When anchorman Stan Miller mysteriously walked away from his six-figure gig on KUSI's morning show last year, he complained of chest pains and announced that he'd "hit the wall," a result of the relentless rigors of local TV news.
"I stayed in TV way too long, and I only did it for the money," he told a San Diego Union-Tribune reporter. "At some point in life, money doesn't mean all that much anymore."
Miller found God and went to work for a Santee ministry, which aided the general impression that he had gone wacko. Others inside the business simply chalked it up to another casualty of life at KUSI, where Rod Luck wanders the halls doing fart jokes and management finds innovative ways to screw with news staffers.
Whatever his reason for leaving, Miller-who "stayed in TV too long" and "only did it for the money"-evidently decided, after careful consideration, that the man-whore TV gig isn't so bad after all. He's now back on the air, the new main dude for KFMB-TV (Channel 8), looking serious and raising an eyebrow at just the right moment.
Miller told the Union-Tribune that Channel 8 is "working around my ministry," which suggests that he won't have much time to be trolling the mean streets jacking up sources for those big journalism scoops. In the interview, Miller apparently didn't mention any deep-rooted desire to expose scandals and sleazebag politicians in his new job, but he noted that "the hours are great."
Miller replaces stud newsreader Michael Tuck, who slides over to KUSI, the retirement home for local TV news personalities. Tuck was KFMB's main dude for five years. Tuck kicked butt in San Diego in the post-Ron Burgundy generation before heading to the big leagues of L.A., where he never was able to captivate the masses with his friendly chuckle and unnerving ability to make a traffic accident on I-5 sound like the first sign of the apocalypse.
Channel 8 management had gotten on all fours and barked like a dog to woo Tuck, convinced that pairing him with a couple of soccer moms who could read would help them whoop ass on those pansies at Channel 10. But the plan went awry and San Diegans never got around to setting their TiVos to ensure they never missed Tuck reading the lead-in for the in-depth reports on topics like bath soap that "can save your life."
So, adios, Señor Tuck, who will no longer get to wear the black turtle neck of KFMB's slick image ads, which make the station's news team look like extras on the set of a "Sprockets" sketch on Saturday Night Live.
By the time KFMB announced Miller's hiring, any mention of Tuck was already excised from the Channel 8 website. KUSI would have made a big deal about hiring Tuck on its website, except it doesn't have an active, updated website. Welcome to KUSI, Mikey.
Within the industry, KUSI is known as the place anchors go when they no longer care about their career and all they really want to do is stay in San Diego and occasionally get invited to host Rotary Club luncheons.
For Tuck, KUSI is going to be a big reunion party, as he gets reacquainted with the station's array of TV news personalities once considered successful. He'll likely team up again with anchor-bot Kimberly "Kimbo" Hunt, his former sidekick at Channel 10. Back in their heyday, when people actually cared, unconfirmed rumors that Tuck and Hunt were regularly making the naked pretzel became fodder for public discourse, which should spice up KUSI Christmas parties.
KUSI's crack management squad, led by vertically challenged station owner Mike McKinnon, known affectionately in some circles as "that li'l prick," is clearly hoping that anchors who worked in 1987 will kick ass in 2004, which passes for big thinking in the TV news game.
Of course, that's what Channel 8 management believed, and now they're banking on Miller, a guy widely viewed as an amiable doofus. But he is recognizable, which is apparently all that really matters in San Diego TV news.
Miller didn't exactly burn up the airwaves during his first stint at Channel 8. When he returned to San Diego to do the KUSI morning show, he displayed a bit of actual personality, thanks to sidekick Laura Buxton, who could make a Pet Rock seem personable. But it was hard for even the most casual of viewers not to notice that Miller seemed to have a few bulbs missing from the chandelier.
Nevertheless Channel 8 clearly believes a Bible-thumping empty suit is the perfect news host for the era of George W. They've decided that Miller is the kind of square-jawed hunk who will draw the big ratings, and prod all those Oprah-watching moms-the main audience for local TV news these days-to tune in and reach for their vibrators.
Of course, this is the same brain trust that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on bland newsreader Denise Yamada. And it's the same management that dumped Yamada and spent the big bucks on Tuck.
Now they've decided that Miller is the man to lead their journalistic charge, providing a strong intro to their reports on waterskiing cats and liposuction breakthroughs.
If nothing else, Miller's hiring leads to a fairly logical question, which seems to be eluding Channel 8's owners: At what point do you keep the staff and fire management?
Write to MsBeak1@aol.com and editor@SD citybeat.com.