Friday, July 30, 2010

Tribune to go ahead with "Big Willie"

CBS to launch The Talk to replace As The World Turns

Despite anemic ratings, poor reviews, and Twitters unanimously dissing it, Tribune Broadcasting is apparently going ahead with Bill Cunningham's new talk show, which is now targeted for a Fall 2011 launch.

During the four-day test, the program averaged an 1.1 Nielsen household rating in seven markets, including Chicago. While the number was down from its lead-in and underperformed year-ago time period levels, the rating is basically average for the fragmented world of daytime syndication.

Big Willie now clears all Tribune markets, including WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles and of course, WGN in Chicago, where the show is to be taped. The program's title is also likely to change.

Cunningham hosts a weekday radio program on WLW-AM in Cincinnati. He plans to do a few shows per week in Chicago, while taping his TV talk show.

In a recent  interview in the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham states he would like to do a traditional talk show and not one with his political persona which he displays on his conservative radio talk shows.

The move comes as a shake-up in daytime and early fringe programming is upon us since Oprah Winfrey is departing her talk show next year. But the projects announced - Big Willie included - have been major yawners thus far.

CBS announced its own lackluster project in the vain of The Talk, featuring a panelists of six celebrity moms, which is basically a rip-off of The View (and even the name of the show isn't original - the title of the show is used by NBC-owned WMAQ-TV for its Sunday morning public affairs show, hosted by Marion Brooks.)  The Talk debuts this fall, replacing long-time time occupant As The World Turns.

The show is the brainchild of former Roseanne star Sara Gilbert, who besides a few appearances on The Big Bang Theory, has been on the tube hardly at all.

The announcement of Big Willie and The Talk shows the lack of innovation that plagues this industry, and nowhere it is evident than it is in daytime (and prime-time for that matter.)

And there's the predicament of how all of this gets on the air. It's simple: Bill Cunningham used to work for Randy "Court Jester" Michaels and Sean Compton, both former employees of Cincinnati-based Jacor Communications, which was absorbed into Clear Channel Communications a decade ago. One of the hosts of The Talk (Julie Chen, who also hosts CBS' Big Brother) just happens to be married to Les Moonves, who is the CEO - or Bishop - of The Church of Tisch. It's the old-boy network where just like Chicago politics, cronies get what they want, when they want, and how they want (how else you explain why The Simpsons is still on the air and the horrid writing staff still have jobs?) The result? Safe, uninnovative projects that hit the airwaves.

As for Big Willie, the program's launch still isn't guaranteed. Tribune hopes to land a syndicator, likely a small distributor. Among the suitors being discussed include Litton, Program Partners, Byron Allen's ESTV (I doubt it), Trifecta Media & Entertainment, and Debmar-Mercury, among others (Tribune closed its syndication business in December 2007.) Then it needs to clear at least 70 percent of the country to get on the air.

The strange thing about this - or maybe not so strange - is despite the poor performance, Tribune is still going ahead with this daytime show. Once again, broadcast television execs misread the market and air programs no one wants to watch. Compton claims the ratings weren't important as what worked and said Big Willie "wasn't a disaster". Well, maybe he should have looked the words Big Willie up on Twitter and see almost unanimous poor reviews for the show. Television execs only use blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social-networking tools to promote and shove their crap down our throats instead of monitoring feedback for a show while still relying exclusively relying on Nielsen ratings - which they completely misread.  And you wonder why the broadcast television business is in trouble.

And it may get worse. Lisa Wu Hartwell of The Real Housewives of Atlanta fame - a reality show known for catfights, hair pulling, and other Jerry Springer-like material, is leaving the show to pursue "other opportunities".

Let's hope one of them isn't a talk show with Tribune. But I'm guessing Randy "Court Jester" Michaels already has a studio reserved for her at Bradley Place and has her on speed dial, since they may need a companion show for Big Willie. Yeah, I can totally see that happening.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bill Kurtis, Walter Jacobson reunite at WBBM-TV for 6 p.m. newscast

The boys are back in town.

The duo who are synonymous with serious, professional journalism are back for another run. CBS-owned WBBM-TV announced today it was reuniting the anchor duo of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson for its 6 p.m. newscast, effective Sept. 1. The reunification of Kurtis and Jacobson has been rumored for several months.

Kurtis and Jacobson were largely responsible for the station's dominance in the 1970's and 1980's, sending WBBM to number one in  the ratings news and sign-on to sign-off. With John Coughlin on weather and Johnny Morris on sports, the news team was the newscast to beat in Chicago, even calling itself at one point THE 10 O'clock News.

WBBM stayed on top even when Bill Kurtis left for CBS' morning newscast in 1982. They were reunited again in 1985 but by that time, the wheels were already coming off as ABC-owned WLS-TV rode to the top of the ratings and a boycott by Operation PUSH over the demotion of anchor Harry Porterfield helped send WBBM crashing to third place by 1986 (Porterfield has since returned to the WBBM fold.) By 1989, Jacobson's role at the station was reduced when Linda MacLennan became Kurtis' co-anchor. Except for the period when they rebounded to finish second overall from 1987-90, and in 1993 when its 4 p.m. newscast tied WLS in the ratings, WBBM has been struggling in the ratings ever since

Jacobson departed WBBM in 1993 for Fox-owned WFLD-TV where he was until 2006, while Kurtis departed in 1996 to focus more time on other projects, including overseeing his production company and hosting A&E programs, including Cold Case Files. 

Last November, Kurtis and Jacobson were reunited for a one-night only stunt which did well in the ratings. Jacobson rejoined WBBM's 10 p.m. newscast a few times a week for his Perspective commentaries, which were a signature segment of the newscasts of the Kurtis-Jacobson heyday.

