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Around the Condo: TV host John McGivern adapts social distancing to his popular community show

Between Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” order and the social distancing policy, Milwaukee residents have found creative ways to say connected to each other. National late night programs have filmed the hosts of their talk shows from home with little more than an iPhone. Likewise, the Milwaukee PBS show “Around the Corner with John McGivern” has adapted this new reality to produce a series of related web episodes.

Season 9 of the Emmy Award winning program began broadcasting in January, just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic upended global economies and local life. Season 10 would have begun production this summer and start running in January 2021. However, the 2020 Democratic National Convention and its impact on the PBS scheduling meant that production would have been postponed until the following summer.

So while this season of “Around the Corner” continues to air each Thursday on PBS and no production of more episodes are in the pipeline, the talent behind the show – producer and director Lois Maurer – found a way to focus her creative talents during the COVID-19 situation. As a result, “Around the Condo with John McGivern” was born.

“We started doing “Around The Condo” in response to not being able to do our community previews. We wanted to stay connected and Lois came up with the concept. We’ve shot enough to be able to post till the middle of May,” said McGivern. “We are just trying to offer something on a daily basis that will keep us connected. The response has been good. Our Facebook page views are anywhere from 5k to 40k, and we will continue to post as long as we are all at home.”

Some of the early segments were recorded just before the “Safer at Home” order took effect, while Maurer and the production team was developing a strategy to accommodate the restrictions. Since then, McGivern films everything himself at home for Maurer to edit.

The bite-size video segments are broadcast via social media on the show’s Facebook page. The series has given the public a tour of McGivern’s home at the Knickerbocker on the Lake, in the Yankee Hill district of downtown Milwaukee. A recent segment included show contributor and historian, John Gurda. The two Johns recorded their Zoom video chat and reminisced on the decade of work they have done together with the nationally syndicated show.

“I think these videos have been such a hit because people love John. He feels like everybody’s friend,” said Maurer. “There is a natural curiosity we all share about where our friends live. So that was the goal with this, to invite you into John’s life and let him show you around his living room like friends do.”

Another series, called “Staying In Touch… McGivern Style” will be released soon. It involves conversation with each of McGivern’s siblings, focused on what they are doing, what has happened to their business, and what life is like during the pandemic.

McGivern will also be producing a weekly Zoom video with someone highlighted in that week’s episode of “Around the Corner.” The segments will augment the shows and give fans and the local communities featured a special connection. In an upcoming Zoom, connected to the episode about Marshfield, McGivern will talk with doctors he interviewed at the Marshfield Clinic. The conversation will highlight how much things have changed since the episode was filmed, and get a realtime update on what the medical professionals are experiencing during the ongoing health crisis.

John McGivern and Lois Maurer

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