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"Stack" attack: Mavs 6th man robs Tony Soprano but fades against bigger Don

For awhile it seemed as if the stars had aligned to produce a magical life-imitates-art night for Jerry Stackhouse.

On HBO's preceding episode of The Sopranos, Tony's run of big-time gambling bad luck had been punctuated by Stackhouse's buzzer-beating three-pointer against the San Antonio Spurs. It gave the Mavs a 109-108 win.

Then in Sunday night's real deal, Stackhouse rallied Dallas in the second half, getting to the foul line time and again. His 24 points, 17 after intermission, led all Dallas scorers.

But then Stack missed a wide open three. And another. And a third. A traveling call topped off his night in the game's deadening final minutes. Golden State 103, Dallas 99. Tony should have had money on the other team in this game.

Afterward on TXA21 came another homer call by Bob ("I Can See Clearly Now Who Signs My Checks") Ortegel.

"Just an outstanding effort" by the Mavericks, he said.

Ortegel teed it up again after a commercial break: "I still thought that the effort by the Mavericks tonight was absolutely superb."

Did anyone expect less? Should it be a shock that the NBA's winningest regular season team tried really hard to beat a No. 8 seed? Truth-telling Derek Harper, who teams on TXA21's post-game show with Gina Miller, declined to eat Ortegel's Sugar Pops.

"I'm gonna agree with Dirk that it's over," he said, echoing Nowitzki's earlier quote that Dallas' season was shot if they didn't win Game 4.

"Golden State simply wants this series more than Dallas does right now," Harper added.

Over on TNT, roles were reversed for the Mavericks' usually harshest critic, Charles Barkley. After Dallas' loss in Game 1, he predicted the Mavericks would win four straight and knock Golden State out.

Sir Charles even wore a green No. 41 Nowitzki jersey throughout the halftime and post-game shows. But for the latter he glumly held his head in his left hand while deskmates Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith gleefully shredded him.

This won't be a championship year, even if Dallas somehow rises from the dead to beat the Warriors three games in a row.

Consider this: San Antonio and the Phoenix Suns both took care of business on the road over the weekend, winning pivotal games against higher-seeded opponents than Golden State. The Mavericks cratered twice, this time collapsing in a fourth quarter that seemed to be going their way.

Local TV's 10 p.m. newscasts at least will profit from what looks like a quick Mavs exit. They were facing a prolonged period of ratings erosion during the May "sweeps." Now things are looking up -- for them at least.

The remaining open question, directed at Mark Cuban, goes like this: Will losing to Don Nelson -- the two despise each other -- be harder to stomach than last year's collapse in the NBA Finals?

Or you can look at it the way Ortegel will. Pull the string on the imaginary Ortegel doll and hear him say: "The Mavericks have faced adversity before, and they've overcome it. You won't see this team hanging their heads. I for one expect them to come out before their home fans and play as if their lives depended on it."

Oh shaddup.

Nellie does Dallas

Sometimes you just have to vent.

These were the old Mavs.

The defenseless, out-quicked, step-slow Mavs.

The Dirk's-not-the-MVP-even-if-he-wins-it Mavs.

The out-pointed, out-hustled, out-coached, outhouse Mavs.

The Bob Ortegel rose-colored glasses Mavs.

The heart-of-a-chump, not-a-champ Mavs.

What happened?

Golden State 109-91.

The possibility is now very real.

The Mavs may be the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed since the start of the seven-game playoff system.

Sunday is so crucial. Imagine Mark Cuban losing to Don Nelson.

Go Mavs. But the heart is sinking.

Sams' Club: Wanna join? The membership's slowly growing. So is the unrest elsewhere at CBS11

People are starting to get the picture -- at least a little bit. CBS11's early morning program, with newly installed Scott Sams, is inching up in the total homes Nielsen ratings. Numbers have improved a bit in each of his first four days on the air, providing a little sunshine at a station that otherwise is in heavy lockdown.

"They don't want us talking to you or anyone else," said one CBS11 news staffer, whose identity is being kept secret to protect his or her job.

"I'm going to lay low on this. Hope you understand," said another CBS11 news staffer, whose identity is being kept secret to protect his or her job.

Others simply don't return phone calls or emails. And no one so far will speak on the record about the apparent fear and loathing that has gripped the newsroom since new news director Regent Ducas arrived last month.

There are rumors, definitely believed to be true, that Ducas had it out with at least two reporters under contract whom he'd like to fire if he could. And there's also word that veteran reporter Mary Stewart already has resigned, but would continue at the station until July. Again, none of these reporters have talked to unclebarky.com. They are not the source of this information.

Ducas, to his credit, did do an extended interview earlier this week. In the midst of a ratings slump this past year, he's taking CBS11 into the realm of a "more topical" approach that places an emphasis on whatever breaking live news hits the fan. "A bit more urgency, a little more about now," he calls it.

A number of reporters at CBS11 feel this means a virtual end to thoughtful pieces that take time to source and prepare. Anyone who watched Thursday's 10 p.m. newscast on opening night of the May "sweeps" (see Dallas-Fort Worth TV) can readily see that CBS11 rather suddenly looks a lot like NBC5. Except that Ducas isn't pandering to women viewers.

"I don't know how to do a female-oriented newscast," he said, referring to the diet, beautifying and bargain shopping stories that pockmark the second half of NBC5's newscasts. "I know how to just do topically driven news."

