Monday, December 29, 2014

The Fresh Prince of Belles Lettres

From Brother Charlie Pierce:
The problem with [Meet the Press] never has been the hosts, although they could be better. The problem is that the format is obsolete, which is demonstrated quite clearly by the panels put together on MSNBC's weekend morning shows -- academics, and state politicians, and, occasionally, ordinary citizens who have latched into a cause, all viewpoints that almost never get aired anywhere else, and undeniably fresh ones.
The only flaw with Brother Pierce's assay of MSNBC's very early weekend offerings is that it should begin "Once upon a time..." (and thanks for the link, also too,)

Yes, there was a time when an active and vibrant "community" of early watchers got up with the chickens in order to get their fix of the Pure Quill. A two hour course in advanced public policy, linguistics and political theory facilitated by Chris Hayes.  With pastries! And a host who cheerfully torched the fourth wall by directly and comfortably interacted with the audience.  This was followed by another two hours of the same-church-different-pew hosted by the terrific Melissa Harris-Perry.

O frabjous day!  Callooh! Callay!

We had found the sacred glade where l'esprit of Air America was hiding from the corporate chekists! The underground Liberal sea into which the many river of Lefty blogging were supposed to flow but never did.   To celebrate, my wife and I would arise early and go now, and go to Innisfree and build a pillow and blanket nest in our bed, with me darting to the kitchen for coffee and toast during the breaks breaks.

Then, MSNBC kicked Mr. Hayes upstairs.  They upgraded his wardrobe, coached him to shoot for "basso profundo" voicing promotional spots for his new, prime-time show and cut him down to one hour a night.  And then they handed the weekend role of passionate policy wonk in shirtsleeves over to Steve Kornacki.

But, unfortunately for those of us who used to set our alarms by the show, Mr. Kornacki came to the party packing a Myers-Briggs eerily similar to Chuck Todd's.  From the start, he showed an overwhelming preference for poll numbers and the dry, fiddly details of political messaging over the viscera of genuinely serious issues; a propensity for turning everything (except the minutiae of New Jersey politics) into horse race coverage; endless, masturbatory speculation about Hillary and 2016; larding up his panels with obvious Conservative hacks and "Both Siderists" for "balance"; a passivity bordering on catatonia when his Conservative guests lie to his face; a strong smell of controversy-aversion and desperation that comes off the program like the reek of panther sweat.

Needless to say, there is virtually no interaction with the audience anymore, and the hash-tag around which the early-bird Tweeters used to gather has been shitcanned in favor of...nothing at all.

"Meet the Press"'s horrible template is political teevee's factory default setting because it turns the hard work of creating lively and interesting public debate into a plug-and-play soft-serve pundit franchise; business-friendly, inoffensive and all its parts are interchangeable.  Just follow the manual and any goof can run it.

And so when "Up..." was put into the hands of a Chuck Todd Junior, small wonder that its home-cooking and brilliant, idiosyncratic charm were bulldozed to make room for "Meet the Press, Junior".

Melissa Harris-Perry is still out there, still doing wonderful things, but for reason which I suspect have as much to to with its executive's stupidity as its executive's timorousness, MSNBC has chosen to blow up the weekend's spirited, magical, two-hour ride to MHP's piece of teevee real estate and strand her on an atoll at the end of a long, grim, pot-holed bridge.

Still, it was nice while it lasted.


zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Good to see that Pierce is getting better about acknowledging his 'borrowings'...

nestor said...

You're spot on about Kornacki's UP, I thought he may be a 'kill-them-with-kindness' type and he is smart but sadly his instinct is to let the fuckers off the hook. Hayes does good work on his show but if I had my druthers I'd let Rachel Maddow have his hour and get Hayes back on a deep policy program of some sort.

Anonymous said...

Up was terrific when Chris Hayes ran it. I thought it was going to be fine with Kornacki, but alas MSNBC has fallen into the trap of trying to cater to the right by putting on too many of their blowhearts and then not ever pushing back on their nonsense, but giving it equal attention as actual facts. Ignore them, stay with facts and we'd all be better off.

wagonjak said...

Once again you've nailed my thoughts on the new "Down" with Kornyacki. I used to drag myself out of bed at 5 in the morning to watch Hayes, and now I sleep through it and wake up in time to get coffee and watch MHP. And the goddamn IDIOTIC quiz show Steve features on Saturday is absolutely laughable and pathetic.

Jerry B said...

When Up first went on the air I was as happy about it as you. I believed it would eventually overshadow the other weekend shows and become the most important political show. Then they drove that truck load of money up to his front door and that was it.

I suspect they gave him a daily show so Up could be turned into just another opportunity to push the Narrative which, of course, is all important.

Fritz Strand said...

Kornyacki clearly aims to be topical rather than substantial, which is beyond him.

Bonnie McDaniel said...

I'm afraid if Phil Griffin keeps running things, the plug will be pulled on the entire network.

(Not that I care if Morning Joe loses a big chunk of its audience.)