With the summer ratings wasteland season wrapping up and back to school about to begin TSM and I thought this weekend might be a good time to give some detailed commentary on the state of the radio lineups. As you'll recall both stations shuffled things up in early 2016. The FAN also made some major changes in early 2015. And TSN1050 recently parted ways with Day 1 host Mike Richards. Read on for very subjective grades that reflect our opinions on the quality of the shows as we head into the important fall ratings period.
Please leave your own grades and comments below, and make sure you click on the polls. Both PDs will be checking in often to see how their shows are faring, so this is a real chance to have your voice heard.
Ed Note 1: Had a lot to say … this is pretty long (Mike)
Ed Note 2: We always appreciate having our mistakes corrected. Please be in touch if something is not right.
Mike: Depending on how you look at it, we are either living in a golden age of bro-talk or we are suffering under the worst deluge of bro-talk in recent memory. This era began back in early 2015 when Don Kollins came up with one his Kollins Genius Ideas (KGI™) and, with Scott Moore's blessing, axed the FAN's most successful morning show ever — Brady & Walker — in order to hire disgraced shock-jock Dean Blundell.
Dean was for a long time Toronto's Bro-in-Chief over at 102.1, earning recognition for representing the bro-worldview on women, homosexuals, and strip clubs. Sports was only a small part of Dean's brofolio but this did not deter Kollins from ingeniously hiring him to anchor the most prominent sports radio morning show in all of Canada.
@E_Freeds George Rusic. Producer Ryan Fabro. Kayla Harris. Halina Balka (traffic reports).
— SeanFitz_Gerald (@SeanFitz_Gerald) February 27, 2015
As we all know by now this was a terrible idea. The ratings were a flop relative to the promises Kollins made to his bosses. Kollins (not his real name) quickly jumped ship to sunny California. The decision to hire Dean also cost Greg Brady his job, as he ended up being very expensive for the 1-4 timeslot at a time when Rogers made a lot of cutbacks (due in part to to failing hockey ratings). It also set back Andrew Walker's career, as he is now working in an irrelevant timeslot rather than establishing himself as a household name on the FAN morning show. Other than that, it was a pretty good decision by Kollins & Moore.
Back to Dean Blundell & Co. Within a few months of launching, the FAN ditched the "&Co" concept, awkwardly firing Kayla Harris (wife of longtime PTS producer Ryan Walsh), relegating sidekick George Rusic back to a minor role, and (oddly) increasing the amount of time producer Ryan Fabro spends on air. Thankfully Halina Balka's role has not been affected. There was a brief time in 2016 when Dave Cadeau tried to rotate in celebrity sports co-hosts with Dean, but that was also short lived. Since then, the show has stumbled along to unimpressive ratings.
Dean is now in the lame-duck year of his contract and might be headed back to music in the near future. This would open up the FAN to any number of options: 1) reuniting Brady & Walker … just as Brady's severance would be running out, freeing him to jump over to TSN, 2) hiring Joey Vendetta full-time, 3) finally giving Ben Ennis the shot he deserves, 4) "Mornings with Mike Wilner", 5) moving Tim&Sid back to radio but in a major timeslot … and any number of other better and worse ideas.
I'm sure some people enjoy Dean's brand of humour and surface knowledge of sports, but it's not for me. Here's a question: name one sports topic/event for which you would be excited to tune into the Dean Blundell Show?
Grade: I couldn't possibly give this show a grade because I have not listened to it more than a handful of times. What's the letter grade for "un-listenable"?
TSM: So I had written such a great opinion piece on the topic of the morning show that is, at The Fan 590 and then I read this gem from MIB: "Thankfully Halina Balka's role has not been affected". That just about sums it up. "Thankfully Halina Balka's role has not been affected".
What Mike has forgotten (and with good reason) is the disaster at the Fan before DB arrived, namely one Andrew Krystal. That was the start of the aforementioned "Bro-Talk" at the Fan. That, my friends was the TSN turning point. Dean has been not much more than Krystal lite.
If you read what I have to type here or on Twitter this won't shock you; I do not listen to the Fan morning show anymore. That's not anti-Dean per se, in fact it's more about me than him. My time in the AM is short. I listen in on the drive to work and all I really want is an update on what happened the night before or in the early mornings before my drive. That's it. I don't get that from the Fan morning show. In my opinion, none of Dean, George or Ryan have insight that I am particuallry interested in and therefore the show as it is currently is formatted doesn't suit my needs. "I really wonder what the guys on the Fan morning show think about last night's game, or the big trade" … said no one. Personally, I don't find it funny either, so I am clearly not the intended audience.
