Monday, June 30, 2008

Paul Oles

I've seen broadcasting veterans treat newbies one of two ways-- with disdain, or with professionalism, courtesy, and encouragement.

Paul Oles belonged to that second group, and a generation of local broadcasters is better because of it.

Paul died Saturday at the age of 79. Simply put, he was a nice man.

Mr. Oles spent many years at WCDL radio in Carbondale, back when local radio meant something, back when radio stations cared about the communities they were licensed to serve. In 1977, it was part time work at WNEP. He moved over to television, full time, a few years later. Paul Oles had one of those booming voices, but it wasn't fake, and it had such a conversational tone.

I honestly do not remember the first time we met, but I do recall my first encounter with Paul at WNEP. I came over from a competing station. There was not one hint of resentment of condescension when it came to dealing with Paul. He was kind, and he was welcoming, and he was genuine.

My father often ran into Paul at a grocery store in Peckville, and Paul's kindness extended to my father.

My sympathy to Paul's family and friends.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Help Wanted

The news hits you like a ton of bricks-- Geisinger is laying off 400 people who work at its hospital in Wilkes-Barre, the former Mercy Hospital. A job is a huge part of our lives, and my heart breaks when I see people pink slipped. Not fun. Not by a long shot. Geisinger says the layoffs are necessary and justified as they consolidate health care in the Wyoming Valley.

We have an aging population. You would think jobs in the health care industry are safe. Guess again.

Is there any occupation that is recession proof, layoff proof, solid, guaranteed never to go away?

My mind was drawn toward computers. If you can fix them, it looks good. All other functions have the tremendous potential to be outsourced.

We might be drilling for more oil. There's work if you want to live in the Alaskan wilderness or on a rig in the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.

In spite of the souring economy, I always see a lot of cars at Mohegan Sun. How long can that last?

Law enforcement, corrections and courts look safe, maybe. Parts of our area are growing-- rapidly, and so is crime. I'm sure there's an even bigger demand for law enforcement and corrections jobs in the sun belt, where the population is exploding.

Government is a mixed bag. There have been some attempts, albeit extremely limited, to control the size of local, county, and state governments, but there's always a job out there for someone who gets "cozy" with the right person, especially an elected person. Some good does come from the "make room for my little friend" stuff floating around out there. The Maalox, Tums and Rolaids people have to make more product to soothe my stomach when I hear about it.

Want a safe job? Manufacture antacid. I have a feeling there will be a huge demand in the months to come.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Control Yourself

The Houston Astros have suspended Shawn Chacon indefinitely. The infraction? Choking Astros General Manager Ed Wade, a Carbondale native. Chacon told a newspaper he acted because Wade wouldn't stop yelling at him.

Chacon makes $ 2 million a year. I can take a little yelling for a paycheck like that.

I've had some great bosses over the years. I've had some awful ones, but I've been lucky. The good have far outnumbered the bad. Looking back, I can remember only one really, really good fight with a boss. There were dozens of arguments and disagreements, but that comes along with the territory. It was never, ever physical.

Radio and TV news is a funny business. It's an art and a science. While there are some concrete rules and regulations, there is a lot that's up to interpretation and discussion. The good newsrooms promote healthy debate. The bad ones, clearly, do not.

I've witnessed more than my share of fights over the years. I thank heaven I didn't have direct involvement in those affairs. Legend has it that a reporter at one of my old stations threw an ash tray at a photographer. I've argued with photographers and producers. It happens. I'd like to meet the person who gets along with every co-worker, every day, all the time.

And, that brings me back to the opening paragraph. It's okay to disagree, but there's no excuse for getting physical. Shawn Chacon should be on the sidelines for a very long time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fair Season

Ryan Leckey's live reports from the Northeast Fair in Pittston Township yesterday morning brought back a lot of memories.

There were two yearly church picnics and two yearly fireman's picnics within easy walking distance of my house when I was growing up. Hitting all four was not unusual. They weren't as big as the Northeast Fair, but they were just as much fun. You can't beat small town life.

As years passed, the picnics in town dwindled. I think there's still at least one around. One fire company dumped the picnic in favor of a couple chicken barbecues. This was my favorite-- the priest who ran one of the churches thought the summer picnic was too much work. He replaced it with a special Sunday collection at church. The priest suggested we take the money we would have spent at the picnic, and put it in an envelope for the collection basket. I can see the reasoning, but what's the fun in that? A picnic is more than a place to eat, drink, buy raffle tickets and play a few games. It's a community event. Maybe if we had more things that brought us together as a community, we'd have fewer problems. End of sermon.

