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Billboarding The Defenders: another sign of the times


Flying the flag near the end of The Defenders. Photo: Ed Bark

Uncluttered home screens are another hallmark of TV's increasingly distant past.

This did seem to be a bit much, though. Those watching Wednesday's episode of CBS' latest 9 p.m. hit, The Defenders, were treated to the above "pop-up" during the closing seven minutes. The tease lasted only several seconds, but did manage to bisect the jaw line of series co-star Jerry O'Connell.

It's probably only a matter of time -- and a short time at that -- before whatever you're watching ends up looking like a NASCAR entry from start to finish. The current parade of recurring "bugs" -- plus the omnipresent network logo -- already is irksome enough. But of course it's only going to get worse. Count on it.

For the record, CBS11 indeed was the #1 LATE NEWS IN NORTH TEXAS!" Wednesday night, topping the field in total viewers and tying Fox4 for first place among 25-to-54-year-olds, the principal advertiser target audience for news programming. But that didn't make this brief intrusion any easier to watch. Did anyone switch channels in protest? Or were you reeled in?

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Sept. 29th) -- Defenders beats LOLA in first new season faceoff


Jimmy gets his torch snuffed on Survivor: Nicaragua. Photo: Ed Bark

CBS swept the prime-time total viewer ratings in D-FW Wednesday, capped by a notably strong showing from the second episode of The Defenders.

In a considerable upset, the second episode of the Jim Belushi legal drama outdrew the premiere of NBC's Law & Order: Los Angeles during the 9 p.m. hour.

Defenders had 290,879 total viewers while the second place LOLA had 228,548. Defenders also beat LOLA among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds. The second episode of ABC's competing The Whole Truth finished third in total viewers and fell to fourth with 18-to-49-year-olds behind Fox4's 9 p.m. local newscast.

CBS led off the night with Jimmy Johnson's eviction on Survivor: Nicaragua. He probably erred by tabbing himself as one of his tribe's weakest members during the weekly Tribal Council. They responded by unanimously voting him off, making JJ the show's third evictee in a field of 20.

Survivor won the 7 p.m. slot in total viewers, edging Fox's Hell's Kitchen. But HK was a runaway winner with 18-to-49-year-olds. NBC's second episode of Undercovers beat only ABC's new Better With You in total viewers. It then fell to a distant fifth among 18-to-49-year-olds, with The CW's America's Next Top Model sliding into fourth.

CBS' Criminal Minds controlled the 8 p.m. hour in total viewers. It again was a different story with 18-to-49-year-olds, though. ABC's comedy combo of Modern Family and Cougar Town ran a resounding first in that key demographic, with the second hour of HK tying Criminal Minds for second.

In Wednesday's local news derby results, CBS11 won at 10 p.m. in total viewers and tied Fox4 for first among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

WFAA8 continued to perform better in the early morning, tying Fox4 for the top spot in total viewers and running second with 25-to-54-year-olds. Fox4 took the 25-to-54 gold and also crunched the three network morning programs with the 7 to 9 a.m. portion of its Good Day. A lately slumping NBC5 ran third at 6 a.m. in both ratings measurements while CBS11 again was out of the picture.

CBS ran first at 6 p.m. in total viewers, but the other early evening news competitions were won by Fox4. It edged CBS11 at 6 p.m. with 25-to-54-year-olds and ran the table at 5 p.m.

Also of note: The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric is no longer a doormat in D-FW. Its numbers have notably improved since Diane Sawyer began anchoring ABC's World News. In Wednesday's Nielsens, Evening News tied the NBC Nightly News for first in total viewers and shared the 25-to-54 gold with Fox4's 5:30 p.m. local newscast.

Take it from WFAA8's Gloria Campos: "I know what happened first hand, because I was there!"


WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos tells an all-ears John McCaa on Tuesday's 10 p.m. newscast that Sarah Palin in fact wasn't booed during the previous night's Dancing with the Stars. Photo: Ed Bark

Hmm, let's hope this isn't what Dallas-based WFAA8 means by "Crossing state lines . . . Bringing home the kinds of stories no other local station can."

That's the message in an eye-catching new black-and-white promotional campaign detailed previously in these spaces. And anchor Gloria Campos indeed ranged all the way to southern California Monday, skipping newscasts to attend ABC's live Dancing with the Stars broadcast with one of her sons in tow.

Sarah Palin also was there, in support of her daughter/contestant Bristol. Some off-camera boos could be heard just before Palin talked briefly with co-host Tom Bergeron while seated in the studio audience. Some blogs said they were directed at Palin. Others questioned whether they were carryover jabs at the judges' 24 score for an enthusiastically received dance by Jennifer Grey and her pro partner, Derek Hough. In reality, no big deal. Enter Campos anyway.

"I know what happened, because I was there!" she exclaimed to co-anchor John McCaa. "That's right. What actually happened was we were booing because we were told to be vocal for one thing. And we thought those scores should be higher, that there should be some nines in there."

Arrrgh. Since when is it a news anchor's role to play along in this manner? But we tarry.

"So, being instructed to be vocal, I started shouting out 'Nine! Nine! Nine!' " Campos continued. "And then many others started shouting out that they agreed with me, that she should get some nines in there. So that's what really happened. Sarah Palin was actually very cordially received."

I'm feeling compelled to shout, 'Nein! Nein! Nein!' " in memory of news anchors who would never think of doing something like this -- let alone calling attention to it on a subsequent newscast. But that's probably antiquated thinking. Many of today's anchors not only ride the tricycle in the parade but toot their own horns after doing so.

The Palin "controversy," touted in WFAA8 promotions preceding Tuesday's 10 p.m. newscast, gave Campos a chance to spotlight her own role in the festivities. Reporters and other anchors at WFAA8 may not even be bothering anymore to discuss the propriety of all this. After all, what's the point? Ethics and comportment increasingly are yesterday's news. The new mantra: It is what it is.

Fox's Dallas-made Lone Star gets gunned down


Over and out. Fox's Lone Star is no longer among us. It was officially canceled early Tuesday evening, to be replaced on Monday, Oct. 4th by the premature season premiere of Lie to Me, which initially was set to return on Nov. 10 in a Wednesday, 7 p.m. (central) time slot.

Lone Star, filmed in North Texas, received some of the best reviews -- and worst ratings -- of any drama series in Fox's history. It premiered on Monday, Sept. 20th, and was buried both locally and nationally in the almighty Nielsen ratings.

Fox put a second episode into play on Sept. 27th, but the ratings were even worse in a murderous time slot also populated by ABC's Dancing with the Stars, CBS' Two and a Half Men and NBC's new The Event.

In D-FW, the second episode drew a sub-measly 69,257 viewers, less than one-third the audience of any of the three broadcast series scheduled against it. The second hour of Dancing with the Stars in comparison had 630,239 viewers. You might say that's a mismatch.

