“And now, here’s Fritz Coleman with the weather.”
For nearly four decades, Los Angelenos came to know and love Fritz Coleman through his gig as the weather reporter on KNBC, where his affable demeanor (honed in his early years of stand-up comedy) made him a staple of local news. But when he retired from his weather gig two years ago, Coleman knew he wasn’t done working. “That 11 o’clock news kept me from a lot of things,” he recalls. “Now I could do all those things that massage my soul, be curious more, and discover more.”
That’s the impetus behind MEDIA PATH PODCAST, co-hosted by Fritz and Louise Palanker, veteran radio producer and documentarian. With 100 episodes released so far, MEDIA PATH is a look back at what has defined our media for the past half-century. With guests as eclectic as Congressional leader Adam Schiff, television legend Henry Winkler, Grammy winning songwriter Diane Warren, and “Double Dare” host Marc Summers, each week is a journey down a new path of remembering, learning, and reevaluating our shared memories and histories.
Every show includes discussion of current cultural events and recommendations from the hosts, as well as extended, deep-dive discussions with figures who have had meaningful and memorable impact on the media world we experience. While many of the subjects will be familiar to Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers, the spirit of inquisitiveness, curiosity, and sharing that Fritz and Louise bring to each episode will ring familiar to newer generations who may be hearing about these subjects, people, and stories for the first time.
For Louise Palanker, who has been producing radio entertainment for decades and successful podcasts since 2005, that sense of serious and thoughtful discovery and discussion is what drives the podcast: “We can rediscover the things that matter to us and celebrate what we love.” For Coleman, the show is a new way for him to share his passion and curiosity about the world in the same charitable spirit that earned him Congressional recognition as “Humanitarian of the Year” for his work with the American Red Cross. “It’s a great release valve of the pent-up energy from forty years of weather reporting,” he says.
And now – back to you Fritz and Louise, for more journeys on the MEDIA PATH.
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MEDIA PATH PODCAST marks 100 episodes of mapping popular culture and our shared historical memories
Even in a landscape where seemingly everyone has a podcast and YouTube channel, it’s still remarkable when any project reaches the milestone of 100 episodes. On the occasion of reaching that landmark for MEDIA PATH PODCAST, co-hosts Fritz Coleman and Louise Palanker reflect upon how the show continues to fuel their passion for great conversations about meaningful subjects.
“In a soundbite society, everything is always short answers, and there’s never enough time to think about things,” says Coleman, who joined the podcasting world after retiring from 39 years as one of Los Angeles’ most beloved local weather reporters. “With MEDIA PATH, we can really flesh out the subjects that we find interesting and compelling.” Adds co-host Louise Palanker, veteran radio producer (she co-founded Premiere Radio Network) and documentarian (“Family Band: The Cowsills Story”): “It’s very exciting to be able to go on a discovery – a path to educate, inform, and entertain yourself. We like that as a throughline – we’re all on a media path, where one thing leads to the next, we like putting it together.”
That path can vary widely from one week to the next, as Coleman points out. “A couple of weeks ago we had an interview with TV producer Marty Krofft, who created ‘H.R. Pufnstuf,’” he explains, “and then we just completed an episode where we talked with political biographer Ira Shapiro, who wrote a book on the US Senate in the era of Mitch McConnell.” Indeed, a look at each episode’s subject reflects the somewhat peripatetic (or as the kids say “random”) nature of the show. From Emmy-winner Henry Winkler to congressional leader Adam Schiff; from “Dateline” host Keith Morrison to presidential son Michael Reagan; from songwriter Diane Warren to Butch Patrick from “The Munsters”; each week’s episode is unique in subject, always guided by the natural curiosity and measured tastes of the co-hosts.
MEDIA PATH PODCAST emerged as a reality early in 2020, when Coleman approached retirement from his unexpectedly successful 39-year career with KNBC News. “That 11 o’clock news kept me from a lot of things – helping my kids with their homework, the kind of charity work I wanted to do,” he remembers. “Now, in retirement, I could do all of those things that massage my soul, can be curious more, discover more.”
