Wednesday, May 9, 2012

GOOD ON TV? "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART," AND WHY WE DON'T NEED 24-HOUR NEWS CHANNELS, ANYMORE!



The most important TV show to air in my lifetime, is "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart". No show has truly epitomized satire, while achieving and retaining journalist integrity. It's pretty much the only show that appears on my Facebook timeline that I constantly find myself watching clips from. Their targets aren't atypical, politics, leaders, policy, and the news media itself, which has been the big one for them. Satirizing our political leaders is hardly new, and neither is satirizing the news itself, but they came along at the same time as the infotainment business exploded, and the rise of the 24-hour news channels. Their bread and butter frankly is making light of how the networks cover the news.

People sometimes forget their was a time before Jon Stewart took over, when Craig Kilborn hosted "The Daily Show," before he went to CBS to host The Late Late Show. The show was very different at that time. Kilborn, a former "Sportscenter" anchor was purposefully aloof. Their wasn't reporting so much as news reports with occasional comedic ribbing in them. They were funny, but they tended to more closely resemble the old "Weekend Update" segments on "Saturday Night Live," during the time they were hosted by Chevy Chase or maybe more accurately, Dennis Miller. Now, even President Obama, as he noted in his recent interview in Rolling Stone magazine, noted how "The Daily Show" has a way of cutting through satire to get to the truth, strangely enough better than most of the news outlets actually do. He's right, but I was thinking about that, and wonder about what other news media actually does that nowadays, get to the truth, really do actually get into something. I thought of a couple, "Frontline," for instance, has been doing exemplerary work for decades now. NPR typically does that. They're not always the most entertaining news sources, but their work is exceptional. It's also heavily based in Investigatie Reporting, but so is something like "Dateline", but they've basically reduced themselves to a murder-of-the-week type show that we'd used to describe something like "Kojak," or "Columbo," or "Murder, She Wrote", with occasionally, the exploitive, "To Catch a Predator," series where they go undercover to catch pedophiles. (I wonder if ever actually catch a teenager who wasn't lying about who he was?) "60 Minutes," is usually able to avoid such theatrics. You'll notice, as I struggled to give praise to these few shows that at times do excel, I didn't mention anything on any of the 24-hour news channels, and that's not necessarily a coincidence. On Facebook, and Twitter, I subscribe and/or follow most of the major news organizations who update me constantly with important news, and even if they didn't, I could almost always go to their website, or I could just wait for one of the nightly news broadcasts, local and national, there's about 20 a night, it seems like, starting at four in the afternoon, you only really need to catch one or two of them though. Something important happens, there seems to be some way of me finding out about it. I'm not criticizing actually, I'm just laying out the challenges that a 24-hour cable channel has to overcome. For the purposes of this discussion, we're gonna any political content for a second here. Yes, Fox News is blatently idiotically right-winged, and MSNBC is trying to be the left-winged version of Fox News, and CNN is, well, CNN, we get that, but all these, and a few other channels have to put content on, 24 hours/day. They don't have the resources to put up some quality news programs and reports, they have to keep putting content on the air. Hence, why somebody like Jon Stewart, can come in, and wait for somebody to say something stupid, or insipid or in many cases wrong, (or not, they don't really need mistakes to satirize) and begin criticizing the major news organizations. You know, as much I enjoy it when Jon Stewart does this, after carefully thinking about it, I have a question, and I don't think it's particularly off-the-wall either, is there a need for a 24-hour news channel anymore? I don't think there is anymore.

Strangely, I actually came about thinking about this in an unusual way. I actually was pondering what would happen if "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," had to be a 24-hour news network. I think it's an interesting question. There's an Onion News Network now, which is very strong with their satire as well, but they still are in the satire business, and not in the 24-hour cable news business. "The Daily Show..." put on a half-hour television show, four days a week, they a few thoughts that are important to their news of the day sometimes with commentary from some of their reporters, they usually have a guest they talk to, and once in a while, a reporter brings in a report that is comical, but definitely skewers whatever it's subject is in some way. They have a lot more time to prepare, plus they often have many weeks off during the year. They're giving us they're best material most of the time. If they were to actually trying being on the air, for 24-hours, they would essentially fall into the trap of the news channels, and frankly, struggle to find content, especially comedy content. They'd basically be another reporting show, they wouldn't have the time to satirize. I look at a show that takes the time, like "Frontline," and think the same way though. They work extensively, to get these amazingly in-depth stories on peoples, events, the behind-the-scenes of what's going on, get us to look really inside as to what the newsmakers were thinking, as they were making the news. Yeah, it's not first scoop, it's got no flashing "Breaking News," logo, but does that stuff even matter now? We're gonna hear about it eventually, does it really matter where? I don't think it does.