In the very animated "Comments" section tied to the Ducas interview, a "former CBS11 employee" praised the reporters, photographers and anchors who have survived "the whims of multiple news directors, each with ideas more stupid than the previous . . . I too think people are growing tired of newscasts full of nothing but crime, car chases and fires."

Not enough of those people watched CBS11. Pure and simple. Even fewer viewers might stick with the station under its new format. Whatever happens, Ducas initially shows no signs of budging from his belief that snappy, freshly popped news ultimately will carry the day.

Critics such as myself can and will find fault with his "run and gun" game plan. In the end, though, you'll decide.

We'll close as we began -- with Sams. Here's one of his promotional spots. Do you see a not-so-veiled slap at Fox4's morning show? You bet you do.

A class act goes to the head of his class

Former Belo8 sports anchor Verne Lundquist, who also was the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys for 12 years, will be inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame on Monday, April 30.

Lundquist, still an all-purpose sports announcer for CBS, has made a wide array of broadcast partners look good during his quarter-century with the network. No one is better at grooming an ex-jock or putting the game first, whether it be football, basketball, golf or the 17 other sports he's covered.

Born in Duluth, Minn., Lundquist, 66, spent 16 years as sports director and lead anchor at Belo8 before moving up to the network level. Many D-FW viewers also remember him as the host of local television's version of Bowling for Dollars, where he called the pin action from 1975-76 at the Forum Lanes in Grand Prairie.

Lundquist also did the Cowboys games during that period, giving way in 1984 to Brad Sham, who had been his color analyst. He won seven consecutive Texas Sportscaster of the Year awards from 1977-83.

Dale Hansen, who succeeded Lundquist at Belo8, said his former colleague "is one of those special guys who is incredibly comfortable behind an anchor desk or in a booth at a football game. And his call of the Tiger Woods chip in at The Masters will be replayed long after we're all gone. He is that good. And anybody who can go from Bowling for Dollars to The Masters should be in the Hall of Fame."

The induction ceremony will be in Salisbury, NC. Recent honorees include Al Michaels, Dan Jenkins, Dick Enberg, Frank Deford, Jon Miller and Joe Garagiola.

Rosie outlook: 10 who could fill her bill

So who should replace Rosie O'Donnell on The View? Here are Uncle Barky's nominations. Cast your votes for these or others in the Comments section.

A. Foghorn Leghorn (big mouth but relatively harmless)

B. Marie Osmond (the show could be relocated to cost-efficient Branson)

C. Charo (multiple Love Boat guest shots still resonate)

D. Joan Rivers (bitter as hell and not gonna take it anymore)

E. Nia Vardalos (Big Fat Greek Wedding star badly needs career picker-upper)

F. Kim Basinger (hire her, get the poop, fire her)

G. Diana Ross (only asks that you always call her "Miss")

H. Kathie Lee Gifford (annual Christmas special included)

I. Cher (shoulda replaced Paula Abdul, but this'll do)

J. Britney Spears (contract must include annual four months off for rehab)

Another prime-time washout

Weathering storm coverage: Fox4's Dan Henry, Belo8's Pete Delkus.

D-FW stations yielded to another night of heavy-duty storm coverage Tuesday, throwing off network entertainment schedules for the third time this month.

This time the pre-emptions kicked in at 8:50 p.m., with Belo8 weathercaster Pete Delkus again caught in the pincers of a live Dancing with the Stars results show.

"Folks, you're gonna have to forgive me," he said, apologizing for having to cut off ABC's most popular show in deference to a tornado warning in the White Settlement area and serious storms and flooding elsewhere.

Delkus had been put in the same position on April 3, but got back to Dancing just in time for the eviction of contestant Shandi Finnessey. This time he apologized all the more as the show neared its end.

"I know if you live in Dallas County or any of the other counties, you're probably upset right now," Delkus said in that sometimes painfully earnest way he has of commiserating with me and you and a boy named Sue.

The station finally settled for a small Dancing insert in the upper left-hand corner of home screens, where viewers saw but couldn't hear Heather Mills getting the news that she'd been voted off the show. She had made it through five weeks on one leg.

Meanwhile, Fox4 paced the prime-time portion of non-stop news coverage. Underrated weatherman Dan Henry, assisted by veteran Ron Jackson, brought viewers the latest on the storm's direction while Shaun Rabb, Fil Alvarado, Jeff Crilley and Brandon Todd reported from the not-so-great outdoors. Fox4 easily had the most vivid live and videotaped pictures at crunch time. The station was both in its element and in the elements.

In contrast, NBC5 mostly fixated on veteran weatherman David Finfrock and his maps. Its reporters basically went unseen until the 10 p.m. newscast kicked in.

CBS11 managed to get reporter Bud Gillett in front of a live camera and Belo8 had live field reports from both Darla Miles and Gary Reaves. Still, the three stations all were outdone by Fox4 during the height of storm activity from 8:50 to 10 p.m.

It's also becoming apparent that CBS11 weathercaster Kristine Kahanek lacks the presence needed during a pell-mell breaking story. She tries hard but doesn't break through. Too often she seems discombobulated. Knowing your stuff is one thing. Effectively communicating it is quite another.

