KCET control room in Burbank. LA Observed file photo
KCET is billing the upcoming resumption of "SoCal Connected" as the sixth season of the award-winning news series, but the show that debuts on May 14 will be much different. "A new look, format and group of reporters," the station acknowledges, with content that looks more like the KCET website than the hard news that the station's TV audience expected. Host Val Zavala and senior producer Linda Burns return — veterans of the "SoCal Connected" that won a Peabody and two duPont Awards, 20 local Emmys, two dozen Golden Mike awards and almost four dozen LA Press Club trophies. (They even go back to KCET's prior signature news series, "Life and Times.") But the rest of the core crew is new, I believe. Executive producer Bret Marcus and many on his team dispersed when the previous version of "SoCal Connected" lost funding and went into uncertain hiatus early in 2013. Madeleine Brand, a co-host with Zavala at the end, now has a daily radio show on KCRW. Joining SoCal Connected is Zach Behrens, the former blogs editor at KCET who is now digital Editor-in-Chief, and who will be the series' multimedia executive producer. Cara Santa Maria, the former Huffington Post Live host, will be the science correspondent. New reporters include Derrick Shore and Jennifer Sabih.
Half-hour episodes will air Wednesday nights at 8 p.m., then repeat Fridays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6:30 p.m.
"The new format marks a major change from the previous seasons by taking SOCAL CONNECTED out of the studio and into the community," KCET says. "The series will emphasize coverage of the environment, health, government and local arts and culture. The creation of a multimedia production team with television journalists working in tandem with web producers will maximize the audience experience and develop deeper community connections."
The biggest new sponsor is Chapman University, which put up $200,000 for the season, according to KCET. The Ahmanson Foundation and the MaddocksBrown Foundation are also backers. KCET had announced in January that the Ahmanson Foundation had provided a $1 million grant for a new season.