This came from an unhappy reader:
"Is there any chance you can shame Channel 4 into carrying the second half-hour of 'Face the Nation' on Sunday? There's an infomercial there now."
A good question, but one more complex than our discontented viewer might think. My obvious knee-jerk response is:
a) Not likely. There seems to be no capacity for shame at the current Channel 4. If there were, it wouldn't be facing the prospect of a disappearing sports department when the May Sweeps are over. Shame is a function of civilized behavior, which isn't in Channel 4's wheelhouse under current LIN Media ownership.
b) My own personal capacity to shame Channel 4's current management -- President Chris Musial, News Director Joseph Schlaerth -- is suspect, at best. Given all that I've written about its shocking current plummet and on-air disinclination to give a fig, I'm not sure I'd be accounted one of Channel 4 management's favorite writers.
My call on the matter to Musial has, so far, gone unanswered.
When I last wrote on the subject of restiveness in its formerly admirable and solid sports department and what viewers widely perceive to be an emphasis on weather at sports' expense, I even put in a call to Channel 4's owners, LIN Media. No response there, either.
Let's just say then these are not people eager to engage the natives when they're restless. Nor am I considered a choice purveyor of their most proprietary information, a fact which, I must confess, is one of many I'm humbly thankful for every morning.
Viewers in search of quality television are confronted with Channel 4's recalibration of itself as a weather station, a halfway house for young news reporters to get some experience before going on to better things, and a place where a good solid infomercial can always get more loyalty than enlightenment from a network news department.
An extra half-hour of news interviews and commentary? Not so much.
If I'd been able to chat with Channel 4's leadership, I might have eschewed shame in favor of a diplomatic suggestion: Why not run the second half of "Face the Nation" on Sunday over on its sister station WNLO, as it currently does with the "CBS Evening News" on weekends, so that it can preserve its own hourlong local news (and, therefore, the extra local advertising)?
Let me pledge, though, that if the steady and rather grotesque qualitative decline of Channel 4 reaches the point where it starts playing fast and loose and ugly with "CBS Sunday Morning" -- in its feature integrity, my nomination for the best and most literate single news program on the air -- or its new current setup with Charlie Rose and Gayle King, I may be available for picket duty outside the station's Elmwood Avenue studios. (Why not? The weather is surely turning.)
At that point, you'd have to say, WIVB's slide into an info dumpsite will be almost complete.
In the meantime, Buffalo has been deprived of the full "Face the Nation," which is too bad. (Remember, in the early days of cable, outlets were wonderful about picking up everything greedy local stations pre-empted. Might be worth doing again.)
What used to be thought of as the network's "Sunday News Ghetto" in the not-so-bad old days is now being thought of quite differently by the smarter network folks, even if the money-grubbing ownership of some local stations doesn't concur.
Take ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," which last week confirmed my decidedly minority opinion that, despite premature reports of career death, Keith Olbermann remains eminently salvageable on the air after the Current TV fiasco (where he was replaced by Eliot Spitzer).
Olbermann joined George Will, Donna Brazille and Co. in a surprisingly trenchant and even entertaining round-table discussion in which Olbermann was so determined to be on his best behavior that he seemed like an 8-year-old kid in church, with his hair slicked down by his mother after running her hand under a water faucet and wearing a badly tied tie he just couldn't wait to rip off while running around outside.
Olbermann, as a solo act, is an outrageously talented functionary in the bombast, bloviation and blowtorch rhetoric business.
Watching him wait his turn to say one or two things mild enough to pass as breakfast table conversation at Mitt Romney's house (after host, of course, has put his favorite show horse through its morning dressage) was a bit more interesting, frankly, than I expected.
George Will was his usual exemplary, incisive self, i.e., he can always be counted on to be concise, clear and even, if necessary, quotable, whatever you think of his politics.
Oddly, the charm and personality of the "This Week" panel last Sunday came not from Olbermann the Wandering enfant terrible, but Stephanopoulos' old political campaign buddy, Brazile.
In the world of pseudo-thought about contemporary media, there are, no doubt, those who find all the commentary in the old, traditional Sunday morning broadcasting ghetto thoroughly extraneous in the modern age of wall-to-wall political posturing and cheap-shotting in the doctrinal ways of Fox and MSNBC.
But what has happened, oddly, is that the Sunday morning news shows are where one can now go to find political commentary with wit and civility and even memorability from people who are unlikely to be on talk radio or a police blotter tomorrow.
Nothing against commentators Most Likely to Be in Custody, mind you. That, too, is something of a tradition.
It's just that media conglomerates that buy local TV stations and then regret the headaches they cause might rather enrich their coffers by showing infomercials for Ginsu knives and reverse mortgages.