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'Vikings Connected' Season 6 Debuts in Front of Live Studio Audience

EAGAN, Minn. – Fan-favorite show Vikings Connected is returning for a sixth season, and tonight's episode will feature a unique aspect.

For the first time since Vikings Connected made its debut in 2014, an entire episode was filmed in front of a live studio audience.

Earlier this month, a group of fans attending Verizon Vikings Training Camp at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center had the opportunity to view the special edition Vikings Connected taping from seats in the team auditorium.

An original Vikings Entertainment Network Production, Vikings Connected is known for providing fans with a light-hearted look at the organization through social media and showcasing players' personalities through segments such as "SkoLOL," which was introduced last season.

The show is hosted by Erin Newburg and KFAN's Chris Hawkey.

Vikings Connected Producer GH Ridpath called it "a blast" to involve a live studio audience.

"We continued our Saturday Night Live-spoof style that we debuted last year, so we tried our best to create an SNL-type environment for the audience," Ridpath said. "It was cool to see Chris and Erin get rewarded with laughs after they've spent the past five years listening to me bust their chops over all the bloopers.

"They are so talented and fun to work with," Ridpath added.

Hawkey said he appreciated the energy that the different atmosphere provided for the show and, having grown accustomed to performing for an audience with the Chris Hawkey Band, felt comfortable in the setting.

"I had a hard time focusing on [GH's] directions at first, because I was distracted by trying to entertain the viewers. But in the end, I think that helped me with the show as a whole," Hawkey said. "I was so happy to speak with the audience after the show, as well. They seemed genuinely happy to have been there, and they also seemed to enjoy the show itself.

"Being in the studio with Erin and the VEN crew, it's often hard to know when something works and when it doesn't," Hawkey continued. "And the live reaction from the crowd left no doubt, either way."

According to Vikings Director of Broadcasting Skip Krueger, the experience was possible because of the unique configuration of TCO Studios, which is adjacent to the team auditorium but separated by a moveable acoustic wall.

"We can open the wall to allow an audience to experience a live or live-to-tape show from TCO Studios," Krueger explained. "On occasions when there is not a studio audience, we can close the wall and use the studio and the auditorium independently, providing maximum flexibility for the facility."

As one can imagine, filming a show in front of a live studio audience does create some unique challenges.

"Vikings Connected" debuted its first episode of Season 6 to a live studio audience at TCO Studios.

Krueger said that "first and foremost" is hosting audience members in the building with minimal disruption to the rest of the organization and then providing direction for the audience in terms of expectations during the taping (when to applaud or react, etc.).

"Because of the layout of the studio, we also provide an audio and video feed of the show on the projector in the auditorium," Krueger added. "Fortunately, we have had a good experience with audience members participating and following proper decorum. Through hosting Vikings Live last year, KMSP's The Jason Show for a week this summer and other things like this special edition of Vikings Connected, we have learned a lot and seem to have a pretty good process in place now to accommodate most scenarios."

Ridpath stressed the challenge of the "dual operation" required when filming in front of a live studio audience.

"First, making sure you have a sound technical show for the hosts and ensuring that things make sense," Ridpath said. "Secondly, you have to make sure it's as fluid as possible because you have an audience there who came to be entertained.

"It's truly a show, rather than a series of segments we sew together in post-production," he added.

Fans can tune in to FOX 9+ to watch this season's first episode of Vikings Connected, which will air at 8:30 p.m. New episodes will run at the same time on Friday nights throughout the season. Episodes will re-air at midnight Saturdays on FOX 9, and repeat airings will run on FOX Sports North throughout the week.

"We are debuting some really phenomenal content this season: 'Purple Pups,' 'The Weatherly Report,' 'The Hot Dish,' and of course 'SkoLOL' is returning," Ridpath said. "This show is a catchall for all the fun and interesting things that happen outside of game day, and it is a true insight into the lives and personalities that make up the Vikings team and organization."