March 11, 2004

FrankenNet Unleashed!

FrankenNet Unleashed! - The new Liberal Talk Net has announced its lineup:

Air America Radio, a progressive talk radio network, announced today it will hit the airwaves on March 31st. "Air America Radio is launching in the top U.S. markets with leading talent that will provide compelling and entertaining programming on the radio, on satellite feeds, and on the web," said Mark Walsh, Chief Executive Officer of Air America Radio. "We aim to build an important new media franchise that delivers results."
And those results?

So far, not too promising:

The network's on-air personalities represent today's top political and popular satirists, commentators and activists. Comedian, and best selling author Al Franken, who was recently taken to court when Bill O'Reilly and Fox News were seeking an injunction to halt distribution of "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," and is known for fact-based, drug-free satire, will host a weekday show on the network called "The O'Franken Factor."
Fact-based? We'll see, I have my doubts, and they'll be played out right in this space (assuming they ever air here).

Let's see - so far, this network's marketing is based entirely on

  • Fox's lawsuit
  • Limbaugh's former drug habit,
  • Hatred of George Bush and all he represents.
Seems like a thin concept.
"I'm so happy that Air America Radio will be on in three battleground states, New York, Illinois and California - no wait - those aren't battleground states. What the hell are we doing?" said Franken.
I don't believe in Karma - but I think what goes around comes around. If Captain Ed is right, Franken may eat those words.

Let's check out the lineup:

Uprising: 6:00-9:00am

This is a fast paced morning show that will entertain and engage audiences with wit and political satire. It will feature the latest news, offering up to-the-minute interviews with newsmakers, analysis and strong opinions.

Host: Marc Maron
Co-host: Sue Ellicott
Co-host: Mark Riley

Marc Maron? Former host of Comedy Central's "Short Attention Span Theatre"? He was lame even within that weak concept. Dull, dull comic. Sue Ellicott - a regular on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me", the often-entertaining but doggedly-lefty MPR quiz show. Ellicott is funny, and a babe (sixth from the left in the picture below)...:

...but she brings that "NPR" attitude to the proceedings.

But she's not the last one to do that.

Standup comic count: 2.
NPR Retread count: 1 - We'll get back to this.

Unfiltered: 9:00am- 12:00pm
Air America's midmorning program is a showcase for conversation about the political and cultural state of the union. Unfiltered introduces listeners to fresh new voices not available in mainstream media today.

Co-host: Lizz Winstead
Co-host: Chuck D
Co-host: Laura Flanders

Sound like an MPR concept? Emphasis on "concept?"

Chuck D should do a show by himself, without the worthless Winstead and the dreary, NPR-ish Flanders; while I'd disagree, it'd probably be interesting.

Standup Comic Count: 3.
NPR Count: 2

The O'Franken Factor: 12:00-3:00pm
Relentless, pure satire, delivered by the leading political humorist of this generation. With his partner, longtime radio host Katherine Lanpher, this will be three hours of fearless barbs, sketches, and interviews with newsmakers and characters who have lived, up until now, only in Al's fertile imagination. He's no policy wonk, but this best-selling author and veteran of Saturday Night Live, is devoting his energy to fighting back against rightwing propaganda with hard evidence and facts.

Host: Al Franken
Co-host: Katherine Lanpher
Producer: Billy Kimball

Well, start fighting against me, Al!

Calling it the "O'Franken Factor" is too cute by half; funny maybe the first time, wears out fast.

Standup Comic count: 4 - Franken sorta still counts.
NPR Count: 3

The Randi Rhodes Show: 3:00-7:00pm

Randi Rhodes has spent the last 20 years burning up the airwaves in southern Florida with her pointed and provocative brand of talk radio. Combining live interview, call-in and commentary, Randi engages her audience with a passionate presentation.

Host: Randi Rhodes

Rhodes is Molly Ivins without the "wit", quotes included.

Standup Comic count holds at 4
NPR Count holds at 3.
Talk radio has-beens: 1.

So What Else Is News? : 7:00-8:00pm
Based in Los Angeles, this is a one-hour program showcasing the intersection of politics, media and popular culture. This program will feature analysis and reports from the presidential campaign, as well as a daily reporters' roundtable on how the news of the day is affected and reflected by the media. Marty will also cover the spinning of the news with a regular segment called "The Corrections.?" This is also the place to hear the political voice of Hollywood, with celebrity guest interviews from the entertainment industries.
Host: Marty Kaplan
This sounds...not just dull, but "Desperately Dull". Combine talking heads with a "Marketplace" host, and you have grounds for class-action suits on behalf of people driving off the road in their sleep.

And "Political Voice of Hollywood?" Yeah, Hollywood's political voice has been pretty brutally stifled of late.

Has anyone on the left thought this through yet?

Standup Comic count: 4
NPR count: 4
Talk-radio has-beens: 1

The Majority Report: 8:00pm-11:00pm

This program will introduce new, younger voices and opinions, with live guests from the world of politics, the arts and entertainment. Host: Janeane Garofalo
Co-host: Sam Seder

All of Al Franken's snide sneering. None of his folksy charm.

Standup comic count: 6 (Seder counts as half).

