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ISSUE 120 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/16/2007

Warriors of the satirical newscast era: Fox News Channel battles Stewart and Colbert

By April Wright
Variety Editor


Friday, March 16, 2007

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” is now finding itself in the midst of a satirical backfire. The long-running fake news program has exploded in popularity over the past two years, and Fox News is hopping mad about it.

The Fox News Channel alleges that there is a liberal bias to “The Daily Show.” And so Fox News, a real news channel, is going to war with a fake news show by launching its own fake news show, “The 1/2 Hour News Hour.”

Okay, so I can’t be the only person who finds the very premise of this ridiculous. I mean, a news channel whose tagline is “Fair and Balanced” is going, sword in hand, after a comedy show. That alone is pretty ridiculous.

As stupid as the premise is, the show is much, much worse. One of the reasons shows like “The Daily Show” and its spin-off “The Colbert Report” do so well is that their anchors are great. Stewart and Stephen Colbert are massively talented and deliver their lines with gusto and punch. Anchor for “The 1/2 Hour News Hour” Kurt Long (he assumes a stage name for some reason), on the other hand, are obviously reading from a teleprompter. Their delivery is devoid of any sort of interest or flavor. I’ve seen better acting in high school skits.

Oh, and the jokes. They’re not funny – big surprise. One episode featured a segement on Barack Obama (B.O.) Magazine. Oh, I get it. It’s funny because his initials are B.O.! Like body odor! Well, roll the laugh track because we’ve got a real knee-slapper on our hands! I know the joke is that a lot of people on the left are just crazy for Obama, but “The Daily Show” has already picked up on that joke. It must really sting to be beaten to your own punch by the show to which you're supposed to be a counterpoint.

All the jokes on the show are like this: They’re either played-out, too obvious, or there’s a reason a better show didn't make them. “The 1/2 Hour News Hour” scrapes the absolute bottom of the joke barrel.

The lamest thing, by far, is the little “bad boy” attitude to the show. On one episode, an anchor states that Oprah douches. Then he immediately retracts, saying that the show’s sponsors said it was alright to use that kind of language. What wit and irreverence! How incredibly tough of him to screw the liberal establishment and speak his mind. After all, nothing says courageous and edgy like apologizing for using a naughty word in the presence of adults. My sides are splitting.

The only funny line on the whole show, disturbingly enough, went to professional pundit Ann Coulter. The author is featured in the intro to one show and mixes her conservative rhetoric with a bit of self-deprecation (she’s known for her outlandish views, which often do more to hurt the Republican party than advance it). As the creators of “The Daily Show” realized long ago, merely dishing out the scoldings is funny, but showing that you can take a dose of your own medicine is even funnier.

But, in spite of the show’s lack of humor and wooden acting, the ratings have been pretty good. The pilot drew about 1.5 million viewers and the second episode drew 1.4 million. (“The Daily Show” nets about 1.4 million nightly. With its writing and worse acting, I can’t see “The 1/2 Hour News Hour” consistently netting those numbers.) The Fox News Channel has been aggressively promoting the show by doing interviews with “1/2 Hour”-positive critics during regular broadcasts. You know, using their airtime and authority as a news source to push one political viewpoint. I don't watch American news programs, as journalistic integrity and neutrality has been dead in this country for years, but I didn't expect Fox News to flaunt its bias so openly.





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