There's always a chance, although probably a scant one, that some other network will pick up the remaining episodes of Lone Star. But with just 3.2 million viewers nationally for Episode 2, the emphasis is on scant.

"It's a shame, but this one just wasn't apparently meant to be," Dallas Film Commission head Janis Burklund said in an email response Tuesday. "It doesn't sound like there is much hope for cable either. It's a more expensive show than typical cable budgets."

Burklund said that actors and crew were at work on Episode 6 of an original 13-episode order when the plug was pulled.

"Average local spending is likely around $1 million per episode, so that would mean approximately $7 million is not going to come in as earlier anticipated," she said.

Other potential TV pilots are "looking our way, however," Burklund added. "So the crew on Lone Star should grab some needed rest quickly and get prepared to go back to work pretty soon if things work out like we hope they will."

Fox's other made-in-North Texas series, The Good Guys, remains on a respirator. Its fall premiere, after a ratings-starved summer run, had only 2.8 million viewers in a Friday, 8 p.m. time slot. In comparison, the 9 p.m. premiere of Tom Selleck's new Blue Bloods cop drama had 12.8 million viewers. And directly opposite Good Guys, the season premiere of CBS' CSI: NY had 10.3 million viewers.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., Sept. 27) -- Lone Star rolls over while WFAA8 news rolls

Second verse, worse than the first. So consider Fox's Lone Star dead. It can't even get arrested in the city where it's made.

Monday's Episode 2 of the Dallas-made serial drama had a sub-paltry 69,257 D-FW viewers, less than half the "crowd" it drew in premiere week. It also laid a mega-egg among advertiser-courted 18-to-49-year-olds, again luring less than half the audience it had in premiere week.

In both measurements, Lone Star easily was prime-time's least-watched show on the Big Four networks in both ratings measurements. And in each case it had less than one-third the audience of the second least-watched show in the 8 p.m. slot. Those numbers were pretty much replicated nationally, meaning Lone Star is less likely to return next week than Joe Piscopo's career. Uniformly favorable critical reviews, including one from this corner, have done absolutely nothing to help one of the biggest fall season flops in recent memory.

Meanwhile, ABC's second two-hour performance edition of Dancing with the Stars rolled to a massive win from 7 to 9 p.m., drawing 588,685 total viewers while also triumphing among 18-to-49-year-olds.

At 9 p.m., CBS' second episode of Hawaii Five-0 edged ABC's Castle in total viewers by a score of 325,508 to 304,731 while also winning by a bit comfier margin in the 18-to-49 demographic. NBC's competing 9 p.m. episode of Chase, also filmed in North Texas, limped in third in both measurements, drawing 180,068 total viewers.

D-FW ratings for ESPN's Monday Night Football were not immediately available. Suffice it to say that your friendly content provider's native state Packers blew what should have been a victory against the Bears with a combination of inept special teams play and an all-time team record of 18 penalties. QB Aaron Rodgers was tremendous in defeat, but too many of his teammates seemed intent on imitating the Cowboys' Alex Barron.

In local news derby results, WFAA8 came up extremely big in the four time periods where all four of the market's major TV news providers are combatants.

The ABC station was tops in total viewers at 6 a.m. and at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. WFAA8 also won outright at 6 a.m. and 6 and 10 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

The only slight smudge was a first-place tie with CBS11 in the 5 p.m. battle for 25-to-54-year-olds. Still, it was WFAA8's best showing in many a month -- and the first double grand slam in this market in more than a year.

CBS11 tabs Lisa Pineiro as early morning co-anchor

Lisa Pineiro

CBS11 has named Lisa Pineiro as its new weekday early morning co-anchor. She'll be joining incumbent Scott Sams on Oct. 28th, the D-FW-based station announced Tuesday.

Pineiro, currently living in Salt Lake City, has been out of broadcasting for the past five years, opting to be a stay-at-home mom to her four sons. The southern California native's last TV job was as an anchor/reporter at Salt Lake City's KTVX-TV. She earlier worked for Salt Lake City's KSL-TV.

"We think North Texas viewers will respond to Lisa's warmth and sincerity," CBS11/KTXA president and general manager Gary Schneider said in a publicity release. "She and Scott really hit it off and look to have a great rapport."

The waker-upper position became vacant in mid-July, when new CBS11/TXA21 news director Adrienne Roark tabbed Ginger Allen to be CBS11's senior investigative reporter. Allen had been CBS11's early morning co-anchor for the past three years.

Pineiro broke into television two decades ago at Cheyenne, Wyoming's KGWC-TV. Still a University of Wyoming student at the time, she later joined Casper, Wyoming's KTWO-TV as an anchor/producer.

"Football and basketball are the only languages we speak in our house," Pineiro said in the publicity release. "So you can imagine how excited the boys were when I told them we were headed for Texas. There were no big congratulations for mom -- just a million questions about how many Cowboys, Mavericks and college games we could attend."

Pineiro said she felt the warmth at CBS11 during her auditioning for the job.

"It's not often that you walk into a newsroom and get the feeling that every single person there enjoys their job," she said. "But that's certainly the case here."

Pineiro and Sams will have a steep hill to climb in the early morning ratings. CBS11 currently ranks fourth behind Fox4, NBC5 and WFAA8.

CBS11, Fox4 and WFAA8 all recently expanded their dawn patrols to pre-dawn, with each of their programs now starting at 4:30 a.m. NBC5 continues to get a later start at 5 a.m.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Sept. 24-26) -- Cowboys again worth a million-plus while Rangers' clincher gets nice-sized tune-in

The Cowboys' coming to life party at Houston gave Fox4 a healthy dose of mega-ratings Sunday.

The noon game win, by a score of 27-13, averaged 1,322,809 D-FW viewers while CBS' competing Giants-Titans game had 69,257. Um, that's a blowout.

The NFL then scored again with CBS' Colts-Broncos game (nicely spiced with bonus coverage of San Diego-Seattle). That combo ran well into 60 Minutes' usual 6 p.m. starting time and averaged 422,468 viewers. NBC's Sunday Night Football matchup between the Jets and Dolphins controlled prime-time with 484,799 viewers.

ABC's season premiere of Desperate Housewives led all non-sports programming Sunday with 360,136 viewers. But Fox's season-opening one-hour Family Guy handily beat DH head to head among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

On Saturday, the Texas Rangers officially clinched the American League West, their first division title in 11 seasons, with a 4-3 win at Oakland. The magic moment was at 6:24 p.m., with 304,731 viewers watching Fox's telecast during that 15-minute increment (6:15 to 6:30 p.m.).

