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Todd's Sunday interview with Cruz brings back memories from Buffalo visit

Notes from the cutting room floor:

The enlightening and entertaining one-on-one interview that Chuck Todd had with Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz Sunday brought back memories of what the “Meet the Press” moderator told me when he moderated a town hall with Cruz at the University at Buffalo on April 14.

Todd tried nine times Sunday to get Cruz to say whether the candidate would support Donald Trump if he received the Republican nomination.

And every time, Cruz danced around giving an answer.

In his visit here, Todd told me gets frustrated when he can’t get the people he interviews to directly answer questions.

“A Sunday morning viewer is smart and will get it,” Todd told me. “At the end, ‘I can’t say no, you are not answering the question.’… If they are aren’t going to tell you after three times, I think they actually have given you an answer. And I think the viewer knows.”

A viewer should certainly know after nine times.

The reaction to my Todd interview was mixed. Some readers wrote he obviously is left of center politically and others said he obviously is right of center.

Todd said his philosophy is to be fair, which doesn’t necessarily mean both sides of an issue will get equal attention. And to be fair to him, he wanted it known he believes a great majority of politicians try to do the right thing.

“It is about fairness,” said Todd. “It is not about balance. You can’t balance the truth. I love politics. I love and respect the institutions in Washington and I don’t like the idea they are not working, that Congress is broken. I am upset that people who get elected don’t lionize the place as much as some of us do. That’s where you get frustrated as a journalist. Where people get elected to the U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress and they don’t have the respect for the institution.”

“Call me Pollyanna-ish, but 95 percent of the people I’ve met who are running are doing it for the right reason. They do care passionately about something. There is something about how the institutions are run that totally neutered the good people and the polarization sort of corrodes the places. That is something that is very frustrating.”

Todd said he also is concerned about the position of one candidate who wasn’t able to accept any losses in primaries or caucuses.

“We do have a candidate who has yet to admit he has lost anything,” said Todd. “Any loss that he has had someone took it from him. That to me is a terrible lesson to teach to kids. That is an issue I have had personally. But it also is not good for the country. I hope he realizes that going forward.”

Todd didn’t name the candidate but he obviously was talking about Donald Trump, who hasn’t had to deal with any losses going forward and doesn’t look like he will have to deal with it tonight in Indiana, either.

The local cable rating for the classic NCAA men’s basketball final last month in which Villanova beat North Carolina on a three-pointer at the buzzer by Kris Jenkins illustrates the advantage broadcast series have over cable series.

The game, which is being called one of the great NCAA finals in history, had a combined 8.7 local rating on TBS, TNT and truTV in the first year the final was on cable. Duke’s 68-63 win over Wisconsin for the 2015 title had a 13.1 local rating here on Channel 4, a broadcast network affiliate. That means this year's cable telecast had a 34 percent local drop-off from last year's broadcast.

That may make you wonder why the game went to cable. CBS needed to partner with the Turner Networks to afford to keep the tournament. The cable networks have an advantage of receiving large subscriber fees in addition to selling advertising.

I stopped watching the final season of “American Idol” several weeks before the April finale after seeing LaPorsha Renae sing. I figured she deserved to win, but realized over the years that the best performers don’t always get America’s vote and the losers could become more successful anyway.

While on vacation, I turned on the finale 15 minutes of “Idol” and learned that sure enough LaPorsha lost to Trent Harmon. Once Harmon sang after being crowned the winner, I thought America should have been forced to vote again. I’m no Simon Cowell, but Harmon isn’t in the same league as LaPorsha as a singer.

By the way, the “Idol” finale had a strong 9.6 rating here, which made it the most popular Fox entertainment program here this season. Yes, even, more popular than episodes of “Empire.”

The strong ratings for the farewell series and host Ryan Seacrest’s final remark that “Idol” is over “for now” rekindled speculation that the series may eventually return.

I won’t discount anything. But during the TV critics press tour in January, Dana Walden, one of the two Fox TV chiefs, seemed pretty sure “Idol” isn’t going to have a reboot when I asked her if it was ever likely to happen.

She said that “Idol” is very different than the scripted shows like “The X-Files” and “Prison Break” that Fox has brought back.

“It certainly isn’t what we’re thinking right now,” Walden told me three months ago. The fact of the matter is there were so many reasons we felt it was the right time to send the show out. A lot of it had to do with the fact that it is a very expensive show. Rightly so. The participants have earned where they are in their careers and connected to this show.

“We were given the choice of trying to envision ‘Idol’ on an economic scale that was feasible beyond this year. It felt like that was not in the best interest of a show that has had such meaning to our audience.”

She said “Idol” just couldn’t be made anymore with the same quality with the salaries and other expenses associated with the program. She added that the cost of scripted shows can be reduced with creative changes designed to save money.

“We’d go to producers and say, 'do that show for 40 percent less,'” said Walden. “That’s going to be a very different show. And we thought at this stage of its life, manipulating the chemistry, or doing something that might damage the franchise was just not what we wanted to do. I don’t think Freemantle (which produces the show) would want to do that kind of show. We want to be respectful of our fans and respectful of our producers and that’s why we made this decision.”

Walden wasn’t surprised by the improved ratings for “Idol.”

“There is a lot to celebrate and there is message that carries some urgency – discovering ‘Idol’ one last time,” said Walden.

We’ll eventually see if it is the last time after all or if Fox will change its tune.




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