Think Tank Express: Lucas with the lid off: Lakefront plan derails

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Special interest group hijacks and derails plan – a situation we’re all too familiar with in the media business

The Lakefront project Star Wars creator George Lucas wanted to build has been zapped by something more sinister than Darth Vader: An organization who claims they serve the “public interest”.

On Tuesday, Lucas was dealt a blow to build his new Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on the Lakefront after Friends Of The Parks, an organization dedicated to protecting land on Chicago’s lakefront, said they would oppose any kind of attempt to build Lucas’ museum on it – even if it’s the land now occupied by McCormick Place East, which opened in 1971 after the original burned down four years prior. The original plan to build the museum South of Soldier Field – in a parking lot – was sacked by Parks and upheld in a recent federal lawsuit.

The Lucas museum – which would contain art, drawings, memorabilia, and other artifacts, would have provided millions of dollars of revenue for the City, over 1,000 new jobs, and restore much-needed prestige for Chicago. The museum had the support of Chicago community leaders, including the Rev. Michael Pflager and Rev. Jesse Jackson. But with Parks’ strong opposition, Lucas now may move the project to another city.

Chicago native Mellody Hobson, who is married to Lucas and is chairman of Ariel Investments, blasted the Parks stance, stating “Friends of the Parks has proven itself to be no friend of Chicago” according to the Chicago Tribune. “As an African-American who has spent my entire life in this city I love, it saddens me that young black and brown children will be denied the chance to benefit from what this museum will offer.”

Reaction to the news on social media was mostly negative, with most blaming Friends Of The Parks.

For TV fans, the meddling from these type of organizations are all too familiar. Doesn’t this remind you of the antics of the Parents Television Council? This group came to prominence after the “wardrobe malfunction” at halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII. , leading the FCC to increase the fine for indecent content ten-fold. Last year, the commission fined CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke, Va. $325,000 for a news report about a porn star wanting to join a volunteer fire department in a nearby suburb. The station accidentally aired a video clip of a website showing someone “doing the stroke”. The PTC completely missed the point of the story, in the name of “protecting children”. How many children do you know even watch local news? Local stations would now be afraid to touch a story of a similar nature, fueling the spectre of censorship.

The PTC has also sparred with “Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter, Seth MacFarlane, and other figures in front of and behind the camera in the name of saying the airwaves “belong to the public” – exactly the same kind of rhetoric Friends Of The Parks is using.

So what really belongs to the public? The Lakefront? The airwaves? Both of these organizations act like they own them, under the guise of “public interest”.

As for Frauds Of The Parks, they get what they wanted: instead of a museum that would generate jobs for young people and give Chicago serious arts cred, the luscious “parkland” they claim to be protecting can continue to be an empty parcel of land where kids can hang out and smoke weed all day. I guess that was the intent of the lawsuit, right?

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San Diego Comic-Con gears up

be652db1-cchq-3d-logo-rgb-finaltmyellow_07804z07804z000000SyFy to broadcast from Comic-Con; new SVOD platform with Lionsgate ramps up

The last few years, television coverage from San Diego’s Comic-Con has been hard to come by. But this year, that’s going to change.

Recently, SyFy announced it would be broadcasting live from the 47th annual pop culture celebration, which runs from July 21-24. The cable net coverage titled Syfy presents live from Comic-Con begins July 21 at 8 p.m./ET (7 p.m. CT) for three consecutive nights, through the 23rd. Broadcast straight from the convention, SyFy’s coverage plans to bring viewers breaking news, celebrity guests, exclusive clips from upcoming movies, audience interaction and a lot more (and hopefully, no Wil Wheaton.)

With SyFy airing coverage of the pop-culture extravaganza, there is no doubt there will be several tie-ins to Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens. The latest flick in the tired franchise is due to premiere July 31 a week after Comic-Con concludes (yes, get used to seeing a lot of Tara Reid.)

This marks a return of television coverage to the event in a few years. G4’s Attack Of The Show broadcast live from Comic-Con in the late 2000’s, but coverage was later scaled back and eliminated.

SyFy also plans to celebrate Comic-Con with a Seven Days of Comic-Con celebration, across its linear, online, and social media platforms, starting on July 17.

Both SyFy and G4 are owned by NBCUniversal; Attack Of The Show was canceled in early 2013; G4 suspended operations at the end of 2014.

But what’s that? You need more? Well, Comic-Con International and Lionsgaate have a deal for you. Both are teaming up to launch a rather ambitious new subscription video on-demand service (SVOD) called Comic-Con HQ.

The service plans to offer original scripted and unscripted programming; a library of genre-specific film and off-network programming; and new and archived convention panels. Kevin Perierra of Attack Of The Show has been tapped to develop a nightly magazine show devoted to pop culture similar to Attack and a late-night talk show strip. Adam Sessler (another G4 alum) is developing and producing programs based on science, gaming, and comics, including a new interview series.

One show in development is a weekly roundtable show on movies, a format pioneered by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert through their various TV shows. The genre has been missing from television since PBS’ Ebert Presents At The Movies (hosted by Christy Lemire and Igor Vishnevetsky) ended production at the end of 2011, entering a hiatus it would never come out of. Ebert died in 2013.

There are also plans to stream some programming from San Diego Comic-Con, although it is unlikely they’ll live stream panels. However, archived panels are being offered, and Comic-Con also plans to stream the Masquerade and Will Eisner awards for the first time.

Comic-Con HQ test-launches as a free beta on May 7 with a full launch sometime in June. Pricing of the new service has not been set. The service plans to be available through browsers and iOS/Android devices and soon roll out on Roku, Apple TV, XBox One, and PS4 machines.

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T Dog’s Think Tank: Rodents in the Mouse House

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Disney’s “Live” blunder the latest in management woes

To understand the brouhaha over Kelly Ripa, Michael Strahan, and ABC executives’ handling of this Live crisis, you have to go back 20 years.

In 1995, the financial interest and syndication rules – or fin-syn as it was called – expired after 25 years, once again letting the major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC, back into the syndication business. In 1970, the FCC came up with the rules to bar the three networks from syndicating their own shows and profiting off them – 90 percent of the network programming on television at the time were controlled by the Big Three.

In 1996 – a year after the rules expired, The Walt Disney Co. bought Capital Cities Communications, who owned ABC, ESPN, and other properties.