The move is in the lastest of changes WBBM is making to improve ratings. Recently, WBBM poached Kate Sullivan from WCBS-TV in New York City to co-anchor with Rob Johnson at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

The pairing of Kurtis and Jacobson in 1973 was the idea of then-GM Bob Wussler and news director Van Gordon Sauter, who went on to work for CBS News. The newscast were known for the "working newsroom" concept, and the use of the mini-cam unit to provide live reports instead of using film shot in the field and compiling reports through the use of ENG, or Electronic News Gathering. These innovative concepts are common in local newsrooms today.

Thought: Here's the reality check: While this was great as an one-night stunt, bringing back Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson to do a 6 p.m. newscast isn't an answer to the station's ratings woes. Journalism has changed a lot since they last did a newscast together on a regular basis, and not for the better as today's local newscasts often starts with the latest shooting, fire, or car accident. Unfortunately, this "it bleeds, it leads" mentality is what brings in the ratings, and Kurtis and Jacobson won't drop down to that level.

It's great to see them both back at the anchor desk, even if its only at 6 p.m. But it won't be a ratings hit.

The real question is: can they handle the daily grind once again, especially at their age? Only time will tell.

Read the official press releasse

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WLS-TV jumps into the 4:30 a.m. news derby

Remember when yours truly said an expansion for local news at 4:30 a.m. was inevitable in the Chicago market?

Well, the race to have the first newscast of the day is getting awfully crowded.

Just two weeks after Tribune's WGN-TV announced it was expanding its morning newscast to 4:30 a.m. on August 16, ABC-owned WLS-TV announced yesterday it was expanding its morning newscast to 4:30 a.m.and beating WGN to the punch by starting the newscast two weeks earlier. Judy Hsu and Hosea Sanders, who anchor the 5-7 a.m. news at WLS will add the 4:30 newscast to their duties as well.

The news was first reported by Robert Feder at Vocalo Monday afternoon.

In addition, WLS is also expanding its Saturday morning news show to 8 a.m., displacing an hour of children's programming. Stacey Baca will front the 8 a.m. show, in addition to the 6 a.m. show she already anchors.

Recently, WGN's sister station in New York (WPIX) announced it was expanding its morning show to 4 a.m. effective September 20.

The moves are being made to take advantage of the incresing HUT levels in the hour when more and more viewers are waking up earlier to go to work. Plus, stations can earn extra revenue from the newscasts and should get help this year from a strong election season.

Both WLS and WGN join WMAQ-TV in the 4:30 a.m. news derby, which was the first station to launch a traditional local newscast in the time slot in January 2007 (beforehand, WMAQ aired Barely Today, an off-beat news show with Bruce Wolf.)

No word on when or if CBS-owned WBBM-TV or Fox-owned WFLD-TV will join the extra-early dawn patrol party, but they have to sooner or later.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Comic-Con 2010 - Day 1

The annual fanboy and fangirl fest wrapped up Day One in San Diego Thursday and here are some highlights - T Dog Media style!:

- Flick fans had plenty of panels to attend and choose from at Comic-Con's Opening Day on Thursday. One of the panels involved Angelina Jolie's new movie Salt, who had the fans whooping it up. Jolie plays a CIA agent in the flick (which opened Friday), and yes, she does her own stunts. Yowser.

On the other hand, fans of Peter Jackson and his troubled project The Hobbit, didn't have it nearly as good. The movie's future is in doubt, thanks to MGM's perilous financial situation (MGM co-owns the film with Warner Bros.) The plan now is to release the movie in 2012, but by then, hardly anyone will give a sh*t.

- And guess what? Tron is coming back with a new movie for the first time in 28 years, titled Tron: Legacy (you can view the trailer here.) Really, did anyone see this the first time this came out? (Okay, a lot of people did, but who would admit it?)

- On to the TV side: USA Network had two panels on Thursday - one for Burn Notice, the other for Psych.

For Burn Notice, a prequel is being planned with the movie being shot in-between seasons four and five. Star Bruce Campbell is participating, and his character in the prequel heads to Latin America on a mission. (Meanwhile, repeats of Burn Notice were recently sold in weekend broadcast syndication in 60% of the country, including the Fox O&Os.) Psych creator Steve Franks said a movie is a possibility - for the right price. But for now, they're preceding for the next season of the show, with guest stars Chi Bride, Vanessa Minnillo, and CSI's Adam Rodriguez.

While there isn't a Lost panel this year at Comic-con, that doesn't mean the show isn't being talked about - the series finale is still generating a lot of chatter. Creator J.J. Abrams defended the controversial ending to the popular series, praising co-creators Carlteon Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Abrams made his comments at a panel with Buffy and Dr. Horrible creator Joss Wheadon, who confirmed he was directing the big screen adaption of the 1960's TV series The Avengers. (actually, it's a superhero movie due for release in 2012. Don't look for a remake of the UK TV series anytime soon...)

AMC held a panel Thursday for its Walking Dead project, which debuts in October (no, its not about the Cubs.) Based on the popular comic strip and graphic novel, it tells about a group of individuals who survive an zombie apocalypse (I guess this is about the Cubs after all...) The trailer must've been good - they showed it twice.

- Check out these posters for NBC's Chuck and CW's new action drama Nikita. Place your money on which show will get canceled first...

-CBS announced hot teen sensation Justin Bieber will guest star in the season premiere episode of CSI this September. Not a Comic-Con item because the subject is, um... Justin Bieber.

