Jon Stewart And Brian Williams

Today’s outcome for both Jon Stewart and Brian Williams saddens me. And, in the end, shouldn’t it be all about the viewer?


A real one-two punch today. Brian Williams suspended for six months, then Jon Stewart announcing he’s leaving The Daily Show. I’ll start with Stewart.


There was no way I saw this coming. It would be different if Rosewood, his directorial debut, had gotten rave reviews. He is walking away from the goose tha lays the golden egg!

Today Jon Stewart is a powerful political force. Attention from The Daily Show can swing public opinion.

He undoubtedly understands the powerful voice he commands doesn’t leave the show with him. Just ask Glenn Beck, Howard Stern or Oprah. They left over-the-air broadcasting for positions with less visibility and influence.

Fifteen years is a long time. Stewart, especially after the movie, doesn’t seem as passionate. There are more movie star interviews and fewer examples of Stewart as TVs only interviewer who actually read the book. Better to quit before that lack of drive becomes too obvious?

I will miss The Daily Show. It’s the only show I watch even if I can’t fast forward through the ads.

Selfishly, I’ll be sad.

Brian Williams situation is a little more complex. NBC says he’s suspended for six months without pay. He’s a union employee. Suspensions only happen like this if negotiated with Williams’ full agreement and everyone signs off.

I’ve never met Brian Williams, but I know folks who’ve worked with him. I’ve never heard a bad word–and I would have. He’s always been cited as the kind of guy you want in your newsroom.

We all fall victim to puffery. Everyone inflates their resume a little. This is more than most. Maybe it is an actionable offense?

However, Brian Williams deserves to have his transgressions weighed against the total of his professional life. There’s a little Geoff self pity in that last sentence.

Should Brian Williams’ penalty be a life sentence? I don’t think so, but not strongly enough that my opinion might not change over time.

Today’s outcome for both Jon Stewart and Brian Williams saddens me. And, in the end, shouldn’t it be all about the viewer?

Why Must I Wait For The Daily Show You’ve Seen?

Out here on the west coast we get mostly leftovers. If there’s voting in a show, usually we can’t. If the font screams LIVE, probably not for us.

Stewart Mocks Obama  Can’t He Condemn Russia Just a Little Faster    Mediaite

Like clockwork, every night asap posts most/all of Jon Stewart’s first block. It’s 8:53 PM PDT as I type and what you see above is now online.

The Daily Show doesn’t air here for another two hours!

I’ll admit it, this is a first world, 21st Century problem. But it gnaws at me.

Out here on the west coast we get mostly leftovers. If there’s voting in a show, we can’t. If the font screams LIVE, probably not for us. Facebook and Twitter conspire nightly to spoil all the tube’s surprises.

This kind of TV worked 20 or 30 years ago. There’s no good reason to hold back now, except to protect someone’s outdated business model.

I’m waiting for the show. Stewart is best watched in context. He’d better be funny.

Comedy Central Picks Larry Wilmore To Replace Colbert


Isn’t Friday when you release news you want forgotten? Then why has Comedy Central chosen today to say who’s replacing Steven Colbert?

NEW YORK, May 9, 2014 – Comedy Central has pulled from the ranks of “The Best F*&#ing News Team Ever!” and today announces the Emmy® Award-winning Larry Wilmore as the host of the #1 brand in comedy’s next great late night franchise. Wilmore will take over the highly-coveted post-“Daily Show” time slot in January 2015 as host of “The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore,” a comedic look at news, current events and pop culture from unique perspectives not typically on display in late night television. The series was created by Jon Stewart and will be produced by Stewart’s Busboy Productions with Stewart and Wilmore serving as Executive Producers.

Much will be made of Wilmore’s race and how this hiring adds diversity to TV. Sure. However Wilmore is the funniest intellectual voice on TV today. He’s the right choice black, white or transparent.

Smart move on Comedy Central’s part. I can’t wait to watch.

