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Television: Former QVC host Bob Bowersox returns brings stage presence to the Fringe Festival

Bob Bowersox is a restless soul. Broadcaster, writer, actor, producer, cook, and restauranteur, he is always looking for the next, and different, thing he can do.

Bowersox was one of the original cadre of hosts on TV retailer, QVC, and the first face to appear on that network’s air. In 22 years from 1996 to 2008, he built a following selling QVC product but also hosting his own show, “In the Kitchen with Bob,” that began like almost everything Bowersox has done, as a risk he took to bolster something he was already doing.

Or because he needed to start over again.

“My grandfather once told me,” Bowersox says by telephone from his Delaware home, that I, like he, would never have one career because we were interested in too many things and could do anything we put our minds to.

“He was right,” Bowersox continues. “I have had a lifetime of serial and parallel careers.”

Before Bowersox made his name in television, he’d done some acting in the Philadelphia area. When he left QVC, he and his wife, Melody Moore, moved to Key West, Fla., and theater returned to life.

“I was writing plays, and I needed something to do, so I rented a Key West theater in the period it was dark between shows and put on my own seasons, which caught on.”

Bowersox call his company, “Theatre XP,” the letters standing out from the word, Experimental, and he and Moore did shows ranging from Albee to comedies to Bowersox’s own work.

Saying “cruise lines ruined Key West,” Bowersox and Moore decided to move back to Delaware. Bowersox says he was always aware of the dynamism of the Philadelphia theater community.

On Thursday, as part of the Fringe Festival, he and Theatre XP will make their local debut at Plays & Players, 1714 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, a venue that fits Bowersox’s vision of renting rather than owing theater space.

The show is called “Fresh Ink Shorts” and features 11 plays that follow each other, non-stop, without a set-up break. The shows range from 1 to 20 minutes in duration and from the serious to the comic.

Bowersox says “Fresh Ink Shorts” is a local introduction to Theatre XP and will be followed by other productions. One of his plays, “Crossing the Veil,” will appear at Plays & Players in November.

Bowersox got his job at QVC by answering an ad in a local paper. “In the Kitchen with Bob” evolved when he got the inspiration to cook food, his own recipes, instead of melting plastic blocks in non-stick cookware QVC was hawking.

“The producer called and said, “I don’t what you did last night, but the phones are ringing off the hook for your coquille St. Jacques recipe.’ After that, I had a cooking show.”

Theater and writing are Bowersox’s current interests. It will be interesting to see where he takes them.

Networks struggling for ideas

It has been clear for more than a decade, possibly two, that the original networks – NBC, ABC, and CBS – do not have the cachet they enjoyed before the advent of cable and the definitive nail in the over-the-air coffin, streaming.

A look at the nominations for next week’s Emmys shows beyond doubt the best programming these days is coming from an expanding group of providers – HBO, Netflix, Showtime, Apple+, Disney+. Hulu, Prime, Peacock, and Paramount+. Shows from the one-time Big Three and more recent upstarts, Fox and The CW, barely get a mention. If it wasn’t for ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” traditional webs would be almost entirely shut out from Emmy luster.

The networks are beginning to respond to the viewer (and critics’) preference for streaming. NBC moved one of its longtime soap operas, “Days of Our Lives” from its air to its Peacock platform. Popular programs such as ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and NBC’s “The Voice” will have a major streaming component in their coming seasons.

The latest news, which I find disturbing in terms of nostalgia, finds NBC considering whether to shed one hour, the 10 to 11 p.m. time slot, from its primetime schedule and move more product to Peacock.

It makes sense that NBC would be the first to contemplate this initiative. It is, after all, owned by Comcast, which helped fulminate the concept of cable and knows how to create television networks and stations in addition to providing the technology and hardware to bring them to people’s homes.

In a broadcast world that loses its latest hour of primetime, original programming would end at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. in Central and Mountain time zones).

That means 21 hours less a week of original episodes, news magazines, and quiz shows.

From the point of view of television in 2022, NBC’s idea makes sense.

There are fewer and fewer viewers watching network schedules and tuning into primetime fare. Games, music, and other preferences have cut into potential audience as much as cable and streaming programming did.

Without a consistent and adequate customer base, why keep the store open for the stragglers who might come?

Especially when you consider a growing segment of the audience doesn’t remember a three-channel world and never based its viewing on the limitations of such an entity. Television, to them is anywhere the remote controls can go.

Thinking about it, except for NBC’s “The Weakest Link” and ABC’s “The Chase,” I never watch network television from 10 to 11.Well, maybe to find out the next morning’s weather from Kathy Orr.

