchor the CBS station's 5 p.m. newscast after a crash course and no previous experience in journalism.

KYTX president and general manager Phil Hurley, who was at a grand jury hearing for much of Thursday, said he didn't get the news until late in the day.

"I talked to (executive producer) Brian Gadinsky, and he's pretty down," Hurley said in a telephone interview with unclebarky.com. "I feel for him because he put a lot of effort into it. It probably has to do with Fox running so strong with 18-to-49-year-olds, and they don't want to upset those numbers."

Otherwise, Hurley said he wasn't particularly upset.

"Betrayed? Nah," he said. "We've all been in this game a long time. Shows get canceled all the time. But coming from a funny standpoint, I'm glad I've got my day job here."

KYTX had a viewing party at the station Wednesday night, with only Jones and cameraman Wilton Johnson missing. They were at a premiere party in Los Angeles that same night. But Dallas-based Fox4 was in Tyler to cover the party, with reporter Jeff Crilley getting the assignment.

Producer Gadinsky, cameraman Johnson and star Jones at L.A. gala.

"I'm gonna guess this is gonna devastate her," Hurley said of Jones, who has said she wants to make a career change and become a long-term news anchor.

KYTX anchor Annalisa Petralia was edited into a semi-shrewish poser during the opening -- and closing -- hour of Anchorwoman. Meanwhile, Jones was portrayed as likable and eager to please after her initially ditzy approach.

"Everybody sat there at our party, and Annalisa laughed right along with everybody," Hurley said. "I was pretty proud of her."

Hurley said that KYTX would report the abrupt cancelation of Anchorwoman on its Thursday night newscasts.

"You've got to share the disappointing news with the good news," Hurley said.

He also planned to meet with the station's staff "to make sure that everyone knows that it happened." That would include KYTX's Stormy the Weather Dog, who took an immediate disliking to Jones during the show's premiere. In later comments to unclebarky.com, Jones not so affectionately called Stormy a "butt-head."

Anchorwoman's remaining three half-hour episodes will end up on the Fox.com Web site, senior vice president of corporate communications Scott Grogin confirmed Thursday evening.

The series received heavy publicity nationally before its premiere, including three stories on Good Morning America. But America at large yawned, prompting Fox to lower the guillotine.

Breaking down a Bill O'Reilly broadside

Bill O'Reilly, Gail Heitz, Tracy Rowlett and the late Marty Haag

Bill O'Reilly lobbed another grenade earlier this week on his prime-time Fox News Channel show. This time it landed in Dallas. Now we're picking up the pieces.

This much is certain. The reigning most popular personality on Fox News Channel did not have a pleasant stay at WFAA-TV (Channel 8) in Dallas, where he worked briefly in the late 1970s.

At one point he had a physical tussle with anchor Tracy Rowlett. That's how bad it got before O'Reilly left Dallas and WFAA to chart what turned out to be several new courses. He eventually joined FNC at its inception in October 1996. Since then he's become both a household name and the author of several bestselling books.

Viewers of Monday's The O'Reilly Factor got another taste of O'Reilly's longtime distaste for WFAA during the host's interview with Lauren Jones. She's the model and former wrestling villain who's now starring in the Fox broadcasting network's Anchorwoman reality series. Jones had no previous training in TV news, but KYTX-TV in Tyler, Texas agreed to hire her as an anchor for the purposes of the show.

"This happened in real life in (at) a station I worked with in Dallas. And It did. Exactly," O'Reilly told her. "It was 30 years ago and some idiot in (at) a station I worked with brought in somebody that didn't have any experience. And then all of us jaded news people were looking, going, 'Who's this woman?' "

"You ran into the same thing, right?" he then asked Jones.

She in turn asked O'Reilly, "Well, how did it end up for you?"

"She got fired because the audience knew she was an airhead, and didn't know anything and the ratings were down and she got axed," he replied.

Inquiring readers since have wondered about the identities of both the "airhead" and the "idiot."

