Review: “Man Of The People”

WGN’s new weekly show lives up to hype – and then some

Enjoy Man Of The People Chicago, because Lord knows what’s going to happen when new ownership takes over.

The series premiered Saturday night at 10 p.m. over Tribune’s WGN-TV with the station’s morning sports anchor Pat Tomasulo. It was billed as the first series taped at the Bradley Place facility since Bozo stumbled off the air in 2001. Of note, the audience looked younger than those who attend Windy City Live, so we already know they didn’t bus in folks from the nearest Old Country Buffet.

Part Daily Show and part Last Week Tonight (without the swearing), Man Of The People worked on several comedic levels, thanks to Tomasulo’s smugness and timing.

The show opened with Tomasulo unveiling a statue of himself and pitching it to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (to little success.) Reminiscent of a Saturday Night Live sketch last year featuring White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Melissa McCarthy) and that podium, Tomasulo dragged the statue all around Chicago – to the bar, Millennium Park, the Sears Tower – even a Bulls and Blackhawks game – yours truly couldn’t stop laughing.

The next segment featured a hilarious interview with three fans of The Bozo Show who were put on the show’s infamous “waiting list” to get tickets but never got in. They were invented to People and actually got to meet the long-footed clown himself.

This won’t be a tourist attraction anytime soon.

Then Tomasulo did a piece called The Voice Of Reason, and discussed the Tide Pod Challenge, where teenagers who don’t know better swallow the stuff inside the plastic bags on YouTube (Procter & Gamble – the manufacturer of Tide – even had to make a video featuring the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski urging people to don’t do it.) Tomasulo thought the concern was ridiculous since dumb people… always do dumb stuff.

Finally, Bozo came out and gave a pie to the face to ol’ Pat and had the Grand March.

Man Of The People was an entertaining half-hour of fun and enjoyable programming, and the deadpan delivery of Tomasulo was a huge factor. But the real question is…can he keep up this pace every week? Aside from a Ted Cruz reference, Tomasulo steered clear from politics in his opening episode, which is fine – the topic is covered enough from other late-night shows. Trying something different isn’t a bad idea.

Another plus: social media reaction was generally positive, and this review from Ray Hannia was glowing. Viewers responded too, with the premiere earning a 2.6 Nielsen household live-same day overnight rating.

As yours truly pointed out last week, WGN and other stations are filling time slots with more local efforts – something syndicators should worry about – even if it’s a weekly half-hour show. And since Man Of The People is actually good – they should be worried even more. Already, Tegna and Scripps have their own homegrown shows airing across their respective stations groups such as weekly talent competition Sing Like A Star and daytime talk-show strip Pickler And Ben.

Man Of The People would be good enough to air on Tribune’s station group. But there is one problem – Sinclair’s pending acquisition of Tribune, which is scheduled to close in the next few months. Sinclair has a different programming philosophy than other groups, though they have weekly series such as Full Measure and The Armstrong Williams Show, but those are conservative news and commentary shows. It is not known if Man Of The People would be a good fit in their portfolio.

Still, Man Of The People had a great start, and if Tomasulo keeps up the momentum, it would be a welcome addition to dreary weekend schedules filled with infomercials, tired off-network dramas, and fourth-rate syndicated programming. So enjoy Man Of The People Chicago viewers – before Captain Chesapeake fires the Man.

Grade: A

Man Of The People airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. and Sundays at 11 p.m.

To see the full episode, click here.

Pat Tomasulo’s quotes from Saturday night’s premiere:

“I’ve never wanted to be Carson or Letterman I wanted a weekly show on local TV where half the time I’d get bumped for a Cubs game.”

“We’re really going to work hard to make a great show one you could watch tonight, and say you know what? I’m think I’m going to start DVRing that show and then watch it on Tuesday.”

“I’ll come to your freaking house and program your DVR personally. I’m serious! Let’s see Jimmy Fallon do that nonsense.”

“You know… doing the show, sometimes I’ve got to pinch myself just thinking about the long history of WGN programming…you know, you think of Garfield Goose, Cubs baseball…Maury.”

“Yeah that’s right. First they get your toddler hooked on Tide and the next thing you know, he’s freebasing Cascade.”

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