Delkus can be aggravatingly preachy at times, but he sure fills the screen. He's like a too talkative airline pilot with the saving grace of having a perfect safety record. "Delkus delivers" is the station's promotional slogan. Sometimes he uses too big a shovel.

Finfrock and Henry are comparatively laid back. You trust them not to oversell the weather, or to under-report it.

By 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, just about everything had blown over. All four stations called time outs for commercials in their 10 p.m. newscasts before resuming regular entertainment programming.

Belo8 promised to show ABC's Boston Legal at 3:10 a.m. Wednesday. The night's other prime-time casualties, either partially or fully obliterated, were Fox's House, CBS' The Unit and Cold Case, and NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Bring him the heads of the 10 p.m. newscasts

Mark Cuban's Mavs: X-factor in the May sweeps news ratings race.

Perhaps we're assuming a lot -- that the Dallas Mavericks will go very deep in the NBA playoffs.

But if they do, D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts are going to have hell to pay on those May sweeps nights when the Mavs are still playing past prime-time.

The four-week ratings period begins Thursday (April 26th), but Sunday night's opening round game between Dallas and Golden State gave the late night newscasts a big taste of what to expect.

From 10 to 10:30 p.m., the game on TXA21 and TNT drew a combined 422,450 homes. The most-watched 10 p.m. newscast, on Belo8, had 135,660 homes.

Those gaps likely will only grow as the games march on. So in an expected close matchup at 10 p.m. between Belo8 and NBC5, Mark Cuban's Mavs could hold the balance of power.

Which station's newscasts will lose the most viewers? Expect slavish efforts to lure as many women as possible whenever Belo8 and NBC5 have to jump through hoops. You'd never dream there are so many ways to lose weight, look younger or buy a Francois Syrah silk scarf for the price of a McDonald's Extra Value Meal.

In email replies to unclebarky.com, Cuban said, "I think about ratings all the time. We are always looking for ways to get our numbers up . . . and certainly like it when we win."

Cuban says he gets "far more news from cable" than the homegrown stations, "but my wife gets 100 percent of her news from local, so I get to see it when she watches."

He didn't specify which one she prefers, if any. And he was pretty generic about which stations' newscasts he'd most like to steal viewers from.

"Any that isn't a broadcast partner or sponsor of the Mavs," Cuban said.

Let's see. CBS11's sister station, TXA21, will get to televise some of the Mavs game in tandem with a cable network.

Fox Sports Southwest, a corporate partner of Fox4, has been a prime carrier of Mavs games during the regular season.

ABC, which includes Belo8 among its affiliate stations, has exclusive rights to The Finals and also is broadcasting weekend NBA playoff games.

That leaves NBC5 out of the equation, but its sports segments with anchor Newy Scruggs get short-sheeted on a nightly basis. The Peacock would rather use that time to give women the dope on how cotton candy sandwiches can be a great diuretic.

Against Cuban's Mavs, that sounds like a winner.

Cause for alarms: Scott Sams again is early to rise. But will the ratings?

This just in: Scott Sams' new CBS11 photo

Scott Sams knows how the morning jam is spread. Returning to D-FW's big leagues Monday after a year in the minors, CBS11's latest Mr. Coffee signaled a new dawn by pledging to remain at his post "as long as the numbers are there."

Ain't that the truth. But the former longtime Belo8 anchor has the advantage of starting from a ratings gully. His new station's early morning audiences are minuscule compared to those of Fox4, NBC5 and Belo8. Sams, who's nothing if not well-known in this market, almost assuredly will nudge them upward at least a little in the coming months. If not, he'll soon be toast on the demanding 5 to 7 a.m. shift.

Dapper and a bit chunkier in a double-breasted navy blue suit, Sams has returned Lazarus-like from little KTEN-TV in Sherman-Denison, where he spent the last year anchoring after Belo8 cut him loose in September 2004 after an almost 20-year ride.

On his first day at CBS11 he amiably went about the business of being welcomed every 20 minutes or so. This included poking fun at himself as the resident Charlie among Angels Shannon Hori, Julie Bologna and Teresa Frosini.

"Well, speaking of rolling, I feel like you are on a roll today," Hori said after a story on a "rolling goodwill tour" to benefit U.S. troops overseas.

"Oh, thank you," Sams rejoined. "I thought maybe you were talking about my stomach."

Later, after briefly facing the wrong camera, he joked, "I'm new here." Pause, one-two. "Anyway it's now time to welcome me to the show (again)" shortly before the 6 a.m. hour.

Sams retains his anchorman's pipes and looks as though he's still at home with the snappy but cheery banter required of an early morning personality. But he also did a solid job of interviewing a correspondent stationed on the Virginia Tech University campus, where classes resumed Monday. Points in his favor: Sams actually asked pertinent questions rather than making rhetorical pronouncements such as, "I know it's been a trying time for these students and the healing has only begun."

Sams and Hori seemed to work well together, although she plans to leave the station when her contract expires in July to spend more time with her Florida-based husband.

By then Sams will be the old hand on deck. And we'll also know a lot more about whether he still has a loyal fan base to fall back on.

Can't quite place the name? Well, you used to know her as . . .

