Think YOU had a bad day? I got into the office this morning and the first thing to greet me was this e-mail! Yes, I bought that Hoverboard at auction in 1992 for $3k. Yes, I sold that Hoverboard in 2010 to a guy in Finland for $11k, almost quadrupling my investment. Smart move, right? Wrong! 11 years later, that same Hoverboard sells at auction for US$506,000. This is heavy! Great Scott! Continue reading MY HOVERBOARD HORROR!
Newton-John once told me after her cancer diagnosis, she would mentally picture her dog (Jackson) running through her system eating the cancer cells like PacMan. I have no doubt that is what kept her going for 30 years after her diagnosis. I got a call on Friday saying it could be any time now, so I suppose she just got tired of fighting. She was a genuinely warm person and shared her time and her wealth with so many. The first time I met her was in Cincinnati when she was shooting the NBC made-for-TV-movie “A Mom for Christmas”. I begged my boss in Detroit to let me go down and interview her. I was so incredibly nervous, but deliberately decided not to get a photo with her as I just wanted that memory for myself. Continue reading I HONESTLY LOVE YOU TOO
Got to talk to my old friend Jerry O’Connell today – on TV. Haven’t seen him since he came to my house in L.A. for a birthday party several years ago. We had a great chat before this segment aired – here’s Jerry and Randall trying to get me on camera. I appeared – but only viewers in Indy got to see it. I edited myself out for this Facebook version! Continue reading JERRY MEANDERING
The Summer of ’17 was utterly unforgettable. I went on a cross-country journey with four stand-up comedians – a black & white Jewish mom, an Aussie billionaire with a hangup about hookups, a maximum-security prisoner just released after aiding & abetting a robbery and attempted murder, and a psychotic psychologist with a hernia issue and a slew of other pre-existing conditions. I was shooting their adventures for a reality show – Sunda’s Straightjacket Comedy Tour – about how the owner of the LA School Of Comedy take a select group of students on a cross-country comedy tour. Only now am I finally able to show you what went down in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Reno, Vegas and god-knows-where-else. When you’re on tour, your cast & crew become your family. I love these guys. Continue reading JOKE JOCKEYS ON TOUR
This week we celebrate the 29th anniversary of the KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles – the Barbara-Carlos-Mark-Sam version was the highest-rated local morning show in TV history! This show provided me with so many life-long friends, a treasure trove of memories and videos, it brought me a mantle full of Emmy Awards and it bought me my first house and half a dozen cars! I’ve come across some scenes from the show I had locked away decades ago in the Raymond J Brune vault. Most of these clips are being seen here for the first time since they originally aired nearly 3 decades ago! Here’s to the Morning News and everyone “who held the show hostage!” Continue reading 29 YEARS LATER
This week we celebrate the 29th anniversary of the (original) KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles – the Barbara-Carlos-Mark-Sam version was the highest-rated local morning program in TV history! This show provided me with so many life-long friends, a treasure trove of memories and videos, it brought me a mantle full of Emmy Awards and it bought me my first house and half a dozen cars! A few years ago, I wrote a book about my phenomenal experiences starting up the KTLA Morning News – Personality Driven – The Secret Sauce For Selling News. On the off-chance that you haven’t read it, I’m posting the first chapter here – all about the little show that became a monster hit – completely by accident! Continue reading THE KTLA MORNING NEWS JULY 8, 1991
Back in the ’90’s, I “passed” on booking Aussie superstar Tina Arena on my show in L.A. cuz I’d never heard of her. Then fate intervened at the Virgin Record Store on Sunset (how I miss that place!) Now I’m in deep – a huge fan! All these years later, Tina has forgiven me on Instagram! Continue reading IN TINA’S ARENA
Just know: If I show up at the ER complaining of pneumonia-ish symptoms and you are unable to test me for the coronavirus because you’re all out of tests, I realize it’s not you who failed to plan accordingly – and I genuinely thank you for being there. Continue reading TO MY FIRST RESPONDERS:
Every so often throughout the course of history, a monster comes along – the kind our parents promised us don’t really exist – to put the human race back in its place. Its sole purpose is to remind us how small and truly insignificant we all are. This monster is among us now, lurking invisible to the naked eye but proving itself to be bigger, more adaptable and more powerful than any one of us. Ironically, it’s this very beast that reminds us it can only be defeated by “the whole” of us. Continue reading THE MONSTER AMONG US
Here’s a fascinating piece of internet history from 1995. It’s two members of the cast of Friends, Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry showing us how to use the Microsoft software Windows 95. I suspect the one thing this hour-long program shows us more than anything else, is the importance of solid comedy writers. The sitcom’s writing was brilliant – but this little feature isn’t. Jennifer and Matthew seem to be partly acting/partly ad-libbing in a pseudo-sitcom that was written by Microsoft’s marketing department, not Friends Emmy award-winning writers. It’s bad. Really bad. Which is why it’s so fun to watch. I bet these two stars walked away with a cool chunk of change from Mr. Gates! Enjoy. Continue reading MICROSOFT WINDOWSHILL
Once upon a time, Shakespeare’s time in fact, performers and entertainers were considered the lowest forms of life. Dregs. Rabble. Back then, the elite in their haughty heels would step over such vermin like Americans now do their homeless population. Actors were the scum of the earth. Today, that scum sit atop the societal food chain. Take Meghan Markle. For all her social climbing, she keeps reaching newer lows. She’s an actor who opened up a couple of suitcases on Deal or No Deal, parlayed that gig into some cable TV show, and then catapulted into the arms of a spare heir who inherited his life – and spent all of it leeching off the British government for room and board. A fairy tale permeated with pixie dust if there ever was one! Continue reading MY KINGDOM FOR AN EXIT STRATEGY!
I watched Bobbie Battista religiously on CNN Headline News back in the day. You see, it was my job. The weekend producer at WLWT had me, their intern, logging CNN newscasts for any video we could use from CNN on our shows. OMG! Lynne Russell, Lynn Vaughn, Gordon Graham, that anchorman with one leg, Toria, Chuck Roberts! I watched them all but Bobbie was always my favorite! Continue reading AROUND THE WORLD IN 30 MINUTES
In the mid ’80’s, I was a mere intern at the NBC affiliate, WLWT in Cincinnati, working with Norma Rashid and Richard Hull. Nick Clooney was the WKRC news anchor who owned the market after stealing it from Al Schottelkotte at WCPO. Every time I was sent out to cover spot news stories – shootings, stabbings, fires, car accidents – whatever – I was there for Channel 5 – Nick was there for Channel 12. Obviously he got the best interviews because everyone wanted to talk with THE Nick Clooney. I came across this WKRC promo and I can verify it’s true. Nick was all over the streets of Cincinnati, right next to little intern Ray. I love the shot where Nick is interviewing Mayor Jerry Springer – the man who will ultimately unseat him as the market’s #1 news anchor. These were great days. Continue reading IN THE NICK OF TIME
Bonnie Franklin was a very good friends of ours at The KTLA Morning News. Every on-stage event we had, there she was joining in! I recently came across one of her earliest acting roles – as Sally in You’re The Judge from 1965. It’s an ephemeral film from that era produced by Crisco. Two girls are trying to “trap” two boys and the only way they figure they can do it is through their stomachs with some chicken and some cheating! It’s a wonderful lesson for the children of tomorrow! Enjoy. Continue reading A SHORT ABOUT SHORTENING
Playtime with some of my favorite people when we visited Virginia City, NV. Sunda Croonquist, James Harris, Pete Drysdale and Stacie Taylor. This scene was included in the original pilot for the cross-country trek of the Straightjacket Comedy Tour. Check it out – and see how many inside jokes you can decipher! Continue reading Mighty Fine Calico Queen
When “awkward” goes off the rails on live TV. This is some great television! Continue reading ONE OF MOMMY’S TOYS
With Halloween approaching, I want to share something a very wise man once said. His name: Herman Munster. If only the President, Congress, Supreme Court Justices, the people who proudly make up the President’s base, and all of us Americans could embrace the concept of Character, we’d all be so much closer to the people our founding fathers once hoped we’d be.
