Herb Kent dies


A Chicago radio legend passes at 88

Chicagoans and radio fans everywhere are mourning the loss of radio personality Herb Kent, who passed away Saturday evening at the age of 88. His death marks the end of an long  career – 72 years working in radio, a Guinness World Record.

Most recently, he was handling daytime weekend shifts for iHeart Media powerhouse WVAZ-FM, known as V103. His last day on the air was Saturday.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Kent was known on the air as “The Mayor of Bronzeville” and “The Cool Gent”, referencing his calm and cool demeanor on the air. His knowledge of R&B music was second to none. His popularity endured many changes in the radio business and in the music industry.

Kent began his long radio career  in 1944 working for a variety of Chicago radio stations, including WJJD, WBEZ, WMAQ, among others. His first paid job was at WGRY in Gary, Indiana.

But his rise to fame came in the 1960’s, where Kent was known as one of “The Good Guys”, on WVON-AM. During his time at WVON, Kent was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, hosting luminaries such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who appeared on the station during what would turn out to be his final trip to Chicago. In his later years, Kent continued his activism, urging Chicago’s youth to stay out of gangs and stay in school.

Kent landed at WVAZ when the station launched in 1988, replacing WBMX-FM.

His television work was short, but notable – Kent hosted a short-lived dance/stepping show titled Steppin’ At Club Seven for WLS-TV in the mid-1990’s. Reruns of the show later popped up on Chicagoland Cable TV (Channel 25 on Comcast systems.)  Kent was also a pitchman for the now-defunct Seaway Furniture,  located at 89th and Stony Island in Chicago’s Calumet Heights neighborhood.

Outside of media, Kent was an instructor at Chicago State University, his alma mater.

The list of honors for Kent is long. He became the first African-American to be inducted into the National Radio Hall Of Fame in 1995, and was inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall Of Fame a few months ago. Kent was honored several times by the City of Chicago and Illinois, with a street in Woodlawn named after him (a section of Stony Island between 63rd and 65th with the honorary designation of “Herb Kent Way”).

On V103’s website, Derrick Brown, who is Director of Urban Programming for iHeart Media Chicago, wrote the following: “Herb was our radio superhero. While I’m incredibly sad, I hold so much joy remembering the fun times we’ve had with him and the smiles he brought to our faces.  Herb will hold an eternal place in our hearts.”

Matt Scarano, who is Region President of iHeartMedia Chicago, stated the following: 

Herb Kent passed away on Saturday evening. No words can express our great sense of loss. Herb was an iconic talent, who for nearly 70 years entertained millions of listeners in Chicagoland and around the world. His passion for radio and work ethic was second-to-none as Herb worked to the very end, by hosting what unexpectedly was his final V103 broadcast on Saturday morning.

Herb leaves a legacy of thousands of entertainers he helped boost, community causes he impacted, and as a former instructor at Chicago State University, sharing his encyclopedic knowledge with hundreds of students.

We are so thankful for the privilege of working alongside such an historic figure as Herb Kent for the past 27 years. Our thoughts and prayers are with Herb’s family, friends, and loved ones.

In an era where radio is filled with a lot of “bad guys” on and off the air (if you’ve read this site for the last decade, you know what I’m talking about), Herb Kent was indeed one of the “good guys”. Kent cared and connected with his audience – which explains why he was so durable. He knew about the music he played, too – telling stories that would engage his listeners for hours. This is why his weekend shows on V103 was must-listen radio.

While yours truly did call Chicago radio the worst a while back, people like Herb Kent is a reminder why Chicago radio is also a gem.  A legend in his own right, Herb Kent was a class act – beginning to end.

Rest in peace, Cool Gent.

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Thursday night showdown: Cubs top Bears locally

The Cubs beat the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS (SI.com)

The Cubs beat the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS (SI.com)

But competition came from an unlikely source…The Al Smith dinner?

Thursday night television featured a rare matchup between a Bears-Packers game and a Cubs-Dodgers playoff contest.

But it was Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton who crashed the party and stole the show.

Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers outdrew the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers in the Chicago market by far. The Cubs game drew a 24.1 local live-plus-same day household rating on FS1 (formerly Fox Sports 1) vs. a 12.5 rating the Bears game put up on CBS-owned WBBM-TV and NFL Network. The Cubs game drew a little over a million households in the Chicago area.

The Cubs beat the Dodgers 8-4 to take a 3-2 lead in the series, setting up a potential Game 6 National League pennant clincher Saturday night. If the Cubs win, they would advance to the World Series for the first time since 1945 and play the Cleveland Indians. The matchup would be a huge ratings and revenue windfall for Fox-owned WFLD in Chicago and Tribune’s WJW-TV in Cleveland. WJW would be in for a bigger payday from political advertising, given it’s a swing state (Ohio) in a hotly contested Presidential race.

The Bears were no match for Cubdom Thursday night - or The Packers.

The Bears were no match for Cubdom Thursday night – or The Packers.

On the other hand, the football game was dreadful and is unlikely to stop the chatter about the league’s declining ratings. The Bears (1-6) aren’t helping the league’s cause as Thursday night’s rating hit an eighteen-year local ratings low. Unbelievable as it seems, the Bears still outdraw most non-sports programming in Chicago, though keep in mind Thursday night’s game likely drew Packers fans (yes, there are Packers fans in Chicago) and those not interested in the Cubs. But the numbers are far below what they earned where the team were last playoff contenders. 

While the Cubs dominated the Bears on the local scene, it was a different story nationally – the Thursday Night Football matchup drew 14.2 million viewers, double the 7.2 million the Cubs-Dodgers game had on FS1. Obviously, the baseball would’ve had better numbers if the game aired on the broadcast Fox network.

An unlikely event also had an impact on Thursday night’s numbers: The Al Smith dinner, which featured Presidential combatants Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Airing on all three cable news networks (and C-Span, whose numbers were not included), the event drew an eye-popping 10.3 million viewers -topping everything in primetime (except the football game) on the broadcast networks, including the Cubs playoff game on cable. Even Cubdom was no match for the Presidential freak show.

