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Sugar Buzz 

In our award-crazy society, if there's an award for "best media blitz with a stitch of advertising," I've got the winner for you.

"And now to accept the prize for National Explosion, the winner is. . .Krispy Kreme!" Riotous applause.

From casual mentions on TV shows ranging from the Today Show and Regis and Kelly to a doughnut wedding cake pictured in In Style magazine that prompted calls to KK stores for wedding reception orders, the sugar bombs of our youth are not just ours anymore.

All this comes from a company with Winston-Salem roots that runs no commercials and takes out no newspaper ads. "Word of mouth," apparently, has taken on a whole new meaning. If you haven't noticed, KK is the hottest North Carolina product since Michael Jordan, my friends.

I had heard the buzz, and was puzzled as to why our sugary rush of choice was so popular, but I figured out that once New York gets hold of something, only then has it arrived. If Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer mention their KK addiction, then the bandwagon is rolling.

But hasn't it made you feel a little jealous? A good thing you knew about all along? Well, I'm here to report that the KK blitz has spread out West, too. On a recent trip to Arizona and Nevada, I had to chuckle, and then shake my head at the KK buzz.

In Sedona, Arizona, a small town south of Flagstaff, tourists were checking out the small glass KK cabinet at an open-air eatery, a small banner flying above.

"Have you ever had one?" a woman asked me.

"Grew up on them," I told her, and proceeded to tell her where they were made originally, etc. I think she and her boyfriend weren't that interested. Just doing my job.

But the biggest KK sightings were in Las Vegas, land of the slot machine, showgirls, and billion-dollar hotels. Tourists abound whether they gamble or not, because some hotels are more like amusement parks, with roller coasters or pirate ship shows.

At the Treasure Island hotel, like most, two huge Jumbotron screens tout its attractions. In this case, Cirque du Soleil and a tropical pool party shared one screen, while, you guessed it, the second screen showed computer-generated glazed KK's tumbling infinitely across a white and green background: "Krispy Kreme here!" I saw the small stand, with a line of people waiting inside, right next to the Starbucks. There were shorter lines at the video poker machines.

And as I walked through the casino at Excalibur, a hotel devoted to themes medieval, I ran smack into a Dungeons and Dragons kind of guy on stilts, and then another line of folks. Krispy Kreme, the kind where they crank out the hot and nows. A regular glazed cost one dollar, and no one blinked twice at the price.

You want clout, you want cachet when you go out of town? Do as the high rollers do, ring-a-ding. Take along some Krispy Kreme, the media darling and best doughnuts advertising doesn't buy.

That darned May TV ratings book is out, with no seismic shifts in our TV faults and habits, I'm afraid. I say that because I'm ready for a shake-up in the market, but maybe that's just me.

In the local news front, WSOC-TV continues its hold on most newscasts except for noon, WBTV's lone stronghold. The 10pm newscasts, where many of you are going for a dose of local news before bed, is still an interesting battleground, with a tight race between WAXN-TV and WCCB-TV. How tight? For the seven-night average ratings, WAXN-TV did a 4.2-rating/6 share and FOX 18 did a 4.1 rating/6 share.

At 11pm, while WSOC-TV is still on top, I'm more interested in why WCNC-TV, snuggled in third, gets close to WBTV, but can never quite snatch that second-place ranking.

Shuffling through other times of the day, some things remain the same; and some things will never make sense to me. In the "remaining the same" department, ABC's World News Tonight is still top evening news dog in this 22-county TV market. But in the "don't make sense" category, NBC's Today Show ties or loses to the dismal CBS Morning Show, recently gently jettisoning Bryant Gumbel, who did nothing for the perennial loser in his short years there. Charlotte, you just don't seem to get it. The dial stays stuck on ABC, with Channel 9's generous lead-in to 7am.

Matt Lauer might ask, where in the world are Charlotte viewers?

And something to watch for fall: Dr. Phil McGraw, Oprah's guru and self-help hero, will debut his show here on WSOC-TV at 10am, ousting Jenny Jones from that slot.

Since it's re-run season already, get out and mow that lawn, or go to the beach, or get a Botox injection. But actually, there is a TV show I'm recommending to you now to watch in re-runs.

That show is Bernie Mac. This Fox sitcom won a Peabody Award for excellence, and it's become a must watch (or record) for me. Saddled with a lousy time slot against the popular West Wing, it hasn't caught on as fully as I think it still will. (And its time slot is due for a change this fall.) Before you worry that it's just another sitcom starring a comedian-turned-actor (Tim Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano), it's a Cosby show for the real world, and funny as hell.

I want to clarify an item from our last outing. WBTV's investigative reporter Kristin Hill has not actually left the station yet -- I bumbled the verb -- but will be leaving in September. Her contract wasn't renewed, as Channel 3 is changing its investigative reporting philosophy. As you may have surmised from on-air promos and newspaper ads touting May sweeps stories, anchors are now the investigative reporters.

Nice idea, but flawed: nice because news anchors everywhere should get out from behind the desk and teleprompter more often. The flaw is that true investigative work should be a 24/7 proposition, with a unit of producers, reporters, and videographers dedicated to that task alone.

But we're in the days of tight budgets, so reporters like Hill lose, and in the end, viewers lose.

PARTING PONDERINGS. . .Local teacher Maria Jose De La Torre from Collinswood Elementary School has won a Time Warner Cable National Teacher Award. In addition to a $1000 cash grant, De La Torre went to Washington, DC for the June 4 awards. Bet you didn't know TWC has wired over 180 Charlotte area schools, and provides more than 380 Cable in the Classroom Magazine subscriptions free each month. . .Those who scoff at NASCAR can only say "hmm." CL's Dale Earnhardt, Jr. cover issue a couple of weeks ago saw 61,000 copies fly off the stands faster than any issue in recent memory, says our esteemed editor. People from around the country are still contacting CL to get a copy. . .I'm sorry to see Gerry Vaillencourt a part of the changes at WBT-AM, although "Dr. Laura" we won't miss. The V-man has a gift of gab that you don't hear too often, and not anywhere else in Charlotte's often low-grade sports talk. We'll miss him.

Stay tuned... *

Shannon's media column is published every other week in CL. E-mail with story tips and feedback at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com

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