There’s a 5 & 6pm newscast here in Cincinnati that I find myself watching… because it’s so bad. From anchors sporting the latest Wal-Mart fashions and looking as disheveled as a hooker who had a productive night, to a weatherman who, literally, yells at you throughout his forecast, thinking he’s sporting a sexy, booming FM radio voice, but in fact, is just, plain yelling. The anchors start to mirror his absurd volume and the whole show becomes a big yelling fest. But let’s switch gears for a second as there’s one pet peeve I have that gets me yelling back at the TV screen. The anchors are constantly ad-libbing that cliche phrase “switching gears” between stories. It’s a verbal device they use to bridge two unrelated stories to make the transition feel a bit less awkward. As an example, going from a double fatal car crash story to the birth of a new elephant at the zoo is an obvious “switching gears” story. The problem is easily avoided by a producer who understands the art of stacking stories in a newscast. Continue reading “SWITCHING GEARS” HURTS MY EARS
Appreciate Inquiry could have a dramatic effect on the productivity in your newsroom. I’ve seen the powerful results AI’s had on people in addiction recovery and on businesses of all types around the country. At a recent seminar I attended on the subject, I heard from countless people how their businesses and industries have rapidly improved by applying the principles of appreciative inquiry. Continue reading APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY
This past week, I had the privilege of being invited to the Flourishing Leadership Institute’s “LEAF” workshop. LEAF is a new approach used by change agents (coaches, speakers, trainers, facilitators, consultants, and leaders) to lead groups of all sizes to shape their future or solve specific problems better, faster and more naturally than thought possible with other methods. I was there to premiere a video I shot and edited about Jesse Harless. Jesse is using the LEAF method to help people who are recovering from addiction – and his results are getting glowing reviews. This video is the media marketing he needed to move his program to a national scale. Continue reading ADDICTION RE-LEAF
THE “SOY BOMB” CRASH & BURN
Taking risks is the sure-fire path to rewards. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me. But taking risks also means that sometimes, things don’t pay off. Things don’t go as planned. What you saw in your head when planning your next amazing segment is NOT what you ended up seeing on the line monitor. Continue reading UNREWARDED RISKS!
THE CENTERPIECE OF YOUR SHOW
On The Golden Girls, where did Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia spend most of their time? At The Kitchen Table. At your house, where does the family end up together more often than not? Correct! The Kitchen Table! It’s where you have your everyday meals, it’s where the kids do their homework, it’s where dad does his crossword puzzle and where mom reads her magazine. When a friend stops over, he joins the family at The Kitchen Table. The centerpiece of your home is The Kitchen Table – it’s the “home base” of your family.
The Kitchen Table is also the home base of your morning show. It’s where your family of anchors, sports and weather casters, reporters, and contributors hang out. When Chris Pine drops by, he joins everybody at The Kitchen Table. When the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders arrive, they join the gang at The Kitchen Table. When the mayor visits to discuss the teachers strike, he does so at The Kitchen Table. You don’t take guests and move them to a more formal location (like a living room set). You all hang out around The Kitchen Table where everyone joins in on the interview, the food and the small talk. Continue reading THE KITCHEN TABLE!
GOOD MORNING NEWS FOR NBC
NBC’s Today has improved by leaps and bounds since the last time I watched – during the ousting of Matt Lauer more than a year ago. The new directing style the show has adopted dramatically boosts the connection between the talent and the viewers. Hoda, Savannah and Al are alive, in-the-moment, and occasionally engaging, but the show has some work ahead of it – especially with Carson and Craig. But first, an obvious editorial error. Continue reading “TODAY” TURNS A CORNER
-TV TEEMS W/GENERIC REPORTERS-
I’m astounded on a daily basis how the majority of TV field reporters are content being anonymous, generic purveyors of facts and information – as generic and anonymous as the fake reporter in this stock photo! Watch reporters on any station in your market – they’ll do a “live” hit – then throw to a package that isn’t the least bit memorable or in any way stylized. Their live shots, their standups, their writing and their producing does absolutely nothing to make them stand out from the parade of generic reporters airing on TV every minute of every day. Continue reading ANONYMOUS PURVEYORS OF FACTS
A fascinating TED talk featuring Sue Klebold, mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold. I can’t image the courage it took her to “go public” with her feelings. In many ways, she too, is a Columbine survivor.
Sometimes you’ve just got to let them talk it out. When the word “thug” became a news story, everyone on set had an opinion. It’s so important to allow them to discuss these issues – which strengthens the connection between your talent and your audience. In this example, we just let them talk right up to the hard break.
Booking guests is a little understood art that I’ve had lots of time to practice. Between KTLA, E! News Live, GMA Sunday and World News Now, I’ve pretty much had every notable name in Hollywood & New York in studio, on-set for interviews. The key to booking an interview guest is all about how your hosts interact with celebrities. Obviously, you want the guest to look good, have a great time and get to push whatever they’re pushing. But what viewers see is your hosts hanging out with a big star. Continue reading PRODUCING GUESTS
-THE RECIPE FOR RATINGS-
Do you know the “secret sauce” to morning show success? It’s a simple recipe. And it’s right there on the screen. It’s the one thing all these clips have in common.
Ever notice how your favorite celebrities who are guests on Ellen or Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert share stories about their lives? That’s because producers ask the stars to come armed with a few stories the host can lead them into. Producers know that storytelling is an essential device to connect viewers to the show and to its hosts and guests. Continue reading SAVVY STORYTELLING
Ryan Reynold’s pitch for his own Aviation Gin is a brilliant example of storytelling – although a parody through and through. He’s disrupting the industry by showing how his competitors are out overselling their distilling process. His pitch runs 1:40 – but keeps you engaged til the end.
AN ILLUMINATING OVERSIGHT
If you’ve ever met her, you know Marie Osmond is pretty in person. Stunning even. And she is just as beautiful on TV. Marie, a TV veteran of her own prime-time variety series and a daytime talk show, knows how crucial lighting is on a TV set. Good lighting can make a talent “glow” on screen. Bad lighting is the kiss of death. Many years ago, Marie was a guest on The KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles. Coincidentally, we shot our show on the very same stage she and her brother had shot all 78-episodes of Donnie & Marie on ABC twenty years earlier. I remember very clearly, when she arrived, before going to makeup, Marie asked me if she could go out on set for a moment during a commercial break. I led the way. Once there, she looked at where she would be sitting for the interview and then examined the lighting grid above her, determining whether or not she had a key light, a fill light, and a rim light (a back light). She was happy when our three-point lighting met her standards.
