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Small-screen connection Three shows on Fox's fall schedule feature Western New York talent

If I hadn't known better, I might have thought the nation's television critics were meeting Sunday at a hotel on Niagara Falls Boulevard instead of Santa Monica Boulevard.

I kept on running into talent with Buffalo connections being showcased in Fox's presentation at the Beverly Hilton.

First, David Boreanaz, the Buffalo-born son of Rocketship 7's Dave Thomas, and Buffalo writer-producer Stephen Nathan were promoting the third-year drama, "Bones." Then University at Buffalo professor Stephen Henderson was stealing the spotlight for a session about the new drama, "New Amsterdam." Finally, Neil Haskell of Clarence, who last week made the final 10 of "So You Think You Can Dance," was part of a session on the hot Fox reality series.

Ironically, the three sessions followed one in which the producers of Kelsey Grammer's new Fox comedy, "Back to You," explained that Pittsburgh was chosen over Buffalo as the setting because they felt it would have been too big a fall for Grammer's character, a TV anchor, to land in Buffalo after being in Los Angeles.

>Dancing man

Let's start with Haskell, 20, who earned a spot on the "Dance" tour of 50 cities, with a solo dance last week that saved him from elimination after being voted into the bottom three.

"I had to do the dance of my life to see if I'd be in the top 10 and go on tour," said the blond-haired Haskell after the session. "I danced my butt off [to Maroon 5's "Harder to Breathe"] and the judges liked it."

He was excited about moving on to the stage of the show that the vote of viewers alone decides who stays and who goes. Previously, the judges had the final say.

"It was awesome. The moment on live TV that I realized that I was going on tour . . . was like a surreal moment," said Haskell. "The future of the next few months was solidified. I can't wait to go on tour. Hopefully, it will be in Buffalo, so everybody can come and see it."

Haskell is also hoping that Western New Yorkers cast enough votes to keep him on "Dance," which airs its taped competition show Wednesday and results show Thursday.

"I can only hope that Buffalo will help me a lot," said Haskell. "I love Buffalo. I believe they'll be able to do that."

"This is the longest audition process we've ever been on," added Haskell. "Basically, we were auditioning to get on this tour. It is a whole new ball game now."

Does he feel like he has won already by making the tour? "I feel like I took a little bit of a weight off my shoulders and now I have a completely different weight on my shoulders about trying to win this thing . . . I really want it." ("The Dance" winner receives $250,000.)

Mia Michaels, a choreographer and judge on the show, has been impressed by Haskell.

"His work ethic is impeccable," she said. "He works harder than any of the dancers I've ever worked with on this show . . . And his technical training is amazing. His strength is amazing, and he keeps getting better and better every week. I believe he could definitely be in the top four."

Henderson, who is on leave from the faculty at the University at Buffalo, has discovered that life on TV begins at age 57. Though he has made several appearances as a judge on "Law & Order" and its spin-offs, Henderson has his first regular series role in "New Amsterdam."

The series is about a New York homicide detective, John Amsterdam, who became immortal in 1642 and won't age until he finds his one true life. Henderson plays Omar, the jazz club owner who knows Amsterdam's secret and has "a few of his own."

>Impressive resume

Henderson's impressive acting resume includes performances in August Wilson plays and as Van Helsing in "Dracula, the Musical" on Broadway.

"I've been very fortunate because I was able to work with August Wilson's plays, and that happened to me at 50," said Henderson. "This is just a gas, because there is something about the texture of it that has great potential -- to talk about our country and the many different cultures that pull together in New York.

"I hope it realizes its inherent potential to discuss these large human issues that transcend time. You talk about cold-case crimes. You've got a guy who has been around for a while. There is potential to talk about some things that you don't correct in one lifetime."

I told Henderson I would guess he was in for his biggest acting pay day.

"You'd be guessing right," smiled Henderson, who isn't just happy about the money. "It is that thing about reaching a larger audience with something that is about something."

Boreanaz and writer-producer Nathan have been reaching a large audience for two seasons with "Bones." Boreanaz plays Special Agent Seeley Booth of the FBI's Homicide Investigation Unit, who calls on forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) -- nicknamed "Bones" -- to help solve crimes. This being TV, they also flirt with a romance.

>Just starting

"When they're out of the workplace, they both have their vulnerabilities that come up, hence this relationship starts," said Boreanaz. "And I think it's that give-and-take that the audience responds to. And the best thing about it is I think it's really just starting."

Nathan believes viewers are attracted to the chemistry between the characters.

"I think the reason there are so many questions about the growth of Emily's character is, it's a direct result of that pairing, of seeing how Booth allows Brennan to grow and how Brennan allows Booth to change and get in touch with parts of himself that he hasn't really been in touch with in so long," said Nathan.

Boreanaz hasn't really been in touch lately with Buffalo that much, either. He was raised in Philadelphia. He is a big Flyers fan who blogged for the NHL during the Stanley Cup playoffs. He was asked whether he believed former Sabre Daniel Briere was worth the $52 million contract the Flyers gave him. He said he would see what happens in the first 20 games.

In other words, he may have left Buffalo at an early age, but Boreanaz is like anyone in his birthplace who needs to see a star hockey player perform before being sold on him.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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