Meals on Wheels is latest show on ‘What’s Up, Downtown?’

| April 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

ON-AIR HOST Hal Bastian with producer Ryan Morris.

What’s Up, Downtown?

A lot, it turns out, as seen on the 30-plus YouTube videos chronicling the people, restaurants and general rebirth of Downtown Los Angeles since the enterprise “What’s Up, Downtown?” began two years ago.

Hal Bastian, who heads a revitalization consulting company, is host of the shows which can be seen at

Producer Ryan Morris does pretty much everything else. Morris was assistant to the late Hancock Park resident, Huell Howser, the enthusiastic host of the “California Gold” series on PBS, for several years.

Among the latest Bastian/Morris YouTube productions, “Talking with Angels,” Hal dons a bouffant cap and takes a tour of the kitchen at St. Vincent Meals on Wheels, where he talks to a 90-year-old volunteer and walks out of a refrigerator.

It’s the largest privately funded Meals on Wheels program in the country, executive director Daryl Twerdahl says in the 13-minute video, as she stirs turkey and pasta dishes sprinkled with herbs from the non-profit’s organic garden.

“You can see week to week what nutrition does for people,” adds Twerdahl, who lives in Hancock Park.

Besides helping to feed 1,800 homebound elderly and others in need of a hot meal and a smile, Twerdahl also owns Village Catering Company which was located on Larchmont Blvd. for many years.

She transitioned from running her store full time while volunteering part time for Cuisine à Roulettes, a support group at Meals on Wheels, to working full time at Meals on Wheels. Her move was to concentrate on something that directly helps people.

As with Bastian, who (partially) left behind corporate America to do something creative, reinvention is a common theme of the shows, Morris notes.

Among the YouTube offerings, Bastian, a rescue dog advocate, interviews a priest and dances with some canines at Our Lady of Angels Cathedral’s annual community event, “Dog Day Afternoon.” In another episode, Bastian visits with the head of Los Angeles Central Library, cartoon-like graphics add whimsy. And Bastian soon will be seen driving around town with former Councilman Tom LaBonge who will be at the wheel of his 1971 Impala. That show has not yet been posted online.

Morris is behind the camera and is also editor and graphic designer, having taught himself on a Canon and a Mac, and he joins Bastian on their lookout for stories.

“We just walk around talking to people, and we talk to strangers, but that’s what Huell did,” Morris said.

After Howser’s death in 2013, several business executive types approached Morris, saying Huell was irreplaceable, but how about doing a similar show with them.

Howser made his down-home show seem simple, but it was anything but, said Morris.

Howser, who lived on Rossmore Ave., had a lengthy and impressive resume before his popular PBS series, and even though Howser was computer illiterate, back in the 1980s, he was at the forefront of social media. “He would democratize media,” says Morris. He interviewed common folk, small business owners, visited state fairs, and he would list contact names and phone numbers at the end of the show.

So, when Bastian, yet another business executive with no television experience, called, Morris again said, “No.”

Bastian, who has been at the forefront of downtown’s renaissance, first met Howser a decade ago, when he raised $250,000 for the enthusiastic, larger-than-life host to produce his folksy-style programs about DTLA.

So while Morris had never met Bastian, he had heard of “Mr. Downtown,” and over lunch was impressed with his willingness to “throw caution in the wind.”

The “odds were completely against us,” Morris adds, but they’ve sought and found a few of the hidden stories of downtown Los Angeles.

They call their partnership a “creative friction.” Hal, dressed in a suit and tie, and Ryan, well, he doesn’t own a suit, share an office in the Oviatt Building, an unlikely place to run a TV production company, says Morris.

But that only adds to their charm.

For more on What’s Up Downtown?, visit

Tags: , ,

Category: Entertainment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *