BEST ATTEMPT TO SAVE
PUBLIC-ACCESS TELEVISION

Deproduction

Public-access stations are disappearing across the country, thanks (or no thanks) to the greed of cable companies, which want to employ set-aside channels for commercial purposes, and government officials, who would rather use the outlets' funding for purposes other than providing a voice to citizen producers. In Denver, however, the public-access concept is being given one more chance, and Deproduction, the company charged with reviving it, is a worthy choice. The task won't be easy; the previous overseer, Denver Community Television, left a massive mess behind. But the Deproduction folks are experienced producers with an impressive educational background, and their passion and sincerity are infectious. If any group can succeed at this difficult mission, they can.
When she came to Denver two years ago, Asha Blake brought an invigorating freshness to the market, and this quality extends to her hair. Rather than donning the typical beagle-eared style that's been a dog of a 'do since Snoopy's early battles with the Red Baron, she wears a thoroughly modern cut that looks like the work of a gifted stylist, not a groomer at PetSmart. The coiffure is ideal for a working woman on the go -- professional yet undeniably classy -- and it doesn't distract from Blake's excellent news delivery.
With rare exceptions, the TV dudes of Denver look a lot like second teamers for the Broncos: They wear the same helmets, anyway. No wonder entertainment reporter Kirk Montgomery scores over his more staid colleagues. He clearly understands the benefits of product, and he's bold enough to experiment with color, streaking his feathery top locks with blond highlights. He may be reporting from the Mile High City, but he's got Hollywood hair.
Ken Clark, who handles traffic chores on Channel 31's morning program, compensates for his bald pate with a trendy, Satan-style beard. And those whiskers are visually appropriate, since a lot of the road problems he describes are the equivalent of hell on earth.
Last year, Channel 4 seemed ready to give longtime ratings champ Channel 9 a run for its early-morning money, but it couldn't slow the 9News juggernaut. Today, with CBS 4 releasing sportscaster Mark McIntosh and planning to move weathercaster Ed Greene into prime time, Channel 9 lacks any real a.m. competition. Meteorologist Nick O'Kelly, sports enthusiast Susie Wargin and eye-in-the-sky Taunia Hottman are now comfortably ensconced in the on-air family led by TV parents Gary Shapiro and Kyle Dyer and wacky uncle/business boy Gregg Moss. A lineup this competent could quash all challengers for years to come.
Since the '70s, 9News has dominated the 10 p.m. ratings -- but Channel 4 finally appears ready to chip away at that station's nighttime lead. Veteran forecaster Larry Green's on the way out, but morning-sider Ed Greene should seamlessly fill his green-screen silhouette, and sportscaster Vic Lombardi, replacing outgoing Steve Atkinson, is a definite upgrade. They join solid anchor duo Jim Benemann and Molly Hughes and an impressive batch of reporters led by top investigator Brian Maass to form a crew that overflows with potential.
Anne Trujillo has been the mainstay on Channel 7's evening newscasts for ages, but because that show's ratings are far from stellar, she's often taken for granted. That's unfair but not surprising, since Trujillo prefers to get out of the way of a story rather than bid for attention. Despite her low-key approach, though, she's a straightforward communicator with a warm personal style and good news judgment, and while Channel 7 may not be a winner in the ratings, Trujillo is a winner with us.
While Vic Lombardi is a sports communicator from the ESPN generation, he doesn't let shtick dominate his presentations. He can be a funny fellow, but he knows when to dial down the comedy in favor of reporting or perspective, and he leavens his wit with the enthusiasm of an unabashed fan. Belatedly named Channel 4's chief sportscaster (a position he's deserved for years), Lombardi's a hometown boy made good -- and getting better all the time.
Stations take up a lot of airtime touting their assorted weather gadgets, but the gear hasn't made one signal more accurate than the others. All of TV's predictors have about the same success/failure rate, so their differences have more to do with personality than prognostication abilities -- and by that measure, Angie Austin, who works the morning shift at Channel 2, clearly stands out. She's a lot sassier than her typically bland peers, with a sharp sense of humor that comes out in the entertainment segments she also helms. Austin earns her screen time, weather or not.
As top legal commentator for CBS, Andrew Cohen regularly jets to important trials and legal proceedings across the country. But because he lives in Denver, we get to hear more of his characteristically cogent on-the-scene reports and opinions than viewers nationwide, who usually have to settle for a sound bite or two on the CBS Evening News. Cohen frequently weighs in on matters of local concern, too, providing Channel 4 viewers with analysis that's accessible but never dumbed-down.

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