Finally, the Westboro Baptist Church and their leader Fred Phelps led a protest against Comic-Con saying the convention is anti-religious and promotes homosexaulity.

You think the geeks of the world would take this lying down, right? Well, check out these awesome pics on how they counter-protest - geek style!

In a world filled with racism, poverty, gang violence, environmental problems, hunger, and many other injustices, the Westboro Baptist "Church" couldn't have picked a better topic - geeks attending Comic-Con. So, I suppose we'll see them protesting at a garden show next weekend?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

WFLD revamps Good Day Chicago... again

In a long due overhaul, Fox-owned WFLD-TV has decided to revamp its low-rated Good Day Chicago morning news program with the announcement of two new anchors to take over the show - reporter Anna Delvates and sports anchor Corey McPherrin, effective August 2. News of a possible anchor change first surfaced on July 14 in Robert Feder's blog at Vocalo and was made official today by station officials.

Both Davalantes and McPherrin are currently on the station's 9 p.m. newscasts. They will air the 7-to-10 a.m. portion of the morning show.

The duo replaces David Novarro (who's headed back to New York, where he'll join sister station WNYW-TV) and Jan Jeffcoat, who is being moved to noon to co-anchor the midday newscast with Patrick Elwood. During their tenure of Good Day Chicago, both Navarro and Jeffcoat were criticized for their lack of chemistry on the show.

Replacing McPherrin on the sports beat on the 9 p.m. newscast - which already saw Bob Sirott take over from Jeff Goldblatt as co-anchor earlier this week - is Jill Carlson.

Anchors shifting from sports to news have met with mixed results. While Bill Weir has had success going from a third-tier sports anchor at WGN to news anchor at KABC-TV in Los Angeles (and who just today was named co-anchor of Nightline), a similar shift Tim Weigel did in the early 1980's with WLS-TV wasn't as successful (he wound up returning to the sports beat.)

The move is the latest in changes at WFLD's news operation in hopes of improving the station's sagging news ratings, which are the weakest of the entire Fox O&O chain with viewers clearly preferring WGN-TV's newscasts, whose numbers are the strongest of any CW affiliate in the nation in contrast.

In New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston, Fox-owned stations lead their Tribune counterparts by comfortable margins.

Currently, WFLD ranks fourth in morning news, only ahead of perennial basement-dweller CBS This Morning The Early Show. WGN meanwhile, often contends for number one in the time period with WLS and Good Morning America.

Thought: You wonder if all the changes the station has made over the past seven months in their news department - and there has been a lot of them - is going to make any difference. Right now, WFLD/WPWR GM Mike Renda and News Director Carol Fowler have their work cut out for them - it's going to be no easy task to build up these ratings. And a weak syndicated programming lineup on WFLD (outside of The Simpsons, The Office, and Dr. Oz)  doesn't help matters much, either. Given all of these problems, WFLD has apparently passed on launching an early fringe newscast anytime soon.

With that said, shifting McPherrin and Dalvantes - who left NBC-owned WMAQ-TV last year - to mornings is a risk the station should take and would be a vast improvement over the bland Navarro and the vapid Jeffcoat. With Jeffocat being shifted to noon, a good guess is she might be out when her contract is up. Her next career move? Well, E! is always hiring....

WBBM-TV names new 10 p.m. co-anchor

CBS-owned WBBM-TV is undergoing yet another change with its 10 p.m. weeknight newscast by pairing current anchor Rob Johnson with Kate Sullivan, a morning anchor at sister station WCBS-TV in New York City, also a CBS O&O. The report first surfaced Wednesday on Robert Feder's blog at Vocalo.

The change is expected to take place in September. Johnson had been anchoring the newscast solo since the departure of Anne State fifteen months ago (she remained with the station as a general assignment reporter, but WBBM did not renew her contract earlier this year.)

Ms. Sullivan is a Notre Dame graduate and landed her first gig at nearby WSBT-TV, a CBS affiliate in South Bend. From there, she went on to NBC affiliate WJAR-TV in Providence and ABC affiliate KATV in Little Rock before landing at WCBS in April 2006. She most recently co-anchored the morning show with Maurice DuBois, an alum of Fox-owned WFLD-TV.

Once a perennial also-ran in New York's competitive news race, WCBS now routinely finishes second in most time periods, thanks to stronger syndicated programming (Judge Judy and Dr. Phil), but also due to a series of disasterous on-air personnel and programming changes at NBC-owned WNBC-TV, whose newscasts now generally rank behind WCBS and market leader WABC-TV, owned by The Walt Disney Co.

By comparison, WBBM has been either in third, fourth, or even fifth place at 10 p.m. for most of the last twenty years, with the notable exception being last November's sweeps, when The Jay Leno Show helped pull down NBC-owned WMAQ-TV's ratings at 10 p.m. Today's change marks the eleventh anchor change at WBBM-TV's 10 p.m. newscast in the last decade. 

WBBM has also trailed in other news time periods, including early mornings where Monsters and Money In The Morning (with Mike North and Dan Jiggetts) currently resides.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Comic-Con 2010 is here

Hey, are you tired of turning on the TV news or logging on to the local newspaper websites and seeing Blago regularly making an ass out of himself or hearing about the latest shootings in Chicago?

Well, cheer up... because I got the prescription to cure your depression... Comic-Con!

Yes, the 41st annual geek fest begins today in beautiful San Diego, with people dressed in Chewbacca costumes, Star Trek uniforms, and Stormtrooper outfits.

And of course, there will be tons upon tons of panels whose subjects range from comic books to video games and from to Hollywood movies to TV shows. There's even panels on screenwriting and how to break into the business.

