Loco Local 

Survivor’s Neleh and Totally Awesome’s Superdell invade your mornings.

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One important television aspect that fell to the wayside when The Only TV Column That Matters™ went national (OK, interstate) in 2001 was local coverage—what’s up with Salt Lake City news, programming, etc. Writing two separate Tube Town columns was not a viable option, so for the last year, both Salt Lake City Weekly and Las Vegas Weekly have run the same column concentrating on national TV, period. It was a good gig.

Emphasis on “was:” A few weeks ago, the Las Vegas Weekly unceremoniously dropped this TV column, even though it was getting far more favorable responses than, say, their fascinating strip-club reviews and Keno tutorials. The editorial types down there in Henderson—not even Las Vegas proper, fergawdsakes—indicated to me that they’d like to go “more local,” like a disgruntled/disenfranchised hack spewing tired space-filling ramblings on media matters or something.

Now, before you start sending sympathy flowers and cases of St. Provo Girl—though neither will be turned away—know that I’m coping with the situation just fine. Unlike some people who have columns canceled and dejectedly move to Antarctica (no names, but his initials are Phil Jacobsen), The Only TV Columnist That Matters™ is made of heartier stock. Plans are still underway for a national rollout of Tube Town in every alternative weekly across the land, so by year’s end I’ll be sitting on stacks of $100 bills and laughing maniacally. (Actually, given the penny-pinching nature of most alt-weeklies, I’ll probably be sitting on a wad of singles and chuckling mildly—but it’s something.)

Besides, being back exclusively in the Salt Lake groove means I can tackle situations like the one happening with 2 News This Morning (KUTV 2, weekdays, 5:30-8 a.m.), otherwise known as the Neleh Dennis Experiment. Last week, CBS-owned KUTV launched Layton’s own Survivor: Marquesas runner-up and all-around perky, perky, PERKY! 22-year-old as a full-time field reporter, uncovering “the best of Utah’s arts & entertainment scene.” As of this writing, that’s included a Greek restaurant (“Awesome!”), a Sandy rec center (“Awesome!”) and Folgers pitchmen Rockapella (“Awesome!”). Gripping discoveries all, but wouldn’t we rather see Sweet Pea getting something pierced at a Club Manhattan fetish ball? Or is that just me?

The problem with writing about local stuff—personalities, bands, eateries, whatever—is that you can’t say anything remotely negative, no matter how deserving, because it’s just “mean” and these people are “really trying.” So, instead of offering any real criticism, the local media are expected to genially get with the program in the name of mindless hometown boosterism for God, Country and Commercialism. That said, Neleh Dennis really is a gorgeous presence with a megawatt smile and genuine charm to burn. And since she’s been handed what KUTV will only disclose as a “long-term contract,” she’ll have plenty of time to develop her on-air skills to the point where maybe she doesn’t come across like a scatterbrained … almost went negative there. Neleh is awesome!

Speaking of awesome, no infomercial (local or otherwise) has generated the kind of buzz currently enjoyed by Totally Awesome Computers guru Superdell Schanze’s Conversations With Superdell (KPNZ 24 and KUWB 30, late-night). Instead of the familiar 30-second sales spots everyone is by now used to, Schanze has rented out 30-minute chunks of wee-hours real estate to preach the gospel according to Superdell: Business, marriage, raising kids, better living through Heavenly Father—Super-D has the answers to all the questions you were undoubtedly asking yourself after Ricki Lake.

There’s no computer-tech content, but a list of Totally Awesome stores scrolls between each of the show’s oddly hypnotic six-minute segments, which Schanze proudly explains were unscripted, divinely inspired single-takes. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” he says. “One woman even called to tell me that the show convinced her not to commit suicide.” Is he looking to become the next Tony Robbins? “No, Tony has the enthusiasm, but not God—you’ve got to have God to walk on water.”

Live With Neleh & Superdell … I am sooo pitching this to a network …

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