By Martin Miller Times Staff Writer
Scanning up and down the radio dial on weekends is a game of chance. Will you land on a real estate infomercial? Or an uninterrupted performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 41?
Such diversity reflects the unpredictable nature of the audience. Unlike weekday listeners trapped in commuter traffic, weekend radio listeners either have almost no time — or all the time in the world — to tune in. Stations imagine their weekend audience is either frantically running errands, planting a new bed of flowers or lounging half-asleep in a hammock. The resulting programming that seeks to cater to these varied attention spans is, not surprisingly, all over the dial. Find a niche and weekend radio can still fill it.
But weekend radio has changed, and many would say not for the better. Once a training ground for budding talent, the consolidation of radio stations over the last decade has squeezed out some of the richness of local programming in favor of more infomercials and syndicated programs.
“Weekend radio used to be much more vibrant and lively,” said Don Barrett, publisher of LARadio.com, a website that tracks local radio. “But companies had to find ways to control costs, especially on the weekends.”
Still, there are plenty of gems. Amid the vast, polyglot Southern California market, we spotlight 10 locally recorded English-language programs that typify the eclectic spirit of weekend radio. Given that there are well more than 200 programs on any given weekend, it’s just a starting point. But the selected shows span a spectrum of topics — religion, sports, food, the law and computers, to name a few — that together form an audio snapshot of the sprawling city from which they originate.
“The Pet Show”
Station: KRLA-AM (870)
Time: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays
Your Host: Warren Eckstein
The Concept: Your pet is a person too
To outsiders, L.A. may seem like a city of animals. To pet psychologist Warren Eckstein, it is, and he couldn’t be happier. Nationally syndicated on radio, Eckstein records his program in L.A. as he has for two decades and always with a simple underlying message: People need to accommodate their pets, not the other way around.
“We’re not doing that whole Gestapo thing, ‘Sit!’ ‘Stay!’ ‘Lie down!’ ” Eckstein said. “We try to have some fun here, not take ourselves too seriously, but also to try to communicate to people that this is how your pets are and how you have to deal with that.”
The heart of the show is fielding listener questions, whether it’s how to house-train a pet or how to grieve over a dearly departed one. Eckstein thrives on answering the tough ones. For instance, a common concern these days is how to prepare a pet dog for the arrival of a human baby. Eckstein says the key to a smooth transition is to desensitize the dog to a baby.
“This may sound eccentric,” Eckstein said, “but I recommend buying a doll and actually playing house with it. Put on Pampers, the whole deal. So when the baby finally comes, the pet isn’t going to be jealous.”