Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Rage of Mike Rhyner

I haven't rambled in awhile.  On this Super Bowl Sunday, I find myself with some time on my hands.  Always a dangerous thing.  So I'm going to ramble a bit.

One of the reasons I started this site was because I was worried about the Hardline.  That was back in mid-2009.

Most Confessors know the recent history of the Hardline -- years of toil, growing success, spectacular success, Greg Williams's departure, flirtation with some plus-ones, settling into simply doing without Greggo -- and continued spectacular success.

Recently, The Hardline and BaD have faced a new competitive threat in the form of a revived 105.3 The Fan.   Both competitors feature former Ticket guys, including Greggo against The Hardline, the show starting an hour earlier than Mike and Corby hit the air.  There are Confessors out there who follow the ratings more closely than I do, and I'm hopeful we can have a report later in 2011  My own feeling is that any ratings comparison is going to be meaningless until at least 6-9 months out, since some listeners will switch out of curiosity for awhile but eventually wander back.  It will take awhile before any meaningful trend may be discerned.  And, as various Confessors have noted, the holiday/drydock ratings are probably not very meaningful.

More than most of the showgrams, it seems to me, a "wave theory" may be applied to The Hardline.  It goes through cycles where it's sharp, followed by a period of time when it seems to descend into a kind of funk.

Galvanic skin responses of a group of 20 Confessors listening to
The Hardline over a four-year period.

The period following Greg's departure was good.  In those months the show was still finding its way but it was solid, dramatic radio as we all tuned in to see if and how they would sustain the high-wire act.  As it turned out, they sustained it pretty well.  The increased role of Danny Balis was a very positive development, and the show was funny and sharp.

To my highly-subjective ears, the graph headed south around mid-to-late 2009.   I started this site in June.  The issue, for me, was one of balance. 

I wrote about my concerns in a five-part series one year ago this month.  I identified a number of issues, but chief among them was balance.   The Corby/Danny axis was overwhelming Mike, and good as those guys are, it was too much juvenalia.  (By the way:  That series concluded not-very-presciently with the radical suggestion that Mike Bacsik should join the showgram -- it's hard for Mrs. Plainsman to keep my crystal ball clean in a sod house.)

Ironically, by the time those articles appeared, I thought that The Hardline was actually on an upswing and through, oh, summer 2010 I thought The Hardline had returned to form.  I had my usual issues with vulgarity but those are largely personal; most of the Confessor Nation does not find even the raunchiest Hardline material very troublesome.  That aside, however, I thought things were going pretty well.

Come fall, however, I thought the showgram once again seemed to run out of gas.  Whenever I get that feeling, I ask myself whether it's just me needing a change, or if there really is a difference in the show.  One of the interesting things about doing this site is that as it has gained readers and I hear from them, is that I can compare my own impression to theirs.  Since this site discourages what I call the Corby Sux School of Ticket Journalism, Confessors weigh in with thoughtful views on the showgram and have proven to be an excellent reality check for my own listening.   As it turns out, I got the same feeling from the Nation -- lots of Corby, Mike checked out.

I found this odd because with the Rangers in the World Series, one would think that Mike would be energized and engaged.  He was -- about the Rangers, and during playoff/World Series time.  But that temporary enthusiasm did not seem to pay off for the show as a whole.  The New York City trip, for example, never really got off the ground for some reason.

So in the latter part of 2010.  I found myself punching out more, exasperated at the OverCorby, wondering what was on Mike's mind after 4 PM since he himself so rarely reported on it, awkward real-time show prep, the usual Hardline struggles.  Of course, by that time the Richie and Greggo Extravaganza had hit the air, so I sampled that from time to time (and, in general, found it wanting but with the occasional bright spot). 

Then came drydock.  I was pretty sure people were tired of reading about the same old Hardline issues so didn't quite know what, if anything, I was going say about it.

As it turns out, it was unnecessary.  To my ear The Hardline has been very good since the New Year.  A couple of Confessors have also noted that recent showgrams have been better.

The reason is not hard to discern.  As Mike Rhyner goes, so goes The Hardline.

