Auditions Begin for WPIX New Co-Anchor as Ratings Continue to Falter

By JERRY BARMASH
(@jerrybarmash)

UngerThe process is underway at WPIX. Executives are in search for that perfect on-air tandem to combine with Tamsen Fadal on evening newscasts.

As we reported earlier this month, news director Mark Effron told staffers that he wants to find a co-anchor for Fadal at 5 and 10 p.m.

Tuned In has learned exclusively that WPIX has auditioned several would-be candidates, male and female, for the position. Also of note, it was a second try for the female anchors, who also were brought in to succeed Jodi Applegate.

One of the most bizarre candidates is actor/comedian Brian Unger (top). Insiders say the charter correspondent on The Daily Show from 1996 to 1999 auditioned for the anchor role on the real newscast earlier this month.

One source cracks, “You have a station tanking and this is the best they can come up with?”

Unger, who has appeared in several TV shows and movies, does have some minor news experience. He was a fill-in host for Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC.

Unger, who hosts How the States Got Their Shapes on the History Channel, provides commentary for NPR’s All Things Considered.

A 21st Century Renaissance man, Unger’s commentaries have also appeared in The New York Times, and he’s written a book review for the Washington Post.

A spokesperson confirms Unger is one of several people who auditioned at PIX.

The pressure to find that second anchor in the evening is likely spurred by WPIX’s poor ratings.

The year-to-year numbers show the 10 p.m. broadcast down slightly to .7 in the key demo–adults 25 to 54 years old, while the 5 p.m. had just a .3 for May.

“The talk now is that maybe Fadal can not stack up against the competition and bringing in a co-anchor may not be enough,” the source says.

Effron has already implemented numerous changes to the newscast and talent. Yesterday, we reported that Kaity Tong will now have Dan Mannarino as her co-anchor on weekends.

“I don’t think the visual dynamic has a chance in hell of working,” an insider says. “People who watch and have been fans of Kaity’s for years will not want to understand or appreciate what Dan brings to the anchor desk.”

Sources say the continuing ratings downturn maintains an air of uncertainty at PIX.

“Staffers are already not buying what Effron is doing. Many say he seems over his head,” the source says.

That source adds that GM Eric Meyrowitz and Effron “were given a mandate” to improve the ratings, but “it seems to be getting worse.”
Photo: imdb.com

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