Live from CW33 studios, Eye Opener gets its early morning game on
11/01/11 01:15 AM
By ED BARK
Eye Opener is on the air, taking a very playful Toys R Us approach to early morning TV with three young hosts who combine to make WFAA8's resident quipster, Ron Corning, seem like a cornish hen.
Originating from CW33's Dallas studios and beamed to four other Tribune-owned TV stations, the 5 to 8 a.m. show bounced into view on Halloween morning. You definitely won't mistake it for Face the Nation, but that's OK.
Here's the deal. Tribune's original Eye Opener was test-launched on Houston's KIAH-TV in May of this year, with the entire show produced out of Chicago. But in late August, as initially reported on unclebarky.com, Tribune decided to revamp the program and originate it from Dallas.
CW33, now officially Eye Opener's home base, also provides a quartet of three-minute live local cut-ins per hour. On Monday's launch, newly hired Laura Thomas did weather updates, lifestyle reporter Toni Duclottni doubled down on traffic and Tommy Noel had brief reports from the field on topics ranging from the discovery of a missing 10-year-old girl's body to the Dallas Cowboys' Sunday Night Football whipping by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Duclottni's bright red, form-fitting cocktail dress proved to be the premiere outing's biggest attention-getter. Who said freeway congestion can't be sexy? Perhaps the D-FW market's lone male presenter, Fox4's Chip Waggoner, should consider going to muscle shirts while Duclottni's female rivals at NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 wonder why they're all suddenly looking like Betty Crocker. Hey, we're tryin' to have a little fun here.
The show's three hosts might as well be on pogo sticks. They're much wider awake than the law should allow, throwing out quips and riffs on news nuggets ranging from Heidi Klum's "skinned corpse" Halloween costume to Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain defending himself against old sexual harrassment charges while also admitting he's never heard of "The Dougie." Their principal showcase is a five-pronged "Opening Shot" segment at the top of each hour. (On Monday's Eye Opener, the 7 a.m. hour was a repeat of the 5 a.m., save for the local CW33 cut-ins, which all looked pretty much the same anyway.)
One of the hosts, Sean Dowling, also worked on the Chicago-produced Eye Opener program, as did ostensible news anchor Mia Gradney, who adopts a marginally more serious tone during her segments.
Dowling is joined by newcomers Ellen Fox and Douglas Caballero, both of whom previously worked for Al Gore's Current TV network. Fox was with Current's The Rotten Tomatoes Show and Caballero, an Austin native, has The Daily Fix on his resume. The latter's bio on CW33's web page also says he was Gore's "music consultant" during his 2000 presidential campaign.
All three wore jeans for Monday's Eye Opener, but the two guys had their shirts tucked in. Dowling arguably giggled a little too much. But they do have an aptitude for goofing around together, whether the topics were Lindsay Lohan's newly remedied stained front teeth or a "Viral Videos" segment in which a guy carved a Halloween pumpkin by blasting a face onto it with a shotgun. The ongoing commentary and repartee at times approached the level of ABC's Wipeout, and that actually is meant as something of a compliment.
Meanwhile, token oldster Larry Mendte, his hair dyed the traditional middle-aged newsman brown-orange, appeared in a taped segment to slice 'n' dice the Republican presidential field. Fox then added, "That Larry Mendte. He's Mendte fresh." Her delivery kind of made it work.
There also was a very odd and out of place detour in which terrorist attack footage was accompanied by heavy metal music and narration by a guy who sounded like Ted Baxter on steroids. The three hosts wisely said nothing about this and simply moved on. Perhaps they were a bit stunned.
Eye Opener is somewhat reminiscent of The Daily Buzz, a syndicated 'tude-heavy waker-upper that used to air in D-FW on TXA21. Neither is the kind of show you'd want to watch on mornings when major serious news is in play. But Halloween morn posed no real danger of that. So Dowling, Fox and Caballero pretty much played around from start to stop.
Fox even did a little pre-taped comedy skit on the lack of tweets reacting to how they were doing on day one of Eye Opener. It came in the form of Fox admiringly tweeting herself.
Most viewers understandably aren't aware of the show yet, and the vast majority of viewers in this market probably never will be. But it's here, it's now and it gives the local TV economy a welcome little boost while your friendly eyewitness to the show's D-FW debut can't help wondering what Duclottni will wear next.