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Fox4's Hammarley suspended

Fox4 medical reporter John Hammarley

The Fox4 newsroom has sustained another jolt with the suspension of veteran medical reporter John Hammarley.

Sources at the station, who asked not to be identified, confirmed the suspension Monday and said that Hammarley's undisclosed activities are being investigated.

Hammarley, who has won numerous awards during his 12 years at Fox4, said in a brief telephone interview Sunday, "All I can say is that I'm still at the station. I'm employed by Fox4 and I don't know any different."

The reporter's picture and bio for now remain on the station's myfoxdfw.com Web site.

"If I don't do something stupid, like ending my report with 'slam-alam-a-ding-dong,' I think my bosses want me to stick around a little while longer," Hammarley says on a bio page that was last edited on May 6, 2008.

Hammarley's suspension is the second at Fox4 in less than a year. Veteran reporter Rebecca Aguilar was suspended last October for a controversial interview that received widespread national attention. She ultimately was dropped by the station in early March.

As previously reported on unclebarky.com, reporters Jeff Crilley, Jason Overstreet, Paul Adrian and Scott Sayres all have left Fox4 within the past month to pursue other opportunities. Adrian's last day was Friday. And in April, weathercaster/entertainment reporter Maria Sotolongo quit the station to spend more time with her baby daughter.

Last week Fox4 hired hired Sophia Reza from KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City as a full-time reporter. Her scheduled first day is July 28th.

Also of note: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that former Fox4 early morning anchor/reporter Natasha Curry, dropped by the station in late 2006, has likewise been dismissed by KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Curry got into TV news after a beauty pageant career that hit its high point with a top 10 finish in the 1998 Miss USA pageant, where she represented the state of Washington. She was known as Natasha Vantramp then. Honest.

Off-air, on line: John McCaa

Our first in a periodic series of Internet Confidential commentaries checks out the Web skills of WFAA8 anchor John McCaa.
Ed Bark

Resident "McDreamy" of ABC's Hopkins will be operating out of Dallas

ABC News' six-part, non-fiction Hopkins, premiering Thursday, has the look, feel and constant music of Grey's Anatomy. It also has a resident hunk who's relocated to Dallas after apparently mending a troubled marriage depicted on-screen. Elsewhere, NBC5's 10 p.m. newscast and ABC's pair of fall-down-go-boom reality competitions have big nights in Tuesday's D-FW ratings.
Ed Bark

NBC to reprise first Saturday Night Live, with host George Carlin

Here's one worth recording with whatever device you have.

The first-ever Saturday Night Live, hosted by the late George Carlin, will be repeated on Saturday, June 28th, at 10:30 p.m. (central) on NBC.

Originally telecast on Oct. 11, 1975, the show also featured The Muppets, musical guests Janis Ian and Billy Preston, and Andy Kaufman. The "Not Ready For Prime -Time Players" also were in full force. Namely Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris and Larraine Newman.

"You never forget the people who were there at the beginning," SNL creator Lorne Michaels says in an NBC release. "George Carlin helped give Saturday Night Live its start . . . He was gracious, fearless, and most important of all, funny."
Ed Bark

Wagner back at CBS11 after brief stop in Badgerland

Peripatetic anchor/reporter Beth Wagner has bounced back to CBS11 after a very short stint at WKOW-TV, the ABC affiliate in Madison, WI.

Wagner left CBS11 on Jan. 23rd to become the early evening and late night news co-anchor at WKOW. But she departed for undisclosed reasons in early spring and now is freelancing for CBS11, the station confirmed Monday.

Wagner's husband is a Wisconsin native.

Fox4 reporter Scott Sayres is latest to leave the station (updated)

Another Fox4 reporter has left the building.

Scott Sayres, who joined the station in December 2002, resigned Friday to take a position with the Dallas office of Weber Shandwick, a global public relations firm. Former WFAA8 reporters Bert Lozano and Mary Ann Razzuk will be among his fellow employees.

