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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Whither Air America?
Posted by Jill | 7:49 AM
After four years of being a "premium" (later "on demand") subscriber to Air America, I finally told them to stuff it after they cancelled Break Room Live last summer. Sorry, but the snake oil infomercial known as "Montel Across America" just doesn't do it for me.

This compendium of clips from the documentary Left of the Dial gives you a taste of the kind of fresh gonzo "Hey Kids Let's Put On a Radio Show" stuff that was going on at Air America in the beginning:

"Ohio is a big problem." How right that was.

Back in those days, you could turn on WLIB at 6 AM if you were in the New York area and not turn it off until late at night. You could start with the brilliant now-cult classicMorning Sedition, then see if Chuck D was going to actually show up on Unfiltered, then listen to now-Senator Al Franken and Katherine Lanpher banter on The O'Franken Factor, then listen to the rants of Randi Rhodes, then listen to So What Else is News with Marty Kaplan before Sam Seder and Janeane Garofalo came on at 7 PM.

Oh, not all of it was wonderful. Lizz Winstead, without whom there would be no Daily Show, didn't translate all that well to radio, and Chuck D was half asleep mush of the time. Al Franken could get preachy and "The Oy Oy Oy Show" was only funny if you were Jewish. Janeane Garofalo was awful on radio. But we all know how Rachel Maddow has shone as a media personality, and there's a reason we still feature the 24/7 feed of comedy bits from Morning Sedition in the sidebar. But the most important thing is that the original Air America lineup was a kind of experiment in radio. The charges that Randi Rhodes was, and still is, a Limbaugh for the left may have some validity (other than the fact that Rhodes actually prepares for her show by arming herself with facts where Limbaugh just pulls lies out of his ass), but the rest of the inexperienced lineup was just winging it. The quality may have been uneven, but we'd never seen the like of the original lineup's energy and commitment before, nor are we likely to again.

As everyone who follows this blog knows, we've been watching the trainwreck that Air America has become fairly closely over the four-plus years we've been doing this blog. And now, after cancelling their best web-based show, the entity now known as Air America Media has made another bonehead decision -- that the best way to present its future is to become a clone of the Huffington Post.

Creeping Huffingtonism has become a plague upon the blogosphere. With Arianna Huffington's connections and financial resources, HuffPo has become the 800-pound gorilla of online journalism. There are things HuffPo does well, and there are some actual journalists like Sam Stein filling its web pages along with the columns about high colonics and slow sex. But the "News Aggregator" concept is taking over, even at such venerable progressive sites as Talking Points Memo.

And now, in yet another fantastically boneheaded move by the latest incarnation of clueless suits to occupy what passes for the executive offices at Air America Media, there's another HuffPo clone out there:

Look familiar? And like HuffPo, the web site of the company that was going to provide an alternative political voice is concerned with things like impending charges against the "balloon boy dad", Hollywood's crazies and sexiest characters, and noise complaints against Madonna.

Meanwhile, Al Franken is a United States Senator, Rachel Maddow causes the ratings of the abysmal Press the Meat to rise every time she is on the panel, and Marc Maron, freed at last from being yanked by the Air America chain, has a top-10 comedy podcast at iTunes and will be featured on John Oliver and Friends on Comedy Central later this year.

Because living well is the best revenge.


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