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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., April 28) -- opening night of May "sweeps" brings wealth of attractions

Dirk was work of art from foul line in 4th quarter. Photo: Ed Bark

The Dallas Mavericks closed out Portland on Night 1 of the May ratings "sweeps" while Round 1 of the NFL draft, Steve Carell's last episode of The Office and American Idol also vied for attention.

Idol's 7 p.m. results show on Fox was Thursday's most-watched attraction with 475,096 D-FW viewers, edging the late night Mavs-Blazers playoff game on TXA21 and TNT (an average of 443,244 viewers). For the first time, though TXA21's homegrown telecast (the last one it will have) reached parity with TNT's national presentation. Both averaged 221,622 viewers for a game that ran from 9:40 p.m. until 12:12 a.m.

ESPN's prime-time coverage of the NFL draft ended up wearing the cable sports ratings crown, averaging more viewers (256,251) than TNT's portion of the Mavs game. But it had the advantage of airing in earlier hours, and was almost finished by the time the Mavs and Blazers tipped off.

Back in the broadcast network universe, Carell's sign-off on an extended version of NBC's The Office drew 207,771 viewers, to run fourth behind ABC's Grey's Anatomy (290,873 viewers), Fox's Bones (270,102) and CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (214,697), all of which offered new episodes. But The Office trailed only Grey's Anatomy among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

Among non-sports attractions, CBS' The Mentalist as usual won the 9 p.m. hour in total viewers while ABC's The Practice had the most 18-to-49-year-olds.

In local news derby results, Day 1 of the sweeps brought twin wins for CBS11 at 10 p.m. Opening the defense of its February crowns, CBS11 edged WFAA8 in total viewers and also won by a narrow margin (over NBC5) among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

NBC5, doing better in the early mornings of late, rang up narrow wins over Fox4 at 6 a.m. in both ratings measurements while WFAA8 placed a distant third and CBS11 again was a fourth-place non-factor.

WFAA8 started strongly at 5 and 6 p.m. by running first in total viewers while NBC5 likewise flexed by winning both competitions among 25-to-54-year-olds.

WFAA8 literally was all over the map with its ambitious 10 p.m. newscast. Weathercaster Pete Delkus and reporter Jason Whitely both reported live from Tuscaloosa, Alabama on the widespread tornado devastation. Their pictures and accounts were both vivid and heart-rending.

Investigator Brett Shipp journeyed to Hollywood, Fla. for part of his report on a local Americans with Disabilities Act activist who has filed hundreds of lawsuits against various restaurants in North Texas and elsewhere. But a number of them seem to be without merit, Shipp found.

The station also sent reporter Steve Stoler to Los Angeles, hub of the "cult" In N Out Burger franchise that will be opening eateries next month in Frisco and Allen. Stoler's report had some good information, but lacked one essential. He neglected to try one of the sainted burgers himself -- at least on camera.

Still, it was a highly distinctive newscast, although without much of a ratings payoff for the travel money spent. Some of that may have been because of the competing Mavericks-Blazers game. But WFAA8 clearly is serious about finding ways to regain its No. 1 standing at 10 p.m. in a month where it stands to get more support from its network than it did in February. That's because ABC now has two strong 9 p.m. dramas -- Castle and the new Body of Proof -- and also will inherit a climactic big-lead in audience from the latest Dancing with the Stars finale.

DMN sports columnist again a no-show as Mavericks show who really lacks guts

Jason Terry had good reason to grin broadly on TXA21. Photo: Ed Bark

When you brand a team "gutless," it's both mandatory and manly to show up at crunch times to either dance on their graves or admit your mistake.

Sports columnist Jean-Jacque Taylor of The Dallas Morning News didn't have the guts to do that. In fact, he hasn't written a word about the Dallas Mavericks since eviscerating them after last Saturday's Game 4 debacle in Portland, which evened their Round one NBA playoff series at 2-2.

Taylor had nothing to say after Dallas thrashed the Trail Blazers in Monday's Game 5 at home. And when they guttily closed out Portland on their opponent's home court late Thursday night, Taylor was safely back in Irving pontificating on the Dallas Cowboys' first round draft pick.

Instead the paper sent columnists Tim Cowlishaw and Brad Townsend, and the redoubtable Eddie Sefko to the Rose Garden. All three are very capable, knowledgeable writers. But whether assigned to the Cowboys or not, Taylor should have demanded that he be there, too. Fair is fair, in both defeat and victory.

Taylor is entitled to his oft-wrong opinions. But calling a team at any level "gutless" is one of the very worst insults in the book. Were the Mavericks inept in failing to hold on to an 18-point fourth quarter lead in Game 4? Sure they were. Did they show signs of reverting back to the one-and-done form of recent post-seasons. Yeah, that, too. But there's no way that proud veterans such as Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler were "gutless." No way in hell.

Maybe I got lucky in a previous post by predicting that the Mavericks would bounce back from the embarrassment of Game 4. But sportswriting was my first love, both in high school and college, before I somehow fell into the pit of TV criticism. So I know a little bit about the beat, and took immediate offense to Taylor's "gutless" screed in Sunday's DMN. The only way to follow up a column like that is to show up for future games. In print at least, Taylor so far hasn't been courageous enough to do that.

None of us are infallible, either as columnists or reporters. But the Mavericks at least corrected their mistakes in Games 5 and 6. They came to play and prove their critics wrong. Their pride showed. Maybe the Los Angeles Lakers will prove to be too much for them in Round 2. But it won't be because the Mavericks have no balls.

In that respect, I think we know who needs to man up. Maybe Taylor is capable of that. For his sake, I hope so.

WFAA8 welcomes another early morning male -- and Ron Corning just might deliver

Cynthia Izaguirre and latest co-anchor Ron Corning. Photos: Ed Bark

The Ron Corning era dawned Wednesday on WFAA8's Daybreak, with the New York import spending his first full-immersion day on the show after briefly being introduced earlier this week.

The Dallas-based ABC affiliate, currently running third in the early morning ratings race, hopes against hope that this time it will amount to considerably more than a cup of coffee for its latest male co-anchor. Incumbent Cynthia Izaguirre, regularly called "Izzy" by her on-air colleagues, is experiencing her fifth partner since July of 2008. That's when Justin Farmer left for Atlanta's WSB-TV, to be followed by Brad Hawkins, Jeff Brady (neither of them with the station anymore) and Chris Flanagan, who on Monday was sent to WFAA8's 9 a.m. Good Morning Texas.

Corning clearly has got some game, which he quickly demonstrated Wednesday with flawless readings of his news copy and an ability to give Daybreak the conversational tone and quick-on-the-draw wit that station management sorely wants to cement in place.

In fact, Corning got off a modern-day classic near the 7 a.m. close of the two-and-half-hour show after messing around with cameraman Rob Horning, who was shown on-camera. Viewers also saw Horning's silver-colored name plate before Corning joked that WFAA8 had almost got it right in welcoming him to the station.

Standing outside the Victory Park studios with Izzy, meteorologist Greg Fields and traffic reporter Alexa Conomos, he then noted that "they called me 'Corny' in school. I wonder if he (Horning) had a similar issue with his name."

Seemingly unaccustomed to such verbal derring-do, Izzy's distancing mechanism immediately kicked in. "You've gotta be careful," she said while still maintaining a grin.

"Watch out there now," Fields added.

Charitably put, Flanagan simply had no ability to throw out a line like that. Which is one of the reasons why he's no longer part of the ratings-challenged Daybreak team.

Corning seemed like a natural from the very start, immediately prompting an Izzy giggle after she welcomed him at the 4:30 a.m. open of the show. "How do you feel?" she inquired. "Ready for this?"

"I'm still asleep. Thank you for asking," he rejoined. Not bad for starters.

Corning was duly serious when the occasion demanded, but couldn't resist messing around a bit with WFAA8's longtime Washington, D.C. presence, Dave Cassidy, after interviewing him about a possible end to oil company subsidies.

"We have to let you go, because we have much more important news coming up here," he said before segueing to a brief story on Charlie Sheen's scheduled "Torpedo of Truth" tour appearance Wednesday night at a far less than sold-out American Airlines Center in Dallas.

The newcomer did make one mistake -- and made it twice. But it wasn't really his fault because few self-respecting men, other than your friendly content provider, should be expected to know the ins and outs of ABC's Dancing with the Stars. Izzy says she always watches and pretty much worships the show. Her latest fave is celeb contestant Ralph Macchio

Anyway, a WFAA8 graphic, which was never corrected in two subsequent showings, correctly identified wrestler Chris Jericho as the show's latest evictee. But it named his pro partner as Cheryl "Burton."

It's actually Cheryl Burke, who's been with the show for all but one edition and helped take former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith all the way to the finish line in Dancing's third edition while WFAA8 covered it like a blanket. Corning parroted the "Burton" surname twice. Izzy, who should know better by now, neither corrected him nor told anyone the graphic was wrong. So Daybreak kept repeating the mistake throughout the show. It's almost as bad as mis-identifying American Idol judge Randy Jackson as Randy Ginseng.

But the worst was yet to come. Not that Corning could in any way be blamed.

Fields' treatise on severe Texas weather had a big on-screen hiccup.

During the closing half-hour of Daybreak, Corning dropped over to Fields' area of the studio for a little chat on North Texas tornadoes. Except that the big graphic between them read "Tonadoes." That's a real amateur hour mistake, no matter how early in the morning it is.

The program also was compromised by problem-plagued Shon Gables' two live reports on an apartment complex fire in which two male roommates were found dead. But police suspect a double homicide, with the fire possibly set by the killer or killers to cover their tracks. Or as Gables ungrammatically put it, "Their deaths is not being attributed to the fire."

