Breaking on Nightly News this week: A Japanese soccer ball, ducks and whales. And Jimmy Fallon got more coverage than Iran, Iraq and Syria--combined. Then Bill Maher dissed Brian. Here's some of the other "spectacular" stuff you may have missed:
Sat. April 21--The lead story was the "Wild Weather". That's certainly understandable. I mean, the lead story is supposed to be the most important story of the day, right? So rain along the east coast is obviously a much bigger story than anything else going on across the country or around the world.
***Next, we saw a story on George Zimmerman. He's still in jail, exactly where he was on Friday, because nothing happened with his legal case on Saturday. We got to hear Zimmerman's apology to Trayvon Martin's parents again. Funny thing--it sounded a lot like it did when we saw it on Friday's Nightly News. So this was essentially a 2:20 rerun of the previous day's events. Fascinating. Thanks.
***After that, it was time for a story on the Secret Service prostitution scandal. Again, there was no new information, so this was two minutes of previously-aired video.
***Lester Holt then spent a minute telling us about an Amsterdam train crash that injured a hundred passengers, a huge cache of explosives found in Afghanistan, and the ongoing fighting in Syria. Gee, a whole minute on international news. Are the Nightly News producers sure they can spare all that time?
***Here's something important: A Japanese soccer ball washed up on the shores of an Alaskan island. It floated across the Pacific after the tsunami. I can see why this was given time on Nightly News.
***Lyme disease can kill you! Be very afraid. That was the subject of yet another alarmist Nightly News story meant to scare us. So if you've been walking in the country, remember to check for ticks. Nightly News runs these silly stories all the time. Other recent examples of alarmist stories included exploiting the fear of autism, Hepatitis C, dirty surgical instruments, overmedication, measles and the risk of x-rays. They tease these stories at the beginning of the broadcast so we stay tuned to find out how we can avoid Lyme disease, Hepatitis or some other major illness. It's just a ratings stunt.
***After a commercial break, Lester told us that the NHL suspended a member of the Phoenix Coyotes for an illegal hit. The only reason he reported this story was because NBC is airing the NHL playoffs. So this was just a promotion for hockey on NBC. The implicit message in this "news story" was that if you watch hockey on NBC, you may get to see something as violent as this illegal hit. One can only hope.
***This next story was really quite something. The idiotic Anne Thompson burnished her stellar reputation by bringing us an in-depth report about people who exercise while at work. They're working on the computer while they're walking on the treadmill! OMG, can you believe it? What a ridiculous way to waste 2:20 of valuable news time. During this story, a man named Jason Robart was identified in a Nightly News graphic as the Chief Human Resource Officer of "BlueCross BlueShield" of Massachusetts. Actually, the company's name is "Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts". There are spaces between the words. But I wouldn't expect any of the Nightly News producers to get that right. After all, it would require them to look something up on Google. Moments later, we were shown a clip of someone identified as "Jennifer Remcharan" of TripAdvisor.com. Her name is actually Jennifer Ramcharan. Again it was too much work for the producers to spellcheck or proofread.
***Lester then told us about a "spectacular sky show" resulting from the Lyrid Meteor Shower. We all know that Brian Williams is fascinated by meteors and other silly space events, so he obviously ordered his producers to include this story on Saturday's broadcast. Because the news is always about what Brian likes.
***The broadcast ended with a particularly vapid story about a company that cleans gum off the streets of Washington, D.C. They're known as Gum Busters. Wow. Of course, this story did not deserve to be on Nightly News. And it was reported by Luke Russert who also does not deserve to be on Nightly News. Everyone knows that Luke was handed a plum on-air job by Brian because Brian was a pal of Luke's father, Tim Russert. There are thousands of seasoned, experienced news correspondents looking for work, but Brian just hands a gift-wrapped job to Luke Russert. It's good to have friends in high places. I guess it must have been good karma for Brian, because someone at HBO handed a similarly gift-wrapped job to Brian's daughter, who now appears on "Girls" (obviously not because of any acting talent). They say what goes around, comes around. Maybe that's true. So Nightly News wasted six-and-a-half minutes on idiotic stories about Lyme disease, exercising at work and cleaning gum off the streets. And they spent a total of one minute on international news. Great job, Nightly News producers.
