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From Boring To Info-Comedy 

Government TV jumps outside the box

I'll say it. What most communities call "government television" is boring stuff. Lots of talking heads, elected officials with "propaganda" programs, and scintillating shows about storm drains and where to get flu shots. (Whoops, that one was last year.)

Municipalities often ask for a cable channel as a condition of that cable company getting a contract with a city or county. From there, local governments program the channel with information. But even they know viewership is very low. That's where a new show that's a joint project between Mecklenburg County and WTVI is trying to break the mold.

The Mecklenburgers is a 5-episode series that's billed as an "info-comedy" show, but the goal is still to educate the public about Mecklenburg County government and resources. Still might sound dry, but get this: two of the cast members are WFRX-FM's Robert D. Raiford and former WSOC-TV anchor Suzanne Stevens.

"We just decided to do something a little edgy and different," explains executive producer Danny Diehl, who's the public services and information director for the county, and a former WCNC-TV reporter. "It's really a show about making a show about Mecklenburg County government."

The show follows a fictitious local family and the TV crew as they try to produce a show each week. In addition to Raiford and Stevens, local actors such as Tim Ross and Tommy Ballard are in the cast. Typically, the show would have aired just on the Government Channel on Time Warner Cable, but that's where WTVI came in.

"There's always been a relationship between us and WTVI," explains Diehl, "but Elsie Garner (WTVI's head) wants to make WTVI more distinctive and wants more local programming."

So, the public TV station decided to air The Mecklenburgers.The show premieres October 27th at 8pm on WTVI and airs for the next five weeks. If you want to learn more about the show, there's a website at www.themecklenburgers.com.

WCNC-TV weekend anchor Sterlin Benson Webber is no longer working at the station, and her photo and bio have been taken off the WCNC website. More details when we get 'em.

As we first reported on the CL website October 20, WBTV is down to zero bench strength in the male anchor department after firing 10pm anchor Dave Stanley. He may have a tough time rebounding in a market where's he's already worked at two stations. WBTV needs to get hiring, especially after adding another name to the "recently departed anchor" ranks.

Get out and rock the vote November 2, and stay tuned.

E-mail at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com.

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