In other ratings news, the live adaption of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a bust, drawing just five million viewers and a 1.7 ratings in adults 18-49 and drew far fewer viewers than recent live musicals Grease Live, The Wiz, and The Sound Of Music. On the other hand, it did double Fox’s usual Thursday average. Also of note is twelve-season workhorse Grey’s Anatomy, which drew a 2.1 rating in adults 18-49 – quite impressive for a show its age.


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T Dog’s Think Tank: What’s wrong with the NFL?

Jay Cutler fumbles again. (USA Today)

Jay Cutler fumbles again. (USA Today)

Ratings for the NFL are off this year. Why? 

Over the last few weeks, you have read about why the NFL’s ratings are declining, with answers ranging from noncompetitive matchups to national anthem protests.

Well, now it’s my turn to weigh in.

So what’s wrong with the NFL? Well, let’s start locally as the Chicago Bears continue to drive away viewers away from their television sets. The team’s 1-5 start is the worst in years, and they performed miserably in their three nationally televised appearances, becoming a national laughingstock (a status already familiar to White Sox fans.) Thursday night’s game against Green Bay has the misfortune of going up against Game 5 of the NLCS between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers, which will no doubt siphon viewers from what is supposed to be a huge rivalry game.

In addition, there are more substandard NFL teams airing in primetime – the Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Houston Texans – teams who did well last year struggling this year.

Another theory is ts year’s games are up against the Presidential campaign – the heated contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The three cable news networks have seen major increases across several dayparts – including primetime, and have drawn viewers away from other programming.

Then, there is the controversy over San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem controversy, started in August when he refused to stand during the Star-Spangled Banner to protest police shootings and other injustices among African-Americans. Since then, several other black athletes in both college and pro ranks have joined in. There is no evidence the controversy is going away anytime soon, as Kapenerick has been named starting quarterback for the 49ers. It’ll be interesting to see how Kaepernick will be received in Chicago when the 49ers play the Bears at Soldier field on December 4 (sadly, this is the only notable game left on the Bears schedule this season because of Kapernick.)

The fashion of choice for Bears fans these days. Or those for network television.

The fashion of choice for Bears fans these days.

Other causes could be an oversaturation of games (three games a week in primetime); the controversy over concussions; the absence of NFL stars such as Peyton Manning (retired) and Tom Brady (suspended); and the league’s own greed problem.

Another reason is the quality of play this season hasn’t been good. In addition to the lackluster Bears game in the Chicago market last Sunday, we were also treated to a Dallas Cowboys-Green Bay Packers game on Fox where the Cowboys romped in a blowout. Wow, two XFL games for the price of one.


Given all this evidence, it is hard to pinpoint why NFL ratings are down. Perhaps the best reason is the national anthem controversy, which has sent many white conservative viewers heading for the exits. On the flipside, NFL ratings remain strong in African-American homes, though it ceded the top spot to Empire, who ratings are more than double of NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

Also, NFL teams in the nation’s largest markets – notably New York and Chicago – are struggling. Even in a loyal sports town like Chicago, fans obviously have their limits as several Bears games this year have failed to outdraw several Blackhawks Stanley Cup contests from June 2015. The Bears poor play and their reputation around the NFL and within the local fanbase of being a chicken-shit operation has caught up with them – notably their support (until recently) of Jay Cutler, who if it weren’t for Kaepernick, would be the least-liked player in the NFL among fans and players. If the Cubs win the World Series, the Bears would be the team in Chicago with the longest championship drought – 32 years.

How far the Bears have fallen? As yours truly noted on Twitter Sunday, local CBS station WBBM-TV – who carried the Jaguars-Bears game from Soldier Field, declined to do a local post-game show, instead sticking with network post-game coverage from New York, and then PBR Bull Riding.

PBR Bull Riding? Ouch. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Bull Riding outrated the Bears game.

Keep in mind in spite of all the doomsday articles, live sports’ ratings are cynical in nature. And fans continue to show up at NFL games, selling out every week as opposed to the more than half-empty ballpark you see at U.S. Cellular Field you’ve seen for the last few years. This debunks the national anthem theories being thrown around by right-wing columnists who generally don’t write about or care for the TV industry.

We’ll see how the ratings shake out when the baseball playoffs and the Presidential races are over. Then the debate would center on whether or not the ratings are affected by the anthem protests or the product resembling Vince McMahon’s failed football league fifteen years ago. It never ends, folks.

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: A Tronc war breaks out

Can’t we all get along: With the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, leave it to those idiots at  Tronc to ignite a war between the two cities’ newspapers – given the company runs newspapers in both cities. On Friday, overrated Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke wrote a column bashing Los Angeles, saying the city is a epitome of “smog and failure”. On Saturday, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez fired back bashing Chicago – but someone who runs the paper’s Twitter account sent out a message mocking the city’s murder rate.


The tweet was deemed insensitive – especially in light of a mass shooting that happened Saturday in Los Angeles in which three people were killed and twelve people wounded.

The Los Angeles Times deleted the tweet and apologized.

Is this “the future of content” Tronc keeps yammering about in that bullshit video everyone mocked earlier this year? Inciting columns mocking another city, dragging out old cliches and tropes as if it were still 1982? There is nothing original about neither piece – particularly Huppke’s, whose columns are basically unreadable, as is much of the Tribune (or the Times for that matter.) Sadly, this is what passes off as “journalism” in 2016 -nothing but cheap heat that generates views and brings out morons in their respective comment sections.

Moreover, the intern who operates the paper’s Twitter account who sent the tweet didn’t realize there’s still a major gang violence problem in South Los Angeles and in Watts – if he/she cares to begin with. Many areas in South L.A. still haven’t recovered from the 1992 riots – or the 1965 Watts riots for that matter.

But of course both papers are owned by Tronc – whose CEO is the idiotic Michael Ferro. As the neglective parent they are, maybe Tronc should send Lopez and Huppke into their respective rooms without their supper.

