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For sale -- pricey homes (and NBC5 newscasts?)

Fort Worth-based NBC5 has just concluded a week-long 10 p.m. "news" series that played the same as those Sunday morning Hot On Homes infomercials. There goes the neighborhood -- as you'll see here.
Ed Bark

Celebrity death-athon marches on

Pitchman Billy Mays and Texas-born actress/singer Gale Storm

Willie Mays lives on, but Billy Mays has yelled out his last infomercial.

The seemingly omnipresent TV purveyor of Mighty Putty, Oxiclean, Orange Glow, Zorbeez, the Awesome Auger, the Hercules Hook and numerous other products died at age 50 in his sleep after returning to his Odessa, Fla. home Saturday. Mays also co-starred in the Discovery Channel series Pitchmen.

His flight from Philadelphia, where he taped what turned out to be his last infomercial, had a rough landing earlier the same day. The US Airways jet reportedly blew two tires upon making an emergency landing, with Mays later telling a TV reporter that he had been hit on the head by baggage that fell from overhead storage units.

"But I got a hard head," he joked before heading home. The cause of Mays' death is still undetermined. He also was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery on Monday (June 29th).

In the CNBC special As Seen on TV, which premiered in April, Mays said he turned down many offers for his services. "There's lots of pressure put on me when people believe that I'm the only one that can take their product to the next level," he told interviewer Darren Rovell.

***Out of the public eye but fondly remembered by earlier generations, actress/singer Gale Storm of McDade, TX also died on Sunday -- at age 87 in a convalescent hospital. As you might have guessed, she wasn't born with the breezy stage name given to her upon landing in Hollywood. Instead her childhood friends knew her as Josephine Cottle.

After appearing in a long string of B-movies, Storm finally made a name for herself in the vintage TV sitcom My Little Margie, which ran from 1952-'55 on CBS and NBC. She then fronted The Gale Storm Show (which became Oh! Susanna in syndication) from 1956-'60. It also aired on two networks, CBS and ABC.

Storm made just three guest star appearances on scripted TV shows after The Gale Storm Show was canceled, the last as Maisie Mayberry on a 1989 episode of Murder, She Wrote, according to a list of her credits on imdb.com. She instead devoted most of her energies to a singing career. While starring in her TV shows she had three pop hits, with a cover of "I Hear You Knocking" reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts.

HBO's Hung has all the right tool(s)

Premiering Sunday, the new HBO comedy/drama Hung has a title that pretty much spells out its premise. The lead character indeed has a big unit in a series that amounts to much more than that. Our glowing review is here.
Ed Bark

Good Day's audition edition guns Idol engine

American Idol staged its North Texas auditions Friday. Do you think Fox4's Good Day might have noticed? Our coverage of their coverage is here. Also, Thursday's D-FW Nielsen ratings "snapshot" looks at where audiences went for coverage of the late Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett.
Ed Bark

Icons dropping like flies -- with no immediate end in sight

Has there ever been a situation like this?

Some people enjoy lumping the deaths of prominent people into trifectas. This particular one may never be topped for both its rapidity and overall impact.

Ed McMahon's death Tuesday preceded the passings of Farrah Fawcett and then, shockingly, Michael Jackson on Thursday. And on the same day, the three children of Walter Cronkite put out a statement that doesn't bode well for their legendary father.

"Sadly, he is very ill and is not expected to recuperate," said Nancy, Kathy and Walter (Chip) Cronkite III. "He is resting at home surrounded by family, friends and a wonderful medical team."

Obviously, all four were/are giants in their respective fields.

***McMahon was the consumate TV sidekick and pitchman, teaming with Johnny Carson for a never-to-be-equaled 30-year run atop the late night talk show charts.

***Fawcett was the pre-eminent sex symbol of the mid-1970s, starring in a show (Charlie's Angels) and smiling from a poster that remain entrenched in the pop culture firmament.

***Jackson, the self-proclaimed "King of Pop," stood like a Goliath atop the music industry before his behavior and startling physical transformations turned him into something of a midway freak show toward the end.

***Cronkite remains the standard by which all network news anchors are measured, even though his last CBS Evening News broadcast was more than 28 years ago.

As this is written, the cable news networks of course are covering Jackson's death non-stop while ABC, CBS and NBC all have altered Thursday's prime-time schedules.

