OKLAHOMA CITY, OKOn the surface, the newsroom of local NBC affiliate KFOR appears to be quite serious. But that doesn't mean the Live At Five news team doesn't know how to have some fun from time to time, as viewers learned Monday night.
According to computer-graphic designer Dan Janney, the news broadcast team nearly lost its composure Monday, when his irreverent weather-map graphic went live during a segment by Channel 4 meteorologist Grant Johnson.
"It's more my style to stay behind the scenes," Janney said. "But every once in a while, I have to admit, it's fun to push the envelope."
Janney added: "I like to give the crew a good laugh."
In the graphic, which he designed for the five-day extended forecast chart that concludes the weather segment, Janney replaced the network's "sun in sunshades" graphic with the head of veteran KFOR sports anchor Bob Barry Sr. wearing sunshades and surrounded by a halo of golden rays.
"I had the idea, and I told my assistant Jennifer Sabin about it, and she thought it was hysterical, so we spent about 10 minutes putting it together on our lunch break," Janney said. "To our good fortune, the weekend portion of the chart forecasted sunny weather, so the gag got high visibility."
Janney added: "It had the guys in the control room in stitches before air time. I begged [newscast director] Jim [Underwood] not to tell Grant about it, and thankfully he agreed. He knows how to play a joke."
Underwood, who has directed local KFOR programming for 18 years and produces the Sunday morning current-events roundtable Think About It With Neil Clover, enthusiastically agreed to televise Janney's graphic, calling it "an amusing change of pace." He even authorized camera operator Mike Bethke to capture the reaction of lead anchor Chuck Bartlett in a highly unusual cutaway from the forecast graphic.
"The usual 'sun wearing the shades' graphic is cutewe still get letters about it from viewers," Underwood said. "But replacing that sun with Bob Barry? That was a hoot."
Underwood added: "Live At Five has a reputation for having an offbeat sense of humor, and that's a part of its appeal."
According to Janney, Johnston does not normally look at the monitor while introducing the extended forecast and was initially confused by the titters coming from the camera operators. When he saw the monitor, he broke into a wide grin, chuckled, and said, "And there's Bob Barry, KFOR's original golden boy."
"It was a wonderful ad-lib," Sabin said. "I'll bet most of the home audience thought he was in on the joke from the start. But he wasn't. He's that good."
Said Janney: "The killer part was when Grant threw to Chuck, and Chuck sang a couple of bars of 'You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.' Practically everyone in the studio was dying. But Grant didn't miss a beat. He comes right back with, 'Aw, Chuck, I didn't know you cared.' By that point, everybody on set was in stitches."
Janney has received positive feedback for his shenanigan, including e-mails of praise from viewers. Yet, when asked about doing something similar in the future, Janney became coy.
"If we did something silly every day, we'd risk losing our edge," he said. "But who knows when something like that will happen again. You'll just have to keep watching Live At Five to find out."