WPIX, Jodi Applegate Create New Look at Ten

If you haven’t seen the PIX News at Ten in the past two weeks, what’s staring back at you might be surprising.  

Gone are the desks and chairs.

Gone is the familiar studio set.  Yet another staple of the TV news biz–the two anchor format with Jim Watkins and Kaity Tong at the helm–has been uprooted in favor of Jodi Applegate flying solo, something she has rarely done throughout her career.

The station built the new look in the newsroom, allowing Applegate to be free of the usual TV news constraints. If nothing else, WPIX management, led by news director Bill Carey, should be recognized for trying to break with the norm. Unfortunately, there’s not much else.

More on the WPIX new appearance after the jump

Within the 10 p.m. newscast,  viewers will see the personable Applegate appear to walk right into their living room as she takes off down the aisle (with Howard Thompson on left).

Also gone are the clunky cameras. Just two cameras make up the newly formatted program. A hand held is manned to bring an unemcumbered look to the proceedings.  The other, called a jib, gives an almost “studio audience” feel, thanks to panning shots of the newsroom that include the writers and other staffers at their cubicles.

The opening portion of the newscast is the “11 stories in 11 minutes” segment. Usually up to three live reporters will be featured. Applegate is forced to take her anchoring skills to another level. It is a tightly timed element, completing the 11 stories in the promised 11 minutes. So Applegate, who begins the broadcast in front of a green screen (right), is likely to forgo pleasantries with other reporters and move right onto the next story.

All the while, the viewer may be distracted by visual icons updated at the bottom of the screen.

The new WPIX news gigs also give popular weatherman Irv “Mr. G” Gikofsky a new home–sort of.  In the first segment, Gikofsky delivers something called the “mobilecast” from a new “Weather Center.” It’s actually reconstructed office space. However, later in the newscast, viewers are likely unaware that Gikofsky retreats to the old studio to report from his usual spot.

While Applegate is a consummate pro in any news element, she is probably most comfortable when interacting with others. The “give and take” with her reporters, though, is noticably forced.  Still at other times, leading into sports with Lolita Lopez, there’s usually no interaction.

There are several issues with this newscast, but Applegate does bring an energy and exuberance to the nightly programs. As talented as Tong and Watkins are separately, and even more so together, that’s not their strong suit.    

But back to the viewer, it still has to be a watchable program. At the moment, with such a drastic change, it doesn’t appear to have come together…yet. 

WPIX, it would appear, is poised to bring in younger audiences from their CW prime time lineup. But ponder me this…is the average young adult, let alone one watching the CW, actually interested in news programming?

Last month, Carey told FishbowlNY that “We have a different style of newscast that we’re putting on the air that we think her personality and the range that she offers can handle.”

We’ll see viewers agree as the all-important November sweeps period begins on Thursday.

Back to Tong, she’s a highly gifted anchor for years in New York (12 at WPIX with Watkins). So we all waited to see what her role would be each night.

With apologies to the Doobie Brothers, she’s Takin’ It to the Streets. Tong appears live for five-minute segments from the outer boroughs. But, along with the dramatic metamorphosis back at the home base, Tong’s appearances are almost jarring. Tong is a solid pro who shows off her interviewing skills. However, with decades of anchoring on her resume, seeing someone throw to her for a live remote seems amiss.

Sure there are certain reporters or those expressing opinion who may not be for everyone. Say what you will about their styles, but is it necessary for WPIX, in a “new” look, to maintain its “old” guard of two commentaries a night from Lionel (seen typing in the background) and Larry Mendte?

The weekend newscast, anchored by Watkins, has a “Best of” feel to it. Mendte, Lionel, and Greg Mocker features from during the week are replayed as new. Even worse, obituaries in the unnecessary “Who Died?” segment have been reused.

Sherry from Bayside tweeted that “the format just worked well for sports and not much else in my opinion.”

It actually makes sense given that sports is commonly delivered quick and upbeat.

Let’s give Applegate and the reporting team some time to grow in their new surroundings.

However, as Alex from Bellmore summed it up, “What is this–Arkansas? You don’t get time to grow in New York.”