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'Idol' still adored by Western New York viewers

This is what I'm thinking:

The "American Idol" phenomenon is hotter in Western New York than it is in most places nationally.

Last Wednesday's show had a 23.7 rating on WUTV, making it No. 5 among the major markets in the nation. Channel 29's ratings for the first six episodes are 19 percent higher than Fox's metered market average and 22 percent higher than last season.

This year's contestants include a few people with local ties, including the Williamsville East graduate who convinced John Stevens to audition for "Idol" a few seasons ago.

Friends of Brian Miller saw a very brief glimpse of him two weeks ago in San Francisco saying "Hollywood, here I come." His actual performance before Randy, Paula and Simon wasn't shown.

Miller, 18, and Stevens performed together in Williamsville East's production of "Guys and Dolls." Miller's voice coach from Orchard Park, Debbie Bello, said Miller auditioned in California because he is attending college there.

"I warmed his voice up over the phone," said Bello. She also appeared on "Idol" with Colton Rudloff of West Falls (who did not advance) when the show did a segment on voice coaches.

It is unclear how far Miller advances. But he has been shown crying in a promo for the Hollywood episodes, which start tonight. This suggests Miller's "Idol" stay is brief.

If you were wondering about the two former Niagara University women's basketball players, Becky and Jessie O'Donohue, who appeared on Tuesday's audition show from Boston, they played for Niagara from 1998 through 2002, have done some modeling and appeared in the twins' edition of "Fear Factor," according to a member of Niagara's media relations staff. Becky, the only one who sang, advanced to Hollywood.

It is clear in the post-Stevens' era that local viewers don't need a local contestant to catch "Idol" fever. But it sure won't hurt WUTV's ratings.

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Boy, the "Code Black" Super Bowl edition of "Grey's Anatomy" sure tried to get a viewer's attention fast Sunday with a fantasy shower scene featuring the three female friends in the cast. I'm sure that wasn't what conservatives had in mind when they talk about cleaning up television. The scene certainly made a statement that the conservative climate writers had to deal with after the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" two years ago has dramatically changed.

It didn't upset me. But I was upset by discovering at episode's end that it wasn't the end. Viewers will have to tune in this Sunday to discover (a) how Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) survives while holding an explosive device that is lodged inside a patient; and (b) whether the husband of a very pregnant Dr. Bailey (Chandra Wilson) survives brain surgery. "Grey's" would do well this week to keep 75 percent of the 27.0 rating it had after the Super Bowl.

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Tom Fontana is taking with good humor the impossible time slot that his new WB series, "The Bedford Diaries," has been given. Starting March 22, it will air at 9 p.m. Wednesday opposite, "Lost," "Law & Order" (which is moving up an hour), "Veronica Mars" and most likely "American Idol."

"I'm just so thrilled," deadpanned Fontana. "Maybe we should change the show's title to 'The Lost Bedford Diaries.' If I can get somebody to watch other than my mom it would be good. People in my office love 'Lost' and they won't be watching [Bedford]."

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Tuesday's "Scrubs" episode, in which J.D. (Zach Braff) fell for a blind date, Julie Quinn (Braff's real-life love, Mandy Moore), was delightful and effectively used the entire cast. She was as physically clumsy as he is romantically. And, oh, yes, you had to love the Buffalo theater reference near episode's end.

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The windy and cold weather helped make Super Bowl XL a ratings hit for WKBW-TV, the local ABC affiliate. Pittsburgh's 21-10 victory over Seattle averaged a 47.6, peaking at a 52.8 in the last half hour. As impressive as that is, the dull game still was the lowest-rated Super Bowl here in the last four years by a slim margin.

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Yes, that was former Channel 7 personality Maria Genero hosting Channel 2's special on HDTV last week. Since the show had sponsored content, Channel 2 couldn't use its own anchors. Genero may return in a similar role if Channel 2 carries more programs like that one.

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I love getting e-mails from people like Heather Ammermuller, who admitted she had "lousy timing" in telling me that her Buffalo-born mom, Kathleen, briefly appeared as a maid in a recent episode of "Gilmore Girls."

"Alas, she was on for less than a minute, with two speaking lines," she wrote. "Still, unlike me, she can say that she was on national TV."

***

To those who asked: The ESPN Classic show, "Top 5 Reasons Not to Blame Scott Norwood for Losing Super Bowl XXV," is repeated at 9:30 p.m. Thursday and 8:30 a.m. March 5 on the channel carried on the digital tier.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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