Working weekends takes me out of the church picnic mix. A few in adjacent towns begin on Thursdays, so I try to visit at least one a year. It's the same thing every time-- grab a couple hot dogs and a drink, hide in a corner, and people watch for a while. That's summer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin

I've been writing about death far too often lately. Please, indulge me one more time. As you know, George Carlin died Sunday night at the age of 71.

My first exposure to George Carlin was in the early 70's, on the Mike Douglas Show. I instantly became a fan. Then, there was his first HBO special in March of 1977. It was groundbreaking, to say the least. HBO had the right idea with its "On Location" series. Just take a camera into an auditorium, and tape a comedian's entire performance. It was perfect. I watched that first HBO show so many times, I had his routines committed to memory.

You can't talk about George Carlin without discussing his use of four letter words. I think the "dirty" stuff gets far too much attention. If you take away the foul language, Carlin was still funny. He had the voice. He had the gestures.
George Carlin was no angel. He admitted to a long history of drug use. There was a stint in rehab for alcohol abuse. I'm sure there's more we don't know about.

The Associated Press obituary sounded the perfect note when it said Carlin was as much a social commentator and philosopher as comedian. Carlin seemed to be a little more angry in recent years, often railing against organized religion. I wasn't thrilled with that stuff, but when you look at the body of his work, George Carlin was brilliant.

"Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that. "

George Carlin

Monday, June 23, 2008

Where There's Smoke...

People new to our area notice it right off the bat. A lot of stuff burns down around here.

A consultant and I were going over some of my work a few years ago. Yes, it's cruel and unusual punishment for the consultant. She was struck by the number of big fires here in our area.

A new news director began working at WNEP earlier this year. Same thing.

We've had a lot of new people join the staff during the past few years. They, too, were shocked by the size and frequency of fires here in our area.

So, the question now is "why?"

I've noticed two times of year when there are spikes in fires. The first is during a cold snap. People use space heaters that are better off in the trash. The other is when a heat wave hits, and this has been backed up by a couple local fire chiefs. People buy big air conditioners, then run them using extension cords they bought at the dollar store. The cords are overloaded and then there's a fire.

There are other reasons-- like old structures with old wiring, and there's always arson. There are a few communities currently trying to cope with firebugs running around town. It's sad.

It always could be worse. At least we don't have those massive forest fires like they do in California.

Hats off to our local fire departments. Most visit schools during "fire prevention week" in the fall. It's a valuable service. Perhaps there should be repeat visits in the spring.

It's a complex problem, with no easy answers.

Friday, June 20, 2008


In the never ending effort to do something different, the Random Thoughts blog has been re-named Scrapple for the day. If you're familiar with the product, Scrapple contains a little bit of everything.

GET SMART The movie has been getting fair to good reviews. Roger Ebert really liked it, and I trust his views. However, you won't see me at the theater. "Get Smart" will always be Don Adams and Barbara Feldon. I'm not a Steve Carell fan, based mostly on the stunningly un-funny "The Office."

INVESTIGATIONS R US Is there any local government office that isn't under investigation? Rumors have been swirling about Lackawanna County for months. Federal agents apparently seized a bunch of stuff from a Luzerne County court/office building yesterday. Obviously, we'll know what they found and what they were looking for if there's an indictment or indictments. If nothing comes out of the investigation, we need to know that, too. People deserve to know if the individuals running the courts and other government offices are honest.

WEATHER I know I'm in the minority here, but I found this week's cool spell absolutely delightful.

POTHOLES Spruce Street in Scranton, between Mifflin and Franklin, has to be one of the worst in the city. I'm not sure if it's a city responsibility, or if it belongs to the state, but both should be embarrassed over its condition.

WILLIE RANDOLPH I thought the NY Mets should have fired Willie Randolph after last year's late season collapse, but they waited until Tuesday morning to do it. Having said that, the firing was poorly handled-- after the beginning of a west coast trip.

SWB YANKEES There are 14 teams in the International League. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees are 8th in attendance, averaging about 6,500 fans per game. Remember, that counts season ticket holders, not butts in the seats. The bloom disappeared from that rose quickly, didn't it?

