Give ABC 7 credit for gutsy effort — even if new show has far to go


After watching the premiere of ABC 7’s new morning talk show Thursday, it would be much too easy and too glib to dismiss Windy City LIVE with three words — Dead on Arrival.

But that wouldn’t be fair.

So let’s just say that any show replacing Oprah Winfrey in the 9am time slot after 27 years in Chicago would have a hard time measuring up. While most of her affiliates are simply plugging in news or other syndicated programming, ABC 7 deserves maximum credit for mounting a live, local talk show with a studio audience in Oprah’s home market.

After properly paying homage to Oprah’s legacy, hosts Ryan Chiaverini and Val Warner (pictured above) spent much of the first half of Thursday’s show selling themselves to the audience. The taped packages about their upbringing, family lives and career ambitions were nicely done. (Warner’s immensely charming grandmother, Nezelle “Mother Dear” Bradshaw, could probably carry a show of her own.) But their opening monologue about setting alarms for themselves went on too long with no real payoff.

First among the roster of regular contributors to Windy City LIVE, nightlife impresario Billy Dec showed pictures of himself at a party for reasons that were never explained. Dec, who drops names at the drop of a hat, never removed his own hat, but did bring out actor Johnny Galecki (Big Bang Theory, Entourage) for a brief Q&A. Additional contributors on the show will include Roe Conn, Mark DeCarlo and Nina Chantele.

The most intriguing innovation was that of Ji Suk Yi, who was introduced as the show’s “social media producer.” She explained that she’ll be monitoring Facebook, Twitter and the show’swebsite every day and interacting with the audience in real time. Although she promised to give a “special shoutout” at the end of Thursday’s show to its 3,000th Facebook fan, she wasn’t heard from again.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appearance in the final 20 minutes was the highlight of the hour. He’d obviously come to play: “Your ability to state the obvious is unbelievable,” a testy Emanuel retorted to Chiaverini’s silly opening question about the Blagojevich trial. “Wow, that is a graduate degree in mastering the obvious, don’t you think?” Grousing about not being given a cup of water, Emanuel deadpanned: “I just want to know: Do you [have to answer] five questions before you get your water? I feel like I’m in Guantanamo.”

In what was billed as a cooking segment (Chiaverini and Warner donned snazzy new aprons for it), celebrity chef Art Smith talked about chicken and waffles and about macaroni and cheese, but never got around to showing viewers how to make anything.

Producers front-loaded the debut with lots of giveaways to viewers and the studio audience. After the free Bulls tickets, the free gas, the free trips on Virgin Airlines, and the free tins of Garrett’s popcorn, the rollout of the inevitable giant Eli’s cheesecake seemed anticlimactic.

The show ended on a rousing note with a performance by the Joshua Troop gospel choir. But it was marred by some dizzying, frenetic camera work — as inexplicable as the color flare-outs that gave the show an otherworldly look at times.

ABC 7 bosses insisted they were more than pleased with the debut, noting that they received more than 728 ticket requests in less than 30 minutes, and that the show’s Facebook page jumped from 2600 fans to more than 5500 in the first half-hour.

It’s worth noting that ratings for Oprah’s swan song went through the roof for ABC 7, scoring a 13.4 rating (or about 470,000 households) and 38 share at 9am Wednesday, which may be the last time the station ever sees a number like that in the time period.

But while the new show may be costly to produce, the economics will make sense if Windy City LIVE is even modestly successful. By not having to pay the onerous licensing fees for a syndicated show and by retaining all of the commercial time for itself, ABC 7 stands to make a tidy profit from the venture — assuming it can stay on long enough.


1.Glark Cray
May 26, 2011 at 3:12 pm
Didn’t watch, but I hope they make a go of it. We need more local programming in this city to replace the crap that comes out of both coasts. Hopefully, some new ideas will begin to shake this town up when it comes to original local shows!

2.Tracy King-Yerak
May 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm
Sorry Bob, but you should stick with your first instinct: this trainwreck is DOA.
I was anxiously looking forward to seeing this and I found myself desperate to change the channel or turn the TV off completely. Valerie and Ryan come off as trying too hard – they’re the dreaded party host who won’t stop talking about themselves. And Billy. What can I say. I love Billy out in the club, but on the TV, he’s not appealing. He’s like the hosts and the so-called celebrity chef – self-absorbed by their self-imposed importance! What viewers at 9 a.m. wants to see that.
This is bad TV at its worse. Even after one viewing, I’m clamousing for a game show, a soap opera, a reality show, anything but Windy City Live.

May 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm
I remember the old Ronnie Barrett Midnight show on Channel 7 that tried to compete with Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow as a local alternative. Initially they seemed to throw way too many guests and activities together. When they calmed down and kept a focus, it seemed to work. I hope this one does the same. Nothing can be as bad as Snoozeville with Regis and Kelly Lee, as Letterman calls it.

4.Terry Salad
May 26, 2011 at 3:29 pm
Get rid of Bill Dec immediately. The sentence “nightlife impresario Billy Dec showed pictures of himself at a party for reasons that were never explained” can be used to describe EVERY occasion where he is on air anywhere. The man is a complete waste of space and time (in fact, a waste of spacetime itself). I will watch no show that features this Hipster doofus.

5.Jessamyn Goodman
May 26, 2011 at 4:03 pm
It’s too early to judge, but Billy Dec? Really? I’d rather not see him again but if I do I hope it’s without a hat. It’s not a frat party.
The hosts need to relax. They were trying way too hard.

May 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm
I must record this tomorrow…

7.Abe Froman
May 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm
I had never heard of Billy Dec before. What a douchebag.

8.Zack Isaacs
May 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm
Yikes, Tracy! LOL!
I liked the show. I didn’t think it was perfect but it showed potential. Nobody bats 1000 on their first day at work except the person lying about how many days he or she’s been there.
There were some “iffy” moments. Billy Dec seems like a cool guy, but the baseball cap worn indoors kinda created a strange contrast of attire on set. But the biggest gaffe was to cue the commercial break and audience applause as Val struggled to make her voice the loudest of the three concurrent sounds. It was like a CTA train was passing by in the studio. I think they should always keep the background music beneath the host, then cue the audio to cheer after the host stops speaking.
But there were some good moments. Emanuel came off as a little more personable than Daley did. I agree with Mr. Feder about the crane camera making folks dizzy as Joshua’s Troop performed.

I’d say to give them a try. I don’t want to watch a game show or reruns.

9.Chicago Lifer
May 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm
Hard to believe abc7 execs chose Ryan Chiaverini – a so-so sportscaster – in the first place.
And they were obviously not watching earlier this year when Chiaverini took part in Comcast Sports Net’s shoot the puck contest, which takes place in the 2nd intermission of home Blackhawks games.
His announcement to the crowd drew one of the loudest rounds of boo’s I’ve ever heard at the UC. Not exactly a Q-rating, but not exactly promising, either.

10.Jared M
May 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm
Nice set….too big of a desk however. I think Rahm was in another timezone.
The Ryan and Val smile factor and hand clapping and back slapping by everyone could get tired very fast. Throwing that much energy around this quick out of the box feels like they are trying too hard and feels forced. Good luck to them.

May 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm
The first thing I noticed is that someone tried to ape the graphic look of the Live Well Network, which you say is another Emily Barr production. In fact, I think that the floating leaves or whatever in the opening are the same as in the LW commercial for Mexico, One Plate at at Time, which I am sure were superimposed over something WTTW provided. They also must be using the same low bitrate, as Ryan’s jacket kept going in and out of focus.

After that, I was sort of in and out of the show, but it appeared that the Mayor was more personable than his Rahmbo image would connote.

However, my main impression was that this was a cheap Regis and Kelly without Regis or Kelly. Maybe more like tomorrow’s episode with Pat Tomasulo playing Regis.

12.Jim Edwards
May 26, 2011 at 5:29 pm
Coming to you “live in living color.” It’s about time. I did notice the Garret’s giveaway were the tiny teeny tins and not the huge Oprah size her audiences would get. Make the Mayor a regular.

May 26, 2011 at 6:49 pm
I watched the show shortly before Mayor Emanuel appeared. They do seem to try hard, but it’s their first day. I would welcome some Chicago talent on a Chicago based station to any outsiders coming in trying to take that time slot. I hope the station works out the kinks in some of the camera work quickly. Val and Ryan seem to have genuine chemistry.

I’ve seen Valerie doing the 4:30am morning anchor and the traffic on Channel 9 for years and always liked her. Ryan is a ham and he’s entertaining in whatever I’ve seen him put his mind to. The show needs time to “gel” and make connections with a new audience.

I’m a part of the new audience. Why? I only watch Oprah a few times: 1) Tiger Woods and 2) I don’t remember. So bring us something good about our city from Chicago professionals.

May 26, 2011 at 7:47 pm
Where to start? Super huge interview/breakfast table, yes Rahm was in another time zone! Way too many awkward “alrights” from the hosts, too much stuff going on- the web girl (shades of the old “In the Loop”), the promise of give a ways that never materialize, odd things in the kitchen, tooooo many Oprah references, Rahm toys with the cast and crew (folks you just saw the REAL Rahm)
The hard thing comes next, trying to fill the guest line up AND the audience…
May 26, 2011 at 8:16 pm
The show wasn’t that bad. Better than a Gitmo water boarding. But when Belushi, Vaughn, Cusak, Vedder, Piven, et al. start showing up, I’ll opt for the water boarding. Over to you, Allison.

May 26, 2011 at 9:01 pm
Rahm is a grade A jerk.

17.Jimmy C Reese
May 26, 2011 at 9:04 pm
Billy Dec..really? Not good for the target demo. I like the Facebook girl, but really, do what you say you are going to do on the show…
Val could not ad lib her self out of a traffic jam on WGN…will see how she fares here in the drivers seat. Ryan..good luck, son.

18.Robert McCormick
May 26, 2011 at 9:39 pm
Give everyone a little time to settle in. On a national level, Conan O’Brien sucked out of the gate (and for quite a few years, in fact); for that matter, so did Letterman. Let Ryan and Val get their bearings; they’ll soon stop seeming like they’re trying to hard. The truth is, there just isn’t much quality, locally-produced programming in Chicago — let’s get excited that ABC-7 is the #1 station in the market and therefore likely will give these folks a long leash.
Speaking of which, I have two questions for Feder and anyone else reading:

1) Why didn’t Feder ever write anything about Steven Saltz’s “Goodnight Chicago” late-night talk show that aired on Channel 2 in 2009? I know the show wasn’t on for long — and I know it aired during Feder’s hiatus — but Rob, why didn’t we ever subsequently hear anything from you about it? Was the show crap? Was it good? Or was the show effectively time-brokered (i.e., did Saltz just “buy” time blocks from CBS-2), and you don’t (I don’t think) much like to write about time-brokered programs?

2) On that same note, why don’t we see as much of kind of locally produced programming that we saw in the 1990s? Does anyone remember Channel 50’s “Talking with Aaron Freeman” show? That ran for 10 years! It’s hard to imagine that kind of program airing today on free TV (instead, I suppose, he’d air it on the Internet…..).

May 26, 2011 at 11:19 pm
It was a trainwreck…and I will never watch it again. Those 2 have ZERO chemistry and trying to fake a friendship is too painful to watch. I am sick of hearing about “single moms” and she does nothing but whine about her family. We didn’t ask you to breed. Stay home with your kids and maybe they won’t be such brats.

20.Jeff Woodard
May 26, 2011 at 11:27 pm
I’m amazed everyone is so critical after one show, replacing the most powerful woman in television will not be easy, but give them a chance to rev it up! Chicago television was built on local programming since its beginning. It’s shameful that syndication and other garbage has filled the airwaves. As for WCL, I must admit Chiaverini did seem like a deer in headlights, but Val Warner carried the show. She seems like a natural. It will take time for them to ease into it. Look at Bill & Walter. After being back on the air since last fall, they are still finding their way together.

I’m sure the excitement factor was pretty high, being the first show. I think Rob said it best that writing off the show after one episode, “wouldn’t be fair.”

May 26, 2011 at 11:39 pm
Re-work the show:
“Windy City Live” with Rahmbo and Mother-Dear

May 27, 2011 at 12:20 am
Basically, Ryan and Val are going to need time. Oprah was here 25 years. That is an impossible act to follow. They tried hard but that is the name of the game. I give them a thumbs up just for showing up to play. Replacing Oprah would be like a basketball player replacing Micheal Jordan when he retired from the Bulls the last time. It just is not going to be done. What can be done is trying and trying again when things do not go perfect. I wish them luck and will watch them as well as I can. They deserve that much.

23.Mr Nauseated
May 27, 2011 at 1:15 am
Just finished seeing it. It’s not fair to throw these two under the bus on Day 1, but have the bus warming up. It shouldn’t take long. There’s no trace of chemistry motivating me to TIVO Day 2. I was introduced to Billy Dec, and that might be unpardonable. No thanks!

And we can expect Roe Conn, peddling teabag politics and politicians, doing his “likable” Rush Linbaugh act? Along with Mark DeCarlo, career freshly salvaged from Victory Auto Wreckers? Channel 7 tried, just like the Bulls tried.

24.Ben @ Mabuhay Grill
May 27, 2011 at 2:11 am
I’ll watch Billy Dec again – but only when he takes his hat off – what’s he hiding?!

25.Venus DuPree
May 27, 2011 at 4:18 am
People can be very deceitful & breathe, with no class! Give them a chance.