Sun. April 22--There was no Nightly News (on the east coast) because the hockey game ran late. And we all know that hockey is much more important than news. Why? Because hockey's higher ad rates bring in more money than news. End of discussion.
Mon. April 23--There's more "Wild Weather" going on, and Brian and Jim Cantore spent 2:45 telling us about it. Buffalo, New York had snow in April! I can hardly believe it. And I hardly care. News flash for Brian: There's "Wild Weather" going on somewhere every day of the year, and it's been that way since the beginning of time. Furthermore, weather is a local issue. People tune into their local news stations to get this information. Like Jerry Seinfeld said, all we really want to know is do we need to take an umbrella to work today. Everything else is superfluous. Nightly News wastes minutes every night on the weather for one reason: Because NBC Universal owns The Weather Channel. TWC correspondents are already out reporting on the weather, so putting them on Nightly News is a cheap and easy way to fill air time. Brian and his producers are not reporting on the weather because it's an important story, but because TWC weather reports are a ready-made package that can just be popped into the Nightly News schedule. It's like the Hot Pockets equivalent of TV news.
***A story about politics included an old clip of Rudy Giuliani on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" because one of Brian's main responsibilities is to promote other shows on the NBC family.
***Brian spent 30 seconds giving us an urgent update on the Japanese soccer ball that washed ashore on an Alaskan island. Apparently, the 22 seconds that Lester Holt spent on this story Saturday wasn't nearly enough to do it justice.
***Then Brian spent another 30 seconds telling us about a family of ducks that were trying to cross an L.A. freeway. At first I thought I had accidentally switched to "America's Stupidest Home Videos--Animal Edition". Nope. Still Nightly News. Still idiotic.
***Continuing the animal theme (which Nightly News does frequently because these stories earn high ratings), Brian reported on a white orca whale. The video was from 2010. I guess some things are timeless.
***The final story was a "Making A Difference" piece about the first senior prom at Joplin High School since last year's tornado. Obviously, this isn't news. It falls under the category of weepy human interest, something that Nightly News specializes in. Reporting actual news doesn't earn high Nielsen ratings, but airing a story like this attracts lots of viewers. The icing on the cake was that this story was reported by Chelsea Clinton. It was the beginning of a ratings sweeps period, so it's not surprising that Brian trotted Chelsea out to do this story. She's amiable and well-meaning, but really not much of a reporter. In fact, it's quite sad to see Chelsea allowing herself to be used as Brian's ratings showpiece when there are so many other things she could be lending her famous name to. She could be earning millions for charity, but instead she's earning millions for NBC. Sad. At the end of this overly-long 3:35 behemoth, Brian said to Chelsea, "You know I used to live in Joplin!" I would have given anything for Chelsea to have said, "No shit, asshole. You told us that every day for two weeks after the tornado hit last year!" Well, I can dream, can't I? Remember last May 25, when Brian exploited poor Bethany Lansaw by cajoling her to appear on Nightly News just days after her husband died in the tornado? That was a low point for network news. Then again, every night on Nightly News is a low point for network news.
***Meanwhile on this day, the Dutch Prime Minister offered his resignation and the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan continued to intensify. Nightly News didn't report these stories (or any important foreign news, for that matter). But at least we know all about the Japanese soccer ball, a family of ducks in L.A., a white orca and that Brian used to live in Joplin. John Chancellor must be so proud of what Nightly News has become.
Tues. April 24--The lead story was on college debt. Nightly News reported virtually the same story on March 22, but they like to repeat stories because apparently we're so stupid that we forget what we saw a month ago.
***After the student debt story, Brian read a 40-second story about the Secret Service prostitution scandal. But for the first 28 seconds of this story, the box over Brian's left shoulder was showing video from the previous story on student debt. I guess the Nightly News producers were so worried about their student debt that they couldn't concentrate on the job at hand.
