T Dog’s Media Notepad: WGN-TV succeeds with annual toy drive

Also: The Wall off to a decent start; WCIU to showcase local comedians; Drew Barrymore talker on hold; Fox duopoly picks up another show.

WGN-TV held its fourteenth annual Drive-Thru Toy Drive on Thursday to benefit needy families in Chicago and the Tribune-owned independent collected nearly 14,000 unwrapped toys at the event held at the station.

Award-winning actress and singer (and Chicago native) Jennifer Hudson and her sister Julia were on hand to participate in the festivities. The event benefited the Julian D. King Gift Foundation and the toys were distributed Christmas Eve at St. Sabina Catholic Church, where Rev. Michael Pflager is pastor.

Julian King was Jennifer Hudson’s nephew and was murdered several years ago along with other family members in an Englewood home.

This is the seventh year Hudson and her sister has participated in the event, which was held from 5 to 10 a.m., during WGN-TV’s highly-rated morning newscast. This once again proves the strong connections local broadcasters have with their communities.

To see video of the event, click on the link above or click here.

If you’re unimpressed with local New Year’s Eve specials Chi-Town Rising or Countdown Chicago, then WCIU is offering up an alternative for you – a sixty-minute special featuring some of the area’s hottest comedians. Taped at Zanies in Rosemont December 12, Chicago’s One Night Stand Up airs New Year’s Eve Saturday at 9 p.m. Hosted by Rebecca O’Neal, the special features eleven other comedians, including Schmitty B, Kristen Lundberg, Pat Mcgann, and Martin Morrow, among others.

WCIU plans to repeat the specials again at midnight (as we enter the new year) and Sunday night at 8 p.m.

NBC ‘s new The Wall game show premiered last week (Dec. 19), and the series got off to a decent start – the game earned a 1.6 rating in the 18-49 demo, thanks in part to an America’s Got Talent Christmas Special as a lead-in. Hosted by Chris Hardwick, the game show has contestants drop giant balls into a chute and they shoot up a huge wall and come down again into slots with cash prizes ranging from one dollar to as much as $12 million.

If this sounds familiar to you – it should – the game is similar to The Price Is Right’s wildly popular Plinko game as a few pointed out on Twitter:

John and Angel Whorton won $1.3 million on the first episode. By comparison, NBC’s last big money game show – Deal or No Deal – awarded its first million dollar prize in its third season. 

The Wall has a two-night premiere “event” as NBC bills it, January 2 after the premiere of the revamped Celebrity Apprentice with new host (or boss), Arnold Schwarzenegger and then settles into its regular Tuesday night slot the following slot, leading off prime-time.

LeBron James is listed as an executive producer of the show.

As stations gear up for the 2017-18 season, don’t look for a new talk show from Drew Barrymore, as has been branded about the last few weeks as the project has been put on hold. Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres signed the movie star to a daytime talk show project with Hearst, who owns stations in Boston (WCVB), Pittsburgh (WTAE), and Milwaukee (WISN), among other markets. However, Hearst and Warner were unable to secure clearances in top markets for next season where the major networks and Tribune own stations. As a result, all parties involved agreed to delay the project until possibly the 2018 or 2019 season.

Although Tribune does have time slots opening up with the recent cancellation of Celebrity Name Game, Barrymore’s talker isn’t exactly compatible with other programming offered in daytime on the group, which includes conflict talkers. However, if Harry Connick Jr.’s series continues to struggle in its second season, Fox could use Barrymore as a replacement for 2018 – assuming he comes back for a second season. Currently, Harry is averaging a 1.2 rating this season – below the 1.3 rating Name Game had before it was canceled. Not exactly encouraging news for the crooner.

Remember last summer when yours truly discussed several “test” programs airing in certain markets – with Chicago the notable exclusion? Well, another one of them is getting a national launch. Top 30, a rapid-fire news show, is being rolled out by Twentieth Television nationally next fall with clearances on all Fox-owned stations, including the Fox duopoly in Chicago. Top 30 features the day’s top 30 news stories divided up into segments.

Another “test show”, based on the New York Post gossip column Page Six, is also launching as a nationally syndicated magazine next fall.

“This show is perfect for the stations that don’t have a national news voice”, said Stephen Brown, executive VP of programming and development of Twentieth Television in a press release. “The bite-sized segments with lower-third graphics play well on air and on our affiliates’ digital platforms. Give us 30 minutes, and we’ll get you up to date with everything you need to know each day. That’s our promise.”

Even though Fox has a wildly successful national cable news network, Fox-owned stations and affiliates have never had a national nightly newscast though in the 1980’s, the Independent News Network produced a national nightly newscast for independent stations. The outfit folded in June 1990.

Fox News is not involved in production of Top 30.

Twentieth plans to sell Top 30 on a barter basis, meaning stations don’t have to pay a cash license fee for the show, but give up half of their ad inventory in the show to Twentieth, so they can sell to national advertising clients.

Still no word on if Top 30 fails to deliver thirty stories in thirty minutes, all home viewers watching would get free Domino’s Pizza.