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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

CET Looking for 1937 Flood Stories

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the great 1937 flood, CET will repeat Dan Hurley's "The 1937 Flood: A Look Back" and ask viewers for their stories and photos about the flood to post on
The deadline for submitting photos, or interviews on video or paper, and other materials is Jan. 8. They will not be part of the "1937 Flood" documentary on Jan. 19 (9 p.m., Channel 48), which is a repeat from years ago. Thousands were left homeless when the Ohio River crested at 79.9 feet on Jan. 26 that year.
For details go to
Questions about the project should be directed to Amanda Carnes at the station at, or 513-345-6566.

TV tonight
The "Christmas Tech" special on “Modern Marvels today (10 p.m., History Channel) features the California home of Mike Ziemkowski, the guy who designed the Cincinnati Zoo’s new synchronized Wild Lights Show. Zoo employees had seen his elaborate display last year, and asked him to design a show for the Wings of Wonder amphitheater. The Zoo's display is not shown on the TV special.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Kopp Out

And here’s the big story you WON'T hear anyone talking about on the Big One, as they say on WLW-AM: Craig Kopp, the lone local liberal voice on the Clear Channel stations here, is off the air for the first time in 30 years. When WKRC-AM morning partner Jerry Thomas retires at the end of the year, Jerry's kid Brian Thomas and John Phillips will take over the morning show.
Why dump Kopp? Nobody will say. His left-right banter with Thomas was very lively and entertaining. With Brian Thomas and John Phillips, I'm afraid we’ll hear two fiscal conservatives agreeing all the time.
More burning questions: Why dump the liberal voice – and the entire liberal talk format from WSAI-AM (1360) – after Democrats just won control of the Hamilton County commission, Ohio governor's office and Congress? Why dump 20 experienced radio people, and then a week later hire an attorney without full-time radio experience for the WKRC-AM morning show?
Kopp says he was told the decision was based on "revenue, not ratings." Guess that means Clear Channel figures that continuing the Thomas name on WKRC will bring in more bucks than keeping Kopp.
As for Craig, he’s not sure what he’s going to do. He just married in October, and bought a house in Goshen. Clear Channel offered him an off-air Web content job at much less pay. "I'm looking at that, and some other things," he says.
The radio biz sure has changed since Kopp came to WEBN-FM in 1976, at age 24, two years out of Bowling Green State University. "I got interested in radio when it was an emotional thing, when progressive rock radio was a calling. Now I’ve got to look at everything as a business deal," he says.
So with Kopp off the air, are Jay Gilbert and Wildman Walker the only remaining voices on the airwaves from WEBN's early years? As WEBN prepares to celebrate its 40th birthday next year, help me recall some of the voices from WEBN's past: Curt Gary, Michael Luczak, Bo Wood, Mark Scherer, Rick Bird...

News about the other Springer
Another Clear Channel personnel note: No, Scott Springer was not among the 19 fired on Nov. 29. The WLW-AM morning sports guy has been off the air since Thanksgiving due to a weird voice problem that may take another month or so to heal. I'll post more information after we hook to talk about it.

Chris & Rob Christmas
Chris Comer and Rob Ervin's annual "Chris & Rob Show" holiday special at 10 p.m. today on WAIF-FM (88.3) features the best of their interviews with Billy Bob Thornton, Tim Conway, Bootsy Collins and others. You can also hear it on

Friday, December 15, 2006

Changes in the Weather

Yes, more changes in the weather are coming at WLWT-TV (Ch 5). Weekend morning meteorologist Marina Jurica abruptly left the station Thursday, and chief meteorologist Jim O’Brien has been told his contract will not be renewed when it expires in a few weeks.
As posts on my blog yesterday noted, Channel 5 quickly removed Jurica’s biography from its Web site. She was hired from Lexington’s WKYT-TV (Channel 27) earlier this year.
"It’s a personnel issue that will receive no further comment. Keisha Kirkland will be filling in (for Jurica) while the search for a permanent replacement continues," Channel 5 GM Richard Dyer told me today.
Dyer and O’Brien refuse to talk about O’Brien’s status. He was told in the fall his contract would not be renewed.
"There’s no announcement regarding Jim O’Brien at this time," Dyer says.
When O’Brien debuted here in 2004, he was the fifth chief meteorologist in eight years. After Tom Burse was fired in 1997, he was followed by Dave Fraser, Angelique Frame, Byron Webre and O’Brien.
Someday Ch 5 folks will figure out that the way to increase ratings is to keep the same anchor team together for a long time. Not only has weather been a revolving door for years, but his departure is the second (of 4 people) in a year at 11 p.m., Sherree Paolello replacing Dave Wagner on the late news.
Another thought: With O'Brien leaving, and Rich Apuzzo fired by Channel 19 in October, that means Steve Raleigh -- with 18 months at Ch. 9 -- will be second in tenure among the chief meteorologists here.