The sooner Gannett takes over this abomination and embarrassment of a company, the better.

woodstockNew show update: The numbers for new shows Conviction and No Tomorrow are in, and they are not encouraging. For ABC, Conviction first two episodes have averaged around a 1.0 rating in adults 18-49, down from its Dancing With The Stars lead-in. Conviction is also down double-digits from last year’s time period occupant Castle, which was canceled in May. Meanwhile, No Tomorrow on Tuesday nights began with a 0.5 and dropped last week in its second airing to a 0.3. If it drops further, look for CW to pull it soon. Too bad – yours truly thought No Tomorrow was quite enjoyable.

On the other hand, NBC’s This is Us seems to be the real deal: the program scored its highest ratings yet: a 4.2 with live-plus-three day (delayed viewing) factored in – and it is improving over its Voice lead-in. Other well-performing shows to look out for include CBS’ Bull and Kevin Can Wait.

la-et-st-harry-connick-is-ready-to-talk-20160802-snapSpeaking of new shows, let’s see how new daytime talk show Harry is doing. So far, not bad: the show is averaging a 1.3 household rating and averaging a 0.7 rating in the key female 25-54 demo, tying for ninth place with veterans Jerry Springer, Maury, and Wendy Williams.

But the real question is: with all the attention focused on the NFL and its ratings declines, how’s daytime holding up? Given the competition from cable news networks with the Presidential race – ratings spike every time Donald Trump takes the stage (like he did numerous times this week) – there has to be some impact in the ratings. Right now, the performance of several series varies – many talkers like Dr. Phil are holding their own but a few courtroom shows have slipped.

This situation somewhat mirrors the same one faced by stations, advertisers, and syndicators in 1995 – many shows – particularly new talkers – stumbled in the ratings due to the waning days of the O.J. Simpson trial – which had viewers flocking over to CNN and Court TV. When the trial finally wrapped up on October 3, 1995, up to six rating points were up for play, according to now-defunct trade magazine Electronic Media. In the end, Phil Donahue retired, all of the new talkers failed, and Rosie O’ Donnell’s show hit it big when it debuted in June 1996.

When the Presidential race wraps up on November 8 – a week into sweeps – will we see a similar shift? Stay tuned.

"I'm so excited..." Really.

“I’m so excited…”Maybe too excited.

Onto the local scene, two iHeart-owned radio stations made changes their nighttime shifts recently: Beginning Monday, Erik Zachary moves from evenings at country music station WBEG-FM (Big 95.5 FM) to Top 40/CHR outlet WKSC-FM (Kiss 103.5 FM) in the same capacity, though his five-hour shift starts an hour earlier (6 p.m. as opposed to 7 p.m.). Replacing Zachery in evenings at WEBG is Emily Bermann, who takes over the 7 p.m. to midnight shift. Also, Bermann has been promoted to Assistant Program Director at WEBG.

The moves comes as iHeart Media is shoring up its jock lineup opposite CBS Radio, who competes with iHeart in both Country and in Top 40/CHR. On Monday, WBBM-FM announced they added a new evening personality (Corey B ) to its lineup as they continue to trail WKSC in the ratings.

With many young people abandoning live, prime-time TV…why not?

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Second Presidental Debate draws less than the first

Photo: Racist, sexist retard standing over Hillary Clinton. (CNN)

Photo: Racist, sexist retard standing over Hilary Clinton. (CNN)

Viewers may be getting tired of rhetoric

Are you tired of hearing that racist, sexiest, woman-groping, Chicago-hating, wannabe rapist running as the Republican nominee for President?

Yours truly know he is. And so are millions of Americans.

Sunday night’s second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump drew 66 million viewers, down from the record 84 million the first had on September 26. The debate was shown on several channels, but not NBC, who stuck with Sunday Night Football although NBC’s owned-and-operated stations (including WMAQ here) aired the debate on Cozi, the stations’ classic TV diginet channel.

Other NBC affiliates delayed the debate until after their late local news.

Also affecting numbers were slow returns from hurricane-stricken markets, including those in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Plus, TBS aired Game 3 of an ALDS series between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays.

The doomsday scenario many were predicting about a ratings disaster never really materialized. The SNF matchup between the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers drew 16.6 million – far from the lowest rating ever set for an NFL football game in primetime. The ALDS game on TBS drew a 1.6 household rating, only down slightly from last year’s comparable game (on FS1, also featuring Jays/Rangers.)

The news wasn’t all positive: Sunday Night Football hit a three-year ratings low, and the baseball game dropped more than 40 percent from a comparable ALDS matchup two years ago.

Too much has been made of the NFL’s declining ratings this year – to the point of nauseation.

Despite lower numbers, the Presidential Debate was on par with the second debate in 2012, when 65.6 million watched President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney duke it out. And it was the most tweeted debate of all time, but likely with many dissenting voices.

But some viewers (including yours truly) were clearly turned off by the tone and nature of the debate. “I think people are repulsed by it now,” a TV exec noted Monday, according to CNN Money. Adding fuel to the fire was a tape released Friday featuring Trump engaging in “locker-room” talk with television personality Billy Bush on an “Access: Hollywood” bus. Bush, now co-host of The Today Show, has been suspended indefinitely by NBC pending an investigation as of this writing.

The chilly nature of the debate was apparent throughout. When the debate opened, the two didn’t shake hands – reminding yours truly (and a lot of hockey fans) the quote made by then-Detroit Red Wings Player Dino Ciccarelli after the end of the 1996 Western Conference Finals,, stating “I can’t believe I shook that friggin guy’s hand”, referring to Colorado Avalanche player Claude Lemieux, who viciously hit Red Wings player Kris Draper into the boards. The Avs advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they won it all.

And yep, the debate had the atmosphere of two hated rivals going after one another. You’d expect Avs goaltender Patrick Roy to come out and start wailing on someone.

The next and final debate is for October 19. We might need a boxing ring.

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Cubs post-season run begins

paint-step-5-4Media outlets looking for boost – even those who aren’t carrying games

For better or worse, the worldwide spotlight on Chicago lately hasn’t been a positive one: the city continues to make headlines for its gun violence epidemic, as Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has name-dropped Chicago every chance he got as a symbol of what’s wrong in America – a tactic conservative commentators have used for years.

