Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Modest Proposal for the Hardline – PART 4: The Modest Proposal Itself

HeeHoo is not coming back.

And Mike probably is not going to magically reassert control over the show.

But I invite you to consider whether balance, stronger content, and Mike's interest might be restored by the introduction of another host, someone who could bring to the show something of the same animating spirit that HeeHoo did.

And, most importantly, someone who could be Mike's ally in the same way that HeeHoo was. A more meaty, blue-collar voice to offset the too-cool-for-school smartiness of the two lads. (Again, I like that attitude, but without some leavening it wears you down day after day.) Someone who could lessen the severity of the Corbyward tilt, and might, just might, be able to talk sports in the bargain.

I understand the risk. The show is good now, why upset what chemistry there is? What internal problems would arise by introducing someone who would necessarily cut into Corby's air time? Station politics, which are probably already much hotter than any of us imagines, would be daunting. If it failed, wouldn't it be a public relations disaster? Look what happened when they tried to pair Connie Chung with Dan Rather.

These are all quite legitimate questions, and all reasons why this modest proposal will, to a virtual certainty, live and die in this little blog.

But just for fun, let me invite you to put aside the impossibility of any organic change in The Hardline in the short run, and review for a moment the merits of an individual who is right there on the premises, available for service:

Mike Bacsik.

Don't laugh, or snort in derision. Just bear with me for a minute. Consider – he has a lot of HeeHoo's strengths (not all, not yet), some strengths that HeeHoo did not have, and none of his weaknesses. But also some weaknesses that HeeHoo did not have.

     --      He is a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. He sometimes misspeaks in a very charming, engaging kind of way. Sound familiar?

     --      Although younger than Corby and Danny, he conveys a general impression of adulthood, stability, maturity. Family man.  (Yeah, I know Corby is a family man -- a man with a family.)

     --      He is not a slick broadcaster. His voice is not polished; is, in fact, a little coarse. Very matter of fact, but can summon up passion about the things that matter to him. Someone like Followill would not work on aesthetic grounds alone – the voice just doesn't fit with the Hardline. I feel the same way about Rhadigan. Those guys are broadcaster’s broadcasters – they hate dead air, but the pauses and errors of everyday conversation are part of what gives The Ticket its distinctive and appealing sound. Love both Mark and John, and love it when they sit in, but with the exception of Bob Sturm and Danny, there’s not a classic broadcasting voice on the station. You need someone with a little roughness around the edges, and Bacsik fills that bill. Just this morning, George Dunham was making fun of Bacsik’s voice, likening it to Chewbacca’s. There you go – it’s a distinctive, likable sound and not a prefab broadcast sound. (And by the way: George’s timbre is not so far distant from Bacsik’s.)

     --      He possesses the distinctive quality of actually knowing something about a variety of sports. Holds his own with Norm.

     --      He has broadcast and behind-the-scenes technical experience without being a "professional" broadcaster.

     --      He comes across as a nice guy.

     --      DISADVANTAGE: He is not a naturally amusing human. For it to work, he would have to loosen up a little. His shows with Rhadigan over the Christmas break were quite good. His weekend show with some guy whose name escapes me right now is also good. But he'd need some time to get into the swing of things on The Hardline.

     --      DISADVANTAGE: Might be a little straight-laced for some of the more rambunctious Hardline segments. He would need to get comfortable with pop culture topics, chicks, movies, bad music, and, of course, the occasional bodily discharge. That would come with time. In any event, that seat at the table should be a little, shall we say, uninformed about certain things – like HeeHoo was.

     --      DISADVANTAGE: The man likes to talk. He can go on some. Nothing would be worse than The Hardline sounding like Why Today Doesn’t Suck, with a buncha guys talking at once.

     --      DISADVANTAGE: Three guys on the show named Michael.

Of course, the most difficult problem is how The Ticket could make this happen in a way that did not make it seem as though the station were concerned about The Hardline. (For all I know, Cumulus and station management have no concern whatsoever about The Hardline. In fact, I may be the only person who does.) Maybe have Bacsik produce a few times if Danny has some time off. If that works for the show, have him sub for Corby a couple times when Corby has a commitment elsewhere. See how it goes.

