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Columnist
'Monsters of the Midday' ready for televised return
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Columnist

Mike North

 

Dan Jiggetts

 

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Published: 1/8/2009 2:39 PM

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Together again, for the first time: It's Mike North and Dan Jiggetts.

Yes, the Monsters of the Midday are back, only not in middays but mornings, and not on radio but TV.

"Monsters in the Morning" debuts Monday on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, where it will run weekdays from 6-9 a.m. For risky moves with potentially great upside, it makes the Cubs' signing of Milton Bradley look like asking your spouse out on a date.

"It's something that needs to be done for the sports fans in the morning," North says. "I just know that right now the market is ripe."

Yet if the market's so ripe, how come no one's tried to pluck it before this?

"To our knowledge, this is the only locally focused, all-sports morning TV talk show in the country," says CSNC president Jim Corno. "In our business, if you sit still, you're going to get run over. This is an opportunity at that time of day to try to do something new."

Everything old is new again, it seems; at least, that's what North and Jiggetts are counting on.

They were indeed monsters of the sports-talk radio ratings in the early days of WSCR 670-AM (back when it was still jumping from frequency to frequency), until geniuses at the station decided to break them up in an attempt to expand their appeal.

Jiggs had a short run with Dan McNeil before moving on, eventually landing at CSNC. North worked afternoons and then mornings before being unceremoniously shown the door last summer.

Now they're out to recapture the old magic - on TV.

"It's basically going to be the radio show on TV," North insists.

"Somebody asked me how the show's going to be," Jiggetts adds, "and I said, just like it used to be - a little wacky, a little crazy - but you'll be able to see us."

Yet that old-school approach, he suggests, might be welcomed as something new.

"You remember how the show used to be," Jiggetts says. "And I'd like to see sports talk get back to that, because I think for a while it got really mean. And I don't know if that's the best thing.

"Let's remember why we're all in this. It's the opportunity to enjoy something, and let's take full opportunity of that, because there's enough stuff to bring you down."

"It's gonna be a lighter environment," North allows, "but nobody's gonna get a free pass."

He insists that as what he calls "the fifth team at Comcast" they'll have license to criticize the Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls when they deserve it, no matter if those teams combined own most of the station.

Yet that was the Monsters' dynamic back in the day, with North expressing the fans' passions and Jiggs reining him in by reminding that, hey, players are people too.

While they'll be trying to recapture that, they'll also strive to make the show visually engaging, not just a radio show with a TV element, like Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic's ESPN Radio show, airing on WMVP 1000-AM and ESPN2.

"It's not a simulcast," Corno says. "It's not a radio show that we're doing on television. It could end up being a radio show (as well), but it's designed right now to be a television show."

"It's just two guys," says producer Ryan McGuffey. "My job is to make sure it's not two talking heads in front of a microphone."

There will be two sets to start: a desk not unlike the Mike & Mike setting, but also an interview area with chairs for the odd guest willing to stop in early in the morning. (Mayor Daley and Hawk owner Rocky Wirtz have said they'll drop in for Monday's premiere.)

North's old radio producer Jen Patterson will also be along for the ride, doing traffic and weather reports.

"I'm not sure how the baking segment's going to go just yet," Jiggetts cracks.

It's a risky move, and it may well flop. North & Jiggetts aren't exactly Matt Lauer and Al Roker.

Yet if they can get just a small percentage of Chicago sports fans to wake up and turn on CSNC first thing in the morning, it could also be huge.

As it is, CSNC is only pulling a 0.1 local Nielsen rating in the morning, and Mike & Mike are only doing a 0.2 locally on ESPN2.

There's no place to go but up. Morning news has been the biggest growth segment in TV the last 15 years, so why shouldn't it work with a sports-oriented approach?

Yet for North & Jiggetts it's also simply an opportunity to reunite as one of the best sports-talk teams in the business, especially after all the speculation that there had to be something behind their split back at the Score.

"We always knew that there was no bad blood," North says. "I always knew that someday we'd be back together."

"It's unfortunate," Jiggetts adds. "If we'd stayed together I don't think there's any limit to how far we could've gone. Now we'll find out."

tcox@dailyherald.com

In the air

Remotely interesting: Comcast SportsNet Chicago has formally added Sarah Kustok as a reporter for "SportsNite," which has split its hourlong run at 10 p.m. into two back-to-back shows, the better to appeal to those tuning in at 10:30 after watching the local news elsewhere. CSNC runs the boys' basketball game between Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The NHL Winter Classic between the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings topped all New Year's Day bowl games and, in fact, all other programs in Chicago, posting an 11.8 local Nielsen on WMAQ Channel 5, good for more than 400,000 households.

Cubs TV announcers Len Kasper and Bob Brenly hold their third annual Len & Bob Bash fundraiser at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the House of Blues downtown, with the Hold Steady on top of the bill. Tickets are $31, with proceeds going to Chicago Cubs Charities. ... Ken Burns is preparing a new "10th Inning" addition to his "Baseball" documentary miniseries, to debut on PBS next year.

End of the dial: December was tough on the all-sports stations. WSCR 670-AM slipped to a 1.4 percent share of the overall audience 12 and older, while WMVP 1000-AM slid to 1.3 after both posted 1.7 shares in November.

For the three-month fall rating book, however, WMVP led in their target demographic of men 25-54, 3.9 to 3.5.