Sayres, a Southern Methodist University graduate, confirmed his departure Saturday morning but couldn't immediately talk further. He was on a plane to Chicago.

In a subsequent voice mail message from Chicago, Sayres said he had a "phenomenal run at Fox4" during his 21 years as a reporter before opting to act on a "once in a lifetime opportunity" with Weber Shandwick.

"I am deeply appreciative of everything that (news director) Maria Barrs and KDFW did for me," he said. "I enjoyed my time there immensely. And that's really about it."

Sayres joined Fox4 from Fox station WGHP-TV in North Carolina before previous stops in Seattle, Las Vegas and Amarillo. In his Fox4 Web site bio, Sayres says the journalism bug bit him hardest when the "death penalty" was imposed on SMU's football program while he was a staffer on the school newspaper.

"By then, I knew I was a goner . . . news had become my life," Sayres says.

As previously reported on unclebarky.com, Fox4 has been rocked in recent months by the departures of on-air news staffers Jeff Crilley, Jason Overstreet, Maria Sotolongo and Paul Adrian, who is leaving at the end of June after announcing his resignation in May. Fox4 traffic reporter Todd Carruth, technically a contract employee, also left that post in the spring to try another line of work.

Sana Syed and Fox4 anchor Heather Hays

As Sayres was leaving, Fox4's 9 p.m. news co-anchor Heather Hays was having her second child Friday afternoon.

It's a 9-pound girl named Lily Rae, who joins sister Emmy Elizabeth. Fox4 gave viewers the details on its Friday 9 p.m. newscast and also has a picture of the newborn on its Web site. Hays plans to be on maternity leave for the next two months.

Also, sources say that Fox4 intends to hire Fort Worth native Sana Syed as a freelance reporter. She's currently with Fox25's KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City after a previous stint at WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge. While previously in North Texas, Syed had an internship at WFAA8 and also worked for NBC5. She was in Fox4's newsroom on Friday.

Syed's KOKH bio says she's covered stories ranging from Saddam Hussein's execution to the American Idol finals in Hollywood.

Making nice

On-air appearances can be deceiving when you're highlighting the genuinely decent people in local and national TV. A recent "Comments" section debate over the niceness of former NBC5 meteorologist Rebecca Miller spurs this further look at who deserves gold stars in the human being department. Also, another day's D-FW Nielsens are in, Comedy Central weaves a new series, Atom TV, out of Web shorts. And TV's first Bionic Woman adds a year in unclebarky.com's latest meld of retro pictures and video.
Ed Bark

Claw your way to the top of new cat-themed game show

Noted Garland Catwoman Madeline Bark, friendly Snickers (left) and dour Cookie tentatively will join the Dallas auditions for GSN's The Meow Mix Game Show, set to premiere in November. Photo: Ed Bark

Get your cats in gear for two days of Dallas auditions tied to GSN's (Game Show Network) upcoming The Meow Mix Game Show. A $1 million grand prize is at stake, plus a $100,000 donation to a local animal shelter.

Owners -- although no one really owns a cat -- must be over the age of 18. And their pets have to be in carriers for auditions scheduled on July 5 and 6 at the Hotel Palomar, 5300 East Mockingbird Lane. The first day's auditions are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the second day's from noon to 6 p.m. A pound of Meow Mix's Wholesome Goodness cat food will be given to Operation Kindness for each team that auditions.

GSN says that a single team from Dallas will be picked to compete with "cat-testants" from seven other cities. The human auditioners will be quizzed on "general feline knowledge" and also be on the receiving end of a "Hollywood-style" screen test to determine "how well cat and human appear on camera."

(This just in: Having seen these rules, the above-pictured Cookie says she's definitely not coming. But Snickers still plans to put her best paws forward.)

Extra information and complete rules are available here. The show is scheduled to premiere on Nov. 15th.

