Pierce: 'Wasatch 360' is lean, mean and lots of fun
Last year, "Wasatch 360" launched its first season with a staff of four and turned out a thoroughly professional weekly half-hour that highlighted cool things to do in Utah.
As the show prepares to kick off Season 2, there have been some changes. Jacque Gray has replaced KSTU weathercaster John Goulet, who bowed out as co-host because of time constraints. And that four-person crew is now down to three.
It's host/producer Larry Feldman, Gray and production editor Mark Lukes.
"Is it a little nerve-racking at times? Yes," Lukes said. "But if we can do it with three people, why would we use more?"
"Wasatch 360" airs Saturdays at 6:30 a.m. on Channel 13, leading into KSTU's 7 a.m. newscast. And the two shows have a bit of synergy going.
"Wasatch 360" has seen its ratings rise from a 0.3 to a 1.9 since it debuted last December, giving the newscast a nice lead-in. And the Fox 13 news will be promoting "W360" on Fridays.
The show highlights places to go and things to do in Utah. Feldman and Gray visit ski resorts, hotels, restaurants, festivals, events and more.
They don't treat their subjects lightly, but they have fun. Like an upcoming visit to a costume shop that will put Feldman in a Mitt Romney mask and turn Gray into Marilyn Monroe.
They look for features a bit off the beaten path, like an upcoming look at how the trails at the Canyons are prepared in the dead of night while skiers sleep.
"We're not just selling a George Foreman hamburger machine," Feldman said. "It's interesting content."
And it's a whirlwind for Gray. An actress who's appeared in films like "God's Army," "Brigham City" and "Evil Angel" and the Showtime series "Resurrection Blvd.," she recently moved back to Utah after spending the past few years in Los Angeles.
"I've always been an actor," said Gray, a graduate of Bountiful High and the University of Utah. "Hosting is just kind of the same skill. And having been away from Utah for a while, it's a nice way to come back and learn what's changed."
Which is pretty much the point of the show finding out what there is to do here.
Gray, who beat out about 100 other hopefuls to win the job, does have to get herself equipped, however. "I don't even own a winter coat," she said. "I've got to get one."
It will come in handy this winter. Although she'll need a bit more than just a coat for a planned series about the Snowbird ski school that will "turn her from a novice to an expert," Feldman said.
"I'm looking forward to that," Gray said with a laugh. "At least I think I am."
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.