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No matter how hard I try, I can't escape television. Even on vacation. A few summers ago, Barbara Walters sat at a restaurant table next to me on Martha's Vineyard the day after Hurricane Bob devoured the island.

I recently vacationed in Longboat Key, Fla., a spot so popular with Buffalonians that The Buffalo News is sold at a local drugstore.

In any event, I spotted a man who looked like Paul Shaffer of "Late Show With David Letterman" swimming in the condominium pool. I dismissed it. Scores of short bald guys look like Shaffer. However, later the man said hello to my wife, who said he sounded like Paul Shaffer, too.

Indeed, it was Paul Shaffer. I decided against talking to him after concluding that he wanted to enjoy his free time as much as I did mine.

One day, I planned to say hello after he finished his laps. An hour later, he was still swimming and I had to leave. He may still be swimming.

I didn't say anything to him, but I can report that Shaffer is an excellent swimmer and a doting father who was extremely patient with his young daughter in the kiddie pool.

Now let's catch up with some headlines made while I waited for Paul Shaffer:

An Emmy for Tim Russert?: His brief appearance playing himself on the March 3 episode of "Homicide: Life on the Street" was every bit as good as producer Tom Fontana said it would be. But don't take my word. Russert said that movie director Brian DePalma wanted to consider him for a role as an interviewer of a senator played by Tom Cruise in the film, "Mission Impossible."

Russert declined. "I played myself in 'Homicide,' I'm not an actor," said the host of "Meet the Press."

He also has fans in high places. Russert and his journalist wife, Maureen Orth, made some news recently when President Clinton dropped in on a party (co-sponsored by NBC News President Andrew Lack) at Russert's Washington house for NBC's newest hire, commentator Bill Moyers.

Russert's 9-year-old son, Luke, had the first clue that the president was coming.

"He said, 'Dad, I think there is a terrorist in the neighborhood, police are everywhere,' " said Russert. The president stayed 45 minutes, talked to everyone and had little pizzas, chicken and mineral water.

"Afterward, I told Luke you have to understand the different way we were brought up," said Russert. "I was raised in South Buffalo and you've been blessed by the pope and the president has come to your house. He understood the concept of upward mobility."

Jenny Jones Finally Scores in Buffalo: Even before the current controversy connected to her talk show, Jenny Jones' national ratings have been on the rise. But never in Buffalo. The show, which didn't even register a rating for Channel 29 in November, finally earned a 1 rating and entered 5,000 households in February at 11 a.m., where its tough competition includes Ricki Lake on Channel 7 (33,000 households). Lake's show, which airs with a Channel 7 warning, continues to grow. I suspect the controversy that surrounds Jones' show (after an ambushed male guest was embarrassed after being "secretly admired" by a fellow male and later was accused of killing his admirer) will only help Jones' ratings.

The defense of the Jones' show -- that the ambushed guest was told that the secret admirer could be of either sex -- is pathetic.

However, there is enough blame to go around for all the ludicrous talk show stunts that pollute the airwaves.

Blame the guests for being seduced into appearing for their 15 minutes of fame. Blame the viewer for eating it up. Blame the advertiser for supporting it. And blame the local stations for carrying these shows even if they are popular. Just throwing out a viewer advisory doesn't absolve local stations from perpetuating these ugly excuses for television.

"Full House" Trumped: Here's a story that will make some 14-year-olds feel old. ABC is saying goodbye to "Full House," the series inspired by the movie "Three Men and a Baby." It still has decent ratings even though many of its early viewers are now in high school and have moved on to "Beverly Hills, 90210."

Double Christine on "Cybill": The hilarious March 13 episode of the CBS sitcom featured two Western New York actresses named Christine. In the episode, Cybill's divorced friend, Maryann (Christine Baranski), started dating again and began ignoring her old friend. That made Cybill search for new friends. The first new friend was played by Christine Estabrook of East Aurora.

Fox Pulls "The Great Defender": Despite its decent reviews, Fox pulled the blue-collar lawyer show after one low-rated episode at 7 p.m. Sunday, which is Fox's death zone.

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