ESPN’s latest “30 for 30” film on legendary sports radio duo “Mike and the Mad Dog” premieres on Thursday night. And despite being broken up for nearly a decade, the documentary’s executive producer thinks Mike Francesa and Chris Russo will work together again at some point — and not just for a film about themselves.
“I bet they do. Not like before, fewer, shorter shows, but I bet they do,” EP Ted Shaker told TheWrap when asked if Francesa and Russo would reunite at some point.
The sportscasters were paired at New York’s WFAN in 1989 and changed the landscape of talk radio for 19 years until “Mad Dog” Russo left in 2008 for his own channel on Sirius XM. Francesa has continued to host the show by himself but is set to move on when his contract expires later this year. Together, “Mike and the Mad Dog” helped create the nation’s first 24/7 all sports radio station that compelled fans to listen to five and a half hours a day, five days a week.
In the years since Francesa and Russo broke up, they have appeared together at various events — which has left fans wanting more. The documentary details the duo’s relationship and how they turned an odd paring into one of the sports talk radio industry’s most successful programs. Director Daniel H. Forer told TheWrap that he doesn’t have “inside” information, but he’s hopeful they will work together once again when Francesa leaves WFAN.
“I expect, if they do, it will be weekly, monthly or around major sporting events … not five days a week like WFAN,” Forer told TheWrap.
As for getting the pair to sit down for the film, Forer credits Shaker for making it happen.
“As with so much, timing is everything. The argument that this film would chronicle their contribution to the growth of sports media as they helped create a whole new genre of talk radio, sports talk, it was too compelling for them to say no,” Shaker said.
Shaker actually helped Francesa launch his career, hiring him as a researcher on “The NFL Today” shortly after he graduated from St. John’s University.
“He, Dan and I worked together at CBS Sports and there was a level of trust which was helpful. He and Chris agreed that everything was on the table for discussion and both he and Chris agreed to do the film,” Shaker said.
Shaker continued: “Were able to get a wide variety of people to contribute because of their relationships with Mike and Chris, and also because they recognized how influential ‘Mike and the Mad Dog’ were as accelerants in the interest and growth of the sports industry in the country over the last 25 years.”
Forer interviewed 35 people for the film that was previewed earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. He explained, “Nothing was off the table, no matter how personal or painful it was.”
“I believe ‘Mike and the Mad Dog’ is a bit lighter and more fun than most ESPN Films ’30 for 30s,’” Forer said. “There are dramatic and emotional moments but, at its heart, the film is a wild ride about the rollercoaster relationship of two passionate, opinionated men who changed the face of sports media in America.”
Thousands of New York sports fans are probably praying the iconic duo reunites, but ESPN’s film should help fill the void in the meantime.
The “30 for 30” film “Mike and the Mad Dog” debuts on ESPN Thursday, July 13 at 8 p.m. ET