The latter is easy, but he sure wasn't an idiot. Marty Haag, WFAA's news director at the time, went on to win a George Foster Peabody Award for his career achievements at WFAA. Firmly in charge of all newsroom hirings, he was widely viewed as one of the foremost local news directors of his generation. He hired Rowlett in the mid-1970s and eventually paired him with Iola Johnson as WFAA's featured 6 and 10 p.m. anchor team. They soon began dominating the D-FW news ratings.

Rowlett, now anchoring at CBS 11 and planning to retire next summer, still thinks very little of O'Reilly and even less of his characterization of Haag, who died in January 2004. He said that O'Reilly and Haag eventually had a heated falling out.

"O'Reilly was not liked in the newsroom and had an uncontrollable ego," Rowlett told unclebarky.com. "He was a poor reporter on his best day and I learned not to believe anything he said unless I could prove it independently."

The unnamed "airhead" to whom O'Reilly referred is harder to pin down. Both Rowlett and another longtime former WFAA staffer who asked not to be identified, say it almost certainly is Gail Heitz. Hired by Haag, she briefly co-anchored WFAA's 5 p.m. newscasts in the late 1970s before moving to WPIX-TV in New York City, where her husband had a business. She soon got out of TV news and has been a psycho-therapist since 1987 after taking three years of post-masters courses at NYU.

Now based in Westport, Conn., Heitz said in a telephone interview that she "never met" O'Reilly while at WFAA.

Before joining the station, "I had a substantial background in news," she said. "I started in print. I paid my dues at small stations."

"He (O'Reilly) is the airhead to make comments like that," Heitz said, terming him an "anger-monger."

O'Reilly started this ball rolling, and now at least other sides have been heard. Fair and balanced it's called.

Finding his own voice: veteran ventriloquist wins America's Got Talent in final face-off of two North Texans

Victorious ventriloquist Terry Fator of Mesquite savors the moment.

Maybe now he can form a dummy corporation. Mesquite ventriloquist Terry Fator bested Arlington-based singer Cas Haley Tuesday night to win the $1 million grand prize on NBC's America's Got Talent.

Fator, 42, also got an offer to perform at Bally's Las Vegas. The city seems well-suited to his uncanny vocal impressions of singers ranging from Etta James to Elton John to Roy Orbison.

Fellow North Texan Haley, 26, also got a big boost for his high-pitched reggae song stylings. Got Talent has ranked as summer's most-watched series since its second season began in late May with auditions from Dallas.

Tuesday's other two finalists, "musician/beatboxer" Antoinette "Butterscotch" Clinton of California and 14-year-old vocalist Julienne Irwin of Maryland, were eliminated by phone and Internet votes before Fator and Haley stood side by side to sweat it out on live TV. Host Jerry Springer of course did the usual cruel run-up, telling viewers, "The winner of America's Got Talent is" -- pause, one, two, three, four, five -- "coming up right after this."

Fator was uncommonly speechless after his crowning achievement. But he eventually managed to shout, "Thank you so much, America!" after an encore performance of his Winston the Impersonating Turtle singing Orbison's "Crying." His wife, Melinda, and a gaggle of well-wishers than engulfed him onstage.

Contestants, viewers and sensitive dogs also had to endure judge David Hasselhoff's painfully overwrought rendition of "This is the Moment" near the end of a nearly interminable two hour, two minute Season 2 finale.

Injured co-judge Piers Morgan, the requisite tart Brit, at first told the truth.

"I didn't think I would ever experience the agony of breaking three ribs," he said. "But I just did it all over again."

Then he added in all mock sincerity, "I love the Hof."

Fator gallantly stayed the course anyway. He's no dummy.

HD picture getting clearer

CBS11 has an official start date for its rollover to high-definition newscasts.

It's Sept. 24th, with the station currently giving viewers a taste of a new studio under construction with brief "Excuse Our Dust!" tours during local news programming.

NBC5 also is going to HD in September, but hasn't given a specific date yet. That leaves only Fox4 without any current plans. Or at least they're not saying anything yet.

Belo8 became the first D-FW station to go to HD, and has been showing off its sharper images since Feb. 2nd.

