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Tuning in to TV

- - Thursday, January 19, 2012

'Nightline' anchor gets surprising on-screen diagnosis

A routine news story took a strange turn when an ABC "Nightline" anchor had a full body scan that turned up a possible warning sign.

According to the Associated Press, Bill Weir was interviewing Dr. David Agus, who gave him a series of tests, including a costly body scan that's not recommended for screening people with no symptoms of disease. The scan found a calcium deposit in an artery, which the doctor told the Wisconsin native could put him at risk for a future heart attack.

Since the program aired Tuesday night, however, other doctors have challenged that assessment.

The 44-year-old anchor underwent a battery of tests to illustrate a story about how to prevent disease, only to find out on camera that one screening spotted heart disease. Lesions found in Mr. Weir's arteries appeared to be so serious that the doctor who screened him worried that he is a candidate for a serious heart attack if he doesn't make changes in his life.

Mr. Weir considers himself lucky.

"It was the scariest and most fortunate moment of my life, and it happened completely by accident," he said Wednesday. "If I hadn't been assigned this story, who knows when I would have seen a doctor again?"

Mr. Weir's story also has caused a controversy within the medical community. Leading cardiologists challenged whether Mr. Weir should have been given a whole body scan and been shown the results on the air. Scans for healthy people with no heart symptoms are strongly discouraged by major groups such as the American Heart Association.

Yale University cardiologist Dr. Harlan M. Krumholz said the finding of a single hardened artery is "more likely to alarm him and create anxiety and fear than it is to help save his life."

Priceline.com kills off Shatner's Negotiator character

William Shatner's stalwart Capt. James T. Kirk died in the line of duty. Now the actor's bargain-touting Priceline Negotiator is headed heroically to his final frontier.

In a new 30-second TV spot set to begin airing Monday, the Negotiator rescues panicked vacationers from a bus teetering on a bridge's railing.

"Save yourselves - some money," he says, handing his cellphone to a passenger as he and the bus tumble into a dry creek bed. An explosion, real and computer-generated, follows.

"I'm in grief mode," a droll Mr. Shatner said by phone to the Associated Press Wednesday. "It's not the first time I've had an iconic character die off."

He's been a pitchman for Priceline for 14 years, five of those as the relentless Negotiator preaching the gospel of travel bargains. But an advertising change was needed to reflect the company's broader strategy, saidChristopher L. Soder, CEO of Priceline.com North America.

"The challenge is harder to get people's attention than it used to be. ... So we decided to do something really over the top to get the message across," Mr. Soder said. The new spot will be on his company's website and, he hinted, may be part of next month's Super Bowl commercial extravaganza.

Mr. Shatner promoted Priceline as a site where travel prices are subject to bidding. But Priceline is also a set-discount-price booking site for more than 200,000 hotels in 140 countries, an expanding service that is not widely known by consumers, Mr. Soder said.

"It was a great run," the Emmy-winning actor ("Boston Legal" and "The Practice") said of the Priceline gig. But "if the management says this is the end, this is the end."

Does Mr. Soder fear backlash from those fond of Mr. Shatner and the Negotiator?

"We certainly hope not. We had a great, long association with Mr. Shatner," Mr. Soder said, adding hastily, "I didn't mean to use the past tense. He's still under contract with us."

True, said Mr. Shatner, an indefatigable 80 years old. So whether they use him again or not, he said merrily, "I'm going to make them pay through the nose."

Rihanna, Coldplay to team for Grammy performance

Rihanna and Coldplay sing together on the group's latest album, and they'll do so again at next month's Grammy Awards, the Associated Press reports.

Rihanna, who is nominated for four Grammys, including album of the year for "Loud," tweeted the news to her followers Wednesday night, calling it "BONKERS."

Coldplay is up for three awards.

Paul McCartney was announced Thursday by the Recording Academy as another performer on the Feb. 12 broadcast.

Mr. McCartney is being honored during Grammy week as the MusiCares Person of the Year. His new album, "Kisses on the Bottom," will be released Feb. 7.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.