Episode 27: Born At The Right Time


By 2012, the Great Recession was well over but the TV industry hadn’t shaken off its effects.  It was bad times like it had never seen before.

Milwaukee Talk

I remember tuning in to watch Milwaukee Talk one morning and was taken aback.  They couldn’t sell the commercial time so they ran a 2 minute rotating slate of weather and road conditions complimented with quasi-calming spa music droning on in the background.

The WLKE-TV3 forecast that morning looked ominously like the future of the television industry: cloudy today, heavy snow tomorrow and freezing rain on Wednesday.  And no one had any idea exactly how bad Thursday was going to be.

To the viewer, TV is shows with ads in between.  To a station owner like Honus Knox III, TV is ads with shows in between.

At the height of the recession, revenues were down as much as – no word of a lie – 90 per cent for some time slots.  Milwaukee Talk was in that group.

One day a TV gypsy caught the ear of Honus Knox III and promised him she’d clean house.  Shell raked in $350,000, Kew got $195,000 and Mary, being the “newcomer” made about $135,000.  Tremaine even made $95,000.  She promised Knox she could save him half a million a year virtually overnight if he brought her in.  Knox was eager, the show had floundered and flopped between second and sixth place for years.  The gypsy got Knox thinking….

That morning when they came back from commercial break/weather slate, Mary Margaret booted a line during a very special Milwaukee Talk from the Heritage Village in Marshville, Wisconsin.

“Imagine… just imagine living in a time where there was no running water, ladies rooms or Milwaukee Talk.  If this time were that time right now… I shouldn’t even be here right now.  Just think about that”.

Now just think about Vic, Les, Allen and Mary trying to live their Chat Packing ways these days.  Would there have been those big TV audiences?  The Ballast bound party bus?  Or that lavish, excessive casino show that catapulted them into the Wisconsin limelight?   Probably not, even casino revenues have since dropped. You know things are bad when people can’t even afford to dream a little.

And then, just imagine if this renegade 5’2” gypsy executive producer from Wyoming had arrived on the scene ten years earlier.  If this time were that time right now…The Chat Pack probably wouldn’t even be here right now.

New Wyoming wonderkid in town?

– as told by Milwaukee American Log Entertainment/TV reporter Robert James


Coming Monday: Milwaukee Shock!

Renegade new station manager vows to shake up the establishment

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