Live distributor Buena Vista Television and ABC-owned WABC-TV, who produced the show – then known as Live With Regis & Kathie Lee – suddenly became corporate cousins. And it wasn’t long before ABC brass took over the distributor, changing the name to Disney-ABC Domestic Television. Soon, network executives were running the syndication company – something they absolutely knew nothing about. If you followed the business like I have over the years, Disney executives mishandling a crisis isn’t new.

In 2008, Disney fired At The Movies co-host Richard Roeper and failed to reach a contract renewal with Roger Ebert, who was sidelined with illness for two years prior (Ebert died in 2013.) Ebert, along with the late Gene Siskel, have hosted their movie-review show for Buena Vista since 1986. At an attempt to revamp the show with a more “Hollywood” focus, Disney replaced Ebert and Roeper with two “Bens”: Ben Mankiewicz and Ben Lyons. The move dismayed fans and ratings dropped, and the next season, brought back Ebert fill-in host Michael Phillips and hired A.O. Scott to take their place. Continued low ratings and a changing weekend programming marketplace sacked At The Movies in 2010.

And of course, who could forget all the money Disney-ABC threw at Katie Couric to host a syndicated talk show strip. In a rather unusual move, ABC gave back the 3 p.m. (ET) slot time slot to the affiliates so they can run Katie, with the thinking the network would make more money if it were syndicated rather than cleared on the network.

Ratings were disappointing, and Katie was mercifully canceled after two years. To make room for Katie, ABC shook up its daytime lineup and canceled long-running soap operas All My Children and One Life To Live, angering its long-time fans.

Recently, Disney-ABC launched daytime talkshow The FABLife, with Tyra Banks as host and executive producer. But Banks quit the critically-panned show two months into its run and FABLife was canceled after four months.

And so it comes as no surprise Disney execs would try to screw up the success of their only successful first-run syndicated strip they have on the air, Live With Kelly and Michael. Ratings for Good Morning America were slipping against NBC’s Today, so they decided to make Strahan’s part-time gig at ABC permanent, with Live as the sacrificial lamb. And this shows you how little respect first-run syndication gets – despite Live’s successful 28-year track record.

Certainly, if Live is a priority for Disney as their executives told Ripa it was, then they’re not showing it.

So what does this mean? Yet another on-air search for Kelly Ripa’s co-host. And really, you can’t blame Ripa for being upset. You’ve heard of The Chicago Way, right? Welcome to The Disney Way.

And the ineptitude is not limited to the Mouse House. Since the rules expired, NBC merged with Universal, and later being bought by Comcast. After being spun-off some 28 years earlier by CBS, a much bulked-up Viacom bought the Tiffany network in 1999 (though both split in December 2005.) The expiration of the rules set the stage for media consolidation in the industry from syndicators to studios to station groups amid increasing choices for viewers. In the process, people with passion for television were replaced with clueless dipshit bean counters who are among the dumbest people on the planet.

As a result, we’ve seen more and more odious managerial decisions. And by trying to pull one over Kelly Ripa, do you think these execs care about the viewers – older female viewers, especially?

And yet, Ripa outsmarted them by taking a week off and laying low. Can we get her to run for mayor of Chicago in 2019? If she can deal successfully with these guys, just think what she can do with Illinois politicians, who are cut from the same cloth.

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Kelly Ripa returns to “Live”

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But Michael Strahan’s exit moved up to May 13th

Upon her return to Live Tuesday morning, Kelly Ripa joked “Our long national nightmare is over.”

She might have referred to the 2015-16 Chicago Blackhawks season, which ended Monday night with a Game 7 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

Or more likely, she was referring to the drama surrounding her going AWOL last week from her talk show which she co-hosts with Michael Strahan – who announced he was leaving, which prompted Ripa’s absence in the first place.

As you know by now, Strahan announced he was exiting Live With Kelly and Michael last week to join the cast of Good Morning America catching co-host Ripa off guard, claiming ABC officials kept her in the dark about the decision. Ripa did receive an apology from ABC about how the situation was handled.

The news and Ripa’s reaction to it generated worldwide headlines, unusual for a syndicated morning show based in the United States.

While both Ripa and Strahan appeared to get along on-camera, reports surfaced about off-screen tension on the set between them, and one report stating Strahan was being “bullied” by Ripa (yes, this was an actual headline.)

Thus, it came as no surprise the departure of Strahan now comes on May 13 instead of early September, as originally planned. Disney made the decision so they can get their on-air auditions for Kelly Ripa’s next co-host underway as soon as possible while Strahan gets more time off to prepare for his Good Morning America gig. The last time a co-host of Ripa’s left, it took ten months to find a replacement.

Ratings for Ripa’s return Tuesday drew a 4.7 rating and 16 share in Nielsen’s 54 overnight metered markets, up 62 percent from the previous Tuesday’s episode.

In the most recent ratings report, Live And Kelly and Michael finished second (behind Dr. Phil) among all syndicated talk shows with a 2.9 household rating for the week ending April 17, down 3 percent from the previous week. However, this was two days before the controversy broke.

No word on who would be Ripa’s future co-hosts, but names already surfacing include Anderson Cooper.

Here in Chicago, Live airs weekdays at 9 a.m. on WLS-TV.

To watch Kelly Ripa’s speech to the audience Tuesday, watch below:

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Think Tank Express: Freeing the set-top box

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Hey, the FCC is letting me unlock my cable box. Is it still 1994?

A few weeks ago, President Obama announced he was backing a FCC proposal to unlock cable set-top boxes.

Whee.

The problem is, those set-top boxes you lease to cable operators are about as obsolete as an 8-track tape player. It’s not the direction the industry is moving in, and this idea would be great – if it was 1992.

Generally, you need to lease a set-top box to get cable channels -something you would place on top of your TV.

As it stands now, the FCC – led by Chairman Tom Wheeler and its two Democratic commissioners, would require cable operators to “unlock the box”: make programming and set-top box data available to third-party vendors through devices and apps, in the name of “competition”.

The reaction to this FCC proposal has been negative – cable operators, satellite providers, broadcasters, studios, telcos, content creators – even Hollywood unions such as SAG-AFTRA, DGA, and IATSE are opposed (but not the WGA, which supports the FCC plan.) But the proposal has the support of clout-heavy tech companies such as Google, Apple, and TiVo in addition to consumer groups.

Those who oppose the plan say the move could destroy the TV industry, invade users’ privacy, stifle innovation, and drive prices higher for consumers. Supporters say it would give consumers more power and more choice.

But by buying an unlocked set-top box? Sorry President Obama and Chairman Wheeler, this won’t work. Oh, I can see it now: hoardes of shoppers jumping into their cars and rushing down to Best Buy or Kmart or Sears to grab this “hot new item.”

