Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Return of the TK

Snow days, ice days, school delays, federal holidays, I'm in a daze. Seriously, I am more confused than an NCAA bubble team today. I am looking outside. It's sunny and 50 degrees, but this morning, the schools opened one hour late. It was a little chilly and foggy when I was out early, but they went on time yesterday. To quote Tom Hanks in "Big", "I don't get it."

Okay, now that I have gotten that out of my system, let's turn to a significant and mildly disturbing event in my life (no, not my 40th birthday). Tuesday morning, Tony Kornheiser returned to the air at 8:30 on Washington Post Radio with a two-hour show immediately rebroadcast at 10:30. If you read this blog regularly or just glance at the subtitle, you know that this is a big deal to me, a reason to rejoice, but why is it disturbing?

Well, first, there is a slight format change. Washington Post Radio is not an all-sports station, so the show's format of sports, entertainment news, and whatever happens to be on Mr. Tony's mind fits a little more comfortably than it did at SportsTalk 980 and ESPN Radio, his two previous homes. Better fit = better show, right? No, not necessarily. Part of the show's charm was TK's outsider status, his stance that there were more interesting and important things to talk about than the Redskins' historical success with fourth-round picks or the RPI or the tire pressure in a NASCAR race. This was heresy in that world and was never illustrated better than when "serious" sports media personalities criticized ESPN for hiring TK for Monday Night Football.

There is still plenty of sports. The first two guests were Michael Wilbon and Bob Ryan, and John Feinstein is scheduled for tomorrow. But, now, Mr. Tony can veer off topic into a discussion about the crazy astronaut lady, Britney Spears or his dog, and nobody bats an eye. It's a fine point, I guess, but the flavor has been altered Not like Coke going to New Coke, more like the difference between the original Coke vs. Coca Cola Classic (remember, this is an obsession for me).

The new show also has a changed cast of characters. Sports guy Andy Pollin is still at his old station and Gary Bigtime Braun, who was a hilarious TK foil, has another job also. Instead, for sidekicks we get movie critic Joe Barber and Jeannie McManus, aka My Friend Nancy, who was one of Mr. Tony's editors at the Washington Post. Jeannie is fine, I guess, but it's not the the same as Gary, who was always willing to make the cheap, sexist joke. She seems to be more of a voice of reason when what you really want is someone who will nudge Mr. Tony over the edge into a full ranting rage, as Gary so often did. And Joe Barber was okay once a week on movies, but now he seems to be trying too hard, and he must get rid of that cackle. I don't know about you, but I cannot listen to a chucklefest. Nigel is back, which is fine, but he is good as an occasional touch, like a nice balsamic vinegar.

So, these are minor points and I should be able to adjust, but one of the signatures of the Mr. Tony show, and of most talk radio, is his feuding with those who have tread on his tremendously paranoid, large and fragile ego. One of his current targets would appear to be none other than Big Stein, my boy Dan Steinberg, whose work I have come to enjoy and, if I may say so, have contributed to with the local hoops poll. Now I really don't want to have to choose (why should I?), but this thing could get ugly.

For instance, yesterday, Big Stein had an item about Chicago sportswriter Sam Smith and his disrespect for bloggers, portraying them as illegitimate facsimiles of "real" journalists, like himself. The article goes on to show that in his colum this week, Smith cited two items first reported by bloggers. Not much love for Mr. Smith in the comments section, let me assure you. And who was a guest on Mr Tony's show today? None other than TK's good friend, Sam Smith.

Now, sometimes Mr. Tony's animosity is just a pose, as with his fellow WP columnist Mike Wise, but I think this could be a little more serious for him. Although Big Stein said nice things about Nigel this week. Anyway, who knows?

And, yes, "Bill in Phoenix, Maryland" sent an email that did not get read today, another strike against Mr Tony.

Now that you've had that little peek into my head, I'll try not to bring it up again. Tomorrow: Oscars, Idol and the NCAA Tournament


Rick said...

A very good analysis, Bill. And, I look forward to reading your comments on the "new Coke" over the next 4 months.
I am curious to see if the TK return to radio, will be a "Jack Paar's return to television" situation.
If you're out on your bike....


Bill Fitzgerald said...


Always a pleasure to hear from you. I got my email read today, so I am still a fan, but it's not the same.