Gables also referred to a " 'handiclapped' license plate" before quickly correcting herself. Her delivery throughout the report was halting and uncertain at best. And it didn't get any better during a second live dispatch, when she puzzlingly told viewers that the two deceased men had a car "with a potential license plate tag that has a handicapped sticker on it or a handicapped decal inside the car." Huh?

At any rate, the bad guy(s) may have used the car to escape after they "tried" to kill the two victims, Gables said before re-stating that they in fact had killed them.

All of which suggests that the Daybreak program may need more help than the incoming Corning, who seemed to fit right in. He even survived a bottom-of-the-screen graphic that read "Meet Ron Corning. Named One of People Magazine's Most Beautiful People in 2006." And another one that read, "Ron has interviewed dozens of politicians and celebrities." Is this the country's fifth-largest TV market -- or Terrytown?

Asked by Izzy about the People citation, Corning said he was merely the "2 a.m. guy" in a segment titled "Beauty Around the Clock."

This guy potentially is a first-rate fit for Daybreak, which needs its own entrenched version of Tim Ryan, the longtime quipster/curmudgeon/agitator of Fox4's No. 1-rated Good Day waker-up. Corning is no curmudgeon, and he's without a doubt cuter than Ryan. But Fox4 knows how to put on a show, and Daybreak is still learning.

Maybe the new guy will be the messiah who helps lead the show out of its ratings desert. Corning made a winning first impression Wednesday, but who knows if he'll at last be a difference-maker for WFAA8 in the ongoing pitched battle for early morning eyeballs.

Izzy and "Corny" hope you'll be back for much, much more.

Weathering Tuesday's latest storm of program pre-emptions

Funnel clouds again were the money shots Tuesday. Photo: Ed Bark

The weather turned frightful in some areas of North Texas for a second straight day Tuesday, with D-FW's four major TV news providers all opting for continuous coverage from late afternoon through early evening.

Oprah Winfrey, Judge Judy, the network evening newscasts, the 6:30 p.m. syndicated rag mags and Wheel of Fortune all were rubbed out by the warnings of dangerous developments in mostly outlying areas. Network prime-time coverage also was affected, although not unduly save for Fox4.

NBC5 went directly to a 7 p.m. episode of its network's The Biggest Loser, providing weather updates during commercial breaks while keeping weather graphics in play.

WFAA8 initially preempted a first-run warmup for Tuesday's Dancing with the Stars results show, but soon joined it in progress.

CBS11 dallied for a bit before going to a rerun of its network's most popular drama series, NCIS.

Fox4 delayed a new 90-minute, heavily promoted Lady Gaga-themed episode of Glee before airing it in its entirely from 7:30 to 9 p.m. instead of 7 to 8:30 p.m. A first-run episode of the comedy series Raising Hope then pushed back the start of Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast to shortly after 9:30 p.m. More on this later, because Fox4 still messed up its presentation of both shows for the many viewers with high-definition TV sets.

Unclebarky.com reader Rachel Dillard got frustrated when the network prime-time schedules initially were compromised on three of the four stations. Her concerns, which likely were shared by numerous viewers, came pouring out via email.

"I'm astounded. Should I be?" she began. "Every station except 5 is showing us a bunch of rain south and east of Dallas. I know they're desperately hoping to be able to show us a funnel cloud dropping out of the sky, but why? . . . It seems to me that the majority of the Dallas market lives north of the storms. I'm sure Tyler has TV stations that are monitoring the storms. My guess is that anybody with a tornado bearing down has no power to watch it on TV or to even hear (WFAA8's) Pete Delkus warn them to take cover.

"I'm not cold or cruel," she added. "But if the stations feel a moral obligation to pre-empt entertainment with mortification, they can find enough going on in the world to do it full-time."

Another reader, who identified himself as "Frank" in the comments section of an earlier post on Tuesday's pre-emptions, said the "seemingly unending weather coverage of storms far to the south and east is a mystery to me. Many of these areas that are being reported have inhabitants who are scattered -- that is, not a dense population. Why do our local stations feel it necessary to 'report' for hours about storms that are in the fringe areas of their coverage?"

These are valid questions and concerns. And the stations respond by saying that if even one life in their viewing area is threatened, it's their duty to keep sounding the alarms.

It also should be noted that severe weather coverage is the one sure-fire viewer magnet remaining at local stations around the country. Meteorologists or AMS-approved forecasters are the kings and queens of their stations. The daily Nielsen numbers keep demonstrating that. So they aren't about to err on the side of too little coverage. Instead you pour it on and hope that some viewers will remember you were there for them. Bailing out early while rivals stick to their weather maps is a risk that's seldom taken -- unless American Idol is airing live. Even though many a viewer in fact might have welcomed a more tempered approach to Tuesday's weather-palooza.

These continue to be tough calls, though. The public safety in fact should be paramount. And who among us didn't also welcome a respite from the nauseating royal wedding overkill Tuesday on the 6:30 p.m. editions of Entertainment Tonight, Extra and Access Hollywood?

Now back to Fox4, which is alone in still not getting the hang of putting up those little fruit salad weather maps or crawls without disrupting HD programming. Instead the station is still shrinking the picture to non-HD size while NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 have all figured out how to keep the full-screen HD presentation intact while also running weather info.

On Tuesday night, Glee and Raising Hope were both compromised. But when it came time for commercials, Fox4 erased its weather graphics and went to full HD whenever a sponsor used that format. So the basic question is: If those weather bugs are that necessary, why are they expendable during commercials? Isn't a "tornado watch" or "severe thunderstorm" warning still every bit as important to the public safety during the two or three minutes spent selling something?

Management at Fox4 is not allowed to be quoted on the record about anything involving station personnel or operations. That directive is from Fox corporate headquarters in New York, which handles such inquiries. It's just the way it is. It also makes Fox4 the only D-FW television station currently operating under such restrictions.

But in this case there's no real need for your friendly content provider to shinny up the corporate pole. Whatever the reason -- equipment or otherwise --- Fox4's continued inability to transmit HD pictures in tandem with weather graphics or "crawls" is woefully antiquated and in immediate need of repair. Everyone at the station likely would agree with that, even if no one who actually works at the station is authorized to say so by name.

Fox4 otherwise has considerable momentum in the local TV news game, with its ratings a testament to that. But the tin can phone approach to HD transmission doesn't help when bad weather breaks loose. Instead it only adds to the frustration of viewers who want all of the stations to ease up at least a little with their sky-is-falling weather coverage.

Tuesday's late afternoon/early evening weather coverage pits a coat and tie guy for all seasons against three jacket-less juniors

Clockwise from top left: WFAA8's Pete Delkus' NBC5's David Finfrock; Fox4's Dan Henry and CBS11's Larry Mowry during Tuesday's early evening tornado/storm coverage. Photos: Ed Bark

NBC5's David Finfrock, dean of D-FW weathercasters, is a quiet, unassuming guy who probably would just as soon not stand out in a crowd.

But he can't help himself whenever NBC5, Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11 break into regularly scheduled programming for continuous coverage of severe weather threats. That's because Finfrock invariably is the only one to keep his jacket on while competitors Dan Henry, Pete Delkus and Larry Mowry strip down to shirtsleeves.

It's supposed to communicate the urgency at hand and their willingness to work up a sweat for viewers on the receiving ends of loudly colored weather maps and warnings that danger lurks. And indeed this is serious business, with tornados being sighted and multi-sized hail falling in some parts of the North Texas viewing area.

Still, did Finfrock look less up to the task by keeping his coat in play throughout the Tuesday pre-emptions that knocked out late afternoon editions of the Oprah Winfrey and Judge Judy shows, plus the 5:30 p.m. network evening newscasts on NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11? Or did Finfrock in fact look "presidential" in comparison to his competitors?

All of this coat-shedding pretty much started with Delkus before Mowry and Henry followed suit by junking their jackets. Perhaps it all originally began with news consultants' advisories in other markets before spreading to these parts. Whatever the case, what's next? Take off the ties? Unbutton the shirt collars? Don suspenders?

Maps and other visuals obviously matter under these circumstances. But olden guys such as Harold Taft, Troy Dungan and Mike Burger never saw any need to undress for such occasions.

Once one guy starts doing it, though . . . well, Finfrock is still gamely holding out. And whether coincidental or not, NBC5 had the most viewers during Monday's late afternoon, continuous severe weather coverage on all four stations.

It no doubt helps that Finfrock still oozes credibility and has been at this game a whole lot lot longer in this market than Henry, Delkus or Mowry. So he's earned the right to still do it his way -- in full mettle jacket -- while the other guys visually gang up on him.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., April 25) -- Mavs whip Blazers and also beat Dancing in key demo

Rebounding from their fourth quarter debacle in Game 4, the Dallas Mavericks regained playoff momentum Monday night with a convincing 93-82 home win against Portland.

TXA21's home-grown telecast for the first time was pretty much the only game in town, with a simulcast available on the still relatively obscure NBA TV network instead of a competing separate national presentation on ESPN or TNT.

Running from 7:41 to 9:58 p.m., Mavs-Blazers averaged 360,136 D-FW viewers, with a peak crowd of 512,502 in the final 15-minute increment. That was good enough to beat every competing program except the 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. portion of ABC's Dancing with the Stars, which drew 450,171 viewers.

But the Mavs handily whipped all other attractions among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds, averaging 210,598 viewers in this key demographic while Dancing drew 148,077 for its entire 90-minute performance edition. Ratings in D-FW for NBA TV's simulcast were unavailable, but likely not all that significant.

