TV Q&A: 'Project Runway: Under the Gunn,' 'When Calls the Heart' and cable in rural areas

Friday, 28 February 2014 09:40 PM Written by 

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TV Q&A with Rob Owen

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This week's TV Q&A (after the "Read more" jump below) responds to questions about “Project Runway: Under the Gunn,” “When Calls the Heart” and cable in rural areas. As always, thanks for reading and keep the questions coming.

- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer

Q: I was trying to DVR Tim Gunn's new fashion show, “Under the Gunn,” on DirecTV -- a task that Lifetime (or some corporate entity) appears to be trying to render impossible. Searches for "Project Runway," “Tim Gunn” and "Under the Gunn" turned up no results. Only when I happened across "Project Runway: Under the Gunn" was I able to record the show. I didn’t even think “Project Runway” was in the show’s official title. Why is Lifetime making this show so difficult to find?

- Justin, 29, Squirrel Hill

Rob: That is odd, but according to a Lifetime publicist it was not the network’s fault. Instead, DirecTV had “a hiccup in how the cast/crew was being outputted for DTV, which has since been resolved. The search functionality should be more optimal now.”

And so it is: I did a search on “Tim Gunn” and “Under the Gunn” and both now bring up the show to set a DVR recording on DirecTV.


Q: Three quick questions: I really liked Leah Remini on “The Exes.” Do you think they will make her a regular? Not a fan of “Kirstie.” Do you think it will be renewed? How does it do in the ratings? Lastly, used to like “2 Broke Girls” but it has gone downhill. Do you think it will be renewed? Thanks!
- Margie, 51, Cecil

Rob: I think “2 Broke Girls” will likely be back.

Remini guest starred in seven episodes of “The Exes” this year and a publicist said they hope to have her back next season but it doesn’t sound like there’s a deal in place for her to return.

No decision has been made on the fate of “Kirstie” but I expect it will likely be renewed.


Q: When you were at the TCA in January, I asked you to ask anyone at BBCA about the status of “Ripper Street.” Your question and post, and the VP's response, gave a lot of fans hope that the rumor of the show being saved might actually happen. Today on Twitter, Tiger Aspect posted this hint/clue/tease.
Hopefully an announcement will soon be forthcoming from somebody in authority. I thought it was interesting that they responded there, especially after your recent article about the importance of social media and determining viewership.
Anyway, thanks for your help. You are the only reporter who got any feedback from someone in the know.

- Linda, 47, Monroeville
Thanks, Linda. I’m always happy to try to get answers to TV questions and it’s much easier when I’m face-to-face with network execs at press tour. So please do think to send questions that involve network politics in early July and early January!

As for “Ripper Street,” BBC One canceled the show in December but BBC America has found a way to keep it going, renewing it for a third season this week with as a new production partner.


Q: I recently started watching “Chopped” and “Guy's Grocery Games.” 

I'm curious as to why the chefs have to prepare four plates of food when there are only three judges on each show.

It doesn't seem as though Ted Allen (host of “Chopped”) or Guy Fieri (host of “Guy's Grocery Games”) taste the food during the judging process.

Any ideas?

- Lin, 46, Pittsburgh

Rob: My understanding is the fourth plate is there to give viewers a look at a close-up of the finished dish.


Q: Can you tell me why the Hallmark Channel's "When Calls the Heart" isn't reviewed more in the media? Rob, it is the closest to some of our old series such as "Little House on the Prairie," "The Waltons," etc.  My wife and I love this show and feel that far too many people don't know what a great family show it is.

- Cy, 79, Cherry Tree

Rob: Good question with a frustratingly easy answer. Hallmark Channel did not get review copies of the show to TV critics in time for reviews when it premiered.

When Hallmark did get review copies out, their timing was terrible. It’s a show I would like to have written about – I requested a screener in early December -- but there was simply no way. (Screeners of most scripted cable series premieres arrive on TV critics’ desks at least three weeks in advance.)

“When Calls the Heart” debuted on Jan. 11. Hallmark Channel did not make the premiere episode available for review until almost 6 p.m. on Jan 8, just three days in advance of the show’s premiere.

Jan. 8 was also the first day of the TV critics press tour when TV critics are in press conferences daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and filing stories every evening. That did not leave enough time to carve out space in the newspaper let alone to watch and write a review in the midst of press tour. Chalk this one up to a purely self-inflicted wound on the part of Hallmark Channel.


Q: Since the Style network no longer exists, has “Giuliana and Bill” found a new home? I thought they moved to E!, but have not seen them listed.
- C.K., 70, Coraopolis

Rob: Reruns had been airing on E! and E! was expected to announce this week that a new season begins airing at 8 p.m. April 1.

