Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Has talk radio jumped the shark?

Genghis at AOSHQ rips into leading conservative talk-radio hosts, whom he accuses of being "entrenched in power and way too comfortable for their own good." Apparently, he's got no problem with Laura Ingraham or Mark Levin, since their names don't make his list.

Of the six hosts Genghis names, I don't get to hear Glenn Beck or Lars Larson that often, and O'Reilly's already said he's giving up his pathetic attempt at radio. I like Michael Savage, eccentricities and all, simply because he's a populist hell-raiser who speaks his mind without any concern for whose toes he steps on. So, that leaves us to discuss Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

I don't like Sean on TV, but his radio show has very strong production values. It's fast-paced with lots of sound bites, he gets big-name guests and, best of all, he seems to pay attention to the conservative blogosphere. If a headline sparks outrage with Malkin, HotAir or Instapundit, you can be pretty sure that Hannity will be talking about it.

Hannity has two really bad habits: First, every issue is cast as a titanic struggle between the forces of Good and Evil, as if to justify that Carmina Burana snippet in his hourly opening. Second, as Election Day nears, Hannity inevitably goes into GOP cheerleader mode, shaking his pompons and doing somersaults for every politician with an "R" beside his name. The Manichean melodrama and the shameless partisanship are both turnoffs for me.

Genghis complains (a) Rush takes too many days off, and also (b) "Half of the show is devoted to the Pittsburgh Steelers and his golf game."

As to (a), I'd just say that listener discontent about Limbaugh's vacation days is mainly caused by the vast gulf between Rush and his guest-hosts. Rush is just so damned good that it's always a disappointment when you switch over at 12:06 p.m., get stoked by that Pretenders bass riff and then . . . Mark Belling? Click. Time to switch to the FM classic-rock station and hope they're playing some tasty ZZ Top.

On point (b), I don't mind Limbaugh talking about golf or football for a few minutes on Monday, or any of the other little personal diversions he talks about from time to time. Politics is not the only interesting topic in the universe and, hey, it's his show. He's the most successful radio phenomenon since Alan Freed, and if he occasionally feels like chatting about his hobbies, why should I complain? It's a free country and if I get bored, all I have to do is punch a button and I'm listening to Zeppelin's "Black Dog" or Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein."

I think Rush is vastly underappreciated. As a journalist, I've interviewed lots of celebrities -- from Peter Jennings to Tom Wolfe -- but the one guy I'd most like to interview is Rush Limbaugh, simply because he is so influential and such an innovator. Most people don't realize how Limbaugh revolutionized the talk-radio medium by introducing "rock bumpers" (the music intros to each segment) and the use of audio actualities (aka "sound bites").

Rush is to radio what Columbus was to geography -- he discovered new territory by sailing off to do what nearly everybody said couldn't be done. There was never a national political talk radio program until Rush did it, and he did it against the unanimous advice of all the "experts" in the business. You can grumble all you want about his vacations and golf talk, but it's like questioning Joe Montana's Hall of Fame credentials because he sometimes threw an interception.

The man is quite literally irreplaceable and one of these days, when Rush is dead and gone, your grandchildren will be asking you to tell them what it was like to live in The Limbaugh Age.


  1. Hannity: His GOOD vs. EEEEEVIL paradigms and flacking for the GOP go with an infuriating speech pattern that never reaches the end of a sentence and render him completely unlistenable. Also, I've never really trusted him since he swiped Deb Schlussel's research.

    Rush is Great. I don't see why it's such a problem to push a button if he's off playing golf.

  2. Glenn Beck's radio used to be (or was when I listened several years ago) much different from what the CNN show was.

    Lot's and Lot's of sarcasm and irony. Lot's of schtick. Gobs of humor. No one was spared. I had a magazine route back then and Beck caused me near misses on the road daily.

    I hope he brings that stuff to Fox when he gets his new show.

  3. I can live without Hannity, and while Savage can be entertaining, I think he's basically a phony. Beck is no longer on in DC (so far as I can tell). He's generally pretty good, but his constant apocalyptic tone gets to be a bit grating.

    As for Rush - there is simply no one better. Anyone complaining about the (relatively little) time he devotes to sports is just looking for things to complain about. And Rush does not take much more time off than anyone else in radio. He just takes off days at a time instead of entire weeks, therefore it just seems like he is taking a lot more time off than other broadcasters.

  4. Steve, Glenn Beck isn't like that any more. He's chicken little with a bunch of long winded lectures on why the sky is falling. Not a bit of the old sarcasm and irony. Or humor. Only a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON telling us how it is.

  5. Right now I am listening to Dennis Prager. He is great because he is not always predictable and does talk about things OTHER than politics. I do not get Rush's station here in my office. I have listened to Rush since he had Caller Abortions. And when I get the chance to listen to him, I realize why he is still the best. As for Sean Hannity, I think that he is better on radio. But, he is a different animal and I can appreciate him as well. Sorry, I do share the enthusiasm for Michael Savage. Autism is a real condidtion and his rant on that really turned me off.

  6. You know who's got a great show? Mike Church.

  7. "and one of these days, when Rush is dead and gone, your grandchildren will be asking you to tell them what it was like to live in The Limbaugh Age."

    that day can't come soon enough.
    but really, you are all so easily impressed
    by the modern-day PT Barnum. I'm surprised that no one complains about all the time he spends servicing himself. I mean, when I listen, I laugh most often at his attempt to pass himself off as a mans man.The guys ass looks like cottage cheese in a plastic bag.
    Anyway, I don't have enough time or space to discredit the fraud that is Rush Limbaugh.
    When he does go off into the sunset, history will render him an example of the kind of American stupidity that gave Dubbya the reins to the nation for eight years....