The question is, what exactly do the powers that be (whomever that may be) want from the show? Only they can answer whether it is fulfilling the goal. By all accounts Dean's contract will not be renewed. However the show is his until he's told otherwise.
I will grade the show a D+ but only because:
Mike: I have had concerns about management over at TSN in the 5 years since 1050 launched. The TSN website is a jumbled mess that makes it very difficult to find their good original content. (Having RSS feeds for your columnists would help a great deal). Their podcast management is completely unprofessional overall.
On the radio side they have made a lot of bad decisions since Day 1. You are leveraging the TSN brand to launch an alternative to the FAN, so who do you bring in to anchor the morning show? A FAN employee from Calgary. Doesn't make sense. As we all know, sports radio is local and they needed to have someone with local sports credibility.
You know who would have been a great hire for Day 1? Michael Landsberg. Five years ago it would have made sense to have one of the most recognizable TSN personalities anchoring one of your major radio timeslots. He could have done his radio show and his TV show on the same day. If they wanted to cancel the TV show he would already have established himself on radio. Instead, they canceled the TV show and were left holding an expensive contract. Plunking him into radio with Naylor was making lemonade out of lemons. Not exactly the best way to relaunch your morning show after getting your head stomped every ratings book since you entered the marketplace.
The bad management decisions did not stop there. TSN1050 PD Jeff McDonald decided it would be a good idea to let Landsberg hire his son Corey be part of the production team for the radio show. Corey worked with his dad on OTR so it is not as if he unqualified. But does it seem like a good idea to anyone to put the father-son team onto the new radio show, especially when both were just let go by the TV side? Seems like a lot of baggage to force onto a new show.
Lastly, for some reason they also decided it would be good for Naylor to start at 5:30am but Landsberg Sr to stroll in at 6am. Who does Naylor co-host with for that first half hour? Landsberg Jr. I have no issue with TSN giving Corey some airtime — I advocate for young guys getting a chance often in this space — but does it really have to be on his dad's show? From the outside, this all looks like an unnecessarily cumbersome work environment.
All of that say that this new morning show was not well-conceived at the conceptual stage. How is it working out?
It has been rough. The pairing of Naylor with Landsberg needs a lot of work. Let's start with the good. Both guys have a lot of sports knowledge and tons of experience covering all kinds of sports. Both also have lots of broadcast experience. They also get good ESPN guests. The show seems well-produced. It's not my thing, but their comedy bits are short and not too intrusive. Their regular segments are fine too.
Here is what is not working. First, both guys are stuck in the past. Too often the show ends up being a story telling competition. Not everything that happened on OTR is an anecdote. It's also not the case that you need to mention that you were at an event there in 1996 every time a city is mentioned.
Second, Landsberg's radio persona is grating. From everything I hear, he is a genuinely nice guy off the air. This makes it mystifying that he behaves like such a jerk on the air. His constant interruptions and sarcastic tangents serve no purpose. One out of every ten of these lands its mark. The rest just make him seem like a mean-spirited person. All of this exacerbates Naylor's worst tendency, which is trying to keep up when his co-host is spinning out of control. This was a problem on TSN Drive as well. A good host needs to be able to pull the conversation back and guide it in the right direction without participating in the hysteria. Too often Naylor ends up chasing Landsberg down the rabbit hole and 20 minutes will elapse before things reset.
This brings me back to the management issue. The show has been on the air for 6 months now and it is clear that there is no effective coaching going on over there. The fact that at this stage the OTR references, the random asides to Corey, and the belittling interjections are still raining down means: 1) either no one is talking to Lansdberg Sr. about his performance, 2) no one in management is actually listening, or 3) he is ignoring the advice he is getting. None of those possibilities bode well.
I'm genuinely torn on whether this show can be salvaged. In an ideal world Landsberg would move on to doing his outreach work on a fulltime basis, and TSN can either look for a new co-host for Naylor or start fresh. If the show is going to be around for the next 3 years then someone needs to stop in the inmates from running things.