Ed Bark

Still hilarious after all these years

Perry Como, "Mr. Relaxation," never met a song he couldn't downshift. So get your weekend off to a nice 'n' easy start by watching Eugene Levy's timeless sendup of Como in concert. All hail SCTV. And thanks to youtube for this pristine copy.
Ed Bark

No more balls and strikes, but Pete Delkus still calls it fair or foul

Weatherman Pete Delkus: It's not always easy being green-screened. Photo: Ed Bark

Belo8's new guy already seems entrenched, whether jabbing at sports anchor Dale Hansen or setting his jaw for serious weather. Meet the former major league pitching prospect who's now on the receiving end of a big-league "Delkus Delivers" campaign.
Ed Bark

Man bites dog? No, but local TV reporter crawls through "doggie door"

This just in: An oversized "doggie door" prompted a burglar to enter a Dallas home through it and heist more than $5,000 in electronics and jewelry.

Intrepid CBS11 reporter J.D. Miles had the prominently played story Tuesday on a 10 p.m. newscast plagued with early audio problems. But viewers still got a clear picture of the 6 foot, 170 pound Miles crawling through the dog door to show it could be done. The opening otherwise is used by the homeowner's pet Chihuahua, Walter.

Let's just say that Miles went the extra mile. And that colleague Scott Sams or NBC5's Mike Snyder probably wouldn't have fit. But boy, it can be tough duty over at show-and-tell CBS11. Miles likely got a high five from new news director Regent Ducas. He should balk, though, if he's ever asked to sweep up after the elephants.

Going two for four (not counting the dummy)

Tex messaging: Arlington's Cas Haley and Terry Fator of Dallas are half the Final Four on summer's biggest hit, America's Got Talent.

North Texans are no strangers to the reality TV arena, but they seldom come up this big.

Summer's most-watched series, NBC's America's Got Talent, goes into next Tuesday's climactic results show with two of the four finalists from this area.

Ventriloquist Terry Fator of Dallas and singer/guitarist Cas Haley of Arlington will vie for the show's $1 million grand prize along with kid vocalist Julienne Irwin of Maryland and "musician/beatboxer" Antoinette "Butterscotch" Clinton of California.

The field was shaved from eight to a quartet on Tuesday night's last performance show, with America's online and telephone votes making the calls.

Fator, hardly a novice, seems to be the odds-on favorite to win the thing. His final performance, in which Winston the Impersonating Turtle performed Roy Orbison's "Crying," had even tart judge Piers Morgan speaking in superlatives.

"There's only one place you're going to be crying, I think," he told Fator. "And that is all the way to the bank."

Haley, who's recorded a version of the Good Day song for Fox4, closed out with a version of Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke." Morgan liked him, too, dubbing Haley "the pride of America."

Fator said he's on a mission to bring ventriloquism "back to popular culture." Haley told viewers, "I never wanted anything more in my life" than to be crowned the show's "Best New Act in America."

Before next Tuesday's final verdict, viewers will have to brave what host Jerry Springer is touting as "a stunning performance from ' The Hof.' "

That, alas, would be judge David Hasselhoff. Bummer.

Incoming at CBS11

CBS11 and TXA21 have hired Katherine Blake from Denver as a general assignment reporter.

Blake previously worked at CBS station KCNC-TV in Denver. Before that she had a three-year stay in Los Angeles at the KCBS and KCAL television stations. She has a graduate degree from California State University-Fullerton and began her journalism career as a reporter for the Orange County Register.
Ed Bark

NBC5 readying to be D-FW's 2nd HD player

Sharper images: NBC5's news team soon will be in HD.

NBC5's high-definition makeover, combined with a new news set, are on track for a September start.

"It's complex. Everything you used to have needs to be upgraded," NBC5 president and general manager Tom O'Brien said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Belo8, the first D-FW station to get into the HD game, launched its sharper pictures on Feb. 2nd from the station's new Victory Park studios. By May, the ABC station had wrested the 10 p.m. news ratings leadership away from NBC5 for the first time in more than five years.

