By Ron Donoho
(page 1 of 3)Network sitcoms can be amusing enough. Still, don’t hold your breath waiting for a Friends cast member to make mention of San Diego.
For those who enjoy daytime dramas, soap be it. But when’s the last time Susan Lucci stared into the camera and purred “fish tacos,” “Chargers” or “Hotel Del”?
The most intriguing television fare is spawned locally. Regional programming hooks you like heroin. It’s an odd addiction. Channel-surf to the KUSI morning news, for example. The tri-anchor team gushes over an in-studio performance by rockers Rocket from the Crypt one day, San Diego Junior Theatre the next. KUSI truly acts locally. Even the non sequiturs spewed by field reporter Rod Luck are mesmerizing. Why do we rubberneck at his babblings? Because he operates among us.
Did you know San Diego City Council meetings are broadcast on a government-access channel? The revolution could be televised. Will a departure by termed-out Councilman George Stevens decrease viewership? Can Brian Maienschein berate city staff with the same colloquial hellfire?
Local TV comes with lows and highs. Which brings us to Channel 4 San Diego, with arguably the best fare reaching a limited cable audience.
Cox Communications’ little experiment is 5 years old and counting. Channel 4 San Diego first went on the air March 13, 1997. Anchored by an exclusive agreement to air 145 Padres games each season, Channel 4 has created and filled its own niche.
In support of the baseball games, which run live and are immediately rebroadcast, there is a pregame show called Prime Time Padres. There’s also a Padres Magazine show, Padres Report and One on One with Jane Mitchell, a series of half-hour interviews with the team’s past and present stars. A show only a diehard could love, Baseball Night in San Diego, runs during the off-season. The title is a fancy name for game reruns from the prior season.
More than 70 percent of Channel 4 programming is local sports. Including the Padres games, the station annually telecasts 250 live sporting events. There’s hockey (the minor-league Gulls); men’s and women’s soccer (the Sockers and the Spirit); SDSU football and basketball games; USD hoops games, too. You can also find high school football and basketball championship games on Channel 4.
Chargers Magazine and Aztecs Sports Weekly are in the arsenal, too. But it’s not all sports, all the time. Forefront provides half-hour interviews with local luminaries like Mayor Dick Murphy, Ingrid Croce and Frankie Laine. The award-winning San Diego Insider is a highly competent newsmagazine show. (Full disclosure: San Diego Magazine has contributed content to Insider.)
Must-see cable TV also includes Editors’ Roundtable. Originally a KPBS Radio offering, the show airs Friday mornings on the radio and is videotaped for broadcast on Channel 4 that evening (and rerun at various times for a week). Roundtable is moderated by KPBS’s Gloria Penner. With a reserve not championed on shrieking-head shows like The O’Reilly Factor, three local print editors spend an hour tackling San Diego’s hot-button issues. Education. The border.
Granted, the show can be tedious. But patience rewards viewers with real insight. Watch to be informed. And watch because some day, either Voice & Viewpoint’s John Warren or San Diego Metropolitan’s Tim McClain is going to grab The San Diego Union-Tribune’s right-leaning Bob Kittle by his red bowtie and twist it three times hard to the left.
It could happen. With local TV, you never know.