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Redefining “Commercial” Radio

When I say “redefining commercial radio,” I really mean “putting the commercial in commercial radio.” I mention this because our local AM news/talk channel received my coveted Strangulation-Inducing Advertisement Overload Award this morning. I simply cannot believe how many commericals there are on that station—but what’s far worse than the mind-boggling frequency with which advertising breaks are taken is the fact that they only have about five ads that they run OVER and OVER and OVER.

Last week, I had this stupid salsa music playing in my head for about five days straight—and now that I’ve started writing this sentence about it, it’s back again, damn it—which I am deluged with a dozen times a day courtesy of, of all things, a local Suzuki dealer. (Yes, a Japanese car dealer…with salsa music. Makes purrrrr-fect sense. Well, this is south Florida I suppose.) This week, every time I turn on the stupid radio I hear this godawful piano composition that sounds like somebody just wildly tickling the same three keys over and over again, and this is supposed to be the classy and sophisticated backing for a Volvo dealer commercial.

This morning it all just came to a head. I am so damn sick of that radio station that I think I will give up listening to the morning show entirely, and that’s saying a lot for me, because I am a closeted talk radio geek. Especially local talk. In the past, this area has always had a 3-hour local talk show in the afternoons. Since I’ve moved here, it’s been hosted by a number of individuals, beginning with a much-adored old timer, who unfortunately experienced a cancer relapse a couple years ago and passed away. Since he left the airwaves, the afternoon show was hosted by a revolving-door series of alternately blasé and obnoxious individuals, some providing pure, visceral entertainment by way of the ridiculously funny harrassment calls they would elicit from their listeners.

During one stretch of a few months, the local station hired a young Chicago-native to come down and host the show, and this guy was not only the biggest idiot I’ve ever heard on radio, but he was an obnoxious fuck, too. When he was on the radio, it sounded like he was in a sports bar talking shit with the other dudes he was sharing the bar with, mostly ripping on all the local teams and saying how much better his home-town teams were. (Which may have been true, but dude, a hint? If you’re hosting a show in some other town, it helps if you don’t rip on their stuff.) The guy was a total goose-stepping conservative (not that I’m all that fond of the other side of the fence, either) and despite this being a very conservative town, he pissed off so many people—and the call-ins to the station during his show were so funny—that one day I dropped a cassette into my stereo and recorded some of it. I should post a couple samples up here. I suppose that might get me sued, though, if anyone found them.

Anyway, eventually the local afternoon show was dropped so that Sean Vanity…uh, I mean Hannity could blather on for three hours, and instead, we got a local morning show that was just about like any other “adult contemporary” style morning radio show out there; you know, like the Breakfast Club in Detroit or whatever else. For once, the local station struck gold when they hired this guy named Dave to host. He was genuinely funny and pleasant to listen to, and you got the impression that he was coming at things from his point of view, and not just the “Republican” or “Democrat” parrotting that you get almost everywhere else.

Sadly, last week, Dave quit his job. Apparently abruptly, because the first I heard of this was the day before his last day on the air, and I listen to that show every morning. Apparently he was moving on to greener pastures, since one doesn’t make much money at his level in local radio and he was using his experience here to springboard into a better (and better-paying, no doubt) position. Which is great for him, and I can certainly sympathize—hell, I’m doing the exact same thing right now in my own career. But Christ, when Dave left, I was reminded of the bad old days of the Chicagoite In The Afternoon. The morning show has become crap.

The woman who’s hosting now was Dave’s co-host for the last few weeks of his “run,” if you will. During that time she seemed to be about as amiable as Dave himself, but now that she’s become the full-time host, suddenly she breaks out all over the board with the hyper-conservative democrat-bashing stuff, in a southern-accented voice just oozing with disdain and sarcasm like your irritating second-grade teacher with permanent PMS. Worse, it seems like there’s no longer any real content on the show; it’s just one big long gigglefest and a bunch of commercials. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where this overlong tangent finally connects back up with the subject of today’s post.

From the time I turned on the radio this morning, right at 8:00, the first thing I heard was a commercial. That damnable Volvo dealer commercial with the piano cacophany, to be exact. Great, this is what I get for leaving a couple minutes early. Again I contribute to the wear-and-tear on my steering wheel mounted MUTE button, which I’m convinced is the best little creature comfort feature my car possesses. I unmute it every so often to see if anything tolerable is on, and soon, the top-of-the-hour news starts. The station recently changed from CBS news (which is fine, because they suck vomit through a sock) to Fox News, which is no can of beans either, and whose top-of-the-hour news updates are laughably short, in true American “just gimme the 2-second Cliff’s Notes version” tradition.

After the news break, it’s commercials…again. The same damn commercials I hear every day, over and over and over. I’m reminded for what is probably the eightieth time this week that I should buy a work truck at the local Ford dealer, because they got deals NO ONE ELSE CAN BEAT, and they can blast more laser sound effects during their commercials than anyone else. These ads continued as I left the garage, drove a mile at 30 MPH to the community gate, turned onto the road, got past the first intersection, and finally arrived at the usual traffic jam at the second intersection. Total elapsed time: about eight or nine minutes. OF FUCKING COMMERCIALS!

Finally the morning show comes back on. There’s some banter amongst the cast and crew about absolutely nothing that matters to anyone, and the whole while the host is peppering the show with product placement-style remarks, then when the banter stops and I’m hoping it’s time to talk about what’s happening in the news in our local area, the host says that “it’s time to take care of some business here” and proceeds to do an on-air spot for one of the show’s sponsors! HELLO? IS THERE ACTUALLY ANYTHING TO BE SPONSORED ON THIS PROGRAM?! I can’t believe this! By the time I get to work, with a total commute time of 20 minutes, I have heard 75% commercials and 25% crap that’s trying to pass for a show. The only remotely entertaining vestige of content that’s still left on the program is the “World News Roundup,” which is basically a 5-minute segment of “weird news” and other appalling shit that’s happened around the globe in the last 24 hours, but in the last couple of days they’ve hyped the hell out of the World News Roundup and then never even did the segment! Bunch of goddamn yahoos. Just stumping for ratings, I bet, so they can draw people closer to their radios and then BLOW THEIR EARS OFF WITH MORE COMMERCIALS.

It’s a good thing I’m changing jobs and won’t even have a morning (or evening) commute anymore. I can just sit at home, sipping orange juice and listening to the superior might of XM Radio instead. Sorry, local AM guys…in this case, the small-town mom ‘n’ pop shop is definitely not the way of the righteous.

And I’m clear.