In the 9 p.m. hour, Fox4's local newscast topped the non-sports programming competition in both ratings measurements.

Monday's tornado-tied coverage led to pre-emptions of both The Oprah Winfrey Show on WFAA8 and two doses of Judge Judy on Fox4 during the 4 to 5 p.m. hour. But NBC5 and CBS11 still ranked one-two with their regularly scheduled local newscasts. The Peacock had 152,365 total viewers, followed by CBS11's regular late afternoon news (124,663).

The 10 p.m. competitions were split, with WFAA8 drawing the most total viewers (342,509) while CBS11 overcame a lead-in disadvantage from its network's Hawaii Five-0 repeat to top the field in 25-to-54-year-old viewers (the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations).

Fox4 won at 6 a.m. in total viewers and tied NBC5 for first place with 25-to-54-year-olds. Ties were rampant in the early evening, too. Fox4 and CBS11 shared first place at 6 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds. At 5 p.m., NBC5 and CBS11 split the gold in total viewers but Fox4 won outright in the 25-to-54 demographic.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., April 22-24) -- Mavs horror show gets same audience as easier-to-stomach Game 3 loss

Second verse, same as the first -- only this loss was 10 to 100 times harder to take.

Game 4 of the first round playoff series between Dallas and Portland, in which the Mavericks blew an 18-point fourth quarter lead, drew the same-sized audience as the late-night Game 3 defeat. That would be 401,169 D-FW viewers for a game that ran from 4:17 to 6:49 p.m. Saturday on TNT and TXA21. The split between the stations was identical, too, with TNT pulling in 221,622 viewers and TXA21, 180,068.

But TXA21's homegrown Monday night telecast should have no problem racking up its first win against a national cable-cast. That's because NBA TV will be the cable arm for Game 5. And if TXA21 can't whip NBA TV, then Tyson Chandler can't beat me in a dunking contest.

Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers rolled to a three-game sweep against the visiting Kansas City Royals. Friday night's game on TXA21 had 186,994 viewers, Saturday's on Fox Sports Southwest drew 192,920 and the Sunday afternoon closer on FSS had 166,217 viewers.

But perhaps you're wondering how ABC's annual Easter-themed presentation of The Ten Commandments did. Well, it did pretty well, with Charlton Heston's Moses again parting the Red Sea and fending off the advances of his former girlfriend to the tune of 180,068 viewers Saturday night. That was good enough to beat everything except Fox4's competing 9 p.m. newscast, which won the 9 p.m. hour by a score of 262,177 viewers to 193,920 for the 9 to 10 p.m. portion of Commandments.

On Sunday night, Donald Trump's ongoing threat to run for president certainly isn't hurting ratings for NBC's Celebrity Apprentice. It won its 8 to 10 p.m. slot with a nice-sized 277,028 viewers while also taking the gold among advertiser-favored 18-to-49-year-olds.

Friday's four-way local news derby results had treats for every station except WFAA8.

CBS11, aided by a substantial lead-in audience for CBS' two-hour Girls Night Out country music special (256,251 total viewers overall and 290,879 from 9:45 to 10 p.m.), kept most of the inherited audience to win at 10 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 and NBC5 tied for first place at 6 a.m. in total viewers, with Fox4 alone atop the 25-to-54 heap.

NBC5 weighed in with twin wins at 5 p.m. The Peacock and CBS11 tied for first at 6 p.m. in total viewers while Fox4 had the most 25-to-54-year-olds at that hour.

Mavericks return home after referees assist in their Game 4 collapse (And no, they're not "gutless" -- the Mavs that is)

The ball went out of bounds off whose hands? Since Tyson Chandler (center) was involved, the referees of course reversed their initial call and belatedly fingered Chandler in a key turnabout with 49.4 secs. left in Game 4 and the score tied 82-82. Photo: Ed Bark

Yes, it's all too true. The Dallas Mavericks mostly played like marshmallow Easter bunnies in blowing their big fourth quarter lead at Portland Saturday.

Or to continue the holiday motif, they laid an egg. Had no hops when it counted. Even owner Mark Cuban reportedly quit on them, leaving his bench side seat at the Rose Garden after Brandon Roy put Portland ahead 84-82 with 39.2 seconds left in the game. He later left the building without any comment. Pretty weak.

However . . .

Did the Mavs really put on a "gutless" display, in the words of a knee-jerk Dallas Morning News sports columnist who demanded that a "soft" Dirk Nowitzki be traded after the team's embarrassing 2007 first-round exit against Golden State? Did the Mavs again show the world that they're "chokers?"

Let's take a quick look at other NBA playoff results over the weekend.

In the Western Conference, The No. 1-seeded San Antonio Spurs lost at No. 8-seeded Memphis, which now has a 2-1 lead in their series.

The No. 2-seeded Los Angeles Lakers lost to the injury-wracked, vastly under-sized, No. 7 New Orleans Hornets, evening their series at two games apiece.

In the East, the No. 4-seeded Orlando Magic again went down to the No. 5 Atlanta Hawks, who now lead their series 3-1. The Magic had six consecutive first round exits until finally beating the Toronto Raptors in the 2008 post-season. Then they were wiped out by the Detroit Pistons. Despite regular season success and superstars such as Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard, they've never won a title.

This doesn't negate what happened to the Mavs on Saturday. And it's also sobering to note that the Boston Celtics likewise had a 23-point lead against the Knicks Sunday afternoon before seeing it shrink to 4 points with seven minutes left in the 4th quarter. But Boston regrouped under savvy coach Doc Rivers and ended up winning by double-digits while eliminating New York.

In contrast, Mavs Rick Carlisle didn't seem to know how to restore order Saturday. And it's small consolation that he took much of the blame for the team's reversion to crepe paper defensive play after a stellar third quarter had Portland down by 23 points at one point.

Carlisle can't control the officiating, though. And three pivotal calls down the homestretch of the fourth quarter all went against Dallas. It seemed to provide further evidence that NBA officials have very long memories and haven't forgotten Cuban's constant ridiculing of them in seasons past. In short, they'll find a way to screw him if they can. I really believe that, and Cuban really has no one to blame but himself.

One of the key calls was against Tyson Chandler, who's pretty much been victimized throughout the series. He stole the ball in the backcourt and clearly never even touched the Portland player in the eyes of both TNT and TXA21 commentators. He was called for the foul anyway -- his 5th. Perhaps one of those five fouls actually was legitimate. It's tough to play with your trademark aggressiveness when the officials repeatedly are whistling you for what amount to fingernail scratches.

Call No. 2, on Nowitzki, came with 2:16 left in the game and Dallas still leading 80-74. He drove to the hoop, scored and seemingly was fouled for what looked like a likely three-point play that would have stretched the lead to an imposing nine points. Instead, to the surprise of both national and local commentators, the officials called a charge on Nowitzki. Terrible. And it further fueled Portland's momentum. If that call goes the other way -- which it should have -- Dallas wins the game.

Then came Chandler-gate, as he battled Portland forward Gerald Wallace for a loose ball under the Mavericks basket with 49.4 seconds left and the score tied. The refs initially ruled that Wallace was the last to touch the ball before it went out of bounds. Then they reviewed the tape. In such cases, evidence is supposed to be "conclusive" for any call to be reversed. It decidedly wasn't conclusive. But since Chandler was involved, the call was reversed and the ball awarded to Portland, whose on-fire Brandon Roy went on to make the winning shot before Cuban slunk off the court and into the Mavs locker room.

"Well, I'd say that's playing to the crowd," commentator Jeff "Skin" Wade said of the call reversal on the TXA21 telecast. Homer or not, Wade was right. Another item: Portland shot 23 free throws in the game and made 22 of them. Dallas was perfect from the line but got only 10 attempts.

After Game 1, Portland head coach Nate McMillan was fined by the league for griping about the disparity in foul calls in the fourth quarter, when Nowitzki went to the line again and again after in fact getting hammered by various Portland defenders. McMillan knows how to pick his spots and make a point. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, Cuban's previous rants against officials have made it virtually impossible for Carlisle to question the refereeing. At this point, that would be crying wolf.

Dallas still should have won Saturday. They blew a chance to all but close out Portland. But when the pivotal crunch time calls all go the other way, you start to wonder if the referees smell your blood and want you to keep bleeding.

This is not a "gutless" Mavericks team, though. And I think they'll show that in a Monday night Game 5 at home that they simply have to win. So will they? Yeah, I think they will. Although the officials could always complicate matters, as could Cuban by sitting so visibly close to the Mavericks bench.

Meanwhile, there are some favored playoff teams in San Antonio, Los Angeles and Orlando that also have some explaining to do. None of them is in any better shape than Dallas at the moment. We'll see how it all pans out.

WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos hopes to be back early next week after back surgery (updated with note on WFAA8 newcomer Ron Corning)

It's been a rough several months for longtime WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos, who had back surgery on Good Friday and earlier broke a kneecap in December after a fall outside the Dallas-based station's Young Street offices.

Her husband, Lance Brown, sent an email Saturday saying that Campos had the procedure to "remove some junk from her spine that had caused her great pain for weeks. She's sore today and not moving real well. But she's shooting to be back on the air Monday, May 2."

The one-month May "sweeps" ratings period starts on Thursday of this week, meaning that Campos will miss her regularly appointed 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts on at least the first two weekdays of the tri-annual competition.

On her Facebook page, Campos sent an Easter Sunday message thanking friends for their well-wishes.