26.Dr julie
May 27, 2011 at 5:20 am
In reference to comment #2: I cringe when people call Mr. Feder, “Bob”

27.Bruce Wolf

May 27, 2011 at 6:10 am
Here’s how you shut Rahm up:
So, you’re waiting for water, Rahm. Poor black and Hispanic kids will be waiting for school choice long after you’re gone and sitting on the 18 1/2 million bucks you made as a brilliant guy with connections. Let’s do a cooking segment on this sorry-ass morning show. Here’s some roast beef and a bun. Make me a sandwich. And watch your fingers, boychick.

May 27, 2011 at 6:55 am
The Hosts are not that bad, but the Show lacks interest. The Show won’t last.

29.Cherub '70
May 27, 2011 at 7:31 am
Rahm is in another time zone, that is, the present, because this show is in a time warp. It’s as if Oprah had never existed. We’re back to “AM Chicago.” And that’s rather touching if unrealistic. TV itself should have ended with Oprah. In fact, it probably did, which is why Oprah no longer exists. Oprah was everywoman, and now every woman is Oprah. We all have our own Facebook pages and YouTube videos. We have learned our narcissism lessons well from Oprah. It will be tough for “Windy City Live” to find a raison d’etre. But there is some nostalgic value in watching a show in which the hosts act more like politicians than the mayor does.

30.Wink Winkle
May 27, 2011 at 7:46 am
Re-work it stat! Keep Val. She’s a peach. But get rid of Ryan and replace him with Rahm…or better yet, Mother Dear. But get Ryan’s surf guitar playing, Elvis wig wearing Dad to be the house band. Oh, Billy Dec and his giant baseball cap has to go, too. What does that name-dropper bring to the show besides Joey Slotnicks and Schwimmers? Hire me. I could bring in Frank Stallone or one of the Oak Ridge Boys at least.

May 27, 2011 at 8:00 am
I thought they needed more help from their floor director to get the crowd into it. There should have been cheers in certain spots and it was just dead silence. Also, I felt bad for the guy in certain respects. I’m a dorky white guy, I can’t dance, so when the soul music started and he was forced to go dance it was a little much….

32.Bob From Berwin
May 27, 2011 at 8:55 am
Let’s see here. A dorky young white guy from out of town. Check. A cute young black tart from the south side. Check. A flaming gay chef. Fabulous! A China doll in charge of social networking. Check. An audience of mainly white subrban MILFs. Check.

What? What? No hispanic? No hindu or arab?

This show desperately lacks diversity and I refuse to watch it again.

May 27, 2011 at 8:56 am
I watched the show. Let’s give them some time. Some suggestions: the segments have to be interesting. Billy Dec telling us to go to Sunda or what celebrity he is friends with is horrible. He might have to go. Make the segments longer and add some depth/interest to them. Will be interested to see Roe Conn… There has to be a compelling reason for us to watch this show. Billy Dec and a choir at the end- won’t cut it. Learning about the hosts was well done. Nice to have the mayor on as well. I hope this show is successful. Time will tell…..

May 27, 2011 at 9:10 am
All this about a TV show. Hope the “Life” Store has a Sale soon. Seems some people need to get one. It’s only TV!

35.Jim Harris
May 27, 2011 at 9:34 am
After reading all the comments here I committed to watching the show for a second day. It’s 9:29 and I can’t take anymore. THE SHOW SUCKS! This is the awful.
What’s worse is that I just did some Google search about this and the same two producers who did the In the Loop trainwreck are producing this one! Isn’t there some new producer/talents out in the world who could have been hired for this opportunity??
Roe Conn looks like we feel – uncomfortable with the fake Val and the buffoon Ryan.
Get the hook! This show has to go. I’d rather watch Hosea Sanders read from the phone book for an hour.

May 27, 2011 at 9:47 am

Thank God there’s some sanity amongst your readers R-F…this show is exactly what it’s supposed to be… light crap designed to please and not challenge the former Oprah zombies. For sure, here’s hoping they have on other politicos…maybe they can ask Governor Quinn his favorite color or Lisa Madigan her favorite bed-time book as a little kid with Daddy/Boss Mike.

Billy Dec name drops more than a person who’s legal name is Name Drop. But we knew that. Now he can name drop his way into the hearts of housewives everywhere…whom he probably wouldn’t give the time of day to at one of his clubs.

Let’s face it, the only true local programming that is anywhere near original, unique, and honest is WCIU’s Svengoolie, the Channel 9 Morning Show, and anything the wonderful Geoffrey Baer does. And maybe if R-F had a TV gig, that would count, too.



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