TV Q&A with Rob Owen

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This week's TV Q&A responds to questions about "The Wedding Bells," "Studio 60" and local news in high definition.

As always, thanks for reading, and keep those questions coming.

-- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV editor


Q: I just read that "The Wedding Bells" was canceled. I liked the show and thought it had promise. Why did Fox cancel it after only 3 episodes? I understand Friday night isn't the most popular for TV shows, but in light of that situation, shouldn't Fox have given it a bit more time to catch on? It's getting to the point where you don't want to get interested in any story line for fear the program will be yanked!

-- Sue, Monroeville

Rob: I liked "Wedding Bells," too, but I also knew the show would fail as soon as Fox moved it to Friday. Why? Because Friday is the second least watched night of the week.

Here's the breakdown from Nielsen of the average number of Americans watching TV each night:

  • Sunday: 121,386,000
  • Monday: 117,048,000
  • Tuesday: 112,693,000
  • Wednesday: 111,387,000
  • Thursday: 112,787,000
  • Friday: 102,685,000
  • Saturday: 100,685,000

As for why Fox didn't give "The Wedding Bells" more of a chance, that's just one of many questions surrounding the show. Why did Fox reverse the order of episodes two and three, messing with the continuity? Why did the brunette sister become a blond last week, making it harder to tell the siblings apart?

I suspect Fox simply had no faith in the show in the long-term and decided to cut its losses.


Q: I know "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" has been canceled, but are they going to end it somehow or leave us dangling?

-- Jay, Pittsburgh

Rob: To stay in the good graces of Aaron Sorkin, I expect NBC will burn off the remaining episodes, probably this summer. It will be Sorkin's call on how the last episode will end. Hopefully, seeing the writing on the wall far enough in advance, he'll choose to end "Studio 60" in a way that offers some closure for fans.


Q: As you have suggested, I looked up "Picket Fences" at TVShowsonDVD.com and do not find it listed there. Amazon.com says it's not available.

Is there some problem with its release, which was announced about six weeks ago?

-- Renee, Bridgeville

Rob: No problem, you're just a little early. The first season of David E. Kelley's "Picket Fances" will be out on DVD June 19.


Q: Since "Six Degrees" has been canceled by ABC, will the remaining episodes be available online? If so do you have details on how many shows remain and when they will be available?

-- Ron, Bridgeville

Rob: ABC said yesterday that the five remaining episodes will be available at ABC.com, one a week for five weeks, beginning April 27.


Q: I have heard rumors that Comcast in Beaver will not be getting HD or On Demand anytime soon because Adelphia's equipment is so old they can not get any of the new technology to work correctly. Is this true?

-- Rich, Beaver

Rob: Could be. A Comcast rep dodged your question saying only, "We are always looking to add High-Definition programming and additional channel offerings. At this time, however, I do not have a timetable to share, but I will be sure to keep you and you readers informed."


Q: Is Comcast going all digital here as they did in Chicago?

As always, their customer service reps know nothing. They have "kind of" added EWTN and QVC in digital, but not the rest of the analog channels. Also, when I recently got a new cable box from them, it had channel mappings for the Pittsburgh area that seemed to indicate that the analog channels were mapped to digital channels. When I phoned to have the box reset, I was told they have been that way for two months. They are not digital here in the suburbs though. Have they gone digital in Pittsburgh? Most importantly, why is Comcast too cheap to upgrade our area to add the missing HDTV channels the other areas have? Don't we pay our bills just like everyone else?

-- John, West View

Rob: Unlike Chicago, so far there are no plans to require a cable box to get basic analog channels in the Pittsburgh region.

"With digital simulcast, like what we're starting to offer in the Pittsburgh area, customers do not need to get new equipment in order to continue receiving cable television service," said Comcast spokeswoman Jody Doherty. "With digital simulcast, all analog cable channels are duplicated in digital format while the current analog lineup remains unchanged. Benefits of digital signals include digital picture and sound quality."

Comcast still has no timetable on when you'll get your missing HD channels.


Q: Does Comcast track the shows I record with my DVR or gather any sort of viewing statistics? I'm more curious if they pass that information along to the networks. Do they know I geeked out on "Dirty Jobs" after Mike Rowe was on "The Daily Show"? Does BBC America know there is guy near Pittsburgh watching "The Saint?" Do my DVR viewing habits impact the ratings?

-- John, North Huntingdon

Rob: At this point, no. Although Nielsen has begun incorporating ratings data from some DVR use, Comcast's Doherty said Nielsen does not monitor DVR use on its boxes.

"We do not track what customers record on their DVRs and the national rating services do not include our customers' DVR usage in their ratings," she said.


Q: Are the WPXI WeatherPlus segments for local weather live?

-- Matt, Cranberry Township

Rob: Not usually.

"In times of severe weather we have gone live, and will in the future," said WPXI news director Corrie Harding. "In other periods, the segments are taped, but updated as many as seven times daily and our goal is to expand that count."


Q: Do you know if any channels plan to broadcast the local news in HD anytime soon? Philadelphia already has three channels committed to doing this.

-- Kirk, Tarentum

Rob: The local stations are all operating in stealth mode on this one. WTAE news director Bob Longo said they play to go to HD, but "We have no definitive date to announce as of yet."

KDKA news director John Verrilli said, "CBS corporate has started converting its stations to HD. Pittsburgh is on the list and we hope to make the conversion in the not too distant future."

No response from WPXI's Corrie Harding, but it would make sense for Channel 11 to start in HD once it's in its new building this fall.

I'm not sure I really understand the competitive advantage the first station out of the gate will have. Will the ability to see every one of the news anchor's pores make a person more likely to watch the station in HD rather than analog?


Q: What do you think prompted the local media to start referring to a police suspect as "a person of interest"? If this is political correctness gone awry, then what's next? In the latest use of the term, the person the state police are questioning about the rock throwing incidents on the Parkway West is being referred to as "a person of interest" even though the state police spokeswoman called him a "suspect" in the same report.

Any thoughts on this?

-- Joe, Pittsburgh

Rob: I guess I had sort of been aware of the evolution of the description from "suspect" to "person of interest," but it never really caused me any concern.

It's not a political correctness conspiracy, more of a semantic differentiation prompted by some past cases, though which specific one depends on whom you ask.

"The term came into favor after the Atlanta Olympics bombing, when in fact, national media organizations labeled a person a suspect who later turned out not to be," explained WTAE news director Bob Longo. "In fact, he was just a 'person of interest' who was being questioned by police for information. That person later sued and won hefty amounts of money from those organizations."

KDKA news director John Verrilli cites a different case, but the rationale is similar.

"The phrase 'person of interest' became popular among law enforcement agencies during the Anthrax attacks," he wrote in an e-mail. "The FBI called the military virologist, Stephen Hatfield, a Person of Interest in their investigation because they weren't ready to charge him. Many law enforcement agencies now use that phrase during the process of their investigation, when they're still gathering evidence. The person may then become a suspect ... or not.

"So KDKA has not changed anything. If law enforcement calls someone a Person of Interest, then so do we, as all news organizations do, and the same if they call someone a suspect. In the rock thrower case, the police first called him a person of interest, then later a suspect."



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