***Also on the audition front, the 18th edition of CBS' Survivor will bring a search party to Dallas on Friday, June 27th from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Al Lamb's Dallas Honda Powerhouse Dealership, 9250 LBJ Freeway (between Greenville and Abrams).

The show as usual is looking for "strong-willed, outgoing, adventurous, physically and mentally adept" contestants. You have to be at least 18 years of age and be willing to undergo a background check. For further eligibility requirements and an official application, go here.
Ed Bark

Hawksworth now in Beantown and no longer covering jocks

Erin Hawksworth in new pic at Fox's Boston station and with WFAA8.

Erin Hawksworth, formerly with WFAA8's sports department, is now at Fox25 in Boston (WFXT-TV), where she's a general assignment reporter.

The Canada native joined her new station in April after quietly leaving WFAA8, where she had been since February 2006. She previously worked with NBC Sports during the 2004 Summer Olympics. And her younger brother, Blake Hawksworth, is still a pitching prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals' minor league system.

Here's one of her recent stories for WFXT, on an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs in combat and recently awoke from a six-week coma.

Uncle Barky -- in character as a caricature

Looking like Bob Hope, your friendly content provider is at far left.

An esteemed panel of TV critics -- OK, a bunch of losers -- recently participated in a Hollywood Reporter telephone survey on who should be nominated for TV's Emmy Awards.

The results and an accompanying caricature of the five of us (by the very capable Chris Morris) were published in the trade magazine's Friday, June 13th edition. That's Bob Hope, alias Ed Bark/Uncle Barky, on the far left. Also pictured from left to right: Rick Kushman of the Sacramento Bee; Diane Werts, Newsday contributor and formerly of The Dallas Morning News; Television Critics Association president Dave Walker of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and David Kronke of The Los Angeles Daily News and formerly of The Dallas Times-Herald.

As for our Emmy picks, I'm positive that I mentioned FX's Damages and AMC's Mad Men among my nominees. In fact I think Damages should win. That's not reflected in the print version of the survey, but maybe I was just too addled that day.

Anyway, the Emmy nominations are on July 17th, with the annual prime-time ceremony scheduled for Sept. 21st on ABC.
Ed Bark

Brokaw should step up to the Meet the Press plate -- as a pinchhitter or more

Sunday's first post-Tim Russert edition of NBC's Meet the Press fittingly began and ended with a shot of the now-empty chair and desk from which he so ably presided since Dec. 8, 1991.

In the cold, hard realities of network television, that somber image begged a big question. Who will be Russert's replacement in an electrifying election year during which Meet the Press again has been the dominant force in Sunday morning public affairs television?

NBC would be wise to turn to one man on at least an interim basis. Tom Brokaw, in semi-retirement but every bit the political junkie that Russert was, is the only successor who could stem any flow of Meet the Press's audience to ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation (with Bob Schieffer still in the saddle) or Fox News Sunday, moderated by Chris Wallace.

Brokaw, who hosted Sunday's tribute to Russert, might not be willing to take the job long-term. But the guess here is that he'd gladly honor his friend and colleague by at least helming Meet the Press through the presidential election or maybe all the way to Inauguration Day.

NBC in reality doesn't have any other in-house candidates who come close to matching Brokaw's stature and clout with politicians and audiences. David Gregory isn't well-known to most viewers, Chris Matthews is way too toxic and Joe Scarborough isn't far enough removed from his very public support of George Bush during the 2004 election, in which he cheered for him at rallies.

Andrea Mitchell, particularly in the year of Hillary Clinton's run for the presidency, might well be the best fit if Brokaw demurs. She's savvy, battle-tested and long has revered Russert.

But The Greatest Generation author, who at 68 is three years younger than Schieffer, easily is the optimum choice to fill the gaping Russert void while NBC regroups and charts Meet the Press's long-term future.

On Sunday's tribute, Brokaw noted a sign in Russert's office that says, "Thou Shalt Not Whine."