David Letterman Is Retiring

David Letterman autographed photoSome presents are meant to be remembered. While we were dating, Helaine got me an autographed photo of David Letterman. This was at the beginning of the morning show era. He was my hero.

What a caring gift. Thank you again, baby.

David Letterman has done some of the funniest off-the-wall material seen on TV. Not recently.

Since the heart attack? Since his affair? Since the birth of Harry? At some point his TV spark went away.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d see him tomorrow. I’m still a huge fan. He is not doing his best work today.

letterman-ticketWith Leno gone and Jimmy Fallon very strong out of the gate, it’s time. He said so a few nights ago.

So, who? The NY Post says CBS likes Colbert.

Are they talking the character he currently plays or legit Stephen Colbert? Is either a good choice? With the real Stephen, you risk fans who might not like his actual persona as much as his alter ego and feel cheated.

I like Jon Stewart a lot. That choice would make me happy and I think he could be a force.

letterman-studioHoward Stern is a good choice too. He’s intellectually curious and a great interviewer. Does he play close to the line a little too often for CBS? Maybe.

Stern had major public battles with Les Moonves who runs the network and its attendant empire. It got very nasty.

Does money trump personal animosity? Here? In SoCal? In show biz? Survey says, yes!

CBS needs to hit a home run. Late night is fabulously profitable in an era of pinched bottom lines. They will suffer greatly without the revenue Letterman brought.

This will be interesting to watch. Dave said his run ends in 2015.

Bieber, Mitchell And Davos

Andrea Mitchell Reports on msnbcThursday afternoon. TV on. MSNBC.

Used to watch them a lot more.

Andrea Mitchell was interviewing a congresswoman or former congresswoman who was in Davos, Switzerland. The World Economic Summit is happening there. Jon Stewart calls it the ‘money prom!’

Then, without warning, Mitchell stopped the interview for Breaking News.

Justin Bieber being arraigned. Live video. Justin in jail scrubs.

There are certain moments in life which are gut-checks. Make the right decision regardless of the cost.

I’m not saying disregard Bieber, but it could wait. Few already watching the weighty interview in progress gave a damn about Justin Bieber. Cutting away was the wrong choice.

I feel bad for Andrea Mitchell. She is the public face of what was a producer’s choice.

Addendum: Mediaite has the actual video.

Is The Daily Show The Real Inheritor Of The Tonight Show Legacy?

Is it possible Stewart and The Daily Show are the real inheritors of Tonight Show legacy and not the Jay Leno Tonight Show?

I am too young (a phrase seldom applicable to me nowadays) to remember Steve Allen’s version of the Tonight Show. I’ve seen clips/airchecks. Always surprising, groundreaking and topical it was a great show. I was thinking about that last night as I watched Jon Stewart.

Is it possible Stewart and The Daily Show are the real inheritors of Tonight Show legacy and not the Jay Leno Tonight Show?

Stewart doesn’t usually have musical guests. It’s not a variety show. However, he does have a cast of regulars and like Allen’s crew they are writer/performers. That’s the most memorable artifact from Allen’s show… Stewart’s too.

Tonight introduced a slew comedic talent of the sixties (Don Knotts, Louis Nye, Bill Dana, Tom Poston and Pat Harrington). The Daily Show does the same thing today (Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Rob Corddry, Ed Helms, Rob Riggle, John Hodgman, Wyatt Cenac).

Is there anyone reading this who watches Stewart and remembers Steve Allen’s Tonight Show? Am I right?

If Maury ran the DNA would Steve Allen be the ‘baby daddy’ for The Daily Show?

Jon Stewart: Payback Without Sacrificing Comedy

At some point Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Dennis Miller and Dick Gregory (to name a few) all stopped being funny because they were too involved in making their point.

I watched Jon Stewart last night. I watched again this afternoon with my parents. Last night’s show was a classic.

The brief backstory is Stewart accused Fox News and Bernard Goldberg of hypocricy. Goldberg fired back. Last night’s show was Stewart’s response.

