The Stars of ZDTV

Sumi Das’s last day was Thursday. She’s heading to a reporting job at MSNBC. That leaves Adam Sessler and me as the last original show hosts from the very first days of ZDTV. (Michaela joined the channel after only a month or so due to visa difficulties.) I’m beginning to feel like Kurt Loder. Hey it could be worse, I could be Mark Goodman. (How many of the original MTV VJs can you name?).
The good news is that everyone who has left the channel has moved on to bigger and better things. Here are the original, and now dearly departed, hosts of ZDTV on May 11, 1998 as best as I can remember.

  • Jim Louderback and Sumi Das, Fresh Gear
  • Lauren Fielder, Gamespot TV
  • Scott Herriott, Ed Marques (The Surf Guru) and SuChin Pak, Internet Tonight
  • Carmine Gallo, Money Machine
  • Kate Botello, The Screen Savers and Tilde
  • John C. Dvorak, Silicon Spin
  • Victoria Recaño, ZDTV News

Am I missing anybody?

There were hundreds of other people behind the scenes, of course, many of whom have also left. About a dozen or so of us old timers are still around, although no one has been around as long as I have.

Today begins my 10th year with ZDTV/TechTV. That’s the longest I’ve ever worked for anybody. I helped hire many of the people who started the channel. All of them are gone but I’m still standing. I can’t figure out if I’m a survivor or just too lazy to move on. I guess Adam and I will just have to head out and raise a glass to the original stars of ZDTV.

172 Replies to “The Stars of ZDTV”

  1. God I miss the old ZDTV days. When it was a TECH channel and not a channel based on old BBC crapola. My question to everyone is if you had to point out point where Techtv JUMPED THE SHARK what would it be?
    One word Thunderbirds! JMHO
    Leo keep up the good fight. Your two shows are the only thing worth watching! Call for help is just great and the Screen Savers is even better!

  2. You didnt mention ole Locker Gnome aka Chris Pirillo…oh wait, he hasn’t gone on to bigger and better things, my bad.

  3. Hey,
    What is up with all the BBC bashing. The BBC puts out some really great content. Can we say “Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.” The reason the BBC stuff Techtv has is bad is becasue they are showing canclled shows. I called some friends of mine at BBC they said they laughed there pants off when I told them techtv had bought those shows from them. Everthing was good when everthing was done in house at techtv. One person asked where techtv went wrong. The day Vulcan Ventures purchased it and started makeing changes.

  4. Hey,
    What is up with all the BBC bashing. The BBC puts out some really great content. Can we say “Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.” The reason the BBC stuff Techtv has is bad is becasue they are showing canclled shows. I called some friends of mine at BBC they said they laughed there pants off when I told them techtv had bought those shows from them. Everthing was good when everthing was done in house at techtv. One person asked where techtv went wrong. The day Vulcan Ventures purchased it and started makeing changes.

  5. I have only been a viewer since 1999. We didn’t get DirecTV until 1999 so before that i didn’t know about techtv. I also remembeer when techlive was on almost the whole day. (the last time i saw that was Jan 15 2001 when techtv aired the apple keynote) When TSS replayed at 10 pm and when internet tonight was on before TSS. I am not too mush of a fan of the new shows. Robot wars, anime unleashed, unscrewed, future fighting machines, spy school. all of these shows were not part of “the good ol’ days”. I also miss erica hill on techlive. and now sumi das is leaving i am wondering if techtv will die soon. Is this the beginning of the end or just the bump in the road that techtv needs. I want to know who is taking over fresh gear. I noticed some of the Fresh Gear commercials showed Sumi reviewing products for fresh gear episodes not shown yet.(remember the PSX special review?) So there must still be some sumi episodes left. I really do miss the old version of techtv. I have started a yahoo group called techtv_fans to talk about techtv. there is a message on it to discuss this topic.

  6. Promise me that you’ll never leave, Leo. Life would be a big empty void without seeing you fooling around on TV every night.
    On a related note, I had the chance to meet Adam in Indianapolis last year. He actually does the wild “hand language” in real life, he’s a gem.

