Ruth Stahl and her mom, Barbara Stahl, both of Livonia, meet author and PBS TV’s Tom Daldin, of Under the Radar Michigan, and have him autograph his new book Dec. 19 at Scott Colburn Boots and Western Wear in Livonia.

Ruth Stahl and her mom, Barbara Stahl, both of Livonia, meet author and PBS TV’s Tom Daldin, of Under the Radar Michigan, and have him autograph his new book Dec. 19 at Scott Colburn Boots and Western Wear in Livonia.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Friends no longer flying ‘Under the Radar’ after navigating recession

By: Mary Beth Almond | C&G Newspapers | Published January 28, 2019

 Tom Daldin poses with Farmington resident Denise Goodman and his book, “Under the Radar Michigan: The Next 50.”

Tom Daldin poses with Farmington resident Denise Goodman and his book, “Under the Radar Michigan: The Next 50.”

Photo by Deb Jacques

ROCHESTER — When the Great Recession hit, Rochester resident Tom Daldin had no choice but to reinvent himself.

At the time, Daldin had under his belt 10 years of producing and directing car commercials for the then-Big Three auto companies — as well as an early career in both radio and public television. But his career was in jeopardy.

“In 2009, when the economy crashed and all the auto companies crashed, I lost 90 percent of my income,” Daldin said. “Like a lot of people back when the economy crashed, I had to reinvent myself, because I was going broke and I had a family and a mortgage.”

During his free time, Daldin played drums in a band with his buddy Jim Edelman — who had recently lost his position as the national sales manager for a large media corporation. While commiserating, the duo came up with the idea of resurrecting a children’s TV series Daldin had once hosted for PBS called “Bob’s Job,” which — despite winning numerous Emmy awards — was shelved due to lack of funding.

Although PBS executives were quick to nix a relaunch, they asked Daldin and Edelman if they had any other creative programming pitches to offer.

“I guess we should have come in with a plan B,” Daldin said with a chuckle. “We were literally kicking each other under the table, and I just blurted out, ‘How about if we produce a show about Michigan that’s just about cool Michigan people, places and things, and tell people about all the great things that are happening in the state?’ And they said, ‘We love the concept. If you can produce it yourself, pay for it yourself and donate money to us, we’ll air it for you.’”

Ten years later, Daldin and Edelman — along with another one of their friends, Eric Tremonti — are still writing, producing and directing their show, which is now an Emmy Award-winning PBS television series called “Under the Radar Michigan.”

“It was the right place, right time, right concept, right move. The planets aligned,” said Daldin, who hosts the TV series. “We are so lucky that this happened, because it could have easily not happened.”

Edelman, the show’s executive producer, said he and Daldin had no idea it would be so successful.

“I think those first couple of seasons we were just hanging on, just riding the bull, making sure money stayed in the bank,” said Edelman, who lives in Salem. “Ten years later, we still have the same model, we just have a better handle on how to make the show now.”

Over the years the team has come up with creative solutions to keep costs down: meeting in coffee shops instead of doling out cash for office space and using their own equipment for voice-overs.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but when we do voice-overs for the show, instead of spending money in an expensive sound studio — Jim and I were in a rock band, so we have microphones and mixers — I stand in Jim’s laundry room and I scream into a curtain. I even fold a load or two when I’m in there,” Daldin joked.

“Under the Radar Michigan” currently receives major financial support from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which jumped on board as a corporate underwriter, footing the bill for nearly half of the show’s $1 million annual operating budget.

A big part of what makes the show work, according to Daldin, is that the three friends don’t take themselves too seriously.

“We’re just three guys driving around in our car, trying to figure it out as we go along, and it works. … We just have fun,” Daldin said.

Still, the show is a lot more work than people might think.

“People think we just hop out of the car, shoot stuff, shake the camera and pour out a TV show … but when we go out to shoot, I have pre-communicated with everyone who is going to be on the show. I write a whole script before we go out. There’s a full production schedule when we go out on the road, and then, when we come back from filming — because something always goes wrong — I sometimes rewrite the entire script,” Daldin explained.

The trio is also celebrating the success of two books, “Under The Radar Michigan: The First 50,” and “Under The Radar Michigan: The Next 50,” which highlight their travels and adventures while filming the show.

The most recent book, “The Next 50” was released last March. The book, Daldin said, invites readers to go on a variety of adventures — including climbing to the top of the Mackinac Bridge; cliff diving in Lake Superior; savoring the flavor of fantastic foods; riding the North Pole Express; meandering through magnificent museums; exploring great parks, trails and places to camp; and more.

“They are great little resource books for people,” Daldin said. “People who are buying the books are actually using them to plan vacations with their kids, plan retirements or plan where to eat next. We eat really well on the show.”

To purchase a book, or to view an on-air television schedule or archived episodes of the show, visit www.utrmichigan.com.