Between reruns of A Brady Bunch Christmas and Suzanne Somers' Ab-Blaster Chanukah and previews of new midseason shows (warning: Andy Dick returns), I fell behind on holiday deliveries. This morning I see that several packages still lie unwrapped and untagged under the shiny branches of my vintage aluminum tree. So to the local media stars who were naughty or nice this year, here's what's coming your way from this media critic's holiday gift list: An unscratched 45 of Roy Rogers singing "Happy Trails to You" for retiring WTOL anchor and all-around congenial cowpoke Jeff Heitz, who rides into the sunset in a few weeks after 28 years of dutiful service at the CBS affiliate. And a CD of Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" to Heitz's replacement, Bill Hormann, who'll learn soon enough whether it's the devil or the Lord that an anchordude must serve on the No. 1-rated station. And while I'm at WTOL, I'll leave a soothing recording of "Silent Night" and a warm cup of chamomile for sleep-deprived co-anchor Chrys Peterson. Besides staying up to the wee hours with her wee 6-month-old, she's also been tending to hubby Tom Runnells, who had a hip operation after a recent fall. Videos of the Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day to all the local TV news directors who insist on assigning time-wasting, empty-headed reportage about winter weather. After the first big snowfall of the season, WTVG aired two lengthy reports about how to shovel the stuff, three separate stories on the importance of wearing hats to keep warm (does anyone NOT know this stuff?), and at least two packages on how to scrape ice off windshields. WTOL went in-depth on how letter-carriers deliver mail in inclement weather (uh, they wear warm hats?). Acting like it was the first winter on record, TV reporters visited local stores to find out what was selling. Surprise! Snow shovels and ice-scrapers! No reported runs on warm hats, however. Two copies of Joseph Hollander's 21st Century Grammar Handbook for WTVG reporter Jason Knowles and anchor Diane Larson, who seem to have trouble conjugating verbs. In a recent story about derelict buildings, Knowles mentioned one that neighbors thought "needs torn down." Larson, reporting on snow removal, asked viewers to call if "your street still needs plowed." At this ABC station, Hollander's book needs read. To WNWO a copy of The Boy Who Cried Wolf for anchor Angela Atalla, whose primetime teasers often are needlessly terrifying for the sake of hyping the upcoming newscast. "A shopping mall collapses! Too much snow is to blame! Details at 11!" she breathlessly told viewers one recent evening. What she didn't say was that the mall was in Sarnia, Ont., not Toledo. The sin of omission is one of TV news' worst transgressions. And it scares the old folks. A fresh set of AA batteries for the TV remotes of Nielsen families in Toledo who haven't changed viewing habits in a decade. Ratings for local newscasts haven't budged a point or two in years. Shake up the status quo, you guys. Flip around. And among my stocking-stuffer extras: A jar of vanishing cream for Dr. Laura ... a great big bag of chill pills for Rosie O'Donnell ... decaf and decaf only for Dennis Miller ... and a first-edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray for New Year's Eve king Dick Clark. The man hasn't aged a lick since American Bandstand.
Elaine Liner is The Blade's media editor. E-mail her at email@example.com. or call 1-419-724-6126.