"Thou shalt not weep or whine this morning," he then told his assembled guests. "This is a celebration, a time to remember."

But it was Brokaw who almost lost it down the stretch, his voice breaking as he said, "I hope I can get through this. He (Russert) would always say what a great country this is."

Russert didn't walk on water and won't be canonized. But he took Meet the Press from Sleepytown to Electric Avenue during his long and eventful tenure.

"This was where you separated the men from the boys. You weren't a candidate until you came on this show," said longtime Republican strategist Mary Matalin, a frequent Meet the Press guest.

"This studio I thought of as the Church of Tim," added PBS veteran Gwen Ifill, another regular.

It could and should become the Church of Tom for a transition period or longer if he's willing. Brokaw, as did David Brinkley before him on ABC, still totes a lot of heft in his autumn years. He's the man for this job. And if Russert could still say so, he would.

Tim Russert: May 7, 1950 to June 13, 2008

This is very sad and shocking news.

Tim Russert, moderator of NBC's Meet the Press and one of the country's foremost political junkies, died Friday afternoon of a heart attack. He was 58 and reportedly collapsed in the network's Washington bureau while working on a story. He had just returned from a vacation in Italy with his wife, Maureen Orth, and son, Luke. They were celebrating his graduation from Boston College.

All of the cable news networks immediately began eulogizing him throughout the afternoon. Politicians of every stripe and seemingly every prominent journalist in the country contributed thoughts on Russert's passing.

"He had a passion for life. And boy, did he love Bruce Springsteen," NBC colleague Tom Brokaw said on MSNBC at mid-afternoon Friday.

"So accessible. And he loved talking to people," veteran NBC political reporter Andrea Mitchell said. She later was near tears while extolling Russert as the mentor who taught her virtually everything about covering politics.

"There was no one who was filled with more life and love than Tim Russert," Mitchell said.

"When it had to do with politics, the question that always followed was, 'Have you run it by Tim?' " NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams noted.

"He was a man in full. He was the king in Washington," said Fox News Channel's Chris Wallace, who himself moderated Meet the Press from 1987 to 1988. Russert took over the landmark program in 1991, succeeding Garrick Utley.

"Somewhere he's saying, 'Oh darn, why couldn't it have happened after the election?' " Barbara Walters said on MSNBC.

She also wondered about the stress and strain that Russert and other workaholic journalists put on themselves: "Is this business in its own way a killer?"

"This is a blow to America," veteran Republican speechwriter and analyst Peggy Noonan said on MSNBC. "He had a kind of love of country that was clear."

Russert, whom I interviewed on several occasions, was garrulous, passionate and notably compassionate. When NBC colleague David Bloom suddenly died in Iraq in April 2003, a shaken Russert had a hard time composing himself on Meet the Press.

"Spontaneous, unrehearsed, candid, sometimes breathless, always on target," Russert said of Bloom. "He wasn't just good on his feet. He was dazzling and unfailingly human."

That describes Russert as well, whether affectionately writing about his father in the 2004 bestseller Big Russ and Me or grilling a who's who of political notables on Meet the Press and elsewhere.

I last talked to him in person at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, and have a memento of that occasion. Russert handed me one of the old-school "white boards" he had used during on-air discussions of projected electoral vote totals.

Below is a picture of it. Rest in peace, Tim Russert. You could always be counted on.

Blue Collar Bill Engvall revisits Dallas, touts new season of TBS sitcom

Comedian/sitcom star Bill Engvall got started in Dallas. Photo: Ed Bark

Blue collar comic Bill Engvall, whose TBS sitcom returns Thursday (June 12th) for a second season, talks about his Dallas years and his yearning to be on the cover of . . .
Ed Bark

TV intrudes on wine country escape

Raymond Burr and Emmys; good ol' Charlie Brown. Photos: Madeline Bark

Every out-of-town sojurn has some TV angles. So on our weekend trip to northern California wine country, we encountered:

***The Raymond Burr Vineyard, located in the Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg. It's smallish compared to many, but the rustic tasting room does include a picture of the late Burr bordered by his real-life pair of best actor Emmys for Perry Mason.

