Interview: Sam Champion about new Weather Channel show ‘23.5 Degrees’ debuting March 22

Sam Champion on the set of his new show with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. CREDIT: Weather Channel

Sam Champion on the set of his new show with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. CREDIT: Weather Channel

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Monday, March 21, 2016

Sam Champion was hired by the Weather Channel from “Good Morning America” in late 2013 with great fanfare, touted as the network’s managing editor and face of its revamped new morning show.

But after 18 months, the Atlanta-based network decided to change direction and Champion has been mostly off the air since September.

Instead, he has been prepping a new weekly weather-oriented hour-long interview show called “23.5 Degrees With Sam Champion,” which finally debuts Tuesday night at 11 p.m. He plans three or four segments per hour.

“We have been taping since January as we build the studios,” said Champion in an interview last week. “We have a lot of interviews in the can. We want different topics each week. We might talk to a rapper about climate change then talk to a scientist who has discovered millions of bacteria from melting ice caps.”

The first show, he said, will focus heavily on the Flint water crisis. “It’s such a big story being under-reported,” he said. “We will look into our water infrastructure.”

Stylistically, he said the interviews will be intimate. He and his guest will sit on stools with a dark background. “I filled in for Larry King over my career,” he said. “I wanted something more face to face. We light each guest because it’s the guest who shines.”

Champion said he championed a quirky title for the show, noting that 23.5 degrees is the average tilt of the Earth toward the sun. “That’s a ticket of entry for the show, whether it’s the environment, climate or technology” he said.

The show will be shot in both New York and Atlanta. Champion will split time between the two cities. (He lives in Miami with his husband Rubem Robierb.)

“Let me tell you this,” Champion said. “I love building and creating shows. I’m at a phase in my career 30 years later, I find this exciting. We’re having a good time.”

Champion said the Weather Channel is planning other shows, some which may be daily.

“Given what we can do with the Weather Channel, we are building, building, building fast,” he said. “We’re changing things quickly. This is what made sense for us.”

The network last year said it was no longer going to create new non-weather reality programs such as “Fat Guys in the Woods” and “Prospectors.” Instead, it’s focusing on its bread-and-butter weather coverage and shows that stick to its core essence. Last summer, for instance, it debuted a “Weather Underground” show in the early evening hosted by Mike Bettes targeting lovers of meteorology.

The morning show “AMHQ” is now hosted by Jim Cantore and Stephanie Abrams. Does he miss it? “I don’t have to get up at 3 a.m.!” he said.

TV PREVIEW

“23.5 Degrees With Sam Champion,” 11 p.m. Tuesdays, The Weather Channel


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