Grade: C+, with lots of room for improvement
TSM: So this is the show that I really, really wanted to work. However, it has greatly disappointed. I had hoped that by now both hosts would have moved towards the middle, however the problems that have plagued the show from day one are getting worse not better. Landsberg is clearly high energy and isn't a big fan of sharing. While it may not be intended, he exudes an attitude of it's The Michael Landsberg show, with David Naylor. The co-hosted format doesn't work because Naylor is so reserved and thoughtful so it's 99% Landsberg and 1% Naylor. More importantly, it doesn't work because while Landsberg is a decent interviewer he is NOT good enough to drive solo on an all sports format morning drive show.
The reason it's so disappointing is that both guys are likeable, both are articulate, and both are entertaining. Instead of peanut butter and chocolate making an awesome cup, we have oil and water and no, they do not mix. What makes matters worse is that the when you add in the multiple personalities they bring in on a regular basis to form the "breakfast club" they are pulling in equally as powerful characters to Landsberg and you have, generally, three folks trying to share the mic and one guy not saying a whole lot.
Where the show does do well is bringing in the guests that they do. In those instances, Naylor rises up and demonstrates his ability to interview from a game perspective while, if the topic permits, Landsberg brings the real life topics out. Bring in one of their NFL guys, or bring in McKenzie or Dreger and Naylor asks some great sports questions. When the topic heads to the society side of sports Landsberg shines. The problem is when the stream cross. Where the drive home show is a good foil for PTS, this has not become the leader I had hoped for and we know how bad things can be when the streams cross.
TSM: Jeff's opening monolog is the one part of the sports radio day that every Toronto sports fan should listen to daily. He writes it the same way he wrote columns at the globe and it's really, really good. I know folks will cringe when I say it, but the show rises with the success of the Jays. It is very very baseball centric and provided the sport is in focus in the market it's great radio. Brunt brings more of a rounded sports perspective to the table and Blair has enough contacts to make all of his interviews seem like friendly sports banter. I don't subscribe to the complaints of his "stammering" or pausing. I like listening to the show.
Grade: It's pretty damn close to an A, if not a B+ especially in the time slot it is.
Mike: When Brunt is co-hosting this is the smartest show on radio. When it's Blair solo, I have a very hard time listening a lot of the time. When it's Blair solo taking calls … I'd rather listen to Dean Blundell.
Basic advice is the same as it has been since Day One: 1) Take fewer calls, 2) Work on seeing a sentence all the way to the end. It's hard to believe that Blair started transitioning to radio more than 6 years ago and that his delivery is still so rough. Either no one is forcing him to work on his presentation or he is refusing to take notes on a job for which he has no formal training. Blair is not the easiest guy with whom to work, and that may explain why he's not growing as a broadcaster.
To steal an insight Jonah has made about Brunt many times on this site, the FAN is wasting Blair's talents by making him take calls on the Leafs in a meaningless timeslot. Blair really impressed me lately on the Kaepernick story. His training as a journalist shows whenever he's talking about bigger picture social stuff. He can break down an issue while providing clarity and opinion.
This stands in stark contrast to the very generic work he does whenever he has to talk about the Leafs and Raptors. He's OK on the Jays, but his best days were when Riccardi was the GM. Right now there are so many baseball insiders at Sportsnet who rank ahead of him on the depth chart. He's also not a very good interviewer with tendency to ramble, and often has a hard time asking concise questions.
If I'm Cadeau I'm looking to expedite the McCown retirement and move Blair & Brunt to 4-7. Blair would thrive with that budget and guest-list, especially with the Jays being front and centre these days. I'm guessing Brunt wouldn't mind being back in a major timeslot for his 20 weeks a year. If that can't happen — and it won't as long as Brunt won't do radio full time — then move Blair to a role where he does a daily baseball show and then guests on other shows, while also contributing to SN.ca and the magazine. Asking him to do 3-4 hours of radio every day is a mistake.
Grade: Blair & Brunt – A; Blair solo – C. Overall – B
Mike: The best part about Macko & Cauz was that both guys were very likable even if you didn't care for their sports takes. Cauz is still very likable as a radio host but he's not able to sustain a sports conversation on his own for 3 hours at a time. No one can, except for a tiny handful of people like Dan Patrick or Jim Rome who are able to ge the very best guests. That's why there seems to be a lot of segments revolving around Cauz ranking his favourite fruits and asking listeners to weigh in.
