Though plagued by technical problems and an excruciatingly slow news day, Corey McPherrin and Anna Davlantes got off to a comfortable start Monday as the new primary hosts of WFLD-Channel 32's "Good Day Chicago."
McPherrin, in particular, was so smooth and relaxed in the role that if you didn't know better, you'd swear he'd spent his career as a talk show host rather than a sports anchor, which had been his job at the Fox-owned station until just this week. Together McPherrin and Davlantes make an attractive and personable team.
Other than the two new hosts, the most notable addition to the program's 7-to-10 a.m. block was a recurring bit called "Mike on a Mission," featuring Michael Kinsella, executive assistant to the station's news director, Carol Fowler. As McPherrin pointed out in his introduction, Kinsella also happens to be the grandson of one of Chicago television's most illustrious legends,‚ the late Floyd Kalber, who was a top-rated anchorman for decades at both NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7.
Kinsella's opening day "mission" consisted of riding around town on Davlantes' Vespa, trying to persuade public establishments ‚ -- health clubs, restaurants and department stores -- to switch their television sets to "Good Day Chicago." (More than one turned him down, insisting on keeping their sets tuned to "The WGN Morning News.") By the end of his third segment, he reported back by cell phone that he'd converted "at least 10 -- maybe 20 -- more viewers." Not quite a Nielsen landslide.
Earlier, Kinsella acknowledged the silliness of his role, sheepishly telling McPherrin and Davlantes: "I don't know if this quite lives up to Grandpa Floyd." Here's hoping future assignments for the likable young man prove a bit more substantive.
Three hours is a lot of airtime to fill, but McPherrin and Davlantes managed to maintain a high energy level and steady pace throughout the show, bouncing from anchor desk to easy chairs and back again about a dozen times. Even on Day One, it's obvious that the two have better chemistry (and significantly stronger ties to their hometown Chicago) than the two hopelessly miscast outsiders they replaced -- Jan Jeffcoat and David Novarro.
By far the most interesting piece on the show was a feature by McPherrin in which he visited the seldom-seen basement and fourth floor of Harry Caray's Restaurant, pointing out the former haunts of Capone-era mobster Frank Nitti. Managing partner Grant DePorter proved to be a gracious and good-humored host for the tour.
Whether the result of recent cutbacks among technical employees or just bad luck, audio problems and missed camera cues abounded during Monday's opener. A live shot from O'Hare showed reporter Anita Padilla's lips moving without any sound coming out. About an hour later, weatherman Chris Sowers' microphone conked out, forcing him to deliver an entire forecast while awkwardly speaking into the lapel of the considerably taller news anchor Kori Chambers. A satellite interview from New York with Judge Jeanine Pirro (whose syndicated courtroom show airs on the station) almost didn't get off the ground. McPherrin vamped ably until the signal was restored.
Monday also marked the new 4:30 a.m. start time for Channel 32's morning news block -- a fact that apparently slipped McPherrin's mind. At the end of the show, he invited viewers to come back the following morning -- "at 5 a.m." But as he might have said during his sportscasting days: No harm, no foul.