The Clumsy
Anchorage TV
Sports Anchor

by Michael R Dougherty

The KTVA television director yelled “where's Bob?”

With just 10 seconds before he was to begin his live TV sportscast, Bob, our TV sports anchor, had fallen backwards off the platform and was scrambling to get back up off the studio floor.

My 30-year career in television and motion picture production began at KTVA channel 11 in Anchorage, Alaska, where I worked with a great group of people and some real characters.

One of those characters was a TV sports anchor that I'll call Bob – a nice fellow who loved sports.

But Bob was very clumsy. One evening Bob walked into the channel 11 TV studio for the six o'clock news to do his live sportscast.

It was the late 1960s and at the time, the news set desk was on a riser platform, and right behind the platform was a wall that was on wheels.

As Bob quickly sat down in the anchor chair to prepare for his live sportscast, Bob pushed his chair back too far and both he and the chair fell backwards off the platform onto the floor. Bob and the chair landed between the platform and the wall on wheels, causing the wall to roll away from its position on the set.

I was behind the camera, but because Bob was still rolling around on the floor, I was the only one who was able to see Bob. The director started yelling “where's Bob?”

Then, just as his sportscast was being introduced, Bob popped up from the floor like a piece of toast being thrown from a toaster. Bob slammed his chair back into place, grabbed his microphone and started his sportscast right on cue.

But the ordeal had taken its toll. During his entire sportscast, Bob was so upset that most of what he said was gibberish.

But that wasn't Bob's most spectacular flub – not by a long shot.

During another live evening sportscast, Bob got up from his anchor chair and walked across the studio to do a live commercial for a local Anchorage sporting goods store.

The set for his live commercial was in front of a large curtain. On the set was a lot of outdoor sporting goods like sleeping bags, fishing poles and a camp cook stove. Most of it was displayed on top of a nifty portable picnic table.

Now the portable picnic table folded up for easy travel and when you unfolded it, the legs locked in place. As Bob began his live commercial, he started to sit down on the picnic table to demonstrate how sturdy it was.

But from behind my camera, I could see that the bottom latch on the picnic seat was not in place.

It was too late – I couldn't stop Bob.

As Bob sat down, the entire picnic table collapsed, sending Bob and all the sporting equipment flying – and all on live TV.

A very wide-eyed Bob hit the floor and then rolled under and behind the curtain where Bob began flailing around as he tried to get himself out from behind the drapery.

What the TV audience was seeing was very strange and very funny.

The director that night was Roger Latham, who was also an Anchorage radio personality and the co-host of Anchorage's teen dance program, “The Varsity Show”.

But what was now playing out on TV screens in and around Anchorage, was absolutely hilarious – and Roger lost it. He began screaming with laughter and fell off his chair in the TV control room and was rolling around on the floor, laughing so loud that Bob could hear him in the studio.

Somehow, Roger was able to pull himself back together long enough to cut away from Bob's clumsy show and go to another commercial or two. Meanwhile, Bob managed to get himself untangled from behind the curtain and return to the anchor desk where he could still hear Roger's screams of laughter.

When they came back live to Bob, he was so upset, disoriented and embarrassed that the rest of his sportscast was nothing more than rambling.

As for me, during the entire incident my whole body was shaking. I felt sorry for Bob, but what I was seeing was beyond funny. And as Roger laughed, I had to hold my hand over my mouth with tears streaming down my face as I fought to control my laughter.

I held my laughter until KTVA's six o'clock news was finally over, then I ran outside as fast as I could where I laughed myself silly until I cried.

Poor Bob.

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Anchorage TV
Sports Anchor

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Live TV Challenges
by: Mark Ransom

Great post. Thank you.

Live television can be challenging indeed.

At KIMO-TV I had the opportunity to work with Ken Garland, a truly professional unflappable TV sports director.

When Fernando Valenzuela first emerged on the national scene, Ken tried to pronounce "Fernando Valenzuela" for the first time on live air. He stumbled… badly.

I could feel the home audience tense up. We all could. We all tensed up too. He went back, started the sentence again, and stumbled again. More tension, even worse. Then he backed up, started his sentence a third time… and stumbled again. The home audience and I were totally on edge at that point.

Suddenly I saw Ken’s face relax and open into the biggest smile I’d ever seen. He tossed his head back and broke into the most reassuring laugh I’d ever seen or heard on live television.

And, at that point, I — and everyone I could imagine sitting at home — relaxed and felt that satisfaction that comes with watching a professional at work.

Mastering recovery from live on-air gaffs was quite elusive for me at that time, as a young reporter.

So after the broadcast, I talked to Ken about his performance. "Man, how do you manage to recover so well from such an awkward moment on live air?" I asked him.

He shot a knowing smile my way and replied, "If you don’t know how to recover on live air, it’s only because you haven’t walked all over your face on live air often enough."

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