WILL - Focus - February 28, 2014

The 86th Academy Awards

The Oscars are the most-watched film award show; how do they influence the industry?


(Duration: 51:50)

For nearly a century, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been hosting the Oscars. For just as long, the awards have influenced marketing, distribution, taste and conversations within the movie industry. But not everyone agrees completely about how meaningful the awards are. Austin McCann, the general manager for the Art Theater Co-op in Champaign, says that he doesn’t put much faith in the Oscars’ ability to select what he considers to be a good film.

Nationally, the Oscars are just one part of an interconnected series of film festivals and awards shows around the world, says Erik Childress, film critic for WGN and contributor to He closely watches and analyzes the awards season each year. This hour on Focus, host Jeff Bossert talks with both McCann and Childress about the influence of the Oscars and their favorite films this year (Oscar-nominated or not).

What were your favorites this year? Were you able to see them all? This hour, Bossert will talk with McCann about how the Art selects films for the theater long before they become Oscar nominees. 

WILL - Focus - February 24, 2014

Downton Abbey: Portraying Post-Edwardian Life

Are you a Downton fan? What did you think of season 4? Today on Focus, we’ll talk about the show and why it has captivated millions of viewers. Historian Sharon Michalove also joins us to talk about how realistic the show’s depiction of Post- Edwardian life is. 


(Duration: 51:26)

Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is filmed

During the course of the last four seasons, Downton Abbey has become one of the most widely watched television shows in the US, captivating viewers with its portrayal of English life in the early 1900’s. The finale of season 4 of the show aired last night in the US, and today on Focus, host Jeff Bossert talks with television critic Dave Quinn and historian Sharon Michalove about what happened this season and if the show’s depiction of life post WWI in Britain bears any resemblance to real life.

Do you have questions about characters interactions on the show? Did you enjoy season 4 of the show as much as you enjoyed season 3? We welcome your calls and questions this hour on Focus!

Categories: Entertainment, History

WILL - Focus - July 30, 2013

Encore: Julia Sweeney

As a parent, how do you talk to your kids about the birds and the bees? That very conversation inspired Julia Sweeney’s new book “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother.” This hour on Focus, we’ll listen back to a conversation she had with Jim Meadows earlier this year.

Former Saturday Night Live cast member Julia Sweeney is known for both her infamous character “Pat” and her solo performances. Since her days on SNL, she’s toured as a one woman show exploring love, cancer, family and faith in “God Said Ha!,” “In the Family Way” and “Letting Go of God.” In her most recent book,  “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother,” she confronts parenting and what it was like for her as a single woman to adopt her daughter, Mulan. This hour on Focus, we’re listening back to a conversation she had with Jim Meadows about the book and the embroidered pillow that inspired it. 

We also talk with her about “Pat” and her career as a comedian and performer.

WILL - Focus - June 03, 2013

Seeing is Believing?

Seeing is believing. Or is it? This hour on Focus we talk about perception and perspective with University of Illinois Professor Dan Simons.


(Duration: 50:29)

Dan Simons

It's easy to trick your brain. That's according to Dan Simons, a University of Illinois psychology professor who has built his career on the idea that most people are unaware of their limits. In his most recent book, "The Invisible Gorilla," he and his co-author explain why our intuitions often fail us. While we think we're seeing the world as it is, we're missing quite a bit....

This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Simons about the limits of the human mind and about new National Geographic series called "Brain Games" that features his research.

Want to trick your brain? Try this:

The episode of "Brain Games" entitled "Seeing is Believing" airs tonight at 4:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. central time on the National Geographic Channel.

Categories: Entertainment

WILL - Focus - February 27, 2013

Rick Steves

Do you experience wanderlust? Or do you have yet to catch the travel bug? This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talked with public radio host, TV personality and world-renowned travel writer and broadcaster Rick Steves.


