Think “The Office” meets “WKRP in Cincinnati,” perhaps: what happens when a small town religious radio station turns Top 40 – with the same staff to boot? That’s the premise behind “Tuned Out TV” created by Blair Peyton, with assistance from Christie Quackenbush and Bryan Hancock, among others. Peyton, the production manager for Fox Radio 910am, owned by his father Ben Peyton, was also a driving force behind the sketch comedy show “Funny Stuff,” which ran for four years on Cox Cable.
Eighteen episodes of Tuned Out TV have been filmed at the Fox Radio 910 studios in southeast Roanoke City; the winter finale aired on TunedOutTV.com this past Sunday. It’s also shown on a cable access television channel in New York City, where Peyton says three million viewers could potentially see Tuned Out TV.
A message from a woman in Upper Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood thanked them for “bringing something funny” to the cable outlet. Other feedback comes via twitter and Roanoker magazine named it the funniest free show of 2010. “I told everyone to vote for us,” Peyton chuckles.
“The more we started shooting it the more the humor got out there – a little risqué,” said Blair, a wannabe actor who laughs that “nobody has hired me yet.” He did appear as an extra in a movie shot at Explore Park this fall and took a turn on stage during Mill Mountain Theatre’s “Overnight Sensations” project last summer.
He originally wanted to film a pilot episode or two and pitch it to a television outlet like WDRL, but when that Roanoke independent station shut down he decided to go viral. “[Then we thought] maybe we should try to build up a following before we try to … sell it,” said Peyton. Tuned Out TV will take a break after the winter finale that aired for the first time last weekend, but it will return.
Tuned Out TV first aired over a year ago. When “Good God FM” is bought out, becoming “Pop FM” without a staff change, chaos and comedy ensues. “People are having a hard time adjusting to it, and it just kind of escalates from there,” notes Peyton, who writes each episode with input from the cast. There’s plenty of improvising as well. “If you have a funnier line than [the one written] throw it in there,” Peyton tells cast members.
Peyton, Quackenbush (the two also star in a weekly gabfest on Fox Radio 910), Hancock, Kristen Gainey and Becky May are the current headliners on Tuned Out TV, a half hour show which has also featured roles in story lines for people like Timothy Martin, a reporter/anchor for WFIR 960am. K-92’s Kevin Scott has a recurring role on the show as well.
Quackenbush’s character, Delores Grace, is a composite of people Peyton went to church with when Ben Peyton was a minister. “It’s nice having a father that was a pastor [for material],” said the younger Peyton. “Very religious but she’s kind …of a hypocrite,” he notes of the Delores Grace character.
Peyton plays the station manager, who is homosexual – but married to a woman. “Basically everyone on the show is an idiot.” Hancock is the station engineer “who doesn’t know how to fix a thing.”
Peyton doesn’t know where Tuned Out TV – he calls it a “soap satire,” might wind up taking the characters. “We just started out with a premise and a few story ideas.” The curious will just have to follow the gang on tunedouttv.com. “We just [will see] where it takes us.”