A Look Into The Future?

Are we seeing into the future? Jerry Thomas did his WKRC-AM show this week with his son, Brian, an attorney. I keep hearing that Brian will get the gig and replace pop in the new year… And was Jerry's last show today?
Pat Barry, the former Ch 5 and Ch 19 weatherman, returns to Ch 19 the next weeks for some holiday vacation fill-in work (and an audition?). He’s giving Paul Horton and Valerie Abati a break, since the two of them have been doing the work of three people since Rich Apuzzo was fired in early October…

Peter Boyle tribute
The Biography Channel salutes the late Peter Boyle with "Biography Remembers: Peter Boyle" at 8 p.m. Saturday. "Everybody Loves Raymond" co-stars Ray Romano, Doris Roberts and Brad Garrett, and friends Robert Klein and Howard Hesseman, were interviewed for the tribute. Boyle died Tuesday at age 71.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Best & Worst of TV Year

Broadcasting & Cable magazine has asked TV writers to pick their best and worst shows. So can you help me decide what are the best and worst – broadcast or cable -- that aired anytime in 2006?
Best Overall Program: Grey’s Anatomy? The Daily Show? 24?
Best Comedy: The Office? Two and A Half Men? The Simpsons? The Daily Show?
Best Drama: Grey’s Anatomy? 24? The Wire?
Best Reality: American Idol? Survivor? Dancing with the Stars? Amazing Race?
Worst Program: Happy Hour? 3 Lbs?
Most Memorable TV Moment? (This one stumped me.)
Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

About Those Time Warner Postcards

Did you receive a postcard from Time Warner saying it could drop Dayton’s WHIO-TV (Channel 7) or WSTR-TV (Channel 64) on Jan. 1? Don’t panic – yet. Here’s the deal: Yes, Time Warner’s contracts to carry Channels 64 and 7 are expiring at the end of the year. (Only the Channel 64 agreement for the old Adelphia systems -- Liberty and Delhi Townships, Amelia, Collinsville and Sardinia -- is up for renewal.)
But the station managers and Time Warner officials are confident the channels will remain on cable, with a new retransmission agreement or an extension. The postcards were mailed because the FCC requires cable companies to give customers 30 days notice before a change in service.
"We don’t want anyone to panic that we’re going to drop WHIO or WSTR. Quite the contrary. We are committed to carrying both these channels. We are optimistic that we will reach an agreement and there will be no interruption in programming. Time Warner Cable is doing everything we can to negotiate in good faith and we hope to reach agreements as soon as possible."
Stay tuned.

Midseason news
ABC finally has announced a date for Jim Belushi’s "According to Jim." It returns 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3, as part of ABC’s new 8-10 p.m. comedy block. "Knights of Prosperity" by "Letterman" producer Rob Burnett – originally called "Let’s Rob Mick Jagger" and announced for the fall TV lineup – debuts 9 p.m. that night. It will be followed by "In Case of Emergency," another buddy comedy.
"Lost," which has been virtually tied by CBS’ "Criminal Minds," will return on Feb. 7 at 10 p.m., instead of 9 p.m. So "Lost" won’t air against the "American Idol" results show next year.
Speaking of "American Idol," it returns 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16. That’s the same week that "24" debuts with four hours over two nights (8-10 p.m. Sunday-Monday, Jan. 14-15). Rick Schroder (“NYPD Blue”) joins the cast for season six.
Here is Fox’s announcement, in case you haven’t seen it:
"Schroder will play forceful CTU Operative MIKE DOYLE, who teams with JACK BAUER (Kiefer Sutherland) to execute crucial field operations. He joins a list of notable newcomers this season, including Chad Lowe (ER), Powers Boothe (Deadwood), Peter MacNicol (Ally McBeal), Regina King (Ray), James Cromwell (Babe), Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar), Marisol Nichols (In Justice), Alexander Siddig (Syriana), David Hunt (Everybody Loves Raymond) and Harry Lennix (Commander in Chief).
"As previously announced, Emmy nominees Jean Smart and Gregory Itzin return for another day as FIRST LADY MARTHA LOGAN and PRESIDENT CHARLES LOGAN, while Eric Balfour and Carlo Rota reprise their respective roles as CTU contractors MILO PRESSMAN and MORRIS O’BRIAN.
"24’s Season Six will feature Wayne Palmer (DB Woodside), the strong-minded brother of the late President David Palmer; Sandra Palmer (Regina King), a determined and powerful advocacy lawyer; presidential advisor KAREN Hayes (Jayne Atkinson); and CTU colleagues CHLOE O’BRIAN (Mary Lynn Rajskub), CURTIS MANNING (Roger Cross) and BILL BUCHANAN (James Morrison)."
I can't wait!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Jerry Thomas Retirement Party Canceled

