MILWAUKEE, August 27 – It was a sad day in Milwaukee this morning. Vic Shell, the longtime host of WLKE’s Milwaukee Talk current affairs program, was a no-show for the first time in his 18 plus year tenure on the show.
The mood of the Milwaukee Talk program was undeniably somber. In a nod to Shell, host Mary Margaret finished off the show by turning to Shell’s empty chair and wishing it a good day.
On the Friday, August 24th edition of Milwaukee Talk, Shell issued an ultimatum to WLKE execs stating that unless his longtime producer, Allen Kew, was re-instated as executive producer, he too would be leaving the show.
After a feverish weekend at WLKE-TV headquarters, Shell’s agent and station execs couldn’t reach an amicable agreement to keep Shell on the show. According to Honus Knox III, “as popular and entertaining as Shell is, he or any other on-air talent can’t dictate the business decisions management needs to make.”
Knox maintains Kew was dismissed for ratings performance. “Television is an ever-evolving industry. The Shell/Margaret team has been going strong for well over a decade. That’s an eternity in this business. When ratings didn’t get as much traction as we liked when Mary returned, a new exec was brought in to breathe some fresh air into the show’s concept.”
Tater Beutler, who took over the show’s executive producing reins this morning, is the wonderkind who brought Rise in Cheyenne to an incredible 51 share in its market. The daggers at the Milwaukee Talk boardroom have already come out. An anonymous source has said that Beutler stated off the record that Shell leaving was a blessing in disguise.
“In walking out, Shell played right into her hands. Tater desperately wants to cut the show down to Mary plus rotating hosts which will save the show money. She had lawyers drawing up a six-figure severance package for Shell. Now, with Shell abandoning ship, she’ll be able to build that new two-tiered hot pink and powder blue set she’s always dreamed of. Shell’s departure is a real changing of the guard. Since the great recession, the TV business attitude has changed drastically. When Shell came to WLKE he was promised the world. Cheese fondue was delivered to his private dressing room before the show, and he had a limo Monday to Friday mornings which later had to be expanded to fulltime when Shell was in a pair of freak mishaps with Les (Tremaine, the show’s stage manager).”
The Vic Shell and Mary Margaret co-hosting duo started on the eve of 2000. WLKE-TV lured the highly coveted Margaret from Alabama’s highly rated BirminghAM and Milwaukee Talk eventually became a hit with its witty banter and fresh take on standard morning show segments. Ratings slowly ascended until the show reached number one in 2004. It stayed there until 2009 when Mary Margaret left for maternity leave and Shell “had to put up with numerous b-grade co-hosts”.
“Now”, according to the insider, “it seems like Talk may be done with Shell but Shell wasn’t ready to leave the show.”