Q: I know you have addressed the issue of loud commercials (links to the FCC), but would that also cover the obnoxiously loud, repetitious "stinger" music that is played on every newscast of every station between segments, and going out to commercials? Seems to me that would have to be controlled by the local outlet. This is one more reason I am becoming loathe to watch local news. I know from traveling that network affiliates all seem to play these same inane blasts of sound, but does each channel at least control its own volume output?

- Linda, 67, Murrysville
The stingers and any other sound effects in newscasts are not covered by the CALM Act that regulates volume on commercials. That’s all at the discretion of local stations. Call or write to them and ask them to cool it or just don’t watch.


Q: I’m writing to see if you know why we who live in rural areas of Pennsylvania are being corralled into large markets that don’t cover ANY pertinent news for the places we live.  Armstrong is my cable company and I’ve gotten different answers from different people but I believe it is to boost the large market viewer numbers for the purpose of ad revenue combined with a complicit FCC mandate, ie. Big gov + big corp.  We can’t get any weather or news for where we live. Our county appears under the graphics on all Pittsburgh channels and they are all we can get now. 

We lost them in August 2013. At one time we got WJAC Johnstown, WTAJ Altoona, WICU Erie, WJET Erie. We lost Johnstown years ago, the Altoona a while ago, now they took away Erie from all of us Armstrong customers in these Northern areas, Tidioute, Titusville, Tionesta, Marienville. I’m not sure of any other places that lost Erie, but no one is happy. We had 2 Erie and 3 Pittsburgh at the time of our loss. We are left with the 3 Pittsburgh locals – and I might add, 3 stations covering the same stories repeatedly.  I envied my in-laws in James City because they still had Erie, Buffalo, a Pittsburgh and I believe they still had Altoona on Comcast. Surprise - They got corralled into Buffalo. Isn’t it possible we are all being pushed into large markets for the purpose of selling advertising? Seems that way to me. Absolutely no one is happy and we are also, absolutely helpless to change our situation. The customer is not always right in this case. 

Could it be that the ultimate goal is to eliminate these small locals from existence?

Who cares about rural Pennsylvania?

- Lem, Marienville

Rob: It doesn’t really have anything to do with large or small markets. But it is about money.

PA-Pittsburgh DMAAs you can see in this map, the Pittsburgh DMA includes Forest County where the towns Lem mentions are located. Cable systems must carry local, over-the-air TV stations for their designated market; they are under no obligation to carry stations from other nearby markets. Some cable systems used to anyway, as Lem points out. But that was before broadcast channels started demanding to be paid for carriage by cable companies (retransmission consent). That only started in the past 10 years and cable companies are loathe to pay twice for an ABC station.

Here’s further explanation from Armstrong vice president of cable marketing Dave Wittmann:

As you know, the FCC has divided the country into 210 television markets (DMA’s).  The local broadcast stations for those markets have various rights, most importantly broadcast non-duplication (affiliate network programming) and syndicated exclusivity (the syndicated shows they contract with like ‘Jeopardy’). Stations are enforcing those rights as their viewing continues to decline. That results in blackouts of out of market stations during 80%+ of their schedule.

“Add the significantly growing cost of retransmission consent and you can understand why it is becoming very challenging to provide any out of market signals (pay twice for a CBS affiliate for example, one of which is blacked out most of the day). It is very disappointing to Armstrong that, although we can technically accomplish providing additional broadcast stations that consumers would like, it is no longer feasible to do so. Cable companies originally offered as many local broadcasters as our antennas could receive. The realities of the changing business of television have made that impractical.

“Your reader should understand it has nothing to do with being rural and that this situation has occurred throughout the country over the past several years. Consumers who live near state boarders often have the biggest issue with these rules, as they can become disenfranchised with their own state. The Parkersburg, W.Va. area had a problem with this and Lawrence County in Pa. has some issues because it is part of the Youngstown, Ohio, DMA (some Lawrence County residents don’t get the daily Pennsylvania lottery drawing for example).”


Q: I can't be the only person sick to death of all the UPMC/Highmark commercials on the local stations. As soon I see one, the channel is immediately changed. When I see the one with Patrice King Brown, and she starts by saying, "Pittsburgers are mad....", I always yell back at the TV, ..."Y es, we're mad; we have to listen to these nonstop commercials, and we're sick of it!"  The only ones making out on this are the TV stations who have probably been paid millions at this point for airtime. I have complained to all three local stations, but they won't stop it because they're gaining all the revenue. How can we, as consumers, stop the madness? Am I the only one complaining?

- Renee, 54, Butler

Rob: No, Renee is not alone. I’ve heard from others, some constructive, some mean-spirited.

How can you stop it? By turning off the TV. That’s the only way to make unwanted TV ads go away if you are watching live TV.

Another option is to record TV programming on a DVR and fast-forward through all the commercials.

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