One of the best things about television in the ’70’s and ’80’s were those yearly image campaigns by each of the networks pushing their new fall lineup. ABC, CBS and NBC always seemed to be trying to out do each other every year with bigger, louder and more star-studded campaigns than the year before. Aside from the eye popping visuals, there were the catchy jingles accompanying each campaign. 1982’s winner was, hands down, ABC with it’s “Come On Along” theme. The network actually allocated a budget, hired a chopper and paid some of its talent to appear in scenes shot specifically for this campaign. Fonzi and Chachi, Mr. Roarke & Tattoo, Laverne and Shirley, Max from Hart To Hart, that Benson guy, Joanie (Erin Moran, who lived near me for many years in Los Angeles, RIP) and even Scooby Doo showed up in Manhattan to get bystanders to come on along. It’s the promotion people running amok, schlock galore, and I love every second of it: Continue reading 1982 IMAGE CAMPAIGNS
One “presentation” element that local news producers have never embraced is “packaging” news. You might want to reconsider. Whether we’re talking several national/international stories, health or fitness, tech or virals, putting them together in one quick roundup segment with music and graphics is a great way to “up” your story count as well as stylize your newscast. Here are some examples of packaged segments we used daily on Eye Opener in Chicago: Continue reading PACKAGING UPS PACING
Sometimes you’ve just got to stand in front of a camera and experiment. That’s how InZaNews was developed. A friend of mine, Barry Pintar, and I discussed producing a two minute, daily, digital morning newscast that would cover the news quickly and succinctly. Because we lived across the country from each other, Barry did most of the heavy lifting. Produced for nearly a year, InZaNews was very popular in high schools – teachers would play the day’s episode before starting class. The biggest feedback was the shock that our anchorman, Zacko, was sporting tattoos! People loved it. Our biggest problem was distribution – we pitched it around to various media properties but had no luck getting funding or finding it a permanent home with a web entity So we ultimately moved on to other things. To bad – it’s a cool format.
These people truly remember EVERY second of their lives! A fascinating report from 60 Minutes Australia. Continue reading TOTAL RECALL – LITERALLY!
Storytelling is that oh so overly used industry buzzword you hear everywhere. But I ask you: When was the last time you actually heard any news anchor or reporter tell a compelling story? You’d certainly remember it if you heard one. So let me bring you two simple examples of storytelling that pop. Oliver Tull was one of the hosts of the Dallas version of Eye Opener. In this first clip, he tells a story about an old man who fights off a grizzly bear who was after his dog: Continue reading AUNT VIOLET’S ASKEW WIG!
MEDIA CIRCUS MOLESTATION DRAMA
My obsession with ’70’s made-for-TV movies sometimes creeps into the following decade – especially when those films focus on the behind-the-scene drama of a TV news department. 1986’s News At Eleven is the godfather of that genre. It hit TV screens just a year before Holly Hunter‘s TV News comedy Broadcast News arrived in theaters. And while there is certainly no lack of made-for-TV ansgt in this little Continue reading SEDUCED BY “NEWS AT 11”
WAZE 2 UTILIZE UR NEWS CHOPPER
One of my greatest resources while producing The KTLA Morning News was Skycam 5 – our news helicopter, and the people inside – traffic reporter Jennifer York, a photographer (often Martin Clancey) and their pilot (usually one of the Tamburro brothers). With L.A. traffic being a commuter’s worst nightmare, the chopper was in the air four hours daily with scenes from traffic tie-ups in every direction. The chopper was also one of our greatest tools in covering breaking news. In fact, early on, we found a huge audience from an exclusive story KTLA broke thanks to our chopper – the massive flooding in Ventura County where torrents of water literally washed away a mobile home park. You can check out a quick recap of that exclusive footage here before I go on to address the “elephant in the air”… Continue reading THE ELEPHANT IN THE AIR
I just happened to be editing and caught this amazing freeze – a random screen capture from Eye Opener I executive produced in 2015. No enhancements were made. It’s posted here just as it aired. Ty and Brooke are in their element. Know what I see? Continue reading JUST A MOMENT IN TIME…
OPEN TEASES MUST SET THE TONE
How do you open your morning newscast? Let me guess. Video of that overnight fire, wiping to that avalanche caught on tape, wiping to the footage of a dolphin giving birth. Music is urgent, your talent is breathless and graphics are flashing all over the screen. Yep. You’re producing that pre-open tease exactly as Walk Away Joe tells you to do it. If you’re producing a personality-driven newscast, Joe, aka your news consultant, is dead wrong. Here’s why. Continue reading ESTABLISH YOUR ATTITUDE
60 Minutes Australia comes up with the most incredible stories that never seem to reach our shores. Have you heard about this tiny village in Turkey where people still walk on all fours? Absolutely astounding! Continue reading VILLAGERS STILL WALK ON ALL FOURS!
“THIS GUY’S A REAL PLAYER!”
This is a huge reason The KTLA Morning News was beloved by viewers… Sam Rubin, our entertainment guy, who livvvvvvves to share the latest gossip about anyone or anything, would bring viewers “inside scoop” like he does below – even if that scoop is currently airing on a competing channel!! Check it out! A brilliant moment that had people changing channels all over town trying to identify who Sam was talking about! Continue reading A SCOOP CAUSES CHANNEL-CHANGING CHAOS IN LA!
—INFLUENCERS ARE EVERYTHING!—
Stations across the country are desperately trying to incorporate social media into their newscasts in a bid to capture a younger demo. They’re promising a newscast “like you’ve never seen before” – “doing news in a brand new way” – “this ain’t your daddy’s newscast.” The cliches keep comin’! Problem is the stations simply don’t know how to deliver the goods. Fox tried: Continue reading HOW TO PRODUCE SOCIAL-MEDIA-DRIVEN NEWSCASTS
If you’re still in the market for a New Year’s Resolution, I’ve got you covered. Resolve to watch this video below – all 19 minutes of it. Earl Nightingale is someone you’ve never heard of. He is, sort of, the Anthony Robbins of the ’50’s – but oh, so much more profound. His brief message will, truly, change your life. He first released his book, The Strangest Secret, in 1956 followed by an audio recording on a LP album. That sold one million copies – the highest amount of sales ever for a so-called “self-help” genre recording. Don’t focus on the video quality, or the audio reproduction. Listen to his words. And learn. The guy is a genius.
You’ve got to hand it to The Onion. Their judicial satire is sharp as a knife.
I was incredibly lucky to showrun an hysterical cast of comic characters for the reality series, Sunda’s Straightjacket Comedy Tour! Standing Room Only from D.C. to Los Angeles! We thought our secret was safe – but, uh oh, them Aussies caught on. “Mr. Drysdale”, by the way, is very talented!
Lost a friend over the Christmas holidays. Robin Phillips has died in Houston. Robin anchored the weekend news at WLWT in Cincinnati when I was little Ray the intern. We covered many breaking stories together including a man barricaded in his home holding family members hostage. He suddenly started shooting from a window – Robin and I heard the bullets whiz right over our heads! That’ll teach you to keep your head down! Continue reading THE LOSS OF BRIGHT EYES
-CLOSE-UPS CREATE A CONNECTION-
Let me ask you a question. What is it about Britney Spears that transformed her into a legendary superstar?