Never mind! Jerry Thomas just called to say that he’s canceled his big on-air retirement party next Thursday morning (12/14) at Primavista in Price Hill.
"The party is off. I told them up front I didn’t want a party, and I had them cancel it. I’d hate to have people show up. I’m against it 100%," said Thomas, a WKRC-AM (550) personality for 44 years.
Thomas, who turned 67 last month, had told his Clear Channel bosses that he didn’t even want a a cake. But station managers contacted his wife and children, got their blessing, and began inviting politicians and celebrities to a 5-9 a.m. party from which he would broadcast. He wasn't happy when he learned about it Tuesday, when my story was published.
Thomas, the #1 morning man here for years, wants to go quietly. He won’t say when his last show will air.
"I just don’t want to make a big deal about it. It may be weird, but that’s the way I feel about it. It’s my retirement.”

Liberal Radio, R.I.P.

Liberal radio died in Cincinnati today at age 23 months.
With Jerry Springer calling it quits after Friday’s show, Clear Channel today announced it will kill off progressive talk from WSAI-AM (1360) on Monday in favor of tape-delayed advice shows. Goodbye Springer, Al Franken and Ed Schultz. Welcome back Dr. Laura.
Clear Channel launched "the revolution of talk radio" 23 months ago with Jerry Springer’s show. Well, the revolution is over. Springer is quitting radio to do movies, TV roles, a Bud Light commercial and other opportunities from his "Dancing with the Stars" popularity. He was down to only about two dozen stations, from a peak of 53, and had been dropped from Air America, which filed for bankruptcy in October.
With the format averaging only about 1% of the audience here, and liberal talk being a tough sale in a red state, I figured Clear Channel will try something else. I never guessed this hodgepodge of advice shows called ""
Anchoring afternoon drive (4-7 pm) will be Atlanta consumer reporter Clark Howard ( The same show will repeat the next morning (7-10 a.m.). Afternoons will be filled with one-hour reruns of old WKRC-AM shows by Gary Sullivan, Ron Wilson and Steve Overbeck.

The lineup:
5-7 a.m.: Wall Street Journal (live feed)
7-10 a.m.: Clark Howard (previous weekday afternoon show)
10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Dr. Laura Schlessinger (tape-delay)
1-2 p.m.: At Home with Gary Sullivan (old WKRC show)
2-3 p.m.: In The Garden with Ron Wilson (old WKRC show)
3-4 p.m.: Steve Overbeck’s Autoline (old WKRC show)
4-7 p.m.: Clark Howard (new show, taped 1-4 pm in Atlanta)
7-10 p.m.: Neal Boortz (tape-delay)
10 p.m.-1 a.m.: Dr. Joy Browne (tape-delay)
1-5 a.m.: Joey Reynolds (live from WOR in NY)
Rerun radio sounds pretty cheap to me, but Bender says programming costs for these syndicated shows are "pretty much the same" as the progressive talk shows. But they’ll be easier to sell by Clear Channel account reps who handle both WKRC-AM and WSAI-AM. And it gives Clear Channel a niche, up against talk on WLW, WKRC, WCKY, WDBZ, WCVX (formerly WTSJ) and new Supertalk96.5.
Like I said, this surprised me. What else could they have put on a weak AM station?

Do You Know Cincinnati's Surya on Next "Apprentice?"

So, do you know Surya?
A Procter & Gamble brand manager, Sura Yalamanchili, will be one of 18 contestants on "The Apprentice" next month. The sixth season premieres 9:30-11 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 7, after the regular NFL season ends.
P&G folks only will confirm that Surya is employed here in the market development organization-media division. NBC says he "crafts corporate strategy to help the company evolve its media plans to keep up with changing consumer habits."
To revive ratings this season, producers Mark Burnett ("Survivor") and Donald Trump have added several new twists: The show moves from New York to Los Angeles. The winning team each week will live in a mansion, while the losers sleep in tents and use portable bathrooms in the back yard. And the winning project manager will remain in that position until he or she loses, and will sit in on boardroom discussions with Trump, Invanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

I don't know any more about him that what NBC put in his bio:

Surya (Cincinnati, Ohio) Brand Manager
"Surya, 24, was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania and raised in Old Bridge, New Jersey. Surya’s entrepreneurial spirit was evident early on when he started a successful e-commerce strategy company at age 15. Subsequently, he attended college and worked full-time as director of marketing at a publishing/web company, overseeing a significant marketing budget. While at Rutgers University, he was class president and commencement speaker, graduating with honors and earning a B.S. degree in finance and psychology. Today, a brand manager for a top-ranking Fortune 500 company, Surya crafts corporate strategy to help the company evolve its media plans to keep up with changing consumer habits.
"In his free time, he enjoys volunteering, playing basketball, reading and traveling. Surya says he should be the next Apprentice because he "can operate with the passion and energy of an entrepreneur and bring along the discipline and savvy of a corporate executive."

If you know him, please fill us in!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jerry Thomas: New Light on Old Story

I know this is ancient history to some of you, but now I know the story behind Jerry Thomas leaving WKRC-AM for six months back in 1992, and how he almost replaced Jim Scott off WLW-AM. (I fully realize some of you will stop reading now, but that’s OK.)
Thomas, one of the city’s most popular DJs, abruptly and mysteriously left WKRC-AM in June of 1992, when the station was in deep financial trouble. That was when Great American Broadcasting (formerly Taft Broadcasting) was cutting back on radio staffing, and WKRC-AM was way behind WLW-AM and other stations in the ratings.
Thomas, who retires at the end of the month
told me what happened: With the station crumbling, Thomas secretly signed a contract to jump to WLW-AM – to replace Jim Scott! He was off the air sitting out his non-compete. But before his six-month non-compete expired, WLW’s owners had bought rival WKRC-AM, and they put Thomas back on that station to boost ratings rather than replace Jim Scott.
Now this explains why Jim Scott left his top-rated WLW-AM morning showseveral years later for old WINK 94.1, which was then owned by Great American/Citicasters or whatever the old Taft Broadcasting was called in those days. He worked for WINK 94.1 for about two months – and then WLW’s owners bought that company too, and Scott eventually returned to WLW.
As Paul Harvey would say, now we know the rest of the story…

Anyway, I hate to see Jerry Thomas retire. He’s a class act. Wouldn’t be surprised if (a) he continues to do a lot of commercials, and we continue to hear his voice all over radio and (b) he decides to dabble in politics. Everybody knows him. He’s witty and articulate. I just don’t know if he wants to bother with the politics grind at age 67.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Springer Pulls Plug on Radio

Yet another change on Clear Channel radio: Jerry Springer’s talk show is history. But it doesn’t have a lot to do with the Clear Channel bloodbath last week (firing 19 staffers), and everything to do with Springer’s seven weeks on "Dancing with the Stars."
Springer officially decided last Friday to pull the plug on his nationally syndicated radio show, which had lot about half of its affiliates. "Springer on the Radio" was carried by about two dozen stations, down from a peak of 53. Springer’s radio website was pulled down last Friday too.
Springer show producer Stephanie Tyler was told last Wednesday -- the day of the firings -- that she would be laid off when the show ended on Dec. 8. But she tells me she was NOT part of the 19 firings. Unlike the others, she's still working, has access to the building and email, she says.
Springer said he dumped radio for two reasons – it was too time-consuming, and he’d rather cash in on other opportunities from his national "Dancing with the Stars" exposure – a movie, possible Super Bowl commercial for Bud Light and maybe a recurring role on ABC’s "George Lopez" sitcom.

And maybe a third: He didn’t need it any more.
From our periodic conversations, I know Springer really loved doing radio because he could talk about serious issues seriously, as he did as a local Ch 5 news commentator in the 1980s. He saw talk radio it was a way to re-invent himself as a great liberal thinker, a platform from which he could possible re-enter politics someday.
Then came "Dancing with the Stars." The nation saw a different Jerry Springer – the disarmingly charming self-deprecating guy that won Cincinnati City Council terms in the 1970s – and that did rehabbing more for his image than two years of relative radio obscurity.
Springer might go back to radio when he cools off in Hollywood. And he might try to go back to politics in two or four years (as he flirted with in 2002), he told me Monday.
Whatever, a big hurdle has been cleared. He’s re-invented his image for many Americans. He’s now known as the funny guy from "Dancing with the Stars," not the host of what TV Guide called "The Worst Show in the History of Television." He's going from MTV's spring break to a Super Bowl commercial?
What will Bud Light have him do? Where will he show up next on TV? Any ideas or suggestions for him?

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