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Please make it local, KCOP

January 27, 2006|Robert Lloyd

To: KCOP

From: Robert Lloyd

Dear KCOP,

Or perhaps I should say, Dear Fox Television Stations Group, of which you are a part, or going higher up the chain, Dear Fox Broadcasting Co., or Dear News Corp., or just Dear Rupert Murdoch. Yet, no -- it's KCOP I want to address, Channel 13. Not the globe-trotting landlord but the hometown TV station. Fellow citizen!

So the merger of UPN and the WB as the CW -- which makes me think of country & western without the ampersand, or "cow" without the "o" -- has left you suddenly a station without a network, a pole without a flag. But while you may feel that you're the loser here, KCOP, as KTLA gathers all the marbles, I think you have been given a great gift: a clean slate. You can begin again! You have a chance to dream big, and this is the dream I dream for you:

Go local.

Get back, KCOP, to where you once belonged.

You don't know me, but I have watched you for a long, long time. I knew you back when this was a seven-channel city and you were still a Chris-Craft station (though you didn't start out that way, either). They weren't all first class for sure, your homegrown productions, your kids shows and travel shows and dance parties. But they had the quality of belonging to the life of the city.

Become a truly local station again. Don't let the fact that, outside of news and morning gab, there is really no such thing anymore to stop you. Lead the charge. Become a real alternative, the first of a renascent breed. Turn your back on the network model; it turned its back on you. Reject franchise television, say no to the hundred-episodes-and-syndicate business plan. Don't let yourself become a dumping ground for syndicated nonsense, reruns, repurposing. Become a station of, for and by the people, the people of the Greater Los Angeles right outside your studio gates.

Millions and millions of people live within the 80-mile radius of your broadcast tower, the people you're licensed to serve. Is it not possible many would warm to a station that felt like their own, that looked at and included them? The big broadcasters, with their owned and operated stations and wall-to-wall affiliates, have long since redefined "the public interest" as "giving people what they want." But we both know whose interest that really serves.

I'm not suggesting you bring back "Hobo Kelly" or "Lloyd Thaxton's Hop" or "Polka Parade," necessarily -- though, you know, that'd be all right with me. I'm not going to tell you what shows to make. That isn't my job. (My job is only to tell you if it's any good once you do.) But consider the local resources, the artists and musicians and dancers and filmmakers, the improv groups, celebrity chefs, skateboarders and car customizers. Call them in! There must be hundreds of ways to exploit the polyglot genius of this place, more than you even have time for.

Los Angeles, of course, is all over network television. But just because a show is produced in, filmed in, or set here does not make it "local TV." You've got to involve the community (as creators, subjects, or participants, or visible, voluble audience members). You've got to speak to the issues and cultures of this place without regard to the concerns of New York or Peoria. There are public access stations, sure, but their quality is a little, shall we say, democratic. Your gatekeeping, KCOP, your expertise, the authority of your big broadcast tower, is what's needed here. You can be what not even KCET manages to be, Huell Howser and "Life & Times" notwithstanding, an aggressive, wholehearted homegrown reflection of the city you live in.

Now, I haven't done the math on this. It's not my best subject, and the economics of your industry are vague to me. I'm just dreaming aloud, here. There's probably more money in reruns and movies or syndicated game and dating shows.

But where's the glory? Where's the pride?

Come home, Channel 13!

Sincerely, your old friend and neighbor, Robert L.

Robert Lloyd is a Times television critic.

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