Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another of life's joys crushed beneath the heel of the Man.

I'm really pissed off and depressed today. Yet another of my favorite things on the planet is coming to a premature end.

First Pushing Daisies, my favorite new TV series of the past five years and, frankly, one of the most amazing pieces of television I've ever seen, was canceled by ABC. And now, or as of tomorrow, so will the AdamCarolla radio show.

I've been a fan of Carolla since his days with the Loveline MTV series in the 1990s (I never got to hear him on the Loveline radio show, though I will now have to go out and find some mirror archive sites and pod some classic episodes.) Later, when he and Jimmy Kimmel (who I was a big fan of from his days with Win Ben Stein's Money) paired up for the Man Show, I thought it was a damn genius pairing and an ingenious concept that largely worked that way in execution.

Back when Howard Stern (who I was not so much of a fan of) abandoned the planet's surface for satellite radio, Carolla was named as the west coast replacement for the timeslot on CBS radio and offered in syndication in the same markets Stern had out there. As I don't live on the west coast or Las Vegas or Seattle and wasn't into podcasting then, I didn't listen. However, back in October, I finally paid attention to the Adam Carolla show ads in iTunes and subscribed to the show.

It took me a little while to warm up to the show. The show itself was oddly formatted. Instead of breaking it into four segments per-day for each hour of the show, it was split into a dozen or so segments between commercial breaks. At first, I didn't want to hear any part of the show that wasn't pre-labeled as something I might like, so I stuck to listening to interviews with people I liked. After a couple weeks, though, I began listening to the comedy bits. And when that wasn't enough, I began listening to the How Say You q&a segments that opened each morning's show. Soon, I was listening to the news and then the whole show (which is great to do as a podcast listener, cause they cut out all the commercials). The improv-based dynamic of Carolla, his co-host Teresa Strasser and sound-drops guy "Bald" Bryan works really well and is pretty much everything I find entertaining about radio and comedy all rolled into one. I find Adam's "righteous angry complainer" persona infinitely amusing, particularly when I agree with what he's complaining about. And his rapport with frequent guests Joel McHale from E's The Soup (who I'm a major fan of, too) and David Allan Greer (who's habitual snoring during Teresa's news NEVER gets old for me) just makes for some amazing radio. Very little of it feels scripted. Most of it is on the fly comedy, the results of which can sometimes be astounding. It's the radio show I dreamed of being a part of back when I actually did morning radio, but freely admit that I didn't have the talent (nor the managerial support) to pull off at that level.

From what I understand, I started listening to Adam Carolla at a very good time. He went through a couple of years of different co-hosts (including Danny Bonaduce, who I have very little patience for) that didn't quite gel. The current lineup was, to me, a perfect one which I look (or, rather, looked) forward to hearing on a daily basis. I even went out and upped my Carolla intake by catching his movie The Hammer on DVD. I highly recommend it for fans and non-fans alike. It's a sports movie with a heart that Adam co-wrote and produced. And while the low budget sometimes hurts it (just pay attention to the incredibly small and majority female audience of the movie's boxing championship grand finale), it's a very funny film with a lot of heart and does not in any way deserve the R rating it received. ESPN Magazine named it the best sports film of 2008 and I'd put it in my top most enjoyed I saw then, too.

All good things must come to an end.

A week ago, a stray thought popped into my head: I wondered if the poor economy in California might cause a financial shift in the radio markets, perhaps causing upper management to reconsider pricey salaries for certain talent. It was the sort of stray thought that I may have to file under the banner of being one of my infrequent episodes of "bad craziness." Yesterday on the show, a listener phoned in to ask Carolla point blank if his show was ending, because there had been rumors to that effect online. Carolla said that he would have a major announcement on Thursday's show. We can now read in the news at least the basic facts of at least part of this announcement. The gist: Carolla's home station is switching formats from newstalk to Top 40.

As Carolla himself might say, "What the EFF is up with that ESS?"

Turns out, all is not necessarily bad news, though it's certainly not great.

Thanks to live streaming at his site, I've now been able to hear a bit of the big announcement this morning. As he hinted yesterday, there are plans in the works for a Carolla continuation following Friday's final KLSX show. Because of his contract with CBS radio, Carolla's still getting paid through the end of the year, so he's not hurting for cash. His plan is to continue broadcasting via podcast, though not with the full compliment of Teresa and Bryan and in something of a more traditional podcast reduced format. His logic, which is sound, is that the internet is the future for programming of all sorts. It will soon be in cars, allowing folks to drag their favorite podcasts with them wherever they go (I already do via my Zen Vision-M) and podcasting is slowly but surely becoming a viable money-maker. His goal, he says, is not to make a lot of money (as he's basically doing the show for free to start out, with a hopeful payday down the road, similar to the business models of Ricky Gervais and Jimmy Pardo) but to make enough to pay a few people to join up with him.

As he says himself, "As I've said many times, I would do this show for free if that's all they had to offer. And I guess I'm going to have to back up my words now because I am going to do the show for free."

The beginning of the show will be bare bones with just Carolla, his tech guy Mike and his buddy the Weeze, broadcasting from his home. Down the line, he hopes to bring in guests and eventually be able to bring back Teresa and Bryan. I really hope so, because to me they form a power trio that makes not only the show better but also one another. Whereas on some shows the female co-host is basically there to sit and laugh at the host's jokes, Teresa has always exhibited great intelligence, in addition to her on-the-fly wit. And "Bald" Bryan's real-time skills at finding and executing unique sound drops, or pulling quotes out of context to play at ironic times, is simply amazing. You would think it was all planned out in advance, cued up and ready to go, but from everything I've heard, it's actually done largely on the spot.

Much like I support Jimmy Pardo's efforts to find payment in podcasting, I've no doubt Carolla will eventually find something that works. He'll also be among the innovators that take podcasting to new levels.

I started this post pissed off and depressed, but have now moved on to something more akin to hopeful melancholic acceptance.

The new podcast will be available at starting Monday morning.

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