ABC will have specials on both Jackson and Fawcett, beginning at 8 p.m. (central).

NBC's Dateline will offer a combined two-hour tribute to the two, also starting at 8 p.m.

CBS plans to devote an hour to Jackson alone, at 9 p.m.

TV icon Farrah Fawcett dies of cancer

Texas-born TV beauty Farrah Fawcett, best known as bouncy gumshoe Jill Munroe in Charlie's Angels, is dead at age 62 of cancer. Our remembrance, with much first-hand material you won't find elsewhere, is here. Also, David Letterman outdraws Conan O'Brien in the third week of their late night talk show faceoff. And ABC's health-conscious Q&A with President Obama did scant ratings business in D-FW Wednesday night.
Ed Bark

New for you

NBC's The Philanthropist premieres Wednesday night. Should you in turn give it much attention? Our review is here. Also, it's said that misery loves company. But former Cowboy Terrell Owens is probably happier that few in these parts watched his big flop Tuesday night on the first episode of ABC's The Superstars. See our latest D-FW ratings "Snapshot" for further details.
Ed Bark

T.O./supermodel K.O.'d in first episode of ABC's The Superstars (Both cop 'tudes)

Before the fall: T.O. and supermodel Joanna Krupa. ABC photos

An embarrassingly inept Terrell Owens met his petulant, defiant match Tuesday night in supermodel Joanna Krupa.

"I don't want a teammate like that. Calls himself an athlete?" she said within hearing distance of the former Cowboys problem child after he had screwed up an obstacle course run. Earlier in the show, a cocksure Owens repeatedly capsized a kayak.

T.O. and T&A therefore were the first athlete/celebrity team eliminated in the 90-minute premiere of ABC's The Superstars. They ended up trading insults while walking away from the competition. A match made in heaven/hell. But oh the ignominy. The entire NFL must be greatly amused. Count on Tony Romo to be laughing 'til he pukes.

T.O., who will inflict the Buffalo Bills in the upcoming season, for the most part looked like Bill Parcells trying to master the hula hoop. Krupa rightly blamed him for messing up a "sudden death" team kayak race in which he spent most of the time knocking the two of them into the drink. A miffed T.O. then refused to answer questions from one of the show's hosts, fetching Jenn Brown.

The kayak catastrophe put T.O. and Joanna among the bottom four teams, forcing them to compete in a do-or-die obstacle course race in which one pair would be sent home.

Owens responded like the champ he is by becoming entangled in a net while actor David Charvet (Baywatch) beat him to the finish line by an eternity or more.

Krupa cursed from afar because she couldn't begin the course until T.O. finished it. At last he finally did. But it was way too late for her.

"You're the one who (bleeped) up," she then told him. "We could have won. You shut up."

Which amazingly, he did. Too bad none of his former Cowboys teammates ever had the temerity to turn that trick in public.

T.O. in distress before suffering net loss Tuesday night. Photo: Ed Bark

In fairness, the net ensnared a couple of other competitors, too, including former WNBA star Lisa Leslie. But none had been remotely as cocky as Owens, and all eventually prevailed over him.

T.O. fared a little better in the climactic win-or-go-home heat, nipping actor Dan Cortese by a second or so. But Cortese is 41 while Owens still claims to be in the prime of his NFL career.

Krupa then came up short of Leslie, which punched her ticket to Palooka-ville along with whatsisname.

"I screwed it up in the first race," Owens said in his only magnanimous comment of the night. "It is what it is. We had good fun."

His ad hoc teammate wasn't having any of it, refusing to accept T.O.'s embrace or handshake. Instead they walked off more or less together, with Krupa upbraiding Owens as if he were a member of the Detroit Lions taxi squad.

"So cocky." She said. "For what? You got in the NFL?"

"I really feel bad for your boyfriend," T.O. retorted. "I really feel bad for him."

So there you have it. Have two teammates ever deserved each other more? Still, the jury is still out. Did spunky, salty Joanna Krupa make T.O. her bitch? Or did she just act like one, allowing him to escape with perhaps a bare shred of semi-dignity Tuesday night?

Whatever your call, he definitely met his match. And as even T.O. might have deduced by now, it's no fun being on the receiving end.

