Saturday, April 23, 2011

Donald Trumps Brian Williams

Brian Williams must think his viewers are really stupid. On Tuesday's Nightly News, the lead story was a five-minute piece about Donald Trump. On network newscasts, a three-minute story is considered long. A four-minute story is extremely long. And a five-minute story is the news equivalent of "War and Peace". Why did Nightly News devote so much time to a story about Donald Trump, someone who has the same credibility as Paris Hilton or a Kardashian? The answer is obvious. Brian and his producers were promoting Trump's NBC show "Celebrity Apprentice". Brian tried to sell it as a political story in which Michael Isikoff was fact-checking Trump and asking "hard-hitting questions", but it was just a promotional piece. Trump may be popular, but he isn't well-liked. So a "news story" that purports to challenge him isn't going to discourage viewers from watching "Celebrity Apprentice". In fact, just the opposite. The more unsavory Trump appears to be, the more likely people are to watch his show. No one watches "Celebrity Apprentice" because they think Donald Trump is nice or handsome. They watch because they think he's a weasel. Trump is a prime illustration of the axiom "There's no such thing as bad publicity". And Nightly News certainly gives him plenty of publicity. This is the fourth Nightly News story in two weeks to feature Trump. Of course, this is nothing new for Nightly News. One of the main reasons the broadcast exists is to promote NBC entertainment shows. Brian and his producers regularly insert clips of "30 Rock", "The Office", "Saturday Night Live" and "Law & Order" (as well as clips from Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon and other NBC shows) into "news stories" for the sole purpose of promoting those shows. He even shows clips from old NBC shows (like "Seinfeld", "Murphy Brown" and "Cheers") in order to boost NBC Universal's DVD sales. In the past year, Nightly News has shown SNL clips at least fourteen times. Of course, these NBC clips have nothing to do with any actual news--they are simply inserted gratuitously for promotional purposes. Case in point: Last July 27, a "30 Rock" clip of Alec Baldwin screaming about bedbugs was included in a news story about bedbugs. The clip did not offer any additional insight into the story, it was just a way to squeeze in a promo for an NBC show. Sometimes, the stories are invented just to create a reason to show a promo clip. Last June 18, Lester Holt read a story about the 30th anniversary of the first "Blues Brothers" movie. The "Blues Brothers" films are owned by Universal, so the story was contrived in order to sell DVDs. (There is also a Blues Brothers attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando, so the story was also intended to promote that.) Would Nightly News have ever aired this story if "The Blues Brothers" films were from a studio other than Universal? Of course not. Last Sept. 1, Brian read a 45-second "news story" about office gossip just so that he could show a 17-second clip from "The Office". On March 1, a story about the pay gap between men and women included a gratuitous "30 Rock" clip for no reason other than to promote the show. This is what Brian does. This is how he operates. Nightly News is a promotional vehicle meant to generate ratings for NBC's entertainment shows. Just last night, Brian conducted a three-and-a-half minute "interview" with Ted Danson in order to sell "Cheers" DVDs for NBC Universal. Danson has been on a lot of TV shows over the years (most recently on FX and HBO), but the only Danson clips Brian showed were from "Cheers". What a surprise. So does anyone really believe that Tuesday's five-minute mega-story on Donald Trump was shown for any reason other than to promote "Celebrity Apprentice"? If you believe that, there's a bridge over the East River that I'd like to sell you.

But the Trump story wasn't the only waste of time on Nightly News this week. We also saw three stories (totalling more than ten minutes) on U.S military personnel who were "Far From Home". These pointless stories had no news value and did not belong on a newscast. They were just part of Brian's ongoing effort to use his broadcast as the propaganda arm of the U.S. military. In his intros to these stories, Brian described each of the profiled service members as heroes. That was hilarious because on Monday, Brian had described Anne Thompson as a hero for her coverage of the BP Gulf oil spill. So clearly, the word "hero" has no value coming from Brian. Apparently, Brian considers everyone a hero. His dry cleaner is a hero for getting out that tough stain. His driver is a hero for getting him to the theater on time. His shoe repair guy is a hero for replacing a worn heel. Everyone's a hero to Brian. Military members, Anne Thompson, Bono, Derek Jeter, Brian's garbage man--all heroes. Kind of takes the importance out of the word.

What the heck is going on in Libya? I don't mean the fighting, I mean the name changes. On Tuesday, a Nightly News map of Libya showed the city of "Misrata". On Wednesday, a Nightly News map of Libya showed the city of "Misurata". What happened--did Brian buy a vowel from Pat Sajak overnight?

Here's a story you won't see on Nightly News: Early Friday, a man died after being tasered by off-duty police officers at Universal Studios Orlando. Is that part of the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter attraction? Maybe they would have been better off subduing the man with Harry's wand instead of using lethal tasers.

Finally, I have to congratulate Brian. He ended Thursday's story about Will & Kate's wedding invitations by saying, "It's kind of like the Olive Garden--'When you're here, you're family'." There's nothing like using a Royal Wedding to plug a sub-mediocre American restaurant chain. Since Olive Garden is an NBC advertiser, I'm just wondering how much they paid for the privilege of getting a prime plug from Brian Williams on Nightly News. I'm guessing that Brian eats free at Olive Garden for the rest of his life. Real smooth, Brian.

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