In April 2008, when Don Geronimo left the Don and Mike Show, I was quite heartbroken. The only silver lining was the fact that the rest of the crew was continuing on with the Mike O’Meara Show.
However, I was skeptical about the new show. Don was the person I related to the most and he had always been the glue that held the Don and Mike Show together. I wasn’t sure how things would work without his larger-than-life presence.
It took a while for everyone to settle into their new roles, but Mike O’Meara eventually became a formidable leader and both Buzz Burbank and Robb Spewak found a comfort zone with their increased air time.
Bringing back Beth Ann McBride as the show’s producer helped to secure big name celebrity interviews and it gave Mike an entertaining foil. The show’s dump button operator, Katie Powers, proved to be a charismatic on-air talent and a welcome addition to the show. Along the way, the gang even created a new game, The Power of 10, which swept the nation.
The Mike O’Meara Show had a completely different vibe from the Don and Mike Show. Don always brought an intensity and edginess to the show. He didn’t play well with others. Don would absolutely destroy callers who challenged him. He spewed venom on management and other DJs working for WJFK. Under his tenure, the show had quite a few memorable feuds with on-air personalities at the station, including Opie and Anthony and G. Gordon Liddy. It was riveting radio.
But when Mike took over, the show lost that venom. There was a much more positive energy to the new show. The crew made friends with Big O and Dukes, the midday show, and often invited them in for their BYOB Fridays. WJFK even did a cross-promotional gimmick where the Mike O’Meara crew, Big O and Dukes and the Junkies spent a whole day together on-air, broadcasting on each other’s shows. WJFK finally had what radio stations always strive for (but rarely achieve) – synergy.
So naturally, the powers-that-be went and fucked things up by announcing that WJFK was switching formats and becoming a sports talk station to compete with Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s cluster of local sports stations. The Junkies will revert back to being The Sports Junkies and Chad Dukes (minus Oscar Santana) will co-host a show with former Washington Redskin LaVar Arrington (presumably to rein in the former athlete in case he freelances as much on-air as he did on the football field). Management decided that the Mike O’Meara Show doesn’t fit with the new format, so the show has officially been canceled.
It’s the type of decision that makes sense on paper to a bunch of talentless suits, but in reality is a terrible idea. They believe there is more money to be made in sports talk radio since the shows are cheaper to produce. Also, going to sports talk allows them to stick it to Dan Snyder, who they’ve had a pissing match with ever since Snyder decided to purchase his own cluster of stations to broadcast Redskins games instead of keeping the deal he had in place with WJFK.
Never mind the fact that they had a good thing going with the current lineup. Never mind the fact that the Redskins are the only team in town worth talking about, which makes it tough to fill a day with nothing but sports (especially during the offseason). Never mind the fact that Don and Mike helped put WJFK on the map. Never mind the fact that you are alienating loyal listeners like myself who have been listening to Mike and Co. on your station for nearly 18 years. Apparently, all that matters is the bottom line.
Making matters worse, WJFK announced the format change while everyone from the show is on vacation, which means they are robbing them of the opportunity to do a farewell show. DCRTV is reporting that a pre-taped “special goodbye segment” may run on Friday, but that’s hardly the fitting farewell the show deserves.
This decision truly marks the end of an era. Radio has already become increasingly homogenized and boring over the years, but WJFK had always been a welcome oasis in a sea of mediocrity. They’ve destroyed that to become just another sports station. Even though I like sports, I can promise you I won’t be tuning in to listen to the new format. And it’s not out of spite or loyalty to the Mike O’Meara Show; it’s because I couldn’t possibly care less.
Last October, I was lucky enough to interview Buzz Burbank about his illustrious radio career and the transition from the Don and Mike Show to the Mike O’Meara Show. I asked him how long he thought he would continue to do the new show.
“Until Mike’s heart attack,” he joked. “Then we’ll call it something else.”
Then he gave a more serious answer.
“No, for as long as we’re having fun,” Buzz said. “Mike said this going in and I really liked this philosophy a lot. He said this to me off the air before we started the show. He said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go in there and we’re going to do our job and we’re going to have fun. Then we’re going to go home.’ He said, ‘We’re going to keep doing that for as long as it’s fun and is any kind of acceptable level of success.’ So I think that’s the plan and so far, so good because we’re having fun and the numbers indicate success, so I guess we’re going forward for as long as we can get away with it.”
Here’s hoping that the show gets picked up by another local station so that they can get away with it for just a little bit longer.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at email@example.com.