Such is the pathetic state of one of the very few outlets for the liberal voice left in this country. To watch the unraveling continue is heart wrenching...to see a "contest" where talented, passionate voices are akin to sheep to the slaughter (and Simon Cowell's name is even mentioned in the mailer advertising this little game,) and into the corporate grinder of another possibility that looks to be much like the last possibility was...well, lets just say that hope is not winning out anymore....and if the Whoopie Goldberg Happy Show doesnt sound feasible to soothe the masses, well, think again.
First of all, I should say that the choices are a little uncertain...who is actually in the running here? I don't know for sure. In the wake of the Randi Rhodes debacle, the new suits need to fill the 3-6PM slot, and its not enough for them that they have, under their very noses, the most shuttled around, loyal, and excellent, Sam Seder, but they have felt compelled to try out some celebrity hosts who couldn't possibly want the gig, and who have pretty much sucked so far. Just to recap for the latecomers; we have heard from Roseanne Barr, Joy Behar, Richard Belzer, and still to come is the duo of Ron Kuby and Ron Reagan, which might only be half bad, but, hell, all things equal why not just give Kuby a show late night or very early morning somewhere, not prime drive-time, fer' Christ's sake, and be done with it?
This week, our heroes, Marc Maron and Sam Seder, share the slot on alternating days. This whole thing is seemingly an audition for Maron, but there is no comparison between him and any of the others, except Seder, who is from the same crowd of comedians and comedy circuit. Their long relationship lends itself to a very nice shorthand and knowing grin sort of back and forth that works. Maron used to think that the two of them together might be too "Jewey," but I don't get that as much as I get their long relationship as very different brothers who approach things differently, but have the same jumping off point.
They each have a different approach which has its points, with Maron leaning more towards culture and variety with politics thrown in, while Seder is straight up politics with reflections on the work-a-day life we, most of us, share. Maron does more sketch comedy and is more inside his own head, which either reflects our collective neurosis, or just seems funny to the more balanced of us out there. Both are funny and real, and more importantly, both are Air America originals, and are actually what was that hopeful, new, edgy voice. When either of them appears on the network, the fans come out in droves. This is a no brainer, and why a competition is being set up is either high concept from around a conference table with communications school grads who think they have some creative edge, or some money making priming of the pump. Maybe celebrities impress advertisers? Only so long as listeners tune in.
The idea of audience input in this decision is quaint, to say the least, to those of us who have attempted to communicate with that organization in large numbers only to be ignored. In fact, the newsletter that broached this little experiment didn't even specify how one would vote for one or the other, and since, as far as I can see, the contest is between Maron, Seder, and possibly Kuby, I suppose they could be counting streams, or emails or...it just doesn't seem like they planned it too well. So, in case there was a question over in the home office, yes we want Maron back on the air however we can get him and within his own west coast constraints. Yes we want Seder in a 5 day per week slot. No we don't want any of your celebrities.
In any case, Sam Seder hosted Monday the 5th, and will host again on Wednesday the 7th. Marc Maron will host Tuesday the 6th, Thursday the 8th, and Friday the 9th. We were to hear a tag team of the two of them on Friday, but some glitch prevented it...too bad; these two are excellent together in their weekly VOD-cast, here, on Tuesdays at 11AM,EST.
My favorite Air America Radio sweatshirt says "...because we couldn't make this stuff up..." across the chest. The story of AAR will no doubt be told beyond what we know from the Left of the Dial documentary, which was full of hope at the raw talent and creativity of those early days of the creation of what was to be a strong voice for the left. Late last week on Hardball, the bland Mark Green, third "owner" of AAR, compared a John McCain presidency to Herman's Hermits; "Second Verse, Same as the First," with a stiff chuckle and nod to "pop culture." I was struck by how far removed he is from the current of modern society and what the meaningful touchstones of what remains of our culture might be, outside of the incestuous world of NYC politics, and the level that he just cant seem to get past. When I think of this guy and his ilk, I get a vision of furniture and lamps covered in plastic and slick young guys standing by the ropes of Studio 54, never to get in because of those damned bridge and tunnel shoes and gold chains. Its not something that I find necessarily bad; its a culture all its own, and a Brooklyn upbringing that I understand because I also grew up there. But it is like a time capsule and there is a sort of mentality and taste implied there, born of Tony Manero, rented limos, and power hungry failed politicians, picked last for the team time and again. New York City is a hard place to make your mark, and at some point maybe its best to stop trying so damned hard and look at the reality of whats in front of you.
The news that "new owners" were once again climbing aboard the sinking ss. AAR gave me little hope, especially when I heard that Green was being kept on. Still, I heard from a couple of different people on the inside that the new group seemed pretty smart and that there might yet be hope. I don't know; hope seems so distant these days in light of a paralyzed senate, unable to effect any real change without enough votes or enough balls to even speak up about criminals in the White House... and the infighting in the party which doesn't seem to have any sort of logical basis....the partisanship within the democratic party which was so clearly reflected in AAR management.... So, I didn't expect much, especially when the network seemingly set up and then took down Randi Rhodes. The whole episode was a horrible example of what is wrong with an entity like AAR being run by a bunch of pseudo politicians who are really home shopping moguls, posturing and posing as they try to figure out how to present the "left" side of things in as palatable and soothing a way as possible, so as to make money while appearing PC. Start-up media outlets seldom make money in the first 5 years. Outlets with a controversial message tend to need ongoing financial support; just ask Rupert Murdoch.
Whatever is going on over there resembles the divide in the democratic party in that someone's idea of how to fill a slot left empty by the network's biggest draw who is a concise, on point, broadcaster, that knows her stuff, is with guest "celebrity hosts" who are not only a little old and soft, but not especially up on the issues, while popular originals stand by. The messages from each of these categories of hosts is so completely different as to be almost representative of the differences between candidates.
AAR would be lucky if any of the original Air Americans or the celebrity guests would even consider a job with an outlet with this track record. I guess that performers, commentators, and the like are every bit as masochistic as their fans, and the message has to get out one way or another. I have no doubt that the cream will rise to the top here or elsewhere, and if this is where I part ways with AAR, then so be it. I lost my ability to care a long time ago....but I will stream the show...I will vote equally for Maron and Seder...and I hope that when this thing is over that AAR might be able to give a nod toward mistakes made, and start to rebuild what was once a pretty damned great line-up.
c/p Brilliant at Breakfast