In the beginning, Air America Radio was a conservative squirt-gun’s wet dream. The dropped stations! The bounced checks! And no Soros feeding tube in sight! Death was imminent. Obits were being workshopped daily by Hannity, Drudge … it was going to be a giddy, giddy wake, proof positive that the liberal elite simply couldn’t survive in a truly populist medium like talk radio. Today, alas, Air America celebrates its first anniversary. It’s carried on more than 50 stations. It’s in fifteen of the top twenty markets. Its approval ratings seem at least as high as the President’s. But if you miss those days when it seemed destined for failure, you can find solace in a new documentary airing at 8 P.M. on HBO. … See suits lie about ad revenue! See talent fret over its lack of radio experience! … we decided to ask the documentary’s co-director/co-producer, Patrick Farrelly, some questions … interview after the jump.
Perhaps my favorite run-up to tonight’s premiere was at Drudgereport.com:
HBO MOVIE SHOWS RADIO ‘AIR AMERICA’ CHAOS
… The DRUDGE REPORT has obtained a director’s cut of LEFT OF THE DIAL, a grossly entertaining docu-drama of life on the other side of the AIR AMERICA microphone.
The doubts. The lies. The bounced checks. The heartbreak.
The viewer is taken upclose to witness the ugly business of media ambition.
The main character, Evan Cohen, founding chairman and main investor, is depicted as a complete fraud.
The documentary shows Cohen arriving in the middle of night at AIR AMERICA offices to sign over the company and disappear again, but not before lying about how many ads have been sold and how much money is the bank [zero].
It shows how AIR AMERICA executives lied and lied again about not bouncing checks to their Chicago and Los Angeles affiliate owners. [The network was quickly thrown off the stations.]
The film captures AIR AMERICA staff first learning about the Chicago and LA nightmare by reading a DRUDGE REPORT exclusive on their computers.
It shows midday host Al Franken at a staff meeting being told there is no money left, hilariously, just moments after ranting about George Bush’s ethics.
The HBO crew is told to shut down their cameras — but they don’t — and the ‘We’re Broke!’ meeting is filmed raw.
[There’s] an angry meeting of the writing staff being told how money was deducted from their checks to pay for health care — but the money was never paid to the HMO …
Host Janeane Garofalo looks suicidal in nearly every scene …
“What am I going to do, just ramble on and on,” panics stand-up-comic-morning-drive-host Marc Maron. …
But every drama must have a hero: Enter Randi Rhodes . . .
The camera captures pm drive Rhodes in her classic PMS mood … in her newly rented NYC apartment.
Wearing a leopard-spotted robe, bra-less, smoking and crying “I’m so f*ckign lost,” the relocated Floridian steals the show.
Talking to herself in the bedroom mirror, Rhodes whispers, “You can do this.”
She bemoans [that she isn’t] featured in any AIR AMERICA press. “No CNN. No USATODAY. No YAHOO wire story.” How she is the only one hired at AIR AMERICA that’s even been on radio before.
[When Rhodes] introduces herself to director Michael Moore [she] quickly realizes he does not even know who she is.
The heartbreaking scene is easily a frontrunner for this year’s EMMYs. …
I wonder if Drudge has hit puberty yet.
Visit HBO’s page on the documentary.