Annapolis politicians really put on a show Three programs appear on cable

On another sleepy Wednesday night in Maryland's capital, you're channel surfing, waiting for "Seinfeld" to come on, when a familiar face stares back from the screen.

It's Dennis Callahan, the one-time mayor of Annapolis, chatting up Rep. Tom McMillen on his cable show.


Three years after he was defeated in a close mayoral primary, Mr. Callahan, 51, has become the Larry King of the state capital.

His "Maryland on the Half Shell" on Tele-Communications Inc.'s public access Channel 15, is one of three half-hour talk shows with Annapolis personalities as hosts. The weekly programs have the same loose mix of interviews and commentary and are available to some 21,000 cable subscribers.


Carl O. Snowden, an Annapolis alderman and civil rights activist, led the way five years ago with "Up Front and Personal." Then roughly two years ago came Mr. Callahan's show, followed closely by "City Hall Reports," with Michael Mallinoff, the city administrator.

A veteran of "Square Off," Baltimore's version of "The McLaughlin Group" on WJZ-TV, Mr. Snowden takes pride in asking hard-edged questions that lead political pundits to face off on his program.

"Some of the issues discussed on the show become headlines a day or so later," says Mr. Snowden, who traces his interest in broadcast news to his high school job as a cub reporter for WANN radio in Annapolis.

"City Hall Reports" has a softer, chatty format that focuses more on Annapolis life than politics. Mr. Mallinoff talks to his guests about their families and homes before turning to the topic of the day, be it bus service or plans for the county courthouse.

The shows are the brainchild of producer/director Andy Ciesielski, who wanted to expand TCI's public affairs programming.

He tapes them in a makeshift studio rigged up on the ground floor of an office building on Forest Drive. Lights dangle thorough spaces left by missing ceiling tiles, comic strips are taped to the door, and high school interns help edit the tapes, lending the operation a "Wayne's World" atmosphere.

But Mr. Ciesielski goes about his work with a serious, professional attitude, despite the surrounding chaos.

All types have appeared on Annapolis' talk-show circuit, from the city's transportation director to former Gov. Marvin Mandel, but local politicians are on the air most often.


Mr. McMillen, D-4th, and Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-1st, incumbents running against each other in the new 1st Congressional District, both have appeared on Mr. Snowden's show. And Mr. McMillen has courted voters from Mr. Callahan's as well.

On the first episode of his show, Mr. Callahan interviewed Ted Sophocleus, the Linthicum pharmacist who ran unsuccessfully for county executive in 1990.

They talked about "Cakegate," the now-obscure controversy over a campaign treasurer who improperly reported proceeds from a senior citizens' bake sale.

Mr. Snowden has interviewed many of the same politicians, but says he also likes to invite guests who "bring perspectives and views you wouldn't necessarily hear in the mainline media."

Mr. Mallinoff has the most casual attitude about his show. "The first few times I did this, it was a big thrill," he says with a grin. "You know, "Wayne's World" II. I've since come to find it a fun thing to do, but nothing to get too excited about."

The other two take their shows more seriously. Both Mr. Callahan, an undeclared mayoral candidate in next year's mayoral election, and Mr. Snowden, whose name is often mentioned as a possible contender, acknowledge openly that they use their shows to shore up a political base.


"I'd be less than honest if I didn't tell you I think it has a benefit," Mr. Callahan said. He threw up his hands, burst into laughter and added: "Hey, it's got to be better than what they read about me in the local paper."

"City Hall Reports" airs at 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 11 a.m. Fridays, followed by Mr. Callahan at 7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and 12:30 p.m. Fridays, and Mr. Snowden at 9 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 1 p.m. Fridays.