They are after all, really stoopid. Don O'Neill plays a crude, agrammatical Tom Smothers to Ron Upshaw's dithering, ever-explaining Dickie. They rarely do real issues; they dally usually in crime stories and celebrity gossip.
After listening for a week or two, we think we get it.
1. They're apolitical. They rarely get into the frey. Unless politics hit Page 6, (like the Weiner story) they stay away from political.
2. There's no outrage... maybe Don rants a little against the occasional child molester, or dog neglecter, but for the most part, it's even-tempered, if a bit goony.
3. They're really well-produced. Not just pieces of YouTube audio, no sniping at celebrities and politicians, no sneers and peels of fake laughter like Dori who precedes them.Thank producer Jason Stein, a 2009 import from LA's megatalker KFI who brought this show from near extinction to #2 in the PM drive market. They get one of those crime stories the rest of us resisted clicking on and then tell the whole story. With Don doing color, Ron narrates it chronologically with all the details and audio they can scrape up. It's good radio, easy to get hooked into, a guilty pleasure if you avoided falling for the headline in the first place.
3. They're not mean. We're not nearly as nice as these guys; we've slaughtered and field dressed them many, many times. Couldn't help it: The musclebound frat-boy schtick is hard to digest if you're towering public intellectuals such as ourselves. But we gotta say it: As Dori Monson gets meaner, R & D seem to get more benign. They can be counted upon to dispense benefits-of-doubts, a sense of fairness, and usually the jokes are on them. While they flogged the Weiner story mercilessly, after Weiner's first apology, Don said Weiner owed no more than that to his constituents, and he stuck to that. By the end of the media run, they were portraying Weiner as a sympathetic, if not pathetic, character.
4. They don't skirt the race line, or pick political incorrectness fights. This is hallowed ground for news talk radio of the Rush Limbaugh school, and R & D simply don't play on that field.
5. They're lovable. This doesn't mean we love them, what it does mean is that they show empathy, vulnerability, and other traits that might endear them as human beings to listeners. This is unlike talkers like Dori Monson, or John Curley, who cleave unto the sociopathic Rush Limbaugh model, which is the sneering personal attacks on politicians they disagree with and the savaging of the weakest among us.
6. They have Rachel Belle. If a talk show could be seen as a person, gal-pal Rachel is the part that needs a bra. They give her a great deal of latitude in the stories she does, and she's does them very professionally, and with some much-needed girlitude and hipness to the show's gestalt. Not that, in a global sense, there's all that much hipness to the R & D show, it's just that La Belle rounds out the show's personality, giving it youthiness, gender balance and a little street.
(photo: you can her her bell: Rachel Belle!)
7. They help people. Ron & Don do a butt-load of charity money-raising, especially for disaster victims in far-flung locations. While that's awfully nice of them, good works and the inevitable, accompanying self-congratulation doesn't always make for great radio, but it certainly generates a lot of good will, which is better than, say, bad will. At the moment, Ron and Rachel are in Japan delivering what they describe as "1.4 million dollars worth of stuff from the Ron and Don Nation" to an orphanage in quake/tsunami-wracked Japan.
We're wondering if the Ron & Don Show is the sound of the next generation of talk radio: no viciousness, no partisanship, no substance. While we probably won't be trading our ATC in on R & D all that often, we get why these guys are beating everyone else in town. Are they changing the talk radio demographic? That is the question, which only time can answer.