Please. Like yours truly is going to ask a guy in a blue shirt what kind of set-top box I should buy when he knows as much about them as these politicians do. Hell, even the guy selling items on the CTA’s Red Line would probably know more.

Look, Roku and Google already have streaming sticks where you can plug in the HDMI port on your TV to eliminate the need for a box (and cable, obviously.) Slingbox can let you watch TV in any room you want. And younger viewers are going without cable altogether, preferring to stream their content on smartphones, laptops, and tablets – without a box.

Should we trust these third-party vendors? It’s a red flag. They have an opportunity to access (or steal) data and content and undermine licensing deals and violate copyrights. And there’s no doubt Google cannot wait to get their hands on this information to monetize off of.

And there is concern about the future of minority programming if the set-box is unlocked, with African-American TV executives split on the idea. And the WGA’s support of the plan is baffling. For a union who prods on and on about protecting creators’ works, their stance is disappointing and insulting.

Yours truly hates it when politicians – no matter how well-intended – waddle into something they don’t know about. Chicago is plagued with endless gun violence – and yet, the President is worried about an outdated piece of equipment most Americans are sure to junk soon? In an era where companies are refusing to pay workers a living wage (especially in the media business), how do you sell something most working people don’t need and/or can’t afford?

And of course, those who support the plan will likely turn this into a partisan fight, as is everything in this country nowadays. Remember, Republicans don’t have a monopoly on stupidity – all you have to do is look at who the mayor of Chicago is and see that.

Wheeler’s set-top box plan is dead on arrival – as it should be. Actually, it’s dumb on arrival.

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The “Live” mess

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Not anymore…

Michael Strahan’s unexpected departure from Live stuns industry insiders – and Kelly Ripa

The announcement of Michael Strahan’s departure from Disney-ABC Domestic Television’s Live With Kelly and Michael stunned the entertainment world Tuesday – perhaps none other than co-host Kelly Ripa herself, who reportedly wasn’t happy about the news.

The NFL Hall Of Famer and former New York Giants defensive back accepted an offer – which reportedly came together in five days – from ABC’s Good Morning America to join their show full-time beginning this fall – a gig he couldn’t do simultaneously with Live. Strahan joined GMA two years ago as a correspondent.

Both GMA and Live share a corporate parent in The Walt Disney Co. Strahan’s weekend appearances on Fox NFL Sunday are not affected by the deal.

The move was made as GMA was slipping behind NBC’s Today Show in the ratings – particularly in the all-important 25-54 demo, and some kind of shakeup was due. Live With Kelly and Michael ranked second among all syndicated talk shows, only behind Dr. Phil.

Ripa was a no show on Live With Kelly and Michael Wednesday, soon to be retitled Live With Kelly and Whomever. Filling in for Ripa besides Strahan was Ana Gastyner, who was a Saturday Night Live cast member. “I’ve been in the news lately… that I am leaving this show…to go over to GMA full-time, which is going to happen in September,” Strahan quipped. “It is the same channel.”

(Not exactly. Live has always been a syndicated show, and it doesn’t air on all ABC affiliates. For example, Fox-owned KDFW in Dallas airs Live, while ABC-owned WLS-TV has only aired Live since 2013, after years at WGN-TV.)

Ripa is out for the rest of the week and Monday, using a “previously scheduled vacation”, according to an ABC spokeperson, and Erin Andrews is filling in for her Thursday and Friday. Ripa has declined to comment so far.

According to several sources, Ripa wasn’t notified about the Strahan departure until a meeting Tuesday morning with ABC management. It was in the meeting she found out that Strahan was leaving for GMA, the New York Times noted.

Ripa told WABC general manager Dave Davis “she knew this would happen,” ever since Strahan signed on to go GMA, according to the Times account. Ripa was also left in the dark when Regis Philbin announced he was leaving the show five years ago. Longtime Live executive producer Michael Gelman conducted a co-host search lasting ten months before settling on Strahan in 2012, who retired from the NFL the previous season.

Starting as The Regis Phillibin Show on WABC in 1983, Live entered syndication in 1988 via Disney’s Buena Vista Television (eight years before Disney bought ABC as the fin-syn rules expired) as Live With Regis and Kathie Lee (Gifford), and became Regis and Kelly when Ripa came on board in 2001. In fact, a similar search was used to replace Gifford in 2000.

While the media is focusing on how Kelly Ripa was blindsided about the news as if she was a Survivor contestant, there is a group of people also blindsided by the move: station executives who carry the show. You can assume a few of them weren’t happy – given Live’s contract was recently extended through 2020, and were just as blindsided as Ripa was – and it’s coming at a time many station groups are cutting expensive syndicated shows out of their lineups in favor of more home-grown fare and local news, and Live and other similar syndicated fare does not come cheap.

On Tuesday at the NAB convention in Las Vegas, Scripps SVP Brian Lawlor (owners of WTMJ in Milwaukee, among others) boasted on how dropping syndicated programming for shows produced by its own station group is profitable for them.

Lawlor also pointed out how his station group – he sits on ABC’s board – put pressure on the network to fix its woeful prime-time lineup – resulting in Paul Lee being replaced by Channing Dungey as head of ABC Entertainment. Lawlor also pointed out it was NBC affiliates who ended the 2009 disaster known as The Jay Leno Show, concerned about their late news lead-ins. It helps to note, affiliates weren’t wild about the idea to begin with.

Imagine how he and other station groups reacted to the news Strahan was departing Live, and no doubt they’ll have a say in who his replacement is. After all, without affiliates, the show wouldn’t even exist. Chalk it up to the increased clout station groups have these days.

With reports of Ripa upset, you wonder if she’ll also pack her bags and head for the exits. I doubt it… you see, there is something called a contract…and it will be enforced – likely meaning Ripa and Strahan will work together until his departure in August.

And besides, the last thing anyone wants is the show to be renamed Live…with Nobody. A shot of two empty chairs in the morning doesn’t exactly make great television. Especially if stations are paying for it.

 

 

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: Cubs outslug singers and dancers

Cubs ratings; Carsey-Werner comedies head to LAFF; Media Life radio survey and more

Chicago-CubsThe Chicago Cubs have started off the 2016 season in style and viewers are watching: Monday’s home opener against the Cincinnati Reds drew a whopping 11.4 household same-day live rating, easily finishing as the most-watched program of the evening topping ABC’s Dancing With The Stars (always popular draw in Chicago) and NBC’s The Voice. The game peaked at a 14.8 rating as the Cubs’ Addison Russell hit a game –winning home run in the 8th inning.