But there is some relief on the way (albeit short-term) in the form of Cubs post-season baseball as the team looks to win its first championship since 1908 and win its first World Series since 1945 in what hopes to be a long, historic run.

Starting tonight, the Cubs play the San Francisco Giants in the first of a five-game National League Division Series, starting tonight at 8:15 p.m. CT on FS1 (Fox Sports 1). But in an rather asinine move, game two of the Giants-Cubs series is being exclusively shown on MLB Network, Major League Baseball’s cable channel, which is not available in many homes – even in those who already have cable or satellite (remember, it’s all about getting cable and satellite providers to add the channel to their lineup.)

But there is good news: MLB Network is offering “a free preview” so viewers who don’t get the channel see can the Cubs and the Dodgers-Nationals NLDS playoff game on Sunday. The rest of the Giants-Cubs series and the entire National League Championship Series will air on FS1 and the World Series would be on Fox.

If the Cubs advance to the World Series, Fox-owned WFLD would seeing a huge windfall (and the ratings- starved Fox network itself.) The station is already seeing increased ratings for its signature 9 p.m. newscast. According to the Chicago Tribune, some local spots on the station during the playoffs have already sold out.

The Cubs’ playoff success comes at a time when NFL games are seeing ratings decreases, due to (or not) national anthem protests: i.e. players kneeling, sitting, or raising fists during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. The Presidential Debates also have had an impact.

Thankfully for Cubs fans, the debates are taking place on Sunday, a night where the Cubs and Giants have off.

Meanwhile, Fox and WFLD aren’t the only ones trying to capitalize on Cubs fever – other Chicago media outlets – TV and radio – are also looking to cash in.

Tribune’s WGN-TV is adding Cubs Nightly, a half-hour show at 6 p.m. with Dan Roan and contributions from Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper, who is also working the fifth inning during Cubs radio telecasts. The show features Cubs previews, highlights, interviews with Cub players, and more (Cubs Nightly won’t air if the Cubs play at the same time.)

Not to be outdone, WFLD is adding a 6 p.m. show of its own starting tonight, Blue October: Cubs Playoff Pregame Show, on nights when the Cubs are playing. The show is hosted by Lou Canellis and former Cubs outfielder Bob Dernier.

On the radio side, there was plenty of action – David Kaplan of WMVP-AM hosted a Cubs pep rally Thursday in the Rush Street area; CBS Radio had five of its radio stations broadcast its morning shows in and around Wrigley Field ; and WSCR (the local Cubs rights holder) held a 13-hour live remote and pep rally in downtown Chicago.

And last but not least, WLS-TV’s Windy City Live held an on-air Cubs pep rally Thursday, with ESPN’s (and South Side native) Michael Wilbon as guest.

As long as the Cubs are in the playoffs, you will see more of this type of programming as it generates ratings and revenue (especially the political kind, with the elections a month away.)

But is reality around the corner? On Tuesday, Forbes baseball writer Maury Brown sent out this tweet on what could happen if the Cubs don’t make it past the Giants in the postseason:

While this is certainly true, no one will feel the pain more than Fox and Chicago’s media outlets in the form of missed revenue.

[Editor’s Note: An item in the fourth and fifth paragraphs contained some incorrect information on what network the NLCS is airing – it is FS1, not Fox. T Dog Media regrets the errors. – T.H.]

This post was updated on October 11, 2016. 




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Jimmy DeCastro exits WGN-AM

idiotWGN-AM President and General Manager Jimmy deCastro has decided to step down from the station effective at the end of this month.

The decision was made as the radio exec decided to more focus more on his Evanston-based company, The Content Factory. His firm handles syndication for several programs and distributes new media content.

“I’ve done everything I can to respect and build on the legacy of this amazing place, and I believe I accomplished everything I set out to do,” deCastro told Robert Feder. “It’s been great fun to work with the incredibly talented people here. Now the time is right for me to go back and build something new.”

deCastro arrived at WGN in 2013 thanks to Larry Wert, who worked with him at Evergreen Media, then owners of WLUP-FM.  As yours truly praised the hire at the time, deCastro undid some of the mistakes Kevin Metheny and Randy Michaels made under their watch. deCastro rehired Steve Cochran for morning drive, brought aboard Roe Conn for afternoon drive and Justin Kaufmann for evenings. Ratings for WGN during deCastro’s tenure remained strong – in the top five. But like other radio stations in Chicago, revenues declined thanks to the lingering effects of the Great Recession and the market’s continuing population loss. 

On the other hand, there were several missteps – notably the firing of afternoon personality Garry Meier, which angered fans. There was the failure of all-sports station The Game (WGWG-FM, 87.7 FM), lasting all of nine months. Many accused deCastro of hiring his friends for key positions – a standard known all-too well in Chicago (referred to as “The Chicago Way”.) In a town rife with corruption, yours truly back in 2014 questioned deCastro hiring people he is friends with in a piece referencing Steve Dahl’s assurson of WGN-AM being “the worst”. Yours truly pointed out DeCastro’s way of doing business was no different than those of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And no, that wasn’t a compliment.

deCastro wasn’t exactly Mr. Popularity on message boards and social media, with some saying WGN was being run just as badly as it was during the Metheny/Michaels era.

But the biggest loss under his watch was the loss of Chicago Cubs rights to CBS Radio, after a 90-year run. While deCastro recently claimed the station was saving money without the rights, WGN is still missing a huge ratings windfall as the Cubs are on a historic run toward the World Series – they would’ve returned to the top of the ratings had they did.

And in another recent embarrassment for the station, overnight personality Patti Vasquez and her producer were suspended for a day after calling and waking up Mayor Emanuel in the middle of the night (As I noted above, I guess you can’t mess with a top politician who has um… “ties” with upper management.)

No word on who would replace deCastro in the role, as Larry Wert is adding deCastro’ former duties to his own for now. But it wouldn’t surprise yours truly if WGN would just eliminate the position altogether.

