When Mike North and WSCR-AM/670 The Score parted ways in mid-2008, I was ready to celebrate. It meant North’s bombastic ego finally caught up with him after years of dodging bullets. It also meant the promotion of then midday hosts Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley, veteran Chicago sports writers who made sports radio a second career for two hours each weekday. Their midday show was a simple “paint by numbers” sports show, that wasn’t too serious. Stick to that formula, and it should work in morning drive.
Nearly five years later, I have a hard time listening to Mulli and Hanley. The problem is they got too comfortable. While their show still follows the “paint by numbers” formula, their loud and obnoxious personalities and spontaneous attempts at humor have become a huge distraction to what otherwise could be an entertaining and informative morning sports show.
Two weeks ago, the morning following CSN Chicago Susannah Collins’ infamous “tremendous amount of sex” slip of the tongue, Mulli and Hanley’s 6 a.m. segment featured them playing the sound bite over and over again, while laughing and giggling like school children. Yes, the slip was humorous, but nothing more deserving then a quick laugh before moving on. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought I was listening to two high school kids broadcasting out of their parent’s basement with the repeat of the sound bite and their constant joking and laughing about it. Instead of discussing the Blackhawks victory in a playoff game, they were too amused with the sound bite.
You would think the amount of guests they surround themselves with would provide a decent buffer. It does to an extent, when the guest is capable, or willing, to play off the hosts’ humor. While someone like Matt Bowen pulls it off nicely, I cringe thinking about the times they had Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on each Monday to discuss baseball.
His segments during the 2010 and 2011 baseball seasons were painfully awkward to listen to. Not only would Rosenthall no sell the humor attempts coming from Mulli and Hanley, the questions they would ask him were the same each and every week — why are the White Sox not hitting, how much more can Cub fans take with bad baseball, what can Adam Dunn do to start hitting? It was the same freakin’ interview each week!
In contrast, Rosenthal now appears each week on the Score’s afternoon show with Terry Boers and Dan Bernstein. The segments are a night and day difference. Boers and Bernstein keep their humor to a minimal, and ask a variety of questions about the game. The discussion is different each week based.
My rant may be a moot point since their show is doing very well, ranking third place in the morning ratings among the 25-54 demographic during the month of March. Their competitors, “Mike & Mike” on WMVP-AM/ESPN 1000 is syndicated so any focus on Chicago sports is minimal at best, and usually non-existent.
Another reason Mulli and Hanley probably do so well is because they come across as likeable — they don’t take themselves too seriously. If you can get past their overbearing personalities, they do actually discuss Chicago sports amongst callers and a solid lineup of guests — even if the exchange is potentially awkward. The core of the discussion is informative and relevant. Their show would be really good if they toned down their attempts at humor. Less is more.
I enjoy off topic banter and humor when listening to the radio, which is why I have enjoy Boers and Bernstein, Dan McNeil, Roe Conn, Garry Meier, etc. But when the silliness is not funny and becomes distracting to the core product, that’s a problem (which is what WGN-AM is now experiencing with their morning superstar Jonathon Brandmeier).
While Mulli and Hanley are an improvement over their predecessor Mike North, what good is that since I’m unwilling to listen most mornings?
Odds & Ends
– When I do listen to Mulligan and Hanley, I do enjoy it when Mark Grote (“Scoreboard Update” anchor) chimes in before or after the updates. I wish he was allowed to speak more beyond the top and bottom of each hour. I also enjoy his hosting work each Saturday morning with Steve Rosenbloom.
– Following on what I wrote last night about WGN-AM 720’s “Noon Show,” I had the misfortune of missing program with guest host Bob Sirott. Joining him was fellow veteran Chicago news anchor Walter Jacobson. Another unfortunate is that the show isn’t podcasted on WGN’s website (a poor excuse for a website).
– Meanwhile, with regular “Noon Show” host Carol Roth still away, WGN’s Judy Pielach fills-in on today’s broadcast. Tomorrow, WGN airs a special “Cub’s Corner” broadcast with David Kaplan, Brian Noonan and Andrea Darlas.
– With the Cubs playing tomorrow night, game one of the Blackhawks second round playoffs against the Redwings will have to air on WLUP-FM/97.9 The Loop in addition to the live stream via WGN’s website.