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'EYEWITNESS' REPORTS

Surprise.

More like shock really. That's what Buffalo uber-anchor Irv Weinstein and former Channel 7 feature funny guys Don Polec and Mike Randall expressed when they were told just how much of their on-air Channel 7 lives may have sneaked into "Bruce Almighty," courtesy of Jim Carrey and his fond memories.

Polec is still a funny feature guy, though he's been at WPVI in Philadelphia for many years now. Randall is Channel 7's "Eyewitness News" meteorologist, though a lot remains from his former gig as the station's feature funnyman.

These are their reactions to lives which, in fictionalized form, are about to go national.

Mike Randall -- He knew something was up when an old Buffalo friend, now in California and working as an extra in "Bruce Almighty," called him to ask what show Promo the Robot was on. (Answer: "Rocketship Seven.") It seems that Carrey asked him as soon as he found out he was from Buffalo.

"I think it's funny, I think it's great," he said when told how much life as a Buffalo TV feature funny guy will figure in the film. So far, he has only seen the previews, which feature Carrey as Bruce -- who is tapped by God to fill in for him -- walking on Lake Erie water with the Buffalo skyline behind him.

"That's one thing they got right -- that feature reporters walk on water," jokes Randall.

When he got over his astonishment he joked a little more: "I feel like Jim Carrey stole my life. So what do you think? Should I get royalties?"

Don Polec -- "Wow," came out of his mouth first. Then a long pause and "golly." The man who was the feature funnyman when a young Carrey was probably watching "Eyewitness News" then joked, "so this is a documentary of my deepest darkest desire to take over Irv Weinstein's slot, huh?

"It makes me wish I'd paid more attention to what I was doing," Polec said merrily. "There I was corrupting the minds of two countries."

Little did he know the consequences.

He is also no stranger to the degree of cult enthusiasm that Canadians always had for the bare-knuckles "Eyewitness News" broadcast across the border in Buffalo. When he covered the Olympics in Calgary for his current station, "I met people in Calgary who told me 'I used to watch you from Buffalo. I used to live in Toronto.' "

Irv Weinstein -- He is the reason that all those Canadians -- especially young people in southern Ontario -- watched "Eyewitness News" on Channel 7. He and the aggressive nightly crime report (which might feature the doings of "pistol-packing punks") and the unabashed clowning around that would sometimes come at the end of the broadcast.

Irv, who retired in 1999 and now lives in Irvine, Calif., offered an example of the kind of thing that might have caught the eye of a young Jim Carrey. Before he introduced the Friday Night Fright Movies, which were hosted by terrific comic Adam Keefe, "We would to do the kicker at the end of the show. Every once in a while, I'd have friends of mine saying, 'Is there some way you could mention my name on the air?' So I would slip their names into the script of the Friday Night Movies. It would be like 'Tonight's Friday Night Movie is "The Grandson of Frankenstein" starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Jack Greenberg.' So we had a kind of thing going. Or, if it was a French horror movie or something, I would slip in 'Philipe Fromage' as one of the characters."

He has long since come to terms with the tongue-in-cheek hip young Canadian adoration of Channel 7's "Eyewitness News."

"Eugene Levy, Mike Myers, the late and sadly missed John Candy, Catherine O'Hara and Jim Carrey grew up on 'Eyewitness News.' So they knew who I was. I kind of became a cult figure for people up there."

And he understood why Canadians found so much pleasure in "Eyewitness News" in its Irv, Rick and Tom era.

"Canadian television news is pretty much patterned after the BBC -- very antiseptic, very uneventful, very straightforward. . . . The people look like they might actually drop off to sleep in the middle of reading the news. While I don't think it's professional to break into tears while reading a really tragic story, like a whole town wiped out by a tornado or something like that, there are ways you can convey the fact that you have somehow been affected by that. . . . I also think we had a unique way of putting a newscast together.

"I think we had something very special. We were not all that serious about ourselves but at the same time I think we managed to be serious about what we did. We worked damn hard. And we did some great stuff, in my not-so-humble-opinion."

-- Jeff Simon