21 years is a long time in television

The blog title is my feeble attempt at a positive spin on the stark reality that the world of broadcasting that is exciting and gratifying can at the same time be so very cruel.

The management at Milwaukee Public Television has decided to abruptly cancel InterCHANGE, the weekly local roundtable discussion program seen weekends on Channels 10 and 36.

Image result for interchange, mptv, image, photo, picture

Image result for interchange, mptv, image, photo, picture
InterCHANGE, hosted by veteran newsman Dan Jones, provides an in-depth examination of major concerns affecting southeastern Wisconsin residents. Jones presents the week’s news and issues to four panelists whose spirited analysis provides a variety of insights.
From MPTV website

The program has been on the air for 21 years. Yours truly is the only remaining original panelist.

My colleagues and I were informed of the news by host Dan Jones when we arrived at the studio last Friday, literally minutes before we were to go on air for the weekly taping.  We were told the June 24th taping would be our last.

The news landed like a Muhammad Ali left jab.

Jones himself had been told of the decision that same afternoon. I can’t imagine how he felt, being summoned to a late Friday afternoon meeting by management.

In an e-mail to the panelists after last Friday’s taping, Jones wrote, in part:

MPTV General Manager Bohdan Zachary has decided to begin the new fiscal year devoting station resources, time, and energy into creating a new news and public affairs magazine type program, to look in depth at some of the serious issues that affect our viewing areas and the people who live here.

It’s not that we aren’t liked, it’s simply a desire to go in a different direction after 20 years of Interchange.

I hope you know how very much I have always appreciated your kindness, professionalism, and sincerity.

Zachary has been General Manager at MPTV for only a few months. His predecessor who retired was a fan of the program and a friend of the panelists. Not a criticism, simply a fact.

I fully understand the desire to to produce a new issue-oriented public affairs program that will provide in-depth reporting on issues important to local viewers. InterCHANGE offered such discussion. Why couldn’t Milwaukee Public Television find a way to incorporate the new program into its lineup that would have included InterCHANGE where the two could compliment one another? Trust me the panel would be more than capable and up to the task of discussing any topic the new news magazine could produce.

The timing couldn’t have been worse as we’re right in the midst of a tumultuous election year.

However, this decision to cancel InterCHANGE and two other locally produced programs was out of our control. I wonder if management fully comprehends how popular InterCHANGE has been and what a loyal following it has built. All of the panelists regularly talk about how they are approached constantly by viewers who are loaded with compliments.

I have too many memories to list here but allow me a few.

A frequent question I get is if the panel, which can get quite heated, gets along. During the nice weather after the show some if not all of the panelists would stand out on the street at the entrance to MATC and talk, not about the show topics, but about…stuff, anything and everything. It was always friendly and lighthearted, often leading to loud laughter.

It was at one of those laughing outbursts, and regular viewers know that Joel McNally can really laugh, that a truck pulled up to the stop at the corner, saw the camaraderie, rolled down his window and yelled out, and I’m paraphrasing, “I knew it. I knew all that arguing was just an act.”

We laughed some more, I said something about pro wrestling, and the guy sped off. Joel wrote a column about the encounter and essentially exposed that, by golly, we’re all…friends!

My ties. I always tried to wear one that fit a theme. Elvis’ birthday. Halloween. Christmas. Every week when I arrived Rick Horowitz who did the commentary at the end of each show tried to guess the rationale behind each week’s selection.

I did receive a death threat.It came years ago after a program where I denounced gun control and spoke in robust support of the 2nd Amendment. The guy left his threat on the MATC switchboard. Station policy was such that they had to investigate and involve the police. An officer called me and asked me what I wanted to do about the threatening call.  Can you just knock on the guy’s door and tell him not to do it again?

They did. No charges pursued.

After every show when I got in the car I’d make it a point to call my mom even before I got on the expressway. We’d discuss how the show went and she’d also inquire if I was “nice.” Mom’s been gone a long time. If I had to make this phone call? She wouldn’t be happy, but she’d find a way to say the right thing.

The memory that’s the best by far…March 27, 2009.

As the show comes to an end I’m saddened, and I know this sounds trite, that the panel that is like family will no longer see each other on a regular basis. I feel badly for the viewers. And from my perspective the cancellation means local conservative voices on local television have been silenced. MPTV, a liberal broadcaster, now suddenly has no local conservative commentators. I am not suggesting that was part of the decision-making process. But it is the outcome of this programming move.

21 years. We outlasted some serious shows.

Gunsmoke

Law and Order

Red Skelton Show

Lassie

Art Linkletter’s House Party

MTV Unplugged

I’ve Got a Secret

Concentration

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Dora the Explorer

Hollywood Squares

American Idol

Let’s Make A Deal

Dallas

NYPD Blue

Hawaii Five-O

Murder She Wrote

M*A*S*H

Happy Days

Cheers

Barney & Friends

21 years. I didn’t think we’d last 21 minutes.

Thank you MPTV for the opportunity and a great ride.

To hosts Dan Jones and Mark Siegrist, thanks for being so kind and respectful. And I’ll never forget the tag team effort you made in your brief emcee role at my wedding reception.

To my fellow panelists over the years, left and right, what an absolute thrill it was to work with you.

My biggest thanks is to so many people who tuned in week after week. It meant a great deal and is deeply appreciated.

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11 thoughts on “21 years is a long time in television

  1. Kevin,

    Although you are by far no fan of mine I am disappointed in this news. I have been watching this show since sometime in 2008 and I remember your favorite memory that you mentioned. I didn’t agree with every position you took and sometimes you were just flat out wrong, I have those saved in a file somewhere, but I enjoyed the dialogue and banter. This truly is a sad day for MPTV.

    Steve F. Taylor

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    • Thank you, Steve, for your thoughts and for watching all those years.

      Healthy debate is a fine thing. And differing viewpoints are more than OK. From a programming perspective it would be quit a bore if every panelist sang out of the same hymnal. I will dearly miss my friends and our weekly chats.

      My Fridays are about to become less hectic. Maybe we can get together.

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      • Kevin,

        I would very much enjoy getting together with you one of these Friday’s. I really enjoyed the back and forth between you and the left leaning panelist. When Gerard Randall and I go to lunch at Miss Katie’s Diner he always told me how everyone gets along on that show. It is too bad that this decision was made. It is a real loss because the topics were always important because as you know our local coverage and JS leave a lot to be desired. All My Best and lets get together soon. For sure I will see you on the 4th.

        Steve

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  2. What a shame – seriously. I agree there is a way the show could have been included in the line-up. Perhaps updated, a new set, more video, different time slot, bring in community leaders and news makers, blah, blah, blah….Does’t make any difference now. So, what are you going to do with all your time, now? mark@rspr.com

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  3. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (06/27/16) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

  4. Pingback: InterCHANGE memories? How about one more I forget | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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  6. Wow. I have been watching the show for most of the time it’s been on. Didn’t realize it was cancelled until today. I would check out the mptv website, it didn’t mentioned the cancellation at all. Hopefully, it will be reincarnate in the near future with the same panel. Best wishes.

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