If Macko is not coming back then TSN needs to decide whether or not to continue with Cauz in this timeslot. The cheap and lazy option is to pair him with Wheeler. Another option would be to move Cauz to the vacant afternoon slot along with a new co-host, and start over with the mid-morning timeslot. Or, if Lansdberg moves on, Cauz could be part of a revamped morning show. If the goal is to beat the FAN in the ratings then TSN needs to start looking at different options and finding new talent. This timeslot has never registered a pulse in the history of the station.
Grade: Macko & Cauz – B+; Cauz & Wheeler – C; Cauz solo – B-. Average: I was told there would be no math.
TSM: I know this is a cop out but it's hard to say bad things about a show where you actually like both hosts. The problem is it's just not a real show. I don't know why, but it has no rhythm, it's got no theme and it always feels like a fill in for someone else or a holding pattern. It just comes across as the show that no one loves because it always appears to be filler. It's a brutal time slot I give you, but Blair has been pulling numbers off the charts in the same slot so there are some listeners out there. (as an aside, yes, I know it's easier to pull a high number in this slot because the audience size is smaller so it's easier to get a larger percent of a small number).
I rarely listen to the show for more than a few minutes here and there or if something big happens.
TSM: Perhaps it's my old age, but I think this show suffers from over-exposure. It's simply just on too much and then what I find is that it's very repetitive. The "schitck" never changes. Don't get me wrong I like listening to both Kypreos and Doug. I think Millard works well in between them too. When there is news or there is a real story it's great. On day 185 of the Stamkos contract status, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Again that could be more about me than the show. I know there are those of you out there who wish the Fan was 24/7 hockey and Leafs centric. That's simply not me. In small bites I love it. 5 days a week it's overexposed.
Mike: Marek >>> Millard. Something about adding Millard to the other two doesn't yield good results. That being said, you couldn't pay me to listen to Doug MacLean. Why is he such a big part of a Canadian sports network? Was he ever a GM or coach for a Canadian NHL team? What's his connection to the market? I don't get it, but then again this is the network that thinks John Shannon is a multi-platform star. Kypreos has made a great career for himself. All of his colleagues who speak to me love the guy. Good for him.
Grade: never listen … n/a
TSM: So this is my surprise hit. Part of the problem with many shows is that they bring in regular co-hosts and guests who are the actual story, while the regular host can't relegate themselves to being just the host. Back when Wilbur was on air, it was clearly his show but he didn't drive. It took special talent to be a co-host on that show given Wilbur's persona. I bring this up because I think Andi has mastered this beautifully. I don't mean this to sound the least bit derogatory, but Andi has figured out her place and sticks to it. She is the host of the show. She steers and she drives. However, she is not the show. Whomever she has on air, or in the co-host seat generally is more of the "expert" and she let's that play out.
That to me is the brilliance of a radio show. That's what's made the show so enjoyable. I am not going to be claiming that it's better than the predecessor. It's totally different. I am telling you that for me, it's really good radio. It's informative, it has good guests and it's doesn't seem stale. Count my in as a fan.
Grade: Because it's less than a year old, so there's not a long enough history behind it, I am grading it a B.
Mike: For the love of God, someone please tell Craig Button to pipe down. Why does he yell so much?
Andi is doing a great job. She's likable, she doesn't pretend to know more than she actually does, and she's a talented broadcaster with a wide sports background. I'm sure some people will complain that the old Leafs Lunch crew were better and I have no issue with that point of view. Very different shows. But compared to Hockey Central it is no contest for me. I'll listen to Andi over the other crew 10 times out of 10. Great hire by TSN radio.
TSM: Remember when it was announced that Andrew Walker would be the co-host on the Blundell in the morning and then it was un-announced? We can only speculate what happened to cause Walker to join Brady in his current 1pm slot. However, I am left wondering if Walker did take the role if he would be driving solo in the am slot right now.
Walked has done the best he can considering it's a one man show. He's tried to liven it up, he's used some creative programming and brought both his audience and his producer in to the fold. Walker is the type of host I want in a morning show. When I want the 30-45 mins of here is what I missed last night he's the type of guy I want delivering it.
So the problem Walker has, is that in his time slot it's the show that no one listens too. If a story breaks when he is on the air, he's a great person to listen to. My problem is if the story is before his show it's been analyzed already and if it's after well, then it's old news. Not Walker's fault; It is what it is.
Here's what I will say. If you were listening in the time slot, it's the best of the two shows by a country mile. When there is something going on at the moment, it's better than both morning shows. Where it sits now it's irrelevant.