***Brian makes a practice of frequently reporting stories about Chicago and Detroit. Apparently, the NBC News research department has identified those two cities as key Nielsen demographic regions, so Brian makes a special point of pandering to them. Also, since those cities are considered salt-of-the-earth, working class midwestern cities, it allows Brian to project his fake image as a good ol' regular man of the people (rather than the caviar-eating penthouse-living multi-millionaire that he actually is). So this week, Brian dispatched Kevin Tibbles to Detroit to find stories that would help boost Brian's Nielsen ratings. On this day, Tibbles told us about a new film about the Detroit Fire Dept. That makes good marketing sense--people like seeing stories about fire fighters. During the story, Tibbles actually said this about the documentary film: "A truly American story of hope, courage and camaraderie." Seriously? It sounds like something you might hear in an SNL parody about movie trailers. I bet the people at "The Young and the Restless" are snickering at Tibbles for his idiotic overwrought writing. And here's how Brian introduced this story: "Despite a lot of good people workin' hard to make it better, the city of Detroit has seen more than its share of problems in recent years...." Yep, you read correctly. Brian said "workin'" instead of "working" because he's such a blue-collar clock-punchin' type of guy. And of course he included a reference to the "good people" of Detroit. That's one of his all-time favorite pandering phrases. He's used the phrase at least five times in the past two weeks to describe the "good people" of Sanford, Florida (4/11), Oklahoma (4/13) and the Secret Service (4/16 & 4/20) in addition to Detroit. Here's what I was wondering: Not every city, state and region in this country could be made up entirely of "good people". So for those other areas (without "good people"), I'd like to hear Brian refer to the "bad people" of....
***Another of Brian's favorite phrases is "spectacular". He used it twice on 4/17 (to describe a solar flare and the Space Shuttle). And today he also used it twice. First, he used it to describe Mt. Etna ("Look at this latest spectacular display from Italy's Mt. Etna..."). Then he used it to describe the Northern Lights ("Some fresh solar winds made for a spectacular light show...."). He even made poor Lester Holt say "spectacular" on Saturday to describe the Lyrid Meteor Shower. The Northern Lights is one of Brian's all-time favorite stories to report on (this is the ninth Northern Lights story Nightly News has done in the past three months). And of course that's what Nightly News is all about--reporting on stuff that Brian likes.
***After 30 seconds on these "spectacular" phenomena, Brian spent another 22 seconds telling us about a girl in China who fell through the sidewalk when a sink hole opened up. I guess this satisfies Brian's requirement to broadcast international news.
***Then Brian took almost a minute to show us a home video made by a Dutch father that documents his daughter's growth from birth to age 12. Brian again put on his "creepy" hat and described the girl as "a beautiful 12-year-old girl...." Eww. Not again. Brian has also recently used the word "beautiful" to describe six-year-old murder victim Etan Patz (on 4/20/12) as well as Sasha & Malia Obama (on 12/15/11). Hearing a network news anchor describe children younger than 13 as "beautiful" is just...creepy. I can't think of a better word for it. I guess in Brian-speak, "beautiful" is right up there with "spectacular".
***Brian also took time to promote Pres. Obama's appearance on Jimmy Fallon's show later that night. It wasn't enough to simply mention the appearance--Brian took 40 seconds to tell us that the show would air at 12:35 eastern time on NBC. Because promoting NBC entertainment shows is one of Brian's main responsibilities as Nightly News anchor. Shameless. Meanwhile, more than 60 people were killed over the past two days in Syria. Brian never mentioned this, but at least we know all about the Chinese girl who fell through the sidewalk and Pres. Obama's appearance on Jimmy Fallon's show. Great work, Brian. Or perhaps I should say "spectacular".
Wed. April 25--Pete Williams, you are my hero. Night after night, Brian introduces Pete with a treacly "Good evening, Pete" in a sad, desperate attempt to entice Pete to reply in kind with "Good evening, Brian". But Pete refuses to take the bait. He never says good evening to Brian. Instead, he just begins his report. Clearly, Pete Williams disdains Brian Williams. Who can blame him?
