Final episode date
7 April 2007
First episode date
11 May 1998
Leo Laporte (1998–2001) (2003–2007) Chris Pirillo (2001–2003)
Country of origin
United States (1998–2004) Canada (2004–2007)
TechTV (1998–2004) G4 Canada (2004–2007)
May 11, 1998 (1998-05-11) – April 7, 2007 (2007-04-07)
Non-fiction, Special Interest
The Screen Savers, The Lab with Leo Laporte, The New Screen Savers, Unscrewed with Martin Sargent, Fresh Gear
Call for Help, also known as CFH, is a computer-themed television program that first aired exclusively on TechTV (formerly ZDTV), a cable and satellite television network focused on technology, and then aired on G4techTV Canada and the HOW TO Channel in Australia. The final taped episode aired on February 26, 2007, but because the episodes were taped out of order, a number of other episodes taped during the same shooting week aired through April 6, 2007. A spin-off called The Lab with Leo Laporte aired much of the same content as Call for Help and ran on the same networks. The Lab was canceled about one year later due to low viewer ratings and the final episode aired in August 2008.
Broadcast live from San Francisco, California, the show premiered on May 11, 1998 with Leo Laporte as host. The show's very first caller (by accident) was Laporte's mother. He functioned as a technical advisor to viewers experiencing difficulties with their personal computers (or "personal confusers", as Laporte jocularly referred to them). Such individuals were encouraged to contact the show via e-mail, telephone or webcam, with telephone/webcam users serving as on-air participants. Laporte also welcomed in-studio guests (including Martin Sargent, Roger Chang, Brett Larson, Hahn Choi and others), who expertly highlighted and reviewed various technology products with a novice perspective in mind.
In 2001, Laporte decided to focus solely on another TechTV program, The Screen Savers, and Becky Worley became the lead Call for Help host (briefly joined by Scott Herriott as co-host). Later that year, Chris Pirillo took over the lead hosting duties, with Alison Strahan Cat Schwartz, Morgan Webb, and TechLive correspondent Laura Burstein serving as rotating co-hosts. In 2003, Pirillo left TechTV for publicly unspecified reasons, and Laporte returned as lead host alongside Cat Schwartz. Morgan Webb left her CFH co-hosting duties (and her other show, The Screen Savers) to co-host TechTV's X-Play.
Call for Help performed an annual "Call-for-Help-a-Thon" on December 26, 2002. The live telecast lasted eighteen hours in 2002, and twelve in 2003, during which viewers with questions pertaining to new technology gifts called in.
In December 2003, the original animated cartoon opening and theme music were replaced with a new live-action sequence, featuring Laporte and Schwartz, and a different song. A new version of the show's logo was introduced.
In May 2004, TechTV and G4 merged to form G4techTV. Call for Help, despite being the network's second-highest rated show (ranked just below X-Play in viewership), did not appeal to the combined channel's target demographic in the opinion of G4 executives, and was cancelled immediately. The final United States edition of Call for Help, taped two days prior, aired on May 21, 2004.
A short time after the cancellation, Rogers Media, one of the three owners of G4techTV Canada at that time, expressed interest in reviving the program as a Canadian production, and licensed from G4 Media the rights to the Call for Help name and format, along with the 1998–2003 music and graphics. Taped in Toronto, Ontario, a new version of Call for Help made its G4techTV Canada debut on August 16, 2004, and quickly became the channel's highest rated series. Leo Laporte, who regularly commuted by air from his residence in Sonoma County, California, served as lead host, with co-hosts Andy Walker and Monica Litonjua, who was replaced by Amber MacArthur in 2004. The program followed the same basic formula as the original, but was pre-recorded instead of airing live. Nonetheless, the viewer participation element remained, and a large number of United States residents continued to call and e-mail (despite the fact that no US channels carried the program).
As well as the regular series there have been a number of specials showcasing clips and original segments on specific topics: Web Gems focused on tips and tricks on navigating the Internet, along with new developments online; Super Software showed viewers how to use certain programs. Digital Lifestyle illustrated the connection between technology and everyday life and lessons on do-it-yourself projects; My Media focused on the multimedia aspects of technology; More Gadgets showed all the latest in "tech toys"; and Tech To Go showcased technology that can be used on-the-go.
In September 2004, Litonjua, who had retained her position in the promotions department of the Rogers-owned Omni Television, decided that her schedule was too hectic, and resigned as co-host. Filling the vacancy was Amber MacArthur, who previously contributed the show's "Web Workshop" segments. On March 7, 2005, Call for Help was made available in Australia on the HOW TO Channel. The U.S.-made Call for Help series was screened in Australia on Foxtel's TechTV channel until the end of 2004. On June 9, 2005, the original animated cartoon opening and theme music were retired once again. A new opening sequence,featuring Laporte, MacArthur and Walker, and a different song were introduced, as was a radically redesigned logo (sometimes featuring Laporte's name). On August 29, 2005, following months of public outcry, G4, which as part of its licensing agreement with Rogers Media, held the right of first refusal, began airing the show in the United States. The program started out airing at 11am ET Monday-Friday. However, in December 2005, G4 "shelved" Call for Help indefinitely, meaning that the show was acknowledged in the network's programming lineup, but not actually scheduled to air. This happened a month after G4 moved the show to its earliest and least-viewed time slot, 9am ET weekdays. On December 17, 2005, Leo Laporte announced on his KFI Los Angeles radio show that G4 was dropping Call for Help from its lineup at the end of 2005.
On January 3, 2006, Call for Help aired for the final time on G4. On August 31, 2005, Andy Walker announced on his official blog that he was leaving the show, citing an unsatisfactory pay cut in his proposed contract renewal. He was not replaced with a new co-host, and the number of guests and viewer calls was increased. On June 13, 2006, Rogers began offering Call for Help for 99 cents per episode via Google Video. The offer is only available to United States residents. At launch, only a select few episodes are available; however, Rogers plans to roll out all episodes of the show over time, including all new episodes. On August 28, 2006, nearly one year since Andy Walker's departure, co-host Amber MacArthur announced on her blog that she would be leaving Call for Help to work at the Canadian network Citytv. Her final episodes aired in early November 2006. Cali Lewis was the temporary co-host for most of the remaining episodes. In April 2007, the final Call for Help episode, number 500, aired on G4techTV Canada and the HOW TO Channel, the new episodes for The Lab with Leo Laporte began airing on April 23, 2007. January 2007, MoboVivo started offering each episode for download for iPods and other portable devices, including new episodes starting in January 2007.