ABC 7’s Davies had a ‘blast’ — and so did countdown viewers

In Chicago, ABC 7 doesn’t just celebrate New Year’s Eve. It owns New Year’s Eve.

At the stroke of midnight Monday night, ABC 7’s Countdown Chicago 2013 had a colossal 17.4 rating and 40 share — with more than 600,000 households and four out of every 10 TVs in use tuned to Janet Davies, Mark Giangreco and their merrymaking colleagues.

Utterly predictable and yet always flirting with the dangers of live television, it’s one of the last local institutions that unite Chicagoans year after year — regardless of whether they love it or love to hate it. When it's good, it's good, but when it's bad . . . you know the rest.

For the ageless Davies, who’s been ringing in every New Year for ABC 7 viewers since 1991, it was another triumphant night as host and executive producer of the hour-long broadcast originating from venues throughout the city and suburbs.

“As always with a live show, there are gotchas,” Davies told me in a post mortem Thursday. “But we all were happy and proud of the production and thrilled with this year’s numbers.” She was especially pleased with the introduction of a social media component, which added instant viewer feedback to the proceedings. The one thing she wished she could change is the five-second delay for HD transmission. "It drives talent crazy," she said. 

“I have a blast counting down to the New Year with Chicagoland viewers. Live television is always a real rush both on camera and behind the scenes. For the past few years, producers Cathy Vlahogiannis and Edgar Vargas do the heavy lifting. Program manager Crick Bowen and I do the light household chores.” 

Does that mean Davies will be back again next year? “Yes, yes, Countdown Chicago 2014 is on my radar!” she said.

One of the best ways to have enjoyed this year’s show was to follow the commentary of viewers on Twitter. Here’s a sampling of response gleaned from the Twitterverse:

Steve Dahl @SteveDahlShow: WLS TV never fails to disappoint and yet entertain with Countdown Chicago

Matt Wood @woodtang: I love the little Chicago Twitter club that forms every New Year's Eve to mock Mark Giangreco and Janet Davies

Pat Van De Walle @OakParkVandy: Janet Davies & Mark Giangrecco are the best unintentional comedy duo every NYE.

Kevin Goldstein @Kevin_Goldstein: God I love Janet Davies every NYE on ABC 7. She’s the ultimate Coen Brothers movie morning show host.

Michael Nagrant @MichaelNagrant: Only 1 min 'til Janet Davies and Mark Giangreco become NYE work spouses while a washed up alternative band from the nineties plays Navy Pier

Matt Schmitz @matthewjschmitz: ABC-7 Chicago's New Year's countdown clock was brought to us by The Room Place. Nothing says "Par-tayyy" like discounted home furnishings

Matthew Hessler @MattSTKC: Lets see if ABC 7 can get the countdown right this year. They’ve blown it 2 years straight #NYE

Tweed Thornton @Tweed_Thornton: ABC 7 Chicago New Year's celebration is such a delightful free-spirited mess. No one does these kind of celebrations like them in Chicago. 

Alex Quigley @alexquigley: Giangreco and Davies seem to be even *more* "happy" than usual this year. Just turn on ABC7 if you're at home. Holy hell.

Eric Rabbers @ERuns: Janet Davies just admitted she doesn’t get bombed on the air anymore.

Janet Dahl @jntplnt: Time stands still on Janet Davies' face, but after Kathy Griffin on #cnnnye it is like watching your aunt try to be hip. And fail.

Kevin Pang @kevinthepang: Janet Davies is dropping something at midnight and it's not your first 10 guesses

Erin J. Shea @erinjshea: Hosea and Ji are our new NYE power couple. #ABC7

David @lowrentkicker: I think Hosea and Ji are the new awkward couple for ABC 7. Those shirt cuffs alone are the new hotness.

Scott Smith @ourmaninchicago: I want an entire suit made from whatever material Hosea Sanders's cuffs are made from.

Rob Hart @RobHart1980: Yes the Ch. 7 NYE show is corny. But it's our corny NYE show, and that makes it OK.

Scott Smith @ourmaninchicago: Every year ABC7 answers the question "What if your parents hosted a local New Year's Eve special?"

JustinKaufmann @JustinKaufmann: soooooo good. Best nye show ever. it's the only tradition in Chi that I stay up for. Hope it never goes away.

Scott Smith @ourmaninchicago: I would weep if it did. @Chicagoist: Janet Davies and Mark Giangreco were on their best behavior last night. Oh, well. We'll always have last year.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)