On April 4, the Cubs opened the WLS-TV portion of their schedule in Anaheim against the Angels, and drew an 8.0 household rating, despite the late start and tough competition from a down-to-the-wire NCAA Basketball Championship Game.

With this young, exciting team, The Cubs are off to their best start since 1969 and if they keep on winning, their three broadcast partners and radio home WSCR-AM are sure to benefit.

DougBanksAccording to recent figures released by Nielsen, Doug Banks – who passed away Monday at the age of 57, went out on top. Heard locally on WVAZ, Banks finished in a tie for first in afternoon drive (2 to 6 p.m.), and was a dominant number one in the 35 to 64 demo.

There is no word on how American Urban Radio Networks would push forward without their number one attraction, though Banks’ co-host (Dee Dee Renee) is hosting solo for now. There is precedent – when Kidd Kraddick of The Kidd Kraddick Morning Show died in 2013, his on-air staff continued the program, currently syndicated to 75 markets.

V103 meanwhile, may return the airshift to local hosts. Two names being mentioned are Ramonski Luv and Joe Soto, who held down the afternoon shift before Doug Banks took over in 2008. Luv recently returned to V103 as a part-time, fill-in and weekend host and was on the air Monday and Soto and other V103 radio personalities reacting to Doug Banks’ death.

a radioMedia Life Magazine asked their readers about the state of the radio business in 2016 – and boy, were they vocal about it. Not surprisingly, many readers held a lot of ill will toward two major players in particular: Cumulus and iHeartMedia, and they say its time for the big conglomerates to break up. According to the survey, nearly 80 percent said the companies have “hurt” the radio industry, while 40 percent said radio is “struggling”. One reader has referred to it as “Big Box Radio”.

The survey reflects how many people feel about the medium, despite boasting a larger reach than television and attracting more than 200 million listeners. Complaints are the one you keep hearing about: voice-tracking, too many commercials, too much of a debt load, job and programming cuts, and on and on and on. Many believe the potential bankruptcy of iHeart and Cumulus “may be a good thing for radio”.

The hope here is the big conglomerates are listening to media planners and listeners, something they have not been doing (I.e., nobody was craving for Mancow Mueller to return to Chicago radio or Ryan Seacrest being piped in daily.) In all, Big Radio has been out of touch with listeners’ needs – something even a dullard can figure out.

70sGood news for local fans of classic American Top 40 episodes: last Sunday, American Top 40: The 70’s returned to Cumulus-owned WLS-FM after a two and a half year hiatus, airing Sunday nights from 8 to 11 p.m.

American Top 40 was co-created and hosted by Casey Kasem. Kasem also hosted Adult Contemporary spinoffs of his countdown show until 2009 when he retired. Kasem died in 2014.

This is the third time AT40 reruns have popped up on the 94.7 frequency – previously, WLS ran AT 40 reruns on Sunday mornings from 2010 until 2013, and in 2001 as WZZN (The Zone) under the American Top 40 Flashback title.  There is also an ’80’s version, which airs Sundays from 8 a.m. to noon on WNNS-FM in Springfield, IL, the cloest AT40 ’80’s affiliate to Chicago.

Running from 1970 to 1995, the original version of AT 40 has aired locally on WCFL, WDHF, WBBM-FM, WLS-AM, WYTZ-FM, WBUS-FM (Kankakee), and WKSC-FM. Shadoe Stevens took over as host in 1988 after Kasem departed for a rival syndicator to do another countdown show, Casey’s Top 40. Kasem returned to host American Top 40 in 1998, in another run lasting six years.

The current version of American Top 40, now hosted by Ryan Seacrest Sunday mornings over WKSC, is not affected by the deal. American Top 40 programming is syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks, a unit of iHeartMedia.

indexKatz’s digital subchannel network LAFF recently acquired five off-network sitcoms from Carsey-Werner Distribution Co. In a multi-year licensing deal. The five are Roseanne, That 70’s Show, 3rd Rock From The Sun, Grounded For Life, and Cybill. They already join Carsey-Werner’s Grace Under Fire, which is already airing on LAFF. The former three had successful runs in broadcast syndication.

LAFF already airs off-net sitcoms Night Court, Empty Nest, Spin City, and various comedy movies. The channel can be seen locally over WLS-TV, Channel 7.3.

the realWarner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution’s daytime talker The Real has been renewed for two more years, through 2018 in 95 percent of the country. Fox was the first station group to renew the show, giving it 35 percent clearance right off the bat. Locally, The Real airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on Fox’s WFLD and a same day repeat at 8 a.m. the next weekday on sister station WPWR. The Real also airs at midnight (CT) on BET.

Ratings are respectable – the show is averaging a 1.0 household live-plus-same day this season, and a 0.8 in the show’s key female 25-54 demo, according to information obtained by Broadcasting and Cable.

Recently, the show’s five hosts traveled to The White House to interview First Lady Michelle Obama and recently devoted an entire week to the new movie BarberShop: the Next Cut with stars Ice Cube and Cedric the Entertainer as guests. Unlike the first two films, this edition of Barbershop is shot in Atlanta (UGH), but still set in Chicago according to IMDB.

 

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Alan Krashesky succeeds Ron Magers at 10 p.m.

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Ron Magers (left) an Alan Krashesky. (ABC 7)

34-year station vet steps in for Magers, who officially calls it a career

ABC-owned WLS-TV (ABC 7) announced Thursday the successor to Ron Magers’ seat at 10 p.m.: Alan Krashesky. The longtime anchor will sit beside Kathy Brock at 10 p.m. Krashesky currently anchors the 4 p.m. newscast with Linda Yu, (who is cutting back on her anchor duties) and the 6 p.m. newscast with Brock.

Magers, 71, started planning his retirement a few months ago. Magers has been at ABC 7 since 1998, after he left NBC-owned WMAQ-TV during the Jerry Springer commentary debacle. Magers started his ABC 7 gig at 5 p.m.; he succeeded the late John Drury at 10 p.m. in 2002.

The final Magers newscast takes place on May 25, the final night of the May sweeps. Krashesky steps in the following day.