Grade: under the circumstances, B-
Mike: No one watches and reads more sports than Andrew. I'd venture that he is the most informed and versatile sports host in the market. Dude lives and breathes sports, and it shows. Other than Arash Madani, who is clearly in the post-McCown PTS conversation, no one has a brighter future at the FAN than Andrew. In the short time he has been in Toronto he quickly moved from being an update guy, to Brady's sidekick, to Brady's equal, to having his own show.
Dave Cadeau had to fire Brady due to cost considerations, which meant that Walker didn't get a co-host at launch. I don't really agree with this logic though I understand it. Doing good solo radio is hard. And even when done well, the results are not always entertaining. Doing solo radio when you have no budget and you're in an unimportant timeslot is virtually impossible.
It was unclear how Walker would handle the responsibility of having his own show. In the months that have passed the show has struggled to find a stable identity. There have been lots of themed segments — Tell Me I'm Wrong! What's In Andrew Walker's Fridge?
Match Game The List, Tucker Tuesdays (Tucker not actually in studio), What Andrew watched & you Didn't … and many others I have already forgotten. Some of these have stuck around, as the show follows the Tim&Sid blueprint of drumming up twitter reactions from people trying to get through the workday, and then spending lots of time reacting to those reactions. It's better than taking calls, but not by much.
The show has also settled into what I refer to as the Big Bro, Lil Bro format. Walker is clearly the big bro: big voice, big takes, big shot. Then there are his Lil Bros who help get through the show. Lil Bro #1 is the show's unofficial co-host, producer JD Bunkis. Bunkis clearly has a future as a host or co-host and hopefully gets some reps running the mic … on another show. When Andrew brings him on, I change the dial. The same is true whenever Andrew brings on random Sportsnet players … Jeff Simmons, Jackie Redmond, Dan Riccio, Ben Ennis, etc. If Cadeau wants to stick with this format they should rename the show "The Hub" and just have it feature whoever is hanging around the water cooler that day. Gord Stellick popularized this with his Pool Parties back in the day.
Basically, my complaint is that there's far too much of Andrew and his pals playing grabass on the air for my tastes. I like sports talk a lot more than I like bro talk. The ratio is off right now.
The show is at its best when they dig for sports topics that won't get covered by other shows. Sometimes that's going into the numbers behind the game; sometimes that is finding interesting storylines from the NFL, MLB, or NBA, since there is no shortage of hockey coverage on the other shows; sometimes that means dissecting plays that only serious observers would have noticed. If the show consisted mostly of this kind of material, I would listen more often.
Walker excelled when he had to keep Brady on his toes. He did a very good job of it, and the contrast between the two helped establish his own brand. Whatever else was true of Brady & Walker, I always felt like I was getting advanced level sports talk. I don't get that anywhere on the FAN currently. I wonder if Cadeau would consider pairing Walker with someone like Blair or Brunt just to see how that sounds. Or, The Andrew Walker solo show could continue for another 5 years doing exactly what it is doing in this timeslot.
Mike: Mike deserves a lot of credit for the ratings he put up in the morning. They were not competitive with the FAN but in retrospect they were miles better than anything any other show did on TSN1050. The writing was on the wall once he was moved to mid-afternoon and his salary became way out of whack with the norms for the timeslot. He and Brady suffered the same fate, albeit for different reasons.
My issues with his show were that I didn't care for his comedy bits or his bro-shtick. I understand that this resonated with some listeners, as many were proud to be part of his Sex Box Crew. I wish Mike all the best in his next venture.
The really interesting question is what TSN does with the now vacant timeslot. Scott MacArthur is seemingly being groomed for a radio host job. He is no longer covering the Jays as a beat reporter and has been filling in for Bryan Hayes on Overdrive as well as other vacationing hosts. Of course there is always the spectre of Greg Brady — proven ratings winner — looming large. He can't come back officially until spring 2017, so TSN would have to be OK with a multiple changes in the coming year if they go that route.
TSM: Once again, the shoe didn't fit. Whether it was in mornings or in this time slot it wasn't a good fit for the audience. Put Mike on FM, put Mike on XM and he will deliver. In this city, in either time slot he was Krystal-esque. I am surprised he lasted as long as he did (and no, none of this is his fault) and I don't believe his appearance on Toronto Mike's podcast helped his cause either. I hope Mike resurfaces somewhere soon.
