State of Twin Cities Radio, 2004
Last year, I did a long post in which I reviewed every talk show on the air in the Twin Cities.
The local talk market has changed a lot in the last year; I figure it's time to give it another shot.
I'm going to try to review programs i every daypart, at all the major local talk stations:
- KSTP, the big talk blowtorch here i the Twin Cities. The station that Limbaugh built. As pointless full disclosure, I worked there from 1985-1987.
- WWTC, the Salem network affiliate. Mosty network programming, with the exception of three shows on the weekend. Dislosure: I host one of them.
- FM107, KSTP's sister station. Literally. Even Hubbard staff call it "chick talk"; it's talk radio aimed at women.
- WCCO, once the highest-rated major-market station in the US, now just another middle-of-the-road player.
- KSMM/WMIN - the two frequencies currently carrying "Air America" and other liberal programming. Managed by Janet Robert, former mud-slinging congressional candidate.
- KNOW, the local MPR news-talk affiliate.
I'll go through the whole schedule, show by show.
- KSTP - Bob Davis - A huge improvement over the dreadful "Woedele and O'Connell". Davis is the first decent morning show KSTP's had since the first incarnation of Babs Carlson - which was the first decent morning show it had ever had. Fun, funny, worth tuning in. Handicapped, at least to me, by the fact that I have a hard time listening to talk radio in the morning.
- WWTC - Bill Bennett - Salem rolled out Bennett in, I think, three months ago. It's...there. Good guests, very sober, very rational - none of which make it the kind of thing I want to hear in the morning. Bennett would be a great mid-day show, but I think he's terribly miscast in the mornings.
- FM107 - Ian Punnett - I like Punnett. Rigorously, scrupulously intellectual, with frequently-fascinating takes on events and life. The kind of person I'd love to talk with (and in fact I may try to do just that - I may try to crash one of his "Dead Theologians Society" meetings). The problem is, I only listen when I'm in my car - in 15-20 minutes snips. Punnets dissections of events and ideas can go on, and on, and on. And on. I never hear the beginning or the end of any idea with Punnett. It drive me crazy.
- WCCO - "Garrison Keillor's Material On Parade - No, not really, it's actually Dave Lee. But close. That's what I wrote about the Dave Lee show last year. I see no reason to change.
- MPR - Morning Edition - Generic public news/talk product. Happy to say, though, that Cathy Wurzer is finally broacast-quality talent.
- KSMM/WMIN - Morning Sedition - Even if these guys were conservative - as in, traded in three hours of conservative cant and conspiracymongering, and told three hours of oh-so-naughty-and-"edgy" conservative pseudo-blue jokes and Sue Ellicott put me in an olympic-caliber liplock, the show would be an embarassment. To conservatives. And humans.
- KSTP - Ron Rosenbaum and Mark O'Connor - I'll disagree with some of my NARN colleagues; Rosenbaum has improved as a host. He's had to - he's been saddled with Mark O'Connell, perhaps the the deadest radio weight in the Twin Cities, as his "sidekick"-voice of radio experience.
- WWTC - Laura Ingraham - Her forte is skewering current events. Few hosts are better at this. She's not a great interviewer, though.
- FM107 - Laura Schlesinger - Every show has one bon mot of genuine wisdom. Every show also has four or five moments where Schlesinger tears into someone based on having mis-heard what they said, launching into a canned rant on a subject that isn't even tangential to the call. It's her right, it's her show - and it's become rote.
- WCCO - Pat Miles - So light, it would fly away at the sneeze of a baby.
- MPR - Midmorning with Kerri Miller - A huge improvement from Cacklin' Katherine Lanpher. Miller brings the ability to conduct a non-fawning interview, and some actual broadcast chops to the table.
- KSMM/WMIN - Wendie Wylde - Or Wendye Wilde. No, it's actually Wendy Wilde. Former really bad WCCO host, Wilde and her four - that's four support staff (executive producer, two producers, and a researcher) spend two hours a day gurgitating talking points from MoveOn.org. One wonders - why four support staffers when simply reading MoveOn, Daily Kos and Democrats.com would save them so much money? Oh, yeah - Wilde is a wretched interviewer. Wretched. Ghastly.
- KSTP - Limbaugh - Gotta hand it to Rush - not only is he the father of conservative talk radio, he's the father of liberal talk as well. FrankenNet exists as a response to Rush, down to the promos for Franken's show ("Drug-free radio" - not only is it petty, but given that Catherine Lanpher is a famous lush, supremely ironic). Every time he opens his mouth, someone in Highland Park loses 20 seconds of life expectancy.
- WWTC - Dennis Prager - Intensely intellectual. Almost too much so. When he's talking about a topic that interests me, there may be no better host out there; he's thorough, and intensely intellectual. When he's talking about something I could care less about, it's pure tuneout. He's excellent - but his vocal tics drive me crazy to the point of tuning out at times.
