Six-and-a-half years after he said goodbye to local TV viewers, Mike Ahern returns to the air with a half-hour interview show he jokingly describes as "a cross between Charlie Rose and Maury Povich."
Mike Ahern: One on One, which premieres at 10:30 p.m. Thursday on WNDY (Channel 23), will feature the longtime WISH (Channel 8) anchorman talking with local and national celebrities, politicians and entrepreneurs. Scheduled first is Gov. Mitch Daniels.
"It's going to be more of a let's-get-to-know-this-person show," Ahern said. "We know what the person has done, we know where he or she is at this point in their career. What can we find out? How did Mitch Daniels get from North Central High School to the Statehouse? What was the road he took, lessons learned, that sort of thing. Primarily, I want to know what makes people tick."
Ahern, now 72, spent 37 years as an anchorman, telling viewers about "the typical tractor accident in Seymour." Tired of the repetitive nature of TV news – "I still think it's bloated with too much hype ... but I admire the people who are doing it, the incredible workload they're carrying" – he finished up in December 2004. He spent several years happily retired. But when the economy bottomed out, he decided he needed to go back to work.
His first post-retirement job was a daily three-minute arts and entertainment feature on WIBC-FM (93.1), which he did for a year. That ended abruptly in February when the sponsor, the Carmel Performing Arts Center, pulled its advertising.
He didn't want to go back to TV news. In talks with WISH general manager Jeff White, they came up with the idea of an interview show to air on Channel 8's sister station.
"It doesn't have to be local, it doesn't have to be news," Ahern said. "I'd like to make it as topical, as news-driven, as we can. Hopefully, not the standard issues show."
Plans call for the show to be taped at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and broadcast three hours later (with encores at 7 p.m. Saturdays), and to have a single guest.
But plans can change. The governor wasn't available this Thursday, so they scheduled his interview to be recorded on Tuesday. Ahern hopes Daniels doesn't announce his presidential ambitions on Wednesday, "or we have a tape that's worthless for Thursday."
Although the name of the show is One on One, Bob and Tom are the scheduled second-week guests. So that'll make Ahern's show "One on Two."
And although he hopes to keep the show local, CNN's Anderson Cooper and, possibly, Larry King are future guests.
"We want to keep it as local as we can, but any time a celebrity's in town, we can bend our rules," Ahern said. "We don't have any rules, actually. It's just a matter of who's interesting and what kind of story they have to tell."