Review: Pop culture geeks should love Entertainment Weekly Radio

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Entertainment Weekly magazine launched its pop culture channel on SiriusXM satellite radio five weeks ago, and all I can say is this:

"Honey, where have you been all my life?"

In some ways it's still a work in progress, but for anyone even mildly obsessed with television, film, books, graphic novels and music, this is your geek radio version of "SportsCenter."

Obsessed with Bob Benson on "Mad Men"? Can't wait to vent about the three hours of your life you'll never get back after seeing "Man of Steel"? They named the kid "NORTH WEST"?

This is the place for you.

SiriusXM has long been the place for niche audiences, the sublime to the ridiculous -- 24/7 Pearl Jam, The Catholic Channel (tagline: "Not What You'd Expect"), various flavors of hip-hop, old-time radio shows, Howard Stern.

Entertainment Weekly Radio is niche, all right, but probably more mainstream than anyone yet suspects. It kicked off its first day of life with a "Town Hall" special starring everyone's favorite Tony award-winning Wolverine, Hugh Jackman, and has been able to use the magazine's status to bring in other big-name guests.

The channel's lineup includes a live 8-10 a.m. weekday show hosted by longtime EW writer Dalton Ross and Pittsburgh native Jenna Morasca, who run through a cycle of entertainment news and gossip.

Mr. Ross hosts a live TV recap program from 10-11 a.m. with writer Jessica Shaw, and other programs include "News & Notes" and "Entertainment Weirdly," the latter of which features more of the magazine's staff in group discussion, as well as ample opportunities for listeners to call in throughout the day.

"Editor's Hour," each weekday from 2 to 3 p.m., is hosted by EW chief of staff Jess Cagle, who recently explained why the magazine's big "Top 100 of All Time" summer issue was not going to be bumped from the cover in lieu of a tribute photo of James Gandolfini.

It's a labor of love for these magazine folks, who are not being paid for their work. For the most part, they come off as passionate, informed and invariably funny. There is perhaps a tendency for opinions to skew a little young -- if anyone was outraged by the glaring omission of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" from the top 100 TV programs list, I missed it -- but, hey, they probably are speaking to a generation who didn't actually watch "Arrested Development" when it aired on Fox.

Another minor quibble: because the hosts are generally print folk and not polished radio voices, it's sometimes tough to guess who's talking. Kudos to EW for having so many women contributing strong opinions, yet at the same time, especially in the heat of discussion, their similar voices often reach Sarah Silverman levels of pitch.

It also would be nice to have people identify themselves occasionally. This is satellite radio; my in-dash receiver is good for only six characters.

Obsessive talk channels have long been dominated by sports and politics. Giving the popularity of "All Things Pop Culture" on television, it's surprising the concept hasn't been embraced earlier or more often, on satellite or terrestrial radio.

As anyone who knows or cares about Carlton Gebbia or the Desolation of Smaug, the geeks are out there listening.


Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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