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TV Notes: 'The Magic Woods' edges closer to becoming a series

Saturday, January 25, 2003

"The Magic Woods" is closer to a go.

The pilot for the children's nature series was filmed locally in summer 2001 and aired on WQED last year. Now American Public Television, a major source of programming for PBS stations, has sent host/co-creator Matthew Craig a letter of intent to distribute a "Magic Woods" series, pending funding.

"Having the letter of intent demonstrates to the foundations and corporations that we have this commitment," Craig said. About 350 stations purchase programming from APT, and the letter suggests "The Magic Woods" will be picked up by 60 to 75 percent of those stations "based on the top-shelf content ... in your pilot epi-sode."

"That's a big jump from just one," Craig said with a laugh.

With a distributor in place, Craig and company will continue to stump for funding to get the series off the ground. Each episodes costs about $125,000, which Craig said is under the national average for production of children's programs by half.

The plan is to produce four half-hour episodes in Western Pennsylvania for the 2003-04 season, 13 episodes for 2004-05 and 26 episodes for 2005-06. The pilot will be available for airing nationally this September.

Although Craig was severely injured while playing softball last summer (the accident left him permanently deaf and blind on his right side), he's ready to go into production and continue as the show's host.

"My attitude is it's not what happens to you in life, it's how you react to what happens to you," Craig said. "There was so much love and friendship and support. I just felt like a very fortunate person that people were being so kind and loving."

One of the four "Magic Woods" half-hours currently in pre-production has special meaning to him.

"It's about accessibility, and how children with special needs can tap into nature," he said. "Whatever your challenge is, you can go outside and be part of it."

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

WQED program plans

WQED Multimedia's proposed four-hour documentary about the French and Indian War, "The War That Made America," has attracted commitments for $8.5 million in funding from local foundations, pending a budget, script outline and selection of a filmmaker. WQED expects to lock in those elements by late March.

WQED has taped "Brain Food," a pilot for a proposed national series targeted at middle school students that uses cooking to teach students about math and science. It will air at 5 p.m. Feb. 21 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23. The Mon Valley Education Consortium will help WQED's Education Resource Center develop curriculum to accompany "Brain Food."

"This Land Is Your Land," a WQED folk concert, was so successful in raising money for PBS systemwide that a sequel will be taped in Pittsburgh in August at the same time as a variety show performance special, originally scheduled for next month. Next month's Italian crooners special has been pushed to 2004.

"Rock & Roll 50," celebrating rock and doo wop from the '50s, '60s and '70s, will tape May 12-14 at the Benedum Center, Downtown.

WQED music guru T.J. Lubinsky is also working on a deal for a "Best of American Bandstand" special, culled from old episodes, to air in December. In advance of that, Lubinsky will tape eight episodes of a new series, "Pittsburgh Bandstand," at Linden Grove in Castle Shannon from 6 p.m. to midnight on Feb. 23. Pittsburghers will be invited to dance to Motown, doo-wop and disco music. The show will premiere in April.

For details on tickets to any WQED taping, contact WQED at 412-622-1370.

(R.O.)

Radio format change

Uniontown station WMBS-AM (590) will switch formats Monday, going from oldies to "Music of Your Life" -- a classic standards format that features artists such as Frank Sinatra, Doris Day and Barry Manilow.

The station began testing the waters in December by adding a Saturday show called "American Classic Standards" hosted by Bill Alexander.

WMBS had been declining in the ratings, and because much of the local audience is 55 or older, the move to "Music of Your Life" was a logical one, says station manager Ron Dawson. The playlist will be similar to that of WJAS-AM (1320) in Pittsburgh but focused more on artists from the '50s and '60s.

The station's staff, news and sports programming remains the same.

Weekly oldies shows "Oldies Unlimited" and "Radioactive Gold" are moving from Saturday to Sunday.

(Adrian McCoy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer)

Christian wakeup

Christian station WAVL-AM (910) in Apollo recently introduced a new morning show. "The Breakfast Club" features host Randy Young, who's also station manager; Paul Barton, co-host and news director; Dave Ross (traffic); and Jim Barton (sports).

WAVL airs contemporary Christian music and several teaching ministry programs.

"Breakfast Club" airs from 5 to 9 a.m. weekdays.

(A.M.)

'Idol' a hit again

The first TV battle between Simon and Trista was no contest.

Fox's "American Idol" continues to be a sensation, drawing just under 25 million viewers for the second night of its second season on Wednesday. The night before, it had a record-setting 26.5 million.

The reality series starring insult-snapping Simon Cowell went head-to-head with ABC's hit, "The Bachelorette," in twin 90-minute epi-sodes.

Bachelorette Trista Rehn drew 13.4 million viewers on ABC Wednesday. While still respectable, that was 4 million less than watched last week, according to Nielsen Media Research.

"Star Search," the CBS show clearly inspired by the success of "American Idol," had 13.1 million viewers in the half-hour episode that aired directly opposite the Fox series.

(Associated Press)

Channel surfing

Glassport native Dave Chlystek is nominated for an Annie Award from the International Animated Film Society for directing an episode of The WB's "Static Shock." ... WPXI has picked up the syndicated "Wayne Brady Show," which it will add to its schedule in the fall ... A soundtrack to The WB's "Smallville" will be released by Elektra Records on Feb. 25 ... Reruns of "Gilmore Girls" will air on ABC Family Channel beginning in fall 2004.

(R.O.)

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