"I know there's some people that say 8's numbers kind of went up (with HD)," O'Brien said. "But we haven't seen any information that numbers will go up. There are still a fairly low number of HD sets in the market. This is just another technological change."

Several sources say the changes also will bring a new wave of automation to NBC5, with double-digit layoffs in the works when the station's newsroom converts to a significantly heavier use of computers and robotically-controlled cameras.

"I don't think that's germane to the story," O'Brien said. "We're implementing the latest technology in our control room . . . We're trying to put more money into content and news gathering."

O'Brien declined to comment further on any staff downsizing. Instead he emphasized the "crisper" overall look coming to NBC5 and an enhanced weather presentation from a team led by meteorologist David Finfrock.

A companion slogan is likely, too. "We're working on some launch material," O'Brien said.

Ex-CBS11 reporter quickly is ex-Mobile, Ala. TV anchor

Raquel Eatmon in respective poses at CBS11 and WPMI-TV in Mobile.

Former CBS11 reporter Raquel Eatmon, who left the station earlier this year, is now out of a job at Mobile, Alabama's NBC affiliate, WPMI-TV.

The city's Press-Register reports that the ex-Miss Ohio World resigned from the station after just four months of co-anchoring the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts. She reportedly plans to return to the Midwest.

Eatmon told the Press-Register that it "was just time to go. In this business, you can have great days and not-so-great days. Imagine having a string of not-so-good days without having family."

WPMI "wasn't a very good fit," she said. "I've never worked at a station like NBC 15."

Station management had no comment on Eatmon's departure. She had joined CBS11 in 2005.

Rose red: Austin's Brad Womack to be ABC's latest Bachelor

Texan Brad Womack stands ready to break hearts. ABC photos

Austin-based bar owner Brad Womack, 34, will have a rosy future as the latest centerpiece of ABC's The Bachelor.

"It doesn't hurt that his sexy good looks make him The Bachelor's own McSteamy," says ABC in a calculated reference to the network's Grey's Anatomy. The show's new heartthrob also is touted as "a sincere, sexy, successful self-made man who may be the series' hottest guy yet."

Born in Atlanta, Brad and brothers Wesley and Chad, who's his twin, operate Austin's hard-drinking Chuggin' Monkey bar among the four they currently own.

His family moved to Livingston, TX when Brad was 12, and he spent a year at Southwest Texas State (now Texas State University) before dropping out as a 19-year-old to work in various oil fields. The Womacks opened their first bar in 2001 when Brad was 28.

ABC says there's "just one thing missing from Brad's life. He is ready to find his soul mate, settle down and have the family life he has so long desired."

That sounds appropriately mushy on paper. But The Bachelor's made-for-TV love matches seldom stand the test of time -- let alone last for even a few weeks after the latest edition leaves the air.

A notable exception is Trista Rehn's Bachelorette marriage to firefighter Ryan Sutter. They've just had a baby boy.

The Womack-infused Bachelor currently is filming in California, with a 90-minute opener scheduled to premiere on Monday, Sept. 24th. Everyone involved with the show currently is unavailable for comment.

And baby makes three

Belo8 traffic reporter/anchor Alexa Conomos and her attorney husband Bradley became first-time parents Tuesday with the birth of Alexandros Luka Anderson. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 2 ounces and arrived six weeks earlier than expected.

Conomos joined Belo8 in October 2002 and began her TV career at an NBC station in Palm Springs.
Ed Bark

Supporting player: Dallas Morning News downsizing no longer the prime focus of Stop the Presses doc

Dallas Morning News expatriate Manny Mendoza (left) and veteran filmmaker Mark Birnbaum showed part of their Stop the Presses doc on closing night of the Dallas Video Festival. Photo: Ed Bark

Filmmaker Mark Birnbaum initially felt inclined to tell a smaller story about large-scale downsizing at The Dallas Morning News.

Now, for better or possibly worse, Stop the Presses: The American Newspaper In Peril tentatively will paint just a splotch of Dallas on a much larger canvas. Birnbaum and former DMN entertainment writer Manny Mendoza instead have ranged far and wide to amass, by their count, 103 interviews and 108 hours of film.

