Photo: Out: Amanda Kelly. In: Madison James
Photo: Out: Amanda Kelly. In: Madison James

Briefs: Star 94.1 cuts, new broadcast TV shows bomb, ‘Bluff City Law’ actor Michael Luwoye visits Atlanta

Originally posted Monday, September 30, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Adult pop station Star 94.1 is snipping and swapping again.

Amanda Kelly was let go after just four months in the mid-day slot. She was previously part of the Jeff & Jenn morning show. Temporarily, former B98.5 host and current weekend host Madison James will cover mid days. 

Digital program director Rob Hamilton lost his job as well. 

These changes are happening just as a new program director Jerry McKenna enters the picture. McKenna, who started Monday, previously worked in New England at various radio stations. He replaces Ron Roberts, who was cut over the summer.  

The station in May dropped Jeff Dauler in mornings while keeping Jenn Hobby and producer Jeannine Riley and adding Mark Owens and Curtis Slade to the mix. Management also cut Mike Marino in afternoons while mid-day host Heather Branch voluntarily departed. Mike Kannon took over afternoons for Marino. 

The station’s ratings have been languid for quite awhile, lagging behind rivals B98.5, Power 96.1 and Q100. 

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PRODIGAL SON: L-R: Tom Payne and Michael Sheen in PRODIGAL SON, premiering this fall on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. Cr: David Giesbrecht / FOX.
Photo: David Giesbrecht/FOX/David Giesbrecht/FOX

How hard is it to create a hit in broadcast TV land? Bloody difficult in 2019 and only getting more difficult as the potential audience continues to move elsewhere. 

The dozen new shows that debuted last week all did relatively poorly in overnight ratings. Here are the shows, most of whom will be quickly forgotten in a year or two: NBC’s “Sunnyside,” “Bluff City Law” and “Perfect Harmony,” Fox’s “Prodigal Son,” ABC’s “Mixed-ish,” “Emergence” and “Stumptown,” CBS’s “Bob Hearts Abishola,” “All Rise,” “The Unicorn,” “Carol’s Second Act” and “Evil.” 

The best performer among 18-49 year olds was “Prodigal Son” at a 1.0 rating. Most new shows a year ago hit that mark. “All Rise” on CBS drew the most viewers at about 6 million. At least three shows last year hit the 10 million mark the first week: “Manifest,” “God Friended Me” and “FBI.”

In other words, broadcast TV is losing altitude rapidly. 

This is the first time, by the way, in several years that  broadcast TV has not debuted a new series that shoots in metro Atlanta. 

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Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

A star of one of those freshmen shows, NBC’s “Bluff City Law,” Michael Luwoye, came into Atlanta last Friday to drum up some press the week it debuted. 

Following “The Voice” last week, the Memphis-based law drama drew 4.7 million overnight viewers, holding only about 53 percent of “The Voice” audience, which is not great.

Luwoye is best known for his lead performance on Broadway’s runaway smash “Hamilton.” He landed a role as an attorney on “Bluff City Law,” which is set and shot in Memphis.

As family man Anthony Little, Luwoye’s character is a former Vanderbilt classmate of the lead character Sydney Strait, played by Caitlin McGee, daughter of the law firm founder and civil rights leader Elijah Strait (Jimmy Smits).

Smits is a legend in the TV world with “L.A. Law,” “NYPD Blue,” “The West Wing” and “Sons of Anarchy” on his gold-plated resume. 

“I didn’t grow up with Jimmy Smits,” said Luwoye, who was born and raised in Alabama and didn’t watch any of those Smits shows. “But when I met him, I sensed how dedicated and nuanced he is. He’s always trying to find the truth in a scene or asking different questions. He’s very caring of us as a cast.”

And while he is not the star of this show, he said he pretends in his mind that he is No. 1 because that is how we all perceive our world in real life. 

Luwoye, who had a small role in Fox’s “The Gifted” shot in Atlanta for two seasons until it was cancelled earlier this year, also enjoyed working in Memphis, which he said is more than just civil rights, barbecue and music (although the second episode focuses on brothers fighting over a barbecue recipe.)

He said every role he takes - including this one as a series regular - is a springboard to his next one. “I want to learn the gamut of what it is to be an actor,” he said. 

ON TV

“Bluff City Law,” 10 p.m. Mondays, NBC

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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