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Sunday, October 28, 2007

An emerging TV personality in Buffalo

By Dick Hirsch
Occasionally I will tell you something you already know. I apologize for that, but it is an unavoidable aspect of the business.
Today I am going to stress a bit of television commentary beginning with the obvious fact that there are ever more channels to watch and ever fewer programs worth watching. As my former physics teacher might have tried to explain, the number of good programs is inversely proportional to the number of channels. I had a hard time with physics, but I think I have expressed that properly.
It is often suggested that we waste time watching too much TV. Everyone denies that charge, don’t they? Nobody watches too much TV, do they? We all watch some, sure, but less than most, right?
I warned you that I might be explaining what has already been explained. But the foregoing was necessary as background to the main disclosure. Now I can reveal that I have discovered a bright spot on local TV, an informative and entertaining spot in an otherwise lackluster video culture, and that is no small accomplishment. This man deserves a regular program, and who knows, perhaps negotiations are already underway to produce a regular show. He has other commitments, so a weekly show of, say 30 minutes, would be appropriate.
The remarkable thing about his situation is that he has achieved a degree of stardom without a program, just through sound bites on newscasts. But he is regularly seen on at least three network local channels. His material is engaging, his commentary profound, and his delivery brisk, direct and emphatic. This man has a future in television.
His name is Frank J. Clark, and, in addition to his broadcasting work, he has been the district attorney of Erie County since 1997. In that role, he has recently become a regular interview guest discussing various investigations that may or may not be underway and certain criminal cases that may or may not eventually be prosecuted by his office. In the event of indictments or convictions, Clark has become a reliable, succinct and sometimes pungent interview subject.
He can also be heard on radio newscasts, but I prefer his TV gigs. I’ve heard some defense attorneys claim that Clark has a face made for radio, but I strongly disagree with that characterization. For me, seeing and hearing Clark respond to inquiries about shootings, drug busts, political malfeasance, or other iniquities, is like having a tutor explain the finer points of the criminal justice system. His topics may be grave, but his style is embracing. I’ve never met Clark, so I have no way of knowing whether his on-camera demeanor is the real Clark persona. But I did find a lawyer with whom he worked early in his career who also enjoys his TV appearances. “That’s him,“ he said.
Among TV prosecutors, we’ve had an opportunity over the years to become familiar with the faces of men like Arthur Branch, the monosyllabic grump played by Fred Thompson on the program “Law & Order.” That role catapulted Thompson onto the list of Republican presidential hopefuls. The other memorable TV DA was Hamilton Burger, the poor schnook who kept losing every week for years to Perry Mason.
Among local prosecutors, Clark seems to be the most media friendly. He clearly is available and ready when the lights go on and a microphone is thrust in front of his face. Some of his predecessors, old hands like Edward Cosgrove, George Blair, and even the Dillons---Michael and Kevin---seemed to view the media as pot-stirring adversaries. Given the opportunity, they avoided TV cameras whenever practical, except, of course, when running for another term.
Clark, on the other hand, has cultivated the opportunity to explain newsworthy matters and the news producers have pursued him as a semi-regular feature. I enjoy his enlightening commentary, even though I may not always agree with him. He is good at what he does; good eye-contact with the camera, clear enunciation, with just a trace of what sounds a little like a downstate twang.
This guy deserves much more than just sound bites. I can see a regular show...this week, what’s new among pedophile week, an update on indicted gang leaders and current grand jury investigations. This is a rare opportunity and I’m sure there would be a number of potential sponsors. No early mornings or weekends; he should insist on prime time. I don’t think he’ll require the assistance of an agent.


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