And for you Star Wars fanatics out there, Friday has been designated as Star Wars Day.

Among the mainstay genres being represented  include science fiction (Caprica, Warehouse 13, and Eureka), animation (Futurama, Cartoon Network's and Nickelodeon's shows, Adult Swim, and Fox's entire Sunday night lineup), live-action sitcoms (The Big Bang Theory, of course - their panel is on Friday) and mauch more.

Even television shows who don't fit the traditional definition of geek are here as well, including CBS' new Hawaii Five-O revival; USA's Burn Notice and Psych; and MTV's new one-hour drama Teen Wolf, based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie.

In addition, current pop culture favorites Glee , True Blood, and Vampire Diaries are being represented (now before you all go crazy, let's all be thankful Big Willie isn't holding a panel at Comic-Con.)

And you can't have a Comic-Con without Stan "The Man" Lee.  The legendary cartoonist is scheduled to helm several panels.

If you're looking for coverage of the event, you'll find plenty of it online via Twitter and Facebook and at Comic-Con's YouTube page (which as of this writing, hasn't been updated yet.) On television, G4 is scheduled to send Kevin Pereira and Olivia Munn of Attack of the Show to cover the first two days of the event on Thursday and Friday.

For the complete listing of panels for each day of the festival - and believe me, there are a lot of them - click here.

And of course, The T Dog Media Blog will have daily wrap-ups of the events here. Plus, The Sidebar will feature numerous Comic-Con related links, from the official site to the local San Diego television stations covering the event. Plus, follow yours truly on Twitter to get even more updates, breaking news, and links to YouTube videos as soon as I'm able to get them.

Happy geeking, everyone!

"Big Willie" not so big

The one thing that was good about Bill Cunningham's daytime stint last week was he proved he can actually host a TV talk show.

Too bad it was the only good thing.

The four-episode test of Big Willie, which ran on six Tribune Broadcasting-owned stations and one Raycom outlet (Fox affiliate WXIX-TV in Cincinnati) stumbled out of gate. According to Broadcasting & Cable, the program averaged a 1.1 Nielsen household rating and a 4 household share during the four days the show aired. While those numbers are more in line with what a lot of syndicated fare earns during daytime these days, the ratings were down 35 percent from its lead-in and down 15 percent from its year-ago time period averages.

Cunningham is host of a daily conservative talk show on Cincinnati's WLW-AM, as well as a weekly three-hour Sunday night syndicated national radio show, which airs locally over WLS-AM.

Big Willie did best in his home market of Cincinnati, where he earned a household 1.9/5 on WXIX, up 73 percent from its lead-in and up 90 percent from July 2009's time period average. The program also posted year-ago time period increases in Seattle (KCPQ) and Indianapolis (WXIN).

But the program's ratings were down double-digits in the other four markets, including Chicago - where WGN-TV earned a 0.9/4 at 12:30 a.m., down 50 percent from its Friends lead-in and down 40 percent from year-ago time period averages, which consisted of sitcom reruns (Maury usually occupies the time period.)

Originally, five episodes were to be shown, but one of them was pulled due to a lawsuit.

The test episodes included a woman who wanted to set a Guinness Book of World Record for being the largest person ever to give birth (she weighed in at 600 lb. and was going for 1000 lbs.) She appeared on stage with her husband, who fed her sushi and had a whip to "keep her in line".

Other episodes featured women who drank alcohol and did drugs during pregnancy; and elderly women who stripped and worked as sex-phone operators.

If you thought the topics were bad, the overall look of the show was even worse: the set screamed cheap and amateurish and the program looked like it was shot in an office under going renovation with production values stuck in 1987. At any given moment, you'd expect Bob Vila to come out and start using power tools.

A search of Big Willie on Twitter (aside from numerous Will Smith and male genitalia references) turned up mostly negative reviews, with many viewers wondering where Maury was. A sampling of their comments as follows:

- "Big Willie Show = Weak. Sad. Boring. Disgusting. Dumb. Lame. Horrible. An #EpicFail." - SteeVWonders, Chicago

- "[I mean] Big Willie looks like a bootleg Jerry Springer, not Maury. Just awful." - flyyychick, Unknown city

- "They Can't afford chairs on The Big Willie Show?" - Lesile Mere, Houston

- "Who ever at WGN replaced my Maury Povich with this annoying Big Willie show, damn you to hell *sighs*" - Chitownloon (Gina), Chicago

Given these numbers, it is not known whether Tribune will pursue this project for a full-time syndication run, but given this debacle, maybe Bill Cunningham probably should have interviewed now-defunct Bachelor couple Jake Palvelka and Vienna Giradi on one of these shows. At least the two would have felt right at home with the obese woman who thinks she's a seal and the granny porn stars.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WLS-TV to replace "Oprah" with live, local morning show

In news first reported Tuesday morning on Robert Feder's blog at Vocalo, ABC-owned WLS-TV has announced plans to replace The Oprah Winfrey Show, which departs first-run syndication on September 9, 2011: The station is developing a live, local morning show to take her place. There is no word yet on a host or format, but it is expected to be targeted to women 25-54.

The program has a working title of Morning Rush, and the show would air live weekdays at 9 a.m. in front of a studio audience, starting on September 12, 2011 in a time slot Ms. Winfrey has dominated for a little over 25 years.

The new show would be a throwback of sorts - in the 1970s and 1980s, many local stations produced daily talk shows - some airing live in front of a studio audience. For example, then ABC-owned WXYZ-TV in Detroit had the long-running morning talk show Kelly & Company, while the five Group W stations produced plenty of daily, local programming. This came at a time when their were few first-run programs in syndication outside of prime access and local stations (who didn't have nationally syndicated talk shows featuring Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, or Dinah Shore) had only two choices- air off-network reruns or air locally produced programming.

