TV News Comedy

A recent post on the Watercooler section of TVSpy solicited comments about some of the strange and whacky things that have happened to folks at the various stations involving the TV news business. One example posted by several different folks involved a live truck with a dead engine or otherwise incapacitated and how a wrecker was brought in to tow the live/dead truck to the scene of the live shot and then towed back to the station. Apparently in some cases this went on for a week or more.
A lot of “situations” arise from live trucks. Not long after I started anchoring in Ft. Myers, FL we had a crew covering an event in the city and they were in a live truck with the mast fully extended. For some reason either the device that disables the truck wasn’t working or perhaps it wasn’t even installed. So the crew gets in the truck, cranks it and and pulls forward putting the fully extended mast into overhead utility lines. The truck is now energized from the high voltage overhead and the crew inside doesn’t want to touch anything metal for fear of electrocution. They had to sit there helpless until local power crews could kill the juice to the overhead lines and get them out. The other stations and the newspaper had a great time shooting that story and reporting on it. Because no one was hurt, it was and is a funny story. It could have been more serious.
And at my first anchor job in Jackson, TN, we had one studio with the news set pushed to one side and all the stuff for other shows or productions scattered around the perimeter. Each night for our closing shot, one of the camera operators would pull his camera backawards to the edge of the studio for a wide shot. One night, somebody had not moved the piano and piano bench completely out of the way so when the camera guy started pulling his camera back as he usually did, he fell across the bench and while trying to catch himself hit every key on the piano. Our mikes were still open when this tremendous noise came crashing out of the piano and we couldn’t help but laugh. Fortunately for us, the director cut to black and sat in black as the production crew came running out to see what in the heck had just happened.
Oh the craziness of live TV news.

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9 Comments on “TV News Comedy”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Joe,
    What year or years did you anchor in Jackson, Tn. I moved to Alamo, Tn in 1984. Until I recently got Direct TV I could get WBBJ from Jackson on cable. In recent years, it seemed every time you turned on WBBJ there was a new crew of (worker bees). The main news group didn’t change but everyone around them did. This constant flow of new people provided the most strange news telecast I have ever seen. You never knew who could read or who was going to screw up next. My wife and I would just look at each other and shake our heads. But I guess everyone starts somewhere, it just appears they all start in Jackson, Tn.
    But now that I have Direct TV, I can enjoy the group from Memphis. What a trip that is.
    PS. I have learned alot from your blog. Keep up the good work.
    Avid Reader

  2. Joe Larkins Says:

    I started work at WBBJ in Jackson, TN in Feb. 1981 and stayed there until Nov. 1982. Coincidentally, my lovely and talented bride Bethany Smith had worked at WBBJ and was their first female news anchor. She also reported at WBBJ. She started there in 1976 and stayed there for 2 1/2 years until departing for WHNT in Huntsville (pre-NYTimes) where she helped them transition from film to video. Yes, WBBJ was shooting video before WHNT.
    I attempted to put together a tele-prompter system out of spare parts at WBBJ but left for KFVS in Cape Girardeau, MO before the makeshift prompter system was completed.
    Working at WBBJ was not the first time I had worked for Bahakel Broadcasting. I worked at the now defunct WLBJ AM/FM in Bowling Green, KY while going to college.
    Yes, everyone has to start somewhere. Jackson is where I started my TV career. Dave O’Brien was News Director, Jack Church, now with Digital Broadcasting, did sports
    and Bob Jelinek of Milan did weather and reported. Jack was later replaced by Steve Heyman now on Jackson area radio doing sports and Bob was later replaced by Joe Case who is now doing weather in Nashville.
    Still, the most frightening thing about all of this is that you’re claiming to learn stuff from my blog.
    Thanks for checking in.
    Regards,
    Joe

  3. Anonymous Says:

    As another survivor of WBBJ myself, I can say that NOTHING has changed at BBJ aka Broadcasting’s Biggest Joke.

    I think Cy is dead now, but Joe when you were there did corporate send these 1 minute clips of Bahakel offering a witness for the true meaning of Christmas?

    When I was there they would play it all the time on the air during December between cheesy ads from car dealerships, Electric Outlet, and Clayton Mobile Home.

    Believe it or not, I saw one of these old clips recently (I live in Jackson) and it was kinda creepy considering Cy has passed on…unless there is a live truck in heaven…now that’s what I’d call a true LIVE shot!

  4. Joe Larkins Says:

    I believe Cy Bahakel went on to his great reward back in August. I met him only once and that was merely in passing at BBJ.
    I mainly remember his editorials which were shipped to all of his TV stations. Since they played in several markets they had to be generic and usually dealt with topics such as feeding hungry childen or helping those who are downtrodden. As one might expect, there was never any rebuttal since who would be against feeding starving children.
    Just a side note, when I worked in Jackson, we had ONE news camera and only one editing station in the whole operation. Sports didn’t have a camera at all and would have to borrow the production camera on Monday’s and shoot all sports segments that would run through Thursday. On Friday night, they got the news camera to shoot some local sports.

  5. jamey tucker Says:

    when I was working at WOWL in Florence, Alabama we had daily comic moments. One day the assignment desk, in a panic, sent me to cover a robbery of a service station that was “in progress”. I got there to find my co-anchor shooting a “CrimeStoppers” piece.

  6. Tommy Stafford Says:

    Well there was the time back when I did weekend weather at WREG. One morning I was there with Dennis Turner. They were in B block news I was, well, doing some paperwork, yep all miked up on the wireless. Rusty was running audio. They began yelling for me over the IFB to get back out to the backyard to do the weather (thankfully it wasn’t far) as I was running back to the key wall I told Rusty I was in the bathroom but running to the set. He said, yea, we all know back here in control. I never turned off the mic…could have been worse I suppose. I could have been on the air!

    Joe do you remember when Monica Stokes was doing the liveshot at, I think, Overton Park Zoo and had something like a zebra, or rhino behind her who all of the sudden began relieving himself right there on the air as she was trying to look gracious on air.

  7. Matt Campbell Says:

    Joe,
    I remember an incident when I was producing the 5 p.m. DOTR. We had just taken the handoff from the 4:30 show, which had a kicker about dancing bears. My lead was about a murder, so the reporter did her intro from the old newsroom, and we went to her package. After the PKG, the reporter did her newsroom close about the murder… and 4:30 producer and her editor could be seen in the background, re-enacting the dance of the bears. I wasn’t happy at the time, but I love telling the story.

  8. Joe Larkins Says:

    The working newsroom/news studio Down On The River offered many opportunities for folks to unknowingly do whacky things in the background forgetting there was a newscast in progress. Anchors reading in front of bright lights never provided any clues to such activity.
    I can’t begin to tell you the times I was reading a serious story on the air when someone finished the punchline to a joke. The loud laughter from the bowels of the newsroom spilled over the air. When this concern was brought to the attention of the News Director we were told this was a working newsroom and to basically get over it.
    Then there was the time George Lapides was having a conversation with someone back by the sports department. Engrossed in the conversation, George was hanging on to one of the support columns and did was appeared to be a modified pole dance behind the anchors.

  9. Bob Ramsey Says:

    Joe,

    Just found your blog and am enjoying your musings. Wow, it’s been a very long time. We worked together when i came to WBBJ in the summer of 1982. I was there until the fall of 1983 working with dave O’Brien, Ron Nored, Steve Heyman, etc. Those were interesting times.

    Bob Ramsey-San Diego


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