"Feeling pretty good, still have slight numbness in left leg," she said. "Haven't sat in front of computer yet. Not supposed to bend, drive, sit for longer than 20-30 minutes at a time (or) carry heavy objects for two weeks."

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Ron Corning's previously scheduled Monday, April 25th debut as the new Daybreak co-anchor on WFAA8 has been delayed a bit. Instead Monday's early riser was co-anchored by incumbent Cynthia Izaguirre and traffic reporter Alexa Conomos.

"He should be on the air Wednesday," WFAA8 news director Michael Valentine said Monday afternoon. "We will introduce him today or tomorrow morning."

Sports department of one shrinking to none at CW33 with departure of Dave Crome

Veteran CW33 sports anchor-reporter Dave Crome, who joined the Dallas-based station in 1998, will be signing off this week.

Crome's last scheduled day is Wednesday, leaving CW33 without any remaining sports staffers after the earlier departures this year of Desmond Purnell and Candice Crawford, who is engaged to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. The entire full-time, on-camera news team, pictured on the station's website, will be down to 11 before the May "sweeps" ratings period starts Thursday.

Crome, a graduate of Southern Illinois University, previously worked for KDBC-TV in El Paso and KSHB-TV in Kansas City, according to his CW33 bio.

Fox4 reporter Sophia Reza leaving station after husband gets new out-of-state job

Reporter Sophia Reza, who has spent close to three years at Dallas-based Fox4, is resigning from the station to join her husband in Seattle, where he has a new job.

Reza's last day at Fox4 will be next week, the station confirmed Friday. She has been part of Fox4's 9 and 10 p.m. newscast reporting team after coming to Dallas in July 2008 from ABC affiliate KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City.

Reza has not yet returned an email asking for comment. The El Paso native is a 1997 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, and earlier worked for nearly six years at KTSM Newschannel Nine in El Paso.

Fox4 meteorogist Ron Jackson loses Cedar Hill home and pets to Good Friday fire of still unknown origin

Veteran Fox4 meteorologist Ron Jackson woke up in his Mansfield apartment Friday morning to learn that his main home in Cedar Hill had been gutted by a fire.

"It's not the greatest feeling in the world, I'll tell you that," Jackson said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon. "I really don't know exactly where we stand at this point, but it's pretty bad. The house burned down, at least most of it. I don't know if it's totaled or not."

Jackson said he had been having the home restored and hoped to move back in at the end of May. He was at the Cedar Hill residence until about 11 p.m. Thursday before locking up and returning to his Mansfield apartment, Jackson said. "Everything was fine."

The cause of the blaze is still unknown, and he hasn't yet been allowed inside the home, he said. Two exotic birds that he owns perished in the fire and his cat is still missing, Jackson said he was told. He also had just purchased a 73-inch screen television set that was destroyed. "I hadn't even taken it out of the box," Jackson said.

Jackson does the weekend weathercasts at Fox4 and also regularly fills in on weekday newscasts. He has been at the station since the late 1980s.

No one can accuse Fox4's Dan Godwin of coasting -- not even on the new Texas Giant

Fox4's Dan Godwin is starting to grow on me -- and not like a wart anymore.

Yeah, he can be kind of vain, sometimes a little goofy and demonstrably determined to protect the turf his station gives him. But he's a survivor who comes to play, whether it's anchoring the Dallas-based station's noon newscasts, filling in on the early morning Good Day as Tim Ryan's desk replacement, presiding over Saturday morning's Good Day or reporting live in the early mornings from a wide variety of locales.

Godwin took two spins this week on the newly refurbished Texas Giant rollercoaster at Six Flags while Ryan and traffic reporter Chip Waggoner chortled from the safety of Fox4's downtown studios. He's clearly more than a little scared of such ups and downs. But Godwin is also a gamer who took his second ride in daylight hours while the live cameras rolled.

"The greater visibility doesn't really enhance the enjoyment for me," Godwin noted while in the front row seat with a coaster enthusiast.

He survived both rides without any live vomit comet mishaps. Both trips were captured in their entirety, with Godwin choosing to keep a firm grip on the safety bar rather than raise his arms at the goading of Ryan and Waggoner.

Below is video of the second daylight ride. It qualifies as "good television," even if it likely won't be part of any Lone Star Emmy package. So we salute Godwin for hanging in there at Fox4. Every TV station needs people who enjoy what they do, are good at what they do and are willing to mostly be second bananas. Godwin certainly wouldn't mind a bigger spotlight at Fox4. But he's assumed the position and made himself a valuable utility player at a station where middle-agers are ever threatened by youth movements. The kids will have a tough time displacing this guy, though. He'll see to that.

Dan Takes the Plunge: Texas Giant: MyFoxDFW.com

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., April 21) -- numbers droop for late-starting Mavs loss

Clanking too many free throws and bedeviled by clown car officiating at times, the Dallas Mavericks' third playoff game at Portland netted them both a 97-92 loss and a diminished local audience Thursday.

Running from 9:46 p.m. to 12:18 a.m., the game drew 221,622 D-FW viewers for TNT's national telecast and added another 180,068 for TXA21's home-grown presentation. That adds up to 401,169 viewers, a significant dip from the 484,799 who watched Game 2 but up a bit from the opening night crowd of 394,765.

Viewers again chose TNT over their cheerleading local station, but the gap lessened considerably from Game 2, when TNT blew out TXA21 by a score of 346,285 to 138,514.

Elsewhere Thursday, Fox's American Idol as always led the parade, pulling in 519,428 viewers from 7 to 8 p.m. as the show said goodbye to Stefano Langone and reduced the field to six.

Fox's following new episode of Bones also won its time slot, with 290,879 viewers, before Fox4's 9 p.m local newscast took the gold at 9 p.m. with 277,028 viewers. It was the second straight prime-time sweep for Fox/Fox4, although CBS and ABC both cooperated by airing repeats of their potent drama series from 8 to 10 p.m.

Fox4 also prospered in the four-way local news derby competitions, and would have had a very rare double grand slam had it held serve as usual at 6 a.m.

But arch rival NBC5 lately has become a factor again in the early morns, with the start of the May ratings "sweeps" just a week away. (April 28-May 25). On Thursday, the Peacock won at 6 a.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-old, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations. NBC5 also ran the early morning table on Wednesday.

Fox4 otherwise controlled the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. Nielsens, winning in both ratings measurements from early evening to late night.

Obama vs. Watson: The unabridged WFAA8 video tells a fuller, different story

WFAA8's Brad Watson introduces story on Monday's 10 p.m. news. Photo: Ed Bark

The on-air edited versions of "reality" series -- or in this case a sit-down interview with a U.S. president -- can often create quite a different perception than the untouched raw footage.

Such is the case with WFAA8 Brad Watson's one-on-one-interview Monday with President Obama, which has received wide exposure and reaction nationally after the station billed it as "tense" at times.

An earlier post in these spaces mostly sided with Watson's comportment. National outlets, ranging from Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor to The Drudge Report to The Huffington Post, have seized on the reporter's observation (during Monday's 10 p.m. newscast) that "after the interview, Mr. Obama pointed out that he doesn't like an interviewer challenging his comments."

As evidence, WFAA8 rolled post-interview footage of Obama saying, "Let me finish my answers next time we're doing an interview."

Raw video of the entire interview, later posted on wfaa.com, shows that Watson was hardly a provocateur. In fact, if anything he stifled himself, as an "alternate angle" with the camera on Watson clearly shows. The entire nine minute, 10 second interview also is shown with the camera on the president.

Watson and WFAA8 news director Michael Valentine both declined to talk further about the interview Wednesday.

"Thanks for the offer, but not doing interviews at this time," Watson said in an email reply.

"I am going to pass," Valentine said, also via email. "We posted the raw footage so people would have the full context of the interview. I will let our work speak for itself."

In this view, that's an ill-considered position for a media company to take on a story that's created such a national stir. But it's all too typical, too, so let's just go to the full videotape.

Watson did err in telling viewers on camera that he had just seven minutes with Obama, who also did one-on-ones Monday with three other local TV stations from around the country. In fact he had just over nine minutes. But the president consumed two minutes with his first answer after Watson asked how he plans to sell his administration's "deficit reduction" plan to Texans.

Obama basically gave an all-purpose, rote answer, without any interruptions by Watson. He once started to interject, but didn't. After Obama had finished, Watson noted that the "political backdrop is very difficult" in Texas before pointedly asking, "Why do you think you're so unpopular in Texas?"

This eventually led to the president contending that he had lost the presidential contest in Texas by just a "few percentage points" before Watson bluntly but correctly told him, "Well, you lost by about 10."

Obama then continued at length while Watson duly listened. Then came the nationally seized upon question about the space shuttle orbiters and how both Democrats and Republicans, in Watson's view, suspected that Obama had awarded them to "states that would help in the president's reelection." Houston, rich in NASA history, thus was left out. (Sources say that this question was asked in deference to Houston's KHOU-TV, which like WFAA8 is owned by Belo Corp.).

"That's wrong," the president said, cutting into Watson's question before it was fully asked.

"No, that's wrong," Obama repeated, again before Watson had finished.

"I just said that was wrong," the president said for a third time after Watson had completed his query. A commission made the decisions, and the White House had nothing to do with it, Obama added.

"And you weren't personally involved in the decision," Watson rejoined.

"I just said that wasn't true," the president said.

"All right," Watson said before moving on to some of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's criticisms of the Obama administration.

WFAA8's edited presentation of space shuttle orbiter-gate perhaps did Watson a disservice by making him appear to be more contentious than he in fact was. Obama did the interrupting, not Watson. And the reporter quickly moved on, even if his station might well have provided viewers with a different impression.

