Tuned In: 'SNL' speaks Pittsburghese 'n'at

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Hey yinz guyz, did ya see that "Saturday Night Live" this week? It had a sketch with a Pittsburgher in a New York bar!

In a sketch titled "Bar," cast member Seth Meyers played a Pittsburgher who tried to impress a woman (guest host Paris Hilton) with his "top echelon" impression of Steelers coach Bill Cowher. He used assorted Pittsburghese ("yinz," "jagoff") and tried to give the woman his phone number, complete with a 412 area code.

"It was basically me hitting on Paris Hilton at a bar and not getting anything back," Meyers said. "That's based on my own personal inability to work a game at a bar. And then to put some character and some reality into it, I used the voice I got to know in my time in Pittsburgh."

"Bar" was written by Meyers, and the Pittsburgh accent -- implicit, but never stated outright -- was inspired by a lifelong love of the Steelers. It was a bit of therapy after the Steelers' loss to the Patriots, he said.

His father, Larry Meyers, grew up in East Liberty and later studied at Carnegie Mellon University. Seth grew up in New Hampshire but has fond memories of annual trips to Pittsburgh to visit family members. But mostly, it's a love of our football team.

"We're die-hard Steelers fans. That's been a real connection to Pittsburgh over the last 20 years, which has been particularly tough as we are New Englanders," Meyers said in a phone interview this week.

He said one of the lines in the sketch -- about his "top echelon" Cowher impression -- was inspired by the night he and his brother slept at Three Rivers Stadium, waiting in line to buy playoff tickets.

"The guys next to us talked about the Steelers all night long," Meyers said. "They kept saying, 'Neil O'Donnell has to take it to the next echelon,' and if you remember those playoffs, he decidedly did not."

It's notoriously difficult for writers to get their sketches aired on "SNL." This one was the last live sketch in the 90-minute show.

"I think it was different, but kind of simple as well. For that late in the show, I felt it went great. ... And I think Paris was so taken with it, she'll move to Pittsburgh," Meyers joked. "Who knows what that crazy girl will do next?"

Meyers said he couldn't predict if the sketch will become a recurring "SNL" feature, but he'd be game for writing more Pittsburghese into the show, even if Pittsburgh is never mentioned.

"We made a point to not explicitly say it was [an accent] from Pittsburgh," Meyers said. "It's not like a Boston accent where people know it. I've had people guess it was Baltimore or Philly. It's a fun voice, and it's almost better people don't know it, 'cause it just sounds so crazy."

Noth back on 'Law & Order'

Chris Noth reprises his role as Detective Mike Logan on Sunday's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," and he'll become a series regular next season, appearing in half of the season's episodes while "Criminal Intent" star Vincent D'Onofrio will continue to star in the other half. D'Onofrio was hospitalized due to exhaustion from the heavy workload earlier in the season.

'Race' stars

In addition to Beaver County "Survivor: All-Stars" winner Amber Brkich and her boyfriend, "Boston" Rob Mariano, the seventh "Amazing Race" (9 p.m. March 1) will feature Ray Housteau, 44, and Deana Shane, 27, from Youngstown, Ohio. The pair has been "dating on and off."

The eighth "Amazing Race" next fall will be an all-family edition with each team comprising between two and four family members. The ninth edition, premiering a year from now, will return to the show's regular format.

Sweeps! [S]hot dog!

What is it with TV stations and pet stories? They just love to play on viewers' emotions by covering every mistreated animal they can find.

Last week, WTAE broke the news of a dog shot 19 times with a pellet gun and its angry owner ("I'd like to pump 19" bullets into whoever did this, the elderly woman said) and other stations glommed onto the story.

WTAE followed up this week with a report on a Westmoreland County dog that bit a woman and sent her to the hospital. She says the dog should be put down; the owner said she provoked it. He said, she said, who cares (beyond the people involved, of course)?

Look, I hate to see animals mistreated, but when it happens, it doesn't always require TV coverage. What's the old saying? "Dog bites man" is not news, but "Man bites dog" is.

WPGH-HD on Comcast

As reported in Sunday's Post-Gazette Sports section, Comcast and Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns Pittsburgh's WPGH and WCWB, reached an agreement "in principle" for Comcast to carry WPGH's high-definition signal as a separate channel.

"We gave them just a short-term retransmission deal," said Barry Faber, vice president and general counsel for Sinclair Broadcast Group. He declined to define "short-term" but said negotiations over getting "adequate compensation" are ongoing.

"You never know if a deal is a done deal until it's a done deal, but we wouldn't have allowed Comcast to carry the Super Bowl if we didn't think we were very close to finalizing arrangements with them," he said.

When the deal is actually done, Faber said it will allow Comcast to carry WPGH-HD and Sinclair's WCWB-HD.


This week's TV Q&A answers questions about seeing commercials for stores that aren't in Pittsburgh, the state of "The O.C." and getting HD signals over the air.

TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582.


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