When pop-culture columnist Alex Zaragoza was approached about hosting a weekly TV show about music, she wasn’t sure if the guy was for real.
“The first thing I said was, ‘You do know I’m not a hot blond, right?’ I didn’t know what to make of it at first.”
But the caller meant business. He was Scott Richison, producer of Fox Rox, the weekly half-hour music show that used to air on Channel 6 when it was a Fox network affiliate (it’s now a CW station).
Fox Rox won two Emmys, but after five years of presenting live sets and interviews by local bands as diverse as the Locust, Switchfoot, and Cattle Decapitation, Fox Rox was canceled in 2007.
Since then, Richison has been teaching film and TV production at Southwestern College and doing freelance work. But he wanted to get another locally produced music show back on television.
“Ever since Fox Rox went off the air people have been asking me to do something similar.” Richison says Channel 10 green-lighted his idea three weeks ago.
Unherd makes its debut on ABC10 on Saturday, May 21.
Most cities have no locally produced shows dedicated to music. Now San Diego has two. The half-hour Unherd will air at 11: 45 Saturday night. SoundDiego follows on NBC7 at 1 a.m.
Unherd airs 75 minutes earlier than SoundDiego when the total pool of people watching TV is much larger. On the other hand, SoundDiego has the benefit of a strong lead in with Saturday Night Live.
But the biggest differences between the two shows will be content. Richison says SoundDiego is a compilation of reports filed from various local venues, featuring live-performance footage and interviews with local and nationally touring bands.
Unherd, on the other hand, will rely a lot more on the opinions of host Zaragoza who has written for CityBeat, Voice of San Diego, and Vice Magazine. Her two cohosts are music writer and Blood Ponies’ singer/guitarist Jeff Terich and radio jock Mike Halloran of 91X.
“The biggest difference is SoundDiego spends a lot of time interviewing bands that have already played,” says Richison. “We’re primarily focused on what’s coming up. We want to give an indepth analysis of new albums and artists coming to town.”
Richison says Terich will focus on the best five shows to see that week, and Halloran will give historical perspectives.
“I think the two shows are so different that someone could easily watch both. I don’t think there will be any redundancies,” says Richison.
Producer Richison tells the Reader that Unherd won’t just focus on local bands. The first show will spend time on Radiohead, krautrockers Can, and Vancouver punkers White Lung.
“All three hosts are heavily invested in music. They all have their opinions. I want their voice to be authentic. I will not rein them in.”
Richison says Unherd will rely on a staff of five; the three hosts, a videographer, and an editor. “I love it that I got to hire two former students.”
He says Unherd is possible because modern technology allows them freedom from expensive TV studios: “I put together our three pilots in my home office.” He says a new show will be put together each week.
Zaragoza, 31, who holds a theater degree from UCSD and who has written columns with titles like “How to be a grown woman and steal alcohol from rappers,” promises Unherd will not be safe. “Scott will let us run wild and be able to say anything we want to say. We get to choose what we talk about.”
But aren’t we a conservative city?
“Some people see San Diego as a really beige, Jason Mraz-beachy-flip flops-Sublime city,” says Zaragoza. “We want to show that San Diego also has a really rich underground scene. There are some darker bands doing some really interesting stuff. San Diego isn’t just about cargo shorts and chill vibes. There is a real cool dark side here.”
But how will Unherd survive in a town that embraces KUSI, a station that seems tailored for Columbus, Ohio circa 1981?
“Yes, we are a Republican city,” says Zaragoza, “but you can go anywhere in the U.S. and you’ll see some pretty conservative newscasts that are not super edgy…. You never know, people may laugh at us. I’m a weirdo. I want to talk about weird shit and show people some rad stuff to get into. And I don’t want to be pretentious about it. Like the guy who makes you feel like a ding-dong if you don’t know about a certain hip band. This is our chance to put together a show that can be funny and weird yet useful for people.”