The title of their Emmy Award-winning television program may be “Under the Radar,” but the producers of the Michigan Travel and Tourism program are flying high.
They have recently published their third book, “Under the Radar Michigan: Yet another 50: Why Stop Now,” a companion piece to their weekly segments.
In 2009, “Under the Radar” came about as Tom Daldin and Jim Edelman faced downsizing in the communication industry. In a Phoenix moment, they pitched an idea for a children’s show to WTVS 56, the Detroit PBS affiliate. The two had first met while working at the radio station WRIF in Detroit early in their careers. Daldin produced major television ads with million-dollar shoots for the auto industry, and Edelman was a sales consultant for Clear Choice, a media conglomerate.
Their first idea was spiked, but they quickly proposed an idea that would have them travel Michigan looking for exciting stories about people and places. The first episode of “Under the Radar” aired in 2010, featuring sites in Royal Oak, Detroit and Kalamazoo.
It was a hit. Now in their 12th season, they have produced more than 150 segments. In one recent adventure, “Under the Radar” visited the Musical Museum in Williamsburg in Grand Traverse County, the Frederic Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, the Detroit Zoo and Frankenmuth to learn how to twist Bavarian pretzels.
Daldin, who is also a sommelier, talked with City Pulse before venturing out as the guide on a wine tour promoted by “Under the Radar.”
“After 12 years, I don’t really have a favorite place. I like that no one tells us where to go, what to do or say. Jim and I sit down at the beginning of each year and make selections,” he said.
“Our sponsors and PBS trust us,” Daldin said.
Each segment includes visits to a restaurant or two and often to a local brewery.
Each day emails pour in suggesting some stops. That, along with an active social media presence, assures there is no shortage of suggestions of where to go.
And where they can be pretty interesting. The new book details some unusual spots, including Josh’s Frogs in Owosso, which sells poisonous frogs; Preuss Pets in Lansing; St. Laurent Brothers candy store in Bay City; and the Sanders and Morley candy factory in Clinton Township.
There is something for everyone in both the TV segments and books. For snow lovers, there’s skiing, a snowmobile museum in Naubinway, near St. Ignace; the Stormy Kromer store in Ironwood; and ice fishing, which author Jim Harrison called the “moronic sport.”
Daldin, who does most of the writing, producing, voice-over work and on-air appearances, is an unlikely host, but viewers seem to like him.
“That’s part of the magic of the show. I’m a regular guy” — he wears a ball cap. “I don’t look very smart, and I’m not very good-looking,” he said. Oddly he hates being in front of the camera.
“That’s part of the charm. I’m the goofy conduit in the show and the book. We use minimal equipment and try to connect with people directly,” Dalden said.
“When we show up for shoots with two or three people, folks wonder where the rest of the crew is,” he said.
“Under the Radar” has adopted the informal mantra: “two guys, three 15 years ago, he and Jim started brainstorming ideas to make a living. Daldin did a “sizzle” tape and made a pitch to a funding source who liked the idea of promoting the state but left them with “we’ll get back to you.”
On their way home, they got a call in the car with the message, “We’ll fund you.” They were off and running.
“The show wasn’t really an original idea, but we were at the right time and the right place. So much of life is luck,” he said.
Readers of the new book will recognize many of the people and the places across Michigan. The Greater Lansing area is represented in the new book with discussions about Potter Park Zoo, Preuss, the Lugnuts, Cosmos, Sweetie-licious Bakery Café in Dewitt, and River Town Adventures (Kayaking.)
Anyone having ideas for upcoming shows should email “Under the Radar” through utrmichigan.com
The previous “Under the Radar” books are still in print. In the foreword to the new volume, Dilbin quotes Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
So, after a couple of years of lockdown, this book is a great guide to getting back on the road again.
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