Well, no, it doesn’t need fixing. It isn't broken. If it were, it wouldn’t continue to dominate its demo. I listen to it almost daily, and as much of the 3.5 hours as I can. But sometimes things that are humming along OK could use a little adjustment, a little freshening up. A challenge, maybe. I think that time may be approaching for the Hardline, if it hasn't already arrived.
The modern Hardline begins with the departure of Greg "the Hammer" "Greggo" Williams, i.e., He Who Cannot Be Named (hereafter, "HeeHoo"). I favored his termination. During the period I had been listening, he'd become more aggressively ignorant, more misogynistic, less entertaining, and his contribution to the show had noticeably diminished. I didn't know about the drug issues (other than the one he memorably copped to one day), but it seemed to me that HeeHoo was becoming the Brian Jones of the Hardline – still a star, but in recording sessions the Stones put him in a separate studio and disconnected his mic. After his departure I read all the stories, and it was a very familiar one to anyone who has ever known or loved an addict – you have to let the guy hit bottom and if he won't get up you pretty much have to let him go unless you’re able to live in his pocket 24/7. Acquaintance with the truth vanishes in the pursuit of the next high – and its concealment. Yeah, I read the Richie Whitt article, but I also listened to the show every day. Corby and Mike (and Ticket management) were, in my view, 100% blameless in the whole thing. Accommodating an addict is a no-win for the accommodator, irrespective of his or her fondness for the addict or how far they go back.
But almost every listener would say that they fell in love with The Hardline during the "good Greggo" years. And for all the tsuris he caused his colleagues, we all missed HeeHoo and wished there were some way he could return so everything could be like it was.
In the meantime, the show flirted with the plus-ones and went with the Mike-and-Corby-with-some-Danny-and-the-occasional-Grubes lineup most of the time. None of the plus-ones seemed quite right, as interesting as some of them were. So the show assumed its current shape – same as before, but without HeeHoo. And it continued to thrive. It continued to be fun and lively as everyone was getting readjusted. We got to know Danny and Grubes a little better. I happen to think Danny Balis is the most naturally amusing guy, and one of the smartest guys, at the station, oddly appealing even in full grump mode. Grubes – they should give a Pulitzer Prize for drops.
But the focus, of course, was on Corby. Yeah, it was Mike's show, but with Corby filling the HeeHoo void, the latter's fans were scrutinizing him to see if he could hack it, could provide entertainment equivalent to HeeHoo on the latter's good days. Under the difficult circumstances, Corby did a really exceptional job. I think it is hard to say that the show lost much of its appeal with HeeHoo's departure.
The continued success of the program also was also fueled by Mike's innate appeal, but I've said it before, I'll say it now, I'll say it tomorrow – despite the verdict of countless blogs and comments on blogs and blogs about other blogs, Corby does not suck. He is a very talented broadcaster. He is a first-rate interviewer, one of the best anywhere in DFW. He has an astounding gift for getting difficult subjects to talk to him (Parcells and Shaq, to name a couple). His voice is distinctive and refreshing. Yes, he could stand to edit out the clichés and hyperbole, but those weaknesses are not unique to him. To my ear he has gotten better and better as time has gone by. He has earned his current prominence on The Hardline. Bravo, Corby.
Mike remained Mike. The irascible, loquacious, aging hipster. The kind of charming grouch we'd like to call a pal, if he just didn't dislike us so much – the Fred Mertz of The Ticket.
And he remained, for lack of a better word, the boss of the show.
Ratings remained astronomical. Sponsors stayed put. Lots of remotes, the sponsors must love these guys. Why in the world would anyone want to mess with that?
TOMORROW: PART 3: What’s Changed.