Give ABC 7 credit for gutsy effort — even if new show has far to go
After watching the premiere of ABC 7’s new morning talk show Thursday, it would be much too easy and too glib to dismiss Windy City LIVE with three words — Dead on Arrival.
But that wouldn’t be fair.
So let’s just say that any show replacing Oprah Winfrey in the 9am time slot after 27 years in Chicago would have a hard time measuring up. While most of her affiliates are simply plugging in news or other syndicated programming, ABC 7 deserves maximum credit for mounting a live, local talk show with a studio audience in Oprah’s home market.
After properly paying homage to Oprah’s legacy, hosts Ryan Chiaverini and Val Warner (pictured above) spent much of the first half of Thursday’s show selling themselves to the audience. The taped packages about their upbringing, family lives and career ambitions were nicely done. (Warner’s immensely charming grandmother, Nezelle “Mother Dear” Bradshaw, could probably carry a show of her own.) But their opening monologue about setting alarms for themselves went on too long with no real payoff.
First among the roster of regular contributors to Windy City LIVE, nightlife impresario Billy Dec showed pictures of himself at a party for reasons that were never explained. Dec, who drops names at the drop of a hat, never removed his own hat, but did bring out actor Johnny Galecki (Big Bang Theory, Entourage) for a brief Q&A. Additional contributors on the show will include Roe Conn, Mark DeCarlo and Nina Chantele.
The most intriguing innovation was that of Ji Suk Yi, who was introduced as the show’s “social media producer.” She explained that she’ll be monitoring Facebook, Twitter and the show’swebsite every day and interacting with the audience in real time. Although she promised to give a “special shoutout” at the end of Thursday’s show to its 3,000th Facebook fan, she wasn’t heard from again.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appearance in the final 20 minutes was the highlight of the hour. He’d obviously come to play: “Your ability to state the obvious is unbelievable,” a testy Emanuel retorted to Chiaverini’s silly opening question about the Blagojevich trial. “Wow, that is a graduate degree in mastering the obvious, don’t you think?” Grousing about not being given a cup of water, Emanuel deadpanned: “I just want to know: Do you [have to answer] five questions before you get your water? I feel like I’m in Guantanamo.”
In what was billed as a cooking segment (Chiaverini and Warner donned snazzy new aprons for it), celebrity chef Art Smith talked about chicken and waffles and about macaroni and cheese, but never got around to showing viewers how to make anything.
Producers front-loaded the debut with lots of giveaways to viewers and the studio audience. After the free Bulls tickets, the free gas, the free trips on Virgin Airlines, and the free tins of Garrett’s popcorn, the rollout of the inevitable giant Eli’s cheesecake seemed anticlimactic.
The show ended on a rousing note with a performance by the Joshua Troop gospel choir. But it was marred by some dizzying, frenetic camera work — as inexplicable as the color flare-outs that gave the show an otherworldly look at times.
ABC 7 bosses insisted they were more than pleased with the debut, noting that they received more than 728 ticket requests in less than 30 minutes, and that the show’s Facebook page jumped from 2600 fans to more than 5500 in the first half-hour.
It’s worth noting that ratings for Oprah’s swan song went through the roof for ABC 7, scoring a 13.4 rating (or about 470,000 households) and 38 share at 9am Wednesday, which may be the last time the station ever sees a number like that in the time period.
But while the new show may be costly to produce, the economics will make sense if Windy City LIVE is even modestly successful. By not having to pay the onerous licensing fees for a syndicated show and by retaining all of the commercial time for itself, ABC 7 stands to make a tidy profit from the venture — assuming it can stay on long enough.