What made it special is Stewart was able to make his points without sacrificing the show’s purpose–comedy.

Over the years there have been many comedians with points of view who lost their comedic way. At some point Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Dennis Miller and Dick Gregory (to name a few) all stopped being funny because they were too involved in making their point. Not so Stewart. The comedy continues to come first.

Last night’s show is a clinic in how to have your satirical cake and eat it too! Be prepared, though bleeped the underlying (and obvious) language is NSFW.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Bernie Goldberg Fires Back
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Coco Goes Cable

I’m just surprised because never considered TBS a player with enough heft to compete against Fox, the rumored leader in the Conan quest.

It was a shock to hear Conan O’Brien is going to TBS. The fact that I seldom watch TBS, cable’s original Superstation, probably stands in Conan’s favor. They’re not going after me. TBS with its mix of comedies gets a significantly younger audience than over-the-air network affiliates.

The whole economic workup is different on cable. Even with a smaller audience more money can be made–especially if it’s a harder to reach young audience. Cable makes money from advertising and subscription fees. TBS feels they can afford a budget for Conan similar to NBC’s. That’s got to scare the people who run the legacy networks.

Jon Stewart graces magazine covers and hosts big-time award programs, all for hosting a program that airs half an hour four nights a week to an average audience of 1.7 million — or about what Conan O’Brien was averaging in 1994 when NBC was thisclose to firing his ass. – Aaron Barnhardt, Kansas City Star

TV advertising is ageist. Younger demos sell for more because younger viewers are tougher to reach. It seems anti-intuitive because people my age tend to have more money than we did 20-30 years ago, but that’s how it is.

While Mr. Leno now has a median age of 56, with Mr. Letterman at 54, “Nightline” at 55, Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Kimmel both at 52, and even NBC’s younger act, Jimmy Fallon, at 50, Mr. Stewart comes in with a median age of 40 and Mr. Colbert younger still at 37.

(Youngest of all late-night hosts? George Lopez on his “Lopez Tonight” show on TBS. He has a smaller audience, but a very young one, with a median age of just 33.) – Bill Carter in the New York Times

I’m just surprised because I’ve never considered TBS a player with enough audience heft to compete against Fox, the rumored leader in the Conan quest. All I can think about is how TBS baseball telecasts compared to Fox’s games. TBS does not compare favorably.

I’m still waiting for the first high profile mainstream talent to make the jump to ‘direct Internet.’ A successful Internet show (audience successful, not just revenue successful as Leo Laporte’s TWIT TV is) would turn the industry on its ear and change everything we know about broadcasting.

Something Fox News Is Doing Right!

Today Fox News Channel, MSNBC, The Washington Post and others have positioned themselves and their coverage away from the middle. That puts them under the microscope as political opponents scour for weakness which can be used to embarrass them.

fnc-logo.jpgWelcome to journalism in the 21st Century. The ‘right down-the-middle’ mantra of the last half century is gone. We’re back to journalism practiced by partisans.

Yeah–back to. This is how it used to be.

Here’s a little Wikipedia refresher on William Randolph Hearst. I suspect you’ll be surprised!

As Martin Lee and Norman Solomon noted in their 1990 book Unreliable Sources, Hearst “routinely invented sensational stories, faked interviews, ran phony pictures and distorted real events.” This approach came to be known as yellow journalism, named after the Yellow Kid, a character in the New York Journal’s color comic strip Hogan’s Alley.

Hearst’s use of yellow journalism techniques in his New York Journal to whip up popular support for U.S. military adventurism in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898 was also criticized in Upton Sinclair’s 1919 book, The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism. According to Sinclair, Hearst’s newspaper employees were “willing by deliberate and shameful lies, made out of whole cloth, to stir nations to enmity and drive them to murderous war.” Sinclair also asserted that in the early 20th century Hearst’s newspapers lied “remorselessly about radicals,” excluded “the word Socialist from their columns” and obeyed “a standing order in all Hearst offices that American Socialism shall never be mentioned favorably.” In addition, Sinclair charged that Hearst’s “Universal News Bureau” re-wrote the news of the London morning papers in the Hearst office in New York and then fraudulently sent it out to American afternoon newspapers under the by-lines of imaginary names of non-existent “Hearst correspondents” in London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Berlin, etc.