Question: My husband has an inexplicable habit of watching Ch. 4's Good Day morning show, so I see it way more often than I really care to. Last Friday (March 2), something that sounded very much like an apology aired. It was something to do with the Good Day program, and Channel 4 was very, very sorry about it. That's all I caught once I started paying attention. Of course the announcement was not repeated, and there is nothing about it on the website. Can you clarify the mystery?
Joyce Harris

Answer: Sources very much in the know say it had to do with the American Idol-like contest to find the best singer of the Good Day jingle. Except that one of the contestants manipulated the online voting and Fox4 noticed a big chunk of votes going that contestant's way. So the station apologized in very general terms and ended the contest. Or as Neil Diamond might put it, "Song sung blue, everybody knows one."

Question: I'm looking for information on Showtime's Sleeper Cell. I'm a big fan of Season 1 and I'm watching Season 2. Is there going to be a Season 3?
Ken Simmons

Answer: Sorry, but there won't be, at least not on Showtime. The network has decided not to continue with the series. One of its stars, Michael Ealy, already is making a fall season pilot for ABC.

Question: On the segments when they trap sexual predators on Dateline, do they have to receive written permission to use the video images of these guys on the air? If so, why in the world would anyone who's been caught in such an embarrassing situation allow this footage to see the light of day?
Bob Denton

Answer: Unlike Fox's Cops, which sometimes blurs faces, Dateline is considered to be a news program. So releases aren't required. People oftentimes will cover their faces when TV news cameras are on the prowl, but the pukes who are exposed on Dateline initially have no idea they're on TV. It's somewhat similar to the "ambush" interviews that used to be a regular feature on 60 Minutes. Many of these people didn't want to be on camera, but if the program's cameras caught them, then too bad. There's also no privacy for the likes of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, who are pursued nearly everywhere they go.

On entertainment shows such as Cops, release forms must be signed. It can be a fine line, but there's almost no end to what people will do to be on TV.

Question: What happened to the series Thief on FX?
Jason Taylor

Answer: The network decided against continuing the Andre Braugher series after an initial six-episode order. Low ratings were the reason.

Question: What's going on with MI-5? First A&E put it an obscure time slot without advertising it. Next the network pulled it from the late Friday night slot and ran the remaining eight episodes on a Saturday, again without advertising. Is there any chance of BBC America running this amazing series?
Katherine Gotcher

Answer: A&E, which once stood for classy, high-brow programming, has downshifted to reality series such as Dog the Bounty Hunter, Growing Up Gotti and Criss Angel: Mindfreak in recent years. MI-5 apparently was too rich for its blood, and A&E has no plans to continue importing the BBC production, called Spooks across the pond. BBC America would be a great fit, but the network hasn't made any commitment yet.

Question: What happened to Big Day and The Nine?

Answer: Big Day, which was supposed to have a 13-episode run leading to the February return of Lost, instead was cut in half, with the rest of the episodes running on ABC.com. The Nine is out of production, and ABC has no current plans to resume the series. Even if it did, there'd be no overall resolution, entertainment president Stephen McPherson told TV critics at the January "press tour."

Question: I heard Studio 60 might be canceled. I love this show. Anything I can do to save it?
Amy Ichiba

Answer: Probably not. Studio 60 gave way to NBC's The Black Donnellys on Feb. 26. That show isn't doing gangbusters in the ratings either, but Studio 60's veritable all-star cast makes it a very expensive show to produce in light of its diminishing audiences. So it very much looks like exit stage left after this season, although some remaining unseen episodes might be burned off in the spring.

Question: I'm sure you've talked to numerous television news anchors and reporters in D-FW over the years. Did you get the feeling they feel they are "superior" and/or more knowledgeable than the unclean masses? Or do they just come across that way?

Answer: Some definitely are more thin-skinned and pompous than others. By and large, though, I've found them to be pretty genuine people off-camera. Anchors are more prone to "Ted Baxter syndrome" because of the enormous amount of time they spend on-camera. But many viewers put them on pedestals, too, fueling their egos at public appearances.

That said, you won't find a more down-to-earth anchor than Belo8's John McCaa. CBS11's Karen Borta likewise seems to be a genuinely nice person. And Belo8's Dale Hansen, for all of his on-air bombast, would give you the shirt off his back if you asked for it. Not that you'd want it when he's going Hawaiian.

A tough news call gets a going-over

Brian Williams and his NBC Nightly News are taking a hammering on the network's own blog for airing portions of what the anchor called a "multimedia manifesto" from Virginia Tech mass murderer Cho Seung-Hui.

He apparently mailed the package to NBC during the two hours between separate killing sprees on the university's campus. It arrived at the network around 11 a.m. Wednesday, NBC News president Steve Capus said on MSNBC. Nightly News then aired edited portions of multiple videos and still pictures. Reaction from viewers came fast and furious.

"As the parent of a Virginia Tech student, your video from the murderer's manifesto on tonight's news was terribly disturbing to me," said one of the first emails to "The Daily Nightly" blog. "Even to address this email to you from your website, I have to look down the barrel of his gun once again.

"I have called and complained to my local NBC affiliate (In Greenville, SC), and I ask you as I asked them for NBC to not air any more of Cho's material. Tempted by your exclusive material, you have sunk to a new low for network journalism, and encouraged other would-be murderers to use a new formula to have their crimes glorified."

Williams himself posted a "Late Development" on the blog in which he confirmed receiving Cho's "manifesto."

NBC "immediately handed it over to Federal law enforcement authorities," he said. "We are still going over our own copy -- it's a lot of material -- we are talking with law enforcement, our own standards people -- and Pete Williams, our Justice Correspondent, will join me live on the broadcast to go through the material."