Okay, so what does the news channels have left? They can give you the news, from all around the world, they can keep you updated on the news as it continues to occur, they have scroll on the bottom of anything they couldn't get to... the can, separate the news a bit. National, international, weather, sports, etc., and keep these as separate shows or enterprises perhaps. They have interview shows, many of these can be good. Then there's the dozens of opinion and editorial shows that have been overloading these networks. Most of these are useless, some of them actually work at creating some elaborate points and inject some reporting into their work, Rachel Maddow's a good example of that. The rest, especially the Fox News crew seem to be intent on pushing misinformation and causing some kind of inexplicable rise out of it's viewers. "Network," to the Nth degree essentially, with a bunch of Peter Finch's running around mad as hell and not taking it anymore. I don't know what the hell they're mad at so damn much. Pissed, mildly annoyed at certain things, I can understand. I used to enjoy how Keith Olbermann counted the numbers of days after Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech at the end of his broadcast. It made his point, and he didn't exactly flip out over it. But the majority of these aren't really watchable. I would equate these op-eds to preachers preaching to the choir. They're already in the choir, they're not convincing anybody one way or another, just elaborating on what they already know (or in Fox News case, what they delusionally like to believe).

You know the News channel I used to like, "Headline News". It wasn't so much a channel, really. It was on, cable channel 22 or 23, or something like that, rest next to Nickelodeon usually, and they'd just repeat the same half-hour news broadcast for 24-straight hours. Nothing special, they had reports, but they were what the said they were, they give you the headlines, in the news. Every so often, they'd make a new broadcast, with updates on the news. Nothing else, no commentary, no satire, some reporting like I said, but it was headline news, and it covered everything. Stock market, sports scores, whatever nation I never heard of was getting genocided today. Nothing else on but paid programming at 5:30 in the morning, and "Nick Arcade," doesn't start 'til 6, eh, just watch the news and move on. That was it. And honestly, now I'm not even sure the channel exists. I have to to look it up actually, to find that it's now, HLNTV, and that, ah man, "30 Rock"'s only doing one more season. That sucks. Well, there you have that. It's a subsidiary of CNN, which I knew actually, and is more clearly linked with them than before, but it did have it's own channel likes sports has ESPN and Weather has "The Weather Channel" and music videos has...- Um, do they still have a channel? Well, nevermind, you get the point. I had to look it up to see if it still existed.

Really though, I get breaking into TV when real important crap happens, I get reporting news, major headlines, I get taking the time to elaborate and have real in-depth reporting like News Magazines, but I really don't understand why we need a 24-hour news channel anymore, much less like five or six of them. Just how different is the news gonna be whether we get it all at once at eleven or at six in the morning, than it is if we get it now? Who wants to watch so much news anyway? There was a usefulness to it once, and it could be again in the future possibly in certain select situations. CNN covering the invasion of Baghdad during Persian Gulf, for one major milestone moment. Those moments are few and far between, and even the major network channel that don't have 24-hour news channels are more than capable of covering most major stories nowadays at a moment's notice, and are willing to continue news coverage as long as it's needed. . I hate to say this, because I want Jon Stewart to keep making fun of them, but I think it's time we start fazing these channels out. Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, even. Maybe keep CNN? Actually, maybe not. You know, newspaper are slowly but surely falling into hard times that they aren't gonna particularly recover from in a while for being outdated, and while some are managing to stay afloat and adapt, maybe that a sign that the Cable News channels are next, and should be next to go. My apologies to Mr. Stewart for making such a bold thought, I know how critical they are to your well-being, but I'm fairly certain that you'll be able to make us laugh and think as well without the major media outlets making your job probably way easier than it should be, but the news itself can be pretty funny sometimes, and I don't think that by simply getting rid of the 24-hour news network that that would mean we'd lose all of their programming. We're still gonna get lousy, mediocre and bias reporting, as well as commentators who will say some stupid things worthy of mocking, and there will be plenty of stuff with the news business to make fun anyway, it'll just be in a different format or media outlet. Maybe we'll only get the best of them instead of being oversaturated with them the way we are now. Plus the news can be pretty funny on it's own anyway.
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