New ESPN shows are underwhelming

You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and for some sports-talk fans in our region the absence of any compelling national programming on weekday mornings remains a problem — even though more options than ever exist.

At one time, for nearly two decades actually, ESPN Radio offered “Mike and Mike,” but the end of that show last November seemingly killed the genre for us overall. There are two major reasons for the loss.

First, the successor show on ESPN Radio, “Golic and Wingo,” remains a watered-down imitation — especially with a somewhat smaller presence because of its simulcast on ESPNews. It’s just not as good as the show it replaced.

In addition, not to be overlooked is the loss of the neuroses of former co-host Mike Greenberg. He was genuine and a super contrast to Mike Golic.

Sure, some of their interaction became a made-for-TV mashup, but good radio reveals relatability and it succeeds because listeners can sense when people are being honest. That’s where “Mike and Mike” was best.

The new show is not bad, just not nearly as good.

Second, “Get Up!” the TV show on ESPN that Greenberg now co-hosts, remains less than the sum of its parts. By themselves, Greenberg, Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose are super — each with interesting personalities and compelling strengths. Together, the show has been nothing special, at least so far.

Visually, the star of the program has been the New York City backdrop/skyline when they’re on set. It’s interesting, and gives a sense of place.

Ironically, that’s also a drawback for the show in other regions across the country. While “Mike and Mike” never felt like a big-city show, there’s no doubt that “Get Up!” is exactly that.

It does not hit the mark in middle America or the middle of central Pennsylvania as well as it could, and that’s a shame.

There’s nothing special or different about the show so far, and if it does not find its rhythm — and ratings — that could be troublesome on a bigger level for the network.

‘Brockmire’ back

It’s not exactly family friendly programming, but “Brockmire” — the often-raunchy brainchild of Hank Azaria portraying a colorful minor league baseball announcer — returns for its second season April 25 on IFC.

Again, it’s probably an acquired taste for some, but the show earned a loyal following during its debut season, and Azaria and co-star Amanda Peet do a good job with the material provided by strong writers who place their flawed characters in often funny situations with a baseball backdrop.

Finding ‘Football’

Maybe the best morning drive sports program available at this point, and especially leading up to the NFL Draft, is “Good Morning Football” on NFL Network.

Viewers who have not sampled the show should give it a look.

It skews a little younger, but it’s engaging and informative. On a studio set without super-well-known hosts (they’re talented, just not household names), it’s a program that produces more than the sum of its parts.

Sure, it’s hardly a “drive time” program if it’s only available on TV, but some drive-by viewing — even if it’s just walking from the kitchen to living room while you prepare breakfast — could be worthwhile.

Forever’s foibles

First things, first: there’s nothing better than invested and vibrant local media organizations in a community and Forever Broadcasting certainly has a major, long-standing presence in the region. It deserve kudos for that.

Still, every media organization has challenges and the lack of staffing in local radio was audibly apparent last week.

Specifically, when the Pirates were set for day games in Chicago, a plan was put in place to bump some local programming for the Cubs’ home opener at Wrigley Field. That game was postponed because of snow, though, and that happened early in the morning.

Even with that schedule change, the local programming remained on hold. It’s just a shame the company was not nimble enough or did not have the personnel to adapt. It’s probably more cost effective to take a national feed, so that probably played a role as well.

Losing local shows can have a benefit beyond the bottom line, though.

Tuner tidbits

n It’s been a week since The Masters and, whew, we probably needed that time to cleanse our palates from the polished PR approach to a major golf tournament that club officials at Augusta National impose on their media partners. Members of the media annually conspire with the tournament to refer only to people on the course as “patrons” and to produce just about anything related to the tournament with reverence. The event is surely special, but there’s always a little bit of doubt in my mind about what to believe when all of the media seems to be in unanimous agreement about something.

n With the hills and valleys in our region, it’s always been interesting to me that many sports-related offerings remain relegated only on AM radio channels. Again, it’s certainly a more efficient approach in terms of finances, but it would be interesting to find out if a programming could survive if it had a bigger platform for support that could reach a wider audience on an FM station.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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