Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Thursday, January 08, 2009


-- television -- burgers and transplants and speeches, oh my!

We come not to praise Nightline, but to bury it. That show that, once upon a time, used to be hosted by Ted Koppel, that was a serious bastion of late night news. Maybe there'd be the occasional topic with a touch -- just a touch -- of humor, but overall, it was a serious, informative show about the events of the day.

Now ... not so much, no.

And, really, who would expect it? I knew the news content of the show would collapse as soon as they named Martin Bashir as the anchor, a few years back. After all, the man was a personality journalist. "Serious News" was not his middle name. And I actually hadn't seen an episode of Nightline since he took over. But for some strange reason, I wound up watching an episode tonight. And it was just ... odd. I mean, odd.

The concept behind today's show was Aspects of Recession, more or less. (Less. Really ... less.) The main story was about Obama's economic speech today, complete with dueling economists about whether it would be good or bad for the country. Very traditionally Nightline, although the presentation was considerably lighter and slicker than the Nightline of auld. Nonetheless, a very Nightline sort of thing to do. Framing that story, however....

The opening story dealt with the effect of recession on the restaurant business, more or less. (...much, much less.) To wit: "Hamburger Helper: Is 2009 the Year of the Burger?" Apparently, in times of trouble, Americans en masse turn to The National Comfort Food, so much so that not only are high-end restaurants adding on things that somehow remotely resemble burgers, but some of them are even grinding up high-end meats that otherwise are now not selling and making burgers out of those. We got to watch a reporter go through New York, eating one burger after another, talking to various and sundry about the joys of ground beef. It was very very strange, really. (I will just tell you right now that the online text piece linked above is FAR more seriously presented than the television story was.)

The closing story dealt with the effect of recession on grooming. To wit: chest hair is back. (Somehow, Nightline failed to notice that, aside from a brief and slightly bemused infatuation with the Bodygroom, chest hair has been back for at least a few years, but ... whatever.) Apparently, in times of trouble, Women Want Real Men. And they interviewed one whole woman to determine this! To be sure, the story wasn't intended to be taken entirely seriously. The bit about the chest hair transplants was quite serious, however. Men are really doing that.

The show then ended with a Closing Argument, which was no such thing. Basically, Bashir sent everyone to the website to state their opinion on whether or not the UN resolution will bring peace to Gaza. Which is such a mindnumbingly stupid question, I can't believe they even posed it seriously.

I realize this is just an old man sort of viewpoint. And it's entirely possible that this is a seriously atypical Nightline episode ... though, looking at the other stuff on the Nightline subsite, kind of not thinking so. But it is kind of sad that a show that was once genuinely informative has slid quite so far.

Questions? Comments? Cheeseburgers? Merkins?

Posted by iain at 11:49 PM in category television