Two competing college football games -- UCLA's rout of Texas and Alabama's hang-on win at Arkansas -- respectively averaged 256,251 and 214,697 viewers on ABC and CBS. But each of those games had higher peak audiences than the Rangers did. Overall, the North Texas 9 ran third against Texas-UCLA and Bama-Hogs, but did trounce NBC's Notre Dame-Stanford game (20,777 viewers).

Let's swing over to Friday, where ESPN's TCU-SMU game on the Ponys' home field averaged 221,622 viewers overall. Still, CBS' 9 p.m. premiere of Tom Selleck's Blue Bloods had the biggest audience of the entire day with 270,102 total viewers while tying the first hour of TXA21's Rangers-A's game for second with 18-to-49-year-olds behind No. 1 TCU-SMU. NBC's new Outlaw, with Jimmy Smits at the throttle, ran fourth at 9 p.m. in total viewers (117,737) and fifth with 18-to-49-year-olds.

Fox's Friday 8 p.m. launch of The Good Guys, which had abysmal ratings for a summertime run on a different night, drew 90,034 total viewers in beating only ABC's The Whole Truth repeat among the Big Four broadcast networks. Urp, Good Guys also was outdrawn by WWE Smackdown! on MY27, as was the new-night-and-time premiere of CBS' CSI: NY. The 8 to 9 p.m. portion of TCU-SMU also beat both Good Guys and CSI: NY.

In the 18-to-49-year-old barometer, Good Guys barely came up for air with 6,581 viewers compared to league-leading TCU-SMU's 105,299 from 8 to 9 p.m. That placed it seventh in the broadcast network rankings alone, with Smackdown! leading the way followed by NBC's Dateline, The CW's Supernatural, Whole Truth, CSI: NY and the Rangers pre-game show. Although its D-FW numbers were sickly, CSI: NY did much better nationally, winning its time slot in both ratings measurements.

But Good Guy's numbers were just as dismal country-wide. So sorry to say, the bloom is turning to gloom on the local production front. Good Guys is on fumes at best, and Fox's critically acclaimed Lone Star, also filmed in North Texas, might well have its final telecast Monday night after shockingly low ratings for the previous Monday's premiere episode. That leaves the third North Texas entry, NBC's Chase, still standing after a decent but not great showing in its Monday launch against CBS' Hawaii Five-0.

On to Friday's local news derby results, where CBS11 won at 10 p.m. in total viewers but slid all the way to fourth among 25-to-54-year-olds (the preferred advertiser target audience for news programming) despite the hefty lead-in advantage from Blue Bloods. WFAA8 took the gold in that key demographic.

Fox4 swept the 6 a.m. competitions against arch rival NBC5 while CBS11 ran the table at 6 p.m.

The 5 p.m. wins went to WFAA8 in total viewers and Fox4 with 25-to-54-year-olds.

NOTE TO READERS: Nielsen Media Research has issued its annual adjustments to D-FW population estimates, with across-the-board increases in the three major food groups. These new estimates are reflected in today's "Snapshot."

In total D-FW viewers, there's a 1,394 increase per rating point.

Among 25-to-54-year-olds, it's an increase of 377.

And among 18-to-49-year-olds, there's an increase of 290 viewers per rating point.

Saturday, 6:24 p.m. Texas time: the Rangers win the West!!!


Good lovin' on Fox4. Stalwart Michael Young and manager Ron Washington celebrate the Texas Rangers' first post-season appearance in 11 seasons after a 4-3 win at Oakland. Photos: Ed Bark



!$%# Hansen Says -- how come ABC didn't think of this first?

A perceptive reader notes that ABC -- or WFAA8 -- might want to counter CBS' new $#*! My Dad Says with a version starring ever-unpredictable sports anchor Dale Hansen.

Earlier this week on a 10 p.m. newscast, Hansen hit another sweet spot after the other half of the Dallas-based station's comedy duo -- weathercaster Pete Delkus -- boasted about getting a signed copy of the new Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders calendar.

"They autographed this just for me, but they didn't leave one for you," Delkus jabbed.

To which Hansen rejoined, "Which explains why you were hidin' in the bathroom."

Anchor Gloria Campos' patented Glo Camp cackle could be heard all the way to Waxahachie while Hansen and Delkus guffawed and straight man anchor John McCaa perhaps emitted an inaudible chuckle.

I didn't see it at the time, but that's the beauty of youtube, where the exchange is newly posted. The video's a little blurry, but you'll get the picture.

And if you want my opinion, yeah, maybe it puts a little tarnish on an ongoing new promotional campaign that positions WFAA8 as the Taj Mahal of local news content. But damn, it was funny. Love him or loathe him, Hansen's one of a kind..

Ma's Roadhouse: homegrown, low down fun with a double Dallas connection


AMS Pictures head Andy Streitfeld is flanked by the namesake of Ma's Roadhouse and her son, Rick Fairless, owner of the Strokers Dallas motorcycle shop and adjacent bar/restaurant. Photo: Ed Bark

Need a new guilty pleasure as part of your TV viewing regimen?

You might want to try truTV's Ma's Roadhouse, a low brow, hoot 'n' holler reality TV series produced by Dallas-based AMS Pictures and airing Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. (central).

The half-hour show's namesake is the chain-smoking, liquor-sipping, frequently bleeped 71-year-old mother of Strokers Dallas biker shop/bar-restaurant owner Rick Fairless.

"He's a dumb ass," she affectionately says of her son. TruTV is positioning Ma (full name, Sharon Fairless) as a "redneck Betty White," which currently is better than being a Southern-fried Cloris Leachman.

AMS threw a premiere party for last Wednesday's first two episode of Ma's Roadhouse, during which Ma bitched about tattooed bikini girls, her driver's license renewal test and anything else that displeased her -- which is just about everything. Her voice sounds as though it's channeled through a tracheotomy hole. But Fairless assured party-goers that she's healthy as a horse and willing to throw a shoe at anyone who gets in her way.

The network's description for the Wednesday, Sept. 22 episode (one of six more to come) says "it's the day of the Strokers Ink Anniversary bash, and Rick discovers evidence that a tattoo artist he once fired is now trying to steal his customers. To complicate matters, a health inspector pops in for a surprise visit, prompting a confrontation with Ma."

Just about anything prompts a confrontation with Ma, who's the oft-high-larious mother's milk of Ma's Roadhouse. As with most "reality" series, some of this stuff is concocted, with all of the real-life participants (including Fairless' daughter, Lena and wife, Sue) then acting out their parts. The all-business health inspector getting smashed on Ma's "Texas Tea" before stripping his shirt off, for instance. Transparently fake.

The Fairless family has been this route before, on an earlier Speed Channel series titled Texas Hardtails. It premiered in July 2005, but wasn't renewed after 10 episodes.

"My idea for this show was always bikes, babes and beer," Fairless said at the time.

Little has changed in the five years since, save for a ramped-up role for cantankerous Ma. Actually that counts for a lot. She pretty much makes the show.

