Wednesday, October 15, 2014


The Thinking Milwaukeean’s Monster Moderator

In Milwaukee in early 1958, WITI-TV had invested in what many local affiliates had gotten in on—packages of films from movie studios that they would be allowed to play to enjoy the ratings that these films were getting in other cities around the country.

These packages were sent to affiliates with information and suggestions on how to promote and program around the movies and with certain packages came ideas to stir up the audiences and pull in viewers.  Among the suggestions was the idea that a charismatic host would help.

Now WITI’s program director happened to see a play in which local actor Bob Hersh was appearing in “The Desperate Hours”.  In Hersh, the director saw the host he wanted for his shows.

Hersh wasn’t interested at first, seeing the role as uninteresting.  But eventually, and after some back and forth, they settled on a character named “The Advisor”, who would give advice to the audience based on current events, the movie show, and more.  It was a take-off on the role a Family Councelor/ Pre-Need Funeral Planner would play.

He didn’t want to merely copy the ideas of others, and so he didn’t use a macabre set and he didn’t hide behind ghoulish make-up.  So, while the show opened with him in a standing coffin, and the camera panned in for a creepy close up, the rest of the show was decidely less dramatic.

He would usually be sitting at a desk, with a sign that read “The Advisor” while he played his part.  The unusual addition to this scene was a monkey named “Sancho” who sat on his shoulder and sometimes roamed around.

The title of the show was “Shock” (the same name as the package of films “Son of Shock” was the second package, seriously) and it was on Friday nights at 11:30 pm.  “Double Shock” ran in prime-time at 9:30 pm Saturday nights.  The shows made Hersh extremely popular and WITI recieved tons of letters each week asking for membership cards for its horror club.

The next year, when WITI affiliated with CBS, the shows ended and “The Advisor” stopped advising in March of 1959.

WXIX went back on the air in July of 1959 it was as an independent station and so Larry Turet, who was the program director at WITI, asked Bob to return in the role of “The Advisor” to host mystery films on Friday and Saturday nights.  “The Advisor’s Mystery Theater” was broadcast using a single fixed camera in a 10’ X 12’ studio atop the Schroeder Hotel in downtown Milwaukee.

Tom Snyder (who would go on to host the “Tomorrow” show and later, “The Late Late Show”) was a young and out of work broadcaster who knew Hersh and ended up working for the show.  He wrote a number of scripts for it.

Hersh left the program in January of 1960 and never hosted again.  He went on to become a lawyer, getting his degree from Marquette, and having a practice near Milwaukee since 1964 before passing away in April of 2006.

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