ABC 7 GM John Idler said in a statement: “No hyperbole is necessary to describe Ron Magers. He is simply the best. We thank Ron for his unrelenting pursuit of excellence and for all he has meant to ABC 7 and our Chicago viewers. We will miss him.” News director Jennifer Graves also chimed in: “For decades Ron Magers has been the trusted voice of authority for Chicago news viewers. His intellect, ability to put complicated stories into context and effortless broadcast style have put him in a league of his own. We thank him for always trying to make us better and wish him nothing but the best.”

Magers is a seven-time Chicago Emmy Winner. His recognitions include a National Press Club citation and a Peter Lisagor Award and an Ethics Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Arriving at WMAQ in 1981 after a seven-year run (and a highly publicized fallout) at KSTP in Minneapolis, Magers was paired with Marin at WMAQ for their 10 p.m. newscasts beginning in the late 1980’s and finished behind WLS-TV most of the time. In 1997, both resigned after management decided to bring in trash-talk host Jerry Springer to do commentaries at 10 p.m., which lasted all of two nights (Marin has since returned to WMAQ in an investigate reporter role.) Months later, Magers surfaced at ABC 7, and achieved something he wasn’t able to do at WMAQ: dominate the ratings.

Krashesky has been with ABC 7 since 1982, when the top-rated station was mired in third place in the local news ratings. Krashesky had many notable assignments in his career with the station, namely his coverage of issues regarding the city’s Catholic community and his travels to Rome to report on matters involving the Pope. He also hosted News Views segments during the station’s Sunday morning newscasts.

The change comes at a time as WMAQ is closing in on WLS in the adult 25-54 demo at 10 p.m. ABC 7 has dominated the local news ratings since 1986.

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Chicago stations to expand afternoon newscasts

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Welcome back, Fox 32.

 

 

Early fringe newscasts at WMAQ, WFLD on tap

Like it or not Chicagoans, get ready for more newscasts in the afternoon.

As first reported by Robert Feder Monday, NBC-owned WMAQ is expected to launch a 4 p.m. newscast later this summer. WMAQ would compete with WLS-TV and WGN-TV in the time slot, with each station having a newscast at in the time slot since 1984 and 2014, respectively.

Other NBC-owned stations have or are planning to launch 4 p.m. newscasts this spring. In New York, WNBC has hired morning news anchor Stefan Holt away from sister station WMAQ to anchor its 4 p.m. newscast, set to begin in a few weeks. In Los Angeles, KNBC is set to return to the 4 p.m. news game for the first time since 2007.

Meanwhile, Feder is also reporting that Fox-owned WFLD is finalizing plans to launch a 5 p.m. newscast this summer in a long-overdue move.

WFLD is currently the only Fox-owned station (not including My Network TV affiliates) left not producing an early afternoon newscast. Coinciding with the arrival of new news director Matt Piacente, insiders say the new 5 p.m. newscasts are to be anchored by the current 9 p.m. anchorteam of Jeff Herndon and Dawn Hasbrouck. Earlier this year, WFLD added Saturday and Sunday morning newscasts.

The addition continues a trend of stations nationwide adding more local news to their programming schedules instead of syndicated shows. So far, only one new syndicated show is debuting this fall: Harry Connick Jr.s’, whose show has been picked up by WFLD this fall in an overall Fox O&O deal and could lead into the station’s 5 p.m. newscast.

Currently, WFLD airs syndicated celebrity magazine shows TMZ and Dish Nation occupy the 5-6 p.m.time slot, one of many multiple runs throughout the day.

The newscast expansion means some programming shuffles: Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution is expected to make a deal with WFLD to acquire celeb magazine show Extra from WMAQ to air in prime access (6-7 p.m.), likely being paired with Warner’s TMZ. Extra has been on WMAQ throughout its entire 22-year run, with the show airing in early fringe since 1996.

Extra remains on NBC’s seven other stations, including WNBC and KNBC. NBC was the launch group when Extra debuted in 1994. (NBC-owned WRC in Washington D.C. and KNSD in San Diego do not carry Extra.)

This latest round of news expansion has nothing to do with audience demand, as you’ve guessed given the complaints of repetitive news stories throughout the day. Instead, the demand is being driven by advertisers, notably from automotive and political – especially with one of the biggest elections in a generation coming up.

So if you’re mad about local news expansion uprooting your favorite TV show, thank your incompetent politicians, the nerdy guy in those Hyundai commercials and Flo from Progressive. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

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Remembering Doug Banks

DougBanksThe legendary Chicago and nationally syndicated radio personality dies at 57

Radio lost one of its most popular personalities Monday with the sudden death of Doug Banks, stunning fans and radio industry insiders alike.

Banks was found dead in his Miami home Monday morning due to complications from diabetes and kidney failure. Banks was absent from his syndicated radio program late last fall recently due to health problems requiring him to be hospitalized, but did return to the airwaves on February 1. Banks’ show has aired afternoons on WVAZ-FM (V103) since January 2008, where it is often the top-rated show in its timeslot.

His last public appearance happened to be in the place where he had his greatest success – Chicago, where he made an appearance at Today’s Black Women’s Expo at McCormick Place on Friday where he broadcasted his show.

A native of Philadelphia, Banks started as a radio personality for Detroit’s WDRQ-FM while still in high school. He later held radio gigs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas before landing in Chicago at the former WBMX-FM in 1982.

Banks later jumped to WGCI-FM where he subsequently replaced Bob Wall in morning drive. In 1994, Banks signed a syndication deal with ABC Radio Networks to do afternoons, and moved back to mornings three years later. Off the air for a few years in Chicago, Banks’ syndicated show finally cleared WPWX-FM (Power 92) in 2001, which used it to launch its Urban Contemporary format.

In late 2007, Banks signed a new deal with Citadel Media to launch a new syndicated afternoon show hosted by him and longtime sidekick DeDe McGuire, and was heard locally over WVAZ – one of the first stations in the country to clear his show. In July 2010, Banks shifted syndication to American Urban Radio Networks and was renamed The Doug Banks Radio Show.

In addition to his radio duties, Banks was also a co-host on WLS-TV’s former weekly magazine show 190 North for over a decade, and appeared on Windy City Live. Banks also was in an episode of My Wife and Kids, ABC’s former hit sitcom with Damon Wayans.

Banks is survived by his wife Wendy and two daughters: Kennede, 20 and Kelli, 18. He is also survived by two older children.

 

Radio

“American Idol” exits a winner

american-idol-finale-winner-Trent-Harmon-2016

Trent Harmon wins “American Idol’s” final show. (Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

As yours truly hinted before, American Idol’s “finale” may not be the finale after all – it’s going on a long hiatus.