So the final count:

Standup Comics: 6
NPR Retreads: 4
Talk radio has-beens: 1

Let's not forget the weekend:

Additional programming will include Best-of Air America Radio and Best-of-O?Franken Factor as well as other original programming to be announced soon.
Might I suggest a group of liberal bloggers? Oh, wait...

I love this quote:

?We are excited about the diverse and important voices Air America Radio is bringing to the airwaves, both on our own WLIB signal and others,? said Pierre Sutton, Chairman of ICBC.
Diverse? I guess - if "diverse" means "Has-been standup comics" and "a few people were weren't quite moldy and dull enough for NPR".

I think the emphasis on using comics and NPR retreads like Lanpher and Kaplan is important; comics are inevitably angry, bitter people with gargantuan egoes. They are used to dominating stages with the force of their personalities. I admire this on one front; a good comic's stage presence is amazing. On the other hand, comics almost inevitably talk down to people; they' usually ooze contempt for their audiences. NPR is similar - public radio personalities give you the sense that they are something you'd better absorb for your own good - without any actual entertainment value.

And always, always, the Hollywood connection. Look at how much of the show is based on inteviews with guests - "live guests from the world of politics, the arts and entertainment", as Garofalo's blurb puts it. Liberal radio talks down to the audience.

Conservative talk radio succeeds because it's like Extreme Barroom Conversation. You can imagine yourself talking politics with people like you hear on conservative talk, whether it's that maddenlingly erudite Medved guy in the front booth, that blowhard O'Reilly by the jukebox, those Northern Alliance schlemiels around the pool table, or that Limbaugh guy in the back room.

Comics? Their job is to get the bar to shut up. And if you try to talk with them directly, they'll give you a too-cool-for-the-room cutdown and try to hit on your girlfriend.

And the NPR guys? They're over at the Dunn Brothers listening to Peruvian techno.

Will it fly? You can help me figure that out, with...

The Liberal Radio Dead Pool - That's right. Let's predict the demise of Frankennet. If you're feeling really cnfident, let's do the same for the individual shows.

Winner of the dead pool wins a "What Would Reagan Do?" bumper sticker from "Shop In The Dark".

My predictions are as follows:

  • "Uprising": Comics are as stable as show poodles. I say the show has burned through both of its co-hosts in the first six months, and is "re-worked" by September 31.
  • "Unfiltered": Lilywhite Winstead is a snide, hip, too-cool-for-school comic. Chuck D is a hard-edged polemicist. Separately, neither invites conversation. Together, I see the show being as much fun as a MacAlester teach-in. I predict Chuck bails within six months.
  • "O'Franken" - For starters; basing your show's identity on a slap against your rival merely plays his game, and shows the...well, stupidity of FrankenNet's executive suite. Second: I'm trying to figure out Al Franken's reaction when he realizes his sidekick is Katherine Lanpher, the overrated dim-bulb of MPR fame. I say Lanpher's out by March 21, 2005, and the show grinds to a halt by September 30, 2006.
  • Randi Rhodes: Gone by March 31, 2005.
  • "Majority Report": Garofalo is an acquired taste when you're watching her do comedy in a room; much of her appeal (and I'll admit right here - she has appeal) is physical; her face is half of her act. Note to FrankenNet's brain trust; on radio, nobody can see your face! I give it six months: By 9/30/04, Garofalo will be gone.
  • Finally - FrankenNet will get a major re-tooling by September 31, 2004. Most of its original lineup will be gone as noted above. Its first major affiliate will switch formats by 3/31/05, and the network will be officially dead by 3/31/06.

Count on it.

Posted by Mitch at March 11, 2004 06:17 AM

There's so little factual information here. Did you even bother to listen?

Posted by: chickytown at June 3, 2004 06:36 PM

Since this post came three weeks before FrankenNet aired, I'd suspect some conjecture would have been forgiveable at that point.

Have you read the rest of my coverage of FrankenNet?

for that matter - what's not factual? Any specifics?

Posted by: mitch at June 3, 2004 07:31 PM

I listen to AirAmerica for on average 3 hours a day, mostly majority report and franken via the internet. I do listen to northern alliance on the weekend if I can. The interesting thing is that the Air America sponsors know who their listeners are via IP addresses (and the satellite radio) and they can target that audience.

The patriot and its sponsors (i.e. commercial advertisers) have absolutely no idea who I am and if I am listening or not. Not that I would every buy any of the products advertised. Like I would dare to take Human Growth Hormone supplements.

The bottom line is that AirAmerica is got the business model to die for. You guys are very listenable on northern alliance, but I like the humor and guests on AirAmerica which is what keeps me coming back.

By the way, the reason I came across this blog entry, was because I was googling for a quote on Liz Winstead's show where they were talking about hybrid-electric cars.

Posted by: Columbia Heights at June 6, 2004 09:35 PM

It almost july and the show are strong, beating the addict to lies in nyc and is the most popular stream, and no lies in the no lie zone. i catch it on the net in the bubba belt in ky, where state law mandates change over time be used instead of the e word in schools

Posted by: gordon green at June 28, 2004 12:07 PM

Franken is NOT beating Limbaugh in NYC. The trends are notoriously unstable, and when the actual book came out, Franken's ratings actually were quite mediocre.

They could have the biggest stream in the world, it wouldn't make the network profitable.

Posted by: mitch at July 2, 2004 05:33 PM