WSMV weatherman Bill Hall, arguably the most popular figure in the history of Nashville television, retired last week, which the station, in a sweeps-month stunt, played for all it was worth with a schmaltzy send-off.
But broadcasting insiders say the station isn’t about to let his image fade away. Word is that Channel 4 management has contracted with a builder and programmer of animatronic talking robots to create a new, improved “Bill Hall” figure to deploy on the news.
“We’ve paid Bill a license fee, and we hired the same guy who did all the figures at Chuck E. Cheese to create the animatronic Bill,” says a newsroom source. “It’s already programmed to toss out a number of Bill’s signature phrases, including ‘precip mix’ and ‘check on pets and the elderly.’ ”
The faux Bill Hall is also programmed to say “That’s right” in response to any statement from an anchor, and also to append the folksy modifier “neighboring” to any reference to an adjacent state.
But all is not perfect with the device. During a tryout at the station last week, a distinct whirring noise was audible before the Hall robot blinked its large, taxidermy-quality eyes, and at least once, sources say, the animatronic Hall made a mistake the real Bill Hall would never make: pronouncing the town of Lafayette’s name in a way that would be recognizable to someone in France.
Also, some prankster apparently hacked into the device’s software to prompt “Hall” to repeatedly confess, “I killed a hobo back in ’73.”
“It’s not perfect yet,” confesses the newsroom source. “But it’s coming along. If this thing can read Sunshine Awards and say ‘Back to you, Demetria,’ it will still be worth it. And, you know, it still doesn’t look any more fake than Ron Howes or Davis Nolan.”
(The Fabricator is satire. Don’t believe everything you read.)