That's very close to the 112 DMN staffers, including this writer, who took the buyout last September. Might it also make for an unmanageable documentary slated to run at exactly 56 minutes, 46 seconds if it ends up as hoped for next year on public television's POV series?

"It's a challenge. They're all challenges," Birnbaum said Sunday night before Stop the Presses had its first public showing in the form of a 15-minute sampler at the Dallas Video Festival. "This one is pretty interview-heavy. The challenge is going to be also finding a compelling visual way to tell the story."

Birnbaum and Mendoza began filming immediately after the Sept. 15 exodus from the DMN, which less than two years earlier had laid off more than 60 staffers. Most of those interviews were either with ex-DMNers or interested observers living in the newspaper's circulation area. But that was then.

"It's not the core of the film, no," Birnbaum said. "When you guys were going through the buyout, I was drawn to you as people I know going through something very challenging and personal. That's what drew me emotionally toward the subject. We had thought at one point that the stories of what people were going through at least might be the emotional core of the film. I'm not even sure if that's going to happen."

"Definitely the story has expanded since we first started shooting in Dallas," Mendoza said.

They've landed some big names -- Walter Cronkite, Ben Bradlee, Ken Auletta -- and a large number of lesser known newspaper editors and analysts. But so did Lowell Bergman in his recent four-part News Wars series for PBS.

Last February's Part 3 of Bergman's series telescoped the tumult at The Los Angeles Times to tell a larger story about the possibly dismal future of newspapers in the face of the Internet and stockholder demands on publicly traded companies. Belo Corp., which owns the DMN, is one of those companies. Its executives so far have declined to be interviewed for Stop the Presses.

"But it's gonna happen," Mendoza insisted.

"I don't think that's the way they do things," Birnbaum disagreed. "I don't think they're going to cooperate."

"We've got so many great people," Mendoza said. "If we get nobody else, it's still gonna be great."

They hope to have a rough cut of the film finished by early fall. Sunday's excerpt began at a Sept. 10 party where many DMN staffers gathered to imbibe and commiserate before the mass walkout.

The always outspoken and voluble Jeffrey Weiss, who remains at the paper, says on camera that losing more than 100 people clearly would diminish the DMN. It wouldn't matter who left, he said. The sheer volume of departures would make the paper "less good as a result."

Former DMN reporter Michael Precker, now a day manager at The Lodge gentleman's club, says matter-of-factly, "The worse you make the product, the faster it's going to decline."

The segment then mostly went national, showcasing a dozen or so out-of-state talking heads. Much of what they say already has the feeling of same-old, same-old. Just read Romenesko.com on any given day.

During a brief Q&A session after the screening, Precker wondered whether Stop the Presses would find its way back toward the "personal" stories of some who left the paper. He didn't get a direct answer, but was chided by Video Festival founder Bart Weiss. Did Precker want even more screen time, Weiss asked.

That wasn't the intent of Precker's question, which raised a valid point. Stop the Presses, bankrolled in large part by Dallas-based AMS Production Group, runs the considerable risk of shortchanging itself with too many voices from afar. The film's heart, under its current blueprint, doesn't really beat for Dallas anymore. That may sound parochial. But the emotional punch that Birnbaum seeks won't be found anywhere but here.

"We've got a lot of opinions about this business, and how it got into this mess and where it might go," he said.

All well and good, and maybe detrimental to the film on which Birnbaum and Mendoza have worked so hard. Now all will be won or lost in the editing room.

"We really haven't begun to string that one-hour together yet," Birnbaum said.

So in reality, it could still go either way.

Off-air: Former CBS 11 reporter/anchor Sarah Dodd takes a breather and tells why she left

Sarah Dodd dresses up a Dallas bookstore. Photo: Ed Bark

Former high-profile CBS11 journalist Sarah Dodd talks about her recent past and future prospects in her first face-to-face interview since leaving the station in mid-July. Also, see a picture of her new pride-and-joy.
Ed Bark