Obama was allowed to rebut Perry at length when he chose to do so. Watson sat and listened to the point where there was just one minute, 43 seconds remaining of his sit-down with the president.

"In our time left," he said, "Is a bill (on immigration reform) dead for the rest of your term?"

No, it isn't Obama said, before starting to recite his administration's accomplishments regarding "border enforcement."

"Will you actively push a bill in the next year and a half?" Watson interjected.

This is where Obama clearly took offense, pausing for effect before resuming with his answer. He continued until Watson had just 33 seconds left in his tank. The president then was asked if he would actively campaign in Texas for reelection or whether he had written the state off.

"I never write off any states," Obama began.

"You're not going to write off . . .?" Watson asked.

"I never write off states, and I love Texas," the president reiterated. "Every time I go down there I have a great time."

"You have big crowds," Watson told him.

"Absolutely," Obama agreed.

"But you'll come to campaign, or just fund-raise?" Watson asked.

"I'm going to have a great time in Texas," the president assured him before each thanked the other.

It was then that Obama initially whispered, "Let me finish my questions" before correcting himself and saying in a fuller voice, "Let me finish my answers next time we do an interview."

"All right, sir. Thank you," Watson said as the video ended.

Numerous news outlets have seized on Obama's closing rebuke to Watson, which WFAA8 also milked. But in reality, Watson asked concise and sometimes pointed questions with the full realization that his time was precious and that allowing the president to simply run out the shot clock would not justify the expense of his station sending him to Washington.

But nowhere, as this raw tape shows, did Watson misbehave or grandstand. Unfortunately for him, WFAA8 created something of a mis-impression with the edited version of the interview that aired on the 10 p.m. newscast. In defense of the editors, which may well have included Watson, you underscore the flashpoints of any interview in order to pique viewer interest. So that's what happened -- before various national outlets pounced, dissected and came down either for Obama or against Watson. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, their own political biases tended to heavily influence where they stood.

Here's the full video. The version that aired on Monday's 10 p.m. newscast was earlier posted here.

Think not what KERA-TV can do for you

The radio arm of Think remains in place, but budget concerns and the "ever-changing media landscape" have prompted Dallas-based KERA13 to drop the Friday night TV version, according to the stations' "Media Room" website.

KERA also announced Wednesday that it is eliminating the positions of six employees. President and CEO Mary Anne Alhadeff said that the station's planning for the 2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1st, must take into account "continuing uncertain economic times" and a "potential reduction" down the road in federal spending for public broadcasting.

Co-hosted by Krys Boyd and former Dallas Morning News colleague Jerome Weeks, the Think TV show premiered in February 2007 and has aired on three Fridays per month. Its last telecast will be this Friday, April 22nd at 7 p.m., KERA said.

The radio program, with Boyd as sole host, continues on Mondays through Thursdays from noon to 2 p.m. on KERA-FM (90.1). Weeks also will remain at the stations, KERA said.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., April 19) -- Mavs men man up again

Big Dirk has lots to smile about after 2nd big win. Photo: Ed Bark

The Dallas Mavericks mounted another two-pronged ratings attack Tuesday, beating Portland in Game 2 of their playoff series while TNT soundly whipped TXA21's homegrown telecast.

The Mavs' convincing 101-89 win, which ran from 8:46 to 11:19 p.m., averaged 346,285 D-FW viewers on TNT, where the game action was called by little-known Matt Devlin and Hall of Famer Kevin McHale. That drubbed TXA21's presentation, with Mark Followill and Derek "No doubt about it" Harper presiding. It averaged 138,514 viewers for a grand total of 484,799.

Saturday night's opening game on TXA21/ESPN had 394,765 viewers overall, with 228,548 for ESPN and 166,217 for TXA21. That's a substantial increase in viewership from Game 1 to 2, but an increasing turnoff of the TXA21 telecast. So if you're Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, there's something wrong with this picture. After all, he picks the home team announcers. And late in the season, Cuban dumped longtime analyst Bob Ortegel in favor of Harper for home games and Brad Davis on the road. Those new combos are shooting air balls in times when TXA21's free-of-charge cheerleading telecasts arguably should have a leg up on the cable network alternatives.

Elsewhere in prime-time, CBS' NCIS repeat whipped Fox's new episode of Glee in the 7 p.m. hour by a score of 360,136 viewers to 277,028. But Glee dominated among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds.

At 8 p.m., ABC's Dancing with the Stars results show (so long, Petra Nemcova) drew 332,434 total viewers to nip CBS' competing NCIS: Los Angeles rerun (325,508 viewers). But both shows ran second to the aggregate Mavs-Blazers total. Dancing took the silver, behind the Mavs, in the 18-to-49 measurement.

The Mavs game also controlled the 9 p.m. hour. But among the Big Four broadcast networks, CBS' second repeat of NCIS: Los Angeles beat ABC's new Body of Proof in total viewers and 18-to-49-year-olds, where Body fell to fourth.

In Tuesday's local news derby results, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 tied for first place at 10 p.m. in total viewers, with nice-sized returns of 235,474 apiece. But NBC5 was a dominant No. 1 among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 and the Peacock shared first place at 6 a.m. in total viewers, with Fox4 again making it no contest with 25-to-54-year-olds.

CBS11 topped the total viewer Nielsens at 6 p.m., barely beating both Fox4 and NBC5. Fox4 won comfortably in the 25-to-54 demographic.

WFAA8 nipped NBC5 at 5 p.m. in total viewers, with the Peacock crowing its way to a first place finish among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Losing Cowboys again come up winners on NBC's Sunday Night Football

Despite last season's implosion, the Dallas Cowboys again will be a featured attraction on NBC's Sunday Night Football. Provided there's a season.

NBC announced its 2011 schedule Tuesday with high hopes that "the most powerful content in the entire sports and entertainment universe" will resolve its bitter labor dispute any day now. And the Cowboys again get the maximum three games, including their scheduled Sept. 11th season opener on the road against the New York Jets.

The Peacock also has penciled in the Oct. 30th game at Philadelphia and the Dec. 11th home game against the New York Giants. Love to love 'em, or love to hate 'em, the Cowboys remain a ratings magnet nationwide. Which is why NBC still wants 'em after a 6-10 record last season.

Unclebarky's native state, defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers also are getting three SNF games. In fact they'll be bookending NBC's regular season schedule, beginning with a Thursday night, Sept. 8th "NFL Kickoff" game against the New Orleans Saints and ending with a not-so-holy Christmas night encounter with the arch rival Chicago Bears.

Several times with winning records last season are getting just two NBC games. They include the Bears, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went 10-6, aren't scheduled for any SNF games.

The Cowboys are the only losing team to get the maximum three games. In fact, the only other losing team to get even one game is the 6-10 Minnesota Vikings, who are scheduled against the Bears on Oct. 16th.

NBC also will have the next Super Bowl.

Comparing and contrasting: How the Obama exclusive played on Denver TV station (updated)

This chummy picture is prominent on Denver's KCNC-TV website.

As noted in the preceding post on this page, TV stations in Denver, Indianapolis and Raleigh also had one-on-ones with President Obama Monday.

KCNC, Denver's CBS station, sent "political specialist" Shaun Boyd to the White House as its emissary. Her comparatively cuddly one-on-one interview is quite a contrast to the sometimes "tense" faceoff between the president and WFAA8's Brad Watson.

See for yourself in the below video from Monday's latenight newscast on KCNC. As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, the other two stations hadn't yet posted their late news interviews.

NOTE TO READERS: Since KCNC lately has made video of the latenight newscast interview unavailable, here's a link to reporter Boyd's other one-on-ones with Obama, which aired on various newscasts.

WFAA8's Brad Watson in the spotlight, with an irked President Obama fixing a steely glare on him

Barack Obama gave a post-interview scolding to WFAA8's Brad Watson after he dared to interject during some of the president's answers. The station touted the "tense moments" between them. Photos: Ed Bark

It can be a fine line between respecting the office of the presidency and being over-zealous in the interests of provoking a quotable quote.

Veteran WFAA8 reporter Brad Watson, who also anchors the station's Sunday morning Inside Texas Politics program, teetered on a high wire Monday during his heavily promoted "exclusive" interview with President Obama. The bulk of it aired on the 10 p.m. newscast after brief excerpts were shown on the 5 and 6 p.m. editions.

As Watson noted at the outset, he was given just seven minutes with Obama, who also did sit-downs Monday with three other local TV stations in Denver, Indianapolis and Raleigh. The WFAA8 interview was condensed on the 10 p.m. newscast, with most of the questions tied to Texas concerns.

"After the interview, Mr. Obama pointed out that he doesn't like an interviewer challenging his comments," Watson told viewers. WFAA8 then showed post-interview footage in which the president told the reporter, "Let me finish my answers next time we do an interview."

"All right, sir," Watson replied. "Thank you."

Co-anchor Debbie Denmon (subbing for Gloria Campos after she had an injection for back pain Monday) noted "the tense moments in between" during her top-of-the-newscast tease for Obama/Watson. Anchor John McCaa later told viewers that the interview "was not without a few tense moments."

So what were the big deals? Well, Watson came out swinging during his minimal allotted time, asking the president point-blank, "Why do you think you're so unpopular in Texas?"

Obama contended that Democrats are making progress and that his presidential campaign "lost by a few percentage points in Texas."

"Well, you lost by about 10," Watson interjected. Obama then countered, "If what you're telling me is Texas is a conservative state, you're absolutely right." (For the record, Republican John McCain beat Obama in Texas by a margin of 55.39 to 43.63 percent. So Watson was absolutely right on that score, too.)

