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Olympics come in second to TV favorites

This is what I'm thinking in the first edition of my Olympic diary:

Channel 2's ratings for the first Sunday of NBC's Turin Olympics hardly bombed, but the Games couldn't compete with local ratings for ABC's one-two Sunday punch of "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy."

Both ABC series had 22.9 ratings on Channel 7, well above the 19.3 that Channel 2 had opposite "Housewives" and the 14.7 it had opposite "Grey's." "Grey's" larger victory could be the result of the smart decision to have the Feb. 5 Super Bowl episode end with a cliffhanger that was played out Sunday with Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) surviving a bomb blast.

Still, Channel 2's 15.4 rating for the entire evening is considerably above NBC's normal programming and 15 percent higher than WGRZ recorded on the first Sunday night at Salt Lake City in 2002.

The bigger local upset came Friday night when the results show of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" on Channel 7 had a narrow edge locally over Channel 2's coverage of the opening ceremony from 8 to 9 p.m. The 14.9 local rating for the entire opening ceremonies was off 44 percent locally from Salt Lake, with Saturday's 14.0 rating slipping 19 percent locally from 2002.

Channel 2's ratings have been higher than the national average, but the Games have hardly taken Buffalo by storm. Channel 2 placed No. 23 among NBC affiliates on Friday, one spot behind another border city, Seattle. Detroit, a third border city that can catch CBC's coverage, didn't finish in the Top 20. On Saturday night, Channel 2 finished 34th.

The Turin Games face strong competition again tonight, opposite the one-two Fox punch of "American Idol" and "House." So far, it appears that the competition's decision to battle the Olympics head-to-head is paying off big time in Buffalo.


NBC may want its affiliates to keep the suspense up as it usually does in the taped-delayed Olympics, but Channel 2 News should realize that we live in CBC country and it's silly to suppress the news. It is one thing to refer to Turin by its old name, Torino, quite another for affiliates near border cities to keep old news from its viewers.

But there was Channel 2's Stu Boyar telling viewers at 6 p.m. Sunday what events would be carried on NBC an hour later without giving any results that Western New Yorkers could have seen live that afternoon on Canadian television.

Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner said that decision was counter to what happened during Saturday's 6 p.m. sports report, when the station warned viewers who didn't want to know the results that music would be played while graphics were shown and it would stop after the results were finished. That's the right way to go, especially since NBC's Nightly News does something similar.

Channel 2 looked pretty silly Sunday by pretending nothing had happened yet. The other local news channels aren't under any obligation to take part in this charade. Paul Peck's 6 p.m. sports report on WNLO-TV, Channel 4's sister station, gave all the Olympic details that Channel 2 was suppressing.


The failure of Olympic skier Bode Miller to medal in the downhill Sunday and the withdrawal of U.S. figure skater Michelle Kwan can't help NBC's future ratings unless Kwan's replacement, Emily Hughes, can exceed expectations that she only finish in the Top 10. Speaking of Emily, doesn't she look like Alyson Hannigan, one of the stars of "How I Met Your Mother"?


These are the first DVR Olympics at my house. The technological advance allows viewers to record the Olympics, then fast forward through the incessant commercials to the good parts. I watched Saturday night's 3 1/2 -hour coverage in less than two hours. The DVR certainly comes in handy during those lengthy seven-minute speed skating events.


That Channel 2 promo extolling its tough reporting team of Red Coats make me laugh more than anything I've seen on "Saturday Night Live" this season. The promo is a parody, right?


I knew I had seen Olympic gold medalist Shaun White somewhere before the goofy snowboarder was telling NBC host Bob Costas Sunday night that he was interested in figure skater Sasha Cohen. "Dad, that's the guy we saw on 'Punk'd'," advised my son, Max. Sure enough, White was a hidden-camera victim of Ashton Kutcher this season.


When you get skating expert Dick Button, you can throw objectivity to the wind. After a U.S. pairs team pulled off a triple throw axel for the first time in Olympic history that they only made 20 percent of the time in practice, Button said: "Oh, I am so proud of them. How delightful. That is just a special, special moment for them. It is such a delicious moment. I almost have tears of happiness for them having done it."

Only Button could get away with that kind of patriotic gushing.


I confuse the voices of skiing play-by-play man Steve Podborski and analyst Trace Worthington, but I'm sure fans of Canadian gold medalist Jennifer Heil knew the difference after she won Saturday night and silenced the NBC experts who proclaimed the knock on her is she "isn't a big event skier." Podborski should know. He's a Canadian. After Heil won, Worthington did proclaim: "We can now officially call her a big event skier." You better if Podborski is going to be allowed to return to Canada.


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