Many talkers, like Ms. Winfrey, Phil Donahue, Regis Phillbin & Kathie Lee Gifford, and Morton Downey Jr. all got their start hosting local shows before they went into national syndication (only Downey didn't succeed.) In fact, Ms. Winfrey became host of WLS' locally-produced A.M. Chicago in early 1984, which evolved into The Oprah Winfrey Show. It started beating Donahue on CBS' WBBM-TV and the rest is history.

In the interview with Mr. Feder, WLS-TV General Manger Emily Barr stated she wasn't looking to launch the next Oprah Winfrey Show: "I think we want to go in a completely different direction. We want to do something that feels lighter rather than heavier, fun without being too silly, smart without feeling too sophisticated. If we can do all of that, and get the right hosts and make it both predictable and unpredictable, then I think people will try us out.”

Instead of airing a program from ABC's Live Well HD subchannel network (which Ms. Barr also manages) or going the vertical integration route by poaching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire or Regis & Kelly from Disney-ABC Domestic Television Distribution (who like WLS, is also owned by The Walt Disney Co.), the station decided to develop a local show and keep all the potential ad revenue earned from the program, instead of shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to a syndicator, and giving up some barter time on top of it. 

So far, this marks the second ABC-owned station to announce its post-Oprah plans. A few weeks ago, KABC-TV in Los Angeles announced its was replacing Oprah at 3 p.m. with The Dr. Oz Show in 2011. Oz, who has appeared on Oprah a few times, currently airs at 5 p.m. on Fox-owned KTTV in Los Angeles.

Sony could have convinced WLS to buy Dr. Oz to replace Oprah at 9 a.m., but opted to renew with WFLD-TV instead. The sale of Oz to KABC put the kibosh on any notion of an ABC group deal to replace Oprah on seven of its ten O&Os.

Meanwhile, other major ABC O&Os including WABC-TV in New York and WPVI in Philadelphia have yet to announce their post-Oprah plans, where she airs at 4 p.m., but sources say a local news expansion into those time periods is likely.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

WGN-TV begins 4:30 a.m. newscast

Tribune-owned WGN-TV is adding yet another half-hour of news later this summer, this time at 4:30 a.m.

Following a trend many local stations have been doing across the country for the past year, WGN is adding the 4:30 a.m. newscast to take advantage of commuters getting up earlier to go to work (or as we say in the trade, increasing HUT levels in the half-hour.)

And not to mention the potential to grab extra revenue. Before NBC affiliate KUSA-TV in Denver decided to launch a 4:30 a.m. newscast, it was estimated the Gannett-owned station would earn $12,000 to $15,000 more per week - a number that would go higher for WGN since Chicago is a larger market.

Val Warner will anchor the new dawn patrol newscast, with Paul Konrad on weather. The newscast starts on August 16.

WGN becomes the second Tribune station to add 4:30 a.m. news; earlier this year, sister station KTLA in Los Angeles added a 4:30 a.m. show.

The CW affiliate entered the morning news business on September 1994 with an hour-long morning news show, more than a year after Fox-owned WFLD became the first local station in the market to air a weekday 7-9 a.m. news show (and shifted the long-running Bozo Show to weekends, to the outrage of its many fans.)

As WGN's morning show expanded, its ratings grew - passing WFLD rather easily and has often ranked #1 in its time period. The program also produces plenty of buzz-worthy viral video moments (including timeless classics like "I'm Freakin' Tom Skilling!)

The extra half-hour displaces an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, which stays at 4 a.m. (Chicago viewers can also catch Andy on Me-TV at a more reasonable time, weeknights at 8 p.m.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Everybody Loves Mancow

Mancow's shtick is so laughable, it could pass itself off as a pathetic sitcom.

Welcome to Everybody Loves Mancow, starring Mancow Mueller! In this show, Mancow thinks the whole world only evolves around him and only him - and everybody who works with him suffers for it. In this latest episode, Mueller talks about Tuesday’s Federal Court ruling on indecency and his effect - on him.

In an interview with Vocalo’s Robert Feder, Mueller said the ruling, which the court threw out the government’s strict rules on profanity, does little for him - declaring radio “dead” and then compared it to someone who died of cancer and they just found the cure.

On Tuesday, the Court thankfully threw out those silly rules, which found TV and radio stations liable for any type of profanity, even the “fleeting” kind. The court said the strict policies - made up after the Super Bowl Halftime Show debacle in 2004 - were called  “unconstitutionally vague and chilling”.

Mueller was host of Mancow’s Morning Madhouse on WKQX-FM (Q101) until 2006, when his contract was not renewed. He wound up suing Q101, in a case still pending in the courts. His most recent gig - a 9 -to- 11 a.m. talk show with Pat Cassidy on WLS-AM ended a few months ago when the station canceled the show despite strong ratings.

Mueller’s show was targeted by one person - uber-idiot David Edward Smith of the Illinois Family Institute - who filed 70 FCC complaints and the agency fined Q101 owner Emmis for indecent broadcasts.

In the interview, Mueller said the ruling had little consolation for him and blamed the crackdown for “safe radio” due to the FCC’s stepped-up enforcement of indecency rules. But Mueller also played the race card, saying Chicago’s Hispanic and urban-targeted radio stations got away with more than he ever could, claiming the FCC didn’t go after them because he thinks they didn’t view their audience as voters (and I suppose he forgot - or chose to forgot about the huge voter turnout in Chicago’s minority communities during the last major election.)