A bigger flashpoint came when Watson noted that both Democrats and Republicans "suspect the Obama administration skipped Houston to award shuttle orbiters to states that would help in the president's re-election."

"That's wrong," Obama said.

"So was the shuttle not awarded to Houston because of politics?" Watson pressed.

"I just said that was wrong," Obama replied sharply. A commission made the decisions, he added. "We had nothing to do with it. The White House had nothing to do with it."

Watson persisted. "And you weren't personally involved in the decision?"

"I just said that wasn't true," the president said while also rebutting Watson with a steely glare.

So did the reporter go too far? And did WFAA8 likewise over-hype both the contentious nature of the face-off and the state line-crossing trip to Washington "to give you the interview no other station can?"

Well, it's a tough call. And Watson is a tough cookie. In his defense, he didn't settle for basking in the aura of a sitting president and asking puff ball questions on the order of "When are you coming to Texas again, and will you wear a cowboy hat for us?" Watson had a very limited amount of time. And Obama certainly was willing to answer questions by rote and at length in order to keep the ball in his court. It's probably not very often that he encounters a mere local reporter who has the temerity to interject in an effort to pin him down. All presidents of every political stripe end up thinking they're imperial. They're not.

On the other hand, Watson could have given it a rest on the shuttle question after Obama shot it down twice. And maybe the "unpopular in Texas" question could have been tempered a bit. Something on the order of, "One of John McCain's biggest wins in the 2008 campaign came in Texas. Regardless of who your opponent is, can you realistically expect to turn the state around in 2012"

All in all, though, Watson fared better being a bulldog than a pussycat. Presidents can't make all the rules when they agree to sit down for an interview. So Watson ended up getting lectured, and maybe won't be invited back again. But Obama probably respected his tenacity, which in the end is always better than the president ending an interview by saying, "Thanks, you did a great job for our team. We'll have to have you back again."

Here's video of the interview as it played on Monday's 10 p.m. newscast.

"Traffic anchor" Jane Slater came into view Monday on WFAA8's 5/6 p.m. newscasts. She was on camera for perhaps a minute total.

Former CBS11 freelance reporter Jane Slater officially changed stations and jobs Monday, making what amounted to cameo appearances on WFAA8's 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts as the new "traffic anchor."

Co-anchor John McCaa, who introduced Slater on the 6 p.m. edition, said that WFAA8 was determined to "help you out" with time-saving commuter updates. For starters, Slater's total air time on the early evening editions was roughly a minute -- less than the stop time at many traffic light-controlled intersections.

On the 6 p.m. newscast, she strove to make her brief report both down-home and relatable. "If you've got a loved one that's heading home for you (from Seagoville/Richardson to Garland/Mesquite), go ahead and put that dinner in the microwave," Slater suggested.

She spent a year-and-a-half at CBS11, regularly showing up on that station's featured 10 p.m. newscasts. That's apparently not in the cards right now at WFAA8. Asked whether Slater will be a full-time staffer or do anything other than traffic updates, news director Michael Valentine said in an email response Tuesday that "Jane will doing traffic part-time on our 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts."

It should be noted that Monday's early evening newscasts were dominated by coverage of the rampaging wildfires in the Possum Kingdom Lake area. That may have reduced Slater's air time. It also positioned WFAA8 as the place to go for the best live shots and on-the-scene reporting of this wind-aided menace.

WFAA8 also excelled at 10 p.m. Monday, with vivid live reporting from Jim Douglas and Casey Norton, plus Gary Reaves' exclusive taped dispatch on the progress of a seriously burned and still hospitalized firefighter.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., April 15-17 -- Mavs come alive on this scoreboard, too

Jason Kidd hits 6th 3-pointer to snuff out Blazers. Photo: Ed Bark

The Dallas Mavericks' Game 1 post-season win against Portland also gave the team its biggest audience this season on two outlets.

Starting closer to 9 p.m. than the scheduled 8:30 p.m. tip-off and ending at 11:13 p.m. Saturday, the big TV turnout also should give owner Mark Cuban renewed pause to consider whether he in fact "freshened" the homegrown telecasts by dumping longtime analyst Bob Ortegel. That's because the audience for ESPN's presentation was considerably larger than that for TXA21's.

ESPN averaged 228,548 D-FW viewers despite the presence of lesser known announcers Dave Pasch and Doris Burke. TXA21, with a home game combo of Mark Followill and Derek Harper, had 166,217 viewers.

That's a grand total of 394,765 viewers for Mavs-Blazers, with both outlets drawing their peak audiences in the closing minutes of the game. ESPN had 283,954 viewers in the 11 to 11:15 increment while TXA21 drew 228,548.

Sunday night's nationally televised Texas Rangers-New York Yankees game, which ended with another one-run road loss for the North Texas Nine, averaged a robust 367,062 viewers to almost equal the Mavericks' opening playoff win. Friday night's Rangers victory over the Yanks drew 180,068 viewers on TXA21 while Saturday's afternoon loss to New York had a comparatively meager 124,663 viewers. All three games won their time slots locally, though, against a mix of competing broadcast and cable network attractions.

On a fictional sports front, the start of Austin-made Friday Night Lights' final season on NBC had surprisingly sub-dismal ratings locally. Airing at 7 p.m. Friday, it drew 55,406 viewers to run sixth behind Rangers-Yankees, CBS' Chaos, Fox's Kitchen Nightmares, The CW's Smallville and ABC's Shark Tank. Among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds, FNL inched up a rung to fifth place, beating only Shark Tank.

Excluding Rangers-Yankees, Sunday's prime-time Big 4 broadcast network Nielsens were led from 6 to 9 p.m. in total viewers by CBS' lineup of 60 Minutes, The Amazing Race and Undercover Boss. ABC's Brothers & Sisters then edged CBS' CSI: Miami at 9 p.m. It was a checkerboard among 18-to-49-year-olds, with NBC's Dateline winning at 6 p.m., Amazing Race on top at 7 p.m. and ABC's Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters controlling the 8 to 10 p.m. hours.

Friday's local news derby results yielded at least one ice cream cone for everyone, but Fox4 got the most scoops.

WFAA8 won at 10 p.m. in total viewers while Fox4 took the top spot with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 also had a doubleheader win at 6 a.m. and took the 6 p.m. gold in the 25-to-54 demographic.

NBC5 swept the 5 p.m. competitions, with CBS11 running first at 6 p.m. in total viewers.

Reporter Jane Slater moving from CBS11 to WFAA8

Jane Slater in her Twitter photo

Reporter Jane Slater, who's freelanced at D-FW's CBS11 for the past 18 months, is switching stations to join rival WFAA8, starting on Monday, April 18th.

"Honored to join the 5p/6p team delivering your evening traffic reports," she tweets. Slater also says it's "sad to say goodbye to my CBS11 friends . . . thank you for an amazing year and a half! Great station . . . Onwards and upwards though."

WFAA8 management so far has not returned emails and a phone call asking whether this will be a full-time position and if Slater will only be doing traffic.

Slater previously worked at ABC station KMGH-TV in Denver, where she was a general assignment reporter and special projects producer.

Mavs must play mad as well as hard to douse the Blazers

Fittingly perhaps, The Dallas Morning News' two-page interior spread on the Dallas Mavericks' playoff hopes includes a quarter-page ad for an erectile dysfunction remedy.

The not-so-subliminal message: Again impressive in the regular season, the Mavs will have to man up against the formidable Portland Trail Blazers or slink home after another failure to perform in the post-season. But can they get it up?

The Western Conference's other playoff teams have all made it pretty clear that the allegedly "soft" Mavericks are the team they fear least. That should make the Mavs fighting mad and eager to prove their collective manhood. And I hope/think they will this time, barring any key player injuries.

This is an obviously older team that needs everyone at full throttle. Fatigue can be a real factor if one or more of these mostly veteran player can't suit up. In that context, the likes of Peja Stojakovic, JJ Barea and DeShawn Stevenson are key ingredients to a long playoff run. They need to play well in spurts. And they all need to be healthy.

I think we can count on Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion to show up big-time. But can the same be said of Jason Terry and Tyson Chandler?

Terry's a media-friendly guy who always talks a big game. But in the final regular season games against both the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers, he mostly shot blanks when they needed him. That can't happen in the post-season.

Chandler, this season's key addition, also was a boy among men against those two teams. He'll have to stay out of quick foul trouble against Portland while also showing he can bang the boards and stop the Blazers from getting too many easy points inside. He didn't do that against the Lakers or Spurs.

A quick word on the Spurs and coach Gregg Popovich's decision to sit out his star players in that pivotal game against Los Angeles earlier this week. Unbelievable. San Antonio still was vying for overall home court advantage throughout the playoffs, but the Eastern Division's Chicago Bulls instead beat them out by a single game. And the Lakers of course were trying to maintain the No. 2 seed in the West ahead of Dallas. The Spurs made that much easier by laying down for them. So in a way justice was served when Popovich played all of his regulars in the season finale, a loss to the Phoenix Suns in which guard Manu Ginobili emerged with a strained right elbow that could cause him to miss one or more playoff games. I don't feel your pain, Popovich. What you did was a slap at the Mavericks.

Of course, just about everyone seems perfectly willing to diss Dallas. And many are picking the Blazers to again send the Mavs home losers. But I like this team, and I think it has both heart and grit. We'll see about that. But premature ejection would be devastating this time out. So look for the Mavs to play angry and tough for a change. All we can ask is for them to square their shoulders and lay everything on the line. I've got a strong feeling they'll do that. And if they do, they'll prevail.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: All of the first round games against Portland will air free of charge on TXA21, beginning with Saturday's 8:30 p.m. opener in Dallas. They'll also be shown on either ESPN or TNT, with the all-sports network getting Game 1.

