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TV VIEWERSHIP UP ABOUT 9 PERCENT; 'BAND OF BROTHERS' IS MUST-SEE

This is what I'm thinking:

America's war on terrorism apparently has led to an increase in homes using television (HUTs in the business) in Western New York. According to Channel 4 researcher Bob Gallivan, HUT levels since Sept. 24 are up about 9 percent from a year ago from sign on to sign off. Viewing is up every hour of the day, with households tuning in up between 14 and 16 percent from 7 a.m. to noon. Viewing is up about 11 percent from 6 to 6:30 p.m, but only 4.1 percent in prime time.

The increased number of local homes using television could be the result of a variety of things, with increased interest in news and perhaps more people staying home among the most likely reasons.

If you're an HBO subscriber and you haven't made the World War II series, "Band of Brothers," must-see TV, you've been missing something quite extraordinary and timely. This 10-part series gets better and better as the episodes march on. And the final two episodes are riveting and moving.

Part 9, which premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday, finds Easy Company entering Germany and discovering an abandoned Nazi concentration camp. The haunting episode is titled, "Why We Fight."

The series finale, "Points," which airs Nov. 4, finds Easy Company capturing Eagles' Nest, Hitler's mountaintop fortress, and preparing for some soldiers to go home and others to join the Pacific Theater.

The ending is unbelievably moving, as all the real-life members of the Greatest Generation who have been talking about their experiences before each episode are identified.

While it might have been easier to follow the characters in the series if their real-life counterparts had been identified in the opener, the strategy of identifying the survivors at the end does provide a huge emotional payoff.

On Nov. 4, the finale will certainly have to battle for an audience, since it airs opposite the twice-rescheduled Emmy Awards on Channel 4, either the season premiere of Fox's Sunday schedule or Game 7 of the World Series and Part 1 of an NBC miniseries, "Uprising."

But HBO repeats the episodes during the week and digital cable subscribers with HBO get several more opportunities to see it.

HBO has added what amounts to an extra installment of the series, "We Stand Alone Together," on Veterans' Day (Nov. 11, 8:30 p.m.). It's a documentary in which more than 30 real-life veterans of Easy Company tell their story in their own words. Like "Band of Brothers," it is produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

Speaking of tough battles and viewing options, Fox has been heavily promoting the new espionage-family series, "24," that stars movie actor Kiefer Sutherland. And yes, the pilot is as good as advertised.

But the competition for its Nov. 6 premiere is formidable. ABC is now airing a two-hour "NYPD Blue" opposite it. The time slot also includes the freshman drama hit, "The Guardian" on CBS, the one-two comedy punch of "Frasier" and "Scrubs" on NBC and the Superman series, "Smallville," on WB.

Fox is rerunning the pilot at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9 and giving viewers an option of catching "24" on its cable brother, FX. After episodes premiere on Tuesdays, FX repeats them at 11 p.m. Sundays and 10 p.m. Monday. This enables Fox to reduce its programming costs. But one wonders if viewers who realize they have other chances to catch "24" will choose to watch "NYPD Blue" or something else on Tuesdays during its network run and lower the program's Fox rating.

The Bills victory over Jacksonville last week was historic for a couple of reasons. It was the first victory for new Bills Coach Gregg Williams. It was the lowest-rated Bills games in recent local history. And it was the lowest-rated NFL game ever carried by ESPN.

The game not only beat the previous ESPN record, it shattered it. ESPN's national rating was a 3.4, breaking the previous mark of 4.5 for a Rams-Eagles game three years ago. However, there should be some asterisks. The Bills-Jacksonville game played opposite NBC's powerful Thursday lineup and CBS' strong lineup of "Survivor" and "CSI" and a Yankees-Mariners playoff game on Fox. And the two teams, the Bills and Jaguars, play in two of the smallest markets in the NFL.

CBS is running promos for "Survivor: Africa" suggesting that it is a major hit. It isn't. Its ratings have slipped significantly in its first two episodes. In Buffalo, the first episode did much better than the national average. The second installment, which played opposite the Bills game, lost about 60 percent of its first-week audience. However, I imagine plenty of local viewers taped it for future viewing.

The one network show that didn't seem to take a hit opposite the Bills was "ER." The return of Dr. Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield) had a phenomenal 20 local rating.

To those who asked: The movie preview show, "Ebert & Roper," now airs at 6 p.m. Saturday on WNLO-TV, Channel 23.

"Smallville," the new young Superman series, was a big hit on the local WB affiliate, Channel 49. It had a 7 household rating, well above the 5.4 it did nationally.

This is for all of you who just can't miss an episode of the most disgusting comedy of the season, WB's "Off Centre." Both of you. Because of a network schedule change, this Sunday Channel 49 is moving that 9 p.m series and three other WB comedies up an hour so they can play in the network's normal times from 8 to 10 p.m. "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" now airs at 10 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.

e-mail apergament@buffnews.com

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