  7. I heard a rumor. Apple is looking for a high profile tech spokes person. They would do national spots and media tours on the major networks. There’s even talk about a syndicated weekly Mr. Jobs would like use to promote Macs and consumer products, especially the 64bit OS. How far from Cupertino do you live Leo?

  8. chris pirillo was not an original at techtv/zdtv
    leo if you go anywhere take pat with you that is a smart guy, tie him to a chain around the back of your car and drag him
    I wish kevin and yoshi could get their own show, yoshi would be all about modding and kevin about security/hacking and how to secure youself and to see if you are not secure, like you were talking about to v1ru5 or whatever, yesterday on tss, you siad you guys never have enough time to talk about security and stuff, so i think it would be a great show idea, the decent shows on ttv are Xplay(it goes well with what it is about, it is about games, not how tofix your computer, and it was a original show from zdtv, just different name) Tss(the bit chats are not good most of the time, but the terminator one was pretty decent last week) and Call for Help(great to see leo back, brett’s mac tip is good) three good sows on it, to be honest i have ttv on all the time, my tv is broke, so i watch unscrewed and stuff, the only other show out of them three i like is anime unleashed, gosh iam ranting, later

  9. i ove call for help i watch it all most every day and if i don’t watch it i record it on my pvr actuli my bf got me hoke line a sinker on it but we wont tell him

  10. Leo,
    I’m glad you lasted this long. I do miss Kate, one of my fondest memories is you and her dancing at the end of the show. I can’t complain about your new group of babes. It might be fun to have a reunion show. Say hi to…Pat, Cat, Sarah, Kevin, Jessica, Megan, Morgan, Yoshi, Brett and the rest.

  11. damn…there’s very little to actually keep me watching this channel now. I used to watch it all the time but now I only occasionally come in to see the screensavers…but even that isn’t what it used to be.
    And it sucks because I’ve only had the channel for about 2 years now. It’s like I caught it just before it was on it’s way down.
    erica hill left…now sumi…why sumi…why?
    probably because they are paying her more…but..damn. this sucks.
    Leo…get out while you still can.
    before you are blamed for destroying the network. You know you will be.

  12. Reading your latest blog kind of makes me sad. YOu all were such wonderful people in making ZDTV a special and much watched station for the geeks.
    I have been watching since it started in May of 98. When the dish started advertising the station I counted the days. Computers had become such a big part of my life.
    Congrats to you and Adam…
    And the best of luck to sumi. She will be missed.

  13. Leo, congrats on 10 years. That still gives us about 2-3 years left (when you said a while back that you might do radio when your contract runs up). Anyway, i just wanted to rant about what i remember from the good ol days, tss fridge pictures, vmails, the cam film fest, the viewer cam intros before commercials and during, netcam giveaways, chat day, erica hill, dash, tilde, and the cat that did rumors, the cfh fish, erica hill news briefs, the pets.com puppet, the crt tvs, ugm with the $30,000 tv, the stairs, and the lack of syndicated shows. Thats enough for now.

  14. Keep on keepin’ on, Leo.
    I know why you keep doing it, it’s fun and it beats working.
    :^)

  15. I think it’s ironic (at least in my mind) that you mentioned the old MTV VJs because I feel that MTV is going through the same problems as TechTV. Both stations seem to be going in a direction away from what made people love them. MTV seems to be going away from the music and more towards reality shows, and TechTV is focusing more on games and shows like the Thunderbirds (which nobody wants to see). I just miss the old days.

  16. more on my post above about who is in control (See above) Paul Allen, aka Uncle Paul, just cut the front office staff of his Portland Trail Blazers by 1/3 today. The papers think that could be around 100 people. So TTV is not the only Allen/Vulcan ventures company where the ax is falling.
    C