Cheeky (or if you prefer, "a bra for the booty" on Good Morning Texas)

Remember the famed Seinfeld "manzier" episode? Although Kramer insisted on dubbing it "The Bro."

That was a fictional product. But the pre-paid Bubbles booty pads spot on WFAA8's Good Morning Texas was all too real. Co-host Amy Vanderoef presided, with some closing modeling help from colleague Rob McCollum. And believe me, you don't want to miss that. Below is the visual documentation that Western Civilization has taken another kick to the junk. And this time it's fallen and can't get up.
Ed Bark.

From the mind of NBC5 reporter/anchor Kim Fischer . . . (updated)

It's perilous to post any more fun lovin' pictures of NBC5 reporter/anchor Kim Fischer. Her photographer, Bob Manzano, might get all litigious again.

But a recent April 6th tweet of hers (the one below on "girlfights") might be worth a thousand pictures. Lest I'm mistaken, you just don't joke about something like this. Particularly when you're representing the NBC-owned-and-operated television station in the country's fifth most populous media market.

Perhaps all North Texas TV stations should take a closer look at how some of their anchors and reporters are using social media. These are new times to be sure. And having a little fun on Twitter or Facebook is hardly a capital crime. But Fischer, for one, just doesn't seem to have a very good compass. We all live and learn, though. So maybe she will, too.

(Later Monday, Fischer "protected" her Tweets, enabling only confirmed Followers to read them. She also re-wrote her Twitter page's introduction, which now reads: "A reporter who believes a sense of humor should not take away from Journalistic integrity . . . but what the heck do I know, really?")

Kim Fischer Facebook photos removed after her photographer threatens lawsuit

Two Facebook photos posted earlier Friday of NBC5 reporter and substitute anchor Kim Fischer have been removed from this site after her photographer, Bob Manzano, threatened a lawsuit.

One of the photos, which had popped up on my Facebook home page via her Facebook page, showed Fischer simulating a pole dance. The other one had her feigning being passed out, with her open-mouthed head positioned next to a plate with a partially eaten piece of cake.

"You posted photos of Ms. Kim Fisher (sic) on your website without my permission," Manzano wrote in his first protesting email, "and also made some very erroneous comments on my creative photography of which Ms. Fisher (sic) was so kindly modeling for me. The photo was cake overdose and not what you wrote which is very defamatory in nature and an insult to me."

Manzano then demanded removal of his photos and an apology both to Fischer and to him. Fischer, former host of Hot On Homes, joined Fort Worth-based and NBC-owned NBC5 in August 2009.

The brief, offending unclebarky.com post -- at least to Manzano -- was headlined, "From the Kim Fischer knows how to have fun files . . ." And its opening sentence read, ''Tis a new world out there in TV News Land, as Kim Fischer's Facebook photos keep reminding us." It noted that the "pole dance shot" is her latest Facebook profile picture, and concluded, "Make of this what you will." The pictures since have vanished, not only here but everywhere else on the web.

In a followup email Manzano said that "as owner of the photos, I have rights to them as to how they are used, even if shared on the Internet." (Again, it was Fischer who distributed the pole dance picture, which drew a number of approving comments from her friends and fans, including KTCK "The Ticket" personality Gordon Keith.)

Manzano added, "I would not like to go to court on this, but will if I have to."

A couple of silly pictures simply aren't worth that kind of aggravation, whether Manzano is posturing or not. On his myspace page, he says of himself and his art, "I love taking photos of women and photographing the essense of the self, not like a portrait, that is a likeness or reflection of what one normally sees but what is inside the person that I photograph."

He adds, "In my opinion, there is nothing more beautiful than to see a woman walking across the house wearing nothing but her birthday suit being her natural self -- walking ART. I admire women who wear sexy and sensual clothing when in public, and we men need to admire it as walking art and stop eye salivating them." Gotcha.

Meanwhile, on her Twitter page, Fischer's bio describes her as a "Lover of wit, wine and weekends. Pit Bull Mommy. Believes laughter cures most anything. Oh, and I write minute long stories that air on NBC5 in Dallas."

And so it goes -- to quote Linda Ellerbee in case she, too, claims legal ownership. Which she wouldn't do.

NBC5 reporter Grant Stinchfield re-ordering -- and re-oiling -- his priorities

Grant Stinchfield won't have to be messing with this stuff anymore.

Veteran NBC5 reporter Grant Stinchfield has had his fill of the TV news business. So he'll be making a stark career transition.

Stinchfield, whose last day at the Fort Worth-based, NBC-owned station is Friday, said he is buying a Kwik Kar Auto Lube and Repair business in Irving (Beltline Road just north of Hwy. 183).

"I have put every ounce of savings I have into this new business venture in an effort to make a better life for my family and I," Stinchfield said in an email Thursday to unclebarky.com. "Though it's a little stressful, I can't be more excited."

Stinchfield, who is married to WFAA8's Good Morning Texas co-host Amy Vanderoef, said he also will be "ramping up StinchfieldReport.com," his self-started news and commentary site. He joined NBC5 in March 2004 after previously reporting for six years with the NBC station in Hartford, Conn.

"The TV business has drastically changed over the past few years and I felt it was best to try and control my own destiny before NBC Universal controlled it for me," he said. "With decreasing revenues and decreasing viewership, I am not sure how the market can sustain five or six news outlets all covering the same stories. I think local TV news has some serious challenges ahead. I figured I would get off the ship before it sinks."

NBC5 "provided me with a terrific seven years," he said. "I will miss covering the 'big story,' but it was time for a change."

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., April 5) -- Aggie victory dance vs. Rangers 5-0 start

A&M star Danielle Adams celebrates national title. Photo: Ed Bark

A women's NCAA hoops final that was as good as the men's was bad gave Texas A&M its first national title Tuesday night with a pulsating 76-70 win over Notre Dame.

And the Texas Rangers made it five wins in a row to open the season by beating the visiting Seattle Mariners.

The two high-fiving sports attractions aired opposite each other, with A&M-Notre Dame tipping off at 7:45 p.m. on ESPN while the Rangers had their usual 7:05 p.m. start time on Fox Sports Southwest.

The Aggies peaked at 228,548 D-FW viewers for the final 15 minutes of the game (9:45 to 10 p.m.), averaging 166,217 viewers overall. The Rangers outdid them with a high of 283,954 viewers between 8:45 and 9 p.m. and an overall average of 193,920.

Over in the broadcast network universe, ABC's Dancing with the Stars results show (outta here, Wendy Williams) had a commanding 373,988 viewers in the 8 p.m. hour. But Tuesday's biggest draw was CBS' 7 p.m. new episode of NCIS (380,914 viewers).

ABC's new Body of Proof continued to hold up well at 9 p.m., winning its time slot with 235,474 viewers. Body, Dancing and NCIS also took their respective hour with advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

TXA21's 7 to 9 p.m. local newscast hit bottom with "hashmarks" (no measurable audience) in the 18-to-49 demographic. It also came up empty in total viewers from 8 to 9 p.m., while drawing a flea-sized 2,770 for its 7 p.m. hour. CW33's 9 p.m. local news qualified as a Goliath in comparison, with a nonetheless puny 20,777 total viewers and 3,291 of them in the 18-to-49 range. That's just not gonna pay the bills for either station.

In the major league news divisions, WFAA8 basked in Body of Proof's lead-in before drawing a top-of-the-heap 235,474 total viewers for its 10 p.m. newscast. That's an impressive complete retention of the Body of Proof audience, which should be good enough for the 10 p.m. crew to merit at least double scoop ice cream sundaes Wednesday while owner Belo's five principal titans tote home $1.6 million in cash bonuses as well as hefty yearly salary increases. Note to sports anchor Dale Hansen, though. No extra nuts.

WFAA8 also won at 10 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 again controlled the 6 a.m. Nielsen competitions while WFAA8 did likewise at 6 p.m. The 5 p.m. spoils were split, with WFAA8 running first in total viewers and CBS11 the winner with 25-to-54-year-olds.

CBS11's cougar town throwdown (co-starring slap-happy Jody Dean)

Lisa Pineiro displays her "hoochie skirt," as described by Jody Dean.
Photos: Ed Bark

Early mornings just haven't been the same at CBS11 since Scott Sams was shown the door last month after four years as co-anchor.

Fans of Sams in turn have rallied behind him and railed against the supposedly juvenile "girls" currently running the show -- holdover Lisa Pineiro and traffic reporter Teresa Frosini, who's been doubling behind the desk.

Monday morning's edition of the No. 4-rated waker-upper provided ample ammunition for their detractors during a daily live cut-in segment with KLUV-FM radio personality Jody Dean.

Frosini began by hand-dancing to the Al Green song Dean had in play. Innocent enough. But then Dean started riffing on his topic of the day -- Katie Couric's apparent impending departure as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

Dean, still deep into his arrested adolescent phase, wore a backwards ballcap for the occasion but lately has shaved his snow white soul patch. It looks like Scott Pelley will be Couric's replacement, Dean said before one of his crew members added, "Yeah, if you look at TMZ this morning, they're calling Scott Pelley THE guy."

Pelley "actually started here. He started at Channel 8, our noble competition," Dean noted. (Actually, he started at Channel 5 before moving to Channel 8.)

Dean then wondered if anyone even watches the network evening newscasts anymore. "And I would suspect the answer largely is no."