This didn't sit well with hardly anyone who emailed NBC.

"Oh my God, your newscast has made me so enraged," said an emailer from Evansville, Indiana. "I cannot even see straight. You are glamorizing this man and his rambling by giving him a national stage for his words? What the hell are you thinking? You only are adding fuel to the fire by promoting this man and for others to do the same knowing they will receive media time for the headlines they create."

Williams, in a later appearance on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, described Cho as "this crazed, narcissistic, mass murderer."

"This was a sick business, I admit tonight, going on the air with this stuff," Williams said.

It's too late to undo it now, and there are persuasive arguments for airing the footage, too. We starkly see Cho for what he was -- a deeply disturbed young man who snapped completely. Is it lionizing him to show this to the world? Should we stop showing all film of Hitler, too, because some sick idiots out there might choose to reinvent him in their twisted minds as a hero?

Sadly, in today's world, maniacs have instant and easy access to myriad forms of media. And just what can we do about it anymore? NBC for one can stop incessantly repeating its Cho footage. And other media outlets should quickly rein themselves in, too.

Putting a Cho "slide show" on its Web site, as NBC continued to do late Wednesday night, speaks directly to viewers' justifiable anger about glorifying a despicable act. For that and many other reasons, you'll never see his picture on this Web site. It's the least one person can do.

Rivers' edge: Mom-daughter dumped by TV Guide Channel

Red carpet smackdown: Joan & Melissa dethroned by Lisa Rinna.

The world briefly spun off its axis Wednesday when TV Guide Channel announced that it's sweeping Joan and Melissa Rivers under the rug. Or more specifically off the red carpet.

The flappy/sappy mother-daughter duo is being replaced by Lisa Rinna, who showed up on Dancing with the Stars Tuesday to promote her other activity -- a starring role with husband Harry Hamlin in Broadway's latest re-do of Chicago.

Rinna has "the perfect mix of charisma, poise and experience to lead our live Red Carpet coverage at the major industry award shows," TV Guide Channel said in a statement. Whatever.

Joan, 73, and daughter, Missy, 39, left E! Entertainment Television in 2004 to supposedly put the puny TV Guide Channel's red carpet coverage on the map.

Instead the Rivers' found themselves testing a time-honored puzzlement. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, is it a sound? If Joan Rivers asks "Who are you wearing?" and no one watches, is it a television show?

The elder Rivers says she'll be back. Her latest blog on joanrivers.com puts it this way: "I will tell you my true feelings and experiences as soon as we finalize our new deal." Ever the show biz trooper, Joan also offers tips on "What a Gynecologist Should Not Do."

Back in January, when the world was young and the Donald Trump-Rosie O'Donnell feud still flamed, Joan happily gabbed about hosting the Golden Globes pre-show on TV Guide Channel.

She hoped to meet Sacha Baron Cohen on the red carpet. "I will be kneeling at his feet in worship," Joan told unclebarky.com on an audio tape that shockingly became useful Wednesday.

Now living in New York, she talks to Melissa daily on the phone and "we get together (in Los Angeles) as often as E! flies me out."

"TV Guide," her daughter corrected, sending mom into gales of laughter.

"I'll be going home on Jet Blue now," she cracked.

Or maybe a stagecoach now that even TV Guide Channel has tuned her out.

She'll be back, though. Or if not, there's still that weekly nightclub gig at Manhattan's Cutting Room.

"I use my left boob now as a stopper in my tub," she said on a recent Bravo special that incorporated her act. And her dates are getting so ancient that "one guy gave me a hickey, left his teeth in my neck."

That kinda comedy belongs on a red carpet.

Just one station blows it off

Hail big as baseballs -- or tennis balls. A viewer pic on WFAA.com.

Let the record show that three of D-FW television's four major news providers preempted their networks' prime time entertainment programming Friday night to cover the severe storms that ravaged parts of North Texas.

The lone exception: NBC5, which instead brought viewers a first-run episode of its parent network's little-watched Raines series and a Law & Order repeat. This is the station with the slogan "Not Just What Happens, What Matters."

Apparently it didn't matter enough that sections of Haltom City were torn apart while parts of East Dallas also had severe damage. Fox4, Belo8 and CBS11 rubbed out their entire prime-time entertainment lineup (7 to 10 p.m.) to bring viewers continuous live coverage. NBC5 punted at 8 p.m. Remember that.
Ed Bark

Imus: the other shoe falls

Don Imus and frequent guest Tim Russert: Goodbye to all that.

Don Imus' radio career is history, at least for now.

CBS announced late Thursday afternoon that it will cease broadcasting Imus in the Morning, which it had distributed over the Westwood One radio network to 61 stations. The shutdown is effective immediately, "on a permanent basis," the network said.

CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves said in part: "From the outset, I believe all of us have been deeply upset and revulsed by the statements that were made on our air about the young women who represented Rutgers University in the NCAA basketball championship with such class, energy and talent . . . In our meetings with concerned groups, there has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society.

"That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision, as have the many emails, phone calls and personal discussions we have had with our colleagues across the CBS Corporation and our many other constituencies."

CBS again followed the lead of MSNBC, which on Wednesday announced it immediately would stop simulcasting Imus' early morning program. At the time, CBS still declined to go any further than a two-week suspension that was set to take effect on Monday, April 16th.

