Chicago Fire

5 Questions with...Tribune's Maureen Ryan

52864.jpg

5 Questions with...Tribune's Maureen Ryan

CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with a new weekly feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This week...renowned television critic from the Chicago Tribune...a woman who is on the pulse of everything TV-related in her popular Tribune blog, The Watcher...here are 5 Questions withMAUREEN RYAN!

BIO: Maureen Ryan is the television critic for the Chicago Tribune. She was named to the post in 2006. Previously, she wrote about television, pop culture, media, the Internet and music for the Chicago Tribune.

Ryan began freelancing for the Tribune in 1992, writing about education issues and also reviewing music. Prior to joining the Tribune full-time, she worked for the magazines Chicago Enterprise and Cinescape, and she freelanced for Crains Chicago Business, RollingStone.com, the Chicago Reader, NewCity, Request and many other publications. She was also the founder and editor of the fanzine Steve Albini Thinks We Suck, which enlivened Chicagos music scene from 1994-1998.

In 2004, she started the Watcher blog (chicagotribune.comwatcher), which has become a major online destination for television fans and which gets several million page views ever year. The site has been nominated for an Editor and Publisher Espy Award and her work has been cited in Entertainment Weekly, Slate, Broadcasting and Cable and many other publications. She comments on television for NPR, MSNBC and other media outlets, and she has been a member of the American Film Institute's Top 10 TV Shows of the Year jury.

Ryan was born June 29, 1966 and grew up on the South Side of Chicago and in South Holland, IL. She graduated from Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, and in 1988, she graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a double major in English and psychology. She received a Masters in journalism from Northwestern University in 1993.

She lives in the suburbs with her husband and her son.

1) CSNChicago.com: Mo, there have been a number of sports-themed TV shows over the years (i.e. Friday Night Lights, Coach, Arli and even Cheers with its lead character being an ex-athlete working in a sports bar). With such an enthusiastic, sports-fixated society we live in, how come there arent more scripted sports-themed programs out there or do you think Friday Night Lights is just that good that networks are afraid to challenge it?

Ryan: I think it's hard to get network audiences interested in a sports program if the public thinks the show is just about sports. I cannot tell you how many people told me, "I'm not watching 'Friday Night Lights,' it's just about football" or "'Friday Night Lights' must just glorify Texas football culture." What took people forever to understand was that it was just a drama about flawed people, some of whom played or coached sports. And as someone who likes, but is not obsessed with sports, "FNL" helped me understand why people do become obsessed with athletics, as an escape from their lives or just as a release that can be incredibly exciting.

Bottom line, I think that shows that have a sports theme are hard sells, and the hard road that "FNL" has had to travel has unfortunately not made the networks any more prone to taking risks. However, FX has commissioned a scripted series about guys who plays fantasy sports, and I may just have to let them know that if they need a consultant, my husband is available.

2) CSNChicago.com: With a new fall TV season upon us, in your opinion, what separates a good TV series from a great TV series?

Ryan: Nuanced characters and the ability to surprise me are qualities that link many of my favorite shows. "The Shield," "Lost," "Battlestar Galactica," "Deadwood," "Mad Men," even "The Office" -- they all are about people I want to know better. Not all the characters on those shows are "good" people, but I think even pretty good people have a lot of flaws. The examination of the human condition, when it's linked to some intensely engrossing stories, is a pretty unbeatable combination. And I should add that most of those shows have really funny moments. Even in the darkest hour, it helps to have the ability to laugh at yourself.

3) CSNChicago.com: Name your top three all-time favorite sitcoms and top three all-time favorite dramas?

Ryan: Oh, I didn't realize these questions would involve torture. This is going to be very, very hard, but here goes:

Drama:

"Battlestar Galactica": Hey, aliens! Spacefights! What's not to love? Seriously, this was one of the great, meaty dramas of all time, and I still find myself missing the characters from this intense and exhilarating story of survival.

"Mad Men": I know this show is all the rage right now, and for good reason. It's full of amazing performances and story twists that you never see coming. Long may it be with us.

"Lost": Over the summer, at Comic-Con, I found myself misting up as I left the last-ever "Lost" panel at the yearly nerd fest. It may have had a few creative lulls, but what show has given us so much to talk about in its too-short lifespan? I'm already dreading the last episode of "Lost." I don't want it to be over. Maybe the polar bear can get a spin-off?

Comedy:

"Cheers": Who doesn't love watching endless reruns of this show? Simply the best character-based comedy of all time.

