TV Q&A with Rob Owen

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This week's TV Q&A responds to questions about "The Apprentice," "Meerkat Manor" and a call from Comcast. As always, thanks for reading, and keep those questions coming.

-- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV editor


Q: Will the regular version of "The Apprentice" ever return to NBC and if yes when?

-- Justin, 17, Canada

Rob: Executive producer Mark Burnett told me he's game, but no decision has been made.

"That's something we keep as a live discussion with Mark Burnett and Donald Trump," said NBC alternative programming chief Paul Telegdy. "We saw a boost to its ratings in its celebrity iteration, but it's a discussion that we remain open to."

In other words, wait until ratings for the celeb version dip. Then maybe it will happen.


Q: I enjoy watching the show on the Food Network where they pick the person who will be "The Next Food Network Star" to have his/her own show. I don't remember any new "stars" having new shows. How does this work out? Have any become new stars?

-- Renee, 67, Penn Hills

Rob: I don't spend much time watching Food Network, but I'm told by a Food Network spokeswoman that each winner since season one of "The Next Food Network Star" has fulfilled the prize of having a six-episode run of an original series, while some have gone on to continued success.

The season one winner had three seasons of "The Hearty Boys," and season three winner Amy Finley had one season of "The Gourmet Next Door." Guy Fieri, the season two winner, has been one of the most successful winners with multiple series and specials on the network, including "Guy's Big Bite," "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and "Ultimate Recipe Showdown." Last year's winner, Aaron McCargo Jr., is currently filming a new season of "Big Daddy's House," and Sunday night's winner of season five, Melissa d'Arabian, announced her series, "Ten Dollar Dinners," will premiere Sunday at 12:30p.m.


Q: Just wondered if you know when they'll start showing a new season of "Meerkat Manor"? It's been forever (especially in Meerkat years), and I'm dying to know what happens next. Please let me know. Thanks!!

-- Tracy, Shaler

Rob: Alas, you'll have to make a trip to the Kalahari Desert to find out. The show has been canceled.


Q: We have been watching, "Family Feud" and it seems like they are all repeats. Do you know why they do not have any new episodes?

-- Donna, 65, Pleasant Hills

Rob: Back in February in the TV Q&A (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09051/950324-42.stm) we explained that 34-to-40 weeks are produced annually and mixed in with reruns. Since it's summer, I'm sure there are more reruns than in-season.


Q: I have digital converters, old TVs and watch OTA broadcasts. I was surprised Monday to suddenly see old movies being shown on 4.2 (WTAE's digital subchannel) instead of weather. It is now showing "THIS" network, which I watched while out in California the last month. THIS shows mostly movies where Retro Network (11.2) shows mostly old TV shows. Did WTAE announce they'd be switching to THIS previously? Friends with cable or satellite wonder why they can't find RTN or THIS. Are these networks only available OTA?

-- Suzan, 56, Pittsburgh

Rob: Yes, WTAE announced the channel change and we reported it last week in the Post-Gazette. (http://www.postgazette.com/pg/09212/987556-67.stm) This TV is available over-the-air and on cable.


Q: Will your Sunday TV Week carry any new channel info (i.e. Retro channel or the new WTAE movie channel)?

-- Tom, Mt. Lebanon

Rob: No, we have no current plans to add additional channels in print because there's no space for them. To add channels, we'd have to remove other channels and readers do not like when we do that. However, the listings will be carried online at post-gazette.com/tv (http://affiliate.zap2it.com/tvlistings/ZCGrid.do?aid=papipg#155). Do a search of the grid for WTAEDT2.


Q: Janelle Hall is no longer weekend anchor on WTAE. Did she have her baby yet? The station has said nothing. Is everything OK?

-- Ina, Mt. Lebanon

Rob: Janelle and husband Casey welcomed Austin Joseph Ellis Sunday morning. He weighed in at 9 lbs, 2 oz. Janelle is on maternity leave.


Q: I just got a phone call from a woman saying she was from Comcast (it was an Iowa area code according to the caller ID) offering me a free upgrade to digital cable (I currently still have regular old standard cable) because otherwise I'll be losing some of my channels. I had recently read in one of your columns (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09184/981453-67.stm) that we are supposed to be losing several more channels shortly (AMC, Big Ten Network), but I was suspicious so I asked her to tell me which channels. She responded by rattling off a list of about a dozen channels, including most of the networks (ABC, CW, etc.), several other channels including TBS, and then also a couple of channels that had already been taken away (including EWTN), and several that I've never had (WTAE Traffic and Weather). I was wondering if anyone else had reported getting a call like this, and also if I'm correct in assuming that they were outright lying to me that I would be losing these channels. I know they must be concerned about the upcoming competition with Verizon FiOS TV here in the City of Pittsburgh, but these kind of underhanded techniques seem pretty extreme, even for Comcast.

-- Molly, 28, Pittsburgh

Rob: What Molly was told was largely untrue. Comcast left hand, meet your right hand:

"Our call center is in the West End," explained Comcast spokesman Bob Grove. "This call came from a marketing contractor in Iowa who was supplementing our direct mail communications to customers by contacting Standard Cable subscribers to remind them they will need a digital converter, free for 12 months, to view AMC and Big Ten Network beginning Aug. 3. Since those are the only network channels that moved to digital in the city, as indicated in our messages to customers and in your story, we're not sure how those changes became confused with other changes in former Adelphia areas, including to some ABC and CW affiliates in places outside the Pittsburgh [market] and channel changes to TBS-HD and WTAE Weather and Traffic. ... This marketing effort has been completed, and we apologize for any confusion this call caused."


FEEDBACK

Rob, I usually read your Q&A online on Fridays. Please tell Ken in Wheeling (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09212/987527-238.stm) that I am not trying to show off my kids. The weather center is my office/desk and like most people I like to have picture of my family on my desk and desktop computer. I had the pictures of my kids at my desk for the past three years. It's only been since the HD broadcast that anyone noticed the two pictures on my desk. This is my home away from home during the week, and I like to look at my boys ... they make me smile.

-- Jeff Verszyla, KDKA chief meteorologist



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