Hearst is just the easiest example of what’s certainly a long list. Rupert Murdoch is a lot less of an outlier than he’s portrayed.

Today Fox News Channel, MSNBC, The Washington Times, New York Post and others have positioned themselves and their coverage away from the middle. That puts them increasingly under the microscope as political opponents scour for weakness which can be used to embarrass them.

Jon Stewart has mastered the art. He often shows FNC on both sides of the same argument, depending on the political winds at any given moment. Recently he showed Fox using video from one event as coverage of another more sparsely attended event.

Last week Fox did it again. Sarah Palin video from the presidential campaign was used as B-roll for a book signing appearance. An anchor talked about the “huge crowds.” Oops.

Maybe, even for Fox, enough is enough. Here’s an internal memo passed along by MediaBistro’s FishbowlDC.

Subject: Quality Control We had a mistake on Newsroom today when a wrong book cover went on screen during a guest segment, the kind of thing that can fall through the cracks on any day with any story given the large amount of elements and editorial we run through our broadcasts. Unfortunately, it is the latest in a series of mistakes on FNC in recent months. We have to all improve our performance in terms of ensuring error-free broadcasts. To that end, there was a meeting this afternoon between senior managers and the folks who run the daytime shows in which expectations were reviewed, and the following results were announced: Effective immediately, there is zero tolerance for on-screen errors. Mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the “mistake chain,” and those who supervise them. That may include warning letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination, and this will all obviously play a role in performance reviews. So we now face a great opportunity to review and improve on our workflow and quality control efforts. To make the most of that opportunity, effective immediately, Newsroom is going to “zero base” our newscast production. That means we will start by going to air with only the most essential, basic, and manageable elements. To share a key quote from today’s meeting: “It is more important to get it right, than it is to get it on.” We may then build up again slowly as deadlines and workloads allow so that we can be sure we can quality check everything before it makes air, and we never having to explain, retract, qualify or apologize again. Please know that jobs are on the line here. I can not stress that enough. I will review again during our Monday editorial meeting, and in the days and weeks ahead. This experience should make us stronger editorially, and I encourage everyone to invest themselves one hundred and ten percent in this effort.

The memo has a message for all newsrooms of all political persuassions: Content trumps presentation.

If the reason for these most recent screw-ups is a rush to make the broadcast look pretty or flashy the emphasis is wrong. Facts need to be correct before worrying about production values.

This isn’t going to change FNC’s slant. They’ll continue to cover news from a right-of-center perspective. I actually have little problem with that. It just looks like the effort will be made to sell their points from a more factual base.

Of course it’s also possible the memo was leaked to provide easy political cover while nothing changes! We’ll have to wait and see.

The Repositioning President

I find myself interestingly tantalized by the president, his policies and his persona. There are things he’s done I fundamentally disagree with, yet I still think he’s doing a great job. Even I’m puzzled by that.

obama-in-egypt.jpgEarlier this week Jon Stewart did a bit about President Obama’s date night in New York City. He said the Obamas were the most glamorous couple in the world. Probably so.

I find myself interestingly tantalized by the president, his policies and his persona. There are things he’s done I fundamentally disagree with, yet I still think he’s doing a great job. Even I’m puzzled by that.

I wish he’d: Release the Iraqi prison photos. Shut down Guantanamo. Prosecute Bush-era wiretappers. Restore the rule of law to the ‘enemy combatants’.

Don’t hold your breath. He ran as a liberal. He’s governing as a moderate.

I once got to shake Bill Clinton’s hand. It was in the White House. There was no mistaking Clinton as the most powerful man in the world. Seriously–that aura just oozed from him. I watched Obama on TV today and he makes Clinton look like some political wannabe.

