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
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
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
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
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!
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
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 “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.
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
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!
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
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!
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
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!
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
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
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.
“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
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
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)
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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!
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