Lean Forward?

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:

“Morning Joe”

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.

“Rachel Maddow”

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.


9 thoughts on “Lean Forward?”

  1. I do agree that Keith needs to bring on occasional conservatives, but his show really shouldn’t come down to being a shoutfest like Fox News programming. I think perhaps a few stories that make us happy…other than the Oddball segment. I don’t think Keith can even book conservatives since they hate the fact that he is breathing.

    Ed’s show is what you want. He shouts down his guests. He blasts democrats when they are weak. He definitely blasts the GOP…to their faces. He is like the mirror version of the evening lineup at Fox. I like it, but sometimes I like to think progressives are above that…but if we ever needed a voice of the fighting side of progressivism, he’s the guy.

    Chris Matthews is a joke. I change channels when he’s on.

    I do like Rachel a lot, but you are right. Sometimes her focus is off. Sometimes, it’s on the right issue. This usually happens once a night.

    I believe that Keith got scared when his guests started getting banned from MSNBC (Markos) or refused to be associated with the partisan nature (Craig Crawford). Now, the best we can hope for in terms of arguments is when Jonathan Turley is on to defend constitutionality at all costs even when it goes against Keith’s point of view.

  2. Spike, You need to watch the new Sarah Palin Alaska show. I want to lean forward and strangle the TV when she opens her snowbilly mouth. Now I can appreciate the success that she’s cobbled together. Governor of Alaska is a real job. But Jeeezus H. Christ, she’s a walking, talking malapropism with a voice that can curdle whiskey.

    “When Those Bears Are Around, You Really Want To Be Up On Your Heels”


  3. I’ve long considered Mathews a bell-weather, he and Bob Woodward know which way the wind is blowing and act accordingly,
    I have not forgotten Mathews’ man crush on W. and that he actually said, ‘We’re all neocons now.’ Fuck him!
    Keith should have taken a hint from Ben Affleck’s hilarious impression of him on SNL. A little dignity, please.
    Rachel was good on the radio; TV has ruined her.

    See you on Facebook.

  4. Well, I might as well chime in :o) First, and most important YES, WE MISS YOU TOO! I agree with you on Ed (and I so appreciate his constant support for Labor and the working folks) and definitely on the crazy blonde guy, who Mikey and I refer to as The Wind Sock. Who is Joe Scarborough? Heehee. I can proudly say I have NEVER watched his show. Anyway…. on occasion, Wind Sock does blast some right wing freak to hell and redeems himself to me for about 5 minutes. As far as Keith and Rachel’s shows: they are the only ones I watch. I don’t want to see conservatives on Keith’s show because they are every where else on tv, but you’re right, some regular people now and then would be a great idea. I like Rachel though. I think she’s super smart and frankly, it’s refreshing to see an intelligent woman talk about important issues (yes, she talks about LGBT/DADT issues alot but Stacy….there are people in this country that still lack the same civil rights that the rest of us enjoy, it’s important…) who is not a complete and utter bimbo, with perfectly coiffed big hair and 10 pounds of makeup who obviously has no clue what she’s talking about. This woman does her homework! Yes, sometimes she gets a little goofy. She’s friggin’ smart as hell though, and I think she will continue to grow and I really believe she will reach great heights in her career.

  5. Hi Stacy,

    We do miss you.

    I have a hard time listening to Chris any longer. He shouts over his guests all the time so it’s hard to figure out what’s being said.

    I don’t watch Ed too much. He’s a little too left for me, but I love that he stands up for labor and the middle class. I liked to listen to him more when he was on Air America.

    I still love Keith and try to watch frequently.

    I like Rachael a lot. I think she’s very fair and she takes responsibility for any errors she makes. I also think she really does a lot of research on her various topics and is incredibly smart.

    I really like Morning Joe for the most part. They were really sophomoric this morning though. Actually, I like Joe much more as a morning host than as a congressman. I think they try to bring together both sides of the table on most of their conversations.

    All in all, I’m glad we have MSNBC!

  6. Hey Stacy: Boy if we lose MSNBC what are we going to watch (it’s bad enough no Stacy Taylor in San Diego). First off I like Ed Schultz, he seems to be the most down to earth of them all. He has conservatives on and he rips them a new one, I like his pyscho-talk segment too. Like you said, the only problem, he’s on at 3PM and a repeat at midnight(i think) horrible time slots.

    AS for Rachel, she’s smart, but too cutesy, cutesy, and trys to be funny…but she is no John Stewart.

    And finally Keith, he’s becoming too full of himself. When you start becoming the news instead of reporting it( political donation scandal) it’s time to step back a bit.

    The problem with all these shows is TV ratings. They all think they have to be showmen and peronsalities, to draw the audience.

    A much better alternative is Democracy Now! but ofcourse that would be too boring for a regular audience…so there you go….

  7. Bettina, I have to agree with Stacy on almost every point. I too love Rachel but can rarely watch it anymore as I am tired of hearing about her exclusive focus on DADT. My feeling is if the LBGT signed up for the military, they knew what they were getting into — it is a volunteer army these days. Back in Vietnam or even Korean War days of course, it was different. You didn’t have a choice, unless to go to Canada. Remember Klinger from MASH? Trying to get out because by feigning to be a cross dresser?

    Not saying it’s right of course, but guess what — there’s thousands of folks living on the streets right now, and no one wants to hire the unemployed. It’s documented. So now millions of folks are getting kicked to the curb. My focus would be elsewhere if I were on National News.

    And I agree also with Stacy about constantly bringing in the same commentators on Olberman. Yes they are brilliant. But as I watch them I see how the term “effete snobs in the media” came about. They seem so disconnected from real investigative journalism, it seems like they just love hearing themselves talk talk talk.

    I turn to Truth Dig these days for news and commentary; Chris Hedges seems right-on. Only problem — would like for some leaders to emerge that are more intelligent than me, to actually propose some solutions.

    Stacy for President! We could get started now….

  8. Hey, thanks for the response. Based on Debra S.’s post, I tried Rachel again last night. Lead story (after some uncomfortable mugging for the camera): Breaking News! Some court case about don’t-ask-don’t-tell. Click. I do care about my LBGT brothers and sisters, but there’s just too much stuff going on every day for me want to dwell on that single issue.
    Kieth, on the other hand, seemed to have re-discovered his groove a bit the last couple shows. A lot of times it’s merely a question of attitude, and Olbermann has been hitting the right tone.
    Michael Smerconish has been filling in for Matthews. He’s a right-leaning Philly radio host who doesn’t seem terribly original. He’s also subbed for Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck on Fox, so why exactly MSNBC thinks he’s a good fit is beyond me. Maybe the talent pool is getting shallower.