Is it her voice?
Is it her catchy, heavily produced pop tracks?
Is it because she’s hot and jumps off the TV screen in every one of her music videos and TV appearances?
Two television treasures here from the golden age of local TV. I found these films just the other day and couldn’t wait to get them on-line for you to check out. I’ve never seen either presentation before but both films highlight independent station KTLA as a true forerunner in early television production from back in the day when owned by Paramount Studios. These are priceless portraits of local TV’s “coming of age” and the pioneers who put it all together. Continue reading A PRICELESS PORTRAIT OF TV’S PAST
When you combine two words, “popular” and luxury, you create “Populuxe”. It was a consumer culture and aesthetic in the U.S. in the 1950’s and ’60’s. The look and feel of Populuxe was one of futuristic and Space Age influence. You can identify the Populuxe movement in films, graphics, clothing designs, furniture, interior design and architecture. And nowhere is it more on display than a few of the short films I’ve collected below.
“DESIGN FOR DREAMING” (1956)
First is Design For Dreaming, a film which was shown before the feature film at movie theaters across the country. It was created to highlight the General Motors Motorama of 1956, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York and new Frigidaire appliances. Tad Tadlock, a dancer and choreographer plays the woman caught in pink pajamas going to the Motorama. Her masked suitor is dancer and choreographer Marc Breaux. The film is an over-the-top, dream-dance piece of puffery which is why it’s so fascinating to watch. Directed by William Beaudine and produced by Victor Solow for MPO Productions, it’s once of those productions I wish I had a hand in producing. I’ve acquired a breathtaking print of the film you won’t find on YouTube. Favorite Populuxe line of dialogue: “Better get her into the kitchen, quick!” Enjoy. Continue reading OUR “POPULUXE” PAST
It’s absolutely essential that I point out to you moments on “live” TV that totally “nailed it” – when all the pieces come together to make an amazing TV moment. The clip I’m presenting today, which I would have given anything to have produced, I’ve watched dozens of times, examining every nuance that makes it so powerful. And I urge you to watch every frame again and again. This is how a director, a producer (to a lesser extend here), and the on-air players come together to create an amazing, incredible, emotional moment. Watch first, then I’ll dissect. Continue reading THIS IS HOW YOU DIRECT “LIVE” TV!
Here’s a great promo clip the WB did about KTLA Morning News traffic reporter Jennifer York. It’s a interstitial the network ran during its children’s programming highlighting the crazy careers some people choose. Cute little theme song. Check it out. Continue reading JENNIFER BELONGS TO THE SKY!
The true horror of the Kennedy assassination was brought into the living rooms of Americans on March 6, 1975 – in living color. Geraldo Rivera‘s late night show Good Night America on ABC was the first outlet to air the 8mm film shot more than a decade earlier by bystander Abraham Zapruder in Dallas. Continue reading FIRST AIRING OF THE ZAPRUDER FILM
Mr. Branson is so right – “Clients” are our viewers. Newsroom employees are the only people within a huge station group corporation that have direct contact with the company’s clients. So why do stations groups operate as if the important business is being done in its headquarters?
Netflix has mastered a two-step process of choosing which potential dramas and comedy programs will be a hit with its subscribers. The company and its executives do not use Walk-Away Joe’s (oh, that’s what I call “consultants”). Their two-step process involves a) data paints, and b) a leap of faith. Continue reading NETFLIX FINDS RISK = RATINGS
I’m not much into Barbie dolls, yes I’ve worked with a few, but I really, really want these! I’d probably just pull their heads off like I did with my sister’s dolls. Don’t judge me!!!!!!!!
Hey – anchors, reporters and news directors – I want to talk to you for a moment about Rhoda Young. You may not have heard of her or you may have dismissed her – either way – big mistake! She and other “vigilante” journalists are capturing compelling breaking news stories right there in your own backyards – stories that the local affiliates are either skipping or missing. More importantly, they’re capturing an audience (1.1 million views and counting). When was the last time you had one million people watching your house fire package? Continue reading RHODA YOUNG LIVE ON THE SCENE!
Personalities have been coming into our homes since the invention of radio. When television came along, the addition of the video image often magnified the personalities who graced its screen. There were quite a few legendary local TV news personalities to grab audiences – here are a few of my favorites: Continue reading PAST-PERFECT PERSONALITIES
I came across this compilation of news anchors who went “off prompter” and then went viral. Produced by Grunge, they call it “anchor freak outs” which is a click-bait tease and far from actual fact. With the exception of Bill O’Reilly who’s just a deliberate freak show and a bully along the lines of P.T. Barnum, the behavior of most of these anchors is pretty much on target – it’s how they should occasionally behave on air when it’s real and authentic – like it was for Anderson Cooper. The commentator implies his show was cancelled because of such authentic moments, but nothing could be further from the truth. I guarantee you that viewers loved him for being honest. Search my blog posts for the real reason Anderson’s daytime talk show was cancelled. Continue reading AUTHENTIC ANCHORING
There came a time in my career when I began to recognize that I excel in two areas of TV news – the first is in finding, mentoring, and producing personalities. I’m not referring to newsreaders or prompter-jockeys, but true personalities. In addition to the The KTLA Morning News team, I’ve been fortunate to have worked alongside some of the best news personalities in television. Continue reading PERSONALITIES THAT POP
Whew! Finally, something before my time. This is an article I came across detailing WLWT‘s move to a color mobile control room.
Some hilarious sendups of morning news teams as envisioned by Saturday Night Live.
There’s no denying Hands Across America, the follow-up charity event to We Are The World, was a nation-wide phenomenon. Five million people turned out to hold hands from coast to coast though there were some wide gaps because of our nation’s landscape. In some cities, people were up in arms because their locale was excluded from the official event route. I could not attend the festivities, unfortunately, as I was interviewing for a job on that day. Hands Across America raised $15 million which finally ended hunger in America once and for all. OK, maybe not, but for me, the lasting legacy of the event is its theme song. Continue reading WISH I HAD A HAND IN THIS
Doing press junkets can be very tricky for reporters. On one hand, you’ve got a celebrity who has been answering the same questions, over and over again, for every local TV station from Los Angeles to Schenectady. (S)he’s bored and (s)he’s cranky and (s)he’s often judgmental in his/her crankiness. Next there’s the overprotective publicists. They want to ensure you ask questions only about the movie and not about the star’s personal life. They hover right over you, just off camera, during your carefully timed five-minute-and-not-one-second-longer interview. Any deviation from the plan and the publicist shuts down the shoot. And finally, there’s you… waiting your turn for over an hour, jet lagged from the red eye arrival and the early morning screening of the film. You’re just hoping you look decent for your cutaways, praying you ask questions that make some semblance of sense, and hoping they’re fresh and different from all the bigger-name TV news royalty waiting ahead of you in the green room. Thus are the trappings of a blockbuster hundred-million dollar movie studio junket. Continue reading HYSTERICAL PRESS JUNKET HIJINKS!
—CODE 1000’S CAN BE CREATIVE!—
We call it a “Code 1000”. It’s a mention upper management wants you to include in your newscast. It might be a charity event the station is sponsoring that they want you to shoot and mention in a :30 voice-over at 11pm. Or maybe they want you to promote a free flu shot giveaway the station’s part of at the Walgreens down the street. Or it could be something as obvious as promoting a Cheers marathon happening this weekend now that the station has bought the syndication rights to the sitcom. Continue reading A “MUST COVER” IN YOUR NEWSCAST!