MSNBC also was the first to suspend Imus, with CBS shortly after announcing the same two-week penalty. The suspension now is moot.

On his April 4th program, Imus characterized the entire Rutgers team as "nappy-headed hos" on the morning after they had lost the women's national title game to Tennessee. He since has apologized several times, but also was combative in interviews with both the Rev. Al Sharpton and Today co-host Matt Lauer. Advertisers also began bailing out after Rutgers' coach and all 10 players made strong favorable impressions during a press session covered live on CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

Imus, 66, and CBS finally may have met their Waterloo via a Thursday morning New York Times Op-Ed piece in which the author, Bob Herbert, reacquainted readers with a damning July 1998 60 Minutes profile by Mike Wallace.

In the piece, Imus at first denied and then admitted telling a producer that "Bernard McGuirk (an accomplice in the Rutgers slurs) is there to do nigger jokes."

The producer, Tom Anderson, was sitting right next to Wallace and Imus, who asked him, "Did I use that word?"

"I recall you using that word," Anderson said, prompting Imus to sputter, "Oh, OK. Well, then I used that word. But I mean -- of course, that was an off-the-record conversation. But . . ."

"The hell it was," Wallace retorted.

As written several days earlier in this space, Imus this time had earned the right to be fired if he didn't have the good grace to resign. Sometimes examples must be made, particularly when the targets of Imus' so-called humor were young, impressionable African-American women who had defied all odds in even reaching the women's Final Four.

But instead of bright, sunny days back on campus, they were buffeted by the ill winds of a blowhard who clearly thought he was untouchable. Now the old crank can go count his money while CBS again claims to have learned another hard lesson.

"We are now presented with a significant opportunity to expand on our record on issues of diversity, race and gender," Moonves said at the close of Thursday's official statement. "We intend to seize that opportunity as we move forward together."

Sadly, that plays like yet another network rerun.

Imus cooked -- at least on MSNBC

Don Imus's racial slurs angered Today's usually jolly Al Roker.

MSNBC announced early Wednesday evening that it is dropping its weekday simulcasts of Imus in the Morning after the radio personality's much-publicized racial slurs against the Rutger's University women's basketball team.

CBS Radio and the 24-hour cable news channel earlier this week suspended Imus for two weeks, effective Monday, April 16th. Now he'll no longer have a TV home when and if his radio show returns. On Wednesday, CBS Radio reiterated that Imus has been suspended without pay. "During that time, CBS Radio will continue to speak with all concerned parties and monitor the situation closely."

MSNBC's termination "also takes into account many conversations with our own employees," the network said. "What matters to us most is that the men and women of NBC Universal have confidence in the values we have set for this company. This is the only decision that makes that possible . . . We deeply regret the pain this incident has caused."

One NBC employee, Today weatherman Al Roker, was especially angered and went public on his blog Tuesday with a call for Imus' resignation after he characterized the Rutgers team as "nappy-headed hos" during his April 4 program.

On Wednesday, Roker wrote, "I don't think I've ever had more response to a journal."

"The Internet, theoretically, is color-blind," he added. "Yet it was relatively easy to figure out someone's ethnicity by where they came down on this issue. It proves that we still, after all this time, have a long way to go in our country when it comes to race."

Some responders contended that "I was holding Don Imus to a different standard than the rappers and African-American comedians who traffic in the same kind of language," Roker also wrote. "Guess what? I think their speech is hateful, too. I don't condone it. Don't allow it in my home. Don't go to those concerts. Those companies that profit in the demeaning of women via musical lyrics, whether rap or rock, should be put on notice, as should the radio stations that play the music."

Roker said he's spoken out about Imus because he "broadcasts under the NBC News banner via MSNBC. This is a reflection of my company. I won't stand for the idea that someone who has the privilege of working under the aegis of NBC News could damage this organization with the taint of racism and sexism."

(Note: As of early Wednesday evening, there were numerous and obviously inadvertent misspellings in Roker's latest blog, including the word "ass" for "as." They've been corrected in the above excerpts, but he might want to take the same measures himself.)

Unknown at the moment is whether NBC News heavyweights and recurring Imus guests such as Tim Russert, Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw will cease and desist now that their employer no longer considers the radio jock fit for its airwaves.

Two aging white guys stink it up again

Here's what happens with guys like Don Imus and Billy Packer. They get accustomed to people kissing their asses. They think they can say anything because no one can touch them. They stay too long at the party because their positions of privilege are intoxicating.

Imus, 66, and one of his toadying radio sidekicks aim racial slurs at the Rutgers University women's basketball team. Then they chortle about it and think no one's going to call them to account. The "I-Man," after all, already has most of America's powerbroking politicians and media elite eating out of his hand.

Packer, 67, tosses out a shorthand vulgarism for gay people and then laughs it up along with Charlie Rose, who's almost equally culpable for essentially playing along during their interview on the latter's show. They were talking about the NCAA basketball tournament's Final Four, with Packer in Atlanta for yet another go-around as CBS's increasingly inept game analyst.

Then America's windbag, Al Sharpton, has Imus on his radio show Monday. While a mega-media gaggle watches and listens, he pounds away at Imus and continues to demand his resignation.

Finally, CBS radio and MSNBC, which simulcasts Imus' show, suspend the grizzled old shock jock for two weeks, effective April 16th. CBS so far has done nothing about Packer, but should seize this latest golden opportunity.

