Wake Up Auburn! Behind the scenes of Eagle Eye’s morning talk show
by TJ Harlin / WRITER
May 15, 2013 | 2126 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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It’s 10 minutes before show time in the Eagle Eye TV office, and things are not going according to plan for the staff of “Wake Up, Auburn!”

The guest Caroline Harrell, producer, had lined up for the season finale canceled, and a guest host is filling in for one of the full-time hosts who had a conflict.

This scenario would doom many morning talk shows, but Harrell and the staff of “Wake Up, Auburn!” do not seem phased at all.

Three seasons as producer have taught Harrell to roll with setbacks such as these.

“There have been times when it’s Tuesday afternoon and I have absolutely nothing, and I just have to pull something together,” Harrell said.

Despite the setbacks, Harrell, a junior in radio, television and film and current station director, has a script ready for this week’s episode with topics ranging from Justin Bieber’s Anne Frank controversy, a possible “Friends” reunion and the bombings in Boston.

These topics are the norm for Eagle Eye’s morning show. The show is the station’s equivalent to NBC’s “Today” show and runs approximately 20 minutes on Wednesday mornings.

“Wake Up, Auburn!” has the production value of a network program, but the audience is limited to campus televisions.

However, the show averages a few hundred viewers per episode online, with some viewers watching it from places as far away as Afghanistan.

“Wake Up, Auburn!” was the brainchild of Harrell, and she considers it to be her baby.

“Eagle Eye didn’t have a morning show,” Harrell said. “I wanted Eagle Eye to be a television station and not just a news station.”

The show was modeled after Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb’s fourth hour of the “Today” show, meaning it would be lighthearted and fun.

With a basic idea for the show in her head, Harrell set out to put together a team for her show.

“Caroline and I were talking last fall,” said Amanda Redfoot, senior in radio, television and film, a host on “Wake Up, Auburn!” and current news director for Eagle Eye TV. “I’m more of the on-air, and she is more of behind-the-scenes. Caroline and I said let’s get some other girls on it.”

She then reached out to Brooke Fletcher, senior in marketing, and Emily Johnson, senior in agriculture communications, to finalize the team. It was an opportunity everyone involved needed.

“Brooke didn’t want to be a news anchor, she wants to be an entertainment reporter and this gave her an outlet to practice that,” Harrell said. “It gave Emily and Amanda an outlet outside of news.”

With a team assembled, “Wake Up, Auburn!” made its debut in January 2012.

Like any show, the first season had some growing pains, and Harrell and the show’s hosts admit it was not easy.

“It took me a couple of episodes to figure out what I was doing because I had never done it before,” Harrell said. “I was shooting in the dark.”

It would have been easy for her to be overwhelmed during the first season. Harrell serves as director, producer, writer, script editor, technical director and booking agent.

She basically had every title imaginable except ‘host.’

The first episode was different from the show it is today. The three cohosts sat behind a desk, and the interactions between the hosts seemed forced.

“It was definitely something I was not used to,” said Fletcher, who is also entertainment director for Eagle Eye. “Learning how to work with two other hosts and interviewing and interacting with guests were the biggest things I had to face.”

Two seasons later everyone is still there, and the show has come a long way.

The hosts have moved to more casual seating and their interactions with one another have become natural.

“It’s not as awkward as it was in the beginning,” Redfoot said. “We’ve gotten to know one another better, which makes any show better.”

Fletcher shares Redfoot’s feelings.

“We are a family,” Fletcher said. “After the third season we’ve gotten used to it and play off one another.”

It is evident while watching the show that the hosts have chemistry.

Conversation flows naturally from the bombings in Boston to how guest host Caroline Mitchell looks like Phoebe from “Friends,” with no awkward transitions.

This is made even more impressive considering hosts are not told what to say beforehand.

“We don’t have a scripted show,” Fletcher said. “We have bullet points that we’ll talk about, but anything that comes out of our mouths is who we are.”

The family aspect is felt in the preshow meeting, as well. No one is tense or nervous before shooting begins because everyone is comfortable and trusts one another. The show has come a long way since its first episode, but Harrell was nervous at the beginning of the third season.

“The biggest thing is content,” Harrell said. “You have to keep it fresh and not mundane, and that is something I faced at the beginning of season three. I felt like it was slow and wasn’t interesting anymore, and that’s something I really hated because I had poured so much effort and love into this one TV show.”

Harrell’s goal is to do something new and different every episode and combat the show from being boring.

Harrell is definitely in control of how interesting the show can be.

“I really do everything. It’s mine,” Harrell said. “It’s given me an opportunity to do all of those roles that happen in real television, and I’ve gotten to do it all with ‘Wake Up, Auburn!’”

The hard work of Harrell and the hosts have provided tremendous opportunities outside Auburn.

Fletcher had the opportunity to intern at WGN-TV in Chicago last summer, and Redfoot is a weekend intern at a news station in Columbus, Ga.

Harrell taught in D.C. and Berkeley, Calif., for two summers, and was able to share her experiences.

“I got to stand up every day and say ‘I did this. I produced this show.’ It really was an idea I had when I came to Auburn, and I’m just so proud of myself and everyone here that we’ve actually done it,” Harrell said.
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