Social media called out a Japanese news reporter and his crew who were reporting from the city of Sukayu, a hot spring town in northern Japan. The NHK reporter started his opening standup with: Continue reading FLAKE NEWS
This is absolutely stunning! Samuel J. Seymour, at the time this episode of I’ve Got A Secret aired on February 9, 1956, was the last surviving witness to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Check it out: Continue reading WITNESS TO LINCOLN’S ASSASSINATION!
The greatest morning show on the planet – is no more. For some ten years, the Australian Today show was awesome! A brilliant eyeopener! Karl Stefanovic, Lisa Wilkinson and Georgie Gardner were the very definition of “on-air chemistry”. Continue reading END OF G’DAYS DOWN UNDER
In a society where anyone over 40 is considered an old coot, undate-able and unemployable, a Dutch man tried to do something about it. Emile Ratelband decided to become “age fluid” – officially recognized as twenty years younger to attract more women on Tinder. He claims he was being discriminated against because he is 69 and wanted to list his age as 49. His logic was, if transgender people can change their sex, he should be permitted to change the date of his birth since doctors have attested that he looks much younger than he actually is. Continue reading “AGE FLUID” FATALIST
Betcha didn’t know that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer isn’t part of Christmas-past for very long. – certainly not as long as Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen… Rudolph is the creation of a department store, Montgomery Ward. He started out as a character in a coloring book in 1939, created to be given away to shoppers at Christmastime. 2.4 million copies of that coloring book were handed out. It wasn’t until 1948 that Rudolph’s story was told on film. Max Fleischer produced a theatrical cartoon short which I’ve included below for your viewing enjoyment. This was the first Rudolph cartoon! Continue reading YOU’LL GO DOWN IN HISTORY
Mrs. Helen Ferguson is devastated when kidnappers snatch her husband and hold him ransom for everything she’s got. Local news reporter Leo MacKenzie scores an exclusive, breaking news interview with Mrs. Ferguson. But once that interview is done, the crew discovers no audio was recorded. What happens next is classic Carol Burnett.
From 1973 comes this behind-the-scenes look at how WABC -TV in New York gets a newscast on the air at 6PM. The two highlights for me are seeing Bill Beutel and Geraldo Rivera doing their jobs. I am a fan of Rivera during his news days. Who can forget Willowbrook? I like watching how Rivera tells a story – so anti-establishment for that time and in some ways, would still be today. Continue reading WHEN GERALDO MATTERED
These two need to be heard. Have you watched them? More importantly, have you heard them? I’m making it my life’s mission to get them heard.
NBC’s recent firing of Megyn Kelly was no surprise to those of us who know how to “read” TV News talent. Megyn was incredibly successful on her Fox News Channel program. That show appealed to men, most of them over 60, who were looking for right-leaning pundits hoping to pick political fights with their foes. That’s the essence of Sean Hannity‘s little bully program and the format fit Megyn nicely because she’s better looking than Hannity. In that format, Megyn Kelly shined. But there’s a problem. Continue reading MEGYN’S COLD TRUTH
A year or so ago, I released a book about a TV producing experience that dramatically altered the direction of my life. It involves a woman who has become a very good friend of mine, British medium/clairvoyant Lisa Williams. I discovered Lisa quite by accident when I was searching for characters for reality shows I was producing. It is an understatement to say that Lisa “blew my mind”. Along with her jaw-dropping psychic abilities, she was a made-for-TV talent. Breathtaking on screen. When I shot her pilot in Manhattan, she’d never done any on-camera work before, but her warmth and genuine authenticity grabbed viewers through the camera and didn’t let them go. Continue reading MY LIFE-ALTERING SHOOT
Every TV producer has pondered the idea of airing “live” executions as a reality series. While a few films have explored the possibilities – from Witness to the Execution to The Hunger Games, no one really expects executions to someday be televised. But in China, they’ve been doing the next best thing for years… they’ve been airing a weekly “talk” show called Interviews Before Execution. It’s a long-time hit, with TV host Ding Yu interviewing the condemned, often just moments before they are put to death. China puts more of its citizens to death in one year than every other country combined – about 10,000 – women, men, anyone 18 or older. There are nearly 60 offenses in China that result in the death penalty. The culture also requires the family of the accused to pay the family of the victim exorbitant amounts of cash to “be forgiven” by victim’s family. Only when a victim’s family has forgiven the accused can there be a possibility, a small one, but a possibility that the death sentence will be commuted. Continue reading A CHILLING CHAT SHOW
My aunt still thinks I repair TV sets! Seriously! I’m always asked just what it is a producer does. And I’ve been on the lookout for a self-contained, surefire explainer for the role of a TV producer. Fortunately, this rare and long lost British training film, Who Does What?, details in a rather stodgy manner what TV producers do. Continue reading WHAT A PRODUCER DOES
This information I’m going to share with you is most popular with prison inmates and celebrities. Who knew those two groups had something in common. From American author Robert Greene‘s 1998 book, The 48 Laws of Power, here is a visual summary of his ideas. Continue reading 48 LAWS OF POWER
Xinhua – the Chinese state news agency is introducing the world to two new members of its newsroom – Artificial Intelligence News Anchors. One speaks Chinese, the other, English. Can you tell which is the real news anchor and which is a computer clone? Continue reading CAN YOU SPOT THE “FAKE NEWS ANCHOR”?
This book is an absolute must-read. Published in 1903 by author James Allen, As A Man Thinketh is one of the first books ever to explore the fact that “you are what you think you are”. Mankind has underestimated the power of his own brain since the day he learned to walk upright. This is one of the first texts to spell it out.
Listen to this: very recently, I read an article about a doctor who was caring for a woman with dementia. The woman was also suffering for Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. As her dementia got worse, her diabetes and high blood pressure began to disappear. Quite simply, the woman “forgot” she was sick and therefore her body healed itself of those previous illnesses. She had high blood pressure and diabetes because she was told she had those things. She believed them and her brain supplied the proof. This doctor had medical evidence that our brain creates our diseases. And I believe that 100%. Continue reading COMPLETE BOOK – “AS A MAN THINKETH”
This one time… I was in the men’s room during a commercial break on The KTLA Morning News. At the time, this bathroom was undergoing a facelift so there were rolls of wallpaper and tiles and tools scattered around. As I was washing my hands, in walks our guest star for that day’s show – Little Richard! THE Little Richard. I fumbled with a paper towel, said “hello” and shook his hand. He was as gracious as ever. I asked if I could grab a quick autograph. “Sure” was his reply, but darn, I had nothing for him to sign. Oh. Wait. Little Richard had an idea. He grabbed a bathroom tile! End of story!