Being a cool guy, Dean said he recently spoke to a group of 500 journalism students, none of whom apparently were Couric watchers. (He also grandly let it be known that he'd been inducted into a hall of fame of some sort. "Me and a couple of other people.")

"Forgive me, guys, but the stupidity of the anchor desk," Dean next blurted, warming to the moment when he'd essentially call Pineiro a whore. Such props are nothing but "this huge authority symbol that separates me the viewer from you the anchors," Dean contended. "We live in a time when most people get their news from people like Jon Stewart." (He works behind a desk by the way.)

"I'm sorry," Pineiro interjected, still playing along. "Can somebody cut Jody off?"

Jody kept going, as of course everyone knew he would.

"We're still doin' it like we did in the '50s and '60s," he lamented. "No wonder nobody watches the network evening news." (Actually more than 20 million viewers still watch on an average night, with last week's 8.8 million viewers for the NBC Nightly News far exceeding NBC's woeful prime-time average of 5.4 million viewers per show, according to Nielsen Media Research.)

Pineiro interjected anew. "Would you like me to crawl over the desk and talk to you from in front of the desk?"

"That would be very sexy," Dean riposted. Both Pineiro and Frosini laughed it up.

But Dean wasn't done.

"As news anchors, we wear clothes that nobody wears to work anymore," he said. "Suits and ties and all that other stuff." (Maybe Nightly News anchor Brian Williams should try wearing a backwards ballcap on the air, just like Jody.)

Frosini couldn't take it anymore.

"You should see this skirt she's got on," said said, referring to Pineiro and comparing it to something "Jo Lo" might wear. "Look how cute she is. We're goin' to lunch today, and she's wearing that."

Pineiro stood to show off her red skirt before Dean cracked, "I'm sorry. That's a hoochie skirt right there. That's what that is."

Dean laughs uproariously at his ribald "hoochie" crack.

"Hoochie" is an urban slang term connoting a loose, sexually promiscuous woman. Or borderline prostitute if you prefer. But it was hard to tell whether Pineiro and Frosini were offended or flattered. Pineiro did note, however, that "we just got the official wrap from our producer" regarding the Dean segment. Everyone then had fun with the idea that Dean might not be asked back on Tuesday morning.

"You just never know what he's gonna say," Pineiro finally told viewers, who were assured that Dean in fact would be back.

Meanwhile, CBS11 has been interviewing potential replacements for Sams while also at least mulling the idea of pairing Pineiro and Frosini permanently as early morning's one and only team of at least outwardly frisky cougars.

It might sound chauvinistic to say this. But given what happened during Monday's 6 to 7 a.m. segment, perhaps a reasonably stable male co-anchor is needed to restore a semblance of order. And that man decidedly is not Jody Dean.

ADDENDUM: To compound matters Monday, meteorologist Jeff Ray, filling in for Garry Seith, had a pretty bad case of bed head.

Rich get richer, lumpens run in place at The Dallas Morning News

Well, this should boost morale.

The top five executives at A.H. Belo, owner of The Dallas Morning News, received nearly $1.6 million in cash bonuses last year, the company said Monday in an SEC filing.

The bonuses were reported by WPRI 12, the CBS station in Providence, R.I., where Belo owns the Providence Journal.

Leading the parade was A.H. Belo CEO Robert Decherd, whose total compensation tripled from $499,180 in 2009 to $1.87 million last year, according to the filing. That included a $408,000 cash bonus.

Dallas Morning News publisher James Moroney received $1.3 million in total compensation, an increase from $478,090 in 2009. His cash bonus was $327,250.

Decherd's $29,872 in "other compensation" included a $420 cell phone allowance among other perks, according to WPRI.

Worker bees at the DMN continue to work without raises, and have done so for more than two years with no end in sight. But Decherd is sympathetic, telling employees in a letter last month that executives "continue to monitor competitive pay practices in our industry and we are very much aware that there have been no merit increases at A.H. Belo since 2008."

An "early-stage recovery in Dallas" and "economic challenges" in Rhode Island and Inland Southern California (where Belo owns the Press-Enterprise of Riverside, CA) "continue to create uncertainty that makes it difficult to predict when merit increases can be implemented at any level in the company," Decherd said.

Well, at most levels anyway.

A supposed separate entity of Belo owns the DMN's across-the-driveway neighbor, WFAA8. But the ABC affiliate station and the newspaper still regularly collaborate on stories and sometimes cross-promote them.

WFAA8 has two veteran award-winning investigators in Brett Shipp and Byron Harris, who last week won his second prestigious George Foster Peabody award. Harris also has been awarded for his past dogged investigation of NBC's Dateline and alleged improprieties with its controversial "To Catch a Predator" series during a North Texas sting operation.

Harris was asked back in 2007 whether he would have been allowed to do that same investigation if Dateline instead were produced by the network (ABC) whose programming WFAA8 runs.

"I don't know. I would try," he told unclebarky.com at the time. "It wouldn't keep me from trying. It's not my decision. If someone were to tell me not to do the story, it wouldn't be me . . . I think it's less probable certainly (that he could investigate an ABC News program)."

Harris or Shipp might at least want to try looking further into these bonuses for millionaire Belo executives in times when raises are otherwise off the table for underlings. That would be a bracingly bold and fearless undertaking, and possibly a helluva story, too.

Yeah, I know. End of story.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., April 1-3) -- Rangers vs. NCAA hoops

A swing, a miss and an opening day win. Photo: Ed Bark

And the crowds cried out for more.

A heaven-sent big sports weekend featured the Texas Rangers' three-game sweep of the Red Sox and NCAA Final Four hoops action in both the men's and women's tournaments. Let's check out D-FW's Nielsen scorecards.

Friday afternoon's season opener, shown on Fox Sports Southwest, started slowly with 90,034 viewers for the 3:10 p.m. first pitch. But a peak audience of 311,657 had the Rangers-Red Sox in view between 6:15 and 6:30 p.m. Overall, the game averaged 221,622 viewers. And a Friday night replay on TXA21 drew 76,183 viewers.

Saturday night's Rangers game, also on FSS, stretched all the way to 10:26 p.m. It had 186,994 viewers, with a peak crowd of 263,177 between 9 and 9:15 p.m.

The Sunday afternoon closer on FSS pulled in 214,697 viewers, peaking at 283,954 between 3:30 and 3:45 p.m.

Fans also got a chance to see, hear and sometimes endure FSS veteran John Rhadigan as the team's new play-by-play guy. He's never done this before, and it showed. Particularly when Rhadigan capped Friday's opening day win by exclaiming that the Rangers and closer Neftali Feliz had combined to "win a victory!"

Rhadigan quickly added "There ya go, boys!" -- which apparently is going to be his tagline whenever the Rangers win. He also used it on Saturday and Sunday. Predecessor Josh Lewin, dumped by the Rangers after nine seasons, used the more economical "Ball game!" as his victory cry.

Rhadigan is talented, though, and obviously deserves a fair chance to work out his kinks and find the strike zone more consistently. So we'll see how he's doing a month or so from now, in tandem with holdover analyst Tom Grieve.

Saturday also brought the NCAA men's Final Four on CBS, beginning with Butler's win over VCU. That game averaged 221,622 viewers during early evening hours before Connecticut's victory over Kentucky kicked up a bit to 235,474 viewers.

Sunday night's women's Final Four on ESPN was spiked by two upsets -- A&M's comeback one-point win over Stanford and Notre Dame's even bigger shocker in beating almighty UConn.

Both games deserved bigger audiences than the 110,811 viewers for A&M/Stanford and the 83,108 for Notre Dame/UConn. But the games were competing against CBS' big three-hour yee-hah -- the Academy of Country Music awards ceremony. It roped in a dominating 408,616 viewers, far more than either the Rangers or hoops could muster.

Left for dead Sunday night was a hastily inserted new episode of ABC's Body of Proof, which had gotten off to a good start Tuesday night in the hour after Dancing with the Stars. The Dana Delany whodunit, in which she plays an acidic medical examiner, had 304,731 viewers on Tuesday but plummeted to 131,588 at 9 p.m. Sunday. That put it in fourth place at that hour in both total viewers and with advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

On Friday, CBS launched the "comedic drama" Chaos, which was its least-watched series of the night but still ranked first at 7 p.m. with 152,365 total viewers. Chaos fell to third place with 18-to-49-year-olds, beating only ABC's competing Shark Tank.

Friday's local news derby competitions were paced by NBC5, which won at 10 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations. The Peacock also swept the 5 p.m. Nielsens and tied Fox4 for first place at 6 a.m. in total viewers.

Fox4 called the 6 a.m. tune among 25-to-54-year-olds while CBS11 had twin wins at 6 p.m. WFAA8 had no wins for the third straight weekday.

(Pea)body count: WFAA8 quickly trumpets latest win with in-your-face promo

WFAA8's latest Peabody award, noted Thursday in these spaces, has prompted a quick-turnaround promo on the part of the Dallas-based ABC affiliate.

Investigative reporter Byron Harris, who won his second Peabody, isn't mentioned in the 30-second spot. But the station's grand total of seven is trumpeted and thensome.

"Seven times," says the voice-over. "That's right. WFAA, 7. All other local stations combined, 1. And that was 1984. What kind of news are you watching?" Viewers are then urged to watch WFAA8's 10 p.m. news, which ran second in the February ratings "sweeps" behind CBS11.

That 1984 Peabody was won by KDFW-TV (Ch. 4) anchor Clarice Tinsley, who fronted a report on a problematic 911 call response. WFAA8's first Peabody came in 1986. Here's the spot. How does it play with you?