Article: McKenty to go on TV

From the Neil McKenty Archives, here is an article from 1987.

Neil McKenty’s back – and this time he’s live on TV

Neil McKenty is coming back — as a television act.

One of Montreal’s most popular radio hot-line hosts will try his hand at TV this fall on CFCF-12. McKenty, who quit CJAD’s Ex­change 20 months ago, will be the star of McKenty: Live, a daily 30- minute program combining inter­views and phone-in segments.

“I’ve always wanted to do TV,” says McKenty. “I’d like to find out if I’m any damn good at it.” McKenty’s opportunity to test himself in television came about this week Don McGowan, Pulse weatherman and CFCF-12’s execu­tive producer, phoned McKenty on Monday to ask if he were interested in television. Two meetings later, a deal was struck. Financial details have to be finalized, but McKenty is expected to sign a Channel 12 contract next week. McKenty, 61, left broadcasting in 1985 to finish a book he had been writing In the Stillness Dancing: The Journey of John Main, a biog­raphy of the monk who founded Montreal’s Benedictine Priory, was published last year and has re- ceived generally favorable reviews

After touring to publicize In the Stillness Dancing, McKenty set­tled down in his Westmount home to contemplate his next project, a biography of R.J. Fleming, mayor of Toronto of the late 1800s. The broadcaster-turned-author did not think about a return to the air­waves.

“I wasn’t waiting for the phone to ring,” McKenty says. “But the ring came, and it was not a ring you get very often in a lifetime.”

McGowan rang because he want­ed to juice up Channel 12’s morning schedule. And he thought that the juice could be provided by a phone- in program — the station’s first daily live show, other than Pulse, in 20 years.

McKenty: Live will be on Chan­nel 12 weekdays at 10 a.m. (which is when Joe Cannon’s Exchange begins on CJAD.) The McKenty TV show replaces Brian Gazzard, cancelled after two seasons.

“What’s missing from our mid­morning schedule is a compelling reason to tune in,” says McGowan. The Pulse weatherman has be­come CFCF-12’s executive pro­ducer, and McGowan has gone right to work shaking up the sta­tion’s schedule of locally produced programs.

McGowan believes that Channel 12 viewers will purposely tune the station to watch the exercise show at 9. But after 30 minutes of bend­ing and stretching with Pam Collyer, passivity sets in.

McGowan describes the morn­ing’s standard run of game shows and chit-chat as “TV that’s on just to keep you company.” McKenty: Live will be different.

McKenty: Live won’t consist en­tirely of its host talking to people on the phone. McKenty and McGowan stress that the show will be flexible, with the capability of gearing itself toward the day’s hot news story.

McKenty cited the example of the tragedy that killed two firemen and destroyed a downtown church this week.

“I’d call my producer (CFCF veteran Dan Freedman) at 7:30 in the morning or earlier,” says McKenty, “and tell him we ought to scrub the guest we’d scheduled (or that day and go with the news story,

“I could open the show by talking to the Puise reporter on the scene, and then we could have someone. from the fire department as an in- studio guest talking about arson, the difficulty of fighting high-rise fires or whatever. Then we could go to our callers.”

McKenty does not want to be host of a radio show on television. He and McGowan are confident that topicality, production values and visual flourishes — such as taped mini documentaries, narrat­ed by McKenty — can combine to turn McKenty: Live into an excit­ing show.

The inspiration for McKenty’s program is the television version of Larry King’s phone-in.program. McGowan watched King, on the American Cable News Network specialty channel, and became “quite engrossed.”

“There are lots of tight close-ups on King and his guests,” McGowan says, ‘ and they work beautifully. We often forget that TV is a close- up medium.” ,

So McKenty; Live will feature tight camera shots. Channel 12 viewers will,watch the face McKenty’s 75,000 CJAD listeners never saw.

“We know we don’t have Robert Redford here,” McGowan gays. “But we’re not going to get the putty knife out for Neil’s crow’s feet. His face is character, credibil­ity… all the reasons we want McKenty.”

McGowan is buying a proven commodity. Through 14 years at CJAD, eight as host of Exchange, McKenty built a solid reputation in Montreal. Whether or not you agreed with McKenty’s opinions, you had to credit the former Jesuit priest with integrity and intelli­gence.

Integrity and intelligence were phone in radio novelties. The “hot- ’line” genre was popularized by a succession of fire-breathing demagogues such as Joe Pyne and Pat Burns. McKenty was different —on and off the air.

He was 47 when he began radio — too old to get caught up in the glamor and ego games of the me- ium. When he quit CJAD, McKenty walked away from a $90,- 000 annual salary and never looked back. He has since turned down several offers from Montreal radio stations.

McKenty and his wife live mo­destly. He enjoys the luxury of do­ing what he wants when he wants to do it.

While many radio and TV per­sonalities spend life roaring through the fast lane, Neil McKenty is parked over on the shoulder with a good book.

“I wanted to give Neil some Larry King tapes to look at,” McGowan says. “Then he told me he doesn’t have a VCR, But what do you expect from a man who doesn’t know what model car he drives?

“So we’re going to give him a VCR as a signing bonus. And we might even throw in a remote con­trol.”

One more concession to celebri­ty: A CFCF car will pick McKenty up every morning and drive him to the station’s studios in Park Exten­sion.

“I don’t want the host of a live, phone-in show stuck in traffic somewhere,” McGowan says. “But Neil is adamant: He wants to take the Metro home.”

1 Comment »

  1. Great site, i love

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