Mike and The Mad Dog

Directed by Daniel H. Forer

Mike Francesa and Chris Russo, and their "Mike and The Mad Dog" show ruled afternoon sports talk for 19 years. They were distinctly different personalities who often clashed on and off the air, but when all was said and done, they changed sports radio forever.More »
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Mike and the Mad Dog

Film Summary

Mantle and Maris. Clyde and The Pearl. Manning to Burress. Messier and Leetch. Over the years, New York sports fans have witnessed many legendary combinations. But there is another tandem of talents they will long remember, a pairing they didn't see as much as hear. Their names are Mike Francesa and Chris Russo, and their "Mike and the Mad Dog" show ruled afternoon sports talk from the studios of WFAN 660 for 19 years-not bad considering they didn't think they'd last 19 days together. Even though they both brought Long Island accents and encyclopedic sports knowledge to the microphone, they were distinctly different personalities who often clashed on and off the air. But when all was said and done, they changed sports radio forever. In this rollicking yet revealing 30 for 30 documentary directed by Daniel H. Forer, the story of their success is told through in-depth interviews, archival tapes and a chorus of colleagues and fans-some of them quite famous. Framed by a 2016 lovefest known as FrancesaCon, the film captures the chemistry that made "Mike and the Mad Dog" so compelling-never more so than on their final show together in 2008, when Christopher's father, Tony, made a call to Mike. Francesa and Russo both went on to success on their own. But for a generation of sports fans, there will never be another sports radio show as entertaining, as argument-inducing, as good as "Mike and The Mad Dog." And this documentary provides the proof.

Director's Take

Mike and the Mad Dog is a story that ESPN Films wanted to tell for years, but unfortunately the pieces just never fell into place. Then, in 2015, through good fortune, they did. Executive Producer Ted Shaker and I had worked with Mike Francesa in the 1980s at CBS Sports. When Ted approached Mike about doing a 30 for 30 he said he was at a stage in his life that he was ready to look back at his career. Shortly thereafter, Chris Russo said if Mike was in, he was too. The film presented a unique challenge, as it was not one, linear story. Mike and Chris' compelling journey was actually four different tales that had to be woven into a singular visual tapestry. The first was the creation of WFAN, how the nation's most prominent all-sports station was born and why it succeeded. The second was why the Mike and the Mad Dog show resonated with New York sports fans five-and-a-half hours a day, five days a week for nearly two decades. The third was the monstrous impact Mike and the Mad Dog had on sports media; how the show was responsible for the explosion of contemporary sports talk radio in America. The last, and most important part was Mike and Chris' emotional, at times combustible, relationship. The duo's unique appeal was that they were brash, defiant and radically different. Different views. Different voices. Different levels of volatility. It was an unconventional combination of rage, intellect and passion. They didn't just speak to their listeners they made them feel as if they were part of their families. They shared intimate details of their personal lives, both the joyful and the tragic. Nothing was off limits and Chris and Mike never held back. Their openness garnered an audience so large that Mike and the Mad Dog became one of the first sports radio programs simulcast on cable television. When WFAN began there was only one all-sports station in the country. Today there are over a thousand sports talk radio stations; and fans are all listening to variations of Mike and the Mad Dog. Their impact was not just in the imitators they spawned, but also in the influence they wielded. Mike and Chris became two of New York sports' most vocal and influential power brokers. They were "must listen" radio for fans, general managers, team owners and league commissioners. Many credit them with forcing the trade that brought Mike Piazza to the New York Mets. Against a backdrop of high drama and intrigue, Mike and the Mad Dog went off the air in 2008. Their tearful breakup was front-page news and broke the hearts of many listeners who still long for them to reunite.

What's Everyone Saying?

Daniel H. Forer

Daniel H. Forer is a ten-time Emmy Award winning producer, director and writer with over 25 years experience in the sports and entertainment industry. He recently completed production on "Mike and the Mad Dog" for ESPN's acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series. His award-winning films "Free Spirits" and "Second Chance Season" are also currently airing on ESPN. Forer's other projects include "Mr. K" an Emmy Award winning documentary about Kansas City Royals owner Ewing Kauffman for PBS and "The Wright Brothers - First in Flight" for Discovery. He served as a writer/producer for CBS' hit series "Touched By An Angel" from 1995 - 2003. During hiatus he also produced and directed "Boys Nation: Bill Clinton and the Boys Nation Class of 1963" for ABC News. Prior to moving to Los Angeles in 1994, Forer was based in New York City where he was employed by CBS Sports. During his two decades at CBS Sports, Forer was the division's senior feature producer. He also produced the studio and hundreds of live and taped telecasts including 10 NCAA Basketball Championships, eight Daytona 500s, seven NBA Finals, six Super Bowls, four World Series and the 1992 Winter Olympics. In addition Forer created and produced "Overtime with Pat O'Brien" for CBS Late Night and Brandon Tartikoff's "Weekly World News" for CBS Entertainment. Forer is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism and is a member of both the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guilds of America.


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