It's been three years since comedian-newscaster Larry Himmel launched a home-grown half-hour daily comedy series, a television first in San Diego.
"San Diego at Large," on KFMB Channel 8, which Himmel hosts, has a decidely wacky point of view and often satirizes television, San Diego, its environs and denizens through visits to local communities and through features such as its tongue-in-cheek "Eye Witless News" segment. It also has a serious side and carries profiles of those who help others.
But as the third year drew to a close, the show suffered a surprising ratings slippage in November. Thursday's 7:30 p.m. anniversary program is in part a response to the lower ratings. Except for a couple of taped commercials, the all-comedy show will be broadcast live before an invited studio audience--a first for the show.
As happens in television, the ratings drop caused a certain uneasiness among the 13-member staff, producer Dan Arden said.
"We got a 7 in Arbitron and a 6 in Nielsen," he said. "Last year, we had an 8 and a 7 (respectively). We were feeling a little bit down."
Last week, Himmel told viewers that they could write in to be invited to the live anniversary show. The station was deluged with 800 letters from as far north as Orange County, Arden said. "We only have 150 seats. We're feeling pretty optimistic now."