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Late Night TV Observations

Jay Leno interviewed a presidential candidate (Barack Obama) on the Tonight Show yesterday. I realize it’s not a hard-hitting news show, but in the 20 minute interview, Leno did not ask Obama a single policy question. Not one. As informed as I consider myself about American politics, I admit I really don’t know what Obama stands for. Here are some softball questions Leno could have asked:

  • Tell me a significant policy  you and Hilary Clinton have, and  explain why your position is better.
  • Tell me about a political position you have which might surprise people.
  • Make the case for your candidacy to a voter in the other party.
  • What issues are people on the campaign trail bringing up more often than the rest? What are your feelings about it?
  • Why do you think Americans are unhappy with the current administration? If you were elected president 8 years ago, how could you have prevented this from happening?
  • What do you think is the most important foreign policy issue for your administration? Budget Policy? etc…

Memo to Charlie Rose: International media tycoons are not interesting guests for your show. They are dull. Political figures might be, but most of the time they are simply towing to the party line. Former political figures can be, but most of the time they are just hawking a book. Artists and intellectuals can be great guests, but the New York media cocoon you inhabit makes it impossible for find one. Reporters generally have been great guests too. But avoid the billionaires. We don’t care.

Memo #2 to Charlie Rose: Put the guest’s name on the screen once in a while. Stop playing games with us!

Memo #3 to Charlie Rose: Stop inviting military officials and CIA Agents. They may be good honest people, but unless you are willing to express skepticism towards them, you’re just giving them an opportunity to call for more military spending, which is the last thing our country needs right now. Remember the phrase “self-licking ice cream cone.” Don’t be afraid to use it.

Observation: has it ever occurred to people that the main reason actors appear on talk shows is to hawk their movie? I can tolerate a bit of this, but there should be a limit of one star per movie on a given week of any talkshow. There are movie projects where they will have two or three actors from the same movie appearing on different nights. Leno, Letterman, they all do that. Again, I don’t mind some promotion, but the shows go overboard.

Oh, to be a captive audience of the airwaves.

One guilty pleasure of mine has been watching McGlaughlin Group on PBS every Friday night. The show’s format hasn’t changed much over the decades (although apparently they added a billionaire to the panel–boo!) I still won’t forgive John McLaughlin for dismissing Al Gore as a viable candidate in 2000. He was carping over the style of Gore’s campaign instead of focusing on the substance of it. But generally McLaughlin is good at presenting provocative questions and surveying the panel for reactions. I’ve even developed an immunity from Pat Buchanan’s gut populism and even enjoy it a little. Surprisingly, over the last few months, even the conservative panelists are sickened of Bush’s Iraq policy and Bush in general. I used to think this show was just a shoutfest, but after every show, I come away thinking, I was exposed to a lot of facts and opinions here.

Speaking of alternative TV, I downloaded the azureus bit torrent client with Vuze, some video downloading manager which lets you download many free vids. Looks pretty nice, and I’m seriously thinking of queuing these vids to watch on my HDTV.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Brian 10/18/2007, 3:37 pm

    has it ever occurred to people that the main reason actors appear on talk shows is to hawk their movie?

    Likewise, if your average NPR show has a guest on .. he’s hawking a book.

    The only exception to this, that I can recall, was the truly good – and sadly in hiatus – ‘Open Source’ with Chris Lyudon.

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