"The Office" (US & UK versions): Ha! I snuck in two choices in the form of one! Both versions of this comedy show the most mortifying and hilarious aspects of life, not just office life. Both are classics.

"MASH": Another classic. It wasn't the same toward the end, but this long-running sitcom had a subversive heart of gold.

4) CSNChicago.com: Even though wildly-popular competition-related reality shows such as American Idol and Dancing with the Stars continue resonate with viewers, do you think reality programming in general has reached its audience interest peak yet?

Ryan: I think reality has sort of plateaued. It'll always be part of the programming landscape, but it won't take over, as some feared it would a while back. To me, it's sad that reality TV is full of so many stereotypes now (the bully, the princess, the aw-shucks guy from the hinterland). When "Survivor" burst on to the scene, it was unpredictable and full of surprising characters. Now, most reality shows are more predictable than your average police procedural.

5) CSNChicago.com: As we all love to follow your TV industry updates on The Watcher blog, were curious to know many hours a week you actually watch television and, away from your job, what are some of your other interests in your downtime when youre not glued to the tube?

Ryan: Sad to say, but I watch a lot less TV than most people think I do. I try to watch at least one or two things during the workday, but I watch the majority of shows for work at night and on the weekends (let's hear it for my husband, who has to watch some pretty terrible stuff at times, and he doesn't even get paid to). I'd say on an average day I may watch about 3-4 hours of TV, at the most. Some days it's only about an hour.

When not watching TV, I hang out with my husband and son, try to see friends and family, garden and read. I'd say my next favorite pastime is reading novels, history and graphic novels.

CSNChicago.com: Thanks Mo, we truly appreciate your time. Check back with us on Wednesday, September 30 for the next installment of CSNChicago.coms 5 Questions with...!

Ryan LINKS:

Chicago TribuneThe Watcher blog

Maureen Ryan on Facebook

Maureen Ryan on Twitter

Podcast: How the playoff race is shaping up for the Fire

fire-pod-921.jpg
USA TODAY

Podcast: How the playoff race is shaping up for the Fire

The Fire have gone three games without a loss so Shane Murray (MLSsoccer.com) and Dan Santaromita discuss the team's recent performances and if the team is back to its best form.

Next, hear from Dax McCarty as he talked to reporters after training on Tuesday.

Finally, Dan and Shane give the latest on the lengthy Fire injury list and look at the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

High School Lites Week 5 football capsules and picks

hs_lites_promo.jpg

High School Lites Week 5 football capsules and picks

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school football games across Chicagoland on the Week 5 edition of High School Lites, Friday at 11 p.m. Can Cary-Grove beat Huntley in Huntley in one of the top Fox Valley Conference showdowns of the season? So who can get a leg up in the Interstate 8 Large conference race when Coal City visits Herscher? Can Lincoln-Way Central defeat the state's top ranked team when Lincoln-Way East comes down Route 30 on Friday night to take on Central in New Lenox? So who ya got: St. Rita or Mount Carmel?

Payton at Lindblom, 4:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Payton Prep (3-1), coached by George Klupchak, has an experienced team back this season. Keep an eye out for senior WR Eli Geleerd, who leads a deep group of skills along with senior OL/DL Ben Lohman. Lindblom (4-0) and head coach Justin Pressley also boast a speedy and explosive offense led by QB Bryce O'Walker plus senior WR CJ Rutherford (Indiana State). Can the Payton defense slow down the Eagles passing attack?

EDGY's Pick: Lindblom 31, Payton Prep 26

Bartlett at (2) Prairie Ridge, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Prairie Ridge (4-0) gets a rare non-conference opponent this week in hosting Bartlett (1-3). Prairie Ridge is starting to hit their midseason stride as QB Samson Evans ran for five touchdowns and passed for another in a 56-13 win last Friday over Crystal Lake South. Bartlett struggled in slowing down South Elgin in last week's 37-15 loss. Can the Hawks defense contain the Wolves option attack?

EDGY's Pick: Prairie Ridge 45, Bartlett 14

(17) Cary-Grove at (20) Huntley, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: This is easily one of the top games all season in the Fox Valley Conference. Huntley (3-1) will feature a one-two punch on offense with seniors Eric Mooney (QB) and Melvin Aninagyei-Bonsu (RB). Cary-Grove (3-1) counters with senior RB Max Skol and a big, physical offensive line. The Trojans defense is also a big strength this fall. Can Huntley's offense extend drives and finish with points against the Cary-Grove defense?

