Hats off to WCIV-TV Channel 4 for last summer's debut of Lowcountry Live, described by the station as "a magazine-style program with live interviews and segments on human interest and local events."
The locally-produced show is on weekday mornings from 10-11 a.m. It's preceded by ABC's Regis and Kelly show and then followed at 11 a.m. by The View, giving WCIV a formidable three-hour morning lineup.
I'm all for more local TV programming, so Lowcountry Live is already a hit in my book. And props to the producers for turning out an hour of live, original programming each morning, five times a week -- a daunting task indeed.
The program features the coolest intro in local TV. To a driving rock beat we see quick cuts of Charleston's historic district shot from a moving car. The frenetic tour then zips across the new Cooper River Bridge, taking us to the ABC News 4 studio in Mount Pleasant. Cut live to the show's young fresh-faced hosts, Ryan Nelson and Justin Lock.
The duo's casual dress and easy give-and-take create a relaxed atmosphere which works for me at 10 a.m. Nelson is a Lowcountry native and a College of Charleston graduate. She's new to TV, with a professional background in newspapers, magazines, and radio -- in fact, she was working as an editorial intern at the City Paper until just a year and a half ago. But she's a natural: fun, funny, and not shy about sharing personal stories. Her blond locks and big smile are nicely telegenic.
And speaking of locks, her co-host is Channel 4 meteorologist Justin Lock. Lock's an Ohio State Buckeye who came to Charleston television from the hinterlands of Hastings, Neb. But to judge from all his talk about surfing and hanging out at the beach, he's not missing Cornhusker-land one bit.
Angela May fills out the Lowcountry Live team as news anchor. She's a local gal, a Stratford High School and USC graduate.
With regular fitness, fashion, and cooking segments, it's safe to say the show caters to the woman's world. Local chefs, fitness club trainers, and clothiers get some nice free exposure here. The quirkiest guest has got to be Roz Adams, "the Hormone Lady." Her tips on building up the old sex drive have Ryan gushing and Justin blushing. When Adams touted a "sex in a bottle" love potion, Ryan cut in saying, "Isn't that called wine?"
So the show can be fun and breezy. But there's lots of room for improvement -- starting with the so-so set designs. There's a definite aesthetic dropoff from the big time network-style sets of Regis and Kelly and The View. The paint scheme is drab and the furniture clunky. When guests are interviewed, their sofa is noticeably lower than the hosts' sofa. Think it's awkward having to look up at someone during a meeting or job interview because your chair is lower? Try doing it on live TV. There's no intentional effort to intimidate, I think, just poor design.
And on another program, cutting off the local Cabaret singer just 30 seconds into her performance to go to a commercial was jarring and rude.
So some bugs are still being worked out. Still, Lowcountry Live rates thumbs up for taking advantage of local airwaves access.
Patrick Harwood teaches broadcasting courses at the College of Charleston.