Friday, January 11, 2008

Burbank Bails on Bryant Park Project

UPDATE 02/11/08: The New York Observer has a puff piece on the remaining BPP host, Alison Stewart. It also notes the interesting fact that BPP is on 18 stations, although it doesn't say if some of those are HD multicast channels (and thus reaching far fewer people due to the current scarcity of HD Radio receivers out there). What it doesn't mention is anything about Luke Burbank leaving the show and what this means for the future of BPP...although it's possible this article was researched and interviewed before Burbank left.

Okay, so I'm the first to admit and accept that most radio hosts have titantic egos. Moreso, most comedians have even more titantic egos, and perhaps somewhat fragile, too. It's part of the job - you can't be a good radio person if you don't believe you're the best in the world at it...and hell, what else is going to motivate you to put up with all the bullcrap inherent to radio production?

Even so, I have to say that Luke Burbank comes off looking like a giant douchebag for leaving Bryant Park Project only two months after its launch. Especially because it's pretty obvious that he knew he'd be coming back to Seattle with a job offer waiting for him...official statements be damned.

Here's my real problem: Burbank quite obviously busted his ass to get named the co-host of NPR's grandest experiment since Morning Edition came on the air over two decades. He did a lot of work with Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and overall was directly connected to the public radio world for at least two years before BPP came on the air.

"I'm not into news you can use," Burbank explains. "I don't like happy talk or the stuff that TV newscasters say to one another. I just think so much of what happens [on the air] is fake. I'm not about finding 'the local angle' on some issue or manufacturing outrage. That's being done. We don't have to add to that."


Burbank too talks about the freedom that was missing when he worked for NPR. Fifteen producers. A tight schedule. Doing segments he just wasn't that into. "There was all this money on the line and then people were just messing with you so much," he says about "BPP."
Quotes from Seattle Times article "Luke Burbank is hip, vain, back in town and back on the air" 01/09/2008

That last quote says a lot. How could Burbank not know what he was getting into when he started BPP? No sh*t there's 15 producers and a tight's a national morning show, dumbass. It's not just about you anymore! You're making a product that dozens...if not hundreds...of radio affiliates across the country are counting on you getting right. That's why they're paying your salary, ultimately.

For him to decide, barely two months after launch, that this was all too much, is really a dick-ish move.

And of course, it's dick-ish because it's not just all about him; a move like this could doom BPP. Certainly current affiliates are very nervous about the cash they've ponied up for a show that loses its host after only two months. Potential new affiliates are going to take a pass, preferring to wait and see who the replacement (if any) is. And this is right when WNYC & PRI are about to launch a competing national morning show with a big name host (John Hockenberry).

Going even further, how much you wanna bet whoever NPR finds to replace Burbank will have to sign a contract insisting they stick around for at least a year or two...or more? Bet your ass this'll have a ripple effect with any other "new and exciting" experiment projects like the BPP is; Burbank just proved to all the stuffy suits that this younger generation (Burbank is my age: 31) can't be trusted with a flagship product.

Thanks a lot, Luke...for nothing.

This isn't to say that I don't think Burbank is talented; quite the opposite. He was amusing and insightful filling in for Peter Sagal on WWDTM, and I've heard other stories he's done that were the same.

But that doesn't change the fact that it's still a sh*tty situation that Burbank's put a lot of public radio into.

No comments: