Tribune Broadcasting is developing a talk show with
syndicated radio host Bill Cunningham that it will test on select Tribune
stations - including WGN Chicago - this summer. If the tests go well, the
station group will pick up the show, tentatively titled Willie, in
January 2011 and shop it for national syndication for fall 2011.
Five test episodes of the one-hour daytime show will be shot
June 12 and 13 at Tribune's Bradley
Place studio in Chicago, where the company used to shoot Bozo
the Clown's daily kids' program. Richard Dominick, former executive producer of
Jerry Springer, will produce. A staff of 20 is currently being hired to
produce the test shows. Sean Compton, Tribune's new president of programming,
is the show's creator.
Cunningham currently hosts a weekly syndicated radio show
distributed by Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks that reaches 300
stations. He also hosts The Big Show with Bill Cunningham, a local show
on 700 WLW Cincinnati,
and appears frequently on Fox News Channel's Hannity.
While Cunningham's radio shows are political and lean
conservative, his talk show will feature opinionated guests talking about a
range of subjects but will not be political, say Tribune sources. It will be in
the "conflict talk" mode of NBC Universal's Jerry Springer, Maury
and Steve Wilkos, all of which Tribune air in daytime.
Tribune already tested out a weekend political hour
featuring Cunningham and Springer, who is an old friend of Cunningham's, but
that project fell through when it became clear that Springer didn't have time
to dedicate to it.
Tribune is developing the show with an eye toward getting
back into creating and distributing original programming, although the group
plans to spend carefully and take its time developing new shows.