There are, and historically have been, numerous programs on Tampa Bay television devoted to local people talking about the local things they’re doing locally. They’re always of the “coffee ‘n’ chat” variety, casual mid-morning shows aimed squarely at the feet-up homebodies out there.
Put down the mug and stow the bear claw, baby. The area is about to get its first “late-night talk show.”
Tampa Bay TONITE, produced by CP Communications and made available online through its Red House Streaming service, debuts Monday (Feb. 12) at 8 p.m. You can stream it whenever you want.
It’s hosted by standup comedian, writer, producer, voice actor, filmmaker and longtime Home Shopping Network guru Kerry McNally, who’s pretty sure he’s got a winner on his hands. Guests will include comedians, singers, actors, dancers, newsmakers and business leaders; he also plans to celebrate veterans and first responders.
“It’s funny,” McNally says, “because I’m reaching out to so many people that have broadcasting experience, and I’m sure some people are going ‘Geez, why didn’t I think of this?’ But you also have to have a platform – you can’t really do it on traditional broadcasting television. They have their own late-night shows.”
The plan, for starters, is to make one episode per week available. “It’s too much work to do it five nights a week,” McNally explains. “That would be wonderful if we ever got to that point. But frankly, I’m doing much of it myself. We have a great team that’s a part of filming it, but then I take it from there, the whole thing.”
McNally’s resume includes a DJ stint on the Far East Radio Network (as a U.S. Marine, he hosted a show called Good Morning Okinawa!). He spent the better part of 20 years with HSN, as on-air talent and segment producer (he still does it every once in a while).
He has TV and documentary experience all over the country, in front of and behind the camera, and a pair of Emmy Awards to prove it, for his work as a “funny feature” reporter for CBS in Minneapolis.
Tampa Bay TONITE, he gushes, “is really a dream come true for me. I grew up secretly staying up late, sneaking downstairs to watch Johnny Carson. And I was always struck by how well-read he was. He was very interested in music; he played the drums at a high level. He was interested in sports; he played tennis a lot. He traveled extensively. He appreciated good food and a nice cocktail.
“And by all accounts he read the books written by the authors who appeared on his show. And he went and saw those movies, and listened to those albums.
“So this is a very humble homage to the late, great Johnny Carson. I want to take a lot of time and prepare for these interviews. And that’s the beauty of having it on a weekly basis. You have time to do some real research about the person you’re going to interview. You can write a thoughtful open for them, and have some interesting, fun things to bring up that they may or may not expect.”
Since McNally is an experienced interviewer as well as a quick-witted comedian, he’s got both sides covered. “It’s a dance,” he believes. “It’s analogous to Double Dutch, where you have the two ropes, you’re hopping and there’s a symbiosis amongst the two people that have the ropes and the person jumping. You hang back a little bit, and then insert yourself to keep things moving.
“And then when you find a natural open, take it. Without taking away the spotlight. That’s the dance I’ve hopefully executed for these first episodes, and will get even better as I get more and more time at the desk.
“I will endeavor to be as funny as humanly possible without stepping on the guest.”
The show will stream on RHSTV.com and via its app, and be available for download on Roku, AppleTV, Samsung, LG, IOS and Google Play.
The programs are taped at Red House’s digital production studio. For the time being, there’s no studio audience. “We’re actively looking for maybe a restaurant, or a bar, or a club, or a theater where we could put 50 to 100 people in there comfortably and still have room for the cameras,” McNally says. “That’s the goal.
“I have this dream that we do the show on the beach, behind the Don CeSar, or the Tradewinds, or the Opal up in Clearwater, something like that. Where the entire audience is sitting in chairs, in the sand. Watching the show, and the sun is setting.
“That, to me, is a quintessential late-night talk show here in the Tampa Bay area.”