  17. Leo,
    Your 10 years of contributions — of which I’ve seen about four years’ worth — and the old, informative, tech-savvy format of The Screen Savers has played a critical role in my life both professionally and personally.
    I congratulate you on hanging tough through all the changes.
    Sadly, I must agree with others who’ve posted on this thread. TSS and TechTV, as a whole, is drifting far away from what makes it such a special oasis on the television landscape.
    TechTV and TSS managements have forgotten that smart, savvy shows that roll up their sleeves, work dog-hard and produces honest-to-gosh, quality content will always be superior to any show (or shows) aiming for fluff and a 15-year-old boy’s hormones.
    Dig in if you can, Leo. Please let TechTV/TSS management see these posts; not mine so much as the slew of others in here begging for what makes The Screen Savers — and TechTV itself — worth our time.
    We who are writing to you, Megan Morrone and others are the ones who choose to buy or not buy from TechTV/TSS sponsors. If Tech TV’s and TSS’ managers — the suits — continue in their current direction, there are many other things we can do with our money and TV viewing habits.
    Keep up the great work Leo, regardless of where you land.
    Memo to Management: Take a damn good hard look at what you are doing to your product. Get a clue. Now. If you don’t understand the consequences, let me spell it out for you: C-h-a-n-g-e c-h-a-n-n-e-l, t-u-r-n o-f-f T-V, d-o n-o-t s-u-p-p-o-r-t s-p-o-n-s-o-r-s. Capiche?

  18. As a long time viewer of TechTv (back from the ZDTV Days) I think we all need to help out by sticking by our favorite shows through “thick and thin”. We know that ratings drive all networks and unless we want to see it all “go away” we have to keep writing the PTB and letting them know what we think.
    I was a VERY loyal Screensavers watcher when it used to re-air at 10:00 PM (EST). Then it went away and so did I….then I got a new job where I am the “Head Geek” (I swear the ad I answered was “Mac Geek Wanted”) and now I am a loyal Screensavers and Call for Help fan (since I can watch the re-airs at noon and the live show at 3:00). Gee, where was this rant going….oh yeah – it has been such a lifesaver and I feel like I am visiting with old friends – and learning some cool new stuff again.
    Anyway – maybe we need an all Screensavers network (SSTV ?).
    Stick with it Leo – and fans….

  19. As a long time viewer of TechTv (back from the ZDTV Days) I think we all need to help out by sticking by our favorite shows through “thick and thin”. We know that ratings drive all networks and unless we want to see it all “go away” we have to keep writing the PTB and letting them know what we think.
    I was a VERY loyal Screensavers watcher when it used to re-air at 10:00 PM (EST). Then it went away and so did I….then I got a new job where I am the “Head Geek” (I swear the ad I answered was “Mac Geek Wanted”) and now I am a loyal Screensavers and Call for Help fan (since I can watch the re-airs at noon and the live show at 3:00). Gee, where was this rant going….oh yeah – it has been such a lifesaver and I feel like I am visiting with old friends – and learning some cool new stuff again.
    Anyway – maybe we need an all Screensavers network (SSTV ?).
    Stick with it Leo – and fans….

  20. I worked with Soledad in Boston!
    Keep up the great work Leo. Rumors have it Viacom is interested in buying the network… Interested in being an MTV VeeJay?
    Anhow, as for Leoville being registered to a TechTV address, I’m sure it is because Leo would not want people to know his home address.
    Again, congrats on ten years.

  21. i’m also among the viewers of zdtv/techtv who misses the good old days. to me, it is apparent that the management of ttv are indeed shifting the station’s primary function from an information-based network to an entertainment-based network. there are a lot of shows and people that used to work for zdtv/techtv that i miss so much. some of them are jim louderback, sumi das, kate botello, victoria recaño and erica hill. heck i even miss tilde and dash.
    it would indeed be a great loss should you leave ttv. however should you decide to do so then, just like the others, i will also respect your decision. i also stand by the suggestion that you take patrick norton with you.

  22. Funny all these people going to the “news networks” only to be lost in obscurity. I saw Erica Hill on CNN the other day. Think she did a 1 minute segment on fireworks. Yippee! Now instead of working with a couple people are you on air with dozens, and no one remembers who you are. Very few people every go anywhere especially on the second rate channels like MSNBC.
    Maybe TechTV will hire some people who actually know anything about Tech. Like what the hell are people like Jessica and Sarah doing on the channel? They are totally clueless.

