“N.O. It Alls”
The quiz show battle of New Orleans
Harold Toscano, Isis Casanova, Ed Daniels, Terry Meeuwenberg and Tommy Tucker
Quick: What locally produced New Orleans television quiz show once beat NBC’s popular “Tonight Show” in Friday overnight ratings here in 1995?
“N.O. It Alls!”
This WGNO production was the brainchild of the late legendary television programmer and former NBC network executive Brandon Tartikoff. The game show carved its own quiz niche in the New Orleans viewers’ roster of favorite shows, briefly spread to other markets and then went off the air, lingering on only in happy memories of its cast and onetime contestants.
In 1992, Tartikoff and his family moved to New Orleans because his daughter had been seriously injured in a car accident and was in rehabilitation in Slidell.
While living in Metairie, Tartikoff kept up his interest in television and created “N.O. It Alls” for WGNO-TV. The show featured multiple choice trivia questions on New Orleans topics.
Topic titles began with W, G, N or O and sometimes used filmed questioners at locations around town. There was a studio audience, and contestants were encouraged to bring cheering guests.
The top contestant on each show had a chance at a championship round: Answering four questions – each answer starting with a letter W, G, N or O – within a brief time period.
Winners could go on to another show. Winners of three shows could compete in a championship show against other three-time winners. There were cash prizes, and show winners received a cruise.
Winners were usually native or longtime New Orleanians with a knack for trivia. Grand Champion Terry Meeuwenberg won three programs in 1993 and was one of five contestants to appear in the ’94 “Battle of New Orleans” championship tournament. When she emerged as winner, Meeuwenberg took home $1,120 in cash, two furniture packages and weekend season tickets to Zephyrs games. Her grand prize was a trip for two to Hawaii. One of her winning answers correctly identified the radio station whose nickname was “The Mighty 690.” “It was a good question for me: WTIX was a rock ‘n’ roll station in my teenaged years,” Meeuwenberg told The Times-Picayune.
“N.O. It Alls” had an announcer, Tommy Tucker (still on air locally on WWL-AM) and host Ed Daniels, who’s still at WGNO-TV. Paula Pendarvis was producer and Isis Casanova, the on-air helpful hostess, “was sort of our Vanna White,” Daniels explains. Daniels notes that then-station general manager Bill Ross was the one who dealt with Tartikoff when the show went into production.
According to Daniels, the show was first produced at the WYES-TV studios, but ultimately it moved to the WGNO-TV studios. At both locations there were bleachers for the studio audience.
“One thing I do remember, we taped like eight episodes a day.” Daniels says. “I’d have to bring eight different outfits.”
“I went to the tapings and I hosted the show,” Daniels says, “and they gave me a little background on everybody. I wasn’t responsible for the questions or the format.” In spite of this, he says, “I learned a lot about the city I didn’t know, and I enjoyed doing the show. It was a lot of fun.”
“N.O. It Alls” first went on the air July 10, 1993. When WGNO began to air a news show on March 18, ’96, “N.O. It Alls” went out of production because its studio location was taken up with the newsroom set.
Brandon Tartikoff, the show’s brainchild, had become entertainment president of NBC at the age of 30. He died in Los Angeles in 1997 at age 48 of Hodgkin’s disease.
Tartikoff’s best New Orleans friend was probably Rick Barton, novelist and longtime faculty member at the University of New Orleans. (They both had the same editor at Random House.) “He was a sociable guy, very low key,” Barton says of Tartikoff. “He always said he was going to learn to play golf and relax, but he didn’t. He and I played a lot of tennis.
That was more to his taste. You can get pretty tired after an hour of singles tennis.”
With a love of competition and a mind for innovative television, Brandon Tartikoff gave New Orleans a show to remember.