Imus and Packer have amassed enough money to just go away and stay away. And if only they could take Sharpton with them. He's long been a steadfast self-aggrandizer, with enough skeletons in his own closet to stock an amusement park haunted house.

The "I-Man," of course, has apologized several times while also bristling at people who try to bait him. It's still ringing pretty hollow.

Most people aren't aware of what Packer said, but it's hardly the first time he's let his fat, coarse mouth double dribble. He also likes to belittle those he deems insignificant. You know, the "little people" who are supposed to do his bidding or else.

It's another sorry spectacle, with Imus in particular on a blistering hot seat of his own making. This time he should make it easy on himself by simply calling it a day as a big-time radio host. He's done a lot of good for kids over the years, but no good can come of his continuing to tempt fate.

As for Packer, surely CBS Sports can do far better. It's as simple as that. Get rid of him.

For the record, here's a combined video of each man's arrogant slurs.

Two local developments of note

Hugh Laurie of Fox's House and Shannon Hori of CBS11.

Fox4 has found a onetime home for House after Tuesday's episode was mostly preempted by tornado warning coverage.

That hour will air in its entirety on Thursday (April 5) at 10:30 p.m. following Fox4's latenight newscast.

Much earlier in the broadcast day, CBS11 morning anchor Shannon Hori has decided to remain at the station until her three-year contract expires in July. That means she'll be in place for the May "sweeps" ratings period, where Hori will team with the newly hired Scott Sams.

As first reported by unclebarky.com, Hori wants to spend appreciably more time with her husband, whose business is in Sarasota, Fla. Efforts to transfer the business to North Texas have not worked out.

"It's going to be a challenge to replace her," CBS11 president and general manager Steve Mauldin said in an interview. "She's a great talent."

Hori joined CBS11 in 2004 from WESH-TV in Orlando, Fla.

Big bright spot for Friday Night Lights

Three cheers. NBC's made-in-Austin Friday Night Lights has won a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award in its first year.

The ratings-starved high school football series, adapted from the same-named bestseller, joins NBC's The Office and Scrubs and ABC's Ugly Betty among prime-time series winners announced Wednesday. The late Ed Bradley's 60 Minutes story on allegations of rape against the Duke University lacrosse team and ABC newsman Brian Ross' investigation into the Mark Foley sex scandal are also among the 35 honorees.

"No dramatic series, broadcast or cable, is more grounded in contemporary American reality than this clear-eyed serial about the hopes, dreams, livelihoods and egos intertwined with the fate of high school football in a Texas town," the Peabody board said of Friday Night Lights.

The series remains "on the bubble" for renewal next season, but momentum appears to be building in its favor. And this can't hurt.

For a complete list of Peabody winners, go here.

Dale Hansen: locked in and loaded (with "unplugged" opinions) at Belo8

Dale Hansen: Standing the test of time in a big-time sports market.

Dale Hansen, dean of D-FW sports anchors, is set to sign a new longterm deal at Belo8 that will keep him at the ABC station through 2013.

At that point, Hansen would be 65 years of age with 30 years under his belt at Belo8, where he matriculated in 1983 after being fired by rival KDFW-TV, then a CBS affiliate.

An on-air promo showed Hansen hopping into a cab in front of his old employer's downtown studios. "Yes, Dale Hansen is moving up to to Channel 8, joining the team that sets the standard," viewers were told.

All these years and a few Barry Switzer shoulder punches later, he's still the livest wire in local TV news.

"A certain symmetry there, don't you think?" Hansen said Tuesday of the milestones he'll reach at the end of his contract.

"I am happy," Hansen told unclebarky.com. "When you're 59, fat and bald, and someone is willing to keep paying you, 'happy' probably doesn't describe it. I really do enjoy what I'm doing -- whatever that is. And this will enable me to buy at least three more Hawaiian shirts."

Hansen's flamboyant style and "unplugged" commentaries have put some viewers off their feed. He's had running feuds with the likes of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and former Cowboys coach Switzer, of course. Their July 1, 1994 training camp smackdown is an all-time classic of the genre, with Switzer railing, "You guys manufacture everything!" and Hansen returning fire.

Along the way, Hansen also has received prestigious Peabody and duPont-Columbia awards for his contributions to a 1987 investigation of SMU football recruiting. And he's won numerous best sportscaster awards.

Hansen invariably is upfront with reporters who want to interview him. He answers questions directly rather than dodging them ineffectually. A jumbo-sized ego also is part of the Hansen package, but he's never claimed otherwise. Now he'll be good to go for another six years at a station that's found a way to exploit his considerable strengths and tolerate some of his storied excesses.

It's been a marriage made in heaven, hell and parts in between. But for far more good reasons than not, divorce has long been out of the question.

Imprisoned Brake

Fox's Prison Break wrapped its second season Monday night with pretty boy brother Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) re-jailed in what looks to be a very stinkin' Panama City hellhole.

Now it will be up to older brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) to help spring him after Michael turned that trick at the end of Season 1.

Oh the irony. And oh the head-hurt from too many far-fetched plot twists. Still, lots of area people benefited from the show's presence in North Texas for the entire second season. And PB again is set to make Dallas its home base for Season 3, although some filming will be done in Louisiana and Florida.

