OK, I’ve finally had it with MSNBC. It’s been my go-to source for political commentary for several years, but I now find it nearly unwatchable. I gave up on the hyper-caffeinated Chris Matthews years ago and have always thought that Rachel Maddow is just too friggin’ precocious to watch for more than 10 minutes, but it dawned on me yesterday that the whole sorry network is an exercise in futility, a classic preacher-choir orchestration that has about as much chance to change the political landscape as the Weather Channel does in changing the climate. Yes, I’m beginning to agree with Jon Stewart that MSNBC merely a minor league version of Fox.
I saw the movie “Morning Glory” the other day, starring Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams, about a perky young executive producer hired to revamp a network morning news show. While not exactly brimming with the apocalyptic fervor as “Network”, or even “Broadcast News”, it was funny, and it got me to thinking about what I would do to make MSNBC watchable again, were I hired to be the executive producer. Many of you will find the following critique to be petty, cranky, naive, and politically incorrect, but here goes:
Funny that this gabfest’s name is inspired by an early morning caffeine jolt because it’s the show that I put on a 3 am if I can’t get to sleep. They should change the name to “Ambien” or “Lunesta”. Seriously, who are all those people and what exactly are they talking about? Joe Scarborough isn’t exactly the host of the show as much as he’s the ring master overseeing a circus of political jugglers and knife throwers, has-been show biz folks, and news junkie retreads. I swear last week I saw Elvis Costello, Michael Caine, and Tom Brokaw debating the recent election with Pat Buchanan, Tony Hawke, and Mike Barnacle. Or maybe I was dreaming. All that said, I would change nothing about this program. I need my sleep at 3 am.
“The Ed Show”
I like Ed Shultz. When I was hosting the morning show on the Air America radio outlet in San Diego, Ed’s show was about the only other program I could listen to for more than a couple minutes. I liked that he talked about football occasionally and, unlike Thom Hartmann, refrained from long-winded tutorials on Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. He’s from the Dakotas and he sounds like he’s from the Dakotas. Ed seems guileless, earnest, and practical. I assume he brings those things to his MSNBC show. I say assume because even I have better things to do at 3pm than watch a political talk show.
“The Chris Matthews Show”
Forgive and forget, they say, but I still haven’t gotten over Matthew’s man crush on George W. Bush in the early stages of the Iraq invasion. And now I find insufferable his pretense that he was against the war in the first place. Has this guy ever heard of YouTube or the internet? Everything is there, his entire history of flip-floppery, political fawning, and posturing. But at least his show has some energy, despite the fact that Matthews routinely traipses out the same usual suspect guests day in and day out. Could we go a week, please, without the pontifications of squishy centrists like Clarence Page, David Brooks, and Joe Klein ? And I know this is nit-picking, but the asshole’s name is pronounced “Chain-ee”, Dick Chain-ee, not “Cheeny”. And Matthews, please lay off the Red Bull. You sound like you just took a hit from a helium balloon.
“Countdown, with Keith Olbermann”
This used to be my favorite MSNBC program, so I’ll spend more time on this one. Keith once was smart and funny and righteously indignant when it was called for. And he still is. But now the show’s a snoozefest and I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s the gaggle of twenty-somethings that comprise Olbermann’s amen chorus, earnest, spikey-haired young libs like Ezra Klein, Marcos Moulitsas, Faiz Shikir, and the kid with glasses, Christopher Hayes. Or maybe it’s the older hacks like Eugene Robinson and Howard Fineman that seem to be on the show, literally, every freaking day! Here’s a “new rule” for Olbermann: for every Ezra and Faiz you bring on the show, you need to give equal time to some blond guy named Steve from Ohio. Seriously, don’t you want to reach beyond SoHo and Tribeca and the West Village and grab the dumbass American voter by the throat and try to talk some sense to him? Where’s the liberal Joe the Plumber? Oh, yeah, that’s Ed Shultz and he already has a show on MSNBC. And Keith, just occasionally could you book a conservative on your show and rip him or her a new asshole? Fox brings liberals and Democrats on all the time just for that purpose. That would be fun and a great outlet for your indignation. And here’s further advice, Keith: go a week without mentioning Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin.
As I’ve said, I find Rachel almost un-watchable and lately she seems to be really straining to create some identity. Plus she’s not funny but she thinks she is. And, by the way Rachel, the 17% of unemployed Americans and the millions who are about to lose their home don’t give a shit about don’t-ask-don’t-tell. Give it a rest. Maybe if you just came up for air occasionally I would have a more favorable opinion of your program. This is not a show for grown-ups and it’s not ready for primetime. And I don’t want to “lean forward” when I’m watching television; I want to sit back and enjoy myself.
So there, like I said, “petty, cranky, naive, and politically incorrect”, but I wouldn’t be so if I didn’t care. MSNBC needs some tough love if they want to compete with the big boys, or even if they want to merely matter.