By Lauren Wise
By New Times
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By Troy Farah
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It's 10 o'clock, the television is on Channel 3 and the NewShow is on, but something is wrong, very wrong. There's no dancing letters, no familiar theme song, and -- gasp! -- co-anchor Liz Habib is sitting down.
Welcome to the new NewShow. KTVK-TV Channel 3's nightly broadcast -- which had become an unlikely force in the local music scene during its run -- has evidently decided to ditch the popular, infotainment approach that helped it carve out a unique identity among Valley newscasts.
"What I was beginning to be concerned about was that people were equating the 'Show' part of it as being bigger than the 'News' part of it," says KTVK executive news director Phil Alvidrez of the decision to tweak the show's format.
To that end, the program has undergone a none-too-subtle makeover during the past week which includes a stylistic overhaul -- different opening graphics and music, seated news anchors (translation: no more full body shots of Habib) -- to a more substantive shift in content away from entertainment and toward a renewed focus on hard news.
Although Alvidrez insists that NewShow gal-about-town Claudia DiFolco will continue to handle nightlife coverage, it seems -- with the new changes -- you're less likely to find her chatting up Snoop Dogg than, say, a Scottsdale restaurateur.
Still, the NewShow face-lift, which comes a year and a half into its run, is not exactly a shocker. The bigger surprise -- especially in terms of its music quotient -- was that it lasted so long. ("We're pretty stubborn people," jokes Alvidrez.) The program, which at its peak was airing two to three (and sometimes four) nights' worth of music coverage -- from live concert and club remotes to in-studio performances and interviews -- had clearly been stagnating for the past few months. Much of that had to do with the kinds of acts that were appearing (in many cases, repeatedly), and it's easy to argue that a more judicious and progressive booking policy might've yielded better results. Regardless, toward the end it seemed that the band segments had become just so much filler.
"We had gotten into a situation with the music groups that it became -- and because we're creatures of habit like everybody else -- it became real easy to say, 'It's Thursday. Let's go do a group tonight,' without applying the same kind of criteria as we would to a news story -- why are we here, what is this band's story?" says Alvidrez. "I think we have to be a little more discriminating in our choices about why we're putting somebody on. Will we still do local bands? Sure. Will we do them with the same frequency? No."
Also ditched as part of the NewShow makeover is a regular bit featuring DiFolco and Zia Record Exchange COO Jim Kelly. Although ostensibly a run-down of new national record releases, the weekly taped piece focused heavily on local discs as well (and boasted a charmingly goofy interplay between the two).
Again, Alvidrez insists that the program has not completely turned its back on those elements. "If somebody comes and says, 'Hey, here's a new release we oughta do,' then we'll consider doing it. If somebody comes to us with a hot local band that says, 'Hey, these guys have a story,' we'll do it, but they're not going to be regular features."
In hindsight, NewShow's coverage of Valley music was in many ways a remarkable development. Few would argue that local bands have ever received as much and as frequent attention from a broadcast outlet as TV-3 has afforded during the past 18 months (this includes featuring bands on it's a.m. talk fest Good Morning Arizona, as well).
Still, there were several particular concerns that made it seemingly impossible for the show's coverage to develop and grow. Chief among these reasons was the sterile, overly lighted atmosphere of Sound Vision studio (where the bulk of the performances emanated from), which tended to make even the best bands look and sound rather, well, dorky.
Beyond the logistics, NewShow quickly found itself saddled with an identity that made it far too safe (almost kitschy, some would say) for any cutting-edge artists and audiences to take part. Certainly, it's hard to imagine Stinkweeds patrons setting aside their Yo La Tengo records to tune in to NewShow; even harder perhaps to picture prominent Valley indie bands -- a Jimmy Eat World or a Reuben's Accomplice, for example -- trading pleasantries with the glib DiFolco. That alone meant that the choice of performers was essentially limited to a handful of more mainstream Phoenix acts; witness the multiple appearances by bands like Satellite and Gas Giants.
Still, Alvidrez says that the sudden and dramatic NewShow overhaul notwithstanding, the program may eventually return to a more familiar and friendly balance for local bands. "You have to realize we're different from the other [nightly newscasts] in that we have an hour every night. So I still think, ultimately, there will be plenty of room for us to do some of the things that the old NewShow came to be known for."