Provo's mayor launches a talk show
"Inside Provo" airs Mondays from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. on Provo Channel 17 or iProvo's Channel One Community Channel.
BYU broadcast faculty members Dale Cressman and Dale Green offer Mayor Lewis Billings a few tips for improving his presentation skills.
l Be careful not to stare at the teleprompter.
l Be mindful of hands - twiddling of thumbs can happen before you realize it.
l Sit behind a desk to block the legs, which can be distracting.
PROVO - Yesterday, Jane Pauley. Today, Matt Lauer. Tomorrow, Lewis Billings?
Well, at least on Monday mornings - that's when the third-term mayor hosts Utah's newest talk show.
OK, so "Inside Provo" doesn't have the breadth or depth of "Today" or "Good Morning America" or some other network heavyweight. But it does reach the home of every Provo Cable and iProvo customer.
"We have great hopes and expect it to have a very good run," says city spokeswoman Raylene Ireland.
Something along the lines of Johnny Carson?
Not yet, says D. Robert Carter, the Utah historian who made history as Billings' first guest during the show's Jan. 2 debut.
Other talk show hosts "don't have to get a day job," Carter jokes. "They're not going to run anyone off the air."
For his part, Carter says he didn't care much for his own performance. "I freeze up a little on TV."
As for the host, there's little concern among his staff about his performance.
"The mayor is good on camera," says Mary DeLaMare- Schaefer, marketing and customer-relations director for Provo Power. "We're not sure how his guests will be, but [he's] the least of our worries."
Still, doing a little Monday morning quarterbacking of the mayor's Monday morning performance, professional communicators say Billings could refine his delivery a bit.
"He's got serious [tele]prompter lock," says Brigham Young University's Dale Cressman, an assistant professor of broadcast journalism. "But he has a nice presence. With some coaching, you could convince people he's a news anchor."
Dale Green of BYU Newsnet's broadcast production team isn't so sure.
"It's obvious he's not an anchor," Green says. "He should stay in politics."
The program opens with a video montage set to music, while a voice-over introduces the show.
Then it cuts to Billings - in his usual suit and tie - speaking from a table on an old news set, complete with picturesque views of the Wasatch Mountains.
During his premiere performance, Billings sometimes would twiddle his thumbs when his hands were interlocked. When interviewing, he would lean in to ask questions and move his hands while speaking.
The teleprompter put Billings in an unnatural position - like some LDS general authorities, says Cressman - but the mayor appeared more comfortable during conversations with his guest.
The show could get even trickier once it goes live - possibly as early as Jan. 23.
So far, Billings, who was unavailable for comment, has taped interviews with Carter, Fire Chief Coy Porter, and Paul Venturalla and Kevin Garlick of iProvo.
The live shows will include a call-in portion for viewers to ask Billings and his guest questions. Mayoral aides will screen the calls and relay questions to their boss.
"It's just a fun idea," Ireland says. "It's an effort or a desire to communicate more completely with the community on issues that are important to the city."
Ireland says Billings and former city spokesman Michael Mower devised the TV show idea a few years back, but the mayor decided to wait until after his re-election last fall.
The hourlong program includes a few "commercial breaks" and a short business spotlight done by Miss Provo Corrine Foster.
"We live in a society where we are so busy and involved with the priorities of living that we often lose touch with our sense of community," said Billings, kicking off the first episode. " 'Inside Provo' is intended to re-establish those bridges and feelings of community."