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HOWARD ROSENBERG

Kabc-tv's Big News Is Little

July 16, 1986|HOWARD ROSENBERG

You can hardly stand the excitement on KABC-TV this month. First came Lady Liberty. Now comes Lady Little taking over for Lady Lund.

Everything on local TV news that goes around, comes around. There are people cycles as well as story cycles. So here they are, the dream pair, those high-rises Tawny Little and Jerry Dunphy, Channel 7's Goddess of Gush and Wizard of Wind.

Together again.

Ending a two-year absence from anchoring, Little returned to "Eyewitness News" Monday for at least two weeks of joining Dunphy on the 4 and 6 p.m. newscasts.

Is this fun or not? Maybe.

A former 11 p.m. anchor at Channel 7, Little is filling in for superstar Christine Lund, Dunphy's longtime early evening news partner who has a contract snafu with the station. Lund, who reportedly wants to curtail her anchoring duties to spend more time with her family, is said to be out of the country, possibly for the rest of the summer.

It's not certain, in fact, if Lund will ever return to Channel 7, let alone resume her full-time duties. That means Little (despite being recently rehired to co-host Channel 7's "Eye on L.A." with Chuck Henry starting this fall) may continue anchoring indefinitely, depending on viewer acceptance.

Little was once one of Channel 7's hottest tickets, leaving the station only to pursue an acting career after marrying actor/singer John Schneider. They're now divorced.

No overnight sensation, Little paid her dues at Channel 7, jumping from Miss America to reporterette and then rising to reporter and anchorette before becoming a full-fledged bubbly anchor.

Then, of course, it was only a short step to co-hosting "The Love Report" on ABC.

She is best remembered, though, for her breathless, exuberant, giggly co-hosting of Channel 7's annual pre-Academy Awards telecasts, where the celebrities she interviewed could have used water wings to navigate her excessive drool. Those Oscar shows have not been the same without her.

Tawny at her Tawniest was an institution, a metaphor for the city's TV news playpen in its infantile extreme, one of those all-purpose Channel 7 anchortainers who was interchangeable on news and entertainment shows.

Her return snaps a period of uncharacteristic calm in the city's news follies, where anchors are evicted or recruited by competitors, depending on their ratings (most of KCBS-TV's present anchor contingent are KNBC-TV alumni, for example).

Only recently, KTLA-TV dropped Debby Davison for Tiiu Leek and KNBC fired veteran sportscaster Stu Nahan. But network-owned stations here have not had a major anchor change since Keith Morrison replaced Nick Clooney at KNBC in January, seven months after Tricia Toyota's switch to KCBS from KNBC.

It's definitely a slow period for anchor news. So you'd think that Channel 7 would have used Monday to seize the moment. But nohhhhhhhh!

In a precedent-setting display of nonchalance on Little's return, only five of her Channel 7 colleagues --talk-show host Tom Snyder, reporter Doris Winkler, weathercaster Dallas Raines, anchorman Paul Moyer and Dunphy--welcomed her on the air.

Even Little herself was sort of reserved and only intermittently jolly. Who could blame her?

Compare her relatively pale reception with the rousing on-air welcome given Lund when she returned from her first pregnancy leave. People tripping over each other to pay tribute to the Channel 7 Godmother? Now that was a newscast.

This is no time for timidity. The guilty must be identified. Those who did not publicly welcome back Little during Channel 7's Monday newscasts included Larry Carroll, Dr. George Fischbeck and Ted Dawson.

As usual, Carroll was on duty Monday at the always-exciting "live-action camera desk." That consummate showman Dr. George was preoccupied with weather, earthquakes and performing. The thunderous Dawson was reporting live from Houston, his, uh, mind on Tuesday night's baseball All-Star game.

Insufficient excuses!

What's wrong Larry, George and Ted? TOO BIG TO WELCOME BACK TAWNY? Jealous because she co-hosted "The Love Report" and YOU DIDN'T?

Or perhaps Channel 7 has finally reached a low point where news is more important than a good show? What has happened to the "Eyewitness News" that used to be so lovably laughable from 4 to 7 p.m.? Sure, the 11 p.m. newscast is still a burlesque. But who can wait that long for a good howl?

Now, at least, the cast is complete for comedy. Lund's replacement has arrived not a day too soon. If only she'll loosen up. Just one little . . . giggle, for old time's sake? And one more thing.

WELCOME BACK, TAWNY!

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