In his filings of his lawsuit against Q101, he claims he was denied the opportunity to work at WPWX-FM (Power 92) - a station that plays hip-hop/rap and R&B music - the same type of music Mancow once played at San Francisco’s KMEL-FM.

How hypocritical.

While Mueller is spot on about the FCC crackdown creating more bland radio, his comments were basically on how it affected him - and he plays the victim as he usually does. And he talks about how “big” his show is nationally when it isn’t even heard in the 10 largest radio markets, including Chicago.

But all of this drama surrounding Mancow plays out like a poorly acted and poorly written farce of a sitcom with Mancow as The Fonz and David Edward Smith as Officer Kirk, trying to run him out of town. The only difference is, the Fonz wasn’t an arrogant asshole like his nemesis was. In this sitcom, it’s a riot with two idiots running their mouths. Just throw in a phony laugh track, a lousy plot, and several cliches, and you get something resembling Til Death or Tyler Perry’s House of Payne... you’d hope Mancow would get hit upside the head with Madea’s purse.

But unlike Til Death, Everybody Loves Mancow is a sitcom that will never get canceled as long as the motormouth keeps his broken-down engine running.  And it took four years for Fox to finally pull the plug of the stupid Brad Garrett sitcom (pictured, above when he actually had a better job playing fourth banana to Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, and one of those kids on the show.) How long it will take for Mancow Mueller to finally shut up?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

T Dog's Six Pack: The Emmys, "Hot In Cleveland", LeBron, and more

Three up, three down: The best and worst in media during the past week:

What's Hot.

The Final Answer: Pay up, Mickey Mouse. A grand jury ruled in favor of Celador after The Walt Disney Co. skimmed the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire producer out of millions of dollars, thanks to "Hollywood Accounting."  The jury awarded Celador $269 million, which Disney is appealing. A huge setback for big media conglomerates - and good news for the rest of us.

Hot In Cleveland. This surprise hit from TV Land of all places has been picked up for 20 more episodes, set to return in January. The program has averaged a cumulative 4.7 million viewers this season - more than Comedy Central's much-ballyhooed return of Futurama and TBS' new laugh-free comedy Are We There Yet? With Betty White, who needs LeBron?

World Cup Fever. ABC and Univision scored more goals than the teams did with the soccer tournament. Sunday's Cup Final in which Spain defeated the Netherlands 1-0 drew 15. 5 million viewers to ABC and another 8.8 million on Spanish-language Univision, giving the match close to 24 million viewers overall. And now, Americans can go back and ignore soccer to the next four years.

What's Not.

The LeBron Debacle. Who's to blame here? ESPN? LeBron James? Jim Gray? Cavs owner Dan Gilbert's remarks? Jesse Jackson's even dumber remarks? How about each one of these dumbasses involved? That's better than going on an one thousand-word rant on this subject (which I did with WGN Radio and ESPN two weeks ago.)

And for the record, yours truly is not a LeFraud James fan.

Emmy nominations. Okay, how does Glee - a program with a bunch of musical numbers strung together by a very thin plot - get 19 Emmy nominations? And this show nominated in the Outstanding Comedy category while The Big Bang Theory isn't?. Meanwhile, Ed O'Neill is the only cast member of Modern Family not nominated?  And neither edition of Survivor gets nominated for Outstanding Reality Series, but the cheesy Dancing With the Stars does? And only four minorities nominated for  the Emmys? So much for diversity. At least the inane Minute It To Win It and Marriage Ref weren't nominated - or are they next year's nominees? The Emmy Awards are becoming more and more irrelevant with each passing year. Yours truly will not be watching this year, and possibly ever.

Jeremy Green. Remember those Holiday Inn Express commercials where you were instantly smart for staying in one? Well... Tirico Suave tweets:

"Jeremy Green busted with kiddie porn AND cocaine. Good thing he was at a Holiday Inn Express or he might have done something REALLY dumb"

The now-former host of ESPN's Football Today Podcast and son of former NFL coach Dennis Green becomes the first person in history to go to a Holiday Inn Express and comes out looking like an idiot. But don't worry his future career endeavors - he now qualifies to co-host with fellow convict Jim Laski on WGN Radio when he gets out of jail.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Bob Sirott returns to WFLD

He's back!

Veteran Chicago media personality Bob Sirott  is returning to Fox-owned WFLD as an anchor for the station's signature 9 p.m. newscast on July 19, alongside Robin Robinson. He replaces Jeff Goldblatt, whose contract at the station was not renewed.

The station initially denied it was pursuing Sirott, even though Vocalo's Robert Feder and the Tribune's Phil Rosenthal said otherwise.

Sirott was last at NBC-owned WMAQ-TV as a temporary 10 p.m. replacement anchor alongside Allison Rosati. Sirott took over after Warner Saunders retired. Sirott was released from his contract after negotiations to renew failed.

Sirott's hire is a bit of a homecoming. He helmed Fox Thing In The Morning for six years with co-anchor (and future wife) Murianne Murciano.

When Fox let him go in 2000, Sirott went on to host Chicago Tonight on WTTW and later went to WMAQ as a fill-in anchor.

Sirott's other employment gigs in Chicago included stints at WBBM-FM (during the station's progressive rock era), WLS-AM, WGN-AM, WBBM-TV. He also did a stint for CBS News' short-lived newsmagazine show West 57th

The move is intended to boost sagging ratings for WFLD's 9 p.m. newscast, which has not benefited from its network's strong lead-ins of Glee and American Idol - and the opportunity to further cash-in on the latter's success may be slipping away with ratings already declining and likely to accelerate with Simon Cowell now gone from the show (for the record, American Idol has historically underperformed the national average locally, notably after hometown favorite Jennifer Hudson was eliminated from competition early in 2004.)

