Martino TV debut: A real sell job

Today's debut of Martino TV, which airs at 9 a.m. on Channel 31 and again at 11 a.m. on Channel 2, sported its share of glitches -- but in comparison with the laughably catastrophic launch of the 7 p.m. Channel 2 news hour, known as News on the Deuce, it was a fairly smooth maiden voyage for a project sure to further fatten Martino's already bulging wallet. After all, the show is essentially an infomercial, during which the self-proclaimed Troubleshooter charges individuals and businesses for his de facto endorsement.

Say what you will about Martino's ethics (and over the years, we've said plenty): He's a charismatic and effective TV presence who's able to sell himself to consumers afraid of getting burned by the sort of glib, fast-talking pitchmen that he otherwise resembles.

I was only able to catch the last fifteen minutes of Martino TV live, but that span encompassed much of the material detailed in a PowerPoint presentation put online two weeks ago. A prepackaged segment about divorce that resembled the sort of "news" story Martino has assembled in recent years for Channel 31's newscasts preceded an in-studio appearance by Rich Harris of HarrisFamilyLaw.com, whose web address stretched across the screen every time he opened his yap. Martino, joined by co-host Paula Haddock, a former Channel 7 anchor and reporter, interrupted early and often, as is his style, and along the way, he managed to plug KHOW, the radio station that airs his show, as well as MyLegalHelpCenter.com, a Martino-owned site affiliated with another of his enterprises, ReferralList.com. This last address, which lists businesses that pay for the privilege of inclusion, is essentially an online prototype for Martino TV.

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Once Harris had filled his slot, Martino and Haddock returned for another canned bit, this one turning on Big Tom's wealth, which he boasts about as opposed to downplaying. After saying that his life hasn't really changed, he's seen being ferried about in a helicopter, which lands beside a white limousine. "I specifically asked for the black one," Martino said in a voiceover -- but he didn't fire his driver for this egregious error because "he did have hot coffee brewing," he explained. Moments later, back in the studio, Martino offered more proof of how clever he is with a dollar, thanking Elite Helicopter Services and Town & Country Limousine for helping him provide viewers with this few minutes of hilarity -- although odds are good he found it to be funnier than did the average person.

Next came a commercial break, after which Martino offered his "consumer tip of the day" (create a free e-mail address and use a separate credit card for all online purchases). He left viewers with the following: "We're going to do all this again, and it will get smoother and more fun. I promise."

As long as the cash keeps rolling in, Martino certainly should enjoy himself. And at least the show is watchable -- or it will be for those who enjoy morning fare with a large slice of ego.

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