(Duration: 50:29)

Rick Steves

Has Rick Steves inspiried you to travel? Maybe you've long used his guide books... During this episode of Focus, Jim Meadows talks with travel writer and broadcaster Rick Steves about his life and career. We ask him about best practices when planning a trip and the best places to go for the first time and the veteran traveler. Steves also tells us his favorite places to visit and why he first started traveling. And of course, we find out more about his next adventure and his upcoming visit to Champaign-Urbana.

Categories: Entertainment, Travel

WILL - Focus - February 22, 2013

The Academy Awards and Focus’ New Host

Today on on Focus, host Craig Cohen talked with Time Out Chicago’s Film Editor about this year’s Oscar nominees and the politlcal statements they make. Then, during the second half of the program, he talked with Jim Meadows, who will be Focus’ new interim host starting Monday.


(Duration: 55:01)

a photo from the audience at the Oscars in 1988

During this episode of Focus, we talked about film and its role in public discourse. Host Craig Cohen talks with Ben Kenigsberg, Film Section Editor for Time Out Chicago, and Richard Leskosky, an Associate Professor (retired) of Media and Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, about this year’s Academy Award nominees and the political statements they make. We discussed waterboarding and the capture of Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty, mental health issues raised in Silver Linings Playbook and the different depictions of slavery in Lincoln and Django Unchained. We also asked whether it’s a conflict of interest in Argo wins best picture; after all, it is a picture about how Hollywood came to the rescue...

WILL - Focus - February 11, 2013

Take Back Your Time: Maintaining Work/Life Balance

When was the last time you took a personal day? Do you have the vacation to take one if you wanted to? Today on Focus, we'll talk about work/life balance. Tune in at 10 a.m. and join our conversation. 


(Duration: 50:30)

a clock

How many vacation days do you have in a year? Do you use them? This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about the idea of time poverty and overwork in America. Jon de Graaf, a documentary filmmaker, activist and the Executive Director of “Take Back Your Time,” an organization that challenges the idea that your job should be at the top of your priority list, joins the program. We’ll talk about something called Gross National Happiness and question why we devalue part-time work in the U.S. Deborah Stone, Director of Academic Human Resources at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will also be here to talk about the unspoken politics of taking time off from work and what to do about it.

Join our conversation; Focus is now on Facebook and Twitter

WILL - Focus - January 25, 2013

Violence and Video Games


(Duration: 50:47)

People playing a video game

Do gory and graphic video games really affect behavior? How did games get to be so violent in the first place? This hour on Focus, host Craig Cohen talks with Craig Anderson, a professor at Iowa State University and the Director of the Center for Study of Violence about what the research shows us about the connection between violence and video games.

WILL - Focus - November 16, 2012

I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution


(Duration: 50:20)

Did video kill the radio star? If so, it was with a lot of help from MTV. It's hard to remember that the initials MTV, now better known for reality programming, actually stand for "Music Television." In its first decade, MTV lived up to its name - it played music videos all day, the way a radio station played records. Though music videos had been played on television since the 1960s, MTV was the first outlet specifically programmed around music videos. We'll talk with Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, authors of "I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution" about the tumultuous first decade of MTV and the videos that made the 1980s and early 1990s memorable.

WILL - Focus - November 06, 2012

Exploring JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit


(Duration: 51:33)

This September marked the 75th anniversary of the publication of JRR Tolkien's novel The Hobbit. An estimated 100 million copies of the book have been sold since its publication, but interest in The Hobbit sees no signs of abating, as the first of a trilogy of Hobbit films by Peter Jackson opens this December. Author Corey Olsen, who produces a podcast called The Tolkien Professor, feels that The Hobbit has lived far too long in the shadow of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books. His idea is to turn attention back to what he calls "this brilliant little book." Olsen is an Assistant Professor of English at Washington College in Maryland and the President and founder of the Mythgard Institute, a new online teaching center for the study of Tolkien and other works of imaginative literature.

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