Other than the occasional amusing cutting reference, The Hardline appears to have made no formal or structural response to RaGE at all.  That is, the showgram itself hasn't changed its personnel, segment organization, bits.  Wait, they restored the Trifecta, but that's about it.   (Confessor Anonymous B has perceptively asked whether this is a response to RaGE's "Dead and Gone" segment.  Quite possible, I would think.)  Good.  There's no reason to show concern over RaGE at this point by any kind of obvious tinkering with the showgram, and more important, it'd be dangerous to mess with a successful formula absent evidence that it had lost its punch.

But more to the point -- over the long haul, the success of The Ticket showgrams isn't driven by bits anyway.   It's driven by the desire of listeners to spend time with the personalities that the hosts project on the air.  When Confessors complain about The Ticket, it has rarely to do with content -- it has to do with liking or not liking the performance, personality, dedication, attitude of a particular host.

Mike Rhyner, in addition to being the driving on-air force behind The Ticket's founding, is its most distinctive voice, its guiding spirit, and, not coincidentally, a hypnotic radio presence, a font of aural charisma the likes of which is not to be found elsewhere in Dallas radio.  When he is serious about what he is doing, he absolutely commands the listener to keep his fracking mitts off the presets.

Lately, I've been hearing some of the Mike Rhyner that guided me to The Ticket in 2004.  I don't know if it's the new competition.  Wouldn't stun me if Hammer's presence up the dial had something to do with it, but dunno.   I can tell you that the first time I really sat up and took notice was a segment right after drydock when Mike was positively shouting into the mic, his voice a good register higher than normal, about his newly-found and freely-confessed man-love for the most unique-looking Blake Griffin.  We heard it again when he was recounting his personal encounter with Griffin at a booster luncheon.   (I've named Mike's revived passion "Racially Ambiguous Griffin Ecstasy" -- RAGE.) 

Whatever it is, we've heard more Mike lately.  You could see it on the Webcam.  Previous Webcam presentations have showed Mike looking about as uninterested as he sounded.  There on Radio Row, however, he was animated, sitting up, head always in motion, gesturing with arms and hands, always keen on what was being talked about.  And would the Nation agree with me that those shows this past week were pretty good?   Would you agree that they've been better since drydock than in the couple-three months before?

Notice that I've said nothing about Corby or Danny.   Got no problem with them at all.  (Or Ty, or That Nice Young Michael Gruber, for that matter.)   But the past few weeks have confirmed, for Your Plainsman, at least, that The Hardline rises and falls with the attitude and interest of Mike Rhyner.  Lately the showgram has once again attracted his attention, and life in DFW is the better for it.


Anonymous said...

Why the insistence on using the word "showgram"? It's usage offers a beating that still lingers three sentences later when I am hit with a booster shot of its usage once again.

P1 Steven said...

So very sad the foul weather hit during one of the best radio weeks of the year. What did Corby do at the Press Conf.? Never heard that... In the Its Just Banter pod cast w/ Mike Ryner, Mike said he is driven by is detractors. Although, the ratings arent their for RAGE. Im sure Mike wants to do everything he can to make sure they never do..

Scott said...

P1 Steven, Corby presented Fergie with an opportunity to kiss him, and might have succeeded, had the NFL geek not interrupted. This was prompted with a Cherry Dr. Pepper and a cherry stem, based on one of her commercials. It was pure Corby SB press conference genius.

cancer monkey said...

I have to agree with you on all counts, Plainsman. Mike's been interested in what's going on, and the show's been better. I also agree that this forum is a good reality check; I thought I was just getting bored with The Hardline, but it turns out that other people agree things were getting stale and hosts were losing interest as well.

Side note: I'd like to discuss the Halftime Dance Party Extravaganza. I listened to it when it was going on, and haven't had a chance to listen to it again on The Unticket, but I have to say I was pretty disappointed with it. My theory is that it fell flat because it was a pre-recorded bit. It seemed forced. The Muser's 8:40 bits are legendary and classic, and I think it's because they're live and there's a fair amount of improv and impromptu interaction. The Halftime bit just didn't have the personality or energy of a typical 8:40.

