"Wisconsin Foodie" launches its third season this weekend with a move to Channel 58 and a time shift to 10:30 a.m. Sundays, as the locally-produced program focuses directly on where our food comes from, and who produces it.
A 26-week season with at least 13 new episodes and as many as 16 is a major accomplishment for a show that's not backed by big money. Creator Arthur Ircink says the show's track record is helping attract sponsors, although "Wisconsin Foodie" is more of a passion than a money-maker.
"It's getting closer and closer." Ircink says. "At first, many people were reluctant to sign on. Wisconsin Tourism, they didn't want to do much with us at first. When this third season came about, they were the first to jump on."
"Wisconsin Foodie" buys the airtime from Channel 58, and then sells the commercial time to raise the money to produce the show.
"We're very strict about who we take money from," says Ircink, who rules out fast-food restaurants, even though he's had requests.
"You'll see me throw a brick through a McDonald's window before you'll see a McDonald's ad," he jokes.
The first two seasons ran on Channel 12, and Ircink said he had a good relationship with the ABC affiliate, where the show ran at 12:30 p.m. Saturdays. "They were really good to us," he says.
But Channel 58, Milwaukee's CBS affiliate, offered him the 10:30 a.m. Sunday slot, just before NFL pregame coverage with a chance to reach more viewers.
The focus of this season is the farms where Wisconsin's food, while the regular features remain, including host Kyle Cherek and wine expert Jessica Bell.
"This is something I wanted to do from the beginning," Ircink says. "The people who are cultivating the food, the people who are making this food are so passionate about what they do. They're the ones in the field all summer long, bustin' their ass."
Ircink, a 28-year-old filmmaker, is as passionate as those farmers, both about his own craft and about food.
"I worked at Outpost Natural Foods when I was younger," he says. "I've been a vegetarian since I was 13 years old. With that lifestyle, you just come to be more in tune with what you put in your body."
Despite his vegetarian lifestyle, "Wisconsin Foodie" has no anti-meat bias. And Ircink talks about "food porn," beautiful shots of cooking meat.
"When you've got that hot pan and you're about to sear that piece of meat, there's nothing like it, an amazing sound."
- Although Gourmet Magazine is shutting down, but its editor, Ruth Reichl, has a new TV show premiering this month. "Gourmet's Adventures with Ruth" debuts at 2 p.m., Oct. 18 on Channel 36.
- HBO has ordered a second season of "Bored to Death," while the first season of Jason Schwartzman's private-eye comedy continues to air at 8:30 p.m. Sundays.
- Showtime has launched a free iPhone application which will allow viewing of some episodes of its programming, including the season premiere of "Dexter."
THE BIG WEDDING DAY: The biggest event on TV tonight is NBC's "The Office," which stretches to a full hour at 8 on Channel 4 as Pam and Jim head to Niagara Falls to get married. Obviously, their wacky co-workers follow along.
It's the kind of very special episode that used to run during sweeps months, but we're still weeks way from the November sweeps.
NBC's promo for tonight's episode follows below.
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.