Wednesday, March 25, 2015

RIP, "Dr. George" Fischbeck, L.A.'s Colorful Weatherman

Dr. George
Dr. George

Rough year for local L.A. TV legends. First KTLA's Stan Chambers passed away, and now famed weatherman "Dr. George" Fischbeck, seen on KABC-Channel 7 for years, has died at 92.
Dr. George was such a household name in Southern California that, as you see above, by 1987 KABC wasn't even including his last name in his identification. In 2008, the L.A. Times caught up with Fischbeck, and he was still going strong as a docent at the L.A. Zoo and in other volunteer work. (Read it here.)

More from the L.A. Times:

George Fischbeck, a science teacher turned weatherman who joined KABC-TV in 1972 and spent nearly two decades exuberantly delivering the local forecast, has died. He was 92.

Fischbeck, who was known as "Dr. George," died of natural causes early Wednesday morning at the Motion Picture & Television Fund retirement home in Woodland Hills, his daughter, Nancy Fischbeck, said.

A trained meteorologist, George Fischbeck was so enthusiastic about his subject that he sometimes forgot to talk about the next day's weather.

"I must begin with an apology," Fischbeck said on a 1978 broadcast. "Last Friday we got carried away again and we got everything in but the forecast."

When the rare inclement weather threatened Los Angeles, his newscast's ratings went up as viewers tuned in to see a seemingly real-life Mr. Wizard — complete with thick black-rimmed glasses, animated mustache and signature bow tie — race around the set.

Some people considered Fischbeck's weathercasts "madcap performances," according to a 1978 Times profile with the headline "Blue Skies for Dr. George." The "doctor" referred to an honorary degree from the University of Albuquerque.

"I'm Channel 7's father image," Fischbeck said in 1978 while insisting that he was not its comedian because he refused to do jokes. "I am not a phony. I am not manufactured or contrived."

He did, however, once call attention to the beginning of March by hauling a lion and a lamb into the TV studio.

The cult of personality that prevailed on local television in the 1970s "seemed to have reached a zenith" at KABC by 1979 when Fischbeck began receiving even wider play on the local news to exploit his huge following, former TV columnist Howard Rosenberg wrote in The Times.

In a 1981 report, People magazine compared Fischbeck to "a caged lion" who "stalks the weather map, prowls the sound stage ... and explodes into a frenzy of animation while delivering his forecasts. He candidly admits that cameramen should get hazard pay for trying to keep up with him."

Watch a Fischbeck weathercast here:

And check out this five-part feature from Dr. George and KABC on how the TV news is made:

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