With the Hollywood writers’ strike creating a void for film and television productions, TV viewers are scrambling to find shows to fill their couch-potato tendencies.
A new “around-the-town” program focusing on hot Chicago-area spots for college students that debuts on PBS in February may help fill that void. And the show has Oak Park ties.
GenYtv is a show produced and starring mostly former Oak Park and River Forest High School students.
The half-hour show debuts Feb. 17 at 10:30 p.m. on Channel 11. Four shows have been produced so far and will feature bars, restaurants and other venues popular with the college crowd.
The target audience may be college-age students, but the show should appeal to all ages, said John Condne, the producer and a film and television instructor at OPRF.
“I don’t think there’s anything like this, not locally anyway,” Condne said of the show. “MTV has a lot of young talent-those kind of stations do-but they don’t go to specific places. Nationally, it’s a little bit more difficult to do that because you have to be in that city to be able to do those things. So we’re just targeting our area.”
The show has an entertainment magazine-style format. On-air hosts do a segment about the venue. They go on location, interview the owner and patrons, write up a review and put it on the air. The show also has a hip look, with quick camera edits and flashy graphics, though they try not to be too distracting for viewers.
Most of the on-air and behind-the-scenes talent are former OPRF students, like Cathy Kelley, 19, a recent OPRF grad and one of the show’s hosts.
Right now, GenYtv relies on friends and word-of-mouth in finding venues, but eventually the show wants its viewers to pitch cool places to go, Kelley said.
“Just places around Chicago that have a buzz about them or that people don’t know about,” she said.
GenYtv was the brainchild of Paul Cesarz, 22, a producer and host of the show. Cesarz, a former Elmwood Park High School student, created a similar show while at EPHS, where he first met Condne.
Cesarz created a news magazine show about the happenings in the Elmwood Park school district. He was also a writer and co-host.
“I’ve always kind of been a TV dork,” he said. “I’ve been reading about the industry since junior high.”
Cesarz learned that his generation, frequently called “Gen Y,” is watching less television today and spends more of their time online.
“So I thought, why not create a show that can attract that age group?”
Launching and producing the first four shows has taken about six months, and the program is currently looking for underwriters, Condne said. The show will feature venues in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Oak Park will also be featured, though the village has always been considered more of a “family-oriented” town.
“I think Oak Park is trying to gear toward a younger crowd,” said Kelley. “They’re getting younger and younger shops and bars in the area.”
In terms of choosing certain venues, Condne added, “We don’t limit ourselves. If we decide we want to do some place in Oak Park, River Forest or Forest Park, we’re receptive to doing those things.”