The passing of Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon, consummate TV sidekick and pitchman, died Tuesday at the age of 86. He's fondly remembered in two up-close-and-personal articles written in the '80s and '90s by your friendly content provider. We also rewind back to the '60s, where a teenager from that time -- now living in North Texas -- recalls Big Ed's impact on the small New York community where his late son, Mike McMahon, went to high school.
Ed Bark

Separated after births: reality stars Jon and Kate Gosselin quit each other but not their show

Hadn't watched their show until tonight. Didn't want to, but succumbed because of all the publicity. Hate it when that happens.

So for the record -- and apparently to no one's surprise -- Jon & Kate Gosselin are separating while still supposedly putting their kids first. The much-chronicled stars of TLC's Jon & Kate Plus 8 announced their split on Monday's show.

Overall impression: the eight Gosselin children are blameless, precious innocents who likely will pay long-term prices for their parents' willingness to exploit them on national television during the two-year run of this series. And of course the show will go on, Kate assured viewers. It'll just be "different."

It's one and done for me, though. Hang in there, kids. Absolutely none of this is your fault.
Ed Bark

Nielsen catches up with another ratings blitz

D-FW's television ratings, slowed by the transition from analog to digital, are finally up to date. Nielsen Media Research provided local stations with the July 18-21 results Monday. See Thursday's numbers here and our Friday-Sunday "snapshot" here.
Ed Bark

Digital doings in D-FW: your first look

The first three full weekdays -- June 15-17 -- of digital era Nielsen ratings are in. So how are D-FW's local newscasts bearing up under the transition from analog? We give you the blow-by-blow after painstaking research driven by hand calculator technology. There are some eye-popping numbers to behold, but it's still very early in this game.
Ed Bark

Melissa Rycroft nabs 3rd ABC job, this time with GMA

Dallasite Melissa Rycroft in scenes from ABC's Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor. The former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader is now a special contributor for the network's Good Morning America.

You can't make this stuff up. Dallas native Melissa Rycroft's meteoric rise from relative nobody to world famous reality show star continued Monday when ABC named her a "special contributor" to Good Morning America.

Rycroft will be "bringing fun and uplifting stories from around the country," says an ABC publicity release. She's already on board after an appearance on Monday's GMA, which is produced by the network's news division.

The former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and University of North Texas grad (fittingly with a degree in marketing) became famous last fall for being jilted on The Bachelor after its latest namesake, Jason Mesnick, first gave her the ABC show's final rose.

She then segued immediately to the network's Dancing with the Stars, where she was an 11th hour addition and ended up finishing third among 13 celebrity hoofers.

In the past several months, Rycroft, 26, also has been named one of the world's most beautiful people by People and made Maxim magazine's Hot 100 list.

She should be ready to anchor ABC's World News by this time next year.

Cronkite still among us but reportedly in very ill health (or not)

As you may have heard or read by now, legendary newsman Walter Cronkite, 92, reportedly is gravely ill and possibly near death. Numerous Web sites and networks have carried this news after former Philadelphia Inquirer TV critic Gail Shister broke the story on tvnewser.com.

However, a source close to Cronkite later told boston.com that his condition is being "grossly exaggerated."

"He's dealing with the challenges of being a 92-year-old man," said Cronkite's executive assistant, Cynthia Dicrocco. Cronkite has been ill recently, but is recuperating at home in New York, she said.

We'll keep a watch over the weekend and of course do a full obituary if the occasion unfortunately arises. For now, here's a video of Cronkite's sign-off, on March 6, 1981, as anchor of the CBS Evening News.
Ed Bark

Watch CBS Videos Online

WFAA8's Alexa Conomos has second baby boy (updated)

WFAA8 Daybreak traffic reporter Alexa Conomos and her husband, Bradley, are parents for the second time.

She delivered 9 pound, 9 ounce Alexei Britton Thursday night. They also have a nearly two-year-old son, Alexandros Luka, who was born in July 2007.

"We have fallen in love all over again," Conomos said in a text message to friends.

Conomos also anchors Dallas-based WFAA8's Midday newscast. She joined the station in October 2002 after a stint at TXCN, also owned by Dallas-based Belo Corp.

As previously reported, Amy Vanderoef of WFAA8's Good Morning Texas had her first child earlier this month. Her husband is NBC5 reporter Grant Stinchfield. And NBC5 anchor-reporter Meredith Land and her husband, Xan, had a baby girl, McCall, on May 17, the station confirmed Friday. She was born a few weeks earlier than expected and is doing fine.