EDGY's Pick: Cary-Grove 31, Huntley 30

Coal City at Herscher, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: A huge Interstate 8 (large school) conference showdown this week -- the biggest test of the year for both schools. Both Coal City (4-0, 2-0) and Herscher (4-0, 2-0) want to run the football. Class 4A-ranked Herscher will get the ball into the hands of QB Tyler Sarnagin and RB/LB Anthony Koranda while Coal City counters with RB Danny Norton and QB Payton Hutchins. Last possession wins?

EDGY's Pick: Herscher 28, Coal City 20

Plainfield North at Oswego East, 7 p.m. 

EDGY's Take: Plainfield North (3-1) is looking to recover from its Week 4 loss to Minooka and will rely heavily on the arm of senior QB Brady Miller. Oswego East (4-0) has been impressive so far but the schedule ramps up big time beginning this week with Plainfield North. Keep an eye on Oswego East senior WR/DB Antwain Walker (Illinois) along with junior QB/S Justin Clark. Can the Wolves raise their game against one of the Southwest Prairie's best teams? 

EDGY's Pick: Plainfield North 20, Oswego East 17

(1) Lincoln-Way East at Lincoln-Way Central, 7:30 p.m. #SendEdgy

EDGY's Take: Lincoln-Way East (4-0) has been on a roll all season. They’re the state's top-ranked team and they rely on a balanced offense led by senior QB Brendan Morrissey. They also feature one of the state's top defensive lines, anchored by Northwestern verbal commit DE Devin O'Rourke. Lincoln-Way Central (4-0) has continued to improve every season under head coach Jeremy Cordell. The Knights are also balanced on offense and will look towards their run game led by senior RB Matt Pollack, junior RB Justin Ellis and a very effective play action passing attack led by QB Sam Pipiras. Can Central's offense run the football consistently against the East defense? Can the East offense run the football against the Central defense? 

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way East 24, Lincoln-Way Central 21

(15) Mt. Carmel at St. Rita, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Mount Carmel (3-1) and St. Rita (3-1) are both looking to get a leg up in the CCL Blue standings with a win on Friday night. The Caravan and Hall of Fame head coach Frank Lenti could have senior QB Alek Thomas (TCU) back in the lineup after missing the first four games of the regular season due to participating in the Team USA U18 baseball tournament. St. Rita and head coach Todd Kuska will look to senior RB Chris Childers (Indiana State), senior QB Jake Zlyman and a defense that has made key stops all season. Can Mount Carmel's offense add a spark with Alek Thomas back under center? Can the St. Rita offense keep moving the football again this week against the Mount Carmel defense? 

EDGY's Pick: Mount Carmel 28, St. Rita 27

St. Joseph at St. Ignatius, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: St. Joseph (2-2) will look to rebound this week after a 21-0 loss to Chicago Hope. The Chargers and head coach Rich Petroski are looking to get back into the state playoffs after the school's historic season a year ago. Keep an eye on senior WR/DB Zach Ford for St. Joseph. St. Ignatius (3-1) was off to a good start this season but then ran into a buzzsaw last Friday in losing to Providence Catholic 35-6. Can St. Ignatius and QB Quinn Donath get the Wolfpack offense back on track this week?  

EDGY's Pick: St. Ignatius 31, St. Joseph 27

(5) Lake Zurich at Warren, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Lake Zurich (4-0) has relied on a quick hitting offense and a lights-out defense so far this season. The Bears will rely on senior RB/LB Joey Stutzman, senior QB Evan Lewandowski plus senior LB/RB Jack Sanborn (Wisconsin). Warren Township (4-0) and head coach Bryan McNulty have also played lights out defense. The Warren Township offense features WR Micah Jones (Notre Dame) and senior QB Ian Shilling. They have both been outstanding so far this season. Can the Lake Zurich offense dent the Warren Township defense? Can the Warren offense big play the stingy Lake Zurich defense? 

EDGY's Pick: Lake Zurich 21, Warren Township 14

VIEWERS' CHOICE: (24) Montini at Marmion Academy, 7:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Montini Catholic (3-1) and first year head coach Mike Bukovsky has settled on senior Nick Orlando at quarterback. The Broncos have rolled ever since. That includes last week's come from behind, last-second win over Brother Rice 29-28. Marmion Academy (4-0) and head coach Dan Thorpe will look to multi-sport standout senior QB Brandon McPherson. The Cadets also had a thrilling 34-31 OT win last Friday over Bishop McNamara. Can the Montini defense contain the Cadets and QB Brandon McPherson? Can the Cadets ramp up its game with first place in the Chicago Catholic Green on the line?

EDGY's Pick: Montini Catholic 27, Marmion Academy 17