Geeta Chopra is a believer in alternative medicine. On her eponymous Princeton Community Television Show that airs every week, she interviews healing gurus and new age medicine practitioners of all sorts. But she says the best interview she ever did was with a representative of the New Jersey Pharmacists’ Association, representing a firmly science-based perspective, who gave her some pushback.
“I felt it was good seeing someone on the show who did not have the same perspective as me,” she says. “It was very engaging.”
Chopra hopes to have more such moments on her new show, We the People, which will debut on Thursday, April 25. The new program is an interview show where Chopra interviews politicians and prominent community members to discuss local current events. As the title suggests, constitutional issues will be front and center. She says her first guest is State Senator Joseph Pennachio, a Republican who represents the 26th district (Essex County.)
“I was already doing one show, and I just got inspiration to do this,” she says. “I pitched it to the network and they liked it and I started reaching out to the local community.”
Chopra says her ultimate goal is to be hired to host a show at a larger TV network. She says the political bent of the show better suits her background than her health-focused show does, though she will continue to produce both. “I have a background in economics and poli sci and international politics,” she said. “I’ve been following things like this previously. Health is more like a hobby or personal interest of mine. This is more academic.”
Chopra grew up in Pittsburgh where her father was an engineer. She got an undergraduate degree in economics and political science from the University of Toronto and a master’s in international politics and business at Georgetown.
She has been making television for six or seven years, ever since she had a real estate-focused show in Toronto. “I found it was very informative,” she said. “I’ve just always liked presenting information and interviewing people. I just thought it was something I did well and enjoyed and I’d like to continue.”
Chopra described her line of work as “investor and business person.” She formerly owned the now-closed Johnny Rockets in the Quakerbridge Mall, and owns a business together with her brother that does home renovations. She says she will soon launch another business in the Lawrence area.
Her interest in politics leads her to watch talk shows like those on CNN on a regular basis. “I don’t know that I would do better,” she said. “But I would have my on unique twist on it. I read a lot of market news and as an investor, I’m heavily involved in politics, the stock market, and the real estate market.
She says she wants to focus on constitutional rights. “It’s an important issue that we want people in the community and the country to know about as opposed to just regular news like, ‘someone got shot’ or ‘this or that happened.’”
For instance, she says, her interview with Pennachio will focus on his opinions on the issues of the day, such as the state budget and his role in creating it.
Pennachino is not shy about sharing his opinions. He recently went on NJ 101.5 to blame New Jersey’s “sanctuary state” policies for the rape and murder of a Jersey City nanny, allegedly at the hands of a man who has been deported twice before. Pennachio criticized Governor Murphy’s order limiting local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities. “He should not have been in this country and if there had been a cooperation between the federal and state authorities, perhaps he would not have been in this country,” he said.
The senator, however is not a reflexive opponent of Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. He recently sponsored a bill establishing an Innocence Study and Review Commission, supporting Grewal’s work to review convictions in hopes of freeing any wrongly convicted prisoners and finding the true culprits of the crimes for which they were convicted.
“We cannot permanently address the crisis of wrongful conviction in New Jersey without codifying an innocence commission into law,” Pennacchio said. “If the Legislature doesn’t act, the next administration could easily discontinue Attorney General Grewal’s work.”
The talk show model has attracted some controversy lately, with CNN coming under fire for interviewing guests who have repeatedly made false statements, such as Kellyanne Conway. Chopra said she would probably not invite guests who lacked credibility. “If it’s not true, there’s no point to it,” she said.
The first show will air Thursday, April 25, and will subsequently be played on Saturdays and Sundays. Princeton TV is channel 30 on for Comcast subscribers in Princeton and channel 45 on Verizon FiOS.