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UNDERDOGS AND OVERLORDS

This is what I'm thinking:

Rooting for "Jeopardy" champ Ken Jennings is sort of like rooting for the New York Yankees. After passing the $2 million mark, hasn't he won enough? But there I was Tuesday night, rooting for him when he faced a real challenge and looked vulnerable for a change. Jennings was locked in a tight race with Jeff Matthews, a managing copy editor from Los Angeles, that went down to the "Final Jeopardy" question.

It wasn't so much a question as a picture. A picture of an author who was back on the best-seller list for the first time in several decades was shown before the two contestants were asked to identify him. If Jennings' opponent had answered correctly and the champ had been incorrect, the $2 Million Man would have been dethroned.

Of course, Matthews was wrong and Jennings was right, but he wasn't sure that his answer, J.R.R. Tolkien of "The Lord of the Rings," was accurate.

Host Alex Trebek ended the show by noting that even when Jennings doesn't know the answer for sure, he finds a way to figure it out.

Jennings was behind briefly with a few minutes left in the second round, primarily because he wasn't on top of the category involving female athletes. Jennings is an MVP for Channel 7, with his Tuesday appearance at 7:30 p.m. getting a 13.3 rating, which was higher than every network prime time show Tuesday except for Fox's coverage of Game Three of the World Series. He had to pull out another nailbiter Wednesday and eventually he has to lose. My bet is he loses the night there are a couple of sports categories.

I didn't want to look at the season premiere of "The Swan" Tuesday, the show about supposed ugly ducklings who have surgery to make them beautiful. Or passable. I also didn't want to look at local ratings, fearing that Buffalo would buy into this painful show again. But I have some beautiful news to report. The second edition of this makeover series Monday only had a 5.1 rating here, an indication that viewers have had enough of reality trash like this. Let's hope.

Several reality series still do well here, though the latest edition of ABC's "The Bachelor" is fading and loses a big percentage of its lead-in, "Lost." NBC seems to have a local winner in "The Biggest Loser," the weight-loss version of "The Swan." It had a an 8.1 Tuesday, almost three times the audience for the loser that follows it, "Father of the Pride."

How strong were local ratings for the seven-game American League Championship Series between Boston and the New York Yankees on WUTV? According to Fox, Buffalo ranked No. 6 among 56 metered markets in the nation. And the five markets that finished ahead of Buffalo all were associated with the competing teams in the league championships.

The local ratings for Boston's four-game World Series sweep of St. Louis were strong as well, though they might have been higher if the Yankees had qualified. Boston's clinching victory Wednesday had an 18.1 rating in prime time and a 24 rating after 11 p.m. before the game ended with Fox announcer Joe Buck saying: "Red Sox fans have longed to hear it -- the Boston Red Sox are world champions."

Viewers who stayed awake for the end of Fox's broadcast were treated to a beautiful and poetic song, "At Last," that symbolized how most long-suffering Sox fans felt. It was written by Harry Warren, who also wrote "Shuffle Off to Buffalo."

Speaking of Tolkien, WB carries "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" Nov.7 and Nov. 8. But the real big WB event during the November sweep occurs Nov. 22 on "Everwood" when Ephram and Amy plan to share more than their fellowship. You just knew it had to happen during sweeps.

Remember Randy Mantooth, who played paramedic/firefighter John Gage in the 1970s television series, "Emergency!"? He'll be at Firefest 2004 next Friday. It's a fund-raiser to benefit the Variety Club that is organized by the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association. Mantooth currently is in the CBS daytime drama, "As the World Turns."

e-mail apergament@buffnews.com

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