5 Questions with...Sun-Times' Paige Wiser

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5 Questions with...Sun-Times' Paige Wiser

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.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 everyones favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, 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 weeks guesta standout journalist who actually gets paid to watch TV for a livingshes a veteran staff member of the Chicago Sun-Times who now provides the latest entertainment news and on-going critiques for the wonderful world of televisionshes also a working mom with two small children who would just love to get a break from watching Dora the Explorer for the ten millionth timehere are 5 Questions withPAIGE WISER!

BIO: Paige Wiser is the resident TV critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. She has worked at the Sun-Times since 1994, in a variety of capacities. Over the years, she has written columns devoted to late-night cable movies ("Camera Obscura"), celebrity biographies ("BioFeedback"), and fringe entertainment ("Contrary to Popular Opinion"). She also penned a popular Sunday column, entitled Planet Paige, that looked at the quirkier side of the news.

Paige earned her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Notre Dame, and her master's in journalism from Northwestern University. She grew up in the northwest suburbs, dabbled in an urban lifestyle for a few storied years, and then packed up her all-black wardrobe for the inevitable move back to the suburbs.

Her husband, Jim Wiser, is the producer of "The Greg Jarrett Show" on WGN Radio AM 720. A busy mom with two kids, Paige usually does most of her writing at 4 a.m.

1) CSNChicago.com: Paige, as you are well awareas the world is well aware, our citys very own Oprah Winfrey just began her farewell TV season this week. In your opinion, when she finally does sign off for the last time, at least in this chapter, of her unprecedented television career next spring, how much of a void does she truly leave behind in the TV entertainment industry and do you think her departure will have a positive or negative effect on other existingfuture daytime talk shows?

Wiser: Personally, I think Ill be all right. I never had an Oprah phase, and right around the time she was touting the magic of The Secret, I began to feel like her influence could be dangerous. Thank God she uses her powers for good. If I may quote Breakfast at Tiffanys and I do, way too often Shes a phony, but shes a real phony. You know why? Because she honestly believes all this phony junk that she believes.

Shell definitely leave a void, and I think itll be fun to see who will fill it. Nobody saw Oprah coming, and now that our supreme tastemaker is onto greener pastures, Im hoping some visionary will reinvent daytime. There was a time when you could depend on reruns of Murder, She Wrote and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer to get you through the day, but lately, it doesnt seem like it could get any worse.

2) CSNChicago.com: With the fall TV season about to get underway, what season-ending cliff hangers from the end of last season are you most looking forward to seeing be resolved in the next few weeks?

Wiser: The art of the cliff hanger! I try to end each day with one.

The Big Bang Theory: Jim Parsons nabbed a well-deserved Emmy, and now his character seems to have met his match in Mayim Bialik, who will be back this season. Yes, Blossom! I also would have accepted Winnie from The Wonder Years, as shes so talented in math in real life.

Gossip Girl: I happen to be insanely attracted to Chuck (Ed Westwick), who was shot in the last episode. He could only improve with a mysterious scar. And Blair and Serena took off for Paris, so Im really just hoping for some dressing-room montages. I am a woman of simple pleasures.

The Office: Michael (Steve Carell) was on the verge of true love by asking for his sweetie Holly (Amy Ryan) to be transferred back. Dorks in love! Did you notice that Holly had a picture of Ed Grimley as her computer desktop?

Glee: Its not a perfect show, but its interesting to see how its evolving. I dont think anybody can bear the wait for the Britney Spears episode. And in real life, Puck (Mark Salling) and Santana (Naya Rivera) have already hooked up and broken up, so Ill be watching for some tension there. Plus - John Stamos as a dentist!

FlashForward: Well, it was canceled. But I would have been looking forward to it.

3) CSNChicago.com: With the onslaught of many new TV shows premiering this fall, tell us your five favorites so far that youre fairly certain will be a big hit with viewers this season.

Wiser: I make no claims about predicting hits the viewing audience has surprised me time and again (see: Two and a Half Men). But these are my five favorites:

Hawaii Five-0

Its folly to remake any show in any form (I guess puppetry would be funny), but I loved this. I love Scott Caan in anything; I think hes the arbiter of cool. And we get to hear Alex OLoughlin (basically a poor mans Keanu Reeves) say to him, Book em, Danno!

Raising Hope

Its Malcolm in the Middle, its Raising Arizona, its Martha Plimpton and malapropisms (philostrophical). Its Cloris Leachman wandering around in her bra. A financially (and somewhat mentally) challenged family tries to raise a baby without killing it.

Undercovers

Weve seen a lot of CIA actioners, enough that its a shocker that the agency can still function. We know all their secrets! But Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe are hot as a married spy team who have to report to a very gruff Gerald McRaney.

Hellcats

The Bring It On movie series is one of my weaknesses, so Im beside myself that I can expect cheer drama on a WEEKLY BASIS. Ashley Tisdale is underrated (by adults, at least), and well get to see the sweater monkeys make the case that theyre a serious sport.

The Defenders

Didnt want to like it. Didnt want to see Jim Belushi with another hot wife, didnt want to see Jerry OConnell in a bad suit. But theyre hysterical together as a legal team based on a pair of real Vegas lawyers.

4) CSNChicago.com: What would you consider to be the biggest mega pre-hyped shows in TV history that absolutely bombed with viewers?

Wiser: You have to know how heartbroken I was about Melrose Place being remade. The show had a very special place in my heart, and introduced communal viewing to an entire generation. I wanted the magic back. And it was just . . . the same set, really. But Katie Cassidy is a find. Id also be remiss in not mentioning Cop Rock. And The Ropers, maybe?

5) CSNChicago.com: Finally, lets shift to sports for this one. Who do you consider to be the greatest television game announcer in Chicago sports history?

Wiser: I do not have the section of the brain that responds to sports. At all. So I asked my husband, so who says, Before the days of Pat Foley, Blackhawks play-by-play announcer Lloyd Petit was the best. Len Kasper and Bob Brenly are very good, too.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you would like to plug Paige? Tell us, CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it

Wiser: Oh gosh, not really. I have a 6-year-old and a 5-year-old who have caught WAY too many scenes from Dexter, Rescue Me and True Blood. I will say that being a TV critic, you actually see less TV than youd like to; there are so many advance DVDs to review that its hard to keep up with, say, Big Brother minutiae. Also, the job is really not good for the metabolism.

Wiser LINKS:

Chicago Sun-TimesPaige Wiser columns

Chicago Sun-TimesThe TV Paige blog

Paige Wiser on Facebook

Paige Wiser on Twitter

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Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

[MORE BEARS: Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved]

Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”