OK, so maybe you don’t care for Bacsik . Or maybe he’s not the right guy. But what do you think about looking for a structural change in the show that sharpens up the creative tension that used to make that showgram snap? Is Your Plainsman way off base here?

Let’s say a new host were brought in, any new sportsy host: What would happen?

Mike R would be challenged to sharpen up his sports awareness. His interest in the show would revive, as it seemed to do when Rhadigan was on the show last week. Segments would have more substance, would rely less on repetitive inside gags and drops. (But, of course, we still want an appropriate quantity of inside gags and drops.)

It might be perceived as a "demotion" for Corby. (Adding any new host would have this effect.) That would be regrettable, as he certainly doesn’t deserve one. Another host would inevitably cut into his airtime, although it is not beyond imagining that Mike R would be the one reducing his cumulative airtime with a new voice there to talk sports. The whole idea here is to get mike interested again, get him off the defensive, increase the dramatic tension between the two factions of the show, which is what gives it its charm. If Mike R's participation (quantity or quality) were not enhanced by Mike B's arrival, then the strategy will fail.

Crazy? Sure. Just how crazy depends on how you think The Hardline is sounding. If you think its current gestalt is fine just the way it is and for the future, then it’s real crazy. If you don’t enjoy the showgram like you used to – or if, like me, you’re just worried about the damned thing – ask yourself why. If you locate the source of your reaction in the OverCorby (or, perhaps more accurately, the UnderMike) – as much as you may like them both – then a structural solution, while risky, may not be quite as crazy as it seems on first hearing.

Ask yourself this: If you had only known Greg Williams from occasional host appearances and contributions as a producer, and the Hardline were just like it is today, what would you have thought of the suggestion that he be added as an additional host on The Hardline? Could any of us have possibly imagined the legendary powerhouse that show became?

Of course, Norm would need a new producer. I nominate Doyle King.

Thank you for shopping at My Ticket Confession.


P1-Mesquite Steven said...

When Mike Bacsik first joined The Ticket, I could not stand him at all. To me, he was like the guy at the bar you kinda know, & starts to hang out with the group as if he was a long time friend. I agree also that his can be very long winded especially on his Saturday show. When he joined the NORM show I thought he was a marked improvement over Freedo (Freedo was a jerk to me a few time when I called in. I am 26 years old, and some of my childhood memories are that of getting up VERY early in the morning and hearing NORM's crazy voice on KLIF. He was always a one man show & I did not care for what Freedo offered. My opinion on Bacsik turned around when I heard his awesome baseball analysist. He explained why Scott Feldman was finding success (Feldman has two pitches that look the same, but break in two differant directions). Not only that, he has awesome Mavs opinions. He might be more knowledgable as a basketball guy than baseball. He does have the pro-athelete disease of not knowing too much outside of his sport in respect to life in general. Obviously Norm could do well on his own with a new producer, he truly is a one man show. I just think 4 would be too much of a crowd for the Hardline. I would prefer to see the weekly scheduled plus-one format. Someone to keep the guys on their toes. I REALLY enjoy Danny (My favorite show is The Orphanage), I think the biggest issue is show prep possibly. Bring a little more... In conclusion I think another voice in the room would be just a little too much.

The Plainsman said...

You may be right Mesquite Steven, but do remember that The Hardline became great when it had all the guys it has now, plus the very strong personality of Greg Williams. As always, thanks for your views.

davidrh said...

I agree completely, and if I recall correctly Chewbacsik actually did sit in as producer when he started at the station - maybe when Big Dumb Danny was in Boston meeting his Yankee Mommy.

I championed the same position, but only to my wife & one random Ticket buddy. You make some salient points, but I had the opinion based on one factor only: baseball. The Hardline has gone to great lengths to be called (and still refers to itself as) the baseball show of record on the little Ticket, but since Greggo left the baseball has been the worst part of the show. (OK, Hardline hockey has always been unlistenable.)

