Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A review of FOX News' attempt at comedy

Interesting post by Steve Safran from LostRemote.com (http://www.lostremote.com/2007/03/03/fox-newss-failed-attempt-at-comedy-so-what/) about the "1/2 Hour News Hour," which from most reviews is accurate in the sense that it DOES last 30 minutes, but pretty abyssimal as a comedy attempt. The basic point of the article is that it is failing not because it is conservative, but that it's not funny. Moreover, why in the world would we expect a news channel to deliver good comedy?

Of course, it should be remembered that FOX News is NOT a news channel. That was the whole point of FNC when it was first aired. FOX News is an unabashed spin machine, an organization dedicated to presenting a particular ideology and viewing the events of the world solely through that lens.

That, in and of itself, is not inherently wrong. What is so wrong about FOX News is its' insistence to refer to itself in Orwellian double-speak as "fair and balanced" when it clearly, from it's birth, was intended to NOT be objective.

Indeed, FOX News mocks the very concept of objectivity in journalism. The hallmark of journalism, the Mason-Dixon line between the news and the editorial departments, is the concept of objectivity. The reporter has a duty to present the story in as unbiased a manner as possible and let the viewer/reader reach their own conclusions.

"We Report. You Decide." FOX News gets the slogans of journalism right, they just refuse to practice them. It scoffs at the NEED for objectivity, at the thought that it is possible to report on facts without providing the "spin," the thought control for how to digest and interpret those facts.

And the advent of FOX News has hastened the slide of the "mainstream media" away from journalism and to the "infotainment" we currently receive from the likes of Wolf Blitzer, Lou Dobbs, and Nancy Grace. Worse, we see now the echo chamber trend. People now have the opportunity to listen to only those voices they agree with, and have their own opinions reinforced. That trend leads to the conclusion that the "other side" is something that can be ignored completely. It also leads to mistakes in one's own logic being undiscovered or, worse, magnified.

See, for example, the current President's war council of advisors.

When FOX News was born, it took advantage of the shoddy state of American journalism and the "liberal bias" mantra repeated by conservatives so much in the previous 20 years that people assume it MUST be true, a la Goebbels' "big lie" theory.

So, FNC's comedy show is no threat to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The sad part is, the "FOX News" effect on television journalism as a whole will live much longer. Unfortunately, the legacy of Edward R. Murrow is Bill O'Reilly and "The Situation Room."

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What is it about failed comedy that makes people so angry? Fox News’s “1/2 Hour News Hour” certainly ceases to be funny immediately following one’s reading of its moderately clever title. So? Why, exactly, are people so steamed about this show? Why are the reviews so gleefully bad? And while we’re on the topic - why on Earth do people continue to insist upon the notion that comedy is somehow politically biased?

There is room in the distributed media world for all kinds of information, bad comedy included. And “1/2 Hour News Hour,” awful as it is, is no worse than plenty of sitcoms or an “SNL” or two. Sure, Ann Coulter joking about how she would invade whatever un-invaded countries would be left once she and Rush took office is stupid and plays into every anti-American stereotype. So? She’s Ann Coulter. That’s her name, her act and her brand. Can we uniformly agree upon that point now and get on with life?

There are plenty of giant targets in the media and politics. There is room for more shows like “The Daily Show.” That “1/2 Hour News Hour” is as bad as it is should encourage people: it’s proof that making a consistently hilarious and sharply satirical program like “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report” is a lot damn harder than it looks.

Then there’s this: “1/2 Hour News Hour” is not an “answer” to Jon Stewart. You know who the answer to Jon is? Jon. Yes, Jon makes fun of President Bush. Absolutely. Jon lets the prez have it, two fists, full-on. But I didn’t see Jon giving John Kerry a pass in ‘04. And he ain’t exactly going easy on Hillary and the Dems now. Among my prize collections in my DVD case is The Daily’s week of shows from the Democratic convention in 2004, right here in Boston. It was not exactly a lefty lovefest.

Comedy is neither liberal nor conservative. It should just be funny. “1/2 Hour News Hour” is not funny - and not in a “That’s not funny - that’s inapropriate, sick and politically incorrect” sort of way either, which usually is funny. No, it’s just not - you know - funny.

So?

Let’s put this into perspective: A news channel has failed at comedy. So? What if Nick Jr. failed at a nightly newscast? With so much surrealism on the news networks right now, isn’t a news comedy show redundant? You want a good news channel comedy show? Just cut down the day’s coverage and rerun it. That’s pretty much what Jon Stewart does anyway. You already have a comedy show - it just needs some editing.

The angry and vitriolic among us will not be convinced to become neither engaging nor quiet. So? Let them enjoy themselves. If they are sure there’s a liberal media conspiracy, feed into that. Tell them we have meetings. With cashews. If they are absolutely certain that Brian Williams spends his every waking hour trying to bring down the capitalist system from within, send them a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book and inscribe it: “With Kisses, Brian.” And when they post that “1/2 Hour News Hour” is a work of utter comedic genius, tell them you couldn’t agree more - and that all shows should use laugh tracks to bring home that very point.

“Comedy Isn’t Pretty” was the title of one of Steve Martin’s albums. (Ironically, one of his less funny albums, too.) Failed comedy is even less pretty. So?

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