***In a story about the presidential race, a segment about Pres. Obama included a 13-second clip from his appearance on Jimmy Fallon's show the previous night.
***A story about the Secret Service prostitution scandal featured an 18-second clip from the President's appearance on Jimmy Fallon's show the previous night. So these two stories featured a combined 30 seconds of clips from Fallon's show. Even by Nightly News's shamelessly aggressive policy of promoting NBC sports and entertainment, this is an astoundingly sleazy display.
***In his second silly, pointless report from Detroit, Kevin Tibbles told us about a company that makes TV sets. Really? Fascinating. The TV's are packed in boxes adorned with the American flag. I think that's the only reason Tibbles even reported this story. Just another opportunity for Brian and his producers to pander to the viewers' sense of rah-rah gung-ho God-Bless-America faux patriotism. And just in case we didn't get all the bullshit symbolism, the story was titled "Made in the USA" (with those words superimposed over an American flag). Hey--that's almost like a Springsteen song! Well done.
***Stop the presses! Brian spent 45 seconds telling us all about a previously-unreleased 1971 Louis Armstrong concert recording. You didn't think Nightly News was a news broadcast, did you? Clearly, it's an entertainment show that occasionally features news. Brian ended the story by saying, "And now WE get to buy it and hear the master all these years later." We. Because the news is always about Brian.
***A story about debris from the Japanese tsunami en route to the U.S. featured another picture of the soccer ball that washed ashore in Alaska. This is the third Nightly News story about that soccer ball. That is one impressive soccer ball. Brian said this about the debris: "It can't be stopped--it is on its way here." A bit alarmist, don't you think? Should we cower in the basement? Should we duct-tape our windows?
***Although last week was all about bird strikes on Nightly News, there is still one more bird strike story for Brian to waste time on. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. It's a bird hitting a plane. Again.
***On a Canadian news broadcast, a weatherman's dog wandered onto the set during the news segment and got himself on TV. Brian spent 20 seconds telling us about this. Of course, what Brian was really interested in was whether the dog helped the broadcast's ratings. If it did, look for Brian to feature a dog on Nightly News every night. He would probably claim it was his dog, but I would bet that it would be a rental.
***The broadcast ended with a two-minute story about a woman who plants trees in Oakland, California. That's a good thing to do. But it's not news.
***Let's recap. Amount of time Brian spent reporting on Jimmy Fallon: Thirty seconds. Amount of time he spent reporting on Iran, Iraq and Syria combined: Zero seconds. That sounds about right.
Thurs. April 26--Breaking News: Millions of Americans are sleep-deprived. It took Robert Bazell 1:45 to tell us that. I think it could have been said in a lot less time. Tip for these people: Watch Nightly News. It'll put you to sleep right away.
***A woman was fired from a Ft. Wayne Catholic school for using in vitro fertilization to try to get pregnant. This silly local-interest story was given 2:15 on Nightly News.
***There was a rough plane landing in Spain. Savannah Guthrie spent 20 seconds telling us about it.
***Here's how Guthrie began the next story: "There was controversy at last night's Texas Rangers-New York Yankees game...." Here's the "controversy": A little boy in the stands missed catching a foul ball so he cried until someone from the Rangers' dugout gave him a ball. Some controversy. This is what merits 30 seconds on Nightly News.
***Next, Guthrie spent almost a minute on a story about how Michelle Obama wants to sneak out of the White House and go for ice cream. But they never told us what flavor she wants. I think they should have assigned more Nightly News producers to this story so we could get all the important facts.
***Bob Dylan, John Glenn, Pat Summitt, Madeleine Albright and Toni Morrison are among the people who will be receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. "Medal of Freedom" sounds kind of like "Medal of Honor" so I'm guessing that's why Brian made his producers include this story in the broadcast.
***The final story was about Ted Williams' daughter, who is auctioning off much of her father's personal and baseball memorabilia. Can one of the Nightly News producers please explain how this fluff story qualifies as news? Not surprisingly, this two-and-a-half minute waste of time was reported by the idiotic Anne Thompson.