As for deCastro, maybe the radio grind wasn’t for him any more. But I’m surprised he didn’t ask for a key position in Mayor Emanuel’s administration – he would fit right in and be hired in five minutes. After all, this is Chicago.

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Brandmeier’s syndicated radio show to end


Cumulus pulls plug

Sometimes, you can’t relieve your former glory.

Ask Arsenio Hall, who saw his late-night revival effort go down in flames after a year on the air. Now Jonathon Brandmeier, who rode to success as a morning personality for WLUP-FM in the 1980’s and 1990’s, is seeing his radio comeback once again cut short.

Cumulus Radio canceled his three-hour “radio showgram” after just two years. This is Brandmeier’s third failed comeback in many years: in late 2011, he became WGN-AM’s morning personality only to be regulated to WGN’s Internet feed and then to little-listened sports radio station WGWG-LP “The Game”. In 2005, Brandmeier returned to the morning shift at WLUP, but his second stint at the Loop wasn’t as successful as the first, and he exited four years later.

Brandmeier posted a press release on his website, making the announcement in the only way he knew how:

Bulletin…bulletin…we have a bulletin…Bulletin…bulletin…we have a bulletin…

I always say we’re not here for a long time – we’re here for a good time! And now you know why…

Our syndicated radio deal with Westwood One officially ends in early 2017. They decided not to renew and I completely agree with that decision. I truly believe this is the best move for all involved. It was only a matter of time, and there are no hard feelings.

When I was offered this shot at attempting to “change talk radio”, I couldn’t resist. However, I quickly realized talk radio is not ready to be “unhinged”.

Still, I don’t regret the risk. I met some good people at Westwood One, we picked up new listeners from across this great nation of Murica, and I realized what has always driven me in this business was missing: the spirit of JUST HAVIN’ FUN. It’s time for me to get back to that.

We plan to honor our agreement and continue on the air until it’s officially over – or until they literally pull the plug.

I have no idea what the future holds, but I’m as pumped as ever to create content for the people of earth.

Please do not tell my radio pals Buzz, Gino or Hectorrrrrr…. they will be scared.

I’m Jonathon Brandmeier and I approve this message.


Oh, Good Grief.

In Chicago, Cumulus’ WLS-AM only aired two hours of Brandmeier’s program from 9 to 11 a.m. due to a contractual commitment to carry Rush Limbaugh’s show at 11 a.m. Chicago listeners could only hear the show online. Other stations also opted to take the two-hour version, with many of them (such as KABC-AM in Los Angeles) airing Brandmeier on a delayed basis.

No word on who would fill the time slot on WLS once Brandmeier ends his show in early 2017. WLS acquired Brandmeier to make a push away from conservative talk into more of a general-market format.

Initially, Brandmeier’s program reportedly cleared around one hundred markets, but lacked several major-market clearances. Also, Brandmeier’s program was not a good fit for many stations who carried them, as like WLS, are AM stations with a conservative talk format. Brandmeier recently added some political content to his show (with an emphasis on Donald Trump), but you can tell he wasn’t comfortable taking about the subject.

Given all the failed comeback attempts, maybe it’s time for radio programmers to realize you can’t dip into the same well so many times. While rebooting television and movies are having some measure of success, rebooting radio personalities is another matter. From the inane message above, it proves Brandmeier’s humor hasn’t changed in 30 years, and it was about as funny as an episode of Son Of Zorn (of course, his humor didn’t translate well into TV either, given his 1991 late-night TV show flopped – though another attempt, Brandmeier for NBC’s WMAQ-TV in 2011 and 2012, was better.)

As yours truly noted before, there are a few past-their-prime radio personalities who don’t know when to get off the stage. The radio version of Wil Wheaton didn’t want to leave the stage. Someone had to force him off.

Make radio fun again? I would really like radio to make sense again.


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Sherman, Tingle reunite, head to The Drive

hqdefaultPete McMurray & Co. out

As first reported by Radio Insight, Hubbard-owned WDRV-FM, “The Drive” announced Tuesday the hiring of Brian Sherman and Steve Tingle for mornings. Though the site stated “Monday, October 21” (actually a Friday), the actual start date is October 31.

The move reunites the duo at the Classic Rock outlet – the duo were at the original WKQX-FM (Q101 as it was branded at the time) between 2007 and 2011, with the two moving from afternoon drive to morning drive in August 2008 to replace the ailing Morning Fix, which staggered on Q101 for two years. Despite respectable ratings, the two were bounced from the Alternative station after WKQX flipped to a short-lived all-news format. The alternative format returned to the 101.1 frequency in 2013.

Sherman joins The Drive from WFXF “The Fox” a suburban rimshot station at 103.9 FM, while Tingle comes over from WSTR-FM in Atlanta.

As a result, Pete McMurray’s morning show is being canceled. Also exiting is producer Scott Miller, while news reader Kathy Voltmer is expected to remain at the station in another capacity.

Originally, McMurray was paired with Dan McNeil with the unofficial name “McMornings”(leading to a lot of fast-food jokes from yours truly), officially launching as The Morning Drive in March 2015. The program never really resonated in the ratings – a rare miss for industry programming veteran Greg Solk, who created the show. McNeil was angered when Solk was bounced from his position as Senior Vice President of Programming at Hubbard last May, leading to a reported workplace incident with upper management. After being suspended and his on-air duties being reduced, McNeil was later released from his contract, leaving McMurray to host the program with Miller and Voltmer as the program became more music-intensive with less talk.

Also impacting ratings was the near simultaneous launch of Mancow Mueller’s morning show on rival Classic Rock station WLUP-FM. The Morning Fix replaced Mancow on Q101 in 2006.

Is Sherman and Tingle the answer for The Drive? The station has had only one morning host in its first fifteen years: the recently retired Steve Downes. Now, WDRV is on their third morning show in nineteen months.