OTHER KTLA MORNING NEWS POSTS
I’d like to thank Mr. Walt Disney for introducing me to my life-long dual obsessions, in the forms of Miss Hayley Mills (Sharon) and her identical twin sister Miss Hayley Mills (Susan) from The Parent Trap, (who, strangely, each had British accents although one was raised in Boston and the other in Monterey), neither of whom I have yet to meet, and to that guy in Grease II who, by the way, is aging very badly, but married Miss Hayley’s sister, Miss Juliet Mills of Nanny & The Professor fame for allowing me to meet his spouse and my obsession’s sibling at a gathering I and Miss Stephanie Glenn refer to as the “celebrity zoo”. Continue reading grATITUDE GOULASH
One of the greatest complements of my career came from Hollywood’s most prolific prime-time producer, Aaron Spelling. Aaron visited The KTLA Morning News in 1996 to promote his book, A Prime-Time Life. As a child of the ’70’s, much of my life was television – and much of what was on television was produced by Aaron Spelling. Favorites of mine include Charlie’s Angeles, Family, Hart To Hart, Melrose Place, and of course, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Continue reading S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G SUCCESS!
In the early days of television, what I call “warmth”, they referred to as “charm”. It’s a magical, mesmerizing quality you can’t quite define – that jumps from the screen and enraptures you in a blanket of utter delight. OK, that might be a tad over the top, but you can’t overstate the value of warmth in a morning TV host. There’s one television treasure, a true personality pioneer, whom few modern day producers or TV talent have ever heard of. She hosted a live morning show back in the ‘50’s, before Today or Good Morning America were ever dreamed up. She was the Oprah of her day, when viewers had the choice of only three programs to watch at any given time. When 11AM came around, everyone was watching Miss Arlene Francis.
Remember when VH1 was still “the other music television”? Miss those days.
…and they were using celebrity endorsements to force cable Continue reading VH1’S UPS & DOWNS THE DIAL
Here’s an ultra rare one I came across in a box of old show reels! Back in 1986 when I was producing the 6 & 11pm newscasts at WSAZ in Charleston-Huntington, WV, Travel West Virginia had just created a tourism campaign promoting the state, which was going to be seen nationwide. Essentially, they wanted us to promote their promotion! The theme song is, “Come Home To West Virginia” and is performed by country singer Kathy Mattea. It came with a music video showing off the beauty of the state. Having lived there, I can tell you it’s a stunning area.
This video is direct from VHS and the audio is straight from a vinyl 45. I haven’t seen this anywhere on the internet, and the song is kinda rockin’ with a country sort of flavor, so let me be the first to show off the reconstructed music video: Continue reading A WEST VIRGINIA GEM
As you move through your TV career – or any career for that matter, it’s important to determine where you set the bar for yourself – despite where the bar is set for the place you work – which will always be lower. I’ve compiled this list of “rules” that I’ve sort of adopted through the years and made my own. Take what works for you and throw the rest aside.
1 – KNOW WHAT YOU STAND FOR
“There’s no need to fear – Underdog is here”.
That’s the catchphrase of the 1960′s cartoon superhero Underdog! He was, sort of, the canine version of superman for the Labrador set. His heroics were often done to impress his love interest, Sweet Polly Purebred, who could never commit. Everyone loves the underdog, which is why the series ran for more than a decade. But an underdog is just as essential and relevant in the realm of morning news. And I learned this first hand.
When The KTLA Morning News first went on the air, we were indeed the underdog. In Los Angeles from 7-9AM, it was us verses the Goliaths of Good Morning America, Today and CBS This Morning. The LA Times called us “the little show that could”. Because we did. We faced off with the three major networks for a slice of the LA morning viewing audience. And on a daily basis, we felt the pressure. We couldn’t book the A-lists guests that the networks did. We didn’t have the million dollar network set, the expensive designer clothes that they wore. And early on, we didn’t have the ratings and we certainly didn’t have the mentality of a “winner”. That title went to Katie Couric and Matt Lauer who ruled morning news for a long time before we arrived on the scene. We were, clearly, the underdog. And we felt it every morning when we hit the air. Continue reading THE “UNDERDOG” CARD
How about this one I wrote and aired at WDIV-TV in Detroit:
“They are freaks of nature! Strange and bizarre albino frogs when we come back!”
Well, the Detroit albino community was none too happy. We were flooded with calls that “Albinos are NOT freaks of nature!” Oops. Continue reading MORE TEASES FROM HELL!
Proper lighting is crucial to a successful TV show, newscast or production. Many companies hire their talent, pay them a fortune, and then skimp on the lighting – not bothering to bring in an expert lighting director. They throw away a costly investment by splashing a bunch of light all over the set and calling it a day. It’s especially obvious when a talent turns from one camera to another and the lighting doesn’t match both shots and shadows are thrown here and there. Although I am not a lighting director, I can certainly separate well-lit talent from poorly lit ones. Continue reading ILLUMINATING LOOK AT LIGHT
I’m totally biased for sure – having grown up in Cincinnati and having worked at WLWT – but here are four brilliant spots created for the station’s image campaign from the mid-1980’s. Every image in the spots is a true reflection of the Cincinnati lifestyle. Ted Neely, the actor who played Jesus in the original Jesus Christ Superstar film was hired to sing the “Cincinnati Style” theme. Excellent campaign! Continue reading BRILLIANT IMAGE CAMPAIGN
If you work in a newsroom, it’s essential that you understand the psychology that often goes unnoticed between you and higher level managers. That old Left-Brain/Right Brain disconnect is killing creativity in newsrooms and – trust me – it shows on air! Below is a chapter from my recent book, “…Like No One’s Watching: Transform Your Local Newscast into a Hit TV Show!” It spells out the problem and shows how to overcome the obstacles.
It’s time to settle an old score. I’m not sure this is the forum to do so, but I have no choice. The pain and feelings of abandonment have kept me quiet for 17 years. No more. Here goes. Continue reading THUMP (FOR MY LOVE)
I’d just like to let it be known that I played a small but significant role in rescuing a classic #1 hit from musical obscurity. When Olivia Newton-John guested on KTLA the first time (1991), she was all decked out in leather, sporting the final days of her sensual Soul Kiss look. Continue reading A MISTY, MELLOW MOMENT
Whatever happened to the “art” of the commentary? I’m not talking about those painful “editorials” at the end of local newscasts recorded by the General Manager of the station, and usually advocating the construction of a new sewage treatment plant. I’m referring to news commentaries by newsmen (and women), back before political correctness took hold and turned every newscast into a generic store brand. Continue reading THE ART OF EXPRESSION
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Joan and Melissa for the years of laughter and friendship. My prayers are with you both.
I want to thank every one of you on Facebook for not challenging me to that dumping water over my head thing. While I support the disease and all, my camera is in the shop and because of the California drought, I’m trying to save every drop for my hot tub. I’m sure you understand. Continue reading GrATITUDE GOULASH
Originally Posted 11-01-13
Remember that legendary scene from Sunset Blvd?
One of the most infamous scenes in all of filmdom – about a close-up – and it wasn’t shot on a close-up...not even close. I am no film director. I don’t pretend to be. And who am I to second guess the great director Billy Wilder? Well, nobody, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m assuming he had his reasons for not shooting Gloria Swanson’s scene about Norma Desmond wanting a close-up on a close-up. Might have been some artistic choice. What he essentially did was have her “walk into” her close-up. Then the music and the visual effects turn dark and grim revealing the monster she is as the scene fades to black. I think it would have been much more powerful to shoot Swanson on a close-up leading up to the line to clearly illustrate that she is deranged. We could have seen the whites of her eyes and the psychopathy of the moment. Yes, in the waist shot, which Wilder chose, we got that impression with her hands dancing and twisting in the air. But the power of the moment is what is revealed in any close-up, and we were denied that moment. The scene faded before the real close-up came. Maybe Wilder deliberately denied us of that moment. Or was he just denying Norma her close-up? Like I said, I’m no film director. Continue reading IS NEWS READY FOR ITS CLOSE-UP?