  23. Actually, Soledad was on MSNBC before she went to NBC and Fox. The Site was a ZD production pre-ZDTV. Am I not correct, Dev? (Leo’s character on the Site)

  24. The amazing thing about ZDTV/TechTV has been the close connection of host to viewer. It has helped to bring the network to where it is today. The accessibility to ask questions, receive answers and provide feedback hasn’t disappeared. Albeit, it’s more difficult to get an answer from a human nowadays because of the immense volume of email and calls received.
    In years past when the network was more innocent, I was pleased to receive a few unexpected emails after airing my comments. One was from Becky Worley who was hosting CFH (what a sweetie), Chris Pirillo of CFH (short but to the point), and Jennifer Mack from Silicon Spin (gorgeous gal, what is she doing now??). Anyway, my point is that I haven’t forgotten the kind souls who partook of their precious time to respond.
    TechTV is still going through growing pains. It’s now in a radical experimental stage of its evolution. They are trying to find the niche in the niche. I believe they are striving to retain the viewer base they now enjoy, but eventually target the younger and more impressionable viewer – call it the MTV crowd. They are expanding past the mere computer user (of various skills) and related infotainment, into the zone of unadulterated entertainment. More fluff and less meat, in other words. I’ve detected dissension regarding the direction TechTV is heading, due to this new dimension of pure entertainment. As has been mentioned, it is business first and the viewer second. It’s not unexpected for the network to branch out like it has. To not change and air the same programming schedule is stagnation, and would in all probability, quicken its demise. I can only hope the network will figure out how to sustain the veteran viewer with quality infotainment like TSS and CFH, while working to attract new viewers and hold the broadest possible audience it needs to be a viable and profitable enterprise.
    While having no direct competitors may worry the executives watching the rating numbers, TechTV deserves honorable recognition for its achievements as a worthy television network. I wish Leo and TechTV many more prosperous years to come.

  25. We’ve got techtv here in Brunei Darussalam for the past 2-3 years, i used to watch TechTV every single day because of Chris Pirillo, but nowadays the only show i watch are The Screen Savers because it’s the only good show thats left.
    Congrats Leo. 🙂

  26. guys, i think we need to hold a cyber ‘silence in honor of ZDTV, and the well being of TechTV…

  27. I’ve been watching ZDTV-TTV since it came on DirecTV. I remember seeing ads with Tilde promoting The Coming of ZDTV and saw the first show on DirecTV and enjoyed it.
    Since that time, my local cable company has become digital but does NOT offer TechTV and the only reason I keep DirecTV is for TechTV. If Tech TV maintains its present direction (Puppets, Anime, canceled BBC programs and Martin’s trashy show, “Unscrewed” etc) I’ll drop DirecTV and save a bit of money each month.
    I’m not a gamer and I’m very tired of the only shows I watch have become so game oriented. Tech News is interesting but I very much miss the prime time repeat of TSS. I’m glad to see such an attractive person as Sarah rise to the occasion and is actually doing things technical on the air. Jessica? Her place is eye-candy for some one other than me. The new cast is interesting with Yoshi, kevin, Pat and the stable source of the network, Leo, to make each show interesting.
    If I never see another review of a graphic’s card, it will be fine with me. How many question a week do you have about those cards?
    Tilde, Dash, Silicone Ali, Erica, and so many other that have come and gone but when they go, seldom do they make an impact anywhere else. About the only one I see, maybe for one minute a day, is Erica Hill.
    Congratulations to you Leo for the many years you’ve been with TechTV and I enjoy your shows CFH and TSS. BTW, I enjoy Brett’s spots on the network very much. It’s a shame he can’t host a 30 minute show about Macs on a regular basis.
    Why not bring back Tilde and Dash just to show the newer viewers of the show what Tilde and Dash were all about? A Reunion Show of all the On the Air personnel of the show would be interesting too. But, that will never happen.
    About a section of Where They Are Now? That would top anything like ‘Unscrewed’ for me. (Does the network actually think people watch that show?) I tried and it is terrible with no direction except for an opportunity to make Martin look silly.