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Think Tank Express: “Son Of Zorn” doesn’t make grade

28055Bad writing sinks “innovative” show

During the 1968-69 season, NBC premiered a new Sunday night show titled The New Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, becoming the first television series to use a hybrid of live-action and animation. Based on the characters of Mark Twain’s book of the same name (minus the “New”), the Hanna-Barbera series lasted only one season and wound up as a segment in syndicated reruns of Banana Splits And Friends, a terrific Saturday morning show that debuted the same season on the same network.

48 years later, network TV is going the live-action/animated avenue again in Fox’s Son Of Zorn, where He-Man meets real life. Unlike the live-action kids from Finn (who were on an exciting adventure every week), the animated Zorn lands in suburbia trying to reconnect with his teenage son Alan while locked in a 9-to-5 job in a cubicle at a bland office park.

Jason Sudeikis voices Zorn, who moves to Orange County, California, putting up with his human ex-wife (played by Cheryl Hines) and her new beau (Tim Meadows), a psychology professor. The pilot features Zorn battling creatures in his animated world, but after learning Alan hates him for being absent in his life, he decides to stay in the O.C. and take an office job.

The second episode featured Alan using “The Stone Of Sight”, otherwise known as a stalking device to see what his crush Nancy is up to. The third episode was Alan dealing with a bully at school, who looked more like a middle-aged shoe salesman. In the episode, he dealt with his bully – kicking him with his “animated” legs. Huh? At least Alan isn’t being chased by Injun Joe (an animated character who was in Finn.)

Unfortunately, Zorn appears as a show with the same kind of tropes we’re used to seeing in TV and film for decades: nerdy teen-age son, awkward husband, new guy in mom’s life trying to be “understanding”. Whether animated or live-action (or both) it doesn’t matter – Zorn doesn’t break any new ground in character development, casting, or writing, as the plots seem recycled from 1980’s teen movies.

As for laughs, there are hardly any found. The jokes are simply not funny, and neither are the situations – Zorn holding his sword up, knocking out the power at work is a lame bit out of some Geico commercial. The antics of Alan aren’t funny either – they make you want to cringe.

To yours truly, this is all too similar to what I went through with the short-lived 1989 ABC sitcom Chicken Soup: the sitcom with Jackie Mason and Lynn Redgrave was supposed to edgy and funny, and much as I wanted to like the show, I didn’t. At least Zorn is better than former Fox flop Allen Gregory, but that’s not saying much.

As for ratings and critic reviews, the series debuted with 6.1 million viewers the first week (a special preview out of an NFL lead-in), but when it had its time period premiere on Sept. 25, it plunged to 2.5 million. Zorn’s Rotten Tomatoes percentile is at 57 percent while is Metacritic score is at 56. Really? Zorn deserves a lower score.

The best thing about Zorn is when the show is canceled after six episodes, it won’t be stuck in a syndicated cartoon show so it’ll be forgotten. It’ll just be forgotten.

Grade: D-

T Dog Media Hall Of Shame Eligibility: I’m polishing up the plaque as we speak.


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T Dog’s Media Notepad: Sylvia Perez joins Fox 32 as weekend anchor

sylviaperezChicago news veteran Sylvia Perez is returning to the airwaves this coming week as new weekend anchor for WFLD’s 7-9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday morning newscasts and starting Monday, filing special reports for the station at 9 p.m.

Perez was with ABC-owned WLS-TV for 24 years, spending several of them co-anchoring the station’s 11 a.m. newscast with Linda Yu, who recently announced her retirement from the station. Perez also was the station’s medical reporter, earning two Emmy Awards. She also runs her own production company, Sylvia Perez Productions.

“I’m thrilled that FOX 32 is giving me the opportunity to get back to Chicago viewers, and even more excited to work with News Director Matt Piacente and Assistant News Director Todd Woolman,” said Perez on her website. “They are two people I have the utmost respect for and have had the pleasure of working with in the past. Many people in that newsroom are already friends of mine. They are all professionals and very good at what they do, and I look forward to coming on board and joining the FOX 32 News Team.”

The move comes as things are finally looking upward for Chicago’s Fox duopoly. Ratings for WFLD’s 9 p.m. news show are improving – at a time the parent network continues to struggle in the ratings. WFLD’s 9 p.m. anchors Jeff Herndon and Dawn Harsbrouck have made the newscast more watchable and Picanete seems to be righting the ship after years of turmoil. This summer, WFLD finally added a 5 p.m. newscast, becoming the last Fox-owned station in the country to do so.

Meanwhile, CW finally rolls out its season premieres this week – something new affiliate WPWR had been waiting on since joining the network September 1.

indexWhile complete ratings won’t be out for a few weeks, the verdict is in for Major League Baseball team’s primetime ratings, complied by Forbes. The Chicago Cubs were a big winner not only on the field, but off as well – finishing tenth among all teams, with ratings up 39 percent from last season and up more than 225 percent from 2014, when the team finished last in the standings. On the other hand, another losing season for the Chicago White Sox resulted in a 1.0 prime-time rating, ranking only ahead of the Oakland A’s. This means the White Sox only drew 35,000 homes on average per night. The only positive to take from this was the ratings were up 27 percent from 2015.

The defending World Series Champion Kansas City Royals led all Major League Baseball primetime ratings with a 11.7 rating, though down from the 12.8 a year ago. That was followed by the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers. Fox Sports is rights holder for all three.

Another sign of baseball’s local power (and the continuing declining fortunes of the major broadcast networks): 24 teams ranked first in primetime when their games are airing, including the Cubs.

24345918319_ffa8698f08In good news for NBCUniversal Television Distribution (and daytime TV overall), Harry Connick Jr’s new daytime talk show Harry is off to a good start in the national ratings. For the week ending Sept. 18, Harry debuted with a 1.4 household rating and a 0.7 female 25-54 rating, according to Nielsen. Harry tied Maury (also from NBCUniversal) and was a tenth of a point below Steve Harvey (also from NBCU.)

CBS’ Dr. Phil topped all talk shows for the week in households in key female demos.