***Here is some of the other news that happened on this day: An international court found former Liberian President Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes; A suicide car-bombing in Nigeria killed 7 people; Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani was found guilty of contempt of court. Nightly News did not report any of these stories. But at least we know all about the rough plane landing, the kid who got a foul ball, Michelle Obama's ice cream craving and Ted Williams' memorabilia. Great work, Nightly News producers.
Fri. April 27--A story about presidential politics included clips from Bill Clinton on "The Arsenio Hall Show", Richard Nixon on "Laugh-In" and Mitt Romney on "Late Show with David Letterman". And just for good measure, the producers threw in a clip of "Saturday Night Live" because Romney is "considering" making an appearance on that show. Of course, the most astounding thing about this story was that they actually showed a clip of Letterman's show. I don't think they were supposed to do that. Someone's in trouble.
***A Delta flight from Detroit to Chicago was quarantined for a few hours because someone thought that a passenger had contracted monkey pox on a trip to Africa. But she didn't. So nothing actually happened. There was no story here. Still, Nightly News spent 2:15 reporting it. Thanks.
***I laughed so hard that diet root beer almost shot out of my nose when I saw the hilarious ad for Rock Center that aired at minute 16 of the broadcast. Apparently, Brian weaseled an interview with President Obama to discuss the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death and NBC is promoting the hell out of it. After we saw some shots of Brian with the President, the Secretary of State and others, there was a closing still shot of Brian with a giant American flag waving behind his head. Like he's Patton addressing the troops before D-Day. It's laughable that apparently Brian really does think of himself as a leading American statesman. He probably thinks his image should be on American currency or stamps. This Rock Center promo was funnier than anything I've seen on SNL in years.
***Did you know that more people than ever are getting divorced after they turn 50? Well, now you do because Nightly News spent 2:20 telling us about it. This was about as interesting and relevant as Thursday's story about sleep-deprived people.
***Next, Brian told us that, "There is a threat of severe weather in the midwest this evening and through this weekend." He also told us that "our friends at The Weather Channel" will be keeping an eye on it. Good old Brian. Everyone is his friend. I would love to ask people at The Weather Channel if they really like Brian. I'm guessing not so much.
***Brian then spent 30 seconds telling us about a lawsuit against the manufacturers of Nutella (a chocolate-hazelnut spread) to stop them from making health claims about their product. There is no apparent reason why this story should be reported on a network news broadcast. Unless you think about it. Nutella is an Italian product whose makers are hoping to crack the American market. Its chief competitors in the U.S. are peanut butter brands like Peter Pan, Jif and Skippy. These brands (and their parent conglomerates ConAgra, Smucker's and Unilever) spend millions of dollars each year advertising on NBC-owned networks. So by reporting a story damaging to Nutella, Brian is protecting his sponsors' products. What a weaselly thing to do. He even went so far as to tell us that eating Nutella in the morning gives you the same amount of calories, fat and sugar as having a 3 Musketeers bar for breakfast. Well done. Brian can expect his pals from ConAgra, Smucker's and Unilever to send him a thank-you fruit basket. Or perhaps a suitcase filled with cash.
***Before the last commercial break, Brian read a promo for a story about the Space Shuttle Enterprise and said that it was seen "in the skies over Gotham." Why does he talk like he's in a comic book?
***The story about the Enterprise (which was being flown to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum) was the fourth Space Shuttle story Nightly News has done in the past two weeks. Brian pads the broadcast with Space Shuttle stories because they help pander to the viewers' sense of faux patriotism. And they're good for ratings. And the producers even included a gratuitous clip from the "Star Trek" TV series because NBC makes money on the sale of "Star Trek" DVD's.
***On his HBO show Friday night, Bill Maher did a segment about how ridiculously stupid network news has become. He said that on Monday, he saw stories about the weather, the basketball player Metta World Peace, a Japanese soccer ball that washed ashore in Alaska and a family of ducks that were trying to cross an L.A. freeway. He didn't mention any particular network, but then again he didn't have to. All four of those stories aired Monday on NBC Nightly News. So now it's official: Even Bill Maher thinks Brian Williams is an asshole.