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The Weather Channel premiered a new show this afternoon called WXGeeks, which has all the potential to bring the network back to its weathery roots. Did it hit the mark? It's hard to tell — the show was over before it began.
WXGeeks (pronounced "weather geeks") is a 30-minute show by The Weather Channel that airs at 12PM each Sunday and inexplicably ended a little after 12:20 (?) today. If today's episode is any indication, the program features two weather experts rushing to beat Chris Warren before he cuts them off mid-sentence and sends viewers to one of its numerous commercial breaks.
This week's inaugural episode featured premier severe weather expert Dr. Chuck Doswell debating the merits of storm chasing with WXGeeks host Dr. Marshall Shepherd. The pair discussed everything from the public's perception of tornado chasers to the difference between actual chasers and the wannabes who whoop and holler while getting irresponsibly close to the storm for the perfect shot.
When the show wasn't in commercial break, Dr. Doswell had some pretty interesting stuff to say.
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"I don't really feel any compelling need to stand up and justify what I've been doing for more than 40 years," said Doswell when asked what he thought of storm chasing today. Doswell noted that just a few decades ago, meteorologists had to create their own forecasts and go chasing based on their personal forecasts. They didn't have "instant access" to someone else's weather forecasts like we have today.
Doswell went on to say that the vast majority of storm chasers are responsible people, but as the group of storm chasers grows, the irresponsible people on the fringe of storm chasing will grow as well.
Overall, the premiere was pretty disappointing. For as critical as I am of what The Weather Channel's become over the last decade, I was really rooting for the show. The program has a great premise that could be promising with some rejiggering, but the show was so rushed that the experts were barely able to scratch the surface before moving on to debunking the ridiculous "can a giant wall stop a tornado?" story and rolling the end credits.
Don't get me wrong: Drs. Doswell and Shepherd were great. The show would have been excellent if they'd had more than a couple of minutes to spit out as much as they could before the corporate buzzer went off and it was time to go back to this week's episode of Catching Hell. The way the network presented the show made it feel more like a forced public service rather than the "labor of love" it was billed just a few days ago.
I really hope that future episodes are allowed to stretch longer than the average YouTube video. This was the meteorological equivalent of a troubled politician throwing red meat to his base so they stop questioning his shady practices. Sadly, if this was The Weather Channel's plan, it worked! Most (if not all) of the weather geeks I follow who have been critical of The Weather Channel in recent years are fawning over WXGeeks, as if just a few minutes of "geek talk" makes up for Corporate Weather Channel slowly but steadily ruining Weather Weather Channel.
If The Weather Channel can air 14 straight hours of reality programming today — from 200PM today until 400AM tomorrow, according to TVGuide — then they can devote more than 10 minutes of airtime to actual weather experts talking about actual weather. In a phone call last week, network executives said that in the future they would consider expanding the show to an hour rather than 30 minutes. My suggestion would be to let the show actually run the full 30 minutes rather than cutting it off at 12:23 like they did today.
Still, it was just the first episode. Next week's program features Washington Post weather editor Jason Samenow discussing social media hype with Dr. Shepherd. We'll see if today's episode was a fluke or if WXGeeks is just a stub of an olive twig born from the fallout from the network's DirecTV debacle.
[Videos via The Weather Channel]