Jack Abrams is a little uncomfortable being in the spotlight. The soft-spoken producer/director has spent 30 years behind the scenes at Milwaukee Public TV.
"I never wanted to be an on-camera person," Abrams told me this week. "I'm more of a detail person, lining everything, getting everything in order.
"I'm behind the scenes, nobody knows my face. Maybe you've read my name if you've stuck around to watch the credits at the end of a show."
This weekend, Abrams takes center stage as one of five new members of the "Silver Circle," a group of Milwaukee TV veterans honored by the Chicago-Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
The others being inducted in a Saturday afternoon ceremony are:
- Clayborn Benson, retired Channel 4 photojournalist and the founder of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum.
- Ed Hinshaw, retired Vice President of Human Resources, Journal Broadcast Group and former anchor, reporter and editorial director for Channel 4.
- Tom Hooper, former anchor & Contact 6 consumer reporter.
- Bunny Raasch-Hooten, former reporter, anchor, assistant news director & news director, at Channel 12 Earlier, she worked at Channel 4 as a producer, copywriter, director, talk-show host, and news program moderator.
Abrams is the only member of his Silver Circle class still working in Milwaukee TV. At 56, he has no immediate plans for retirement.
Most TV viewers have a good idea of what a director does. But the duties of a producer aren't so clear. Abrams explains it this way:
"I kinda equate being a producer to a prep chef working in a kitchen. We get all the ingredients together everything that needs to go into the production: lining up the people, setting up the facilities, designing the graphics, picking out music. You get all the parts and pieces together, mix it all together, hand it off to the director."
He's best known as producer/director of Milwaukee Public TV's "Outdoor Wisconsin," which has run for 26 season. After all these years, he's now at home in Wisconsin's woods.
"I'm not such a big hunter and fisherman, but I've learned to use and appreciate the outdoors and all the resources that the state has to offer."
"We've gone out many times and not caught something," he says of the show's long run. "But, you know, people appreciate and enjoy the fact that we don't catch something all the time, because they say, 'You know what? That's real life.'"
You can watch my entire conversation with Abrams on this week's TV edition of OnMedia, available Friday on Time Warner Cable's Wisconsin on Demand Channel 411.
On TV: If you were waiting for Friday night's season premiere of Fox's "Human Target," you'll have to wait a little longer. It's been pushed back to Nov. 17 in the 7 p.m. Wednesday slot on Channel 6. "House" reruns will air in the 7 p.m. Friday slot.
- Things are falling into place for Conan O'Brien's TBS show -- which premieres Nov. 8. A new logo for the show has been released, focusing on Conan's red hair, but not the beard he's been sporting of late.
- Director Arthur Penn, who died this week, will be remembered on TCM with an airing of his "Bonnie & Clyde" at 7 p.m Saturday. That film was previously scheduled, and the old movie channel is adding Penn's "Mickey One" at 5:15 p.m Saturday.
- If you're looking to watch Saturday's "Farm Aid" from Miller Park on television, Direct TV's "The 101 Network " has it starting at 5 p.m. It'll also be streaming on the Farm Aid website.
At the Milwaukee Film Festival: "Monk" star Tony Shalhoub's "Feed the Fish" runs at 7:30 tonight at the North Shore Cinema, and Shalhoub is expected to be on hand for the film shot in Door County.
Cannes Film Festival winner "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" is scheduled for 7:15 at the Oriental Theatre. Here's a sample of that mystical Thai film:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.