T Dog’s Fridge Pack: The dirty dozen of the decade

The 2000s brought with us a decade of change on how we consume media – whether if its at home or on the go.

But it also brought a decade of  flops – some which you have to see – or hear – to believe.

Here are the T Dog Media Blog’s twelve biggest media blunders of the decade, in no particular order or ranking:

– The Zone. In November 2000, ABC Radio dumped the Classic Rock format from WXCD-FM (94.7) and launched a gimmicky all- ’80’s format called The Zone and changed its calls to WZZN-FM. In September 2001, it flipped to alternative rock and morphed into active rock two years later. Ratings improved a bit, but it was too late. WZZN flipped to Oldies in September 2005 as part of The True Oldies Channel, where it remains to this day, only now as WLS-FM.

– Steve Dahl’s stint at JACK FM. Chicago radio legend Steve Dahl was a success at WCKG-FM in his weekday afternoon slot. But when CBS Radio decided to drop the talk format for the Fresh FM music format in 2007, the company moved him to morning drive at WJMK-FM, which had the JACK FM format (WJMK was previously oldies.) After a few months – and the switch to PPM – it was curtains for Dahl, who now does podcasts for his website while still under contract with CBS Radio.

– WGCI fires morning personality “Crazy” Howard McGee. So what happens when your discjockey’s morning show finishes on or near the top year after year overall and in key demos? They fire you. This is what Urban Contemporary WGCI-FM did in 2007 when it dropped Mr. McGee’s local morning show in favor of the nationally syndicated Steve Harvey show. Ratings in the time period dropped off – even more so in younger demos – and earlier this year, Steve Harvey’s show moved to WVAZ-FM, where the program fits better rather than on younger-skewing WGCI.

As for WGCI, it returned to a local morning show this year with The Morning Riot.

– Nine-FM. Broadcast over three Newsweb-owned suburban FM sticks (WDEK, WKIE, and WRZA), this was a great idea at first: the concept of “We Play Everything” was a novel idea created to give Chicago-area radio listeners who were disenchanted with corporate FM radio stations a fresh alternative. But when Sky Daniels departed the station in late 2005, the playlists tightened and became a mess, the commercial load increased, and started airing more brokered programs like the shelf life-expired Dance Factory and high school football games. In the process, Nine FM lost key personalities as Johnny Mars was dumped and Joey Fortman fled for the exits, which forced the station to rely on voicetracking and automation. In essence, Nine FM became what it rallied against – bland corporate radio.

I pointed all of this (and more) out in a Think Tank in September 2007, titled “Nine-FM’s Not An Alternative.” 

The format moved to WKIF-FM in Kankakee in 2008 while the three former “Nine-FM” stations are simulcasting sister station WCPT-AM during the day while contractually obligated to carry Dance Factory at night.

– Satellite Radio.  It was supposed to be cable for the radio set – premium programming delivered via satellite for a monthly fee with a choice of two providers: Sirius and XM. When Howard Stern came to Sirius in 2005, it was a boon for the fledgling industry. But with the high-priced talent became a drain on both Sirius and XM’s finances. So, both companies merged, with the blessing of a partisanally divided FCC – and they still bled red ink, filing for Chapter 11 in the process (it has since been bought by Liberty Media.) Seemed like a good idea at first. But then came the price increase (which it and the merger sent consumers fleeing for the exits) – then the tightened playlists on most of its music channels – and now the possibility Stern might not come back when his deal expires.

Today, Internet radio provides more variety and endless channels – and it’s free. And when Internet access is finally available in cars (though WiMax), it should be the death knell for a once-promising medium – done in by greed and Mel Karzamin – the same elements who decreased the value of terrestrial radio.

– Viva Laughlin. Turning to television, this 2007 CBS flop – a musical series about a guy who runs a casino in Nevada (wow, what a plot) – lasted just two episodes in four days.

– According to Jim. It wasn’t a flop, but it deserved to be – Jim Belushi’s laugh-free sitcom somehow managed to last eight years – most of the time at the bottom of the Nielsen ratings.

– My Network TV and The CW. In an era of YouTube, video-on-demand, and the Internet, these two networks were obsolete the day they premiered. Left from the ashes from the closure of The WB and UPN in 2006 came The CW – merging the “best” of both networks. Well, it didn’t exactly pan out that way – The CW’s ratings were below those of the now-defunct networks and now has reinvented itself as a young-skewing female network – which is still struggling in the ratings.

Meanwhile, those who were left out of The CW bonanza formed a network of their own – My Network TV, with the 10 former UPN affiliates owned by Fox as a launching base. They started out with English-language telenovelas – which bombed. So they went to reality TV programming and a Flavor Flav sitcom titled Under One Roof. They bombed, too. And now they are the home of mostly syndicated repeats.

– Windows Vista. Moving to the tech world, Microsoft’s stab at reinventing the operating system took a hit when it came out with Windows Vista in 2007 – the successor to the very successful Windows XP operating system. Plagued with numerous problems – including security flaws and a heavy reliance on Digital Rights Management, users failed to adopt Vista and stuck with XP.

– HD-DVD. Toshiba’s attempt to compete with Sony for the next generation of DVD players in high-definition didn’t exactly work out the way they wanted. Toshiba corraled NBC Universal, Paramount, and a few others into their camp, but when Warner Bros. (which did both formats) and a few others switched sides to Blu-Ray, it was quickly over for HD-DVD.

– XFL. Moving to sports, WWE honcho Vince McMahon wanted a football league to bring “smashmouth football” back. So he launched the XFL in 2001. But the venture was too gimmicky, and wound up on the trash heap after just three months (hint: it’s not a good idea to bring out WWE stars The Rock and The Undertaker to badmouth the NFL on its first telecast.)

And you knew it would go wrong on its first night: instead of the Chicago Enforcers at Orlando Predators game, locally we got the New York-Las Vegas game  – and so did viewers in Orlando. At least one game set an all-time ratings low for prime-time network television.

– The 2008 Detroit Lions.  And finally… up until 2008, no professional sports team  has gone an entire season winless. Then came the Detroit Lions, who set a record for futility by going 0-16 (Editor’s note: forgot about the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who became the first winless team in their inaugural season coming in at 0-14.)


– Who Wants To Marry A Multi-Millionaire? .. or more to the point, who wants to marry a fraud? The “multi-millionaire” on this Fox special from 2000 was Rick Rockwell, who nurse Darva Conger married on the show – and it lasted only a few weeks. It was later revealed Rockwell wasn’t really a multi-millionaire- and he had a history of domestic abuse.

– Carol Marin’s 10 O’Clock News – WBBM-TV attempt at a serious newscast with Carol Marin at the helm in 2000 was a surprise flop lasting only a few months. On the newscast’s first night, instead of leading with the Wells St. sewer collapse (which truly personally witnessed) – which impacted traffic throughout the Loop, Marin started the newscast with an interview with waiting-to-be-convicted treasurer Mariam Santos.

– King of the Hill’s off-network run. Now languishing on Adult Swim, broadcast stations spent $3 million per episode on syndicated repeats on this long-running Fox show hoping it would become the next Simpsons or Seinfeld. But results were disappointing and a FX cable run was also a ratings disappointment. Other off-network syndicated busts of the decade included Malcolm in the Middle and Will & Grace.

Coming up next: The twelve most successful items of the decade