AMS also currently produces Girl Meets Gown for WEtv and has a show in development, Homecourt Advantage, that would star Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry and his family. Another potential series, Hot Texas Models, would feature Joan Bush, a Texas modeling agency owner whose husband is country singing star John Rich.

The company's owner and founder, Andy Streitfeld, told party-goers that a possible series featuring the Twin Peaks restaurant chain has a working title of Breastaurant. AMS also has been active on the higher-minded documentary front, where its productions have included Stop the Presses and The Good Fight: James Farmer Remembers the Civil Rights Movement.

New WFAA8 news campaign pledges to ride the range in pursuit of "bringing home the kinds of stories no other local station can"


WFAA8's John McCaa and Gloria Campos get out in the field by getting out in a field in new "On the Road" campaign. Photo: Ed Bark

WFAA8 probably needs to do something step up its game and bulk up its problematic ratings. Step One, an eye-catching black-and-white "On the Road" image spot, aired during the heart of ABC's Monday night Dancing with the Stars season premiere.

Accompanied by a mix of acoustic plucks and chainsaw rock, the 30-second ad mostly spotlights veteran anchors John McCaa and Gloria Campos. But it also affords glimpses of reporters David Schechter and Jonathan Betz and early morning weatherman Greg Fields. A closing group shot includes sports anchor Dale Hansen and chief forecaster Pete Delkus, who flank McCaa and Campos.

The ad's succession of burnt orange and sunny yellow taglines informs viewers that the Dallas-based station's anchors and reporters will be rolling through the countryside as a new TV season begins.

"We're heading out," it begins. "Crossing state lines. Seeing new places. Exploring new views. Meeting new faces. Bringing home the kinds of stories no other local station can. Come along for the ride. All this fall."

The only audio, besides the music, is Schechter saying "On the road" in the WFAA8 news room.

So what's going on here? WFAA8 representatives, including news director Michael Valentine, so far have not returned email and phone messages asking for more specifics.

This much is certain. The station's overall newscast ratings generally have been sinking in the demographic most prized by advertisers -- 25-to-54-year-olds. So a vigorous face-scrub -- an attempted rejuvenation of sorts -- seems to be in the cards. You don't make things happen by sitting on your hands, and WFAA8 has a proud news tradition that's worth preserving if possible.

As for "Crossing state lines," we'll see how far the budget will allow that to go. At least Oklahoma's within easy reach. And will the station's two principal news anchors, McCaa and Campos, actually get out there and do some real reporting from the field? Just like they used to in their wonder years?

We'll see what evolves. So far it's a nice-looking spot. And here it is:

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., Sept. 20) -- Dancing, Hawaii Five-0 roll while Lone Star takes a heavy hit

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Hot cha cha cha: Bristol Palin gamely shakes her assets. ABC photo

The new fall TV season got off to a fully loaded start Monday night, with Fox's made-in-Dallas Lone Star already in a ditch while NBC's North Texas offering, Chase, fared decently opposite CBS' far prettier Hawaii Five-0.

Although receiving almost uniformly rave reviews from TV critics, Lone Star ran a distant fourth at 8 p.m. in both total viewers and with advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds.

ABC's two-hour season premiere of Dancing With the Stars, featuring Bristol ("I'm just a regular girl") Palin, fully controlled the 7 to 9 p.m. slot in both ratings measurements before CBS' re-do of Hawaii Five-0 stepped in to win the 9 p.m. hour.

NBC did OK with the twin debuts of The Event and Chase after a slow start by the season premiere of Chuck, which ran fourth across the board.

Let's go to the Nielsen numbers for the hour-by-hour D-FW breakdown in total viewers and 18-to-49-year-olds.

7 to 8 P.M.

Total Viewers
Dancing with the Stars (ABC) -- 475,041
Rules of Engagement (CBS at 7:30) -- 244,307
House (Fox) -- 203,589
How I Met Your Mother (CBS at 7) -- 196,803
Chuck (NBC) -- 149,299

Dancing with the Stars -- 169,603
Rules of Engagement -- 133,726
How I Met Your Mother -- 127,202
House -- 107,633
Chuck -- 91,325

8 to 9 P.M.

Total Viewers
Dancing with the Stars -- 502,186
Two and a Half Men (CBS at 8) -- 318,956
Mike & Molly (CBS at 8:30) -- 264,666
The Event (NBC) -- 244,307
Lone Star (Fox) -- 156,085

Dancing with the Stars -- 185,911
Two and a Half Men -- 159,818
The Event -- 133,726
Mike & Molly -- 120,679
Lone Star -- 68,494

9 to 10 P.M.

Total Viewers
Hawaii Five-0 (CBS) -- 352,888
Castle (ABC) -- 278,238
Chase (NBC) -- 230,734
Fox4 News -- 149,299

Hawaii Five-0 -- 136,987
Chase -- 114,156
Castle -- 91,325
Fox4 News -- 42,401

Lone Star's dismal opening night numbers also were reflected at the national level. And of the above series, The Event is likely to benefit the most from delayed DVR viewing.

In Monday's local news derby numbers, NBC5 performed impressively at 10 p.m., winning in both total viewers (203,589) and with 25-to-54-year-olds (104,346), the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

The Peacock also ran the table at 6 a.m., edging arch rival Fox4 in both competitions.

WFAA8 swept the 5 p.m. news Nielsens and added a 6 p.m. win in total viewers. Fox4 edged WFAA8 at 6 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Sept. 17-19) -- there's no V in Cowboys; instead it's another Big D


Oh happy day for Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith. Photo: Ed Bark

The winless Dallas Cowboys drew another mega-crowd Sunday, with 1,302,970 D-FW viewers enduring the high noon home game on Fox.

That's down from the 1,574,422 who experienced the Cowboys' bumbling Sunday Night Football loss to Washington. But one million-plus viewers is still a smasheroo by any standard.

On Fox's post-game rub-it-in show, panelist Howie Long had the most cutting observation. "Jerry can build the Field of Dreams," he said, referring to owner Jerry Jones' many-splendored Cowboys Stadium. "Unfortunately, Jimmy, Troy, Emmitt and Michael aren't coming out of the cornfield."

After their improbable 27-20 win over Dallas, the 2-0 Chicago Bears will host a showdown game on ESPN's Monday Night Football with the 2-0 Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, the Cowboys take their horror show on the road for a do-or-die game against the 2-0 Texans. Houston rallied from a 27-10 second half deficit Sunday to defeat the same Redskins who helped make Dallas look like dung in the season-opener. So that doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in a Cowboys team that was a prohibitive favorite to beat the Bears but will be an underdog in Sweat City.

