The Media Notepad: Four ABC 7 emloyees told to stay home due to coronavirus

Also: Steve Wilkos and Maury Povich renewed; Kids in the Hall returns; Divorce Court gets a new judge

The coronavirus epidemic has now hit Chicago’s media community. As reported by Robert Feder last week, several employees of ABC-owned WLS-TV (ABC 7) have been told to stay home as a few of them may have been exposed to the virus.

Four employees were sidelined out of caution as a reporter and a photographer were at an Arlington Heights hospital Monday where a coronavirus patient was being treated. Two other people – another photographer and his wife (who happens to be a station employee) were also quarantined.

According to Feder, all four are waiting to see if the Arlington Heights food worker tests positive for COVID-19, the raw name for the coronavirus. This is the first known case of anyone in the media business affected by the virus.

This comes as the coronavirus epidemic has wrecked havoc around the world, particularly in China and Japan where thousands are affected. In the United States, the stock market has nose-dived and has affected everything from travel to trade shows.

As of this writing, Illinois has six confirmed coronavirus patients. The epidemic has canceled several trade shows – three at Chicago’s McCormick Place and several festivals, including SXSW in Austin, Tex. and the Emerald City Comic-Con in Seattle, where the highest concentration of coronavirus patients are. On Saturday, the NHL is limiting media access to locker rooms, and the NBA is considering playing in front of empty areas.

As far as broadcasting is concerned, a NAB show is still scheduled to take place in Las Vegas for next month, but the organization has reached out to Clark County officials and the convention center where the show is taking place for direction on how to proceed.

Other gatherings and trade shows canceled include Mip-Tv in France; Mobile World Congress; and a Fox News upfront event. If the coronavirus crisis continues into spring, it could have the potential to affect the 2020 upfronts in New York, the Detroit Auto Show, and possibly San Diego Comic-Con in July and the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.


The duo of Steve Wilkos and Maury Povich are staying on the air a little longer as NBCUniversal has renewed each show through the 2021-22 season.

“I’m glad that I can continue to bring justice into my guests lives and provide a platform for their powerful stories to be heard,” Wilkos said in a statement. “The show has evolved so much over the years that I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

The renewal was expected as Maury was picked up for two more seasons, also through 2021-22. Both programs share the same station lineup for the most part although in Chicago, Maury airs on Nexstar’s WGN-TV at 2 p.m. while Wilkos airs at noon on Weigel’s WCIU. Wilkos premiered on WGN-TV in 2007 and moved to WCIU in 2009.

A former Chicago cop, Wilkos – the former head of security on Jerry Springer, was spun-off from the show in 2007 and like Springer, taped at the NBC Tower here in Chicago. In order to take advantage of tax credits Connecticut was offering, Wilkos and Springer – along with Maury all moved their show to the state in 2009, where they remain today (though Springer now does a court show, Judge Jerry.) Wilkos’ program – which reminds some viewers of Morton Downey Jr.’s old show from the late 1980s – often deals with criminal justice, conflict, and relationship issues.

Wilkos averages around 1.4 million viewers a day, slightly above Tamron Hall’s 1.2 million and behind Kelly Clarkson’s 1.7 million. Clarkson, like Wilkos is syndicated by NBCUniversal.


Judge Judy isn’t the only courtroom show making news this week – Fox’s Divorce Court is making a change behind the bench with the appointment of Faith Jenkins as the show’s new judge, replacing Lynn Toler, who left earlier this season after thirteen seasons. No reason was given for her departure. Jenkins become the show’s fifth judge in the show’s long history and she takes over in July.

Toler replaced original judge Mablean Ephriam who presided over Divorce Court from 1999 to 2006. She has since reappeared in her own courtroom show for Entertainment Studios, Justice With Judge Mablean.

This is the latest change for the veteran court show, who Fox retained the rights to (in addition to Dish Nation and 25 Words Or Less) as the rest of 21st Century Fox was sold to Disney. All three are syndicated under the Fox First-Run banner.

“I started watching Divorce Court in law school, so to be now joining the show is quite surreal,” Jenkins said in a statement. “My legal expertise combined with my personal life experience – including years of dating in the world of social media and technology – provides me a unique perspective that will inform my empathy and judgment for many of the issues couples raise on the show.”

Jenkins headlined her own courtroom show Judge Faith from 2014 to 2018. Before that, she served as a legal analyst for cable news channels and received her law degree from Southern University. She worked as a litigator for a New York City law firm and as a district attorney for the Manhattan District Attorney.

Now in its 21st season of its current incarnation, Divorce Court had three other stints in television history: from 1957 to 1962, and again from 1967 to 1969 with Judge Votile Perkins; and from 1984 to 1991 with retired California Superior Court Judge William B. Keene, who was originally assigned to Charles Manson’s murder trial but was removed after he filed an affidavit of prejudice. Even through both versions were scripted, the decisions handed down by Perkins and Keene were improvised.

Since its return in 1999, the cases are real, but the couples had already filed for divorce and basically there to resolves issues such as alimony and assets.


The Kids are back and my how they’ve grown: Amazon Prime announced last Thursday it is planning a revival of Canadian sketch-comedy series Kids In The Hall with all five principal members returning – Scott Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, and Scott Thompson for eight episodes. The series was executive produced by Lorne Michaels, who will take the reins again in this revival.

“Even after 30 years, The Kids in the Hall has retained its brilliance and originality,” said Michaels. “We are happy to be bringing back all of the original ‘Kids’ for the new series.” Kids becomes the first Canadian Amazon Original Series, although other Amazon series have been shot north of the border, including Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan and The Expanse.

The cult series aired on public broadcaster CBC from 1989 to 1994 and also found a following in the United States through HBO, Comedy Central, and CBS, where it aired in its late-night Friday schedule from 1992 to 1995. The troupe later did a movie, Brain Candy. The show was known for numerous hilarious characters, including Chicken Lady, Buddy Cole, and HeadCrusher. The last time the five were together was the CBC limited-run series Kids In The Hall: Death Comes To Town in 2010.

Currently, episodes of the original Kids In The Hall are available on Amazon Prime and on DVD.

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