We were about ten minute out from shooting the premiere episode of our new game show. Thanks to Kenny Lindner, I had Ty Treadway as host. Most of the crew were getting into place, behind their cameras, testing the jib, the lights, sound effects, etc. The contestants were being shown their positions and how to “buzz in”. Tyrus, as I call him, was hanging out at his podium on the set. I walked up the thre e glistening clear-glass steps to Ty at the podium. Rather softly, I said, Continue reading A FATEFUL STEP
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my old friend and birthday boy Mr. Barry Pintar for providing me with some real zingers for an upcoming business meeting this week that could turn out to be life-altering. Continue reading GrATITUDE GOULASH
I accidentally came across one of my favorite movies the other day airing on TCM – Strangers on a Train. It’s a brilliant Hitchcock suspense thriller from 1951. Seeing the film again reminded me of an odd series of events that happened involving one of the film’s stars – Laura Elliot and TV star Kasey Rogers. Continue reading THE STRANGER BEFORE ME
I realize you’ve come to expect deep, insightful and wise words of wisdom from me here on this blog. And I am usually happy to oblige. But for the issue I want to address today, there’s no way to build it up – no way to make it sound more important or life-changing that it is. No way to embellish the words “do your fucking job” to make then sound glamorous or worth a sixth-figure income. So here goes. Let the chicks fall where they made. Continue reading POOF-REED UR SCRIPPS!
(Originally posted 09-08-15)
Watching a local newscast this morning, I was horrified when I saw two more TV newsreaders had become infected with a virus that transforms them into sub-human, brainless prompter puppets I call “Setwalkers” – zombie-like news creatures who move from monitor location to monitor location around the studio for no apparent reason other than to “mix things up.” Where this virus first started – ground zero, can’t be pinpointed, but I’ll bet it began festering unnoticed in some small-market station before the infection spread via the airwaves from one newsreader to another.
Occasionally as news reporters or special projects producers, we set out to right a wrong. Perhaps a young mother abandons her autistic daughter because the government will no longer provide special daycare services – and the child is a danger to the woman’s other children. We interview the mother and perceive her and her daughter to be the victims. We interview state or federal mental health care bureaucrats only to discover their hands are tied. We interview the dedicated workers at the special daycare center to find they are understaffed and can’t keep up with the growing demand for their services. We come back to the newsroom and what he we got? What do we put together for the 6? Continue reading STORYTELLING AT ITS FINEST
It is with immense pleasure that I gratefully acknowledge Miss Deidre Anne Lopian for laughing hysterically at the TV Academy in NoHo as I tripped over a stand hidden under fake foliage that was holding up a fake amazonian tree (it was a jungle theme) right behind Mr. Esai Morales who was being interviewed “live” on TV, the branches swaying back and forth as if in a tsunami, directly above him and his interviewer and his cameraman as I grabbed the tree to keep it from tipping over onto them, yet Mr. Morales had the presence of mind to interrupt the interview to ask if I was alright (which I was, “gracias Senor”) before resuming his interview about whatever D-list project the has-been is promoting. Continue reading grATITUDE GOULASH
Booking guests for a right-brain morning show is a little understood art that I’ve had lots of time to practice, because between KTLA and E! News Live, GMA Sunday and World News Now, I’ve pretty much had every notable name in Hollywood & New York in studio, on-set for interviews. And let me go on record as saying – best celebrity guest – appearance after appearance – hands down, Richard Simmons. I would book Richard Simmons over, say, Nicole Kidman, every time – hand to god. Let me explain. Continue reading RICHARD SIMMONS COMES OUT…
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet three true “Grand Dames” of Hollywood. I pursued one, ran in to another and made an appointment with the third. I was hoping to convince each of them to be part of a talk show I wanted to call Hollywood Dames. It’s best described as a “skewed View featuring four broads who have been around the block…and then some.” My sales pitch went something like this: Continue reading GRAND DAMES OF TV TALK
This one time…. I left the control to walk into the studio to make sure everything was set up for a kids segment we were doing on The KTLA Morning News. It was some kind of promotion to get kids to read books. All the kids were in place on set and all the proud parents were hanging out up against the wall. As I turned from the set to return to the control room, bam! I ran right into Carrie White. Well, that’s who I saw. It was actually Cissy Spacek there to cheer on her kid. Scared the living crap out of me for a second there!
OTHER KTLA MORNING NEWS POSTS
Here’s a clear cut example of two competing morning shows – one that “got it” and one that did not. It’s from my KTLA Morning News days. The KTLA lot is located at Sunset Blvd and Van Ness. At that time, the location of KTTV, the Fox affiliate was literally across the street from us, but its entrance was buried in a bizarre location that caused many people to become lost because it intersected with the 101 freeway and there were overpasses and dead-end streets and all kinds of confusion. KTTV had just begun airing Good Day L.A., a light morning show that was modeled somewhat after what we were doing. I think they even had SkyFox up in the helicopter around this time. Continue reading I WOKE UP ON 5 THIS MORNING!
I’ve never told anyone this – only family members know – but I did not attend the graveside services for my father back in 1983. I went to the funeral and church services on that Saturday, but the burial was on Sunday at the same time I was supposed to report to WLWT for my first day as an intern. There was absolutely no question in my mind where I was supposed to be on that day. Continue reading FOR INTERNS ONLY!
There are so many young journalists, producers and reporters who are decades apart from the roots of local TV News. Some have zero interest in the history of their own industry. Some just take for granted people like Geraldo Rivera, who they see as nothing more than a big mouth on the Fox News Channel. Continue reading THE ASYLUM OF HORRORS
This one time…. the famous singer, dancer, choreographer, Tommy Tune guested on The KTLA Morning News. After the show, I pulled him aside to autograph a photo for me. He did so gladly. He then turned around, walked out the door and tripped over a step. Broke his leg. No shit.
It’s amazing to me how job applicants don’t “get it”. It’s true. Most college-educated, pop-culturized, twentysomething millennials, some with MBA’s, are clueless. I have the cover letters to prove it. Just over a year ago, I wrote a “help wanted” ad looking for producer/editor applicants. My bosses at the time were right-brain imaginators who wanted to take everything we do “up a notch”, even ads for jobs at our company. I was completely on board. These were the guys who hired me, so we were totally on the same page. I forwarded my draft to my boss, who then forwarded it to his boss, the CEO. The e-mail reply to me was, “I think you get it“. Here is the infamous ad I wrote: Continue reading SUCKLING THE TEAT OF COVER LETTERS
The mid-eighties were the best years of the three major network’s annual fall preview promotions. It was a big deal. Every summer, viewers were bombarded with up-tempo, catchy theme songs cut to fast-paced video of network stars dancing down New York streets encouraging bystanders to “Come On Along”. Just starting out in TV then at an NBC affiliate, I was bombarded with many incarnations of “Be There” promos which I’ve yet to get out of my head! But ABC, by far, had the best campaigns. I want to show you my all-time favorite promo campaign theme song – “That Special Feeling” from ABC’s 1983-1984 Fall Preview Campaign. Continue reading “THAT SPECIAL FEELING” REMEMBERED
I was watching a horrible film the other day, Horrible Bosses. In the film’s only redeeming moment, Jason Bateman’s character said something interesting… something along the lines of,
“How far you go up the ladder depends on how much shit you’re willing to take from your boss”.
