'Springer' veteran teams with Tribune to test talk shows

May 6, 2010

Richard Dominick

Could Bill Cunningham and Bubba the Love Sponge soon become the talk of the town? That's the latest word as Tribune Co. hopes to get back into the television talk show business in collaboration with Richard Dominick, former executive producer of "The Jerry Springer Show."

Sean Compton, who was promoted this week to president of programming for Tribune Broadcasting, met Wednesday with Dominick to finalize plans to tape pilots for two proposed syndicated talk shows at the studios of Tribune-owned WGN-Channel 9.

Published reports identified one of the hosts as Cunningham, a Cincinnati-based radio personality, who taped an earlier pilot with Springer for a show that went nowhere. In addition to his daily local show, Cunningham also hosts a weekly syndicated show, which airs here Sunday nights on Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890). Tribune Broadcasting's other would-be host, according to insiders, is Bubba the Love Sponge, the Sirius XM Radio personality who's carried on Howard Stern's Howard 101 channel.

Both are expected to tape one week of shows next month at Channel 9. They'll be produced by Dominick and directed by former "Springer" director Greg Klazura for testing on air in July. If approved, they could turn up on Tribune and Sinclair Broadcast Group stations in January and be offered for national syndication in fall of 2011. In a memo to Channel 9 staffers, vice president/operations Steve Farber wrote:

"As you may know, we are planning on shooting several pilot shows for a talk show concept at WGN. It's part of our continuing effort to find new ways to create interesting television. The pilots will be taped over two weekends in June (June 12-13, June 19-20) and will include a live audience. Details on the program concepts will be coming at a later date. We're moving with an experienced team that's been successful in the talk format. We may ask for your help in recruiting an audience for the show tapings. Until then, thank you to those of you already involved in getting this project together on a short timeline."

Staffers last week were unofficially told that studio space had been reserved through June for a "Springer"-style talk show to be hosted by Mancow Muller, the Chicago-based syndicated radio personality who's also been in talks with Compton. Muller declined to comment on those reports or on speculation that he's under consideration for a role with news/talk WGN-AM (720).

Bubba the Love Sponge (who was born Todd Clem) briefly hosted mornings here in 1991 at the former WYTZ. The station's consultant at the time was Randy Michaels, now CEO of Tribune Co. Cunningham also is an old pal of Michaels and Compton from their years together in Cincinnati.

Robservations on the media beat:

  • The season premiere of ABC's "Lost" last February wreaked havoc with Illinois primary election coverage on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. Now the series finale is disrupting the station's programming lineup again. Extending the final episode by an extra half-hour, ABC will air the last "Lost" from 8 to 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 23.‚  A special edition of "Jimmy Kimmel Live," titled "Aloha to Lost," will follow a delayed edition of Channel 7's late news at 11:05 p.m. "190 North" will air at 12:05 a.m., followed by "Inside Edition" at 12:35 a.m.
  • Michael Feldman's long-running comedy/quiz/interview show "Whad'Ya Know?" is getting a second weekly airing on Newsweb Radio progressive talk WCPT-AM (820). While continuing to air from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, it will replace the time-brokered "Family Values with an Oy Vey" from 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays, starting this weekend. Also at WCPT, account executive Mark Earnest was promoted Wednesday to director of sales, succeeding Jeff Chardell, who resigned last week. The search continues for a new general manager for the station, which is simulcast on WCPY-FM (92.5), WCPT-FM (92.7) and WCPQ-FM (99.9).
  • A promising new magazine show focusing on the thriving arts scene in Chicago debuts this week on Window to the World Communications WTTW-Channel 11. "Fear No ART Chicago" airs at 8:30 p.m. Friday, with reruns at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday and 4:30 p.m. May 23. In the premiere, host and producer Elysabeth Alfano takes viewers inside the creative process with profiles of blues and folk musician Nicholas Barron, fashion designer Lauren Lein and Moto chefs Omar Cantu and Ben Roche.
  • Stew Cohen, news director of NextMedia Group's northwest suburban WZSR-FM (105.5) and WWYW-FM (103.9), is writing a history of WYEN, the former Des Plaines station owned by Ed Walters from 1971 to 1985. Cohen, who worked there in the '70s, is collaborating with fellow alum Kenn Heinlein (known on the air as Kenn Harris) in gathering stories from many of the broadcasters who began their careers there. Among them were Greg Brown, Garry Meier,‚ Bob Roberts, Mike Roberts, Bob‚ Worthington,‚ Beth Kaye and Mike Tanner. To share information for The WYEN Experience, contact Cohen at: stew@star105.com
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