Even not viewing, I have a problem. That is what will take the place of network fare if networks relinquish programming it.

In the ‘70s, a great idea was to make the 7 to 8 p.m. hour a “prime access” time that local stations could program as they wished.Look what that wrought. Instead of smart programming geared to our regions, the five over-the-air buy syndicated fare – game shows, entertainment news, reruns of network hits – and forgo any effort to program with ingenuity at all.

In all of local market history, only Channel 3’s “Evening Magazine” came close to fulfilling “prime access” intentions.

If losing the 10 to 11 hour of primetime means losing episodic series to more vapid blather (“Jeopardy!” excepted), I drat NBC’s potential decision and beg the Peacock to keep flying in its historica pattern. The alternative is too grim to think about.

Bring on the NFL

The opening of NFL season is Sept. 11.

The Eagles will be in Detroit for a game that starts at 1 p.m. against the Lions, on Fox (Channel 29). Sportscasting generalist Adam Amin will handle play-by-play with former Broncos guard and three-time Super Bowl participant Mark Schlereth doing commentary and Kristina Pink reporting from the sidelines.

Amin, Schlereth, and Pink are one of six broadcast teams Fox will dispatch to NFL games this season. As a rule of thumb, the network carrying a Sunday afternoon game is based on the away team. Fox has the contract with the NFC, the conference the Eagles are in, so most of the Eagles games, at least eight of them) will land there.

Three games will be seen on CBS (Channel 3) because an AFC team is at Lincoln Financial Field, two Sunday night games will be on NBC (Channel 10), and one each on ABC (Channel 6) which carries Monday, September 19’s showdown vs. the Minnesota Vikings, Amazon Prime, which airs Thursday night contests, and ESPN, regular home to Monday night contests.

Locally, Channel 6 usually grabs ESPN games, each station being part of the Disney fold. I suspect a “Dancing with the Stars” or “Bachelor” finale, or some other ABC special, has kept Channel 6 from claiming the November 14 game against the Washington Commanders.

The Eagles’ radio home for all games is WIP (94.1 FM). Longtime (since 1977) play-by-play genius Merrill Reese takes that familiar chore again with former Eagle Mike Quick providing color commentary.

Of course, the usual suspects on WIP will provide a plethora of pre- and post-games show throughout the season. The commentators on NBCSP will do the same.

On occasions when Eagles games pre-empt scheduled Phillies broadcasts, the Phillies game can be heard on WPHT (1210 AM), the team’s radio home before it moved to WIP.

Stocker is a budding radio star

I don’t know how it took me so long in the season to discover, but I finally heard a former Phillies ballplayer who was a good partner to Scott Franzke in the Phillies radio broadcast booth.

No, it’s not Larry Anderson. He predates Franzke at the Phillies mike and is a given as one of top radio personalities in the market, sports or not.

It’s Kevin Stocker, the player who arrived the middle of the 1993 season to take over the shortstop position and help the Phillies achieve the National League pennant under Jim Fregosi. (The Phillies lost the subsequent World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays.)

Stocker’s delivery is fluid, natural, and professional. He is articulate whether talking about a key point in a game or in exchanging badinage with Franzke. From the moment I heard him, I said aloud to the radio, “Whoever this is, hire him.”

The Phillies need a roving crew of fill-in color commentators for Andersen, who is semi-retired, spending less, if any time, on the road, and in for a couple of weeks at a time rather than calling all of the Phillies 162 matches.

Former Phillies catcher Erik Kratz was entertaining and had an engaging way of telling a story. He was particularly amusing when telling clubhouse stories or talking about players tend to react to given situations on the field.

Kratz animated Franzke in a way some of the other former players did not.

Stocker proved to be the gold standard. Every syllable was crisp, every word was interesting, and every story germane.

Stocker also offered strong player’s perspective about events on the field.

Besides Stocker and Kratz, other players joining Franzke in the booth this season were Michael Bourn and Chad Durbin. Anderson’s fill-in from last season, Kevin Frandsen proved good enough to be hired by the Washington Nationals full-time.

Non-players calling Phillies games on radio have included local sportscasting veteran Gregg Murphy and, in a one-off stint, retired Sixers announcer Marc Zumoff.

At one point, Stocker and Franzke spoke about not having seen each other since May. I don’t remember why I missed Stocker in the spring, but it was refreshingly encouraging to catch up with him now.

Neal Zoren’s television column appears every Monday.

Source: Berkshire mont

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