For the past few weeks, Craig Koplien has been at or near the top of the "Top Searches" at OnMilwaukee.com. It doesn't surprise me.
After 16 years of writing about TV, I know that a change in personnel at a TV station brings questions from viewers. Koplien has been doing the weather on Channel 4's morning newscast and he "disappeared" a few weeks ago. As I've reported, his schedule was flipped with Scott Steele. In the end, Koplien decided that he wanted to move on, and left the station.
I've tried to contact Koplien, but he hasn't responded. I had been hearing rumors for months that Koplien was looking for another job, and contacted him a while back and he didn't want to talk about it.
He doesn't have to. There's no requirement that TV folks talk to me or anybody. But there clearly is a lot of continuing interest in him.
The second half of this story is the move of Steele back to the time shift that first made him a true Milwaukee character: mornings.
It was at Channel 6 and Steele used his Boston Terrier, Spunky, as part of the act. When the Fox station and Steele couldn't reach agreement on a new contract, Spunky and his master disappeared from Milwaukee TV for a few years.
Spunky's gone now -- as Steele, himself, reported on his Channel 4 blog -- and his solo act is a good fit in the mornings on Channel 4.
I've been impressed with Steele's flexibility since he resurfaced at Channel 4. The TV news biz has changed dramatically over the past years, and weather forecasters frequently have to do double-duty as feature reporters. Steele's done it with good humor and with the big personality that is his trademark.
Last year, when he was assigned to the obligatory annual tree-lighting story, he donned a Santa cap and composed a poem along the lines of "The Night Before Christmas," with this line, "this tree-lighting begins this season of giving -- although there may be a bit less with the current cost of living."
It's easy to make fun of that stuff, but Steele's not the problem, it's TV news. He's making the best of the current state of television.
Morning news is the growth area for local TV news. And its pace is far different from the rest of the daily newscasts, more like a radio morning show. That calls for more personality than the rest of the daily newsasts.
Channel 4's existing team -- anchors Susan Kim and Vince Vitrano and traffic reporter Caitlin Morrall -- benefits from the addition of Steele. This is no criticism of Koplien, who was a fine weathercaster.
The only thing I hope is that there are no plans to add a new weather dog to the morning crew.
On TV: Time Warner Cable has added Channel 12 to its "start over" service, meaning digital cable viewers can restart a program without a DVR. Southeast Wisconsin's biggest pay TV service has also expanded its "Look Back" service, allowing digital subscribers to watch already-aired prime-time program for three days on 48 standard and high-definition channels.
- Fox has renewed "The Simpsons" for a 23rd season. It's the longest running comedy in TV history.
- AMC has decided not to bring "Rubicon" back for a second season.
- But after only three episodes, AMC has ordered a second season of "The Walking Dead."
- ABC has ordered two more episodes of "Castle," bringing the season total up to 24.
- Fox has pulled "Running Wilde" off the schedule for the next two Tuesdays, removing the low-rated show from the November sweeps average.
The weekend's big show: The latest chapter in Sarah Palin's plan to win America's hearts and minds launches at 8 p.m. Sunday on TLC, with "Sarah Palin's Alaska."
Here's a preview:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.