Louise Palanker has known Fritz Coleman for decades, having helped to produce two of Coleman’s solo performance shows, and has always wanted to do a bigger project with him. A veteran radio producer who made the move into podcast production in 2005, Palanker also has a background in stand-up comedy, and put together her first comedy podcast, “Weezy and Swish” (with Laura Swisher), out of a homemade studio.
“Fritz would have been my first choice for a project, but he couldn’t because of his contract,” she explains. Then, a few months before Coleman’s retirement, Palanker knew it was time to act. She considered inserting Coleman into the production of a show she was producing with other comedians, but realized she wanted to do something more suited to Coleman’s affable personality. With the onset of the Covid pandemic changing production requirements, Palanker stepped away from the other podcast to concentrate full-time on creating and developing MEDIA PATH with Coleman.
“It’s a great release valve for the pent-up energy from 40 years of weather reporting,” says Coleman. As he has often recounted, in the early 1980s, Coleman was an aspiring stand-up comedian who was spotted by a KNBC news producer who had the strange idea of employing a comedian to report the weather rather than a meteorologist (something Coleman concedes would never happen today). Coleman certainly made the most of the opportunity, and he’s grateful that in addition to being a steady working gig, it gave him the chance to develop new professional and personal skills. “One thing I absolutely learned how to do was to interview people,” he says of his TV news years. “I would interview people about the Rose Parade, or whatever, but it meant producing a mini-story, doing careful research, putting the pieces together, so MEDIA PATH makes use of those interviewing skills, for sure.”
Palanker works with a small staff to help create each week’s episode, herself responsible for much of the preparation and research that accompanies each show. The show is recorded with live interviews on Tuesdays, production overseen by an audio engineer and video mixer. In addition to the audio-only podcast, each episode is also a visual recording of the conversation which includes images and other material curated by Palanker and shared via YouTube. Professional technical work is key: “You need to understand what people are saying and not be distracted,” so post-production audio mixing and video editing are jammed into a Wednesday’s worth of work as Palanker puts on the final touches and releases the audio-only podcast and video for the public on Thursday.
Given their background in topical stand-up comedy and shared passion and curiosity for all kinds of subjects – and a strong desire to reflect on important issues and artifacts of the current moment – each program starts off with a recommendation from each host about what they are watching, reading, or paying attention to. Then, guests join the hosts for extended, long-form conversations that allow room for digression, context, nuance, and investigation.
Palanker has always seen Coleman as a “natural” storyteller and conversationalist: “People know he is clever, bright and interesting, even in a situation where he’s just telling us whether or not we should wear a jacket outside…he has the ability to make basic information fun and entertaining. But if you’ve seen his live shows, they are so much more than just stand-up – he can make people laugh, and cry, and talk about what they saw when they get home.”
“Louise brings an intellectual curiosity about everything,” Coleman says of his co-host. “She’s a political junkie, loves film and TV, really loves reality TV. That always makes the conversation fun, because I am always trying to keep up with her.”
Both hosts admit that they see their show as primarily aimed at Baby Boomers and Generation X, with many of their interview guests reflecting the pop culture landscape of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. But far from being simply a nostalgic “remember when,” MEDIA PATH manages to bring the past alive and allow those in the conversation to honestly assess the value and meaning of our history in a current context. In that sense, it fits right into the “sharing” culture of younger generations, where the connection between people is forged by the way they curate and promote the things they care about through digital and social media.
More than just a “like” on a social media feed, MEDIA PATH gives listeners the opportunity to see these cultural figures from many different perspectives. It’s where Fritz and Louise can talk about watching “The Staircase” as both a documentary film on Netflix and a scripted series on HBO in order to speculate about the problems of documenting real life. It’s where Fritz can ask Pat Boone directly about the long-held opinion that Boone “stole” popular music from performers of color in the early days of rock-and-roll.
“I think it’s about reminding people of what they love, and why they love it,” says Palanker. “We used to experience all of these things on our own. But if you found someone at the record store looking in the same bin, it connected you. Now, we have access to each other, and we can rediscover these things that mattered to us and celebrate what we love – not in isolation anymore, but together.”