Dave vs. Conan: Got your numbers

The national Nielsen results are in for Week 2 of David Letterman vs. Conan O'Brien. We play along with their networks' spins here. Also, NBC premieres its new Merlin series this Sunday. But how magical is it? Wave a wand over our review.
Ed Bark

Idol doing Dallas on June 26th after two registration run-ups

American Idol's Season 9 Dallas auditions are set for Friday, June 26th. Except they'll be in Arlington at -- where else -- Jerry's Palace.

Registration days are June 24-25 at the same venue -- Dallas Cowboys Stadium. There's supposedly no charge for parking, but you can't pull an overnighter.

Here's a bunch of other information on various do's and don'ts. And here's a copy of the three-page release form, which includes the provision, "I further understand that my appearance, depiction and/or portrayal in the Program may be disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing or of an otherwise unfavorable nature which may expose me to public ridicule, humiliation or condemnation."

Are we having fun yet?

This will be the Fox juggernaut's third stop in North Texas. Idol also trolled for talent in these parts in 2007 and 2002, when Burleson's Kelly Clarkson emerged as the show's first champ.
Ed Bark

Inside stuff

What's former WFAA8 Daybreak co-anchor Justin Farmer up to at his new TV home in Atlanta? Well, he's got a whole lotta drama and hand-talkin' going on during a recent report. Feel the amped-up urgency here. Also, one of unclebarky.com's occasionally twitted -- but never tweeted -- fallen TV stars celebrates his birthday today. See him in the midst of two giants during more gainful times.
Ed Bark

D-FW ratings still on hold, but reportedly coming soon

Nielsen Media Research is still doing the old soft shoe in TV's post-analog age.

Still grappling with last Friday's digital transition, the nation's audience counter has released the following schedule to local stations across the land.

Friday, June 19th -- Market-by-market ratings for June 12, 13 and 14 will be released.
Saturday, June 20th -- Ratings for June 15, 16 and 17 will be released.
Sunday, June 21st -- Ratings for June 18, 19 and 20 will be released.

So there you have it, with station managers in D-FW eagerly awaiting the results while also dreading any possible audience drop-offs. We'll give you full reports as soon as possible.
Ed Bark

Once more with feeling: Letterman apologizes anew

David Letterman has re-apologized, sincerely this time, for the ill-considered jokes he made about Alaska governor Sarah Palin's daughter. What's more, Palin has accepted his apology. So let's at last be done with it, OK?

Here's video of Letterman's act of contrition on Monday's CBS Late Show:
Ed Bark

GOP accuses ABC of "glorified infomercial" in upcoming Obama sit-down on health care

The Republican National Committee is taking sharp issue with ABC over its upcoming prime-time special Questions for the President: Prescriptions for America. And the network is firing back. Our story is here. Also, 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin has more than a few choice words in the latest Playboy interview. Take a look here.
Ed Bark

Intensive care: TNT's HawthoRNe is fifth new medical series in last three weeks

Jada Pinkett Smith is on pins and needles as the nurse in charge of TNT's new HawthoRNe. But how much better or worse is it than the recent raft of new medical series? Our review is here.

Also, Friday's digital conversion will mean a delay in local Nielsen ratings, which possibly won't start coming in until Friday of this week. We'll keep you posted.
Ed Bark

Top 10 list of Letterman Late Show events/incidents

The David Letterman/Sarah Palin dustup is hardly the first time the host has made headlines. We scour the history of his CBS Late Show to give you a Top 10 list of Dave Dramatics. Also, the digital age is officially upon us, but WFAA8's sentimental sendoff of analog still bears watching. See it here.
Ed Bark

Lots inside

Laid off last month by NBC5, reporter Melissa Newton has a new D-FW home. See where here. Also, Game 4 of the NBA Finals raised the ratings roof in D-FW, particularly during its late night OT. Additionally, we look at GSN's new "Big Saturday Night" game show extravaganza and provide some munchies on a new TV Bulletin Board.
Ed Bark

Music to y'ur ears: KERA will orchestrate new radio station

Radioheads rejoice. North Texas Public Broadcasting, Inc. (KERA) is adding a new radio frequency to sail alongside its oft music-impaired 90.1 FM mothership.

KERA announced this week its acquisition of a non-commercial radio license for 91.7 FM, which will begin broadcasting this fall as an Adult Album Alternative destination.

"The new station will be a public radio music format programmed with the North Texas audience in mind," KERA president and CEO Mary Anne Alhadeff says in a statement. "It will be a terrific complement to KERA's news and information station 90.1 FM and a substantial addition to KERA's overall multimedia services for the public."

90.1 FM went to a weekday news and information format in 1996. Alhadeff, who joined KERA in 2005, says that "right away I heard from long-time listeners who said that they appreciated the expanded public radio news schedule but missed the music programs."

KERA ultimately convened two "focus groups" -- oh n-o-o-o-o! -- but both miraculously came to the right conclusion that commercial-free music of distinction is missed in the nation's fifth-largest radio-TV market.

KERA says the new station's "adult-oriented" playlist will include folk, acoustic, world music, alternative and indie rock, and country. Programs being considered for 91.7 FM include World Cafe, Echoes, Undercurrents and American Routes.

Back in play

Vacation time's over, complete with a bumpy return to D-FW during assorted cloudbursts. We wade back in with a special, elongated edition of "Local Nielsen Ratings Snapshot." This one amasses highlights from Wed., June 3rd through Wed., June 10th.
Ed Bark

Time off for good behavior

This just in: Your friendly content provider will be going on vacation for the next week. But we've left the shelves well-stocked with fresh material.

Check out our reviews of three upcoming new series -- NBC's The Listener, USA's Royal Pains and Showtime's Nurse Jackie, starring Edie Falco in her first big post-Sopranos role.

We also have video of former Fox4 Good Day anchor Megan Henderson in her early morning guise at L.A.'s KTLA-TV. You can catch some quick glimpses of her while otherwise enduring some over-the-top antics by the station's weather clown. Did Henderson really sign on for this?

Also, check out the inspired "Twitter Tracker" bit on Conan O'Brien's second Tonight Show. And you can see how it and other programs fared in Wednesday's D-FW Nielsen ratings.

Finally, scroll down just a bit on this page to see some happy news for two D-FW television personalities.

Otherwise, until next Thursday, June 11th, unclebarky.com is on holiday. Thanks as always for your patronage.
Ed Bark

And baby makes three

Amy Vanderoef, co-host of WFAA8's Good Morning Texas, and her husband, NBC5 reporter Grant Stinchfield, became first-time parents early Wednesday morning.

Their son, Grant Wyatt Stinchfield, was born at 12:20 a.m.

"Baby, mommy and daddy are doing well," says GMT executive producer Dave Muscari. The birth was announced on Wednesday's program.
Ed Bark

Leno's relaunch date set

Jay Leno's new prime-time show -- imaginatively titled The Jay Leno Show -- has an official air date.

NBC announced Tuesday that he'll return to the airwaves on Sept. 14th, with no guests named yet. Leno's 17-year Tonight Show reign ended Friday, with Conan O'Brien stepping in Monday.

Leno's new comedy/variety/talk show will air Mondays through Fridays at 9 p.m. (central) from the old Tonight's Burbank studio. O'Brien's Tonight has a brand new set on the Universal Studios theme park lot.
Ed Bark

Not A-OK, but a start: Conan logs his first Tonight

Still a redheaded stranger to some, Conan O'Brien officially became only the fifth permanent host of NBC's Tonight Show Monday. Our report/review is here.
Ed Bark

As the odometer turns . . .

Another month begins on unclebarky.com, relegating May to the archives on the lower right column as various pages are refreshed with June posts. You also can type in topics of interest in our search engine located in the upper right hand corner of all pages.

Thanks again for your interest, support and patronage of our advertisers. And please remember, if you're making purchases on amazon.com, click first through this web site if you would. A small percentage of whatever you buy is kicked back to your friendly content provider. You can place an ad yourself, too, by simply clicking on the red "Advertise on Uncle Barky" prompt and proceeding from there.

OK, end of infomercial. Our first June entry on the always active Dallas-Fort Worth TV page is a look back at a 1987 credit roll for WFAA8's news department. Its sheer length and breadth says it all in times when the downsizing bug continues to bite news operations around the country. Also, Jay Leno does boffo business in D-FW Friday night for his final Tonight Show.
Ed Bark