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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Lisa Manna conducts a screen test for a "Talking the Talk" semifinalist on the Time Warner Cable SportsChannel. The show is kicking off it's fourth season.

Wannabe sports talkers step up for on-air contest


Making the audience part of a production makes for better television. That's something the producers at Time Warner Cable SportsChannel understand.

The cable outlet is launching its fourth season of "Talking the Talk," during which the winner of a contest will appear as a guest on "The Roundtable" with show host Dennis Krause.

In "Talking the Talk," contestants write an essay and shoot a screening video to make it to the next round. There, the contestants share some time in front of the camera with Krause. All those video segments are posted On Demand. The clip with the most views wins.

On "The Roundtable," which airs each weeknight at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m., Krause and a number of the state's top sports journalists analyze Wisconsin's teams and stories of the day.

"This contest is truly a lot of fun for everyone involved here, which is a big reason why we keep coming back. We enjoy reading all of the submissions and get a kick out of hearing directly from our viewers when they come in to audition," said senior manager for production Tom Kurtz.

"It really validates what we do and it is also a great experience to see something we sometimes can take for granted (doing TV sports for a living), be such a thrill for our viewers when they get a taste of it," Kurtz said.

"The consistent feedback we get from those that participate, is that they enjoyed their experience tremendously … even if they did not eventually win the entire thing."

For last year's winner, Eugene Pitchford, it meant building on the joy he has for talking about sports.

"It was just so remarkable. I felt like I won a million bucks. I just thank Time Warner Cable for the opportunity and I am just truly grateful and thankful for the experience," he said.

Pulling off a production like "Talking the Talk" is not the easiest of tasks.

"From a production standpoint, the scope of the entire contest is the most challenging. Now that we are in our fourth season, we have continued to tweak the contest each year to make it better for the contestant and product, but we've also made it a lot smoother behind-the-scenes," Kurtz said.

Logistics of working around production schedules, and the work schedules of host Lisa Manna and Krause, make this show a labor of love.

"From there, we have to get our semifinalists to our studios and rearrange their work days to make it all happen," he said.

"Once they are here, we have to make sure each semifinalist gets their time on set with Dennis to audition, but we also do pre- and post-interviews with Lisa Manna for use on our behind-the-scenes shows. Our team is top notch and we try to make each semifinalist feel like they received more than they expected after the process is over."

As far as the contestants are concerned, the ones chosen as semifinalists are those that can move beyond the lights and cameras and hold an engaging conversation.

"My biggest piece of advice I have with them before they come to audition and when I meet them on the day of their screen test with Dennis is always the same. I tell them to have fun and just pretend you are talking with your friends about sports. If you treat this as a test and not a fun experience, that will show up on air," Kurtz said.

"I would say the biggest obstacle I have seen from contestants over the past three seasons is just nerves and the uncertainty of what they are going to experience. The latter has changed since the first year, since contestants have either seen past seasons or have done more research. Semifinalists in Season 3 were much more prepared than our first year, and their results showed on camera."

Applicants can e-mail TWCSportsWI@twcable.com through May 18 explaining in 150 words or less why they would make an informative and entertaining guest on "The Roundtable."

Beyond the clips of the semifinalists on Ch. 411, the screen tests will be posted on the station's website. A view online, as well as On Demand, will count as a vote for the semifinalist.

TOP TEACHER: WLDB-FM B93.3 will honor some of the most deserving educators with the radio station's "B93.3 Teacher of the Year" and award them prizes, including a four-night stay at RIU Palace Riviera Maya in Mexico.

From this past October until now, one teacher per month was named the "B93.3 Teacher of the Month." In April, four teachers from Oak Creek West Middle School were named co-winners of the monthly award. Each winner was selected from teachers that were nominated on the B93.3 website.

Now the semifinalists need votes for the grand prize. In addition to the trip to Mexico to stay at RIU Palace Riviera Maya, the top vote-getter will receive a grand prize package that includes front row tickets to Michael Bublé at BMO Harris Bradley Center on July 27, a $100 gift card to The Melting Pot of Brookfield, a $50 gift card to Marcus Theatres courtesy of Educators Credit Union, "milk for a year" from Prairie Farms and a "B93.3 Teacher of the Year" trophy from Personalized Awards and Specialties in Mequon.

Voting starts at noon on Thursday, and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14.

The candidates are: Christie Timm (October winner, Carrollton Elementary School, Oak Creek), Jon Waite (November winner, Hamilton High School, Sussex), Michael Theine (December winner, Parkway Elementary School, Glendale), Julie Leonhardt (January winner, Bayside Middle School, Bayside), Jane Posanski (February winner, Audubon Technology and Communication Center Middle School, Milwaukee), Carson Wright (March winner, Maryland Avenue Montessori School, Milwaukee), and Kristi Sims, Karisa Mantey, Pat Roemer, and Jennifer Van Acker (April co-winners, Oak Creek West Middle School, Oak Creek).

The teacher with the most votes will be announced as the "B93.3 Teacher of the Year" on Friday, May 16, during "Jane and CV in the Morning."

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