Sept. 1--Nightly News ran a 45-second "news story" about gossip in the workplace. Fifteen seconds of this story consisted of a clip from the NBC show "The Office". It's obvious that Brian Williams chose to air this story for one reason and one reason only--because it allowed him to plug "The Office". In fact, Nightly News stories are often selected solely because they allow Brian to plug an NBC entertainment show. A July 27 story on bedbugs began with a clip of Alec Baldwin from "30 Rock". An Aug. 16 obituary for James J. Kilpatrick featured a clip from Saturday Night Live, as did an Aug. 22 story on Betty White. And certainly no one can forget the two stories Nightly News did (Aug. 11 & 12) about "America's newest singing sensation"--a 10-year-old girl who had appeared on "America's Got Talent". That show airs (of course) on NBC.
Also on Sept. 1, Nightly News aired a 2:50 story about Michael Douglas's battle with throat cancer. The story consisted mainly of clips from Douglas's movies and his recent appearance on David Letterman's show. Does anyone really believe that this story deserved nearly three minutes of air time? Would this story have run at all if it was not for the fact that it was Douglas's voice that introduced Brian each night? (They actually played Douglas's voice-over--"This is NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams"--at the beginning of the story.) Brian's seemingly endless intro to this story began with, "You hear that voice at the top of this broadcast every night--it is, of course, the voice of our friend the great Michael Douglas--actor, producer, Academy Award Winner..." Our friend. This is just another FOB story (that stands for "Friend of Brian"). If you're an FOB, Brian will do a story about you. Earlier in the broadcast, Brian had said, "When we continue in just a moment, a familiar voice around here on Nightly News--a beloved Academy Award winning actor Michael Douglas talks about his throat cancer diagnosis." He should have just called Douglas "a beloved FOB..."
Footnote: During the clips from Douglas's appearance on David Letterman's 8/31 show, the on-screen credit read "CBS/Late Show With David Letterman". Compare that with the 11/12/08 Nightly News story about John McCain's first post-election appearance on Jay Leno's Tonight Show. During that story, Kelly O'Donnell told us that McCain's presidential campaign had "kicked off on late night TV". We were then shown a clip of McCain announcing his candidacy on Letterman's show in February of 2007. That clip did not contain a single shot of Letterman and the on-screen credit read only "Worldwide Pants" (Letterman's production company)--it didn't even mention Letterman's name. By contrast, the clips of McCain on The Tonight Show featured multiple shots of Jay, and the on-screen credit read "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno/Big Dog Productions". NBC was so fanatically obsessed with plugging the Tonight Show transition from Jay to Conan (which would take place six months later) that they wouldn't even show Letterman's face or mention his name (or even print it on the screen) for fear that that might take viewers away from The Tonight Show. That is the most despicable, pathetic and petty display I have ever seen--even from NBC.
Sept. 5--Nightly News runs a 2:55 story on movies. The story was ostensibly about how American movies need foreign box office receipts to succeed financially, but it was really just an excuse to show movie stars and plug NBC/Universal films like "Inglourious Basterds" and "Mamma Mia". Ninety-three seconds--more than half the story--consisted of movie clips. There was 34 seconds from George Clooney's new movie "The American", 30 seconds combined from "Inglourious Basterds"/"Mamma Mia"/"Avatar" and 29 seconds from "G.I. Joe". (And there was an additional 25 seconds of movie clips--mostly of George Clooney--that ran as promos during earlier parts of the broadcast.) There was plenty of footage from an interview with David Kosse, president of Universal Pictures International--all the while with a huge "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" movie poster over his right shoulder. (An interview with the president of Fox Pictures International did not show any movie posters behind him.) This is what passes for news on NBC. A story featuring movie clips. Why even bother to create a story around the clips? Why don't the producers just tell the truth and say, "We're now going to give you two minutes of movie clips featuring Brad Pitt and George Clooney because we know that you'd rather see that instead of actual news. Also, it will attract people to our broadcast and help our ratings." Did I mention that "Mamma Mia" and "Inglourious Basterds" are now available on DVD from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, a division of NBC?
Sept. 7--Nightly News aired yet another story on the Mexican drug wars. This story contained not a shred of new information, but it allowed the producers to show us some of their old stock footage of explosions and bloody bodies. Mark Potter made sure to tell us that, "The savagery is hard to imagine with mass killings, beheadings and corpses strewn in public." Cool! Also, Nightly News aired their second consecutive story about the color film footage of the 1940 London Blitz that had recently been discovered. This story was interesting when it first aired on Monday, but two consecutive nights is really stretching it.
And of course, Nightly News continues to challenge Fox News for Most Patriotic Broadcast. Almost every night, Brian makes sure to air a story about someone from the military who is "Making A Difference". On Sept. 1, we were treated to a touching story about the family of an Iowa National Guardsman who is about to be deployed to Afghanistan. Apparently, this is news. I don't understand why--I guess it's over my head. The following day, there was "a story you will want to see", according to Brian. Here's how he introduced the story: "Finally tonight, it was 65 years ago today that World War II finally came to a close--Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on board the USS Missouri--it was anchored in Tokyo Bay--it changed the world and it was witnessed by very few men--even fewer of them are still alive--just a handful. I happened to meet one of them in New Orleans last weekend, but tonight we meet another one--he witnessed the signing and today he went back for what he knows will be his last visit. His remarkable story of making a difference and those who are now doing that for him from NBC's Lee Cowan in Pearl Harbor." Another example of Brian airing stories not because they're newsworthy, but because of his ridiculous obsession with the military. Every time a Medal of Honor winner coughs, Brian does a story about it. At Nightly News, it's WBW--whatever Brian wants. Brian ended the story by saying, "That's why a friend of mine famously called them the Greatest Generation." As usual, it's all about Brian. A friend of HIS (presumably this refers to Tom Brokaw, who I don't think likes Brian at all). And I love how Brian shoehorns in the reference to someone he met in New Orleans, even though that has nothing whatsoever to do with the story. It's just another opportunity for him to make the story about himself.
On Sept. 3, there was another flag-waving story (literally), this time from NBC's pseudo-patriotic hack Roger O'Neil. He told us about a flag from the World Trade Center site that is being repaired for next year's tenth anniversary remembrance of the attack. Somehow, everything O'Neil says sounds like it was taken from a really bad Hallmark card. Here's how he began his story: "It's torn and tattered from a day of terror, but it survived what cement and steel couldn't." And here's what he ended with: "Stitches to repair---to heal. Fifty thousand stitches for Old Glory to be whole again when it returns to Ground Zero a year from now." This is the kind of junk prose that makes 8th grade English teachers cringe. O'Neil tries so hard to be so patriotic all the time that he might as well just dress up like Uncle Sam when he delivers a report.
And on Sept. 7, the "Making A Difference" report was about an Air Force wife who started a website so that other military wives can share their thoughts with each other. Actually, Nightly News aired an identical report last March 4. That story was courtesy of our old friend Roger O'Neil. Here's how it began: "Whenever the warrior leaves, the glue holding the family together has always been the military spouse." Somewhere, an English teacher just became nauseous. Obviously, Brian Williams and Roger O'Neil share the same fawning, obsequious obsession for the military. They should seek psychological help, maybe together in a group session. If left untreated, I suspect that Brian will start anchoring Nightly News dressed in full military regalia. Sort of like the way Andy Kaufman became obsessed with wrestling women and used to wear his wrestling clothes under his street clothes. I don't know the psychological term for someone who's obsessed with the military, but whatever it is, it describes Brian Williams. I'm pretty sure that when he was a kid, his Halloween costume was always a military outfit.