- WCCO - Kim Jeffries - Remember what I said about Pat Miles being lightweight? Jeffries is worse. Still better than Kym Wylde, though.
- MPR - Midday with Gary Eichten - Still the best show that's ever been pieced together from random interviews and taped segments.
- WWTC - Michael Medved - As intellectual as Prager, but more listenable. Stresses taking callers that disagree - and then shreds them within an inch of their lives. Liberals barber endlessly about the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity - but Medved is the one they should worry about. Still, sometimes hard to listen to; you know you should be listening to Wagner, but somtimes you get tired of all the intellectual stimulation and need to listen to some Toby Keith. Still, just about the best thing on the air.
- FM107 - Kevyn Burger - Kevyn could easily be the best host on 107. She's hamstrung, I think, by the station's "all soccer-mom topics all the time" format. Still, the one host on 107 I think I could consistently enjoy. I say "could", because like 99-odd-percent of the Twin Cities' listening audence, I don't tune in.
- MPR -
All Edition Things Almanac Talk Of The Nation - Still impeccably produced talk, guaranteed to offend nobody. Every time I remember Juan Williams, I thank the good lord for Neil Conan KSMM/WMIN - The O'Franken Factor - I've criticized this show so often, what's left to say? It's overproduced-yet-amateurish, overstaffed yet it sounds slapdash, Al Franken is a huge star and makes a million a year (maybe) and yet he doesn't have the skills that'd get him hired on his merits in Des Moines. If it were a conservative show it would still be a embarassment.
- KSTP - Garage Logic - I used to enjoy Soucheray, before his endless recycling of the curmudgeon schtick got old. Then tiresome. Then beyond self-parody. Dull, dull, dull. The Rookie, I've come to realize, is the most underrated presence in Twin Cities radio - listening to him, I realize how much of the burden of this self-adulatory, self-indulgent institution rides on his shoulders.
- WWTC - Hugh Hewitt - Last year, I said "I should totally dig Hewitt. I'm still waiting for the blinding flash of Hewitt epiphany. UPDATE: I'm told that the flash of epiphany is inevitable." I was told right. Hewitt's show is just about the best current-events show on the air. He's as good an interviewer as there is on talk radio. He gets new media. Disclosure: I'm a bit in Hewitt's debt - he put a lot of oomph behind the original proposal for the Northern Alliance Radio Network. That has not change my opinion of his show.
- FM107 - Lori and Julia - I can listen to fingers scraping on chalkboards all day. But even if I couldn't, it would be better than this terminally-and-yet-interminably awful mess. The only show in town not better than Wyndye Wylde.
- WCCO - Don Shelby - I can't think of a single reason for this show.
- MPR - All Things Considered - They replaced Lorna Benson with the audibly-crusty David Molpus in the past year or so. It was the perfect move to sand off the last projecting bit of audible variety on this very, very staid-to-the-point-of-catatonia show.
- KSMM/WMIN - Ed Schultz - Imagine the Chinese wanted to build a knockoff of the stereotype of an American talk show host 0 loud, intellectually vapid, but adept at pushing buttons in a way that Wieyndieye Wieyelde and Al Franken just aren't, who automatically fills in with hours of endless prate and gabble of MoveOn-surplus talking points. That's it - the Chinese built a knockoff of Sean Hannity. There is no there there.
- KSTP - Sean Hannity - He's like a right-wing Ed Schultz. He's more substantial - he's a smarter guy than Schultz - but at the end of the day, he's a talking point machine. They're talking points I largely agree with - but that doesn't make the show interesting.
- KSTP, next - Chris Krok - Someone who audibly wants to be Sean Hannity. Unfortunately, he has no apparent talent.
- WWTC - Savage Nation - OK, so the Chinese blew it makig their medicre, liberal copy, Ed Schultz. This time, they went over the top, and created a host that is calculated to push every button, all the time. That's Michael "Weiner" Savage. For those of you who thought Morton Downey was kind of restrained.
- FM107 - Dr. Joy Browne - There are still glaciers younger than Browne. Before Doctor Laura, before Sally Jesse, there was Joy.
- WCCO - Some sports show that I've never listened to, and likely never will.
- KSMM/WMIN - Janeane Garofalo. A college radio talk show. Only without the audience. Sam Seder is, unaccountably, even worse than Garofalo. A horrible show.
- KSTP - Mischke - Benefits, I think, fro its move to 10PM. Still my favorite night-time radio around.
- WCCO - Al Malmberg - In a category of its own. Beyond awful. It sounds like a parody of late-night talk shows; Malmberg, a seeminly-purely-middle of the road guy, brings less sizzle to a call-in segment than Gary Eichten. Stumbling, bumbing...words fail me. Could become a camp classic
- FM107 - Clark Howard - Consumer talk. Never heard it. Never will.
Posted by Mitch at
July 8, 2004 12:12 PM