MEET THE PRESS Brian Williams will moderate this week's "Meet the Press." If I was the head of NBC News, I'd give the job to Tom Brokaw until after the election. He'd be perfect for the transition. As for a permanent host, I have no idea, but there's no shortage of good candidates out there.

RINGTOWN A judge ruled Ringtown Elementary should stay open, postponing plans to ship those kids to North Schuylkill Elementary. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

VANDLING The town near Carbondale has an arson problem. I don't understand most crimes. Arson is near or at the top of the list.

TIGER Tiger Woods has a bad knee, and he won't golf until next year. I'm sorry for his health issues, but I find golf tournaments infinitely more interesting when the field is wide open.

BIG TEN NETWORK The Big Ten Network is coming to my cable system this fall. I should be more interested in this than I am.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bill Dial

I recently learned that Bill Dial died June 2. You probably don't know the name, but you do know what he did.

Dial wrote the "Turkeys Away" episode of "WKRP in Cincinnati." That's the one where Herb Tarlek and Mr. Carlson drop live turkeys out of a helicopter as part of a Thanksgiving promotion. Carlson utters the immortal line, "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly." The other line that sticks out in my mind is Les Nessman relating how the turkeys were hitting the ground like "sacks of wet cement."

Bill Dial also appeared, on camera, in two episodes as "Bucky the Engineer."

Some obituaries have him lasted as 64 years old, but most list him as 66.

Dial has a long list of writing credits, but he will always be known for his WKRP turkeys.

I loved "WKRP in Cincinnati" because I knew all the characters. I've worked for spineless general managers. I spent time at a radio station where one of the DJ's changed jobs and identities so often, he had to write his name and the station call letters on a huge piece of paper in front on him when he was on the air. It was like Johnny Fever listing all his names on his coffee mug. I've worked with hot receptionists and even hotter production assistants. By the way, I always thought Bailey/Jan Smithers was much, much prettier than Jennifer/Loni Anderson. Every broadcast salesman I've ever met is a Herb Tarlek clone. There was a guy at one of my old radio stations who could have been Herb's twin brother. I was once under a program director who was too cool for the room, but I still liked him. Les Nessman? That's me. I've been "up and down the dial" a little bit. Full time, part time, and freelance locations have included 91.5, 590, 92.9, 94.3, 16, 22, 28, 43 and 48.

"WKRP in Cincinnati" was a funny, funny series, and thank you, Bill Dial.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Respectfully Disagree

Something’s been bugging me since Tim Russert passed away last week, and I have to say it, even if I come off sounding like a mean SOB.

A few obituaries gave Russert credit for "reinventing Sunday morning television." While I respect Tim Russert’s accomplishments and talents, that is simply wrong.

ABC’s Roone Arledge and David Brinkley changed the face of Sunday morning television in 1981, ten years before Tim Russert took over "Meet the Press" on NBC. Arledge saw an opportunity to do something different on Sunday mornings, a forgotten and neglected time period. He got the network to cancel "Animals, Animals, Animals" and "Issues and Answers." The latter was ABC’s little watched clone of "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation." I don't remember "Animals, Animals, Animals," but I think I know what it was about.

In the place of those two shows came "This Week with David Brinkley." It began with a news summary, a set up piece explaining the week’s big issue, a newsmaker interview, a roundtable discussion and a closing commentary. In other words, the same format NBC started using when "Meet the Press" expanded to an hour in 1991.

Tim Russert was a talented interviewer and broadcaster who died too young. He will be missed. Russert was a tremendous asset to journalism in general and NBC in particular, but Arledge and Brinkley were the ones who opened the door.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Today is my 10th anniversary at WNEP.

10 years puts me in about the middle of the WNEP pack. I'm still a seniority pup compared to some people on the staff. I'm an old man to the rest.

Like any other job, it has its ups and downs. Overall, I've been very happy and it's been a good ride.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Jury Duty

It's the piece of mail that most people dread, and mine arrived a few weeks ago-- a jury duty summons.

Today was supposed to be my day. The summons contains a phone number. You're instructed to call a recording to see if the county needs you. I was part of pool "B." The recording said pool "B" is excused. I'm off the hook.

I'm probably the only person in the history of Lackawanna County to be disappointed to be excused from jury duty. I've been called twice before, and never chosen. I've covered courts on a fairly regular basis since 1981, and I'd really like to see what it's like on the other side. Deciding a life or death case doesn't appeal to me because that's a tremendous and frightening responsibility. However, I would like to learn what it's like to sit on a jury. I assume there will be other chances.

A few words about today's picture of the Lackawanna County Courthouse. The early morning sun and shadows were killing me, but I love the sky.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Charlie Jones

Friday's death of NBC's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert has been getting a lot of attention in print and on television. Deservedly so.

There is another passing that should be noted. Charlie Jones died Thursday night in California. He broadcast football games for ABC and NBC, first covering the AFL, then the NFL. Jones also handled tennis, golf, track and field, and college football.

Great voice, distinctive, knowledgeable, very listenable, a guy who made his color commentators better broadcasters. Jones is pictured here with Merlin Olsen.

Charlie Jones was 77.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Clean Indoor Air Act

It's happened.

Governor Rendell has signed the Clean Indoor Air Act, and Pennsylvania finally has an anti-smoking law on the books.

This is a bad bill. It has far too many exemptions. There are far too many ways around it. On the other hand, it's the best we're going to get. I learned a long time ago that "a little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing." We came very close to a lot of nothing.

The year long debate over the bill provided some great entertainment. I enjoyed watching certain state legislators claim that the special interests didn't play a role in the process, when we all know it was a lie. I enjoyed listening to the casinos claim poverty. That was a good one.

The fears of those against this law are understandable, but all you have to do is look at the evidence from the more than thirty other states that have anti smoking laws on the books. The entertainment districts haven't closed. Bars and restaurants are still open. It's not the end of the world.

As for those who think allowing smoking should be up to each individual business owner, consdider the building code. There's a book as thick as a bible that lists safety standards for lighting, exits, wiring, etc. Smoking is no different. It's a safety issue, and as has been noted a thousand times before, there is no safe level of second hand smoke. We don't allow builders to put unsafe, substandard wiring in their structures. We mandate emergency exits in case of a fire. Keeping people safe by giving them clean air to breathe is a no brainer.

I don't go out often, but I do go out occasionally. I hate coming home smelling like smoke. The usual standards of beer, cheap perfume, vomit and urine are good enough for me. I'm kidding. We needed something to lighten up today's blog.

The bottom line is to relax and give this a chance. It's not a bad thing, and you might even like it.

90 days 'til cleaner air.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Conventional TV

The broadcast networks are forming their plans for the Democratic and Republican conventions. According to the New York Times, ABC, NBC, and CBS will do one hour each night. That's on par with recent election years, and about what I expected.

There's no news at the conventions. They've become predictable affairs. I can hear it now. On the nights when Barack Obama and John McCain make their acceptance speeches, anchors and reporters will utter the line "the most important speech of their political lives" about a dozen times. Those speeches are important and should be covered. I'm not so sure about the rest. That's the joy of cable and the internet. You can pick and choose what you want to see and hear.
If Obama and McCain are smart, they'll hold off on announcing running mates until the conventions. A little suspense will get the ratings up. On the other hand, deciding on a running mate quickly will get the campaign off to a faster start. It's all about momentum.

While the conventions may not be interesting, I'm sure the campaign itself will have its moments. We're already hearing how Pennsylvania will be a "battleground" state. Fasten your seatbelts.

The Olsen Twins are 22 today.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Who Are You ?

You may have noticed a counter on the right side of the page. I added it Tuesday morning. A few years ago, I asked our then-webmaster Mark Sowers how many hits the blog page was receiving. He said 150 to 200. I was curious to see if things have changed. They haven't. The numbers have been fairly steady since the blog started in November of 2004. I'm not complaining. I have the option of hiding the counter from public view. I won't, at least for a little while. I'm tickled with the numbers.

The company that provides the counter also gives you a list of the locations of blog visitors. No, it doesn't provide e-mail addresses. There is no tracking going on here. Your anonymity is absolutely safe. The blog has received hits from several states, including many out west. For the life of me, I can't understand why someone in Seattle or Las Vegas cares about what I have to write, but thanks for stopping by. Your visits are greatly appreciated. Drop me a line if you're ever inspired to describe how and why you got here.

A Washington, DC radio personality who goes by the name of "The Greaseman" often tells wildly funny stories about his ex-wife, Estelle. Every story is prefaced by the same line/question: "Estelle, are you listening, you pig, you!?" At times, there is an inside line, or a joke only a few people who know me will get, cleverly hidden in my dull paragraphs. There's no "Estelle" out there. There are a couple I've tried to reach via conventional means. No reply, so I doubt yammering here will help the cause.

