Sports Media

Radio show looks good on NESN

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / November 19, 2010

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The initial reaction in this neighborhood to last month’s news that WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan Show’’ would be simulcast on NESN?

Well, it can’t be worse than the “NESN Daily’’ repeats that were airing in the 6-9 a.m. window.

And it’s not.

Whether you consider that damning with faint praise probably depends on your perception of the radio show before Tuesday’s debut of the live simulcast (the first three of its four daily hours are picked up).

If the tone and tenor, as John Dennis likes to say, of what he and Gerry Callahan have brought to WEEI since they were paired in October 1997 appeals to you, so will this. If the show, or the hosts’ approach to sports, politics, and what they like to call water-cooler topics aren’t your thing, well, that’s why you have that remote in your hand.

After spending several hours catching up on the first three shows via DVR, we can report that the most notable news about the simulcast is that there’s no real news at all. It’s the same show, and it’s a tribute to WEEI and NESN for pulling it off with nary a change.

The commercial breaks arrive at the same time and run for the same length. The topics still run their usual guy-radio gamut (Michael Vick’s transcendent Monday night performance, the controversy over full-body scans by airport security, Jonathan Papelbon’s status, political chatter, etc.). If the radio show is essentially the background music during your commute, than the simulcast probably serves the same purpose while you’re getting ready for that commute.

If you are tuning in to NESN to actually watch, it is a visually appealing production, though the set still seems to be a work in progress. An oversized Tom Brady bobblehead was prominent from the beginning, and the famous 2004 photo of Jason Varitek giving Alex Rodriguez a face full of catcher’s mitt was an addition to Dennis’s corner for Wednesday’s show. Maybe a Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett “Fathead’’ will be the next prop.

The four high-definition HD cameras installed in the WEEI studios give the show a livelier vibe than the viewer gets from ESPN’s “Mike & Mike’’ simulcast, during which one camera is trained on the two hosts for the show’s duration.

Dennis and Callahan face each other and genuinely interact, a more appealing approach than, say, that of the old “Mike and the Mad Dog’’ simulcast, when the hosts rarely looked at each other. Neither seems particularly aware of the camera, with Dennis, the television veteran, almost obscured at times by his microphone. The more energetic Callahan comes across as more engaging than his sarcastic and occasionally sneering radio tone would suggest.

There is often a single camera trained just on Dennis, Callahan, or update guy Jon Meterparel when one is making a specific point (or when Dennis is asking a guest one of his trademark lengthy questions, some of which may require footnotes). But when there is a back-and-forth between the hosts, the switch to a split screen is smooth and unobtrusive.

Which, come to think of it, might be the two adjectives that best describe the simulcast itself.

Barkley on the team Now this is the kind of news we like to hear: The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, already as enjoyable as it gets when it comes to major televised sporting events, is about to get even more entertaining. Why? Because Charles Barkley has a knack for making everything he’s involved with more entertaining. CBS and Turner Sports announced Tuesday that the Basketball Hall of Famer and funny studio analyst on TNT’s NBA telecasts will contribute to the coverage of the tournament in March. The networks agreed to a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal in April to broadcast the tournament, with games airing on CBS — including the Final Four through 2015 — as well as Turner-owned TNT, TBS, and truTV. Tournament telecasts didn’t need much improving, particularly after curmudgeon Billy Packer left two years ago. Kudos to CBS and Turner for finding a way to do so anyway.

They’re being watched The Celtics and Bruins are both seeing the ratings benefits of a buzz-generating offseason and an encouraging start to the actual season. Celtics ratings on Comcast SportsNet New England are up 27 percent from a year ago after nine telecasts, with an average rating of 5.4. The Celtics’ 114-83 victory over the Wizards Wednesday was the highest-rated regular-season game ever on the network, its 7.49 surpassing the previous high of 7.45 set Dec. 19, 2008, against the Bulls. Wonder how many viewers tuned in unaware that No. 1 overall pick John Wall was out with an injury. Bruins ratings on NESN are up 33 percent from last year, a particularly impressive feat considering the season began with two games in Prague, one beginning at 10 a.m. and the other at noon.

Hello, it’s me Brady will call in to WEEI live after 9 a.m. on Mondays, according to program director Jason Wolfe. That solves the logistical issue that arose with the simulcast, since the Patriots quarterback is compensated for his Monday appearance by WEEI but has no such agreement with NESN. The final hour of D&C isn’t simulcast. Brady had been calling in between 6-7 a.m., with the interview replayed at 9 a.m. . . . “Bill Parcells: Reflections on a Life in Football’’ premieres on the NFL Network tonight at 8. The 90-minute special, which features candid interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, is produced by NFL Films, so you know it’s outstanding. For what it’s worth, we’re putting the over/under on references to “shopping for the groceries’’ at two.