"Big Willie" not so big

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

Too bad it was the only good thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They Can’t afford chairs on The Big Willie Show?”Lesile Mere, Houston

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

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


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