Bonus coverage of Houston's OT win in Washington attracted 536,118 viewers early Sunday evening on CBS. An overall average of 522,545 viewers then watched the Colts rout the Giants in the "Manning Bowl" (Peyton vs. Eli) on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

Saturday's ratings also were paced by football, with 536,118 viewers witnessing Texas beat Texas Tech on ABC.

In Friday's local news derby results, WFAA8 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.

Fox4 likewise ran the table at 6 a.m. while CBS11 took the 6 p.m. gold in total viewers and tied Fox4 for the top spot among 25-to-54-year-olds.

The 5 p.m. booty was split between WFAA8 in total viewers and Fox4 in the 25-to-54 demographic.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Sept. 15) -- big night for reality finales and Jimmy Johnson's hair


JJ on Survivor. Feel free to write your own caption. Photo: Ed Bark

Reality competition series had a Super Bowl-esque night Wednesday, with the season finales of America's Got Talent, Big Brother 12 and Masterchef and the premiere of a Jimmy Johnson-infused Survivor: Nicaragua.

Let's break down the D-FW audiences in both total viewers and advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.


America's Got Talent (7 to 9 p.m., NBC) -- 420,751
Survivor: Nicaragua and Big Brother 12 (7 to 10 p.m., CBS) -- 210,375 apiece
Masterchef (7 to 9 p.m., Fox) -- 176,444


Big Brother 12 -- 146,772
America's Got Talent -- 133,726
Survivor: Nicaragua -- 97,848
Masterchef -- 88,063

Johnson survived the opening night cut, but spent part of one night ralphing and wheezing. His vaunted hair took a whipping, too, as you can see in the above frame grab.

Post-Talent, the premiere of Jimmy Smits' far-fetched Outlaw legal series on NBC won the 9 to 10 p.m. slot in total viewers with a very nice-sized 278,238. Outlaw slumped with 18-to-49-year-olds, though, running a distant third with 61,970 viewers behind the second hour of Big Brother 12 (140,249) and Fox4's local newscast (88,063).

On Fox Sports Southwest, the cruising first-place Texas Rangers beat Detroit for their seventh straight win while 162,871 total viewers watched.

ABC was buried Wednesday night with a wall-to-wall lineup of repeats. Its biggest scorer, Castle, had 88,222 viewers.

Local news derby results gave each of the four major competitors at least one win.

NBC5 edged WFAA8 at 10 p.m. in total viewers while Fox4 took the gold with 25-to-54-year-olds, the principal target audience for news programming on most stations.

The Peacock ran the table at 6 a.m. while CBS11 did likewise at 6 p.m. and WFAA8 had a doubleheader win at 5 p.m.

WFAA8's Shipp wins one, loses one in exposes of Southlake Carroll, Euless Trinity football programs


The juries are in on WFAA8 gumshoe Brett Shipp's much-talked about looks into alleged irregularities in the high-powered high school football programs at South Lake Carroll and Euless Trinity.

His lengthy late August investigation into the eligibility of Oklahoma import Daxx Garman has led to a season-long suspension of the would-be Southlake Carroll quarterback. The University Interscholastic League voted 4-0 in Austin Tuesday to reject the Garman family's appeal that their son be reinstated to the team. Shipp covered the hearing, but did not appear on camera during WFAA8's report Tuesday.

In a related development, both Southlake and Euless Trinity officially have been cleared of holding allegedly improper summer practices in which coaches seemingly gave instructions to players. Shipp reported that followup story in the week after his Garman expose. On the morning before it aired, he gloatingly teased it on his Facebook page, asking, "Sniff, sniff!!!! Is that the smell of two cooked seasons?" Shipp removed that post after a story about it appeared on unclebarky.com.

WFAA8's Tuesday story on the failed Garman appeal gave relatively short shrift to the other official rulings in favor of the two high schools. In fact, the station still seems to be in denial. At the end of WFAA8's brief notation, anchor Casey Norton told viewers that "no one has yet explained what our cameras did see."

Fox4, NBC5 and CBS11 all covered the Garman decision on their web sites. CBS11's Melissa Newton and Fox4's Lari Barager also reported it on the air. None mentioned WFAA8's role in breaking the story that sealed the senior quarterback's fate. That's all too typical of the TV news business, but hardly surprising. Giving credit where it's due is a non-starter when it comes to mentioning a competitor's enterprise. That is, unless your competitor is involved in a scandal or questionable activities. Then it's more than OK.

Here's the video of WFAA8's coverage, which includes its postscript on rulings in favor of Southlake and Euless.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Sept. 10-12) -- Give the Cowboys a big F in D.C., but another A+ in the numbers game


Cowboys right tackle Alex Barron chokes the life out of what looked like Tony Romo's game-winning pass to Roy Williams at the end of NBC's Sunday Night Football. Flozell, we hardly knew ye. Photo: Ed Bark

The Dallas Cowboys found incredibly creative ways to lose their regular season opener at Washington Sunday night while more than 1.5 million D-FW viewers watched the biggest and best reality series in the land -- NFL football.

A fumble on the last play of the first half by running back Tashard Choice gifted the Redskins with a touchdown that increased their lead to 10-0. And on the last play of the game, QB Tony Romo's apparent game-winning TD pass to much-maligned receiver Roy Williams was negated by a holding call on beleaguered right tackle Alex Barron. Washington 13, Dallas 7 on NBC's Sunday Night Football. I hope your TV set survived anything that might have been aimed its way.

The Nielsen ratings say that an average of 1,574,422 viewers witnessed the carnage. That's a huge increase over last season's noon season opener on Fox, in which the Cowboys won 34-21 at Tampa Bay while 1,042,951 watched.

A fairer comparison, though, is the 2009 season's glittering Sept. 20th unveiling of Jerry's Palace, also on NBC's Sunday Night Football. An almost equally hard to stomach, last-second loss to the visiting New York Giants amassed 1,700,608 D-FW viewers.

Many viewers warmed up for Cowboys-Redskins by watching Fox's featured game between the triumphant, always heroic Green Bay Packers and host Philadelphia. That matchup drew a robust 631,126 viewers while the noon game on CBS between the victorious Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts had a somewhat smallish 352,888 viewers.

Over on Fox Sports Southwest Sunday afternoon, the lately resurgent first-place Texas Rangers won their fifth in a row by sweeping their home series against the Yankees. An average of 190,016 viewers watched the impressive return of pitcher Cliff Lee, who allowed just one run in eight innings in a 4-1 win.

The much more epic Friday and Saturday night Rangers-Yanks games, both on TXA21, both stretched past midnight before ending in walk-off Texas wins.

Friday's game had a peak audience of 318,956 between 11:30 and 11:45 p.m. Saturday's face-off, delayed an hour by rain, hit a high point of 305,384 viewers between 10:30 and 10:45 p.m. Both games beat all competing programming throughout the night, including the Saturday night college football games between Alabama and Penn State on ESPN and Texas and Wyoming on Fox Sports Southwest.

