The joke around the Buffalo News office is when I go on vacation, stuff happens.
A lot of stuff. Let's take a look at some of it that happened last week.
Kevin O'Connell Nixes Political Race: I initially thought it was some kind of joke when word came that Democrats were trying to persuade the Channel 2 meteorologist to run for country clerk. After all, the man is approaching 70 years old and he recently signed to continue in his cushy job for another 14 months. Why would he want to work so hard to run for office? I understand a party reaching out to a man with great name recognition, which is the primary reason so many media members are romanced to run. Additionally, O'Connell comes from a political family so being approached had to be flattering. But predicting he would pass is much easier than predicting if winter is over in Western New York.
Almost two years ago, O'Connell told me he planned to retire because he and his wife Carolyn didn't want to end up like many people in their "Golden Years" who end up with health issues that disrupt their plans. “We like to travel and we thought reducing the schedule a little and realizing when the actual contract is over would give us the opportunity to enjoy more things together ... more family kind of things.” He added that his father, former Buffalo City Comptroller George O’Connell, died at 61, and two siblings also died relatively young with heart issues. That didn't sound like a man who wanted to pursue a difficult new career at his age.
Phil Simms Benched for Tony Romo: I was slightly surprised that CBS signed Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to replace Simms as the network's No. 1 NFL analyst. The reason I say "slightly" surprised was because there were rumors after Peyton Manning retired that he was going to be Simms' replacement alongside Jim Nantz. Of course, Twitterverse was thrilled with Simms' demotion. But I thought he often got an unfair rap about his language issues and that he saw the big picture of games very well. I'm in the camp of wondering if Romo is ready to be a No. 1 with little broadcast experience outside of being interviewed. It is unclear if Simms – who has a long-term contract with CBS – will stay there or if he will head to Fox or another network. If he stays, it could change the roles of many CBS analysts down the pecking order. He has done a good job on Bills games, so I may be in the minority who hopes he stays.
Bill O'Reilly Scandal: The decision of so many advertisers – I lost count at 60 – to drop his show since The New York Times piece on the settlement of several sexual harassment claims illustrates once again the power that advertisers have on television and radio networks. O'Reilly announced Tuesday night that he is going on a long-planned vacation, which immediately sparked speculation about whether he will survive and be back after his vacation is over. Since Rush Limbaugh has survived advertiser backlash, it wouldn't be shocking if O'Reilly survived as well as long as his viewers don’t abandon him. They haven't so far.
That's especially true if the advertisers don’t take a stronger stand and drop their buys of other Fox News programs in place of O'Reilly's show. If advertisers drop all Fox News programming rather than move it from O'Reilly's show, then all bets are off.
As an aside, the O'Reilly story has once again dredged up the controversy of whether he lived in the working class Long Island suburb of Levittown growing up. It's a bigger issue to me, since Levittown is my home town. There have been different reports on the accuracy of O'Reilly's reported claim that he lived in the "Westbury section of Levittown." The Westbury area is much more upscale than Levittown. I may have to call on my editor and Williamsville expert Bruce Andriatch, to referee this one. O'Reilly may have lived in a Levittown postal address, but without knowing the street it is hard to know if he lived in the Levittown I know or in East Meadow or Westbury. He appears to be one of the few people -- besides me -- who would rather say that he grew up in Levittown than Westbury.
Don Rickles Dies: Growing up on Shelter Lane, which assuredly is in Levittown, I often sat on a couch with my parents listening to Rickles' insults as one of the greatest guests on talk shows. Needless to say, my parents loved him. Their attitude was something like "oh, my heavens, did you hear what he just said?" My favorite Rickles' line came when he noticed someone was bored or lacked energy. "Wiggle your ears so I'll know you are alive," Rickles would say. I've used that line on occasion. His comedic philosophy was primarily to insult only the people he liked or loved. In that way, he wanted his friends to know the insults were a sign of affection. It's a philosophy I've lived by, though I must admit once in a while those insulted don't feel all that loved.
Rickles' act didn't translate all that well to TV sitcoms. In 1993, he and Richard Lewis starred in that season's most dreadful new comedy, Fox's "Daddy Dearest." However, he was near his best in May of 2015 as a guest alongside Howard Stern during David Letterman's goodbye tour on "The Late Show." Stern and Rickles strayed from the uncomfortable love that Letterman was receiving by abusing Letterman, who gave several disdainful looks. At the time, I wrote, "Rickles was seated in his chair, before he was introduced, undoubtedly to save him the walk. Mr. Warmth's body may be failing him, but he still has a sharp mind. He spent more time praising Stern than abusing Letterman. Still, it was good stuff."
"Big Little Lies" Ends: The pay-cable network HBO allowed critics to preview the finale as long as they didn'tt reveal much of anything about it and ruin it for the viewers of the first six episodes starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz. So I didn't ruin it. Of course, readers of the Australian novel upon which it is based knew Kidman's abusive husband was killed and one of their sons – and not the son of Woodley's character -- was bullying the daughter of Dern's character. The finale that revolves around a much-discussed costume party was beautifully-filmed. The performances – including some surprising singing moments – were as strong as the tension. But the episode didn't have the big emotional payoffs one might have expected and the unspoken forgiveness by all the women at the end seemed to be a little too pat. I also wasn't buying the premise that Woodley's innocent son would have kept quiet about the real bully as long as he did. I expect most viewers who loved the series found the finale satisfying. I liked it, but I'm not going to lie. I was a little disappointed.
I'm also a little surprised that the author of the book upon which the series was based, Liane Moriarty, is planning a second season of the series, according to the Hollywood Reporter. HBO hasn't signed on to the idea. It isn't a good one. Let it die.