Friday, September 20, 2013

Press releases: Down with talking heads

Published in the Portland Phoenix

Television producers love sit-down, in-studio TV interviews. They’re cheap and easy, with controlled lighting, and all the right camera gear at hand. But it’s next to impossible to do them well. Charlie Rose and the late David Frost and Charlie Rose are great, as are Amy Goodman and Lesley Stahl.
But here in Maine, our versions of it are largely crap. Whether it’s Jennifer Rooks pandering to some academic or official on Maine Public Broadcasting’s MaineWatch or the fresh-faced early crew WPXT talking to whomever will show up at an ungodly hour of the morning, we need less banal chatter and more substance about Maine people on our screens. Sure, WCSH’s Rob Caldwell has some chops, but it’s been a while since he’s been in a situation where they’re really useful. (Get that man a sit-down with Paul LePage! Or any leader of the Maine Democratic Party, if there is such a thing.)
To the rescue — maybe — comes Shannon Moss, let go by the Hearst-owned WMTW Channel 8 earlier this year. She had worked there since 2007, and before that at the Gannett-owned WCSH Channel 6 starting in 1999. Now she’s starting her own show, Split Screen with Shannon Moss, which she’ll produce and host on WPXT Channel 43 (Saturdays at 9 am and 10:30 pm), WPME Channel 35 (Sundays 11:30 am), and her own site, (streaming live 24/7).
Whether she’s able to give Maine something new in the TV-personality-talks-to-someone-else department remains to be seen. In a web preview, she says each show will have two segments. One will be “an interview with a local celebrity, but in an unexpected and unique location. And then I’ll introduce you to a Mainer you’ve never heard of, who has an unforgettable story.”
This sounds promising, so let’s help her out. Her website lists several upcoming famous guests, so here are some ideas of “unexpected and unique locations” where they could be interviewed that would give us something new. Each person gets one serious suggestion and one ironic or comic one, but we’re not saying which is which.
Former US senator Olympia Snowe An Occupy Congress Square rally | A Portland diner other than Becky’s
Former governor and for-profit education financier Jock McKernan Lunchtime at the USM food court in the campus center | Over dinner at Preble Street
Swordfishing captain, Perfect Storm survivor, memorist, and cookbook author Linda Greenlaw Hunting moose in Maine’s North Woods | During an open-ocean swim
Two-time Olympic gold-medalist snowboarder and restaurant owner Seth Wescott In an office cubicle | On waterskis
Guitarist and singer Don Campbell In the upstairs green room at Geno’s, during a Dead Season show | Singing for quarters on Exchange Street
Guy who’s less funny than he thinks Bob Marley At a funeral home | During a Portland Comedy Co-Op show at Mama’s Crowbar
As far as meeting up with less-famous Mainers, let’s hope Moss doesn’t go down the road of the tired Bill Green’s Maine show, or the “Doug’s Discovery” and “Where’s Amy” segments from local news shows of years past. She should put on Mainers’ televisions those who really get the shaft from the state’s mainstream media: immigrants, young people (with and without health-care coverage), drug addicts, Occupiers, the under-employed, and Portland panhandlers.
Moss’s website says she’s looking for “everyday heroes so we can give them the attention — and the round of applause — they deserve.” Marginalized people who manage to eke out their livings and their lives despite pressure from Republican and Democratic politicians, bankers, and society in general are indeed heroes and survivors, whose appearance on local television would be a major improvement to the white-on-white, privileged-class diet we are served at present.