WTTW’s ‘Chicago From the Air’ offers thrilling perspective

Geoffrey Baer

Who hasn’t dreamed of soaring like a bird over their surroundings?

Tonight WTTW-Channel 11 makes that timeless wish come true with “Chicago From the Air,” a one-hour special unlike anything you’ve imagined outside of your dreams.

Geoffrey Baer, who’s been Chicago’s genial tour guide and unofficial historian at the Window to the World Communications station for more than 25 years, has delivered what may be his most spectacular travelogue yet.

Premiering at 7:30 p.m. tonight, “Chicago From the Air” employs drone technology to glide over the city and suburbs with breathtaking clarity and almost hypnotic beauty.

As writer and narrator, Baer worked with producer and director Eddie Griffin to show and tell the stories behind Chicago’s street grid (including diagonal roads that follow ancient Native American trails), how Chicago’s industry and infrastructure reshaped the region, and how the metropolis on the lake truly lives up to its motto as “City in a Garden.”

WTTW

“We’re always looking for new and compelling ways to explore the Chicago area – by boat, antique car, bicycle, ‘L’ train, on foot, and even through a ‘time machine,’” Baer explained in an interview in WTTW’s monthly magazine. “Filming with a drone – high above and sweeping around the places and spaces of our great city – provides a really thrilling perspective. An added bonus? It’s the ultimate in social distancing! Talk about finding a silver lining.

“I was particularly interested in how the view from the sky helps us understand our familiar surroundings in new ways, and lets us examine things in detail that we can’t see from the ground,” said Baer, who was promoted last year to vice president of original content production for television.

“I also wanted to fulfill a fantasy of really flying, so we dive off the edge of a 400-foot deep quarry in Thornton, and get right up close to statues perched atop buildings that can normally be seen only from far away.”

A companion website at wttw.com/air features behind-scenes content and related interviews.

Wednesday’s comment of the day: Ken Davis: One hundred percent enthusiastic agreement with these comments about Justin [Kaufmann]’s virtuoso performance. The guy just knows how to host a talk show. He’s an incredibly hard worker and it shows. He’s also a younger voice, which tracks with some of the comments made here yesterday about radio’s aging-talent problem. His classy open to the show today as he welcomed Sasha-Ann Simons was warm and generous. I hope Chicago will give Sasha-Ann a chance, though. What I’ve heard so far on NPR programming is really impressive, and I think she has the potential to become a first-rate pubradio star. Thanks Justin, and I’ll be listening (or watching) wherever you land next. Louise, above, is right. The radio biz sure is cruel.