But yes -- and WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen again can chortle at this -- the combined audience for all three Rangers-Yankees games fell far short of the crowd drawn by the Cowboys. Perhaps only a Game 7 of a Rangers World Series would stand a chance against the Cowboys. And the odds would still be against the North Texas 9.

Meanwhile, in Friday's local news derby results, NBC5 won at 10 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the principal advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

The Peacock also swept the 6 a.m. competitions. WFAA8 and CBS11 tied for first at 6 p.m. in total viewers while WFAA8 had the gold to itself at 5 p.m.

Fox4 again flexed among 25-to-54-year-olds, though, winning at both 5 and 6 p.m.

PROGRAMMING NOTE -- TXA21 has dropped the syndicated The Daily Buzz from its weekday morning schedule and currently is filling the 5 to 8 a.m. slot with sitcom reruns.

The station hopes to make an announcement on longterm replacement programming within a week or so, says CBS11/TXA21 communications director Lori Conrad.

CW33's new commentator: "I'm Anna Fermanova. Some call me the sexy Russian. And that's my take."


New CW33 commentator Anna Fermanova in pictures posted on the station's website. Accused of being a weapons smuggler, she made her on-air debut Thursday night during CW33's 9 p.m. newscast.

No, you just can't make this stuff up. And yes, I do have some qualms about giving shameless Dallas-based CW33 another shot of free publicity.

Still, you have to wonder how much more the station's qualified reporters and meteorologists can take. Any respectable work they do is invariably tarnished by CW33's continued belly flops into sexploitation at any cost. Latest example: Management has hired accused arms smuggler Anna Fermanova, 24, of Plano as its newest on-air commentator. She's been dubbed the "sexy spy" by some, and doesn't seem to mind a bit.

"Some call me the sexy Russian. And that's my take," Fermanova said at the close of her debut commentary on Thursday's 9 p.m. newscast. She chose the pithy subject of Ashton Kutcher's alleged cheating on wife Demi Moore. Kutcher has categorically denied it and has hinted at a lawsuit on Twitter.

But Fermanova, no stranger to skimpy bikinis, twitted Moore for posting a "sexy photo of herself" on Twitter in reaction to the initial report in Star Magazine that Kushton had been seen smooching a 20-year-old blond at an Italian restaurant.

"A woman her age, 47, taking such an impudent approach to gain some spotlight is simply absurd," Fermanova pronounced before calling on Moore to instead help flood victims, as Angelina Jolie is doing.

"So there you go, Demi," she reasoned. "Follow Angelina's example and make a difference with that power that your popularity has given you." Huh?

For the record, Fermanova was detained at New York's JFK airport on March 1st and eventually charged with attempting to smuggle night vision rifle scopes to Russia. They were found in her luggage. Her attorney says she's innocent of any wrongdoing and loves the U.S. And what a country it is, as CW33 has proven time and again.

Below is Fermanova's first commentary, which is another kick to the nether regions of those left at CW33 who take affront but basically are helpless to do anything about it lest they be shown the door. There's plenty more where they came from. In fact, you, too, could be the next CW33 commentator. Just pole dance on a street sign near the station's Dallas offices. And make sure that news director David Duitch sees you. Any finder's fees are payable to unclebarky.com.


Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Sept. 9) -- total, utter, complete dominance by NFL kickoff game

Rival networks might as well have gone dark in prime-time Thursday night.

NBC's NFL season kickoff, a rematch of last year's NFC championship game between the Saints and Vikings, mangled all in its path from 7 p.m. until game's end at 10:24 p.m.

The Saints' 14-9 win against Brett Favre's Vikings averaged 766,852 D-FW viewers, with a peak crowd of 848,288 viewers between 10 and 10:15 p.m.

Nothing else stood a chance, including CW33's premiere of Nikita (54,290 viewers) and Season 2 premiere of The Vampire Diaries (81,436 viewers) in the 7 to 9 p.m. slot.

Even CW's principal target audience of 18-to-34-year-old women flocked to football, which more than doubled Vampire Diaries' audience in this demographic and more than tripled Nikita's. And VP was lucky. It only had to go against a half-hour of the game following an overblown 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. kickoff preview show (featuring Taylor Swift and The Dave Matthews Band) that drew 285,025 total viewers to also easily win its time slot.

Nationally, NBC says it was the highest-rated NFL regular season prime-time game in 13 years, NBC's highest-rated regular season prime-time game ever and the highest-rated NFL Kickoff game ever. So there.

Over on Fox Sports Southwest, the first-place Texas Rangers showed signs of emerging from a prolonged slump by winning at Toronto for the second straight night and escaping with a not-so-horrible 4-6 road trip. But the game had just 81,436 total viewers, with half of it going into the teeth of football.

(Programming note: Friday's and Saturday's marquee home games against the Yankees will both be carried on TXA21. That's because the station swapped its scheduled Oct. 1st Friday night game with Fox Sports Southwest and got the Saturday game in return. Pretty good deal as it turns out.)

In Thursday's local news derby results, CBS11 won a downsized three-way 10 p.m. competition in total viewers while tying Fox4 for the top spot among 25-to-54-year-olds, the principal target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 swept the 6 a.m. Nielsens and added twin wins at 5 p.m.

WFAA8 ran first at 6 p.m. in total viewers while NBC5 won with 25-to-54-year-olds.

Additional programming notes: A half-hour special introducing The Landry Award will air Saturday, Sept. 11th at 2:30 p.m. on TXA21. Named after Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, the inaugural award will be given to this season's top North Texas high school football player, with a panel of former coaches and players, plus media members and "local leaders" making the choice. CBS11/TXA21 sports anchor Bill Jones and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown will helm the program, with a repeat scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 18th at 6:30 p.m. on CBS11.

Also on Saturday, Sept. 11th, CBS11 will air a companion Stand Up to Cancer special anchored by Doug Dunbar and Karen Borta. The 6 p.m. program is tied to Friday's national Stand Up to Cancer special, scheduled to air at 7 p.m. on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and many other networks.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Sept. 8) -- weather coverage swells local news numbers, particularly in early evening


Aerial shots focused on this post-tornado warehouse. Photo: Ed Bark

Wednesday's two-pronged weather attack -- rain and flooding in the morning/afternoon and an early evening tornado touchdown -- had the full attention of local TV's major news providers.

Nielsen ratings breakdowns show WFAA8 dominating in early evening hours but in a four-way horse race during the flooding stage.

From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., CBS11 averaged 108,581 D-FW viewers, followed by Fox4 (95,008), WFAA8 (88,222) and NBC5 (74,649).

But Fox4 led by a relatively comfortable margin among 25-to-54-year-olds, with CBS11 dropping to fourth and WFAA8 moving into second place ahead of NBC5 during those 90 minutes.

Overall, ratings were at best marginally higher than the previous day's totals for entertainment programming and regularly scheduled noon newscasts on Fox4 and WFAA8. The available home audience pool is limited in daytime hours, and workplace viewing isn't factored in.

All four stations, plus CW33, also converged on the early evening tornado touchdown while recapping the day's earlier flooding.

Overall from 5 to 7 p.m., WFAA8 led by a wide margin with an average of 318,956 total viewers. Fox4 and NBC5 tied for second with 203,589 viewers each while CBS11 averaged 176,444.

WFAA8's peak audience came between 6:30 and 6:45 p.m., when the station drew an American Idol-sized 556,477 viewers.

Fox4's biggest audience was from 6:45 to 7 p.m. (285,025 viewers). NBC5 peaked between 6:30 and 6:45 p.m. (257,879 viewers) and CBS11 between 6:45 and 7 p.m. (237,521 viewers).

WFAA8 also led by a lesser margin from 5 to 7 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds, with Fox4 a solid second ahead of NBC5 and CBS11.

WFAA8 did get off to a slow start, however. From 5 to 5:30 p.m. the station ran third in total viewers and fourth with 25-to-54-year-olds. But when the dramatic tornado damage pictures started kicking in, so did WFAA8's ratings. CW33 ran fifth across the board.

Elsewhere Wednesday, NBC's 8 p.m. results edition of America's Got Talent, which reduced the field to four finalists, drew prime-time's biggest audience with 332,529 total viewers.

Opposite Talent, The CW's premiere of Hellcats ran fourth at 8 p.m. with 142,512 viewers, beating ABC's rerun combo of Modern Family and Cougar Town. But among 18-to-34-year-old women, Hellcats was outdrawn only by Talent.

Fox4's 9 p.m. local newscast dominated at that hour among all audience demographics, drawing 312,170 total viewers.

In Wednesday's 10 p.m. local news competitions, WFAA8 ran first in total viewers but Fox4 claimed the gold among 25-to-54-year-olds.

NBC5 had a doubleheader win at 6 a.m., although Fox4 and WFAA8 each were only one-tenth of a point behind in the 25-to-54 demographic.

Pictures tell the story -- and WFAA8 makes the most of them

Wednesday's heavy rain and resultant flooding also washed away much of the regularly scheduled morning and early afternoon programming on D-FW's four major TV news providers.

And with a story where immediacy and live visuals are paramount, WFAA8 clearly had the best of it. In fact, if there's an MVP award to be given, it should go to HD Chopper 8 pilot Troy Bush. His pictures and reporting stood out in the early going while Fox4 and NBC5 belatedly "content-shared" identical overhead helicopter pictures from Garland-based Sky Helicopters, Inc.

CBS11, likewise a client of Sky Helicopters, had solid coverage and different overhead pictures. But the station nonetheless fell short of WFAA8 in the key early going.

The badly flooded Willow Creek Apartments in Arlington were the focal point of coverage. WFAA8 excelled in showing viewers live rescues via an elongated fire truck ladder that served as a bridge to safety. At ground level near White Rock Lake, WFAA8 photojournalist Gary Ultee narrated his live pictures of flooding around Northwest Hwy.

Around 12:30 p.m., Arlington Fire and Rescue battalion chief David Stapp hitched a ride with WFAA8's Bush to survey the situation from on high. His department does not have a helicopter, explained WFAA8 reporter Cynthia Izaguirre, who unfortunately also spent an undue amount of time extolling "HD Chopper 8's" role in helping out. One or two back-pats would have sufficed on a day when pilot Bush clearly excelled in the line of duty.

By 1 p.m. Wednesday, NBC5 and WFAA8 had returned to their regularly scheduled soap operas while Fox4 and CBS11 joined them several minutes later in resuming entertainment programming. CW33, part of the cost-cutting LNS (Local News Service) content-sharing arrangement with Fox4 and NBC5, did not bother to interrupt scheduled daytime programming for coverage of the day's flooding.

Here are some of the dramatic live pictures shown on WFAA8:


A rescued dog seems happy to be high and dry. Photos: Ed Bark


The White Rock Lake area was a mess as usual.


Potentially lethal weapon: floating refrigerator hits light pole.


Sobering backdrop: Trusty Jim Douglas reports from the scene.


Not a pretty sight during the height of Wednesday's flooding.


Star players: pilot Troy Bush and HD Chopper 8 touch down.

CW33 "sexpert" Shana Franklin caught in love nest with -- four dogs


The above headline literally is true -- and cheaply scandalous. It's also in sync with the way CW33 would tease something like this.

Veteran CW33 reporter Shana Franklin, who self-describes herself as the station's "sexpert," has a new video bio on the Dallas-based station's always oddly intriguing website.

Filmed by her husband, Franklin is seen lounging in bed with the couple's four dogs, ranging in sizes from big to tiny and names from Turtle to Velcro. A skull-and-crossbones pillow is nearby.

She bills this as a "sneak peek into the real me" before introducing the couple's four canine "children" and cueing viewers to her brand of "sex and relationships" reporting.

"For all things more intimate, you're just going to have to get on to 'The 33,' " Franklin says, later warning, "So come find us -- or we will find you."

Franklin is nothing if not dogged on her still relatively new beat. A very wide array of her sex and relationship stories is readily available on her CW33 page. They lately range from "The Science Behind the Booty Call" to "DIY Sexual Pleasure" to "No Longer Just For Strippers: DFW Kids Could Be Taking to the Pole."

Hey, it's a living. And let's face it. Franklin's latter day brand of expertise might have been fatal to a resume tape just a few years or even a few months ago. But at this juncture in local TV news, she may well be ahead of the curve. Or if you prefer, curves. As in another of her specialty stories titled "The Sex Diet: Getting in Shape to Look Better Naked."

Here's Franklin's self-produced, mini "video bio." In some ways it's just purr-fect, even without any felines sharing her bed.


Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Mon., Sept. 2-6) -- TCU, SMU, BSU make for big holiday weekend on ESPN


CBS11 meteorologist Mike Burger ended a 40-year broadcasting career on Saturday's 10 p.m. newscast. He spent the last decade at CBS11 and also worked at KDFW-TV in Dallas. "I'll see you on the first tee," Burger said while surrounded by friends in CBS11's Fort Worth studios. At left is news anchor Nerissa Knight. Photo: Ed Bark

Season-starting games featuring TCU, SMU and No. 3-ranked TCU nemesis, Boise State, put ESPN in the ratings driver seat on Labor Day weekend.

Saturday's prime-time game from Cowboys Stadium, a 30-21 TCU win over Oregon State, averaged 291,811 D-FW viewers in wiping out all competing programming.

SMU's gutty 35-27 Sunday afternoon loss to Texas Tech in sweltering Lubbock drew 142,512 viewers to likewise outpoint all competing programming.