TSM: I sound like a parrot when it comes to Bob, however this some repeat info and some new. With Bob it's really simple. When he's engaged (Blue Jays) he's the best in the business. When it's February, and the story of the day is the 3rd line winger on the Leafs is out for the matchup with the Blue Jackets he's as weak as anyone else on radio. The challenge is to get more of engaged Bob and less of bored Bob on the air.
I will say that I think having Arash Madani as a more regular presence on the show is a good thing. Personally I like Arash better on radio than I do on tv. So whether as a co-host, a guest or guest host he is a breath of fresher air.
The McCown/Cox dynamic should be very interesting to watch or more specifically listen to. While there are those who don't care for Damien, he is a very smart guy and he is good on radio. The problem I had with him the last time he was with Bob was that they both came across as very negative. So much so that it wasn't listen-able. I don't blame Damien for that as it was as much Bob as it was him. Negativity is contagious and well it's an easy sell too.
It will be interesting to see the relationship when Bob and his audience are 100% focused on the Jays coming out of the holiday and Damien who is traditionally a hockey guy would likely be more comfortable talking about the leafs training camp and or this tournament that's going to be going on. You know Bob is going to have zero interest in the tournament and he will put up with Lou, Mike, Brendan and Matthews mania, but after that neither Bob nor his audience are going to want to talk puck.
Clearly the elephant in the set is McCown's contract. Without question it is the number one point of conversation I am asked about all the time when it comes to sports media in Canada. What happens when the deal is up and if Bob is done who replaces him. I am of the belief Mccown has about a year and half left on a contract that is set to expire in early 2018 ( that from the Shoalts article on Mccown being bored). What happens as we head into 2017 and McCown in to the final 12 months of his deal is going to be fascinating to watch.
I highly doubt that anything will be said publicly but the water cooler speculation will be great fun. Do both parties want to extend? There is a school of thought that says Bob will continue so long as they are willing to sign the cheque. On the flip side is Rogers probably would like him back but not at the current rate. Would Bob take a cut and keep working? I would bet that he wouldn't keep doing what he's doing but for less money. Would Rogers pay Bob less and accept a lesser role for Bob? I have no clue. Conversely, is it time for both sides to just say adieu?
My 2 cent bet, with no information is that Bob will be on the air somehwere after his deal is up. I don't think he's ready to retire and I am certain someone is willing to pay him to broadcast. Where? How long? When? How often? No idea.
Mike: I have probably written about PTS more than any other topic on this site over the last 3 years. I don't have anything new to say, or much to add to what Jonah wrote. Bob cannot do 15 hours a week of radio well at this point in time. There are too many other shows/podcasts competing for my ears, and the Bobcat mails it in too often. Part of me can't help but think that the loss of talented producer Ryan Walsh to Tim&Sid's TV show has also hurt PTS and Bob.
Overall, I find I spend more time deleting PTS podcasts than I do listening to them. I'll always check out what Deitsch is talking about during his paid appearances. I'll usually check out who the 6pm guests are. But there are only a handful of topics where I will actually make a point to listen because I want to hear what Bob thinks. That number keeps going down, since so many of his opinions are the same as they were in 1998.
I have found myself wondering what Tim&Sid would sound like 4-7. They could still do some chunk of the show for TV, but at least we would get them back on radio. Or, a more radical proposal: have Tim&Sid do their radio show from 4-6 (no TV, no calls, no Twitter outrage, no human laugh track) and then do all their goofy bits on TV from 6-7. Bob would come in from 6-7 and do one hour of radio a day — call it PTS National or something like that. No need for a co-host … just pack the show with the guests that will speak intelligently about the issues of the day, and Bob can do what he does best: conduct smart interviews.
Grade: when Bob is engaged – A; when's he's not – C. Overall: B
TSM: Give TSN and the OD team credit, they have stayed true to what the show was. They haven't changed it and it remains, day in and day out good fun sports radio. If you ever thought it might be fun to have a microphone on in your living room or a bar when you and your friends talk sports then you will love OD. They don't take themselves to seriously, they don't pretend to be something they are not. Its a very good alternative to PTS when either Bob is bored, Bob is away, or Ken Reid is anywhere near a microphone.
Where it lacks, and where they may get in trouble is coming out of the summer and all anyone wants to talk about is Blue Jays. If I were on the OD production team I'd be getting a guy like Dirk Hayhurst in studio as often as possible. They need a permanent baseball voice who will compliment the group.