Idol exited a winner Thursday night, finishing up with 13.3 million viewers from 8 p.m.-10:06 p.m. EST. In the adults 18-49 demo, the program earned a 3.0 rating. In Nielsen’s 56 overnight markets, Idol dominated with a 9.6 rating/15 share, peaking at a 10.5/16 in the final half-hour.

But despite the strong numbers, Idol was edged out by CBS’ Big Bang Theory for most-watched program of the night, earning 13.5 million viewers and a 3.1 adult 18-49 rating.

And, Idol’s finale obviously drew fewer viewers than it did in its heyday, with the 2003 finale registering a whopping 38 million viewers. Based on last year’s woeful numbers, Fox decided to rush Idol off this year, airing for approximately fourteen weeks.

Still, Idol dominated the ratings Thursday once Big Bang ended, and Idol did exact some revenge on the programming it was beaten by last year – Idol beat ABC’s once-hot Thursday night block, outdrawing Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy.

The finale drew acclaim from viewers and critics on social media, focusing mainly on past Idol winners and contestants. Performances included Kelly Clarkson (taped a few weeks earlier due to her pregnancy), Carrie Underwood, LaToya London, Fantasia, Taylor Hicks, Bo Bice, and others.

Chicago was well represented – Jennifer Hudson and season ten winner Lee DeWyze also performed. But in the end, it was Trent Harmon who triumphed to be crowned the final American Idol.

Most judges also were present – original trio of Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell reunited in a segment with host Ryan Seacrest, while former judges Ellen DeGeneres and Nicki Manaj gave taped testimonials and for some reason, Kara DioGaurdi sang.

The most notable absence from Idol (besides Adam Lambert, who was unable to make it due to other commitments) was former judge Mariah Carey, who didn’t appear in person or on video. She feuded with Manaj in season twelve and described being on the show “the worst experience in my life.” (yours truly rolls his eyes.)

Seacrest signed-off from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood saying “…as we say in Hollywood…good night America”. After a pause for a few seconds, he said “for now”, leaving the door open for a possible return. And given how many shows are being rebooted this days, don’t be surprised if Idol returns in a few years.

 

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T Dog’s Media Notepad: WGN Radio adds Wood, Dempster to lineup

WGN adds Wood and Dempster, plus Manley’s idiotic comment
Media Life magazine article on iHeart causing a stir
Empire roars back
BET to add “Soul Train”

wgn-radio-logo-classy-300x300WGN-AM has recruited former Cubs pitchers Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster to provide weekly baseball analysis on Thursdays for the Tribune Broadcasting-owned radio station. Beginning this week, Ryan Dempster will talk baseball with Steve Cochran on his morning show, while Wood appears on Roe Conn’s afternoon show at 4:40 p.m. Both will talk about, but not limited to, Cubs baseball.

But here comes the typical Chicago radio management line about the hires – clueless without a clue:

“Woody and Dempster are the perfect pair to drive the conversation during a year loaded with great story lines,” said WGN Radio VP of Programming Todd Manley in a press release. “Baseball’s in our DNA and we can’t wait to get this season rolling.”

Really? If baseball is in WGN Radio’s DNA, when why did they let the Cubs go after 90 years? Yours truly hates to ask what’s in Todd Manley’s DNA. Too much Centrum, perhaps?

i heart mediaAn article about iHeartMedia in Media Life magazine turned a few heads last week regarding the company’s poor financial health. The former Clear Channel Communications is currently in court with creditors over the $21 billion in debt it has amassed over the years. iHeart beloved the creditors are trying to force the company into bankruptcy, and iHeart – which contains 858 radio stations (including six here in Chicago), radio syndicator Premiere Radio Networks, the iHeart radio app, and an outdoor billboard business, could be sold off and broken up.

Believe it or not, iHeart is in more debt than the City of Chicago. And yet, according to the Media life article, they continue to spend lavishly on events, such as this past Sunday’s iHeartMedia Music Awards, which drew only two million viewers over Turner’s entertainment cable networks. So while iHeart is partying hard with rock stars and pop princesses, the company is on the verge of bankruptcy and layoffs and job cuts are all but certain. Where are they getting all this money to spend on this shit?

Meanwhile, radio is also abuzz regarding another failed conglomerate – Cumulus, who basically screwed up a transition at KGO-AM in San Francisco, leaving the entire newsroom department out of work and importing two hosts (Armstrong & Getty) from Sacramento, which often trades the top spot for “America’s Worst Radio Market” with Chicago, Memphis, St. Louis, and New York City. Of course, this is the same company who staged a phony morning show “contest” at WLUP-FM so Mancow Mueller can win.

The sooner iHeart and Cumulus and their IQ-deficient management team go away, the better it would be for radio.

Welcome back, Fox 32.

Welcome back, Fox 32.

The latest victim – er, I mean hire at Fox-owned WFLD-TV is a person with hometown ties. Meet new news director Matt Piacente, where he was the vice-president of news at NBC-owned WVIT in the Hartford-New Haven market. Piacnete begins on April 18 and is official title is vice-president/newsdirector and will oversee all editorial, business, and administrative functions for WFLD and sister station WPWR.

Piacente worked at several Chicago stations as a producer – notably a gig as executive producer of news at WMAQ before he was promoted to the position in Hartford.

Piacente will have his work cut out for him – WFLD places last in the market in news and is notoriously known for a revolving door of talent – on and off-camera.  If you’ve read this blog for the last ten years, then you know what I’m talking about. For starters, hopefully Piacente dumps Lou Canellis’ inane “Lou’s View” segment in the first few minutes of the weeknight newscast.

DonCornelius2011Viacom-owned BET announced it has acquired all 1100+ episodes of the classic TV series Soul Train. Created by former WVON DJ Don Cornelius, rights to the series now is owned by the InterMedia Partners and The Yucaipa Companies.

No word on how Soul Train would be repurposed; reruns of the series were previously split between Centric (a sister network of BET) and diginet Bounce TV.

Soul Train started locally as an afternoon strip on WCIU in 1970 and ran in weekly syndication from 1971 to 2006. Soul Train is currently tied for the longest-running syndicated show in history, with Entertainment Tonight. Cornelius died in 2012 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

While BET resurrected the Soul Train Music Awards in 2009, there are no plans at this time to revive it as a weekly series.

EMPIRE-titlwDon’t write Empire off just yet – the soapy serial earned a 4.7 rating among adults 18-49 and drew 12.8 million viewers in its return last Wednesday night, up from last December’s finale. The program will add more viewers when DVR numbers are tallied in. This is notable given other dramas who’ve returned from three-month breaks – notably Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder – has fared less well in their return. For one, Murder has registered ratings drops as much as 40 percent from last year.

