When I’m on the road, I always try to squeeze in a meeting with the morning show because they’re hopefully the most creative entity in the building, and creative people inspire me.
What you find with great talent is that they’re really inquisitive. They ask questions. They’re curious. They’re driven to be better. And they’ll usually be NSA-like in their creeping of other shows. They’re off the air, they meet with their cast members and start looking to see what they’re peers did that morning.
So I’ll usually ask the hosts and support crew who they like to follow. They’re a couple of syndicated shows that, if they appear to be true fans, it raises a red flag. Not because these shows aren’t successful but they haven’t done anything that is truly remarkable in years. No one has ever gone into work and said “Holy gosh Mr. Smithers, you’re not going to believe what Karl & Googie did this morning.” I get a lot of Kanes and Mojos and Fitzs and Chet Buchanan’s in the U.S. That’s neither good or bad. Just an observation.
My favorite was from a guy who just failed dramatically upward, proving once again that God has a sense of humor and we’re just a Skinner test for him. I asked the question and was told “No one. I try to be unique and do my own stuff.” And by the way, he failed at both.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we’re in Show Business. When you’re trying to respond to Legal’s squashing of a promotion that they approved every year for the last eleven, it’s difficult to understand that we have a connection with Hanks and Speilberg and Farrell and Sorkin and Letterman and Hall. (Monty Hall).
I’ve always been a proponent of monitoring and analyzing television because they’re doing all of our research for us. And we unknowingly rip each other off like crazy. Half the reality shows out there are just a few degrees of separation from Survive It And Drive It and Doomed Groom.
But there’s more to watching and learning from television than the shows and methodologies themselves.
First, just for fun, watch a couple of hours of network programming and run a clock on them. What are they’re promoting, how much they’re promoting and how far out they’re promoting it. If only to make you think about how we can sometimes truly suck at promoting our own stuff.
They don’t do a lot of contesting but when they do it usually revolves around a specific program as an additional way to promote and market it. As opposed to some Radio contesting that seemingly has no connection to what’s on our air except that maybe it’s being driven by someone who advertises on us.
One of my criteria for Things We Don’t Do is to build a contest around a client’s spokes person. They’re shills. They’re paid actors and with few exceptions (I think Flo might be one), the audience doesn’t care. So a Progressive contest is just a really long commercial for the client unless we can add a station element to it…so it actually gives us a reason to talk about it.
TV is very good at branding themes and phrases. Think about sweeps week and the verbiage they use to create excitement about their programs.
When Rob Trygg was doing the imaging for Cox in Honolulu, he decided “WTF?” and did a series of promos that were ripped from the Fall sweeps.
“Tomorrow morning, it’s the most shocking Kimo episode ever, followed by an all new Island Boy!”
“Tonight’s Wayne Maria show is one that you won’t want to miss.”
“This afternoon, on a very special Jubal…”
Why? Why not? And it was funny and people called in ideas. When was the last time you got any input on your imaging?
I’ve always believed that great morning shows share a lot of the characteristics of great sitcoms.
Steve Reynolds is a teacher of character development. The first season of “Seinfeld” was pretty muddy. George was actually successful. Elaine was locked in the roll of being Jerry’s ex and was just kind of trying to figure out her niche.
Morning shows will have clearly defined personalities. Paige is the idiot. Meredith is just trying to keep peace. Eddie the voice of reason.
But it’s also fun to play against your perceived character. You ever watch “One Hour Photo”? I loved and miss Robin Williams but him being serious and creepy? That was amazing.
So once in awhile, mix it up. Keep people on their toes.
Great characters on TV are known for things or affectations that are their signature. Maybe a bad example but Cosby with the sweater. David Letterman with the pen through the window. There was an historic morning talent in Portland in the 80’s whose thing was his bugle. That was it. So they had it stolen and did a pre-Fugitive hunt for it.
Great sitcoms have secondary characters. Janice on “Friends” became a fan fave but she was really just going to be a one episode player until she tested like a muther. They had to bring her back. Great morning talent always have their eyes and ears open for these people who, for a moment, will cross our paths and they’re smart enough to know “Holy crap. Verinder is awesome.” Verinder was a Middle Eastern convenience store clerk who called The Dog House a few times, they realized the brilliance of Verinder and for several years he was the go-to person to do “stupid shit”. Marriage counseling. Covering the Grammy’s in LA.
The worst characters on morning shows are ones that have been invented and voiced. Ugh. The best are listeners who have something about them that makes them unique and interesting.
Again, the networks have done all of our research. There are scores of plotlines that are shared by just about every successful sitcom. The shows that went the distance and quit on their own.
There are so many of these that there are actual compilations on-line.
If a cliffhanger works for Dallas, why not on the radio. Schulte and Swann at KZIA ended the week with Cliff Hanger Friday. “What? Mo broke….” And we find out in the first break on Monday.
Inquisitive is good. It shows good self-esteem and confidence that you choose to look for ways to improve your show by researching or following other shows. And not just Radio. There are a few things to be learned from an evening plopped in front of the tube.
Original image credit Thomas Leuthard.