I think what makes it worse is that for so long the Hardline was where I would go for esoteric baseball minutiae. Corby clearly has so little to offer in any baseball that did not occur around the late 1970s Rangers that it is painful to listen to. I, like you, feel bad for Rhyner, who clearly has plenty to talk about on the topic, but any conversation he attempts has to be either prefaced or interrupted several times to bring Cooby up to speed on things that Greggo, and presumably Chewbacsik, would just know and already have an opinion on. I gotta think that this problem has done as much to defeat and disinterest Rhyner as any of the farting tomfoolery.

The Plainsman said...

davidrh, welcome to My Ticket Confession. Your post makes some points that I had missed, which is that with the exception of golf and tennis, Corby is not a deep sports guy. But one thing we need to remember is that The Ticket succeeds because it is more of a guy-talk station and less of a rah-rah sports-jocky-type station. So I tolerate a pretty high degree of sports ignorance on the station, because I'm pretty sports-ignorant myself.

In fact, someday I'm going to write a little essay about how I like sports talk a lot better than I like the actual observation of sports. I will listen to Mavs talk, but can hardly be bothered to watch a Mavs game.

I obviously like Corby more than you do, but there was a period during 2009 where he simply overwhelmed the proceedings. I think Ticket management may have heard the same thing, because, as I noted in the introduction to Part 3, it seems to me that Mike may be making a comeback, and I think that Danny himself realizes that the show needs to be more Mike-intensive.

Having said all this, their Arbitron triumphs would seem to suggest that someone at Cumulus/WTCK knows what he's doing.

davidrh said...

I don't mean to give the impression that I don't care for Corby or buffoonery. I was a Bohemian Rant P1 till the day it died, in large part due to the chaos that bubbles up (or used to) when Gordon, GXD, and Corby are mixed together with open microphones. I also believe that there's a strong argument to be made that the Overcusser is the best character in the history of the Ticket.

I think the Hardline's ratings benefit from (as I think you've mentioned) abysmal local radio competition and social inertia. Corby definitely has talent, but his slop needs to be countered by precision from other contributors on the show. Dessert is always better after a steak, warm blankets should always be paired with cold pillows, and yin must follow and precede yang. Even Gordon, arguably the most "talented" personality at KTCK, would probably run off a large cross-section of listeners without Junior & Jub providing both complements and contrasts.

Personally, I still have my ever faithful PC archive the Musers, BaD Radio, and yes, even the Hardline daily, and I look forward to Why Today Doesn't Suck as the best 30 minutes on radio. But as soon as Rhyner counts it down or Tyler calls it off, I punch out and head over to the afternoon replay of Stern, who has some balance issues of his own these days, but that's another comment for a different blog...

The Plainsman said...

davidrh, you're a listener after my own heart. Your literate observations honor my little site. Keep this up and I'll have to invite you out for a cocktail. When I started this I hoped I'd attract readers like you. Maybe not the largest P1 cohort, but one that is underrepresented on the other message boards.

Agree 100% with your remarks on Corby and Gordon. Actually, I think The Hardline has gotten somewhat better in the last month or so -- but there was a period in 2009 where I thought the showgram was just out of control. I wrote a couple of pieces about it at the time. I'm wondering if WTCK/Cumulus management heard the same thing, because it seems to me that Mike has been more audible lately and more (apparently) in charge.

You go back further than I do -- I only know The Rant by reputation. I arrived in DFW in mid-2004. And I don't have the same discipline/ability to listen to all the shows all the time. And I'm not a gigantic fan of WTDS, for reasons I'll probably get into in a later article.

In the meantime, thanks for following and we'll look forward to more of your careful compositions.

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T4 In Rockwall said...

I agree that Mike Bascik would be a great addition, though it might take a couple of months to get there. It took me a good 5-6 months when Greggo left that I started listening to the Hardline again. I really blamed Corby (for no good reason besides him taking Greggo's time). The thing I might miss the most on the Hardline is the bits that Corby used to do regularly. They pretty much used to be a weekly thing, like Fun with Old People, Fun With Real Audio (I think that was the name), just some of the things that are no longer here. Now when I hear Corby, he has a different effect on me, as he should because I hear him more, but it's lost the glamor of what he used to present.

The Plainsman said...

Thanks for checking in, T4. Corby still does some produced bits, but since his role on the show has increased, I agree that they have lost some of their novelty value.