(Joe Raedle/Pool via AP)

(Joe Raedle/Pool via AP)

Monday’s Presidential Debates featuring Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, draw a record-size audience according to Nielsen. The first of three debates drew 84 million viewers over thirteen networks, beating the old record set by 1980’s debate between Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and John Anderson. It drew 80.6 million viewers.

Many thought Clinton won the debate handily, over a stumbling and sniffing Trump, who may (or may not) had allergies or a cold. Not surprisingly, Trump was his usual bombastic, heel-like wrestler self, using Chicago’s crime and violence epidemic as cheap heat when it came to urban issues (not to worry, the Bears embarrassed the city enough in prime-time the previous night.) Trump could become the first Presidential candidate to get a zero percent vote percentage in the city of Chicago…

comcast-settopThe controversial plan to unlock cable set-top boxes has been sheleved – for now. A vote on the proposal was supposed to take place this Thursday, but was sacked at the last minute by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, alluding to concerns by a swing vote on the commission – Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat. The plans to unlock the boxes has been  opposed by studios, unions (with the WGA a notable exception), some civil rights leaders, and cable companies.

While those mentioned above praised the move, others – mainly consumer and liberal groups, panned the move. Both Republican FCC commissioners and several Republican lawmakers (and a few Democrats) are asking Wheeler to publish the text for the proposed rule.

Yours truly wrote about the set-box plan a few months ago, saying the idea is ten years too late as cable boxes are becoming more and more obsolete as consumers are no longer needing them to get cable. Of course, leave it to the FCC to decide what is obsolete – and what is not.

baileys_a07-8x10There is a fresh new face at WCIU: Steve Bailey, who has been tapped to head local programming and creative for the Weigel-owned independent station. Bailey comes to WCIU from Media General (soon to merge with Nexstar), where he was a director in the Programming and Affiliate Marketing department. Bailey’s career started at Dayton’s WDTN/WBDT duopoly, as creative services director (WDTN is the NBC affiliate; WBDT is a CW station) and worked on the syndicated series The Daily Buzz and Hollywood Today Live.

“Steve will play a lead role as we continue to grow The U as a choice for local audiences,” said Steven Farber, SVP/Operations for Weigel Broadcasting Co. “Our plans for Chicago include developing a new wave of programming choices on multiple platforms.”

“WCIU has always had a strong commitment to the community,” said Bailey. “I look forward to enriching this engagement through original, local content and the overall viewer experience.”

The move comes as competing independent WGN-TV recently dropped The CW with a desire to develop more local programming.

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Sunday Night Television: The Brown Bag Club

The fashion of choice for Bears fans these days. Or those for network television.

The fashion of choice for Bears fans these days. Or those for network television.

Sad sack Bears, lackluster ABC and Fox lineups dampen night

Note: numbers are 18-49 preliminary unless otherwise noted. 

And you thought Friday night television was bad.

Sunday is fast becoming Tune-Out Night In America. And the lackluster Bears (and two of their oldest animated sitcoms who are like Steve Dahl and Jonathan Brandmeier – past-their-prime acts who won’t get off the stage) are to blame.

The Chicago Bears faced the Dallas Cowboys on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, a franchise that used to showcase the best teams each week. While the game dominated the ratings (which is a given), the matchup drew a 12.9 overnight household rating, down 7 percent from Broncos-Lions on September 26, 2015.

The game drew a 6.8 adults 18-49 rating, as NFL ratings apologists will tell you is “the most watched show of the night.”

The Bears lost in a pathetic effort, a 31-17 loss in a game the Cowboys dominated from the start. Chicago’s NFL Lakefront Team is now 0-3.

Locally, the Bears game drew a 20.1 household rating for WMAQ, down 9 percent from the previous week when they played the Eagles. On the other hand, the game hit viewer highs for the season for the Cowboys at Dallas’ KXAS-TV. Even worse, Chicago placed fifth overall for the game, behind Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and even Norfolk, Va.

Speaking of losing performances, ABC had a night to forget with an Once Upon A Time retrospective (1.2), the regularly scheduled premiere of the show (1.2), the season premiere of Secrets And Lies (1.0) and Quantico (1.0). Like the Bears, it’s going to be a long season for ABC.

Over at Fox, the season premieres of the network’s lineup went like this: Bob’s Burgers (1.3), The Simpsons (1.6) the time period premiere of Son Of Zorn (1.2), Family Guy (1.4) and The Last Man On Earth (0.9). At least the Bears will be on Fox next week. Losing network + losing football team = a wonderful match made in hell.

As for Son Of Zorn, I’m sorry, yours truly can’t get into it. Despite how “innovative” it is blending live-action and animation (done before in film AND television – in 1968, for Christ’s sakes), the writing on this show isn’t good and the characters are one-dimensional. And Zorn isn’t exactly funny. For Zorn, the challenge for the rest of the season is trying to stay out of The T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame.

At CBS, a football lead-in led to the season premiere of 60 Minutes at a stronger-than-usual 2.3 rating. A two-hour edition of NCIS: Los Angeles did a 1.4.

And of note, ESPN drew a 5.7 rating for the Cardinals-Cubs game on ESPN – it’s an easy guess the Cubs outdrew ABC and Fox locally in the overnights.

That’s the ratings roundup for now – which means I won’t be talking about the Presidential Debates or the ratings for them.

You’re welcome.


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“MacGyver” tops Friday ratings


CBS remake scores decent sampling; Church of Tisch dominates the evening

Note: These results are based on adults 18-49 preliminary ratings.

On The Simpsons, Patty and Selma said they’re favorite TV show was MacGvyer, the 1985-92 ABC series featuring Richard Dean Anderson (it was even part of a plot of one 1992 episode where Selma marries Sideshow Bob.)

So you wonder what they would think of the new MacGyver series, airing on CBS this season (we might find out – The Simpsons is still on the air.) But viewers were interested.

MacGyver earned a 1.7 rating and a 7 share and drew 10.9 million viewers, finishing first in its time period, and was the highest-rated show of the night. This despite a 38 Metacritic rating – a complete thrashing by the critics. MacGyver’s strong sampling set the stage for CBS to dominate the evening with the season premieres of Hawaii-Five-O (1.3/5, 10.1 million viewers), and Blue Bloods (1.3/4, 10.4 million.)