  28. Sadly, my cable company didn’t have the ZDTV. Only in the last year and a half TechTV has been available to me. I wish I could have seen it. Yes people move on and that s sad as well, even more so when they are forced to move on. What I don’t understand is why TechTV didn’t “Tech Out” Megan’s home so she could have stayed on. She could have done most of her segments right from her home. TSS could have made it a cool project just in setting up her home. After all you work for TechTV, why not use Technology to the fullest?

  29. Yeah, I remember the old days. I was even lucky enough to talk to Leo on Call for Help in the early days. I’ve been watching since ’98 (not from the begining though. I have dish network. I started watching as soon as they added it).
    I must admit that the programming was alot more interesting back then (Silicon Spin, Big Thinkers (I hate the new format), money machine, etc.) I remember watching that channel all day back in the old days. Now it seems like they air robot wars 8 times a day along with those other bbc shows.
    I’ll be watching TechTV as long as Leo is there. When you leave, I will have no reason to watch Satellite television anymore…

  30. Hi Leo!
    I think your great and I watch ya on both shows everyday! I enjoy you and ALL of TechTV. BUT I was wondering what happened to Chris Pirillo on Call For Him! Just curious!
    Great Job Leo!!!!:))

  31. OOOOOps LOL thats was Call For Help! How dumd do I feel! LOL Its * Call for Help * Typo! lol

  32. By the way who buys all these ads during Robowars and Anime? Don’t they know its dead air!

  33. I’ll miss Sumi as I’ve missed the others that have left since I started watching (a couple months before the station was renamed TechTV).
    When you and/or Patrick leaves will be the worst though…

  34. do u have a wife leo?? cause i have never heard u talk about her. i have only heard about ur kids

  35. man, leo, i love your shows and please don’t even try to leave TTV..I mean, you’re the Heart and Soul of this network since the ZDTV days..The fact is, I’m from a country like Philippines, and we badly need good and reliable opinions about technology.and thanks to TSS for providing so much of that..
    I also like Adam and Morgan, they’re such a cute couple, a video game geek and such a game goddess!
    Congrats! Leo for the 10 years of providing us tech infos!!!

  36. Adam Sessler and Leo Rock, I’m glad you guys are sticking around. I love Xplay and TSS. I only wish TechTv would pay you guys more, you deserve it and I know those corporate crooks can afford it or is this is all about prestige? HM…what do you guys think, the former or the ladder is why they move.

  37. I’ve started watching in 1998 at my grandmothers house (because she had satellite). I finally got techtv at my house in 2000. I used to be able to watch techtv all day long..now there are only about 3-4 shows i can stand to watch. I hope they don’t get brett larson to host fresh gear..heh.

  38. Unscrewed, just sucks. If you want to watch a late night talk show, I’d watch Leno, or Letterman, or Conan, or Jimmy Kimmel. etc, etc,… get it. It’s already been done. The writing sucks, the show sucks, everything about it sucks. I’d rather watch a rerun of internet tonight, or a rerun of a tech show thats not on anymore. I didn’t catch ZDTV, Or Techtv before 2001. Didn’t get it in canada. So that would be great.
    Bring back extended play, get Adam and someone to co- host the show thats got some background in the gaming industry. Also I never want to see the two of them dance ever again on tv.

  39. Clearly reverse discrimination. Don’t get me wrong…they’re very talented and all, but a push-up bra is no match your mad skills Leo!
    Fight the power my brother! Good things come to those who wait.
    Surfin’ Mex huh…? Nice!
    -Josh
    Santa Cruz

  40. I’m so sick of RoboWars and Anime. Thats all that is on all night tonight. TechTV will be out of business in two more months if they dont put on some better shows. At least they should re-run the best show on the network “TSS” at 10 like they use to. Leo is the only thing holding up this network!

  41. Hey Leo, Congrats on 10 years. I love your Screen Savers show. I just hope you continue to do that show for a long time. That is the only show that I can relate to now a days when I am away from my computer. The Internet in my opinion has totally swayed folks from television and more are coming to the PC age. At least that’s the way I see it.

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