***In nearby Santa Rosa, about 50 miles from San Francisco/Oakland, is the Charles M. Schulz Museum, built in honor of the legendary Peanuts creator. Its adjacent gift shop is huge and well-appointed with memorabilia. There's also a Warm Puppy Cafe from which you can enter a fully equipped skating rink. Good grief, your still infantile content provider bought matching Charlie/Lucy bobbleheads.

Henderson still at Fox4 -- for now

Megan Henderson: on Fox4 and in April stint on Fox & Friends

Good Day co-anchor Megan Henderson has another weekend Fox & Friends stint behind her, but is still non-commital about any possible future with Fox News Channel.

"I had a great time filling in," she said of her June 7-8 guest host appearances on the Manhattan-based waker-upper. "It's a very friendly and comfortable place and I really enjoyed the opportunity."

There's otherwise "nothing new to report," said Henderson, who reportedly is being wooed by the network and met with FNC executives during her second trip to Fox & Friends in two months.

Henderson has co-anchored Fox4's Good Day with Tim Ryan since August 2003. The show ran in a statistical dead heat with WFAA8 in the May "sweeps" total homes Nielsens, with just three-hundredths of a rating point (730 homes) separating the two stations. But Fox4 dipped to a second-place tie with NBC5 in the key 25-to-54 demographic after winning that competition in the February sweeps.

Pardon this brief interruption

Unclebarky.com will be taking the next four days off so that its friendly content provider can decompress and regenerate. But we've left plenty of reading material behind. Check out a salute to Mark Cuban's HDNet Movies channel, which is out TCM-ing Turner Classic Movies but falling short on the promotional front. There's also a review of a new Fox Sports Southwest special on "Mr. Ranger," Tom Grieve, and a look at all the Texans in play on NBC's Nashville Star singing competition.
Ed Bark

The Gordon Keith Show hijacks a half-hour of prime-time

Gordo composes his thoughts, comes up empty. Photo: Ed Bark

Inaugural Uncle Barky Show guest Gordon Keith gets his first prime-time TV outing Tuesday (June 3rd) with high wattage guests Adam Sandler and Mark Cuban.

Show time is 7 p.m. on WFAA8, and the multi-talented "Ticket" personality will face competition from NBC's Most Outrageous Moments, CBS' NCIS repeat and Fox's The Moment of Truth.

Place your bets on The Gordon Keith Show to perhaps beat Most Outrageous Moments. Meanwhile, don't be misled by The Dallas Morning News' "TV Week" programming grid, which says Keith's show will run for an hour. No, it's just half that long, and is oddly described by the DMN as simply "A youthful look."

Unclebarky.com prefers this shorthand: "A bizarre descent into dementia, with the sick-in-the-head host stripping his guests of any undue dignity while a rabid studio audience boos him on between slugs of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill."

So go get 'em, Gordon. Meanwhile, thrill to this conveniently located pegasusnews.com clip (below) from the Dec. 1st Uncle Barky Show at Stratos restaurant. Gordo discusses the art of the impression while also throwing out sendups of Jerry Jones, Tiger Woods, his "one-foot-in-the grave" Aunt Gertrude and a "whistle-talking" high school principal.
Ed Bark

Online Videos by Veoh.com

Found: Valeri Williams

Whatever happened to Valeri Williams? Readers of this site regularly ask about the former WFAA8 reporter and investigator, whose memorable frigid weather dispatch from near Amarillo has provided a lasting youtube memory. Find out what she's up to in a new interview with unclebarky.com. And if you're still catching up on "Dallas-Fort Worth TV" page stories, the most recent entries are now in the May archives. Also, a timeless TV kid turns 60 today. Now who might that be?
Ed Bark