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Q&A: Jan. 30

Question: Whatever happened to Brian Custer at Channel 11 sports? Their Mavs shows have not been the same without him. I thought he was their best sports guy.
B. Rimen

Answer: Custer is now working for SportsNet New York. He spent eight years at CBS11.

Question: Why did they kill off the Tim "Speed" Speedle character on CSI: Miami?
Barbara Riggs

Answer: The actor, Rory Cochrane, reportedly grew weary of the show's frequent use of forensic terminology and asked to be let out of his contract. He did 50 episodes of CSI: Miami, the last in 2004. His latest listed credit is The Company, a TV miniseries currently in post-production according to the website imdb.com.

Here's a well-made tribute video that includes Speed's death scene.

Q&A: Jan. 24

Unclebarky.com is back from the midseason network TV "press tour" and ready to roll again with your questions. So let's get started.

Question: NBC has advertised that all episodes of Friday Night Lights are available to watch. It seems only episodes 8-12 are available. How can I locate Episode 1?
Madeleine Bereuter

Answer: You're right. That offer apparently was for a limited time only. However, you can go here to get what you've been missing.

Question: A few years ago I saw a lot of press about ESPN producing a movie about the mythic "Ice Bowl" -- the 1967 NFL championship game between the Cowboys and the Packers. Suddenly, all stories ceased. Is the project dead?
Mark Tyler

Answer: Being a Wisconsin native, I've asked that question myself at various ESPN press sessions. Here's the latest. The "Ice Bowl" movie indeed is dead, but ESPN still might make a movie about Packers Coach Vince Lombardi. The network holds the rights to an excellent Lombardi bio, When Pride Still Mattered, written by David Maraniss. Any ESPN movie would be adapted from that book. It's a longshot, though.

Question: What's up with CBS11 reporter Stephanie Lucero's on-air wardrobe? She recently wore something that looked like she found it in the trash can at the circus. It was during an otherwise serious story about a local soldier's wife dealing with his deployment or something. It's hard to pay attention to the story when the reporter is impersonating a clown.

Also, I'm having trouble finding the (Nielsen) numbers for The Apprentice. Please tell us it's tanking locally and nationally.

Answer: I didn't catch that alleged Stephanie Lucero wardrobe malfunction, so can't help you there. She is, however, a solid veteran who generally knows her way around a story. As for The Apprentice, it in fact has pretty much been tanking, with the ongoing sixth edition easily its least-watched yet. There's also been some fierce competition on Sunday nights, though, including Fox's launch of 24 and some high-powered NFL playoff games. NBC has decided to preempt "The Donald" opposite the Super Bowl, but he might have to fend for himself against the Oscars.

Q&A: Jan. 5

Question: OK, so I am older than the target demographic audience (18-to-49-year-olds) that the advertisers are seeking. But my husband and I do enjoy Friday Night Lights, as does our daughter who lives in Berkeley, CA. (And she is a member of that desired audience!) My question is: Does it help to do the old-fashioned thing and write a letter or email supporting Friday Night Lights?

Answer: It can't hurt. So I'm sending your email on to the proper authority at NBC. It's a shame that the ratings aren't better for FNL, although I've had some emails from would-be viewers who can't tolerate the show's at times jittery hand-held camera approach. Whatever the reason, it looks like a first-rate series could be going down the drain after this season despite NBC's very best efforts to keep it afloat.

Q&A: Jan. 3

Question: Where is Yolanda Walker from Belo8? Is she still with the station? I haven't seen her on the air in weeks.

Answer: Walker, who joined the station in September 2001, voluntarily has left to pursue other interests. Her contract expired late last year. She came to Belo8 from WTHR-TV in Indianapolis, her station bio says. She and David Letterman both are graduates of Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

Q&A: Jan. 2

Question: With Bob Barker retiring this summer, what do you think are the chances of Tom Bergeron taking over the show? Any other host possibilities?
Lisa Bellah

Answer: Bergeron is under contract to ABC and it's unlikely the network would let him go anywhere. Not that Bergeron would want to go to Price Is Right. He has higher visibility on both Dancing with the Stars and America's Funniest Home Videos, which in retrospect was the original YouTube.

As for other possibilities, I think Chuck Woolery could do it, but he'd be a real darkhorse. If recent trends are an indication, CBS is just as likely to go with a familiar name who has little or no game show experience. That's what Howie Mandel has wrought on Deal or No Deal. Tim Allen maybe? It's not inconceivable.

Question: I'm interested in knowing what your thoughts are on the Sarah Dodd/Chief Kunkle romance. Namely the ethical issues it may present for reporters and editors at CBS11.
Margarita Martin-Hidalgo

Answer: Well, clearly she can't cover the Dallas PD. Even so, CBS11 definitely has the inside track on police department intrigue, even if Kunkle isn't likely to give his new bride too much news she can use in terms of any scandals or malfeasance. It's a touchy situation, but ethics aren't what they used to be.

CBS Corporation chairman Leslie Moonves, for example, is married to Julie Chen, still a co-host of both the network's Big Brother and The Early Show. Ratings for the latter remain weak, but so far Chen is still standing while Rene Syler was made to walk the plank.

NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell long has been married to Alan Greenspan, until recently the all-powerful chairman of the Federal Reserve. She likely knows a lot that she can't tell her bosses at NBC News. But who knows whether her husband might have pointed her in the right directions on some big stories?

What's more troubling to me than Dodd/Kunkle is CNN anchor Anderson Cooper continuing to sub for Regis Philbin on Regis & Kelly. The guy took a drubbing for segueing directly from the ABC reality series The Mole to CNN. You'd think he'd want to avoid any overt links to show biz TV during times when CNN is spending a ton of money promoting him as its fair-haired serious newsman.

NBC White House correspondent David Gregory likewise is compromising himself by regularly filling in on Today, where he seems all too eager to participate in cooking segments and various slap-happy activities. Mr. Hard-Charging Aggressor during White House press briefings should stop moonlighting as a Pillsbury Dough Boy. But he won't, because nobody seems to draw the line anymore.

Question: Is there anyone at Belo8 responsible for what the on-air talent may or may not wear? The female co-anchor on a recent 6 p.m. newscast had on what can be described as "garish." It was totally unprofessional attire for on-air talent. Does station management just not care?
Ed Weymouth

Answer: Station management cares very much. In fact station manager Mike Devlin recently decreed that all male anchors and reporters must wear ties on the air, excepting only Dale Hansen. But the longtime sports anchor said earlier in these pages that he decided to tie one on any way. In effect he's taking one for the team.

Anchors Gloria Campos and Macie Jepson have undergone several station-directed makeovers over the years. Still, Gloria occasionally shows up in very brightly colored ensembles that charitably can be termed garish.

Then again, Troy Dungan's many-splendored bow ties never have been held against him. So to each his or her own, although you can be certain that station management is both watching and taking notes. That's likewise true of Belo8's competitors. All of the stations keep a close eye on the eye appeal of their high-paid talent.