Friday, May 11, 2001

Tristate teens tackle racism on 'The Zone'




By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When violence rocked Over-the-Rhine on April 10, a group of Tristate teens was taping a TV show about racism up the hill in Corryville.

        “It was just a coincidence. The topic had been scheduled for a month,” says Harold Hay, executive producer of The Zone (11:35 p.m. Saturday, Channel 9), the local Christian music video program broadcast by 62 TV stations.

        During the show, to air Saturday, teens in the studio audience talk about race with the four hosts, Larry Spellman, Bekka Prewitt-Denney, Michael Hairston and Mike Woods.

        “You would think judging someone solely by the color of their skin would have ended a long time ago,” says Ms. Prewitt-Denney.

        Ms. Prewitt-Denney also produced the “Life Zone” field report, talking to Miami University students in Oxford about racism. One African-American woman named Adeyemi tells about being called the “N word” on her first day of classes by a passing motorist.

        “There were a lot of white students around me, and no one comforted me or said, "Are you OK?' It just hurt me,” she says.

        The Zone, which debuted in February 2000 as 180 Videos, also includes race-themed music videos: “Colored People” by DC Talk, “Skin Tone” by Urban Disciple and “Color Blind” by Michael W. Smith.

        Mr. Spellman tells viewers that The Zone producers realize that race problems can't be solved in a half-hour TV show. “We're just trying to give people some food for thought,” he says.

        As Ms. Prewitt-Denney notes: “We're supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ.”

        No mention of Cincinnati's racial problems was edited into the program, which will be seen coast to coast.

        The Zone airs on TV stations in Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Buffalo, Detroit, Denver, Colorado Springs and on several Christian TV networks. It also is distributed to cable and satellite systems. About 90 million TV homes have access to The Zone, Mr. Spellman says.

        Mr. Hay and Dave Dobbins founded Victory Videos in 1988 to produce religious programming on local public access channels. Three years ago, the ministry was expanded to broadcast television, TV production, artist development and the Internet (www.surfthezone).

        “It's very exciting to have a local show be seen all over the country,' Mr. Hay says. “God has been opening some doors for us.”

        Church youth groups or student organizations interested in attending a taping next fall should contact The Zone offices, 42 Calhoun St., Cincinnati 45219, or call 221-4888. Thirty shows will be taped for the TV season starting in September.

        Hattie returns: Larry Smith and his puppets, including Hattie the Witch, will have a new TV home in September. Mr. Smith and the gang will star in a Saturday morning children's show on WBQC-TV (Channel 25).

        Mr. Smith and his pals performed on Channel 9's Uncle Al Show from 1957 to 1960, before he went to New York and worked with Burr Tillstrom on Kukla, Fran and Ollie. He returned to Cincinnati in 1968 to star in his own show on Channel 19.

        Elliott Block, Channel 25 owner and general manager, says he's thrilled to revive a local TV tradition in his Golf Manor studio with Mr. Smith.

        “We're going to do what TV was meant to be,” Mr. Block says. “I hope we get some adults watching as well as kids.”

        Kiese-watching: Biography profiles a couple of Tristate residents this month:

        • Rocker Peter Frampton, an Indian Hill resident, will be the subject of a one-hour program on Wednesday (8 p.m. and midnight, A&E).

        Maysville native Rosemary Clooney steps into the spotlight on May 31 (8 p.m. and midnight, A&E) in a film featuring comments from husband Dante DiPaolo, brother Nick, Tony Bennett, Merv Griffin, Michael Feinstein, Mitch Miller, Patti Page and Janet Leigh.

        Choir sings: The Cincinnati Boychoir sings “Psalm 150” on Rev. Robert H. Schuller's Hour of Power Sunday (8 a.m., Channel 12). The 32 boys, under the direction of Randall Wolfe, taped the program last Sunday at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.

        Rodger watch: Survivor cast member Rodger Bingham makes his first public appearance since the TV series ended last week by opening the Cincinnati Zoo's Australian Walkabout exhibit at 11 a.m. Saturday. He'll also do two question-and-answer shows, and sign autographs, at Paramount's Kings Island 1-5:45 p.m. Sunday.

        On Monday, he'll begin a week on Hollywood Squares (7:30 p.m. weekdays, Channel 5), taped last week in Hollywood. Hollywood Squares is produced by KingWorld, a CBS subsidiary.

       



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- Tristate teens tackle racism on 'The Zone'
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