Two of Scofield's nemeses, FBI agent Alex Mahone (William Fichtner) and brutish prison guard Brad Bellick (Wade Williams), find themselves in the same filthy Panama City cell block. Please don't ask for an explanation. Just know that Season 2 ended with Scofield warily checking out his new surroundings while various scumbags checked him out. This looks like an infinitely nastier place than the old Fox River Pen, but you can only go so far with this stuff before the show's remaining viewers get totally turned off.

As has been noted here many times, PB has not done well in the D-FW ratings, even though the series is filmed here. In fact, a third season wouldn't be an option if the ratings were as low nationally as they are here. That doesn't mean they're great in the country at large, but a 38th place ranking with advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds proved to be just good enough to make the cut.

The show in turn cut costs along the way, killing off a wide variety of regulars and recurring characters. Crook-turned-good guy Paul Kellerman (Paul Adelstein) went down in a hail of bullets Monday night while badly wounded former inmate Fernando Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) was left for dead.

Adelstein will be just fine. The actor already has signed to co-star in ABC's Grey's Anatomy spinoff series.

Another PB character, David "Tweener" Apolskis (Lane Garrison), got executed by FBI agent Mahone in the first half of the season. Real-life tragedy then hit the Dallas native hard. He was charged with felony vehicular manslaughter in early March in connection with a fatal car crash in Beverly Hills that claimed the life of one of his three teenage passengers.

Garrison, 26, faces a maximum of six years in prison if convicted. You just never know what turns life might take. Maybe this season's Prison Break wasn't so convoluted after all. Nah. It was.

Sams back in the D-FW morning mix

Scott Sams will be returning to morning television to battle his old Dallas employer, CBS11 announced Monday.

The former Belo8 anchor will be back in D-FW on April 23rd to co-anchor the CBS-owned station's ratings-starved 5 to 7 a.m. show, joining holdovers Shannon Hori, Julie Bologna and Teresa Frosini.

Sams, in a statement, described CBS11 as a "station with momentum and one that's genuinely focused on making a positive difference in the community. I'm also happy to be returning to morning television, which is where I feel the best."

As first reported on unclebarky.com, Sams had a March 1 audition at CBS11, which had been seeking a replacement for Doug Dunbar after he stepped in for Tracy Rowlett as co-anchor of the station's 10 p.m. newscasts.

Sams spent almost 20 years at Dallas-based Belo8 before the ABC station opted to go "in a different direction" in September, 2004. At the time he had been anchoring Belo8's morning show. Sams later filed a discrimination suit against the station, claiming he had been dropped due to his age, religion, gender and race. An arbitrator awarded Sams a partial judgment in January, with both sides claiming victory.

Sams currently is anchoring at Denison, TX-based KTEN-TV, where he became the NBC station's main evening and late night anchor last spring.

CBS11 president and general manager Steve Mauldin said Sams is a "natural fit" in D-FW morning television.

There could be further changes. Several local broadcasting sources say that Hori has been negotiating with CBS11 management in hopes of returning to Florida before her three-year contract expires in July.

She reportedly wants to spend appreciably more time with her husband, who still lives in Florida. CBS11 had no comment on Hori's status Monday.

Just a blister or a third degree burn?

"The season series means absolutely nothing," ABC's play by play guy, Mike Breen, said near the close of Sunday's nationally televised demolition of the Dallas Mavericks by the Phoenix Suns.

Oh, he's so wrong.

It's the overall season records of the two teams that are starting to look meaningless. But in the Mavs-Suns universe, the team from the West now very much looks to be inside the head of the Dallas Dirks.

America at large couldn't have come away from Sunday's game without wondering, "What's so special about this Dirk Nowitzki guy?"

Why? Because he tends to look like a lumbering giant against the Suns while former Mav Steve Nash never fails to dazzle. Now it's starting to get worrisome, even though the Mavs are having a "magical" season and all that. Because when you look at the two posters above, don't those three guys on the right scare you more than the quintet on the left?

Sunday's game showed that Dallas should be very afraid of this Phoenix team. Nash is on a stick-it-to-Mark Cuban mission, now more than ever. The guy makes things happen with the greatest of ease -- or so it seems -- whenever the Mavs are on his receiving end.

So it doesn't really matter that Phoenix followed its earlier overtime win at Dallas with two lopsided losses to the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets. Nor does it matter that Dallas reeled off nine straight wins before falling hard to the Suns, 126-104, in Sunday's rematch at Phoenix.

What mattered were those two Dallas-Phoenix games. The Mavs blew the first one with a fourth quarter collapse. And in this latest crunch-time closing 12 minutes, the Suns outscored the Mavs 37 to 22.

Don't buy ABC's or anyone else's crap that Phoenix had more to play for than Dallas. The Mavericks were embarrassed on their home floor in the last meeting with the Suns. Payback should have been paramount.

Also, Dallas had history as an incentive. No NBA team had ever put together four double-digit win streaks in a single season. That could have been Dallas. Not now.

Bottom line: Nowitzki is one helluva player. But Phoenix's defense has his number and Nowitzki's li'l buddy has the Mavericks all figured out. In Amare Stoudemire, Nash also has the horse he didn't have in last year's playoffs.

So be very, very afraid if Dallas and Phoenix clash again later this spring. Sunday was in fact a statement game on a big national stage. And as statements go, the Mavs only raised more big question marks.