I really enjoy listening to these guys, particularly because you can tell they really are enjoying what they are doing. That resonates, it comes across and it's infectious. Are they perfect? Nope. But I wouldn't want to listen to them if they were.
Grade: They get a B from me simple because they haven't been in the slot long enough. If they pull through baseball's hot season well they get an A.
Mike: Here's the theory: in order to reverse your 5 year history of getting trounced by the competition you take your most popular assets and move them to the most important timeslot. Here's the rub: they are all hockey guys and you need people who can talk sports 12-months a year. That was the obvious conundrum facing TSN1050 management when they decided to kick Leafs Lunch into Overdrive. Their solution? Tons of vacation time for all hosts! It's not the most sensible business solution, but I'm sure the hosts aren't complaining.
Let's start with the good: Overdrive is young and fun; PTS is old and dull. Good news for listeners wanting a change of pace for the drive home.
Ok, now on to the bad: this crew cannot talk sports other than hockey, in my opinion. I'm glad some of you enjoy listening to them talk baseball, but I just can't do it. It's the worst part of being stuck at the bar next to some guy going on about how the Jays should trade for Votto because he's Canadian.
Next, Jamie McLennan's presence on this show makes no sense to me. The jock seat is more than amply covered by Jeff O'Neill. He's brash; he's been in the room; he knows what it's like to play for the Leafs; he has a neck tattoo, and he has a large collection of bro words — a brocabulary if you will — for everyday items. McLennan never played for the Leafs, and was a backup goalie for most of his career. Why would the people of Toronto want to hear his thoughts?
All of this has bad effects on Bryan Hayes. He's a competent broadcaster but struggles to come up with interesting opinions. Here's a challenge: name one strong take that Brian Hayes has intelligently laid out that you either agreed with or strongly disagreed with. I can't, and he's been doing radio in this market for a long time. When surrounded by so much testosterone Hayes becomes a 3rd wheel. If you want an Overdrive drinking game, listen for O'Neill to drop one of his jock words or phrases, then see how long it is until Bryan is repeating it like a kid who just learned a new swear word.
Here's another place where TSN1050 is struggling under the weight of bad management. Jamie is married to Bryan Hayes' longtime producer Steph Apolito. She is now the producer of Overdrive. She was also recently promoted to Assistant/Associate Program Director. At the FAN being APD is considered a full-time job. Over at TSN you can apparently do that job while also producing the signature show on the station.
Here's another issue: how much coaching and critical feedback do you think the bros on Overdrive receive? Is Steph really going to say, "hey Jamie maybe you shouldn't talk so much"? Or, "hey Bryan, maybe instead of trying to keep up with the actual jocks in the room you could direct the conversation since you have experience watching other sports"?
Again, from the outside, this looks like an incoherent way to organize your work environment, assuming your goal is to produce a competitive product. My suggestion would be to move Jamie back to Leafs Lunch to be Andi's sidekick or let him focus on TV exclusively. Another option would be to save bro-time until the end of the week. Have Bryan co-host with a real journalist — Simmons or Arthur — Monday through thursday and then "kick the show into Overdrive!" on Fridays and bring the boys back in.
Scott MacArthur did a great job this week covering the Kaepernick story. Can you imagine the Bangbus crew trying to talk about race in America?
Grade: D on anything other than hockey or goofy sports stories; A on the Leafs, C for having 3 hosts who are over-committed or have way too much vacation time. Overall: PASS
With all of that said, the 2016-17 academic/radio year is clearly about positioning for the future. We are looking at a landscape with no more PTS (at least not the PTS we all know and have feelings about), no more Dean Blundell, and no more Mike Richards. Those are big presences and big salaries. So the lineups as they stand will almost certainly not be the same this time next year. Jay & Dan are in the process of flunking out of the US. TSN Radio has 7 stations across the country where they could be developing talent and building their brand. The FAN has only 2 but could add more. We are seeing people move between the two networks for the first time in a while. It's a volatile but exciting time to be following sports media.
Which Station do you listen to?
Best show on the FAN590:
Best show on the TSN1050:
Worst show on FAN590:
Worst show on TSN1050:
This is a time to give free advice to the program directors and show hosts so let them have it in the comments section. Also, if there is someone from the bench who you think deserves more air time, here is your chance to talk him or her up when you know the boss will be reading. #JaysTalkwithBenEnnis
As always, thanks for reading.
mike (not really in boston) & Jonah (TSM)