Anonymous said...


I hate "showgram," as well. The Plainsman seems intent on creating his own lexicon, and it turns me off.

Examples: "Danny Bacon," "That Nice Young Man," "Confessor Nation," "Showgram."

I enjoy this little blog, but I wish the host had less of an agenda.

cancer monkey said...

"Showgram" doesn't annoy me as much as it does the Anonymi, but I figure this is The Plainsman's house, he can speak as he likes.

The Plainsman said...

Re: The lingo.

The Ticket is built on repeated self-invented cliches, some of which are used in these very comments and which have been thoroughly internalized by the P1.

Perfectly OK if you don't like mine. This joint is pretty idiosyncratic, so it's not surprising some visitors don't care for the lexicon. And I'm glad to know if one or more of them is particularly annoying. They'll probably cycle out as I tire of them myself.

For the record, "showgram" has a distinguished etymology, almost always referring to a radio show. Sorry if it grates.

Anonymous said...

I didn't catch the Halftime bit but wasn't that interested in turning off the TV to turn on the radio.

I caught some of the pregame show, thought it was well done and had some good analysis and info from everyone involved.

Mike was on for about the first hour and though he came on and flat out said there wouldn't be much from him and he initially seemed disinterested, McLaren was able to lead him into some great moments with Norm discussing the past and the viewpoint of a Cowboys fan from the beginning. Mike was very engaged with Norm and really seemed interested. I wonder if sometimes the lack of prep from Corby/Danny gets to Mike cause seems he's taken things with the HL and RAGE more seriously than them.

Christy said...

What the last Anon said reminded me of the robust discussion The Hardline had about archiving shows two weeks ago (1/28/2011).

BaD Radio went over old Ticket audio and Mike stopped by to reminisce. BaD Radio, btw, archives all of their shows, and if they haven't archived all of them, they started to a few years ago.

When The Hardline talked about the old audio, they ended up arguing over whether they should start saving shows. Mike wanted to, but Corby and Danny saw no value in it. It ended with Corby and Danny saying they would find someone to do it if Mike really, really wanted to, and he said he did. But who knows if anything happened because of it.

I was going to bring this up when it happened as a difference between The Hardline and BaD Radio. But perhaps what should be noted is the difference within The Hardline itself.

The Plainsman said...

I had not heard about that Hardline archiving discussion.

I'm surprised Corby and Danny would not see the value of archiving. Storage is so easy and cheap these days as well.

Another reason to be grateful for The (Incomparable) UnTicket.

cancer monkey said...

I heard part of the archiving discussion and it sounded to me like Corby and Danny didn't understand it. Corby was pressing Mike on the point of whether he would actually go back and listen to the audio. It's not about going back and listening to it casually, it's about having it there if you ever need (an intern) to pull pieces of it for later use, and they just didn't get it.

ap said...

[i'm back!]

Mike R. doesn't have much to worry about -- if there's one thing I've discovered since coming on board the UnTicket, it's that there are plenty of P1's archiving KTCK shows (including myself). All he really needs to do is put the word out, and I'm fairly confident that he'd be able to acquire almost any audio he was after (especially if it happened during or after the dot-com era).

So, what did I miss in the last two weeks? I'm furiously trying to catch up.

The Plainsman said...

AP, welcome back. As far as items of interest to Confessors are concerned the one that has had the most interest on this site is Bob blowing up at Dan while they were talking about former atheletes being in shape. Scroll back a few entries and you can find it. It was at around 2:30 on February 1, I believe.

Francis Shivone said...

I pretty much agree with everything you said on this post.

Rhyner and I are about the same age and I don't think I could keep my energy up as much as he does, which sometimes ain't much, but once you get over 55, everything takes on a certain, "who gives a s***" quality and it's hard to hide it.

Like you say, without him the station suffers terribly.

Junior's the natural takeover guy, in my opinion, when Rhyne's retires. He might be able to carry it, I think.