Do you know Jacksonville? Our sprawling city has much to offer if you just know where to look. One of the places you should be looking is the TV show and website “I Know Jax,” which is celebrating its fifth anniversary on the CW.
We had the chance to talk with the often goofy (and always fun!) host of the show about the show’s beginnings. If you like to “eat local, drink local, be local” it’s a wonderful way to get to know our fair city.
The independently produced show is the highest-rated local show on the CW. It’s produced by the husband and wife team of Susanne and Joe Talentino. Susanne is the driving force behind the camera, while Joe hosts. “We’re a mom-and-pop business,” says Joe, “we just happen to have a TV show.”
They’ve come a long way from their beginnings, and today they cover everything food and beverage as well as fun events around the First Coast. For the first six months of the show, they shot out of their house in St. Mary’s, Georgia, which is about 45 minutes from Jacksonville in light traffic. They’d stayed in Georgia because they’d wanted their kids to continue to be eligible for the Hope scholarship in that state. Joe laughs about those early days: “We were shooting in my living room, with a sheet tacked to the wall, then.” They’ve gotten a bit more high-tech today.
They started, though, not on TV, but as a website. Since Susanne and Joe had a background in production, they added videos as part of the content. They then pitched the idea of a TV show to the CW. “We’re actually bloggers that made good. We were a blog with a lot of videos,” says Joe.
“It was the hardest thing to do, to step out from behind the camera.”
The impetus to start the website and provide content came from a lack of information from one side of the Jacksonville area to the other. “I would talk to people who lived at the Beach, and they would say all these great things and great places to go at the Beach, but they didn’t know about the places that were, say, in Riverside. But the people in Riverside could talk about all their great places and didn’t know about the Beach…so when we started the blog the idea was to just sort of unify the different sub-cities of Jacksonville,” explains Joe.
The timing was just right, as Jacksonville’s food and beverage scene was coming into its own. In the years since Joe and Susanne started, our craft brewery scene, for example, has doubled.
“I’d never been on camera before. I’d had no aspirations to be to be a host. I’d always been the guy behind–photographer, producer.” But when they started, the budget was tight, so they made the decision for Joe to step up. “And I was terrible when I started. It was the hardest thing to do, to step out from behind the camera.” During his early days, he was hyper-aware of all the the mistakes he made, because he was used to looking from the production end.
Joe’s not a typical host. He doesn’t use middle-America newspeak. He sounds like the Southerner he is, and, five years in, he’s owned being goofy. People like that he has a personality and doesn’t strive for cookie-cutter charm. “I don’t have that anchor-news-guy look. My voice isn’t that deep–I’m definitely not James Earl Jones, and I’m definitely Southern. I just had to go with it.” As comfortable as he is now, he wasn’t in the first year. It was his wife Susanne who mainly talked him out of bailing out of the host role, letting him know that he was one of the reasons people kept tuning in. “It’s still weird to me that I’m a guy on TV,” he says.
You can tune into the show on Saturday at 9:30pm & Sunday at 1am and 8:30am on CW17 Jacksonville, or, you can check them out online, at iknowjax.com. Although the CW may be changing hands soon, they will still be on the same channel. “We’re on our fifth anniversary, and as far as Susanne and I are concerned we’re going to be around another 10 years,” says Joe. They are also on all the social media platforms, so you can also keep track of them that way. Every weekday they upload a new short online video to iknowjax.com, folioweekly.com, youtube and facebook.