September 18, 2008

Time Warner Honors HD Pledge

By Alan Pergament

More high-definition channels have arrived on Time Warner Cable, but don't expect a 24-hour news channel here any time soon. That's the word from the area's largest cable system.

On Wednesday, TWC made good on a statement by a representative in late spring by announcing that five new HD channels are now available on the free HD tier, and the goal is nearly to triple its HD offerings.

The new HD channels are CNN HD (721), TBS HD (723), Science Channel HD (737), Discovery Channel HD (738) and Animal Planet HD (739).

In late spring, a Time Warner representative had told me that 10 to 20 more HD channels would be available by the end of the year, so that's a good start. The addition of the five channels has to please those cable subscribers who wondered why Time Warner offered so many more HD channels on its Rochester and Syracuse systems than it did here.

Time Warner also has an all-new channel in Rochester, which has prompted speculation that it might start one here. But Robin Wolfgang, the vice president of public and government affairs here, said this week that the company has no such plans "at this time."

"There is one in Rochester, and we'll always be looking at opportunities for an all-news channel, but we haven't begun the process of bringing one to Buffalo," said Wolfgang.

While we're on the subject of Time Warner, I'm really enjoying the new Time Warner Cable phone feature that puts the phone number of callers on the TV screen.

Don't tell any of my friends, but it allows me to decide whether to pick up the phone without having to get out of my seat to look at caller ID and and see who is calling.


Questionable taste

Over its three seasons, the absurd FX comedy, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," clearly has been an acquired taste.

And it is safe to say, if someone hasn't yet acquired a taste for the silly, politically incorrect and tasteless adventures of the five schemers who own a failing Philadelphia pub, they may be unlikely to get it in the fourth season premiere at 10 p.m. today.

How absurd do the plot lines on this basic cable comedy get? In "Mac & Dennis: Manhunters," the episode directed by former child actor Fred Savage, Mac (series creator Rob McElhenney) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) decide hunting a defenseless deer is too easy and instead go after a slovenly human.

Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson) and Charlie (Charlie Day), meanwhile, wonder if they have become cannibals after supposedly eating some human meat stolen from Frank (Danny DeVito), the father of Sweet Dee and Dennis.

Rated TV-MA, the show features dialogue loaded with suggestive, tasteless material that would be easier to stomach if it were funnier. The acting is frantic, and the dialogue tries too hard to be shocking; however, I did relate to one line from Frank (DeVito), the middle-aged schemer who doesn't always understand the joy of the games being played by his children and friends:

"I just don't understand your generation," said Frank.

Judging by the show's popularity with younger viewers, clearly there's a generational divide when it comes to "Sunny," too.

Rating: 11/2 stars out of 4


Palin interview

Now it is Katie Couric's turn to interview Sarah Palin, the vice presidential running mate of Republican presidential nominee John McCain. The "CBS Evening News" anchor will interview Palin on the campaign trail Sept. 28 and 29, and the program will carry the interview Sept. 29 and 30, a few days before Palin's vice presidential debate with Joe Biden, the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Once again, the interviewer will be under almost as much pressure as Palin. Couric, who has a reputation as a tough interviewer, presumably won't be accused of being sexist if her questions to the candidate are perceived to be tougher than those asked by ABC's Charles Gibson last week.

Palin was interviewed Wednesday by Sean Hannity of Fox News. That interview was expected to be a breeze for Palin, since Hannity is perceived as a Republican apologist. As of now, NBC hasn't gotten a Palin interview, and there is speculation that could be because it has program hosts on MSNBC who clearly favor Obama.


Helpful 'House'

Thanks to the lead-in from the season premiere of "House" (11.9 rating), the second episode of the new Fox series "Fringe" (9.2) had higher ratings Tuesday than its premiere. But the most impressive local ratings stories Tuesday were the surprising power of the new CW series, "Privileged" (3.6), which grew substantially from the lead-in from the more-publicized "90210" (2.4); and the success of Channel 4's 10 p.m. newscast. It had an 8.7 rating.

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Originally published by NEWS TV CRITIC.

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