Actors produce home show series that lands as first local series on emerging Pax Ch. 38

If you’ve always wanted a peek inside the homes of morning radio DJ’s Mancow Muller of Q101 or Mike North of The Score, your chance is here, via the celebrity house tour show “Sweet Homes Chicago.”

The first local, non-paid series on Pax network affiliate Ch. 38 is in the middle of its first 13-week run, Fridays at 4:30 p.m.

Each week actor and host Chris Marrs guides viewers into the abodes of local celebs like late Sun- Times columnist Irv Kupcinet and musicians Jim Peterik (of Survivor) and Alice Peacock.

“All the responses we’ve gotten have been very encouraging,” said Marrs, who produces with Aaron Walters through their Red Planet Media.

“We expect to go back into production in the next month to six weeks. They’ve thrown different ideas at us, such as running the show multiple times a week.”

Marrs originally conceived the show two years ago as a segment for the Fox morning news. After his friends at Ch. 32 told him he ought to do a half hour show, Marrs joined with former improv partner Walters to form Red Planet.

With backing from Marrs’ parents they began shooting episodes on spec, with gear and freelance crews from Walters’ friends at Picture This Entertainment, and cutting at Rox Box Films.

In October 2003 they bought a time slot on Ch. 26 and ran their Mike North episode. “Mike talked about it on the air and we got pretty good numbers for paid programming,” Marrs recalled. “But we realized we weren’t going to be able to keep it going without a partnership with a station.

“If you have the resources or the sponsors lined up there is an incredible amount of opportunity in the Chicago market for quality paid programming,” Marrs insisted. “But sponsors weren’t willing to come onboard until we got some numbers behind us, and we weren’t in a position to keep it going on our own.”

Walters and Marrs started pitching the show around town, and finally landed interest with Ch. 38 sales director Lawrence Greenspon. Greenspon championed the show to general manager Larry Wert and program director Toni Falvo of Ch. 5, which owns Ch. 38, and on Sept. 3 “Sweet Home Chicago” took over its timeslot from “Bonanza” reruns.

“They were eager to see if something else might work. Pax is still relatively new in Chicago and they’re still figuring out what the station can be,” Marrs said. (Ch. 38 was the outlet for The Total Living Network before owner Jerry Rose sold it to Pax for $20 million.)

“I’d like ?Sweet Homes Chicago’ to become an asset for PAX and help that station grow. They’re taking a chance with us.”

Marrs, who has had supporting roles in “Mr. 3000,” “ER” and “Mind of the Married Man,” splits his time between Chicago and Los Angeles. He sees his “Sweet Homes” experience as a model for independent producers breaking into the industry.

“As TV becomes more of a niche medium and national cable networks gobble up all the reruns, I believe local programming will be the wave of the future for local independent stations,” Marrs mused. “Filmmakers in Chicago really have a major opportunity to create good local programming.”


– by Ed M. Koziarski,