I've toyed with the idea of branching out to a full blown web site, rather than sitting under the "" umbrella. A few friends are helping me weigh the pros and cons, the easy parts and the hurdles. I'll have to decide on a name. has been snatched up by a real estate salesman from Australia. Coming up with a catchy name could push me in the right direction.

Some might have expected a few words about Pennsylvania's new anti-smoking legislation here today. I decided to wait until after Gov. Rendell signs it before spouting off, hopefully for the last time, but I doubt it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Spill the Wine

And I fell asleep and dreamed

I dreamed I was in a Hollywood movie

And that I was the star of the movie

This really blew my mind, the fact that me, an overfed, long-haired leaping gnome should be the star of a Hollywood movie

With apologies to Eric Burdon, now is your chance. My old friend, Al Piela, is looking for a little publicity to help an upcoming project. It's your chance to be a star!

Fortune Casting is holding an open call this weekend for volunteer background actors of all ages and types for the exciting new series"Hillers", being shot in the Scranton area this summer.The open call will be from noon until 4 PM this Saturday and Sunday at the Hilton in downtown Scranton. You can go to for more information.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Customer is Always Right

We get a lot of complaints. It comes along with the territory when you work in broadcasting. I'm okay with that.

On the other hand...

A gentleman called me a couple weekends ago, in the middle of the night. He didn't have cable or a satellite dish. He was unhappy with our very early Sunday morning programming. I sympathized with him. If I had my way, we'd run "Barney Miller," "Night Court," and "WKRP in Cincinnati" all day and night. I listened to his complaint, and maybe his venting was therapeutic because he suddenly had an epihany. He realized that the person picking up the phone at a television station at 1:00 AM on a Sunday doesn't have the power to change programming. I'm glad I was there to help.

We've been getting a flood of e-mails about a television show called "Swingtown." Apparently, it's dirty. I kid you not when I say "flood." There have been dozens of anti-Swingtown e-mails received here at WNEP. The e-mails implore us not to run "Swingtown." No problem. WNEP will never air "Swingtown." Why? It's on CBS! This is America. The public owns the airwaves. You have the right to complain, but your complaint will be much more effective if you take the time to make sure it gets to the right people.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Jim McKay and Wyoming County

Jim McKay passed away Saturday. For decades, McKay was one of the signature faces and voices of ABC Sports.

While his obituary was running on Newswatch 16 Sunday morning, I thought about McKay's appeal. He came across on television as a very nice man. McKay was smart enough to tell a story, without getting in the way of the story. A lot of people in this "it's all about me" television age could learn from him. He wasn't a goof. He wasn't a clown. Jim McKay never tried to be bigger than the event he was covering. McKay's writing style was simple, but elegant. Read his book if you can find it. He was vanilla. You know what? Vanilla is a pretty good flavor.

Three young people were killed and a fourth was badly hurt in a Friday night crash in Wyoming County. Two had graduated from high school just hours before. If anyone can make sense out of this, I'm more than willing to listen. Police say speed was a factor. Thankfully, alcohol wasn't. It likely all comes down to this-- people make mistakes. My sympathy to the friends and families of the young people who lost their lives.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I Found Them!

I finally located those Corning, NY "Race Fever" photos I referred to yesterday.

The above photo shows thousands of people on Market Street, on an August evening. You don't have to be a NASCAR fan to be here. Just about every restaurant had a tent on the street, and the food was tremendous. Yes, there was a beer tent, but it was discontinued due to liability concerns. As I noted yesterday, the festival moved to Bridge Street a few years ago, and it lost something in my view.
This is driver Sterling Marlin and I. At the time, he was driving the Coors Light #40 car. Nice guy.

I hope Scranton's NASCAR festival goes well today.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Scranton Discovers Pocono 500

The first Indy car 500 mile race at Pocono was in 1971. The first NASCAR race there was in 1974. Tomorrow, Scranton has its first full blown race festival, and it's about time. There have been little NASCAR events over the years, but this is the first really big, destination style party.

Wilkes-Barre had something for a few hours, one afternoon, last summer, on Public Square. Cars, vendors, food, etc. Nice, but it should have been more. Wilkes-Barre is just down Route 115 from the track. Luzerne County hotels and restaurants usually fill up because of the race. "Welcome Race Fans" signs are all over the place. I took this picture as NASCAR day was getting set up.

