Local TV gave us news that everybody knew Snow job: The weather has been awful, and the shows about it have been worse.

On the Air

January 14, 1996|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

In case you haven't heard, we had a lot of snow around here last week.

Apparently, nothing else happened all week. Just the snow.

At least, that's what a reasonable person could surmise from the hours and hours and hours and hours of coverage Baltimore's television stations gave to the storm of the century (except for the slightly bigger one that afflicted us in 1983 but why bring that up when hyperbole is such fun?).

Y'know, maybe it's me, but when I'm cooped up in my house for three days, the last thing I want to see on TV is film of other people cooped up in their houses, shots of miserably cold reporters standing on street corners telling us how miserably cold it is, pictures of folks digging their cars out from snowbanks.

A little of that goes a long way.

What I'd like to hear is whether schools are closed, whether the government is going to be operating, when the snow is going to stop, when the plows are going to come through. And once you tell me that, Mr. TV program person, how about trying something novel, like entertaining me, taking my mind off the Arctic tundra encroaching outside?

You know, show us a movie or something. Even network programming.

But not in Baltimore. Instead, we're stuck with three-hour newscasts that can be reduced to four words: Cold. Nasty. Stay inside.

If something happens we need to know about, run a ticker across the bottom of the screen or break in for a few minutes. But forcing us to watch a bunch of uncomfortable news anchors struggle to fill time well, the only good that did was make me decide it was time to turn off the television, go outside and start shoveling.

Consider some of the priceless TV moments of the past week:

* A revealing interview with a woman who got so bored being stuck inside that she cleaned and organized her basement!

* Constant reminders of what a rite of passage it is for newscasters trying to reach TV Hill in a snowstorm to drive across the 41st Street bridge!

* Simultaneous remote broadcasts on all three channels -- WBAL, WJZ and WMAR -- from BWI Airport where (and here's a news flash) people were stranded. People were also stranded here at The Sun, but none of us got interviewed. The highlight of highlights: a couple who had actually found a quiet place to sleep inside some statue, until they were awakened by a local news crew. The ever-intrepid reporter had two questions: Any privacy? (wink wink, nod nod) And any smart-alecky comments?

* The sad plight of kids with sleds forced to hold microphones and be interviewed live on the air. A more scintillating interview you'd never want to hear.

* WJZ's Marty Bass, with Gov. Parris Glendening on the phone, making some lame comment about how wonderful it would be if we had this kind of snowstorm on a Super Bowl Sunday here in Baltimore, with the Browns playing the Redskins for the title. Even more lame was the guv taking the bait and patting himself mercilessly on the back for being the man who brought football back to Maryland.

* Some idiots downtown who decided to clear their street by opening up a fire hydrant and washing the snow away. Let's hope they had ice skates.

* Bedside interviews with guys who had just suffered heart attacks while shoveling snow -- or who were lying in emergency rooms waiting to find out if they'd had heart attacks. That seemed tacky in the extreme. The last thing these guys need is to have a TV camera shoved in their faces.

Of course, the stations will point out that record numbers of people watched their on-air talent during the storm. Which misses the point, I think. Of course they watched a lot of TV. There was nothing else to do!

It's bad enough that we were all stuck inside for days. Do we also have to suffer through hours and hours of Bad TV?

'Tough-love' therapist

Seattle may have Frasier Crane, but Baltimore, thanks to the folks at WCBM-AM (680), now has Dr. Laura Schlessinger to tell us where we're going wrong.

A licensed marriage and family counselor with a Ph.D. in physiology from Columbia University, Dr. Schlessinger's show is the "hottest thing in talk radio today," according to WCBM Program Director Sean Casey. "She's a tough-love therapist with strong family values."

The folks at Talk680, which airs the show from noon to 3 p.m. on weekdays, describe her approach as "intelligent, wise, humorous, hip and understanding."

Not being familiar with Dr. Schlessinger, I'll have to take their word for it. But judging by her own words, she should fit right in.

"More traditional call-in 'shrink shows' have been deathly clinical and extremely liberal," she explains. "They haven't worked. My show is successful because my bluntness is very much appreciated. People need to balance their rights with responsibilities and obligations, and that's new to hear."

Programming notes

A pair of heads-up programming notes for today on WJZ, Channel 13:

* The 11th annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards, honoring African-American achievement in gospel music, airs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Kim Fields-Freeman ("Living Single"), James Avery ("Fresh Prince Belair") and comedian Jeff Slocumb will serve as hosts for the special, taped Jan. 5 in Nashville, Tenn.

Presenters will include Angela Bassett, Jasmine Guy and Ernie Hudson. But the real show -- the performers -- will include Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, CeCe Winans and the Mighty Clouds of Joy.

* "Daughters of the Dust," a 1992 feature film about a "Gullah" family living on an island off the coast of South Carolina and descended from West African slaves, will air at 12:05 a.m. tonight.

Screenwriter Julie Dash's script details the plight of the family as they are forced to move off the island, but try to do so without sacrificing the traditional African customs and rituals they have preserved over the centuries.

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