Valparaiso TV talk show host Michael Essany told me Thursday he has ended his Northwest Indiana-based Chicagoland late night television show "Seven on Ridge" because of staff and contractual disputes.
Essany's "Seven on Ridge" debuted Sept. 15, filmed at the Genesis Center in Gary Monday through Thursday to air weeknights at 10:30 p.m. on Chicago's WJYS.
As of Thursday, the show's sevenonridge.com website remained live and accessible.
In a column last month, I reported the show had taken a hiatus following the Oct. 15 taping. According to Essany, in addition to production schedules, his illness with flu had prevented him from further show tapings.
Beginning last month, I also began getting telephone calls from members of the show's production staff, including musicians from Essany's 13-piece Seven on Ridge Orchestra, that they had not been paid in more than two weeks and had "walked off the show."
"Most of the orchestra was paid, while just a few musicians in the group were volunteers," one member of the orchestra told me.
"After not being paid for two weeks, the band walked off the set after the taping of the Oct. 9th show. But when we were contacted and told that U.S. Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas was going to be coming back to Gary and would be doing the show on Oct. 15, so reluctantly, we were convinced to return and do that one last taping."
Reruns of early shows began running after Oct. 15 and Essany never returned to the studio space in Gary. However, a month later, on Nov. 15, he did tape one last show "on location" (sans band) at Yo Amazing Yogurt Shoppe, at 2620 LaPorte Ave., in Valparaiso, the business connected with Marci and Courtney Crozier, the mother and daughter duo from the NBC reality series "The Biggest Loser." Most of that broadcast was dedicated to an interview with pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page.
During the entire run of the "Seven on Ridge" series, Essany taped 17 shows that aired. Beginning Monday this week, WJYS began airing paid religious programming in Essany's broadcast window.
Essany, who not only served as the show's host, but also co-executive producer told me Thursday Ian Ross Hughes, head writer and co-executive producer, also left the show, as well as "other key staff of 'Seven on Ridge,' effective immediately."
Essany confirmed "this follows the recent departure by members of The Seven on Ridge Orchestra."
He said his decision to leave "comes amidst a falling out between show staff and the program's creator and executive in charge of production Frank Brummett."
Essany said it's the program's creator Brummett who "has failed to meet his financial obligations to the show's talent, production crew, and other entities associated with this project."
"The show's creator was dishonest, misled us and a lot of other people," Hughes said in a press statement.
Essany said "he echoes this sentiment."
"I'm proud of the tremendously talented crew that made this show happen, but I cannot condone their mistreatment and the mismanagement of this project by staying attached to 'Seven on Ridge,' " Essany said.
"This show has enormous potential and it pains me to see us reach this impediment for all the wrong reasons."
Essany and Hughes said they were never paid for their work on the show and "have sustained significant financial losses due to their sacrificing of employment while committing to the production of 'Seven on Ridge.' "
"We are currently exploring options and offers to start another late night television show in Chicago next year," Essany said.