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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

Groucho Marx show filmed at Playhouse In The Park to air on CET Arts channel

Frank Ferrante as Groucho Marx 02.jpg
Courtesy Frank Ferrante
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Frank Ferrante has performed as Groucho Marx for 35 years.

After my story posted this morning, WCET-TV managers reversed their decision and decided to broadcast 'Frank Ferrante's Groucho' June 1.

Update at 1:15 p.m. Friday, March 11: Hooray for Captain Spaulding! Managers of WCET-TV changed their mind after reading my story this morning and decided to broadcast Frank Ferrante's Groucho show taped at the Playhouse in the Park in 2017.

It will air 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, on CET Arts (Channel 48.3). Ferrante, after reading my story, also tells me that KET will air his new Groucho show statewide this spring.

The managers for WCET-TV and Dayton's WPTD-TV had told me Thursday they didn't plan to air Ferrante's one-man show as Groucho Marx because they mistakenly thought it was a pledge special, similar to the one he made 20 years ago.

“CET and ThinkTV value the power of preserving and sharing the local stories in our community. Look for Frank Ferrante's Groucho to air on our CETArts channel June 1," says Kitty Lensman, president and CEO of WCET-TV and WPTD-TV.

Original post 8:15 a.m. Friday, March 11: Oh, I'd horsewhip them if I had a horse!

Frank Ferrante's Groucho — his delightful evening as comedian Groucho Marx filmed during Ferrante's 2017 Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park performances — won't be coming to Cincinnati or Dayton public TV stations.

Variety reported this week that Ferrante's Groucho would be available to public television stations across the country on April 1. But not here.

Oh, I’ve got a good mind to go out and join a club, and beat them over the head with it, as Groucho once said.

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Frank Ferrante Productions
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Ferrante as Groucho's Capt. Spaulding from "Animal Crackers"

The 90-minute TV special is a culmination of Ferrante's 3,000 performances over 35 years as the acerbic comedian who starred with brothers Chico, Harpo and sometimes Zeppo on stage and film before hosting TV's You Bet Your Life.  

His An Evening With Groucho at the Cincinnati Playhouse Thompson Shelterhouse was full of Groucho's greatest hits — the funniest insults, one-liners and songs from Night At The Opera, Duck Soup, Animal Crackers and other movies.

"One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know."

"You know, I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.

"I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury."

An Evening With Groucho was so popular that Ferrante's run was extended in December 2017. Variety says PBS stations in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and more cities will air Ferrante's Groucho.

groucho_05.jpg
Frank Ferrante Productions
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"An Evening With Groucho" starring Frank Ferrante played the Thompson Shelterhouse in November-December 2017.

Updated at noon Friday, March 11: Ferrante tells me that 40 stations in April will air his show, including Indianapolis, Denver, Baltimore and statewide in Jersey, North Carolina and South Carolina.

And statewide on KET, which blankets Greater Cincinnati on WCVN-TV (Channel 54), Ferrante says. (Hooray for Capt. Spaulding!) "Looks like they are airing it in May," Ferrante says.

But not Cincinnati. Why? Because managers of WCET-TV and Dayton's WPTD-TV mistakenly told me Thursday that the new Groucho show was to air during pledge periods (which ends Sunday March 13 on Channels 48, 16 and 14).

"The show was not formatted as a pledge show. It’s a straight-through 90 minutes" Ferrante told me after reading my story this morning. "More than 80% of the PBS stations voted yes back in November to air it."

An executive for Channels 48, 16 and 14 – who asked not to be quoted – called to discuss this story and continued to reference Frank Ferrante's Groucho as a pledge show, even after I read him Ferrante's comments. The executive called back 20 minutes later to say there was confusion between the new Frank Ferrante's Groucho and a 20-year-old pledge show starring Ferrante as Groucho Marx, but still didn't plan to air the new show.

Ferrante says it's "disturbing" that folks at the Cincinnati TV station were confusing his new show with "a completely different show from 20 years ago." He's worried that any mention of the phrase "pledge show" will "hurt my getting air dates around the country (for his new show). And that concerns me. An untruth is now public record."

So let me be clear: Frank Ferrante's Groucho is not a pledge special.

The good new is that we will be able to see Ferrante cavort around the Thompson Shelterhouse stage singing "Hello, I Must Be Going," "Hooray For Captain Spaulding” and “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady.”

Lydia, oh, Lydia, have you seen Lydia?

Soon you will on public TV.

Updated: March 11, 2022 at 1:56 PM EST