As I've noted in the past, Corning, NY has a fantastic pre-NASCAR festival called "Race Fever." It's held on the Thursday night before the Watkins Glen race. It used to be held on Market Street, right in the middle of town. Cars would be on display. Drivers signed autographs. Vendors sould souvenirs. Restaurants set up tents and tables on the street. It was great fun, even if you weren't a NASCAR fan. There's a picture from a few years ago on the right. At least 5,000 people would show up, but you can't tell it from the picture. I'm an early bird. The photo was taken at set-up time. I have pictures of wall to wall people on Market Street, but I took them with a film camera (what's that?) and I can't find the prints. "Race Fever" lost a lot of its charm when it was moved to Bridge Street, but that's another story for another time.

Races at Pocono are not just a big part of Monroe County. They're a big part of the Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Stroudsburg, Allentown, and Hazleton areas. It's time we act like one region. Scranton and Long Pond are not on seperate planets, and it's great to see the city embrace what's going on at Pocono.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I unplugged my video cassette recorder yesterday.

It's not an effort to jump on the "green" bandwagon, but saving electricity is never a bad idea.

I looked at my VCR yesterday, and I realized I haven't used it in months. The first reason is there's nothing on TV worth taping. The second reason is the few shows I'm interested in seeing are now on the internet.

I wonder how long it will be before I unplug the television.

By the way, thank you PA Senate for derailing the anti smoking legislation. I hope yesterday's "no" vote gives you an opportunity to craft something stronger and get it on the fast track. Unfortunately, I fear it's just the latest attempt to please the special interests and disregard the will of the people.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Predictable, and Proud

WNEP photographer Dave Jones and I were on our way to a story in Tunkhannock yesterday, when we heard a story on the radio about a potential compromise in the state legislature's battle over an anti-smoking law. Dave said "Well, there's tomorrow's blog." As always, Dave was right.

Loyal blog readers will remember that I, along with the majority of Pennsylvania residents, support an anti smoking law. As I've said before, every study says there is no safe level of second hand smoke. Yes, you have a right to smoke. No, you don't have the right to make other people breathe it.

The bill that finally made it out of committee yesterday is severely flawed. Severely. There are far too many exemptions. But, it's better than nothing, and it's clear the legislature isn't interested in going any farther. It's what you get when courage challenged individuals call the shots.

It's not over yet. A spokesman for the governor indicated Mr. Rendell can live with this, but, as we well know, strange things can happen in the legislature.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Surprisingly Good !

I love old game shows. Most of the new crop is awful. "Millionaire" is one of the few exceptions. It's blessedly simple, yet interesting.

There have been several remakes in the last decade. "Match Game" in 1998 was beyond hideous. "To Tell the Truth," one of my all time favorites, in 2000 was just as bad. All too often, producers take a classic, add gimmicks and hope it works. All too often, it flops.

"Million Dollar Password" made its debut, for a limited run, Sunday night. I didn't expect much. I was shocked. It was really, really good. Regis Philbin stayed true to the classic. He stayed out of the way. The front game is a cross between "Pyramid" and "Password." It works. The end game, where you have a shot at $1 million, is just as good. It passed my test. I was yelling at the screen during the show. You can't help getting caught up in the game.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tornado Alley

I've never seen a tornado. I don't want to see one.

I have seen the aftermath, and that's more than enough for me.

It appears we're in the midst of a record setting year for tornadoes, and that brings us back to ten years ago today-- when we were in a late spring tornado outbreak.

I didn't cover the Lake Carey tornado. I was, as they say, "between jobs" at the time. I was on my back from a job interview in Charleston, West Virginia. It was a long day. The drive wore me out, so I got a hotel room in Harrisburg for the night. I didn't think I could safely make the rest of the drive back to Scranton. I learned of the tornado when I arrived home the next morning.

I don't intend to diminish the pain, suffering, or loss of the people in Wyoming County, but here's what I remember most about that day. There was a message on my answering machine when I returned home. It was from the news director who interviewed me in West Virginia. He knew about the nasty weather in Pennsylvania and Maryland-- and he also knew I was driving right through it. The news director wanted to make sure I made it home in one piece. It was a thoughtful gesture. Obviously, I didn't take the job, but we still keep in touch. For the record, I did hit some bad storms in western Maryland, but no tornadoes.

The thing that really scares me about tornadoes is there's nothing you can do about them. You know when conditions are ripe for tornadoes, but they are unpredictable. Weather radar gives you some notice-- but not much. You know you're in trouble when the best you can do is hide in a basement or cellar.