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Tuned In: Silliness scuttles appeal of WCWB's 'Nitelife'

Thursday, April 12, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Oh boy.

Much as I want to be supportive of locally produced programming, it's tough to muster enthusiasm for "Nitelife," WCWB's new one-hour weekly entertainment show.

Last week's premiere featured too much giggling from the four hosts, Angie Corley (a contributor to WQED's "On Q"), Charlie Eddy, Melissa Papa and Michel Renee, who could easily be the big sisters of the cast of "Popstars."

"Wait 'til you see the hot little number I have on," Papa said while promoting an upcoming fashion segment.

"As always, guys, stick around, you're going to love it," Corley added.

"I'm not sure if many of you will want to eat after seeing her in that little hot number," Eddy said.

What? Never mind.

Stumbling upon "Nitelife" after midnight Friday (12:30 a.m.), you might think you're seeing a bad "Saturday Night Live" parody of an MTV show. "Nitelife" features profiles of shops, restaurants and clubs, each one overwritten in a hyperbolic style with even worse voice-over delivery.

"Boy, I've got to get out of this before I get you guys too excited," Papa said while trying on the aforementioned "little hot number" during the fashion segment.

"Nitelife" is also the only TV show I know of that posts its hosts' measurements on its Web site (www.nitelifeshow.com) or offers winners of a contest a night out on the town with the show's hosts and "the 'Nitelife' models."

The show's logo unrelentingly clutters too much of the lower left corner of the screen throughout the program and the set is, well, just a tad better than public-access quality.

The show's best feature is "Inside Scoop," interviews with entertainers who pass through town. The first show alone featured chats with members of Run-DMC and Bon Jovi. That's impressive, but the interviews are too skimpy and padded with too many clips from music videos.

Features on local merchants come off as paid promotions ("You and your date will be made to feel like a king and a queen while dining here," Eddy said in a feature on Le Mont), but executive producer Eddie Edwards said those featured don't pay for inclusion.

Edwards said he created "Nitelife" to let people know there's more going on in Pittsburgh than they think.

"It's our way of showcasing Pittsburgh's night life," he said last week. "I travel the entire country, and our night life is second to none. It's superb, as a matter of fact, and I got tired of hearing people talk about how there's nothing to do in Pittsburgh when there's a whole lot to do."

Edwards envisions "Nitelife" as a pilot for a national entertainment show that would include segments on national entertainers with time allocated for stations in other cities to insert local features on their own night life, similar to the old "Evening Magazine" format.

To be successful nationally or locally, "Nitelife" will have to generate some advertising. The premiere had few paid ads, its commercial time devoted mostly to public service announcements and promotional spots.

Edwards said 13 episodes of "Nightlife" will air in Pittsburgh and be repeated this summer.

"The first 26 weeks in Pittsburgh will be just to really shape it and mold it and tweak it so we can see things we want to modify or fix," Edwards said. "I've gotten a lot of interest from a lot of broadcasters. ... They're waiting to see what I have put together. ... I'm pretty sure I'm going to take it nationally starting this fall."

To fulfill that goal, Edwards needs to start tweaking "Nitelife" pronto.

WAY TO BE PREPARED: I don't care much about which local station has a breaking news story first. To me, it's better to have it right. Monday morning at 6:45 a.m. Channel 11 had it both ways. The station broke the news of Willie Stargell's death and had a tribute by sports anchor Sam Nover on the air moments later.

Knowing of Stargell's fragile health, the station had prepared the package in advance, a practice common in newspapers too (we call it an advance obit). It might seem ghoulish to some that such a report was in the can, but it certainly gave more context than the stand-alone announcement that showed up a few minutes later on KDKA and WTAE.

CHANNEL 4 CHANGES: Viewers may notice some subtle changes on WTAE. Ellen Gamble, who has been weekday morning traffic reporter and weekend morning anchor, has returned to covering traffic five days a week.

Gamble grew nicely into the weekend morning anchor role and developed an easy rapport with meteorologist Don Schwenneker, but news director Bob Longo said she's needed on weekdays.

"Ellen is very strong at both those things, and she's done a terrific job on the weekend, but in the grand scheme of things the weekday morning show is the more important newscast," Longo said. "We felt strongly we needed to have Ellen on there."

Gamble's presence five days a week will provide consistency throughout the week. Recently, newcomer Meghan Jones reported on traffic two days a week. Longo said Gamble will fill in at the anchor desk when Kelly Frey is on vacation.

A permanent weekend morning anchor has yet to be named.

The station's "Call 4 Action" franchise with Susan Koeppen will now be seen more regularly during the 5 p.m. hour rather than at 11 p.m., though some special reports will air during the late news.

The 5 p.m. news has also been reformatted, with Wendy Bell's consumer reports airing at about 5:50 instead of 5:20.

Though two reporters will be covering consumer issues in the same newscast, Longo said they won't butt heads: Koeppen solves specific problems while Bell reports on more general consumer issues.


Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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