You wouldn’t think that hosting a daily television show would allow someone to achieve proper home and work balance, but that’s exactly how it has worked out for Melissa Forman, co-host of You and Me
This Morning on WCIU-TV in Chicago (5-9am).
“I’ve always loved doing mornings because I feel like I’m not missing anything at home,” she points out. “I’m working while my family is sleeping. As they get older it’s getting a little bit more frustrating because they’d obviously rather not have their mom go to bed at 8 or 8:30PM, but overall, this has really afforded me the opportunity to balance work and family. I’m home to make dinner for them. It’s a really, really nice balance.”
Forman and co-host Jeanne Sparrow not only have a chance to balance their lives, they normally aren’t shy about sharing details about them. “I’ve been doing this for twenty years – telling stories about my kids and family is something that’s totally normal to them. They’ve grown up this way. It’s in our DNA. When I first started working with Jeanne, I realized that she has a few boundaries – and that was a bit of an adjustment for me because I have none (laughs).”
Forman and Sparrow have an obvious chemistry on the air, and that came very naturally. “When I met Jeanne, we realized immediately that we had similar senses of humor and ways of looking at things, and when we recently met (new contributor) Jonathan Hansen we had the same reaction. We just sort of hit it off immediately.” The three of them not only have similar senses of humor. They have a similar career background, which has had a definite impact on the type of show they do. “We come from radio backgrounds,” Melissa points out, “and that will never leave us. I mean there are moments when we just let it all hang loose, and I’m sure people are thinking, ‘I can’t believe they just did that!’
But that comes from our radio heritage. It’s a slightly looser environment than a scripted type of television show. Whatever happens, happens. Wherever it goes, it goes. That’s what I love about it. Jeanne and I are not that great at keeping time, so we get a lot of ‘Wrap it up, wrap it up, wrap it up’ signs (laughs), but that’s also because we’re very spontaneous.”
And they’re also very cognizant of keeping it light and upbeat. “I like to say we’re news without the blues,” Melissa says. “We try our best – although sometimes the news does dictate that we cover more serious issues – and sadly lately that has been the case in Chicago. Other than that, we’re just being goofy. And we’re just who we are.”
Despite the upbeat approach, there are also no illusions about the difficulties the show faces in making its mark in this crowded morning television landscape. “We’re not really looking around or worrying about the other shows that are up against us,” Forman admits. “We’re more focused on us. This is such a different thing here – we’re the first morning show Weigel Broadcasting (owner of WCIU-TV) has had, and we’re breaking new ground because of that. We just try to do our best work and do what we think people want or need to see in the morning. We don’t compare – we can’t, really. The other shows are established and have been around, and on stations that have done morning shows forever.
There’s no pressure on us because of that.” Despite their humble beginnings, they certainly haven’t had a difficult time attracting guests. “We do get quite a few celebrities coming through our doors,” Melissa points out. “Every day there’s a different one, and we’re allowed to have fun with them. The Wayan Brothers were in not too long ago. We worked with Regis [Philbin] for a while last September. Working with Regis was such a pleasure.” And recently, Gilbert Gottfried came into the studio, and launched into one of the funniest five or six minute spontaneous rants that you’ll ever see. It ended with Gottfried explaining in graphic detail how (fellow WCIU-TV personality) Svengoolie ended up with two black eyes.
But that’s part of the charm of working for WCIU-TV. Despite the nationwide success of the ME-TV brand, and the emerging national appeal of their Decades network, Weigel Broadcasting (owner of WCIU) is still a family run business, and everyone who works there, according to Forman, is treated like family. “I love that part of this,” Melissa says. “I absolutely love it. The first time I pulled into the building to park I ran into Norm Shapiro, the owner. He said ‘Hey Melissa! How are things going? Is there anything I can do for you?’ and I realized immediately that this was going to be a different environment. It’s pure joy.
To actually be able to communicate and express your point of view with the people who are calling the shots – and they care about every person that works there – it’s a completely unique environment. I think all of us that work there realize that situations like this are few and far between.”
– Rick Kaempfer