The news comes as Empire isn’t faring as well in international markets. Rogers’ City TV has yanked the series from the air after a season and a half, drawing only 200,000 viewers last fall, shifting it on an online network. Empire is also struggling in Britain, where the series is drawing less than 600,000 viewers. Many attribute the weak numbers to the increase in diverse casting – which makes it a hard sell overseas, according to an article in this week’s Hollywood Reporter.

As for Empire’s U.S. numbers, the industry will be watching to see if the series can keep up the buzz it generated last season.

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Closer to the exits: “American Idol” preparing to say goodbye

American Idol: Host Ryan Seacrest (l.) and current judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban.

American Idol: Host Ryan Seacrest (l.) and current judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban.

In an indication of how quick Fox wants to get rid of the show, American Idol is ending its fifteen-season run on Thursday, April 7, rather than dragging it out through the May sweeps, which the show usually wrapped up on the final night of the TV season. While yours truly was never a fan of the show (“loathed” is more appropriate), Idol made a name for the Fox network – drawing 30 million viewers a week at one point, making household names of talent for the better (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, Chris Daughtery, etc.) and for worse (William Hung, Sanjaya.) Fox affiliates should really be grateful, as Idol’s lead-outs boosted their late newscasts for years (WFLD’s a notable exception to this rule.)

Surprisingly, Idol was never as popular in Chicago as it was in the rest of the country – especially after 2004 when Hudson – a hometown favorite – was eliminated in a controversial manner. Still, another Chicagoan (Lee DeWyze) did win Idol in 2010 and Hudson went on to greater success as an R&B artist and an Oscar-winning actress.

But Idol also contributed to the rise of host Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul’s career resurrection (and ditziness) and of course, Simon Cowell. Then came Kara Gioulardi and Ellen DeGeneres. And it would get much worse with the “jump the shark” season when Mariah Carey and Nicki Manaj were added as judges and sent viewers toward for the exits – with the notable exception of African-Americans. But when Carey and Manaj departed after one season, black viewers also left.

Before long, Idol not only started losing to competitor The Voice and The Big Bang Theory in the ratings, but also started losing to Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune – two syndicated game shows who’ve been on twice as long as Idol (Wheel’s run stretches back to 1975, if you count NBC’s daytime airings.) If you want any proof how Idol has fallen off the pop-culture radar, this summer’s tour featuring contestants from the show was canceled.

Ratings for Idol have been consistent this season, averaging around a 2.4 adults demo rating – a respectable number in this current environment.

While Idol is saying goodbye (or good riddance in yours truly’s point of view), don’t be surprised if it get rebooted down the road, as that seems to be the current mantra these days in Hollywood. See you in 2019? Anything can happen in this business. After all, the next Carrie Underwood is still out there.

Or the next Chris Martin, who fronts Coldplay. Oh wait, he didn’t compete on American Idol?

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Chicago: Slipping away?

220px-Eisenhower_ExpresswayThe state of the Chicago market: population loss may effect media properties 

If last week’s bad census news is any indication, Chicago may be in for a rough few years.

And the local media scene could be affected.

Figures released by the Census Bureau last week showed the Chicago market losing more residents over the last decade than any other metropolitan market.

According to the Bureau, 6,263 Chicagoans headed for the exits last year and lost 80,000 residents from the metro area in total. New birth and immigrants moving in were not enough to offset the losses.

Signs of this were coming. Last August, Nielsen reported the Chicago area slipped to fourth place in the total number of African-American TV homes from second place nearly ten years ago, losing 3,640 homes – falling behind even Washington D.C. There is a possibility Chicago could even fall behind Philadelphia next season, as the city of Brotherly Love only trailed by 340 homes. In the last fifteen years, the Chicago area has lost more than 200,000 African-American residents – more than any market in the country.

The market’s black population is shrinking due to numerous factors – lack of job opportunities, rising gun violence (especially on the South Side), plunging home values (especially in the South Suburbs), and declining services.

Others are leaving as well – in addition to the above, many are citing high taxes, high unemployment, weather, pitiful schools (especially in Chicago), a pension crisis, and politicians indifferent to their constituents’ needs. The combination of these issues is affecting everything from attracting businesses to even recruiting (Illinois schools – both public and private – are having difficulty attracting top football/basketball prospects.) In addition, Chicago has made national headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent years, from a spectacular Olympic-bid flop in 2009 to the never-ending gun violence plaguing the area, having a huge effect on tourism and on how others view the city.

Chicago’s violence has even become a pop-culture turning point, thanks to Spike Lee’s movie Chiraq and numerous songs about the subject, yet another headache.

The loss of residents will have an impact – less residents means less spending, which translates into less revenue for media outlets – and it could lead to more layoffs locally at cash-strapped/debt-ridden companies.

For example, Chicago-based media buying agency Starcom Mediavest laid off 80 people earlier this month as the downturn at media agencies continues.

With less population, Chicago radio stations are unlikely return to the days (before the 2007 recession) when the money was flowing freely. Revenue in 2015 was flat from 2014, and was down 10 percent from 2013 as radio behemoths iHeart Media and Cumulus are on the verge of bankruptcy, and CBS Radio has put itself up for sale.

WPWXWGCI

Both of these stations could lose revenue if Chicago’s African-American populations continues to leave.

And it’s a double-whammy for African-American targeted stations owned by iHeartMedia as a declining black population means less revenue and ratings for WVAZ-FM, WGCI-FM, and WGRB-AM, and for Crawford’s WPWX-FM and WSRB-FM.

Plus, Chicago radio hasn’t given its listeners any reason to tune in. Aside from the usual complaints (too many commercials, repetitive playlists, etc.), old stalwarts Steve Dahl and Jonathan Brandmeier are not attracting newer, younger fans. As yours truly said last year, Chicago radio has become a nursing home for broken-down talent who refuse to leave the stage.

Meanwhile, imbeciles like Rep. Joe Walsh of WIND-AM and Mancow Mueller of WLUP-FM continue to be employed despite ratings failures. The fraudulent “morning show contest” held last year by “The Loop” hurt Chicago’s image among a few radio insiders, adding to a town known for corruption. Idiotic mismanagement is to blame for Chicago’s radio woes from Jimmy DeCastro at WGN-AM to Jan Jeffries. No wonder yours truly declared Chicago radio “the worst in the country” last year.

