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New wrinkles affect Bills TV schedule

By Alan Pergament

Buffalo Bills fans may have been a little confused by the 2014 TV schedule announced Wednesday night.

The Fox Sports Wisconsin report two weeks ago claiming that the Bills would play Green Bay on Monday Night Football proved to be as accurate as the predictions that Donald Trump really, really was going to run for governor.

The speculation that the Bills had a good shot at playing at Detroit on Thanksgiving turned out to be a fowl ball.

And the long-held idea that all Bills road games would be carried on CBS affiliate Channel 4, the AFC network, even ended up being wrong.

The Bills season opener at Chicago on Sept. 7 and an Oct. 5 game at Detroit both will be carried by Fox affiliate WUTV in something new this year called "crossover games."

CBS is carrying some games involving NFC teams on the road and Fox is carrying some games involving AFC games on the road.

The new wrinkle eliminated the need for Detroit to play an AFC team on Thanksgiving, thereby reducing the odds the Bills would get the game.

The new "crossover" plan is a big win for WUTV, which has never been able to carry more than two Bills games in seasons past. If the Bills sell out their home games with NFC opponents, WUTV can carry four games this season. Each game usually is worth $100,000 or more to a local TV station.

As I wrote when the Fox Sports Wisconsin report first surfaced about the MNF game with Green Bay, it never really made much sense.

However, the local broadcast media sure ran with it. An hour before the schedule was announced Wednesday, WGR radio's Chris (The Bulldog) Parker was still optimistically talking about the possibility of the Green Bay game being on MNF.

The Wisconsin report didn't make much sense because the NFL keeps the schedule under wraps until a few hours before it is is officially announced, making it unlikely even the league knew what the schedule was going to be two weeks ago. Bills and ESPN officials also said two weeks ago that they were unaware of a MNF game.

The Bills game also looks like the weakest on Green Bay's schedule and it was unlikely the league would want to waste one of the Packers' prime time appearances on it.

The only teams on the MNF schedule with records worse than the Bills in 2013 -- Washington, Houston and Atlanta -- play in much bigger markets than Buffalo and their disastrous seasons were a surprise because they were playoff teams in 2012. The only team with a record under .500 on NBC's Sunday Night Football is the New York Giants (7-9), who play in the nation's top TV market.

As I said two weeks ago, it made more sense for the Bills to get a Thursday night game. That's what they got with their Nov. 13 date at Miami. Each NFL time is guaranteed one prime time game so the Bills got the minimum.

The Bills-Miami prime time game will be carried by The NFL Network, which has exclusive national rights to the second half of the Thursday night schedule. A local channel that wins the bidding for the broadcast rights also will simulcast the game.

The Bills and their fans might believe the one prime time appearance is a slight and disrespects the team.

But another new TV rule gives the team an opportunity to gain more respect early in the season . The NFL's decision to potentially flex more games to SNF early in the season gives teams like the Bills a chance to get more prime time exposure if they start the season strongly.

ABC's constant promos for the new series "Black Box" had me so intrigued that I watched a preview of the premiere that airs at 10 tonight on Channel 7.

The title refers to the brain. But it isn't a very smart series.

In fact, it may be the dumbest series I've seen in some time -- and that's saying something.

Kelly Reilly stars as Dr. Catherine Black, a bipolar doctor who goes off her meds because it makes her feel more alive than she does when she is trying to be "normal." Vanessa Redgrave is her therapist, Dr. Helen Hartamph, who tries to calm Dr. Black's  self-destructive tendencies.

Dr. Black, a brilliant, unorthodox neurologist who makes Dr. Gregory House seem normal by comparison, has a lot of people rooting for her including a compassionate brother, a confused lover and an adoring  teenager.

But Dr. Black does some outrageous things more suitable for cable that might make her tough to love. And so is this show, which doesn't have one believable moment for the British actress in the lead to play.

Be smart. Ignore it and use your brain for something else -- like looking over the Bills schedule.   


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