Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Anchor's (Tiresome) Speech

In his Nov. 8 Daily Nightly blog, Brian Williams raved about a new movie he had seen called "The King's Speech" about King George VI, Queen Elizabeth's father (of course, he made sure we knew it was a VIP sneak preview). Brian wrote, "...it may be the best film I've seen in years." He predicted Oscar nominations for Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. "It is superbly written, directed, shot and acted--and I can't recommend it highly enough. You'll be seeing a lot of advance publicity...." Maybe so, but I had no idea that the advance publicity would come on Nightly News. Lo and behold, Monday's broadcast featured a 2:40 story all about the movie. Gee, it must be great to be a news anchor. See a film, like a film, put the film on your broadcast. I guess it was easy enough to cut out some of that boring WikiLeaks story to make room for the piece on "The King's Speech". So when is Brian going to do a story about Dwayne ("The Rock") Johnson's new film, "Faster"?

In fact, the entire final third of Monday's broadcast was devoted to the entertainment industry. There was a story about problems with the new "Spider-Man" show on Broadway. The obvious reason Brian chose to report this story was because it allowed him to mention his pals Bono and the Edge, who wrote the show's music and lyrics. The not-so-obvious reason was because Universal Studios Orlando (owned by NBC's parent company) features a Spider-Man ride. Brian's mention of Spider-Man was just a way to plug the ride at Universal Studios.

After the Spider-Man plug, Brian read a story about next February's Academy Awards show. While telling us that the hosts would be James Franco and Anne Hathaway, Brian could barely mask his disdain and skepticism. He called that "a shocker". He said it goes "against the tradition of having an established comic usually host the awards." He quoted an L.A. Times reporter who called it "incredulous". It's pretty clear what's going on here. Since the Academy Awards will be shown on ABC, Brian is doing everything he can to deter people from watching. (He even refused to mention ABC in his story, lest he give then an inadvertent plug.) Shocker. Incredulous. Against tradition. I'm surprised he didn't tell us that the Irving G. Thalberg award would be presented to Bernie Madoff. Of course, if February's Oscars was going to be shown on NBC, Brian would be hailing Franco and Hathaway as inspired choices who will bring a young, fresh perspective to the ceremony. And he'd end the story with a plug for the show.

Next, were treated to a 1:50 obit for Leslie Nielsen. (Brian must have mistakenly thought that reporting this story would somehow improve his ratings with the Nielsen television people.) Nielsen was an okay actor who had a few successes. He was certainly no Red Skelton or Jack Lemmon. But again, it's great to be a news anchor. Since Brian liked him, he got a nice-sized obit. And that was followed by the story about "The King's Speech". By devoting a third of the broadcast to the entertainment industry, it's obvious that Brian and his producers are continuing their efforts to make Nightly News indistinguishable from the shows that follow it--Extra and Access Hollywood.

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