John McGivern returns to PBS in 2023 with ‘Main Streets’ – read a Q&A!
October 19, 2022 Leave a Comment
PBS Wisconsin is excited to announce the return of actor, comedian and television host John McGivern to its schedule with the January 2023 premiere of John McGivern’s Main Streets.
Main Streets marks McGivern’s comeback to public television two years after the final season of Around the Corner With John McGivern – the Emmy Award-winning series that followed McGivern’s travels to different Wisconsin communities to celebrate their people, unique attractions, history and businesses. In its nine seasons, McGivern visited more than 100 communities and neighborhoods throughout the state.
Main Streets continues McGivern’s exploration of people and places, this time in six Upper Midwest states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana. PBS Wisconsin is proud to welcome John back to our air and streaming platforms, along with his new co-host Emmy Fink, former host of Discover Wisconsin and Outdoor Wisconsin. The all-new season of Main Streets includes visits to the Wisconsin communities of Dodgeville, De Pere and Milwaukee’s Menomonee River Valley.
The new series, produced by Plum Media in Milwaukee, also marks the continued collaboration between McGivern and his longtime producer, Lois Maurer, who worked with McGivern on Around the Corner.
Ahead of their return to public television, PBS Wisconsin spoke with McGivern and Maurer about Main Streets, what viewers can expect with the new season and how it feels to come home to public television.
John McGivern’s Main Streets is coming to PBS Wisconsin in January and will be available to stream from anywhere on the free PBS Video App on Roku, Apple TV, other digital devices, Smart TVs and everywhere you stream TV! Specific days and times will be announced later this year.
PBS Wisconsin: Why focus on main streets?
Maurer: Our show has never been about franchises; it’s not what we want to do. We like to do the locally owned and operated mom-and-pop businesses or the young girl who decided to make cupcakes in her kitchen and now has a bakery on main street. There’s more out there than you think. Some of these little dried up towns, all they need is a spark and two years later, they’re doing well. There’s a lot of interest in main street again — it’s that turn back from the mall and back to downtown that is serving us all very well.
McGivern: We’ll get to a place where Lois will say, ‘This town needs some paint,’ which I know exactly what she means. It means there’s an effort to create and to bring it back, but they just need a little help. We’ve been to a lot of these communities. So many of them feel like they’re making their way.
Maurer: And, they are proud of it. There’s always a good band of business owners that have a similar goal. They don’t feel like they compete with each other at all. There can be three coffee shops in town and they’re all friends. That’s what kind of makes those communities work.
PBS Wisconsin: How did you settle on the six Upper Midwest states in Main Streets?
Maurer: It had to be drivable and we just came up with the idea that it needed to be 300 miles from John’s front door in Milwaukee. We literally drew that circle and said, ‘Okay, if you were going to go 300 miles, where can we get to?’ We could get to six states! Wisconsin plus those five neighboring states. And the whole time that we did Around the Corner, you always kind of looked over that edge — you looked across the Mississippi River, up into the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan), down into Illinois. There was always an, ‘Oh, we’re not going to cross the line.’ I’ve gotta tell you, it’s kind of exciting to cross the line. It’s also exciting for our Wisconsinites to be able to go to these places and vice versa. Now all these people in all these states are watching even more and they’ll travel.
PBS Wisconsin: Tell us about your working relationship – how long have you known each other?
McGivern: Fourteen years. The first project we did, Milwaukee PBS covered the circus parade and they aired in 150-some markets live, and it was the last circus parade that went down the streets of town. Lois was the producer on that and she was assigned to me as the guy on the street who would, if something went wrong, they came to me and I would do an interview or talk about my time as a kid watching this parade. And, Lois was the producer and it was our first time ever having a meeting. Before, she wanted some packages that were produced. We went to the circus museum in Baraboo, and one of the first things she said to me was, ‘Put your head in that plastic lion.’ And I was like, ‘Who the…? You put your head in the plastic lion!’ I’m telling you, from that day of shooting those and seeing the completed packages that were really, really good, I knew her skills were remarkable. As my mom, who was alive then, said, ‘You need to hitch your wagon to that horse!’ And I have!
Maurer: His mother really did call me a horse.
PBS Wisconsin: What made you decide to pursue the new series?