WFLD's newscasts are the weakest O&O in the Fox chain, given its New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit, and Boston counterparts (among others) fare so much better in 9 p.m. (10 p.m. ET) and morning newscasts.

Thought: I think the pairing of Bob Sirott and Robin Robinson (another WBBM-TV alum) is a good idea - Sirott's chemistry with on-air partners have worked well in the past and will work with Ms. Robinson. Sirott never should been released from Fox Thing In The Morning, which was one of the best local morning shows in a long time. Had WFLD management been patient and not throw in the towel in the face of WGN-TV's morning show, Fox Thing could have been the market's top-rated morning show.

Instead, it languishes in fourth place (just barely ahead of perennial last-place dweller CBS This Morning or The Early Show, or The Morning Program, or whatever they call it now) with David Navarro and the ditzy Jan Jeffcoat, who alone makes the show unwatchable. She makes former CBS morning show hosts Phyills George and Mariette Hartley geniuses by comparison.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

"American Top 40" to celebrate 40 years

American Top 40 - the legendary radio program which counted down the week's popular hits from number 40 to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and gave us the Long Distance Dedication, marks its 40th anniversary on July 4 - the exact day the program was born back in 1970, when it was heard on only seven stations. Two years later, AT40 would have more than 200 affiliates across the country and by the end of the 1970's, would be heard all around the world.

The program has been through almost every musical genre you can think of the last four decades - from Disco to New Wave, from Rock to Hip-Hop, from Grunge to Crunk and kept track of artists such as The Bee Gees, The Jackson 5 (and of course, Michael's solo career), Whitney Houston, Prince, Madonna, Duran Duran, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Usher, and Lady GaGa, as each become superstars.

In Chicago, American Top 40 has aired on WDHF, WBBM-FM (before the Hot Hits/B96 era), WLS-AM, WYTZ-FM (Z95), WBUS-FM, and its current home, WKSC-FM.

Ryan Seacrest, the show's current host, will look back at four decades of chart-making hits on the special broadcast, which also includes this week's Top 40 songs (the countdown airs Sunday from 7-11 a.m. locally on WKSC.)

American Top 40 was co-created by Casey Kasem, who hosted the show from July 4, 1970 to August 6, 1988, when he departed the show he created after failing to come to terms with ABC Radio on a contract renewal (Kasem would start another countdown show titled Casey's Top 40 with Westwood One in January 1989.) He would be replaced by Hollywood Squares announcer Shadoe Stevens on August 13, 1988 who hosted the show until its cancellation in January 1995 (the show ended a few months earlier in the U.S. in July 1994.)

When ownership rights reverted back to Kasem and co-creator Don Bustany, Kasem left his Westwood One show and launched a new version of American Top 40 in conjunction with AM/FM Radio Corp. (now Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio Networks) on March 28, 1998 with Kasem again as host. On January 10, 2004, Ryan Seacrest took over as host, but Kasem continued to host AT40's Adult Contemporary spinoffs (American Top 20 and American Top 10) until July 4 of last year, when Kasem retired from the grind - exactly 39 years to the day AT40 premiered.

The success of American Top 40 spawned numerous imitators - some successful (Rick Dees' Weekly Top 40, which began in 1983 and is still going strong)... and some not so (remember Dan Ingram's Satellite Survey?)

American Top 40 is best known for counting down the forty most popular songs from Billboard's Hot 100 pop chart, but in 1991 switched to an all-airplay chart from the magazine in order to cut down on the number of raunchy Hip-Hop, Rap, and Heavy Metal songs prevalent on the Hot 100, which many of AT40's client radio stations did not want to play. When the show returned in 1998, it used the CHR/Pop Airplay Chart used in the now-defunct Radio & Records magazine and complied by Mediabase. Today, AT40 uses Mediabase's Top 40 Airplay Chart and can be found on All Access' website.

And for those who want to listen to the very first American Top 40 broadcast from July 4, 1970, you're in luck - Premiere Radio Networks' American Top 40: The '70's is broadcasting it this weekend. For showtimes and streams where you can listen to the broadcast, click here, and use the drop-down buttons to select AT40: The '70's and the time zone you live in (for example, in Chicago, use -6 for Central Daylight Time.)

T Dog's Think Tank: A hiring suggestion for Randy Michaels

Reader discretion is advised. 

I have some hiring advice for Tribune CEO Randy "Court Jester" Michaels directly from The T Dog Media Department....

Hire Seth Everett away from WEPN-AM in New York City (known primarily as ESPN 1050) and from ESPN's Baseball Today podcast.

Why you may ask? Because he is a seasoned, reliable broadcaster. Wait, no... you don't want people like that. Let me put it another way...

This guy is an abrasive jackass, which would certainly fit WGN Radio's criteria of hiring talent these days, which is right up yours' and Kevin "Pig Virus" Methany's alley.

And never mind his sports background. Assholes like him can be bought and sold for the right price, and you can make him talk about anything topic you want.

So why should The Court Jester and Pig Virus consider hiring Everett? Here's an example... on June 11th's Baseball Today podcast, right out of nowhere, Mr. Everett slammed Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen after he got into an argument with Ken Williams, the team GM over the drafting of Guillen's son and the elder Guillen offering his son $50,000 not to play for the team (after all, it is the Chicago way. Click here to listen and speed to about 11:05 to listen.)

Alright, Ozzie is.. well a bit much - he would fit in with the political crowd in Chicago, that's for sure.  But the garbage Everett is spewing is so hypocritical.