Of the thousands of decisions a producer makes daily, choosing a lead story for your newscast is probably the most important one. The lead is tricky because it can either suck viewers into the show or turn them off. In addition, the lead is almost always subjective – there is no right or wrong lead. It’s a judgement call. I use three sets of criteria to help guide me toward the best lead, based on all the stories I have available to me. Does your lead story feed the appetities of your viewers? The first is my Lead List: Continue reading IF IT FEEDS…IT LEADS
(Originally posted 11/14/2011)
I’m going to confront, head-on, a subject that has divided America’s newsrooms since its birth in 1996. The Fox News Channel. My statement, which you can quote, tweet and forward to social media sites, comes with a whole bunch of addendums, codicils, riders and supplements, so don’t judge me until you’ve read them all – or you’ll miss the true measure of a really right “Right Brain” network.
“Fox News is genius – a brilliant TV format.”
Let’s face it. Every local station these days has access to the same stories as its competition. The only exceptions to that are unique content a station generates from an Investigative Team or from its field reporters and producers who generate exclusive material. That’s why Signature Segments are so essential. They allow you to take those same stories every station has access to – and produce something unique. Continue reading HEART-WRENCHING SIGNATURE SEGMENTS
Relevance. Everybody wants to be and remain relevant. The dictionary defines “relevant” as: having direct bearing on the matter at hand; pertinent. Conversely, it defines “irrelevant” as: not relating or pertinent to the matter at hand; not important. Continue reading ARE YOU RELEVANT?
In 1994, the KTLA Morning News celebrated its two-and-a-half year anniversary with a prime time TV special. We kinda missed the two year anniversary, so we improvised. We rented out the Chevy Chase Theater on Sunset Blvd for the event. It was called the Chevy Chase because he had just hosted his failed late night talk show there. You may know it as the Earl Carrol Theater, The Aquarius Theater when Hair played there, the Hullabaloo Club and at one time, the world famous Moulin Rouge nightclub. Queen For A Day and Star Search were even shot here. Every performer in Hollywood played there. It was dripping with Tinseltown history. But for the evening of February 11th, 1994, it was the KTLA Morning News Theater. Continue reading MY MAYORAL MISHAP!
After working with medium-clairvoyant Lisa Williams for several years, I have come to the conclusion that nothing is coincidence – nothing happens “by chance” – everything that happens is supposed to happen. If “all the world’s a stage”, then we’re just actors reciting lines that have already been written. Here’s one of many recent examples from the past few years. Continue reading WHILE I SIPPED CHAMPAGNE ON A YACHT…
Several months ago, a producer came to me quite concerned that I appeared to be “unconcerned” about a few technical glitches that showed up on-air recently in one or two of our shows. He said, “I’m a perfectionist and these kind of technical errors can’t be allowed to continue”. He wore the word “perfectionist” as a badge of honor. Almost like I should reward him for being so conscientious. I felt two things immediately, neither of which I expressed. The first was, “Boy, are you in the wrong business”. Television is an art – especially the right-brained lighter newscasts we’re producing. No piece of art is ever perfect. Secondly, I felt sad for him. Sad that he will never be truly happy with any show he’ll ever produce. Continue reading CLEAN SHOWS ARE FAILURES
Preparing for the 11pm news one night in the WBNS newsroom, in Columbus, I looked up as Dana Tyler, the 11PM co-anchor, was returning to her desk.
“Dana”, I said.
“Yes Raymond?” she replied.
With a deep sigh, I asked, “What are we going to do with our lives?
Without a second thought, she said, “Well, I guess we start with a double box, then take the live remote full, and end again on a double box.”
“Noooooo!”, I said befuddled. “Not our live shots! Our lives?”
Second Verdict was a show idea that came to me while I was working at E! Networks during a rash of celebrity court trials. What if we take footage of actual trials and re-tried them with our own jury? And instead of using jurors who were completely unbiased, we use jurors who themselves were victims of violent crimes or who had particular biases. Or perhaps we give them information that the judge declared inadmissible during the actual trial. How would that affect the outcome of our trial versus what happened in court? Continue reading WE, THE JURY…FIND THE DEFENDANT…
When I go through the process of looking for talent, I begin by requesting audition reels from all the agents I know and have a working relationship with. I prefer to view every link myself. I don’t want an assistant “weeding out” the good from the bad before I view them because I’m always afraid they’re going to miss something that I see. I also don’t like to watch audition reels with other people in the room. Weird, I know, but I don’t want their one-liner comments or thoughts to distract me from what I’m seeing. I also go through my own “Rolodex” of talent I keep on file, people I’ve seen on other shows or elsewhere who spark my interest. Who knows? Some day I may be able to hire them on a show I’m doing. Continue reading HIRING “CLOUD-EE-AH”
I still remember vividly that December night in 1979. The Who was to perform at a concert in Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum. But before it started, eleven fans were crushed to death when the coliseum doors opened. All the concertgoers had “festival seating” tickets, which meant it was a free-for-all for them to race to the best seats. Opening the doors resulted in a stampede as everyone clamored to get through. Continue reading HIS KID’S OKAY
I’ve always thought that networks like CNN and Fox News should have a position such as “Vice President of Teases”. It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but when you break it down it makes total cents (pun intended). Commercial breaks are disastrous for ratings. Ever since the invention of the clicker, now known as the remote, when viewers no longer have to get up off their butts to change the channel, they surf at will. The good news for “live” morning shows is viewers are rarely sitting down watching the show. They’re more likely using it as background noise as they brush their teeth and comb their hair and just let the commercials play through. But all viewers are automatically conditioned to mentally tune out the minute they hear that theme music begin to play, with the host saying something along the lines of “Coming up…the latest trend in swimwear. Stick around.” Continue reading THE TEASE FROM HELL!
Thanks to news anchors like Anderson Cooper, the issue of bullying is finally front and center in the media. Laws are being passed, programs are being put into place and bullies are actually being held accountable for their actions. As someone who was bullied, day in and day out, from the third grade until my high school graduation, I can tell you that being the target of bullies at every turn is a terrifying and miserable existence. I vividly remember riding home on the bus from high school in my freshman year. Every afternoon we would drive past this huge graveyard on the west side of Cincinnati. I would stare at the thousands of tombstones and envy those people for being dead. I would have written a book about my experiences ages ago but I would have to go into events that occurred in my sophomore year – and I’m not yet ready to commit them to paper. My junior and senior years are a complete blur. I remember nothing. But a bully I encountered as a freshman would come back to haunt me early on in my news career. Continue reading EXECUTION OF A BULLY
My favorite show of all time… don’t judge me!… The Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour. Even now, 40 years after it first aired, it is mesmerizing to watch. And the reason it is? Because the show is nothing but the sum of all its parts. None of those parts could stand alone (and they tried in later years). Cher was OK at best. Sonny was just plain sad – but his lack of talent didn’t stop him from having his own prime time variety show! Continue reading SONNY THOUGHTS TO CHER