Maurer: When Around the Corner ended, I was looking at John and saying, ‘Are you done doing this?’ Every once in a while you’ll get in that, ‘Ok, well, I’m done!’ mood. John will say, ‘I’m done!’ and then two weeks later he’s saying, ‘When can we shoot?’ We had to have a sense of ‘Do you want to go for this together? How do you want to go forward? How do you do this?’ … We needed to find a place that we could literally drop in, and that’s Plum Media.
PBS Wisconsin: Did you feel like an outsider visiting other states?
McGivern: You know, you cross a border and you don’t even know where the border is. When you do what you do, we ask people to share and celebrate what they know, which is either their job or their house or their downtown or their community, people want to share that. It feels the same.
PBS Wisconsin: The new season welcomes Emmy Fink as your co-host. Tell us about what she adds to the show.
McGivern: She’s as charming and self-deprecating as she is pretty, and she is the best. She took some of the history off my plate, she took some of the stand-ups off my plate, and the rapport is great. I just feel like it really filled out the show. I can’t wait to see what it looks like finished.
Maurer: We needed a little estrogen. Emmy brings that.
McGivern: She does. She was pregnant through most of the summer. She couldn’t come to locations so they filmed her, her location was her backyard for most of the summer. Then she had the baby and our last episode we finished yesterday, and we open with her baby in a nappy on me, so I’m carrying her baby and because the audience will have followed her pregnancy through the whole course of the season, I’m like, ‘We’re going to use your baby now.’ Emmy is great and she’s always television ready.
PBS Wisconsin: Do you plan to continue producing podcasts alongside the television series?
Maurer: Yep. We’re doing them just a little differently. Last season, we literally did them on the drive home from every episode in the van. We would be leaving the community and we’d put the microphones on and we’d talk all the way home and they’d edit them. This season we didn’t have the wherewithal. It actually creates a production pain … we decided we would do them after the fact. This time we have the content producers who worked on each of those episodes also chime in because they have a lot of the behind-the-scenes info.
McGivern: There are four content producers and they each took three or four episodes. That’s great because their feedback is so different than ours.
PBS Wisconsin: What is a Wisconsin highlight from the new season?
McGivern: We just finished Dodgeville. Lands’ End, which has kind of a remarkable 60-year-old story that’s in Dodgeville with 2,000 employees in a town of 5,000. How does that work? And, a campus that’s gorgeous. To stand on top of a slide where everything happens, where there’s 450 people packaging and shipping out between 36,000 to 250,000 packages a day. We go to manufacturing places, which is my favorite part of the show. That’s really my favorite thing. If you ever see me in the middle of some sort of foundry, I’m geeking. I love it so much! To be like, you make this widget here? And where will I find it in my home? It’s like, wow. To stand on top of that catwalk yesterday [at Lands’ End], this is unbelievable, and that somebody at home is waiting for their plaid flannel and I just watched it go by.
PBS Wisconsin: What about a highlight from outside of our state?
McGivern: In Illinois we went to Woodstock. Have you seen the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ with Bill Murray? It was shot there so they have a lot of traffic and a lot of tourism based on that movie. I was in the Bill Murray suite from the movie, what he saw out his window and the B&B that he stayed in is the one we stayed in. The town square is one of the stops that we made. We covered some of the movie, of course, but we covered a lot of other stuff in this gorgeous little town. It looks like New England, the prettiest town square you’ve ever seen.
Maurer: The Americana postcard right there.
PBS Wisconsin: You both sound so energized by the new series. What have you enjoyed most about getting out there together again?
Maurer: You never know what you’re going to get until you get there. That’s one of the things that I like; I like figuring things out on the ground and coming up with Plan B. I just like that opportunity of, oh, it’s raining, what are we going to do?
McGivern: I like to be completely prepared. As I say, I am ready to go 45 minutes before we’re supposed to leave and I’m sitting here with my purse on my lap completely ready. I’ve got everything memorized, I’ve got the schedule, it’s all highlighted, everything is completely organized, let’s go do it. And Lois is like, ‘What about … ’ And I think, ‘Oh my god, I’m getting nervous.’ We’re very different that way.
Maurer: I would shoot forever … and he’s like, we’ve done 25 things, they’re not going to fit in the show. Let’s go.
McGivern: Let’s go.
Featured photo of John McGivern by Aaron Johnson.