This idiot calls out Guillen for using profanity during post-game interviews... but yet, he admits to watching Family Guy, a program which contains such language (albeit bleeped) and rather questionable content. In fact, the Parents Television Council has a file so large on this show, it's practically a phone book (if you've read this blog for the past four years, then you know where I stand on the PTC.)

And he has the nerve to call out Ozzie for profanity and unprofessionalism? Good grief. Take a look at who the Worldwide Leader in Bullshit employs as a college basketball analyst - yes, that wonderful angel Bobby Knight, who spent half of his career tossing chairs across basketball courts.

And here's another gem: after a pitcher from an American League team recently injured himself running the bases at a National League ballpark during interleague play, he had the nerve to blame interleague play for the fiasco. I guess to him, pitchers rarely have injuries, right? According to his logic, robots should go out to the mound and throw no-hitters instead.

And a few days ago on ESPN's Baseball Today while discussing (or ranting) about the firing of the Florida Marlins manager, Everett said he wouldn't call for any major league manager to be fired- while he has called for Ozzie Guillen's firing on numerous occasions.

While yours truly won't defend Ozzie, Everett's constant attacks on Major League Baseball players and personnel is unwarranted, unfair, and totally hypocritical. This person is just as bad as Jay Mariotti - and some of the reasons why sports talk radio is unlistenable is because the majority of the hosts are retards and Seth Everett is no exception. His voice is so annoying, it makes you want to stick your head in the toilet and vomit.

But it's not the attack on Guillen that gets your truly. No, it's the fact that he would attack someone on the air about the person's professionalism when his own comes into question. And Everett sounds like a member of the despised PTC - when he says his favorite show is Family Guy. This moron sounds like one of those hot-air windbags WGN Radio is trying to hire.

Remember, this is a guy who replaced Peter Pascarelli as co-host of Baseball Today - a job Pascarelli was fired from after he made a crack about MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's statue in front of Miller Park in Milwaukee and birds from all over Wisconsin dropping off some... um, substances on the top of the statue's head. And when the gig became available, Everett took a two month vacation. In other words, he wanted to start the job when he wanted to. Wow, I wish I could've gotten a vacation when I started my new job!

And this trash can also worked in the Major League Baseball Commissioner's office for eight years - I guess ESPN won't ever be worried about Everett running off pigeon jokes.

And his "expertise" on baseball isn't that great either if you listen to the podcast along with Eric Karabell, who comes off as a whiny little prick who mentions the Phillies are his favorite team on every single podcast (and who says The Worldwide Leader in Bullshit has no East Coast bias?) But of course, if you want to work in sports talk radio, a knowledge of the subject isn't really a prerequisite - just acting like an jackass gets you right in the door. Just ask Tony Kornhiser from Pardon the Interruption, who is another self-absorbed jackass at the Worldwide Leader In Bullshit. And don't get yours truly started on Mike & Mike, the weekday morning train-wreck of a show those two idiots on Baeeball Today keep name dropping on their podcast. What, I want to listen to two more idiots?

Given The Court Jester and Pig Virus are so hell-intent on remaking WGN Radio as a outlet full of moronic windbags, Seth Everett would fit right in with ex-convict Jim "don't drop the soap" Laski and newcomer Mike McConnell from WLW-AM in Cincinnati, a polarizing talk show host who spews about the same amount of garbage as Everett does. All of this while good-natured and relatable personalities like Steve Cochran and Bob Sirott were kicked out the door. And WGN was this close to hiring Bill Cunningham from WLW, another polarizing figure who is shooting pilots for a daytime talk show on Bradley Place titled Willie, or its more appropriate title, Randy's Circus on Bradley Place featuring angry parents of child pageant contestants.

But what do you expect when Big Media is in control? Common sense and taste doesn't matter. Shock value and ratings does. It's the kind of values that Randy Michaels, Sam Zell, Kevin Methany, and ESPN executives thrive on. They hire personalities who are hypocrites who call other people's behavior into question while their own behavior comes into question. Does it make good radio? It makes stupid radio. But stupid people love stupid radio, and sadly, there is a lot of stupid people out there and even stupider executives, and it goes beyond the suites at the Tribune Tower and in Bristol.

And while the Internet has provided a new platform for distribution, ESPN's podcasts break no new ground. Big Media conglomerates like The Walt Disney Co. (owners of ESPN) and Tribune don't invest in innovation - they stifle it by trotting out the same old bullshit you are used to hearing on terrestrial radio. And it will get worse because Big Media is only going to get bigger with Comcast's purchase of NBC, which is all but certain thanks it part to the public's indifference on the matter, stifling creativity and innovation even more.

And this is what you get... Pascarelli no longer being employed at ESPN because his comments about Bud Selig offended no one but Bud Selig - and that's all it mattered to ESPN execs, who canned him anyway and replaced him with someone who would rather criticize Ozzie Guillen's actions and Interleague play, but not MLB's shaky steroid policy while running his mouth like a total jackass. No, criticism of Major League League Baseball - or any sports league ESPN has rights to isn't allowed at The Worldwide Leader In Bullshit, but half-truths and lies are.

And Seth Everett is the biggest pathological lying scumbag in sports talk radio today.

So Mr. Michaels and Mr. Methany, please hire away Seth Everett and bring him to Chicago. Because his arrival would complete the task of destroying what was once a great radio station. Better yet, pair Everett in prime time with that ex-con Laski the Loser. Yes, that would make great radio, according to you two morons. Why not go for broke? Adding an assclown like Everett would fit in the rest of the assclowns who work in the executive suites at Tribune Tower.