The new KCET at The Pointe in Burbank

From l, Val Zavala and Suzanna Guzman.

The schedule for the grand celebration of the new KCET was simple: gather at The Pointe, the glorious new media-friendly building inBurbank; tour the production facilities; enjoy the diverse cuisine created by Chef Joachim Splichal; and learn about all the programs that have made Channel 28 an important destination for viewers inSouthern California. All that made for an interesting and entertaining evening last week. But the chance to mingle and talk to KCET’s favorite on-air personalities made the event extra special.

Val Zavala has been the host of SoCal Connected for 19 years. It is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning show that plays a vital role in the cultural and educational enrichment of Californians. And Val is understandably proud of her hard-hitting prime-time weekly television news program that examines the issues and people ofSouthern California.

“This fall I’ll actually be with KCET 25 years,” said the beaming Val. “Part of that history includes working with Ralph Story. He was incredible and did great shows like Things That Aren’t Here Anymore. And there have been many more who are part of KCET’s long legacy.”

Praising Zavala, Al Jerome, president and CEO of KCET, said that her show has “really raised the bar for news programs, and the LA Press Club will be honoring SoCal Connected with its special Public Service Award for the investigation into the Los Angeles Housing Authority.”

A new face in the lineup is opera singer Suzanna Guzman who is hosting Open Call, a series focusing on LA’s vibrant arts community with shows fromSouthern Californiaarts institutions and schools. There will be full-length performances recorded live in theaters, with artist profiles. “I want to showcase talent, and encourage and inspire the next generation of artists and creative thinkers.” The internationally-acclaimed mezzo-soprano is an LA native, and Suzanna said, “I can see my house looking out from the KCET windows.”

Also new to the KCET line-up of programs is LA Tonight with Roy Firestone. It’s a special series of half-hour interview shows hosted by Emmy-winning journalist Roy Firestone. “It’s the show I’ve wanted to do my entire career. I like talking to everybody from all walks of life. I’ll be featuring interviews with some of the world’s most influential leaders in the entertainment and sports world. We’ll examine provocative issues and people who have local and international appeal. I like to have people talk about the things that make them crazy,” Firestone explained. “And we’ll share a lot of fascinating and funny stories.”

A highlight of the KCET event was having Firestone tell some great stories about the sports personalities, from Tommy Lasorda to Mike Tyson, who he interviewed during his many years with his ultra-popular ESPN interview show.

Al Jerome thanked Firestone for his “enthusiasm for the new KCET and being part of the exciting new chapter in our history.” And Jerome said there’s more program development going on to serve almost three million viewers per month in the 11 counties ofSouthern California. KCET is a donor-supported community institution, and throughout its 48-year history, KCET has won hundreds of major awards for its news and public affairs programming; its national drama and documentary productions; its quality educational and children’s programs; its outreach and community services; and its website kcet.org.

In addition to the news and interview shows, the travel and adventure shows with Rick Steve’s Europe, Burt Wolf, Globe Trekker and Visiting with Huell Howser are among my favorites. And the line-up of riveting British series, such as Foyle’s War, Doc Martin, and the new sci-fi drama Primeval, make KCET a “must-see TV” destination. Stay tuned.