And Boise State's come-from-behind Labor Day night 33-30 win at Virginia Tech rolled up 237,521 viewers in also dominating prime-time.

Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers lost four games in four days, with their lead over second-place Oakland shrinking from 10 to 7 games. This is getting more than a little scary, with the starting pitching imploding while injured star player Josh Hamilton remains indefinitely unavailable. Are the Rangers getting ready to impersonate the 1969 Chicago Cubs being overtaken by the pitching-rich New York Mets? The portents are ominous. And even if Texas rights itself, it's looking like a quick over-and-out post season.

The most-watched Rangers loss was Friday's on TXA21, with 190,016 viewers enduring the defeat in Minnesota. The other three games drew half or less that audience.

The weekend also brought CBS11 meteorologist Mike Burger's heartfelt goodbye at the close of Saturday's 10 p.m. newscast. He's retiring after 40 years in broadcasting. CBS11 drew 156,085 viewers in winning the time slot against competing programming on Fox4, NBC5 and WFAA8. Nice.

Local stations took a knee for their Labor Day local newscasts, opting for "H" for holiday designations that make the results basically moot. That day's closing 5 to 6 p.m. hour of the annual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon drew just 20,359 viewers in losing lopsidedly to a mix of local and national news on Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11.

In Friday's local news derby, NBC5 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 ran the table at 6 a.m.

CBS11 nipped Fox4 for a total viewers win at 6 p.m. But Fox4 took the 25-to-54 gold while adding twin wins at 5 p.m.

Highway to hell: Rerunning a daring 1978 WFAA8 story that got a lot of motors running


Byron Harris back in the day off the I-30 freeway. Photo: Ed Bark

Longtime WFAA8 investigator Byron Harris remembers taking tons of heat over this gambit. And not just from irate motorists.

In May 1978, Harris and two other WFAA8 staffers decided to test the feasibility of the federally mandated 55 mph highway speed limit by driving three cars abreast on I-30 from Dallas to Fort Worth. They stayed at 55 mph throughout, prompting "surprisingly violent" reactions from some drivers, Harris says in the piece (which is replayed below after being recently posted on youtube). "They consider it their right to break the law."

One motorist came close to wiping out while swerving to the shoulder of the road in an effort to get ahead of the WFAA8 pack. Drivers on CB radios can be heard voicing their extreme displeasure.

The station captured the action with two cameras while Chopper 8 stayed in communication from overhead to warn of any emergency vehicles trying to pass through.

Asked to reminisce, Harris said via email that "the reaction was vitriolic. Lots of calls to the station. People realized that Channel 8 was involved because one of the three cars we used to drive 55 belonged to (former anchor) Michael Brown, who had a "News 8" vanity license plate."

News director Marty Haag wasn't amused, Harris recalled.

"Marty knew about it and approved it, because we used the helicopter," he said. "But both he and I were shocked by how angry people got. When I got back after the shoot, he'd been fielding the calls as well as reaction from the front office. It may have been the closest I've ever gotten to getting fired. On the one hand, he (Haag) knew he'd approved it so he could only go so far. On the other hand, he was really mad at me for doing it."

Initially signed into law in 1973 by President Nixon, the 55 mph speed limit was repealed during the Clinton administration. Harris and Haag remained close friends until his death in 2004. Here's the vintage video:

Taunting's a penalty in football -- and WFAA8 investigator Brett Shipp merits a flag

Frankly, this is conduct unbecoming of a topflight investigative reporter with an armload of prestigious national awards.

Or to use a football analogy, WFAA8's Brett Shipp has been to the end zone many times before. He should act like it. In that context, we'll get to his very ill-considered Facebook posting in just a few paragraphs.

Shipp weighed in on Tuesday's 10 p.m. newscast (delayed 20 minutes by President Obama's address) with his second report on the questionable ethics of Southlake Carroll's high-powered football program. And he added another heavyweight to this one -- defending 5A champion Euless Trinity. That school currently has an even higher profile than Southlake after its football team was ranked as No. 1 in the country by USA Today. So these are big fish. No doubt about it.

Shipp's report contends that both schools may have violated University Interscholastic League rules in Texas by letting some members of their teams scrimmage together in June while coaches appeared to be yelling out "sport specific skill instructions." The UIL allows only supervised "strength and conditioning" activities during the summer, with the use of "sport specific equipment" also prohibited.

Most football fans in North Texas know by now that Shipp reported at length last week on the questionable eligibility of would-be Southlake starting quarterback Daxx Garman, who transfered from Oklahoma. Because of the report, Garman was not allowed to play in the team's season opener, which it lost last week. An appeal hearing is scheduled for Sept. 14th, with Garman on the sidelines at least until then.

In the interim, Shipp has been using his Facebook page to help spread the word about Tuesday's second report. But he went way overboard with a Tuesday morning post (that was removed after this story appeared).

"Tonight at Ten on News 8: Forget the QB," he wrote. "Southlake's coaches are in hot water. What's more, see what happens when they invite Number 1 ranked Trinity into the hot tub with them. Sniff, sniff!!!! Is that the smell of two cooked seasons?"

No, that's the smell of a grandstanding taunt that makes Shipp look like a juvenile blowhard. And really, he's much better than that.

Tuesday's story in fact did not have the impact of the Garman investigation, even if both schools appear to have some further explaining to do. Neither head coach -- Hal Wasson of Southlake and Steve Lineweaver of Trinity Euless -- wanted Shipp and his cameraman around. But he stood his ground and questioned both of them.

Wasson initially was shown running over to Shipp and asking, "Who are you filming?" At the close of the story, he emphatically told Shipp, "We are supervising our facilities." Back live in WFAA8 studios, Shipp very audibly sighed in apparent exasperation before telling viewers that the UIL wanted to see WFAA8's story before looking into the matter. Penalties, Shipp said, can range from "reprimand all the way to suspension."

Lineweaver was approached by WFAA8 during a Trinity practice last week.

"Did you guys get permission to come out here?" the coach asked.

"No, we didn't," Shipp told him.

Lineweaver told him to go through a school representative first. When Shipp persisted, Lineweaver repeated, "Would you please go through proper channels? Thank you."

These are gut-grinding situations for all involved. If the coaches are knowingly violating rules, they damned sure don't want anyone else to know about it. And Shipp wouldn't be human if he completely relished these confrontations. They're part of an investigator's job -- and certainly not a pleasant one.

Shipp erred, though, in grinding his heel into the neck of both schools' football programs well before his report actually aired. It's one thing for him to use Facebook as a vehicle to alert potential viewers that Part 2 of his investigation into possible high school football irregularities is coming Tuesday night. It's quite another to write, "Sniff, sniff!!!! Is that the smell of two cooked seasons?"

You just don't earn points that way.

Here's video of Shipp's Tuesday night story: