The price one pays for taking a warm weather February vacation is being jolted back to reality a week later by a 60-degree temperature change, a six-inch stack of mail and the absurdity of local TV news.
If there is anything more predictable than 20-degree weather in February, it is local TV news.
At the end of the 11 p.m. Thursday news on Channel 2, there was a feature on Sean Hayes, who plays flamboyantly gay Jack on the NBC sitcom, "Will & Grace."
WGRZ-TV co-anchors Scott Levin and Maryalice Demler engaged in predictable happy talk after the feature, which seemed months old and incredibly long for what is known as the "kicker" at the end of the newscast.
Hayes was a bigger story in September, when he won an Emmy. The location of this "Entertainment Tonight"-like feature made one wonder: What in the world is it doing on now?
You didn't have to work for Western Union to get the message. The cynic in me determined that NBC probably sent the feature down to affiliates in the hopes that they would swallow their journalistic integrity and promote a Thursday night series that has been hit by CBS' 1-2 programming punch of "Survivor" and the crime drama, "CSI."
WIVB-TV isn't immune to some promotion inside the news, either. On a sportscast Friday night, anchor Dennis Williams revealed that the LIN Broadcasting system's sister station, WNLO-TV, made a deal to carry 50 New York Yankees' games this coming baseball season. Most of them will be in prime time or weekend afternoons. The prime-time games start at 7 p.m., which jeopardizes the start time of the 10 p.m. news. Some of the stronger weekend games could land on Channel 4.
The Yankees should get stronger ratings than WNLO, Channel 23, has been receiving in its first month on the air.
WNLO also has announced it is undergoing a makeover of sorts. The ancient morning sitcoms have already moved to the afternoons, switching with a local movie. And starting Monday, episodes of "The Three Stooges" move from late night to 5 p.m. so a new generation of youngsters can discover Moe, Curly and Larry.
Queen Latifah's talk show moves up two hours to 6 p.m., with two Hollywood news shows airing at 7 p.m. and "Moral Court" replacing Latifah's show at 8 p.m.
The 10 o'clock news will now serve as the lead-in for reruns of "Friends," which have been doing decently at 11 p.m. "Inside Edition" moves to 11 p.m., followed by "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." The old Hitchcock series has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise at midnight.
There is little mystery in some other programming moves revealed in my mail.
Next Monday, Fox drops "Boston Public" and "Ally McBeal" to carry four decent sitcoms for one week only -- "Malcolm in the Middle," "Grounded for Life," "The Simpsons" and "Titus." Why?
When the February sweeps end, the two David E. Kelley series need to have a rest. Besides, sitcoms repeat better than dramas. And Fox just may want to see how these shows would do opposite CBS' incredibly strong Monday comedy block.
Channel 29, the local Fox affiliate, also reran last Wednesday's edition of "Temptation Island" at 11 p.m Sunday. Why? Probably for two reasons. It ran opposite the Grammy Awards, which took away some of its young audience nationally. Locally, it wasn't hurt, getting a 10.5 rating. Secondly, the rerun was designed to build momentum for the season finale this Wednesday.
Among other interesting items from the mail is a Discovery Channel release that announced that singer, songwriter, actress, talk show host and celebrity daughter Carnie Wilson is going to narrate a June special, "Obesity: A Deadly Risk." What, you expected Calista Flockhart? Wilson has battled her weight throughout her life and lost more than 150 pounds since having laproscopic gastric bypass surgery.
The mail also included some testimonials to Channel 7 anchor-reporter Jean Hill, who is in her final days as anchor of "Eyewitness News This Morning" before leaving for a banking job. The letters and e-mail notes did remind me of an oversight in my recent article about her departure. I forgot to praise her warm style and strong delivery of the news. Someone also praised her hairstyle, something any critic would prefer to stay away from.
One of the publications that I get in the mail, Broadcasting & Cable, carried an article that concludes that none of the major networks plan to fight a federal protocol that prohibits the live broadcast of Timothy McVeigh's execution on May 16. Not even Fox. And you may recall that producer Gary David Goldberg once remarked that Fox would eventually stoop to carrying executions -- if the person involved was naked. McVeigh wants the execution to be broadcast, which may be an additional reason for declining to carry it besides the fact that airing it would seem so exploitive.