Over on Fox, the premiere of The Exorcist drew a 1.0 rating, down slightly from its Hell’s Kitchen lead-in (1.1). The results were about what was expected.

ABC struggled with the season premieres of Last Man Standing (1.1/4) and Dr. Ken (0.9/4), both down from last year. As a reminder, syndicated repeats of Last Man air on WGN-TV weeknights at 8 and 8:30 p.m.

Shark Tank scored a surprisingly low 1.1/4. Generally, the reality series averaged around a 1.7 rating. This lead to a 0.8/3 for the season premiere of 20/20, not exactly a riveting performance.

NBC had special encores of Superstore and The Good Place (0.6/3 each), leading into Dateline NBC, with a 1.0.

The only original to air on CW was Masters of Illusion, which didn’t master the ratings at 0.3.

Finally – like I do every time I write about the sea of mediocrity that is Friday night television, I have to mention the lone standout – WTTW’s Chicago Tonight: The Week In Review. On a night where Dallas, Miami Vice, The X-Files, Family Matters, and Full House used to rule, this longtime public-affairs program (and variously-titled shows with Geoffrey Baer that follow afterward) are the only Friday shows worth watching. And this season, it’s no different. A MacGyver reboot? This night has became a MacJoke.




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Tough night for network TV


“Pitch” (Fox).

Unless you’re CBS

After three nights of momentum, network TV slid off the rails Thursday as two programs’ premieres underwhelmed.

For the record, real-life events had an effect on TV schedules – police protests in Charlotte were covered on cable news networks and spurred pre-emptions on several Charlotte TV stations; and here in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave a speech on Chicago’s violence epidemic, leading into prime-time on several stations.

In a ridiculous move, CBS-owned WBBM-TV cut off the Mayor’s speech in order to carry the network’s NFL pre-game show. Yes, we understand the NFL trumps everything, but it shouldn’t be above an epidemic affecting communities in the city – especially in a place where the Bears aren’t doing shit this season. WBBM could have moved either the speech or the pre-game to its digital 2.2 subchannel, where Decades resides.

On to the shows: remember, all numbers are based on adults 18-49, unless otherwise noted. These are final numbers, provided by the Programming Insider.

Two new dramas debuted last night to lackluster numbers, meaning its going to be a tough road for both: ABC’s Notorious and Fox’s Pitch, both receiving equal amount of hype and the same amount of ratings: The former bowed with a 1.1/4 rating/share, down a whopping 56 percent from its Grey’s Anatomy lead-in (2.5/9). Pitch also bowed with a 1.1/4, but was up 57 percent from Rosewood’s 0.7/3.

Another major difference between the two: while Pitch received decent reviews (69 on Metacritic – though yours truly finds the premise unrealistic and does nothing to advance the cause for women’s sports), Notorious is a critical disaster: the drama only scored a 32 Metacritic score. Tip: never name your show after a Duran Duran song.

Notorious‘ lackluster performance also may have hurt How To Get Away With Murder, which drew a 1.4/5, but did improve from its’ lead-in. Which means:

In other news, NBC had a consistent night with the season premieres of Superstore (1.5/6), the time-period premiere of The Good Place (1.4/5), Chicago Med (1.4/5) and The Blacklist (1.3/4). Sampled during the Olympics, Superstore was recently picked up for the full season. Great move!

Finally, CBS far and away won the night with its Thursday Night Football matchup between the Houston Texans and New England Patriots with a 6.1/22 in adults 18-49, a 7.0/21 in adults 25-54, and 17.5 million viewers (the game was also carried on NFL Network and streamed on Twitter.) Despite a tremendous losing effort by Houston, ratings for TNF were actually up compared to year-ago time period numbers. The results should quiet those who thinks the NFL has peaked or blame the numbers decline on a football player who wouldn’t stand for the National Anthem – the latter coming from a right-leaning business publication, who once gleefully said Chicago was the “most miserable city in the country”.

Leave the “ratings analyzing” to the experts, not a past-its-prime magazine.

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“Designated Survivor” off to strong start


Kiefer Sutherland gets to do something he was never able to do on 24 – become President of The United States.

And he didn’t even battle Dennis Haysbert for the job.

The biggest debut of the night was the premiere of Designated Survivor, the Kiefer Sutherland vehicle where he plays the President Of The United States – getting the position only after his successor is killed in an explosion during the State Of The Union address. The series received strong sampling, earning a 2.2/8 adults 18-49 rating and drawing 10 million viewers. Designated was the night’s second most-watched show, behind the season premiere of Empire.

Designated easily coasted past NBC’s competing Chicago P.D., which ad a 1.6/5.

Reviews of the heavily-promoted Designated were pretty good, achieving a Metacritic score of 71 and a 85 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

As for Empire, the third season premiere featuring the antics of the Lyon family, earned a 4.2/13 – but that was down from the 6.7 rating it earned for last year’s season premiere. Empire improved on its Leathal Weapon premiere, which drew a 2.2/8 – not a bad start.

As for the rest, the other show named Survivor – the longtime reality competition series – premiered with a 2.3/9 on CBS, with a Millennial vs Gen X version. During one of the challenges, a team blew a huge lead and lost. Already, the White Sox are asking if anyone on the team is available to join their 2017 roster.

Following Survivor was the season finale of Big Brother, earning a 2.0/7. An CBS All-Access version is expected to debut on the streaming service later this fall.

ABC had a consistent debut for all four of their comedies: 2.0 each for Goldbergs, newcomer Speechless, and Black-ish. Modern Family had a 2.6.

NBC tumbled to fourth for the evening with Blindspot (1.3/5), Law And Order: SVU (1.8/6) and Chicago P.D.

And the lone first-run show on CW was Whose Line Is It Anyway, which drew a 0.3/1. The CW’s dramas better hurry back.

All numbers are based on adult 18-49 final ratings and provided by the Programming Insider. To see the complete ratings chart, click here.

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