To paraphrase, those who run Chicago’s radio stations are no different from our local and state politicians.

Both Chicago newspapers continue to slump as former Sun-Times CEO Michael Ferro jumped to a similar position at Tribune Publishing recently as much of their content is not worth talking about. And while better off, local TV is getting hit with audience erosion from other technologies, despite expansion of local newscasts.

A battered national image doesn’t help a market’s revenue. St. Louis’ television revenue is being outpaced by Charlotte and San Antonio according to BIA/Kesley’s 2009 figures, the latest year publicly available. Adding to St. Louis’ media woes is the departure of the NFL’s Rams back to Los Angeles, an always racially-tense atmosphere, and a radio industry that’s just as bad as Chicago’s – if not even worse.

And then there’s Detroit. The market has lost millions in ad revenue due to the same problems Chicago is having and saw its market rank drop from 7th in 1989 to 13th today. In the late 1980’s, revenue was outpaced by then-smaller markets Atlanta and Washington. Other seeing huge drops in market rank in the last 25 years include Cleveland and Milwaukee.

Will Chicago lose it’s ranking as the third-largest media market in the country? Not likely anytime soon. But the giant is wounded, and it may take a lot of cooperation among those who have a stake in our metropolitan area’s future to get things back on track.

And if not? Well, here’s something you should think about: Dallas-Ft. Worth could become the third-largest market in the country someday, while Chicago falls to fifth. With every nugget of bad news this area is cranking out on a seemingly daily basis, it may not be out of the realm of possibility.

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Garry Shandling dies

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Comedian known for “It’s Garry Shandling Show”; “Larry Sanders” left legacy

The comedy world is mourning the sudden, shocking loss of Garry Shandling, a stand-up comic and sitcom writer who died Thursday at the age of 66. Paramedics were called to his Los Angeles home for “a medical emergency” and was sent to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Reports state Shandling died from a heartattack.

Shandling was born here in Chicago in 1949, but moved to Tucson, Arizona when he was two. Shandling moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970’s and after a short stint in advertising, landed gigs writing for sitcoms Sanford and Son and Welcome Back, Kotter. But it was his stand-up comedy that drew notice, with his first performance at The Comedy Store in 1978.  Shandling’s fortunes received a boost when he performed on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1981. The appearance led to Shandling filling in for Carson several times and to his own comedy special for premium network Showtime in 1984, at a time when less than half on the country had cable penetration.

In 1986, Shandling signed a deal with Showtime to star in a his own self-titled sitcom, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, a groundbreaking show where Shandling played himself and broke down “the fourth wall”, or addressing the audience directly, a concept only used up to that time in The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and since featured in Saved By The Bell, Malcolm In The Middle, and The Bernie Mac Show.

Shandling’s featured guest appearances from Florence Henderson, Bob Newhart, Gilda Radner, Red Buttons, Don Cornelius, Tom Petty (who became somewhat of a series regular), and Vanna White (who gave away his stuff on Wheel Of Fortune in the first episode), among others. While sitcom viewers are annoyed by studio audiences and laugh tracks these days, Shandling included his studio audience as part of the show, and interacted with them.

The studio audience was even a character in one episode (when Sheena Easton was a guest.)

And of course… that theme song. (“This is the theme to Garry’s show…”) It was song by musician Bill Lynch.

It’s Garry Shandling’s Show also became notable for becoming the first premium cable series to air on a broadcast network, airing on Fox between June 1988 and March 1990.

Garry Shandling at his home, 1986.

Garry Shandling at his home, 1986.

After Fox’s cancellation, Shandling’s run on Showtime wrapped up after 72 episodes, nominated for four Emmy Awards, winning four CableACE awards, and a TCA award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy. He went on even more critical acclaim in The Larry Sanders Show, airing on HBO between 1992 and 1998. In this show, Shandling played a self-absorbed, neurotic talk show host – a character nearly similar to Shandling himself. Celebrities played ramped-up versions of themselves with memorable results (and there are too many of them to name here.) In coming up with the idea for Sanders, Shandling told Entertainment Weekly it came from a plot of his previous program when his character appeared on a LA morning talk show.

Sanders also gave a huge boost for veteran actors Jeffrey Tambor (who would later star in Arrested Development) who played his assistant Hank,  and Rip Torn who played Artie.

The program won three Primetime Emmy Awards and five CableACE Awards, and became the first cable TV series to be nominated for an Primetime Emmy Award. In all Larry Sanders won 24 awards. One notable member of Sanders’ writing stuff was Judd Apatow, who would go on to create Freaks & Geeks and write several influential movies.

Recently, ABC’s The Muppets used Larry Sanders late-night “show-within-a-show format” as a plot point for the series, with Miss Piggy hosting her own fictional late-night talk show. The concept received Shandling’s blessing.

In a case of life nearly imitating art, NBC nearly offered the Late Night gig to Shandling for $5 million after David Letterman left for CBS in 1993, but preferred to stay with his “fictional talk show” on HBO (the Late Night job went to Conan O’Brien.) Shandling was also a serious contender to take over The Tonight Show job when Carson retired, which eventually went to Jay Leno.

Shandling played Se. Stern in "Captain America: Winter Solider" in 2014.

Shandling played Se. Stern in “Captain America: Winter Solider” in 2014.

Shandling was in high demand as an emcee, hosting the Grammy Awards four times and the Emmys twice, most recently in 2004.

Shandling appeared in an memorable episode of The X-Files in the series’ seventh season where he played Fox Mulder in spoof “Hollywood A.D” with Tea Leoni as Dana Scully. Shandling also appeared in the movies Town & CountryIron Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Zoolander. His last appearance came in Jerry Seinfeld’s web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Outside of television, Shandling co-owned a boxing gym in Santa Monica, Calif.

On a personal note, I would like to credit Garry Shandling for being a major influence on my writing. As a teenager, I discovered It’s Garry Shandling’s Show through Fox and was amazed on how good the writing was and the unusual concept. Shandling inspired me to take up writing, which resulted in plays, scripts, several journals containing short skits, and of course, this blog. If it weren’t for Garry Shandling, I wouldn’t be writing. Unfortunately, I never got to see The Larry Sanders Show in its prime, since I didn’t have cable TV at the time. I was a big Garry Shandling fan and was one of the first people I followed when I signed on to Twitter seven years ago.

The news of his passing is particularly tough on me, given I lost my Mom a month ago.

Thanks for the laughs, Garry. Keep ’em in stitches in heaven.

Television ,