Listen Up, Radio Is Back… On TV! Stacking Up KoldCast’s DOG Against NBC’s Next Caller
By Rebecca Leib
Pop quiz for all the Aaron Sorkin idolizers and Tina Fey wannabes out there. What does a small space packed with irritable, over-caffeinated personalities stressing about deadlines mean to you? That wit machine in between your eyes should’ve jumped to “a more ideal setting for a TV sitcom could not exist!”
Radio station-centered comedies, ostensibly slam dunk hits, have taken a 13-year hiatus on major TV networks. First to enter the fray in 1978 was CBS’s WKRP in Cinccinnati, a pleasant surprise turned blockbuster. NBC’s NewsRadio dominated the airwaves in the late nineties, boasting smart writing, hilarious visual gags, and some of the era’s best comedians: Dave Foley, Andy Dick, and Phil Hartman, just to name a few of the hit series’ well-rounded cast.
Following comic genius Phil Hartman’s tragic death, it seemed the radio station sitcom may have also come to an untimely end. Perhaps it’s because sometime over the past 13 years, Satellite Radio actually killed the radio star. That is, before the music industry itself evaporated, bringing with it the rise of the iPod and seemingly nailing AM/FM’s coffin shut. This was also the era before NPR became cool and Howard Stern proved once again that he is, in fact, ubiquitous, only to be closely followed by an early-rising Ryan Seacrest.
Whatever the reason for the radio station comedy’s absence, KoldCast TV recognized the genre was long overdue and picked up the hilarious, vulgar, and piercingly smart short film DOG, about a rough-around-the-edges satellite DJ who’s managed to collect more enemies than friends with his unpopular and often foul opinions.
Regen Wilson stars as Dog Rollins, perfectly capturing the bad-tempered and seemingly invincible sexist whose livelihood is pissing people off on live radio. Informed of the end of days – that he’s going to be partnered with a female co-host – Dog struggles to broaden his appeal from a very narrow, chauvinist viewership. He can’t pin this new firecracker who’s young, ambitious and continually proves there’s more to her than meets the eye. This in itself is enough to deal with until Dog’s personal life begins to crumble, cracking his tough exterior on-air, and dropping his proverbial pants down to his ankles.
KoldCast’s ability to champion quality indie TV and short films over the Internet allows it to bring edgier fare like DOG to the masses. It’s what sets it apart from major television networks that must audience-test, recast, tweak, and shoot tons of pilots before finally bringing one to air.
Click to watch DOG
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It seems NBC may have gotten a nice whiff of DOG’s backside. After 13 years they’re trying again, hoping to emulate the success of NewsRadio with a new comedy series starring the simultaneously loved and loathed stand-up comedian turned MySpace prodigy turned movie star, Dane Cook. In Next Caller, Cook plays an angry and vulgar disc jockey named Cam Dunne whose ratings are plummeting. The network executive played by a soul-patch sporting Jeffery Tambor, hires 26-year-old Stella Hoobler, a cheery girl whose bright-eyed, can-do attitude reeks of positivity. Cook challenges Tambor in an attempt to regain the control and direction of his fledgling show.
Both shows’ storylines sound awfully similar, kind of like when we found out Inception ripped off Scrooge McDuck. Yet they’re both quite promising, so we needed to suss things out. With an in-case-of-emergency hand signal and extinct falcon’s birdcall, we initiated a show-off, stacking KoldCast’s DOG up against its “mainstream” network counterpart Next Caller. We examined the three central aspects of both shows in order to determine which will keep its “On Air” light blinking bright red.
Dane Cook as Cam Dunne in NBC’s Next Caller
Shock Jock Throwback
Both DOG and Next Caller utilize the “Shock Jock” character. You know the type – brassy, opinionated, and unabashedly male. He’s a womanizer, he’s crude, and he’s probably just a little too into his favorite sports team. The resurgence of the Shock Jock might be unexpected but not unwarranted. We haven’t met quota since Howard Stern hit his stride on traditional radio. The brazen types are now more likely seen on family-friendly TV like American Idol, America’s Got Talent and The Voice. Even former Love Line host-turned-podcaster Adam Corolla has changed his dirty tune to become more appealing to a broader audience. Given the TV-MA rating attributed to DOG, we’re skeptical as to just how much a bleeped-out Cam Dunne can compete.
Both Dog and Cam have sex on the brain. Dog has a lot more sex on the brain. Aside from his constant womanizing on the show, Dog spends most airtime intricately and unapologetically boasting his sexual conquests. Comparatively, Cam Dunne’s radio show is titled “Booty Calls with Cam Dunne” but once again due to network television constraints, hardly seems able to delve into the grittier details that Dog’s stories do. Without giving anything away, let’s just say the opening scene of DOG shows that a seemingly cut-and-dry issue like oral sex amongst 13-year-olds on the back of a school bus can actually become a hot-button issue when Rollins puts in his two cents.
Both Dog and Cam have memorable female co-hosts. Tonya Beckman Ross holds her own amongst the Boys’ Club as Sage Bryan, the yin to Dog’s yang. Stomping off mid-interview after a sexual proposition by Dog, she returns with a vengeance, putting him in his place on live radio. Through willpower and volition, Sage stands up for herself and earns her dream job on the show. As you start to enjoy the chemistry between the two, you realize that Dog isn’t the only one with secrets.
Sweet faced Collette Wolfe plays co-host Stella on Next Caller. Creative and organized, she flies into Cam’s life like a butterfly only to be swatted repeatedly. She literally has to claw her way into the studio to get on the air, and from the previews we’ve seen, hopefully also into Cam’s heart. Stella is spunky and sweet, but it’s still too early to get a read on whether they’re meaty characters, able to butt heads but also learn something worthwhile from each other.
In many ways, DOG and Next Caller are clearly cut from the same cloth. Both shows honor the art of the shock jock, promise plenty of titillating sexual recantations, and even a bit of canoodling with sweet love stories. The thing is, a show about a raunchy radio host needs to be raunchy! NewsRadio was about the news – AM news. The landscape-changing Sopranos would never survive its first season if the T&A, kneecap busting, and dark, twisted elements were neutered by the broadcast network ratings system.
Next Caller may find its place among audiences looking to rub up against the line with their teenage kids, but it’ll never reach the level of truth embodied by the likes of Howard Stern, whose entire career is defined by his battles with network censorship. It’s the same reason we cringe when we hear Bruce Willis shout “Yippee-ki-yay, Mr. Falcon” on TBS. It’s politically correct, but it just ain’t right.
Rebecca Leib is a comedy powerhouse living in Los Angeles, California. She performs regularly at iOWest, UCBLA and The Comedy Store. In addition to The Sixth Wall, her writing can be seen in Beautiful/Decay, Tvgasm, and Perezhilton. You can read her weekly column on http://saysomethingfunnybitch.tumblr.com/rebeccaleib, go to her website at RebeccaLeib.com, or enjoy her web presence on twitter at @RebeccaLeib.
Ariel Nishli, Editor-in-Chief of The Sixth Wall, contributed to this story.