KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at kcet.org/50.
In January of 1992, we launched "Life & Times." It ran for 15 straight years, through some of the most turbulent times in Los Angeles. The show was designed by Jim Kennedy, who was a wonderful man. I remember him presenting his idea for the show to us on staff. We would have news on Monday and Friday and taped pieces on Tuesday through Thursday. The original hosts for the "in studio" episodes were Hugh Hewitt, Patt Morrison and John Ochoa. Almost immediately, our new show went through its baptism of fire. The L.A. Riots started in April of 1992 and around that time, Rubén Martinez joined the team. I remember that the news show went live daily, trying to make sense of the chaos. It was a extremely hard time for our hosts and our new production team, but they kept plugging away. We had our own problems during those riots, because KCET's lot was located right across the street from the Circuit City that got looted. It was not easy staying on the air, or for that matter, having access to the lot itself. Like the City of L.A., we all managed to make it through that time.
With the addition of Rubén Martinez and later political consultant Kerman Maddox the "Life & Times" hosts hit their stride. With their widely divergent political viewpoints and philosophies, the hosts always had lively conversations and lots of information to share with viewers. They were a killer team. Eventually, Rubén left and Kerman took over as the full-time third member of the team.
In 1996, our current president, Al Jerome, arrived and he decided that our patchwork format didn't work. He changed it to a nightly news magazine with field reports. I recently asked him why he did this. He explained that he wanted "Life & Times" to be a signature news program that viewers could count on every night, and he accomplished this by giving the show a unifying format. Al approached Val Zavala and asked her to be co-host. He then talked to a veteran journalist he had worked with in the past, Warren Olney, and brought him on board as well. They were the first hosts to anchor the newly renamed, "Life & Times Tonight." After two years, Warren Olney left because he got a national radio show, "To the Point," and he could not commute to both.
When Warren Olney left, Al Jerome asked another veteran journalist, Jess Marlow, if he would be interested in the position. It took a bit, but he finally agreed and joined the team. He spent two years co-hosting with Val.
Val Zavala said she remembers working with both of them with great fondness:
I loved working with these guys. There aren't many true television journalists like them anymore. But they were each different. Warren was the ultimate no-nonsense policy wonk, who knew more about Los Angeles than most of us will forget. Jess knew L.A. like the back of his hand but his style was more relaxed. Even if one of the engineers messed up and made Jess and me look dumb for a moment on the air, Jess never got angry or blamed anyone. Warren is still on the air at KCRW with two radio shows! Jess and his wife retired in Colorado where he could ski and also be near his daughter. I still get Christmas cards from Jess. I was honored to have worked with such great journalists and wonderful human beings.During its 15 years on the air, "Life & Times" won 99 L.A. area awards, both Golden Mikes and Local Emmys! That averages to around 6.5 a year -- a huge feat for any show!
KCET is so very proud of the show and all the hard work and dedication that went into it.
There is more to this story, but I will wait until our new season of "SoCal Connected" is ready to hit the air to bring us up to the present. At that time I will discuss "California Connected," the end of "Life & Times" and the formation of our current show, "SoCal Connected." Stay tuned.
This is another in a series of posts where Cathy Bower, KCET's Broadcast Operations Coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Read the first part of "A Proud History of News" here. And read more entries here.