Maybe I’m willing to look the other way on some of this presidency because of how he’s repositioning us to the world. It’s possible America’s returning to a position where the world respects and envies us. That would be nice.

Light Therapy

It is a quiet night at home. I am downstairs. From time-to-time I hear the rain splashing on a skylight in the kitchen. It’s mostly quiet.

The laptop is my entertainment center. I just watched Jon Stewart in a small window on the lower right side. Now it’s PBS Frontline.

Among our recent changes a move from fluorescent to incandescent in the aforementioned kitchen. It’s a very nice change. Downstairs feels warmer.

I Wish I Was As Funny, Smart And Pithy As Jon Stewart

I wish I was as funny, smart and pithy as Jon Stewart. This is one of the best news reports I’ve seen in a really long time (and, yes, I mean news report). This is investigative journalism.

We’re Watching The Oscars

We saw a lot of movies this year. My most spoken line to Helaine is “Who is that?”

We are watching the Oscars. Yeah, I know.

We saw a lot of movies this year. It makes no difference. My most spoken line to Helaine is “Who is that?”

Hugh Jackman is very likable. Very talented. He disappeared in the second half of the show.

Heath Ledger’s family is walking up to accept his Oscar. “They couldn’t have gotten better seats,” asked Helaine?

Ben Stiller–funny as Joaquin Phoenix. I am surprised that single appearance on Letterman was considered enough of a universal experience to use it.

I miss Billy Crystal.

I miss Jon Stewart.

Sorry Dave.

Jerry Lewis looked frail and in pain.

Whenever anyone says something good about Slumdog Millionaire (a movie we both enjoyed) I am fearful people will go without knowing how violent and depraved some parts are. And, by the way, why is that movie now being heavily promoted with the totally meaningless credit roll dance scene? It isn’t really part of the movie.

Oh Jennifer Aniston. Helaine says Jennifer Aniston has too much personal baggage for me. Not quite an unbiased view, is it?

You don’t want to know how much time you can save by watching the Oscars on a DVR five days after the fact.

What Jon Stewart Can Teach The Mainstream Media

Jon Stewart is doing something the mainstream media doesn’t do–and should (though on a bipartisan basis).

Take a look at the video below. I know it’s a partisan attack, but the concept is non-partisan. Why doesn’t network news remember what people said earlier? Why is this fundamental journalistic charge left to Comedy Central?

Jon Stewart is doing something the mainstream media doesn’t do–but should. Wouldn’t the viewing public be interested in seeing inconsistency from all sides? No one is better equipped to do this than the cable networks and heaven knows, they’ve got plenty of time to fill.

Right now lying works marvellously.

Hooked On Twitter

May I call you Howie like the big guys–please?

I have become increasingly hooked on Twitter. It’s not because I’m posting good stuff. I’m reading good stuff from lots of people. but I’ve really become a major fan of Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post.

May I call you Howie like the big guys–please?

Here’s a little sample of Kurtz’ work, limited (and enhanced) by Twitter’s 140 character limit. He is writing from the Democratic National Convention in Denver. As is typical of a blog the most recent comments are on top.

Man, this place is crawling with media egos, some pretending to be happy to see each other

All of a sudden I have followers! who knew brevity was so popular?

It explores the promise and the pitfalls of 140-character journalism as it is practiced here at the convention and beyond.

My piece on twittering journalists here:

Great debate between Jon Stewart and The Press about how we’re harming America. Both sides really engaged. He was funnier.

Riot police everywhere. My first perk: a smoothie from Google.

Just chatted up Brokaw, awaiting other anchors- and a free lunch.

Denver press tent is decrepit and depressing. Must soldier on.

Biden hit an 11 on the passion meter. I think he wants the job.

At the Denver baggage claim. The excitement is building.

TV on the plane! 4 hours of Biden blather to Denver!

He’s very clever. He should write for a living.